I have a history of hating mathematics; failed it at school and avoided it as much as possible after that. But as writers we want to be published and understanding how to use numbers in our writing, and the numbers that publishers might think important, will help our chances of being published.
Laura Laing has written a really helpful book for the math(s) phobic among us.
By Laura Laing
If you did a double take on that headline, I don’t blame you. We’ve been trained to believe the fallacy that writing and mathematics are mutually exclusive endeavors. Yet, as any successful writer will tell you, a little bit of math goes a long way to getting published and making a good living.
The Math of Getting Published
Whether you’re selling articles to magazines or selling a book to the public, a few calculations can make the difference between success and, well, not quite hitting the mark.
Take article queries and book proposals, for starters. In each of these cases, you’re convincing an editor that you are the right person to write this story—and this is the right publication (or publishing house) and the right time for this story. These goals can be accomplished by digging up just the right statistics to make your case. Want to sell a book about frugal parenting? Look for studies that show a large percentage of parents who are tightening their belts. Want to sell an article about the increased popularity of rugby? Cite research that shows the number of rugby teams growing by leaps and bounds.
The math here is less about computation and more about tracking down reliable data that will make your proposal shine. How you find this data—and what you do with it—is key.
And what if you’re more interested in independent publishing? Setting a budget, sales goals and pricing are critical steps in profitability—and feeling great about your project. Crunching the numbers before you get started will ease your mind and get you on the right track.
The Math of Making More Money
Of course running a business depends on a strong foundation of solid fiscal decisions. Depending on your focus, this can mean setting an hourly rate, quoting project fees and assessing whether or not an offered fee makes sense. The foundation of these endeavors is based on two really simple numbers: what you need to earn (to cover your expenses and live it up a little) and how quickly you write.
Your income needs may vary from year to year or even month to month. And the time you need to complete an assignment will certain depend on the type of assignment offered. For that reason, these must be assessed for each new project.
And then there is goal setting. If you’d like to take off the month of August, you’d better be sure that you have enough cash in your pocket before day one of your vacation. Setting income goals are easy using percentages. These can be altered to suit the economy, whether you are seeking new revenue streams or the number of hours you want to work.
The good news about all of this is that you can do this math. With nothing more challenging than a percentage or reading the results of a research study, you can brush up on any skills you’ve forgotten (or may never have learned), in no time at all. Before you know it, you’ll be doing these computations and analyses without thinking about it.
And that frees you up for what you really want to do: write.
Laura Laing is a freelance writer and the author of Math for Writers: Tell a Better Story, Get Published, Make More Money. Visit her website to check out her full virtual book tour roster and sign up for a free, live teleseminar just for writers who need math: http://www.mathforgrownups.com/math-for-writers-book-tour/