Monday, July 9, 2012

My small ten dollar quarterly goal

During the last year that I spent as an undergrad at the University of Colorado at Denver, I decided that my business needed a new plan and a new goal. Having tried to have "real goals" and being overwhelmed constantly with time management conflicts (the joys of working on two Bachelor degrees at the same time), I decided that my writing goal would be a mere ten dollars of new stock a quarter.

Yes, just ten dollars of new stock a quarter.

Yep, I have no ambition. Or rather, I was sick and tired of constantly missing larger and more "realistic" goals.

I am not exactly sure why people think that a writer (or any other self-employed person) is being unrealistic when they create a small, but do-able goal. No, the world says that you must think BIG, and create goals of adding hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to your income every quarter.

In my case, I wasn't sure that I could even hit the ten dollar mark every quarter. After all, it was the year that I was doing my senior seminars in both literature and history.

The reason that I decided that ten dollars was an acceptable goal was that it was small. And I declared that it was "new stock" or "front list." That is the key to the overall plan.

One of the truths about being a writer is that you have two catergories of work--your frontlist (the stuff you recently did) and your backlist (everything else). It is a carry-over from legacy publishing: your frontlist would be this year's book, and your backlist would be all the stuff that you published in previous years.

Another truth is that your income as a writer is the sum of both your frontlist and your backlist.

I once read that if someone wanted to be successful at making a living as an author that one's backlist earnings had to match (equal) one's income from one's frontlist. And this idea was from a book from the 1970s, long before we started to kick around the idea of passive income on the internet.

So the logic that I was using in setting a ten dollar goal was that if I did enourgh work to earn ten dollars from new work in a quarter, then that same work would just naturally flow into my backlist and I would not need to worry about it.

(Ok, I worry about my backlist income, but there is not much that I can do about it--or very little I can do about it.)

Now, I was assuming that my initial income during the first quarter would be a good indication of the amount I would make passively once the work hit the backlist. I was wrong (!). But let's pretend that I was right for a few seconds.

At the end of first quarter, I figured ten dollars for the quarter. Second quarter, another ten dollars of new stuff, and ten dollars from old stuff. Third quarter, another ten of new, twenty of old. And so forth.

Basically, it is a scheme of stacking more and more stuff into the stack until it finally reaches critical mass.

And yes, I know that ten dollars of new stuff is a really small goal. Did I mention I was going to college at the time? As it was, I missed the goal the first quarter of this three dollars (in my defense, it was a big paper I needed for my senior seminar; there was also that whole Paypal situation).

Now, the reason that I am thinking about it today, my measely little goal, is that my wife just learned that I am going to make the quarterly goal before the end of the month. And she thinks that I should make my quarterly goal higher. I disagree. I think that I should stick to it...and keep it this small.

One of the things I realized about having a small goal as a writer is that I could hit it despite being overwhelmed with work in college. I figure that the same would be true if I was punching a time clock and sitting in a cubicle. The amount of work I am doing to accomplish it is about the same amount of writing that I was doing in the print market (magazines) while I was flipping burgers for a living. The difference is that I am not selling articles and stories for a one-time-only check; today, I am focused on ebooks.

And some of the things that I am working on are big projects (!!). I am hitting the ten dollar goal with short stories. I am not sure if I can hack out a long book every quarter, therefore to continue accomplishing the goal, I have to be able to borrow time from the big project. Therefore, I would like it to be as small as a goal as possible.

So for now, I am sticking with the ten dollar a quarter goal. It is not much, but it is keeping me moving in the right direction.

(!) For the curious, it turns out that some of the stuff I do does worse in the backlist. Some of it does about the same. And some of it does much, much better. Without knowing all the facts, it turns out that my estimate was right and oh so wrong at the same time. In my own personal case, a couple of ebooks are doing a lot better than the rest...and so it goes. Based on personal experience, I would tell a newbie writer that my plan is sound.

(!!) One of the projects that I am currently working on is expanding the Three Officer Version of the Golden Dawn Neophyte initiation Ritual. This is not a money winning project.