“The Business of Being a Writer” by Jane Friedman

The final required text for my Big MFA Adventure was The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman.

If you don’t recognize that name, it’s time to change that. Advice and resources from publishing guru Jane Friedman have consistently come up in the University of King’s College MFA program, from the very first handouts to us overwhelmed rookies back at Residency I through this text–required for our final Marketing assignment–and Jane’s lecture at Residency II in January. I had the good fortune to see her present a keynote at the Wisconsin Writers’ Institute just a couple of weeks ago, and it reiterated the importance of this book and its topic: treating your writing as a business.

As Jane put it, she “came on the scene with the dawn of the era of universal authorship” (2000). She encourages writers to think in terms of a business model that allows us to live comfortably as creative people. We’re lucky to be alive in the time of the Creative Economy, as opposed to the Middle Ages when we would have required a patron to survive.  She begs us to believe we live in a time when writers can be materially successful. It’s time to stop perpetuating the myth of the starving artists.

This is also her theme and call to action in The Business of Being a Writer. It can be difficult to accept that material success is possible in a time of such exponential growth in the amount of published content out there. But the happy truth is that, if we provide something for everyone along the demand curve, money will come.

Oh, the demand curve is new to you? She means “offer something for everyone from freeloaders to superfans” (her words). “Freeloaders” are the people who access your content where it appears for free (think, this blog post) to those who willingly pay for your one-to-one consulting (think, my writing partner model). In between those points on the curve  are the teaching gigs, magazine articles, books, and other intellectual property from which a working writer earns a living.

The Business of Being a Writer  is a business education divided into five parts:

  1. First Steps
  2. Understanding the Publishing Industry
  3. Getting Published
  4. The Writer as Entrepreneur
  5. HowWriters Make Money

Appendices cover contracts, legal issues, and recommended resources.

The book is a helpful complement to books on how to get published (such as our earlier assigned texts, Thinking Like Your Editor by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato and  How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen), and sales-oriented works like another assigned text, Build Your Author Platform: The New Rules, by Carole Helen and Michael McCallister.

It’s also an excellent complement to craft-focused books like Story Craft by Jack Hart (reviewed earlier on this blog). While we all start out working on our writing craft, it’s eye-opening to consider the business model early on. It helps you find your place in this big universe of creativity, whether that’s writing purely for satisfaction or targeting a niche and going all-out for published success in it.

But perhaps Jane’s most important message is that as a working freelance writer/author, it’s never all or only “about your book.” Your book is not your end game. It’s the milestone that opens the door to a life as a Writer/Entrepreneur. Jane Friedman shows you how.

Follow Jane’s blog at https://www.janefriedman.com/blog/. You will grow as a writer–and an entrepreneur.

© 2019 Sarah White




About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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2 Responses to “The Business of Being a Writer” by Jane Friedman

  1. Thank you so much for the thoughtful read and overview, Sarah – and for listening to me in Madison!


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