The Business of Writing by Kim Iverson Headlee: A Nonfiction Book Review

I previously wrote about my writing workshop experience at Mysticon. Since this was the first convention I’ve attended — and I was attending in part with the goal of learning more about the business and craft of writing —I wanted to have a well-rounded experience. I attended an author reading, visited signing tables and attended numerous panels.

I also attended a seminar offered by Kim Iverson Headlee called The Business of Writing: Publishing Your Ebook. It was fast paced with lots of information delivered in a friendly, no-nonsense manner. Headlee’s signing table was scheduled right after that event, so I stopped by for a copy of her book The Business of Writing and picked up these as well.

She signed them all and wrote lovely personal messages in them after we chatted a few minutes, including this super encouraging note in Snow in July.

The Business of Writing Review

As a full-time freelance marketing and copywriter, I’m fairly versed in what it means to create and launch a brand, and I can make some educated guesses on how that translates to marketing yourself as an author. But I did’t know how you take a book and package it into a product and publish it yourself. I read a lot about this online, but the advice is often conflicting, confusing and, let’s be honest, not always backed by credentials.

Which is why I was glad to buy and read The Business of Writing. Headlee has been in the publishing game in various forms for a few decades, publishing both traditionally and independently. Plus, during her seminar, I learned something I’d never read or heard of about the independent publishing process (I don’t want to give away her knowledge, but it’s in the book), and that bit of advice alone was, to me, worth the cost of admission into her book.

The Business of Writing reads a bit like a collection of blog posts on the topic, which I think it might be to some degree. And that’s not a bad thing — they’re well-written, impeccably edited and organized in a way that makes this book an easy reference tool for the future. To give you an idea of the level of organization: The table of contents runs almost seven pages, so you can quickly hone in on whatever tidbit of knowledge you remembered from a previous read-through.

Headlee subtitled the book “Practical Insights for Independent, Hybrid, and Traditionally Published Authors,” and that pretty much spells it out. Note that this isn’t a writing craft book. It’s about what you do after you have a manuscript and you’re ready to launch your writing as a business. The book covers topics including:

  • Organizing your writing business, touching briefly on topics such as taxes, business plans and copyright
  • Packaging your book, including ISBNs, imprints, cover designs, and layouts
  • Marketing, including appearances, author blogs and social media

There’s a lot more information packed into this book, but it’s still a quick read thanks to the conversational style and reliance on anecdotes and narratives (instead of dry facts) to convey some of the information.

Who would I recommend this book to? This is a great place for any writer to start, especially if they want someone to draw them a high-level road map of what independent publishing looks like when you approach it as a business. For me, this book is a starting point, not a full-fledged instruction manual. And that’s okay, because there are so many personal choices to make when publishing that you’ll be hard-pressed to find a book that does the work for you without impeding on your own creativity and individuality as an independent publisher.

This book is like the old saying about teaching someone to fish so they can eat forever. Headlee doesn’t tell you exactly what to do (although she strongly recommends some things, such as professional editing). Instead, she offers a ton of information on what your choices are and how you can go about deciding them.

Kindle or hard copy? I bought the book in person, and I like the hard copy because I can highlight and bookmark various bits of information. But the Kindle version has a potential advantage: Headlee references a lot of sites and posts that I gather are linked in the Kindle version so readers can access them easily. She does kindly include an appendix in the hard copy (I’m not sure if this is included in the Kindle version) with all the websites, so you can find the information as needed. That alone is actually a valuable resource — the appendix runs around 40 pages in the paperback version.

The tl;dr is this: The Business of Writing is a great roadmap resource for authors, especially those who intend to go indie. It’s not a magic formula or a step-by-step that takes the work out of the process. It’s more like the book form of having a few cups of coffee with Kim Iverson Headlee as she tells you what she’s learned and provides some advice as you start your own journey into self-publishing.

You can discover more about Kim Iverson Headlee on her blog, The Maze of Twisty Passages.

You can also find The Business of Writing and Headlee’s genre fiction novels on Amazon and via other retailers.

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