Running Your Own Startup: Author Version

We are all entrepreneurs! Although romance novel covers are prettier...

We are all entrepreneurs! Although romance novel covers are prettier…

My husband and I have both worked in tech startups in the past and our experiences have ranged from oh-my-God-make-the-pain-stop to woo-hoo-this-rules! Startups are an interesting ride, because as early employees, we’re often required to wear a lot of hats. Like, Bartholomew Cubbins level of hats.

Being an author requires multiple-hat-wearing, too. So it’s probably not a surprise that, a couple months in to my life as a writer, my husband made the observation that becoming a successful (read: making a living wage) author is a lot like running one’s own startup. We started making a list of the similarities, and it’s pretty amazing how many of the points from startup advice/business books also apply to the publishing world. Here’s the initial list we came up with.

  1. Be prepared to invest a ton of your own resources into your product up front. Before you can get outside investors (agents, publishers) interested, you have to show that you’re committed to your product and believe in its importance.
  2. You will earn next to nothing for a long time, although your title might be C-level executive and everyone will think you’re a wealthy rock star.
  3. You might not ever earn anything “reasonable.” That’s the risk you take.
  4. Start with a minimum viable product (a book) and send it out to a test market (beta readers). If it does horribly, start over, but listen to your feedback and adjust early and often, when it’s not as expensive as overhauling a finished product.
  5. Put your product through QA testing (editing) to make sure it’s free of critical bugs before you launch it (release day!).
  6. Invest in high-quality marketing and sales if you want your product to do well.
  7. When you finally do get investment (a contract), remember that it’s only the beginning, and that the next five years are going to be a grind. Do it for the love…and for the hope of a successful IPO.

This is just a starting list, but I’d love to hear any more that you guys can come up with! And if you’re interested in reading more startup books that I think are very applicable to the world of writing, as well, here are some suggestions of works that I really enjoyed and learned a lot from:

The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman: Amazon | iBooks
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries: Amazon | iBooks
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman: Amazon | iBooks
The Art of the Start 2.0 by Guy Kawasaki: Amazon | iBooks

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2 Responses to Running Your Own Startup: Author Version

  1. Can I add:
    – Long hours with no guarantee the work will be fit for purpose
    – Your unique idea can be launched by an unknown competitor just before yours, consigning you to also ran status
    – No one understands what your doing anyway, its all a bit of a wank isn’t it?
    – The people in it with you are so your people
    – Most days you can wear whatever the hell you like
    – You drink a lot of coffee and eat a lot of ready-made meals
    – It makes you feel more alive than almost any other work you’ve ever done

    • Audra North says:

      Bwa ha ha Ainslie! Spot on! I especially love: “The people in it with you are so your people.”