Aspiring Authors: Discovering the Business Side of Writing

There's a whole ton of information out there about the business side of writing. As I'm discovering, there's a great deal more to it than simply writing a great novel. Some of the advice and information may seem contradictory, so at times it's difficult to sort through it all. Here are a few tidbits I've picked up, though, to share with you as we navigate this new journey toward publishing our lovely works in whatever format we ultimately choose:

1. If you want to publish traditionally, a literary agent is someone who can help look out for your best interests and broker the deal with the publisher he or she will (hopefully) find for your book. Sure, they earn a commission of about 15% on your earnings, but it would be worth it in terms of helping to explain the ins and outs of your publishing contract and in garnering the best deal possible for you.

2. There are many factors to consider in the decision of whether to go the traditional or self-publishing route. I won't go into all of those here, because a google search can reveal a ton of great resources and treatments on the subject. In general, the consensus seems to be on the side of trying the traditional route first.

3. Never, ever, ever pay to publish. Money flows to you, the writer. Sure, there are vanity publishers and self-publishing companies that offer packages to print and promote your work. But why pay for these, when you can do this for free? There are many scams out there (see the website called Preditors and Editors), so why risk it? If nothing else, it is totally free to self-publish your work in ebook format on free sites (I.e. the IPAD, the Nook, and Amazon's Kindle. There are even free sites such as Smashwords that can handle the formatting for you to make uploading your work easier, to ensure that it's available though as many distribution channels as possible. And there are many ways to develop an online presence to promote your book without paying a penny.

4. Find a place online where your manuscript can be critiqued, like Critique Circle. The feedback, provided you find a great community of knowledgeable writers with experience, is essential to helping you edit your manuscript. In addition to pointing out errors and ways to strengthen your writing, others may bring up points you might not have otherwise considered. All of this will help you make your work the best it can be.

5. Network, either at conventions or online. Network with potential fans of your work as well as industry professionals in person where possible, and on the many websites available. Many literary agents and publishers have websites and even blogs. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are great ways to gain fans and possibly connect with professionals (if done with appropriate etiquette). A site called AgentQuery is a valuable resource. You can research agents there, and connect with other writers as well as agents. It's also one of the great places to post your sample query to get feedback and assistance before sending it out.

6. Research the agents you might want to work with. Before querying, make sure they represent the genre of your work. Follow their specific submissions guidelines on their websites, as well as the other great guidance out there about the typical format of the query letter, and the presentation/delivery of the letter. Again the AgentQuery site has a lot of great information on this. Also, it helps to personalize each letter to indicate that you have researched the agent and have some strong, clear ideas of why you selected this particular agent as someone you'd like to represent your work. So, you should know something about who they are as professionals in terms of their tastes and other authors they represent.

7. There's a lot to learn about marketing (unless you happen to have a degree in it), and it's something you'll have to do as an author no matter what route you take to publish. Marketing is something I have zero experience with, but fortunately, there's also a lot of information online about it. Essentially, it boils down to utilizing social network sites, providing valuable information and participation in forums where others might find you and your work, developing a web presence through a blog and website, creating demand for your book by providing media (e.g., book trailers) to inspire people to want to buy it.

Anybody else have lessons or information to share related to the business side of writing? I'd love to hear from you


  1. Certainly, this is a terrific article. I will be reading it again, and it may be helpful for our future discussions.

  2. Thank you! I've been doing a lot of reading on the business side of writing and am learning quite a bit. I, too, think it may be helpful when we get to that point. I'm looking forward to our future discussions.


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