Tag Archives: business

It’s a Business

I graduated college in May 2007. I had no idea what to do next. Luckily, I landed a job interview with a well-known publishing company, and it turned out to be one of the best, hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn.

Annoying young business people being way too enthusiastic about business.
Annoying young business people being way too enthusiastic about business.

Dear Kristin circa May 2007,

Oh you beautiful, delicate flower, you. I know you think you’re really good now. Your writing isn’t bad. Really! I like how you use poetry-like metaphors that only a few people seem to understand, and your interesting paragraph structure. It’s all about the self-expression amiright? Yes, I am right, and so are you.

Like the Terminator, I come bearing news from the future. In a month or two, you’ll have an interview at a big publishing company. Yeah, I KNOW.  Good job!

But you will not get the job. Wah wahhhhh. And it’s important that you don’t, so don’t go trying to change it. One of the most important life lessons you will learn happens in that interview.

In the interview, you’ll have a short conversation with the Associate Editor. She’ll tell you that after leaving college, she was idealistic. She was after changing the world. “Cool, me too!” you’ll think. And then she’ll drop this bomb on you. “But this is a business. Yes, it’s a publishing company, but it’s still a business.”

At the time, you’ll wonder why she’s trying to crush your spirit and decide she hasn’t had her coffee yet. In the months after the interview, you’ll understand.

No matter the cause or mission statement, every organization is a business. Every business needs to make money. If they happen to make dreams come true along the way, that’s cool. But the bottom line is that a company needs revenue to continue.

This is where you come in. You love writing, and you do it pretty well. Keep doing it. Keep getting better, keep making friends who are professionals. But also remember this: a publishing company is a business. In order for anyone to read those flowery prose pieces you like so much, you have to make sure they are sellable. Make sure the story is compelling, new, unique. You love experimental writing, and I’m not saying you should stop writing it. But you should also hone your skills on telling good, tight stories that publishers will want to buy.

The future is bright. Hone those skills. Write sellable stories while staying true to yourself.

Oh, and stop with the flowery prose. No one seems to like those but us. Er… me.

Hugs and Kisses

Keep on keepin’ on,

Kristin circa August 2014


It Takes a Tribe

computer 2


We get it into our head that writing is a solitary art.When we first dreamed of being a writer, who saw themselves as sitting along in a cabin banging on a typewriter? Come on. I see you over there. Put your hand up. You know it’s true.  Okay, put your hand down. If you were really advanced in your dreaming you’d have acknowledged on the edges that at some point other people come into the picture – an agent, a publisher, the reader. But that was way downstream. This whole creative gig. It could be done alone. Right?


It’s time we stopped kidding ourselves.

We lose writers – good writers – every day from the profession because they “go it alone.” While actually putting your butt in a chair and writing will almost always be a solo activity (even in a collaboration you are responsible for writing your part) the path that leads you to your keyboard and beyond is filled with other people. Spouses, significant others, and friends give us support, we may bounce ideas or our outline off them. We confer with experts to ensure our writing is accurate enough to be believable. We work with dozens of people to hone the story, the prose, the cover, the blurb, and all the lovely marketing bits. We need our readers.

But the biggest thing your writing tribe does is keep you going when you are in a low spot.

This past week I was in a low spot. I’d been rejected from two anthologies.   Two of my stories had been rejected from different anthologies.  I was sincerely happy for everyone who made it in but the rejection cut deep. Mostly though, I’ve had some stuff hanging over me for a while and it was coming to a head. I felt so alone. All my husband’s attempts to calm me put me into full-out panic attacks. (Sorry, honey.) So, I did what I’ve never done before. I asked my writing tribe, this tribe, for help. Now, I didn’t really tell them what was happening just that I was going to be facing a ton of adversity in the next 24 hours. The outpouring of support was humbling. Their words of encouragement, thoughts and prayers gave me the strength to go through that trial with grace and a sense of peace. My Tribe had my back. I wouldn’t have come through the crisis without them.

At the same time our Facebook group was discussing another writer the profession had lost because going alone had broken her spirit.  She went so far as to announce the death of her pen name. She didn’t have a support group. It broke many of our hearts. It’s a huge loss.

