Financial Indie: Financing Your Writing Career


Note: “Financial Indie” is a series of articles designed to help writers finance their careers. If you have an investment question, please post it, and I’ll try to incorporate it into a future article.

Financial Indie 1I cheered when I saw my Apple (AAPL) stock jump nine percent on April 25 after another great quarter, earning, perhaps, a better return in one night than I will from a year’s worth of effort to sell books. It made me wonder why so many writers chase book sales to earn a living when so few are successful, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out in an article about the self-publishing industry. While writing is an admirable calling, the economics of the publishing industry suggest that most writers need alternate sources of income to support themselves financially, at least at the outset of their careers.

After I started writing full time, I found no lack of information on how to write and publish books but few resources on how writers, particularly those with limited budgets, could finance their projects and supplement their income. Most articles I’ve read dealing with the financial aspect of writing focused on how to save money or publish on a tight budget. A few suggested doing freelancing and editing jobs. Those are viable ways for would-be authors to make money, but they can also be time consuming. Every minute a writer spends working for someone else is one less minute spent on their own writing projects. There are other ways to earn extra income that take less time and offer a higher rate of return. Investing is one.

Self-publishing a book is not cheap. A writer may pay more than U.S.$1,000 to write, edit, and publish a book (excluding marketing expenses). It costs hundreds of dollars, if not more, to hire a professional editor to polish a manuscript and a designer to create a book cover. An e-book cover can cost as much as U.S.$100; a print version more than $200. The writer will need to purchase an ISBN from W.W. Bowker for each book medium and copyright it. Although Kindle Digital Publishing, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords publish and distribute e-books for free, publishers usually charge for premium services such as expanded distribution and print-on-demand. Marketing expenses vary. If a writer is good at using social media, they may pay nothing to advertise. Some pay thousands of dollars to hire professional marketers. Those looking to hire an agent and publish through a traditional publishing house should expect to spend money to pitch their book.

What this means is that writing costs money in the short term, and until you earn a respectable income from book sales, you’ll need a way to finance your efforts. For most, it means working full time and writing when you can, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By planning ahead and investing wisely, you can build a stable income that will support your writing and help you move away from depending on a paycheck toward becoming a financially-independent writer.

I’ve been investing for a long time. It took me years to build an investment portfolio that gave me the opportunity to leave my day job. It wasn’t an easy option waiting to launch my writing career, but my patience was rewarded last year when I took the plunge and left my job to write full time. It gives me piece of mind knowing that investments such as Apple will support me until I establish myself as an indie author.

If you don’t have an investment portfolio, you should. How do you get started? Should you buy shares of Apple at more than U.S.$600 a share and hope they reach U.S.$800? No. Chasing returns is a fool’s game. I don’t recommend chasing “hot” stocks, even one as mighty as Apple. You can purchase Apple by owning shares of mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETF) that limit your exposure to price swings.

Start by writing a personal investment plan. Determine your financial goals and set a timeline. How much do you want to earn, and how long will it take to achieve it? Look at your budget to see how much you can set aside to build your financial portfolio. Just as you would outline a novel before you write it, you need a plan before you invest.

Figure out how much you can save each month and write it down. Setting aside a small amount in the near term can go a long way to supplementing your income in the long run. Look at your cash flows and decide what discretionary spending you can eliminate – including from your writing budget — and how much you can save. If you stop buying what you don’t need, how much money will you have to grow?

See if you can set aside about U.S.$100 per month. In future articles, we’ll use this as a base to help you build your portfolio.

Click here to read the next article in the “Financial Indie” series.

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is founder of Brilliance Equity LLC, an investment firm.

Edwards is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

New Prometheus Movie Trailers


Prometheus is a new science fiction movie directed by Ridley Scott set to release between May 30, 2012, and June 8, 2012, by 20th Century Fox. A prequel to the 1979 classic movie Alien, Prometheus is one of most highly anticipated films of the year.

A major reason for this is how the studio and Scott have done a great job keeping the project under wraps and built buzz through intelligent marketing. They’ve steadily rolled out teasers, trailers, and even a corporate web site for the fictional company Weyland Industries to build anticipation, giving away enough information to leave viewers in suspense but not spoiling the story.

