We hear much these days about the rise of the author as entrepreneur, writes Orna Ross, founder and director of ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors. Both #authorpreneur and #creativepreneur are lively hashtags on Twitter and expanding categories on Amazon, Kobo and other online stores.
But how many authors understand what this means, let alone fall into this category?
What is an entrepreneur? What is a creative entrepreneur, an author-entrepreneur or “authorpreneur” as it's sometimes called?
Should all indie authors aim for this? If yes, what does it take to combine art and entrepreneurship, craft and commerce, into a successful author enterprise?
What Is An Entrepreneur?
There is debate over the very definition of an entrepreneur. For some, it includes anyone who runs a business.
More accurately, I think, an entrepreneur is considered to be a certain kind of business-person. The kind who is more innovative and imaginative, the kind who consciously harnesses creative thinking to generate value from their ideas.
Creating value is the crucial point. Other people have to value the offering enough to pay for it at the right price.
- For an inventor to be considered an entrepreneur, she needs to go beyond a good idea or blueprint, to building a product that people want to buy, and a business-structure that takes it to market.
- For an author to be considered an entrepreneur, he needs to go beyond a finished manuscript to making a book that people want to buy. And then to build the business-structure that will take it to readers.
These are three distinct activities, each with its own set of challenges and skills.
1. Come up with an idea for a new product or service for a particular customer base
2. Test their concept and modify accordingly
3. Raise funding and recruit a team
4. Make their product/package their service
5. Reach out to their customer base and sell to them
6. Create a business structure that generates profit, so they can keep on making and selling their product/service
Successful self-publishing authors:
1. Come up with an idea for a new book
2. Send a draft to beta readers, editors, or other qualified others for critique
3. Beg, borrow or steal enough to pay for editorial, design and production
4. Turn the manuscript into ebook, pbook and maybe abook, translations or other formats
5. Reach out to readers and sell to them
6. Create a business structure that generates a profit, so they can keep on making and selling books.
Authors can resist the truth of all this and it's not surprising.
Writing a book, making a book, selling a book, building a business: it's quadruply challenging to do all these things at once.
First time out, it can feel overwhelming.
And it never gets easy, contrary to all those murky marketeers talking about passive income. As you continue and produce more books, you will always find it a challenge to balance the three aspects of your author business: crafter, director and entrepreneur.
Some writers balk at all this before they get started. They find entrepreneurial/business language off-putting. It can feel too commercial, crass, not creative enough.
But if we want to create a successful indie author enterprise, there's no way of dodging business. The moment you press “publish” on an online platform, you are in business, whether you know it or not.
That doesn't mean you have to handle everything yourself, you'll need to hire help for the bits you're not good at, but many of us before we are in a position to hire help must first of all help ourselves.
We must change our minds about what it means to be an author these days.
If you can't change your mind, you can't change anything–including making the changes needed to make more money, write more books, reach more readers and run a sustainable author business.
Authors who say things like, “I love writing, but I hate marketing” haven’t yet absorbed the challenge inherent in successful self-publishing. They are almost guaranteeing the failure of their author business.
What about you?
Can you ignite in yourself the characteristics of an creative director and entrepreneur? This is essentially applying the creative process you're already bringing to your writing and publishing into your book business.
When it comes to reaching readers, and building a sustainable income, can you be:
- Imaginative and visionary: Can you envisage the outcome you want for your author business and create something from nothing, by working steadily towards that desired outcome?
- Independent: Can you ignore mob mentality and fix on the business models, income streams, micro-niche and readers that will deliver the perfect you-shaped enterprise?
- Optimistic: Can you break out of the pessimism that’s endemic in publishing and believe your own creative potential applied to business as well as books?
- Passionate: Can you love your book ideas enough to follow your passion, your mission, your sense of life purpose, all the way into successful selling?
- Resilient: Can you bounce back from disappointments, turn things around when they go wrong, see the opportunities in failure?
- Resourceful: Can you figure out what you need to get ahead, process problems and overcome challenges, know when it's time to let go of a method, a mindset or a person who does not serve your creative intentions for yourself, your work and the wider good?
- Self-confident: Can you get over yourself, and the inevitable moments of self-doubt, and do the next necessary thing?
At ALLi, we have observed that the moment when members start to take off–start to get clear about their offering and niche, start to reach growing bands of fans and followers, start to stand out and scale up and make good money–is the moment when they accept what it means to be a creative entrepreneur.
What does it mean to be an #authorpreneur - and have you got what it takes to become one? asks @OrnaRoss Click To Tweet
Acceptance of all the aspects of the job is the moment that propels them from being someone who writes and publishes to being someone who knows they can make a sustainable living from writing and publishing.
OTHER INSPIRING POSTS ABOUT BEING AN AUTHORPRENEUR
from the ALLi Author Advice blog archive