How NOT to get a publishing deal, part 2...

"How can I find a publisher?"

Wrong question, Grasshopper. I hear it all the time, but that doesn't make it any more right. 

Backstory: I spend a fair amount of time each month on the phone with prospective authors who don't want to self-publish and so badly want to get a publishing deal. I don't charge for these consults; I consider them a way of a) establishing relationships with potential future ghosting clients and b) giving something back. Plus, it's fun to talk about the nuts and bolts of publishing. 

Most of the conversations tend to revolve around the author's lack of a marketing platform. Statements like, "You need to take twelve months and build your audience" drop from my lips like stray onions when I'm eating a street taco. (Mmmmm, street tacos...) But for the aspiring author, the focus is exclusively on publishers. What do they have to do to get one? What are publishers looking for? How big are advances (to which you might say, "How long is a piece of string?")? How much marketing do they do? 

Whoa, slow your roll, Malcolm Gladwell. You're forgetting a HUGE part of this whole equation.

The LITERARY AGENT. 

Agents catch a lot of hell from authors who don't know what they're talking about. They're The Man. They're parasites who take commissions for doing nothing. They reject really good books that are sure bestsellers (by which the complaining author means, they rejected my book). It's all nonsense. Literary agents (good ones, anyway) are essential to getting you a decent publishing deal...or any publishing deal, for that matter. They are a crucial part of the vetting process. An agent is driven by one concern above all others: will this book sell and make me money? After all, they make their living off commissions! Book no sell, they no get paid.

If you're on a track where writing a book and finding a publisher (and there ARE major advantages to striking a deal with a publisher, large or small, corporate or independent, which I will discuss in another post), then the question you should be asking isn't, "How can I find a publisher?" but "How can I find an agent?"

First of all, you won't get a deal with any major publisher without an agent. Period. Game over, go home, thanks for coming. Second, submitting your manuscript or book proposal to agents will provide you with some valuable feedback on making your work better. If the book or proposal isn't market ready, then nobody's going to take it on. Some agents will give you advice on making it better. I've had numerous occasions where great feedback from an agent has helped me redirect a book's theme or make the content more salable. These people know the business like no other. 

An agent rejected your book or proposal? Good. That's their job: to reject something because it's not commercially viable, has a weak platform or the writing is crap. Look at the rejection as evidence that you need to get over being lovestruck by your book and start looking at it with a critical eye: How can I improve my platform? How can I make this fit more clearly into a genre? How I can tighten the writing? 

Good agents will make you a better writer...even before they take you on as a client. So forget about finding a publisher. Make your work attractive to a great agent and let him or her do the work of finding you the right publisher. For more info about finding literary agents, check out AgentQuery.com or Publishers Marketplace. Also check out Noah Lukeman's wonderful blog, Ask A Literary Agent.

Now, go write. 

Why you can't finish your book...a (sexy) occasional series

If the book manuscript were a high school senior, it would be voted Most Likely Never to Be Finished. Like a male sex symbol in a ridiculous movie love scene that makes all us normal y-chromosomes feel terribly inadequate, the book project just keeps on going...and going...and going...

What gives? Why can't the manuscript reach a climax, burst forth its finished words and chapters in a rush of literary ecstasy, collapse in a sweaty heap, fall asleep on the wet spot while its lover is trying to cuddle—and suddenly I feel as though I've carried this metaphor just a wee bit too far...

Let's move on, shall we?

Fact is, most would-be authors never finish their books. Never even come close. To flog the sex analogy a bit further (I know I said I was done with it, but I lied; I do that), forget about orgasm. They've barely started to get into a good rhythm with their manuscript when something happens. The kids knock at the door. The phone rings. A hamstring cramp. A fart.

Result: zero consummation. 

The point is, it's hard enough to complete a 70,000 word manuscript when it's your profession. When you're also clocking hours as a physician, teacher, consultant, or CEO, forget it. I can't tell you how many authors I've talked to who've come to me after years—or decades—of frustrating attempts to finish their book in a form that they're happy with. 

There are a lot of reasons for this. Lack of time. The intimidation of the writing process. Not knowing how to organize and plan a book. Low confidence. That internal terrorist who whispers, "That last chapter you wrote? It's rhino shit. Delete it." I'm working on a book about this topic called Why You Can't Finish Your Book, due out sometime between next fall and the melting of the Antarctic Ice Shelf. It's going to talk about the six most common reasons novice authors fail to finish their books and some solutions. 

