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.