Growing your full-time indie publishing business
In many ways, your first year running an indie publishing business is the best. That is because when you start out your schedule is be pretty simple. You write. But you want to do more than write. You want to sell what you write so you can keep writing, for as long as you can.
Somewhere in the middle of the first year, you start getting emails from six-figure indie publishing business owners telling you all the secrets you need to know if you want to become a really successful indie publisher. Don't get me wrong; their advice is often spot-on and invaluable. Many forget that they didn't start out of the gate running a mature business.
They started out writing.
And that is what you want to do in your first year.
If you start your indie publishing business with 3 or more books, you might want to do more than write in year 1. You might want to start marketing, but at a minimum, you need to produce books or short stories or whatever writing you want to sell to make money so you can keep writing full-time.
My advice – don't invest in a lot of marketing seminars, online courses, expensive software in your first year. Get your books written and produced and THEN make those investments. The publishing business changes every day and all that advice will be outdated by the time you need it.
Gone are the days of the full-time writer.
Traditionally published writers need to market themselves too. Publishing houses want an author to have an established brand. They want the writer to bring readers to the table. They expect to deal with a professional writer running a writer business. Traditionally published authors don't have to produce their books – and that is a two-way sword.
Traditionally published writers don't have to spend time or money producing books.
They also don't have a say in how their covers look, the quality of the editing, or the content inside.
Indie publishers have complete control over their work.
With control comes responsibility and that takes time. Time away from writing.
Writing is also the first priority of an indie publisher, but at some point, depending on how many finished books you have to sell or have sold, you will have to spend time on tasks other than writing.
The key to running a full-time indie publishing business is to let your business grow and mature.
At some point, you will have one or more books ready to produce or send to an editor. Now comes the hard part. Now you have to do more in a day than write. You can go crazy and burn out, losing your love of writing in the process if you don't find a way to strike a balance in your schedule. Here is what I recommend: pick three goals for the day. Goals are doable. If you complete three goals in a day, then you accomplish 1,053 tasks a year (if you take a 14 day vacation.)
You don't want to complete three random goals though. You have different hats you are wearing. I recommend you set one goal for each of these three categories:
- A writing goal – creating books, stories, articles to sell.
- A management goal – the marketing, advertising, networking required to let people know about the books or stories you are selling.
- A production goal – what you need to do to turn the writing into a book. Cover creation, ebook formatting, editing, all the work that a traditional publishing company would do.
Each of these goals must contribute in some way to making money for your indie publishing company.
Make sure you build into your schedule time for:
- Family and Friends – social time (you can do these in the evenings as you would if you worked for someone else full-time.)
- Reading time – feed your creative mind. This can be done in the evenings and weekends.
- Health time – eating right, exercise, preventive care through doctors appointments. You want to continue running your business for a long time. I make time for this every morning otherwise, I never exercise. Figure out the best time for you and be consistent.
An indie publishing business needs to be well managed.
You can learn to manage your business. All you need to do is educate yourself on the various areas of running a business such as how to manage your finances, learn the legal aspects of publishing contracts, study marketing and advertising and bookkeeping to make sure you don't run out of money or no one cheats you out of your rights or money.
Does this seem intimidating? Some writers will tell you that you don't need to know how to do any of these things. Spreadsheets? Don't bother learning to read them much less create them (even though they can save you a lot of time and help you understand how your business is doing.)
They are right. You can outsource much of this work. Talk to other writers. Get recommendations on who to add to your management team. You will need:
- An IP lawyer to read over contracts
- A bookkeeper to help you keep your financial records in order (unless you are just starting out and your revenues and expenses are low.)
- An accountant who can help you with your taxes.
- In years 1-3 rather than spend a lot of time trying to market your books, write them and produce them. During this time start that newsletter no one will read until year 2, the website no one will visit until your name is better known and the twitter account that takes a couple of years to grow.
After year four start to look at introducing new revenue streams.
What do those 6-figure indie publishers all have in common? You don't need to buy their classes to discover they make money by selling more than their books. Gradually, over time, they introduce ways of making money beyond selling their books. Here are some common ways they expand their income:
- Start giving talks at conferences.
- Create online courses.
- Set up marketing relationships and earn a percentage of sales when you get your readers to attend other 6-figure indie publishers webinars and buy their online courses.
- Make money from affiliate sales on your website.
- Do bundles with other writers to expand your sales reach.
Stay tuned. Indie publishers are very good at figuring out new ways to make money.
Write your books. Produce your books. Sell your books. Manage your indie publishing business, so you stay in business and relax. Accomplish at least three tasks a day, and eventually, you can produce an online course and partner with other 6-figure indie publishers and write books to tell everyone who is just starting an indie publishing business how they too can make as much money as you do!