South African Writers Must Create Assets

Ways to create assets as a writer and the question I wish people would ask writers instead of: “Can you make money as a writer?”

When people ask, “but, can you make money as a writer?” and they ask this question with a tinge of self-importance (well, not all of them but the few that do are enough for me to write this post. LOL) that makes me want to agree with them, insinuating, NO! and just keep it moving. And sometimes I do agree with them because well, let’s just keep it moving, right?

In this post though, I am not going to keep it moving, I am going to give the real answer and the question I wish people would ask instead. And, of course, attempt to help other writers out, especially if you are a writer who has not thought of how you can make money from writing.

Can you make money as a writer?

Can you make money as a writer: the short answer to this is…it depends.

Whether you make it as a writer or not depends on these two BIG things that have sub-categories.

  1. Do you have a long-term view?
  2. Do you have a growth plan?

If you have written a book and your goal is to peddle the book and see how it goes then, in your current state, you will not make money as a writer. If you are keen on building an entire business and know how to exercise patience then keep reading…

The long term view

I have been writing for as long as I can remember and back then I didn’t even know that I could make writing a career! And so, this is something I would do for free and have been for the longest time. This element is needed if you are going to take a long-term view.

To be clear, writing is not how you get rich quick, if your vision is to publish and have people beating down your door for your first book then I suggest you revise that view. This happening is the exception and not the rule to how it all works.

The money that will flow from writing requires patience. It requires you to understand that every word you pen down is a deposit into people’s hearts and minds, it is how you buy people’s trust. Trust cannot be a rushed job! And I believe this is one of the most important elements in securing your income through writing, it takes time for people to trust and your job is to build that trust and then protect it.

If you don’t have the time to build the trust and don’t have the patience to keep writing even when you are not seeing any return on investment (your time and IP) then this post is not for you. Because what I am going to let you in on below, is not something you can cook in the microwave or flash fry. It is meat marinated over two days and put in a slower cooker kind of thing.

The growth plan

So what is the growth plan? This is where you make the money as a writer. You now have your patience in check and you are keen to build an entire business around your writing, so we are ready to go!

You MUST build assets.

What are assets?

Wikipedia says:

“an asset is any resource owned by a business or an economic entity. It is anything (tangible or intangible) that can be owned or controlled to produce value and that is held by an economic entity and that could produce positive economic value. Simply stated, assets represent value of ownership that can be converted into cash (although cash itself is also considered an asset).[1

As writers we are interested in the intangible assets. Your intellectual property is an asset, that means your book(s) and any other resource or platform that you own and can be converted into money or leveraged to eventually turn into cash or an experience that would need cash (i.e a free all expenses paid holiday etc) are all assets.

Types of Assets a writer can build

  • An author’s website
  • Invest in yourself
  • A backlist
  • A mailing list
  • Courses
  • Networking opportunities
  • An author’s website is an important platform and the headquarters of your asset-building project. In this previous post, I write about why you need an author’s website.

Invest in yourself, in order to grow you need to take the time to engage with the things that will foster that growth. As a writer, take writing courses whenever you can, go to places you have never been to, meet people and be interested in them (great for character development in stories). Buy books from other authors, read across the board, take up a public speaking class and say yes to things that scare you. As a creative you have to be deliberate about your growth, it is the only way your craft develops.

  • A backlist is a list of your other books, yes you read that right, you NEED to keep writing books if you want to build assets and make money as a writer. As mentioned above, believing you will be a breakout success with just one book is lofty, and I have been there, short-lived but I was there too. And I get it, writing a book can be intimidating and so when you finish you really feel like the entire world should be standing outside your door chanting your praises. It won’t happen, this is a celebration for one, for now. When you keep writing you build credibility and trust with the readers who are your day ones! And when a new reader stumbles upon your work, the chances of them sticking around will depend on how much you have for them. (side note: this is also why you should be glad when your earlier books don’t peak too soon.)

  • A mailing list, I will always talk about the importance of a mailing list. This is when you collect all the contact details of your readers and potential readers, that you can only capture through your website. Social media platforms will NOT help you gather all those followers into your email inbox, not ever! So have a place where you can engage with your audience that social media platforms can’t disrupt. And by disrupt I mean, Facebook can wake up and decide they no longer want authors to promote their books on their platform and where will that leave you? Your asset, GONE!

  • Courses!!! This is a great way for non-fiction authors to build an asset. If your book is a “how-to manual” peppered with your own story, you can turn the entire book into a course with chapters as the different modules. You can also become a speaker and share your material at conferences etc.. And for the fiction writers, like me and I am working on a course (yippee), we can create courses on writing. How to develop a character, a story, how to research for a novel, how to market your novel and the list goes on. In a nutshell, developing courses that are HELPFUL and offer more value than what a person can find on Youtube, is the sweet money spot.

  • Networking… It is so important to network with other writers! It helps us grow the industry and helps us hone our craft, this is NOT a competition. Isn’t nice? That the creative space is one where collaboration is the cornerstone to greatness? Connect with other creatives, highlight the great work they do by profiling them on your author website and across social media. Find creative ways for all of you to collaborate and keep all your readers engaged… And speaking of readers, you DEFINITELY want to network with your readers, don’t be that author who sells a whole lot of books then be too “good” to connect with the people who put the money in your pocket.

It will all take time

All the above will take time and hard work. Your words and your interactions on a day to day basis will not feel like they are yielding any results. But, real genuine relationships take time and are hard work! Your consistency is what buys you trust, your willingness to help, your ability to offer value and always viewing yourself as a servant will pay off. You are here to serve the world, you write because you have something you believe the world needs to hear or rethink and so your voice matters. Remember though, so does everyone else’s so, allow it to take time for your point of view to seep in and alter theirs, or maybe come around to seeing where you were coming from. And this part isn’t achieved by shouting “BUY MY BOOK, SUPPORT BLACK ETC” on every single post. A connection takes time, let it.

The question people could ask instead…

The next time someone asks you if you can make money from being a writer, politely suggest to them to rather ask, “what asset are you working on building into your writing business at the moment?” There is a goldmine of answers there and, let’s be honest, it’s a more interestng conversation to have than the original question.

Over to you: what did you find useful?

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