Best Business Advice for Writers: December 2012


Best Business Advice for Writers is a monthly link round-up where I share the best articles I’ve spotted online focused on the business of writing and publishing. Share any best reads you’ve found lately in the comments.

The Inconvenient Truth About SEO by Paul Boag (@boagworld)

A plain-English post that should help quiet any anxiety you might have about optimizing your site for SEO, plus a clear explanation of those very rare cases where you might want to hire someone to assist.

How I Used Kickstarter to Reboot a Book Series and My Career by Tobias Buckell (@TobiasBuckell)

A 5,000-word article recounting one author’s experience using Kickstarter to crowdfund a project—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Lots of concrete tips here about how to run a successful campaign, plus he’s upfront about his mistakes so you can avoid them.

$26,679 in 24 Hours: Stats From My Latest Book Launch by Nathan Barry (@nathanbarry)

Nathan Barry is not a book author as much as he’s a designer who happens to be launching information products. But I always find it helpful to observe how someone outside of the writing-publishing industry cocoon approaches a launch, and learn from their techniques. He has a wonderful section on using e-mail that’s a must read—plus he shares dollars, sales numbers, and site traffic stats related to the launch.

Power Pricing: How Should I Price My E-Books by Nathan Maharaj (@nrmaharaj) at Kobo

Straight-forward insights (with data to back everything up) on e-book pricing. Must-read for any indie author currently publishing and selling e-books.

New Year, New Hurdles & Opportunities by Russell Blake (@blakebooks)
Writing Like It’s 2009 by Kristen Rusch (@KristineRusch)

If you’re thinking of self-publishing in 2013 (or are actively pursuing an indie author model), these two posts are best read in tandem. The first is a set of predictions related to  indie authorship and Amazon. Russell says:

Many indies will give up. Having realized belatedly that 99% of indies fail to make any real money at this, those that don’t feel like beating their heads against a seemingly indestructible wall will go on to something more lucrative. The Gold Rush mentality of “hey, look at X, he’s a talentless twat and sold a ton; it must be easy, so I’ll throw my hat into the ring because then maybe I’ll sell a ton, too” will die, as it should. It will become abundantly obvious to even the dimmest that this is a very, very difficult business to make a living at, and that the chances of being that one in a million are close to nil. … The perceived environment where you can be illiterate and still find someone who will give your book a shot will dry up as readers demand more in exchange for their limited time.

Then move over to Kristen Rusch’s blog for her takedown of myths related to indie publishing today. More tough love.

Here’s the thing: From 2008-2010, e-publishing on the early e-readers was a gold rush. And if you look at the history of any gold rush, you’ll see a familiar pattern. A few people hit it big in an unexpected way. They make a small fortune.  They broadcast the news of that fortune, and then hundreds, if not thousands, of people follow. … Some of you will get rich very quickly. Some of you won’t. Most of you who stick with this for about ten years—the average time it takes for a writing career (hell, for any small business) to blossom—will make a good living at it. If you do it right, don’t sign your copyrights away, hire the best help, continue to improve, and stick with it.

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Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. From 2001–2010 she worked at Writer's Digest, where she ultimately became publisher; more recently, she was an editor at the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she led digital strategy. Jane currently teaches writing and publishing at the University of Virginia and is a columnist for Publishers Weekly. The Great Courses just released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (2017). Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.
Posted in Business for Writers.


  1. Pingback: Best Business Advice for Writers: December 2012 | Jane Friedman | book publishing |

  2. Happy New Year, Jane! Thanks for this list. Everyone, particularly web designers/developers and marketers, should read The Inconvenient Truth About SEO, by Paul Boag (@boagworld), and then get their managers and CEOs—or the appropriate decision-makers in their company—to read it. As Paul mentions, two things often happen: 1) the role of SEO falls on to the wrong people and,or 2) the company is functioning within a waning model and the support of subject matter experts (SMEs) for creating fresh content is limited. These can result in a site with different degrees of stale content, reduced hits/traffic/sales, and a manager with a tendency to grasp at the first bandaid-buzz-word in reach to fix it: SEO.

    I have the privilege of working with very intelligent folks in a small design team, and after taking a number of online SEO and marketing training programs, we came to conclusions similar to Paul’s. There is a place for certain aspects of SEO—for instance: using proper redirects, rich Title tags, an XML sitemap, a certain number of long-tail keywords, etc.—but much of that falls within Best Practices of web design. However, the standard has certainly been shifting towards rich, current content and social interaction; and Paul is right, Google makes no bones about it.

    I think Mark Simchock is on to something in his comment (January 1st, 2013 5:03 pm) on the out-dated acronym, that maybe it should change from “SEO to CO (Content Optimization) or UXO (User Experience Optimization) or even UXCO (User Experience and Content Optimization).” Maybe then the decision-makers—who sometimes only speak in acronyms;)—would get the message and be more open to spending time and money where it’s needed: rich, expert, trustworthy content.

    I look forward to making my way through the rest of your list.

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