For Your Approval
The Business of Being a Writer
My first wife, Kathleen Sky, and I were asked to teach a night course on science fiction writing at California State University at Northridge. Since we didn't think it would be right to send our poor students out into the cruel world of publishing without some basic knowledge, we scheduled one three-hour class on the business aspects of writing. The class flew by, and we barely scratched the surface, and our students were desperate for more. We realized there was a crying need for a class devoted just to this topic, and we proposed it to the administration. They agreed, and the new course was added the very next semester. Several of the students from our first class eagerly enrolled in the second.
Teaching the classes became a drain on our time, and we had to drop them even though we enjoyed doing them. But we still wanted to address the need for this information, so we asked our agent to see whether a publisher might be interested in a book on the subject. Harper and Row took the bait, so we wrote the book for them.
The book was modestly successful. It was the main monthly selection of the Writers Digest Book Club, and a featured alternate of Book-of-the-Month Club. It was reprinted in trade paperback format. Isaac Asimov gave us a back cover blurb we couldn't have afforded to pay him for. Theodore Sturgeon told me he lectured to librarians and teachers, telling them this was the second greatest reference work a writer could have, after the dictionary. Even Harlan Ellison had nice things to say about it, and he doesn't praise things lightly. I had one writer tell me she kept the book on her reference shelf, right next to Strunk & White. I was very proud of the work.
Even though the book is somewhat outdated (originally published
in 1982, before the widespread use of personal computers, the
Internet, and electronic publishing), much of its information is
still useful. Kathleen has graciously given me permission to
carry on the project without her, and I've started reprinting
slightly updated excerpts electronically. A full update is one
of the next projects on my agenda.