Book and Art Business 101:
How the Good Business Sense
Finally Won Me Over
I am not one to easily say I was wrong, but, my friends, I was terribly, horribly wrong. Wrong for the past ten years or more concerning a very important part of the publishing industry and art business. And I’ve died on this hill of wrongness over and again in multiple mediums and venues for the past ten years. Particularly early on in arguments with a writer friend named Ellie Ann.
Can I tell you a story?
The story I want to tell you will show how:
Reflecting on the tenants of art business…
…evaluating self-publishing based on those tenants…
couldn’t happen easily for me because of the times and circumstances of my formation as a writer. That’s right. The circumstances of my formation as a writer biased me against self-publishing, even in the teeth of the sound logic of art business.
It’s also a story about the basics of making money as a writer or an artist. In years ahead, I may choose to return to my friends in the traditional publishing world, but this is the story about how I:
(1) grew into a novelist,
(2) associated that career path with the narrative built into the traditional publishing world,
(3) ignored a hidden opportunity to enter a buyer’s market through a route that seemed unorthodox to me, and therefore
(4) lost a chance to perfect and then release my first novel sooner than now
(5) when the business sense of self-publishing has finally won me over.
It’s the story of how the traditional publishing successes narrative seduced me into remaining loyal to the old model for far too long right as the publishing industry shifted.
To be clear, this series of articles will NOT bash my friends who are agents and editors and publicists and cover designers here in New York. Those that I know personally (and I know several) are hard working, good people who have made the very sound business decision of setting up shop at a bottleneck in a buyer’s market. It’s a move Buffett himself applauds both in Berkshire’s quarterly earnings reports and in his authorized bio The Snowball. Heck, some of the millionaires featured in The Millionaire Next Door that set up shop at bottlenecks are literary agents. I have massive respect for them and have no need to pretend to make myself feel better by disparaging my allies, as some of my peers have done. Agents are, after all, voracious readers who often recommend books as fans that they’ve rejected as businessmen. It would be foolhardy to insult a friend, a mentor, or an ally — let alone someone who fits into all three categories.
I plan to do quite the opposite: I want to complement the sound business practice of the agents and editors I know by taking that play out of their book. I’m setting up my own shop at a bottleneck in a buyer’s market.
It’s a bottleneck most beginning authors don’t know about. A land grab, if you will.
A longer story than I normally share, this series of fourteen articles will illuminate both my personal transformation and some key maxims for succeeding in this business. You will can either come back over and again the next two weeks to finish reading this whole series or you can read the cheat sheet.
When you’ve finished, you too might find yourself wanting to self-publish your own work. Bookmark this page and come on a journey with me.
As I hinted above, it’s a journey that will culminate in very basic, very superlative, very audacious:
…which I’ll sprinkle throughout the telling. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, you can simply click to download the Cheat Sheet for Book and Art Business 101.
Here’s what the outline looks like:
- The Gateway Drug: Poetry
- Does Fiction Lie? — The Liar’s Club
- Where and How to Sell What You Write
- From Daydreams to Written Dreams
- Rejection Slips
- Any Money Makes a Pro
- Quarterly Assignments
- Making Good Money… in a shadow career
- Kinfolk and Advocates or “How to Build a Platform”
- Draconian Contracts
- Author Earnings
- Succeeding for Others
- Blaze a Trail All Your Own
cover image by thelittleone417