But here, I want to share one of my favorite tricks. It's a great way to get around the three biggest roadblocks for successful people: lack of time, lack of an understanding of their own writer's voice, and extreme discomfort with telling their own story. I've found it to be extremely effective at getting tentative aspiring authors to loosen up and get their story down. Keep in mind, this trick works best for nonfiction books, especially books based on your personal story like memoirs, business success stories or self-help books. 

Here it is: RECORD YOURSELF TELLING SOMEONE ELSE YOUR STORY.

It's magic. When you're talking to someone else about yourself, you're not self-conscious because you're not bragging. You're sharing. I've seen authors with zero confidence in their ability to string five words together become honest-to-God storytellers doing this. They come alive. It's basically the same process I go through in interviewing my clients, only without me being involved. 

It's simple. Find someone who has 3-4 hours to spend with you in a quiet place where you'll be undisturbed. Buy them lunch or pay them if you need to, but make sure it's someone smart who will ask smart questions. Get a digital recorder and turn it on. Speak. Tell your story to this other person. Allow them to ask questions, but avoid rabbit holes. Stay on topic. Every hour, take a five minute break and then start again. When you're done, send the audio files to a company like Rev to be transcribed and voila! You have your story (at least its basics) and a good representation of your voice, captured. 

All writers use shortcuts. This is one. I'll share others in the future. Now, go write. 

How to make your book pay...without selling a copy

One of the most constant questions I hear from my ghostwriting clients is "How many books do I have to sell to cover my costs?" For most of them, this is the wrong question. 

Why? Because many of the people who spend time and money creating a nonfiction book—ghostwritten or otherwise—are professionals who are writing a book to give themselves the "brand halo" of expertise. In our culture, despite our migration to all things digital, having a book with your name on it still confers the mantle of authority, knowledge and expert status. 

If you're a consultant, financial advisor, speaker, coach, trainer, healthcare provider, attorney, entrepreneur or anyone who can make a living based on your brains and your reputation, your book's primary value has NOTHING to do with its ability to sell copies at $25 per. It has everything to do with making others perceive what you do, say and write as more valuable than if you didn't have a book. 

Does this mean you shouldn't care about selling copies of your book? Heavens no! It's great if you can move 5,000 copies of a ghostwritten book and cover your writing and maybe even your printing costs. It's even better if you can get a publishing deal and land a $50,000 advance that puts you in the black (or at least gives you the cash to hire a good publicist). But if you're in a position to benefit from the "expertise halo" of a book, concern over selling individual copies shouldn't stop you from getting a book of your own. I've had professional speaker clients who've self-published books and told me that within six months, their speaking fees had doubled...solely because they had a book to point to. 

So, what are some of the ways you can see a financial return on your book without stressing out over single-copy sales? Glad you asked:

  • Sell copies in bulk. Single copy sales, frankly, are for suckers. If you have strong relationships with corporations, universities, nonprofits or churches, talk to them about buying copies of your book in bulk. You'll need to offer them a discount, of course, but look at it this way: if you self-publish and sell your book for $20, and give a 40% discount to an organization that buys 500 copies or more, you only need to make two 500-copy sales to gross $12,000. Not bad. 
  • Increased fees. Big bulk sales are comparatively rare, but getting higher fees due to the prestige of having a book is not. This is where a book can really pay off: boosting your hourly or flat rate into the stratosphere. I've had consultant clients who were able to double their hourly rate within a year of publishing their books, more than covering the entire cost of ghostwriting and self-publishing. 
  • More and better business. The other huge ROI in having a book comes from attracting a higher caliber of customer or client. If you want to stop taking every low-ball client that comes along, write a book. It's a gateway to the premium clients who can afford your higher fees. You'll get more leads of higher quality than before you had a book, and you might even turn the leads you don't want into revenue by referring those prospects to colleagues in return for a referral fee. This really becomes true when you use your book to get...
  • Media appearances. Having a book makes you an expert in other people's eyes. Now, we know that plenty of people who have books are actually blithering morons; a few hours of watching CNN or Fox proves that. But the point is, they're getting major media time because they have a book with their name on it. You can do the same, and the attention makes you a super-expert. Not only do you have a book, but you've been on the local NPR affiliate talking about it! Please, take my money!
  • Speaking fees. Plenty of service professionals speak for free, largely because they're afraid to ask to be paid. That won't happen when you have a book. In the world of speaking, the most common question asked of prospective speakers is, "Do you have a book?" If you do, your chances of being paid to speak go up dramatically. If you're already being paid, you can increase your fees. Even speaking engagements where fees aren't on the table become revenue streams because you can sell copies of your book to tour audience (that's known as "back of the room" sales). 
  • New services. Finally, your book can open the door to provide services that you couldn't realistically offer before. For example, I've worked with several healthcare professionals who were fed up with running clinical practices and wanted to do things like consulting with corporate clients on developing employee wellness programs. The gateway to breaking into that market? A book. 

