Writing Good Erotica, Part 10: Hobby vs. Business

So, about a month into my self-publishing experiment, I would say I haven’t sold as many books as I would have liked, but I’ve sold enough to feel like it hasn’t been a complete waste of time. I’m not yet into the black on this project based on what I’ve spent on covers and other stuff, but with the lion’s share of the start-up costs behind me, I feel like I should start turning a profit within another month or so. At the very least, I should have a nice tax deduction at the end of the year. My marketing plan hasn’t panned out quite the way I expected, but I’m starting to feel like I see how things should work and what the best approaches should be going forward.

If any of you are thinking “start-up costs?” “tax deduction?” “marketing plan?” that may be your problem.

There are two ways of looking at writing: As a hobby, or a business. If you look at writing as a hobby, you should stop worrying about what you’re selling or what you’re making, because in all likelihood, it will never be anything worth mentioning.

These are all signs you’re treating writing as a hobby instead of a business, regardless of what you think you’re doing:

  • Not keeping careful track of your expenses
  • Not having a plan for what you’re spending
  • Throwing your work out there and hoping for the best
  • Not thinking about how you’re presenting yourself to your readers
  • Not doing anything to boost your profile
  • Just writing one book or story and then sitting back to see what happens
  • Not doing a lot of reading to see what’s working for successful writers and adjusting your plan accordingly

To give you an idea of how seriously I’m taking this, I’m planning to deduct the $12 or so I’ve spent so far on the stories I’ve reviewed, because I view these as marketing expenses. If the IRS has a problem with that, then they can take it up with me next year.

If that sounds like overkill, sorry. Publishing is a brutal, soulless business, and if you want to succeed, you can’t treat it like fun and games. I can testify to that having worked in this field since the mid-1990s and having seen plenty of good people get tossed aside and worthwhile books wither on the vine while unimaginative crap like 50 Shades of Grey hit the bestseller lists.

Making it in this business requires a certain amount of luck, to be sure, but there’s an old proverb that works well here: Luck is what happens when preparation and opportunity meet.

6 comments

    1. That’s definitely an option, though there’s a cost (but a good agent is worth it). I went the agent route myself early in my career and found I didn’t care for it. I’ve worked in publishing long enough now to feel like I can handle things myself for now. I just see a lot of self-published authors without that experience just sitting around waiting for things to happen instead of realizing *someone*—you, your agent, or someone else—has to be out there covering the business end.

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      1. I’m tempted by the process and it’s something that I will not reject without consideration. The problem is that there’s so much unedited and incomplete work under the banner that it drowns out the good stuff but that’s something in every artform

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  1. Being self-published, you just have to promote your work. I didn’t promote my work for about a year, as I returned my focus on my day job and other stuff. But I’ve noticed a nice change since I’ve written more and pushed on more promoting. Preparation is huge, so that you make opportunities rather than simply hope they pop up.

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  2. Michael, I am a novice author as well as a late comer, but I am so tired of these “get on the bandwagon” infomercial books out there that are raking it in.. maybe for a month.. until they are on to the next fad. Therefore, their writing doesn’t have lasting power over time. So many barely scrupulous writers are touting the fact that people can make six figures overnight so you have all these “get rich quick” daydreamers believing that crap – and that is exactly what they produce.

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    1. Well, that’s the thing, really. Most successful writers get there by writing a lot of books, and it’s awfully hard to write a lot of books if you don’t have respect for yourself as a writer. You need to like what you write before expecting anyone else to like it, let alone buy it.

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