Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 14 comments
In my previous post, many of you were intrigued with the question of self-publishers possessing an "entrepreneurial temperament." What might that label imply?

I found a number of broad-strokes articles on the topic, which I'll link here should you be interested in reading more:

~25 Common Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs
~10 Qualities of a Successful Entrepreneur
~Entrepreneurs: Key Characteristics and Skills

Here are some key ideas I gleaned from these lists and how I think they apply to a self-publishing enterprise. Entrepreneurial authors need to be

Passionate
If you don't love your work, don't love TO work, it will be impossible to interest readers and to keep producing quality work. Passion extends not only into your writing itself, but also into how you interact with the world. There is something irrepressible in the spirit of a passionate person that is life-affirming and life-giving. Good books flow out of deep passion; readers respond to it.

I know there are some who struggle with bouts of depression--seasonal or other types--who believe this makes them unfit for entrepreneurial authorship. I don't think that's entirely the case. Monitoring mood and  developing self-care will need to become an area of investment, just like the math-phobe would invest in hiring a good accountant. Which brings me to a second point....

Resource-minded
You need a vision for what skills and resources you need to succeed and where you might find help for those areas where you personally have gaps or lack. Instead of throwing up your hands in defeat and saying "I could never do that!", an entrepreneur says, "I need help with this. Where can I get it?"

Many, many skills you need to succeed as a self-publisher can be outsourced. Many should be. Don't despair if you need to bring a team on board to help with graphic design, editing and proofreading, ebook formatting, marketing, accounting and taxes.

Eager to learn
There's an underlying humility needed when you're an entrepreneur. To succeed, you need to be willing to face your knowledge and skill gaps and take steps to address them. Because you're resource-minded, you're willing to hunt high and low for answers to every question. And you LOVE to learn new things. You find it exciting and empowering.

With the learning mindset comes an acceptance of "the learning curve." You expect your acquisition of knowledge and skills to take time and include setbacks. But your passion drives you to keep seeking, keep trying. You can be patient with the process especially if you have the next quality....

Goal-directed 
Anyone who is able to write an entire book is goal directed by nature. You have an end-point in mind and take steady steps toward reaching it. If you've managed to keep your tush in a chair and write draft after draft until the story resonates and the prose sings, you are able to face the publishing end.

It's really a matter of taking your drafting and revising mojo and applying it to a new goal--getting a quality published product into the hands of eager readers.

Creative
This one trips up some writers, strangely enough. They are able to create entire worlds out of the snips and snails of their life experiences and dreams, but won't open those energies toward "practical things."

Say you don't have much ready cash to hire a cover designer. Some think this means they MUST do it themselves, then feel overwhelmed or defeated. Have you considered bartering? And I don't mean necessarily a skill-for-skill exchange, though a designer might really need help with writing copy for her professional website, for instance. Maybe you have non-writing skills that would thrill a designer: cook meals, crochet an afghan, tutor his/her kids, clean an attic, do some yard work, babysit.You get the idea.

Use the creative flexibility you exercise when you write to approach any skills gaps or snags in your publishing plan. Creativity is especially important when you market. Watch what others do well, then do it with a twist. Have an open mind about who your audience really is--think more broadly.

What do you think? Do you have what it takes?

14 comments:

  1. These are all spot on. I don't think I have what it takes at this point but hope I can get there someday. Best of luck to you, Laurel!!

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    1. I think it helps to have a sense of where your weaknesses are so that you can work on them. And honestly, we're all in process as human beings, aren't we? (and thanks for the well-wishes, friend.)

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  2. Bartering is a great way to get help. I'm bartering babysitting for cover art.

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    1. My cover designer is a friend of 17 years who's not charging me because I give her boxes and boxes of high-quality hand-me-down clothing for her daughter. I'm a huge fan of bartering!

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  3. Those are great tips! I'm bookmarking in case I decide to go this route! :)

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    1. I found reading up on entrepreneur characteristics really encouraging. I think the passion element is the most important. If you have that, you'll be driven to work on the other areas.

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  4. Yes, #5 tripped me up all the time until I found an artistic type to help me "see" what my covers could be, because I'm not very creative that way.

    Also, don't be afraid to learn how to do the tough stuff either. I had no idea how to format a book, and it took me several hundred tries to get it right, but now I know how to do it right and make it look professional and I'm glad I pressed myself to do it instead of passing it on or paying for it. It is an accomplishment I'm MOST proud of.

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    1. I think cover design is definitely a good area to outsource for most. Visual smarts is a very different skill set from verbal smarts.

      I think when it comes to learning "the tough stuff," having incremental successes along the way--like mastering some of the tax and banking things--can give confidence you can learn new skills if you give yourself time and practice.

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  5. I think you've nailed it here. Not just for self-publishing, but for starting any sole-proprietorship! You have to be willing to work, be passionate, be eager to learn... all of it!

    Sometimes I feel like going the traditional route kills my passion, which worries me and causes me to think about what that means going forward.

    Best to you in whatever you do! :o) <3

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    1. Thanks, Leigh. There are trade-offs whichever route we take toward publication, something I didn't hear much about when I was querying, but seem to hear more now that I've "chosen sides," so to speak--at least for the moment. If you ever want to vent offline about what's killing the passion, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

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  6. Great post! I like the one about being creative in practical matters. I often don't think enough about how to find help on editing and cover art . . . although I've discoverd that my 11 year old has a keen eye for mistakes in writing. I also know an 18 year old graphic artist and asked him to consider creating a book cover for me at low cost . . .that's till not totally out of the box thinking, but he wants to start making a career with his art, and I want to start getting my writing out there . . .so maybe it will work.

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    1. There are many ways to approach finding the services you need. But don't sell yourself short either in hopes of saving a few bucks. You want the best, most professional work to represent you. I was simply suggesting that getting a pro's help doesn't have to wreck your budget.

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  7. Great article Laurel--and I love that you bartered for your cover design. I like what you said about taking our drafting and revising mojo and applying it to the next goal. It's so easy to feel like a powerless newbie when I consider a new goal, but it's a great idea to remind myself of all that I have accomplished and use that toward my next step. Thanks Laurel!

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    1. Glad this encouraged you. Yes, my friend worked in book design for a decade and a half and still does freelancing around her homeschooling schedule, so I knew she had the skills I needed. It was a matter of asking creatively. Look hard at your existing networks when you have skills gaps.

      I find it interesting that we tell children they can do amazing things if they're willing to learn, but we rarely say the same to other adults. Old dogs might not be able to learn new tricks, but we aren't dogs! We humans have an amazing capacity to grow our whole life.

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