10 Tips for Aspiring Authorpreneurs

by | Feb 2, 2015

In a recent interview I was asked about my history as an author and entrepreneur. Self-publishers have long known that many books, especially nonfiction ones, are the hub of a potential profit center that extends the ideas in your book in many dimensions.

There’s a reason that, for many years, the clients who would hire me to design and produce their books were mostly entrepreneurs, no matter what field it was in which they had some expertise.

They knew there was a bigger audience to reach by going through the work of publishing it in a book. They would use the book to leverage their position in their field, but also as a springboard to offering their expertise in lots of other forms, too.

I was working in the publishing business when I first self-published in 1986. Since that time I’ve looked at just about every offline and online method of creating and distributing content that I could reasonably find. It’s been quite an education, and one I’ll be writing about more in the future. That background informs a lot of what I do today, whether it’s product development, blogging, publishing books, or participating in educational events.

The full interview won’t come out until later this month, but here’s an extract that focuses on tips for how you, too, can fulfill your “authorpreneurial” dreams.

10 Tips for Aspiring Authorpreneurs

  1. Realize that every book is essentially a mini startup business, with all that that implies.
  2. Get to know the people who are the best audience for your book, then keep in touch with them forever.
  3. Be open to experiments because failures will prepare you for success and teach you a lot more in the process.
  4. Develop an awareness of opportunities in your chosen market, genre, category, or niche. People’s interests keeps changing and new events, personalities, and stories are constantly impinging on our awareness. Know what your readers are thinking about.
  5. Pay attention to where your readers are getting stuck, because that’s exactly the place where they are likely to be looking for help.
  6. Concentrate on newcomers to your field, they are the most numerous group and the most interested in acquiring training, background education, and new skills.
  7. Get over your reluctance to market your books and other products and services. Marketing is not selling. Instead of a transaction, it’s more about communicating your expertise and passions with others who share them.
  8. Be on the lookout for ways to repurpose your content because not everyone wants to read it in a book or on a blog. And even if your material is available for free online, many people may be willing to pay for it when it’s delivered in another form.
  9. Become adept at identifying and working well with peers, partners, and affiliates of all kinds. It’s much easier to grow your business with the help of a network than on your own.
  10. Concentrate your work energy on the things you do best, and avoid distractions and the impulse to learn new skills in cases where you can quite easily and affordably hire a real professional to do it for you. For most authors, this is going to mean concentrating on creating content and marketing it. Leave the technical stuff to others. And,
  11. Here’s a bonus 11th tip: Have fun! You’ll last longer and you’ll never “burn out” if you learn how to make your work life enjoyable and fulfilling.

What about you, what wisdom would you pass along for an author who has that entrepreneurial spirit?

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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13 Comments

  1. Flora Morris Brown

    Joel,

    The aspiring authorpreneur who heeds your tips will well on their way to success.

    It starts with #1 realizing that publishing is business. Too many new authors just don’t get this and experience much frustration and disappointment.

    I put much effort into #9 because it saves so much time and energy to learn from and share with fellow authorpreneurs. I love building relationships with my colleagues whose collective knowledge and experience far exceed what I could gain on my own.

    Thanks for continuing to share words of wisdom with us.

    Reply
  2. Caroline Robinson

    Very insightful and each tip was spot on. I’m in the midst of finishing my first children’s chapter book. It’s a journey I set out on not realizing the many steps it would take to get there. There being the completed process. But in the end it will be worth it all. Getting my book series into the hands of young readers, while inspiring and engaging them to become life long readers. Isn’t that what it all about? Well, for me it is ;-) Thanks again for sharing your words and I’ll let ya know when it’s all done! Happy Reading & writing my friends…

    Caroline

    Reply
  3. Laura Bastian

    This is a great list. I love #3 and #7. Especially #7. I hear from my author clients all the time that they feel great discomfort marketing their books. They long for the days of traditional PR and distribution in bookshops, and some resent that they have to worry about things like “platform building” and “engagement.” The good news is that talking about your books on or offline is akin to talking about what you love, and there’s no shame in that!

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Absolutely, Laura, and we’ve got to keep preaching this “marketing is not selling” mantra because it’s actually something many authors would actually enjoy.

