The Seven Levels of Scarcity, or How You Get Rich as a Writer
The reason that most writers give up trying to make a career out of writing fiction is probably because they feel a total absence of recognition or commercial exchange for what they are doing. Money would be wonderful; a response from readers would be great; but neither? That just adds up to the apparency that it takes an infinite amount of effort to make a career out of writing, which makes the goal unattainable.
Just before writers give up, they grow weary of having Need as their primary motivator — need for exposure, need for recognition and need for money. If you are working from a wrong career model as a writer, you will feel needy all the time — and you probably won’t make any money, despite huge efforts on your part.
A writer who has begun to learn that there is a different approach to things probably still experiences intermittent need. Exposure, recognition and cash may not yet be flowing in viable amounts and there might still be periodic cravings requiring great effort from time to time. It’s easy, at this stage, to drop back into the endless yearnings for external responses and to feel that one will ‘never get there’. But a little more work can lead the persistent writer to the point where need begins to recede as a primary motivator.
If a writer is able to construct his or her career around the workable model for writers — about which we have been speaking in earlier articles and which is elaborated upon below — the dreaded feeling of neediness which may have haunted his or her career thus far can begin to seriously recede. It’s possible, in fact, to build a life around writing in such a way that 'need' plays only a very small part, if it appears at all.
The above describes the Seven Levels of Scarcity, outlined more clearly here:
1. You want something desperately but it appears unattainable and so you give up.
2. You want something so badly that your need for it drives your every action and you work remorselessly towards achieving it, exhausting yourself and earning very little of the thing you so intensely desire.
3. You learn how to provide for your need some of the time, which means that your cravings recede, though they can still be overwhelming at times.
4. You gradually gain command of the thing you need, only occasionally slipping into a panic.
5. You have greater mastery of your desired object and recognise the symptoms of craving early enough to be able to adjust and manage them.
6. Your yearnings fall away, existing mainly in memory or only rarely re-asserting themselves.
7. You have an abundance, enough to share with others. Need disappears.
This scale applies to much more than a writing career, as you may have realised. But in terms of building the kind of writing life you probably want, it can be immensely valuable.
In earlier articles, we have already examined a strategy which can lead you up this scale, if you diligently apply it. It involves finding out what it is about your own work which makes it effective and valuable to others, then working on magnifying those qualities and making them more scarce for readers — because the scale operates in reverse for readers, as you may have already seen:
7. General readers have an abundance of available fiction from a saturated marketplace, much of it freely shared through the internet. You seemingly have an endless struggle to break into this scenario, and generally don’t get paid.
6. Readers of particular genres seek out certain kinds of books from time to time.
5. Readers begin to see that your work matches more or less what they are looking for in the genres that they prefer. You start to get some recognition and cash.
4. These niche readers begin to recognise your books as particular providers of special sensations, insights, forms of entertainment different from others in their field. Positive feedback and cash flow become more regular and predictable.
3. A fanbase develops for your books. You grow used to rave reviews and regular royalty payments.
2. Fans and superfans crave your next work and pre-ordering means that you have a secure career doing what you do. Reputation and income are sky-high.
1. Certain readers are so desperate for your work that they camp out at your house — or conversely, they begin to give up on you and grow disaffected because you’re ‘taking too long’ to produce the next book in a series, for example (George R. R. Martin comes to mind as an instance of this extreme end of the scale).
How do you start climbing this ladder for real?
The ideal spot is around 2 in the 'reader ladder' above: readers crave what you write and your income is sky-high.
I can help.
It starts with you learning to operate differently. It can feel a bit like 'going cold turkey' for a while - but it's an adventure you're not likely to regret.
Contact me if you wish: firstname.lastname@example.org
And stay tuned to this blog for more.