Most of my life has been as a businessman, not a writer. My first love was art. Even in college my desire was to be an artist. I was a creative person who desired a career doing just that—being creative. Like a lot of people, those first impulses didn’t work out. I needed to make a living and someone said CPAs made a lot of money—so why not. It’s only my life we’re talking about. What could be wrong with being stuck at a desk the rest of your life crunching numbers? The answer, of course, was a lot.
What does it mean to be creative? When I was painting, it meant creating an image of something that was unique, or interesting, or appealing or something? If my painting of a tree looked just like the tree, was that creative? How about just taking a photo of the tree, was that creative. I think my art career never happened because I struggled with images that were not unique. I wanted to paint a tree that didn’t look like a tree, but was the essence of the tree. Even I didn’t understand what that meant.
Okay, forget the tree, I will become a creative accountant. Of course the first unique image that popped into my head was a jail cell for being a too creative accountant —not a good image. I dropped the creative part and spent a good deal of time just becoming a good accountant. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I enjoyed numbers and seemed to have a talent for crunching them. I achieved a level of success that was rewarding, but not fulfilling.
Prior to becoming an accountant, I had been self-employed in several endeavors. From food service to retail, I had owned my own businesses. I had some success and also experienced failure, but during this time I realized I enjoyed business. It was like a puzzle. Lots of pieces to move around and try to figure out how they all fit together to generate sales and a profit. Not every day, but on many it actually felt creative.
Next came my period of working for giant corporations which was not so creative. Mostly what I learned from that experience was lots of nuts and bolts accounting and that most top executives were assholes. Maybe that MBA stood for something else? Most of the successful people I met had one thing in common, they were bullies. There were, of course, exceptions but by far the most practiced management style was intimidation. The age I’m talking about was total alpha male domination, so that might have been the reason; but being kind, considerate, thoughtful or even deceit were traits honored at home and abandoned at work. The world is still full of those people; be very cautious.
After the big company nonsense, I found much greater joy and success working for myself and several smaller companies. The biggest difference, other than the people seemed more human, was the appreciation of creativity. Innovation is the life-blood of smaller businesses. I’ve always been an idea-guy and eager to share opinions. My biggest business successes were with companies that appreciated the innovation and my willingness to try new ideas. At this point in my life I had the right combination of experience, knowledge and guts to try things others wouldn’t—it failed on occasion and succeeded every once in a while. In many ways I had solved the business puzzle.
Now, I write fiction books. Writing is obviously creative—I’m making stuff up; can’t get much more creative than that. I enjoy the process of thinking about the story, the characters and devising the plot twists with subtle hints. But what is not fun; is the business of writing. As an indie author I have complete control over every aspect of what I do. Or said another way, I have almost no help in doing what I do. This is not the writing part, have lots of help with editors and designers; this is the business side. Selling the books, planning marketing, making a profit.
You would think with my business background this would be a snap. It’s not. The main reason is that it is very limited. There are some variables, but mostly the decisions are; do you go exclusive with Amazon or more broadly with a few others? Do you sell your books at x or 2x? Do you have free books? Do you advertise on Amazon, Bookbub, Facebook or others?
I’ve been doing this for years now; and I’ve tried most everything at least once. None of it works really well. Ads are expensive and the return is questionable. Free books generate interest, but it is hard to make much money from free. You can go wide and thumb your nose at Amazon, but probably it costs you sales; still tempting. So-called experts, usually selling something, say develop your brand; establish your presence on social media—no doubt it helps, but only a little. Most people advising indie authors are making a lot more money than the indie authors. The real advice might be find a market niche full of desperate people and sell than advice like “try harder.”
It is a new year and time to stop whining and do something different. Be creative. Be innovative. Okay, I’m willing; but not sure what that is?
I’m afraid the indie author phenomena powered by e-books and Amazon has created a creative glut of decent books that nobody knows about. Maybe even great books that go unread; because there are literally tons of books available and not enough time to read a small fraction of that quantity.
Maybe it’s time to pull out the paint and brushes and create a tree that looks just like a tree but isn’t and suffer in silence.
This original art is for sell for $7,500,000. I’m going with the concept of only needing one really rich dumb ass and life will be great. It’s a very creative concept!