The Business Side of Writing

You’ve published your first book?  Congratulations.  You’re probably caught up in a whirl of excitement.  After all you’ve accomplished what so many could never dream of doing.  Not only did you write a full-length novel, you’ve exposed yourself by putting your work out there.  You may dream of making good money off it, or you may have been cautioned not to expect a lot and it will take time for you to build up a readership.

But through all this, you still have a lot of work to do.  In some ways when you hit the publish button, your career has just begun.  Sadly with many authors they feel readers should come to them.  Well, good luck.  They feel that now their book is out there, it’s done.

It’s up to you as the author to find and hook the readers, or that’s all your book will be--“out there”, the electronic file just sitting around in Amazon’s server ready to be downloaded.

So how can you go about getting your book noticed?  I’ll give you one tip that will set your thinking down the right path for success. 

Writing is a business.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Well, it should be common sense, but again so many authors fail to fully realize this.  They behave unprofessionally on social networks drawing negative attention, and get this, not only to themselves but their name.  And as authors, what do we have working in our favor?  Our writing style and our name.  If we tarnish either one of those, we can kiss the readers goodbye.

So let’s analyze our writing career as a business.  How does it compare (not necessarily listed in order below)?

Fills a need
Before you would proceed to open any business, you would first need to have an idea.  It would either be for a product or service that fills a need.

With writing:  Your book is sparked by an idea.  If it’s a how-to book, it may feel a need.  If it’s fiction, strive to be unique.  It’s been said every story has been written, and while that is true to an extent, it doesn’t give you permission to regurgitate a plot for the sake of trying to sell a book.

Market Research
Once you have your business idea, you would want to conduct market research to see what else is out there that is along the same lines.  Can you be competitive?  Do you have something unique to offer?
You would want to familiarize yourself with the “guts” of your business.  What will it take to make your business a success?

And for successful companies, market research doesn’t stop once the doors are open.  There is a constant need to stay on top of latest technologies, competitor products, etc.  You’d observe advertising venues the competition is using and utilize them for yourself or branch out into a new area.

With writing:  Your unique trademark is you--your writing style and story-telling ability.  You would want to be familiar with your genre.  Reading other novels in your genre is terrific research and fun.  Of course, if you are writing police procedurals, like me for example, you would also want to research your topic matter and make sure you understand departmental and forensic details accurately. 

Such research wouldn’t stop once you were a published author.  While they might cease on a certain book (product), you’ll want to ensure the topics in your next release are accurate.  You’ll also want to observe your competition, what’s working for them, what isn’t. 

Learning Curve

Even the most well planned businesses can experience a learning curve.  The important thing is moving with it.  Maybe the way a product was going to be manufactured is no longer a viable option, or maybe there’s a more efficient way of doing things.

With writing:   You might find one marketing approach works and another doesn’t.  Techniques and results differ per author.  You have to find out what works best for you.  Don’t get discouraged when there’s a “curve”; be determined to make it through stronger than before. 

One area could be book formatting.  You may learn how to do more things as you go along.  I know I did. (Stay far away from using Word Macros.)

In-Demand Product or Service

Businesses would want to offer a product or service that brings something of benefit to people.  If they fail to do so, they won’t be in business for long.

It’s a fact that with businesses that offer multiple product lines, some may be more popular than others; it doesn’t necessary mean they should stop making a certain product.

With writing:  Because our product is our books which we toiled so hard over and in the process became emotionally attached to, we can take any rejection of it personally.  We have to try and separate ourselves so we’re not discouraged or swayed negatively if / when a bad review or discouragement comes along.  We have to view each of our books as product--just like a business.  Within a business, some product lines are more popular than others.  We may find that with a certain book we’ve published. That is okay in the sense that it is not personal.  It’s a tough one, but thinking that way will liberate you.

You may also experience toying with writing books in different genres.  In the process you may find where you fit best as an author.  The market will tell you.

When you start up a company, it often involves money and time.  For example, research doesn’t happen on its own.  Either you have to pay someone to conduct it, or use your time to do so.  If the business is for product, there are numerous start-up fees, for example, a warehouse, employees, etc.

