The Three Pillars of Business
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In this episode, I talk about the 3 pillars, or legs, of business and why you need them to have a successful author business. If any one of these pillars are weak, your business won’t support the growth and success you want.
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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.
Other indie authors share their experiences and expertise to give you insight in your career and build your business.
You can download your free indie author business checklist, find additional resources, and the show notes at IndieAuthorBizGuide.com.
And now, here’s today’s episode…
Hey, indie authors, welcome to this week’s episode of the Indie Author Biz Guide Podcast. In this episode, I talk about the three pillars or legs of business and why you need them to have a successful business.
Listen to the end for a free resource you can download to help you in your author business.
The 3 Pillars of Business
The success of any business, including an author business, depends on the strengths of the three pillars of business. And these three pillars are one a product and or service; two, marketing and three your business processes.
And if any one of these pillars is weak, then your business isn’t going to be as stable or as strong as you’d like.
I like to use the analogy of a three-legged stool. And when you have a three legged stool, like this tripod, you need them to be all the same length and you need them to be sturdy.
If you have one that isn’t, then it’s going to tip and fall. It’s not going to be sturdy and stable like you need it to be.
Pillar one is your product and or service.
And for authors, our products are our books, whether we write fiction or nonfiction, and we need to have a good product that people want.
Writing to Market
So for writing fiction, that means we need to have a book that people want to read. We want our books to fit the genre that we’re writing.
I have this problem because I write a mash up, I write a mix, and I like to blend my genres. So my first series, I ended up calling it an Epic Science Fantasy because it meshes elements of epic fantasy and science fantasy and even a little bit of urban fantasy in there. That’s hard to market because I haven’t written “to market” because people aren’t quite, exactly sure what they’re getting when they read my books.
Writing to market means paying attention to what the tropes are, what the market, and what readers want, and writing a book that they will want.
When you’re writing nonfiction, that means that you’re writing a book that’s going to answer a question, solve somebody’s pain point or problem, help them learn a new skill, help them know more about themselves if you’re writing self-help or transformation or spiritual books.
And for nonfiction authors, we also usually have a service that we offer. And this pillar applies there because we need to have offer service that people want.
I’m offering the service of helping indie authors, especially new indie authors, develop their business or nonfiction authors who have written a book and they want to self-publish it. So I help them navigate the indie author publishing business.
And part of your services can help people learn a new skill or learn something new, such as if you’re teaching a course. But it has to be something that people want.
Multiple Streams of Revenue
When you’re developing your product and or service, it’s always a good idea to have more than one stream of income. And for fiction authors, that means writing more than one book. It’s very difficult, especially in today’s world and industry, to make it with just one book published.
The way fiction authors do this is to write in a series, especially fantasy and sci fi we write in series. People want series and big, long series sometimes. If you’re romance, your series may not be the same story and the same characters, but it’s the different characters in the same world, and the characters are interacting with each other. So the characters or the couple in book two are introduced at the end, or as part of book one and so on and so forth. So it’s still a continuation of the story or a series within that world.
For fiction writers, you can write in multiple genres or write several different series. I have two series out right now.
When you write nonfiction, you may be writing only one book because your goals for nonfiction are different than fiction.
With nonfiction, your goal may be to write a book to help you market your consulting or business services or coaching, or share your expertise or your knowledge on a certain subject. So you may only write one book, but it’s supporting your other streams of income.
And one of the good things of having multiple streams of income and even if you’re writing fiction, you may think about what other streams of income you can have in your author business. Such as, can you offer a service? Like I’m offering a service coaching people in the author business, and I offer human design services to help people, authors, learn about themselves.
A reason to have multiple streams of income, and we’ll talk about this more in another episode, one stream of income always has peaks and valleys. It’s the nature of business. You’re not going to have a steady stream of income with just one product or one service. There’s always going to be ups and downs. It’s always going to be a cycle.
So when you have more than one stream of income, then you can even that out. When one product or one book is high and one book is low, then that evens things out. And so you’re having more of a steady stream of income.
Produce a Quality Product
And then the third thing that you need to have in this pillar is a quality product that people want.
