6 Business Writing Tips From Pro Fiction Writers

Cute little kitten crowned with a chaplet of dandelion in female hands
Because we all need kitten photos now. A great photo from IStockPhoto, by vvvita

The business side always gets neglected by writers.  A lot of people tend to think that all they need to do is write the book and somehow the rest will magically happen.  Even in the writing of the book, there are choices you can make that may help with the business side if you know them.  Onward!

  1. Control what cover you get.  While it’s true that the publisher won’t give you any say when they create the cover, you have other options available.  When you write the book, include 3-4 more visual scenes.  That way, they can be used for the cover. (Dave Farland, Superstars)

  2. Entice Hollywood to option your book.  Hollywood likes visual, so following tip #1 may also get some movie interest as well. (also David Farland, Superstars)

  3. Include your address, phone number, and email on e-manuscripts you submit.  It’s easy to leave this off when you’re sending a manuscript as an email.  Why would an editor need the address when they’re simply emailing you?  Because the editor copies and pastes the address into the contract. (Kevin J. Anderson, from the Monsters, Movies, and Mayhem submission call)

  4. Write short stories for anthology calls.  Even if you’re not published or don’t have much published, you can land in an anthology with big names.  Readers will come to the anthology to read David Gerrold and then see your story (Jonathan Maberry, Superstars).  Side note: I’m in an anthology with both of these writers!

  5. Reread the magazine guidelines before starting a project, and reread them before submitting.  The first part is to make sure you don’t have it wrong in your head and end up wasting time on the story.  The second part is to double-check yourself on the little details. (Sheila Chandra, Linda Adams)

  6. Schools love having writers talk to middle grade.  Start local and talk to the local librarians and then you can expand nationwide.  The schools may even pay a stipend to bring you out.  (From Superstars…did not write the writer’s name down).

Got any business tips you can share?

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There are priorities in writing

After my post on Writing as a Woman War Veteran was published, I got an invitation to write for a story call for veterans. For about a day, I was flattered and thinking it over.

But there was one sticking point.

They didn’t pay.

There are a lot of magazines and anthologies that don’t pay, except maybe copies. It’s actually hard to find ones that do pay professional rates.   I used to write for many of the non-paying ones because I believed in the myth that you should build up your writing credits.

I also remember thumbing through the paper version of the Novel and Short Story Writers Market. They have statistics on how hard it is to get into each magazine, and obviously the pro-rate ones were harder. So I’d look at those statistics and pass on the pro-rate as being too hard.

It means I set the bar too low for myself and wrote accordingly. I stopped writing for anything calls that weren’t pro-rate several years ago for that reason and realized how much of a disservice I did to myself by not aspiring higher.

But then there’s the problem with all the veteran’s calls. First, I know that I am probably the only woman soldier writing anything. Sure, there are other women, but they’re usually spouses or relatives.

And not one of them has paid. They all expect the veteran to write for free. I’ve even seen calls where it’s obvious, the editors think they’re doing the veteran a favor because they’re letting them do writing as therapy.

The decision turned out to be both easy and hard. If I start my own business and the IRS audits me, they will see the writing for free submission. It’ll make them think I’m a hobbyist.

Veterans calls need to pay though. Seriously.