Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Writers, Entrepreneurs, and the Business of Writing by Barbara Bell

Writers are some of the greatest entrepreneurs I have ever met.  They come up with an idea, put the work in by creating a prototype on the page, test it within critique groups and in front of audiences. They edit their words and hone their craft until they can deliver the final piece.  Let’s not forget the marketing of this new work or even older work that is reintroduced to a new audience.  Writers are fiercely entrepreneurial, and today, I want to talk about how we as writers manage our work as a business. If you didn’t think you were an entrepreneur, I invite you to reconsider this.

The cycle of entrepreneurship is similar to the cycle of writing.  Writers start with empathy.  What story needs to be told?  What story does a writer wish could be shared?

But hold up – an idea is not a business.  It’s an idea. Maybe a good one, but at first it is a thought cloud in our real, everyday lives. It was Atari and Chuck E. Cheese Founder Nolan Bushnell who captured both the initiative and sense of urgency that is part of the entrepreneur’s DNA: “A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.”

So, how do we take that idea and build around it?  We treat our writing like a business. Before you start calculating your hours of work in exchange for a dollar amount, though, remember that we are not working per hour, but as creators. The work is not transactional, but personal and often interactive.  It is the writing that is shared in classrooms, at mother’s clubs, and recommended between friends.  It is the stories that are shared from one generation to another.

The business of writing can easily be mapped out using a Business Model Canvas, which allows the writer to talk about the importance of the story to be told, as well as create a plan to bring your work to the right people. Starting in the middle of the page with the Value Proposition, ask yourself:  Why are you the person to write this story?  What do you bring to this piece that no one else can? Often, we take our strengths for granted because these gifts come easily to us. Take the time to ask yourself these questions and allow yourself time to percolate on them.

On the right side of the canvas are the components that are external facing, keeping customers in mind.

Customer Segments: Who are my customers and why would they buy this book?  Why would schools book me for an author talk?

Channels: How does this work get to my readers?  Having a well-thought plan to market your book helps when pitching to publishing houses, as well.  It shows you’ve done the work to help market your book to make it a success.  Here is where you are listing out your website and social media plans. Other channels include your blog and your newsletter.  Author Kirby Larson has such an engaging newsletter, and I genuinely enjoy reading this when it arrives in my inbox.  When friends ask me to recommend middle-grade readers that involve pets, historical fiction, or a really good read, her work comes to mind.

Customer Relationships: How do I get, keep, and grow customers?  This is an important question, even if you are on your way to publication for the very first time. Are you creating interesting content?  Are you engaging with readers? On October 24th, Algonquin Books posted a shot of Bonnie Tsui’s book “Why We Swim” on their Instagram page. They shared it was World Swim Day and then – no pun intended – dove into the content of the book.  As a swimmer, am I compelled to read this?  Absolutely!  As a blogger, I have already made note of World Swim Day on my content calendar, as well.

On the left side of the canvas, we engage with internal facing questions about how we want to work.  What key resources do you need to write?  Is it time, pen and paper, or childcare coverage?  Who are your key partners for local bookstores, libraries, or schools?

Key Activities: When are you making the time to write?  To research?  To market?  To sleep, eat, and exercise?  What fills your well to keep you going?

Finally, let’s talk a little bit about costs, as well as revenue.  What does it cost you to be able to write?  How do you support yourself as a writer?

The Business Model Canvas gives you, the writer, a way to map out what you know, as well as what you need to know.  There is no right way to fill this out.  Bring it to your writer’s group and complete it with a hive mind or hang it on your bathroom mirror to consider each morning.  Either way, creating a plan helps you to honor your time, as well as the business of writing.


Link to the Business Model Canvas:

Link to video explaining this:

Link to Kirby Larson’s site:

Link to Algonquin Books use of book promotion, while adding value:


Barbara Bell has been a small business owner for the past 18 years, as well as a mentor to creators and business owners on how to market their work. She teaches entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and gets her best ideas while walking her dog, Whitby. You can follow her on Instagram @barbarabellphotography or reach out and drop her a line: