Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
As a writer, you are constantly asked to be two people:
Your artist self and your business self.
You’ve got to keep them separated, and they both need to be nurtured.
I find this to be more of an issue for unpublished authors. Once a writer is published, they seem highly motivated to stay published. They’re more open to increasing the commercial appeal of their work or paying more attention to marketing.
But some authors resist “commercializing” their art. That’s fine, if you want to write for yourself, your family and your friends. But if the goal is to ask strangers to pay money to read your work, then it deserves a two-fold approach: (1) nurture your craft to write the best books you can, and (2) think of yourself as a small business.
How do you develop a business mindset? One way is to read books that people in business typically read.
These books can be helpful in learning how to approach writing as a business or even a career. They can teach you to ask the right questions as you consider what kinds of books to write and how to write them.
They can open your eyes to everything from
…how consumers make buying decisions
…to how to create a successful brand
…to how to organize your time for maximum effectiveness (and much more).
There is an art to running a successful business. As I’ve spoken with several of my clients who have multiple books published, it’s been interesting to see how they approach the constant necessity to keep drawing in readers: rather than feeling like they’re “selling out,” they savor the challenge of getting better at crafting words into books that people want to read. They look for the stories or topics that interest them, and then ask themselves where their interests meet the demands of the marketplace. And they don’t shy away from taking an intentional approach to book promotion.
So what books should you read? There is no single one to recommend. You may want to choose a few that interest you, and try to read them over the next year.
Below are some good books to get you started. Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments.
- To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink
- Originals by Adam Grant
- Essentialism by Greg McKeown
- Made to Stick by Chip Heath
- Grit by Angela Duckworth
- Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
- Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin
- The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz
- Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg
- Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne
Are you comfortable with approaching writing as a business? What helps you nurture this mindset? How do you balance your artistic self with your business self?
I was extremely uncomfortable with the idea of marketing my work and my writer self as a brand when I first started reading this blog 2.5 years ago. I felt the call to write novels to support missions, but I never realized that would mean embracing all the business aspects as well as letting the creative juices flow. Silly me!
*After faithfully following B&S and some other writing blogs and listening to more than two dozen free webinars, I’ve become comfortable with the need for marketing the work. I even have a pretty good idea of some specific things I need to do to succeed. I’ve found some of the webinars about online marketing and fan-base building very eye-opening. Some of the information is directed toward self-publishing, but much of it would be just as useful for a traditionally published author. Every author is supposed to have a web presence, and the webinars teach how to do that better.
*Promoting myself as a brand that someone would be eager to follow as a fan, that still feels a bit egotistical. I realize I must get over that, or at least I must bite the bullet and embrace what I need to do to build a fan base that will want to buy many of the novels in my series.
I was never comfortable with the business side until someone reminded me that I’m writing to serve a reader and and I’m not serving them if they can’t find me. Amazingly, current readers and family/friends aren’t annoyed to see my work on social media, but thrilled to read new pieces, share them, and help recruit new readers. Since embracing the necessity of the business side, I feel like the artist side has flourished because it has a clearly defined space to create and write in. Marketing and self promotion may feel “yucky” at first, but when you choose the perspective of serving your reader and meeting his or her needs, it’s not so bad.
Becky, thank you for sharing that perspective. It’s a better way of looking at it for me.
Yes, Becky … I’m always so afraid I’ll annoy family and friends who don’t quite get the writing business. I push out of my comfort zone, and immediately, I want to pull back. Ugh.
Great thoughts, Becky. I actually keep my writing hidden from family and friends, because I don’t want to lay an obligation on them, to read the stuff. But I can see, from that which you wrote, that this may be a disservice; by not even giving them the chance to make their own choices on what they choose to read, I’m denying them the chance to be encouraging and supportive.
Thank you, Rachelle, for the additions to my to-read list (in some cases, my re-read list).
*Thus far, my business sense is almost as imaginary as my panel of readers (yes, I have an imaginary panel of real people–wouldn’t they be surprised to know!). I trust that my imaginary business will eventually transform into solid lines and brighter colors.
I have my readers in mind, too. They’re names are Sarah and Jessica and I can tell you almost anything about them 🙂 It definitely helps to serve them when I know who they are.
