Writing is a Business

"Hemingway set his own hours" —Mordecai Richler, on why he became a writer

Writing is a Business: one-day crash course August 11, 2013 at the Academy of the Impossible

So you want to be a writer. Or you are a writer, but you’re having a tough time figuring out how to earn a living at it. Join the club.

Many writers, even those working at it full time, are utterly lost when it comes to figuring out how to profitably run a writing business. Most writers, it seems, chose the trade because they consider concepts like “running a business” to be foreign, or even kind of gross. But if you are working as a writer today, you pretty much need to run a business if you are fond of concepts like “eating” and “paying the rent.”

Writing is a Business has been offered as a four-week course for writers who want to learn how to earn a living from their writing since 2012. In 2012, more than 125 writers took the course and report finding it helpful to the development of their careers (we can put you in touch with some of them if you want to ask them directly what it was like). This summer, we’re offering the entire course in one day on Sunday, August 11 at The Academy of the Impossible in Toronto. The class will run approximately eight hours (we’ll take some breaks for lunch and coffee) beginning at 10am. To register, email writingisabusiness [at] gmail.com.

The class is taught by Edward Keenan, who supports his family as a writer (in a house! that they bought with money! that he earned writing!), and who has both training and experience running or managing small and medium-sized businesses. In working as an editor with other freelance writers and editorial interns over the course of almost a decade, Edward realized that too many of them were baffled by the most basic elements of how to run their writing businesses, and often even found it difficult to think of what they did as being a business.


This course arose in response to those basic skills that most young writers lacked, and will include:

  • An introduction to the world of writing for money in Toronto, including who buys writing and how much they pay.
  • An overview of  some key elements of the craft of reporting and writing non-fiction — from conceiving of great story ideas, to selling them, researching and writing them.
  • Some discussion of the elusive, sometimes silly concepts of “voice” and “branding” and how devoting energy to developing those things can be a help or a hinderance.
  • The not-so-scary (but incredibly important) psychological transition to thinking of your writing career as a business.
  • Why working for free is usually a bad idea (and when it can be an excellent business decision).
  • How to develop and build your writing business, how to figure out how much you should be making, how to market yourself and your work, how to negotiate with clients and how to keep track of your finances.
  • Direct answers to questions arising from students about any aspect of writing for a living.


The material is geared specifically to be accessible to aspiring and emerging non-fiction writers. Students, recent graduates and those looking to switch careers or turn their hobby into a source of income will get a useful overview of the industry basics and a headstart on launching their careers.

Much of the material will be specific to journalistic writing—many fiction writers, poets and essayists looking to branch out to find new venues to earn money from writing and express themselves in different ways will find the perspective useful.

More experienced writers and creative professionals working in other disciplines may get useful ideas and insight into how to refine their careers and work more effectively.


The price is $99.

A limited number of spots will be set aside for those in financial need—if you find the cost prohibitive due to unemployment, underemployment or other life circumstances, let us know and we can try to negotiate a discount.

Advance registration is required. To ask questions, please email writingisabusiness [at] gmail [dot] com or send a comment in the field below (and be sure to include your contact info). And please do let us know if you’d like to be included on an email list advising you of future sessions of this class, or other classes offered by Edward Keenan.

Pitching Coach Clinic from Writing is a Business begins May 15

One of the primary marketing tools in any working writer’s shed is the pitch. It’s the thing you use to put your ideas in front of editors and get paying assignments. Yet even for talented writers who’ve worked hard on their craft, the simple sales letter remains something of a mystery: what are editors looking for? Is there a format you should use? What tone is appropriate? What are the key dos and don’ts?

Edward Keenan, teacher of the popular Writing is a Business class at the Academy of the Impossible, aims to help writers by coaching them on the art of the query through this Pitching Coach session. Over four weeks on Wednesday evenings (May 15, 22, 29, and June 5), students will:

*Learn the basic elements of the query that sells, including things you need to include, things you should not do, tips on format, and advice on when and how to follow-up.

*See examples of letters that work, and some that don’t.

*Get personal coaching on a query letter of their own through in-class workshops and notes from Edward Keenan.

The class will feature presentations and discussion from a series of professional writers and editors who will share their own experiences–good and bad–and preferences:

Nicholas Hune-Brown: a freelance writer and multiple National Magazine Award winner whose work has appeared in Toronto Life, The Walrus, Reader’s Digest, Canadian Business.

David Fielding: Executive Editor of Report on Business magazine, and formerly an editor at The Grid, Toro, and Canadian Business.

Denise Balkissoon A full-time freelance writer whose work has appeared in Toronto Life, The Grid, Chatelaine, The Globe and Mail, and the Boston Globe, and co-editor of The Ethnic Aisle.

Jason McBride: An editor with Coach House Books and former editor at Toronto Life, whose freelance writing regularly appears in publications including New York, Toronto Life, The Believer, and Maclean’s.

Classes will run approximately two hours beginning at 7pm on May 15, 22, 29, and June 5.

Fees for the course are $250. Students who have already taken Edward Keenan’s Writing is a Business class at the Academy of the Impossible are eligible for a $50 discount. A limited number of spaces are available at a reduced rate for those who are in financial need.

Admission to this class is limited, and advance registration is required. To register, email writingisabusiness [at] gmail.com.