Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Business of Writing

Seven years ago Jacky and I were sitting in her apartment in Brooklyn discussing what it would be like to own our own business and what we would do. Our lives were changing in significant ways (we were both making moves to New Jersey and getting married), so why not make the change full-circle and uproot our careers as well? A mere six months later we did it. We quit our jobs and started BookEnds, LLC.

Starting a new business is very much like seeking publication, and because of that I can identify with much of the angst our clients feel. Am I good enough, smart enough, strong enough to compete? All of these questions and more crossed our minds many times over the years—just as they cross the minds of every writer who's ever decided to seek publication.

So how do you get from a conversation over tea and moving boxes to multi-book deals, bestselling clients, and a successful business? The same way an author goes from tapping at the keyboard late into the night to a publishing deal, bestselling books, and a successful business—you take the plunge.

Jacky and I still laugh at how quickly BookEnds began and how easy it seemed—at least in hindsight. At the time, though, we worked hard. We did what any potential business owner should do. We took all of the knowledge we had about publishing and used it for the basis of our business plan. We then went out to learn more. We read books on agenting, business, and finances. We met with other business owners, agents, and experts to seek advice on what we would need to get started successfully, and we took risks and made mistakes. Mostly, though, we laid awake at night wondering what we had gotten ourselves into and obsessing over the book we couldn't sell and why we couldn't sell it (we still do that).

Every writer has, or should have, that one book that you submitted to agents years ago and that now makes you laugh at your naïveté. Remember when you thought that was the greatest thing you'd ever written or would ever write? Jacky and I laugh today at some of the ideas we had and some of the subjects we pursued, thinking it would be the next Da Vinci Code or South Beach Diet. Oh, we had so much to learn. And learn we did.

Today I feel much more confident about what we do—success can do that for you, as can knowledge. To really win at the game of business you need to seek knowledge, take risks, and revel in all of your successes. Have you gone from form rejections to personal feedback? Success! Did you get an article published in your local newspaper? Success! Have you seen a definite improvement in your own writing? Success!

Revel in all of those, continue to take risks, and allow yourself to evolve. BookEnds started out as a packaging company and we realized early on that packaging isn't our forte—we were meant to be agents. Are you writing mysteries when really you should be writing romance? Or nonfiction when your fingers itch to type about alien wars?

Success of any kind takes a lot of work and perseverance. Don’t be afraid of it and don't be afraid to take the steps that can get you there. Achieving the success you dream of may take a very different path from the one you envision (I know it did for us), but allowing yourself to follow that path can give you more satisfaction than you ever dreamed.


1 comment:

kris said...

Jessica, thank you for sharing these details of the road you've been traveling. It truly is heartening to be reminded that any path can bring readjustments, sleepless nights, and - hopefully - success.