Writers: Who’s Your Boss?

I saw a comment the other day from a new novelist that did not sit right with me at all. I won’t link to it because I don’t aim to stir up trouble for others here; that’s not what I’m about. Still I feel the general issue merits addressing head on.

She wrote she had taken up writing because she wanted to work for herself and be her own boss.

As I read that, I thought, hang on a minute; that misses the point. If you’re, say, keeping a diary no one but you will ever read, that’s one thing. But as a published author you are NOT working for yourself and you are NOT your own boss.

You are working for your readers.

That’s far scarier than being responsible to an employer in an office.

True, you strive to produce the best books you can: in that sense you owe yourself something. But even if it’s only 99¢, readers you don’t know still have freely chosen to part with their hard-earned money for your work. They are your bosses. Without them, you don’t have a job.

Frontiers cover page, on Kindle. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Frontiers cover page, on Kindle. [Photo by me, 2015.]

Maybe I am technically self-employed and my bosses are not standing over me physically as I work. But my bosses are “out there” for sure. They are everyone who buys even one of my books.

I think quite a few people go into writing thinking they will be responsible to no one.

If you want to write and that’s how you imagine it, politely I suggest you misunderstand.

Indeed, as an author some of your bosses may be far harsher than a boss who’s standing ten feet away. A physically co-present supervisor, manager, or team leader will at least temper criticisms because he is dealing with you face to face. Successful human relations and all that.

But on the “faceless” internet it’s likely at least a few of your bosses (but you hope not too many!) will slam into you brutally. People you will probably never meet in person have no qualms about hitting you really hard if they don’t like what you’ve done workwise. After all, they don’t have to see you in an actual office tomorrow so there’s little need to be “diplomatic” about how they say it.

If you are writing, it is worth remembering that.

Almost time for me to resume work. Have a good Wednesday, wherever you are in the world. 🙂


  1. This reminds me a lot of one aspect of the publishing debate. A lot of self-publishers say that, with independent publishing now accessible to almost everyone, the gatekeepers are gone. But the reality is, the gatekeepers still exist — they are the readers. Sure, your book may not be judged by agents or publishers anymore, but the readers still hold the key to you paying your rent.

    Great post and great topic to muse on. I know I have been guilty of saying that I want to work “for myself” and “without a boss” before, but you are right. While I would not have a direct manager and I would be “alone” in the “office,” I still have readers to answer to. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You mentioning self-publishing immediately reminded me that the source of that comment was a self-published author.

      You’re right about that. The idea of “being your own boss” I think stems from not being immediately accountable to someone standing over you, who demands, “Kate, I need this by 5pm.” But you are beholden to your monthly bank balance regardless.

      Your readers – purchasers, to be even more accurate – whether you are traditionally published or not, make your income. And a traditional publisher won’t keep you around for long anyway if your books don’t sell. The whole notion of “working for yourself” and novel-writing is, to me, illusory.

      Thanks for stopping by again! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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