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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Difference Between 14% and 15%

By Steven Pressfield
Published: September 10, 2014

I was talking to a friend at the gym the other day. “How much strength do we all have?” he said. “Think about it: a ninety-five-pound mom can lift a Buick if her baby is underneath it, right? Then why is it so hard for that same woman to lift a 25-pound dumbbell here at the gym on a Tuesday morning?”

Russell Crowe in the arena in "Gladiator"

The answer, my friend said, is that the muscles can but they don’t want to. They resist. They’re afraid of success, afraid of failure, afraid of pain, afraid of the unknown.

“What we’re afraid of,” my friend said, “is going from using 14% of our potential to using 15%. For some reason, that increment is totally terrifying, even though there’s another 85% untouched beyond that.”

Why is it so hard to get that 1%?

We can all agree, I’m sure, that we experience a huge rush of exhilaration when we actually do it.

Isn’t that what CrossFit is all about, or extreme sports, or any physical activity that pushes the body and the mind beyond their perceived limits? CrossFit, from what I’ve read, enlists camaraderie, competition, novelty (new exercises, new environments), games, challenges, etc. to inspire its members to go from 14% to 15%. Success becomes addictive. You do it once and you want to do it again.

Yet the body resists. The mind resists. The world seems to have been made this way.


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What It Takes

What It Takes

Focus on the Person, Not the Product

By Callie Oettinger | Published: September 12, 2014

Flannery O’Connor hooked my interest through a school-assigned reading of A Good Man is Hard to Find and her personal story kept me reading more. I was certain that a bit of that geranium she wrote about—“with its roots in the air”—was her, a transplant to New York City, from Georgia, where the geraniums weren’t put on apartment windowsills for sun, but thrived just fine on their own at home.

While her body was long gone when I arrived on the scene, her stories and articles about her have kept me re-reading her work, always finding something new each time I visit.

With a few exceptions, it’s the individual’s story, not the story itself, that hooks me. There are millions of books and films and paintings and albums and plays and concerts and…  When they are pitched as products – “one of the best films of the summer” or “an instant classic”—I keep walking.

These days, everything seems to be a bestseller, the next best thing, the best film of the year, the best of the best of the best.

When everything is the best…  None of it grabs my attention.

I stop for the personal stories.


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What It Takes

What It Takes

When Not “Earning Out” is a Good Thing

By Shawn Coyne | Published: September 5, 2014

Literary Agent Andrew Wylie

Here’s how big shot literary agents make a compelling living.

A client brings an idea to the agent who advises the client about its commercial possibilities. It’s important to note that this advisement traditionally means whether or not the agent thinks he will be able to sell the project to a major publisher for a compelling advance against royalties. Not whether there are actual people out there willing to pay money to read such a book idea.

The way the best sale works (meaning to the best advantage of the writer and agent) with a major publisher is to make sure that the publisher’s advance guarantee exceeds the amount of royalty that the writer will actually earn.

For the life of the book.

So for example, a new love story from Ms. Bestselling Writer will sell to a big publisher for say a $5,000,000 guarantee against an industry standard royalty that escalates to 15% of the retail cover price for a hardcover purchase and 7.5% of the retail cover price for a paperback sale and 25% of net revenue for eBook.

Let’s say Ms. Bestselling Writer’s books sell on average 700,000 copies in hardcover, 650,000 copies in paperback and 650,000 copies in eBook…for the life of the book. Let’s say also that the average retail price of is $25.00 per copy per hardcover and $10.00 per copy for paperback and eBook. So, for those 2,000,000 copies sold, she’ll have earned:

15% of $25.00 is $3.75 earned for every one of the 700,000 hardcover books sold or $2,625,000, plus,

7.5% of $10.00 is $.75 earned for every one of the 650,000 paperback books sold or $487,000, plus,

25% of the publishers net from retailers (70% of $10.00 or $7.00 per unit sold going to publisher) for 650,000 copies sold would be 25% of $7.00 times 650,000 ($1,137,500).

Or $4,250,000 ($2,625,000 + $487,500 + $1,137,500)

So Ms. Bestselling Writer has earned $4,250,000 but has been guaranteed $5,000,000. So her book does not “earn out.”  She’ll never get a royalty statement with a check in it.

So the publisher lost money on that one, right? Not by a long shot.

The publisher has made a major return on investment even though it has paid $750,000 more than the book earned. How did that happen?

The publisher gets 50% of the retail cover price for every copy sold, or $8,750,000 for 700,000 copies sold of the hardcover and another $3,250,000 for the 650,000 copies sold of the paperback. (The other 50% goes to retailers).
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