Authorpreneur

imagesConfession time. Half of this word really scares me. Also, it makes me a little angry, a little frustrated, and a little unsure about my ability to succeed as a writer.

Here’s why: I’m not so sure that the skills needed to be a successful writer can cohabitate with the skills necessary to be a great entrepreneur, brander, marketer, social media mogul and sales executive.

I’m afraid I only have the former set of skills. I like to be alone, I like psychoanalysis, probing deep questions, imagining alternative realities, crafting language, and communicating my most dearly held truths.

The following things, on the other hand, make me feel icky: self-promotion, money, too much time on the internet (especially social media), strategizing, marketing, thinking about the salability of my most dearly held truths.

Am I doomed in the new arena of writing and publishing?

I hope not.

But I worry that developing the skills to hold up the entrepreneurial end of this equation will take place at the expense of the author end. Time spent in strategizing, marketing and social media blasting is time not spent writing, after all. And I only get the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else, unfortunately.

The alternative, of course, is to hire others to do the parts of the business that I don’t have an affinity for. This upsets me for an entirely different reason. Are we kidding ourselves about the great egalitarian wild west of self-publishing on the web? If time and money must be invested now by the author, instead of by the traditional publisher, aren’t we empowering some kinds of authors (those with an abundance of time and/or money) over others even more than we were before?

This troubles me. I don’t have the answer.

But, if I may be permitted to play devil’s advocate against my own argument for a moment, I can see some of the proclaimed advantages of this new author-centric system of publishing. For one, authors have greater creative control over the final form of their work than ever before. If you don’t want to listen to a bossy editor or publisher, you don’t have to. You want to write an 800 page debut novel? Knock yourself out. “We don’t see a market for that” is no longer a full-stop for writers seeking publication.

Authors stand to take home a greater slice of their profits than ever before, too. People are not writing novels in the hope of becoming millionaires by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s nice that the time and energy vested in such a long project can be rewarded by a higher percentage (if not all) of the profits of the book’s sales.

And I do think that for some, the skills used in the writing process are transferable to the realm of entrepreneurship. After all, entrepreneurs must also be highly creative to be successful. Blogging is just more writing (a good place to put all the ideas in your brain that don’t fit into your novel!). And many writers also have a knack for the visual arts, making designing their own covers a fun challenge, rather than an overwhelming chore.

I’m still hoping to be picked up by an agent and a traditional publisher. But, in the meantime, I’m learning how to build a platform, generate blog posts, and talk about my project to any willing listeners. Dogged determination, after all, has always been a part of the writer’s toolkit.

Agile Writers, what do you think? Are you as ambivalent about the term “authorpreneur” as I am?

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Quiet the Chatter of Your Mind

indexHere at Agile Writers, we have a mantra “Constantly Move Forward.”

There are so many ways to get stuck. A novel is a long project. A snafu at any juncture can derail the whole venture.

We explored one common obstacle to the writing process this week in our weekly “Craft of Writing” installment.

Periodically, we choose a book about the craft of writing to wade through as a group. Individual members volunteer to read, digest, and present a chapter to the larger group every week. We are currently nearing the end of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. This week’s chapter, “Radio Station KFKD,” dealt with the kinds of “static” found in writers’ heads. Lamott says that “as writers we have very noisy heads” (I’d modify that to say “as people”–but maybe it’s more problematic for writers/creatives than others?). She breaks down the internal chatter into two categories: positive and negative.

You might think that the positive internal chatter (about how special, gifted, talented, brilliant and wonderful we are) would be helpful and encouraging. Actually, Lamott says (and I wholeheartedly agree) that both the positive and the negative internal chatter are equally detrimental to the act of writing. Obviously, dwelling on our doubts, mistakes, and past failures can cripple our capacity to do creative work of any kind, including writing.

Lamott says we need to quiet our minds. We need to find ways to tone down all of the chatter–positive and negative–flooding our internal radio waves. When we are quiet, we can dip into the world of our story. We can hear the characters clearly. We can intuit what they will do next. We can write from an unobstructed and attuned space within us.

But, how do we quiet the chatter?

For me, that’s where Agile Writers comes in. My own Inner Critic got installed a long time ago. She knows what to say to stop me in my tracks. For years, I couldn’t even allow myself to write anything that was important to me because I was certain I would fail and make a fool of myself. The chatter in my brain sounded something like this:

“You’re a talented writer. If only you had the time to write…”

“Who do you think you are? You’re not a writer. You’re a wannabe.”

“If you write something, and by some fluke it gets published, everyone you know will read it and laugh at you.”

