Can Writers Make A Good Living?
How does Bradley Charbonneau introduces himself now?
– Now I say hi, I’m Bradley Charbonneau and I’m an author.
What was your biggest challenge in becoming an author?
– When I met you, you were wanting to write and make a living from it and now you do. Is that correct?
– Yeah, yeah.
– Okay, there’s a lot. So I think that writers, like visual artists or artisans, are stuck with the same self-limiting or incredibly negative assumption that that’s not even possible. So you obviously have overcome that, and that’s why I wanted to talk to you. When you were aspiring to write and make money from it, what was your biggest challenge with that? What was the number one challenge you had?
– I think it was what you just hinted at, was it’s a mindset, and it was that it’s a challenge and that it’s not possible. So now, ’cause often there’s two questions there. In fact, there are two questions I have from my recent book. I want people to read it and be able to say, ask that question. “Is that possible?” and then, “Is that possible for me?” I used to think neither was possible. It wasn’t possible at all and it definitely wasn’t possible for me.
– That’s a good distinction because if you don’t think it’s possible at all, you can’t even ask yourself the second question. Is it possible for me to make money with my art in a way that I feel proud of?
– Right, like if it’s possible, I can say, “Yes, it’s possible but those are other people.” “Those are successful writers.” “That’s not me.” So you’re halfway there. At least you think it’s possible, it’s just not me. But the hard part is then getting from it’s possible for others to it’s possible for me.
– So you had to overcome both of those. So really Tony Robbins is famous for saying that success is 80% psychology and 20% strategy.
– At least.
How did you become a successful author?
– Hard work over a long period of time, which is really boring but then also those epiphanies. Like for example, my dad passed away and that really rocked my world. It brought me over to things like mortality. Then my dad, did he fulfill all of his dreams? When are you gonna decide if you’re gonna do that or not?
– Am I gonna wait until I retire from my job I hate, or am I gonna wait til I get sick? Wait til I have a disease, wait til somebody else dies?
– Right, or until I retire when I could have less energy.
– So when my dad passed away, it was about two and a half years ago now, that was a big turning point for me. That’s part of the point of my book as well. Don’t wait until somebody passes away. Don’t wait until you’re too sick. Don’t wait for the wrong reasons. I’m big on today. Tomorrow never comes, tomorrow’s not on the calendar.
– Not guaranteed.
– It’s today, it’s now. It’s kind of now or never. Yeah, never doesn’t exist.
– So it sounds like instead of, you took it out of the dream category. When your father passed away, it reminded you that none of us are getting out of here alive, which is actually… we even do a death meditation in my program for that exact reason.
– So with that, when you had that experience… it obviously creates some urgency.
What did you do after your perspective changed?
– Then I combined it with discipline. Frankly, discipline is harder. It’s easier to wait for that thing like somebody dies or your house burns down. That’s kind of an easy one, but it’s harder. I have a chapter called the conundrum of comfortable. I think if your house burns down, you lose your job, and your dog runs away, then you’re just at the bottom. You are gonna fight with tooth and nail to get back up to the top. You’re probably gonna go even further than you were when you were back in the middle. I think it’s harder to go from the middle ground where yeah, my job is kind of okay but I kind of hate it. Everything’s a sort of middle. It’s harder, it’s like quicksand.
– I agree with you, because my turning point was my last boss whose nickname was Snotty Scotty. I didn’t give him that name, so don’t yell at me. He earned that name all on his own, and he was such a horrible, wretched little man that he made it so I would never want to work. I just never wanted to work for anyone else ever again. So in a way, he was a gift but you’re right. If he was just sort of an okay guy, I just would’ve gone to the next job or the next manager and I would’ve kept going, but he was just, he was horrible and he had a number of them that were horrible.
– I needed that and similar to you, my friend Angela, that was an epiphany moment. She was one year younger than me and… you know, got stage four breast cancer. She fought it for a while and then it came back. It’s a good reminder. If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, if you’re not happy with your life, if you want to sell art, you want to make art, there are resources. It can be done. It can be done.
– Yeah, I’m right here.
What if you have not made art in a long time?
– So he saw I was suffering and he said, “Okay, we’re gonna get you to write every day” “because you’re not writing.” “You say a writer writes and you’re not writing.” “So let’s get you to write every day.” And for me at this point in my life, at that time, that sounded like torture. I would’ve rather eat sand.
– Wait, I wanna just pause. I just wanna pause for a second and point out a lot of artists whether they’re writers or visual artists will struggle because they’re not currently making art so then they are conflicted. I can’t call myself an artist because I’m not currently making art. I didn’t make art at all, nothing. I didn’t even sketch anything for over a decade. I’m still an artist.
– I just had all this other crap in the way that was you know, I had to overcome. So I just want to point out that that little step, that is absolutely huge. So maybe you’re an artist. Maybe you graduated with an art degree or you studied you know, writing or whatever. You haven’t done it for a bunch of years because you had to pay the mortgage or whatever.
– It’s okay.
What was your biggest fear?
– I said, “I am going to write every day” “and then I’m going to hit publish on my website,” because that was kind of an easy place for me to write. So not only am I coming out. I call it coming out of the writer’s closet. I’m not only coming out of my writer’s closet. I’m coming out and going public with all this immediately. It was scary, like every day was Halloween. It was scary, but then–
– Hold on, what were you afraid of? What was the worst thing that could’ve happened?
– Okay, here’s the big nasty fear. The big nasty fear was that this was my true passion and dream and if I fail at this, I have nothing else in my future.
