Category : The Business of Writing

  • June 5, 2008

    Getting Started in the Business of Writing


    I’ve had a number of questions recently from people in the beginning stages of their careers…

    Deann wrote to ask, "As a beginner, is it a good idea to get published in an anthology? And what do you think about newer authors setting up book signings and doing readings from anthologies? Is that just good local PR?"

    When you’re starting your career as a writer, it’s pretty much a good idea to get ANY bylines you can. So participating in anthologies is one good way to get introduced to the business. You should also consider looking to get published in magazines, e-zines, and web sites. If you’ve got a local newspaper, by all means try to get into that regularly. Think of it as learning to play the piano — it takes lots of practice time and performing in plenty of dumpy school recitals before you get to be the star onstage at the concert hall. What you’re looking for is a chance to perform somewhere. (Or, if you prefer sports analogies: Think of it as learning to play baseball — it takes lots of practice time, and playing in plenty of American Legion games before you get to sign a contract with a major league team.)

    As for anthology participants doing readings… It’s not a bad idea, especially if you have some other pieces to read and talk about. But I sense from your question that you’re wondering if a writer might be over-selling herself. And my answer is "maybe." Still, it’s good PR for your career.

    Ashley emailed me and said, "I’ve been working on my novel for months, and finally got the first few chapters to a place I feel comfortable. But when I sent them to my editor, she hacked it up and told me what to improve. So I worked on those things, until she approved of my new, revised work, and I send them

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  • January 29, 2008

    More on the “Part-Time to Full-Time” Discussion


    Danny wrote to say, "You’ve offered some basic ideas for those of us trying to make the move from part-time to full-time. What else do we need to know?"

    I can think of several things that might be important…

    First, invest in a separate business phone line. You can write it off as a business expense, and it’ll help you separate your private life from your professional life.

    Second, invest in the technology you need. Let’s face it, if you plan to do any serious internet research, you need a fast computer and high-speed internet. (This may sound obvious to most of you, but I was speaking at a conference recently where nearly every writer in the class claimed to have dial-up. Yikes! I wondered if they were also listening to 8-track players and watching black-and-white TV.) The fact is, you’re paying for what you need and don’t have. So if you’re trying to get by with a cheap-o computer, you’re making a mistake. (And here I’ll offer an unsolicited commercial: I finally went to an Apple MacBook a year-and-a-half ago. In that time, it hasn’t crashed once. Just so you know.) The same goes for software, a printer, and whatever bells and whistles your particular type of writing requires. Organizational theory teaches us that things don’t get less complicated over time; they get more complicated. So educate yourself on the complications, then spend the money to bring your office up to date.

    Third, invest in a great web site. People used to think of web sites more or less as freeway road signs — something you passed by on the way to your destination. Now we understand web sites are interactive places where we can get information, ask questions, and make comments. If you want to build a readership, think about spending some serious cash to create a dynamite site.

    Fourth, invest in great business cards, stationery, and brochures.

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  • January 20, 2008

    State of Confusion


    I’m not really in the state of confusion. I’m in the state of Washington. But the two apparently border each other. A week in the mountains with no cel service, no internet, no emails — and no chance to update my blog. Sorry! I’m back at it.

    Dianne wrote to ask, "If I really wanted to move from being a part-timer toward being a full-time writer, what advice would you have? What are the steps I need to take in order to make the transition?"

    I can think of a long list of things you should consider…

    1. Find a place. Make this your writing space and designate it as your office. (If you’re serious about this, make that your official home office and start looking into the tax deduction you can get from the IRS for establishing a home office.)

    2. Establish a writing time. Having a block of time dedicated to your writing is probably the first step every professional writer takes on their way to a writing career. You want to have a protected chunk when you’re not checking emails, answering phone calls, or meeting people for coffee to bitch about how little writing time you have. For many authors, it’s simply "morning." When I began writing full time, I set aside 6 to 8 every morning to write (I had one job and three small kids, so I couldn’t do it later in the day). I would get up and write every morning before going to the office… which was amazing, since I’m really not a morning person. But it was the discipline of sitting and writing for two hours every morning that really helped me flip the switch in my head and get me going on a writing career.

    3. Create a filing system. All it takes is one office box and a set of files. You can arrange it alphabetically by topic, and create

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