The business of creativity is changing, not just in the formats in which ideas are presented internationally but also how authors perceive themselves.
Today, a creator needs to be an ‘authorpreneur’. Apart from crafting words or images for specific audiences, this means learning the marketing, publicity, and technological, legal and entrepreneurial skills to establish and maintain creative self-employment in the business of ideas.
"Author" includes any self-employed creators in the core business of ideas, whether illustrator, designer, writer or multi-skilled innovator in various mediums. Many are very small businesses or sole traders in ideas but unless they operate in a business-like manner, they will not survive.
IP (Intellectual Property) is the core business while time, energy and idea management is part of the process. Great ideas will not reach audiences unless the creators can stay in business and survive financially.
Even those who find the concept of linking creativity and business a philosophical challenge will find common sense approaches here. Beginners, mid-career and established creators alike will find strategies to use tomorrow in Authorpreneurship
. Constant innovation and the need to keep up can be overwhelming, especially when you are the only person to do it all.Authorpreneurship
is about investing in your creativity, without becoming exhausted or overwhelmed.
The concept of authorpreneurship is a constant but the authors who practise authorpreneurship need to be flexible in adapting to change and learning new skills and even new terms for processes that have not yet become mainstream.Profile
When you start writing, you don’t have a name as an author. Nor do you have a profile. You just have an idea for a manuscript. So the first stage is to write that idea as well as possible for a specific audience, not just for you. If it’s only for you, it’s therapy. If you want more readers, you’re in the business of creativity.
An author’s profile means that enough people know who that writer is and what kind of work is associated with that author, and are willing to follow or buy those ideas, in whatever format they appear.
This profile may be linked to a website, speaking commitments, media slots and types of writing, but more importantly, it requires recognition by groups who like that kind of work.
So an author profile matters. Basically, you need to ask yourself, does anyone know your name? And if so, what for? And are they willing to pay to have access to your ideas or stories? If not, what can you do about it?
It’s a big shift for authors to see themselves as a brand. This is where a name is being traded or linked to marketable ideas, in varied formats and income is earned.
For some, the book will not be the main income channel, but other paid work will be offered because of the existence of the book.
In the past, an author was associated with a single named publisher and their distribution channel but that is now rare. A book may have several lives in different formats and with different publishers and be distributed in a variety of ways. Each project may be contracted differently. The link is the author’s name or brand, not the publisher. And it may be the author brand, which is more attractive than the single book.
Authorpreneurship is not just about self-promoting or self-publishing or even vanity. Author brand is part of the business of creativity. If readers like a work by a particular author, they will look for more by that name, not necessarily through a publisher. Considering the speed of publisher mergers, takeovers and fast remaindering of books, authors who consolidate their backlist titles under their brand name and make it available on their website, are more likely to make a living. Otherwise their books may have a short life of a month or so.
Author websites are as accessible as publishers’ sites for international online sales. In the past, only the publisher controlled distribution of books and mainly via bookshops and book clubs. That has changed.
Although many authors consider writing a book as the hard part of the publishing process, long-term the real challenge is in marketing and distribution.
If this is your first creation, you probably don’t have a recognisable brand yet. For modest creators, there’s also the philosophical dilemma between ego and marketing. Should you be talking about yourself? You may fear this is just being egotistical.
However, talking about the public author brand and the book or the ideas in that work is one remove from the private person behind it. And although your persona needs to be genuine, choose how much of your research, writing habits or family you are prepared to reveal. Of course this is a bit more difficult if you’re writing an autobiography!
The slower old style proposal to a print publisher was essentially a plea for the publisher to invest money to develop the book, market and distribute it and return 10% of the profits to the original author. The writer only wrote the book. Now the writer has become the authorpreneur: initiating, writing, publishing and distributing. Although there are new channels for ideas with digital opportunities for distribution, this also means more risk and more work for an author, who must learn a suite of eSkills. Publication can be faster, but maintenance of long-term marketing of the title may be time-consuming.
Both brand and income are directly linked to who holds the rights for the intellectual property of that work in those formats.
Of course the work needs to be of quality and timely – and the production needs to be of a high standard and well edited.Authorpreneurship Hint
Establish or update your website ‘image’
Revamp your business card with your occupation as an author
Offer a workshop that uses the title of your book
Acquire a regular media slot
Develop niche expertiseStrategy
A strategy is a plan to move you in the direction of your long-term goal, for example:
To become self-employed as a creator
To build a digital business
To research in exotic settings
To get a book published
A strategic thinker is likely to initiate rather than just react to others’ demands. Or at least choose those demands to which s/he will react. Two people may appear to be doing the same activity, but their motives may differ, and only one may be acting strategically.
Why be strategic? Because it saves time and saves you from becoming frustrated. Because you’ve planned what your reactions will be to certain types of offers, anticipatory anxiety is removed. You need to know why you are doing it.
Is it just a pleasant distraction?
Are you unable to say ‘No’?
Is it strategic for you?Quantity
Is there any connection between effort and result? In the long-term, yes but not always immediately. Working hard or for long periods and working strategically are not always the same.
Often novice writers mistakenly judge progress only by the number of words written. Obviously it’s necessary to produce, but format, subject and timing may also be strategic. And can you provide evidence of an audience? (Not just your mum!)
How many hours did you spend writing that piece? (If you don’t know, what does this indicate?)
How many words did you write? Were they rough or polished?
If no one buys or reads it, has your work been wasted?
Did you check on the potential readership before starting?
Would ‘tweaking’ it for a specific audience help get a contract or broader sales? For example, adding curriculum links for educators or notes for discussion groups?
Networking with colleagues to become aware of shared challenges, possible markets and specific requirements. Occasionally the ‘cappuccino approach’ of having a strategic coffee may be more effective than isolation.
Inspirational genius is unreliable. Consider the strategy of slow accumulation (i.e. consistent work). Spend an hour daily doing some of the minutiae, which lead to your eventual goal, otherwise the volume is overwhelming.
If you do enough times, with the aim of accumulating skills, polished work or contacts, that’s different from the gamble of haphazard procrastinating.
Or you initiate appointments or projects of the kind you desire, accepting that not all of them will eventuate. One in ten might be a reasonable return on ‘punts’. But if you plan to try an extra punt every week, then by the tenth week, the odds are in your favour.
A regular punt or extra in the direction of the kind of work you wish to do, can be strategic. An example would be to follow up leads on the last day of every month.Quality
Then there’s the issue of quality. One best seller may be the result of either many discarded, hidden projects or cannibalised ones which re-use knowledge or extracts from prior, unpublished work.
Often it’s hard to analyse where you should put your time and energy. Seduced by the stimulation of the next project, you start that, rather than assess what worked or didn’t work in the previous period, and apply this knowledge to improve future quality.
Fatigue can affect judgement. Is the work of the highest quality or have you worn yourself out? Make judgements when you are rested, or make important decisions when fresh.
Don’t send off work without checking it and make sure you have some sleep first. It’s easy to press "send" but preferable to wait until the morning to check with a clear brain. Check whether all the links are in place and whether they are logical or not. Sending hasty, unchecked material may ruin your single chance to be read, although occasionally it’s better to send an 85% quality by deadline, than nothing.Evaluation
Keep a backwards diary (list) of what you did achieve.
Divide into achievements and flops.
Colour code your ‘useless’ list in green, ‘try again’ in yellow or ‘done’ in red.
Against the ‘try again’ note the imaginative detour you’ll try next.
Have a ratio between ‘original’ work, recycling and administration and don’t spend all your time keeping lists.
Colour code strategic decisions, so you can find them, and re-apply.
What can now be re-used as a generic strategy/practice?This article is an extract from Hazel Edwards’s new book Authorpreneurship. You can buy the book in print from Keesing Press or as an e-book from Hazel Edwards’ site.