It shouldn’t have happened.

The advice I’d give my younger writing self? Even more than “don’t listen to your high school English teacher. You absolutely can and did write the story that touched her heart.”? It’s this:

Surround yourself with like minded-people who are going through or have already gone through what you are going through.

With your Tribe you can accomplish anything you work for.

Ask for and accept help. This is not a a  sign of weakness but of strength.

Know you aren’t alone.




Investments of Time, Capital and Ego

The hobbyist writer creates for their own enjoyment and satisfaction. They write the story they feel driven to tell and will sometimes share it with a few close friends and family. Most professional writers start at this point. However, if you want to make a living from your writing, you must take the commitment a step further and start a small business. This means dealing with contracts and finance, being involved in all stages of the production process and comporting oneself in a professional manner whenever in public. I know, I just sucked all the romance from being a professional writer. Honestly, I wish that someone had taken off my rose colored glasses and forced me to don the business hat long before I did. You see, only the writer-as-businessman point of view provides the tools and perspective to create a meaningful career.

Creating stories is both a profession and a trade; writers generate and exploit intellectual property. Therefore, starting a writing business must be approached with the same thoughtfulness regarding initial investment and training as one would give to starting any other commercial enterprise. Would you ever consider opening a bakery without first buying ovens and ingredients? No. Could an aspiring doctor be successful without any sort of medical training? Of course not. Why then, do people expect writing to be different? Typically, the first batch of money goes into whatever is going to generate revenue; it is why many small businesses start in someone’s garage or kitchen. In the case of writing, the money maker is the writer’s skills and public image.

First, the writer must have some physical means of recording their thoughts in a way that can be transmitted to others. The specifics vary for each individual, based on their own experience and preferences. Some prefer direct entry into a laptop, while others prefer to write in a notebook, and yet others, like myself, prefer to dictate. I’d recommend experimenting with a few methods and then using what works for you. For many years, I only typed my stories out manually, but eventually bought Dragon Naturally Speaking. The text-to-speech feature helped a great deal with my editing, but dictating in front of my computer resulted in only a slight improvement in my rate of text generation. The problem was that I still spent too much time editing to realize the true benefits of dictation. I later took the advice of a writer I greatly respect and purchased a digital recorder to do my initial drafting. After training Dragon to do the transcription, my initial productivity has jumped significantly. By experimenting with my methodology, I was able to see significant gains.

The second thing the writer must invest in is their skills and craft. Sure, there are countless seminars, craft books, and online tutorials that promise to make you an international best seller, for a price. There are also excellent degree programs and teachers willing to pass on knowledge. They all help, but no amount of studying will allow a writer to entirely bypass years of practice. Investing in one’s craft means being brutally honest with yourself or having people who are willing to dispel your delusions for you. It means being able to think and consume critically about every piece of media you interact with on a daily basis. It means forcing yourself to write new material and edit old manuscripts until they are the best they can be, and then having the courage to let go of a piece and show your work to others. At some point, you will be disillusioned and despairing; internal and external voices will insist that you are wasting your time. That is the moment that you should know that what you are doing is meaningful. A writer’s craft can only be improved by investing and risking their time, pride, and effort. Without struggle and pain, there is no improvement, only stagnation.

The final element a writer must be willing to invest in is their persona. Readers will often become a fan of an author rather than a specific property, allowing the creative professional to maintain an audience from project to project. This realization has caused many contemporary authors to spend as much time on their own personal branding and networking as they do on an individual story. As an example, soon after donning my business hat, I hired someone to do both my graphics and web design for NathanBarra.com. I realized that I had no talent there and so hired out. I have invested time in maintaining my presence on NathanBarra.com, here on the Fictorians and on my Facebook page. All these things take time away from writing my stories, but the investments have paid off through the networks of professionals and support structures I have built. Likewise, I have spent thousands of dollars on conventions, and have even gone so far as purchasing a specific set of clothes that I wear when making professional appearances. By creating a “look,” I have made myself clearly identifiable and memorable in a way that fits with my other branding efforts. It is time and money up front, but I’m gambling that the investments will pay off later.

