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Best Business Practices for the Writer


All the best this year for you word slingers out there. I hope your holiday season was full of joy and meaning. But now it’s time to get back on the horse and get going with that manuscript. I have decided that this is the year that I self-publish a couple of novellas and a couple of novels.

As I began to write down all of the details I would have to keep track of in order to publish,  I realized that what I was doing was project management. Managing an editor, formatter, learning about marketing and email lists, it all seemed super daunting. That’s when I noticed that my wife, the Fetching Mrs. Evans, did exactly the same thing as a business owner. That’s when the lightning struck: I was starting a business.

You must act like you're running a business and embrace these best practices.

Now, whether or not you plan to self-publish or get a traditional contract, is inconsequential. Whether you’ve got one book in you or a couple of book series, doesn’t matter, either. It is not enough to claim the mantle of artist while writing your book. You must act like you’re running a business and embrace these best business practices.

Be of service to the writing community.

            I like to say we need to practice literary citizenship. By this I mean we should be of service to one another. I have beta-read stories from half a dozen authors. I have blogged on other author’s sights. I have mentored new writers. I do this because, like a responsible business, I feel I have a responsibility to the community. The results? Every single story I’ve had published was because someone told me about an opportunity.

Surround yourself with talented people and treat them well.

            If you self-publish you will need an editor, beta-readers, and a cover artist. Depending on your subject, you might need a formatter and sensitivity readers, too. Find these people, treat them well and don’t mess around with their money. Show them your appreciation with kind words and respecting their work. Publishing a book is not a solo endeavor. It takes a village, people.

Use Contracts

            It can be scary signing a contract. A contract though, is simply stating the expectations of both parties when it comes to work, compensation and time frame. In the long run, a good contract will protect both you and the person you’re working with.

            You don’t have to sign your name on a contract you don’t like. Negotiate for what you want. If you’re uncomfortable with a contract you’ve signed, talk to the person and see if you can renegotiate. If you can’t, at least you have a document that clarifies what you’re paying for the the agreed upon expectations.

Be wise with your expenses and keep track of everything

            While there are those people out there that can throw bags of cash at their writing hobby, most of us should be on a budget. We should be tracking our expenses, as well as our sells for a couple of reasons. Chiefly so we know if we’re spending money wisely. Why pour hard earned money down a hole? But you also want to know when you’ve spent money wisely, too. For example, let’s say you’ve spent money on Facebook adds for your book. Unless you’re tracking when the ads appeared and any sales spikes, you’ll never know if those ads worked.

            In reality though, you’ll want to keep track of your spending because the government will give you a tax break on your book if you treat it like a business. Even if you sell just one copy, you now qualify for a Schedule C return to list all your expenses.

Manage your brand

            This is a broad category that includes everything from creating a publishing logo to keeping your reputation spotless. Will you need to incorporate to self-publish a book? Absolutely not. But having someone design a logo for your book to be published under can help a lot. (Amazon readers associate quality and professionalism with publishing houses – any publishing house.)

            Essentially, you want readers and other writers to associate your name and your novel with quality. That means taking your work seriously and putting your best foot forward. It also means cultivating a reputation for yourself and your business that it above reproach. In other words, don’t be a jerk.

I have seen writers become persona non grata within the Denver writing community because they gained a reputation for stabbing people in the back or drinking too heavily at conventions. I have also seen a person’s reputation grow as more and more praise was heaped on them for being open and hospitable with their time.

Life is funny. In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile. You can catch up with Jason Evans on his Facebook Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

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