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Dear Treva (suitably edited real e-mails and answers)

Dear Treva...

I want to write full time -- Unemployed
I wanted to ask you how you structure your days as a writer. Yesterday, I found myself in the unique (or perhaps not so unique nowadays) position of being unemployed.

Aside from filing for unemployment, I wanted to try my hand at being a full-time writer. I was wondering if you guys had any advice or words of wisdom on structuring your day as a writer. I don't want to squander my time and I really feel this is, in the long run, a wonderful opportunity to fulfill what I have always dreamed of.

Treva, Dispenser of Wisdom:
Dear Unemployed: My advice is always "Don't give up the day job."
Of course, I did give up a structured, well-paying day job.  But besides writing, I do  publishing and keep my husband for the health insurance and his day job.  Kidding -- sort of. He still dreams of when I can go back to working three jobs instead of a slacker's two.

I'm also a lousy person to give advice on a writing routine because my routine is based on having no family emergencies and that rarely happens.  I'd say since you have the time right now, use it.  I've never had long blocks of time to concentrate on writing but I'd figure out what you want to target, what's marketable and write.  Spend an hour a day on marketing and everything else on doing the writing. For myself, I try to write something every day and when I have a long enough stretch of time, I write even more.

In e-publishing, you won't receive advances like you would from print publishing.  The good news is you usually get your money much faster, and, as your back list grows, your earnings grow to the point where you have a good shot of making a living. Maybe not as much as print, but a lot more reliable.

You will be working your ass off if you work for yourself, whatever you do.  And you'll spend time in a panic over finances or work or a million other things.  OTOH, if you really enjoy what you do, you'll not mind nearly as much as if you're doing something  9-5 purely for the money.

Even before my last birthday I started realizing that all that stuff you put off because you have time...I don't have that luxury any more.  Your time is finite and precious and should be spent wisely.  Welcome to middle age.

Starting an Electronic Publishing Company -- Hopeful
Some friends and I are in the very beginning stages of discussion about starting up a small electronic publishing company.At this point, we don't have a clear idea what we would be getting into.

I would be grateful if you could tell me if there was a resource which would give us an accurate picture of the skills and starting capital we would need to make this work, as well as what benchmarks we should use to evaluate whether or not our venture was working after a year or two.

Treva, Dispenser of Wisdom:
Dear Hopeful:
I couldn't ever tell you everything because each publisher has certain unique issues based on how the publisher works.  But I started, in a very roundabout way, by asking the same question you did of another person who had just started up a small e-publishing company. Her answer started me going. So I should pass on the favor.
Starting a business is a headache.  It can be a costly nightmare if you have no preparation. I'm not sure how much you know about publishing or writing or running small businesses.  If you don't know too much at all, my advice is to first get some experience in the field as a writer, editor, or proof reader. Learn your market.

That said, there's a lot of advice out there for people who want to start their own business.   I'd suggest a look at one of the early articles on our blog -- “So You Want to Be a Publisher” for starters.  http://treva2007.livejournal.com/2856.html  I suspect many other publishers and editors have similar good advice on their blogs.  You may want to take a look at the EPIC site for electronic publishers and authors for more resource material.
Contact your local Small Business Association and ask for any materials they've got available on how to start your own business. You really need to know and understand the business side of things -- your legal responsibilities and tax liabilities. Nothing like getting hit with a mountain of taxes forms you weren't expecting to start things off right!
I think the climate for new e-publishers has changed since we started, and so has the economy.  The reading public is more suspicious (and authors are much more suspicious) of new companies because so many have not done well and no one wants to gamble on a house that may fold and leave them hanging. Be prepared to hang in with little appreciation for your efforts for quite a bit.

From Margaret, Sometimes The Dispenser of All Wisdom:
One year Benchmark: If you can pay your authors, editors, cover artists, line editors,  web master, and all the other staff members you'll need, as well as web hosting fees, rent and utilities, and still have something left over to start paying yourself, you're doing better than most new business -- of any sort.

Good luck!
Treva Harte



January 2013



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