      Reply
  4. Michael N. Marcus

    Number 6 is excellent.

    Three more:

    (1) Ignore your manuscript for a few weeks or months. When you go back to it you’ll be amazed at all the corrections and improvements that need to be made.

    (2) Because it is so easy and inexpensive to become an author, we are approaching the point where half a million book titles will be published annually in the USA. It is extremely difficult for a new author to attract attention. Be prepared to work harder at marketing than at writing. Carefully consider who are the likely readers for your book, how you will reach them and who is competing with you. Does the world really need another JFK biography, barbecue cookbook or dystopian novel?

    (3) You’ll never make money from poetry, and unless you are famous you won’t make money from a memoir. (I’ve done it.)

    Reply
  5. Kathryn Loch

    Be prepared to work harder, longer, and tackle things you never imagined yourself capable of doing when working the 9-5 job. That’s when you learn the saying really is true – find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

    Reply
  6. Belinda Pollard

    Thanks Joel. I particularly like No. 5 and No. 6. Sometimes I forget those and end up preaching to the choir again. Paying attention to which things people ask me most often, and dialling it back a notch so that newbies are not baffled, are things I need to be much more deliberate about.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Yes, and this is one of the big reasons I’ve never stopped answering questions on my blog, because it keeps me in touch with what authors are going through to get their books properly published and promoted.

      Reply
  7. Ernie Zelinski

    Joel, I didn’t know that you published your first book in 1986. Congratulations! You are much more of a pioneer of self-publishing than the many self-proclaimed pioneers of late. Incidentally, I self-published my first book (“The Art of Seeing Double or Better in Business”) in 1989. When I look at this book, I am quite embarrassed due to the cover and the inside layout. Nevertheless, the book sold 4,000 copies and I gave away 1,000 copies.

    Here is some of my wisdom for the author who has that entrepreneurial spirit and wants to become successful and prosperous:

    Don’t ever play the victim game. Being a victim can become a full-time occupation if you are not careful. That’s a horrible way to spend a month or two of your life — not to mention a lifetime. Unfortunately, if you intently and persistently focus on what annoys you, that’s what you will get — forever.
    Commit yourself to being successful, instead, and you won’t have to be a victim — ever again!
    Receiving a lot of criticism is a good sign that you are well on your way to success.
    Nothing is ever guaranteed. As Clint Eastwood once said, “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.”
    Creativity is your biggest asset — bar none!
    Bold, creative effort will dispel your fears and bring you good fortune.
    A bit of craziness is good for business. Try something so stupid that it may pay off big time.
    Just one great idea can change your life dramatically — it’s there somewhere!
    It’s not creative unless it sells!
    Fifteen minutes of notoriety in a newspaper article or a TV clip beats the best advertising money can buy.
    Claim your way to fame. Give yourself a title that shows that you solve your readers’ problems.
    Give a lot of your books away to the influencers (big mouths) of this world (I have now given away over 13,000 copies of my books).
    Your prosperity will grow to the extent that you do; try to spend more money on your personal development than on your next hairstyle.
    To acquire the golden touch with money, hang around people with the golden touch.
    Reasons only make you sound reasonable. They have nothing to do with manifesting success and prosperity in your life.
    Perfection is overrated. Do it badly — but at least do it!
    Hard work is even more overrated. Working smart for two hours a day will manifest a lot more success and prosperity than working hard for twelve hours a day.
    Learn to distinguish between these three:
    1: Some things need doing better than you or anyone has ever done them before.
    2: Some just need doing enough to get by.
    3: Some are not necessary; they don’t need doing and are best left to the misfits of this world to pursue.
    As Michael Pritchard warned, “No matter how rich you become, how famous or powerful, when you die the size of your funeral will still pretty much depend on the weather.”

    One last note: When you start making a great income from your creative works as I now do from mine, if you can’t enjoy spending money with the same exquisite sensuality that you experience while earning it, then your prosperity consciousness needs some serious work.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 275,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi Ernie,

      Yes, I was “one of the few” back in those days. We eventually ended up selling about 10,000 copies of that book (How I Sold 10,000 Copies of My Self-Published Book but instead of following that up got distracted by starting up a publishing company to publish other authors. I think your path ended up as quite a bit more successful in that regard.

      Reply

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