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Monday, June 04, 2012

Writing is a Business - Kellie Gilbert

A former legal investigator and trial paralegal, Kellie Coates Gilbert writes with a sympathetic, intimate knowledge of how people react under pressure. Her stories are about messy lives, and eternal hope. For more information, visit Kellie at 

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I’ve worked around my share of business professionals over the years, and noticed those who succeed utilize good business practices. That philosophy is as relevant for Bill Gates, as it is for the kid selling lemonade on the sidewalk. Too often, novelists fail to recognize the concept applies to us as well.

I hear some of you sigh. In your head, you’re arguing storytelling is an art. And it is. I understand if you wanted to sell widgets, you’d have invested in an MBA and signed up for a fat operating loan down at the bank. But, if your goal is to be a career novelist, I urge you to read on.

WRITING IS A BUSINESS. People in the publishing industry have been saying this for some time. Ignore them, and you’ll soon fall into discouragement. Guaranteed. And possibly even failure.

With limited space, let me get right to the nuts and bolts of how to treat your writing career as a business.

  1. Develop a business plan. A multitude of information is available on the internet about how to write a business plan. In essence, you simply need to write down your goals. What do you want to accomplish in the coming year? Two years from now? Five? And what are the finite steps that will get you there? Construct your plan in a way that allows you to measure whether or not you accomplish your goals. 
  2. You need investment capital. Yup, that’s right. No smart business person starts a new enterprise without making sure the venture is properly funded. For many of us novelists, that means taking on a second (or third) job to earn a little extra to invest in marketing efforts. You can skip this step, but doing so dooms you to running behind the pack at nearly every level. 
  3. Sell a great product. This is possibly the most important. What do you sell? Chips or tires? Don’t confuse your customers and try to sell both. And don’t sell greasy chips or tires that blow out after a few hundred miles. Make sure your novels are the best available in your chosen genre. Satisfy that reader who spent good money to buy your product. 
  4. Hire experts. Consider a marketing expert who will help identify and convey your brand to readers. Pay the best web designer you can find to build your cyber office. Shell out the extra for tracking tools that will let you see who’s coming to your “store” and what your customers are pulling off the aisles. Hook up with the best agent and publishing house you can muster. Both are critical to your business success, for obvious reasons. Hire a publicist, someone who believes in your product who will highlight your novels to the reading public. If the publishing house helps with the expense, great. But DO NOT SKIMP on hiring your experts. Which is why you might want to back up and read #2 again. 
  5. Advertise. Many of my writing buddies agree, it’s hard to toot your own horn. But if you fail to tell the world you’re a good writer and your books are worth the money, people will likely pass and go to a movie instead. And many are. So, buy that ad space. Write a blog and tweet. If you receive an award, tell your reading public. Even better, hire a videographer to produce a professional video (emphasis on professional.) 
  6. Carefully evaluate ROI. Will you have a better return on your investment by purchasing a thousand dollar ad space, or by spending that amount on books to use for give-aways and promotion? Get creative. Don’t follow the pack. Do something new. 
  7. Know your customers. Don’t just post what you had for breakfast and give a weather report on Facebook. TALK to your readers. What do they care about? What ticks them off? Connect and learn how to create stories they will love and tell their friends about. This approach will increase your market share. (It’s not all about you.) 
  8. Work hard. I challenge you to find a successful entrepreneur who doesn’t put in hours of effort, analyzing the market, sizing up competition, evaluating and adjusting where necessary. Are you going to conferences? Are you networking and creating business alliances? Are you wasting precious hours that could be spent creating more inventory to sell? In the end, as novelists we create. We form art for thirsty souls. But, even great lemonade needs a lemonade stand. Build a good one. 
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PRE-ORDER NOW! MOTHER OF PEARL (Abingdon Press) - A high school counselor discovers her teenage daughter had an inappropriate relationship with the football coach . . . and this mother risks everything to bring him to justice. Coming SEPTEMBER 2012!

MOTHER OF PEARL kept me turning pages and on the edge of my seat. Wonderful, richly-drawn characters who drew me to their hearts despite their flaws. ~Deborah Raney, bestselling author of the Hanover Falls Novels series


Patricia PacJac Carroll said...

Good advice, Kellie.

Gina Holmes said...

Excellent advice, Kellie! I hope authors and authors-to-be take it to heart.

lesleyannmcdaniel said...

This is the first time I've been advised as a writer to write a business plan. Thanks for that great piece of advice. I often say it's a really good thing I didn't know what I was getting myself into, because I might not have started writing!

Kellie Coates Gilbert said...

Thanks, Lesley. Writing as a business is a unique, yet effective way to approach being a novelist. Best to you in building your lemonade stand!

Kellie Coates Gilbert said...

Thrilled to guest post on Novel Rocket, Gina. Been a follower for years and have learned SO much!

Kellie Coates Gilbert said...

Good luck with launching LIBERTY BELLE, Patty.

Ronie Kendig said...

You rawk, Kellie!! So glad you got to share your wisdom!

Marji Laine said...

Oh this is a treasure! While I've set up a plan for my writing goals, I've avoided some of the business side of the planning. That investment part - yikes!
Thanks so much for sharing your expertise!

Christa Allan said...

Great suggestions and practical as well. Fortunately (or sometimes "un"), my husband reminds me about the business side of my career. We've had a number of ROI discussions!

Becky Wade said...

Great advice, Kellie. Thanks for the tips on how (and why) to think like a business person instead of solely like a creative person. :)

Anonymous said...

Great post, Kellie. Too many writers think all it takes to be successful is a decent story. Thanks for setting us straight.:)

Julian Hernandez said...

Great post, Kellie! #2 and #3 stand out to me, and mirror my own strategies for promoting my novel. Building capital is incredibly important, because in order to have the best looking web site or artwork or platform, it costs money. Look at book trailers. So many authors throw together a hodge-podge of royalty-free images, a cheap music track and some basic animation. In the end, they all look/sound the same. I'd like to raise a decent amount of capital and then hire a top-notch professionals to build both a trailer and a web site.

Thanks for pulling these great strategies into one post!

Kellie Coates Gilbert said...


Thanks for commenting. You and I think a lot alike. Sounds like you are building a great "lemonade stand." Blessings on your endeavor.

Kellie Coates Gilbert said...

Thanks, Becky. Loved YOUR STUBBORN HEART. No greasy chips there! Such a great romantic story!

Kellie Coates Gilbert said...

Christa -

Don't know about you, but I need a money tree growing next to my lemonade stand!

Kellie Coates Gilbert said...

Ronie -

Love you girl!

Beth Goddard said...

Fabulous advice, Kellie! I'll have to save this one in my files so I can refer back to it.


Julie Kibler said...

Great post, Kellie! I was told by a wise woman that once you sell your book, you need to be 51% businesswoman, 49% writer. Still trying to get a grasp on that. I'm a work in progress.

Lyndieb said...

Great article. Kellie