Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

The Great Debate: Is Writing an Art or a Business?

There seems to be this weird divide in the writing community. There are writers, who view the act of writing as a means to earn their living by publishing their articles, stories, and books. And then there are writers, the artistes (in the French accent and everything) who pour their soul onto the page and hold immense disdain for the evil necessity of selling their literary children to heartless agents.

Greed_by_muffet1In my personal experience, these two categories are often distinguished by genre. The artless journalists peddle their pens for the dollar, while the artful creative writers weave imaginary worlds to describe the indescribable human condition. And you know, in the days of Shakespeare, maybe even as recently as Hemingway and Fitzgerald, this may have been the case. However, for those of you clinging onto this stigma, I hate to break it to you, but…

NEWSFLASH: The days of writing as an art OR a business are over.

With the current hyper-competitiveness of the traditional publishing market, a writer must be both artful and business-minded in order to secure a readership, attract an agent, and produce a respectable quantity of quality writing. At the same time as traditional publishing is becoming even more cut-throat, the independent publishing industry is booming.

For independent writers, the art vs. business balance is even more crucial. These writers have more freedom in their art, as they do not have publishing companies censoring their work. However, they also don’t have publishing companies around to help manage the business side of writing. Therefore, they must learn to self-edit and tame their art, while at the same time creating and managing a business plan that still leaves room for their art.

All this being said, is there ever a time in which writing can be only an art or only a business? Let me offer a few rough guidelines.

Writing as Art

Who should do this? – Hobbyists

my_writer_II_by_cactusowaWriting is art and art only when the writer has no intention of profiting from his or her writing. If the writer is writing for enjoyment (as merely a hobby), for therapeutic purposes, or for any other purely personal reason, with no intention of monetary gain, that is writing as art. As with any artistic venture, the writing may gain monetary value and may result in profit. However, if the intentions are to create and enjoy, not to earn money, then the writing is done as art.

Of course, there is always the debate of what exactly constitutes “art” — but that is a whole other post.

Writing as Business

Who should do this? – Writers/Publishers (Big Business)

Writing is a business when an individual intends to profit from the writing. I believe it is difficult for writing to be purely a business, as there is usually an aspect of art in the creation of the writing. To this end, I would argue that writing is purely business when the writer does not gain emotional or spiritual enjoyment from it, when the writer cares more about the profitability of a work than the quality, and/or when the writer lets the market dictate what type of works he or she writes. Additionally, I would argue that writing is strictly business for several individuals in the publishing industry, who care more about the marketability of a book than the quality.

Writing as Art and Business

Who should do this? – Contemporary Writers (especially independent writers)

As described previously, writing should be considered an art and a business. As someone who cares deeply about the field of writing, I know it is an art form. While the techniques of writing can be learned, it takes great practice and some natural talent to be able to write artfully. Writing artfully shows integrity and respect for the field. However, writers cannot get too wrapped up in artistic sensibility. They must be mindful of ways to market their writing and themselves, cognizant of what readers want, and careful in their expenditures.

Michel_Roux_-_Book_signingAs they say in the business world, time is money. Likewise, money is time. You need both to have the freedom to pursue writing. When you treat your writing as a business, it generates the money that gives you the time to practice your art. The time crafting your art creates marketable writing product, which you can sell to make more money and time. You get to be artful and profitable. It’s a win-win.

The fact of the matter is: in today’s market, a writer must be good (artful) and business-minded. You can wax poetic, drink coffee, and wear fedoras all day long, but if you don’t have a business plan (to get published or to publish yourself), you won’t have any time to craft your art in those coffee shops — because you’ll be the one pouring the coffee to pay rent.

Do you consider your writing to be more of an art or more of a business? Do you think the form of publishing a writer pursues impacts the art vs. business balance?


Business For Authors. How To Be An Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn – This book is all about the union of art and business in writing. In Penn’s words, this book is meant “to take the result of your creativity into the realm of actually paying the bills.”

Your First 1,000 Copies: The Step-By-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book by Tim Grahl – This book teaches you how to turn your writing into a business by marketing responsibly and with morality. I highly
recommend this one for anyone who feels like a jerk when trying to get people’s money. You can check out my review for more information.

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt – This
book walks you through the process of setting up a social media platform and gives advice on creating a product that will sell. I recommend it for both traditionally-published or independently-published authors. You can check out my review for more information.

4 thoughts on “The Great Debate: Is Writing an Art or a Business?”

  1. Great post! In the business side of things, I find marketing the writing the hardest thing. I mean, I’m a writer, not a salesman. Still, I do the best I can.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree. I think it’s sometimes difficult as a writer to push people to buy your artistic product, but we must do it. Grahl’s book has great tips on marketing with a sense of morality. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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