Book Review: The Freelancer’s Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

I can’t remember how it happened or what led me to it, but by fortuitous chance I came across a blog called “Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing” by Dean Wesley Smith.  Every few days a new post would appear, and it was fascinating reading.  It addressed a lot of what I had been wondering about concerning the state of modern publishing, and went beyond to things it had never occurred to me to wonder about.  Then from Smith’s blog I went to Rusch’s blog.  At the time “The Freelancer’s Survival Guide” (hereafter TFSG) was being offered for free on her website as soon as it was being completed.  Apart from whatever paper books I was reading these became my daily fare in the summer of 2010.  Almost every other day there was a new entry in one or the other, and along with the multitudes of comments they generated it turned into a detailed lesson on writing as a business.

However, I am primarily a reader of books I can hold in my hands.  I haven’t yet acquired an electronic reader.  Not that I am averse to it, but here in Greece the taxes on electronic downloads, as well as the fact that available content is only a fraction of what is available elsewhere makes it impractical.  Apart from that though, I like the feel of the book in my hands.  So as soon as TFSG became available in print I ordered a copy, and recently I re-read it and studied it at my leisure.

Rusch takes pains to explain in the Guide that it is intended not only for freelance writers and artists but for any small business owners, and that is certainly true.  There is a wealth of information available to anyone who wants to strike out on their own in business.  But it is as a writer I must address this advice.  After all, it is the only business I have ever wanted to become involved in.  And Rusch herself is also a writer, primarily of fiction, and though she gives examples of many different small business models it is inevitably to writing and publishing that she returns.  That is where her primary experience is, though it must be said that she has been involved in many small business undertakings, and has gotten a lot of advice from other freelancers in the writing of the guide.

Rusch presents the advice in TFSG in a casual, conversational style that I find very appealing.  It is almost as if you sat in her kitchen with a cup of coffee having a friendly chat.  Indeed, when the initial version of the Guide came out online Rusch welcomed comments, responded to them, and allowed the comments to shape the final version of the printed guide.

The Guide touches on many aspects of a freelancer’s life, such as when you know you’re ready to quit your day job, time and money management, negotiating, networking, risks and setbacks, how to deal with failure and success, and goals and dreams and staying positive through it all.  Every chapter is inspiring and illuminating and informative.  I don’t agree with all of her advice, but so what?  I certainly agree with most of it, and even that with which I disagree causes me to ponder whatever point she is making.

Overall I highly recommend this book.  It’s still available for free in chapters on her website, (there is a donation button), but if like me you relish holding the physical book in your hands, or if you want to download it for your electronic reading device, it is available at Amazon as well as other online outlets.

To all you writers out there, aspiring or beginners or veterans, I can’t recommend this book enough.  It’s well worth the price of the purchase.  And be sure to check out Kris and Dean’s websites; every week they still publish cutting-edge essays on the current state of publishing and advice to writers.

One more thing:  for a long time I was a lurker; that is, I went to the sites to read but was too shy to say anything myself.  Then I began posting questions and comments and the response was always inviting, friendly, and helpful.  After each essay there is a lively discussion with well-informed people, many of whom are also professional writers.  So don’t miss the comments either; they are well worth the read.

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