OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
I'm finally back from my epic trip to Australia and New Zealand. After the 26 hour flight back to London, I feel like I have been run over. My soul is lingering somewhere over the Indian Ocean, slowly catching up.
But it was a good trip and although I didn't do much writing, I did do some thinking. Deep and meaningful thinking that might have involved a lot of South Otago Pinot Noir and Bluff oysters (the best in the world!).
I've been thinking about the past five years, and considering what I want for the next five.
We moved from Brisbane, Australia to London, England last June but we left behind a lot of stuff in storage and a house, just in case this move didn't work out. At the end of March we sold the house and so we flew back to Brisbane for a few days en route to New Zealand in order to finalize the shipping of personal effects.
Our physical move from Australia is now complete. London is officially home. I love change so this is all fantastic fun for me.
But inevitably, moving means reviewing accounts and taxes, and as I checked the paperwork, I felt depressed about how little we had achieved financially in five years despite earning well and attempting to invest.
My husband and I had tried to build up a property portfolio in Australia but with the global financial crisis and the Queensland flood, it didn't quite work out as planned. I'm sure many of you have similar stories.
Overall, I was looking at our time in Australia as one that reduced our assets considerably.
But my husband then pointed out that I had left Australia with a business, The Creative Penn, and this site, which now earns income through the sale of courses as well as my speaking. I had also invested in my own education in terms of internet marketing, writing and publishing that was probably equivalent to another Masters degree.
Plus, I have two novels and several non-fiction books that are intellectual property assets that will continue to earn money for me over time. I also have a business model to add to this IP with more assets that will create scalable income.
[Scalable income is when you create something once but the number of sales can be 1, or 1000, or 1,000,000. It's not dependent on your physical time. Books, and especially ebooks, fit this model.]
Clearly, I am as guilty as anyone in terms of forgetting to celebrate success!
This realization of creating intangible assets was a profound one. I hadn't seen my creations as actual assets before, as I thought the word applied more to physical things like property. But an asset is “anything tangible or intangible that is capable of being owned or controlled to produce value and that is held to have positive economic value” Wikipedia.
You might think I had learned that lesson already but trust me, the penny has taken a while to drop.
That is incredibly exciting as we now have the tools to publish and market these ourselves, connecting directly with customers. We can create our assets and use them to create ongoing income, with much lower risk, lower overheads and lower cost of entry than something like property. [I'm not discounting property forever, but it is a good example in this financial climate.]
Books are intellectual property. They are assets. They create income.
Yes, we write because we love it and we feel a compulsion to create. But in a world where what was previously considered an asset may turn out to be false hope, a book is something that will last and may continue to earn money in your lifetime even after your death.
I know your writing journey may be different to mine, but I am now a full-time author-entrepreneur and I need to make money from my writing. Yes, I love the writing and the process but I also need to make it work professionally.
Yesterday, I returned home to a 4 figure check from Amazon for the sales of my ebooks from February. My physical property never left me with that much per month.
So where does that leave my 5 year plan?
Focus on creating intellectual property as scalable assets.
If you want to be a professional writer, making an income from your writing, it is now possible. I'm not making Konrath or Locke or Hocking money yet, but every month, the checks are heading in the right direction.
This is the Magic Bakery concept that prolific writer Dean Wesley Smith talks about. Each pie in the bakery is a book, and you can carve up the pie into different kinds of rights. But you won't make a decent living from one or two pies, you need lots. Each piece of each pie is a cash stream.
So, I'll be focusing on:
- Writing more books – fiction and non-fiction – and improving my writing
- Creating more of my own products
- Building a direct connection with readers through marketing
This doesn't seem world-changing, does it?
But the secret is consistency over time. There is no overnight success.
Most people give up because the first book isn't a runaway success and doesn't make thousands. Many writers stop at one book, or maybe two. But overnight success is a myth. We have to put in the time – to improve our writing, to write more books, to learn about marketing. We're so lucky because the journey is so rewarding.
My life has changed in the last 5 years. It can be summed up by this. When I came back through Customs and filled in my landing card, I entered ‘Writer' as my occupation.
I'm not giving up, because my dream is just starting to become a reality.
Here's to the next 5 years.
I'd love to hear what you think. Do you view your books as assets? How do you see the next 5 years working for your writing journey? Please do leave a comment.
Carol Topp, CPA says
I’m an author and Certified Public Account (CPA in the US), so yes I do see books as assets although in strict accounting terms they are creative works (intangible assets), not capital assets and do not show up on a balance sheet like your house did. (Sorry for the accounting lingo)
Books create a lovely income stream.
I’ve been creating multiple streams of income so I can better balance my life. For example, I’m almost to the point where book sales equal my income from tax preparation, so that means I can cut back on tax clients and have calmer tax season!
May I have your permission to share this post on my blog, TaxesForWriters.com?
Joanna Penn says
Hi Carol, Congrats on creating a scalable income stream!
Sure, you’re welcome to share the post as long as you link back to the original post.
Prashant Solomon says
Great article and advice! It is inspiring me to write more. There are a couple of areas where I am stuck in terms of the kind of books to write. It may sound strange, but at times I’m confused whether to first write fiction or non-fiction. I have book ideas for both of them, but waste a lot of time thinking about what to write first. Though about a month ago, I have decided to write the fiction project first. How do you manage this? Do you write them side by side or complete one project first? Second question, now with Amazon Kindle, Createspace, etc. Do you even try to approach a ‘traditional’ publisher or just go the Amazon Kindle/Amazon Createspace route? Looking forward to hearing from you on this.
New Delhi, India
Joanna Penn says
Hi Prashant, In terms of what to write, it doesn’t matter – just focus on finishing one of them. You can write the other one next! It’s not either/or, it’s just the order of doing it. Pick one and write 1000 words, then another 1000 words, and then another. Non-fiction books are generally shorter so you can write 50,000 words and probably be done (depending on what it is). Stop thinking, start writing 🙂 But definitely complete one before you move onto the next. Or at least the first draft.
On publishing, that’s also a personal decision that you can make per book. Many successful self-published authors are getting trad deals off the back of their success, and other indies are happy to stay self-published. That is up to you and your goals. Basically, you’re empowered to make decisions – and I can’t make them for you. All the best!
Prashant Solomon says
Thanks for the reply. It was very helpful. 🙂
lyle nicholson says
I love the way you put the writing business into perspective. I retired from a successful sales business, and started writing because, it was I dream I had, and never acted on it early in life. You are absolutely right about needing to produce more books, these are your products. One or two, and even three doesn’t make it.
Thanks for voicing that, as few writers do.
Shean Pao says
I know I am not the only one to be truly inspired by your writing and your books. Because of you I now have two blogs, an author platform, (face book and twitter) and am on my way to finishing my first novel and novella. You have given me structure, purpose, and a plan to follow. You have also given me encouragement that it can be done, through your own experience. Bless you for sharing all that you have learned with us. And don’t forget this… no matter what you list as your own personal accomplishments on this earth, you can also add the thousands and thousands of people that you have helped to make their own dreams come true. Don’t ever be disappointed in yourself. We won’t have it!