The rise of self-publishing has not only brought about creative freedom for authors, but also a new personal responsibility for financial control over our own writing careers. This mindset shift can be daunting for those who have focused solely on the writing craft for many months or years. But here at the The Alliance of Independent authors, we believe that adopting a positive money mindset can turn what might feel like an overwhelming responsibility into an empowering opportunity.
If you’re finding it tricky to embrace the financial elements of indie publishing, read on for ALLi’s top tips for building a positive money mindset.
Accept you are now a business
Let's go back to basics. From the moment you upload your first book to a retailer website, you are in business. It might not feel like it, but as well as an author, that single step has made you a publisher too. And that’s a good thing.
Take a moment to think about what it really means to be running your own publishing business. You are now taking personal responsibility for your own writing career. Which means you are taking control of creating the best chances for your writing. What an opportunity this offers!
In financial terms, at its simplest, being a business owner means being in charge of all the money in relation to your writing, both the incomings and the outgoings. Money is the backbone of every business, and shying away from it isn’t the way to achieve your dreams. Embracing it now and seeing its management as an integral part of your indie author role will increase your chance of success.
Understand your own relationship with money
Does thinking about money in relation to your creative work make you feel a little awkward, or even scared? You are not alone. It can be hard to accept that your creative endeavours are intertwined with money and sales.
Identifying what may be blocking you from accepting, promoting, or managing payment for your writing is the first step to resolving the issue.
If this sounds like you, why not try this money mindset free-writing exercise?
Free-writing, is a creative writing practise where you write down thoughts quickly and continuously, without worrying about form, style, spelling or grammar. The idea is to see what flows naturally and perhaps even access thoughts that have been hidden.
Set a timer and free write for five minutes about what you picture when someone mentions money and art in the same sentence. What thoughts rush through your mind? Have a go, then come back here to consider what you've uncovered.
You may have thought about an enduring belief in the romance and inevitable doom of the starving author, or you may have uncovered fears that wanting to earn from your art might devalue it. Perhaps you felt a nagging worry that money takes away from what was your much-loved hobby, or even that you don't deserve payment for your work… and it could be multiple images, beliefs and fears.
Now consider what you've written down and think again about where those connections might have come from. What stories, images, historical figures, or characters have created these narratives in your mind?
There are many beliefs we carry with us which we’ve assimilated through what society tells us. They are often not based on facts.
For example, the “starving author” stereotype stems from the romantic era, where creating art was thought to be necessarily a painful process, and artists such has poets, authors, and painters were often expected to go hungry and live in poverty. Since then society has moved on, yet for some, the story of the artist and author has not…
Since the digital revolution, authors are no longer reliant on gatekeepers or rich patrons to produce our work, and we can take control over all our financial transactions. Independent creators across all sorts of channels and platforms now make money directly from what they share with others. Why then shouldn't you?
Tell yourself a different story
Find examples of authors who don’t conform to the way you view money in relation to your own work. There will be many of them.
For example, if you worry that money diminishes the value of your work, think of your favourite author. How does their work make you feel? Think of the enjoyment their books have brought to you and countless readers.
Do you still enjoy and value their books, even though they have also made money from them? Of course you do.
You wouldn’t begrudge your favourite author making the money they need to live comfortably, to support their family, or to be able to continue producing their books, would you? And you would expect to pay to access their writing, right? Well, it’s the same for you. Your reader expectation is that a financial transaction happens in order to receive your work. It's not greedy, or selfish, or diminishes the value of what you produce.
View money as a motivation for creativity
If you are still left with a negative feeling about your financial responsibilities as an author, here’s another way of looking at it. Think of money as an energy that can drive your creative dreams.
As a traditionally published author, your publisher would be an additional driving force behind you, setting deadlines and targets to bring motivation to your output. Without that element of support, you can use financial motivators in their place.
When financial success is unblocked, money can give you the space and time to focus on your creativity. Money can act as a motivating energy behind your work ethic and bring increased activity to your craft.
