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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You’re a writer…Are you sure you can do this job?

You’re a writer…Are you sure you can do this job?

I get it asked this question a LOT on interviews.

Each time I get asked, I realize how narrow-minded employers are regarding the skills and experience writers like myself have . On my last job at a college library, my supervisor thought I couldn’t work the library circulation desk. He was looking for a sales/customer service person. Too bad he didn’t know he already had one.

Most people I’ve worked with at day jobs think writers are just people who sit up in front of a laptop all day churning out stories as they watch soaps or surf the net. What they don’t understand is that writers are some of the most skilled and seasoned businesspeople out there. To create, publish and market stories I use a variety of business skills like sales, marketing and customer service.

People who aren’t in publishing should understand:

A writer is a manager. When I’m writing I supervise and coordinate a tight schedule, fitting in time to write material, edit material and revise material. In between the time it takes me to write and revise manuscripts, I have fit in time to attend events like book signings, book fairs, and networking with other writing professionals.

In addition to managing a writing schedule, self-published writers like myself are skilled managers who supervise the entire publication process from start to finish. When I self-publish I plan page layouts, supervise cover artists, network with free-lance editors and printers to assemble raw materials like manuscripts and art into a finished book. It takes a solid set of organizational and leadership skills to publish a book and get it ready before the release date.

A writer is a salesperson. When I used to submit books to publishers and literary agents I had to sell them with a persuasive one-page letter asking them to read my manuscript. After I self-publish a title, then I have to refine my sales pitch as I draft up a press release to announce my books to the public. When I’m promoting my books I have to sell my stories to retail customers like librarians, book vendors and bookstore owners and convince them that my books will appeal to their reading audiences. At promotional events like book fairs and book signings I have to hand sell-books to readers and pitch them on why the book will be an exacting read for them.

Note for Retail employers: Books are some of the hardest products in retail to sell. Authors have to be very persuasive to get customers to buy their products. Why? A book is a product that requires a customer to commit a valuable commodity to- Time. Storylines have to be compelling to keep the reader involved enough to finish the book and buy another from that author. If a writer can sell books, then they can sell just about anything else.

A writer is a customer service representative. When I’m promoting my books at a fair, a book tour, at a bookstore or answering e-mails, I’m not just a writer. I’m a pitchperson for my books. Interacting at events like the Harlem book fair requires me to have strong customer service skills. I have to be polite, courteous and friendly when answering customers questions and discussing my books.

A writer is an Administrative Assistant.  I juggle some of the busiest schedules- my own! Mornings for me are spent doing revisions, Afternoons spent writing new material. Evenings are spent brainstorming ideas for new material. In between all this I’m networking with other writers, networking with book clubs, searching for leads or scheduling events. When I’m doing promotions, I’m drafting cover letters, press releases, assembling promotional materials and review copies and preparing them for mailing.

A writer is a computer technician. My PC is my primary tool in doing my job. It’s how I write my stories, how I communicate with clients and how I make my money. I have to know the ins and outs of the Windows (and Mac) operating system and software like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop. I keep on top of anti-virus software and malware threats. Usually if there’s a problem with hardware or software I have to find out what’s wrong quickly and fix it so I can get back to work as soon as possible. One of the reasons I took A+ training was to ensure that I could fix my PC if I was having problems with it.

A writer is an Artist. I just don’t write stories. When I’m in pre-production for a title I draft cover art, and design logos and design cover concepts. When I’m plotting a story I’m designing model sheets of characters, and concepts of locations and items. Drawing helps me give a more detailed description of the characters when it’s time write them on paper, and it takes a lot of skill to translate what I’m imagining in my head into words and pictures.

A writer is a Researcher. Where do I get the Ideas for my stories? This article? I do research. In order for me to make my articles accurate and my stories "feel" real to readers I have to find facts and details. When I do research it's on the web, at the library or going out to places to learn more about a topic. My skills as a researcher would make me a valuable asset in other fields like law and marketing.
Employers who are looking for an employee for their positions shouldn’t overlook me because I’m a writer. I have a variety of skills that would make me a tremendous asset to a business. Instead of employers making broad generalizations, they should see my out-of-the-box creativity as a tool that enables me to think of unique business solutions from a different perspective.

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