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This is a guest post from Cynthia Kocialski, from The Start Up Entrepreneur's Blog. I am a firm believer that authors need to be entrepreneurs, running their own business and creating multiple streams of income so this post is definitely relevant. We can spend so much time dreaming that we forget the commercial reality of making a living!
Having spent 15 years working with technology start-up companies – and knowing more than just a few of the key ideas required to get fledgling businesses on the right path – something struck me. Authors are also entrepreneurs, but few of them actually realize that, or take advantage of the same skills and techniques.
What brought about this revelation was the writing, publishing and marketing of my first book. It suddenly occurred to me that authors were creating a product, just like any other start-up business. Authors aren’t founding the next corporate giant, but a much smaller start-up.
Your First Idea Won't Always be Your Best
Many people who try to start a business are certain that their first idea is going to make them an overnight success, that they don't think about one of the first basic rules of the start-up: your first idea is probably rubbish. A start-up often succeeds with its second or third product.
You may have heard of the global phenomena called Groupon; in fact, you may be one of the millions of people who buy from them on a regular basis, but did you realize that this wasn't their first idea? It took them a while to become an ‘overnight success'; the same thing happens with authors, too.
Few authors have bestsellers with their very first book; it takes time, and the first book, like a first idea, can often be a stepping-stone to greatness; a way of learning what works, and what is just going straight to the bargain bin.
To Self-Publish, or not to Self-publish; that is the Question?
Most entrepreneurs quickly discover having a clever idea isn't going to have investors throwing money in their direction; there's a lot of hard work to be done before they can get to that stage, and the same is true for authors, and their books.
Investors are far more interested in an already up and running company, one with a number of orders, paying customers, and projections for the future – and can demonstrate a product. Investors do not want to build the company from nothing. They need to know that there is already something of substance.
That process is similar for new authors who are looking to get their first book published in the traditional way. You have to give publishers a reason to sign you, and just having a good book idea is not always enough. Self-publishing doesn't need all of that. Authors are just going out and doing it. Many entrepreneurs self-fund their companies in order to get the proof of concept investors require.
Getting Over the Marketing Hurdle
Most people with a technical skill – engineering, programming, or writing – dread marketing. The best products are not going to sell themselves. Investors aren’t interested in start-ups that do not know how, where and to whom to sell their products. A rule of start-ups is to start marketing as soon as possible, even before the product is ready. Why? Because people buy what is most familiar to them and familiarity doesn’t happen overnight.
Marketing creates demand for the product. A book, like any other product, will thrive or languish by the skills of the marketer, and the time and money put into letting people know that it's out there (or coming), and just waiting for them to buy it.
When it comes to marketing for a start-up, it takes two to three times more effort to do that, than to create the product in the first place; quite a sobering thought, isn't it? The cost of a full service self-publishing can be expensive, but promoting and marketing a book has the same factorization as a start-up.
Time to Build a Team
Too many people think they can create a start-up company on their own; then wonder why they have no time with their family, and the company eventually falls apart. You need a team behind you.
There are two key people in the team of any new company: a marketing person, and a product developer. If you want to make a success of your venture – whether it's as an author or another form of entrepreneurship – you need other people to help and who know what they're doing. If you were to try to learn it all yourself, you'd never get the book or product launched, and these aren't areas that you'll really want to dedicate your time to, anyway.
Developing Your Business Model
All businesses have a business model – how do you make money – and the same thing should be true for authors. While you may not realize it, most start-ups have multiple revenue streams. The most obvious is simply selling the product to customers, or in the case of authors, selling a book to readers.
But what about those other ways to bring in revenue? Authors can get public speaking engagements at events and conferences. There is advertising on your own website. If you're writing non-fiction, there are seminars and classes to offer, perhaps even consulting or one-on-one coaching. This is a lot to keep in mind, and arranging for all of this is one big reason you need a team.
Most entrepreneurs are great at innovations, they focus on the technology, but they neglect to build relationships that can help them be a success. It takes a while to make the right contacts – getting to know the owners of local bookshops, or finding the perfect set of service providers such as editors, illustrators, book promoters, or public relation firms.
For any new company starting out, the quest is quite simple: provide a solution to a problem. For many with the entrepreneurship bug, it could be a product to make life easier; when it comes to an author, it could be to inform, educate, or just plain entertain.
Now can you see why authorship and entrepreneurship have so much in common?
Cynthia Kocialski is the author of ‘Startup from the Ground Up: Practical insights for entrepreneurs on how to go from an idea to starting a new business'.
Top image: iStockPhoto. Licensed.