What Traditional Publishing Taught Us about Abundance vs. Scarcity

At 14, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I decided this rather publically. At the time, I was confused about what that meant. Hell, we all were. You not only had to be good to break into the business, but you had to be lucky as well.

brokeguySo I got laughed at, for years. Over and over. “That’s nice,” people would say. “But what will you do for money? Like, what are you going to do for a living?” The comments were disheartening to say the least. So I set out from high school with the noble goal in mind of establishing a career. Having a wife, a house, 2.5 kids, and 1.5 dogs. You know, the American dream. The one there was no way you could get by being a writer.

I wasn’t very successful. Oh, I had a wife, kids, dogs, and a number of “careers,” none of which stuck for more than a few years. Why? I wasn’t doing what I was built for, and I had missed a key point: I wasn’t living in a world where readers and money for writers was scarce. I lived in a world of plenty. And the changing landscape of publishing has opened my eyes, and the eyes of the world to what has been there all along. We were taught the rarity of author success, and projected that, and some lies, onto ourselves.

There are plenty of readers. English is the third most common language in the world, with an estimated 1.2 billion people who both speak and read it. (If you are reading this I assume you write in English, although that may not be the case) Every one of them is a potential reader of your work. Even if every book published last year was in English, and gathered an equal number of readers, there would be an audience of 15,000 readers for each book. But that simply isn’t true. Many of the books published each year are not in English, and they do not gather equal audiences.

If you are one in a million, there are 12,000 people in the world just like you. Okay, maybe not identical. But if you cared about something enough to write an entire book about it, you can be assured there are plenty of other readers in the world who will relate to and care about your work. It is your job, not to reach those few individuals, but to spread the word about your work as widely as possible and present your message clearly, so those individuals can discover it. But there are not just a few people in your audience, but thousands.

“Readers are reading differently, but they are reading, telling, and consuming stories more now than ever before.”

Young people are reading, and have money to spend on books. We are presented, daily, with the gloom and doom about the economy, and the intellectual poverty of the next generation. Just like our parents were about us horrible kids reading the drivel from Asimov, Tolkien, and Stephen King, and we all see how horribly that turned out. It’s simply not true. Readers are reading differently, but they are reading, telling, and consuming stories more now than ever before.

So how are you approaching your writing career? From a place of abundance, realizing there are plenty of readers and there is much money to be made, or are you approaching with an attitude of scarcity, afraid there is just not enough to go around? Today, look around. See the abundance surrounding you. But only pause for a moment.

Then get back to writing. The world may not be waiting for your next novel, but a part of it is. They can never read your story if you never tell it. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to share them below.