Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Betting on Yourself, Part Two

By Steven Pressfield | Published: April 4, 2012

In the past few weeks we’ve been talking about risk, specifically the universe of hazard that the artist and entrepreneur willingly and consciously inhabit. We’ve talked about operating on two tracks—the commercial track and the pure-soul track—and about betting on yourself. Today I want to take the discussion deeper into the realm of nuts and bolts.

Mad Men

There's a reason why the company always picks up the check

When you and I sell our novel or cookbook to Simon & Schuster (or our screenplay to Warner Bros. or our album to Interscope or our videogame to Electronic Arts), we willingly and consciously take ourselves out of the sphere of risk.

The company cuts us a check and we cruise to the bank. The publisher or studio has taken on the Big Boy assignment: they have assumed the risk. It’s their role, now, to finance everything, distribute everything, market everything. If the project bombs, they eat it. You and I get off scot-free. We’ve got our check and nobody can take it away from us.

But there’s a price to be paid for evading that risk. The price is that we become the child, and the studio/label/publisher becomes the adult.

There’s a reason why editors and producers (and even agents) pick up the check when they take the writer or musician to lunch. They’re the grownups. We’re the kids.

Now it’s true that certain projects require the deep pockets of a Major Kahuna. You and I can’t finance our $50 million sword-and-sandal epic. We’re getting nosebleeds just thinking about bankrolling our $10K digital, shoot-it-in-three-days biopic of Johnny Rotten. And (full disclosure) I confess that my own next project is a big book with a big publisher. So by no means have I totally moved away from my day job.

But in other areas of publishing/music/movies, the barriers to entry have fallen so far (thanks, Seth Godin, for teaching us this and a lot more) that it has become feasible to actually roll the dice and bet on yourself all the way. I can do it. You can too.

In fact, Shawn and I are about to plunge into that very pool ourselves, in association with our crack pards Jeff and Callie. My next book, coming in a few weeks, is a follow-up to The War of Art called Turning Pro. It’s something I’ve been trying to do for three years and finally (we hope) have put together.

Coming soon from a publisher (very) near you

We’re going to bring the book out ourselves. Are we nuts? Why walk away from a six-figure advance and the prestige of being published by a major house? Why take on the hassles of design and copy-editing, printing, marketing, administration, fulfillment? The writer is already risking his time, his work and his future. Why put his bank account at hazard too? The answer for Shawn and me is it’s fun. And it’s empowering. If the web and other tech breakthroughs make it possible to be active instead of passive … let’s do it.

Besides, we’re tired of being in the role of the child. The writer who signs a contract and cashes the check forfeits all right to complain. Whatever evils may befall him or his book, he has enabled those evils himself. It’s not the publisher’s fault. The writer has no one to blame but himself.

Shawn and I have more books in the pipeline after Turning Pro, including a videobook that discusses this very business model—what we call a “Long Tail Business,” after the seminal book by Chris Anderson. We’re putting it out in the hope that it might inspire other artists and entrepreneurs to bet on themselves in the same or similar ways.

The trick to a long-tail business (we hope) is that, if you can keep your expenses and your expectations low, the rewards of autonomy and control will make up for the smaller upfront payday. That’s the theory anyway.

Stand by for updates. We’ll be sending dispatches from the trenches in the weeks to come!

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

29 Responses to “Betting on Yourself, Part Two”

  1. April 4, 2012 at 4:28 am

    Wohoooooo! Happy, happy, happy here;-)
    Thanks for having guts to break free from traditional way of shipping your art, Steven.You have a great tribe around you and they will spread the word about “Turning Pro”. I will do my best to sneeze about it while being in the process of turning pro myself. It is awesome what you guys, are doing. Indeed it is great fun and if more of us connect, talk and create together – there will be higher chance for more “want to be Pro” to take their leap of faith, when they will see other ‘nuts’ doing so;-)
    Yay!

  2. April 4, 2012 at 4:37 am

    Nice one Steven, 100% profits in your pocket :) Thanks for all the great inspiration, your sentiments have been life (& career) changing.

    If you have need for some digital assistance in pushing your new book, you have my email address and our support if you want it…regardless, count on at least one sale from me.

    Rock on
    G

  3. April 4, 2012 at 5:08 am

    C’mon in, the water’s fine.

    Actually, it’s cold and filled with sharks, but do we have any choice? Of course not.

    • April 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      But isn’t swimming with the sharks and subsequent opportunity for success (or not)the joy and the fear of it? And that’s what makes it worth attempting!

  4. April 4, 2012 at 6:16 am

    This is tremendous news. The SP team and Seth have been showing and telling how to ship in the new world for a while now. Time to stop watching the risk takers and join them.

    Congrats on Turning Pro–I can’t wait to read and share it.

  5. Jonathan Gilbert
    April 4, 2012 at 6:54 am

    Thanks, Steve- You can count on me to spread the word on “Turning Pro”. As a “semi-pro”, your words resonate with my fatigue of being in the role of the child. Surely Rilke is right- “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage” (Letters to a Young Poet). Betting on ourselves is about that one act, a wager that your words speak truth.