Whether Prometheus lives up to the hype is yet to be seen, but it is arguably one of the best, if not the best, marketed films of all time. Here are the four major teasers and trailers, including three released over the March 17 weekend. Note how they unravel the story bit by bit.

Warning: The following clips may not be appropriate for all viewers.

Trailer 2 (International)-released March 18, 2012

 

Trailer 2 (U.S.)–released March 17, 2012

 

Teaser 2–released March 17, 2012

 

Teaser 1-released December 22, 2011

 

This fictional video clip of Weyland Industries’ founder and CEO Peter Wayland at the TED conference in the year 2023 (not a typo) lays the philosophical groundwork for the Prometheus Project, androids, and other concepts featured in the Prometheus movie universe. It does not appear to be connected to the movie, but has created quite a buzz online.

Peter Weyland, head of Weyland Industries, at TED 2023–February 28, 2012

Twitter as a Marketing Tool


I’ve been using Twitter for the past few months to connect with other writers, meet new acquaintances, and build a following for my writing. Some successful authors claim that their sales took off after they built a Twitter following, and I believe them. Based on my preliminary efforts, Twitter seems a more effective marketing tool than Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and other social media sites. This, of course, could change over time, as the executives at MySpace can attest. Other social media sites have their own benefits. In my opinion, Facebook is a better forum than Twitter to connect with friends and family who may be the only ones supportive of your writing at the outset of your career.

My quest to figure out what works on Twitter has been one of trial and error learning how to use Twitter effectively. The result has been good, so far, with my number of followers increasing more than 300 percent in December 2011 and already up by a third one week into January 2012 (thank you, followers!). One ebook giveaway I tried received several responses; an offer to purchase my ebook at a discount did not net any new sales. I will continue to offer a mix of incentives to attract readers until I find a strategy that works.

I’m slowly getting the hang of Twitter. I’ve found that unless you want to buy followers, it simply takes time to build a following. Buying followers is ethically suspect and defeats the purpose of building lasting relationships. Simply put, tweeting, or sending messages (tweets), takes time.

When you tweet, it’s important to:

  1. Follow others. The best way to gain new followers is to follow others. Search “Who To Follow” to find others who tweet about your interests and follow them. Twitter will then suggest others you might want to follow. Many will follow you back. Unless you’re a celebrity, you’re probably going have to knock on doors first.
  2. Post relevant content. I like to post links to breaking news articles related to my interests. I like travel, politics, and self-publishing, so many of my tweets focus on these subjects.
  3. Have a brand. Focus on what’s important to you and tweet about it. Those interested in finding you will. If your brand is based on a popular character, such as a protagonist in a book or your pet, and you have the right to represent them, you can set up an account for them and tweet on their behalf.
  4. Be creative. Those who have something interesting to share or assume a creative persona on Twitter tend to do well. Some cats have larger followings than most humans.
  5. Public thank yous. Thank followers publicly for following you by tweeting it. I have a small following and still send individual “thank you” tweets to new followers with a personal note attached. Some with more followers write “thank you” and list new followers in a single tweet.
  6. Retweet. Repost newsworthy items posted by your followers. When they mention you to their followers, thank them publicly.
  7. Direct messages. Send private messages to followers in order to cultivate relationships. Be genuine and sincere, not patronizing. I don’t think it’s a good idea to send a spam ad to new followers as a message, although some do. Product placement is okay as long as what you’re offering is of interest to your followers.
  8. Tweet frequently. Tweet as often as you can. Since none of us can tweet 24 hours a day, use a site such as BufferApp to program tweets to post automatically while you’re away. Keep them relevant. I started posting humorous “Your Friendly Sleeptweeter” tweets while I’m away that play up the fact that I’m still tweeting while I’m sleeping. Here’s an example: “Greetings from your friendly sleeptweeter. I’m just passing through on my way to dreamland to greet you with a hearty zzz.”
  9. Sell, but don’t overdo it. It’s okay to advertise something you’re selling such as a book, but do it sparingly. I’ve read that a 20:1 ratio (one advertisement per 20 tweets) is a good ratio. The more you look like a pusher, the more you will turn off your followers.

Only time will tell if these efforts will pay off for me. They seem to be working so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing whether these efforts bear more fruit in the coming year.

Follow me on Twitter at @m_g_edwards. I’m happy to follow back.

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thrill and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He recently published a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an ebook and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex. For books and stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com.