Now that I have explained the three forms of publishing (traditional, vanity, and independent), I wanted to use this “Feedback Friday” to share with you all the book that secured my decision to independently publish: Business for Authors: How to Be an Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn.
As I described before, until April 2014, I knew basically nothing about independent publishing and held the same stigmas about it that most academically trained creative writers do. Of course, as you know, this stigma dissolved completely, but I was still left with a lot of questions and self-doubt. Could I make indie publishing work for me? How can I do this with little-to-no business knowledge? Well, thanks to Business for Authors, I now have the confidence that I can achieve all my indie dreams.
In her book, Business for Authors: How to Be an Author Entrepreneur, Joanna Penn outlines basically every aspect of turning one’s love of writing into a business. Penn begins by describing the mindset one must have to be a successful entrepreneur, and I imagine, quickly weeds out those who see themselves too much as “artists” and not enough as “business people.” This approach may be off-putting to some readers, as many writers do not like to think of their art as business, but it also sets the tone of the book and instills confidence in those who are (or want to become) more business-minded.
The content of Business for Authors builds similarly to an actual business. Penn helps the reader identify her potential business plan by outlining the various business models authors can have as well as the products and services they can offer. However, where the book really gains momentum is when Penn explains how to run one’s authorship like a business by hiring contract laborers (editors, cover designers, etc.), defining a customer base, and determining sales, distribution, and marketing strategies. Even someone with a highly limited knowledge of business can follow along up to this point.
Where Business for Authors becomes more complex is when Penn discusses the financial aspects of running a business. While her explanations are clear and concise, the subject matter still requires the reader to have a solid knowledge of finances, and if this knowledge is not existent, it may be difficult for the reader to follow along. This is not necessarily a critique of Penn, as she clearly states that technical financial knowledge is outside the realm of this book, but there may be some additional research necessary on behalf of the reader to understand this part entirely.
In the final content section of Business for Authors, Penn provides tactics for strategizing and planning one’s author business. This section takes the business knowledge from the rest of the book and shows the reader how he can apply it moving forward. For this section, Penn relies heavily on her personal experience, as she does throughout the book, and while this anecdotal approach is full of great examples and extremely helpful, it would have been beneficial to draw more upon the experiences of other authors and business people for more diversified insights into how an author entrepreneur business could be approached.
On a side note, while Business for Authors is intended for independent publishers, it is also useful for those looking to traditionally publish. Most notably, Penn has entire sections dedicated to agents, publishers, and contracts, and she lists multiple questions one should ask before signing away his rights as well as describes tricky situations and contract language to look out for. Likewise, authors seeking to traditionally publish can benefit from learning to view their novels as products and figuring out ways to market themselves and their products to potential agents, publishers, and readers.
My one advice to prospective readers is to buy the e-book edition and not the print book. Penn has loaded Business for Authors with dozens upon dozens of links to other reference books, articles, and videos, and of course, in print form, you cannot click on these links and must physically type them into your browser. I have not yet re-purchased the book in e-book format (I am considering it, because it is that great of a resource!), but I strongly encourage you all to learn from my mistakes and buy the digital copy to have those resources close at hand.
Additionally, Penn provides a Business for Authors worksheet on her website, which I highly recommend. The worksheet is free, and it contains questions to help guide the reader’s framing of her author business as well as a business plan template that the reader can fill out and revise as necessary.
If you are dreaming of or seriously considering turning your writing into your full-time career, Business for Authors by Joanna Penn is the perfect place to start. The book will walk you through the basic process, step-by-step, with personal examples from how Penn built her own author entrepreneur business. Where the book lacks, Penn will direct you to more detailed resources, either from herself or other publishing professionals. I strongly recommend this book to anyone looking to independently publish and considering going the extra mile to full-time entrepreneurship.
If you are interested in reading Business for Authors and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.