The Business of Writing

I’ve been a self-employed independent creator for 10 years. I don’t recommend it.

26 July 2017

From Medium:

Today marks my 10th year as a self-employed independent creator. I don’t recommend it.

It all started when my boss called me into a conference room. As I followed her down the hall, I noticed she was carrying a manila envelope. I could sense what was coming.

It was a short meeting. She told me I was terminated, and I felt relieved. I got up and thanked her. “July 17, 2007 will be a special day in my life,” I told her, smiling genuinely. I rode the antique elevator and stepped out onto Market Street, walking confidently one more time past the tourists in line for the street car. I descended into the Powell Street BART station.

I felt sure that I’d never work for someone else again. My will to “work” was gone. I cashed out a big chunk of my retirement fund to buy myself some time. After all, I had spent years eating 80-cent Banquet® meals for lunch, saving for this moment.

The next morning, I opened my eyes to vastness. There was nothing but time to be filled, like I was just floating in space. I could do anything I wanted with that vastness — build a startup, write a book, or play Guitar Hero and eat nachos. That was every bit as scary as it was exciting. My mission was to reconnect with my curiosity — that feeling that I had had so many times, alone in my room drawing or reading, the time passing so quickly I’d forget to eat.

I wanted to find that again. If I could just find a little snowball of curiosity, I imagined that I could keep rolling it, it would get bigger and bigger, and it would fill up the vastness. Eventually maybe I’d have my own planet to stand on.

That was ten years ago. I’ve stuck with my mission, but I never imagined it would take this long.

. . . .

The plan was to make as little money as I needed, with as little of my time as possible, and use the rest of the time to discover and pursue what gave me that feeling of “flow” I had experienced as a child.

Since I had spent as much of my savings as I was comfortable with for now, first, I would freelance. My goal was ten billable hours a week.

With the rest of my time, I would explore ways to make passive revenue.

As I made passive revenue, I would reduce freelancing hours, and spend time on whatever I was curious about.

Eventually, what I was curious about would make money. I would use that money to explore the next thing. And, I’d repeat.

. . . .

It’s true that we tend to rationalize things after the fact. It’s quite possible that there’s some parallel universe where I stayed in my hometown with my friends and family, or I somehow mustered the strength to to remain a designer in Silicon Valley. Maybe I’m even happier in those worlds. That’s hard for me to imagine.

I remember early on in my quest, my dad asking me “so, at some point will you decide to get a job?” It’s the kind of question you’d expect from a guy who held onto the same job for 37 years. I thought about it for a minute. A complex web of potential causes and effects unfurled in my mind. Every day, I was learning something new, and each one of those things would branch off into three more things. My answer was a clear “no.”

. . . .

I want to make a living creating. I don’t want creating to be merely a marketing strategy for other things. Is that completely insane?

Link to the rest at Medium


Authors suffer from bargaining ‘imbalance’ says SoA

20 July 2017

From The Bookseller:

The Society of Authors has welcomed the Creative Freelancers report, issued this week by the Creative Industries Federation (CIF), saying several of its recommendations will “chime very strongly” with members who are often “left out in the cold” in comparison with their publishing counterparts, despite being a “lynchpin” of the creative industries. However, the trade body called it “a real shame” that poor industry practices were not wholly addressed by the investigation.

The SoA praised the CIF’s call for better representation for freelancers at government level, its suggestion of a one-stop shop for support and advice for freelances, and its request for short-term relief grants for the self-employed. However, it was disappointed the recommendations didn’t go far enough to tackle issues such as late payment of freelancers, unpaid work or address “rights grabs”, where freelances are asked to sign over all their IP rights.

. . . .

“…Creative freelances suffer from lack of bargaining and negotiating power against those who use their services, often resulting in unequal deals. As well as legislation we would suggest encouragement of collective negotiations to provide codes of practice and minimum terms to protect all freelances and ensure that they are fairly rewarded, properly credited, that they can share in the success of their work and reclaim rights that are not being exploited.”