And that means for fiction books that you are writing to market or that you’re writing a good story that you’re having it edited and doing everything that you can to polish it and bring it up so that you don’t have grammar errors and typo errors or as few as possible. You can never get it 100% perfect.
Doing things to develop your writing craft, so if you know your dialog is a little bit weak, then you know you need to do things to strengthen that in your story or your descriptions or you’re not including enough sensory information. Then you can do things to improve that and make your story better and make it more quality.
It’s also part of that quality product is having a cover that’s on market, and we’ll talk a bit more about that in the marketing pillar and in another episode.
When you’re writing nonfiction, that quality product means that you’re delivering on your promise. If you promise to help people understand business basics, you’re delivering on that. Or if your book is helping people learn about how they can use tapping to increase their wealth, then you need to deliver on that promise.
The second pillar is your marketing.
You can have the best product, the best service, the best book, but it’s not going to do any good if nobody knows about it. So you have to get the word out and let people know that your product or your book or your service exists.
And the way that we do that is through marketing.
And marketing isn’t just doing ads, it isn’t just doing Facebook ads or Google ads or BookBub ads. That’s certainly part of it.
Other Types of Marketing
But it’s also your website is your marketing.
You want to have a good website that when people come to it and they’re looking to learn more about you and more about your books, more about your services, that you provide that information.
And now for authors, especially fiction authors, people do want to get to know us. They want to know who we are. We forget that we, in a way, become celebrities. Think about George R.R. Martin, or Sarah J. Maas, or Neil Gaiman, or J.K. Rowling. People want to know about what they’re doing, what’s going on in their lives.
And even when we’re just starting out or just have a few books or we haven’t hit those bestseller lists yet, our readers still want to know who we are. And the way that we can let them know is and share that is through our websites.
And that leads to the second item on this other marketing is your newsletter. Your newsletter is part of your marketing.
Part of that is letting people get to know you, sharing what’s going on with your life, what’s going on with your writing. Some authors are comfortable with just sharing about their releases, and that’s okay.
But a good thing about our newsletter and why we need to build one rather than just depend on Amazon ads, for instance, is because we own that newsletter. We have a say in when it goes out. We know who is on it.
If we’re selling on our website sites, then we know who our customers are. We don’t get that information when we’re selling on a retailer platform like Amazon or Kobo or Apple or Google Play. They can’t share that information with us because it’s a violation of privacy laws. So when we’re selling direct, we get that information of who’s buying our books, and we can market to them directly through our newsletters or through targeted Facebook ads and other things. But that information is ours, and we can build on that and market to those readers.
Newsletters are important for fiction writers and nonfiction writers, and I think nonfiction writers know this because quite often you’ve been studying Internet marketing or online marketing, and one of the things that you learn about, first off, is build your newsletter, because that’s one of your most valuable assets next to your intellectual property. And for authors our intellectual property is our books.
Another item in our marketing tool chest is the product packaging.
And for books this is extremely important. Because I don’t care what people say, people do judge books by their cover. Most people, not everyone, but most people will look at a cover first to decide if they’re going to pick that book up off the shelf, if they’re in a physical bookstore or if they’re going to click on it to know more about it if they’re on an online bookstore.
So your cover has to grab their attention and it has to be on genre. So that means if you are writing fantasy, you’re using colors like purple and yellow. And if it’s urban fantasy, you’ve got a girl or a guy with magic swirling around them. If you’re writing rom com, it’s usually an illustrated image with bright colors. If it’s a thriller, it’s your darker colors blacks, reds, you know, maybe a deep green sense of mystery, a sense of danger.
Your thriller or your murder mystery isn’t going to sell if you’ve got happy, bright colors and a, you know, a fun illustration. It’s a mismatch of what the book is.That goes along with your typography.
There’s a lot that goes into the cover design and packaging it to meet market expectations. So your potential reader knows ahead of time, “Oh, this book is for me. Let me read the description. Let me know more about it. Let me buy this, because this meets my expectation.”
For nonfiction books, that means quite often it’s a graphic image and bold typography and a bright color, or maybe even white. It usually isn’t really fancy typography, and you know like young adult is very much about, you know, the graphics and having a crown and a sword. You don’t want that on your nonfiction book because people reading that genre expects.
