The Business of Writing (Volume 1), by Simon Whaley

I reckon it must be quite tough to be Simon Whaley.

As I imagine it, you must be itching to get on with your own ‘proper’ or more ‘creative’ writing projects – in Simon’s case both fiction and non-fiction – but there’s always some excellent writing advice in your head, demanding to be let loose and committed to print in order to inspire and support writers both aspiring and more experienced. How does he balance these opposing demands, I wonder? As a writer and writing advisor myself, I know it’s not always easy – but I’m only half as prolific as he is …

Simon is already the author of several writing guides – The Positively Productive Writer, and Photography for Writers, among them – and he has just released The Business of Writing (Vol 1) – a collection of his regular columns for Writing Magazine that go under the same name. Like me, he was a long-standing tutor for the Writers Bureau until recently, and he has judged writing competitions too, as well as contributed to several other writing publications. Writing advice aside, he’s a photographer to boot, and writes a lot about the British countryside and walking. Among his non-writing books is the best-selling One Hundred Ways for a Dog to Train its Human. He has done a lot – and knows a lot.

True to its title, we kick off The Business of Writing with tax – possibly the most fret-inducing aspect of being a new writer who has started to earn from their writing, especially if it is words (rather than numbers) which are your strength. Simon advises on profit vs income, banking, national insurance and gives the HMRC links you need to deal with it all. Tax really isn’t so troublesome, and it is all doable – and this first piece convinces you of that fact, setting the theme perfectly for what’s to follow. Yes, this is a business, but you are perfectly capable of running a business: that’s essentially Simon’s can-do approach.

The second article – Business Record Keeping – features yours truly and my fairly complex spreadsheets. I am an Excel fan, it’s fair to say, and I can’t recommend them enough! It’s not just about recording submissions, sales and earnings, but – as Simon advises – writing contacts and interview records too. And if you’re uncertain of the software, there are helpful links to tutorial guides at the foot.

Subsequent chapters – more self-contained articles from the column, which appeared between 2014 and 2016 – are just as helpful, covering such matters as legalities and rights (which trip up many newbies), writing for free, boosting your earnings, and that ever-looming dark cloud, dealing with rejection (“rejection is part of our job” says Simon, and I do feel that’s a pragmatic approach to take on board, really as soon as you can).

All the advice Simon gives is so well researched and thorough. His articles aren’t merely fact-packed cut-out-and-keep essentials – they’re also perfect examples of how to structure an article – pick a subject, pick a theme, tell the reader what you’re going to give them, and give it to them. Nothing more, nothing less. Study them closely and see. And learn from them. They are indispensable for multiple reasons.

Each article is boosted with the expertise of two or three writers – different ones each time – and it is inspiring to read this collection of advice from so many jobbing writers, all of whom it’s apparent were extremely generous with their help. Sometimes I think those starting out don’t appreciate what they’re getting when they read the advice of those who’ve been there, done that, and can underestimate the value of genuine, thoughtful insights into the business of publishing.

Listen to these writers, newbies – and you should listen to Simon Whaley perhaps most of all.

The Business of Writing (Volume 1) is available both for Kindle (£2.99), and Createspace Print (£7.99).
For other books by Simon Whaley, including other writers’ guides, non-fiction and short fiction, browse on Amazon here.
See also his professional website, his The Business of Writing website, and his excellent Simon Says! blog. 

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