Here's how an author's career used to look: said author would get her first book accepted by a big New York publisher, and said publisher would tell said author not to worry about a thing, marketing-wise. The happy author would be given a schedule for a tour and appearances and told to focus on what she does best–writing the next book.
Here's how an author's career looks now: said author's book may or may not be published by a big New York publisher. More likely, his book was put out by a small press, or maybe he published it himself. And said author knows that his publishers will do little, if anything, to market her work. He'll be calling bookstores, arranging guest posts, tracking down book reviewers himself. Writing the next book? That's something that will have to wait.
My first example is, clearly, art.
The second, business.
Two aspects of a writing career that exist side by side. And more and more these days, we hear how authors need to master both. Gone are the days when we writers could lavish all our time on the first aspect. This tends to upset us. We mutter dark invectives about having to focus on the business side of our careers. We begrudge time spent away from our writing.
And yeah, I get it. Every once in awhile I like to fantasize about having nothing to do but work on my novels. And then I realize I'd hate that. I like being on social media. (At least most sites. You can take Facebook and shove it as far as I'm concerned.) I love working with my clients. (Please don't tell them, but I learn as much from them as they learn from me.) I don't love cold-calling bookstores or seeking out reviewers, but hey, if it keeps me from working a real job, I'll deal.
And that's just it. In this brave new world of publishing that shifts daily, we really do have to master both the art and business sides of writing. I wish I had better news for you, but there it is. I may not have the news you want to hear, but I do have suggestions for how to make it as painless as possible. Here goes:
1. Always put your writing first. It's the basis of everything and if you're not doing it, you ultimately will not have a career because you won't have anything to market. So do the work, then worry about putting it out in the world. I mean this in a couple of ways:
a. Write your book before you worry about contacting an agent.
b. Put your writing before your marketing efforts on a daily basis. (For me, this means writing first thing in the morning. Then I feel good about what I've accomplished all day long and that gives me energy to do the crap I hate.)
2. Realize that business is not a dirty word. When we whisper the "b" word as if it were tainted, we do ourselves and our work a disservice. Remember, people exist in the world who actually think business–and the dreaded "m" word (marketing)–are fun. You and I may not fall into that category, but realize that business can be every bit as creative as putting words together on the page.
3. Know that the situation is not going to change soon. Don't waste your energy wishing you didn't have to master social media, or figuring out techie tools, or mastering marketing. Don't spend time longing for the old days, described above. Because they aren't coming back. As I used to tell my kids when they complained about doing something, "With all the energy you've wasted kvetching about it, you could have been done by now."
4. Get help. Everyone can benefit from coaching, whether its for your writing or your marketing efforts. If you're struggling, get help! There are tons of wonderful teachers out there who can help you master the skills you don't yet have.
5. Do it with everything you've got. You throw yourself at the page every day, right? You express your deepest feelings and fears and truths, right? Use the same mindset for the business side of things. Throw yourself at it, and give it everything you've got. Approach it with the reverence you give your writing and you will do just fine. More than that, you'll do great.
How do you reconcile the business and art side of your career?
(By the way, I have an email conversation with J.D. Frost to thank for the topic of this article. Thanks, J.D.!)