Sunday, November 9, 2014

[Book Review] Business For Authors: How To Be An Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn

Business For Authors. How To Be An Author EntrepreneurBusiness For Authors. How To Be An Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Are you ready to take the next step in your author journey?
Art for the sake of art is important. Writing for the love of it, or to create something beautiful on the page, is absolutely worthwhile and critical to expand the sum of human expression.

But I’m not here to talk about creativity or the craft of writing in this book. My aim is to take the result of your creativity into the realm of actually paying the bills.

To take you from being an author to running a business as an author.
I was a business consultant for 13 years before I gave up my job in September 2011 to become a full-time author-entrepreneur. I worked for large corporates and small businesses, implementing financial systems across Europe and Asia Pacific.

I’ve also started a number of my own businesses: a scuba dive charter boat in New Zealand, a customized travel website, a property investment portfolio in Australia as well as my freelance consultancy. I’ve failed a lot and learned many lessons in my entrepreneurial life and I share them all in this book.

In the last six years of being an author, through tempestuous changes in the publishing world, I've learned the business side of being a writer and I now earn a good living as an author-entrepreneur. I’m an author because it's my passion and my joy but also because it's a viable business in this age of global and digital opportunity.

In the book, you will learn:
** Part 1: From Author To Entrepreneur

The arc of the author’s journey, definition of an author-entrepreneur, deciding on your definition of success. Plus/ should you start a company?

** Part 2: Products and Services

How you can turn one manuscript into multiple streams of income by exploiting all the different rights, various business models for authors and how to evaluate them, information on contracts, copyright and piracy. Plus/ putting together a production plan.

** Part 3: Employees, Suppliers and Contractors

The team you need to run your business. Your role as author and what you’re committing to, as well as co-writing. Editors, agents and publishers, translators, book designers and formatters, audiobook narrators, book-keeping and accounting, virtual assistants. Plus/ how to manage your team.

** Part 4: Customers

In-depth questions to help you understand who your customers are and what they want, as well as customer service options for authors.

** Part 5: Sales and Distribution

How to sell through distributors and your options, plus all the information you need to sell direct. ISBNs and publishing imprints ”" do you need them? Plus/ your options for pricing.

** Part 6: Marketing

Key overarching marketing concepts. Book-based marketing including cover, back copy and sales pages on the distributors. Author-based marketing around building your platform, and customer-based marketing around your niche audience and targeted media.

** Part 7: Financials

Changing your mindset about money, and assessing where you are now vs where you want to be. Revenues of the author business and how to increase that revenue. Costs of the author business and funding your startup. Banking, PayPal, accounting, reporting, tax and estate planning.

** Part 8: Strategy and Planning

Developing your strategy and business plan. Managing your time and developing professional habits. The long term view and the process for becoming a full-time author. Plus/ looking after yourself.

** Part 9: Next Steps

Questions from the book to help you work out everything to do with your business, plus encouragement for your next steps.

** Appendices, Workbook and Bonus Downloads including a workbook and business plan template.

Part 2: Recommendations

This quote resonated something deep within my soul when I read the line, "Make active decisions that will guide your journey" because I have always wanted to be a writer and with that in mind, after graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Accounting, I continued to write for myself, honing my writing skills and attending writing workshops. Even though those activities are geared towards writing, I did not think of it as part of investing in myself to become an authorpreneur. This book made me realize I have to be aware of every decision I make and it better be moving towards my goal of writing full time.

The quote "...think about your time as precious every time you sit down to work" is one of the reasons why I hired a cleaning person in order to free up two to four hours of my weekend to do more important things than housework like book marketing, developing my author platform, or writing & research. I have also started to write down my schedule so I can block out my writing times and hopefully stick to it.

Another very useful quote from the book is "... many professional authors are now creating production plans for their own writing business... If writing is your business, and you want to take it to the next level, you need to know what your production plan is" and I completely agree. How else can you be held accountable for something if you don't have a set schedule and a carefully thought out production plan? I am currently in the process of thinking this through because with a day job, it is a bit more tricky to identify certain expectations as to book completion rates much less first draft completion rates.

