Publishing Solutions to Poverty

When it comes to tackling the problem of poverty, the majority of discussions conducted on Capitol Hill revolve around raising the minimum wage or providing additional welfare services, including job training. Programs like Job Corps are specifically designed to provide job training, with the idea that recipients of the training will be able to find employment suitable to meet their long-term needs.

Job Training Realities

However, a recent examination of the list of jobs eligible to receive such training include many jobs that are paid at or barely above the minimum wage: certified nurse assistant, medical and office administrative assistant, hotel clerks, and restaurant workers.
 
What is often overlooked in these discussions is that while those minimum wage careers may provide work, they provide very few opportunities for promotion and have very limited career paths attached to them. In short, they are virtually guaranteed not to get the people who receive that training out of the poverty in which they find themselves.

Minimum Wage Mishaps

Raising the minimum wage, a hotly debated topic, is equally ineffective. In 2009, when the minimum wage increased from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour, an increase of just a little over 10%.  By contrast, in almost every category, the cost of living rose an average of 47.59% over the last 4 years.
 
That minimum wage worker who was able to bring in $1075 in a month in 2009 faced $807 in expenses. Four years later, that same minimum wage worker brings in $1170 for the same amount of work but now faces $1233.60 in expenses.
 
This means that, rather than benefitting those in poverty, the minimum wage increase actually made it nearly four times harder for those at the lowest end of the wage scale to make ends meet than it had been before the increase was instituted.

A Better Way

There is a better way to help those in poverty get out, and stay out of, poverty.  Organizations like Heifer International have proven that when those in poverty are given the tools, training, and investment needed to create successful home businesses, the benefits impact not only the families of those in poverty but the communities around them as well.
 
The problem, as many have pointed out, is that Heifer International focuses strictly on agriculture and its solutions are dependent upon land and water availability.

The Entrepreneurial Approach

Using capitalism and entrepreneurship to help pull people out of poverty isn’t a new concept. In fact, in recent years it has become the focus of several different projects whose focus is on third world countries, immigrants, and other marginalized populations. There are few such organizations focusing their resources on eliminating the poverty that exists among English speaking Americans.
 
Even fewer concentrate their resources on helping those in poverty to cultivate gifts and talents that already exist rather than training them to master new skills.
 
“The cost to cultivate what someone already knows and has experience doing is pennies on the dollar compared to training them in something new,” entrepreneur and author Brandy M. Miller states.

Publishing a Brighter Future

The 40 year old Texas resident sees the solution to her own poverty – and the poverty of others like her – in books.
 
“Ebook publishing coupled with print-on-demand publishers like CreateSpace truly levels the playing field. Independent authors can now compete on equal footing with the major publishers with the right training and the right investment.”

The Growing Market for Books

It’s a good time to be publishing. Book sales are growing. Hardcover sales were up 1.3%, trade paperback sales were up 0.4%, and e-book sales rose a whopping 44.2% according to figures provided by the Association of American Publishers/Book Industry Study Group.
 
Even with the increase in book sales, however, many authors are dismayed to discover that their best-selling books don’t result in triple digit incomes. Best-selling Author Patrick Wensink discusses the fact that his best-seller status on Amazon brought him $12,000 for his novel Broken Piano for President. That was it. As Wensink puts it in his Salon article, “Even when there’s money in writing, there’s not much money.”
 
If that’s true, the natural question is – how can Miller be so sure that publishing has the answers?
 
“Make no mistake,” Miller adds. “It’s not the book that will make the money, it’s what you do with it after you’ve written it that will.”

Building a Business, Not a Book

The mistake, according to authors Linda Siversten and Danielle Laporte, co-authors of Your Big Beautiful Book Plan, is that most authors stop with the book. They never make a plan for what to do after that book is written, aside from publishing it. In an excerpt from chapter 1 of Your Big Beautiful Book Plan they write:
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“A book is always more than just a book. Much more. Writing a book could direct the course of your career for the rest of your life. It could lead to infinitely important connections, multiple revenue streams, spin off products, breakthrough ideas, and international relations. It could send more business your way. It could pay for a trip to Tahiti or just pay the rent. It could change one person’s life for the better. It could start a revolution. You need a plan.”

 
“Books have one of the cheapest, least resource intensive, entrance points into the entrepreneurial world that currently exists,” Miller concludes. “But if you want to make real money from your book, you have to ask yourself: What can I add to this book to create more value for my readers? You can’t stop with the book. If you’re writing fiction – can you offer t-shirts, merchandise, or character sketches? If you’re writing non-fiction, can you offer classes, seminars, or other higher value items that build off what you created? It’s learning to look at your book as one product, and then seeing what other products you can create that support or expand the material into something bigger.”

The Quest for Success

Miller has spent the last four years of her life diving into the publishing world. “It started as a quest to market the business my husband and I had started. We were struggling with a $0 marketing budget, and so I started researching methods of marketing that wouldn’t cost us a fortune. The first stop on that journey was Vic Johnson’s Getting Rich with eBooks program. I took his advice and I built a book that I intended to use as a lead generator, but a friend of mine wanted to start a publishing company and asked to be allowed to promote it instead. That’s how my first book, How to Write an eBook in 40 Days (or less), wound up on the market. But I wasn’t happy with the slow sales and the slower royalty payments, and I wasn’t generating leads for our business, so I kept looking for answers.”
 
“I ended up self-publishing my third book, The Write Time: How to find all the time you need for a book, because I was so frustrated with the way things weren’t going with my friend’s publishing house that I decided to take control of my writing and go it on my own. I will tell you it was both liberating and eye-opening. Liberating, in that I was fully in control of my content and what I could do with it for the first time. Eye-opening in that I discovered that there is a very good reason publishers get paid a large chunk of your revenue – they earn it! From the right formatting and the right graphic design to the proof-reading and editing, not to mention the marketing dollars they pour into it – by the end of the day they have done a whole lot of the heavy lifting for you.”
 
Miller believes that in spite of the work required to become a successful author, the publishing industry does hold the solutions to poverty – for herself and for others. “When you understand that poverty isn’t about money, but about broken people and broken relationships, it makes perfect sense that books would be the answer. Books are where I learned most of the things I know today about how to heal from past abuse, how to be a better parent than my own were to me, how to start and run a business, and how to forgive the unforgivable. It’s a special kind of magic that allows you to transcend time and space and tap into the wisdom and the knowledge of people living and dead, near and far. Not only can those living in poverty use publishing to share their own stories and their own experiences for the benefit of others and thereby financially profit from it, but they can benefit from the shared collective of wisdom that’s out there, too.”