Writing as a Business

In my previous post I wrote about following your dreams. What a lot of writers are faced with when deciding that they want to become an author of published work is that following this dream means accepting that writing is actually a business.

In order to have work published there has to be involvement with the publishing industry – and they don’t call it an industry by accident. It’s hard work, whichever route you take. And no matter what you write, somewhere along the line you have to consider that ‘dirty’ word: profit. To follow that dream and be that successful author, you need to earn money from your efforts. Although, if you believe the analysis the average author earns less then £11k a year from their writing. But, note this sentence from the Bookseller article here:

“...many professional authors felt it necessary to supplement their incomes by lecturing, self-publishing and teaching, as well as through income streams such as the Public Lending Right payments, grants and bursaries, income from ALCS, prizes and fellowships.”

So being an author isn’t all about writing. If writing is what you want to do, and all you want to do…then maybe be a writer, not an author; because being an author is all about the business of being a writer, not just the writing itself.

I know it’s going to be hard work to be an author, but that’s my dream. For a long time I was simply a writer, churning out words and stories and ideas and I enjoyed the process. But I’m now in a position in my life where I want to share my words and be recompensed in some way for all the time, energy and imagination I put into it. I love my regular job – a Learning Coordinator at a museum – but I also love writing; and I want to be able to do both. That means earning some money from my writing, so that I can invest in myself and develop my skills.

I’ve already invested in myself over the years by attending an Arvon course, going to York’s Festival of Writing, completing a Comma Press short story course, to name a few. They were excellent ways to scrutinise my writing and see where I could improve; but they aren’t free. If I wanted to take my writing from a hobby to a more professional sphere I had to divert some energy into trying to find resources to support my development.

bookcase books bookshop bookstore

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I think that’s when I realised that writing is a business. It’s about the ladder of investment – I had to improve (through paid means) my abilities to write stories so I could put my work out there into the world and readers could invest in me. Then, I can take the trust these readers have had in me, to continue developing great stories for them to read and enjoy. The more this happens, the easier it becomes to justify time spent on writing, and therefore offers more opportunity for my dream to become reality.

Of course, I used to think that ‘being a writer’ meant writing stories in isolation, sat up in that tower with an ink stain on my fingertips and some lovely person presenting me with the odd cup of tea. In this scenario I would send work out and it would be accepted first time, with adulation and praise, and then I’d go back to writing with my bank balance topped up, with the option to take holidays to exotic places that would end up in my next novel.

This is not how it is.

In my post on How to be Creatively Productive I confessed to writing my own ‘Author Job Description‘ in order to fuel my commitment to the dream of being a published author. That description says more than just ‘Write everyday’. It’s filled with identifying submission windows, reading other fiction, promoting my existing work, submitting to competitions and agents, writing blog posts and, yes, writing too. The main lesson learned here is that I have a strategy for my career as an author, and in order to make it happen I need to branch out from just being a ‘writer’ to being a proactive and professional author.

Essentially, my strategy is based on the steps I need to take to get me where I want to be as an author: a traditionally published author with a decent sales record and a book-deal that will help sustain my not-particularly-lavish lifestyle. It doesn’t quite match the romantic vision I once had, but I believe it in more because it’s underpinned by hard-work and dedication; and that’s the author I want to be known as.

So my writing life doesn’t just have me sit down at my desk and routinely tap out sentences, paragraphs, and short stories. It’s so much more than that. And with a strategy in place that guides what I ought to be doing as the author I want to become, the goal itself feels more tangible; it’s achievable, whereas the isolated writer’s tower is simply a fanciful ideal within my imagination. Suddenly, being a writer isn’t the dream…instead I’m actually an author, building my empire.

 


 

If you want to know more about how writing is a business, I’d definitely recommend Jane Friedman’s book: “The Business of Being a Writer“, which has opened my eyes up tremendously about the fundamental cogs and mechanisms that the writing profession relies upon. 


