Everything I do is quantified in terms of dollars and cents. That’s how it is when you’re married to someone who has an MBA, a law degree and has successfully run four businesses.
For a long time, he called my work, “a hobby.” That used to really tick me off. As he pointed out, however, I was making exactly zero dollars as a result of my efforts. I had no agent. I had no editor. I had completed several novels, but I had none of them for sale. Anywhere. And, regardless of how many query letters and/or proposals I sent out, there was nothing happening with my work to qualify it as a business. Ergo, it was a hobby.
The creation of e-publishing opened the door for a lot of writers. An author can now publish their work digitally. For free. And have immediate distribution.
Naturally, my MBA hubby saw this as an opportunity. My excuses for not publishing my work vaporized; disappeared like morning fog in the rising sun. Hubby felt more confident than ever labeling my efforts, “a hobby.” So I e-published. And guess what? It isn’t simply a matter of replacing the gatekeepers. All those decisions once made by editors and agents became mine. Editing my work, repeatedly. Marketing it, trying to make it visible in a sea of other books that have swam through the floodgates along with mine. Self-publishing required registering my copyright, creating a cover, a marketing blurb. And that’s in addition to all the other self-promotion any traditionally published author must do.
All of which brings me to my point. I choke a little to say it, but hubby was right. There are business decisions to be made. The goal of any business, (save non-profits), is to make money. It’s kind of a no-brainer. Whatever you spend publishing and marketing your work, you need to earn back through book sales. And preferably, a little something extra known as profit.
There are actual costs associated with publishing your work; even doing it digitally. If you’re like me, and you draft and revise in longhand, (I know…I’m going to wait a minute for you to finish laughing), there is the cost of pens, notebooks, paper and printer cartridges. Registering your copyright (and I wouldn’t recommend skipping this), costs something, too. Next, there is the book cover. You can do this on the cheap, using photos in the public domain, but I had a very specific vision of what I wanted my covers to be. Fortunately, I have a relative who is a very talented photographer, and she did my covers at a very reasonable price. Still, it’s a business decision. And I can hear the calculator in hubby’s head clicking. How many books do I have to sell to make up for the money I spent on the book cover? It’s the same for marketing. The word “free” has become very important to me. As in, how many “free” ways are there to market my book? And how can I take advantage of them?
I recently ran what I consider to be a fairly successful promotional campaign. I offered by book for free for two days on Amazon. Over one thousand copies of my book were downloaded during that time period, giving me over one thousand new readers. This makes me giddy beyond words, (rare for an author). But, naturally, the calculator in hubby’s head is still clicking. While this promotion did not cost me anything out-of-pocket, it did cost me royalties. The question becomes, how many new sales do I have to generate through word-of-mouth buzz, and readers willing to buy my next book, to make up for the ones I gave away?
I have learned to start looking at what I do through the eyes of my hubby, and I now know this: I love what I do, but if I want to be successful at it, I need to treat it like a business. At least hubby no longer calls it, “a hobby.”