About the Episode
How early is too early to start getting a move on things like author platform, email list growth, website, income-generating activities, etc? Should you start worrying about the business side of writing fiction before, during, or after you finish writing your novel?
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📒 Show Notes and Resources 📒
About the Episode:
00:00 Start As Soon As Possible
02:01 The Bad Advice Given to Writers
03:06 Increased Competition & Perfectionism Paralysis
08:02 Professionalism Takes Time
09:33 The Cost of Writing & Book Deals
13:14 Get Into the Habit Now Before the Pressure Comes
14:40 The Necessary Mindset
Click for Transcript
[00:00:00] So how early is too early for a fiction writer to start thinking about the business side of this writing and publishing journey?
I’m talking about author platform, email list growth websites, podcasting, blogging, all of it. How soon is too soon as a writer? Well, we’re gonna dive into that conversation today. I’m excited to get into it. Let’s go.
Hi, my name is Rachel Fahrenbach. I help Christian fiction writers just like you make an impact in income from their novels.
Now, it probably won’t surprise any of you that I have a hot take on this conversation. I think that so often what gets thrown around in the industry is really not good advice for writers, and I wish it would actually stop, but we need to be honest about it. We need to really be honest about what we’re telling writers and what’s really actually expected of them and the disconnect between the two.
And so I’m excited to talk about this today because I’m hoping that by the end [00:01:00] of this episode you’ll understand some reasons why I think it’s not a good idea to wait on the business side of things. Some reasons for that. But before we get any further, I just wanna say, if you’re coming to this podcast or you’re coming to this writing publishing journey and you haven’t done any kind of author growth, any kind of online marketing, just know you’re not behind.
Like, there’s some things you need to do, but you’re not behind. You’re not trying to catch up to anybody else. You’re just trying to make progress for your own self. And so I just wanna say that because sometimes we can put unnecessary stress and pressure on ourselves thinking we’ve failed somehow when we really haven’t.
We just haven’t had the information. But now that you have the information, you know what you can do and you can move forward.
Okay, so let’s, let’s talk about this. Let’s get into this. I was tagged in a Facebook Live just recently by another writer who I know. And she was disagreeing with a post I had made, and, which is perfectly fine. [00:02:00] Everybody is entitled to their own opinion.
But one of the things she shared was that if we worry too much about the business stuff when before we’re published, then it can kind of stifle our progress on actually writing our novels and we need to get them written. And all the, you know, her, her premise was, We need to worry less about the business stuff and more about the craft of writing.
And she is not the only one saying this. I go to Instagram and just, especially in the last few weeks, some well known, well established authors that I respect and admire have been saying the same thing. They’re like, oh, just worry about the craft of writing. Like don’t worry so much about platform growth. It’s okay. Like let it go. Like focus on the novel and everything else will follow.
And I, it really. It kind of irritates me that they are saying this because it’s not true. It is not true that a first time author can just focus on their novel. And everything else will take care of itself, [00:03:00] especially if you’re hoping to be published by a Christian traditional publisher.
For a couple of reasons.
One, the Christian traditional publishing industry has lessened how much Christian fiction they are publishing. On top of that, out of the slots that they have for Christian fiction, the majority of those slots are filled with already published authors. So the amount of slots that are available for debut authors is slim.
So while yes, you can. You can possibly get picked up by a publisher with very little following and very small platform and all of that. The fact of the matter remains, it’s a highly competitive area, so why would you not do anything and everything you possibly can to make you stand out from the crowd and make you more attractive to the publisher by the time you get to them?
On the flip side, if you’re deciding to go self pub, the self-publishing route, you need people to sell to. And it is still the number one way [00:04:00] to sell books is through an email list. And so if you are not building that email list of, if you’re, if you have no social media following, if you have no email list, who are you going to sell to?
It’s not field of dreams, you guys. We are not just building it, and they will come. Like you have to have somebody to actually market to once your novel’s done. And so to say that you can just wait to work on the business stuff is detrimental to your progress. You’re gonna waste so much time because let’s be honest, until there is a deadline, until there is a final drop date, you are gonna be revising that novel until Kingdom come.
That novel will never be good enough because we are storytellers and we can always perfect our writing. And so to expect that at some point you’re gonna be okay enough with your novel that you can move on with your life and now build a business is a fallacy. Because what’s gonna [00:05:00] happen is as you start to build your business, you’re gonna realize where the holes are in your novel.
It’s inevitable because as you start to tap in to your reader through social media through your email list, you’ll begin to know what they’re expecting from you, and you’re gonna see where you are failing with that in your novel, and you’re gonna go back and revise it. So until you decide, okay, this is the date it’s going out, I’m self-publishing this baby on this date, until you do that, or until you have signed a contract with a publisher.
Who is saying you need to have your final edits by this point, you’re not gonna be done with that novel. So to think that you can move along with your novel and work on your novel until it’s in a good place and then build your business it’s just not a beneficial mindset. Writing a novel takes time. Building a platform takes time. You can’t wait unless you wanna not be published until 10 years from now. Like, Platform building does not happen overnight. It takes [00:06:00] time to craft post. It takes time to get in front of the right kind of people. It takes time to do collaborations with people.
