Whenever I tell people I’m a writer, they usually say they’ve also written a book and want to have it published. Usually my first advice to new writers is about craft and becoming the best writer they can be. But after having been around publishing for awhile, I have additional advice. That is, learn about the writing and publishing business.
Look at it this way. If you decide to start a restaurant, you’re not just going to throw open the doors to your new place and start cooking. You’re going to learn about the restaurant business. The same is true for the writing business.
I will emphasize that most of my experiences have been good with people, but I too have had my hair singed on occasion. So start by learning about what type of writing you’re interested in, from novels to nonfiction to screenplays to magazine articles. There are hundreds of books and internet sites with advice.
Here’s some things I learned along the way that I hope will save you heartburn.
- If you’re offered a contract by a publishing company and don’t have an agent, hire an attorney and have him or her look at it. This is well worth the money to make sure you aren’t giving away your rights and do you have an option to get back your publishing rights.
- Do research on the publisher or whoever is interested in buying your writing. There are many sites on the Web to warn you about the good, the bad and oh so ugly.
- Ask lots of questions. Don’t be shy. If a publisher doesn’t want to answer, beware. But always be polite and never obnoxious about it.
- Get paid. Don’t give your writing away. If someone wants to publish it and make money off your talent, then get your share. And get this in writing. A guy still owes me money for a writing job.
- Keep copies of everything, including emails. Hopefully you won’t need those but if you do…
I know many of you may not care about making money from your writing and your reward will be to share it or give it away, which is great. However, if you want monetary compensation — even if you consider writing a hobby — then it’s best to learn the business or you may end up getting the business.