Calling a professional writer a writer is like calling an MP a liar. Sure, lying is a big part of what they do, and their ability to lie well is the reason they’re an MP in the first place. But there’s a lot more to being an MP than lying. Making terrible decisions, evading taxes, and spending the taxpayers money on prostitutes.
Writing is only one part of being a professional writer. So, if you want to be one, you need to stop thinking of yourself as a writer only. Instead, start thinking of yourself as a business. One where you’re the boss, the management, the staff, even the outsourced cleaners. You do it all, without help. And it is hard.
Still, want to give it a try? Here are the key departments you’ll be running.
(Note: This article for those who want to self-publish. Those looking at the traditional route, please see 2006. When publishing houses were still relevant.)
Sales & Marketing
So you wrote a 70,000-word novel. Congratulations, you’ve completed the easy bit. Now try writing 140 characters one or two or ten times a day to promote yourself on Twitter. Not so easy.
Yourself? Yes, unless you’re planning to go all Harper Lee on us. Writing one book, waiting fifty years until it reaches legendary status in the literary world, then releasing a second. It’s yourself you need to be promoting, not your books.
Writing an endless stream of posts and blogs that all say “Read book X because it’s the shit” will interest no one. And get you as many book sales as family members you have who love you (none). Write about things that will interest your audience. Write often, and write as yourself. If people like you, they’ll be much more likely to buy your books.
Rather unlikeable? Consider an alter-ego (like I did), at least until you’re rich and famous.
This is the easy bit but worry not; you can still get it wrong. With self-publishing, it’s far harder to get your books in the big stores. But that’s okay because they recently invented something called the internet.
Sites like Amazon (KDP) make it easy to turn your manuscript into an eBook. It doesn’t need to cost you a penny, because they take a cut of each book. Either 30 or 70%. Either of which gives you far more than a traditional publisher would.
Be careful though. With the rise of self-publishing came the rise of money grabbing dickheads. Those who will abuse your love of your book to get rich quick. NEVER go for a self-publisher that wants money up front for X quantity of books. It isn’t necessary. Want your books as hard copies? Go with Createspace (also Amazon) and you can without paying for any number of books.
If you get lucky like me, no one will ever want your books, but sometimes bad things happen. Your book may take off (especially if you have followed steps one and two. Promoting your book and distributing it online. Rather than from a cardboard box in your back garden.)
If a book does take off, all a sudden you’ll have an extra income. This means tax forms and giving money to the dreaded Government. Of course, you can always not pay tax on these extra earnings. Though, if you do take this route, there’ll be no complaining when you fuck up the bottom of your car on a pothole. You know, one the Government couldn’t afford to fill because of your tax evasion.
Writing is fun. But, because you’re not allowed to make money from something that’s fun, the world’s gone and heaped all sorts of other crap on professional writers. A lot of people fall down stepping up from writing to working.
But, if you want to be a professional author, and quit your job dusting at the library and getting shouted at by Maggie for taking a sneak peek at the new Stephen King during work hours (guilty) then it’s time to open up Author Incorporated, and get businessing.
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