Making Writing Your Business: Finding Your Pace

Last week at Writers in the Storm, I wrote about authors’ need to make writing a business (and treat it as one). Several authors commented about the difficulty they encountered in finding reliable resources about the publishing business, so in response I’m starting a Wednesday series about the publishing business and how it works from both traditional and independent perspectives. Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk about the business of writing and the publishing process, with possible detours to answer questions posted here or sent via Twitter’s #PubLaw Hashtag.

Many times, authors forget that writing is a two-pronged calling. First and foremost, writers write. It is what defines us, and we do it whether or not we write for sales. There’s nothing wrong with writing as an avocation rather than a career – and writers who do so may well decide to self-publish their work and never worry about making sales or the business side of publishing. That is a legitimate choice.

But for authors who intend to make writing a career, publication is also a matter of sales, and to make those sales you must start with a salable product. In publishing, as in any other business, quality is not the place to compromise. Quality works sell better, and are more engaging to read, than unpolished ones.

As the old adage says, “you never have a second chance to make a first impression.” This goes for authors too. Whether you’re querying agents, approaching a publisher directly, or marketing your work directly to readers, an author has a business obligation (as well as a personal one) to produce the very best work possible. As an author, you have a story to tell, but a working writer never forgets that a story is also a product, and products sell better when they’re high-quality goods.

From a business perspective, an author must plan enough writing time to write, edit and polish each work before the due date or release. Rushed work will never be as pleasing to read as a careful, well-developed story.

As an author, you need to learn how long it takes you to write, revise, edit and polish a work for publication. Your speed will likely increase with time, but determining how many works you can write in a year, or two, or three, is a fundamental part of your early business plan. You’ll need to know in order set a publishing schedule – regardless of whether you choose traditional publishing or the indie route.

Step 1 in preparing a writer’s business plan is determining how long it takes you to write a completed, polished and salable book. That information impacts your deadlines, contracts, and publishing schedules – it’s far too important to overlook (even though many people often do).

Don’t panic if you haven’t finished your novel yet, or if it’s taking you several years to do so. You will get faster with time. Try setting yourself on a schedule now. Vary the pace from time to time. After a while you’ll find your comfort zone. (And be open to change – few writers keep the same pace throughout their careers!)

Knowing your pace helps you plan and schedule releases and publishing contracts – regardless of the publishing path you choose. Many authors enter the business with little awareness that writing pace controls many other decisions. Remember – it’s not a race! Finding your pace means finding the time you need to deliver a polished, professional work that readers will love. Quality wins out over speed every time.

Take some time this week to examine your pace. Try making a schedule. See how it works for you. Then come back next week as we launch into Publishing As Business 101 with a look at Publishing Timelines.