Author, Hazel Edwards, shares some her wisdom on the writing business in the following extract from her book ‘Authorpreneurship; The Business of Creativity‘ . Hazel is running two workshops this October at the ACT Writers Centre: Writing a Non-boring Family History on Saturday 17 October and Authorpreneurship, The Business of Creativity on Sunday 18 October.
In the Beginning:
When you start writing, you don’t have a name as an author. You don’t have a profile. You just have an idea for a manuscript. So the first stage is to write that idea as well as possible for a specific audience, not just for you. If it’s only for you, it’s therapy. If you want more readers, you’re in the business of creativity.
An author’s ‘profile’ means that enough people know who that writer is and what kind of work is associated with that author, and are willing to follow or buy those ideas, in whatever format.
This ‘profile’ may be linked to a web-site, speaking commitments, media slots and types of writing, but more importantly, recognition by groups who like that kind of work.
So an author ‘profile’ matters. Basically, does anyone know your name? And if so, what for? And are they willing to pay to have access to your ideas or stories? If not, what can you do about it?
The Author as Brand
It’s a big shift for authors to see themselves as a ‘brand’. This is where a name is being traded, linked to marketable ideas, in varied formats and income is earned.
For some, the book will not be the main income channel, but other paid work will be offered because of the existence of that book.
In the past, an author was associated with a single ‘named’ publisher and their distribution channel. That is rare now. A book may have several ‘lives’ in different formats and with different publishers and distributed in a variety of ways. Each project may be contracted differently. The link is the author name or brand, not the publisher. And it may be the author brand, which is more attractive than the single book.
Authorpreneurship is not just about self-promoting or self-publishing or even vanity. Author brand is part of the business of creativity. If readers like a work by that author, they will look for more by that name, not necessarily with that publisher. Considering the speed of publisher mergers, takeovers and fast remaindering of books, authors who consolidate their backlist titles under their brand name, available on their website, are more likely to make a living. Otherwise their books have a short life of a month or so.
Author websites are as accessible, as publishers’ sites for online sales, internationally. In the past, only the publisher controlled distribution of books and mainly via bookshops and bookclubs. That has changed.
Although many authors consider writing the book is the hard part, the real challenge is in marketing and distribution, long-term.
Ego or Business?
If this is your first creation, you probably don’t have a recognisable ‘brand’ yet. For modest creators, there’s also the philosophical dilemma between ‘ego’ and marketing. Should you be talking about yourself? Isn’t that just egotistical?
Yes, but talking about the public ‘author brand’ and the ‘book’ or the ideas in it is removed from the private person behind. And although your ‘persona’ needs to be genuine, choose how much of your research, writing habits or family you will reveal. A bit more difficult if you’re writing autobiography!
In the slower ‘old style’ proposal to a print publisher, it was a plea for the publisher to invest money in the book development, market and distribute it and return 10% of profits to the original author. The writer only wrote the book. Now the writer becomes the authorpreneur. initiating, writing, publishing and distributing. There are new channels for ideas with digital opportunities for distribution. But this also means more risk and more work for an author, learning a suite of e-skills. Publication can be faster, but time-consuming in the maintenance of long-term marketing of that title.
Brand and income is directly linked to who holds the rights in the intellectual property of that idea in those formats.
But the idea needs to be of quality and timely. And the production needs to be of a high standard and well edited.
A (Authorpreneurial) Hint:
List five actions to establish your brand as an author.
Do them as soon as possible.
- Establish or update website ‘image’.
- Revamp business card with occupation
- Offer workshop with title of your book
- Regular media slot
- Develop niche expertise
Hazel Edwards is an Australian author who writes quirky, thought-provoking fiction and fact for adults and children, and has her own e-bookstore for favourite print books which are now e-pubs. She is best known for the There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake series, now translated into Chinese and other media. Hazel is a director of the Australian Society of Authors and a National Reading Ambassador. In 2013, she was awarded an OAM for Literature. Her memoir ‘Not Just a Piece of Cake-Being an Author’ is out in November.