And that goes with writing your blurbs or your description. You need to have an exciting, intriguing draw with those hooks that draw readers in.
You’ve published your first book or your 50th, and now you realize you own a business, even if you aren’t a full time author or writing as a hobby, it’s still a business.
I’ve developed a business checklist to help you determine what you’ve already done for your business and what you may want to examine or add. Give yourself the gift of taking the steps to ensure the foundations are firmly set for your author business to succeed.
Get your free Indie Author Business Checklist today!
Go to IndieAuthorBizGuide.com/bizchecklist and back to the show…
For your nonfiction, it’s what are you promising this book is going to deliver what pain points are you promising that you’re going to help get over or what problems are going to help fix or what skill you’re going to help teach them to do, or what they’re going to learn about themselves.
This leads into your sales pages or your landing pages, which is part of your marketing.
And for fiction authors and nonfiction authors that are selling on the retailers like Amazon and Kobo or Google Play and and Apple, those product pages, we don’t have a whole lot of say over we can’t control what exactly it looks like because we don’t have access to the back end. What we can do is work within the system in the framework of those retailers to make sure, one, our cover is on point.
Two, we have a good headline or hook that people go hit on our landing page or a product page on the retailers, and they go, “Oh yeah. This book, this cover me. Yeah. This is like what I’m looking for. Oh, this hook this oh, Ancient enemies arise! Ooh, that’s intriguing, let me know more.” So they read more and they read the description.
So we want our description to entice them and say, “Yeah, this is what I want, and I’m hitting that buy button.” That’s part of marketing. That is marketing.
When we’re selling direct, whether it’s a nonfiction book, a fiction book or our services, we have our sales page and our landing page on our website. It needs to do the same thing. It needs to catch those people’s attention and say, “Yes, oo let me know more.” If you’re doing nonfiction. It’s like, “Oh, let me hear some testimonials about Is this delivering what it promises? Oh, let me know. I want to know more.” So you have the long sells letters that is that, “I want to know more so that I have confidence in purchasing this service.”
When it’s a nonfiction book, I have confidence that this book is going to deliver what it promised.
For our fiction books, it’s as a reader, I have confidence this is the type of book or story that I like reading. I’m going to click on that buy button.
All of this fits under an umbrella of having consistent author branding.
We want people to look at our books and say, “Oh, that’s a Tora Moon book, and I can tell because her name is the same on all of her books, doesn’t matter what genres she’s writing.” So for instance, so my name is at the bottom, both of these. They’re two different subgenres of the fantasy genre. This is epic science fiction, science, fantasy, and this is a contemporary urban fantasy.
The typography of my name is the same and it’s located at the same place on the bottom of the book. And you can see the typography of the title is completely different. And that’s okay because the author branding is my name.
And we’ll go in, have another episode in branding our author business and branding ourselves as authors. And I would love to interview someone who is an expert in doing author branding, who is also an author, hopefully indie author. So if you have are this person, please contact me! I’d love to talk to you!!
The third pillar is your business processes.
And your business processes include the infrastructure and systems of your business, including your accounting and financials.
The reason I went into accounting many moons ago is because I saw even then how many small businesses weren’t making it that weren’t being the success that they could be because they didn’t understand this third pillar. They had really good products or services. They were marketing well, people knew about them, but they weren’t succeeding because they didn’t understand that business foundations.
Many small business owners believe if they have money in their pocket or money in their bank account, their business is doing just fine. I hate to break it to you, honey. That isn’t true all the time.
Your accounting will let you know for sure if your business is succeeding or not. And yeah, I definitely can go on and on about this part of the business structure because I did accounting for 25 years working with small businesses. I didn’t do taxes. I worked with them on their business and their business structure and making sure that their systems were in place.
Accounting data is very important for running your business and understanding your business and the health of your business. And it isn’t just for taxes. In fact, taxes is the last thing that your accounting is used for. If things changed in the world where we didn’t have to pay taxes, you would still need to do your accounting because your accounting gives you the data that you need to make better business decisions and to know whether your business decisions worked or didn’t work for your business.
