What I wish I knew about writing a book...

Posted on 13th December 2016 at 4:10pm by Carl Reader in Business, Random Musings, Site News

Wow, my blog has been empty for just over two months. It's amazing what parenthood can do to you. In that time, loads of stuff has happened. I just haven't got round to uploading the press coverage and my updates.

Anyway, today I received an email - totally out of the blue - from my publisher, offering me the opportunity to sell the rights to one of my books to Vietnam. They offered to take care of all the translation, with an advance of US $1,000, and a huge print run... It made my lunch seem even tastier, and was probably the easiest grand I've ever earned: until, I read the small print. I'd get 10% of it, to be chipped away against my previous advance. So, in business book reality, that means that I get bugger all as most business books don't earn out their advance.

It's probably something I should have looked at in the contract. To be honest, I was so excited to receive both contracts, I signed my life away without even checking my name was on them. Here's a few things I've since discovered:

The advance is negotiable

Well, who knew? You don't need to accept the first thing put in front of you. I know of two authors (out of the two that I've spoken to) who had achieved a ball-park doubling of their advance, by simply asking. I just happily signed, not knowing these things were negotiable.

To negotiate an advance, I understand you need to show your platform, a strong marketing plan, and also attack it in different ways. Today, I learned what a journalist can earn for 1,000 words. Comparatively, it makes my advances for 40,000 and 60,000 words (respectively) look like an apprentices bus fare.

The publishers won't market the book for you

OK, so that's an exaggeration. They will send out a token press release, and do some stuff based on what you've given them. But really, the leg work comes down to you, the author. You're expected to promote the book on social media, find both trade and retail buyers, and really push the book out there. I didn't know this until about a year after the first book was published. Whoops!

You won't become rich on royalties

Above, I held my hands up to having a Tesco Value advance. Well, I've not out-earned it. And if I do, I'll get the grand sum of about 60p per book. If I'm lucky, I might be able to order a pizza to celebrate the arrival of the cheque each year.

But you still have the hassle of running it as a business

Yup. Even though the earnings are ridiculously low, you still need to record the income and expenses, and all that stuff. Especially as an "international author"!

You might become rich on the credibility

Having said all of that, don't forget the credibility of writing a book. It's pretty amazing. It's opened loads of doors professionally. My media work has all been off the back of the book, and helped to increase my exposure (even though it pays even less than the books - a big fat zero!). The knock on effect of all of this to my business however has been fantastic. It's opened speaking opportunities at conferences with my target clients, earned the respect of industry colleagues, and acted as a very tangible demonstration of credibility. An expensive business card, but one that is full of what me and my team can deliver.

And finally... You need a website!

And one that works. Huge thanks to Jon Rawlins of Pixel Pixel for making some tweaks to it today. The man is a genius!

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