Saying No Can Be Your Best Business Move as a Writer

Today I’m going to a post on the business side of writing.  If this doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to skip.

I’m going to discuss how to maximize your income potential by saying no to those things that  get in the way of being able to do this.  Every time you say “yes” to an activity that doesn’t earn you money, you are saying “no” to something that will earn you money.

1.  Picking what to write.

The goal is to pair up what you love to write with what people are willing to buy.   The two don’t have to be exclusive.  Perhaps there are elements you enjoy that can work into a plot or genre that you’d either like to experiment with or are already selling better at.

For example, I started writing Regencies because I noticed those sold pretty well overall in romance.  I picked elements I already enjoyed (a marriage of convenience and a hero and heroine who didn’t initially want to be together) and wrote the romance in that time period.

Another example, I am quickly realizing that (for me) contemporary romances are not my better selling books.  I was thinking about writing a short story (which would have been about 15-20K words) to go along with a recently published contemporary that wasn’t doing as well as I’ve historically done.  But I realized I was about to spend time writing a short story in something that wasn’t doing so well when I could be using that energy into writing a historical western or Regency (which sell better for me).  So I made the decision to nix the short contemporary romance idea.  Why waste time on a project that you already know doesn’t have a good chance of succeeding when you could be spending the time writing something that might have a better chance?

I don’t know what the situation is for you, but hopefully, the two examples above can help you figure out where you can make the best use of your writing time.

2.  What activities to do.

Writing groups are great.  They can help us learn and grow as writers.  Some of my favorites are conferences which focus on writing fiction.  We want to grow as writers.  Writing compelling stories with emotionally engaging characters is still (in my opinion) the best use of our time.  But in order to do this, we need to keep learning the craft.  No matter how much you’ve improved, you can always do better on your next book.  You don’t want to stop growing.

But when you choose conferences and writing groups, you need a place that is safe.  You need to be able to be with people who are supportive, who care about helping you, who can also benefit from your experience, and who will build you up.

When you spend time around people who tear you down or make you feel like you’re inferior, this weakens your ability to be creative and it hampers your energy when you are trying to get out there and engage with others in a positive way.  I suggest staying away from these toxic situations.

3.  Non-writing Stuff

Yes, it’s good to have a life outside of writing.  You want to be a well-rounded individual.  But, if you are making it a habit of spending your time doing too much stuff that doesn’t make you money, you’re running into the danger of limiting your income potential.  It’s fine to take a break and spend the day with a friend.  It’s fine to set aside a block of time where you focus on your family.  It’s fine to catch up on a favorite TV show or do a hobby.

But if you want to make money writing, you need to write.  Some writers do make additional income by speaking and consulting others.  Some do cover work, formatting, or editing.  So you might want to focus on these areas more if they are your greater income stream than writing books.  This post, however, has been focusing more on the writer who makes the bulk of their income by selling their books.  Or if you want your main income stream to come from selling your books, then you will need to do whatever you can to focus the most time you possibly can on writing in addition to some marketing, but marketing can’t get in the way of writing.  The rule I’ve often heard is you need to focus 80% energy on writing and 20% on marketing when you are engaging as a writer in this business.  (That’s a ratio you can go by to gauge if you’re doing too much–or too little–marketing.)

I understand if you have a day job, it’s going to be harder to get as much written as someone who stays home all day and can write.  But I bet there is some area in your life you can give up in order to write more.  Even if it’s getting up an hour earlier to write on the weekends.  Or maybe you need to say no to your cousin who wants to go to another movie.  Or maybe do some writing or outlining during your break.  Or maybe giving up on reading a book so you can write one instead.

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Closing thoughts

This all boils down to opportunity cost.  It means that you need to choose one option or the other.  You can’t do both.  Sometimes you have to tell yourself or people you care about in order to get your work done as a writer.  If making money writing books is a priority, you need to make it a priority.  It  must be first on the list.  You need to find time to get it in.  Otherwise, it won’t get done because other things keep popping up, and you will limit your potential to maximize your chances for making your dream a reality.  That’s not to say it’s a guarantee.  Nothing in life is a guarantee.  But you can increase your odds of winning if you say no to the right things.

17 Comments

  1. Very good post, Ruth. As I’m sitting here reading this instead of working on publishing a book. LOL. Seriously, this is good advice, and reading posts like this is actually very good for our learning process. We need to understand the business side of things.

