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Choosing One Side of the House

In the publishing world there are many houses in which to hang your hat. A house is simply one aspect of the business: i.e. writer, editor, agent, publicist, marketing rep, publisher, copywriter, etc.

People choose an aspect of the business on which they wish to concentrate their efforts and take up that role.

The question comes up for all of us in this business. “What will you concentrate your energies on?”

The Dedicated Writer  

For some, writing for publication is the only goal. The dedicated writer cannot envision any other use for time and energy than to dictate stories, articles, books, or poems. The occasional diversion into marketing happens because the writer needs to sell something written.

Acting as an editor only comes during the need to critique another writer’s work who happens to belong to the writer’s critique group. The purpose of that exercise also helps to sharpen the writer’s own skills for self-editing. Today’s dedicated writer invariably belongs to a minimum of one writer’s critique group, and sometimes belongs to as many as one or two online groups and one face-to-face group. The latter scenario is common.

Many dedicated writers choose not to have an agent. Some don’t want to pay someone else to do what they feel can be done by the writer. Other’s don’t want to go through what they see as the hassle and time it takes to peddle themselves to an agent. Some do well for themselves with book contracts and periodical work and, therefore, don’t require an agent. By the same token, the average copywriter doesn’t need one, either.

Writers who work in several genres, might have as many as two or three agents. One agent for suspense thrillers, one for children’s books, and one for non-fiction books. A separate agent for screenplays or stage plays, too, tends to be indispensable. This is possible because agents each tend to deal only with certain markets. This, too, is common.

Professionals and the Dedicated Writer  

Marketing reps usually work for the publishing house and work with the author after a book deal has been signed. It’s their job to find successful retail outlets for the project as well as get pre-release reviews lined up, live interviews with the author, etc. The job takes finesse, savvy, and lots of hard work.

Many self-published authors hire a publicist to do press releases, set up interviews, etc. so that they don’t have to learn the ins and outs of that job, too. They want and need the publicity, but they don’t want the headaches of the work nor lose the writing time to it. Today’s publicist does a good deal of online work, getting the author’s name on as many cyber lips as possible. Being part of the Buzz can help the writer with sales.

Of course, there are those who recognize talent when they read it and want to create their own small press. With the current internet atmosphere, such presses are springing up every day. With a small grant to cover initial start-up costs and to carry the publisher for the first year, this enterprise can work very well, according to the business plan being used. Regardless of the business sense behind the press, however, without the ability to recognize excellent writers who can carry a reading audience, the press risks folding in short order. This goes for start-up magazines, too, on or off-line.

When A Writer Doesn’t Do Novels   

These are the major pre-release players in the publishing game. The versatile writer might use all of them before a career in publishing becomes life-long. These are the players with whom every writer needs to get acquainted.

Not every writer will make it to stardom. Not every writer will make book deals or enjoy editors calling them to dispense assignments for hefty sums. And not every writer is suited to work in that pressure cooker called the book market.

Every decent writer has a desire to share a personal view of the world. A writer also has several talents. Such talents are:

1. A good imagination and ability to see concepts.

2. An ability to know when they’re reading something good.

3. An ability to recognize when something is off in what they read.

4. A sixth sense about when a story device will work and when it won’t.

5. An ability to recognize a catchy slogan or pitch when it’s heard.

6. An ability to accurately critique, at least to some degree, others’ work.

Did you notice all those A’s on the writer’s report card? Some are natural and some are learned. All exist for the writer and used at will.

Many writers come to a conclusion early on that they don’t really have what it takes to make it as a novelist. That’s simply not how their head works. They think in short stories, some complex, some simplistic. They might also be clever with turns of phrase and do better with copywriting where the writer’s talent can concentrate on individual client’s needs for personalized work.

Still other writers begin to understand that their true talent is expressed with a blue pencil from behind the editor’s desk. They see better what someone else’s story needs than they ever did on their own.

Perhaps, the writer has a knack for finding good markets for work that isn’t their own. Figuring out the best way to get the word out about someone’s new book comes naturally to some people, and the knowledge must be shared with the other writer.

Many writers begin as editors, or take the reverse position. They might also do both.  Others are more comfortable finding talent and publishers who can use that talent. It takes all the pieces of the puzzle to make a complete picture.


A position waits for each writer. The city newspaper needs a food columnist. The local PTA requires someone to create a newsletter for members. A small press in the next town needs regular tourist information pieces written for publication for the Chamber of Commerce. The local historical society needs several plays written for summer production during the town’s Centennial. The local American Legion chapter wants a book written about its early founders.

Not everyone is a novelist. Not everyone can find markets for written work. Not everyone can broker book deals.

With uncounted words written every day by thousands of writers, both well-known and those as-yet-undiscovered, writers have an open field of flowers from which to pluck. It is up to the individual writer to choose a role that will keep them happy and productive. Sooner or later all writers must choose which side of the house is right for them.

A bientot,


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