Today’s blog is the fifth of my posts on the 5 Things I’ve Learned About Writing — Writing is a Business.
When you’re at your computer, notepad, or wherever you write, all you’re thinking about is the scene you’re writing, the scene you’re going to write — and occasionally drifting off to imagine what it will be like to see your baby on the bookstore shelves. You imagine yourself getting THE CALL from an agent offering to represent you, then getting THE BIG CALL from your agent saying that a humongous NY publishing house is clamoring to buy your baby. Those thoughts make you feel all warm & fuzzy and inspire you to finish that chapter that’s been giving you fits.
Then one day, all of these things happen, and you start to realize that writing is much more than you, your muse, and your computer. It’s a business. And your book isn’t your baby; it’s a product — and so are you. Of course, you knew this to begin with. Kind of. On some level. Your book sells and you get paid. That makes it a business, right? You know this. But what you probably didn’t realize (I certainly didn’t) is the extent that you must be involved in the business aspect.
There’s not much that’s more intimidating and thrilling for a brand-new author than opening a big FedEx envelope and pulling out your first publishing contract. Of course, being the control freak that I am, I sat down and read the thing (savvy business move). I understood some of it, got the gist of some of it, and the rest left me completely clueless. Fortunately I could rest easy (and sign easier) secure in the knowledge that Kristin (my agent) would answer any and all questions that I had, and that she and her contracts person had gone over the thing with a microscope and made certain that every paragraph, clause and sub-clause was as much in my favor as it was possible for a new author.
Then there’s promotion. If you’re at one of the big NY houses, you will be assigned a publicist. Mine is great, but the nuts & bolts of promoting my book were up to me. Getting promotional materials (postcards, bookmarks, etc.) designed and printed. Getting the best website you can afford designed, up, and running. Getting pages on as many social networking sites as you can juggle. Networking with other authors, networking online, and getting your name and your book’s name in front of as many people as humanly possible. I have no idea how authors promoted themselves or their work before the Internet. All I can says is: all hail cyber space. Then there’s the conferences. With traveling expenses, you have to pick and choose which conferences will give you the most bang for the buck.
And how can I forget deadlines? Before I was published, my deadlines were self-imposed, which meant that I could take all the time I wanted to make my manuscript as perfect as possible. Now, I essentially have nine months from typing that first word, to turning in a final manuscript to my editor. The deadlines are in your contract, so they might as well be graven in granite. Depending on your publisher and editor, there may be some leeway, but the date on your contract is the date that book is expected. Try telling that to a fickle muse.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. So yes, writing is a business. And yes, a lot of it I had no clue I’d have to do for myself. And if I did know about it, I had no idea how much time it would take, or what all was involved. All I can say is thank God for Linnea Sinclair when I was first getting started out. She was my author mentor/mom. She took me under her publishing-savvy wing and taught me everything. That’s another piece of advice I can give: when you get published, find yourself an long-published, experienced, savvy author who is willing to answer your panicked and/or clueless emails, and who will take away from her own precious writing time to introduce you to all the right people, and give you the benefit of her hard-earned wisdom. Linnea, hon, what would I have ever done without you. HUGS! : )