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Entrepreneurial Authors Wear Many Hats by S.R. Johannes

In the digital age, a new kind of author is emerging.

The entrepreneurial author (EA).

I think this is where the term indie publishing comes into play and maybe what kind of distinguishes a self published author from what some call an independently published author or indie.

Entrepreneurial authors run their own publishing business – all aspects. The only difference between an entrepreneurial author and an actual independent press is that EAs only publish own works and contract out the work needed. Independent presses publish more than one author while handling all business aspects.

To be an entrepreneurial author – you will have to wear many hats: (these are not in any order of importance)

·     Writer – Write the best book you can. But in this industry, the writer side has to understand that self-publishing is not a shortcut to writing; it’s a shortcut to publishing.

·     Editor – Edit and re-edit your own work. Traditional authors have a stricter vetting process where many people look over the work from content to copyediting.  EAs need to be even better at editing. That way, the EA can use an editorial budget wisely – for content editing and copyediting.

·     Cover designer – Figure out your cover design as well as overall book design. Even if you can’t do it yourself, try to learn about covers, find out what looks good and what doesn't – placement, fonts, colors, jacket copy – and know your book enough to figure out what concept you want. Whether you pay someone or not – you need to know how to define quality work.

·     Formatter – Unless you want to pay someone to format, you will be expected to format across several different channels that may have different requirements, depending on what ebook format you need (epub, mobi, pdf, paperback etc). This requires an understanding of Word, Html, and more.

·     Project manager – When you have experts doing things for you (covers, swag, web sites etc.), you have to manage a budget and a timeline to be sure it all comes together.

·     Distribution – You will have to manage distributing your book through multiple channels – domestically and internationally – across different formats (digital vs paper). For ebook – which channels are best? Are they all priced right? Do they show consistent and correct information on all sites? For print, where are your books on consignment, what libraries have them, how any copies do you need for upcoming book fairs?

·     Researcher – As you embark on this process, you will come across many questions as you go. So you will need to be able to get online and find answers to your own questions as well as find questions you should be asking yourself. There is not a detailed guide. You also need to be keeping up with the ebook/digital market.

·     Sales – Keeping track of your sales is time consuming. Not to mention, you will want to know what you are selling over multiple channels. This includes tracking your pricing changes, sales, special promotions. These figures can help you track your success.

·     Accountant – Finding out who owes you what is important. You need to be able to figure out what you should be getting paid from each channel. This requires spreadsheets and daily/weekly/monthly counts. You will also want to find the best way to manage your taxes- sales, state and federal- correctly.

·     Marketer – Creating a marketing plan is key. You will want to put aside the time to do it, find the right sites to approach, and then be sure to follow up. This includes finding blogs, ezines, and magazines to approach as well as creating your own swag (bookmarks, postcards, etc) for contests, signings, fairs etc. Figure out how to get the word out about your book without being completely annoying.

·     Social Networker – This is about building relationships not necessarily a sales channel. You will want to decide which social networks are best for you and then be sure to manage them effectively maintaining blogs, Twitter, Facebook. etc. Don’t do what you can’t handle or what you don’t enjoy.

·     PR rep – PR is a part of your marketing and publicity plan. You will need to call and set up signings or other PR-related activities. You may want to write and drop press releases in certain media outlets. You will want to track your media contacts for articles/features/interviews. Press kits will be key as well, including bio, praises, book summaries, reviews, and how they can find your book. This can be both online and hard copy.

·     Lawyer – You may find your book popping up on various sites for free. It’s inevitable with digital copies. You will want to follow up with book pirates who are posting your book as a free download and send legal letters asking for removal. Then you’ll need to track and see if they take it down.

·     Problem Solver – Problems come up daily whether it is your numbers disappearing on Amazon, or a blogger who forgot to post an interview, or a price discrepancy. They come up every day. You have to be able to juggle tasks to get things taken care of or it can impact your business.

·     Multi-tasker – Learn how to shift all day long between all these roles. It's exhausting. Time management will be essential to success. If you can use your time wisely (and not waste it) you will be much more successful. Schedule things out in chunks – writing time, marketing, legal checks etc. Put time aside for each hat instead of handling it as it comes in.

A few other hats I think help keep you sane during this process (not necessarily on the business side):
  • Thoughtful – Support others in their journeys too. Thank those who support you. It is not all about you, though it feels like it sometimes.
  • Tough skin – Indies get rejection too. And it hurts. You have to move on and find those who support you instead of chasing the ones who don't.
  • Psychologist – I have to talk myself down off a ledge every now and then. Of course I do live in a one story so not too bad. 🙂
  • Night Owl. If you can find a way (without drugs! ) to only sleep 4 hours a night and not be a total bear the next morning when your kids want pancakes instead of cereal – (still working on this one) – you are golden.

