Are books a business?

Art for art's sake


I know the title of this blog sounds like a strange question to a lot of people.  But the issue of whether books are a business is one of those questions that depends on a number of factors.

Writers groups are heavily populated with members who write things personal to themselves or their families. For instance, a writer may chronicle her grandparents’ move from back East to the western frontier in the early part of the twentieth century. This story may have an appeal to a larger audience, but the writer really doesn’t care about that.  She just wants to get her family history on paper and share it with her kids, grand children and other family members.

Other writers focus on an important organization in their sphere of concern. A good example of this is a church history, or a history of a country school that no longer exists. The target audience for the work is a finite group of people who share a connection with the church or school.

The issue of whether books are a business rankles many authors who prefer to think of writing as art for arts sake.

“My book is not a commodity like a can of beans,” a person of this mindset might say.


His book is a commodity like a can of beans.

That is not to demean the craft of writing.

The better the beans, the more likely they will end up in a shopping cart.

Authors who hope to make any money with their books understand the business end of the book-writing proposition.

Indie authors probably appreciate this reality more than other writers because in the last few years they have learned to wear all the hats of small business owners.

They have learned that many jobs can’t be sloughed off on someone else. No one can handle an author’s social media like she can; no one takes more care with the appearance of the cover art; no one gives more attention to the final proofs.

And it goes without saying that no one but the author is willing to shell out cold, hard cash to promote the author’s book.

The more an author understands the business end of the book gig, the more she is able to provide content she can sell.

What kind of book does the market want?

“I can get you one of those,” she says as she changes the title of her work in progress and considers new cover art.





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