Let's say that it costs you $60,000 for ghostwriting, design, editing, proofreading, printing and shipping of your self-published book. If your ROI was based solely on copies sold, you'd have to move thousands and thousands of copies just to break even. But if your focus is on increasing your value and using that increase to boost your income through higher fees, new services and better clients, then you might recoup your costs in six months! Then, everything else is profit.

Of course, making all this happen means having your goals in mind and using your book properly as a marketing and business development tool: blogging and speaking about book content, leveraging LinkedIn and other social networks, developing new services, developing a PR plan to leverage your status as an author, and so on. It's not easy. But having a terrific book makes it a lot easier. 

How NOT to get a publishing deal, part 1...

"I'm sure lots of publishers will want to publish my book," the novice author said to me over the phone. I blinked hard, thankful for the 9,8713th time that Skype and FaceTime remain the exception for remote communication, not the rule, and replied in a voice that a psychologist might use to humor a madman, "Really? Why is that?"

"Because it's really good."

Sigh. I'm not bashing. She was a nice, smart woman whose idea was quite strong. But she was completely in the dark as far as what it takes to get a publishing deal these days. The ecosystem of publishing has changed so much in the past decade that it's easy to forget that even with self-published books multiplying like the weeds in my front yard (I'll have you, clover, if it's the last thing I do!) landing a contract with a publishing company is still the best way to build a career as an author. But it's never been easy, and it's harder now in some ways than ever. 

First of all, you've got to understand the playing field. The world of publishing breaks down into the following categories:

  1. The Big Five: HarperCollins, Hachette, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster. They're divisions of huge corporations, so the bottom line is everything. They can write the biggest checks and make books into huge bestsellers, but they're also everybody's target so they get tons of submissions. 
  2. Smaller but still big houses, commonly more niche-based publishers like Wiley (business books) and Rodale (health and wellness books). They're good destinations for your book if you fit their requirements. 
  3. Independent presses. There are thousands of these, often focused on literary fiction, but not always. You won't get big advance checks from small presses, but you will get more attention and more risk taking. Every so often, a small press will break loose a big book, such as "Go the F*ck to Sleep" from Akashic Press. One of my favorites: Quirk Books out of Philadelphia. 
  4. University presses. There are hundreds of top university presses ranging from the publishing arms of Harvard and Princeton to the University of Kansas and—as you might expect from its renowned MFA program—the University of Iowa. U presses are friendly to scholarly books on history, literary analysis and the like, but many are also after prestige fiction and the like.
  5. Trade and pulp publishers. From Prentice-Hall to Harlequin, these are the houses that produce everything from bodice-ripper romances to textbooks and professional training manuals. 

The point is, you don't just write your book and start sending it to these publishers. Even if you're dealing with the indy presses, which have always been amenable to working directly with writers as opposed to literary agents, you've got to know the likely best market for your work. EVERYBODY wants to get a $250,000 advance from a Big Five house, but unless you have a big idea and a big platform, it's probably not going to happen, especially with nonfiction. If you've written an experimental novel in the second person POV about a sexy, time-shifting, pansexual vampire hunter who speaks in ancient Middle English, don't ride your agent's ass about sending the manuscript to Random House. A daring indy press is probably a much, much better fit. 

How NOT to get a publishing deal #1: Don't do any research on which category of publisher—as well as which individual publishing houses—might be best suited for your book based on their publishing history and stated needs. 

Now, I'm off to work on this new thing, a novel about a time-shifting, pansexual vampire hunter who...

On behalf of my fellow ghostwriters, I apologize.

THE HORROR...THE HORROR...

THE HORROR...THE HORROR...