It takes time to create a lead magnet. It takes time for that lead magnet to start getting traction. It takes time. To build your platform to any kind of numbers that people and a publisher want to see. They wanna see numbers that are above a thousand. Like a thousand. Less than a thousand is minuscule to them.
That’s not even a small platform that is minuscule. So you have to be thinking of that, that in order for you to give yourself the best chance possible in front of a publisher when you’re at that conference that you just spent a ton of money and time to go to, to pitch to this editor in hopes that they’ll pick up your novel. You need to put your best foot forward.
Just to reiterate that first point, it’s not too early to start talking about author platform growth because you need those numbers when you go to [00:07:00] a traditional publisher or you need those numbers when you go to self-publish and to delay that growth because you’re working on a novel, is a silly mindset because that novel is never going to be fully ready until you have a deadline.
And so unless you give it to yourself or a publisher gives it to yourself, and you could be in the meantime as you’re revising and perfecting this novel, you could be taking the time to build your platform, which takes time to do. And so you could be doing those things simultaneously so that when you go to pitch that editor, you are in a good place from a marketing standpoint.
Now, the second reason that I would say is never too early to start thinking about the business side of writing, um, because I guess I haven’t really answered that. Yes. I think that it’s never too early to start thinking about the business side of writing as a writer. Even from the moment where you think you have an idea for a novel, I think you can [00:08:00] start thinking about the business side of it.
Because a novel is a product. Every business that says, oh, I want to sell this product, has to think about the structure that goes around selling that product. We know there’s a difference between a hobby business and a business business, right? And as writers, we have to establish like we’re not a hobby business. Like this is something we actually do because when we go to talk to a traditional publisher, we’re presenting ourselves as a creator who wants to go into a contract. So as a professional, we’re presenting ourselves as professionals. And if you are a professional, then you need to act like a professional. And that means having a website, having social media, having an email list. These are all things that professionals in the industry have. And so you need that as a professional. If you wanna be taken as seriously as a professional, you need to have the things that professionals have. So it’s [00:09:00] really not helpful for us to say, oh, you don’t have to worry about the business stuff until you’re ready to query agents, because all of those things take time too.
Building a website takes time. Getting your social media into a good spot takes time where you’re in a good rhythm, where you’re posting regularly, getting into a good rhythm with your email list. Setting up your email list is a, takes time is not that long, but it still takes time to do so. If you’re not taking the time to do these things, then you’re not presenting yourself as a professional in the industry.
Additionally, my next point would be that you have business expenses. Why in the world would you put yourself into that mode where you have all these expenses and not think about that as a business. You have expenses like your website, domain name and your hosting, your email is hosting. You have things like any, groups that you’re a part of. Like I’m a part of an online writing group. It costs me, I have a [00:10:00] membership to it costs me every month. It costs me something. You know, you have expenses like office supplies. You have things like working with an editor. Conferences cost money. They’re expensive. I’m not gonna lie. Conferences are an investment. And you go because you wanna learn how to be a better writer. You wanna learn about the industry, you wanna connect with other writers. That is all very value valuable.
But one of the real reasons you go to a writing conference is in order to pitch an agent or an editor and get that face-to-face time with them, that is an investment into your writing career. If your putting out expenses. If you are making these very large investments into your writing career, why would you not think of yourself as a business owner and see those things as part of your startup cost startup expenses.
Like that’s really truly what they are. And if you’re not, Acknowledging that, and if you’re not stewarding that well, you [00:11:00] can get yourself in a whole load of trouble. It is very easy to start paying for training, start paying for coaching, start paying for software, start paying for conferences, start spending money left and right and not having a true understanding of what you need to do to bring in income in the in the meantime, and I’m not talking about just for royalties from your novel. I think there’s other ways for fiction writers to make money in the immediate moment, but until you get yourself in that mindset of, wait a second, I am a business.
I’m putting out all this expensive and I have no money coming in, this has got to change. What other business can survive out there if they don’t have money coming in? Now, there are different business models. There’s different ways to make this happen. That’s not the purpose of this episode, but I just want to remind you guys that when you think like a business, you start opening yourself up to other streams of income other than [00:12:00] royalties from your novel, other than that contract with the publisher.
So you really have to. Ask yourself why you wouldn’t consider yourself a business from the get-go. Why you wouldn’t wrap your brain around the fact that you are putting expenses out as a business, and therefore need to understand that. Have a budget. Think, seek other ways to make money in the meantime of trying to get an A book deal.
Because the fact of the matter is it can take a year or two for that book deal now. I think where, why writers don’t do this is because they think that they just need to personally fund this until they get the contract. Like I said, that’s not a topic for this particular episode, but I do just wanna stress the fact that it doesn’t have to be that way.
It doesn’t have to be that we just wait until we finally get a book deal in order to get compensated as a professional writer. . And that’s what you are. You are a writer who is creating a product, and you should be compensated [00:13:00] for it.