    1. I’m getting a book ready for publication, too. I need breaks between formatting and the uploading process. This is an all-day project, as you know. 🙂

      I’ll be doing a series of posts on the business side of writing in the future. Right now, I’m working on my notes and brainstorming ideas. If you have any ideas on what I can post about, please let me know. I can use additional input.

      1. The formatting and uploading is the easiest part for me (except formatting for print). Right now, I’m going through the manuscript one last time. I’ve already found two more small typos, so no matter how many eyes have been on it, it’s always good to do that last read. It’s hard to catch every little thing, no matter how careful you are.

        I’ll try to think of things concerning the business side. I kind of like that side of writing. (That’s the accountant in me coming through.)

        1. For me, the best part is writing the story. 🙂 Everything else (editing, formatting, uploading) is pretty much because I have to do it, not because I want to.

          1. The only time I really hate editing is when someone suggests a major change and I’m trying to figure out how to do it. :). i DO agree the writing is the best part.

            1. I hear you on the major changes. I’ve had a couple of those pointed out over the years, and it would change the entire book to do it their way. In the end, I kept it as it was because I liked my story the way it was.

              Now, there have been twice in the middle of writing that I had to go back and change a lot, but I don’t mind it so much then because the story isn’t finished yet. Once it’s finished, I don’t want to do any rewrites.

  2. G M Barlean says:

    Excellent post. This makes me want to get to work today! I love your blog.

  3. I agree with your insights into writing groups and free time- maybe not as much with the first point- writing what’s popular or what will sell. I wonder if that’s why there is such a glut of ya werewolves and vampire books out there? Because that was trending at the time? Problem is tends change faster than an author can publish. I try to follow my heart on this one and write the stories I feel compelled to write. I’m not trying to negate your point- just adding my two cents into the conversation!

    1. If you want to maximize how much you can possibility earn at writing, I think it’s important to look at what is selling well. More often than not, authors want to know how to make money. Every time I’ve asked for post ideas, someone will mention how to sell more books, and one of the ways to sell more books is to write what will appeal to the largest audience possible. It doesn’t guarantee the book will actually sell, but it increases the chances the book will sell. (Hopefully that makes sense. I have kids buzzing around me this morning, so my attention is divided.)

      I don’t think money is the sole thing to look at when writing books. I actually find it refreshing when someone is more concerned about writing what they’re passionate about than trying to keep up with trends. You’re right, though. The reason so many YA vampire and werewolves books exist is to chase the trend. I guess I lucked out that I happen to love writing romance. But I can’t bring myself to write New Adult serials that are the hot sellers because I have no passion for them. I also can’t get into romantic suspense or Christian mail-order bride stories which also sell very well. For me, if I can’t write what I’m excited about, writing just isn’t worth it. 🙂

  4. ronfritsch says:

    Writers need to learn to say no if they wish to reach their goals. As William Wordsworth said: “The world is too much with us.”

  5. P. C. Zick says:

    Good advice. I’m OK with most everything except the marketing. I’m trying to embrace it.

    1. Marketing is intimidating the way the experts tell us to do it. What I do is find two places I really like (for me it’s WordPress blog and Facebook) and engage with people by having conversations with them and hanging out. Then I link my name up to my website so they can find my books that way. There are some author groups I belong to, and that is a way of letting people know I’m an author, but I try to share my experiences and ask for new ideas rather than talking about my books. I think for people like me (who hate marketing and are introverts), it helps to think of marketing as a social activity rather than promotion.

      All that being said, you might find another method works better for you. 🙂 If you don’t do what you enjoy, it’ll be a pain.

      1. P. C. Zick says:

        That’s an excellent way to view this inevitable. I’m going to remember that. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. cav12 says:

    Point 2 resonated with me. I attended a writing workshop and well it was toxic. Suffice to say, I’ve never attended another workshop, not at that writers’ centre again. I have to admit to being a little apprehensive in sharing my writing after that situation. Comments need to be constructive and not a whipping.
    Great points Ruth 😀

    1. I agree 100%. There’s no point to going to a writer’s group if the atmosphere isn’t supportive and encouraging. We have enough stress in our lives. I went to one that was toxic, too, and getting out was the best thing I ever did. Afterwards, I got my enjoyment back when I wrote, and I grew much better as a writer. Good for you for leaving. I wish more writers would do that when they know a group is toxic, but I know too many who stay in.

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