So, you want to be an author. Are you prepared to also become a public relations wiz, marketing guru, entrepreneur, and international sales rep?
I was at a workshop recently, and the take away message from a panel discussion seemed to be that as authors we must treat our passion as a business.
It all starts when we sit down and write that first word. Think of it as owning our own manufacturing company. Our novel is a time-consuming, rewarding labour of love, and with any manufacturing process, our job is to create a compelling, dazzling product to shake up the market place. But our investment isn’t finished when that manuscript rolls off the production line. Whether we traditional publish, or self-publish, we have to generate sales. What business can survive without healthy revenue and income streams?
With shiny new book in hand, we must understand our market niche and promote to that target audience. We have to knock on doors, cold call, hand out postcards, business cards, and bookmarks. We must find creative ways to engage potential readers on social media, hosting launch parties and giveaways, joining groups and forums, and commenting on blogs. Gone are the days of just writing a book and waiting for readers to find you.
I listened to fantastic ideas outlining opportunities to promote yourself, all of which involved understanding your core market first—after all if you don’t know who wants to buy a book like yours, how are you going to go about promoting it to them? I took notes and admired the creative ways proposed to engage with readers, for example, if your book is about dogs, meet your local pet store owner and see if they would be willing to carry your book. The presenters spoke about business plans, clear objectives, and a narrow focus—know your audience and focus your efforts there. There were lots of suggestions on how to get your book or cover in front of readers e.g. ads of Facebook, Google, Goodreads, Twitter.
But a business? To me, that label took the creativity, spontaneity, and fun out of the process and turned it into something sterile and cold.
Here’s a couple articles on highly successful people:
The traits that struck me most were passion, integrity, persistence, communication, and drive. We can embody all of that without looking at our chosen path as a stuffy, starched collar, stiff tie entrepreneurial business. We need to show up and do the work, I appreciate that. We need to write like the wind, devote a certain amount of time to understanding the needs, desires, and values of our readers, and we should all be looking to engage, delight, and inform. We can promote and sell as needed, but do we have to do it from the confining space of a business mentality?I realized a few things in this workshop, but specifically to this train of thought: just as there are plotters and pantsers when it comes to one’s approach to writing, there are plotters and pantsers when it comes time to deal with the other myriad aspects of being an author.
I know a lot of people who approach their writing career as a job. They wake up, section their day into the ‘business’ side of their affairs and the ‘writing’ side of their job. They plot, plan, make spreadsheets, and graphs. I also know other people who take their passion just as seriously, but their approach is more organic. They might try something new every day—a new way to engage with readers, a new promotional idea, a new outlet or avenue never explored before—but they are not trapped by expectations or measuring conversions.
I can also tell you, neither group appears to be more ‘successful’ (such an interesting term and very subjective when it comes to defining what it means personally to be successful) than the other.
I’m curious. What do you think? What’s your approach to writing and letting the world know you’re out there?