Writer Wednesday—Your Writing Career

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing? This is the first question you must answer.

Do you want to spread your ideas? Share your thoughts? Tell a good story? Or do you want to earn a living as a writer? Or as an author? Your answers determine your path.

Anyone can do the first three; often for free, sometimes for a minimal cost. You might even earn a couple dollars if you monetize your blog or sell short stories as E-books.

If you want to earn a living as a freelance writer (or editor), you should also be able to do this for little to no investment. It takes a lot of work—not just the writing part, but you need clients. It’s the finding-of-the-clients that takes time and perseverance, and it won’t happen overnight. Like any business, you’ll build up your customer base gradually, and eventually you’ll have a career.

And, of course, you need to have or acquire the necessary skills.

Becoming an author is different. Being an author means that you’ve had the wherewithal and the perseverance and the talent to write AN ENTIRE BOOK—that’s usually considered 70K words or so—and have had it published, by yourself or someone else.

And I’m not saying this is better than the rest of your options, or makes you a better person or a better writer, it’s just different.

Now, of course, once that book is published, you have another choice: leave it alone to sell a few copies, mostly to family and friends and perhaps acquaintances, or build it into a career that will normally be followed by additional books.

This is not going to be free or cheap.

Sure, writing the book costs you little except for the time spent; publishing, even, can be free or cheap. But if you choose to build this book into a career as an author, you’re going to spend money. It’s a business, after all.

One of our businesses, years ago, cost us around $10K in an initial investment; that was just start-up costs. We had to continue spending on advertising, new equipment, and so forth, plus operating costs. The investment on another business was $50K, plus ongoing costs.

I’m certainly not suggesting that you spend this much on book promotion—and by all means, don’t hand over thousands of dollars to a vanity press or other fly-by-night company.

I can tell you stories all day long of books that were published and simply had no sales because the author did nothing. They expected their publishers to do it all, or Amazon, or . . . I don’t even know what they thought!

You know all those blogs and articles that tell you to “do this” or “do that” and then say “well, you really don’t HAVE TO DO these things?”

They’re wrong. You DO have to do these things, at least some of them, and consistently too. And you have to read and learn how to do things, and get ideas for things to try. SO MANY authors haven’t a clue how to promote their books, but you know what’s really, really, super aggravating? THEY DON’T EVEN TRY. Not a bit. They read nothing, they know nothing, they learn nothing.

And their books don’t sell. And they complain. And then they get discouraged.


YOU are an entrepreneur. YOU have a business. It may not be a storefront, it may not be traditional, but the bottom line is that you have, at minimum, an investment of time put into a product that you want to sell.

Let’s break it down:

Pretend that you’re opening a store to sell one thing—your book. You’ll have to spend money on rent, utilities, a method of accepting money, and advertising, right? Of course, you aren’t opening a store, so let’s change these things a bit:

Instead of rent, we’ll call it space; instead of utilities, we’ll call it brand recognition; you still need a method of accepting payment, and you still need advertising.


Space can be found everywhere—social media, websites, blogs, grocery store bulletin boards, fairs, festivals, and bookstores. Brand recognition is built on the concept of space, particularly on your own social media sites and blog and website.

If someone wants to buy your book, and you can’t handle credit card payments, you’ve lost a sale. If someone clicks on your site and can’t buy the book, or can’t find it, you’ve lost a sale.

Finally, advertising works. It works for EVERY SINGLE PRODUCT on the market. Two words: due diligence. Don’t fall for every ad scam out there, do your homework, talk to other authors, made smart choices. But sometimes, maybe even often, this is going to cost you some money.

“You can’t make money without spending some” still holds true. “Most businesses don’t see a profit for at least several years” is also true. This is why you can’t say, “Oh, I spent $50 and got only three sales, so I didn’t even break even.” No, maybe you didn’t, but that’s still three sales, and those readers may well recommend your book and in a month or two or six, you’ll have more sales.

On the other hand, if you spend $50 with no sales, you might want to try something different. Chalk it up to experience and move on.

My favorite example is this: once, we ran a dinky classified ad and got absolutely zero response. Six months later, we had a client from a that ad who had cut it out of the newspaper and saved it all that time. A month after that, she recommended us to her sister who hired us for two different long-term jobs.

If we’d quit after that zero response ad, we’d have gone out of business within three weeks. As it turns out, a $20 investment gained us thousands of dollars in fees.

You can do this. You HAVE to do this. Read, learn, study. Find out what other authors do. And invest in yourself, in your book.


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