“It takes guts to be gentle and kind.” —The Smiths
About Jane Friedman
Jane Friedman has 25 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in business strategy for authors and publishers. She’s the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, a paid newsletter for authors, and has previously worked for Writer’s Digest and the Virginia Quarterly Review. In 2023, Jane was awarded Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World; her newsletter was awarded Media Outlet of the Year in 2020.
Jane’s latest book is The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), which received a starred review from Library Journal. Publishers Weekly said that it is “destined to become a staple reference book for writers and those interested in publishing careers.” In collaboration with The Authors Guild, she wrote The Authors Guild Guide to Self-Publishing.
In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses, Jane’s expertise has been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, and many other outlets. She offers a free newsletter, Electric Speed, published since 2009, that has more than 25,000 subscribers. Her paid newsletter, The Hot Sheet, has more than 2,200 subscribers.
Since 2001, Jane has delivered keynote talks across the globe, including the Writer’s Digest annual conference, Stockholm Writers Festival, San Miguel Writers Conference, The Muse & The Marketplace, Frankfurt Book Fair, and Digital Book World.
She’s also served on grant panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund, and is currently a board member at The Facing Project. And for a while she even flirted with academia, holding positions as a professor of writing, media, and publishing at the University of Cincinnati and University of Virginia.
In her spare time, Jane writes creative nonfiction, which has been included in the anthologies Every Father’s Daughter and Drinking Diaries. If you look hard enough, you can also find her embarrassing college poetry.
What I Care About
I have a special interest in how the digital age is transforming writing careers, publishing, and storytelling. Rather than taking a dark view of how the Internet era has affected writers’ livelihoods, I’m more interested in how revolutionary change can inspire new business models, and how authorship will ultimately evolve. I believe history is on the writers’ side: they’ve been sustaining their careers in ever more innovative ways since the era of Gutenberg. Furthermore, I don’t think that business and art must be at odds—I believe they can inform and push each other to flourish.
I sit at the intersection of several communities, which gives me a 360-degree view of the changes now shaping writing and publishing. People working inside the industry see me as an expert in digital and self-publishing, while independent authors see me as a traditional publishing figure. The university and MFA community see me as very commercially minded, while the business people see me as literary and academic. I would have it no other way; I prefer to serve as a bridge.
Some of my most recent published writings in these areas include:
- An Insider’s Perspective on the Fall of F+W Media, Bo Sacks newsletter / June 18, 2019
- “A New Age of Discovery: The Editor’s Role in a Changing Publishing Industry.” What Editors Do (University of Chicago Press, 2017). Edited by Peter Ginna.
- “The Greatest Challenge Facing Literary Publishing.” Boulevard, Spring 2016.
- “The Future Value of a Literary Publisher.” Literary Publishing in the Twenty-First Century (Milkweed Editions, 2016). Reprinted in the Spring 2016 issue of Copper Nickel.
- “The Future of the Gatekeepers.” The Little Magazine in Contemporary America (University of Chicago Press, 2015).
In 2011, after being asked so often to predict the future of publishing, I wrote a satire on futurist commentary (The Future of Publishing: Enigma Variations), but most of my work is rather practical and sincere, and meant to educate writers on how to create sustainable, meaningful careers in the digital era.
How I make my living: an ethics statement
I earn my living as an entrepreneur and freelancer; my goal is to be truly independent of any obligation to an employer, business, or organization. I am not paid by any company or organization to recommend or promote their services, either on this blog, through social media, or any other public forum. Any sponsorships or advertising relationships, when they exist, are stated upfront and transparently. If I write about a company I have consulted for, I disclose that when I write about them. My income is driven largely by my own writing and teaching, and I consider my interests to be aligned with writers’ interests.
The Résumé Detail
I began my career at F+W Media in Cincinnati, where I ultimately oversaw the transition of a predominantly print-driven business to one centered on digital media. I was responsible for the business strategy and financial performance of a brand that generated $10 million in revenue each year, overseeing a team of twenty, which covered editorial, advertising, online education, and e-commerce operations. During my tenure, I launched and managed the social media presence of Writer’s Digest, growing its Twitter fan base to over 150,000 followers and its Facebook fan base to over 25,000 followers. In my role as publisher, I also launched and artistically directed the Writer’s Digest Conference and Writer’s Digest webinar series, which still continue today.
My leadership and business results at F+W ultimately landed me a job as a tenure-track professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, which grants BFA degrees to students seeking full-time careers in the media. While at UC, I was recruited to work at the Virginia Quarterly Review at the University of Virginia, to spearhead and manage digital publishing initiatives. I launched the first digital subscription to the journal (comprising 25% of subscriptions by the time I left), and led a major content migration and strategic relaunch for VQR Online. My audience development for the brand led to a 100% increase in website visits during issue release months.
Since 2001, I’ve spoken at hundreds of events around the world, and have been invited to speak at gatherings such as South by Southwest, BookExpo America, Digital Book World, Frankfurt Book Fair, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.
