Using Online Entrepreneur Principles
in Your Author Business
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As an indie author, you are also an entrepreneur. You are an authorpreneur! Learning the principles and practices common to online entrepreneurs can help your author business to succeed. In this episode, I talk about several of these principles you can apply to your author business.
0:00 This week’s episode
0:31 Welcome to the Podcast
1:20 What is an Authorpreneur?
4:42 Entrepreneurial principles we can use
5:02 1. Mailing List
7:46 2. Knowing our Audience
10:10 3. Research our market & current trends
13:53 4. Testing our product
15:30 5. Pivot when the market changes
16:47 6. Use new and innovative ways to sell books
19:46 7. Affiliate marketing tactics—Kickstarter
21:49 8. Selling on our own stores
23:10 9. Offer a premium product
23:53 How to use these principles
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Transcript – Episode 19
Hey fellow in the others. As an indie author, you are also an entrepreneur. You are an Authorpreneur! Love that word. Learning the principles and practices common to other entrepreneurs can help your author business to succeed. In this episode, I talked about several of these principles you can apply to your author business.
Welcome to the indie Author Biz Guide Podcast. I’m Tora Moon, genre bending fantasy and sci fi author, indie business author, and entrepreneur. Here we talk about the business of self-publishing, or as I prefer to call it, indie publishing. As an indie author, you have entered the wonderful world of entrepreneurship.
On this show, I guide you through the rocky waters of the indie publishing industry. I share business basics and principles you can apply to your author business, really, any business. You can download your free indie author business checklist, find additional resources, and the show notes at Indie Author Biz Guide dot com. And now, here’s today’s episode.
What is an Authorpreneur?
As an author, and if you’ve published more than one book, you’ve realized that you are now more than just an author.
You are an entrepreneur.
One of the terms that I really like that explains what we are, is the term authorpreneur. It includes that we are an author, but we’re also an entrepreneur. To make our author business succeed, we need to think and act like an entrepreneur.
I first saw the term entrepreneur way back at least 2016, or before that even, when I was looking into publishing my first book. I read a book called APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Guy Kawaskai, yeah, that guy, the Rich Dad, Poor Dad guy, and Sean Welch. And they used that term authorpreneur to describe what modern self-published indie authors are doing.
We are authors and entrepreneurs. We have to think like an entrepreneur in order to sell our books effectively and to build our author business. If you’ve published more than one book, you know that there is more to self-publishing than just tossing your book up on Amazon.
You have to look at all three pillars of business, which I talk about in episode three, to make your business as stable and strong as it is. That’s your product, pillar one, your book.
Pillar two is your marketing, which includes your cover design and your book descriptions, as well as your marketing, your advertising, and getting the word out about your book. It includes your branding, part of which we talked about in the last episode on Publishers Imprint.
And the third and last pillar is understanding and knowing your financials and managing your money.
Entrepreneurial principles we can use
As an entrepreneur, we can look to other entrepreneurs, especially online entrepreneurs, of what they’ve been doing to grow their businesses and be successful and apply those same principles to our business because we are also online entrepreneurs.
Our product is a book instead of coaching or a course or some of the other things that online entrepreneurs sell. That’s the only difference is we’re selling a book, audio book, e-book, print doesn’t matter, still a book, instead of something else. But we’re doing it online. Some of us are lucky enough to get our books into a brick and mortar store. We still have to follow those online entrepreneur principles in order to get our books into those stores.
Since we’re entrepreneurs, we’re authorpreneurs, what are some of those entrepreneurial principles that we can apply to our business? These aren’t in any order of importance. These are just what came to mind as I was thinking about this episode.
1. Mailing List
We can build our mailing list of raving fans. That’s something that we have that most traditional authors haven’t had. They’re taking a page out of our indie book and building their mailing list of fans. Until recently, all of the correspondence for an author went through their publishing house. I still have older books that say at the back of the book, if you want to contact this author, here’s the address of the publishing house.
