Turn Yourself Into an Authorpreneur

by | Feb 11, 2015

By Nina Amir

If you want to make a living as an author, you need to think beyond writing and books. Consider yourself both an author and an entrepreneur—an authorpreneur.

Publishing is a business, plain and simple. If you choose to self-publish, you create a start-up publishing company. If you traditionally publish, you ask a publisher to become your venture-capital partner.

But here’s the rub: Most books don’t sell many copies. That means the publisher doesn’t make much money. If you self-publish, that publisher is you, which means you may not make back your investment. You also might not make enough on sales to earn a living.

Just because a book makes it onto the Amazon Top 100 list in a particular category—or more than one category—doesn’t mean the author is raking in the dough. In some categories, such as “Authorship,” a book need only sell around thirty to forty copies in a week to make it onto the list. You won’t get rich selling 150 books per month. And other categories have a lower marker to get on the Amazon Top 100.

What’s an author like you to do? You don’t have to starve. Instead of only living off income from your book sales, leverage your content into cash. Monetize your books with products and services. Become an authorpreneur, and build a business around your book!

Build a business

To accomplish this goal, I recommend a big-picture view of you and your books from the start. To do this, complete the following ten steps. Each one requires answering important questions.

  1. Identify Your Passion: What am I most passionate about?

    Your books and your business should line up with your passions. If you choose to write about something that interests you now, but that won’t interest you in six month, a year, or two years, you could have a difficult time sustaining the energy necessary to make the book—and the business you build around it—successful. Build your passion into the topics of your books and your brand—into every aspect of your business.

  2. Identify Your Purpose: What do I feel compelled to do in the world, or what is my mission or soul purpose as it relates to my work?

    When your writing, and any activities you choose to take related to your writing, align with a sense of mission or purpose, you will do whatever it takes to make your project succeed. Plus, if you combine your passion (#1) with your purpose, you will feel inspired. Inspiration moves you forward faster than passion or purpose alone. Also, your book(s) can—and should—take on your purpose. (Yes, even novels.) Then they have a reason to exist beyond just entertaining or providing information to readers.

    Additionally, your purpose should be apparent in your branding, and therefore in the topics you choose to write about and the products and services you provide. Anyone who shows up at your website should know immediately what you do and why you do it. (More on this below.)

  3. Identify Your Values: What three to five things do I value most?

    A business reflects its owner: you. Your books reflect you, too. For this reason, it’s important to know what you value. Use this information to choose the topics you write about, the themes you discuss, and the types of products and services you offer. Also build your values into your branding.

  4. Identify the Topics You Want to Write About: What topics would I like to write about or do I plan to write about (and in what genres)?

    Now you can align your books with your passion, purpose and values. Choose topics that you feel passionate about, that help you accomplish your mission, and that help you express your values. Also, consider the themes you want to write about in your books, which also should line up with your passion, purpose and values. Accomplishing this step helps you author books that build your brand and your business. Such foresight also helps you promote your business because it strengthens your branding ability.

  5. Ideate Your Books: What is my first or primary book idea, and what three to five spin-off books, series or sequels could I write that relate to my primary book idea in theme or topic?

    Now that you know what topic you want to write about—and it ties into your passion, purpose and values—it’s time to come up with book ideas. That’s right…not just one book idea but many related ideas. These can cross genres.

    Once you have brainstormed ideas, prioritize them. Decide which book you will write first, and then which ones should follow. Keep in mind how each book will help you become known as an expert or as an author who writes about a particular topic or theme. Create the ideas so one book logically leads to another. This helps you build your brand and sell more books.

  6. Ideate Book-Related Products: What related products could I develop to monetize my knowledge and the content in my books?

    Fiction writers may need to think outside the box at this point. However, if you’ve done a good job of the first five steps, you may have some nonfiction book ideas related to your novels, which will help leverage your content into products. Nonfiction authors should find it easy to brainstorm products related to the content of their books. If you offer a system, provide advice or have any tips or tools in your book—or could create some—this is the time to “productize” this information.

    The range of potential products you can create is almost endless these days:

    • Apps
    • Games
    • Clothing
    • E-courses
    • Video courses
    • Teleseminars and webinars
    • Live and home-study courses
    • Live and virtual events
    • Membership sites

    You can offer affiliate products if you prefer. Whatever products you sell to your readers—in addition to your books—become your additional sources of revenue. And they allow you to serve your readers in a new, possibly more personal, manner.

  7. Ideate Book-Related Services: What related services could I create to leverage my knowledge or the content in my books?

    Apply the same principles you used in step #6 here. Brainstorm services you might offer that take readers deeper into your material or help them in some way. You might offer:

    • Done-for-you services
    • Done-with-you services
    • Coaching
    • Consulting
    • Group coaching
    • Speaking
    • Mentoring

    Your services become a third source of revenue after your books and other products.

  8. Develop Your Brand: How can I use my passion, purpose, values, topics, and books to distinguish myself in the marketplace. More simply, how do I want to be known as an author?

