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What Writers Need To Know

8 February 2013

Another invaluable blog post from Kris Rusch:

Because publishing is an old industry, with practices that developed over decades (in some cases, over more than a century). Outside of our small industry, those practices make little sense. Hell, let me be honest: Inside of the industry, those practices make little sense.

Dean and I write blogs that attempt to explain the industry, not just for indie writers but also for traditionally published writers. I’ll be frank: I think the traditionally published writers need a lot more help learning this business than indie writers do. Not because traditionally published writers are dumb, but because they’ve been encouraged for decades to outsource the business part of their careers to others.

Here’s the minimum traditionally published writers need to know about their business:

1. How to write a good book/story (we’ll call it the “work”)

2. How to get that work to someone who will publish it

3. Copyright

4. How to negotiate a good contract for the writer

5. Money management

6. How to hire good advisors—lawyers, accountants, and maybe, just maybe, an agent

7. How to manage a business

8. How to say no

Indie writers need to know all  of that plus:

9. How to run a business

10. How to do a cost-benefit analysis

11. How to design a good product—from e-book to print book to audio book

12. What makes a good product—from cover to interior to sound quality (for audio)

13. How to hire good assistants—from editors to cover designers to distributers/aggregators

14. How to get that product to retailers—from ecommerce sites to actual bookstores

. . . .

You look at the to-know lists I posted above and think, I can never do all of that. And in the aggregate, you’re right. You can’t do it all this week or next or the week after that. You have to do it bit by tiny bit, without neglecting your family, your day job, or the writing that means so much to you that you give up your precious free time.

You look at that list, and think, What she believes I should do is impossible. And that’s the point some of you smugly lean back and think, Thank God, I have an agent. Or, I’ll just hire someone to do all of my publishing work. Or, I’m happy I gave power of attorney to my accountant/business manager/foreign agent so they can deal with these matters and I don’t have to think about it.

These lists are why so many writers abdicate the tough job of running their business. Why so many have careers that implode or wonder why they’re not making enough money when others in the same category make more. Overall, it looks impossible.

But it’s not.

. . . .

Many traditionally published writers want someone else to handle all of the business details so that they can focus on the actual writing. The problem is that you can’t effectively manage someone—or even advise them—if you don’t understand what they’re doing.

For example, if an agent comes to a writing-only writer and tells her that a foreign publisher has offered $5,000 on an advance against such-and-so royalties, that writer has no way to know if the deal is good or not, if the offer is complete or not, if there is something left to negotiate or not. The writer must completely trust the agent, and that way doesn’t work. Even agents (at least the good ones) don’t like that. The agents (the good ones) know that they’re working for the writer, which means that the writer must make the decisions and the agent execute them.

If the agent makes the decisions, she will do something wrong. Same with the attorney, the accountant, or any other professional a writer hires.

Read the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, The Business of Writing

2 Comments to “What Writers Need To Know”

  1. Indeed, publishing and self-publishing is a business, and all authors must learn it from now on, or pay 95% of their deserved royalties to others who know. In the past the system was rigged against the authors that self-published and it was a losing proposition. Today, knowing this business is a must for all authors, self or published by others. Many established authors may not like it, but there is no choice in the matter if they don’t want to be ran over by the new Indie authors. As for selling and marketing I recently posted a blog on Julia Barrett’s site about this subject. Free learning is always good, check it out:

  2. Kris Rusch always gives great advice. I’ve been studying her work for a while now, and her advice is always spot on.

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