We need that mailing list. And it’s not just of freebie, fans, we want to build our mailing list of buying fans. Sure build your lists through Bookfunnel and those different promotions, but also build your list through giving away things in the back of your book to have them come to your site because they’ve read your book; they’re a buyer. Built your list through selling on your website.
Online entrepreneurs know the extreme value of their mailing list. Most entrepreneurs will tell you their mailing list is one of their most valuable assets that they have because it allows them to launch a new product to people who are interested in that product rather than having to spend a lot of money on advertising, which is to a cold market. In marketing terms as cold, they haven’t heard anything about you. They’re not in your ecosystem yet. When you are marketing to people who are on your mailing list, not only is it a warm lead that they know about you, they’re in your ecosystem, so they are a hot lead. They’re more likely to buy from you because they have before. Indie authors have embraced this principle of building our mailing list.
We have service providers such as BookFunnel and Story Origin or Book Cave, Prolific Works, are the ones that come to mind, that help us build our mailing list by offering our books in cross promotions with other authors who are selling similar books to their warm audience, to their mailing lists that are also interested in that ,and quite often, we’ll have people that pick up our books and read them and hopefully become fans.
2. Knowing our Audience
Another principle that we as authorpreneurs can embrace is delving into who our audience is for our books. We can’t effectively sell our books if we think our audience is all readers. Sorry, that doesn’t work. We need to think about our audience. For entrepreneurs, they call that their target audience.
Who is your target audience for your book? And each series may be a different audience. If you write multiple genres, you definitely would have different target audiences for those genres.
I write genre bending fantasy and sci fi. My audience likes new and different. They don’t want to see the same trope redone. Whereas a romance writer, their audience loves those tropes and wants those to be repeated and just told in a slightly different way.
My indie author business line of books is a totally different audience than my fantasy and sci fi readers are. My first series is an epic science fantasy. My second series is an urban fantasy. Some of those readers will crossover. There are others that won’t. There are people who only like that epic fantasy, high fantasy type of world and that don’t like stories set in a contemporary setting. And they won’t read my Sentinel Witches. That’s okay. If I’m understanding who my target audience is, I can now market to them.
As an authorpreneur, take that time to really delve into your audience and who your audience is for that series of books, or if it’s a standalone book, that book or for that genre of books.
3. Research our market & current trends
The next principle is looking at how your book fits in with the wider market. We need to take that play from other entrepreneurs and really research our market to find out how our product fits in, how we can niche it, how we can find our unique selling point. USP is a term that you’ll hear in entrepreneurial marketing circles is, find your USP, your unique selling point. Authors, that is looking at what’s different and unique about our books from others in our category or genre that we can say, If you like this type of a story, you’re going to like my books.
And also researching our market, we need to evaluate what the top players and in this case, we’re not talking about top traditional authors, we’re talking about top indie authors in our genre are doing.
We can research what the current trends are for the packaging of our product. In our case, our packaging is our book covers. What is the current trend in your genre or your category?
And it changes all the time. The covers that you loved growing up, and I’m going to date myself here, the covers that I grew up looking at in the fantasy sci fi were these beautiful illustrated artworks that you would see on Anne McCaffrey’s. Publishers would pay artists to paint these gorgeous pictures to be used on the book covers.
And I think about two pulp fiction covers that are a bit more edgy…uhm of the 70s and 80s. Those types of covers aren’t what is selling now. You need to look at what is selling now. In the fantasy sci fi genre, that’s photo manipulated covers. Where you’re taking a stock image and adding background to it, a scene, and really manipulating that stock photo to make something new and different. In contemporary romance, off the top of my head, thinking about the covers that I’ve seen when I peruse that in the bookstores. Those are illustrated covers that are usually fun and fantasiful and bright colors or pastel colors. Thrillers, totally different vibe for them. You’re looking at darker covers, usually an image with their back turned, either running away or looking away from the camera, a silhouette maybe.
As an entrepreneur, we need to look at what is selling in our market right now and adjust our packaging to meet that. All of the good online entrepreneurs know this principle. It’s one we can embrace in our authorpreneur businesses.