I apologize for Sarah Palin. For any and all Kardashians, present or future. And for Bill O'Reilly. And for every famous-but-talentless, ego-driven douchewad who's ever Roofied and date-raped the New York Times bestseller list with a ghostwritten memoir or self-help book. I apologize because it's 99 percent certain that said talent-free famous person had the help of a ghostwriter in producing the tome that launched a thousand snarky Amazon.com reviews. And my fellow ghosts, we have got to be accountable. 

Yes, I understand as well as any ghostwriter that it's—at least in part—about making a living, and celebrity books pay very well. I've written a few. Some did well, some bombed, and with all, I gave my very best. But the fact remains that some people's thoughts just should not ever...ever go into book form

EVER.

I mean, did the world need multiple books about the Amanda Knox case? Or a book by Michelle Bachmann, who's so mentally unstable that bats are suing to prevent the term "batshit crazy" from ever being associated with her again? Really? What kind of monster would unleash Justin Bieber: Just Getting Started on an unsuspecting world? 

Few of these atrocities would be possible without the willing services of ghostwriters. Millions of trees would be spared the ignominy of giving their lives to 50 Cent's "The 50th Law." So why do these books happen and why will they continue to happen as long as there are famous people, egotistical people and people who aren't famous but are willing to be well paid to make inarticulate people sound semi-literate? Three big reasons:

  1. Famous people sell books. Publishers love when a famous person gets a hard-on for writing and promoting a book. They know that a tell-all by Selena Gomez will blow out 250,000 downloads on the Apple iBook store. What does it matter if she has no time to write or can barely manage a sentence longer than tweet? If she's willing to go on Ellen to flog her "confessional," by God, HarperCollins will write her a big check. 
  2. Important people really, really want to have books. CEOs, political leaders, entrepreneurs (I've done books for the lot)—they all tend to have sizable resumes and egos to match, and they often have stories they want to share with the world. Think former GE CEO and legend Jack Welch. These folks may not be famous in the mainstream, but they have big bucks, massive personal networks and raving fans in the business world. So they hook up with ghosts to turn out books on leadership, business success and innovation.
  3. Did I mention that ghosting for famous people pays well? It does, and no ghostwriter worth his or her laptop will turn down a nice percentage of an advance because the "author" is a brainless reality show star who will sigh and bitch through one half-day session of recorded interviews and then coo, "Oh, you just write the rest, m'kay?" 

But still, there must be some mea and some culpa on behalf of the entire profession. It's we ghostwriters who have enabled an entire sub genre of "bubblegum nonfiction." It's we who have driven stacks of worthy memoirs, biographies and health books off the bestseller lists in favor of Real Housewife Melissa Gorga's Love, Italian Style, one of the worst-reviewed books on Amazon in years. 

And that brings up a point. Ghostwriting isn't going anywhere, not as long as there are famous, infamous, successful and insanely socially networked people. But if we're going to publish books by such individuals, the least we ghosts can do is make the books interesting. After all, we have the power to put words in people's mouths. Let's try to make them interesting. 

OK, so I'm NOT doing National Novel Writing Month

I went into November with the best of intentions. Really. I was going to slag my fiction demons, slip my mental self-editor monkey a couple of Roofies and some Nyquil and novel my little heart out. The result would have been 50,000-ish words on baseball. Or perhaps building a wooden sailboat. Or Biblical figures reimagined as profane action heroes. Or something. 

But I'm not doing NaNoWriMo. First of all, it's the lame-o name shortening. Really? Does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call itself CenDiConPrev on its sexy yet bacteriological Twitter feed? No, no it doesn't.  

But it's not just the name. It's the fact that fiction just doesn't turn me on. I labored for a month to come up with a story idea that would thrill me/chill me/fulfill me and found myself with nothing more to show for my efforts than empty bottles of wine (Damn you, Sonoma County vintners! Damn you all to Hell!)  and Word pages littered with total illogic in Times New Roman. 

