My First Mistake

Business Man Over Trap

In October I was in the very privileged position to write the “How I Left My Job” post. And it felt really good.

I talked about the smart decisions I made before leaving my job. I forecasted financials, set up client work, and padded my savings account. It felt good talking about all of my smart decisions.

And I wish I could share another smart decision. But I actually did something really dumb. And I thought if I’m documenting my experience that I shouldn’t just share the good parts. I should share my mistakes too.

A Bit About Publishing

Before we get to the mistake you need to know something about the publishing industry. When you write a book you usually get an advance. But this isn’t free money. Most advances are actually an advance against royalties.

That means that the publishers will pay you say $2,000 to write a book. You get some of it when you start writing and you get the rest when you publish the book.

The good news for the author is that you get a guaranteed paycheck. It’s not big but at least you know you’re getting something.

The downside is that you won’t see the royalties for quite a while. On the upper end of the scale for traditional publishing you’ll get ~15% royalties for any books sold. Quite often it can be lower like 5%. So if your book sells for $20 retail you make $3 in royalties for each sale.

So to actually get royalties on your book you have to sell 667 books. Or over 1,500 books if you get 5% royalties. That’s a lot of books. It takes months or years for authors to pay back that advance.

Online Courses

Online courses work similarly. You get paid an advance and you get royalties after the advance is paid off.

Except I forgot that. Completely.

I made my first Lynda course in 2015. And it took months to start earning royalties. By the time I started thinking about leaving my job in the spring of 2016 I had completely forgotten how many months I’d have to wait.

So here I am with three online courses but I’m only making royalties on one of them. I planned on income from all three and it will take months before I see it.

Not where I wanted to be

I feel humbled. I’m learning that there are a lot more i’s that I should dot and t’s that I should cross.

There’s a lot of subtly and nuance in business that’s hard to predict. You can’t just wing it and get everything right.

This is definitely a setback but it isn’t a disaster. This is exactly why I padded my savings account in the first place. I have the runway to figure this out. But I need to think really hard about how much time I want to spend creating courses & how much time I need to spend doing client work to make up the deficit.

6 thoughts on “My First Mistake

  1. I think it shows a lot of character that you can share this experience.

    Good luck, I hope it works out for you.

    • Thanks Chris – I’m trying to share my whole experience. The good and the bad. It’s uncomfortable but so far everyone has been really great about it. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  2. That’s one of those hard lessons you don’t see coming until after the fact, but it’s a good one. If anyone can power through it it’s you – so keep on creating, because when it all starts coming back you’ll be proud of the investment.

  3. Thank you for being transparent. I left a job, that I actually really loved, to join a small business venture with my best friend a couple months ago. I could relate to some of your reasons for leaving when I read your post. I didn’t plan everything out as well as you did, but I did pad my savings and do my best to prepare for multiple outcomes. I’ve hit a wake up call of having made a mistake, and now I’m working through it. Now I know I’m not the only one. Thank you AGAIN for being so transparent, it’s really refreshing.

    • Thanks for sharing! It’s also nice for me to know I’m not the only one. 🙂

      I’ve hit a wake up call of having made a mistake, and now I’m working through it.

      I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself. There are just too many unknown unknowns in life. I think the best you can do is hope to learn from a mistake and not make it a 2nd time. 🙂

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