The reluctant business-woman
I’ve had a ‘failed’ business, one that I decided to close down because it was obvious that it wasn’t going to give me a decent living. Now I’m a full-time author, I really don’t like to think of myself as being in business, because that has bad connotations for me.
So it has taken me two years to finally admit the unpalatable fact – I’m actually in business again. Not a bricks & mortar business, a writing business. The one I’ve been doing all this time but just couldn’t accept the fact that it was a business, rather than a creative calling.
Many authors, like artists, are more comfortable with the idea of starving for their art and remaining ‘pure’ than about getting serious about their business. I trained in Internet Marketing and have been the tech and writer for a couple of start-up companies. I did enough of it to make me recoil from doing it for myself! It always felt manipulative and greedy.
I guess I classed the opposite of greed and manipulation as poverty and struggle. I didn’t see the middle ground. Until, that is, I formatted a book for a wonderful author, Julie Ann Hart, who specializes in intuitive coaching. We chatted and I spoke about my reluctance to consider myself a business person, because of my past history. She said, “You know, you are a business-person, you’re a heart-centered business-person.”
That took my breath away* and made a monumental difference to my attitude about my life and work. I am heart-centered – love the expression – but I’m not in the habit of wearing my heart on my sleeve, so no-one knows about it. Yet I love other heart-centered business people. People like Oprah Winfrey and Marie Forleo – they are highly successful, kick-ass business-women but they donate huge chunks of time and money to deserving causes and they provide extensive, free information and advice to help others. All while being super successful themselves. We don’t think of them as being greedy, just because they are successful; or manipulative, just because they use certain marketing techniques.
For me, it’s the old “put your oxygen mask on first” thing. We need to look after ourselves before we can be in a position to help others. If I’m not successful enough myself, I won’t be able to help struggling authors. If I don’t start to think of my work as a business, then I won’t be as successful as I could be.
Getting serious about my business means that I have decided to give up the small projects and bits and pieces that I’ve been doing. I’ve gone through my royalties and discovered which of my books and pen names are giving me the most return and I’m going to focus on building those brands and those genres.
I’m not going to start spamming people and filling my books with cheesy Internet Marketing messages and affiliate links. I don’t see anything wrong with running a newsletter and building a list of people who want to subscribe to it, though. Internet Marketing doesn’t have to be manipulative – it can be transparent and immensely helpful. I’ve started following Steve Scott’s helpful book marketing advice on his blog and decided to spend more time on my friend Cathy Presland’s site. Cathy is an International economist turned book coach and a great example of the type of business-person it is possible to be: a successful authorpreneur who always has time to help people.
I’m also going to use a technique I learned from Kristen Eckstein (the Ultimate Book Coach). She advises authors to ask their existing readers to be beta readers/reviewers for future books. Kristen sends her latest book out to her list of beta readers and they report back with any typos that her proof-readers and editors have missed, and write reviews that can go on Amazon when the book is launched, as well as in the book itself and on marketing copy.
It’s about getting smart, not getting greedy. It’s about taking yourself seriously and being professional and forward-thinking.
I’m going to give it a go.
*The city where my son lives, Liverpool, has a funny expression for this emotion. They call it feeling ‘gob-smacked’ – as if someone just slapped you in the face! Quite fitting, I think.