Simply said, I wasn't feeling it. At all. Part of it is wiring. I'm a nonfiction guy. I'm a journalist. I think the human heart in conflict with itself is the most fascinating thing in the world. Next weekend, I'll be going to a counter-protest against the National Socialist Movemen (read: Nazis), which is staging a rally here in KC. You can't expect me to believe that writing werewolves, disaffected "dudes" or whodunit tropes is going to top that

I also have no patience for the conventions of fiction, in part because few novelists surpass them. I roll my eyes at the obligatory introductory exposition on the protagonist, the inevitable stock characters of pulp and genre fiction, the tiresome and pedantic surrogacy of style and cadence in place of actual "what happened to whom" story that's so common in writers like Franzen. A small, fuck-me-but-they're-talented League of Extraordinary Authors manages to surprise and delight beyond this much-discovered country: Susanna Clarke, Glen Duncan, Michael Chabon, others. But most leave me cold, and so fiction—reading it and writing it—does, too. 

Plus, I write books for a living. I write every damned day. A lot. It's work. Pardon me for not getting all flushed and giddy at the prospect of turning out another 50K words when I already have four books to finish by year's end.  

So no NaNo for me. Not this year. Bravo to the intrepid Riders of the Purple Prose who are laboring like Beethoven at the keyboard, hurdling story blocks, truculent characters and clichés as stubborn as deeply buried hickory splinters. You kick ass. If you've never finished a book before, I sincerely hope you do. I hope it's a defining moment and you crouch on your haunches and bark Whitman's "barbaric yawp" at the TV or your neighbors. I hope you make it and that it's like sex and crack and chocolate for you. 

But I won't be joining you. No regrets.  

Trust: The author's killer app

I bought Bill Bryson's latest book, "One Summer," last night. I simply saw it on the shelf at my local bookstore, grabbed it, paid for it and walked out. There was no hesitation. But later on I asked myself, "Why did I do that?" 

The answer is simple: trust. Trust is a critical element of success that most authors—and certainly most aspiring authors—never talk about. You must have the ability to get your readers to trust you if you're ever to have a relationship that turns them into repeat book buyers.  

I've loved Bryson's works ever since I laughed myself stupid reading "Notes From A Small Island" while on a trip to Europe in 1999. Back then, he was primarily writing travel nonfiction, and since I was traveling for months to many of the locales about which he'd written, I devoured three more of his books on my journey. I've been a raving fan ever since, even though he's moved on to more of what I would call "historical-anthropological nonfiction."  

Bill Bryson has my trust. I trust that he will not waste my time or my money. I trust that his books will be worth my investment. A number of other writers—Harlan Ellison, Jim Collins, Glen Duncan, Michael Chabon, Jeff Sharlett—have my trust as well. Most don't. They haven't earned it by delivering material that consistently teaches, entertains, challenges, amuses or wrings my emotions.  

I'd like to see more authors—fiction and nonfiction—talk more about engendering trust in their readers as part of building long-term relationships. We're so awash in entertainment options, from e-books and blogs to YouTube, Netflix and rich media tablet "zines", that it's easy to flit from one to the other and ignore those that we feel might not be worth our limited time. When an author earns the trust of a reader, he or she can cut through the noise and get that reader's loyalty—rise to the top of the priority list. 

In my work with my ghostwriting clients, I often talk about earning reader trust, especially when working on business books. Books aimed at executives need to maintain one primary goal above all others: deliver useful information quickly and concisely. Don't waste a second of the reader's time, because odds are he's a busy C-suite resident who's reading your book on a flight from LAX to JFK and if he can't finish it by the time the wheels hit the tarmac, he ain't gonna finish it. You earn that reader's trust by giving him something of value in a way that says, "I get you, and I respect your time." 

Authors don't have to get inside their readers' heads, but they do have to understand the common qualities that lead to reader trust. There are a few: entertaining story, strong pacing, clear delivery of facts and/or character detail, sharp dialogue (if fiction is your thing), emotional connection, and value. Value, value, value. At the end of the book, the reader should smack his/her lips and say, "Yeah, that was worth my time." Oh, and concision. Get in, tell the story, and get out. Don't pad. Be lean, lithe and spare. Few things kill reader trust as quickly as feeling like they just read 100 pages they didn't need to read. If you want to get lost in asides and trivia, read, Marcel Proust, Laurence Sterne and Herman Melville.  

Now I'm off to read my Bryson book. On a plane. I won't finish it, but I don't care. Peace.  

"I've Always Wanted to Write a Book, But..." Part 1

It's the comment I hear the most just before people ask me what I charge. There are thousands of executives and professionals out there—CEOs, entrepreneurs, attorneys, physicians, financial professionals—who are dying to have their own books but can't find the time to write them. Now, it's true that many of them also lack the writing skill; that's just the law of averages. But 99 percent of them will never know because they can't find the time to sit down and try writing.  

