HOW TO BUILD AN AUTHOR BUSINESS LIKE A TECH STARTUP
Self-publishing gives those writers willing to invest passion, time and money into their craft an amazing opportunity to generate income and leave their full-time jobs. Learn how to build an author business from the founder and executive of multiple successful tech startups.
Since 2000, I have been extremely active in the tech startup world as a founder and executive in multiple successful companies. My journey began with a company called WhiteFence, where we provided a one-stop shop for all utilities for your home and continues to this day with several successful exits along the way. When I decided to write my first novel last year in the heart of the pandemic, I did not know the complexity behind creating, publishing, and marketing a book. It turns out that to build an author business you should take the same steps as a consumer tech startup. I’ll walk you through the similarities as I see them for you in this article.
STEP 1: Have a clear plan for the content of your book
Just like any tech startup, the amount of time you spend on the outline, characters, and scenes of your book is invaluable. To just jump in and start writing would be similar to just jumping in and writing a software program without first fully understanding the target consumer and what they are looking for from your product.
Speaking of the target consumer that is more important than you might imagine when creating a book. You want to know what your reader is expecting from your book at a basic level (there is still plenty of room for creativity of course).
A tool that helped me plan out my book is called The Novel Factory. I spent a good amount of time in there getting a clear picture of the total story before I even wrote the first scene/chapter.
STEP 2: Schedule your work
To build an author business, it is also important to schedule your work, especially if you have a deadline (whether it’s an internal one or external commitment). For me, this meant understanding the acceptable word count range for the type of book I was writing (which was really YA) and the range was between 50-80,000 words. With that I scheduled out the first draft, deciding on a word count per day that I tracked and monitored to make sure I stayed right on schedule through the first, second, and final draft.
I again used The Novel Factory for this because it has a nice graph that helps you see if you are on track or moving faster/slower on any given day. In a tech start-up this is also critical because you are either looking to be the first to market or you are working to get the technology up-and-running before you need to get another round of funding.
The importance of being focused on execution and tracking your progress is critical for every tech startup or author. I also use Trello to stay organized on my tech and book projects because it can be done in minutes every day, so it is not a distraction or busy work, just a great way to not lose track of tasks that need to get done.
STEP 3: Think vendor management
Another surprise for me was the need for vendor management. In a tech startup you outsource several functions regularly. You might hire a freelance graphic designer to help you create custom images for your application or a software developer that specializes in security, etc. There are many types of vendors to manage, and that is also true for authors.
You have to find and hire editors, book cover designers, and book marketing firms amongst several others. I used Upworkand Fiverr to find many of the specialists I needed to complete my book. This process is time-consuming, and those resources have to be managed and factored into your overall production schedule when you build your author business.
STEP 4: Set up your intellectual property rights
Both tech startups and authors have intellectual property rights and legal items to safeguard. I have filed multiple software patents for technology startups, as well as multiple copyright claims as a writer and creative type. The U.S. Patent and Trademark office is actually pretty easy to navigate for authors, and that is definitely not the case with technology startups (they are often long and drawn-out legal processes).
Either way, it is important to secure and document the rights to your work regardless of the type of work or industry.
STEP 5: Set up your book marketing campaign
The actual rubber hits the road when it comes to marketing your book or tech startup business. You can have an amazing technology company or an amazing book, but if nobody knows about it, it can and will flop. Usually this involves partnerships and more vendors that will help you market your product.
For authors you might use Facebook ads or BookBub ads and for a tech startup in might be Google AdWords but pay-per-click advertising to reach your consumer is common to both. You might use press releases, newsletters, group promotions with other authors, or a wide array of marketing tactics. These are all true of a tech startup (or really any business) as well.
Whether you are starting a book or a new technology website, it’s not enough to just have an idea. There is a lot involved with taking that idea/vision and turning it into a final product that consumers are going to enjoy. It can be very discouraging every step of the way whether it is just in the amount of work that is expected of you or the negative feedback and chatter you are likely to hear at various points.
If either were easy, then everyone would do it, so one of the most important characteristics of an author or entrepreneur is that stubbornness and sheer determination to see the project through. If you have that, then you have a shot at success. Of course, you still need a good idea and enough talent and resources to pull it all off.
In the end, I feel that my experience in technology startups prepared me well for creating and releasing my first book. Just like in the technology world, experience helps you get better and better each time you attempt a new project. Whether you realize it or not, when you are writing and publishing a book you are starting a business.
About the author: Kenney Myers is the founder of eBookFairs.com and the author of the Jon Bragg series, a modern Norse myth available most places that eBooks are sold.