OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
As a writer you need to be creative in your writing, but that creativity can also be expressed in the way you do business and run your own ‘portfolio career'. You need to be an author entrepreneur these days, or you will not be able to make an income from your writing business.
Last week, I read ‘Rework' by Jason Fried, from 37Signals and I am recommending it to everyone within my industry in business consulting, but it also has a lot to teach authors/writers/creatives who want to take business seriously.
Here are the things I think writers/creatives can learn from ‘Rework':
Ignore the real world
Everyone goes on about how hard it is to get published, how no one makes any money from writing, how being a poor, starving artist is the way things really are. But they don't have to be. Blend your writing with speaking, teaching and online sales and you can put together an income from various sources. These days, you can pay your mortgage with Kindle sales, get a movie deal with a self-published novel and sell your book without an agent. There are no rules anymore. Ignore what everyone says and get there your own way.
Make a dent in the Universe
One of the reasons we write is to make an impact. Changing people's lives through our words or just creating a fantastic, escapist experience that people want to tell their friends about. The only way to do this is actually to get on and do it. No time is no excuse. No one has any time. People often ask me what I'm doing for the weekend, or the holidays or on a friday night. For the last 18 months I have been working on this blog, doing podcasts, engaging on twitter, writing my novel, writing my online course, speaking and generally working at building The Creative Penn from ground up. I want to make a dent in the Universe. Do you?
Embrace less mass
I love this principle and think more small businesses would succeed with this mindset. You don't need to spend much money these days to have an online business. You need some kind of shopping cart (E-Junkie is $5 per month). You need a database and email system (I recommend ConvertKit – affiliate link) and you need hosting for your blog (Hostgator is $7 per month – affiliate link). That is a few cups of coffee per month for an online business. As a writer, you just need a computer and basic software. As a speaker, you don't need much more than that. Authors are by definition a business of one, so embrace being small, nimble and profitable with very low overheads!
You can't just make one thing. Emulate chefs.
This is extremely important if you want to make some decent money in any market. You have some knowledge but you need to share it in multiple ways. Think chefs first of all, like Jamie Oliver. He cooks but that is only the basic level of his income. He sells cookbooks, mobile apps, has restaurants and other products around the cookery topic. You have a book or books, but you can also create online courses, mobile apps, live workshops, audiobooks, video products and so much more. Spin your book into multiple products and your income will improve. You can sell a multi-media course for more than a book and it gives people more value. Check out my Courses here.
Pour yourself into your own product. Don't be fake. Sound like you.
Authenticity is key as an author in an over-crowded marketplace. People buy your books if they know, like and trust you. They are more likely to feel this way if you give something of yourself. Don't just put your professional self out there, put aspects of your life that people can relate to. This doesn't mean you should let it all hang out, but you need to draw the line a little closer to you. For example, one of the most popular posts I did was “Does alcohol help or hurt your writing?”. I shared my thoughts and people shared their very personal stories. This doesn't relate to my books or products at all but if people connect with you as a person, they are more likely to buy your book on career change (or whatever) than someone else's.
Build an audience. Everything is marketing.
You have probably got the idea by now of the importance of author platform! It's not a myth. It's reality of all businesses these days. If you have an audience you can talk to, you can still have a successful business in a crowded market. You also need to remember that everything is marketing. Your submission letters to agents, your emails pitching guest blog posts, your tweets, your audio interviews, how you speak about other people's work. So be aware and be strategic in what you do.
The myth of the overnight sensation.
This is so true for writers. A book seems to blaze into the publishing sky and everyone wonders at this overnight success. But the vast majority of those people have been slogging away for years, and finally, the effort paid off. There is no reward without hard work (which is in itself a reward!). So stop buying lottery tickets, and start building for the future!
More information about Rework can be found here, including downloads and videos.
If you like audio, remember there are over 300 free audio podcast episodes available for writers here.