– Oh god, I’m so glad you said that because this is what happens. These people say, “This is my big dream” “and if I fail at this, then I’m dead, right?” “I have no other dream to back this one up.” So they make it this big scary thing.
– Yes, yes, yes.
– Even though it’s really not.
– And they blow it up. They blow it up into their head and then it becomes a fear. Fear kills everything.
– Yes, that’s exactly it. That’s exactly it, and we’re back to the mindset, right? I was back then just putting fear, just building fear. It grows like a tumor. It’s just awful.
Do you make a living as a writer?
– If I may be direct, so how are you making money now? You’ve obviously gotten past your writer’s block. You’ve written a book. I think you’ve written a couple books.
– Yeah, I’ve written six books.
– Oh my god, six books. Okay, so apparently you took that–
– I kept going.
– Very, very seriously. Six books, so how are you… A lot of people think, oh it’s impossible. You can’t make your money writing, you can’t. So how are you doing it?
– By writing more books. Well they say the best marketing for your book is to write the next book. I bet that’s the case with painting. I don’t know the painting world. I don’t know the artist’s world, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
What’s it like being a successful author?
This is book number six of, I don’t know, 50?
– Good for you.
– This is my dream. I get to live it. I am living my dream right now. This is it, this is it. I look forward to Monday mornings because I get to do what I want to do.
If you want to be an author where do you start?
But that’s my point, right? Write the first book. I don’t care if your first book is crap.
– You need to get it out. Get out that first book. Get it out of your system. Get that big bad monster of failure out of your system, and then work on book two. You can then take book one, you can throw it in the garbage if you want, but just you need to get it done.
– Or pick it apart and look at what worked and what didn’t work.
– Or maybe nothing worked, but probably something worked if you kept going. That’s the other big thing I’m always, always talking about. You iterate, you just have to. You do one draft, another draft. You just keep going, like a prototype. We call the final project a prototype project.
– What does prototype mean? Prototype means they didn’t just come up with one original iPhone model and that was it. They stopped. They came up with a bunch of prototypes and then the second one came out. They got another bunch of prototypes and then they picked the best out of that prototype and then another year of prototypes. That’s how you do it.
– You just have to keep moving, so I love your point. Just keep doing it, just keep doing it. So it’s the same whether it’s making the art itself, writing. I’m using art in the broad sense of the word, whether it’s writing or painting or sculpting.
– Then also the marketing, right? Also how do you approach your sales? Who’s your target market? That’s also an iterative process. Your first marketing sucks.
– Yeah. I mean you know, the biggest sales point of that first book with the kids was that story I just told you of sitting on the couch and saying, “Hey son,” “we’re gonna write a book in three weeks.” People say, “Okay, I’ll buy it.” “I don’t care what it’s about.” That’s cute.
– That’s a smarter goal. We’re gonna write a book in three weeks.
– Yeah, yeah. You know, I like to harass my artist friends and I’ll say, “Oh, how are your books selling?” “Oh I’m sorry, I forgot you don’t have any books for sale.” Because how many books are you gonna sell when you have zero? It’s very simple math. Zero times anything is zero.
How do you deal with perfectionism?
I mean, the simple answer is get over it. We’re kind of back to the book one, right? Or the book I just published last month. Was it perfect? No. Could I have edited it for another year? Yeah. Could I have done more interviews? Absolutely. No, I made a date, October 17. I’m gonna publish it that day. It is gonna be as good as it’s gonna be at that point in time and I’m gonna be done with it.
– And then you gotta let it go, right?
– You gotta let it go.
– Get on to the next one.
– But then how can we then repurpose our work and make it so that we can use it in other ways? I just got off the phone right now with a book narrator. His name is Simon Vance.
– Oh, he sounds like a great voice.
– He read the trilogy of Stieg Larsson, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
– Wow, he’s got a really–
– A really award winning, awesome narrator.
– I would like him to leave my phone message for me.
– If you heard his voice, you’d probably recognize it.
– Okay cool, all right.
– He’s that big. So we were just talking about him potentially reading my book.
– So there is yet another pathway. My book is not just words on paper. It’s also there’s a Kindle version. There’s a paperback version. There’s gonna be an audio version. I’m having it translated into German. I’m having it translated into Dutch. I’m gonna go into different markets. It’s just how much can you do with your one piece of content?
“Every artist is an entrepreneur and every entrepreneur is an artist.” -Dr. ‘E’
– I can’t tell you how many artists cringe at the idea of business or cringe at the idea of sales or marketing, but it’s an opportunity. You’re just looking at it from a really… An uninformed point of view, to be perfectly blunt. If you’ve got such a rigid idea that somehow that’s other than or that’s bad, you’re screwed. You’re never gonna be successful.
– Yeah, yeah.
– So why not be open to learning about how sales works, how marketing works, how these different distribution channels can work, how collaborations and strategic partnerships can work? It’s really fascinating and it’s not as dull or as wretched as you think. It is what you make it, right? You bring your values and integrity to the table or you don’t, right?
– Yeah, yeah. You can make it as dull as you like if you really try. I’m sure it could be really dull.
– But is it dull when you–
– I’m personally having a great time doing it.
– Do you find it dull getting paid for your books?
– It’s the best, right?
– That would not be dull.
– It’s the best.
– I have something to show you.
– Oh, yippee.
– It is my puppy, Rebel!
– Aww, hi puppy.
– Isn’t she cute? Okay, she wants to get down.
Get Bradley’s book here: https://goo.gl/GBaZNp
Sell Your Art Without Feeling Like A Sell-Out