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Become a Writer Entrepreneur to Succeed in to Today’s Publishing World

If you consider yourself simply a writer, an author or an artist, it’s time to catch up with the times—at least if you want to succeed (and earn a living). The final few guest posts during NaNonFiWriMo and the WNFIN challenge ask you to consider how you make a living as a writer and how book sales fit into that picture. Agent Deborah Levine Herman, co-founder Writers: Writers Agents and Editors Network and The Writer Entrepreneur Network, kicks us off with a post about becoming a “writer entrepreneur.” NA

There is a big divide between the desire to write and the knowledge of how to become successfully published. Publishing is undergoing an amazing change in light of new technologies, but the phenomenon of the active writer entrepreneur has been the key ingredient of writer success for as long as there have been books. The delivery systems and structures are changing, but the need for writers to actively participate in the promotion of their books has always been why certain books rise above the fray.

The economy has certainly changed publishing. In the past several decades there have been continued conglomerations of smaller publishing houses into the top behemoths. With the recent merger of Random House and Penguin there will be even fewer competitive publishing houses. It would appear that independent publishing is being swallowed up by the larger houses as more and more of them are acquired and subsumed.

Amazon has changed the face of publishing forever with ebook delivery systems and easy online shopping. Now Amazon is taking its place as a major contender for traditional publishing, and they have the capital to make mistakes.

What does this mean for writers who just want to express themselves and dream of book signings at Barnes & Noble? It means you need to become more than a writer. You need to approach writing books and sharing your message as an entire career. If you were to decide to become a heart surgeon after you retire or when you have time you wouldn’t expect to show up at a hospital and get a job. There is a learning curve and credentials that would certainly help you.

Writers need to go through a learning curve to compete in today’s world of publishing. You have more opportunities for success now than ever before. You can build your dreaded “platform” in ways never available to previous generations of writers and in less time. The “platform” merely represents your reach to a potential audience. You have tools available to you to be able to pinpoint with great accuracy who your audience is and exactly how to reach it.

You have many opportunities to perfect your craft. As so many publishing houses merged and downsized it threw into the realm of the self-employed, many freelance editors who can help you present proposals or manuscripts that are practically production ready. Writing books does not provide consistent cash flow for those who are not on the “A” list, so you also can find many wonderful writers who earn their living in between their own books by editing. No matter how good you are, every writer needs a separate set of eyes to determine how their work will be perceived by an agent, acquisitions editor or the ultimate consumer.

If you are writing non-fiction you have no excuse not to write the best book proposal you can. When I began writing there was literally one book or perhaps two on the subject. The non-fiction book proposal is the tool of the trade for any non-fiction book. Agents and editors do not have time to review an entire manuscript unless they are certain they want to consider it for representation or purchase. You can sell a non-fiction book on the proposal, receive an advance and then take your time writing the book.

I personally co-authored Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why with my literary agent husband Jeff Herman based on our experience with innumerable book proposals. I began by writing very bad proposals for my own work; when I learned to doctor others, combined with my experience writing briefs when I practiced law, I discovered a format we believe is very helpful for closing the deal. But there are many books that can help. We also offer free software for book proposal writing on our social network for writers, agents and editors: www.WAENet.com called BPWiz. (It also has a proposal wizard for fiction. More and more fiction writers are using a short proposal to push themselves ahead of other writers.)

The most important opportunity writers have today is to become a writer entrepreneur. The first step is to change your mentality from artist to business person. You can enjoy the art of your writing, but if you want to have an impact and bring yourself out of the starving artist club, you will take the time to learn how the business of publishing works and put yourself in the middle of it as a contender.

Begin by learning about social media and marketing. The internet is your friend. Be clear about your message and your purpose. Consider all the avenues such as public speaking, blogging and tweeting, and learn to do them correctly. Most of all develop respect for yourself as a commodity. You have something to offer that someone will want. This is a different perspective. You can learn what it takes to be a writer entrepreneur.

About the Author

Deborah Herman is a literary agent with the Jeff Herman Agency LLC. Herman is the author of ten non-fiction books including Spiritual Writing: From Inspiration To Publication and is the co-founder of two social networks for Writers: Writers Agents and Editors Network (www.WAENet.com) and The Writer Entrepreneur Network (www.theWENet.ning.com) Herman has joined forces with Nina Amir for the Author of Change Transformational Programs, which teach writers how to make a positive impact with their message by helping them transform into authors who write, publish and promote books that create change in the world. 

Note: This post is part of the 2012 Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) challenge, which takes place during National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo). You can find out more at www.writenonfictioninnovember.com.


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