The business

Today in one of my Facebook writers’ groups, I saw a disturbing suggestion in a post . Some contrarian (I hope!) proposed a rule that only those ‘with a degree’ should be permitted to write. After reading some of the comments, I think the OP meant only those with a degree should be permitted to publish but the damage was done. People were losing their minds at the idea. What kind of world would we live in if only those with the right ‘qualifications’ were allowed to do anything creative. I agree that someone without a medical degree should not be allowed to practice medicine but surely anyone who feels the desire to write should be free to write. Or paint. Or draw. Or dance.

Publishing may be another thing altogether. I will freely admit that my first novel went out on Amazon in a *cough… less than “perfect” state. Since then, I have completely rewritten the story, commissioned a professional cover, and had an editor and proofreader do their magic. It’s a little embarrassing to be honest, so I do understand why someone – in fact many readers and authors DO say – a greater degree of professionalism is essential for indie artists.

I’ve always been a mix of right and left brained. Sometimes I wish I could be completely one or the other so I could feel like I’m nailing something. When I worked in the Dream Job I just wanted more time to paint but the thing my boss most valued about me were my business skills. Now that I have written that down, it seems to be a pattern in my whole work life. When I worked for clothing companies I wanted to do the merchandising but they valued my skills with the paperwork and mentoring new staff. Now I am doing the same thing but in my own creative business; I’m undervaluing the business side of things and whining because I just want to write.

The business side of the arts is a challenge for a lot of creatives and indie artists, authors, musicians etc must wear a lot of different hats to get their work out there. The 21st Century Creative Podcast has some fantastic information for we 21st century creatives including this free course and guide covering everything you need for the “boring” business stuff. I’ve just signed up for the course so I’ll keep you posted.

If you’ve been in the business for any length of time, you’ve probably also noticed that creativity is not enough. Like it or not, things like motivating yourself, choosing the right career path, managing your workflow, understanding your intellectual property rights, building a reputation, and convincing others of your worth can make or break your career.

Mark McGuinness – 21st Century Creative

A common misconception among relatively new writers is the belief that a represented author with a traditional publishing house is utterly free to write all day in their purpose built, luxurious writers’ shed while their team takes care of the pesky marketing, editing, and sales. (Presumably someone also feeds them grapes and fan them with one of those big pampas grasses.) Perhaps the big names have something resembling that enviable situation, probably minus the frond-wielding minion, but most authors work damn hard at multiple areas of the business regardless of advance size or bestseller lists. Traditional publishing isn’t the key to a stress free life for authors, it’s merely just one of the ways of ‘doing this’.

I listen to a lot of writer podcasts (I could spend more time writing I suppose…) and the news is that Covid-19 has been something of a leveller in the author community, with indie authors in a more flexible position that allows them to pivot more easily. Indie authors can sell their digital, audio and print books direct to the consumer using some great platforms (Book Funnel, Payhip, Findaway Voices etc) out there while an author bound by a contract is locked into the schedule dictated by the publisher. Apparently many new releases have been pushed back in the hope that post-Covid is closer than it appears. Those authors are hopefully bashing out their next novel and taking time to learn some indie publishing skills.

One thing that does suck a lot of my time (still!) is social media. Seriously, if I could break that habit and still have a way of finding my audience I would. The reality is that it’s up to me to be a Moderator in my use of socials, not an Abstainer as I usually am with bad habits. We all need a platform (god I am beginning to hate that word…) so I need to change my behaviour around the time I spend on social media. The ROI of time spent must make sense or it’s just time away from writing.

I used to work with a seriously talented artist who could be rolling in money now if she had built her own following. She had no idea how to build her audience, instead relying on the gallery to market her work. I hope it works out for her in the long run.

My fave writing podcasts are The Creative Penn, The Writers’ Well (now finished but lots of eps in the backlist), So You Want to be a Writer, Bestseller (from Reedsy), Helping Writers Become Authors (K.M. Weiland), The Self Publishing Show (Mark Dawson and James Blatch), and Writers on Writing (Barbara DeMarco-Barrett)


  1. Dean Kyte

    A great article, Christine. I enjoyed reading your thoughtful take.

    The complaint about the time-sucking background work to being a creative is a common one, and I used to share it. But there’s a benefit that can’t really be communicated, only experienced, about building the financial, operational and marketing infrastructure that facilitates your creative activity—as thankless and soul-destroying as it feels even while you’re doing it.

    The entrepreneurial mindset is really the creative mindset transferred to the world of business, so the trick is to find the ‘meta-creative’ fun in building—in the short term—the infrastructure and processes that will eventually facilitate your optimized long-term employment of creative time. It sounds like, with your background, you already have the skills and mindset to do it.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Christine Betts

      Thanks Dean. I really like that take on it. It’s so easy to do a desk flip and pout and say ‘I’m a creative, I shouldn’t have to do this menial work!’ I discovered too late that the formatting problem I had was IMPOSSIBLE in Microsoft 365 🤦‍♀️😳 so I’ve learnt to ask for help before wasting hours on a task going nowhere.

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