. . . .

She added she would like to see the department look at issues in the value chain because creators were not being “sufficiently rewarded” for their input.

“With average author earnings estimated at £12,500, we agree that a benefits system that is fit for freelancers is vital,” said Solomon. “Government urgently needs to find ways to adapt existing systems, such as Universal Credit, to work more sensitively for self-employed earners with uncertain incomes.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller


8 Top Publishing Lessons Authors Need To Know

6 July 2017

From Digital Book World:

Writing is not the same as publishing. That may seem obvious to most. But picture a young author with a lot to say – This person writes and writes, day after day. Amasses a seven-foot-tall stack of words on paper. This person then thinks everyone would love to read what they wrote.

Why not? They enjoyed writing it. They know it’s good. They send one of their stories off to a publishing house – maybe two. Okay, they send it off to five dozen.

And the answers come back: Not a chance in H. E. double hockey sticks!

Our author is crushed, heartbroken. Vows to never write again!

Quick show of hands – How many authors approach their writing careers in the same way?

. . . .

1. You’ve spent hours writing your manuscript – now what?

After writing your manuscript for more hours than you can count, you’re not finished. Now it’s time to invest in a Manuscript Overview. What’s that? It’s a process whereby you send your work off to a trusted, experienced editor. They read your work and give you professional, genre-specific feedback: tell you what’s good, what needs work, if your manuscript is ready to publish. It can be painful – but it’s a necessary step on the road to publishing. A roadmap to make your work more successful in the marketplace. It’s to your advantage.

2. You’re tooling around on social media – time to get real.

At the same time as the Manuscript Overview is going on, begin strengthening your on-line presence through interactive social media. These days, even Fiction authors need a platform. Facebook is still a good way to do this, so is Instagram. Whatever you do, invite your community into a relationship. The thing to remember is publishers are looking for authors who already have a following that can be motivated to purchase books.

. . . .

6. Say cheese! Get a professional author photo.

What’s needed is a high-res, professional photo to place on your book, stick on your business cards, add to your sell sheets… get the picture?

Link to the rest at Digital Book World


When does a writer become a professional?

5 July 2017

From The Bookseller:

At what point does a writer earn the right to declare they are A Writer without a self-deprecating smirk? When does a website of online fan fiction, run as a passion project, become part of The Publishing Industry? How many copies of your ebook do you have to sell before your mate, who sorted the cover, is A Bona Fide Book Designer?

The line between amateurs and professionals in the publishing world is increasingly blurry – and increasingly important to interrogate. As Dr Erika Fulop, a lecturer at Lancaster University who is studying the topic, told me: “we still live by the inherited dichotomy of amateur versus professional, despite a quickly changing literary ecosystem where its sense changes and its usefulness becomes questionable. It is important that we are aware of what would be best for us as authors, readers and critics. We have a role to play in what it becomes.”

. . . .

The first criteria mentioned when it came to defining the difference between amateur and professional was, unsurprisingly, cash. If you’re earning from your writing, then surely you’re a pro? But it quickly became clear that even this idea is fraught. The average earnings of a European author are £12,500 per year – a sum less than the UK’s full-time annual minimum wage. So if you can’t make a living off your earnings, are you really a pro?

The answer is, of course, yes. Throughout history, one-trick writers have always been incredibly rare beasts. With portfolio careers becoming the norm, people who make money from publishing – however little, in whatever medium – should not feel, just because they earn most of their crust from copywriting, shelf stacking or circus performing, that they are any less of an author than a white, middle-class, late-middle-aged man able to pursue his ‘vocation’ in a Highbury attic without the distraction of other, grubbier work. Yet there is still a surprising amount of shame around the truth that the career of a professional writer is necessarily diverse.

