Are a you a Wantreprenauthor? (aka: Is vanity killing your publishing?)

A lot of indie pub­lish­ing gurus talk about being an Author­pre­neur or Entre­pre­nau­thor — basi­cally refer­ring to the impor­tance of treat­ing your writ­ing and pub­lish­ing as a busi­ness. But some­thing real entre­pre­neurs are very famil­iar with is the guy going through the motions of busi­ness with­out actu­ally doing anything.

Try­ing to act like a ‘real busi­ness’ and get­ting every­thing done pro­fes­sion­ally looks some­thing like this:

  • File for an LLC busi­ness license
  • Hire some­one to make you an awe­some logo for your pub­lish­ing imprint
  • Pay a ton of cover design, edit­ing and formatting
  • Get some slick busi­ness cards made
  • Start pro­mot­ing the crap out of your book to review­ers, reporters, any­body and everybody

 (Here’s a funny video about Wantre­pre­neurs… does it remind you of any authors you know?)

But none of that stuff mat­ters at all, because you’re ignor­ing a cru­cial con­cept most real entre­pre­neurs begin with: mar­ket val­i­da­tion or “mak­ing your first real dollar.”

Before you invest any money in your book, you need to test whether any­body wants to read it, and whether any­body would pay for it.

Of course that’s pretty hard to do with no plat­form, espe­cially if you’re writ­ing fiction.

For non-fiction, it’s eas­ier: turn your book into a bunch of rel­e­vant blog posts and mea­sure traf­fic. Once you have some traf­fic, put up a mockup and sum­mary of the book and a pre-order but­ton. When you get your first cou­ple sales, your idea is “val­i­dated.” Another way to do it is Kick­starter, but only if you make a seri­ous effort to drive poten­tial read­ers to your Kick­starter page with tar­geted adver­tis­ing (they won’t just find it by themselves).

Plus, the main rea­son most Kick­starter cam­paigns fail is that authors are try­ing to cover all pub­lish­ing costs — usu­ally sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars. That’s not val­i­da­tion, that’s more like ven­ture cap­i­tal fund­ing. You don’t need that. You just need to make sure some­body out there (besides your friends or fam­ily, so ask­ing them whether they would buy the book or post­ing on your Face­book page is use­less) would actu­ally be inter­ested enough to make the purchase.

Of course the eas­ier way to do all of this would be to start with a best-selling genre and write the kind of book that those read­ers would enjoy. It’s not that hard to do, and it’s much eas­ier to be suc­cess­ful (since you already know exactly what kind of read­ers to target).

But the idea holds: don’t throw a bunch of money towards stuff that doesn’t mat­ter — the only thing that mat­ters is your prod­uct (the book) and how many peo­ple are going to buy it. If you pub­lish some­thing with­out earn­ing a return on your invest­ment, you’re not a failed author or mis­un­der­stood genius, you’re a van­ity author.

You pub­lished the book you wanted to write, because you believe in it and you care about it and you believed oth­ers would to. You didn’t do research. You didn’t con­sider how large your tar­get audi­ence was and how crit­i­cal that num­ber is to mar­ket sat­u­ra­tion. You didn’t ask “how am I actu­ally going to make money.”

Rather than spend­ing years and and thou­sands of dol­lars pub­lish­ing a book, spend a month, write the first 10,000 words, buy a cheap book cover on and put it up for sale.

Do that 10 times. Once you’re earn­ing money, invest that money towards finishing/improving the books that peo­ple are lik­ing the most. That’s the only busi­ness strat­egy that works 100%, with­out wast­ing a bunch of time and money. Don’t get bogged down in the details of busi­ness, the licenses and per­mis­sions and roy­al­ties and cal­cu­la­tions. Screw that stuff. Put it up on Kin­dle as fast as possible.

95% of suc­cess is about the story and the writ­ing (or the idea/research and the writ­ing style for non-fiction). The other 5% you can fig­ure out once you’re mak­ing money.


About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me