    After you accumulate all the information required in the first seven steps you are ready to create a brand for yourself as an author. You also can create a brand for your publishing company and the business you build around your books. (Ideally, one brand encompasses all three.) That brand should reflect your passion, purpose and values as well as the topics and themes about which you write. Choose colors, create logos, write tag lines, purchase URLs, make videos, write blog posts, and, of course, develop books, products and services that tell your potential readers, customers and clients who you are and what you are about or stand for.

  9. Create Your Author Website/Blog: How can I carry out my branding on my author website with a tagline, a title, colors, banners, logos, etc.?

    Your brand is carried out on your author website, which is now more than just that. It is also your business home and storefront in cyberspace. When visitors arrive on your site, you want them to understand in less than four seconds what type of books you write (and publish) and what kind of products and services you sell. (If they don’t, they will leave.) You want potential readers, clients and customers to immediately “get” you. Your colors, logos, taglines, URLs, videos, blog posts, and, of course, your books, products and services, are part of your on-site branding effort.

  10. Strategize Your Platform Building & Promotion: What have I done to date to create visibility, reach, authority, and influence in my target market? How can I build on that effort to create effective ways to sell my books to my potential readers?

    Finally, extend your branding beyond your own site. Use it on all your social media sites, emails and with everything you do to help promote your books, your publishing company, and the products and services for sale on your site. Then get active promoting the brand called YOU and the brand called YOUR BOOKS and YOUR BUSINESS.

Place your answers to the questions above in a document, and develop it into a business plan. As an authorpreneur, this plan becomes your gold mine. Dig deeply into it, and you will produce enough gold to develop a thriving business around your books.

Nina AmirNina Amir, is a Contributing Writer for TheBookDesigner.com. She is also the author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual, and transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs.

You can learn more about Nina here.

 
Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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11 Comments

  1. Madison Woods

    This is essentially what I’ve done and yours is the first article I’ve seen that summarizes what I’ve been doing. I just didn’t have a word or model for it! My passion is plants and nature, particularly the habitat needed by American ginseng. The more I get into the sort of business model you’ve outlined, the more vitality my writing and my business seems to gain, even if it’s on a very small scale at the moment. Thanks for a great article.

    Reply
  2. Maarten van Lier

    Since I just published my book I’ve been reading a lot of these types of articles and they all add some to the big picture but they also say much of the same over and over again.

    What I’m missing is the ramp-up story. Joel, you’re an accomplished author and blogger, I’m sure Nina has a great following too. You too however started at one point with 0 followers and 0 book sales? Take us back to that time.

    As a brand new author, I have no following other the 400 or so linkedIn connections that are all tied to my career that have little to do with my book. I’ve reached out to all of them and as encouraging as their feedback is, it doesn’t translate in sales.

    I have the branding (millionin10.com), a blog, a twitter account, facebook page, pinterest.

    How do I get word out on these (other than through my currently limited group of connections)?

    How much money should I spend on advertising? Should I spend at all on advertising through these channels?

    Does advertising on Adwords, Facebook and Amazon actually work? Am I budgeting these ad campaigns right? Should I spend no more than $10 a day or should I spend $200 a day?

    I’ve done the 6 minute a day twitter follower following and all I get is followers that want to sell me something. How long do these strategies of creating a following work before, they backfire and become a self sustaining universe of authors pandering to authors?

    Looking back at your beginnings, how many copies of your first book did you sell in the first week, first month, first year.

    If you want to be authorpreneur how long do you give yourself before seeing results, 6 months, a year, years? I happen to be lucky to be able to take a good stab at this and spend a lot of time. Many budding authors may need to divert their attention elsewhere to feed their families (and stuff).

    Anyways, lot of questions, but that is what I seem to be left with when I read these articles.

    Reply
    • Maarten van Lier

      Btw, please don’t take my reply to be disrespectful. I truly appreciate this blog and all of its content. It has been of tremendous help to me getting my book finished and published.

      But like many articles may attest to, the writing of a book is easy compared to getting it out there.

      Reply
      • Nina Amir

        I don’t. I will come back and comment, Maarten. I want to give this the time it deserves, and I’m hurrying off to a conference.

        Reply
      • Tom

        @Maarten van Lier – I couldn’t have written your sentiments any better myself.

        I think this article is good – but what we really need is, readers who will buy. I need paying readers. I need a place I can put my work where it can be reviewed, promoted and sold.

        Reply
      • Nina Amir

        Okay…Let me start by saying that I don’t have a huge following compared to some…like Joel. My list is not as big or engaged, for instance. And I’ve been working at this a long time…learning from my own mistakes and learning from others.

        The first thing I did was blog…a lot…between 4-5 days per week for the first year or more. I blogged in a very focused manner consistently and regularly on my topic.

        Then I shared my posts consistently on social networks. The best is to use a service like socialoomph.com that allows you to queue up posts to be repeated. I also use Revive Old Post (plugin) to make sure I have content appearing on Twitter constantly.

        For many years I dabbled at social media. Now I work at it. Some days I simply don’t have time, but on the other days, I share my posts on all my networks…sometimes two or three times. I know a social media expert who has hers queued to post every 6-10 hours automatically. You can do that, too…

        I initially spent a lot of time commenting on blogs. I don’t have as much time to do that any longer, but I try to share great content from bloggers I know and to tag them when I do. This creates relationships and helps my info get shared.

        I use Triberr to multiply the reach of my posts on Twitter.

        I hired someone to build my Twitter following, because you have to know WHO to follow if you want your Tweeple to actually be worth their salt. And I didn’t have time to follow 100 people a day (although socialoomph.com makes it pretty easy).

        I go to conferences and meet people face to face.

        I build my list with calls to action, teleseminars, webinars, and a form I had out when I speak at an event. These days, I focus more and more on catering to that list…or lists.

        I used to worry when someone unsubscribed from my list. Now I wave… I only want people on my list who want to purchase something, so I don’t care if they don’t like me emailing them often. I provide great content, and I send offers. I plan to increase my focus on the list(s) in 2015. The money is in the list; I want to grow it and use it!

        Building a platform takes time. At first, as I said, I dabbled. Then I threw myself into it and accomplished as much in four years as in the previous eight. Now it goes much faster.

        Don’t let anyone tell you that you can sell books quickly or easily…or products and services. It takes time and effort to build the platform that makes it possible to have successful promotion.

        As for how many books I sold: How to Blog a Book went into a second printing in 6 months. I can’t remember how many books were printed, to be honest, but I believe around 3-4,000. It earned back it’s advance in that amount of time (or faster). The Author Training Manual sold fewer copies in the first six months, but earned back its advance also in that amount of time (and sells more ebooks than print copies). I don’t have current numbers on my ebooks…sorry. (I do assisted self-publishing, and I don’t have a statement from my agent.) I would guess that between the three new ebooks I produced at the end of last year, I might have sold 200 copies…and yet they were all bestsellers. The authorship category tends to be a low selling category (20-40 books per week gets you on the Amazon Top 100 list). That said, most ebooks sell about 560 copies per year on average.

        Advertising: I haven’t done a ton of it. When I do promote a post or run an ad on Facebook, I see some increase in “likes” on my Facebook page and I do get some response. I haven’t used adwords. The majority of my followers and my list have been accumulated using FREE methods.

        Again…hard work…time. Seth Godin says to start building platform two years before your book comes out. I say start the minute you get the idea for a book. It’s NEVER too early.

        I hope that helps

        Reply
        • Nina Amir

          Oh…how long to wait: I say, don’t give up if you feel becoming an authorpreneur is your mission or purpose. Just keep tweaking. That’s what I’ve done and continue to do. Not everything I do makes money. And sometimes the money trickles in. Look at what’s working and focus on creating more of that. Seek advice about what isn’t working.

          Reply
          • Maarten van Lier

            Thank you so much for these replies. I really appreciate the straight answers and it actually encourages me to keep at it. I personally didn’t expect to make much from my book but I would like it out there. On the other hand I don’t want to “give” it away as the returns on my book content can be substantial.

            I also don’t want you to give away the farm as you have business to run as well.

            If I could ask more question, how long do you stick with one strategy (be it advertizing or pricing) before you start tweaking?

            Again thank you so much, you’ve found yourself a new follower

        • Madison Woods

          I don’t have an advertising budget, so have learned how to make my website show up well in searches that pertain to my topics. I’ve seen a correlation between the amount of pageviews I get per day to the amount of books sold per day. Neither are much yet (~1000 page views/day, ~ 40 books/month), but I can see the potential growing as I get better at it and have more product to offer.

          Reply
  3. Michael N. Marcus

    Excellent advice, but it’s also critical to identify your potential readers and the competition, and evaluate the cost of reaching potential readers.

    If your book will appeal to “everyone,” can you afford to reach everyone with your promotional efforts?

    Almost any nonfiction book faces free competition from online articles and blogs, and ebook giveaways.

    A new English dictionary may have a billion potential readers, but thousands of existing and future competitors.

    An extremely well-written biography of your mother may have three potential readers.

    Passion is critical to good writing. You may be very passionate about a subject — but unless many others share your passion, you won’t sell a lot of books.

    Reply
    • Nina Amir

      Michael,

      I can only include so much in one blog post! I have written over and over again about the need for a business plan for your book (and for your career as an author).

      Step #5 actually has numerous steps that go with it (that are part of a business plan for an book or book idea). They include a market and competitive analysis. I use these two to help craft a marketable book. I start with a pitch, benefits and summary. I move on to market and competitive analysis. I then brainstorm the structure (table of contents) and content (chapter summaries or synopsis). And I make sure all of this synchs up, especially with what I learned about the market and competition so I target my market and produce a unique and necessary book in the sales category.

      Do that for every spin-off book (and product or service). That’s the path to success.

      Reply

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