I’d argue, too, that you can certainly be professional without (yet) being paid. There’s an interesting parallel here with the startup world. In the tech industry, people who spend untold, unpaid hours labouring to bring their brilliant idea to the world are lauded as bold entrepreneurs, not sneered at as irresponsible amateurs. So aspiring writers looking to breed a bit of self-worth might do well to think of themselves as founders bootstrapping their own micro-startup.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller 

PG may be completely out of touch and entirely missing the point, but he wonders why intelligent people spend what is apparently a lot of time discussing possible answers to the question in the title of the OP and this post.

PG says writers can label themselves any way they want to and suggests a label is, first and foremost, a marketing tool for a writer.

To assist in your marketing, PG hereby awards each visitor to The Passive Voice the Grand Prize for keen perspicacity and unmatched acumen as evidenced by their presence here.



There, now you are a prize-winning author. Or a prize-winning individual.

Go tell the world.


@#*&$it – Self-Publishing Does NOT Have to Cost You Anything

2 July 2017

From Indies Unlimited:

Okay people, I’m going to rant. I have had it with all these articles lately – some from people who are in no way qualified to be writing them – TELLING authors how EXPENSIVE it is to self-publish. Well, that’s a crock of …

If there is one way to get me riled up, this is it. Scare tactics. Holier than thou BS. Seriously, people. JUST. STOP. Stop trying to frighten new authors. Stop writing articles with ONLY worst-case scenarios. Stop claiming that authors have to go to conferences or get interior “book design” or that they have to pay for every service under the sun. One of the best things about being an indie is that we can learn how to do most everything ourselves – FOR FREE. If you have the ability or desire to pay for everything, good for you. That doesn’t mean that’s how it HAS to be done. In fact, most indies I know do everything themselves. FOR FREE.

Editing is the one place where an indie should spend money. It’s impossible to edit your own work. But it doesn’t mean you actually can’t get it done for free – some editors will trade work. (I once traded an editing job for six book covers…) If you don’t have anything tradeworthy, you can still greatly reduce the cost of your editing through the use of Alpha and Beta readers.

. . . .

So please, don’t take all these articles that tell you how expensive publishing is to heart. Yes, there is a wide range of costs related to the industry, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay. In fact, when it comes to getting published, my new slogan is – If you have to pay, run away.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited


We’re In This Together: How To Help Other Authors Succeed

28 June 2017

From Writers Helping Writers:

A common query Becca and I get is, “Why do you do what you do?” It’s a fair question, because in order for us to coach writers through our books, speaking, and our One Stop for Writers site, we’ve had to temporarily put our fiction-writing on hold. Not an easy decision. But the fact is we love to see dreams realized. This is why we do it. As writers ourselves, we know the power of THIS particular dream–a book in hand, our name paired with the title, and the knowledge that readers are losing themselves in a world we’ve created.

We celebrate each time someone we know achieves this dream–and how could we not? It’s so wonderful to see all that hard work pay off! Today, we are celebrating because our friend Kristen Lamb has just released her first mystery thriller, The Devil’s Dance.

. . . .

When an author releases a book, it’s all smiles and excitement…on the outside. What we don’t see is the anxiety going on within: will this book find its readers? Will it become lost in the glut of fiction available? If I share my excitement too freely, will people see it as unwanted promotion?

These worries are universal among authors. And, with the saturation of promotion these days, it’s important we don’t push a book too hard ourselves. Inside, we hope others will step up and help.

. . . .

1: Ask your local library to bring the book in. Many libraries have an online form and they often pay attention to requests. Click here to find a library near you…and why not request Kristen’s book while you’re at it?  If it is an ebook release, first encourage your author friend to make the ebook available to a service like OverDrive.

2: Leave a review. This is the clear obvious one, but often people stop at only submitting it to Goodreads or Amazon. Please cut and paste the review to all the main sites the book is being sold (Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and if it applies, Smashwords.) For example, you can review The Devil’s Dance on Amazon and Goodreads. It wasn’t at LibraryThing, so I added it (if you’ve read this book, please give it some review love?)

