Growing Pains: Part V

When a business is young and small, it is easy enough to care for on one’s own. However, when it starts to grow, you may find yourself unable to keep up with all the different aspects of the business that make it flourish; this can be anything from answering emails to sending out mail, writing blog posts, keeping up on your social media presence and well, writing your book. Sometimes the key to keeping a business growing, and keeping it from falling under its own weight, is to hire someone to help you out.

Hiring someone may sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be anything too serious; you can hire your husband, wife or kids to make social media posts or to help you get organized. If you want something more involved, getting an employee freelancer, intern or independent contractor to act as secretary, editor, assistant, etc. is something you should absolutely consider. Just think if you had someone to answer emails and calls for you, edit your work or manage your social media and marketing for you. Of course, Outskirts Press can help you in a lot of those avenues with our marketing packages and author consulting, but maybe you want someone who you can get some serious face-to-face time with that you see on a regular basis.

growth chart

As with most businesses, hiring extra help makes the business run smoother. In a busy coffee shop, if the owner has to manage all the ordering of beans, cups, syrups, foodstuffs, etc. and act as barista, baker, manager, etc., the business is going to be hectic and seem ill-prepared when things get busy. With enough staff to cover the front of the house, a business owner can return to the managerial tasks that keep the business running smoothly. That means first and foremost, hiring people you trust to uphold the values of your business, and with whom you would want your business associated with. Hire people who are professional, who will show up on time, do the tasks you’ve assigned to them and not leave you hanging when you need their help most.

Again, if you only need this person’s assistance for a few simple tasks and only need help for a few hours a week, be clear with your future employee that this is just a side job that will help you out tremendously. Always offer a stellar reference (especially if you’re hiring an intern), treat them well, and pay them accordingly. A few hours of work a week might not seem worth it for a lot of people, so it’s best to be able to offer an awesome work environment (and boss) so as to justify the time they spend assisting you. Writers often find joy in helping other writers achieve their dreams and keep from getting too stressed out along the way, but remember to express your gratitude for anyone who ends up helping you along the way. You, and your business, are better off with their help.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

In Your Corner: The Business of Writing

So, you’re an author. Writing is your business, right?

Well … hopefully. The problem with being an author, particularly a self-published author, is that the real work is a solitary activity, taking place at home or in another not-a-standard-office-environment workplace, and is oh-so-easily interrupted by the ordinary vagaries of daily life. Anyone who works from home can attest that it’s difficult to keep home life and work life separate!

So how can an author make writing a business, with all of the peculiar challenges authors face?

Draw up a business plan.

Whoa, whoa, a business plan?! Isn’t that for people who are, like, starting a bakery or a coffee shop or maybe a lumber yard? Yes. But it’s also for you, the indie author. You have to prioritize making a business plan if you want to make a profit off of your writing. There are plenty of small-business handbooks available through your local public library, so I won’t go into great detail for you here, other than to say you don’t need to be afraid of the spreadsheets … you just have to be willing to bow before the truths they present to you. If the spreadsheets and the business plan requires you to sacrifice certain luxuries in order to make a good go at becoming a profitable self-publishing author, that’s what you’ll need to do. In most cases, however, a business plan will simply help you figure out which services you ought to pay for, and which ones you ought to train yourself to manage. Like bookkeeping, or website design. It will help you organize your author-related budget and separate it from your personal, regular budget, articulate your needs and your vision, and filter out distractions. I promise, this is the best possible thing you can do, whether you’re just starting out or midway through your career!

Figure out your brand.

What do you want to be known for, as an author? Are you going to be recognized for some sort of narrative through-line to your works, a passion for author advocacy, for your engagement with your audience, or something else entirely? (Hint: you can be all of things, and more.) Your “brand” is as much a product of your personality and your priorities as it is the actual physical product you publish on the page.

You can probably name a couple of brands off of the top of your head. Starbucks, Wal*Mart, Toyota … and when you think of these brands, what do you think of? Their visual presence, like their logo and their website or smartphone app? Or perhaps the little jingle that plays during their commercials? Now, what about authors? Which ones spring to mind as having distinctive presences out in the world? Terry Tempest Williams? Ann Rice? Stephen King? Figure out what draws you in, and what you can feasibly do as a creator in order to tap into the same strengths.

Find your market.

Have you spent much time thinking about your ideal reader? This isn’t a simple thought exercise, it’s an important part of delivering your business plan into the world without undue complications. Spend a few hours researching and drawing out characteristics and qualities you think of when you contemplate who will or ought to be drawn to your work, and then brainstorm ways to reach them which you can manage in a regulated, sustainable, and protected way.

Protected? Yeah. As with all other new things, it can be hard to build new muscles and tap into new markets, because such things rely on habitual, scheduled curation. Statistically speaking, readers are far more likely to subscribe to your social media accounts, blog, and email newsletters if they know they’ll get updates regularly—even on the same day each week. You absolutely must protect such habits from the encroachment of daily distractions! Otherwise, they’ll go the way of all other resolutions. And if you want to treat your work as an author like a business, that’s just not going to help much.

businesslike business suit coffee child

If you’re feeling frustrated with your attempts to put together a business plan for your writing, get in touch! We’d love to hear your stories and help you face the challenges ahead with the best possible resources at hand. We’re here for you.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

From the Archives: “HUGE MISTAKE: Using ‘Traditional’ Business Cards as a Coach/Speaker”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: February 28th, 2011 ]

You’re an AMAZING speaker. You know how to work the room when you’re in front of an audience. Once your presentation is over, though, you make a HUGE mistake. This one is really big, but no one told you what you were doing wrong: you hand out a business card. That sounds harmless enough, right? Not if you’re a coach or speaker.

