Academy for Wayward Authors: Reckoning With the Linear Fallacy and Embracing the Circular Reality of Publishing

Linear vs. circular thinking

We tend to think linearly.

I start here and finish there.

When you begin your writing journey, you may subconsciously believe that you will reach some magical place where books write themselves, and money pours in over the transom.

That’s a faulty premise. Your publishing journey is unlike a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

A well-designed author business is built on the circular—a feedback loop.

The process may seem linear. I write the book, get it edited, then publish the book. While the steps in that process are sequential, at the end of that process, you need to do it again.

And again…

and again.

If your immediate thought is that it will be drudgery, then it will be.

However, if you instead see all of these repeated processes as flywheels that collect and build momentum, you’ll be excited to have such a powerful system. The work you do today, however small, builds future momentum.

These repeated processes allow all the parts of your business to act as an emergent system that creates funds and fans.

You can apply process improvement strategies to improve the process with every cycle.

Remember this sketch?

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The Cash-Create-Launch-Reach (CCLR) loop drives funds (cash) and reach (fans).

Does it exist in your publishing business?

As you can see, the loop has sub-loops. Each of them has processes and procedures that can be improved and optimized.

Let’s use the Create loop as an example.

In the “The Formula for Success and Creating Positive Feedback Loops” article, I stated that the cash portion of the loop is the most important. Your business must be sustainable. Know that every part is connected; if one part fails, they all begin to fail. Conversely, improvement in one part of the loop will impact all the other parts.

By improving the create portion of the loop, you will influence reach and cash. The function of the create portion is to produce a work in a sellable medium while you look to improve talent and capacity.

The sub-loop craft and inception are key to quality storytelling. The ability to sell future books depends more on your craft than marketing. Your book sells itself during the reading process. Continuous improvement in your craft will impact reach and revenue.

I also note the idea of inception in the Create loop. This involves using marketing strategies such as human givens, open loops, and other techniques to manipulate readers’ psychology and connect their identity with your characters and story brand. Doing this work deepens the connection, improves retention, and builds reach.

A few seasons ago, I wrote about the 80/20 rule, or the idea that 4% of your efforts deliver 64% of the results. Identifying the 4% in your CCLR loop that delivers the biggest impact should guide what becomes the one big goal for your one-page business plan.

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What part of the CCLR loop did you decide to improve?

Look at the past twelve months and write down what you spent your money and time on to improve. Was it one thing or dozens?

Now take the time to identify the 4%, The Main Thing that, if improved, would improve everything else.

Make that your one big goal (OBG) and focus on it as if your business and future depend on it.

I’ve used this analogy before, but here it is again. The golf industry sells hundreds of millions of dollars of drivers. Yet 80% of the strokes in a golf game happen within 150 yards or less. 60% are putts that happen within fifty feet of the hole.

Don’t get bedazzled by the big drive, spending all your time at the driving range and buying $300 drivers. Get a good putter and practice putting.

By focusing your daily work on improving the 4% that drives toward that one big goal, you’ll see that the loop compensates, adapts, and scales organically.

This process turns the circular from a treadmill to a rocket pack.

Read: Understanding the Truth About Author Success Stories