Writing Is My Business, But So Is Business

My father had a small business which I thought imprisoned him, and as a kid I swore I would never “do retail.”

Boy, was I wrong.  As an author, I wound up owning my own small business and it’s as vulnerable to competition and the vagaries of the market place as any physical store.  Sometimes it’s just as exhausting.

From the beginning of my book publishing career in 1990, I was deeply involved in pushing my work, contacting venues for readings, investing in posters and postcards, writing my own press releases when I thought my publisher hadn’t done a good job, and constantly faxing or mailing strangers around the country about my latest book.

Then came the Internet and everything shifted to email.  Add a web site that needs constant updating, Twitter and Facebook, keeping a presence on various listservs, blogging, blog tours, producing book trailers, updating ebooks in various ways, and the constant reaching out to strangers in the hope of enlarging my platform and increasing sales.  It never ends.

sad-writerAnd neither does the advice offered by consultants.  I’m deluged by offers to help me increase my sales and drive more people to my web site.  They come on a daily basis and when they tout success stories, I sometimes feels as if I’m trapped on a low-performing TV show while everyone else on the schedule is getting great Nielson ratings.

Going independent for a few books after I published with big and small houses momentarily made me feel more in control, but that control morphed into an albatross.  Right now, my 25th book is being brought out by a superb university press and I’m relieved to not be in charge, just consulted.

Way too often, the burden of business has made writing itself harder to do, and sometimes it’s even felt pointless because it initiates a whole new business push.  So this isn’t a blog that promises you magic solutions to your publishing problems.  This blog say: If you’re going to be an author, prepare to work your butt off at things that might not come naturally to you and might never feel comfortable, whether you’re indie published or traditionally published.

One author friend who’s been a perpetual NYT best seller confided to me that despite all the success she’s had, “I still feel like a pickle salesman, down on the Lower East Side in 1900.”

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Lev Raphael is the author of 25 books in genres from memoir to mystery.

 

4 thoughts on “Writing Is My Business, But So Is Business

  1. I can only imagine the stress.

    I’m unpublished, as yet, so I’ve just recently learned about the business side of writing. And it is daunting. Even before you get your book accepted, the publishing houses are looking for you to have an already established web presence and followers.

    Every newbie writer, myself included, wants to believe that life will change in some fundamental way when we get published. No more struggle, no more insecurity, but everything I’ve read tells me to think again.

    Kristen Lamb did a great blog post about this earlier in the month. She said:

    “Sure the view is breathtaking, but nothing grows at the top of the mountain. No one can live there. The air is too thin, the terrain too unstable, the weather too brutal, and there’s no food at the top of the mountain.

    Each work is it’s own climb. Maybe it’s a short story (boulder) to train for bigger things. But I feel many of us (and I was guilty, too) believe that we can live on the summit, that the summit means we have made it and it will somehow be easier. This is a lie. When you land an agent, it’s the beginning of a new mountain. When we finish a book or even make a best-seller list, it only makes way for a new mountain. No one stays at the top of a best-seller list indefinitely.

    We can’t live there.”

    • Yes, she is right on. James Baldwin put it this way: “a writer, when he has made his first breakthrough, has simply won a cruel skirmish in a dangerous, unending, and unpredictable battle.” When I was only publishing short stories and unable to sell a book, I said to friends, “If only I can publish one book, anywhere, I’ll shut up.” An author I was just getting to know laughed and said, “The only thing worse than not being published is being published.” I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t. And that was when, comparatively, we authors were asked to do a lot less than we are now. Christina, good luck!

  2. This is a great post highlighting some of the key issues faced by writers. People often overlook the extra factors involved other than the writing itself, and how much time is spent making sure everything is right. It’s so important to remember the positive outcomes of writing because it can be easy to lose motivation!

    • I’m glad it spoke to you, and thanks for dropping by. We do need to keep motivating ourselves because the downs happen without warning.

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