 

And, in the essence of building that empire, here’s how you could invest in my career right now.
Purchase my short story collection: The Memorial Treecover art edit amazon mod
By purchasing this short story collection you’ll:
  • Help boost my Amazon ratings so others can discover my work (especially if you leave a review and/or recommend to a friend)
  • Bring me a small profit that makes my giving up the Literature Festival work justifiable
  • Receive a selection of 5* short stories that I hope you truly enjoy
  • Get to be a rung on my ladder of investment
All it takes is a click and a download.
Thank you. 

 

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Past, Present and Future Selves…

Do you ever look back on the person you once were and acknowledge just how far you’ve come?

Three years ago if my laptop had died on me in the middle of a job application I would have reacted with frustration and fury, and riled against the world and how unfairly it treated me – confessions of a egocentric child-woman anyone? Now, I can take a breath, shrug my shoulders and walk away.

In the past I would have worked endlessly to put my application back together, even though I knew the job was beyond my current skillset. I would have let everyone know the inconvenience this situation had caused and how dedicated I would have to be to overcome it. I would have pushed through my exhaustion and stress and succeeded in putting together an admirable application, given the circumstances.

Then, I would have crashed. Probably been in bed for a week or more and not even got an interview for my troubles. And I would have regretted the attempt, because the job to which I refer is such a big, lofty dream role that, even now, I am not sure I am ready for it.

Today, I see this calamity as an opportunity to step back and accept that I prefer to be relaxed and happy rather than furious and stressed. While there is a smidge of disappointment I will not apply for the job after all (because I can now recognise it is too much work to scramble together in two-days), I am not so disappointed that I will be forced into action. Any responses I put forward would not be my best, and I’m aware that the probability of me getting the job in the first place is slim. So I’m choosing acceptance over panic.

This job is a job for me in five years. I already know that. It’s an amazing role, but one that I would be too unsure about my current skillset to really excel at. I don’t feel it’s defeatist to admit this, but I’m taking the laptop meltdown as a sign that it’s not my time yet. The me of five years from now would do the same, and she would approve of my choice to put my wellbeing first and instead enjoy the freedom that comes with relaxation and calm acceptance.

What weekends should be for – enjoying sunshine, walking and dog-shaped company.

Leadership in Writing

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership recently, mostly for my Museum role: what is it, how can you identify it, who has it? etc. But it occurs to me that, although it’s primarily a corporate application, leadership should be present in the writing world too.

leadership-fotolia_10647934_m-300x199For me leadership means the ability to create an inspiring vision for the future and motivating people to create that vision. A leader can grow and maintain relationships, adapt well to change and is committed to a set of values they believe in. They own their responsibilities and aren’t afraid to admit when they’ve made a mistake – in fact, a good leader should be able to use that mistake as a learning opportunity to improve for the future.

But, when your passion lies in writing – essentially a solitary passion – how can you demonstrate leadership? Is there such a thing as leadership in writing? Or are there limitations to how you can lead in the writing world?

I suppose in order to identify leadership in writing, you must first recognise ‘writing’ as a business rather than a past time, and a business it is an increasingly successful one. The Publishers Association recently reported that the publishing industry as a whole in the UK was worth £4.4bn, with Ed Vaizey (UK Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy) commenting that “the publishing industry contributes £10.2bn a year to the UK economy.”* So, a business it most definitely is. However, as a business the writer is a cog in the machine, rather than a leader, and I want to know what it means to be a leader as a writer.

Inevitably, because of the business of writing, the leaders of the field could likely be well-known, popular authors who have led the way in publishing their work and selling to a high number of readers. So, in this case, who should I look up to as a leader in writing? J.K. Rowling? Stephen King? James Patterson? What about Jane Austen or Alexandre Dumas? Does the author I pick have to be in the here and now, or can they be someone from long ago whom I now admire and see as the figurehead for the ‘perfect writer’. Is that what leadership in writing should look like: the ideal of what a writer should be? If that is the case then I suspect what it comes down to – as in  most cases of leadership that we want to aspire to – is who do we admire as writers ourselves?

Identifying who it is I admire in the writing world is a far more difficult question than I thought. There are a few who come to mind immediately – Joanne Harris, Rosie Garland, Stephen King – and some that I admire not necessarily because of their books but because of their spirit – Kirsten Lamb, for one. But what is it about these writers that draws me to them? What qualities do they have that I admire? Is that what leadership in writing looks like for me?

