• Melissa Koons

Writing is a Business

Updated: Feb 16, 2019

Writing is a business. The problem is, I have never studied business. To be successful as a writer, I have to develop skills that my other careers taught me never to use: social media.

Writing is a business. I have no argument with that. If you are trying to sell and market your work to make even an inkling of profit off of writing—then it is a business.

The problem I have is that I never studied business. I went to college and got my undergraduate degree in English and secondary education. I know the ins and outs of the English language (or at least, to the extent that I could afford with my undergraduate tuition. I could get a Ph. D in Linguistics and still have more to learn.) I know how to craft a story. I have studied the construction of literature and analyzed the different literary movements. I have studied how to break down all that information and teach it to teen and pre-teen brains.

I did not study business.

Alas, after I left my teaching career to pursue one as a writer and editor, I had to learn business. Luckily, some of the aspects of being an entrepreneur come naturally to me. Where I struggle most—and where most authors I have talked to struggle, as well—is marketing. I want people to read my work. I want people to employ me to edit their manuscripts or essays. I want to use my skills to connect with fellow readers and writers, but I struggle with marketing.

Marketing doesn’t come easily to me. It feels strange—like walking for the first time. I can see how all the moving pieces link together, but each step I take feels wobbly and irregular.

My business partner has worked in marketing for seven years and it comes to him as naturally as breathing air. I ask him for advice and try to follow his lead, but for some reason I still struggle. It probably doesn’t help that I’m learning new applications on top of marketing terms and strategies. Being only 28 years old, you would think I’d have more experience with social media than I do, but that’s been a huge learning curve.

As a teacher, we were encouraged to not have any social media accounts or to limit it to only one. This is because of the strict teacher screening that happens at most districts. Teachers have lost their jobs over posting pictures of themselves enjoying a glass of wine in Paris with their significant other because it “promoted alcohol use.” After receiving this cautionary tale in my teacher induction program, I made a wide, side-step from social media accounts and limited myself to Facebook only. I had an account so that I could connect with friends only and I kept everything set to private so that if I didn’t know you, you didn’t know what I was posting. I didn’t share anything publicly because I viewed it as unprofessional for strangers, employers, and students to see what I was doing in my personal life. I didn’t want to risk losing my job and getting blacklisted because I went to a rock concert with my friend, or enjoyed a martini at the ballet with my sister.

As a teacher, this made complete sense. However, now as a writer and editor, I am paying for it. While I still keep most of my personal life private (because strangers don’t need to see how I broke my sewing machine by accidentally sewing my finger while hemming a skirt, they don’t care… my friends barely care…) I do need to have a public presence to connect with potential clients and readers. This has been particularly difficult for me to adjust to because I had trained myself to not share anything public. Ever.

In the last few months I have had to learn Twitter, Instagram, hashtags, and generally how google search works. Despite how intuitive it may be to others, this has been a real struggle for me. I can’t just make a post, I have to have a picture and some number of hashtags to go with it to generate any notice. This triggered a whole slew of questions about this new world I was taking my first wobbly steps into.

How do hashtags work? Why do I need them? How many do I need? Are there specific ones I should use? Will people get mad at me if I use their hashtag? Will people get mad at me if I use the wrong one?

While I never had a public presence on the internet before, that doesn’t mean I lived under a rock either. I know how cruel the trolls on the internet can be. The last thing I wanted was to accidentally incur the wrath of one of these trolls while I am still learning. I posted my questions to my friends and fellow writers and the response I got was overwhelmingly helpful. Everyone banded together to give me tips and explain to me how to successfully walk in this world of social media and hashtags.

Hashtags work to connect similar concepts and ideas together to improve searchability. If you want to find other writers, you would search the #amwriting or #writerslife. If you want to find new books, you’d search for #booklovers, or #books.

Hashtags are necessary in order to have any of your posts show up in google search results, or any search results. It’s how you connect to the “web” that is the internet. Hashtags connect across platforms such as blogs to Twitter, and Twitter to Facebook, and Instagram to any of them. It’s the silk, and I am the spider that weaves it to lure all the clients and readers into my web.

There are specific ones to use for whichever topic you are trying to connect to. That said, I have yet to have an angry troll shout at me that I used the wrong hashtag. As long as you’re in the right realm, I don’t think anyone cares too much. Hashtags are generic for the most part because they are intended to connect people to the things they love. Sure, someone might get mad if you are a stranger and use their wedding hashtag to post pictures of your cat. That wouldn’t be so chill, but avoiding that level of personal hashtag and there really isn’t any problem.

The best advice I got was to create a personal hashtag for my brand that I use on every post. Thus, I created #writeillusion for my personal company. Would I be mad if another writer used this? Actually no, because it would just cast my web even farther which would be really awesome.

Am I pro at all this social media shenanigans now? After two months, that’s a “no.” Just this morning I spent about twenty minutes trying to figure out how to share an Instagram post across both of my business Facebook pages. I figured it out enough to be successful, but I’m not entirely sure what I did to make it happen. I’ll probably have to struggle with it a few more times before I learn. But that’s okay! I am learning, and I am connecting, and it’s not as scary and horrible as I feared it would be. Everyone has been so wonderful. I share pictures of my turtles and I have so many turtle followers. My feeds are just filled with happy turtles and that makes me so happy, you have no idea. What does it have to do with my writing business? Not much, but it eases the anxiety I had about having a public presence and following.

The business of being a writer has changed over the years—just about every business has, with the development of the internet and the various social media platforms. While I never learned the art of business before, I’m glad that I have the opportunity to learn it now and that the writing community is so helpful and welcoming to teach me.

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