I’m finally putting some “smart” in the data collection for my author business (some visual basic scripts to make it faster).
With 35 novels and a host of short fiction across 2 pennames (each of which is a business of its own), I’ve surpassed the catalogs of some small publishers. I’m Nora-Roberts-level prolific, which means the catalog is going to keep growing… just assessing the business is becoming exponentially more work each month (hence the “smart” data collection).
I’ve seen successful indie authors (and there’s a lot of them) burn out on the pace or struggle with keeping up with their growing business. I have an author’s assistant (Noelle Gaussens) who saves me on the regular–this wouldn’t be possible without her–but it’s still a struggle to run a business of this size as a one-to-two person operation.
We say in the indie world that the author is the publisher, and I’m determined to keep all the advantages of being indie–freedom, flexibility, control. But being an *actual* publisher was never my intention.
I’m a writer. I’m in the business of having something to say and (hopefully) having people to read it. In other words, my business is READERS.
Most small businesses struggle at this stage–how to grow successfully into a larger enterprise. Or they make the choice to stay small (which is completely valid as well).
Some writers go the James Patterson route (and there are plenty on the indie side) where they essentially manage other people’s art. They may start with the ideas themselves, but the actual art production is farmed out. They make a lot of money by becoming Art Managers.
Some writers go big by plowing a ton of money into per-click advertising or becoming experts (if they weren’t already) in internet marketing. They spend most of their time wrangling their ads. Advertising is, of course, a standard practice for all indie authors, but for these guys, it’s half or more of how they spend their time. They’re nimble, ad-heavy publishers first, authors second.
It’s important to know what you DON’T want to do.
I’m primarily interested in making art, so neither of those models works for me.
As I look to the future, using my newfound Clarity Glasses, I’m seeking to streamline operations while also reaching for the thing I really want–READERS. My 2018 looks like a lot of investment–better tools for the business, investing time in bettering my art, making the effort to survey the broader landscape. I tend to inadvertently do the right thing for success, and my fast-publishing mode in 2017 has proofed me against some of the turbulence of the past year (in the indie world). But “growth” doesn’t always mean more dollars or even more books–it means becoming more of what you’re capable of being.
“Practice Becoming” is my motto for 2018. It’s not a headlong rush into the future. It’s not a frenetic attempt to achieve a certain milestone of sales or money. It’s a discernment, a preparation, and deliberate actions toward becoming the writer I want to be.
For my fellow authors, whether you’re just starting out or have already hit some of those seductive external markers of success, I hope you’ll embrace that there’s no one path in this. If you want to be the indie James Patterson, go for it. If you want to be the Ad/Marketing King, make it so. And if you want to create art, first and foremost, that’s completely legit as well… even if a waterfall of sales don’t immediately flow. You don’t have to hit some pre-determined level of sales after which you’ve “made it” and are therefore “legitimate”–that’s truly a myth.
If you are putting words on the page, you are *already* a writer.
Practice becoming the writer you want to be.