Writing is an art. It’s about shaping the bones of a language–the bare words–into ideas, full thoughts, sentences, paragraphs, stories that speak about human nature and this great big universe of possibilities we live in. Writing is a craft. It’s about understanding the way words relate to each other, the way story structure is built, the way stories are told. Writing is about imagination, ideas, and infinite realms. It’s practice, patience, and perseverance. However, there’s another facet of writing that tends to get glossed over in the romance of creation.
Writing is a business. It’s about taking those words and polishing, packaging, and marketing them to make a hopeful profit for all the parties involved.
An author is a businessman, a mini-mogul poised to make money by selling his or her work. To be a professional wordsmith, you need to start understanding the business side of the writing world. It’s not easy, and it’s not foolproof. But it can be managed if taken seriously.
These days, more of the business details–such as editing responsibilities and marketing–are falling into the startled hands of the author. What do you do? Be patient. No overnight success happens overnight. Take things one step at a time, and do your research. Approach each hurdle with your eyes open. And believe in your abilities.
You will need a finished piece of writing before you start. Then you need to refine it. Research professional, high-quality editors to help that process. Find people who can support you and your intentions with your material. Do your homework. Learn about your rights as an author. Where does it go after you die? Who owns the foreign rights? The audio rights? Understand your market. Agents and publishers like to know where to place your book to ensure purchases. Even if you self-publish, don’t skimp on these steps. You need to know where your writing belongs and how to get what you need out of it.
Then there’s marketing. Even if you intend to hire someone to market your work, you should know what they need and where they are putting your work. If you are asked to submit a bio or a clip, have you considered how you will present them to make you look the most professional and show off your creativity? For example, while knowing about your family is nice, shouldn’t you include the number of works you’ve published, the kinds of works they are (novels, short stories, plays?), and the genres they are in to help boost traffic? Have you won any awards for writing? Learn to refine and polish your pitches and be able to sell your work in one complete sentence. If you can’t yet, refine some more.
This can seem cumbersome, and at times, it can be. But it’s business. Being a successful writer is about having the heart of an artist and the brain of a tycoon. If you’re an aspiring author just trying to figure out your voice and what you’d like to write, don’t sweat the business side yet. Develop your voice first. If you think you’re ready to turn pro, seize the opportunities you have, do your homework, and find the parts of the writing and publishing experience that you do enjoy and make the most of it. Most of all, never lose faith in yourself and never keep your eye off the prize. Go out there and succeed. I know you can.
Because you don’t want to know what happens in the infamous Chapter Eleven…