At the Alliance of Independent Authors we are introducing a new member category: Authorpreneur Membership. ALLi director Orna Ross explains the reasons for the change and the new features that ALLi will be rolling out over the coming months.
A new kind of author has emerged with digital tools and technology. Authors with an entrepreneurial approach who perhaps have more in common with self-starters in tech and other creative industries than with the traditional literary world. In the self-publishing sector they are increasingly called “authorpreneurs”.
Not every author likes this hybrid word (author + entrepreneur). Indeed not every author likes authorship and entrepreneurship being connected at all. One of our new (authorpreneur) members did a survey on his Facebook group and found that the vast majority of those who responded were neutral (391 out of 515 responses), with positives and negatives running about equal (121 to 124). Some of those who don't like it really don't like it.
I wasn't a fan of the word when I first heard it myself but however we feel about it, the word is gaining traction in the author-publishing community because it is the word that most clearly describes the new breed of author and the new approaches to making a living as an author in these digital days.
What was most important to ALLi was not so much what people of the word but that we make room for, and provide the proper services for, those who do define themselves in this way. After many months of due consideration, we've concluded that no other word so well describes the energetic, empowered and entrepreneurially-minded authors in this group and those we want to attract to it.
We have thus decided to change our “Professional Membership” to “Authorpreneur Membership”. This change is not just about a change of name but of features, processes, team and services too. It will roll out over the coming weeks as we upgrade our member website.
Below I explain the rationale behind the change which we see as having implications for all indie authors, not just those who are, or will become, authorpreneur members.
Authorpreneur Membership: Change from Professional Membership
Since ALLi started, we have had a membership category for self-publishing authors who earn a living from writing. It is an assessed category and we set the bar high, asking for proof of 50,000 book sales over the previous two years. We chose that figure for two reasons:
- it is an approximation of what would give you an average income, after tax and expenses are paid in territories where self-publishing is most developed like the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
- it is the kind of sales record that ignites the interest of publishing rights buyers, like overseas agencies, film and TV companies and so on.
Until now, we have been calling this category of author Professional Members but that word has been problematic for us in many ways. It seemed to imply that authors in our Associate and Author member categories are not professional in their publishing practices. Also, people mix it up with professional publishing services (editors, designers and the like), which gave us many an administration headache.
But underlying this significant change was something more fundamental, something that with hindsight should perhaps have been clearer from the start, but that took me, and the ALLi team, time to understand.
When you go indie, you move from authorship as a profession to authorship as a business. “Professional” was always the wrong word.
It muddied the distinctions between different kinds of authors and confused our offerings. Now we have become much clearer about all the business models in the indie author community and the three kinds of self-publishing author.
Indie Authorship: A Business Not A Profession
Authorpreneurs have always been there. Charles Dickens, for example incorporated lucrative performances of his books into a regular writing routine that generated millions of words. He understood the value of his copyright, running lengthy legal battles over infringement of his work in the US.
Today digital tools and tech are seeing entrepreneurial authors emerging in far greater number but back in 2011 when ALLi was conceived, the word and concept of the authorpreneur didn't yet exist. Ebook self-publishing was Amazon KDP and Smashwords, launched in 2008. Nook (2009) and Apple Books (2010) had only got going. Kobo Writing Life (2012), Ingram Spark (2013), Draft to Digital (2014), Reedsy (2014) PublishDrive (2015), and many other indispensable platforms and tools had yet to emerge.
When authors dreamed or aimed for success, they thought about big book deals (with attendant TV chat shows and mass media reviews), about having a great publisher, and/or a great agent to broker great deals while we got on with our job: doing great writing. Many authors do still think that way but many now have a different dream or goal: to own and run their own author business, one that is exactly shaped to match their passion and mission, creative and commercial goals. To write and produce their books, and associated projects, their way, enjoying creative freedom and control and answerable to their readers instead of to curating agents and publishers.
Landing the first kind of success depends on luck. Landing the second depends on gaining skills. And on having an entrepreneurial attitude.
By dictionary definition, an entrepreneur is a person who takes risks in the hope of making a profit, who applies creativity and resourcefulness, who seeks out new and different opportunities. An alternative definition is one “who is a promoter in the entertainment industry”. Entrepreneurs can be people of all ages, says the Institute of Entrepreneurship Development, and are characterized by creativity and imagination, a hunger for learning and a thirst for work.
Authorpreneurs think in new ways about the message they want to impart, the stories they want to tell, and the words with which they work. They create innovative products, processes, and projects, by doing things in their own unique way, optimizing the intellectual property of their books not just in the time-tested ways but in new ways that don't just copy what others have done before but break boundaries for themselves. And sometimes for their economic sector. Or even for society as a whole.
Fundamental to this is that they bring their full creative capacities to their publishing, and their business, as much as their writing,
For many, this means incorporating other ideas, projects, and services that help further their message and mission, alongside their books. Many of the most successful integrate their books into an ecosystem of products and projects that can include advertising, blogs, events, merchandise, podcasts, social media publishing, technologies, tools, video, and more.
Authorpreneur Membership: The Requirements
ALLi's Authorpreneur Membership is for all those who are succeeding at author business: earning a full-time living from book sales, page reads and/or associated business activity.
The category is assessed. On application, members have to submit supporting documentation e.g. their book sales numbers over the past two years or their page reads over the same time in any Kindle exclusive books or Amazon rankings charts and/or tax returns. Any documents that prove the author is earning a full-time living from their author business.
There is flexibility and individual circumstances are taken into account but this is a meaningful category of membership, signifying significant creative and commercial achievement. It is for authors who have genuinely adopted an empowered, independent, creative, growth mindset; embraced the idea that marketing and business, as well as writing, can be creative; and mastered the three different sets of skills you need to make an ongoing good living as an author-publisher: writing good books, publishing them well, and running an author business,
These authors know how to promote, market, sell and profit from their writing, not as a once-off, but through the dedicated application of one of ten possible business models and how to adapt their businesses to changing conditions:
Book Sales Only, One Outlet
Book Sales Only, Multiple Outlets & Formats
Book Sales Plus Speaking or Performance and Other Content
Book Sales Plus Teaching
Book Sales Plus Author Services and/or Affiliate Income
Book Sales Plus Articles, Poems or Short Stories
Book Sales Plus Reader Membership
Book Sales Plus Influencer Income
Book Sales Plus Patronage
Book Sales Plus Publishing Rights Licensing or Merchandising
It is possible to combine two or more of these into a combination model. (See this post about the Ten Business Models for Indie Authors for further explanations of these categories. )
ALLi is For ALL
ALLi was always designed to be a broad church, serving all kinds of authors. It's there in our name, which contains “All” and “i”, to signify the sense of a community where individual authors work together for each other. We hope and intend with this name change, and all the processes and features that will accompany it, to give better service to the entrepreneurial author-publisher, alongside our other membership categories and kinds of author.
OVER TO YOU
What do you think of our new membership category?
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