From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Business Strategies for Beginning Writers

There is a crazy amount of talk in the news and around the blogosphere about the MAJOR changes going in the publishing industry right now and how it could affect writers. The changes are very exciting, and I believe if approached correctly mean more opportunities for us writers. However, the difficulty is that their is no longer just one road to publishing and writing success, and we writers (especially the newbies) need to have a certain level of business savvy to negotiate properly and make the decisions that are right for us.

And there are plenty of big decisions to be made. On the one hand, Big Publishing is still the best way to get your book out to the largest number of people; on the other hand, you maintain so much more control and higher sales percentage if you publish yourself. On the one hand, Big Publishing says it will not accept unagented submissions; on the other hand, there are horror stories about agents ruining writers careers, and some people are saying that writers should submit to editors directly anyway. On the one hand, self-publishing and all the marketing, design, etc that self-publishing entails is really hard, risky, and there's that stereotype that writers are bad at business and need to be taken care of and left to work on their art; on the other hand, in todays publishing world, whether you are self or traditionally published, the writers who will have the most success, make a good living and not get screwed over are the ones who put the time and effort into the business side of their writing career.

So, what is a beginning writer to do? We don't have the benefit of a long backlist like the mid-lists do, who get to put that backlist back on the market thanks to ePublishing and print-on-demand, and get to keep most of the rights and money for themselves. Agents and editors are tuning in to this awesome source of revenue that they missed out on and trying to keep more and more of those out of print, ebook rights from us beginning writers who are just signing on. So, does that mean self-publishing is the better idea? But what about really getting your book out there? Though its becoming more and more workable, there are still very few exceptions to the rule that self-publishing doesn't really bring in much. The decision is up to the writer which risks to take: try traditional publishing and risk getting jipped, or try self-publishing and risk getting nothing.

This is all based on what I've been hearing on blogs and in the news. If I am inaccurate or missing any important information, I would love to know. Based on everything I know about todays publishing world, the plan I've decided on for myself is to try a mix of both traditional and self-publishing. I would like to go the traditional route for my first novel at least, and plan to fight until that works out. I will be the smartest I can be about contracts with agents and editors, but the risks involved with this route are worth getting my book out to as many readers as possible. Once I have done everything I can to set myself up in the traditional publishing world, and once my name is out there, I hope to start self-publishing books alongside the traditionally published ones, so I can see how that works out and keep more rights and a higher sales percentage for myself. This means writing a lot and fast, and I'll do the best I can with it.

I hope this all makes sense. What are your thoughts? Beginning writers, what do you plan to do? What can you more experienced writers tell us beginners?

Happy writing!
Sarah Allen


  1. My husband is the Technical genius in our family. For a long time I was writing just for the hell of it. My husband, while cleaning out our virtual memory on our computer, found my books and took the time to read one (bless him, he isn't a reader). He read it privatly and decided he liked it, came to me and told me he had done some research for me because he thought I should publish my works. It was a dream, and an unspoken one at that. I was instantly excited and began to tell him why I had never brought it up before. My fears and problems revolved around living no where near anything close to an agent, not trusting any one with my contracts, and being scared in general about being eaten up in a dog eat dog world. He then told me about self publishing and publishing through amazon and the like, for e-books. We talked and I have decided to do a little of both. My biggest concern as of right this second, is doing it by myself. I feel like if I need contracts and stuff looked over, my mother and her lawyer friend would do that for me. What steps need to be taken though, for self-publishing? I have found very little on it at all. Do I literally print them out and start selling out of the trunk of my car? Any insite would be greatly appriciated!

  2. Sara - I'll be putting up a post on my blog that will have a link to a friend's blog post on this very topic - he has experience with both self-publishing and print-on-demand, and a perspective on e-publishing. I thought it was so good that I want to share it. So it will be up in a day or two. Or maybe today. Depends. I have to write. Or rather, re-write. :-)

  3. This is a great post, and I think you covered the bases nicely.

    I plan to do the same as you, and go both tradition publishing (for the readership and recognition. I also like the idea of finding a good agent to work with who I can talk to about my writing career) and self publish the books I think might be about viable in traditional publishing. Chuck Wendig self pubbed a book of short stories because he's still got a book on submission to traditional publishers, and short story collections only sell if you're a big name.

    I plan to self pub a series idea I have, simply because a publisher can pull the plug on a series and kill it if the numbers aren't what they want it to be. But I want to be able to tell this series in as many books as I want.

    Great post!

  4. I always tell myself that it doesn't matter what I do, as long as I try my hardest to write GOOD STORIES! That said, the entire world of publishing scares me. I am self publishing my novels (because I want complete control over them), I am self publishing my short story collection (because I know how hard it is to get one published) but I am traditionaly publishing my short stories. I will search for an agent when I need one. Good post!

  5. This is a good post and one of the reasons I joined the blogosphere. I'm trying to see where to go. I publish short fiction on my blog because I find it freeing and liberating to upload something directly to an audience without having to submit to lit mags. I'm still on the fence about a novel though. I think self-publishing is wonderful and my natural attraction is to that approach.

  6. This is a thought-provoking post, Sarah. I am a first-time author myself, and obviously this is a tough time to be breaking into the business. There is so much information out there, much of it confusing and conflicting. The biggest part of me wants to go the traditional route; I want a to be traditionally published, with a hardcover novel and a book tour. On the other hand, if I thought I could self-publish and sell a million copies, I totally would! There is much to sort through and much to learn; I have to keep reminding myself that doing the work is the most important thing. Thank you for continuing this conversation!

  7. Hi Sarah,
    I signed up for A to Z Challenge and saw your blog listed so I just dropped in to say "Hi". I look forward to reading your alphabet posts in April.
    See you then.

  8. Thanks everyone! As always, your thoughts and comments are very appreciated. Hope I can even a little.

    @Crystal: I'm in a similar position--I really don't know anything about self-publishing. I'll start doing more research once I get closer to that point. I do, however, have three sites I can direct you to that may or may not be helpful:,, and Hope those help.


  9. Sarah,

    I'm on the self-publishing route for now, and am a bit frightened by it. However, its also something that I think is the best course for me.

    Of course, things could change suddenly, in which case I would go a more traditional route.

    But I really wanted to say how awesome this post was, and thank you for also getting out those sites! ¡Viva la RevoluciĆ³n!


I absolutely love hearing from you! Thank you so, so much for your thoughts and comments, they really do make my day. Consider yourself awesome. Also, I do my best to respond to every comment within 24 hours, so I invite you to come back and continue the conversation :)

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