In the old days, writers were just that: writers. They would write their books, and publishers would pay them a hefty advance. Then the publishers would be the businesspeople — printing the book, marketing the book, and selling the book — and the authors could work on their next manuscripts.
That is no longer the case. Today’s world of publishing is a lot fuzzier. Whether you are self-publishing or going through a publishing house, the only person running your business is you. So you’re no longer just a writer. You’re a writer and a business owner. Hence the term authorpreneur.
Here’s the official definition of the term “authorpreneur” from Urban Dictionary:
An author who creates a written product, participates in creating their own brand, and actively promotes that brand through a variety of outlets.
Here are seven steps you can take to turn yourself from a writer into a successful author in today’s complicated world of publishing. And unfortunately, yes: this does mean that you will need to invest a few of your own dollars.
1. Get an accountant. Remember: this is a business. You need to treat it as such. A professional accountant will help you determine which expenses are deductable (before you start spending the money), as well as how to keep all of your receipts and records in order. Many accounting firms offer a free consultation, so start with that. Feel free to also ask friends and relatives if there’s someone they recommend.
2. Hire an editor, cover designer, printing company and/or distribution company. This is especially important if you are self-publishing. Here are some questions to ask yourself?
- Who is going to edit your book? How about copyediting?
- Do you have a cover designer in place?
- How many books are you going to print? If someone buys 1000 copies, will those be pre-printed? Will it be print on demand? Who will ship them?
- What about turning your book into an ebook? Do you have a plan in place for that?
Make sure you have all of these things lined up before your book is officially released. And don’t think that you can do all these things yourself. A writer is generally not an editor or a designer. These are very specific skills, and not areas you should skimp on. Hire the right people to make sure this process goes smoothly.
3. Create your online presence. An online presence is practically a requirement for today’s authors. Here are the steps required to get this done right.
- Start with your author website. Make sure it looks clean, professional, and suits your brand. Also make sure that it has a clear goal — be it selling books, getting people to sign up for your mailing list, or increasing your exposure.
- Create social networking presences on some combination of the following: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, GoodReads and Amazon. Make sure that all of them are kept up to date and include links to/promotions of your book and your website.
- Enter the world of video! Create at least one unique video and upload it to YouTube. Read this previous post about why video is so important in today’s world.
- Build an email list. Make sure you collect the email addresses of people visiting your site. This will come in handy down the line when you have new books or events to promote.
4. Print marketing materials. So you plan to do a lot of talking about your book. That’s great. But what are you going to give out to the people you’re talking to? It’s extremely important that you have printed materials on hand at all times so that you can physically hand people something they can take with them. Examples of good printed marketing materials for authors include:
- Business cards (this is a must)
- A discount promo code for purchasing online materials
5. Attend events and conferences. As much as today’s world of publishing is digital — and a large percentage of it is — nothing will ever replace the value of face time. Start in your local area, and drop by libraries, bookstores, schools, etc… Talk with them about arranging for book readings, signings or seminars. Then look on a national level, and find conferences for authors/publishers/agents in your genre. If you’re a nonfiction writer, you can also look to attend conferences on your specific subject matter. For example, if you’ve written a parenting book, you would do well to attend one of the many mom blogger conferences that take place nationwide. Just showing up, introducing yourself and handing out business cards can go a long way.
Being a small business owner isn’t easy. But start with these five steps and you’ll be on your way to authorpreneurship.