The Small Business of Writing

women writers writing small-business

I recently “attended” the online Women in Publishing Summit where women from all avenues of the writing/publishing world spoke, addressing different topics. One of the talks mentioning branding struck me in particular.

Dana Malstaff, bestselling author and founder of Boss Mom, said that when it came time to give her book a title, she garnered the opinions of her followers, having them take a poll. She said the title they chose was the one she had liked the LEAST. And yet, because that’s what her audience liked, that’s what she stuck with.

As I heard her say it, I was reminded of an Egyptian saying I heard long ago from my grandmother. Roughly translated it says, “Eat what you like, but wear what others like.” And all my life I thought that was a load of crap. I’m going to eat AND wear what I like, thank you very much! If one pays such attention to the opinions of people around her, she will live forever at the mercy of their judgement.

And I still feel this way…about one’s personal life.

Malstaff’s experience opened my mind to the possibility that taking people’s opinions into account can sometimes be better for you professionally.

When it comes to business (and writers are essentially small business owners), you have to cater to your audience. So if your followers prefer one title over another, you should go with the one they choose. If they prefer one logo over another, again, you should follow their advice. Because in the end, these are the representatives of your larger audience, and they are telling you “I am more likely to spend my money on this title and this logo.”

As I listened to the talk, I remember thinking, “But where do you draw the line? Do you let them decide character names? What about plot points?”

But honestly, I don’t think that line is a very fine one. I think that the audience can help you gauge the outside of your product, the look, how it’s presented, but they will continue to follow you because they enjoy the meat of your work, the stories you produce.

Well, what about sequels? What if you never intended to write a sequel for your novel, but your readers keep asking about one, what then? Before I watched this talk, I was of the opinion that I would not write a sequel based on popular demand. But now, if I’m thinking like a business woman, I think I may have to reconsider.

I’m going to continue to eat and wear what I like, but when it comes to my books—their titles, their covers and anything else related to how they look—I’ve begun to shift my reasoning. I’m convinced that even if it goes against my own desire, I should take the advice of my audience. Not only will including them in such an important decision help to make stronger connections, but it will also encourage them to purchase my products, knowing that their opinions are invaluable to me.

About that sequel to Behind Picket Fences? I haven’t decided yet. I’ll keep you updated.

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