    J

  6. April 4, 2012 at 6:57 am

    So, how do we sign up (and pay) for a copy now?

    Distribution is now easy. Marketing remains a challenge. And curating – editing – may be more important than ever, though the access point has probably moved.

    • April 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm

      Thanks, you guys! I’ve spent all day correcting proofs and glitches. You’re right, David, but curating must be done. Thanks, everybody, for the encouragement!

  7. Tina
    April 4, 2012 at 6:59 am

    How exciting!

    With you, your crack team and loyal following you would be a coward not to!

    Look out publishing world, there will soon be a new Titan on the block!

  8. April 4, 2012 at 7:20 am

    I’m ready to take the plunge, and join the ranks of the self-believers. I read Craig Mod’s book the other day, and love the idea of using our marginalia to create something in and of itself. It would be great to see what came out of a digital model of Turning Pro. Bring it on.

  9. April 4, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Wow. You have rocked my world this morning. Not the first time. Your wisdom, integrity, and yes, courage, have been a constant since the day I picked up the first edition of “The War of Art”. I cannot wait for “Turning Pro”, and will be telling anyone who will listen about it. Thank you for once again taking the lead, Steve.

  10. April 4, 2012 at 11:02 am

    It’s always exciting news when you know there’s a book on the way that you’re gonna really, really want to read. Kudos guys! :-)

    • April 4, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      Angela, are you on the space station? Your Avatar seems to be floating. (No comments on my big nose please)
      Sounds good Steve. I think the establishment still has an edge on marketing and distribution. What’s it like to deal with Amazon or their acquisition Audible.com, which I’ve been a long time subscriber?
      Does ‘going rogue’ get you blackballed?
      Well, I got fired the other day. Sort of the equivalent of suicide by cop, I think. Anyway, I guess I’m putting my bet on me. Lol.

  11. Sonja
    April 4, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Oh, excitement!!! I cannot wait!

    Your books have been influential and life-saving in these turbulent waters of mine.

    THANK YOU.

  12. April 4, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Another nice day at the horse races, Steven. Well done.

  13. skip
    April 4, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    beyond excellent!

  14. jenn
    April 4, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    I cannot even begin to express how unbelievably excited I am about this book!!!!Such synchronistic timing for me personally, too….thank you!!

  15. April 4, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Great post and best of luck on “Turning Pro”…it will no doubt be another huge success for you…thanks for reminding me how important risk is!

  16. April 4, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    “The War of Art,” “Do the Work,” and now “Turning Pro.” What exciting news!!

    The hits just keep on coming!! Thanks for the inspiration.

  17. April 4, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Steven:

    Your publishing, marketing, and distribution of your new book should make a great story and lessons for us all. Good luck with a successful launch!

    =rdsieber

  18. June
    April 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Will the “Turning Pro” book tell us more how we can get some traction on the commercial track? You say Pro’s write for money, to make a living. What are some ways to go about this besides writing a book or screenplay? What are the poets supposed to do?

  19. April 5, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Everyone is talking about the old model crumbling (Seth) and as much as I want to believe it (cause I like change and think the old model sucks) I am concerned about the quality of what is being produced in the self publishing universe.

    I’ll buy and read Turning Pro because I loved Steve’s Do The Work and The War of Art, but I had no idea who Steve was before the Domino Project (sad to see that go away).

    Most everything I read now is a recommendation from someone I respect or admire and now that we are all more intimately connected there are substantially more ‘personal’ recommendations in our lives.

    Ha. I just realized, that’s the new model . . .

  20. Barbara
    April 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Thanks, Guys, for being so brave and free! Steve, I love your writing and your spirit and your honesty. You clear the day of clouds. Can’t wait to read the new book.

  21. Basilis
    April 8, 2012 at 1:55 am

    Child and GrownUp…
    I’ve never thought about it that way (I’m currently philosophizing it).
    I wish you the best on Turning Pro. But one small question: Is there going to be a translated version of it in the near future?

  22. April 9, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Congratulations! That’s a big leap, but it seems you are well prepared and well position to take it. Wishing you the best of fortune.

  23. April 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Here was a big surprise to me from another author, who wrote a very good time management book. Her publisher printed 1500 copies then no more. She sold that many at work shops the first year, then was out of luck – they chose not to help her get more books.

  24. Mike Laughlin
    April 11, 2012 at 9:39 am

    The War of Art is a foundation, lifetime book for me, for two reasons: the insights into the subject, but also the clear, succinct writing and supporting layout. As a former newspaper editor, I can’t tell you how refreshing the latter is. I re-read chapters all the time. All who write 1,000 page tomes and textbooks should take heed. However, I’m concerned that you are now seeming to write about “business” and other matters. As Aristotle in Rhetoric might ask, er … what are your credentials?

  25. April 12, 2012 at 9:40 am

    I can’t wait to read this book! The War of Art inspired me in my writing pursuits and I’m sure this one will as well. Thanks for sharing the concepts on betting on yourself and turning pro!

  26. April 23, 2013 at 7:34 am

    What’s up, its fastidious paragraph concerning media print, we all know media is a wonderful source of information.