It’s that time of year again for me when the latest royalty figures (and payments) arrive for my first published book, One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human. It was sixteen years ago (crikey!) when it first hit the bookshops, and it’s a reminder that words are our assets. Those 5,000 words, written earlier in 2003, are still generating an income for me today (albeit a much reduced one than sixteen years ago!).
When it comes to the business of writing, this is an effective way of generating money: write some words then get those same words to continue selling, year after year after year. Write it once: sell it several times.
Of course, in practical terms, this is much easier with book projects, whether they are fiction or non-fiction. But it’s worth remembering that all of our writing projects are assets, and these are assets we should be exploiting to the maximum.
It’s a little more challenging with our assets that appear in magazines, but not impossible. Firstly, there are organisations like the ALCS (Authors Licensing and Collecting Society) who are paying some writers this week. Once you’ve had a piece (asset) published in a magazine with an ISSN it’s eligible for secondary rights payments (such as photocopying rights). These words can earn you more money without you needing to sit down and write them again.
Can you exploit your asset in another format? Many short story writers collate together their published magazine stories into anthologies, which they self-publish. (Clearly you need to retain the relevant rights to be able to do this. It’s why you should always retain as many rights in your own work as possible.)
Indeed, I’ve done this with my Business of Writing articles that are published in Writing Magazine. The first four years of the column now appear in two digital anthologies and I’m currently putting together the third.
Now, not every article is one that can be exploited in this way, but can you spot a theme with some of your pieces that might just work together? If you write travel articles, do you have enough on one place, region or country to create an anthology?
Some article topics may work well in a physical book format. Some of my walks in Best Walks in the Welsh Borders began life as articles. But by bringing some of them together, along with some new routes they helped generate a book advance, and also Public Lending Right (PLR). That book (and therefore, those original walking route articles) also generated more money through ALCS, because this organisation also collects foreign PLR payments, when books are borrowed from libraries abroad.
Sometimes, getting the words down on paper can be a struggle. It’s what uses our most precious asset of all: time. But think of those words as an asset, once you’ve written them, and try to make them work harder for you.
One Hundred Ways For A Dog To train Its Human began life as a 75-word magazine filler (which earned me a small payment). A version of those words appear in the book. Then it developed into an 800-word article … which also made it into the book (although these were split up into various sections of the book). And since then, those words have been licensed into four foreign editions, generating income from four other countries.
So it may start off as a blank page today, but when we manage to get some words onto it we’re creating a business asset. A business asset we can exploit. Are you exploiting yours to the maximum?
The next time you make a sale from your words, give yourself a pat on the back to celebrate your achievement. And think about how you might get that asset to earn you some more money. Don’t leave it lying dormant on a hard drive somewhere.