This is valuable information for someone like me who is trying to get a manuscript published. I especially like what you said about having an intentional approach, because publishing is a business just like any other. I think it is ok to write the words that people want to read and produce the product they want to buy as long as you aren’t compromising any personal values in regards to content. Trying to move forward wherever the muse leads in the name of art without a plan in place (being intentional) is usually a recipe for frustration. At least that has been my experience. Thanks for the great post!
I think entering the writing journey when I did has helped me to grasp the reality that marketing needs to be a part of my thinking. The great thing is, there are a lot of resources for those of us who are not yet published. Blogs like this one have been informative, and books as well.
*As for balance, I’m still trying to figure that one out. 🙂 Each school year has made different demands on my time, so I’m learning how to work within the available time to balance both the business self and creative self. I’m hoping others will share things that have helped them.
Great post, Rachelle! I think you’ve really helped a lot of writers today.
* I see it as the Mary/Martha dichotomy, Mary is writing, heart open the the Almighty, while Martha is doing the sometimes tedious work to bring the fruits of Mary’s contemplative efforts to the job of sharing the Good News. And she’s getting understandably a bit peevish, because what she, Martha, is doing, isn’t much fun
* Jesus’ rebuke to Martha, though, wasn’t for her actions, because they were so obviously necessary. It was for trying to ‘take away’ Mary’s joy, the if-I-am-not-having-fun-neither-should-you paradigm by which so many, now and way back then, lived.
* And He didn’t suggest to Martha that she drop the dishes and sit a spell; implicitly respecting the importance of her effort. He knows that Martha and Mary live in our heart, and is merely concerned that we understand that there’s a hierarchy of importance in that which we do.
* That said, being a lazy idiot I try to hide when Martha comes looking for me. But when she drags me out and says, Look, the place is a mess! I do try to work with her, with full heart. She’s worthy of my Mary’s respect; she works so hard, and with little felt appreciation.
* The nuts and bolts for me are these –
– Breaking down commercial work into categories, and making a checklist that accurately describes what I want to try to accomplish, so mary doesn’t start getting all creative again.
– Putting a time limit on commercial efforts. It’s like doing pushups; there is a target (say a hundred) and after that you stop, to prevent overstrain and possible muscle damage (analogously, to prevent burnout in business).
– Using Scripture as inspiration; for example, I hate self promotion, but what I write is dedicated to encouraging faith, which is part of the Great Commission. It’s God’s light, and not mine; I made the lamp, but He is the flame, and even if the brasswork is not as neat as I would like it, putting a basket over it is wrong. It goes on the lampstand of social and commercial media, because that is where it belongs.
– Perhaps the most important thing is taking a Sabbath from the commercial side; one day a week in which the only marketing stuff I can do is limited to jotting down sudden ideas so they won’t be forgotten. “Come unto Me, all you that labour and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.” We weren’t designed to go 24/7.
I like your Sabbath idea, Andrew. Writing content for the website is fun, but trying to figure out the social media part of discoverability isn’t. I wasn’t planning to post 4 times a day like the gurus recommend, but taking a full day off sounds great!
Thanks for your thoughts, Andrew. Somehow you can merge the practical side with the faith that drives it.
Xochitl E. Dixon
Great post! I embrace writing as a tool for ministry and marketing as good stewardship.
This helps me remember that I’m not self-promoting, I’m promoting what God is doing in and through the gifts He’s given me and is holding me accountable for using and sharing for His glory.
A wise woman told me, “You are your brand. People want to read your work because they want to know what you have to say.” If I’m pointing to Jesus through my work and through my life, there is no way I can promote myself. My desire is to point to Christ, sharing His truth and love to the ends of the earth. If I’m going to spread His Word, like the disciples did, I’m going to have to go make disciples. That requires marketing and being visible. When I do that, I can shine the spotlight on God, what He’s teaching me and how He’s working in and through me. This is like testifying, even in fiction through characters and worlds He helps me create.
As He empowers me to accomplish this, through the opportunities He gives me, the church is built up. And other disciples can find the courage to follow God’s leading and use their gifts, their voices, and the opportunities God gives them to shine for His glory.
That’s why I enjoy helping friends market their work, too. They can reach readers I’ll never be able to reach, readers I wasn’t designed to reach.
I’m thankful for other writers, all those involved in the different aspects of the publishing industry. I’m grateful for your partnership in sharing the Gospel of Christ.
Together, empowered by God, we can reach the ends of the earth with His truth and for His glory, using the tools, the network, and the opportunities He provides.