Blog Posts

Writing is NOT a Business Model.

Today, I'd like to share a guest blog post from my good friend, David Perdew who is going to dispel a common misunderstanding that many online business owners and bloggers have.

Writing is NOT Your Business Model!

by David Perdew

Do you recognize these names?

  • James Patterson
  • Danielle Steel
  • E. L. James

Unless you've been living under a log for the last 30 years, you know that James Patterson and Danielle Steel are best-selling authors.

E.L. James may be new to you. She was to me, even though she holds 3 of the top 5 New York Times Bestsellers as of this writing. But here’s the thing: She published her first book only 9 months ago!

The three on the NYT Best Seller list today are:

James Patterson has a book at number 3 and Danielle Steel at number 8.

These folks are mega-writers. They were lucky. They are more talented than the rest of us. They have all the advantages, right?

Nope. They’re good business people! That’s the advantage they have.

And that’s why you can take your blog to bestseller status too. You just have to learn to realize that writing is not a business model! It’s a product. Then, you treat it like a product.

At the Niche Affiliate Marketing System workshop, I taught a workshop on business models where we identified different types of models. I asked a simple question.

 “Are you a writer or a publisher?”

Eyes popped open and hands slapped the sides of heads. The light bulb went off in more than one student. With 20 years in the newspaper business working for major newspaper chains and metropolitan organizations, I learned a lot about publishing versus writing.

  • Publishers like revenue and gross profit.
  • Writers like words and making connections.
  • Publishers want to see ever increasing subscriber numbers.
  • Writers want someone to tell them what a good story that was.
  • Publishers think advertisers are the life blood of the publication.
  • Writers think advertisers eat up the space reserved for their words.
  • Publishers see content (your writing) as the bait to get readers to buy services.
  • Writers see their writing as the king of the publication and everything else is second.

When you think of writing as your product, like James Patterson, Danielle Steel, and E.L. James, you incorporate business into your approach. We can take lessons from these fine business folks and apply them to your own writing business.

James Patterson

Click here to see books by James Patterson.

He is the world's best-selling author with more than 250 million copies of his books sold worldwide. According to Wikipedia, his novels account for one in 17 of all hardcover novels sold in the United States. That’s more than Stephen King, John Grisham and Dan Brown combined. And those guys are no slouches.

How does he do that?

Outsourcing: Writers everywhere cringe when I tell them this. “Writers don’t outsource! They write every word.” But James Patterson outsources! And he’s one of the highest paid, most prolific writers on the planet. He hands off ideas, plots and characters to other, lesser known writers working with different co-authors, because collaborating with others brings new and interesting ideas to his stories he says.

Project Management: By the end of 2012, Patterson will write or co-write 11 books for adults and 6 for young adults according to a $150 million deal he signed in Sep. 2009, says Forbes. That’s 17 books in just over three years. That’s a huge project for any publishing company to take on. But Patterson’s publisher has basically outsourced the project management of these 17 books to Patterson’s team.

Team: Oh, yes. He’s got a team of workers who help him write these books. Without a team of people who take over some of the load of what you have been doing yourself, you’ll never scale your business to a point where you can work “on your business, not in it” as Michael Gerber says in the “E-Myth Revisited.”

These are all techniques that bloggers must – I didn’t say should, but MUST – master if they wish to make money with their online business. (If you don’t see your blog as an online business, you’re not going to like the rest of this article or the Niche Affiliate Marketing System workshops either.)

Danielle Steel

Click here to see books by Danielle Steel.

If James Patterson is the king of outsourcing, Danielle Steel has discovered how to diversify her product lines by using standard formulas. The author of at least 86 books, she’s known by most critics for writing “fluff” with a tendency to be redundant and formulaic. By most accounts, the writing is not all that good.

So what? She’s a Zillionaire! And she knows how to negotiate deals in related business endeavors using the following key techniques.

Product Re-Use: At least 22 of her books have been turned into made-for-tv-movies. In 2005, she negotiated a deal with New Line Home Entertainment for the film rights to 30 of her novels for DVDs only. Translated into at least 28 languages, her books can be found on shelves in 47 countries or more by now. How much extra work did she have to do to reap millions of dollars from those novels? Zippo! It was re-use and re-negotiation.

