What the book is about
The title says it all. Assuming that you can write, by which I mean in a way that engages others and informs them or challenges them or has some other intended effect on them, how can you make money from being a wordsmith?
The inclusion of the word ‘business’ in the title is important. It suggests being serious about being a writer — serious enough to consider yourself a professional.
When I came across the book I requested a review copy, but I did so with some misgivings. Jane Friedman, the author, is a seasoned professional but — and this is important too — she is an American. I have nothing against Americans of course, but it needs to be factored in because when it comes to legal issues, what applies in the USA won’t always apply in the UK. To take a simple example, the term Fair Use has a different meaning in each country.
However, I need not have worried. There is enough good advice in this book to serve writers from anywhere.
There are five main sections, plus appendices. These are as follows:
Understanding the publishing industry
The writer as entrepreneur
How writers make money
These broad categories do not convey the level of detail that Friedman goes into. For example, she discusses the importance of building relationships, different kinds of outlets, pitching editors, writing for free, and even what to say in your bio.
If you are interested in writing a book, you will be glad to know that agents and working with publishers are covered, as is self-publishing.
On the other hand, if you’re interested in freelancing as an editor, that’s covered too. Plus freelance writing, and even teaching online. On the matter of courses, advice is provided on the nitty-gritty of course videos, and marketing.
The sections on contracts, legal issues and recommended resources will be very useful in a general sense and especially for writers based in the USA. However, in my experience contracts especially are such a minefield that I would highly recommend joining a relevant society if you’re eligible, and asking them to check contracts you’re sent. I do this with the UK’s Society of Authors, and the contract-checking service is excellent value for money.
Is it readable/enjoyable/useful?
The book is a really useful directory. Each topic is covered in an interesting way, with plenty of insights from the author’s experience. The structures of each section makes it an easy read too, especially for reference purposes. To be specific, topics are divided into subheadings, questions and answers or bullet points.
The reason I regard the book as a kind of directory is that there is enough on each section to get you thinking along the right lines, and to make a decision whether that particular form of publishing or earning money is right for you. However, I think that if you want to delve more deeply into a particular area you would need to consult a more specialised work. That is not intended to be a criticism by the way: if everything was covered in depth, the book would be more like an encyclopaedia and cost a lot more.
I have been using the book as a reference book, and as a dipping-into book. However, it’s written in such a way that you could read it from cover to cover and find it useful.
I also like the writing style, or tone, of the book. It reads like the author’s blog posts and newsletters: informal, but authoritative.
Given its general nature, is it worth buying? There is always the danger that when too much is covered, any one reader will find only a small proportion of the book relevant. I have not found this to be the case. There are so many nuggets of wisdom that it’s very good value for money.
Also, people’s ideas change. For example, I have recently started to wonder about attempting to get an article or two published in literary journals. Fortunately, having read the section on the pros and cons of doing so, I can make that decision with my eyes wide open.
Also, given the extent and breadth of the author’s experience, you can be certain of her ‘credentials’ for writing the book in the first place.
Bottom line: buy it.
Star rating (/5)
As I said earlier, I was sent a review copy of this book. That hasn’t influenced my review of it.
Here’s a link to the book on Amazon UK. Please note that this is an Amazon affiliate link.
I have added this book to the recommended reading list of a course I hope to run for adults.