If you were around the interwebz at all this weekend, you heard the drama surrounding a frustrated writer dabbling in the query pond and the reaction of others to her frustration. I won’t recap it all here, but be sure to check out Beth Revis’ thoughtful post and links on this.

The situation did make me think a bit…about this business we writers’ find ourselves in.

It is a tough business to be sure. There is rejection – a lot of it. But there are wonderful payoffs as well.

I think that we, as writers, forget that there is rejection on all sides of this – – – not just our side. Agents have a hard job, as do editors and publishers.

But ultimately, it is worth it.

Why?  (And yes, we ALL face that question at some point in this biz, if we are being honest)

Because as writers we have something to say. We want to share that with the world…otherwise we’d never query our novel. I truly believe that if we still have something to say, despite the rejections, the waiting, the little pieces of our soul we sometimes feel tearing away in this process – if after all that we STILL have something to say…then we stay in this business.

Ultimately, though, we have to remember it is a business.

So, like any job, aspects of this will be work…not the joy-infested fantasy of a “writer’s life” we sometimes wallow in.

So yeah, we have to write queries that follow guidelines in order to find an agent.

And yes, we will revise revise revise and oh yeah….revise our novel. Until we practically hate the darn thing. And then we’ll revise it again.

And yes, we will conform to some degree to the market – balancing our vision with the realities of the readership we write for.

We do this because we remember it is a business – a wonderful, creative, amazing business….but a business none-the-less.

So how do you guys feel about this? Do you take time to remember this is a business?


14 thoughts on “Remembering that this is a business…

  1. Definitely this is a business. And what writers sometimes forget, I think, is that in the beginning, we aren’t selling a book. We’re selling ourselves. With the Internet and social networking nowadays, a writer isn’t some mysterious person that makes words appear. They’re human, and readers want to connect to them. I won’t buy a certain author’s books anymore even though I loved her earlier works, because of a major tantrum/bullying session she threw on her blog a few years back.

    So yes, writing is a business. But even if it weren’t, there are still human connections being made, and I think it behooves writers to be the sort of person people want to make connections with. 🙂

  2. I think if you want to succeed in this business, you have no choice but to remember it is a business. If you just want to write for yourself, have at it – but if you want to write to be published, some of that business stuff is coming your way whether you want it to or not, and you have to find a way to embrace it. Like it or not, there are certain rules that must be followed, bridges you are better off not burning, and etiquette you’d be wise to at least pay lip service to. Occasionally irritating, at times frustrating, and every now and then down right depressing as it is, this BUSINESS stuff will allow me the opportunity to see my dream become a reality.

    Small price to pay 🙂

  3. Well said! No one is entitled to success in any career path. It’s something we all have to work for every step of the way and on every level. It’s a frustrating business, to be sure–one that can feel fickle and impossible at times, but like you said, it’s a business with risks and rewards and a lot of hard work, like any other business. Thanks for posting this.

  4. Absolutely. It’s one of my personal rules:

    I expect to make a modest living, so those who pay me can expect me to deliver. I’ll treat those who work with me as professionals with similar goals. When editors tell me an idea won’t sell, I’ll listen; they know the market, or at least the amount of risk their house will accept.

  5. The simple answer is yes. The complexity comes with figuring out how to make the business a success when the industry seems to be changing and morphing on a daily basis. But finding a way to somehow keep up is essential.

    Every now and then, though, escaping to a world like that of Angela Lansbury’s Jessica Fletcher in “Murder, She Wrote” is healthy for the blood pressure. Lansbury’s character was a retired teacher who didn’t publish her first novel until after her husband died when she was in her 60s, Then, of course, she went on to live every author’s idyllic existence, in a quaint coastal town, publishing one novel after another, while using her fiction writing talents to help solve crimes.

    And anyone who regularly watched that series knows that Jessica Fletcher wrote all of her novels on a manual typewriter until the show’s last couple of years when she finally got a computer. Also, her publisher arranged and paid for all of her marketing and promotional activities. The only thing we ever saw her do was sign books at classy, well-organized events where hundreds of people were in attendance (talk about another planet …).

    Unfortunately, a lot of writers trying to break into the book business live under the dilusion that the publishing world/industry that Fletcher experienced is representative of the way things actually are. But as you said, the truth is found in a hard-hitting, unbelievably competitive business where writing is only one piece of the author’s responsibility. And unless you’re a mega-celebrity, most, if not all, of the work required to promote and sell a book is done by the author (using the author’s own money, by the way, even for a traditionally published book).

    The good news is that there’s still room for those authors who actually have some talent and are willing to invest a ton of sweat equity, along with that aforementioned money. And a few of those authors will eventually rise to the level of mega-celebrity, at which point the publisher will begin carrying some of that load. Until such a breakthrough happens, though, a good day is when you find a way to make as many readers as possible happy with your work while bringing in a little more money than you spent.

    In her blog post “Why Don’t Publishers Market & Promote the Books They Publish?” (http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/04/19/WhyDontPublishersMarketPromoteTheBooksTheyPublish.aspx), Jane Friedman (Publisher, Writer’s Digest) says, “The medocre writer who can sell is usually more successful than the talented writer who cannot.”

    In all probablility, Jessica Fletcher (talented writer) would never have survived in today’s publishing climate because the selling and promoting work wasn’t “part of her job.” Yet imagine the talented writer who does know how to sell and who takes the time to learn and utilize the amazing marketing tools and forums now available, both online and off! Then add in a good-to-great story, which is also well crafted and professionally edited. That’s the new model for authors to understand and emulate.

    And if that isn’t a business, I don’t know what is. I do still love watching “Murder, She Wrote” reruns, though. There’s nothing like a great fantasy! –Cheri

  6. Aw, thanks for linking me 🙂

    And I agree entirely: Since writing is a creative activity, it’s often far to easy to forget it’s a business. But it is–and the successful ones will maintain their professionalism.

  7. Yes, it is a business- but it’s also very easy to forget that it is a business.
    When I was working as a lawyer, I never got too emotional or took anything too personal
    , it was obviously a business but when I write, it gets more personal, weather we like to hear it or not, people are emotionally linked to their projects. So even though I don’t agree with that reaction towards a rejection I can understand the feelings behind it.
    I keep telling myself that even sometime it doesn’t feel that way to me, to agents and editors it’s strictly business, so I don’t forget that I should always act professionally.

    1. I totally agree Lua – it is such a personal thing, the stories we create. And Yes, that is why it’s so hard to remember it is a business!

  8. I want to address rejection a bit. I have done all kinds of sales (inbound and outbound calling, door to door, in store, etc) and the one thing sales teaches you is: 100 No’s equals 1 Yes.

    Okay, so the math isn’t perfect, but the concept is. You will need to be told no several times before you get that one person who says yes. The idea is so concrete, that you should get EXCITED when you get a no. That means you are one “no” closer to a “yes.”

    Querying agents IS EXACTLY LIKE SELLING YOUR PRODUCT. You are essentially selling yourself and your novel. So next time you get a rejection, think, “Woo hoo! One ‘no’ closer to my ‘yes’!”

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