You may have heard of Author Michael Gerber's great books – The E-Myth and The E-Myth Revisited – if you haven't read them you should pick up a copy (here's an Amazon link to: E-Myth Revisited). Gerber does a great job of explaining both why some entrepreneurs are successful and why so many more fail. The "E-Myth" or Entrepreneurial Myth is the misguided belief that too many folks have about starting and operating their own businesses and what makes them successful. Here's the description from Amazon:
"In this first new and totally revised edition of the over two million copy bestseller, The E-Myth, Michael Gerber dispels the myths surrounding starting your own business and shows how commonplace assumptions can get in the way of running a business. Next, he walks you through the steps in the life of a business -- from entrepreneurial infancy through adolescent growing pains to the mature entrepreneurial perspective: the guiding light of all businesses that succeed -- and shows how to apply the lessons of franchising to any business, whether it is a franchise or not. Finally, Gerber draws the vital, often overlooked distinction between working on your business and working in your business. After you have read The E-Myth Revisited, you will truly be able to grow your business in a predictable and productive way."
In my past, I've successfully owned and operated a number of businesses including a manufacturing business, a record company, a transportation agency and a financial consultancy. While the scope of the industries was vast, the formula for success and the pitfalls for failure were and are the same. It all begins with how you approach your business … or in the case of self-publishing … THAT you approach it AS a business!
The one thing all SelfPubbers have in common is our desire to publish our literary works. From there though, we each set off on our separate paths. We seem to fall into two general categories"
Group 1 writes the book, self-publishes the book and goes right to work on marketing the book – social networking, book tours, blog tours, giveaways, soliciting reviews, book trailers, etc. The one important aspect this group misses: WRITING THE NEXT BOOK!
Group 2 writes the book, self-publishes the book and then moves right into writing the next book without giving hardly a nod to marketing the book they've written.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each group. Successful authors/publishers like my mentor, Dean Wesley Smith warn us about falling too easily into the first group where we write one book and spend WAY too much time trying to sell it, at the expense of writing the next book. Sensei Dean, Joe Konrath and others explain emphatically that the best way to market your self-published titles is by having a number of them.
Good books that we write sell the other good books that we write better than any other single form of marketing!
Nevertheless, there is a certain amount of marketing that MUST be done. Some writers love to market themselves, some hate it – it doesn't matter – if you want to become successful (successful SelfPubber = SelfPubber that makes money = net profit) then you HAVE TO market yourself and your book(s)!
So, as SelfPubbers, how do we know how to balance our writing, back office (operations and administration), and marketing (promoting, advertising, publicizing)?
We do what DWS has repeatedly implored us to do … WE ACT LIKE A BUSINESS! We become a publisher. If we apply Gerber's entrepreneurial model and combine it with Dean Wesley Smith's teachings/expertise/advise, we not only come out with a proven process to ramp up but we also create a sustainable self-publishing business model. Here are a few steps that should be taken (my suggestions), if you want to become a professional self-publisher:
+ Decide on and create a structure: Structure is the first decision in starting any business. In the case of self-publishing, it doesn't matter as much upon which structure you decide (DBA, LLC, Inc., etc.) just THAT you decide on one and set it up. Sensei Dean suggests that for most, a simple DBA (Doing Business As) structure is all you need. My JarRyJorNo Publishing is set up as a DBA. DBA's are the least expensive to create and the easiest to set up and maintain. You can change your structure at a later time – but, according to the structure with which you launch, it can be expensive and complicated. Not so with DBA's, so they are a great structure with which to start.
+ Once you have your structure, open a business checking account! Other than obviously physically separating monies that are made and spent on your self-publishing, this step (as do the other steps) also does something else … it gets you to think about your publishing company as a BUSINESS! I believe it to be a bad practice of just writing checks from your personal checking account for self-publishing needs. I'm not just talking about bad accounting practices, I'm talking about undisciplined business behavior. It's that kind of undisciplined behavior that has lead to small businesses going out of business!