3: Place the book on appropriate lists. If you loved reading the book, help others find it. Goodreads has many great lists you can add books to, or start your own. Using Kristen as an example, you’ll see her reviews are excellent. Think of how much it will help her if reviewers add The Devil’s Dance to some of the “best” lists so others also find it.

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers and thanks to Julie for the tip.


There’s No Such Thing As A Self-Published Author

16 June 2017

From Digital Book World:

These days, it’s eminently possible for authors to publish and distribute books they’ve written themselves. Conversion and merchandising technologies are accessible enough for almost anyone to use without significant training. The costs are no longer a barrier for many. We often call writers in this category “self-published authors” but I’d like to respectfully challenge that term. There is no “self” in “self-publishing.” Creating a digital book today is rarely done by one person all alone. Self-publishing is, in fact, a team effort.

. . . .

Though most writers can train themselves to convert their written work and learn the ins-and-outs of book marketing, there are numerous additional activities that writers cannot—and should not do themselves when creating a digital book.

. . . .

Authors are managers—they do not work by themselves. That’s why I’m against the label “self-published author.” The term implies that a person can successfully publish a book all alone, and that’s simply not true.

The more we use the term “self-published” the more we perpetuate the myth that one person can do it all by themselves. Too many writers dive into publishing their own books with the inaccurate assumption that it’s a one-person job. They are often badly informed about the actual amount of time, effort and managerial skill that goes into the process.

Every book that is created and distributed to the public needs professional editors, professional book production specialists, and professional marketing experts. Every successful title is the product of many hands.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World


Four “Types” of Creative Writing “Careers”

27 May 2017

From Catapult:

Writing literature and having a writing career are entirely separate things. A writer is an artist whose work may be informed or influenced, but never overdetermined, by the pressures of making money, publishing, and building an audience—that’s a writing career. Writing is pointless if you don’t get to write what you want, even if it’s obscure, difficult, or non-lucrative. But there’s also no reason to assume you’re not clever enough to make a career out of it too.

Donkey Hen Review Mop BucketTin House, McSweeney’s, Harper’s, The Paris Review, Playboy, The New Yorker

. . . .

VICE, The New Republic, Salon, Slate, GQ, Vogue, Elle, The Atlantic,

Link to the rest at Catapult

PG notes the author seems unaware of the potential for self-publishing to launch and sustain a writing career.


Writers, Scam Artists, Agents, And More (Sigh)

29 April 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Just when I thought it was safe to get back into the water…

I’m editing a lot these days. I only edit short fiction projects. Anthologies, anthology series (Fiction River), the occasional nonfiction book, and some magazines. I’m also consulting with the fine folks at WMG Publishing, because they’ll be handling the contracts for the revival of Pulphouse next year. Dean’s vision for Pulphouse includes reprinting some of the older stories, which means we have to deal with estates.

Too often, estates mean agents.

But even some lazy-ass living writers give their agents control of everything. It took me one year—one year—to get my hands on a non-fiction reprint that I wanted for a project of mine. The centerpiece for that project was an editorial written more than 20 years ago by a writer who had forgotten they had even written it. This writer, a friend of mine, doesn’t do email, and mostly stays off-line. (I know, I know.) I didn’t know about their tech phobia when I started into this, and had sent five different emails before I asked another editor friend how to reach this writer.

The editor advised snail mail.

Before I resorted to that, though, I called. The author and I are friends, after all. On the phone, the author told me that their agent handles everything. I do mean everything. The author—one smart cookie otherwise—can’t be bothered to concern themselves with touching anything to do with business. I had no idea this author was an Artiste, but I guess I know that now.

I also know why most anthologists refuse to reprint this author’s work.

I was pretty excited about this non-fiction project when I started it. I missed the publication window because of this agent and this writer. Fortunately, my publisher pushed the deadline back. We’ve pushed it back again, and again, and again. And frankly, I’m not feeling it any more. I have completely soured on the project.

