A nineteenth-century journalist once noted, “If writers were good businessmen, they’d have too much sense to be writers.”
Perhaps being a writer is a zany idea. Or perhaps your impossible dream of making money as a writer is really a possible hope. Any writer today who wants to make back their investment in their dreams must become an entrepreneur. And the first step in realizing our dreams is the physical act of putting pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard. When we write up our dreams we build a bridge between our finite self and an infinite universe.
The first step in any profitable business is the vision. And vision is seed from which our passion grows. And passion will carry us through all the steps to create a profitable business.
There are 4 questions to ask before you begin your business: what form will your manuscript take, who are your readers, what in your background gives you the expertise to write this, and what are you willing to do to claim this expertise? If you are already determined about the vision for your project, skip question one and move on to question two.
1. Begin here if you are a writer typing away on your manuscript unclear about what to do with the pile of your pages. Before you decide practically what your work has to look like ask yourself how do you want your words to be shaped? A common error is that a book has to be outlined from point A to point Z with all character development done before you begin. Another common error is thinking a fantastical tale must be a novel. Creative non-fiction is a format that offers room to explore a topic and the author the role of expert.
Remember a book is simply a collection of words on pages glued or sewn together and bound in covers. Your vision is only as limited as your imagination. And you can exercise that imagination through meditation, visualization, talking to friends, or playing with paper. Let the words take shape into a play, a novel, or essays. Trust your intuition and guidance to find the form that’s right for you.
2. Where do you imagine that your words will travel? Who do you envision as your ideal reader? As an author your readership is not the illusionary everyman. Success comes easier and is more quantifiable when a writer is clear about their readers. Are you writing for the busy executive that wants action, sex and more action? Are you writing for the millennial who wants personal transformation and hope in a challenging world? Or are you writing for the older woman with her cat sitting in their favorite armchair disappearing into the worlds you create?
Write for your reader as if you were talking to them as your specific focus. And once your book is published all stereotypes may be broken. I imagine that when JK Rowling began she had a specific reader in mind. Because of the quality of her stories she reached far beyond her dreams.
3. What is in your background that creates the expertise to write this story? Are you a scientist, a minister, an ad executive, a busy mom, or a bus driver? Each one of these has their stories that deserve to be told. What part of your life do you dream of telling? Too many authors I have spoken to say, “I can’t tell my story because it might offend Aunt Sarah.” I say “it’s your dream, your story, only you can tell it, and who knows how much your story will help someone else.”
Our imagination and dreams come from our souls, so, even more importantly I say write from your dreams, honor your fantasy life. Walter Mitty is the archetypal cubicle worker with a powerful imagination. Are you that archetype? Then let your imagination soar and become your expertise.
4. What are you willing to do to claim this expertise? With the numbers of books published all authors today must market their projects to be read. Any author who wants to make a return on their investment cannot count on book sales, they must build a business. Your expertise comes from your experience, dreams, imagination. What do you dream of doing with your finished product? You can become a speaker, open up a shop with ancillary products, develop a YouTube following, hold seminars.
What will be your business depends on your imagination, your dreams and the genre of your work. No matter where you source that expertise you can it into a profitable business.
“Fiction writing is like gardening: you take a seed, plant it, water it, nurture it, hope it will grow. Non-fiction writing is like setting up a pizza shop: you have to know where your customers are, what style of pizza they like, the décor, and on and on.” Jacqueline Church Simonds. Then and now, words don’t come with price tags. Share your words.
Be a writer, author, and an entrepreneur. And I would add, go ahead, dream that impossible dream. Build that book, be that writer and your readers will come. A dream is a great beginning.