If you want to be a professional and successful self-publisher, you no longer are just a person who's written a book and formatted it for eBook and/or print. Doing those things is necessary but they do not make a business, they're just a few aspects of a self-publishing business. NOTE: Be sure to pass all of your expenses and inflows through your business checking account.
+ This step is where Gerber's model really kicks in – Write down on a piece of paper, all of the jobs that need to be performed in order to successfully (see definition of successful above) self-publish your written work(s). Gerber has you do it in the form of an organizational chart – I like that way – but the way you do it isn't as important as doing it. You can simply take a pad and list down the left side, all of the necessary jobs/tasks. Next, give the jobs (positional) names with a brief but clear description of the position. So, here's an example of my list: (These are my job titles and definitions, not industry standards. You can call them anything you want)
Publisher – In command, strategic-thinking (creates plans to achieve long-term objectives: 12-month, 24-month, and 60-month)
Editor – Responsible for quality control of all published titles. Quality control includes, content editing and book cover and interior design.
VP Marketing – Responsible for all promotional activities, publicity and advertising for both author and book(s).
Chief Information Officer – Responsible for all tech-related issues including web-design and maintenance, social networking (tech-related issues), software utilization (including updates, tutorials, integration, etc.)
Author Liaison – Responsible for efficient communications between author (me) and publisher (me), including any communications with subordinate positions within publisher.
This last position – Author Liaison – is one I created (I'm a fiction writer – I make things up for a living), but it's a vital one and it's the one that I think every SelfPubber would benefit creating. The Author Liaison's primary responsibility is communication between your publisher position/function and writer position/function. This includes aspects like – from publisher to writer: deadlines and scheduling; and from writer to publisher: everything from research assistance to rights management and draw … yes, I pay my writer (myself) a draw. A draw is basically an advance, to be repaid upon the publisher making money. From there on, the writer (me) could convert from a draw to whatever pay setup the publisher and writer have negotiated. This money aspect is not one to fret over – and it's not one to make overly-complicated. I utilize it because I believe, like with any business, the money/pay/expenses components should be accounted for. Again – it makes you act like a real business and that's important because a SelfPubber IS A REAL BUSINESS!
I consider my Author Liaison (me) the Task Master of my publishing house. I have to deal with him on a daily basis and he's friendly enough but he's also on top of me (the writer) all the time and for everything!
The final step in Gerber's E-model is to fill in your name in EVERY box in your organizational chart! That's right, since we are now businesses with only one employee (ourselves), we have to do EVERYTHING! The difference with following Gerber's steps above is that we now take OWNERSHIP of each job!
Now, I left out the sub-positions of each position above, like the Administrative Assistant's for the Publisher and Editor, the web designer under CIO, the bookkeeper, etc. All of those jobs will either have your name written next to them OR you (wearing your Publisher's hat) will assign a third party to them.
Even when your publishing house hires a 3rd-party vendor, the buck stops with each of your internal (read: you) department heads. So for instance, if my publishing house hires someone to create the cover of my next novel, my editor is still responsible for the project management associated with it. My advice: Farm out activities NOT responsibilities! ALL responsibility should always remain with your staff (again, read: you).
There are many benefits to utilizing Gerber's model:
+ Responsibilities are clearly defined which allows you to focus on them, prioritize them and schedule them efficiently.
+ Hierarchies are created within your self-publisher which also allow you to prioritize and handle any conflicts (yes, you will conflict with yourself if you wear all the hats necessary to successfully operate a publishing house).
+ Scalability is built into your company. By clearly defining the many duties associated with operating a self-publishing business, if and when the time comes where you'd want to or (better yet) need to have someone else perform one/some of the duties, you will already have a job description and even SOP (standard operating procedure) for that job. That gives you the ability to effectively manage any 3rd party.
You may scoff at things like scalability, saying to yourself, "I'll never sell enough books to need it." Suit yourself … personally, I do another thing Gerber suggests in the beginning of his E-Myth book, that is, I picture myself five years from now – as a mega-successful author of 20 novels, with Hollywood, video game and other multi-media arms attached.
That vision is what drives me every moment of every day.
Before you can accomplish anything, you MUST believe you CAN accomplish anything!
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