The Business of Writing

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Say what?

Writing requires creativity, which means it’s frequently lumped into the artistic pursuits.

Writing also is a business activity, both for communication and as a profit-generating product.

Unfortunately, writers seldom think of themselves as business owners. Most don’t pursue marketing and sales of their books in the same ways a business owner would. I think this is a mistake, especially for self-published writers.

Writers need to be entrepreneurs.

Each writer has unique products they need to sell to unique markets. Instead of only hiding in their creative space working full-force ahead on their next work, writers also need to learn about publishing, marketing, advertising, publicity, budgeting, and other business processes. 

The old adage, “It takes money to make money” is true of writers, too. Even if they are privileged to be among the select few picked up by publishers, writers need to know how to sell their products, their books.

My heart broke not too long ago to read on Twitter that a writer had written seven books, poured everything she had into publishing the first one, and gave up when it failed. She must have been so discouraged. She stated she was never planning to publish again. The words still make me want to cry.

Owning a business is a numbers game.

A huge percentage of new products fail. Is it because they don’t work? Not at all. It is because something is wrong with the formula: Not the right time, not the right place, not the right people, not enough money. 

The Small Business Association says that twenty percent of new businesses fail during the year and about fifty percent during the first five years. Thirty percent of businesses survive ten or more years.

Businesses fail for many reasons, from not having a solid business plan to not having enough funding to not having the right location.

When writers fail to publish, and I’m specifically thinking about self-publishing here, I want to ask, “Did you have a business plan?” That’s a question I want to ask all writers. I’m asking it of myself. The answer for me is, “Not yet. I am working on it.”

I’m still learning about publishing myself, and I understand traditionally published authors work with publishers that seemingly have a solid business plan if not adequate funding, though I’ve heard they don’t necessarily do enough marketing of new authors. That marketing takes money, which is why I think all writers need, traditional and self-published, need to plan to spend money to launch their books.

So while I’m still learning myself, I offer a piece of advice: Look at yourself as an author/entrepreneur if you want the best chance of financial success as a writer. Learn about starting a business. Write a business plan. Figure out your financial requirements and make a budget (I’m sorry. I hate that word too.). Make a marketing plan. Do not give up.

While there are resources for writers working toward publishing, there are even more resources for entrepreneurs. At the very least, the Small Business Administration has a ton of information on its website,, to get you started. SCORE is a partner with the SBA to provide mentoring and training to entrepreneurs. I’ve heard from other entrepreneurs and small business owners that SCORE is very helpful. Their website is

In the meantime, I recommend everyone read this article from the SCORE website, Money management skills are lacking in our country. Learning to use balance sheets and cash-flow statements alone would help most Americans.

Keep on writing. I want to read your story.

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