Self publishing is not the easy way out. It is just the fast way to publication. It should not replace writing a good book, creating a quality book, or everything  that comes with self publishing.

All of these hats can be hard to manage and very overwhelming along with your other life roles – mother, father, friend, wife, provider, cleaner, laundry doer, cooker, dog walker, appointment maker, chauffeur, and much more.

Basically, self-publishing is like running your own business – all by yourself – with no help. 

So all the things a business would do – you will do.

It's Entrepreneurial Authoring. It’s exhausting but rewarding. And just like in life, you get what you give.

I think that is it.

But I'm too brain dead to remember.


S.R. Johannes is the award-winning author of the Amazon bestselling Untraceable (a teen wilderness thriller series) and new tween paranormal, On The Bright Side. She has also published short novelettes as well as a teen romance anthology with 16 other authors titled, In His Eyes. Uncontrollable is the sequel to Untraceable, and Unstoppable (book 3) is scheduled for Summer 2013.

S.R. Johannes is the YA advisor of ALLi and a winner of the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Awards (Young Adult category). She was also nominated for 2012 Georgia Author of the Year (Young Adult category), a Finalist in The Kindle Book Review's Best Young Adult of 2012, and a YA Finalist in the US Book News best Book of 2012.

After earning an MBA and working in corporate America doing marketing for over 15 years, S.R. Johannes traded in her expensive suits, high heels, and corporate lingo for a family, flip-flops, and her love of writing. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her dog, English-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their little prince and princess, which she hopes- someday- will change the world.

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This Post Has 45 Comments
  1. I agree you have to learn how to run the business of publishing your books and handling every aspect of the job. A challenge that can cause anyone to want to pull their hair out.

    Great post.

  2. Fabulous post, Shelli, made me tired reading it :). I’m also a newbie author (both indie and also e-published), so much to learn and get a handle on. For instance, I admit I never thought about tracking my sales. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thanks Shelli. There are so many aspects to self pubbing – and I don’t think some authors have a clear idea what they’re getting themselves into. Thanks for laying it out 🙂

  4. Just reading that list is exhausting, lol! no wonder I am tired all the time:) Shelli, it is an awful lot of work, but it does seem worth it. I like how you divvy up your day. I kind of do that, too. Writing blocks and connecting blocks. In the end it is kind of a nice balance, the social media alleviates some of the traditional loneliness of a writer’s life.

  5. Shelli! That was awesome! I feel like you read my mind and wrote everything down in your post! It’s so good to know that I’m not alone in being brain dead! LOL!
    Thank you <3

  6. Jennie – choose what reaches your readers and stick with it. be consistent. Dont do it just because everyone says you should. Pick 1 or 2 things and go deep. 🙂

    Aggie – I write in am, then i check email and social media over lunch. Then I write until i pick up kids. Then while kids are doing homework – i check email and social media. I try to plan business stuff for fridays but there are always ones that can’t wait til then. Just do your best. Some days I do great and some days I do good. But I find if i plan out my time on my calendar as if they are meetings – i can get a good 2000 words in a day if i focus. 🙂

  7. Thanks Shelli for the dose of reality. Intermediate newbie here, so fortunately, I still have time to pick up the skills required by the different hats (some I already have to a certain degree). Like others here, funds are extremely limited right now for hiring outside consultants, but many of these skill sets can be learned with a little research.

    Your local tech school may offer courses (physical and online) that are relatively inexpensive, also many public libraries have free courses in using computer software or navigating social networks. Quickbooks has something of a learning curve, but it’s a pretty powerful accounting and business management program that’s pretty adaptable.

    My Q for Shelli: Do you maintain a (relatively) fixed daily, weekly, monthly schedule in order to juggle all these tasks? If so, can you give us a rough breakdown? I know life gets in the way some (most?) days, so do you leave yourself an “open” time slot to catch up?

  8. After 18 months of Indie, I’m now making more money than my Traditionally published work.
    YES, it took time.
    YES, it took me learning new skills.
    YES, I spend time now on social marketing etc,etc
    BUT… I feel that I’m a better writer for it all. I now have to look at my books fom several different standpoints, not just as ‘my baby’.
    Let’s keep Indie going, because its never going back in the box….

  9. Thanks so much for this great article. I do most of these ideas (especially the four hours of sleep-haha). My question is how to choose where best to spend your ‘social media’ time. I Facebook and Twitter and do some Blog tours. They say ‘social media’ is the key to exposure (whoever that infamous ‘they’ is)but it can eat up so much time and how do you choose the best way to use social media for the best benefit of exposure for your books?
    Jennie Marts- Author of Another Saturday Night and I Ain’t Got No Body- a Romantic Comedy

  10. Great post. It’s so easy to begin to feel overwhelmed, especially if you jump in without doing proper research. Indie publishing is not for the faint of heart.

