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Keith Madsen

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Learning from the Gold Rushes
by Keith Madsen   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Sunday, May 08, 2011
Posted: Sunday, May 08, 2011

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Most of the people who made money in America's gold rushes were people who sold auxiliary services to the gold miners; and there is a parallel between that and the auxiliary services who live off of writers.

In previous times of national economic hardship in this country, people often turned to the prospect of gold as a way to escape their misery. In the California gold rush of 1848 and the Klondike and Alaska gold rushes of the late 1800's, people were led en masse into relatively unsettled territories by the dream of making huge sums of money. While there were some who did so (generally the first ones there), most who went prospecting for gold went home empty-handed. But notice I said "most who went prospecting for gold" came up short in this way. In each incident there were many others who went to these gold fields to get their hands on gold in a different way: to get their hands on the gold of the prospectors themselves. People who migrated to these areas to set up businesses selling groceries, clothing, laundry services, alcohol, and in the case of prostitutes, their own bodies, were the ones who truly did well financially.

I've been thinking of this historical lesson in relation to writing. Most of us who write and dream of writing successfully are like the prospectors who came too late to the party. We hear about this writer's or that writer's successful debut novel,and we just know that could be us. So we convince our self to go to one more writer's workshop, buy one more book about writing, join one more online writer's group, or pay for one more ad in one more magazine hoping to get some buzz going about our book. But at some point we stop and realize that most writers are like us, making very little money from the venture. Those who are making the money are the ones who sell us those workshops, ads, writer's magazines and memberships in online writer's groups.

There seems to be a lot of people making a living off of our writing dreams.

If this seems like I'm getting cynical, I'm not; and if it seems like I am contemplating switching to marketing, I'm not thinking of that either. I love to write, and that's why I write. I love creating characters and helping them to tell their story. I love creating stories that touch the heart, and help people see life from a different angle. I wish I was also a master book marketer, but I am not. I do what I do because I know that in today's market, I have to. I just wish it was different.

Maybe what writers need to do is to form some kind of cooperative -- alliances where writers who write similar material can band together and form their own supportive, cooperative marketing team.

Well, I have been rambling a bit here, and I need to move on. Maybe something I have written will strike a nerve with another writer, and we will find some answers together. Until that happens, though, I have writing to do -- and I've heard that there's gold in them thar hills!

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