DAY-JOB THINKING VS LONG-TERM THINKING
(I first published this post back in 2015 or so. Had a couple of conversations that reminded me of it, so I went looking, updated it, and put it here on this fine Friday evening.)
Day-Job Thinking goes like this: I need a certain amount of money to make my bills this month and a day job gives it to me in a “secure” fashion.
Nothing at all wrong with that thinking. Nothing. We all have to live and make bills and eat and all those sorts of things.
This is survival thinking, folks, plain and simple. So again, nothing wrong with that kind of thinking. Critical.
Long-Term Thinking is the ability of a person to see a ramification of a certain action taken now into the future. And maybe even act on the action to increase the value of something in the future.
Writers in general and indie writers in particular are horrid at thinking long term.
But put that same person in a day job at the age of 35 and they will be talking about 401K investments and so on. And maybe a college fund for their children. Thinking long term.
Regular people in regular jobs are often great at long-term thinking and there are vast amounts of articles and advice to help them with the long-term planning. It is a deep part of at least the American culture.
Also, most regular people at a certain point in life do wills and estate planning. Again thinking long term.
And regular people in regular jobs are also great at short-term thinking, making sure they do budgets, pay bills on time, keep their credit scores high.
So most of the culture is geared to balance long-term and day-job thinking.
But that balance just vanishes when it comes to writers.
Weird, very weird.
The Problem With Writing and Copyright
The first problem with writing is a perception of value.
Writers, up until a certain point in a career, don’t believe their writing has any value. So to them it is just what they do for fun, their hobby, and maybe they make some dinner money at it and get to sit at a signing.
No thought beyond how many copies it might sell over the first few months.
And depending on that writing skill to pay bills and support them when they are old is not a thought most writers can have early on. They dream about it, sure. But for most writers not one lick of planning to make a dream happen.
This attitude of no value, for some reason, is very, very difficult for most writers to shake. And since a vast majority of indie writers at the moment are new to publishing, the fact that they are making money just can’t be because they can tell a good story. Nope, it has to be because they can promote or got lucky or followed someone’s advice.
Success is never because of skill and storytelling to younger writers. To most younger writers, their writing itself has no value. But wow do they put value on their promotion skills on Facebook.
The second problem is a new writer’s inability to learn or even understand copyright.
You tell a new writer that the story they just finished will have value for seventy years past their deaths and they just stare at you with that blank look, or nod sagely and turn away, not understanding anything but the words.
Value? How can my story have value after I am dead? And why should I even think of that now?
But if that same person bought a piece of property on a corner of a subdivision and built a building on that property, that would have value to the person. And they would put the property in their will. Or as the landlord did on the building with WMG Publishing in it, he put it in a irrevocable trust for his grandkids. Thinking very long term.
So not understanding that copyright is a form of property is a problem for most writers.
And even worse, the writer will often put the value of the story based on their own experience writing it. That novel wasn’t fun, or didn’t work out the way I wanted, so it has no value.
That’s like saying some things went wrong in the construction of a house that were solved but because things went wrong in the construction, the house has no value.
Yes, writers think that way.
The third problem is that writers assign a value to a property based on short-term sales and the present audience.
That novel is only selling five copies a month average so it has no value. It must be awful or I didn’t promote it enough.
Value assigned by short term disappointment thinking.
Writers do this with no concept that audience changes, tastes change over years, and what might only sell five copies now might be a major bestseller in ten years.
Or twenty years.
Or twenty years after the writer’s death. Happens all the time, folks.
But that takes thinking long term.
I wrote one fine July thirty-two short stories. I have them out in a book called Stories from July.
So that book sells regularly all over the place electronically. Not a hot seller, but I’m pleased.
Thirty-two short stories. I spent about 5 hours total per story by the time it was all said and done. So about 160 hours for the entire project.
So say I had a pretty decent job at $20 per hour, I would have made in short-term money for that work about $3,200. Before taxes and all that.
A decent amount for a month.
But if I had done that, the money would be gone to use in mortgage, food, utilities, and other things needed for survival. Survival required thinking.
But instead I spent that time on long-term thinking, building property because I understand copyright.
I created the following properties with value for 70 years past my death:
— Stories from July
— Story blurb book from the 32 story blurbs.
— 32 stand-alone short stories that will be in electronic and paper edition throughout the world.
— Stories helping fill about 16 issues of my magazine Smith’s Monthly using two per month.
(I will have the stories in other collections down the road, but not counting that.)
Now, taking very little sales, far under what I actually do, let me do some math for you. Sales are across all sites, not just Amazon. And also in paper.
— Stories from July (3 sales per month x $4 income = $12.00 x 12 = $144.00 per year.)
— Story blurb book from the 32 story blurbs. (3 sales per month x $3 income = $9.00 x 12 = $108.00 per year.)
— 32 stand-alone short stories. (1 sale each average per month x $2 income = $32.00 x 12 = $384.00 per year.)
— Stories helping fill about 16 issues of my magazine Smith’s Monthly using two per month. (3 sales per month of each issue x $1 income for the story part = $3.00 x 12 = $36.00 per year.)
Total income per year from the 160 hours of work will end up being around $672 per year.
So thinking only short term and not believing in the value of my work or understanding copyright (notice I had 50 different properties), I would make about $4.20 per hour.
If I was a new writer, I would think that project failed right there.
But let me go on and show you how knowing copyright and thinking long term can change everything.
After the second year, my hourly rate for July would jump to $8.40 ($672 per year for two years)
After the fifth year, my hourly rate would jump to $21.00 per hour.
After the tenth year, my hourly rate for the 160 hours of work in July, 2015 would jump to $42.00.
So when I am 85 years old, 20 years after writing those stories in July, at low sales and no other projects using them added in such as collections and such, I will be making $84.00 per hour that year FOR HOURS I WORKED TWENTY YEARS EARLIER.
That’s right, in twenty years I will still be getting paid for hours I worked in 2015.
Go ahead, tell me what day job does that for you (besides investing in retirement accounts and such.)
Property Adds Up
I created from that one month fifty properties. (so far)
Copyright is a form of property. And if you don’t do something stupid like give a traditional publisher all your rights, you get to earn from that property for a very long time.
And your kids and grandkids and their kids can earn from your work as well long after you are gone if you plan it right.
As the CFO of WMG Publishing, my focus is always on cash streams. A bunch of employees count on me to do that.
As a writer, my focus is always on cash streams in the same way. I created at least fifty cash streams going into my future in one month last summer. A very successful month, to say the least.
Not counting what I did in July, I also created twenty-seven other major properties and another ten short stories that year.
And I did about the same the year before.
So if you don’t understand how property adds up, find a map of a subdivision or an arial view of a major subdivision. Put the photo on your wall.
Then every time you finish a story or novel or another project, put the name of the story or novel or book on the top of one house.
You now own that house (story) and it earns income for you every year.
That simple little game will give you a clear training on the value of your writing and how to think long term. (And don’t forget to go learn copyright in the process.)
It is critical that we all pay attention to short term, paying bills and buying food.
But writers have the luxury (if they take it) to also think about long term. And if you really are thinking ten or twenty years down the road, trust me, it is a lot easier to make a living with stories selling small numbers if you have a lot of stories and novels.
Property adds up each year you keep going.
And one final thing to remember. Every sale is a reader, a real person showing you that your work has value.
Keep that firmly in mind and have fun.