(I originally wrote this post back in 2016. Here it is again with some additional thoughts–ASG.)
As I was looking for potential topics for today’s post, I came across one of Kris Rusch’s posts and knew I had everything I needed right there. In fact, I considered e-mailing Kris and asking permission to simply repost the blog entry here. I consider what she said in Business Musings: Introductory Remarks (Dealbreakers/Contracts) to be mandatory reading for every writer out there, whether you are wanting to go the traditional route or indie or a mix of the two. My advice to every writer and wannabe writer is to read and then reread and bookmark the post. It is that important.
I’m not going to rehash what Kris had to say. However, I do want to build on it — at least in a way. To me, beyond being a warning about what to look for, the post comes down to a simple premise: treat your writing like a business. If you designed widgets and you spent time negotiating a contract with someone to manufacture and then distribute your widgets you would — I hope — get an attorney to look over the contract before you signed on the dotted line. As writers, we should do the same for any contracts we sign, be they with an agent or a publisher. We should keep in mind that we want our rights back and we certainly don’t want them tied up not only for the length of our lives but potentially our children’s lives as well. We want the best terms for us, not for the publisher or agent.
There’s another aspect to treating it like a business as well. If you have a “real” job — you know, one of those things jobs where you will be fired if you don’t show up or if you don’t produce — you have to go to work whether you feel like it or not. Sure, you have paid time off (hopefully) but those days are limited. After using it up, you are SOL. If you don’t perform up to standard, you are let go. That means, as most of us know, when those days come along when you would prefer to stay in bed — or go to the zoo or play video games or whatever — you can’t. You have to drag yourself out, mumbling and grumbling and go to work. No work, no pay.
Writing is a lot like that as well. It is that 9 to 5 job with more distractions and a greater need for self-discipline. It is very easy as you sit at your desk, staring at the computer screen and not having words come, to find cleaning the bathroom suddenly very attractive. If you are like the majority of writers, you have that 9 to 5 job, so you have to grab writing time where you can. I know how difficult it can be to force yourself to sit down at the end of day, once everyone else has gone to bed, to get in an hour or two of writing. As someone who is not a morning person, having to etch those hours out before the household gets up is even harder to do. But writers for years have done just that. They have done it because they know they have to treat writing just like they do their “real” job. They have to put but in chair and and just do it.
That also means you have to set yourself a schedule. I don’t mean you have to have specific hours — or a set number of words — you have to write each day/week/month. I guess what I’m trying to say is you have train yourself — and your family and friends who might not view writing as a “real” job — that when you go to your writing space, you are at work and nothing short of compound fractures, spurting blood or Girl Scout Cookies are cause for interruption. Yes, you have to tell yourself that you are going to write regularly and you have to follow through. If you allow distractions to take you away from writing, it soon becomes much easier to find excuses for doing anything but write.
It also means you keep track of your expenses, just as you would with any “real” business. How much have you spent on paper and printer ink/cartridges? Did you buy reference books this year for something you are working on? How about trips? Did you take any and use them, at least in part, for research? Do you belong to any professional writing organization that you pay dues to? Do you pay for web hosting and have a website/blog/whatever that is used to promote your work as a writer? Did you go to any cons or workshops that you paid for (or paid for travel)? Were you invited to speak at any cons or workshops and were your paid or have your travel paid for? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, do you know what — if any — of them can be used as tax deductions? What about income? Would any of it have to be declared as income and, if so, what sort of IRS form would you need to use?
In other words, along with a good IP attorney to vet any contract you might get from a publisher or agent, you need a good accountant to help you navigate the oddities of the Tax Code where writers are concerned.
To bring it all back to a simple point, writing is a business. You have to show up, just like you do to that job at the office or on the line. You might “work” three days a week or five or even seven. But you have to do it. If you don’t, you will be fired. This time it will be by your readers (or by your publisher if you are traditionally published). Even if you show up, if you aren’t producing, you will be “fired”.
You have to treat it like a business in that you have to pay your taxes — so you have to know what you must declare and what you can use as deductions. You have to make sure your contracts are at least as favorable to you as they are to your publisher or distributor or agent. You must have the proper people (IP attorney, accountant or tax expert) in place to help you navigate all these distractions so you can focus on writing.
There is another aspect to it that I didn’t cover in the original post: you have to make sure your product looks as “professional” as the titles coming from traditional publishers. I’m not talking about cover art, etc., although that is very important. I’m talking about how your writer your blurbs for the sales page, what formats you offer your work in, that sort of thing.
Most readers are used to seeing multiple formats for a book. They are used to it because that is what traditional publishers and the very successful indie authors do. So, at a minimum, you need to have a print version as well as the e-book edition. And, yes, I am in the process of bringing out updated print versions for all my books. I am also trying to add audio versions as well. Right now, I have a couple of auditions to listen to for Battle Flight. Fingers crossed on this experiment. I will update you as it progresses.
Yes, you can get by with just an e-book version to your work. However, it screams to anyone and everyone that your book isn’t the same as everyone’s out there. To some, it will simply say you have fully adopted the digital age. To others, it will say you don’t value their business if they want something other than an e-book. So take the little bit of time it takes to format a print edition of your book and put it out. Your product page will look more balanced and you will look more like a “real” author to some of the readers out there. After all, as businessmen (oops, there I go slipping into the language of the patriarchy, lol) we should be expanding our customer reach, not limiting it.
Now go put your butt in your chair and fire up your computer — or pull out pen and paper — and start work. If you don’t, no one is going to do it for you.
And, on that happy note, I’m off to work. There are books to write, others to edit and money to be made.
* * *
Part of treating it like a business is also doing promotion. So here are three books for your consideration.
Honor and duty. Corps and family. Those values had been drilled into Ashlyn Shaw as long as she could remember.
Long before conspiracies and war threatened her home planet and those she loved, Ashlyn had to prove to herself and others that she had what it took to be a member of Fuercon’s Marine Corps. Along the way, she learned the true meaning of honor, duty and sacrifice.
Battle Flight is a prequel novel that takes place before Vengeance from Ashes. It is built around the short stories, Taking Flight, Battle Bound and Battle Wounds and contains substantial new material.
First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.
Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.
But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.
And for a change of pace:
As a cop, Mackenzie Santos knows every shift might be her last. That was driven home two years ago when Samuel Wilcox came much too close to killing her. She still had nightmares of waking in the morgue. But that was nothing compared to leaning she is descended from one of the oldest and most powerful shapeshifter bloodlines. Until the night she “died”, she always believed shapeshifters and werewolves were the thing of bad Hollywood movies.
Now she knows differently. Monsters really do walk among us. Some are human. Some are shifter. . . And one wants her dead.
Worse, so much worse, whoever it is wants to reveal the existence of shapeshifters to the humans. He–or she–doesn’t care about the consequences. Somehow Mac and those who know her secret must discover who their enemy is and stop them before it is too late. But can Mac do that and stay alive?