5 Entrepreneurial Tips for Authors Who Want to Up Their Game

This month I’m a new author all over again with the publication of Green-Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of Pu... I wrote this book to answer the many good questions authors lob my way every day.

One of the most consistent pieces of feedback I’m getting is that the book brings an entrepreneurial spirit to publishing, which is wonderful, because that’s certainly part of what I intended to achieve. One of my main objectives with the authors I work with is to educate them about how publishing works so that they’re better equipped to successfully navigate its often-murky waters. It behooves every author—new or veteran—to think like an entrepreneur, whether they’re self-published, hybrid published, or traditionally published. Regardless of your publishing path, you must look out for Number One, because often no one else will. And if you’ve entered publishing for the love of the art and craft of writing, you need to make room in your heart and mind for the business side of things so that you don’t end up wondering what went wrong after it’s too late.

Here are five tips to help you embrace becoming an entrepreneurial author. This doesn’t mean you have to shut out your artist, by the way. It just means you have to ask it to move over a little to make room for your CEO too.

Entrepreneurial tip #1. Treat your book like a product, not a baby. This can be a hard mindset shift because you’ve been slaving away at this thing that you love (and sometimes hate) and then all of a sudden it’s out in the world and you long for people to love it and praise it. But you must learn to talk about your book for its value/takeaway and not for its inherent worthiness, because all books are worthy in the eyes of the author. Think about why people want to read your book. What will they get out of it? How will it help others? As an entrepreneurial author, you need to consider how to position your work because this is what the industry is looking for and what industry people care about. Learning what the industry values opens doors.

Entrepreneurial tip #2. Become a “content monster,” which means produce as much content as you can in the months leading up to and after your book release. This takes a bit of a mindset shift, too, because instead of being done once your manuscript is complete, you’re only just beginning. You need to be thinking nonstop about pitching ideas, articles, columns, guest posts, and more to a broad range of outlets. Entrepreneurial authors get themselves out there. They make themselves visible. Marketing people say that you have to “touch” consumers seven times before they buy what you’re selling. That’s probably higher these days with the constant influx of information and emails coming our way every day. So write, write, write. This includes your own social media and blog posts. And don’t settle for outsourcing this kind of work completely. You can do a little bit of that, but to retain your authentic voice and to grow a real platform, you have to be engaged with both the writing and the engagement that being a content monster requires.

Entrepreneurial tip #3. Learn about the business side of publishing. In my book I talk about the importance of “walking the talk.” You are going to have a lot more success with industry folk if you understand book publishing, even if just on a basic level. If you know how to talk to bookstore people and librarians; if you know how to pitch your book succinctly; if you have talking points—you’re going to be more successful. Too many authors fail to grasp the importance of a short pitch. They get tripped up thinking that other people are going to fall in love with their book and they overkill. They overtalk and oversell. Book people are dealing with a deluge of books, and no matter how wonderful yours might be, they want only the bare minimum about the plot. What matters more is why your book is relevant, how it will help people, and what its primary messages are. Get clear on your language and know the value of a to-the-point and well-done pitch.

Entrepreneurial tip #4. Own your expertise! This is easy for writers of self-help, but writers of memoir or fiction are experts in the issues at the center of their books too. Tom Clancy has been a go-to expert the media has called on during the Iraq war and post-9/11. The man is a novelist, but do you think he’s rejecting media calls and telling NBC news, “I’m only a novelist.” No! He’s owning it, and you too need to cultivate your expertise and realize what a huge wealth of knowledge you have in your subject matter from the act of researching and writing a book. This can be a game-changer for authors when they truly grasp its importance. Be a conversation-starter, an engager, and a go-to person in your areas of interest.

Entrepreneurial tip #5. Self-promote in an authentic way. When you’re giving, people are more receptive to self-promotion. It’s easy to reach out to people with an offer if there’s something in that offer that’s valuable and meaningful. Authors I speak to are often loathe to start a newsletter, sickened by the very idea of self-promotion. This is because they have a distorted view of what self-promotion looks like based on people who do it in an icky and self-serving way. Take note—that’s not the only way to do it. Find your own way. Emulate people you admire who are self-promoting well. Have content and products and information that you offer to people as a way to incentivize them to follow you. Create a bribe to subscribe on your website so that when you ask people to sign up to receive updates from you, you’re giving them something in exchange for the privilege of their trusting you with their email address. People who sell well do so because they believe in themselves, and they believe in their product. To be a successful author, you may need to grow into this level of self-validation. It may take a while to feel you’ve arrived. Hang in there till you do. Fake it till you make it. You’ll arrive in due time.