Joint Ventures: Danielle can now be found on a different store shelf. She has a fragrance licensed with the cosmetic company Elizabeth Arden called Danielle. It has nothing to do with writing, but everything to do with the brand she’s built.

Brand Management: She has become her brand. People buy her books because they are Danielle Steel books. Quality doesn’t matter, nor does the formula. She is consistently on the New York Times Best Seller list, including one stint of 390 consecutive weeks. That’s 7.5 years for those who are math-challenged like me.

If Danielle Steel teaches us anything, it’s that your brand can be at least as valuable as your primary products. The key is to recognize it as your asset, build it, and protect it.

The brand will add revenues that are generated around your product through joint ventures and additional licensing. That’s why we concentrate on these aspects of your business in the Niche Affiliate Marketing System workshops.

E.L. James

Click here to see books by E.L. James.

James is fascinating. She is an info-age writer who learned how to build a business using viral marketing, blogging and print-on-demand publishing so successfully that at this moment she has three books on the New York Times Best Seller list at 1, 2, and 5.

That’s impressive. But even more impressive is that she release her first book just 9 months ago!

Wow! Fifty Shades of Grey, an erotic romance was the first volume in a trilogy. She released that simultaneously as an ebook and a print-on-demand paperback by a virtual publisher in Australia in June 2011.

The second in the trilogy, was Fifty Shades Darker released in September 2011. And the final installment in the trilogy, Fifty Shades Freed, followed in January 2012.

I’ve already given you a bunch of hints here why her business model is so fascinating.

Model Success: Inspired by the “Twilight” series of novels, a very hot trend in publishing and film, she modeled them as “fan fiction.” By doing that, she was able to ride the coattails of an already successful publishing franchise straight to the top of the NYT top 10 list in a very short time.

Target Market:  She identified her audience as married women in their 30s who were interested in erotic fiction. She so focused this demographic that a new genre was born and it was dubbed “mommy porn.” (I’m not a proponent of it, just learning from the business model!)

Cheap Marketing: The first book really took off when she launched the ebook episodically on her website. Fans began following the book and driving additional readers to the site to read the latest installment. It became a word-of-mouth sensation and has become the latest example of viral marketing that has driven a business to success. Viral marketing is not luck. In fact, it’s a calculated process that James executed exceptionally well. We teach that as one aspect of our marketing process at the NAMS workshops.

Resource Usage: With her P-O-D publisher, they together loaded her “product” on Amazon and drove it to best-seller status where it gained the attention of Knopf Doubleday Publishing. Next stop: New York Times Best Seller list.

Publicity Leverage: E.L. James and “mommy porn” had become a news item. James and the publishing company leveraged that newsworthy while it was hot for two reasons. 1) She created a new genre – that would only have been newsworthy as long as the second item was effective and that was, 2) That they had propelled her to incredible publishing heights in less than 9 months using new technology and grass-roots, internet-based marketing techniques.

Product Funnel: “Sell them a second glass of water” is an old marketing proverb. James was ready with this, and very calculated, guaranteed. When her first book had a buyer, she had another book ready to offer the reader who couldn’t get enough. Then, the third followed closely. This model has been used for years in the science fiction and fantasy genre, but recently improved by the Harry Potter series. Then, it was perfected by the Stieg Larsson Millenium series (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and others). What’s next is always a great question to ask for your customer.

What have you learned today about your business model?

First, do you have a business model?

If your business model is writing, good luck with that. If you prefer publishing because you realize your writing is your product, then you’ve got a chance to make a really good business. Creating original content is one of the hardest things about building a business online, but if you’re a writer who understands the value of business (so you can write what you want even more…), then you’re in like Flynn!

All of these writers teach us that our business models should include:

  • Outsourcing
  • Project Management
  • Teamwork
  • Product Re-Use
  • Joint Ventures
  • Brand Management
  • Model Success
  • Target Market
  • Cheap Marketing
  • Resource Usage
  • Publicity Leverage
  • Product Funnel

That seems like a lot to learn, but when it’s tackled one step at a time, it’s really fairly simple.