Adding money to the creative equation can, for some authors, be the final push to take your writing seriously. You are no longer waiting for the muse to strike. Instead, your financial needs can bring a new enthusiasm to write, produce, and complete.
Practise gratitude for a positive money mindset
Have you ever looked at your bank balance and just been grateful? How do you feel when you purchase something that you really want?
When you think of receiving money for your creative work, replace any feelings of guilt with feelings of gratitude. Express gratitude for what money allows you to do. It may be for your family, for yourself, or simply for giving you time to write. Gratitude has the power to shatter the anger, guilt, frustration, or negation that we’re wired to feel when thinking of money.
Another way to be grateful for money is to focus on when it’s directed towards someone else. You might be just starting out with your publishing, but when there is an extra penny around, what can you do with it? You could donate it, purchase a small gift for someone who has supported you and see the joy on their face, or perhaps, share your success story and inspire someone you know to do something they’ve been putting off.
Sharing your success with others regularly in small ways will help you feel more positive instantly.
Keep it simple
This one is for those of you just starting out, and not sure how to focus your financial attention. Have you heard of the KISS principle? It stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid”.
It may sound like a silly concept, but the KISS principle in the financial world can be freeing. Particularly if you fear financial management. It’s a reminder that, if nothing else, you should stick to one simple rule for financial management. And that is – spend less than you earn.
When you first embrace the financial side of your writing business, simply aim to spend less than you earn. Keep a track of what’s coming in and what’s going out and hold that clear goal at the forefront of your mind. Creating a separate bank account for your publishing can be a good idea to be able to quickly look back at what's gone in and out in relation to your writing.
Avoid the pitfall of believing “it’s too hard”
Are you a little further on? Perhaps you are starting to make a profit and the complexities of financial management are becoming more apparent. You may be coming across concepts, opportunities, or decisions that are a little more complicated. There’s a popular belief that those with an artistic outlook don't make for good business owners. Don’t fall into that trap, or use it as an excuse to not take control.
Writers are smart, you know that. But becoming a publisher, particularly as your business takes a step to the next level, does require learning new skills. Just like we research for our books, we must research business and financial topics as they become relevant.
Many self-published authors before you have successfully picked up the financial knowledge needed, so feel confident that you can do so too.
As we all know, ‘knowledge is power’. But you’re not alone. You may have friends or relatives working in financial roles who you can ask about words or decisions you come across, don't be afraid to reach out. And ALLi is always here to help too. In the coming months, we have a blog planned to decipher the key jargon for self-publishing financial management – so keep a lookout and bookmark! At the end of this post, you'll also find information and links to ALLi business planning resources, including the Quarterly Business Planner.
Embrace business planning
Businesses thrive on strategy, and authors should too. Consider developing a comprehensive business plan that outlines your financial projections, as well as your wider goals, key milestone dates, and even the details of activities, such as marketing, all in one place.
Your plan can be referred to whenever you are feeling unsure or nervous about your business decisions. Knowing a plan is in place can not only motivate you, but also reduce financial stress. You aren’t working in the dark.
There's a lot to business planning, too much to add to this post, but this great Author Planning Post from Director of ALLi, Orna Ross, is a good place to start. It explains that at it's most basic you should include a roadmap and targets against four measures of success.
Author measures of success:
- profits: Your financial rewards. Expressed as money paid across to yourself after all your publishing expenses are paid (personal bank deposit).
- productivity: Your output. Expressed as words completed (writing productivity) and books published (publishing productivity).
- purpose: Your influence and impact. Expressed as platform, reach, and engagement with your mission and what is most meaningful for you as a writer (book sales, follower numbers, and engagement ).
- personal satisfaction: Your pleasure in your work. Expressed as a reading from one to ten based on internal self-observation, one being misery and ten creative bliss–your creative happiness quotient (CHQ).
Knowing where you want to go and what success looks like in the short and long term (both financially and more widely) can also free up your mind to spot when an unexpected opportunity arises that will help you achieve your objectives.