I have one recent client who tried for 20 years to write her book but couldn't find a way to make it a priority. I coached and "book doctored" her to the finish line. But I can't do that for everyone. So, I'm starting a blog series on writing your book even though you think you have no time.  

Step One: Get the story down.  

Amateur writers think the task of writing the book starts with sitting down at the computer and staring at a blank page. It doesn't. It starts by capturing your personal story: bio, anecdotes, important life lessons and so on. You don't do that at the keyboard. You do that by speaking and having your words recorded.  

So if you're feeling daunted by the task of stringing together 60,000 words, step back and start by rethinking. You don't need to find time to write for an hour every day; you need to find time to record your story. You can do that while you're driving, in bed, or over a quiet lunch. I recommend finding a friend who's an experienced interviewer, maybe a journalist or even an HR professional. Make an appointment for them to interview you about your life, career, lessons you want to share with your readers, whatever. Set aside two hours on a Saturday morning, invite them to your home, sit down, turn on the recorder, and talk. Let the interviewer run the show. You'll be amazed at how much you can get down on tape (or more properly, hard drive).  

Pro tip: If you have a smart phone, download a fantastic free app called Rev. You can use this to record your entire interview on your iPhone or Android phone (make sure your battery is fully charged first). When your interview is done, a touch sends the audio file to Rev.com, the transcription company that I use for all my clients. They'll turn your transcription around in a few days for $1 per minute. Then you'll have pages and pages of your story on paper, ready to use! It's an awesome way to get started. 

Is Seth Godin right?

Full disclosure: my "annoying, know-it-all douchebag" alarm starts blaring when I see someone who's billed as "author and thinker," as Seth Godin is. Pardon me, but doesn't the fact that we all have a neocortex capable of cognitive processing (with the exception of some Republican members of the House of Representatives) make us all "thinkers"? 

Okay, rant concluded. Onward... 

Anyway, I actually like Godin more than the rest of the "answers to Big Questions" crowd, such as Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Pink. Seth seems pretty down-to-earth and commonsensical, which is refreshing. But he stuck a broadsword deep in the side of the vulnerable independent bookstore not long ago when he wrote: 

“Great independent bookstores deserve to thrive, and I hope they will. But they won’t thrive as local substitutes for Amazon. They will make it if they become hubs, connectors and gift shops…More important, though, is the idea of a local place where smart people go to meet each other and the ideas they care about. We shouldn’t have that because it’s the last chance of the local bookstore, we should have that because it’s worth doing.”

Is he right? I suspect he is. After all, home video and Netflix didn't make people stop going to movie theaters, but streaming on-demand movies did pretty much drive Blockbuster into extinction. Amazon and ebooks don't seem likely to kill books, but they do seem likely to change the way we buy them, which is what Netflix did to retail video rental and then to retail DVD sales.

The question is, what about the experience of browsing, discovering and sampling new books like one does a flight of new wines? What's going to happen to that? Is that the future rule of indy bookstores, or is some new form of book-centric gathering spot going to spring up for the millions who adore the smell of ink on paper and the rustle of pages turning under the hand of an unseen person in the next aisle? 

What say you? 

 

Secrets to Making a Living as a Writer, Pt. 1

I got my dander up at a Facebook post referencing an article that lamented the difficulty most writers have making a living writing full-time. I've seen a lot of writers come and go in my career and the ones who make a good living have three qualities in common:

  1. They ditch the romanticism about "being a writer" and learn to love whatever they are writing that pays the bills. So many of the failed writers I see are failed novelists; they can't conceive of doing any other kind of writing. But there are dozens of different types of writing that can yield a paycheck. If you cry, "But the only kind of writer I want to be is a novelist!", then good luck to you, but very few writers make a living doing that. 
  2. They're versatile. They write travel articles. They edit. They ghostwrite. They write ad copy. They write speeches. They develop chops at all of the above and more so that when the well runs dry in the kind of writing they love, they have a way to keep the lights on until things pick up. 
  3. They build a professional network. A lot of amateur writers limit their circle to the members of their writer's group. Writer's groups are okay, but if you want to write for a living you need something more. You need a network of agents, editors, published authors, journalists, creative directors—anyone you can connect with who's in the writing business. Not only will they become your best source of work, but your best source of feedback and information about the biz.