Friday, September 6, 2019

The Business of Being A Writer: a review?

I never read these type of books. This time, with that old familiar feeling surrounding my recent book--which pretty much TOOK EVERY SINGLE IMPORTANT PART OF ME AND MY INCONSEQUENTIAL LIFE TO WRITE, NEARLY KILLING ME IN THE PROCESS--flatlining in terms of both sales and expectations, I reticently turned to an expert: Jane Friedman.

Even I've heard of her!

She's this writing/publishing guru with columns in great journals and lectures on getting a life and organizations she's founded and sites for writer-types to visit and books that she's written and savvy to demonstrate . . . you get the picture.

True, I only just became aware of this book: The Business of Being A Writer. It's too bad for me that I didn't read this before the publication of my new-ish novel. Her book came out in March 2018, and And So We Die, Having First Slept came out in November 2018. I admit that a very big part of me wonders if I might have avoided my own brutal publishing backstory (found here). What would I have done differently?

Actually, this book compelled me to reach back even further. Farther? Further? Oh no. No wonder. How might I have done this writing life differently?

You should read it. I listened on audio, and I might "invest" (see how I'm using these words now?) in a hard copy to own and mark up. I think it was valuable in multiple ways, though--I guess I'll admit it--I sorta feel like my career is what it is, and that's all there is to it. I'm 49. I have three books. I've published traditionally and that other way. I go to AWP. I even lived in New York once!

I did start an author newsletter using mail chimp, based on her words. Also, I'm trying to hold back on my Facebook blasts promoting myself ad nauseum--which tend to result in absolutely no sales whatsoever and a severe case of self-loathing. That said, we recently got a kitten named Beesly (named after Pam Beesly in "The Office") and I just want to share a million photos of her all over social media.

I won't go over everything here. Just some stuff. In the beginning, she spends a lot of time talking about how writers resist business logistics, how often enough they coddle that image of the solitary rogue-of-an-artist, how they proudly declare that they want nothing to do with the mechanics of earning a living. I read it, and all I could say was, Oy.

She also speaks about how MFA programs often focus solely on the craft of literary fiction--not really looking at the business end. Again: Oy. (I loved my MFA program, and I loved focusing on craft. But. But. But.)

She also says that self-publishing may be problematic for literary fiction writers. Still: Oy.

And then there's the adjunct pay thing and the contracts that involve rights and how many words you get to quote without seeking permission. The epigraph to And So We Die, Having First Slept is the entirety of a Sappho poem. I asked no one for permission.

For my next book, I'll be talking to Bono.

Friedman's book is a crash course on the business. Good book!

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To see my blog, go here: BOSCO'S GOING DOWN!

So many options: And So We Die, Having First Slept.

What a trip it's been.


  1. Jennifer: Thank you so much for reading and for the review. I don't think I mentioned this in the book, but you can't go wrong with social media posts about your pets (esp. cats), even multiple times a day. When in doubt, post a cat pic. That alone almost deserves its own chapter. (Perhaps if there's a 2nd edition.)

    May your career keep blooming in unexpected ways!

    1. Thank you! And you're very right about cats. I try to give the dog his time too. Second edition!

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  8. So how many words is it? And I get the feeling Sappho won't find out ...but somebody probably found a way to buy the rights, who may mind... so I won't tell!