Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The writer's life: writing versus writing business

More and more I'm finding my writing selves in conflict: to write, or to deal with the nitty-gritty writing business. By "writing business," I actually mean a lot of things: editing, making submissions to 'zines and publishing houses, proofing e-books, prepping e-book covers (these last two being recent additions to my must-needs-doing column), blogging, and even tweeting. All of these activities are fun in their own way, but whenever it comes right down to it, I pick "writing" every time. After all: I'm a chicken, and if I want to succeed, I've got to lay some eggs. But then, the debate just resurfaces, because the real problem is, what am I going to do with all these stupid eggs?

Now, it's not like I hate the business of being an Ahem-Professional-Writer-Ahem. Take blogging: I love it. It lets me crow my opinions at the enormous and vapid space that is The Internet. And I love egotistically petting my stories - whether that somewhat off-putting metaphor means loading my writing into the Submission Cannon for an assault upon the bastion of the editorial elite, proofing them for e-booking, or tweeting about story sales to 'zines. But the fact remains that these activities are pointless if I'm not writing new material and practicing the craft with the intent to write better. So, when I've got ten stories that need submitting, but I'm writing a hot new tale - well, the decision is easy. The hot new thing gets my attention - not only because it's hot and new, but because I've got to lay the eggs to throw, fry, boil or hatch them. (Or... whatever.)

But, more and more, this simple path of action isn't good enough. Firstly, I'm producing more and more stories; that means I have to spend more and more time submitting those stories. I've got to find markets, track the submissions, make sure I don't mix up information... all I can say is, thank God for Duotrope. But, even worse, now that some of my favourite stories are literally burning out of markets, I've got to start self-publishing. Not that self-publishing is bad; just that, this is even more work I have to do to keep going as I writer. I've got to learn e-book formats, put together covers, proof the texts, and blog about the work. And that's before I've even got to setting up a proper publishing website.

It's enough to drive me batty.

Most importantly, though, it cuts into the writing time. No longer is it simply a matter of: "Well, I'm a writer; obviously, writing comes before writing business." The goal of the writing is to have fun; but once the writing becomes a piece-of-writing, the objective is to put those words into the reader's hands/ears/eyeballs/etc. And to do that, I've got to keep trying to force my words down New York's gullet, or - when the big suits refuse to swallow - I've got to find new distribution channels to get the product to the customer myself.

All this is just to say that you can't only be a writer - unless you want to be one of those writers that whines about being a writer. And I, for one, do not. I want to say, wham-bam, I'm a writer: you can read my fiction here, here, and there, or you can go buy it for yourself in a highly convenient location. Being a writer is sort of like Schroedinger's cat: your writing might be dead, if it's still locked in the box. So, let's face it: you just can't make eggs if you act like a rooster all day - preening, strutting, and otherwise acting like a cock.


  1. Yeah, the first and most important step is to write good stories. Once you can do that then the business side of things needs to kick in. Have to be learning how to do these things so I'm ready for when that time comes, I suppose.

  2. Absolutely, Nick. The business side is meaningless without the writing side. And it's by no means necessary a writer market their work. But... I've always enjoyed a challenge.

    Slash money.

  3. Here's the three ways I 'solved' this problem:
    (One), epublishing short stories becomes a lot easier once you've done up about 10 stories.
    (Two), whenever I write a story in one of my established series, I don't usually put it into the submissions churn, which cuts out a lot of paperwork.
    (Three), I've really streamlined the submissions churn itself with a spreadsheet and a shortlist of markets, so I know exactly where my stand-alone stories are in the process and approximately how long I'll have without thinking about them.

    Once you achieve (One), then this is a problem you want to have because that's PRODUCT. Keep on truckin'