How Authors Should Identify
Themselves in Relation to Their Business
by Jarold Imes
Whether an author obtains a deal with a traditional publishing house or strikes it on their own as a self published author, they both have one thing in common: they are entrepreneurs. As where a self published author will own the publishing house that produces their works and perhaps, the works of a select few other writers; the traditional published author is an independent contractor who is in business to sell their literary or nonfiction work with or without the help of an agent to a publishing house.
First, the author must create the work or on a “rare occasion,” hire an experienced ghostwriter or writing partner to bring their idea to life for them. They decide the plot, the number of characters, the storyline and the number of words needed to bring a particular story to life. The author has to decide which characters to promote to main character status or which characters should be minor characters or those whom are entry-level employees. Once the work is finished, the author has to decide whether or not this is a work to pursue publication with or one that needs to wait until there is a marketable opportunity available for that work.
The author is in a unique management role that requires them to be responsible for the establishment and maintenance of their own brand. The name they create for themselves is often synonymous with the types of work they produce. If I say, J. K. Rowling, most readers know her as the author of the Harry Potter books that are considered young adult fantasy titles. Say the name Donald Goines and many readers know him as the author of fictionalized gritty crime tales, the predecessor of the current street lit genre.
Authors have a responsibility to hire or solicit the help of others whom are going to make their brand name stand out. Many authors hire their own personal editors (most of whom are also entrepreneurs) to make sure that their work is as polished as possible and ready for the market. Authors also hire graphic artist (again, most of whom are entrepreneurs) to create and update their websites, develop promotional material and create book cover concepts. The public relations rep or publicist, who may or may not be an entrepreneur, is the person responsible for putting the author’s book front and center to interested book clubs, media and others to build a buzz.
The author must also be ready to sell their product. It is not uncommon to find many self published and even quite a few traditionally published authors to peddle books from the trunk of their cars. Some have a bookcase or book section in their home or place of business. The authors arrange for book signings, speaking engagements and other events that bring the opportunity to sell their books. If an author does not sell their books or do significantly well, they may find their business in jeopardy.
Authors need to be monitoring the compensation of their work and the dispensing of payment for services rendered to him or her. If the author is self-published, then that means keeping up with distributors, bookstores and online sales and paying any and all business related expenses that incur in writing the book and running the publishing house. For authors who have publishing deals, that means making sure that the publishing house or the agent, if they have one pays advances and any royalties owed under the agreed upon terms of their publishing contract. They also have to keep up with expenses, hire a tax advisor familiar with royalty statements and maintain shop.
So many writers and people outside of the publishing industry mistakenly believe that once the book is done, that they are done and that the book will sell itself. But as many authors know, writing is a business. One has to always write and take advantage of opportunities to get their names out there. Authors have to constantly think of ways to sell an older title while promoting the new title at the same time. Once the work is finished, the author can no longer view themselves solely as the writer, they are now an entrepreneur. Congratulations on the new business . . . I wish you the best.
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Jarold Imes is a contributing writer for The Urban Book Source and author of Hold on Be Strong; he is the creator of online soap opera: Hold on Be Strong (www.holdonbestrong.com), send emails to:firstname.lastname@example.org.
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