A Different Way of Doing Things Part Seven: Who's Orbiting Who?
As a writer striving to get published and/or get your self-published work out there into the marketplace, you probably spend a great deal of time chasing publishers, chasing submissions, and then chasing readers. Yes, it’s easier in one way today because much of this chasing is done electronically — I’m old enough to remember the days when manuscripts had to be typed up, wrapped up in brown paper and shipped off by mail to destinations far away, usually never to be seen or heard of again. These days, one can fire off a bulk email to publishers (if you want to commit that particular faux pas) or at least expect submissions to reach their destinations instantly, even if the feedback is just as long in coming.
But the basics haven’t changed: the writer is still the one doing the chasing. Probably hours and hours of looking up publishers to see if they are a good match, following certain sites on social media to see if there are any new submission opportunities, and then even more hours on advertising, promoting and the arcane art of marketing, all in the hope of acquiring a little bit of response, whether that takes the form of acceptance from publishers or purchases from readers.
If we change that model — somehow, some way — then all those hours of time could and would be spent doing the central thing, the most important thing: writing.
Imagine getting paid for that --without having to chase.
A key element of achieving freedom is to work out how to get paid for the value you provide, rather than the hours you spend. If, for example, you chase and chase and chase publishers and submissions and your income is based on getting as many stories published as you possibly can, it follows that to increase your income, you will need to take on more writing jobs to make more money, and probably end up having either too many stories to write or not enough.
Instead, if your income is based on the value you provide, you can spend your time and energy looking for ways to increase that value while not necessarily increasing the time you spend on producing it.
If this were somehow possible, you would become more profitable by increasing value and streamlining processes, not spending hours chasing things.
The more you streamline your writing processes, the higher the prices you’ll be able to charge. When you are decreasing the time while increasing the price you increase your profits. That is the freedom gained only by individuals operating like businesses.
‘But it just doesn’t work that way!’ you may say — or rather scream, because you are firmly embedded in the model which enforces the viewpoint on you that you are at the effect point of the whole cycle of fiction writing. The whole world of writing fiction is based on the notion that the writer has to prove value each and every time they produce something, while real power rests with the publishers and bookshops who have access to the paying reader.
At one end of a line you have the reader who has the money; at the other end of the line you have the writer, who usually has no money and who feels —completely understandably — that in order to get any money he or she has to move continually towards the reader. This motion consists of the chasing we’ve discussed: trying to get attention, first from publishers, then from readers, trying and trying and trying with each piece written, with the hope that in some way some of the money will flow their way.
This needs to be switched around.
The real wealth is with the writer.
It’s the writer who possesses all the value, potentially at least. The reader is the one who has none, or almost none — it’s the reader, in fact, who is doing the chasing, pursuing the often elusive emotional effects that fiction provides. Once you can see the truth of that — or even glimpse the possibility that it might be true — the game can begin to change.
A gravitational shift can start to occur: instead of the writer falling into orbit around the reader, going round and round trying to make landfall in the sense of commercial success, it switches to the reader orbiting the writer, seeking the riches that the writer, and only the writer, can provide.
The conventional model — the existing model, with which everyone is familiar — makes the writer an outsider, makes the creative artist feel hollow and doubtful, makes the act of making something seem ephemeral and perhaps inconsequential. But in truth it’s the other way round.
You hold the key to the treasure vault, not the publishers or readers. It’s time you began to realise just how much wealth is already yours.