A friend of mine, Liz Schulte, said something to me a while back that has got me thinking. She said, “To be a writer, you have to be an entrepreneur, too.” Considering that this chick is a successful author and a book-writing-machine and a pretty awesome lady anyway, when she gives me advice, I generally listen.
The word “entrepreneur” at first made me cringe a little. I find that’s not uncommon with writers. Marketing yourself and your work sounds like too much drudgery. We want to be writing, not marketing. We want to be creating, not selling. However, Liz is right. There is an idea among much of the writing community that publishing equals an automatic “in” with readers. Like once you’ve got that finished piece, that wonderful book you’ve spent so much time on and poured so much of yourself into, it will magically be brought to the attention of a vast majority of people. In reality, no matter what publishing rout a writer takes, if the writer doesn’t market, if the writer doesn’t build some kind of platform, the book will not usually sell well.
Now, let me clarify. If you are a writer who writes only for self-satisfaction or only for the art of language, good for you. If you are satisfied with that, by all means, write your heart out and save that stuff for generations of your own family to read and enjoy. That is perfectly okay. I’m talking about writers who write, maybe for the same things, but also for more. I do write for self-satisfaction and for the creative outlet. I love the process of writing a book. But I write for other reasons too. I’m a writer because I love the relationships I build in the writing community. Other writers simply understand something about me that *ahem* normal people don’t (we writers are weird; we have to stick together). I write to be read. I want people to read what I write and hopefully come away with something they didn’t have before, maybe ask questions they didn’t ask before. I want people to read what I write. And yes, I write, because eventually, I hope to make some money doing the thing that I love. And so, for writers like me, I think it’s true: we have to be entrepreneurs.
How do we do that? How do we take entrepreneurial steps to set up a good foundation for our writing careers? The closer I come to beginning the process of publishing, the more that question seems to hover over me. There is a lot more to this than I know. A lot more that I have to learn. But here are a few suggestions that I’ve been given by various writers, applicable especially to writers who are where I am–on the road to publishing, but not there yet.
1. Take tips from small business owners and entrepreneur magazines.
2. Learn from writers who are already there, who are selling books and making money. How did they build a platform? How do they connect to readers? What kind of marketing tools do they suggest for newly published/almost published writers?
3. Have an online presence. Do you enjoy blogging? Could you have an author’s page on Facebook? What about an author’s website? Twitter? LinkedIn? There are so many options in social media that can serve to help build a platform for when your books are published. And who knows? Maybe you’ll start a blog for that purpose and find you actually really enjoy it!
4. Make up a business card. Business cards are awesome for when you are at writer’s groups or conferences. If you don’t have one at a conference, you’ll be writing your information on napkins and the backs of other people’s business cards all day long. Or you just won’t make any lasting connections and will have missed a major opportunity. Plus, it just feels cool to whip out a business card and be like, “Yeah, I’ve got one of these. I’m legit.” 🙂
5. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur, or at least an entrepreneur in training. It’s kind of the same thing as: you’ll never be a writer if you don’t think of yourself as one. You won’t see opportunities or have the confidence to make any steps forward if you are afraid of that word. And you’ll certainly never make a living as a writer.
Now, I’m in the beginning stages of all this. Does anyone have any more suggestions for how to be an entrepreneur in the beginning before you’ve published?