5 ways for a writer to be more business savvy
Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
When you think about your writing, does your mind slip into business mode or artistic mode? For most writers, the artistic side looms large. Of course they know that publishing is a business, but that doesn’t mean writers knows how to think like businesspeople.
Over the years I’ve observed the artist’s mind at work in a business world. Below are a few common ways the artist makes business missteps.
1. If you’re itching to write a book, then the artist in you knows it’s worthy of being published.
Some ideas are good, some are not. Some should be magazine articles because the idea isn’t expansive enough for a book, others won’t draw a large enough readership.
Yet I hear comments like this over and over again, “I started a series of historical novels, and I keep hearing from readers who want to read more about those characters, but the publisher doesn’t want to publish more.”
It doesn’t occur to these authors that the publisher is making a business decision–possibly a good one. The writer has dived deep into artistic waters. He thinks that receiving requests for more books in a series is an indication that each request represents thousands of unspoken requests. But that is an equation that seldom proves accurate. Unless the author receives thousands of requests, it’s unlikely adding to a series will result in a sales success. Nor should every good idea be turned into a book; sometimes the timing isn’t right or the audience isn’t sufficiently large.
2. Meet the deadline or keep reworking the manuscript?
I am unendingly surprised by writers who think their only responsibility is to create the best manuscript they can. They forget that publishing is a business. Product costs money to create (tens of thousands per book), and publishers need to recoup that money by selling copies of the book. So what happens when the author doesn’t turn in the manuscript on time? The publisher can’t earn back the money it has invested. When it comes to deadlines, the writer can’t just think about whether he or she is “done” with the manuscript.
3. Not every author’s marketing idea is genius.
An author can’t ask a publisher to make an investment in a creative marketing scheme that’s unlikely to sell sufficient books. Every marketing plan must strive to bring in more money than the plan spends. It’s a business decision, not a lack of support for a book.
4. A cover design is an artistic–and business–decision.
You have an idea for your book’s cover; the artist in you knows it’s perfect. But the publisher has a different idea. So you press for what you have in mind. But the publisher can only make so many passes at your book cover. Suggesting a new model or a completely different idea after seeing the publisher’s design, means the cost of the cover has just doubled. Saying no to the third, unique cover design means you’ve tripled the publisher’s cover costs. It doesn’t mean you can’t express your opinion, but keep in mind that every change adds to the cost of producing your book. Authors have a hard time thinking about the business side of a cover, but it’s just as real as the artistic side.
5. Handle your decision about an agent like a businessperson, not an artist.
If you’ve engaged in a significant conversation about your writing with one agent and that agent is waiting for more material from you, you should let that agent know if you connect with a different agent. And you should tell the second agent you’re in conversation with agent #1. Full disclosure is fair and shows you’re a savvy businessperson.
If one agent takes the time to give you specific feedback on a project, don’t make those changes and then go to another agent without giving agent #1 a chance to decide if he or she wants to offer you representation. It’s common courtesy and shows you’re an aware businessperson.
Writing is both business and art. It’s a balancing act. Often, for writers, the teeter-totter lands on the artistic side, and the writer doesn’t even realize it.
Why do you think writers often have a blind spot when it comes acting in a businesslike way? What can a writer do to balance artistic endeavor with good business practices?
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