As someone with more than two decades of hands-on experience in using new media and technology to grow readership and revenue, my expertise has been featured by sources such as NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, the National Press Club, The Authors Guild, Nieman Journalism Lab, Publishers Weekly, and PBS.
My work has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Writer’s Digest magazine, Copper Nickel, Boulevard, the AWP Notebook, VQR Online, Publishing Perspectives, IBPA Independent Magazine, The Huffington Post, and many other print and online venues.
My essays have been published in anthologies by the University of Chicago Press, Seal Press, Milkweed Editions, and McPherson & Co.—as well as Writer’s Digest Books, Writer’s Market, Writer’s Market UK, and Australian Writer’s Marketplace.
The More Personal Take
I am a late-sleeping, bourbon-drinking editor, at least mostly sane. I live life forward, even though you can only understand it backward.
I’m open to just about any adventure, and even a whole lot of situations (or conversations) that most people would consider boring.
I’m fascinated by the concepts of happiness, memory, loss, death, regret, settling, staying put, money and art, beginnings and endings.
I value compassion, service, and independence. I seek environments exhibiting these values, especially organizations with a strong why driving their activity. I also appreciate organizations (and people) that don’t take themselves too seriously.
I test INXP on the Myers-Briggs and Type 3 on the Enneagram, which is fun to think about, but if you’re looking for a shortcut to understanding how I operate in the world, then just listen to a few Alan Watts lectures.
I have been called Miss Jane, Wonder Jane, Sweet Jane, Plain Jane, The Other Jane, Not-That Jane, and Smiling Jane.
I’ve also been called a pusher, a dream crusher, a hopeless idealist (or just plain naive, depending), a bad influence, an adventurer, a fierce independent, and the one who knows how to turn this thing around.
I was born and raised in rural Indiana; I now live in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Who I Work With
I’ve consulted with or participated in initiatives with a wide range of publishers, nonprofits and businesses, including:
- Authors Guild
- Southern New Hampshire University
- National Endowment for the Arts
- Publishers Weekly
- Olive Software
- Tahoma Literary Review
- Alaska Quarterly Review
- United Bible Societies
- Time Traveler Tours & Tales
- Creative Work Fund
- Sprint Beyond the Book, a project sponsored by ASU and Intel
- Digital Book World / F+W Media
- Grub Street
- Glimmer Train
- Tantor Media
- Midwest Writers Workshop
- Alliance of Independent Authors
- Writer Unboxed
To name just a few of the authors and creative professionals I’ve worked with or consulted with (alpha order):
- Porter Anderson
- William Baer
- James Scott Bell
- Dan Blank
- Claire Cook
- J.T. Ellison
- Hallie Ephron
- Jerry B. Jenkins
- Christina Katz
- Brad King
- Michael Larsen
- Donald Maass
- Dave Malone
- Margaret McMullan
- Sean Murphy
- Richard Nash
- John Warner
- 2023 Publishing Commentator of the Year, Digital Book World
- Writer’s Digest’s 10 Best Publishing News and Resource Websites 2021
- 2020 Media Outlet of the Year, Digital Book World
- 2019 Publishing Commentator of the Year, Digital Book World
- Virginia Writers Club Lifetime Achievement Award
- The Write Life: 100 Best Websites for Writers
- Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers
- ALLI‘s Top Website for Self-Publishing
- Dorothy Hamilton Award, Midwest Writers Workshop
- Instructor of the Quarter, Beckfield College
- Xavier University Poetry Award
- University of Evansville Vision Award
Recent Media Mentions
Related to the writing and publishing industry
- LA Times: Barnes & Noble Saved Itself By Putting Books First (Feb 2023)
- Race, Equity, and Book Publishing: Pen America report (October 2022)
- DOJ vs PRH case: KNX News In-Depth 97.1 in Los Angeles (August 2022)
- BookRiot: The Great Publishing Resignation Exposes the Failings of the Industry (July 2022)
- Fast Company: Why This Book Startup Is Taking a Page from Glossier and Allbirds (June 2022)
- New York Times: What Happened to Amazon’s Bookstore? (December 2021)
- New York Post: The Pandemic Has Sparked a Book Craze (September 2021)
- The Self-Publishing Show: Episode 285 (July 2021)
- Pipeline Artists: The Book of Jane (May 2021)
- Retail Politics podcast, s01E33: Politics of Publishing (May 2021)
- NBC: Uproar Over Mike Pence’s Memoir Highlights Growing Conflicts in Publishing (April 2021)
- Tech Target: Amazon’s Impact on Publishing Transforms the Industry (January 2021)
- Six-Figure Author Podcast 70: Subscriptions, Audiobooks & More
- Cool Tools Show 205 with Kevin Kelly: featured guest
