It’s Your Business

September 9th, 2004 · 2 Comments
by Booksquare

There comes an ugly moment in every writer’s life: it’s when they discover that underneath the art of it all is a business. If one writes seriously, one must face this fact. Writing requires skin like impenetrable armor and nerves of skill. It also requires fair knowledge of algebra, contract law, marketing, editing, and other sundry skills. We have learned that a martial art or two will not go amiss.

As much as we enjoy living in our fantasy world (and we cannot overemphasize how happy we are there), we entered the world of writing with the goal of understanding both the art and the business. Granted, we had an unfair advantage after spending ten years at a motion picture studio learning contractual matters (or as we liked to call it “creative accounting”) on a level few ever experience. We were never one of the starry eyed youth gazing upon the publishing industry. This does not change our dreams or goals, but prepares us for the reality of the world we chose to inhabit. After all, nobody is forcing us to pursue publication — alas, that idea was our own.

Stacy Sullivan, who had written more than a few pieces before she tackled her first book, discovered how publishing really works the hard way (and we do feel her pain). Yes, she took on the truth as it bobbed and weaved in front of her — she never really stood a chance against such a strong contender. We cannot (no really, cannot) emphasize her lesson enough: this ain’t Disneyland. You must understand how the industry works — just as you must understand any industry you work in. Romantic notions of in-depth, intense editing, whirlwind publicity tours, and perfect placement in the front of a bookstore are often just that — there is far too much information available to authors these days for ignorance to be an excuse.

In fact, we cannot think of a better place to begin your education that with Terry Teachout’s blunt advice. Think of it as tough love. And learn your business. The artist inside will thank you for caring.

File Under: Tools and Craft

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