The Business of Writing
It’s More Than A Hobby or Interest
35-Day Author Blog Post – Day 25 Ultra/Ultimate Blog Post
Today’s prompt points out that in order to sell books, writers need to view their books as a business. But in order to take themselves seriously, they almost need to have a period of transition from any job. I did anyway.
Let me share a little bit of my life here. After having lived in the Middle East for nine years and having both the finances and opportunity to travel extensively, coming back to the United States and having difficulty securing even part-time positions was a jolt to my system. Struggling with my vision and hearing further limited my opportunities in the work force.
In the beginning, my writing seemed more like a hobby. I was still teaching part-time at two schools and on and off at my college job.
When I was first published, I gave away a lot of books to friends and family. I not only did not earn much money, I lost a lot. I definitely was not looking at my writing as a way to support myself.
In fact, my “business” failed. I didn’t make it over the poverty line, even with my part-time jobs. The extent of my professional reach wasn’t stellar. I sent out six or seven articles per year and my work was accepted in three anthologies. This sounds like I was very lazy but the truth was it took a long time to accomplish that! I was thrilled. This period of my life lasted for 3-4 years. In 2011, I became more serious about my writing. But teaching provided the primary source of my income.
In 2012, my hearing worsened, which affected my ability to teach in a foreign language classroom. I left my job and took on a ghostwriting job. Even with that, I charged way below the going rate and barely made enough to live on.
My counselor at the Bureau of Blindness strongly encouraged me to keep writing as a hobby but to find a job in translation or tutoring, anything that brought in a consistent wage.
But I had a few obstacles to pursue these types of jobs and tried instead to develop my writing skills.
The moderator asks three questions to determine if writers are on track in looking at their writing beyond the hobby level and as a legitimate business.
1. In what ways do you treat your books as a business?
First of all, I now have a writing coach. She guides me in setting deadlines and goals. These include big goals like writing books and smaller goals like sending out articles. We speak once a month to see if I’m sticking to my objectives, and accomplishing my goals. My coach makes some suggestions as to where I can send my work, brainstorms with me to overcome obstacles. She also serves as a key editor for me.
I work on my writing every single day as I would any other job.
Since my book, Mobility Matters, has come out, I now keep up-to-date records (spreadsheets) of all my business expenditures, profit and loss statements.
Every day I connect with a variety of online groups – some of them vision support groups, others niche writing groups through Facebook. It’s a great way to network. I’ve met a lot of like-minded contacts who have also become my friends.
I regularly attend weekly and bi-weekly face-to-face writing critique groups to polish my writing.
I listen to a variety of webinars on professional author topics, such as marketing, time management, blogging, etc.
I am carving out a niche for myself by blogging about my life lessons in regard to my vision and hearing loss. I’m staying connected to what my target readers (namely vision-impaired) are struggling with as well so that I can share my successes.
I send out my blogs weekly as well as a monthly newsletter to my list to provide encouragement and value to them.
I attend writing workshops and conferences when I can find transport. The same goes for any author event that I think I could benefit from if I have transport.
Finally, I secure paid speaking engagements or other educational opportunities to encourage and educate others about vision and hearing loss, and sell my memoir.
2. Where could you improve?
Consistency. Staying inside my home office doesn’t mean I’ll succeed. I need to set measurable daily goals – and reach them as well as sticking to my broader deadlines. For example, I established this program of WED. This means “Write Every Day and send something out on Wednesday. But I haven’t had the time to actually send something out.
Also time management. I find it very difficult to prioritize and balance my time between family and work.
The time I spend writing often overshadows my family time and it creates friction. I need to either get up earlier, stay on task or simplify my goals so that I can spend more time with my family.
For example, today, I had an editing job that took me all day. I edited from 9 am – 9 pm with two breaks–meeting a friend and going to the store. In addition, I made dinner. Otherwise, I spent the entire day writing. It’s not balanced at all.
3. What resources could you leverage to improve your book business?
I’ve recently experimented with a Facebook ad, though it was not very successful and there were no measurable gains. I had the same result with a trailer giveaway through Amazon. Earlier I had a one-day kindle giveaway (successful outreach but no financial gain).
I am looking into finding a marketing coach.
Also, starting next week I am attending three one-day seminars sponsored by the Bureau of blindness and Visual Services.
Offered by a Small Business Incubator at a college a couple of hours away, this will provide a good business basis for me. It is followed up with a resource person who will teach me how to write a business plan.
It’s really a learning experience to turn a hobby into a lucrative business. It doesn’t happen overnight. Authors must develop consistent writing habits as well as their craft, learn how to market themselves in novel ways, be efficient and balance their time. I think I need to set more frequent goals in my book writing so that I can have a book come out 1-2 times per year.
Have you ever tried to turn a hobby into a business? What were your biggest struggles? Your biggest successes?
You have just read “The Business of Writing,” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright October 7, 2015. I look forward to reading your comments!