Steven Pressfield Online




Subscribe RSS

Subscribe to SPO.

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.


Posted in Writing Wednesdays

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). (more…)

Posted in What It Takes

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Why #5

By Steven Pressfield | Published: September 3, 2014

Continuing our exploration of why I write this blog and why anyone might read it.

Jay-Z has a culture.

Let’s consider a topic we’ve discussed previously in this space: the idea of personal cultures.

We’re all familiar with the idea of institutional cultures. Apple has a culture. The New York Yankees have a culture. The Marine Corps has a culture.

You and I have one too. We might not realize it. We might not be aware of it. But each morning when we wake up, a pattern of thought boots itself up in our minds. This pattern is habitual. It has evolved within us by our own acts of commission or omission. We have manufactured it deliberately or it has established itself by default.

Bob Dylan has a culture.

Jay-Z has a culture.

Hillary Clinton has a culture.

This interior culture, more than anything else, determines if we are happy or unhappy, successful or unsuccessful, healthy or unhealthy.

What this blog is trying to do, among other things, is to explore the idea of personal culture, specifically the personal culture of the artist.

What is Resistance?

It’s the universal nemesis of every artist or entrepreneur. Laziness, jealousy, fear, anger, self-doubt, self-sabotage, self-conceit, self-satisfaction.

What weapon(s) do you and I possess to combat and overcome Resistance?

We have our interior culture.

When I use the phrases “turning pro” or “the professional mindset,” I’m describing a specific type of interior personal culture. It’s not the only type that works. But it’s the one that I myself, for whatever reasons, have glommed onto over the years.

One of the things a culture does for us is it lays out the actions and behaviors that someone “like us” would do or not do. On Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, one does not crap out in the fourth quarter. At Steve Jobs’ Apple, we come up with original ideas or we keep our mouths shut.

A personal culture defines our attitude and our point of view. It tells us how we view ourselves and how we view our challenges. When we look outward at the world, do we see “every man’s hand against us?” Are others always wrong, never ourselves? Or do we always discover blame at our own doorstep?

Our interior culture defines what’s possible for us. We can do X, say, but not Y. When we come up against Y, is it really impossible? Or are we in possession of a faulty culture?

Who has set up our culture? Did we breathe it in from American Idol or Keeping Up With The Kardashians? Do we inhabit a Twitter culture or a Harvard culture or a World Wrestling Federation culture?

Have we examined our interior culture? Is it visible to us, or do we act reflexively and unconsciously, following its dictates without even realizing that it exists? (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
Sign up for first look access.

Enter your email to get free access to every new thing I do.

No spam, I promise!

Gates of Fire
The War of Art
Turning Pro
The Profession
The Warrior Ethos
Do The Work
Tides of War
The Afghan Campaign
The Virtues of War
Killing Rommel
Last of the Amazons
The Legend of Bagger Vance
Additional Reading
Video Blog