The Many Hats a Writer Wears

A career as a writer means doing more than writing. It means running a business and marketing your books. If you don’t market your books, you could write a wonderful story and no one would ever see it.

Sometimes, it seems as if a writer must wear many hats. The writer not only has to write, but he must also edit and market his books. And then there are the pesky aspects of running a business. Sometimes, it may seem that marketing is taking up all your writing time.

Just for fun, I’m going to look at the roles a writer must play as the hats he or she must wear.

Note: although this post touches on legal issues, I am not a lawyer, and nothing in this post is intended as legal advice.

The Writer’s Hat

The first, and most comfortable, is the writer’s hat. This is why you went into writing–to tell stories. When you wear your writer’s hat, you’re an artist with words. It’s time to let you creativity flow. This is when you get to bring those stories to life.

Some writer’s would love to wear their writer’s hat all the time. Unfortunetly, it’s not right for every occasion.

The Researcher’s Hat

Every writer must do at least some research. Even fiction involves facts that you will need to get right. You want to look like you know what you’re talking about. You also want to avoid annoying readers who know much about the times or places you write about. There are some places where you might find good information.

  • Nonfiction books and videos about the time and place of your story.
  • Books, articles, or videos about a character’s profession or hobby, or about weapons or tools he uses.
  • Information from the time and place of your story.
  • Fiction from the time and place of your story.

Remember to check your information for accuracy. Taking notes and keeping them organized really helps.

For many writers, it’s fun to wear the researcher’s hat. You get to run down rabbit trails and find all kinds of interesting things. However, research can be a distraction. You might spend hours researching thing that are interesting, but irrelevant to your story. For this reason, it’s important to focus on the information that you really need.


The Editor’s Hat

First drafts are never perfect. Once you’ve finished one and let it cool off for a while, it’s time to put on your editor’s hat and start revising it.

When you wear your editor’s hat, you’re polishing your work. You go through your drafts and rewrite them so that they make sense. You delete that scene that doesn’t fit the story, make that character behave more consistently, and make sure that other character always has the same eye color.

Good editing takes several steps. Read through the work, and note what could use improvement. Begin with big-picture issues, such as filling plot holes and resolving inconsistencies. Afterward, polish the scenes and remove clutter. Finally, fix the typos.

The editor’s hat isn’t always as fun to wear as the writer’s hat. When you put it on, your writing might look like a disaster. The story that seemed so great when you wrote it doesn’t look that great now. It can be frustrating when your story seems hopeless.

However, when you wear your editor’s hat, you get to polish your work. A rough draft is like a rough gem; it needs to be cut and polished to make its beauty shine. Sometimes, wearing your editor’s hat makes you feel like you’re making something beautiful.

The Writer’s Business Hats

As a writer, you also need some business hats. After all, you’re running a business by marketing and selling your creative works. Your stories are now assets that can earn you money.

Many writers find that their business hats aren’t quite as comfortable as the writer’s hat. Some people take a long time to feel comfortable in them. But business hats are essential for the writer.

If you find your business hats to be ugly and uncomfortable, you can think of them as helmets that you wear in battle to protect your business. There are unscrupulous companies that want to trick you into giving them the rights to your works. If you do this, you will lose your ability to use your own creations and profit from them.

You will also need to know how to protect your creative empire from lawsuits and tax problems. With some good business hats, you can be a guardian of your empire.

There are two main types of business hats a writer needs.

The Clerk’s Hat

The first business hat is the clerk’s hat. This is the hat you were when keeping records and keeping track of money. This can be boring. To some of us imaginative and creative types, it can seem overwhelming. However, it’s important to know how well your books are earning. If a book isn’t selling well, you may need to market it better or improve it.

Keeping good business records is necessary for when you pay taxes. It also shows you whether your writing business is making a profit and what you might need to fix. You can set up a spreadsheet using free software such as LibreOffice. If you don’t mind doing calculations, you can use pencil and paper. Printable trackers designed for small businesses are available on Etsy.

The Marketer’s Hat

You’re in business–and you need to market. Your novel will be a great product, but no one will know about it if you don’t market it. Marketing means letting people who are likely to enjoy your novel know that it exists.

You’ll need to know who will enjoy reading the kind of books you write. If you write in more than one genre, you’ll have to market to more than one type of reader. You’ll also need to learn how to reach out to your readers.

The Techie Hat

This may be the most uncomfortable hat for some writers–but it’s important. You’ll need to know at least how to build a website and set up an email list. You’ll also need to learn something about online marketing. It may seem daunting. However, you can do it.

The best way to build your website is to use WordPress. That way, you have a website you own and control. You don’t have to learn coding to get a nice-looking WordPress site up. While WordPress is free, you will need to pay a few dollars a month for hosting.

There are simple and free ways to build a website, such as However, using one of these means building your website on someone else’s space. If the company chooses to raise its rates beyond what you want to pay,  or if it makes some rules you don’t like, you have a problem. Worse, your site may be deleted because the company’s software mistook it for spam.

The tech skills it takes to build and maintain a website with WordPress are also marketable in the real world. You may be able to use them in your day job.

Use Your Imagination

As a fiction writer, you can imagine seeing things from the perspective of someone very different from you. Your characters aren’t just like you. You can use your imagination to imagine the perspective of a person in a very different historical context, or even someone in an imaginary world.

Put this imagination to use when you need to wear a hat that doesn’t seem to fit write. Imagine seeing things from the perspective of an abitious entrepreneur or a technical wizard who actually likes solving tech problems. Maybe you could even try writing something from the perspective of someone like this.


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