The Writer as Entrepreneur

I’m going to a conference in a couple of weeks. Nothing unusual about that; I seem to be going to about a million of them lately. But this one is on a subject dear to my heart, the elusive publishing deal. It tells you how to sell your manuscript to a publisher and to the wider world.

Once upon a time, securing a publisher was all that was needed to be successful as a writer. The writer could simply write and let their writing speak for itself. But in a world full of noise and competing mediums, this is no longer enough.

I was once told that writing is a private act with public consequences. The reality for the modern writer is that when their book is finished, they must then transform themselves into an entrepreneur.Their book becomes a product to be sold and once they grasp that fact, writers can work it to their advantage.

The notion of selling themselves is distateful to many writers, yet the link between writer and entrepreneur is stronger than you might imagine. Like the entrepreneur, the writer comes up with a unique idea. They develop this idea into a book and recognise that there is a gap in the market for that book. They have the self-belief to carry that idea through.

And to lure a publisher, they must use sales techniques familiar to entrepreneurs, outlining what makes their book special and what it offers to readers. They may not be entrepreneurs in the Bill Cullen mould, but they could be described as creative entrepreneurs.

Once their book is with a publisher, the writer must be proactive in selling it. It is unwise for them to leave their fate entirely in the hands of their publisher, because publishers are often too busy to give books the individual attention they need.

Fortunately, there are more opportunities than ever for writers to sell their books. They can organise their own local media campaigns, set up websites, participate in online forums and engage with social media. One of my Facebook friends, Olive O’Brien, is launching a children’s book and has set up a page to promote it called Silverchair Publishing. It’s an example of creative entrepreneurship in action.

By their very nature, writers tend to be private people who don’t enjoy talking about their work.  But the truth is, if they don’t talk about their work, how are people going to know about it.  They deserve recognition for  all those lonely, doubt-filled hours creating their masterpieces. This is the most valuable lesson writers can learn from more traditional entrepreneurs.


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