It’s About the Customer

© 2010 Emily Akin

In my writers’ conference workshop, A Business Approach to Marketing Your Work, I started the session by asking the class to give me answers to these fill-in-the-blank questions.

Writing is a _____________.

Publishing is a ___________.

Business is about _________.

The answers I got were many and varied. Almost everyone said writing is an art, a craft, or a ministry. No one identified writing as a communication method or as a business tool. Publishing is a business, and I got that answer from several people. Unexpected answers included: job, industry, painful experience, and ordeal.

When we got to business, I expected to hear “money” or “the bottom line.” The class gave varied answers, most of which would translate as “making a profit.”

I took the class through this process to get them thinking about why writers hate marketing their work. Most members of the group were creative, artistic, and/or ministry-minded people. They realized they needed to publish their work so their great ideas or valuable messages could be disseminated. But they hated the idea of selling their work to the publisher or to the end customer, the reader.

The final fill-in-the-blank question was, “Marketing your writing includes crafting your product for the market so it will ___________.”

Almost everyone gave the answer I was looking for. Sell! We went on to talk about how writers must target their submissions to publishers and/or readers who are interested in their topic. For example, you wouldn’t send an article about how sports help build character to the editor whose religion forbids participation in sports. Well, maybe that’s an extreme example, but I want to emphasize that a writer’s first responsibility is to fill a need or answer questions for the readers of the publication.

Bottom line—writers need knowledge of the publishing industry and a feel for how business works. They also should learn to love marketing. After all, it’s nothing more than trying to find out what the customer wants and crafting the product so the customer will want to buy it.

Emily M. Akin is a freelance writer, blogger, editor, and marketing consultant. She holds bachelor’s degrees in music and communications and a Master of Business Administration degree. Her work has appeared in numerous Christian periodicals including The Upper Room, The Secret Place, HomeLife, The Lookout, Vista, and Mature Years. She is a regular contributor to Hometown Magazine of the Ken-Tenn Area. Link to her blogs from her web site at





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