Friday, July 22, 2011

Like Unto a Rubber Tree is the Business of Writing

Folk hereabouts have rubber tree farms. Now the interesting thing about these trees is that before you can get any rubber out of them worth anything, you’ve got to plant the trees and grow them for five years until they’re ripe, then you can harvest the rubber and sell it steady for the next thirty years, and then you cut down the trees and make some really nice furniture. Some owners just hire people to harvest and sell the rubber in exchange for forty percent of the profit while they sit in the house counting their sixty percent. Or they plant some more rubber trees. It’s a good life.

So, what’s my point? Calm down, writer guy. It’s too hot. Work in the shade, stop looking at your sales numbers. You’re getting all anxious over something that ain’t ripe yet. Add to it, it’s lonely. Don’t even think about quitting for at least five years, and don’t huff the fertilizer you should be using to tend it and make it grow.

BAM! Spreadsheet --

Here’s a real basic spreadsheet. You can make it too, so long as you know where to find the SUM function in Excel. I’d make it interactive, but I’m super lazy. It’s all monthly, and I’ve set it up to do all the royalty math (using Amazon’s setup). At the top I input my basic minimum income, and included an hourly wage based on that. All that done, I just input how many of each product H2NH has at the moment and see what happens. This leads to two basic conclusions:

I don’t have enough rubber trees.
I need more titles to get to my basic minimum income, unless the lightning strike of sudden popularity hits me in the business (read: Magic! Fairy Dust! Bubble!). I can play with the numbers and see exactly how much more I’d have to write to get to my basic minimum income, but the inescapable conclusion is “I should write more.” Getting this result is a good test of any Writer’s Business Plan. Five hundred rubber trees will earn you one thousand baht a night...

My rubber trees ain’t ripe.
For the average monthly sales, I input the “scraping-the-bottom” benchmarks culled from Dean Wesley Smith’s various series. Right now I only have actual data for my short stories, and it’s a number that’s a little less than 2. Then again, the reason I only have actual data for short stories is that I’ve only been doing this for six months. That’s kinda the point. Nobody cares about a field of six-month rubber trees except some random people who happen to notice it while they’re walking down the highway. You can’t even sit under a six-month rubber tree to get shade from the sun. But, you spot a mature five-year rubber tree farm and you’ll wander in, say hello to the rest of the people sitting around. What else’ve you got to do? It’s hot.

So, here’s my plan: I’m going to Write for five years, give Amazon et al thirty percent to sell my writing, and then sit in my house counting the seventy percent. Or write more.

It’s a good life.
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