Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Interesting Summary

A Writer Sent Me This Today…

This writer was putting together a business plan and a way of approaching the writing business. And, of course, I liked it, since it is almost exactly what I teach, scattered across a lot of workshops and lectures. He said that he had boiled it down from an erotic writer’s nonfiction book very nicely.

So I thought I would put his checklist here because I agree with it and add to it for clarity.

— Learn and study basic story structure, then write into the dark. Understanding basic story structure is all the outline you need.

— Don’t rewrite; do the best you can and then write another. (Heinlein’s Rule #3)

— Learn how to do your own covers.

— Don’t waste money on advertising.

— Writing another story (or book) will make you more money than changing your

keywords or advertising on Facebook.

— Don’t waste time trying to get reviews. (And never, ever read them.)

— Sell your stories for a minimum of $2.99 electronic (and $4.99 paper).

— Combine 5 short stories into a collection.

— Combine longer books into longer bundles in series.

Yup, that’s a pretty good business plan for an indie writer. I would add two major things…

— Never write to market.

— Have fun and anything that isn’t fun (in a challenging or entertaining way) figure out how to change. That will get you sustainability.

So now I have given you a business plan, my business plan, actually, the very one I teach in different levels of detail.


  • Scott Parker

    Short, succinct, and able to be printed and taped in your work space.

    As a side note to #1: I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month–mainly for fun–and am 100% writing into the dark and cycling as I do it.

    And I haven’t had this much fun writing a novel in a long time. Breathtakingly fun, despite the occasional obstacles. But then I do the most obvious thing: write the next sentence and trust the process. Hasn’t failed me yet.

    • Rachel

      I’m also using Nano as an arbitrary milestone to start writing into the dark. I’d found bits and pieces of Kris and Dean’s processes on my own but doubted myself and didn’t know how to resolve my work with the standard advice.

      So now I’ve committed to creative voice for a few books, and then I’ll see if I can rewrite/finish the others I started with the intention of heavy rewrite/editing. They’re sloppy and missing scenes. But I think once I’ve established the habit of creative voice I’ll find a way, or it won’t feel like a failure to redraft if I really love the story.

  • Erik Kort

    On the note of putting the fun back into writing, or rediscovering the joy of writing, do you have an online workshop that goes into depth on that?

    Does the Attitude workshop talk about that?

    I’ve heard you cover it in a surface way in various workshops, talks, and blog articles (It’s like it’s important or something *grin*), but I’d like a little more nuanced discussion with multiple strategies if possible.

    Thanks, as always, for what you do.

    • dwsmith

      I suppose Attitude Workshop helps clear out some stuff and talk about what gets in your way. But for each person, fun is defined differently. I love excitement, that is fun. Thus the ups and downs and fears and worries of writing into the dark are fun for me. I am running a half marathon this coming weekend for fun. Running 13 miles for others would be torture. So each person has to check in and get rid of the torture and turn to the fun. It’s a personal thing for the most part. But the Attitude Workshop would help.

      • Céline Malgen

        Or maybe your Writing into the dark workshop, with its part about the rollercoaster aspect of the process?

  • Kristi N.

    Thank you for this, Dean. I’m in the process of going through the vision statement, goals/objectives and the strategic (5 year) plan and operating (1 year) plan for next year (my first as full time). The siren song of writing to market and advertising heavily is very strong, especially when I see the royalty reports from writers following that business model. The numbers are eye-popping, but when there is only 1 book or 4 books, I don’t see how they can be sustainable. So with the goal of reaching a sustainable threshold of IP units, I ignore it as best I can and keep trundling forward. Having things laid out so clearly as this (which I am bookmarking) helps keep the focus on my destination and not on anyone else’s.

    • dwsmith

      Kristi, also keep in mind that when someone shows you a royalty report, bragging about how much they made, ask how much they spent to make that money. Then you get the real business number, and then after that ask them how much time they spent not writing making that money as well, because for all of us time is money. It turns out it is seldom the money it seems when you only have a part of the data. I just find it all laughable because showing only gross income is such a small part of any real business. Costs are what is important.

      For example, I could have shown that our four brick and mortar stores were making well over $400,000 a year. Wow, right? Except that they were, after all costs, losing about $5,000 a month between the four of them, which is why we shut them down and sold two of them. And that did not count my time and Allyson’s time. So when some writer proudly shows you some stupid gross income number, make sure you ask the next question… What did that cost to get that number in real expenses and time?????

      • Kate Pavelle

        Guilty as charged. I was so thrilled with a massive sales bump – but then I tallied up the AMS advertising “trickles” and found that I had lost seven bucks.
        Instead, I pre-release my new reads to my mailing list on PayHip at a win-win discount (that adds up to a sales bump, too). I find that this boosts my Amazon sales a tiny bit.
        It’s not an ideal strategy if you’re worried about ranking (I am, sinking like brick is never a good feeling), but it’s a nice perk for the readers.

  • Jason M

    Writers still advertise on Facebook?
    2009 called and wants its marketing advice back.
    If you advertise, go to where the readers are. It ain’t Facebook.

  • Gerald

    Hi Dean,

    A bit off-topic but I read an interview of yours on another website (can’t remember which one now unfortunately) where you recommended writers write a million words of fiction before trying to publish anything.

    With the whole self-publishing explosion now where anyone can put anything up at anytime, do you still recommend writing a million words before publishing? Or do you think it’s ok for new writers to learn, write and publish as they go from the beginning? If that makes sense…

    • dwsmith

      Learn, write, and publish as you go. If the story doesn’t work, no one will buy it. So right from word one, follow Heinlein’s Rules and get them out to readers. That was a very, very old article. (grin)

  • Carrie Stewart


    As always, thank you so much for everything. Your website is so inspiring and motivating.

    I have a question on “Don’t rewrite”. I can identify with it and actually feel “relieved” in my mind knowing that it is more than okay to keep creating new content rather than to rewrite. However, in my case, I’m trying to write fiction in my second language and I don’t know what’s the best way for me to approach Heinlein’s Rule #3. When I “write into the dark”, I sacrifice the quality of the language so I can keep the story/idea flow as smoothly and quickly as possible. I then have to go back multiple rounds and “rewrite”, mainly to fix the language (after I try my absolute best, my husband, who is a native speaker, does the final editing for me). My “rewriting” takes some of the fun out of it for me, but I don’t know if there’s a way around it, other than keep writing and improving my language skills. It’s frustrating because I so much want to have that “no rewrite” fun too…

    • dwsmith

      Carrie, do the fixing as you go along. I call it cycling, others call it looping. Writing into the Dark workshop details out completely how to do this. The lecture or my book on the subject cover more of the surface on how to do this. But basically you just go 400 or 600 words, then loop back and go over those words again, fixing them and then going forward again. Basically doing everything in creative voice. You never leave a section until it is as good as you can do at that moment. Never write sloppy for any reason. That trains your creative voice that it is not needed and eventually you will just grind to a halt.