4. Testing our product
Along with that, is testing out your products. Many entrepreneurs will test out a product before they spend a lot of money on it. They want to see if there’s a market for that product. They do some research and evaluation of if there is a market for that, if people want it.
Unfortunately, this is one place where a lot of indie authorpreneurs haven’t embraced. We just put our books out and hope that there’s a market for it.
One of the ways that we can do this testing of new products is writing short stories, of putting out those reader magnets that will build our mailing list. But another thing that a reader magnet does is helps you test the market. Do people want that book? If they do, they’ll snap up in the book promos. You can test that in some of these paid newsletters as well. Put out that book, offer it for free or $0.99 and get that feed back from the market from those readers, whether they want that type of book or not.
That’s one way we can test that, and that will allow us to pivot and change. So this cover isn’t working. Maybe it’s not the story that isn’t working, maybe it’s the cover. So we can pivot and change that cover and test that. Oh, that’s working now. People are wanting this book.
5. Pivot when the market changes
One of the principles that we as indie authorpreneurs have embraced is being nimble and able to pivot as the market and industry changes. We’re able to get our books out pretty quickly, depending on how fast you write. Once you have your book written and edited, we can get our books out to the market pretty quickly and we can pivot and change as the market is changing.
Whereas the trad publishers have a really hard time with this because they’re big. They’re bureaucracies. They have things in place. It takes them two years to get a book to market after it’s written. By them, they may have totally missed the trend they were hoping to catch. And the publisher is saying, Oh, this book isn’t doing well. Sorry, author, we’re not going to publish more of this. When the author was writing to market, but it took so long for that book to get to market that they’ve missed the boat.
And because Indies are new to this, we aren’t stuck in that mentality of, “This is how it’s always been done, so this is the way it has to be done.” We’re exploring.
6. Use new and innovative ways to sell books
Because we aren’t stuck in the way that it’s always been done, we are able to discover and use new and innovative ways to sell our books.
Some examples of these new and innovative ways are subscription models like Patreon. Radish, and a new one that I’ve just heard about that looks really interesting for fiction authors, Ream, which is launching in May.
These are subscription models. People are selling their books a chapter at a time. One of the authors that I follow that I like, Lindsay Buroker, is using Patron to sell and give her books to her wide readers before she enrolls them on Kindle Unlimited. That’s one way that she’s found that she can satisfy her wide readers is through the subscription model of Patreon.
Another way that indie authors will say, “Oh, this is so new!” It’s really not new, is series… serialization. We see this on Kindle Vella, and Wattpad. Ream and some of these subscription models are also using a serialization of our stories and our books as a way to make money.
And serialization is actually really old! This is the old coming back into style.
Before genre fiction was accepted as viable, valid fiction, the authors had to sell their books in a serialized fashion to the pulp magazines. So some of the famous authors that have used serialization to to catapult their career. Charles Dickens, who wrote Christmas Carol, he wrote serialized first. Elizabeth Gaskell, who wrote North and South, serialized some of her books.
And in the early 1900s, before Lord of the Rings, I might add, you have two of the greats of fantasy and science fiction that wrote serialized fiction and that’s Edward Rice Burroughs, who wrote John Carter and Tarzan and Robert E Howard, who wrote Conan the Barbarian. These stories helped set the framework that we now use in fantasy and science fiction.Those books were originally issued in a serialized way in pulp fiction magazines.
7. Affiliate marketing tactics—Kickstarter
Another new and innovative way that indies are embracing right now is using Kickstarter. And that is using what online entrepreneurs have been using for a very long time, and that’s a launch campaign where they are pre selling their books to interested readers at a premium. If you go on to any Kickstarter, they’re not selling that e-book for just $5.
They’re selling it for a whole lot more because they’re giving these other incentives. All of that is taken from the launch campaigns of online entrepreneurs. When they’re launching a new course, they add a lot of bonuses. All those bonuses on those Kickstarter tiers are those bonuses that you would see in a course launch. Authors selling on Kickstarter are using that affiliated marketing tactics that online entrepreneurs are using. And that is getting a bunch of people to share about your launch.