Reading this book made me realize that if I am truly serious about taking my writing to the next level, I should do and think this way and be strict about it. "Being a professional writer means treating it like a job and putting in the hours... the job of being a writer is just like being a trucker. Don't make excuses about not feeling like it today. You just get in your truck and drive." Lately, my excuse is having to share a computer with my spouse. I do have an iPad and I have all the apps that I have previously used to produce my book, Under The Moon. I have the Notability App to hold all of my research as well as all of my Story Ideas and basic outlines. I also have the Pages App to write my first drafts with and I have the Adobe Reader App to read PDF exports of my first drafts to edit the manuscript with. I also have a Solar Wireless Keyboard by Logitech to use when I am at home (I trained myself to be able to touch type using the on-screen keyboard of my iPad when on the go like during lunch breaks at work). So, no more excuses and I have to be more strict with myself on this rule.

Having an accounting background, this quote is really important for any business, "... decide on your chart of accounts early so that your finances are entered into the right categories by you or by your bookkeeper from the start... Make sure to itemize as much as possible in the invoice so there are no queries... Attach original receipts and keep photocopies if they are reimbursing you." This quote made me think of whether or not to expense outright my upcoming purchase of a computer mainly because I plan to keep whatever computer I buy for at least 5 years and computers, like any equipment, they depreciate and they may or may not have any resale value at the 5-year mark and thus it is more conservative to treat the computer as an asset (equipment) to be depreciated over 5 years where the depreciation per year or month is treated as an expense. So for now, I am thinking my chart of accounts will include Equipment (iPad Air + Logitech Solar Keyboard + whatever computer I buy), Depreciation Expense, Research & Development Expense (fees I paid for workshops, writing classes, writing conferences, writing retreats, writing books, reference books), Sales, Sales Discounts, etc.

I completely agree that "... Writing, Getting the work out to customers — whether that's through traditional publishing or self-publishing, and Finding and connecting with readers" are a few major things that will lead to a successful writing career.

"Choose a path and keep stepping in the same direction and you will get a long way after few years. The problem comes if you keep changing direction so you have to keep starting all over again" and this statement applies to writing in multiple genres when you don't even have a solid audience built up yet.

I realized early on that my most creative times are between 10am to 9pm. But having a full-time day job occupies most of that time frame. "So decide on a time and then make sure that you actually use that time to create something new in the world" was one of my deciding factors to write out what my week looks like to help me plan and block out chunks of time dedicated to writing and marketing. It will definitely change once I've completed my next book because my writing time will then be spent on editing and revisions and marketing efforts.

And this quote really drives the point home: "... writing is a lifelong career, and so is building your personal brand and platform online. Where do you want to be in five years' time? How will you get there if you don't make the time?"

And for those who are like me who are prone to self-doubt, this quote really helped put things in perspective for me: "Pro writers write, and keep writing over time. The successful pro writers, like Pressfield, have multiple books that they continue to produce, even when previous book sales didn't perform as they would have liked. Professionals aren't put off by short-term disappointment. They produce a body of work over time, and keep creating. They don't believe that one book is a special snowflake and give up when it doesn't hit the mainstream. They know that each page is a development in a journey. The habit is creating every day.... When we turn pro, we now structure our hours not to flee from fear but to confront it and overcome it. We plan our activities in order to accomplish an aim. And we bring our will to bear so that we stick to this resolution."

Another helpful trick is this: "Write down what you know of your ebbs and flows, your doubts and fears and jealousies. We all have them, and they won't go away, but we just need to be aware and not let them derail us for too long."

I have been following Joanna Penn's blog, podcast and videocasts for a while now and this book, Business For Authors is a really helpful guide that comes with a very comprehensive worksheet for every writer who wants to step up their writing careers. It also comes with a list of resources and tools that she uses for her author business and a business plan template that you can customize to fit your writing business needs. The book itself is very well-written and well-edited, inspiring and helps writers stay organized. I definitely learned a lot and therefore, I highly recommend this book.

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