What are some of your entrepreneurial tips? What’s worked for you? I’d love to hear about it!

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Comment by Claudia Donkor on September 20, 2016 at 11:14am

Helpful tips Brooke. Thank you for sharing.

Comment by Linda Kass on September 5, 2016 at 7:51am
5 spot-on tips, Brooke! Thanks for your steadfast guidance over the past year. I feel more confident to be intentional and strategic as an author, to keep my outreach relevant and unique to my particular content. You've taught me so much and I'm still learning!
Comment by Kelly Hayes-Raitt on July 8, 2016 at 4:45am

Lisa Thomson, so smart about networking with other authors of your genre and sharing readers, reviews, interviews, etc.  Good for you!

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

Mosey on over to my web site and sign in for your free gift -- an mp3 of me reading my book's first chapter about a beggar in Iraq! ...And a pre-publication discount!
Columnist, The Argonaut

Comment by Kelly Hayes-Raitt on July 8, 2016 at 4:42am

Amen, sistuh!  What propelled me to start my book were the doldrums after running for office and getting my a** kicked.  There is nothing in the marketing world like running for office!  What enabled me to successfully ask people for donations, support and votes was a huge mind-shift:  I saw myself as offering a service that certain people needed (progressive solutions to political problems, inclusiveness), rather than as someone constantly "dialing for dollars" or "shilling for votes."  [In spite of my loss at the polls, I did run a successful campaign by my standards.]

Pitching my yet-to-be-completed book is a similar mindset:  I offer a service to readers -- an opportunity for readers to learn about a different, first-hand, on-the-ground, people-centered perspective of the Iraq war and the plight of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees.  I can't wait to be out sharing my book with people who are hungry for that perspective!

[Butt in chair, Kelly, butt in chair....]

Thanks, Brooke, for another great post, and congratulations on your new book!

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

Mosey on over to my web site and sign in for your free gift -- an mp3 of me reading my book's first chapter about a beggar in Iraq! ...And a pre-publication discount!
Columnist, The Argonaut

Comment by Brooke Warner on July 6, 2016 at 3:57pm

Thanks for all your comments and I love hearing about feeling more comfortable, Michelle. It's definitely a learning curve, attained through experience!

Comment by Lisa Thomson on July 6, 2016 at 3:51pm

Fabulous tips, Brooke. Thanks for this informative post. I need to improve on a few of them #3 and #5 especially. Do authors find 'blog hops' to promote their book useful? I hear about them quite a bit but haven't tried it. I'm now reading and interviewing authors in my genre. We are swapping interviews and reviews on Amazon. We have the same target audience and these writers are wonderful resources for my readers as well. So, I would add; be generous and interact with other authors. That's something you (and many writers here at shewrites) do well, Brooke!

Comment by Laurie Prim on July 6, 2016 at 1:38pm

Love #4- Own your expertise. I have two advanced degrees but feel more of an expert on the emotion of infertility and pregnancy loss, subject of my memoir, than anything else. Which dovetails with #5 as I've been thinking about how best to approach a newsletter. I have no shortage of tips and support to offer when navigating infertility and/or going through IVF, and I would have been happy to have those drop into my inbox when I was going through it all myself. And the most important thing I can offer my readers is HOPE! Thank you, Brooke, as always, for walking the walk by being as generous as you are prolific.

Comment by Betty Hafner on July 6, 2016 at 1:25pm

Thanks for this shot in the arm, Brooke. It's a perfect message for me in my pre-pub months.

Comment by Ann G. Thomas on July 6, 2016 at 12:33pm

Good reminder. Thank you Brooke.

Comment by Michelle Cox on July 6, 2016 at 10:59am
Fabulous tips, Brooke! Trying hard to follow them! It's amazing how much more comfortable I am now in talking about my book and publishing experience than I was at the beginning. I do feel like I own it now. Thanks for your patient guidance!

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