Your accounting data lets you know if you’ve got a going concern. When I was doing auditing, one of the things that we’d look at is, is this business thriving, which you can tell through the financials, or was it in that failure to thrive area? And we would have to give what would be called going concern. We as accountants and auditors, were concerned whether this business could continue functioning.
Every decision that you make for your business has an impact on your financial situation and on your financials. You can see the results of any business decision you make in your financial statements.
And you’re going to say, “Hey, Tora, really? What about something so small as the color of my cover?”
Yes, the color of your cover has an impact on your financials because if you choose the wrong color, it’s going to affect your sales. If you choose a cover that isn’t on market or doesn’t fit the genre and people are going, “Okay, this is in the romance, and it’s got this weird red on it and blood dripping off of it. Is it really a romance with the happily ever after? I’m not so sure about this. I’m not sure if I’m going to even try this book.” So, yes, a small decision like that will impact your financial statements.
Choosing whether to go wide and sell your e-books on multiple platforms or being in Kindle Unlimited will impact your financial statements because if your genre isn’t one that sells well on Kindle Unlimited, then you’re not going to have the sales that you want. You may want to go wide and we’re not going into that discussion of wide versus select at this point. We may do that in another episode.
Framework of Systems and Policies
Part of this pillar of having business processes is having a solid framework of systems and policies.
And these are the systems and policies that support and holds up the money producing activities of our business.
And when we’re first starting out our author business, we may not think about this at all. We’re just thinking about writing their books and getting them published. However, if you think about those processes of what you’re doing to get that book published, to put out your newsletter, to do that ad, launching your book, or at all the other myriad things that we do as authors in our business.
If you’re thinking about what those policies are, what those systems are, and how you do them, and if you start making a list of those or thinking about how you do them, then when you get to the point in your business where it’s costing you more in your time to do those things than it would to give them to somebody else to do. When you are at that point in your business, you can say Yes, now it’s time. I can give this to a virtual assistant or hire a consultant to help me do this project or this task that’s taking my time away from what’s more valuable to me. That’s writing my books, writing content, providing a service.
If I’m taking all of my time in setting up my newsletter that I could easily hand off to a virtual assistant that’s that cost benefit tradeoff that you’re going to have to look at. And if you have that set up that you can say, okay, this is how I do it, this is how I want it done. It’s easier to hand that off to somebody and have it done the way you want it done.
And part of our framework of systems is having marketing funnel, having that product funnel. That’s part of marketing, but it’s also part of your business processes because you need to see what those systems are, what you need to have in place for that funnel to work.
So when you have these three pillars of business, your product and/or service, your marketing and your business processes in place, and they’re are working the way they need to be working, your business is strong, it’s stable, and it’s able to grow.
When it’s rickety and it’s you have one that you’re not working on or that is like the tripod, like the tripod earlier, if you got one leg, like for me this is marketing. My business is going to wiggle-wobble and I can’t grow the way that I want to grow. But if I strengthen that pillar or this leg, then my business is going to be stable and I can put more on it. I can add more things to it, I can write more books and my I can grow my business.
I invite you to look critically at your business and evaluate which of these pillars are strong and which ones you need to work on. And those that you need work on, what do you need to do? Do you need more education? Do you need help? Is this an area where it’s actually costing you more to try and do it all yourself?
That what most authors are solopreneurs, and we’re doing everything all ourselves. So maybe there’s an area where it’s costing you more to try and do it than it would for you to hire that task or that process out.
Do You Need Help?
If you need help looking at your business and figuring out where which pillar is weak and where you’re strong, I have services that I provide that I can help you with that with my business development VIP Day, with Creating Your Business Plan, with business coaching. Or if you want to start with my book, Business and Accounting for Authors, it goes into some of the detail on this and helps you figure out the business basics.
If your third pillar is where you’re weak, this book will help with that. And as a free resource to figure out maybe where you are in your business, I have an Indie Author Business Checklist that you can download and has some questions to look at what you have set up in your business that will help you succeed in your business.
Thanks For Listening!
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 IndieAuthorBizGuide.com/podcast.
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