The Writer as Entrepreneur

What is the absolute worst job you can think of?

Mr. Devil’s Advocate: “Being a lawyer for Lucifer.”

Okay, what is the second worst job you can think of.

Mr. DA: “Being your sidekick.”

Alright, but what’s “the worst job you’ll ever love”?

Mr. DA: “Netflix critic?”

*sigh* Let’s start over.

The Worst Job You’ll Ever Love

And no, I’m not talking about fatherhood or the clergy.

It’s entrepreneurship. This is the post about entrepreneurship.

Mr. DA: “Are you sure it’s not Netflix critic?”


Entrepreneurs put themselves at great risk for a very slim chance of reward. They assume all responsibility for the business they run and have no safety net should things fall through.

They also are in the best position to live out the American dream, to drastically improve their lives and make a name for themselves. The rewards of successful entrepreneurship are, as far as this small planet can allow, limitless.

For this reason, entrepreneurship is both the best job and the worst job imaginable. You get to be your own boss and set your own hours. You also have no guarantee of ultimate success, will likely operate at a loss for your first few years, and there will be long stretches where every day you will have no idea how to make it to tomorrow.

Mr. DA: “You almost sound like you’re interested in becoming one of these entrepreneurs.”

You could say that, yes.

Mr. DA: “Gee, I guess you’ll have to give up your dream of becoming a full-time author, then.”

Not even a little.

Mr. DA: “Stop yanking my chain—my eternal, unbreakable chain that forever tethers me to the unseen depths of Abaddon. Your life is only so long. There’s no way you’ll have time to do both.”

You’re right—I couldn’t possibly do both, if they were two different things.

Authors are Entrepreneurs

Mr. DA: “That can’t be right.”

It’s the honest truth. Any writer who sells his intellectual property rights is automatically an entrepreneur. They have no employer other than themselves.

Mr. DA: “Oh, you mean that self-published writers are entrepreneurs.”

No, this applies to any writer that gets paid through the sale of rights. Traditionally published authors fall into this same category.

Mr. DA: “But don’t traditional authors work for their publishers?”

Well, journalistic writers are usually on the payroll of their publisher. The rest of us are independent agents. When a writer sells his book to a publisher, he does so under contract, meaning that he is acting as an independent contractor, who has control over his company’s internal affairs.

Mr. DA: “So the author is now a company?”

He can be. Particularly successful authors are known to register themselves as a corporation, or other business type, for tax purposes. This allows them to hire employees (such as personal assistants) and more easily log business expenses for tax deductions. This corporation then becomes the business partner of the publisher, and can hardly be called an employee.

But even if the writer is just a single individual, he still operates as an independent contractor. His contract can be terminated, but he cannot technically be fired, since he is not an employee of anyone.

Mr. DA: “But if he doesn’t work for the publisher, then maybe he works for his agent?”

Technically, the agent works for the author, though this is also done on a contractual basis, rather than direct employment. And that’s assuming that the writer has an agent in the first place (it is possible to sell your rights without one, if you are smart/bold enough).

The Entrepreneurial Lifestyle of the Writer

Mr. DA: “So what, exactly, makes a writer so much like an entrepreneur?”

A good way to answer that question is to examine the fundamental aspects of both.

Every writer and every entrepreneur lives according to the following principles:

  1. They sell a product or service.
  2. In most cases, they are also responsible for creating the product (retail entrepreneurship exists, but is, in many ways, its own beast).
  3. They are required to provide the finished product by a certain date. Apart from that, the buyer has no obligation to understand the process by which the product is put together. As long as the product is delivered on time and as promised, it hardly matters how the entrepreneur made it happen.
  4. Except for the delivery date, they determine their own schedule and are completely in charge of how hard they work.
  5. All other considerations are completely up to them. They can be creative or conservative in their approaches. They can hire employees and outsource some of their work as necessary (the author’s personal assistants, etc.).
  6. They get credit for the quality of their product, and have the privilege of putting their brand on it.
  7. They face repercussions for delivering an inferior product, or for delivering it after the deadline.

The golden thread running through these points is the idea of self-management, and that applies equally to entrepreneurship and to authorship, as either profession requires disciplined application of the self to the task at hand.

This makes it easy to submit the following: an author is merely a kind of entrepreneur—a formal subset within the broader field. And, as a corollary, anything that makes you a better entrepreneur automatically makes you a better author.

Mr. DA: “Must you phrase that in such an absolutist fashion?”

Can you provide a counterexample?

Mr. DA: “…No.”

Then the statement shall have to stand.


Many people dream of becoming an author, without realizing that the job requires a number of other skills, unrelated to the specific task of writing a book. Entrepreneurship is the most important of these, and anyone serious about getting success as an author should apply themselves to learning this other skill.

And it may be outside of your comfort zone. Entrepreneurship is, after all, a largely extroverted practice, whereas writing is exclusively introverted. Among other things, this means that the successful writer is forced to live a balanced life, which has its own benefits outside of what it does to your career.

So a lot of good can come from this, and if it seems hard, know that the hard things are improving you in ways you might not even perceive.

So smile, because you are doing a good thing.


[This week’s tagline: “Where people come…to do business.”]

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