Sometimes in the online space, they’ll have an affiliate code. So whoever signed up for that course from an affiliate, that affiliate would get a little bit of money from the course creator for helping them sell that launch. That may be some of the things that we as indies can add into our launch campaigns with Kickstarter is meeting certain goals, you helped me reach that. That can be some affiliate give and take there. There are some authors that are looking into doing that, and I think Monica Leonelle is looking into that. So look ino her and what she’s doing.
8. Selling on our own stores
One online entrepreneur tactic that indies are starting to embrace now is selling our books on our websites or online stores and bypassing all of the retailers. When we do that, we are selling wholesale now to our readers. We’re cutting out that middleman. Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Google Play, all of those are middlemen. We’re the wholesaler, and we’re going through a middleman to reach our customer, the reader.
What we call royalties, which really aren’t royalties, are really a distribution fee charge by those distribution platforms, and what’s left over is our wholesaler’s portion.
If we sell directly from our website, we’re cutting all that out. Instead of getting 70% of the retail value of our books, we’re getting 90 to 95% depending on what our credit card processing fees are. And that can make a huge difference. And that 20% difference can be quite a bit.
9. Offer a premium product
If you have something that you’re selling exclusive on your website, you can sell that at a premium. You could put together a really awesome hardcover edition of your book, you know, with the painted edges and some really cool illustrations inside of it. And the only place you sell it is on your direct website, you can sell that at a premium. Your fans are going to want that premium product and we’ve talked about that a bit in Product Ladders in episode seven.
How to use these principles
I’ve given you quite a few examples of principles and things that online entrepreneurs are using that we can adopt as an indie authorpreneur. I highly suggest looking at the online entrepreneur space and evaluating what they’re doing that seems to be working really well and how you can adapt that to your own business. Some will work, some won’t.
That is part of being an authorpreneur or an entrepreneur. You are trying things out with no guarantee it’s going to succeed. Some of them will succeed really, really well. Some of them will flop. That’s the risk we take of being entrepreneurs.
A benefit of being an indie authorpreneur is you get to choose what is right for you and your business. Each author’s business is different. What’s right for mine may not be right for yours. And with all of these things that I’ve mentioned, you don’t have to embrace them and put them in your business right now.
You can choose which ones sound good for your business, which ones to try. In fact, it is not a good idea to say, Oh, I’m going to do all of this all at once. Then you don’t know what is working and what isn’t. Take one of these ideas and test it. Does serialization of your book sound interesting?
Oh, I just thought of another author that did serialization and did very well. And that’s Ilona Andrew’s, the writing team who wrote the Kate Daniel series. Their Innkeeper series, they serialized by posting it on their website for their readers as they wrote it. And once they got finished with it, then they published it, and they did it indie published when they were trad published with the Kate Daniel series, because they’d proven out that their fans liked that series as they wrote it serialized on their website.
That may be something you can do either on your website or with Patreon or with this new Ream app that’s coming out. Radish is not only subscription model, but it’s also a serialization model. It combines both of those. I haven’t used Radish, for my understanding, it’s really good for romance, and especially on the spicy end of it.
You may decide to try a Kickstarter and see if you like that business model and to sell your books that way. Or set up a online store for your website, whether that’s using WooCommerce, which is what I use, or Shopify, which is the two big ones. Pay Hip is another one. Look at those things and decide which you would like to add to your business or what you’re already doing and how can you exploit that even more.
Take time to learn the business principles and the entrepreneurial practices, especially those of online entrepreneurs, to see what could work for you and help you make the best decisions that you can make for your business.
I hope this episode has helped you in understanding that you are an authorpreneur and give you entrepreneurial principles and practices that you can implement and use in your author business. And I hope to see you on the next episode.
Thanks for listening to this episode of the Indie Author Biz Guide Podcast. I hope you found value in it. You can get your free business checklist, find more information and any downloads mentioned at Indie Author Biz Guide dot com forward slash podcast.
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