Feb 282011

On to Part 2 of the lightbulb moment caused by Eben Pagan’s video launch of his Self-Made Wealth course. In the second and third video Eben Pagan spoke about a man I’m sure you’ve heard of: Warren Buffett. Warren Buffett takes so much care with his wealth that he doesn’t look at the dollar price tag of major purchases, but at the lost investment amount or “opportunity cost” of that purchase. In other words, money he spends on something like a car could’ve been invested in X at Y% interest, so in 20 years time he would have lost Z amount of wealth all due to buying this item*.

So, what does this have to do with writing? Well, think back to the concept of your imagination and your writing skill as the asset with which you are to create your wealth. Now think of some of the things you do in terms of “opportunity cost”. Surfing the Internet? Watching something on TV you’re not even interested in just because it’s on? Playing FarmVille / Farm Town / FrontierVille / Social City / Restaurant City… on FaceBook (those are the first few of 47 new game requests that have popped up since I deleted the last requests a fortnight ago). How about spending several hours on social networking tasks to promote your affiliate marketing sites? Or making new sites, selecting products, writing code, making everything look nice? An extra hour in bed when instead you could be producing a quarter of a short story or a tenth of a chapter? What about reviewing books for the whopping 4% commission on Amazon? I’m thinking out loud now: this is my list. Spending several days carefully crafting each Word 4 Writers module at – wait for it – 80c per module per student. Thousands of hours spent on Squidoo at less than a dollar an hour. That’s just the ice-cube in my night-cap; I’m nowhere near the iceberg yet.

“Don’t sell your time for less than it’s worth.” – Eben Pagan

That’s not to say that we should henceforth cut off all non-productive pursuits and become writing robots. But it is worth asking, “Is this particular activity worth not only my time now, but also my time lost?” For unpublished writers it is hard to put a dollar value on one’s time. That opportunity cost formula that comes so easily to Warren Buffett, who knows exactly what he wants to do with every dollar, is nearly impossible for someone like me to calculate.

But the term “opportunity cost” has another connotation for writers. Occasionally an opportunity may arise to transmute an asset, such as a manuscript, into wealth, such as a traditionally published book complete with advance and royalties. As writers our investment is having these assets ready and available for such an opportunity. Doing anything else but writing cuts into this investment. Wasting time costs you interest. A few years ago I came across the website of a publishing company requesting children’s fantasy manuscripts: mine wasn’t ready. Still isn’t. You know that feeling you get when you freefall, and your stomach seems to end up in a different place to the rest of you? That’s how I felt when what Eben was saying clicked for me.

A couple of weeks ago I read two blog posts about two self-publishing authors that really made me think:
L.J. Sellers and Alisa Valdes.

L.J. Sellers told interviewer Helen Ginger: “…one of the main factors that led me to leave my publisher was the waiting time. I had books completed and scheduled to be released in the summers of 2011, 2012, and 2013. I started thinking about how much money I could make on my own in the meantime if I published the e-books immediately. I decided not to wait.”

Alisa Valdes had a similar lightbulb moment. But she also had the experience of her original publisher not understanding that what Alisa’s readers wanted to buy was not what the publisher wanted to sell them. Alisa did understand, and so she gave her readers what they wanted; publisher be damned.

I told you this was a series of small thoughts adding to a major perspective shift. Reading L.J.’s words above seemed to echo something I’d been pondering for a year or longer. Except in my case it was the realisation that I had a market expressing interest in what I had to offer with a definite sense that I wouldn’t be able to get a publisher interested in time to capture this market. So, if this has been on my mind for a year, why am I only now starting to get it off the ground? Well, there’s that focus thing again. Along came an opportunity to relaunch Word 4 Writers at the same time and I saw it as a sign. I do a lot of that, too, and just for kicks I’ll give you some examples in another post.

And another reason is fear. Word 4 Writers was just sharing information; sharing my stories means sharing a part of my soul. And that’s a deep pool to plunge into.

* If this brief introduction has piqued your own interest in doing some maths of your own, here is a handy online compound interest calculator put out by the Australian government.


Elle Carter Neal

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and the teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, holding childhood slumber-party audiences entranced until the early hours of the morning. Elle decided to be an author the day she discovered that real people wrote books and that writing books was a real job. Join Elle on her new publishing adventure.

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