Writers get plenty of bad advice.
Yet one stands out. It’s ‘ you should treat writing like a hobby, not a job.’
Now, this piece of advice makes sense. Writers royalties are low. Also, advances for authors are dwindling, and self-publishing platforms are competitive. This advice prepares authors to not get hurt by the brutal reality that there isn’t a lot of immediate money to be made in writing fiction.
Yet, it’s still lousy advice. A vast majority of writers would enjoy treating their novel writing like a job, and here’s why.
You Spent Time And Money On Writing. A Business Attitude Will Help You Get Something In Return
First, writing a book is expensive. Everything you used to write costs money. Here are some expense writers encounter:
- Laptops, Tablets and Computers
- Writing Apps
- Tertiary Education (yes, your degree in creative writing is a business investment, as is your accommodation and travel during your course)
- Casual Education (online courses, eBooks, writers retreats, etc.)
- Beta Readers (including gifts you may give them)
- Editors and Proof-readers
- Research and Fact-Checking
- Any artists
- Transport costs to meetings and book signings
They don’t come cheap either. I recall reading the fees for the Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at New York University, and my jaw dropped. Writers are spending over one hundred thousand dollars on their craft, only to be told ‘it’s a hobby.’ Well, it’s rather expensive!
But the costs do not stop at apps, software, and tuition. Writing a book takes time and a lot of patience. It’s not uncommon for authors to spend years, even up to a decade, on a single project. And the economist in me has to say this. That time you spent writing? It’s valuable! Consider the opportunity cost.
My point isn’t to shame authors for investing time into their works of literature. There isn’t a ‘right’ way to spend your time. But understand that time is limited (you only get 24 hours of it per day) and, as the cliché goes, ‘time is money.’ Writers must value their time and the money they invest in their works.
Writers must develop financial literacy. A key point of business is that investing money and time is only ever worth it if you get something in return. For some writers, that could mean fame and prestige. Others, it’s hard, sweet cash. Let me make this point clear: there is nothing wrong with wanting recognition and payback for your work. Jeff Bezos built Amazon, and because of that, he is reimbursed. Your favourite musicians make money from sales.
It’s unhelpful and cruel to expect authors to labour away and not get anything in return. Here’s the secret. You may treat your writing like a hobby- but your literary agent doesn’t. Neither does the editors or cover designers at a publishing house. Nor do bookshops, or publicists. For everyone else, your book is part of their business careers. So why shouldn’t it be part of yours?
In The 21st Century, We Must Have Fiction Writers Who Understand Their Worth
Second, treating writing as a business pursuit also helps you understand your worth. As I write this article, many authors are disheartened by the current state of publishing. Even if you treat writing like a business, that won’t stop such feelings.
Yet confidence should never be underestimated. As authors, we are expected to do a vast majority of our marketing. Anyone who works in sales would tell you that confidence is crucial. Take pride in your work! Writers are prone to a lot of self doubt and questioning, and that’s understandable. Your work is scrutinized and ‘imposter syndrome’ is not uncommon. But you wrote a book. That’s impressive. Because of that, you must let no one take advantage of your hard work.
A business mindset will help you read contracts, launch a marketing campaign, and develop relationships with others. So hold your chin up high and understand that you are worth more than you think.
Reach More Readers With A Business Mindset
Third, a business mindset can help your book reach more readers. In the 21st century, thousands of books are published every day. You must stand out, and that means using marketing. How else are people going to hear about your book? I understand a lot of authors are shy and self conscious. For a lot of writers, a wider audience means more people to scrutinize your work. True! But the more people who read your book, the more people you impact.
Here at Snowy Fictions, we believe in the power of literature. That books can change the world, one individual at a time. Your book can be that change. We need writers who break the status quo.
Fiction writers are artists first, marketers second. And to be honest? Marketing is difficult. It’s time consuming and costly. But if you are writing for change, it’s worth it. Marketing may mean starting a blog (what I do) or spending time on Instagram. Yes, there is a steep learning curve (despite what marketing gurus say!) And you won’t find a shortcut. But if your book lands in the right hands, you are no longer writing promotional posts on Twitter. You are writing history.
In conclusion, writers will enjoy a business attitude, and as a writer and as a businesswoman, I’m sick of the mindset that ‘money’ is a dirty word to creators. I love writers becoming more assertive, smart with finance, and knowing their worth. And I hope other artists realise that.
What are your thoughts? Comment below.