And I think you can create other products that go along with your novel that you could be compensated for as well. And it all goes back to that X, Y, Z statement. So if you don’t know your X, Y, Z statement, you need to work on that and get to that really honed in.
Another reason why I think it’s a detriment to writers to tell them to work on their novels and then build a platform is the fact that, they don’t have that luxury. Once they get that first novel written, and this is true for self-publishing and traditional publishing, once you get that first novel out there, you, you have to platform build as you’re writing the next novel.
Like you don’t get to stop doing platform growth after your novel gets published. While you’re writing your second novel, they have to start, they have to be doing this simultaneously. So why not practice that when there’s not the pressure of that second novel? Because that’s what happens. You get the first novel out there and then now you have the second novel looming.
You know, you kind of have [00:14:00] this pressure. Either you’ve got a contract signed or you know you want the next novel to come out, but now you’re still trying to do that platform growth while uh, you know, because you have to continually promote and sell your current novel while you’re writing your next novel, preparing people for your next novel.
It has to all work together. It has to all simultaneously be going on. So why not practice that telling people about your novel while writing your novel, while there’s not that huge pressure to hit deadlines, practice it so that when the pressure comes, you already are in good rhythms. You already know how to do it. That’s what I would say to that.
And finally what I would say in response to that concern that we get so caught up in the business side of things that we start to lose the love for the craft, or we don’t find time to get our novel written.
I would say to you, one, I have a planner. Rachelfahrenbach.com/planner. That is meant to help [00:15:00] you do just that. Write your novel while rallying your audience, while building your author platform. So I have a planner out there that I designed specifically to help you do just this thing but one of the things that that planner talks about is creating time for both.
Allocating your time well, allocating your resear resources well, coming up with a simplified plan so you know what you can actually accomplish. Not taking on too much for Arthur platform growth so that you’re not taking away time from your novel. So I think it is possible. I think it requires time management. I think it requires discipline. This requires consistency and it requires you to really say, this is what I want to be true for myself in a couple years, so I need to start working at it now. And so, um, it’s just prioritizing your time. It really is. So I would say that first, and then the second thing I would say to you as a Christian, you need to have a Sabbath [00:16:00] mentality when it comes to both your novel and your platform growth. You have to have, I’m gonna repeat that again. You have to have a Sabbath mentality.
What do I mean by that? You need to create from rest. Your ability to produce is only as good as your ability to rest in God’s provision, in God’s faithfulness in God’s consistency. God has called you to this work. Your job is not to make things happen. Your job is to be obedient, is to show up, is to create the thing that you’re meant to create.
It’s to reach the people you’re meant to reach. And then you work at that, and then you step back and say, okay, God, you do the rest. It’s that idea of working for six days and resting for seven, uh, the seventh. The Israelites were taught in that practice of Sabbath that the work that they did during the week would God would [00:17:00] continue that work for them. Even if they had stopped. He was be faithful. He would be the one bringing about the results. He was the one to bring about the harvest, right? They did all the planting, all that work. He’s the one that brings about the harvest. It’s the same thing is true for us as Christian writers. We do the work, we show up, we put our butts in the chair, we write the words on the page, we make those posts.
We dance in front of the camera and post it as a reel. We do what we need to do, but God is the one who’s gonna bring about, about the harvest. He’s gonna be the one to bring about the results. But don’t divorce the two. You still need to show up and do your work. But you also need to have a a, a. A posture of resting, all of that work in God’s hands and asking him to bless it and multiply it and make it fruitful.
And so really having this Sabbath mindset, this mindset of creating from a rest, a place of resting in God’s provision will help sustain you. It will help you [00:18:00] not burn out, and it will help you stay in love with the craft and the creation and the part that you love doing and you were wired to do, but it will also allow you to enjoy the author platform growth part because you know it doesn’t rest on your shoulders. God is going to take care of it, and you’re gonna just trust him no matter what that number on that screen is. Now, that doesn’t mean that you step back and you just be like, well, I don’t know why Instagram, my Instagram platform’s not growing.
You still like do the work. You still follow the people who know what they’re talking about and implement their strategies, but you don’t worry if that number’s not growing as fast as you want it to, you just trust the Lord. So writing this whole writing journey, this whole publishing journey is an act of obedience and trust. We’re obedient to show up and we trust the Lord with the results. That’s really what it is at the heart of this.
So, no, it’s not too early to, to think about this as a business and to worry about those [00:19:00] aspects of business that you need to worry about as a writer in the publishing industry. But you absolutely, absolutely, absolutely must create from a posture of resting in God and in God’s faithful provision.
Thank you so much for joining me on the Business of Christian Fiction Podcast. I’ll see you next time. Bye.
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Hey! I'm Rachel and I'm so glad you're here today!
I help Christian fiction writers figure out how they can make an impact and an income from their storytelling while keeping rest a priority.
You can learn more about how I’m in your corner here.
And you can learn more about my personal journey here.
One last thing, if you’re looking for a bit more rest in your life, be sure to check out the Rest & Reflect guided journal.