Writing Professionally

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The business side of things is an aspect that many creative types like to ignore or minimize as much as possible. And this is fine if you just want to write as a sideline or a hobby and aren’t at all interested in making a full-time career of it. But what if writing as a profession¬†is your goal? How do you make a creative career your mainstay when the market is so crowded and highly subjective?

In truth, there is no easy way to go about it, and there is no magic formula to becoming an overnight bestseller. But there are nevertheless many things you as the independent creative writer (or creative anything, for that matter) can do to give yourself a bit of an edge over the less business-minded competition.

A teacher of mine once said that the first step in becoming a professional was to act professional. This is as true of writing as of anything. If you want to make writing your career, especially as a self-employed writer, then it is essential that you keep this in mind at all times (see my post on this topic here). As mentioned in that post, you should have a good solid brand, and part of this includes having an “author brand portfolio”. By this I mean having all the materials on hand that agents, publishers, or other groups interested in your work might want to see. This includes an author bio, professional-looking photo (doesn’t have to be done by a professional, but it should project a professional vibe that is unique to your genre and personality), and possibly a writer’s resume (see “Making a Writer’s Resume“).

Being professional also means having a tidy workspace. It doesn’t matter if it’s a system of organization that only you can figure out, just so long as you don’t make a habit of losing files and papers all the time. Not only does that appear unprofessional to outside observers, but it can also be a big time waster, and after all, time is money.

It also pays to have a method in place by which you can produce works faster than if you just haphazardly wandered from project to project. A methodological approach may seem counterintuitive in a creative field like writing, but the fact is, when writing professionally, it is essential to organize your time as well as your workspace. One of the benefits of self-employment is the ability to set your own schedule, but this implies that you should, in fact, still have a schedule of some kind. Whether this means setting aside certain parts of the day to spend on various tasks, having a series of steps you go through when producing your works, or both, this is a crucial element to making a business of your creativity, yet it is one that many artists seem to struggle with.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you must be able to sell your work once it is out. This means having a marketing strategy. Big publishers will undoubtedly have more resources to spend than small or independent publishers, but that doesn’t mean that they will do all the work for you. Whether traditionally or self-published, you’ve got to have a plan, and be willing to put in the time and trouble to make your book into a success. After all, who is better qualified to talk about and sell your product that you: the creator!

As stated in previous postings on this subject, there are endless aspects to being a professional writer. These are just some of the more obvious ones. If you have any additional suggestions, or would like to hear me expound more on this topic, let me know in the comment section. In the meantime, have a blessed day, and I’ll return in a week with my next topic: Writing Readable Nonfiction!

Published by J. S. Allen

J. S. Allen is a writer, linguist, historian, and nature-lover from Kansas City, Missouri. He is the author of the young adult series Sauragia and Knights of Aralia, as well as the 'Woodland Tales' anthology for children. Several of his shorter works have also appeared in various print and online periodicals over the years. In between writing and publishing, he likes to draw, spend long hours outdoors, and read. His favorite authors include M. I. McAllister, Brian Jacques, and Alexandre Dumas.

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