I have many things demanding my physical, mental, and temporal resources. Whenever I make an investment as the writer, it is with a clear goal in mind. Though I am still in the investment stage, I always am looking forward. I will be a professional writer some day, making my sole living through my art. It took a series of small hints from a number of different sources to guide me onto the path of professionalism. In order to build a successful business, I must invest wisely and with purpose.

Own Your Choices

A guest post by Peter J. Wacks

I’m taking a break from working on a Veronica Mars Media Tie In story to sit down and contemplate the following request:  ‘If you could go back in time and speak with yourself as a new writer just starting out, what’s the most important piece of advice you would give yourself?’ The makes me think a lot of things.

First thing it makes me think, though, is that it’s a trick question.

I have accomplished a lot of what I have set out to do, and I have done it because of the failures I have embraced.

I manage Wordfire Press because I had the temerity to have a company fail in the game industry, over-hiring from a group of friends until it crashed itself under the weight of payroll. Without that failure… I never would have learned to abandon caution in your dreams—while laying groundwork—plans within plans—to protect your creative child in reality.

Without the frustrating failure of my first book The Divine Prank, which ended up in the trash as a 100,000 word partial manuscript under the first printing of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, I wouldn’t have learned the hard edge of fight that lets me never back down, and always find a way through… that same edge that pushed me to sell tens of thousands of copies of my first book, Second Paradigm, by hand. It’s also what gave me the edge and strength to say no to a 2,000 book print run with a $2,500 advance from the big six and say, I’m not going to change the plot structure, I’m going to self-publish it instead.

There are a dozen other examples I won’t cite, because you get the point. What else does the question make me think of? What about successes? What about learning curve?

The second thing it makes me think is, what successes have I had that I could have amplified?

That is another slippery slope. The largest frustration I have dealt with when it comes to success is that I was a better writer in 2008 than I was in in 2012. I spent so much time on marketing and promotion that my writing style regressed.

I got worse.

Talk about frustrating! I couldn’t sling my stories as well! …Which forced me to study my style and start coauthoring with others to regain my skills and find new techniques.




I am so much better now than I could have been by myself. Each author I have worked on a project with has amplified my skills. How could I give that up? Why would I give that up? More importantly—if I hadn’t been faced with my own lesser skillset, would I have been able to learn what I have, could I have embraced the growth? I don’t think so. Which ties back to failing your way forward, and we are back to our first answer.

The third, and final thing, that the question makes me think on is what I like to call the ‘Hallmark’ factor. What platitudes are out there that seem trite until you REALLY need to learn that lesson, at which point they become incredibly poignant? And how the heck do I generalize a very personal lesson to a large audience in such a way that they gain something of value out of it?

Don’t forget your personal relationships?

Sleep is important too?

Never give up, never surrender!?

And there it is, the one thing we can ALL learn from. But it is not something that any of us need from the past. If you are here reading, or in my case writing, then you haven’t given up. You haven’t surrendered. But…

Writer, musician, artist, actor… the title of a creative almost synonymous with the phrase self-doubt. So let’s not focus on a lesson for the past, but instead focus on a lesson for the present and, more importantly, for our future selves.

Every failure isn’t a failure. None of them are. They are just weapons your future self can use to create success. Be it a month, a year, a decade, or a lifetime of fighting, you are remarkable – because you haven’t given in! Because you fight, you learn, you grow, and each step that feels like it is a step back, is, in fact, something you will look back on in the future and say “Wow, I’m glad I learned that lesson then!”

Own your choices. Only you can. And every choice, good or bad, is what will, in the end, give you the strength to succeed… and you will, because you have been strong enough to not give up.

Write on.

~Peter J. Wacks

Guest Writer Bio:
Peter WacksPeter J. Wacks, the managing editor of Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press, is a bestselling cross genre writer. He has worked across the creative fields in gaming, television, film, comics, blogging, and most recently he spends his time writing novels.
When he isn’t working on the next book he can be found hanging out with his kiddo, practicing martial arts, playing chess, or fighting with swords. He also loves Angry Birds and drinking IPAs with friends.
You can find out more about Peter at his website, which he rarely finds time to update:www.PeterJWacks.com