I’ve just returned from the James River Writer’s Conference in Richmond, VA and came away with interesting highlights from the people I met as much as the panelists. One of the common threads that surfaced among the attendees was their misunderstanding of fundamentals relative to The Business of Writing.
I met one woman who told me she simply refused to do one of the key aspects of the business. Her exact words were, “I refuse to Tweet and FaceBook and all that other stuff.” That woman has virtually no chance of success in the industry. She could not “see” the business in which she had chosen to work and has reduced her chances of success by simple attitude. Worst of all, she’ll not understand why she isn’t successful.
What are the odds someone could make it to pro football if the person refuses to run? What about a tailor who will not talk to customers or the chef who feared heat. These are no-other-choice aspects to their chosen fields, as is marketing in the writing business. If you won’t market, you’ll not sell. Are there exceptions? Sure, but you’re not it and neither am I. Marketing your business is a simple concept and we must play the game.
I met another who had no idea of how to run her writing business, for she had no experience in the matter. When speaking with her, it was obvious the concept of withholding taxes on her writer’s income had not occurred to her. She at least understood showing up was half that battle and was willing to look into it.
So, as I drove home I thought I might put up a short outline of The Business of Writing. By the nature of blogs, it’s limited, but this will get you started.
You must master four basic aspects of your new self-employed business to find your way to financial writing success. In order, they are:
- Write your book.
- Marketing your book.
- Find your agent, unless you are self-publishing.
- Learn to manage taxes and understand a Profit and Loss Statement.
First, write your book and write it well.
If step one is not complete, the rest of this work is inconsequential. Write your book. Write it well. Pay your dues and get it done.
Next, develop and implement your marketing plan.
This is not so easy, but anyone can do it. Writers are often introverts and, in consequence, “marketing” seems a dirty word. Do you have $10,000 a year to hire a professional publicist? I don’t. So, I’ve learned to do it on the cheap. Despite what you want to hear, all those odd sounding tools found on the Internet are what you, as a novice, use. Learn to tweet, learn to use Facebook, LinkedIn and start a blog. Each of these four tools are FREE, (talk about a good word!), but you must learn them. Once you’re rich and famous, you can consider stopping them, but until then, this is your word to the wise.
I say you must learn these. Must you? Not really. But your success will lessen dramatically without them. It all depends on how successful you wish to be.
Start here. Don’t go out and print bookmarkers, postcards and the like. Just start here.
And, no, there is no need for a web site at this point. Your web site is a sales tool, a virtual brochure and cash register, and you have no buyers as there is nothing to sell as yet. So save this expense for now, but work it into your later stages of your marketing. I’ll post more on this aspect of writing later.
Third, you’ve got to run that gauntlet of finding an agent.
Even at the end of the first decade in the 21st century, the Internet has not replaced the agent. It may within in time, but it has not yet. I’ll ask you to trust me on this one. Despite all the changes in the industry, it will be a while before you and I will be able to replace their rolodexes. It’s as simple as that.
If you can’t find an agent, which is a high probability, then consider self-publishing. If you go this route, you’d better be good at marketing ‘cause there ain’t nobody out there pushing for you.
And finally, you must learn the financial aspects of writing.
The IRS loves to chew on unsuspecting writers. If you write a good book, and if you learn to market and if you land an agent and if she sells your book and if it sells well, and if, and if, and if…, you need to know how to work the money angle. Any decent accountant can help you there, but pick up QuickBooks and get used to it. I’d start this the day I sign an agent.
Okay, guys, it’s a broad outline, but it’s on spot. Hope it helps.