Long Live the Author-Entrepreneur

Sep 22, 2015

Since self-publishing became a common practice, we’ve begun to see authors routinely referred to as entrepreneurs, and the act of publishing described as an entrepreneurial endeavour. We wholeheartedly agree with these comparisons, but we feel they’re not new. Authors and publishers have always worked together in an entrepreneurial spirit. Here are just a few of the ways in which the act of publishing mimics the entrepreneurial endeavour:

You have to be creative

No matter what kind of production pipeline a publisher has established – and no matter its track record – every new book is unique and must be handled on its own terms. Editors need to establish new relationships with their authors; designers must take a fresh approach with each new project; and marketing professionals build new campaigns from scratch in order to best support each individual book. This requires a tremendous amount of creativity. No one can rest on their laurels when each project demands a fresh pair of eyes and lots of ingenuity.

You have to be agile

Entrepreneurs are often expected to be agile, as they need to respond quickly to market demand. Authors and publishers know that they stand the best chance of success if their books are responding to readers’ needs and interests. We’ve worked with authors who have shifted their book mid-course to take into account political events and competing books that emerge from nowhere. We’ve known publishers who crashed books onto their lists within weeks in order to capture the public’s interest immediately after a hot-button issue emerges. Book publishing has developed a reputation for moving at a snail’s pace compared to other industries, but we beg to differ.

You have to see opportunities everywhere

When it comes to opportunities for selling books and building audiences, authors and publishers leave no stone unturned. With the book retail industry undergoing massive changes, they’ve internalized the fact that no one can rely on bookstore sales alone. Whether it’s through speaking engagements, non-traditional retail accounts, or online marketing opportunities, authors and publishers are constantly finding new ways of finding new readers and selling books to them. We’ve seen authors set up camp at farmer’s markets, where they can interact with their readers directly. We’ve seen publishers establish vendor relationships with the most unlikely retail accounts, which often end up being their best venues for sales. We’ve seen that the best way to succeed in publishing is to stay open to the surprising opportunities that come our way – and seize them when you can.

Publishing hasn’t typically been thought of as a “real” business; it has too many quirks and the margins are too small to be taken seriously. We might be biased, but we actually think the business world has a thing or two to learn from authors and publishers – at least as far as the entrepreneurial spirit is concerned.