Before I go too far into this post, I want to explain something about the title. The post is intended for those people who want to make a living as a writer. For those of you who write for the pure enjoyment of it, you can ignore most of what I’m about to say. For the rest of you… well, read on.
The first thing we writers need to realize is that publishers, editors and agents are people just like us. They love, they have lives and, most importantly, they need the same essentials we do in order to survive. That usually means a requirement for money of some type.
If they are professional publishers/editors/agents they must earn money through their activities in those vocations. That means they must treat their work as a business.
So, after that LOONNNGGG leadup, why is it that so many writers/authors consider themselves artists or craftspeople instead of business people? We need to approach our writing the same way we approach our jobs (assuming we have another form of income, that is).
That means a business plan of some sort and much more detailed than, “I’ll write the best book ever, publishers will have a bidding war and when the dust settles I’ll have a million dollars and live happily ever after.” That is a plan, I suppose, but not a realistic one by anyone’s standards.
Let’s take a slightly different approach using reality as our guide. I will give you a few steps that I am using in my quest to full-time author status:
- Naturally, if we are going to sell our writing, we need to have something to sell. Step 1 is to create that material. Write and then write some more. When you think you have enough, keep going. Some authors suggest you have several books finished before you start trying to sell anything. Now that I have sold my first book, I am VERY glad I kept writing. I now have two more titles in the same series and three that are totally unrelated to do things with.
- Get to know people. Readers, other writers and most importantly, publishers, editors and agents. The first group is gives you a platform. The second a peer group who can help you (and readers too) and the final three give you insight into the industry. That insight may be nothing more than pointing you in the right direction, but more likely it will give you a leg up on that first contract.
- Get your name out there. Blog, podcast, comment on other sites, put fiction out, use Social Media in all its various forms. People need to know who you are and the more who know the better your chances are of moving on to bigger and better things. To prove this point, let me give you a (brief) list of events that have shown my forward movement:
- Told some people who later became friends that I was a writer
- Was invited to participate in a writing site called “StartingWriteNow” with four others. We each wrote a post every week about writing and our challenges in it.
- Was invited (along with other four members of SWN) to appear on “The Writing Show” with PaulaB. I have now appeared on that podcast on three different occasions.
- SWN folded and I began my own site (this one in case you wondered). I began blogging and podcasting my writing podcast “Get Published”.
- Began using Twitter and Facebook to connect with readers, writers, publishers, editors and agents (where have I seen that before?). I also began seriously attending conventions where I also met the previously mentioned groups of people.
- Got my first serious looks at one of my novels by a publisher contact I met at a convention.
- Started interviewing those people mentioned above. Made friends with several and got some great first hand information about the publishing industry.
- Started writing short stories for markets I learned about through my interviews.
- Get Published was picked up by an Internet Radio Station.
- Through one of my “Get Published” interviewees, scored my first sale of a short story.
- Through one of my Social Media friends, scored my second sale of a short story.
- Through another person I met via “Get Published” interview, I sold my first book.
- My third sale went to the operator of the Internet Radio Station for a new online project.
- Ok, that’s enough, but it does show what I’ve accomplished to date by doing the first three things. Now, let’s talk more about the actual “Business” beyond the contacts.
- Submit your work and continue building your platform. I think this step is self-explanatory, but essentially, don’t stop talking to people or writing just because you are trying to sell the work itself.
- Start identifying all the various things you can do to promote and help sell your book once you have one. Sitting in a store doing a signing is only one possibility. What else can you do? Contests? Virtual blog tours? Be innovative. (Keep writing, talking and submitting. This applies to all future steps).
- Set yourself realistic goals. Chances are, the first book won’t allow you to go full-time. Have a multi-book plan. How much do you reasonably need to write full-time? Who do you need to sell your books to in order to realize your dream.
- Keep writing and working toward that end game. You will have to constantly revise the plan as things change. You may have a five book plan where you hope to be full-time after five are in print, but then find it needs to be ten. Or three.
- Never forget that your publisher/editor/agent needs to make a living too. That means your book must be financially viable for all of you. The more effort you all put into its success, the more success you will all have.
I know I haven’t dug really deep into the whole financial aspect of writing. That’s because everyone’s situation is different. Someone who is married and at home raising the children is in a much different place than a single person who just finished school. The same is true of someone signed with a small press versus someone signed with a large New York publisher. Everyone is different. The best I can offer is to be aware of your financial situation and plan accordingly how much you can realistically earn as a writer every year. Using myself as an example, despite my success, I won’t have earned enough this year to buy my family a nice dinner. Next year might be different, but probably not.
That’s why my plan is a multi-year, multi-book one. ☺
Good luck with your writing business. I think mine is off to a promising start.
NaNoWriMo. Not sure what more I have to say. At the time of this writing, I’ve exceeded 40,000 words. Less than 10,000 words to go. Included in that writing is my original NaNoNovel, two short stories I should have finished a month ago and one new YA Novel I never expected. I’ve had to beat the ideas off with a stick, but it has been a great month thus far.
I’ve also been invited to participate as a voice in a podcast that isn’t my own. I’m really looking forward to it too. I’ll give you more details when I have them myself.