Small Business Lessons from a Writer’s Conference

In June, my wife and I attended the Summer in Words Conference in Cannon Beach, Oregon. The conference was hosted by Jessica Page Morrell, author, writing coach, and freelance editor. After reading a couple of Jessica’s books, Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us and Bullies, Bastards and Bitches, we hungered to draw more from Jessica’s well of editorial wisdom.

To me, writing is both a passion and my business. Jessica’s conference attracted successful and aspiring writers from Canada and the US, and was a feast of insights for artists and entrepreneurs.

Whether you’re writing a book or running a business, there’s never a shortage of naysayers. Jessica’s selection of speakers served up a smattering of realism balanced by a healthy dosage of encouragement. As I enjoyed the teachings for writers, my mind repurposed them to my business. Here are a few of the takeaways that I found to be helpful to my writing and my business.

  1. Experienced authors told us that they do a lot of research, but ignore most of it and use only the most relevant findings. Researching a business idea entails a lot of searching, massive reading, and then sifting to separate the best from the rest.
  2. Promotion of a book begins at least six months prior to its release or launch date. Promotion of a small business begins well before opening day.
  3. You save money by defining your niche clearly. A lot of money is wasted by attempting to market to a poorly-described audience. In business, it’s more efficient to target your advertising and marketing on a smaller, clearly identified customer.
  4. Write the book you want to read. Create the business you want to buy from.
  5. A book is an investment, not a hobby. A business is an investment, not a hobby.
  6. You are the boss; be in control. Whether writing or managing your small business, you must learn to work at your craft or career, even when you don’t want to.
  7. Much of a writer’s work is a lone journey, just as a lot of the fundamental work of building a small business is done solo.
  8. Let others critique your work, and then decide whether to use the input. Use feedback from unsophisticated sources judiciously. Give more importance to feedback from professionals.
  9. Once you’ve begun, there’s a tendency to get mired in the technical and mechanical aspects of writing. This is also true in business. Most writings and business ideas begin with a gust of intuition. Perhaps the most important advice I heard was “don’t lose the gut feeling that spawned the writing.”
  10. If you have a dream, don’t give up on it. If you give up on a book, it never gets written and your dream dies. Only if you write the book does your dream have a chance of coming to fruition. Similarly, giving up on a business idea is a sure way to killing it. Keep writing and keep working toward achieving your dreams.

Jessica Page Morrell’s books are rich resources for authors and the Summer in Words Conference was time well invested. We’re already plotting to attend next year. You can learn more about Jessica at her blogs, and

If you’re an author who would like to grow your writing business, join us for the Business Planning Online Workshop Sept 24.

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