- Vox: The 2010s Were Supposed to Bring the Ebook Revolution. It Never Quite Came (December 2019)
- Vox: The Unsuccessful History of Product Placement in Books, From Bulgari to Sweet’N Low (April 2019)
- ThinkProgress: Michelle Obama’s Trump Bump (April 2019)
- Bustle: 15 Books on Writing to Help You Get More Words Down in the New Year (Dec 2018)
- Oregon Public Broadcasting: Tin House Publishing to End Print Magazine in 2019 (Dec 2018)
- New York Times: How to Finally Write Your Nonfiction Book (Dec 2018)
- Forbes: Is Bob Woodward’s ‘Fear’ Bigger Than Michael Wolff’s ‘Fire And Fury’? (Sept 2018)
- Inc.: Why the Best Writers Use This Simple Technique to Improve Their Work (Sept 2018)
- Chronicle of Higher Education: Writing a Book or Article? Now’s the Time to Create Your ‘Author Platform’ (July 2018)
- Quartz: “Are Ebooks Dying or Thriving? The Answer Is Yes” (May 2018)
- NPR: “Amazon Was Supposed to Have Crushed Bookstores. So Why Are Indie Bookshops Booming in D.C.?” (July 2017)
- CBS: “Bookstores Holding Their Own Against Digital Onslaught” (July 2017)
- NPR: “Can Serialized Fiction Convert Binge Watchers to Binge Readers?” (July 2016)
- Washington Post: How an industry of ‘Amazon entrepreneurs’ pulled off the Internet’s craftiest catfishing scheme (Oct 2015)
In connection to my essay appearing in Every Father’s Daughter
- UVA Today interviewed me about my relationship with my father, just in time for Father’s Day 2015. (June 2015)
- WTJU (Charlottesville) featured a segment with me discussing my essay. (June 2015)
- I was featured in Cville Weekly, discussing my essay and the related book launch event at New Dominion Bookstore. (May 2015)
Related to the magazine I co-founded, Scratch
- Coverage in the New York Times (July 2014)
- Poets & Writers feature from the May/June 2014 issue
- The launch (October 2013) was written about by NPR, The New York Observer, Salon (twice), GigaOm, LA Times, Galleycat, Slate (in France!), Longform, The Billfold, The Toast, Hazlitt at Random House, and Publishing Perspectives.
Publishers Weekly Columns
- People Don’t Have to Read Your Book to Support it (January 2020)
- No Clear Readership, No Clear Sales (Sept 2019)
- Don’t Crowdsource Your Cover Design (May 2019)
- How to Reduce Marketing Anxiety and Confusion (Jan 2019)
- How to Write Better Marketing Copy (Sept 2018)
- How to Network Better by Saying Less (May 2018)
- Indie Authors and the Value of Free Content (Jan 2018)
- Go Local: Marketing Books to Targeted Communities (September 2017)
- Fast, Cheap, and Good: What Publishing Compromises Are You Making? (May 2017)
- Online Education as Book Marketing (Jan 2016)
- How Indie Authors Can Master Their Online Presence (Sept 2016)
- Making the Most of Email Marketing (May 2016)
- Five Marketing Models for Self-Publishing Success (Jan 2016)
- The Library Market: What Indie Authors Need to Know (Sept 2015)
- Not All Hybrid Publishers Are Created Equal (May 2015)
- Contributor to What Editors Do. Edited by Peter Ginna. University of Chicago Press, 2017.
- Contributor to Author in Progress. Edited by Therese Walsh. Writer’s Digest Books, 2016.
- Contributor to Literary Publishing in the Twenty-First Century. Edited by Kevin Prufer,Wayne Miller and Travis Kurowski. Milkweed Editions, 2016.
- “The Future Value of a Literary Publisher.” Copper Nickel. Issue 22 (Spring 2016)
- Contributor to Every Father’s Daughter. Edited by Margaret McMullan. McPherson & Co., 2015.
- Contributor to The Little Magazine in Contemporary America. Edited by Ian Morris and Joanne Diaz. University of Chicago Press, 2015.
- “If You Seek a Full-Time Writing and Publishing Career.” AWP Notebook, November 2014.
- “Drinking as Genuine Vocation.” Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up. Edited by Caren Osten Gerszberg and Leah Odze Epstein. Seal Press, 2012.
Some of my favorite older interviews
- I maintain an updated YouTube playlist with all my video-based interviews—a good place to look first
- The Kindle Chronicles, Episode 390 (January 2016)
- WritersCast: David Wilk talks with Jane Friedman (November 2015)
- CCC’s Beyond the Book podcast: on the topic of hybrid publishers (June 2015)
- The Art of Commerce interview with 0s&1s (June 2015)
- Jason Allen Ashlock interviewed me about how the magazine publishing business has changed at Medium (February 2014)
- I was interviewed on public-radio station WMRA, by Martha Woodroof at The Spark, about my digital media work at Writer’s Digest and VQR (March 1, 2013)
- I participated in a Reddit AMA on writing and publishing (Nov 2012).
Shh! Jane’s Embarrassing College Poetry
“This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, argue, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound, walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek. To seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers.” —Terry Tempest Williams