By Bree Weber, The Book Octopus
For the past few weeks, our inboxes, timelines, and twitter feeds have been filled with year-end reviews and predictions for the new year. As I read through these articles, I noticed a pattern pointing to an old idea dressed up in new buzzwords.
Authorpreneur, Professionalization, Career Author – whatever you want to call it – transforming your passion for writing into a full-blown indie publishing business is trending in 2017.
In order to hop onto this fad, you’ll need to officially say sayonara to the long-gone days of throwing your books up on Kindle in the name of passive income. Not only is this no longer the case (Kindle is 10 years old now), but the opposite is the new normal.
The next step is start thinking of yourself as a publishing company with departments for editing, production, marketing, and publicity.
Once that passive income is no longer on your radar and you recognize the responsibilities of multiple departments that you’ll be taking on independently, you’re ready to become an Authorpreneur.
Now, as an Authorpreneur, your focus has to extend beyond typical eBook conversion and a blog tour just prior to release.
Without consistent year-round branding, strategic marketing to get discovered by readers, and a professional hand in the editing and production stages, you and your book are likely to get lost in the shuffle.
While it is fantastic that there are so many paths to publication opening doors of opportunities to more authors (and readers) than ever, once you get your book to market you’ll find that the market is absolutely overwhelmed with other writers with the same idea.
When it’s this easy to get your book out there, you can be sure you’re not the only one doing so. And with so many indie books competing, it seems that the new solution to visibility (among the predictors) is “professionalization”.
While the intention here is to encourage authors to think in a business-minded fashion about their craft, which is certainly necessary, trends have a way of overshadowing truth.
During 2017 I predict (it is a new year) that we’ll see even more professionalization webinars, courses, retreats and events tailored to and marketed to indie authors. Some will be really great and worthwhile, but many will be a free half hour of business talk before the big sales pitch.
The biggest red flag I see here is that a focus on business will not create a niche for your books or dramatically increase your readership. In fact, I can tell you as an indie business, that it simply brings you more responsibilities that ultimately take your attention away from creative pursuits, like say… writing.
Dressing up an indie author as an indie press doesn’t change who you’re competing with or the resources available to you.
It seems that a more appropriate solution would be to change one or both of those two factors – competition and resources. Now, if you have the power to email every writer in your genre and persuade them to lay off the book publishing, then, by all means, do it (and share your secret superpower knowledge!). For the rest of us, the key is to change your resources, and there are a few ways to go about doing this:
Pretty much everything you learn in an MBA will boil ‘changing your resources’ down to:
- Increase number of customers
- Increase how much customers buy
- Increase how often customers buy
- Increase your prices
But I’m talking about the in-between, the steps that help you decide which items on that MBA list to tackle in a new way. How can you change the way you increase the number of readers? how much your readers buy? how often your readers buy? how much your readers will pay?
First, let’s take stock of what resources you’re currently working with. Grab a pen, because you should totally write this part down:
Collaborators and Process
Start by considering what types of people you’ve interacted with to get your book(s) published, from editors to printers to bloggers. How did you find and vet them? How did they help create or promote your work? Why have you considered the working relationship successful or unsuccessful? What have you learned by working with them?
Don’t forget to take your readers into account. How did they find out about your book(s)? Why did they like reading your work? Why have they kept buying your books? How do they interact with you online and offline? What do they say about you in reviews or recommendations?
Reflect on what strategies you’ve tried out including the ones that failed, be it digital-first publication, price promotions, or guest blogging. Then think about where you got those ideas. Did they come to you in a dream, did you read it on a blog like this one, or did you attend an event that gave you step by step advice? Where did you first learn about how to self-publish or query an agent? Have those information sources changed over time?
I’m a big fan of mind maps, because they visually show how your ideas are connected and what sources they share, and as humans, we are pretty visual animals. Seriously, try it out!
Once you’ve finished this exercise you’ll have a complete list of your current resources. The next step is to look for patterns. If you notice that your information or ideas are coming from the same core sources or that you haven’t really evolved who you work with or how you manage the publishing/marketing/etc process, then it might be time to add to your resources list.
Here are 3 things you can do right now:
Check out a local group
This could be an author’s association in your genre like Romance Writers of America or Science Fiction Writers. It could be non-genre-specific like a regional chapter of IBPA or your state’s variation. It could also be a writers group who meets at the local coffee shop or bookstore. There are also tons of Meetups for writers and indie publishers (or you could start one!) to learn about different facets of publishing and swap ideas. You could also stay inside and find solace online; Reddit has some awesome subreddits for authors.
Expand your network
If you’re digesting content from all the same sources, then it’s time to add some spice to your information sauce. I post regularly on topics of indie publishing, marketing, author branding, and design but you should venture outside of your comfort zone as well. If you feel like you’re following all the best blogs, try a bad one. If you haven’t gotten into podcasts, check one out. Look into websites, blogs, podcasts, webinars, and events that don’t necessarily fit into your niche or genre. So much of the niche content we all share is applicable across disciplines.
Talk to an expert
When you find that there is just one problem area or possibly that you just don’t know where to go from here, find a knowledgeable advisor that you feel comfortable with. In the realm of creativity, despite the commoditization of books, we all want to feel secure with the people we collaborate and partner with. If you don’t love your website, but don’t know why then take some time to talk it out with a designer. If you feel like you’ve tried every marketing tactic in the book, but you’re not getting the traction you want, try sitting down with a marketer to get some outside perspective.
Joining a local or online group and reading from new books and blogs are two great ways to surround yourself with new people and new ideas. When the information you come across just doesn’t feel relevant to your needs or there’s just one problem area you really need to address, connecting with an expert advisor or mentor can help you hone on practical solutions. Sometimes we all just need to take a step back from ourselves and find some fresh perspective in order to make progress towards our goals. Which is a pretty trendy idea for the start of a new year.
Bree Weber, The Book Octopus, is an author branding consultant, book designer, and publishing coach. After spending years in traditional publishing houses of London and Manhattan Ave literary agencies of New York, she fell in love with Denver.
Founder of The Book Octopus, Bree brings traditional publishing experience to indie authors looking to conquer the often-intimidating world of book publishing by helping them produce, publish and promote their books.
The views expressed herein are not those of Colorado Independent Publishers Association, its officers or directors. They are solely and completely those of the author. The Colorado Independent Publishers Association will not be held liable for any legal action resulting from information published in this newsletter, and the organization’s insurance will not cover any such action.