It could be a great contact for sharing your marketing assets, a new platform that suits your target audience, or an event that comes up that would be perfect for you to attend. Knowing your goals can help you identify great ways to get there.
Put on your different money mindset ‘hats’
If you read about financial planning and started to think – wait, that isn’t why I got into writing! Don’t panic. It’s not going to be your entire role. Just part of it.
It can help to divide up your time into your different roles and to imagine putting on a different ‘hat’ or persona for each activity. You still hold the role of author, that will never go away - and when you put on your author hat, that’s when you can focus fully on your writing. Other times you will need to step into your publisher role – and that’s when your strategic, business and financial planning mind needs to take the lead. You may also want to divide out other roles too, such as your head of marketing hat (yep, that’s probably you as well).
Thinking of yourself as playing different roles in your own micro-publishing business can help if you want to keep your creative writing time separate and sacred. If you are also someone who can get distracted from your writing, this division of time can help put a limit on how much energy you spend as on your role as a publisher, making sure you still find time for the all-important writing.
What do you do as a publisher?
A few different areas you'll need to focus on when wearing your publisher hat, are outlined below. These are based on those referenced in the same Author Planning Post mentioned in point eight:
- What will your business model be for book distribution – exclusive (i.e. with Amazon), wide, rights, publisher, creator?
- Will you just be selling book(s) or other products to generate revenue?
- Will you pay yourself first before investing in other ways?
- How will you organise your banking and accounting information?
- Do you need an accountant?
- What do you believe will be your average monthly costs?
- What ROI (Return on Investment) are you aiming for?
- Have you set a budget for each book?
- Have you automated and streamlined your publishing activities where possible?
- Will you have a money day each month to focus on money management?
- How is your relationship with money? (see the excersises above)
- What else do you need to consider for your business?
End the fear of financial success
Is there a part of you that wonders what would happen if a major success kicked in for you? Do you fear how you might manage the responsibilities that could come with having a best-seller on your hands, and the financial benefits that come with that?
Forget that fear. If you find yourself with a major success to handle, and the financial windfall that can lead to, that’s the time you will reach out for more help.
Once your incomings can cover financial support, a range of professionals will save you time and precious brain cells if you bring them on board to support your financial planning, accounting and investments. They can also caution you on future missteps and streamline your processes.
Help affords you enough time to move forward with your core tasks of writing and publishing. Or just putting your feet up for some creative rest and play. But take things one step at a time. First, get your business going (and KISS), and don't let the fear of success hold you back.
If you have chosen to go indie, you are in business, and that means thinking about money in a new way.
The quicker you embrace this new responsibility and see the positives, the quicker you can get going with the necessary steps to build your business into the success you want and deserve.
By building a positive money mindset, you can manage your finances effectively, use money as a motivation for creativity, free up your time to write more, and build your skills as not just an author but as a publisher. And if major success brings with it more financial responsibilities, there's no need to fear, you can reach out for help. How brilliant is that?
The shift in perspective you are now taking, to a positive money mindset, is about unlocking your potential to build a lasting literary career and leave your stamp in the world of indie publishing.
So pick a tactic (or two or three) from this post that most resonates with you, note it down in big, bright letters on a post-it and stick it on the wall by your laptop. Glance at it ever time the financial fear or negativity raises its head. Use it as a mantra to keep building your positive money mindset.
Find out more
You've probably heard of ALLi's top indie author guide book, Creative Self-Publishing. Did you know the new third edition comes with a newly updated business planning section? You can also get an accompanying series of planners that guide authors and poets with the day-to-day of writing and publishing. These practical planners support authors with:
- Optimising your time management and finances with tried-and-tested success tools
- Overcoming creative blocks with mind maps, charts for creative rest and play, and writing exercises
- Replacing overwhelm and procrastination with clarity and simplicity
- Setting effective success measures to aid your happiness
The Monthly Mapping Planner in particular aims to expand your impact, influence, and income as an indie author. Or take a look at the Quarterly Business Planner, which helps authors set ambitious but achievable targets over a three-month period, along with providing monthly work and profit planners, and lots more strategic support.