That’s why we’ve built an entire system called the Niche Affiliate Marketing System to teach these techniques. In fact, you can find out more about the next live workshop in Atlanta here and the supporting premium membership site here.

Good luck with your business. I’d love to hear more about your business model in the comments below.

Author’s Resource Box: David Perdew is the founder and chief architect of the Niche Affiliate Marketing System workshops and the MyNAMS Premium Membership site. With more than 20 years in the newspaper business and more than 20 years as a business consultant, he has brought all his journalistic, teaching and consulting experience together to help others find the freedom that comes from entrepreneurship.

All right guys and gals, what do you think? Do you see David's point? Basically in building a business, there has to be more to it than “just” writing. Even if you have your own publisher, you'll do much much better if you have a business built in and around your books.

Talk to me… I have a friend who I can bring in to answer more questions, too, if you have them. 🙂

Looking forward to your comments.

Nicole Dean

I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.

  • Ute Goldkuhle


    This is another so well presented and researched discussion on writing as a business model. I gained significant clarity. Here is why. While building a niche market, every training source emphasizes content writing, interesting and original content, as a key to list building and marketing. That makes sense. However, as you explain E.L. James’ very calculated business approach: target audience, sequencing and timing of her three books, even the titles… that’s when the business model and writing as the key product funnel sort of “clicked” for me. I would have never seen a book author from that perspective.

    In fact, I believe now that the hardest hurdle to overcome in building an internet marketing system and succeed is to understand that writing is the pillar of the business model. Every content written has to fit into the marketing and product funnel. Once understood, all writing – creative or informational – weaves around the product funnel. That’s when it becomes fun! And I am having it!

    Nicole, you obviously have mastered this concept as you demonstrate it in all your communications. Your writing is fun, creative, but very purposeful – you know what you are doing. And you know your audience who to include into your business circles! This guest post is another example.

    Thank you and I see you at NAMS!


  • Susan Greene


    I’ve struggled with how to scale up my copywriting business. Your article provided me with some new ideas and insights into how other writers have achieved that goal. Thank you.

  • The Mom

    Ouch. The “writer” vs “publisher” really nailed it. Again, I say, ouch.

    Thank you for the not so gentle shove, David and Nicole. Excellent topic.

  • Geoff

    I was one of those in that room whose eyes popped open when you said that. It is something I still find myself resisting (I’m an ARTIST!) but it is also something that is so fundamentally vital to any writer’s success that it is shocking I hadn’t encountered it before. (Well, I probably had encountered it, I just wasn’t willing to notice, I suppose.)

    I am very interested to see how my own transformation in self identity falls out. (In my blog, I now call myself a publisher, among other things.)

    Thanks for the great… publishing.


    • David Perdew

      Geoff – I remember the look on your face 🙂 It was priceless.

      People are always shocked when they “hear” this for the first time. I was too. My old city editor (on a metro newspaper with more than 200,000 circulation) asked me one day when I was arguing the importance of a story, “What’s the main purpose of this newspaper?”

      I was only out of journalism school a couple of years, so I gave him my high-minded, noble, j-school response: To serve the people, to go where the public can’t, to dig out the news and confront the wrong doers!

      His answer was simple – To Stay In Business!

      Ah, yes, publishing is a business.

  • Lalitha Brahma

    The comparison between a publisher and a writer is a revelation to me.

  • Danyelle Franciosa

    Hi Nicole, we have different business models and definitely mine is different. I agree with you about writing is not a business model sometimes we misinterpret to know what is all about in writing. The comparison between a Writer and a Publisher is quite helpful for me to establish an effective writing even more.

  • Tawra

    Our biggest problem has been not being able to outsource. Every time we try it, it blows up on us and several times it has blown up big costing us several thousand dollars lost.

    If we could figure out how to outsource effectively it would be great! Unfortunately now I’m so burned out I’m not sure I have it in me to even try but at the same time I don’t want to let 15 years worth of work just flush down the toilet either! 🙂

  • James Artre

    I just discovered that I am a Publisher!

    Wow, truly exceptional article…Bravo!

    Be good to yourself,


  • David Perdew

    Thanks James – there’s that “revelation” someone mentioned earlier. Love that when it happens…


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