The big bad agent, by the way, negotiated a horseshit deal for the writer that essentially gave me more rights than I would ever need. I offered the usual fee, which the agent did not negotiate up (although he could have). By that point, I was too pissed to give a break to these people. The amount of money—on publication, if there’s a publication—to the agent and the author will be negligible.

. . . .

Who the hell gives over control of everything, I mean everything, to an agent?

Oh, most writers. Never mind.

Still, I expect better. And if a writer is going to give control of the business side of her work to an “expert” then the expert better be damn good at negotiating and taking care of the writer’s interests.

So far, all of the agents I’ve encountered who handle everything are the worst negotiators in the business. They let things slide, they don’t care about being paid, they don’t ask for the right kind of language in a contract, they license the wrong rights or sell those rights outright.

. . . .

On one of the many projects I worked on recently, I contacted a writer to reprint one of their stories. I wrote a standard email letter, requesting permission to reprint, and the writer wrote back that they had no idea if the rights were available. The writer said I should contact the editor who originally published the story and ask.

I was taken aback. I had never had a writer say such a thing before in all of my years of editing. I knew the editor in question, and had worked with him many times. Never once did that editor, in all his various projects, try to control all the rights to a project. It wasn’t in his standard contract, the one he used for his anthology projects. It wasn’t in his special contracts, for other projects. It hadn’t ever happened, not in years of dealing with this man.

Honestly, this is where Writer Me and Editor Me had a conflict. Writer Me decided that Editor Me should get clarification from that writer before going to the writer’s editor. You see, Writer Me figured the editor in question would be confused at best or insulted at worst by the suggestion that he controlled the rights.

I did not want to offend him—as a person, not as an editor I might work with.

So I asked for clarification from the writer on the problem and added, as I do with many writers—bestsellers and nonbestsellers alike—that I would be happy to look at the clauses or contract in question (with the pertinent information like SSN and payment blacked out) to see what rights the author had actually sold. After all, the author clearly had no idea. Frankly, I figured the author didn’t know how to read a contract, and certainly didn’t know copyright law. I’ve seen that dozens of times before.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.


The Sky is Falling (Again)

24 April 2017

From The Crazy Chronicles by author  Elizabeth Barone:

I’ve been working in the indie publishing industry for five years, with a smattering of trad pub experience right before that. I mean a very tiny smattering; I had a couple short stories and poems published in journals before I got addicted to self-publishing, and I was with a small press for a year. But I’ve always been an introvert, and the thing most people don’t know about us introverts is that we’re super observant. We may not say much, but we see everything. And we pay attention.

Lately there’s been a lot of ugliness in the lit community. Some high profile authors were outed for attacking readers, there’s been a lot of mudslinging over diversity in fiction, and now I’m seeing a lot of authors griping about how “oversaturated” the industry is.

I get it. Amazon sales have tanked for everyone this month. In general, there’s been a decline in sales. The industry has been plateauing, trying to find its footing in the midst of this digital revolution. But I’ve noticed the panic really dig in to authors when Amazon changes something. And then things get ugly.

. . . .

For one, the market has always been full. Even before indie publishing took off—back when it was considered vanity publishing to go and print copies of your books and sell them out of your car—there was a vast traditional market. Book stores became more and more selective with who they gave shelf space to. It was a game of dollars—which publisher could pay the most to get their star author front and center in stores. And it still is.

. . . .

Authors, we’re not competitors. There are millions of readers around the world, with new markets opening up every single day. (Right now India and Nigeria’s ebook markets are booming, by the way.) Readers don’t play favorites. Sure, there are authors they love who they will always buy from right away. But most readers are just looking for something good to read that fits their tastes and their budget—especially while their favorites are in between releases.

Link to the rest at The Crazy Chronicles and thanks to A. for the tip.

Here’s a link to Elizabeth Barone’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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