Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Dirty Business of Writing - Part I - NO MORE OSTRICH

Here's something I've observed consistently in two years of daily reading writing blogs (from editors, agents and writers):

- Some writers don't recognize writing is a business. 
- Some writers see their work as art - but they want to sell it commercially.
- Some writers resent the idea that another person has the 'make or break' call on their careers.
- Some editors / agents are tired of the aforementioned writers.

Maybe it's because my background is in business and marketing.  Maybe it's because I've been self-employed before.  Maybe it's just because I'm wired this way... but I can't understand why writers want to stick their heads in the sand about the business aspect of writing.

I'll make this short and sweet:  If you want to make money - any money - from writing, then you are in business.  Period.

You can pretend you aren't.  You can ignore the implications.  You can pay other people to handle the logistics.  But that doesn't change the fact that you're in business.

And here's the kicker:

If you want to be a cog in the wheel of the traditional publishing machine, learning how to function as part of the mechanism is unavoidable.

Why?  Because broken pieces of machinery are taken out and replaced with sparkly, new pieces that run smoothly and don't make a lot of noise.
You can hate it, fight it, rail against it... but your cog will still be removed... or worse - never given a shot at the BIG MACHINE in the first place.

And if you don't believe me, listen to these folk:

Rachelle Gardner
Sally MacKenzie via Jessica Faust
Steve Laube

The next post will be about how we conduct ourselves in the world of Writing-as-a-Business .

Your Turn: Do you see your writing as a business?  What do you do to make your business more successful?


  1. Here here. You speak truth and do so with both brevity and clarity.

  2. You know, I'm the writer who wants to hide in my nifty little house and marvel at the worlds popping out of my head. Step out into the real world? YIKES! No thank you!

    But seriously though, I think you're right. If you don't want it bad enough to get out there and give it your all, you don't deserve it.

  3. Very refreshing to hear. Well said Aimee! I have always written with the understanding that if I wish to continue to do so (and still have a roof over my head), I better be willing to write something people actually want to pay me for or at least, pay my publisher for. As much as I wish it were just "my art," I know that that's, much like the stuff I'm concocting in the first place, just fantasy fiction...

  4. I like this post Aimee, for several reasons. It's a nice remind for us to take off our rose coloured glasses and see the real business of what we're doing. Play time is over, time to get serious.

    Plus, this takes courage. Like Crystal, I've been working behind closed doors. But one day something snapped. I read what I wrote and just knew this was it. It was time to get published.

    Running our own business isn't easy. Running it with a "fantasy art" is down right nasty. (I live in a dream world after all.)

    I see all sorts of ideas, but at the end of the day, we need to market, and work dang hard if we want to keep the wheel moving. Like any other business owner, we are only going to get what we put into it. The choice is ours.

  5. I guess until writing is treated as a business then there's no moving forward on the journey to publication.

    I will admit that I do too much slacking off and nowadays I'm ignoring self-imposed deadlines to do this or that thing.

    Good thing I stopped here. This is a timely reminder of what I should and shouldn't be doing.

  6. Pays my electric bill. its a business. A hell of a business.

  7. Great post,

    so true. Listening/reading discussions from published authors about their writing, you see such a big difference in the way they write. They get up and go to work. That might be in their lounge room with a coffee, but they do it everyday. (or most days). Or if they are part time they dedicate time to write. It isn't a haphazard random thing. (well not often anyway).

    Writing a great story is the easy part (and that isn't always easy)

    The hard parts are knowing how to get your book noticed, where to get your book noticed and how to repeat this process enough times to make a living.

    Anyway i will stop there, i am writing a post that touches on these topics at the moment so i am a bit fired up.

    Once again, great post,


    I am not here yet, i know this. However i regognise that writing a book is not an easy thing and if you want to to make a success out of yourself then you need to start seeing yourself as a 'business' (unless you just have amazing luck.

  8. I've been screaming this for months now to anyone who will listen. Even if you have that old day job, and can only work on writing for a couple of hours, it's still a business.

  9. Yes, exactly. Writing for yourself only and trying to have it published are two entirely different things. To get published, you need to treat it like a business. (Which doesn't mean you can't still write like it's an art.)

  10. You definitely need to engage both sides of your brain in order to make money from art, and writing is art. You're right - if you want to earn money selling a product, that puts you firmly in the self-employed zone, which means you are running a business.

  11. Great post, Aimee, and I agree 100%. One author who takes the business side of writing very seriously is Holly Lisle. She's even created massive courses on writing so she can afford to support herself as a writer. I like how she doesn't hide the business side of writing from her students. She makes sure people know what they're getting into.