Book Review – About Writing: The Business of Being a Writer

The Business of Being a Writer
By Jane Friedman
Reviewed by Mark D. Walker

“Every writer needs tough love. Typically, that’s delivered by your editor as you’re writing the book. But where’s the tough love once your book is ready for the world? It’s in here and its Jane.” 

I learned about this book along with another, Daily Rituals, by Mason Curren from the speakers at a Phoenix Writers Network meeting several months ago. Curren’s book provides inspirational stories from writers, composers, artists and filmmakers on how the artists produce their creations, But then the question becomes, how do we get them published? I’m a professional fundraiser so marketing and promotion have become second nature, but most authors want to write and let someone else do the marketing, which would be nice, but it’s often unrealistic and expensive.

This book offers the business education writers need and often don’t receive. It is meant for early career writers looking to develop a realistic set of expectations about making money from their work, or for working writers who want a better understanding of the industry. The book provides a comprehensive picture of the publishing world – from queries and agents to blogging and advertising—and writers will learn how they can best position themselves for success in their specialty over the long term.

One reader shared that, “(she (the author) also goes beyond book publishing and talks about other ways that writers can earn a living with their writing. For instance, she provides a great deal of information on freelance writing, including the most common types of articles and the publications where you can pitch them. She talks about consumer publications, and also trade publications (which are easier to break into and pay reasonably well). She also discusses the differences and similarities between publishing online versus offline.”

The “Final Word” section at the end of the “Literary Publishing in the 21st Century” was especially insightful, “Too many literary publishing efforts launch with the expectation that quality automatically sells. It does not. Anything that requires goodwill and charity to survive is a risky enterprise…It’s the same as it’s always been (the publishing industry), but its distribution and discovery will no longer be reliant upon them. This is a win for the writers, and an identity crisis for the publishers.”

Throughout the book I found useful resources such as links to sources for trade publications; and a comprehensive list of the basic components of an author’s website, “Haro,” a site to sign up for to “Help a Reporter Out” (and gain their confidence), as well as several useful contract templates in the Appendix. I was even encouraged with such revelations that the site where I post my book reviews, “Goodreads,” has 50 million members—not bad.

The table of contents will provide a good overview of the broad components of writing and publishing the author covers:

Contents: Intro — Contents — Introduction –

Part One: First Steps Making a Life as a Writer — 1. Can You Make a Living as a Writer? — 2. The Art of Career Building — 3. Generating Leads, Gaining Exposure — 4. Pursuing an MFA or Other Graduate Degree.

Part Two: Understanding The Publishing Industry — 5. Trade Book Publishing — 6. Magazine Publishing — 7. Online and Digital Media — 8. Literary Publishing in the Twenty-First Century.

Part Three: Getting Published — 9. Book Publishing: Figuring Out Where Your Book Fits — 10. Understanding Literary Agents — 11. Researching Agents and Publishers — 12. Book Queries and Synopses — 13. The Nonfiction Book Proposal — 14. Working with Your Publisher — 15. Self- Publishing — 16. Publishing Short Stories, Personal Essays, or Poetry — 17. Traditional Freelance Writing — 18. Online Writing and Blogging.

Part Four: The Writer As An Entrepreneur Laying the Foundation — 19. Author Platform — 20. Your Online Presence: Websites, Social Media, and More — 21. Turning Attention into Sales — 22. The Basics of Book Launches.

Part Five: How Writers Make Money — 23. Starting a Freelance Career — 24. Freelance Editing and Related Services — 25. Teaching and Online Education — 26. Contests, Prizes, Grants, Fellowships — 27. Crowdfunding and Donations — 28. Memberships, Subscriptions, and Paywalls — 29. Advertising and Affiliate Income — 30. Pursuing a Publishing Career — 31. Corporate Media Careers — Afterword — Appendix 1: Contracts 101 — Appendix 2: Legal Issues — Appendix 3: Recommended Resources — Acknowledgments and Credits — Notes – Index.

Jane Friedman has more than twenty years of experience in the publishing industry, with an emphasis on digital media strategy for authors and publishers. In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses and the University of Virginia, she maintains an award-winning blog for writers at I agree with her publisher that she “…is encouraging without sugarcoating, blending years of research with practical advice that will help writers market themselves and maximize their writing-related income, leaving them empowered, confident, and ready to turn their craft into a career.” Well, I don’t know about that, but I’m a far better-informed author and will benefit from what I’ve learned on many different levels.

Product details
⦁ Series: Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing
⦁ Paperback: 368 pages
⦁ Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (March 16, 2018)
⦁ Language: English
⦁ ISBN-10: 022639316X
⦁ ISBN-13: 978-0226393162
⦁ Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
⦁ Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (⦁ View shipping rates and policies)
⦁ Customer Reviews: ⦁ 4.7 out of 5 stars⦁    ⦁ 71 customer reviews
⦁ Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,085 in Books (⦁ See Top 100 in Books)
⦁ #64 in ⦁ Authorship Reference
⦁ #170 in ⦁ Writing Skill Reference (Books)
⦁ #125 in ⦁ Words, Language ⦁ &⦁ Grammar Reference

Walker was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala and spent over forty years helping disadvantaged people in the developing world. He came to Phoenix as a Senior Director for Food for the Hungry, worked with other groups like Make-A-Wish International and was the CEO of Hagar USA, a Christian-based organization that supports survivors of human trafficking. He’s presently the Producer of a documentary film, “Guatemala: Trouble in the Highlands.”

His book, Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond, was recognized by the Arizona Literary Association for Non-Fiction and, according to the Midwest Review, “…is more than just another travel memoir. It is an engaged and engaging story of one man’s physical and spiritual journey of self-discovery…”

Several of his articles have been published in Ragazine and WorldView Magazines, Literary Yard, Literary Travelers and Quail BELL, while another appeared in “Crossing Class: The Invisible Wall” anthology published by Wising Up Press. His reviews have been published in the Midwest Book Review, and by Revue Magazine, as well as Peace Corps Worldwide. He has his own column in the “Arizona Authors Association” newsletter, “The Million Mile Walker Review: What We’re Reading and Why.” His essay, “Hugs not Walls: Returning the Children,” was a winner in the Arizona Authors Association literary competition 2020 and was reissued in “Revue Magazine.” Another article was recognized in the “Solas Awards for Best Travel Writing.”

His honors include the “Service Above Self” award from Rotary International. He’s a Board member of “Advance Guatemala” and the membership chair for “Partnering for Peace.” His wife and three children were born in Guatemala. You can learn more at and or follow him on Facebook at

Posted in All, Book Reviews: About Writing.