With writing:  You invest hours into research and writing the manuscript.  When you’re finished, you invest in an editor and a graphic designer.  This takes a commitment.  By making it this far, just congratulate yourself because you’ve made it further than many others have.


Most successful businesses, no matter how amazing their product is relies on marketing to feed it to consumers. 

With writing:  Utilize social networking and set up a support system.  Unlike most businesses who look at their competitors as the plague, authors can accomplish so much when they work together.  Add to this, you can learn a lot and become better for it.  There are also different places online to pay for advertising.

Quality Service or Product

If a business is to be successful, their product or service has to not only fill a need but be reliable and of high enough standards to please their consumers.

With writing:  As we know at this point, our books are our products.  We would never want to send any out without them being worked on tirelessly to the point of near perfection (no one is perfect, not even the NYTBSs).  Many first-time authors don’t have their work professionally edited before release.  Ask other authors (research) and find one you can afford and who fits your needs.   Remember this is a business and requires your commitment in time and money.

Be reachable

Successful companies make it easy for customers and or consumers to contact them with feedback.

With writing:  An author would want to be approachable and have a contact page that lists different avenues of reaching them.  This could be through email, a website, blog, Twitter, and/or Facebook.


  1. Great post. In my opinion, so many indie authors neglect the business side, but at the same time wonder why no one is buying their books. You have to market and know the business side to be successful. And I'm also amazed at some authors who are snarky to people...would you do this if it was your boss or co-worker? Doubtful. So why would you do this to your followers? Just my thoughts :)

    1. Thank you, Renee. It is so true isn't it? Some seem to think the readers will come to them.

      You bring up another good point, as well, respect for others in our field. Even businesses need to be respectful of their competition or risk the loss of sales.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Carolyn. You certainly have given me much to think about; places where I can adjust my thinking or take something to another level. I've been doing this for a few years now with minimal success, but sometimes they just take time. Right? I have learned a few of these things the hard way already, so it's very good that you put it out there for the beginning writers to see and be able to plan accordingly.
    Hope the New Year is treating you and yours well.


    1. Pleasure, James. Things definitely do take time, and take comfort in the fact I believe most self-published authors have learned at least some aspect the hard way. I know I have.

      Best wishes in 2013 to you, as well, James.

  3. This was an excellent post, Carolyn, and I needed to hear it! I have been neglecting the marketing side lately, and it's affected my sales. Imagine that :). Thank you for making so much sense!

    1. Thank you, Tracy. Glad you found it beneficial. I think it's important for all of us to reflect on these facts.

      You bring up neglecting the marketing aspect. That's another blog post all together--balancing marketing and finding time to write. Tricky! lol

  4. OMG, what a thorough article, Carolyn!!! Makes me tired to read about what all I had to do...and what I still need to work on...after twelve years of writing novels. Yikes!

    Thanks for helping so many others out here, Carolyn. Love your books...and you! And thanks for voting for me in the Shortys. You are so loyal...

    Hugs - Betty Dravis

    1. Thank you, Betty. You are an inspiration to me. Keep writing and keep shining.

  5. Great advice. I have found that by working with others, we have found the most mutual success and have made a few friends along the way! Thanks for including this point.

    1. Christina, exactly. Sadly too many authors view their fellow authors as stiff competition and it brings out their fangs.

  6. Carolyn, great article!
    No one ever made money by writing a book, only buy selling it. No matter if selling it to a big publisher or selling it via self-publishing.
    And this is a great time to be a self-publisher: Never before was it so easy and most important FREE to reach potential readers through forums such as Goodreads, Wattpad, Biblio and through the Social Communities. Instead of spending money for expensive ads, writers can generate their own following.
    It is also easier than ever to combine all these social media sites and do one post, that is automatically transferred to all other sites. Don't work hard, work smart!

    Your analogy, comparing average businesses with the writing business was a great idea!

  7. Great points! It can be challenging to flip the switch from writer to entrepreneur. Or so it seems to me, anyway. :D


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