Monday, July 27, 2009

Playing Catch-Up

It never ceases to amaze me how much of the job of a full-time freelance writer has nothing at all to do with writing. I'm a pretty business-savvy person in general, which has been key to my success as a freelance writer. I've known several formerly successful authors (including one guy who published more than 20 science-fiction novels in the 80s, only to see his deals dry up and his agent drop him when the market changed in the 90s) who saw their careers fall apart in the early 90s for no other reason than the fact they weren't interested in the "business" side of the writing and publishing business. They just wanted to hide in their attics and write, and never deal with agents, or editors, or marketing, or the general public. And that, my friends, was their downfall.

I probably spend more time on marketing, fanbase development, publicity, and contracts (in partnership with my agent) than I do on actual writing. Which frankly bothers even me. But I know that it's a necessity, especially in the early stages of my career as I build up my reader base. I maintain author websites, a heavily trafficked Facebook account (I have 1600 friends and counting), two blogs, a newsletter. I keep my author pages on Amazon updated, and I even write the people at Amazon to update the categories under which my books are listed to make sure they are reaching the most potential buyers. I have a Twitter account (1300 followers and counting). I go to conferences. I research potential markets, and try to keep up with what other authors in my genre (i.e., my competition) are writing, and how they are selling. I query magazines to take my freelance articles. I query editors of book-review publications and websites. I do online interviews. I do radio interviews. I go to writing groups. And on and on and on.

And when I'm not doing all of that (not to mention running my other side business, or raising my kid)---I'm writing. A lot. I just spent the past three weeks holed up in my writing suite for 8-12 hours a day, cranking out a historical romance novel on an impossibly tight deadline----which just made me fall behind on all my business-side stuff. The next couple weeks I'm taking a break from writing to catch up on all of that----and also to catch up on life a little bit. I haven't had much of a personal life this summer at all, and I'd like to have a chance to enjoy the nice weather a bit before yet another brutal Chicago winter sets in.

I'll never forget the time a former co-worker of mine (the aforementioned sci-fi author who published 20 novels in the 80s only to see his career fall apart) complaining that the publishing business "just wasn't about the writing anymore." He'd always hated the "business" side of the writing business, and the fact he never did anything---zip, zero-zilch, nada---to promote himself, to learn about the importance of favorable contracts and a good agent, or to grow his reader base was what ended his career. He blamed everyone for his career's demise but himself, and said that "real" writers just didn't make it anymore.

When he was finished with his bitter tirade, I smiled and nodded my head politely, but made a mental note not to make the same career mistakes he had. And so far, that decision has paid off in spades.

Back to work.

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