The Business of Writing: How to be an authorpreneur

The business of writingAuthorpreneur is a great word, isn’t it? It sort of rolls off the tongue in a highly satisfying way. But while it might look a bit funny, it’s actually a very serious concept. Writing today – particularly books, whether they be fiction or non-fiction – is a very crowded field.  According to this article, there are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone. Most will sell fewer than 250 copies – and some authors have been very honest about how they earned from their Amazon bestseller. All of which means that authors have to be savvier than ever – which is where this whole authorpreneur thing comes in.

But what does it mean?

I asked Hazel Edwards, author of more than 200 books for children, young adults and adults, to explain it. Her book Authorpreneurship: The Business of Creativity is a fantastic and practical resource for anyone in a creative field looking to adapt to changing times.

In your book, you are quite clear that writers need to consider the profit/loss sheet when it comes to their work – do you think many authors struggle to think of themselves as ‘business’ people?

Hazel Edwards: “Short answer, ‘Yes’.  Many find it difficult to reconcile the notion of being creative with being a solo operator in the business of ideas. When you’re the one who has to do the e-administrivia and clean the toilets as well as plot the book, script the film, or pitch the concept, it’s hard to switch roles or keep all running simultaneously. But unless you’re reasonably well organised and have some control over how much time and energy you can afford to spend on a project, you’ll go broke and become exhausted.

“Profit and loss doesn’t relate only to money. It may be a ‘soul’ project, which means much to you. But that would need to be balanced against several days of ‘bread and butter’ income. Profit may be related to learning new skills or collaborating with intriguing minds. But you need to know which projects are strategic for you, and your goals may be different from another creative person.

“My use of the term ‘Authorpreneurship’ credits the originators of ideas as the ‘brand’. And suggests that in fast-changing times, they need  to better manage the rights to their intellectual property, so they continue to gain financially and morally, as the story may move into new formats.

“So the ‘Business of Creativity’ is not a contradiction in terms. And ‘Authorpreneurship’ is not a dirty word, just an acknowledgement of extended skills for a creator. And considering yourself as a professional who runs a small business, not a hobbyist, will be indicated by the way you present yourself.

“Being a writer isn’t just about writing. You also have to allow a percentage of time for researching, promoting and maintaining the legal paperwork, even if you hate that filing stuff. And of learning aspects of new technology that are relevant for your subjects.

“When your first book is published, the novelty of racing around ‘being an author’ sustains for a few weeks, but longterm, it’s the hard workers ‘behind the scenes’  who can sustain an author workstyle over multiple projects at different stages.

“And the cost may be to your family life unless they are included.”

You don’t have a blog – can you explain your reasons for that? What methods of promotion do you use instead?

HE: “Time and energy management. Why repeat information which I can put up once on my website and which is interlinked to resources of value for the readers, plus where to buy my books?

“I already have an author website and I offer a newsletter every two months and earlier issues are archived here. Each of my newsletters has an article of long term use like getting blokes to read, and my newsletter is not just self-promotional as many blogs tend to be.

Other methods of promotion include:

* Always using the book title as the talk title.
* Write about the new process with your title as the case study.
* Learn to use social media selectively, so you have the skills to upload photos or retweet, when you need to do so.
* Don’t gossip. The literary world is a small one.

When it comes to ‘branding’, why do you think so many authors are backward in coming forward? Is it because they think a book should speak for itself? Why is the book not enough anymore?

HE: “Three years ago, my marketing manager daughter’ branded’ me with a new website and I learnt ( one e-thing per day) aspects of new technology which were vital for me. I’m format challenged and think in abstract, not visuals, so it’s been a steep learning curve. A web site is visual, not verbal.

“Our aim was to consolidate my books and discussion resources on the one site,  with an online bookstore for international readers, and to issue as e-books some of my rights reverted, print popular titles which had been orphaned by publisher takeovers and mergers. I was tired of emails from readers complaining they couldn’t buy specific books of mine, nor find the publishers.

“Today the author is the ‘brand’ and it’s likely that a work may be re-issued in various formats and with various publishers. I had also created many additional resources for my titles in the past. Because I write in various fields, some readers are unaware of my other titles. For example the recently released e-book of Fake ID, the YA family history mystery, attracts genealogists who attend my Writing a Non Boring Family History workshop, and they buy it for the adolescents in their family. They also like the Aussie Heroes series including Fred Hollows, which is pitched at 10 year olds. And I also have stories in varied formats  like memoir, Auslan signing, Braille, audio on subjects like Antarctica or aspects of history.

“So consolidation and information is part of the ‘branding’. Unfortunately, it means keeping better track of files and rights so you can recycle earlier works.”

You have described an author’s website as their ‘shopfront’ – what are the key elements for a great author website?

HE: “Uncluttered design. Accessibility.  Information, not ego. Fixing any errors IMMEDIATELY.

“Consistent ‘branding’ of the author in the way resources are offered (e.g. website link on bottom of all downloadable pdfs).

“Having a hi-res current author PR photo for download has saved so much time.

“Answering common Q and A on the site so you can give fans the link.

“Providing hints for Aspiring Writers.

“Keeping the Events up to date with links to hosts.

“Offering an easy and safe way to buy books.

“Supporting other professionals with links to their sites.”

What are your top three tips for authors when it comes to being ‘authorpreneurial’?

1. Be strategic. What are you trying to do, longterm? Allow for occasional detours. Be prepared to invest.

2. Be persistent, but not pushy. Consider what they need from you, and present the material accordingly.

3. Get a decent business card. Mine says ‘Authorpreneur’ and that’s a great talking point.

You can find out more about Hazel Edwards on her website. And say hello on Twitter here!

Comments 8

  1. I’ve been one of many lucky recipients of Hazel’s wisdom over the years, and can attest that her advice here is succinct, solid and spot on!
    Getting my head around being a ‘brand’ has personally been very difficult, but vital in promoting my work. I have to keep reminding myself that promotion => sales => income => more time to write.
    Thanks for a great interview Allison.

  2. An afternoon with Hazel is worth months of research to aspiring writers. So many words of wisdom are pure gold. Those words can translate to anyone considering a career in any of the arts. I’m sending it on to all the young people I know who are considering a future in the arts. Well done Allison. Helen French

  3. Hazel knows more about the ‘business’ of writing than anyone else I know. Her book, Authorpreneurship: The Business of Creativity is worth reading cover to cover for any budding writer. The market place is tough and Hazel Edwards has it covered. Her book is a generous sharing of her wisdom with us all.

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