Kirsten Lamb is a great example here – because I have already stated I admire her for her spirit rather than her books. That’s not to say that her books aren’t significant, but I will have to admit I’ve never read her books, only her blog – and it’s through the blog that I began to see a leader emerge. It’s enough for me that she describes herself on her website as ‘Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi‘: confidence and humour, two aspects of her personality that I am immediately drawn to, right there. I used to read Kristen’s blog posts like a bible, nodding my head at her observations and surprised at how humble she often came across; not tearing other people down with criticism, but often sharing it by admitting she was guilty of the same things. Somehow whilst imparting her wisdom and making me smile, I felt empowered. I’d read each blog post and think ‘Yeah, I can do this. I can be a writer’.

 

So, for me, one aspect leadership in writing is certainly empowerment – I need to feel empowered to believe in something bigger than the single writer sat alone in a room. I want to belong, and I want to feel welcomed. The community of #MyWANA (We Are Not Alone) that Kristen created exemplifies what leadership could be in writing and her about page sums it up: “Kristen has dedicated her life to helping writers and artists reach their dreams and achieve the impossible.” Yes – THAT – that is what leadership is all about.

gibraltar_international_literary_festival_2013_280929
Via Wikipedia

But what about the more traditional authors I admire, like Harris, Garland and King? How do they demonstrate leadership in writing? Joanne Harris is active on social media (Check out her #Storytime on Twitter), she engages in issues in the news and doesn’t believe in the confines of ‘genre’. Having met her a number of times as part of the Huddersfield Literature Festival, I also know that she is incredibly supportive of her local community. That she isn’t afraid to be herself, doesn’t apologise for it and has a high sense of moral rightness, those are the things I admire about her.

 

Rosie Garland then? Another author who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and, if I might be so bold, have met up with from time to time to discuss writing. She’s certainly a mentor for me, of sorts. She had a tough path to publication (some would say life) and is consistently reminding aspiring authors to carry on believing in their dream. Her readings are spectacular, which possibly comes from the fact she has an altar ego, Rosie Lugosi: The Vampire Queen. For me she is a leader because of her guts and perseverance through adversity: I can’t imagine Rosie refusing a challenge just because it takes a bit of work.

 

As for Stephen King, well – duh – he’s Stephen King! Who wouldn’t admire the body of work that he has out there in the world. Not to mention he’s the author of ‘On Writing‘, which is recommended for budding writers across the world. There’s also something about his writing itself, a quality that I don’t think anyone else I have read has come close to capturing. For me, his characters are real people; my imagination hasn’t just conjured them up, they exist on the page and I can see them as clearly as if I was recalling an actual memory. It’s this somewhat unidentifiable quality that puts Stephen King ahead of many writers in my search for leadership: because he has led, certainly in the horror and psychological thriller aspects of writing, for many years. His name appears sixth on the top twenty writers (living or dead) named by UK residents in a survey by the Royal Society of Literature in 2017, beaten only by J.K. Rowling as the other living writer who appears second on the list.*

In essence, what I view as leadership in writing is my own personal preference. But, it’s made me think more about what type of writer I want to be and want to be seen to be. Writing today isn’t always about being behind a closed door. As an author you have to get out there in the world somehow and create a ‘following’ – be that on Twitter or Facebook or through personal interactions. In order to be a leader in writing you have to be willing to put yourself out there in the world and allow people to make a judgement. The type of writer I want to be is one who is inspiring, motivating and dedicated. I want to be a positive role model to other writers out there, but at the same time I don’t want to be an icon placed on a pedestal – I want to be me, I want to be able to live to my own expectations and decide for myself what it is I represent. And, of course, there is a side of me that wants fame in only that way that being a recognised name around the world can be. If I am to aspire to leadership in writing, and I want to know one day if I have succeeded, then these should be my goal posts. At least for now.

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What about you? Do you have authors you would consider leaders in writing? And what does leadership mean to you when it comes to writing?

 

* Taken from The Publishers Association, 31st May 2016
* From Literature in Britain Today, 1st March 2017