A business card can’t portray the true value of a speaker’s knowledge in their field. Last week, I presented at Kathleen Gage’s New Horizon’s Telesummit on the topic “Your Book – Your Business Card”. If you haven’t published a book, you are doing your business (yourself) a great disservice. Think about how easy it will be to attract/retain clients and book speaking gigs if you had a published book

  • Your audience can get to know more about you and your business
  • You can share your expertise with your target customer and others in your field
  • Coaching is intangible. A book allows the client to touch the coach via the book.
  • A well written content rich book will validate the author as an expert. Experts get to charge more.

Okay, I’m sold. I know I need to publish a book to build my business. How can I get started? If you decide to self-publish, it’s not as difficult as you think. There are some companies that offer self-publishing packages for coaches and speakers, including Outskirts Press. Packages like these are designed for busy professionals that are always on the go. If you think self-publishing is right for you be sure to choose a self-publisher that can accommodate your marketing and distribution goals. Truthfully, creating the actual book is the easiest part. Make sure that you are maintaining the rights to your material and that you have control over your retail piece and your trade discount.

Some authors don’t want to pay to publish their books. In cases like these, you may consider going the “traditional” publishing route. Remember that you will be selling your rights to the book, but you will still be responsible for promoting your book after the process is complete. Also, publishing your book this way could take months or even years (if it’s accepted).

It is important that you weigh the pros and cons of each option and decide which one works for you.

– by Wendy Stetina

Wendy was right–the best advertisement for an author is a book, and the best means of marketing a new book is to start working on the next one. This isn’t to say you won’t have valuable things to add to the conversation about self-publishing if you yourself haven’t finished publishing your book, but as someone interested in indie publishing you probably know better than most the true importance of timing. It’s worth waiting to give that big presentation until after you have some hard copies of your book in hand, even though waiting is agonizing and fun for no one.

We’re talking about the power of tangibles. There’s a lot you can do with the force of your personality alone in terms of capturing an audience and convincing its various members of your sincerity and authenticity … but there will always be at least one person who will lobby a comment during the Q&A session asking how and where to purchase your book.  If you don’t have an answer for that person, your credibility as a presenter tanks.  It may not tank a lot, but any tanking is a bad thing.  On the other hand, if your book is for sale digitally and you can confidently state its retailers, you’ll earn credibility.  The more at home you are with the particulars of your own publishing experience–the date on which your book was or will be published, the retailers where it can be purchased, and your personal website address and social media account handles where your audiences can seek out more information–the more your image as a worthwhile presenter is built and the more your listeners will see you as an author and not just as any old speaker.

When it comes to speaking about self-publishing, there’s real currency in sharing your personal experience.  This is why I’m 100% an advocate of signing yourself up to be a presenter … and just a tad cautious about signing up too soon.  Make it worth your while.  And if you’re absolutely going to be steam-rolled into a presentation before your book is out in print, make your business card an access point to the publication process.  By which I mean: make sure it not only includes your publication date and website information, but make the giving of it an actual incentive to buy.  Incentivization is king!  You might offer a 15% discount to everyone who can provide proof of business card acquisition at online checkout–perhaps each business card is printed with a discount code–or you might use it as the first clue in a series that will lead your presentation listeners on an Easter egg hunt around town to friendly businesses that are promoting your work.  You can get really creative at this point–my suggestions barely scratch the surface!

Just … don’t let your business card be boring.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Your Book – Your Business Card: Upcoming New Horizons Telesummit Session with Self-Publishing Expert Wendy Stetina

You’ve finally freed yourself from cubicle land and become a consultant. The problem is, you’re having a hard time finding clients because you haven’t proven yourself. What if you could do have a business card that would tell potential clients all about your business? What if you had written a book about the very service you are providing to clients? Wouldn’t that make you the best resource? What if you could use your book as your business card?

As an author, you can enjoy the ultimate reach. Potential clients have  the opportunity to get an excellent snapshot of your expertise and familiarize themselves with your skills without you saying a word.

You can join Wendy Stetina (publishing industry expert and Outskirts Press Director of Author Services) on Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 1:30 PM Pacific Time. She will be discussing the following:

  • How to determine if self-publishing is right for you
  • How self publishing differs from traditional publishing.
  • What is “print-on-demand” and why is it advantageous.
  • How much should you plan to invest?
  • How pricing and distribution works in the publishing world and how it will affect the retail price (and royalties) of your book
  • The self-publishing process and typical timeline.

The best part is – listening to Wendy and other experts at this telesummit is 100% Free! You can register HERE.

If you can’t attend, don’t worry, I’ll be there to take notes for you to use for future reference. I will post them to the blog very shortly thereafter.

DISCUSSION: How have you used your book to catapult your business?