Entrepreneurship in self-publishing is a topic that is not covered or understood well in writer communities. Self publishing is an act of business and entrepreneurship, though many writers struggle to realise this when they venture into self publishing.
The act of reaching your audience through a publishing pathway starts at a demarcation point straight after you have written your manuscript.
This article takes you through this journey where it is like jumping off a cliff without a parachute if you are not prepared.
The Accidental Entrepreneur
Business is the act of trading or investing in a venture (put simply). You may invest in a company or sell apples. In either case, you are a business person.
When it is a book you are creating and wanting to sell, you are in possession of both a potential product and an existing asset. The product is the book. The asset is you and your author credibility and reach. You invest in your personal asset and keep creating product (your books). The enterprise involves entrepreneurship or risk taking in the commercial sphere.
Your ‘personal asset’ (the person in the mirror) keeps creating products and wanting to sell them. But you don’t have the skills to know how to even create the product.
Congratulations you are now an Accidental Entrepreneur. The genesis starts with the completion of your manuscript which is an internal activity. Your only interface with the outside world at this point is with editing.
Writing your Manuscript- An internal activity
When we say ‘written your manuscript’ we mean that it is largely an internal self-fulfilling act that results in a word document that is not issued to the outside world for the purposes of reaching readers.
It may have had people edit it or colleagues read it and comment but it has not as yet been issued or ‘published’ to the outside world. Some may create a ‘review copy’ and send it out to the publishing world.
We say think first about what you are doing and who you are.
You may have written a post on a social media outlet about your book but until you can transfer/download/sell a ‘published standard copy’ of your paperback or ebook, you are still not self-publishing in the business sense.
So lets take a look at the process and the demarcation point that takes you into the realm of publishing in the commercial sense. We will also look at the different types of publisher including … you!
The Dividing Line between Manuscript Creation and Self Publishing
Writers will also not realise that there is a dividing line between the manuscript creation and the self publishing venture or journey. The dividing line is shown in our self-publishing pathway chart below.
The chart shows the four ongoing stages of self-publishing including book design, book specification, marketing and campaigning. These four stages require you to go beyond the DIY stage of writing a manuscript and step into the world of ‘investment’.
At this point if you aren’t multi-talented business wise you will need to get smart. You will also need to spend some money on activities that actually incur costs because they are outside your skillset.
You will also start to see a lot of service providers offering to undertake these skills at a cost and they come from the general publishing realm but each have a different pathway.
After the manuscript is created the activities and journey of publishing your book can generally take three pathways. Each path is determined by the writer’s willingness to take a business risk or divesting rights and the associated risk/return. The three paths include Publishing, Independent Publishing and Self Publishing
Each however is a business venture and you are now being asked to make an investment decision. Each involves the keeping or divesting of your product’s content rights (copyright and intellectual property). In some cases your asset base (your author identity) is also divested.
Three Publishing Pathways
To reach your audience involves an act of publishing your manuscript and seeking a publishing pathway.
1.The mainstream publishing pathway means that you seek the publisher to engage in a contract where your rights (intellectual property, copyright, publishing) are vested in the publisher and they take care of the rest.
This includes the content, book design, the cover design, the print or ebook format and offering, the media channels, the ebook/ print copy distribution through book shops and/or libraries for a period of time.
2.The independent publisher or Indie Publisher will initially provide services to help you self-publish your book. This includes the content, book design, the cover design, the print or ebook format and offering.
In this situation given that an indie publisher is fully paid for services, there should be no transfer of your rights. You can choose to then self-publish your book undertaking steps 3, 4 and 5 in the above chart i.e. Book specification, marketing and campaign with your own distribution system (your web site/social media platforms).
Based on certain criteria the indie publisher may choose to include your book in their book selection/gallery which will be determined by their own publishing profile. In this case the indie publisher will proceed with offering to publish your book under an arrangement where your rights or part thereof are transferred to the indie publisher for a period.
3.The third path is Self-Publishing and it is the most exciting because you get to be in control of your book and your rights, your product and business investment. The catch is that you have no skillset to undertake the publishing process on your own.
This article focuses on the Self Publishing pathway in the context of the business person that you have just become.
The Self Publishing Pathway as Entrepreneurship
Congratulations you have decided pathway no 3 and so you are in control of your investment and product. You are now looking in the mirror and wondering ‘what do I do now?’ you will not have the skillsets for all the processes mentioned in the above 5 stage chart.
You can see from the chart above there are diverse skills needed across many different disciplines.
We understand the skillsets required and know many can be learned from a standing start. However there are many choices to make in this journey and we see that a key early activity is the act of testing scenarios. A bit like in a laboratory where different formulations are explored before committing funds. A writer’s lab in fact!
Dr Jon Drane has created a free access writer’s lab called JDSLAB which is aimed at helping you on a not for profit basis and to steer you in the right direction with your new business.
Dr Jon’s Self Publishing Laboratory (JDSLAB) and Micro Testing
Dr Jon’s self publishing laboratory, testing scenarios. An example is to test what is called a micro piece onto your web site or social media platform and test the audience response before committing to creating a whole book.
In fact this article is a micro piece which outlines a potential framework for books Dr Jon is creating.
Dr Jon’s lab is called JDSLAB and is just like a writer’s science laboratory where he explores different formulas (formulae) and methodologies for self publishing.
As Dr Jon is a veteran researcher as well as a writer and he has developed skills that allow him to analyse the best ways of getting his books and articles out there and being read. He has been founder of a city research centre called Optimum Search. JDSLAB is founded by Dr Jon and powered by Optimum Search.
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Dr Jon’s Tips
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Listen to our JDSLAB Podcast
Audible International Executive Matt Gain talks about the rise of ‘listening to books’
Matthew Gain spoke at an I2N Innovation Network Event about his career in Audible and Amazon. He was asked by Dr Jon Drane who is a member of I2N ‘are people listening to books more than reading books?’.
Matthew noted the rise of ‘listening to books’ was increasing and depended on different genres and situations.
A common thread across all Audiobook offerings is the trend of being ‘time poor’ and whether you are a home carer, executive or a factory packer , the ability to listen to a book is an amazing offering. See the event link:
My Audience of One Testing your audience through self publishing
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Thanks for your interest in our self-publishing writer’s lab and we wish you luck on your author journey.