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At the end of the day, it’s a business

March 25, 2013

I’ve written a couple times about the writing partnership I’ve entered into. One of the things that concerned me about the partnership was providing candid feedback to my writing partner and how my partner would take the feedback. Fortunately, everything has been wonderful so far. Fortunately, my partner understands that the feedback isn’t personal–it’s aimed at helping to improve the work.

In short, my writer has done a very difficult thing: divorcing the personal attention to the work, which is a must to produce good work, from the business part.

To be honest, I’m not certain yet that I have what it takes to excel at the business part. It’s the part that requires you to look at your work dispassionately and consider your goals. For me, the goals are to sell my writing and to make money at it.

Sure, I need the personal passion. I need to improve my writing and get better at it. I need to write because I like it, for its own sake. But I also need to understand the business part.

Recently, Rachelle Gardner wrote about a book she believed in, but couldn’t sell. She tried everything and at the end of two years, she still couldn’t sell the damned thing. She felt horrible about it, and about how the writer felt.

This is a situation that could have blown up into a mess. Consider the emotion involved. You have a disappointed writer, a disappointed agent who feels like she let the writer down. You have two years of hard work shot to hell, if you choose to look at it that way. And with the exception of the feelings of disappointment, none of it was personal. The agent did her job. The writer did her job. Sometimes things don’t work out.

Instead, the writer was professional. If she’s angry at the agent, it doesn’t show. That’s a hard thing to manage after you poured two years of your soul into a book only to find it abandoned by everyone who can help you take the next step.

Sure, the writer can make it better and failure’s never really failure until you give up, but that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the hard task of understanding that your passion is also a business and that when people say your baby is ugly and smells funny, it’s not personal and they’re just doing their job.

Like I said, I’m not sure I currently have a thick enough skin to be entirely adult about that whole thing.

  1. March 25, 2013 6:24 am

    Being that large New York publishers do not want to hear from new authors, self-publishing at Amazon is a very good option.

  2. March 25, 2013 9:42 am

    We can learn about the business side of writing, be smart about it, and act accordingly, but we don’t have complete control over that part of the process anyway, so it’s truly a waste of energy to become emotionally invested in the business-side outcomes. (And it’s really undermines the creative process to worry about the market before we have work to sell.)

    The market’s response to our work is not a measure of the value of our work. If not selling the book means to the writer she has “two years of hard work shot to hell,” I think that writer might want to consider doing something else — like making widgets. There are many easier and surer ways to make money.

    J.K. Rowling toiled away for a long time in difficult circumstances to create Harry Potter, and I doubt that she was worried about her “platform” for one second during that time. She was compelled by her desire to write.

    Yes, there is a business side to writing, but writing is not a business.

    The only thing a writer has total control over is writing the best possible book (essay, story, poem) she can possibly write. That’s where writers should invest their energy — in the work itself. And that’s where the writer must find pleasure and satisfaction — in the work itself.

  3. Chris Hamilton permalink
    March 25, 2013 12:19 pm

    I’m not sure I totally agree. The way the business is structured now, Anyone who wants to can effectively do it all, and make a lot of money doing it. In my opinion, you need to write the best possible book, but you also need to know the business. It’s not a choice any more, if you want to do the best you can financially.

    It doesn’t mean you have to be expert, but you need to pay attention. You need to read and talk to people who’ve been through it. You should know who Joe Konrath is, for instance. And when people talk about doing it all themselves, you need to listen to it with an open mind, and not assume you need to go with an agent and a publisher.

    And if you decide to go it alone, you need to have the structure in place to do it correctly. Maybe you don’t need to be expert, but you need to be informed.

    The caveat is, I’m saying this from the outside.


    • Lauren permalink
      March 25, 2013 1:23 pm

      “The way the business is structured now, Anyone who wants to can effectively do it all, and make a lot of money doing it.”

      Anyone can make money from writing/publishing? You’re dreaming!

      I will give you that some people are proving that they can publish crap and make money from it. I just wish they wouldn’t call themselves writers, because they’re not.

      People who think that writing is easy or making money at writing is easy don’t know what they’re talking about or are trying to sell you something. Sure there are some successful DIYers. But for every Konrath there are thousands who are unsuccessful at selling their writing. No, “anyone” cannot do it.

      No one is makes money from publishing the book they haven’t even written yet, either. First things first.

      • Chris Hamilton permalink
        March 25, 2013 1:36 pm

        I didn’t say it was easy, or that making money was easy. I said it was possible. It’s possible in ways it’s never been possible before. But you can’t be fully knowledgeable about your own possibilities without spending effort on learning the business. That’s the point of the entire piece. And it’s not my point. It’s Rachelle Gardner’s point and Konrath’s point and several other peoples’ point.

        It’s not an either-or thing. You can’t know the business and make money without writing. But your ability to make money writing without knowing the business, or having knowledgeable resources to turn to who have a decent clue, also goes down substantially.

        But I never said the word easy.

  4. March 28, 2013 10:43 pm

    I try to hide my crazy, but the anger makes me a better writer.

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