Writing is a profession, a business as much as an art, and if I’d known that back in 1985 when I wrote and sold my first essay about the Ozarks, I might not be a writer today.  I didn’t know I was starting a business.

Eventually I learned that, while the creativity and art may come first–if you want to make it, writing words the public, and not just you, your family, and perhaps your high school English teacher will see–there is much more to it, especially if you are talking about publishing a book.

Through what I call practice and process, a successful writer creates, not just an artistic product, but a saleable one, made to fit the market.  During this phase in a writing career, we practice writing, over and over.  We look at our product,  and process it, not just with a creative mind, but with analytical intelligence and reason, and answer the question, “What does this product offer the reading public?  Something of value?”

If the answer is yes, then it’s time to sell ourselves as well as our product.  And that’s the hard part, not back-breaking work, but sometimes heart-breaking, because it frequently takes a long time to get noticed as a writer.  There are thousands of people out there who write well and want to sell their writing, or at least share it publicly.  Many today are choosing to publish their own work as an e-book, and that’s a satisfying outcome for some.  It is demanding, business-wise, however.  You have to learn the ropes, understand the financial arrangements, know how to format your work for readers on Nook, Kindle, i-phones, and much more.  And you have to keep records.  But then, any writer has to do that.

The writing business includes detailed record-keeping.  True, if  you connect to a traditional publisher, they handle some of this for you, as well as much of the sales effort.  But you still have to keep records of your work schedule, and of any business-related travel or study.  (The IRS will ask for this if you are ever audited.)  Do you stock and sell your books for events when the venue hosting you demands this?  This requires more record-keeping.  Know how to print invoices if you take your books to a signing or leave them on consignment.  Keep records of where each book goes.

Keep records of income–from book sales, and from talks or teaching.  Of course books cost you something, so, in the end, you deduct all related expenses from the price you got for each book.

Another aspect of the business is promotion.  Again, your publisher may help you with this, but many writers hire a publicist to arrange events such as radio and television appearances and bookstore signings.  Otherwise, making these arrangements is all done “in-house.”  In other words, by you.

And there’s Internet promotion:  A web site to maintain, blog-writing,  various social networks to keep up with.

I think you begin to get the picture.  Reading words you have put in an order that pleases you, and seeing what wonderful ideas they can express and share is a glorious thing and a wonder.  Just remember, though being a creative artist is primary, you are also running a small business.  Today, these two facets of a writer’s life must go hand-in-hand.

Learn more at http://www.RadinesBooks.com




  1. terrysthoughtsandthreads Says:

    Hi Radine,
    I’m trying to figure out how to legitimize the hours i spend both writing and promoting sales of my writing, so that i can ‘earn’ a salary, or even an hourly wage, and earn U.S. social security ‘quarters’ toward retirement income. My first year of consistent effort as a writer and a schedule C showed a loss … my second year is heading in the same direction, as I have a habit of giving away more than I sell, and so the loss would be larger if I showed a wage for myself. What to do, what to do. I need four more quarters to be eligible for all the years i worked before becoming a public school teacher (in our state teachers can’t earn federal retirement quarters because we have a public pension system.)

    I really do want to succeed as a writer; I want to be legitimately recognized as a tax-paying writer. I do pay sales tax forward to the state for what I sell. But I am working for myself without a salary…

  2. radine Says:

    Terry, most writers admit they make very little outside of covering expenses, with novel authors often being at the bottom of the list. In my experience, writing for magazines and newspapers is much more productive financially.

  3. terrysthoughtsandthreads Says:

    Yes, and I will reach out to both this summer. I’ve just put my name in the pot at the preschool two doors away, planning to substitute and try to build those SS quarters that way, so that i can both spend delightful time with little ones AND write more productively without thinking about making it earn its share of my time. I’m gradually figuring out this game of retirement on a slim budget. “We have enough” is our comforting refrain … but that little nagging “but shouldn’t we have a wee bit more to be able to do more than just barely pay the bills on time?” Dinner out with a glass of wine is just a memory today … but perhaps a dream ahead.

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