  11. Lm – seriously 🙂

    Douglas – not everyone has the money to farm out. And even if you have money – you still manage the process and need to know how to do it so you can know its being done right 🙂

  12. Jennifer – Untraceable did make semi finals under different name for Breakout one year but i dont think it contributed

    jane – self publishing can encompass ebook or print. You can do print through lightning source or createspace (tho that is just for amazon)

    Taurean – I agree! I had no idea either… part of why we are doing this to help people make informed decisions. Sorry you are bummed 🙁 doesnt mean it is off the table though. dont give up!

    elizabeth – i should add in STUDENT for the learning curve 🙂

    JL – yes I forgot juggler (in there with multi tasker and magician 🙂

    Luca – if you find out PLEASE Let me know 🙂 I use excel to track things but im not sure that is the best way 🙂

    1. I just saw this reply down here to Luca. 🙂

      So maybe we are all not sure we are tracking things the best way. Maybe someone who thinks they have a handle on it can do a post!

  13. Great post. I think it’s important to remember you don’t have to wear all of the hats, while being responsible for them. I’m not an artist, so I hired a cover designer, I don’t have a great voice, so I hired a narrator/producer for my audio book, I needed another set of eyes on my manuscript so I hired an editor.

    You’re putting yourself up against publishing houses which have departments of people for these things and other authors, so make your book the best it can be.

  14. Thank you Shelli,
    I was wondering if you know of any programms which can help you in arranging all of this tasks? For example some pre-arranged excel sheet which can help with the accouting (e.g. already listing most of the Items you have to take care of), or a special web on lawyers specialised on copyright for e-writers and all this information put together in one web-space?
    Sorry if these questions sound very naive, I’m one of the real new newbies…

    1. I was thinking I would love to see examples of how to track sales, compare to price changes, etc. and accounting spreadsheets to keep up with income. I have been working on this, and have a google spreadsheet as I try to track some of these items, but I fear I am not doing it in the best organized way.

      Or course, to some extent, just like reading my blog numbers I think it might become more apparent when I actually have some more “real data” coming in in the form of more book sales. 🙂

    2. Draft2Digital offers real time sales reports and they can do the formatting for your books for free as well as handling all the distribution. I’ve been using them from the beginning and it has saved me such a headache. I don’t have to wait weeks or months to find out if my books sold!

  15. I really liked this post! I really liked the fact that you included how must of us indie authors or upcoming indie authors have families, and the juggle can be exhausting. Luckily for me I am a night owl, but I also have a wonderful co-author who is my rock. Without her I would be overwhelmed with all that self publishing entails.

  16. If you figure out the Night Owl trick, please share! 🙂 Great advice on the time management side. I recently started a Facebook page. I was responding to every post and question the instant it came in. The sheer quantity of distractions, while entertaining, really had an impact on the time I had for editing, writing, etc. I am now determined to set aside an hour (or so) in the evenings to handle the page, and stay focused the rest of the day.

  17. Just have to make the point-

    You don’t have to be a parent to feel OVERWHELMED here.

    Okay, that out of way, I WISH more people who casually suggested I self-publish realized what you’re saying here, and I don’t have the money to do it the way I want to. To do it right. Yet I come to sites like this one to try and keep an ear to the ground in hope I learn something that I can actually AFFORD. I haven’t found it yet, but I keep learning, so if I EVER have the money, I’ll know what to do.

    But it’s HARD to learn about something I can’t do but wish I could, if only to enhance the writing career I want to have, if not be my SOLE path to a career.

    Self-publishing was NOT my first choice, but I wish I were A choice in a way it’s not now, at least with my limited budget and what I know now.

    I’m not easily flexible, and please understand I don’t say that in a self-adsorbed context.

    I agree few things are “All about me”, but when you have 0 help on the money front, that doesn’t always feel the case, is that fair to say?

    Sorry for babbling. I’m just being honest yet as positive as I’m able on this subject now.

  18. I often use the terms from wearing multiple hats to comparing myself to a master juggler. It definitely helps to have a plan. Without it you get lost in the shuffle of the hustle and bustle of doing it all. You forget the organizer and personal assistant hats.

  19. Wow…It isn’t easy. And let’s not forget the job of mother, employee (outside the home), and just life in general. It’s a commitment not to be taken lightly. This certainly helps. =)

  20. Thanks for the overview, Shelli! Congratulations on your Kindle Review award! Is it connected with the Amazon Breakout Novel Award? I would be so grateful for any tips about finding and/or entering these book contests. Thank you so much for your time. Jennifer

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