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 Fiverr.com 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