“You’re so selfish. Writing is something that people can do who don’t have families and careers and people depending on them.”

Over the last year, these voices have been slowly silenced by other voices. There is something so powerful about sitting in a room surrounded by people who are brave enough and humble enough to show up with their dream, the same dream you have–the dream to write–and act on it, week after week.

I got in my car after my first Agile Writers meeting, where everyone had applauded me just for showing up (as we do all new attendees), and tears came to my eyes. And I thought, maybe I can do this. Maybe with the support of the people in that room, I can really take a stab at this dream of writing.

I know I’m not alone in this. The support and accountability of a community of writers is a valuable antidote to the chatter in our own minds. Weekly progress check-ins at Agile Writers force us to keep one foot in the world of our novels-in-progress at all times. The support and honest assessments of our critique partners keep us grounded in a more comprehensive assessment of our work. The structure of the Eight Stages of Agile Writer Novels give us a map, so that when the “static” of doubt or self-aggrandizement comes, we know how to keep going, how to take the next small step and keep moving forward.

5 Reasons WordPress.com is for Authors

One of the first recommendations I give to my writers is to create a website and a Facebook page. This is the beginning of creating a platform for selling their book. Even if the book isn’t written yet, the new writer needs to create an interested following. The easiest way to do this is through social media. As a writer, you need to get the word out that your book is coming. Creating a pool of followers makes for an instant customer base when your book finally hits the market.

Here are five reasons I recommend WordPress.com as a great, free website and blogging platform

Free Stuff

There’s hardly any argument against free stuff. Creating your own site from scratch using hosting and web creation software can cost a lot of money. Hosting your web site on a server can cost from $100-$300 a year. Domain registration can cost $10-$30 dollars a year. You can create your own site if you know HTML and CSS and you have an artistic bent. Hiring a graphic artist to create your site can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

WordPress.com pays for itself with advertising that is displayed at the bottom of your page. Its a very small price to pay for free stuff. Plus, the quality of WordPress.com software is excellent. It is very easy for the non-technical person to learn. You don’t need to learn computer languages or hire a graphic designer.

No Administration Headaches

If you buy your own web hosting you not only have to pay yearly fees, but you have to administer it yourself. This could mean learning Linux or some other operating system. It is possible to install free WordPress software on your own server. I do that myself for my http://AgileWriters.com site. (It’s worth it to me because I customize the software for my needs). However, if you do this you have to keep up with the WordPress upgrades, which I talk about next…

Constantly updated against hackers

Another problem I have with my self-hosted sites is hackers. The language used to create WordPress is PHP. It is prone to being hacked. I have to make sure to constantly update my site with the latest WordPress software to make sure I don’t fall prey to the hackers.

WordPress.com is constantly looking for “exploits” in their code. Your WordPress.com site is automatically updated with the latest software that has been hardened against hackers.

Akismet Spam Blocker

One of the biggest headaches for bloggers is spam comments. These are comments left on your blog postings that actually come from robot programs (bots) that seek out new blog posts and respond to them with comments that sell some good or service that you haven’t authorized. Some websites get tens or hundreds of these spam comments every day.

Akismet is a service that monitors spammers and keeps a database of them. If you host your own WordPress site, you can pay for this service to protect your site from spam comments. WordPress.com does this for you for free. It’s an invaluable service.

Brochure Web Site Built In

A brochure web site is one that is filled with static content that advertises some good or service. It’s called a “brochure” site because it is like your sales brochure on the Internet. WordPress.com allows you to create “pages” of static content that just tells people what you do. You can create an “About Me” page where you give your biographical information and your writing influences. You can also create a page for each of the books that you have written. It’s really easy to do, and again, you don’t have to learn a programming language to update your site or add a new page.

Blogging Web Site Built In

A blog is dynamic content that you add to on a regular basis (daily, weekly, etc…). A new entry in your blog is called a ‘story’ or ‘posting’. If you had a traditional web site, you might find it difficult to update daily because you would have to write HTML code in a text editor, save it to a file, upload it to your site, and update other pages to create links to the story.

WordPress.com is made specifically for blogging. It allows you to add new posts as often as you like. You can even write a batch of blogs and schedule them to be released periodically – so you don’t have to sit in front of your computer every day. It is this dynamic and regular updating that makes your site feel fresh and alive.

Conclusions

So there you have it, five reasons (nope, it was six reasons – I gave you a bonus one!) for using WordPress.com instead of relying on your own hosting. You have a lot to worry about as an author just writing and selling your book. You don’t need the headaches of managing a web server too.

Take it from me. I’m a software engineer with a lot of experience in managing web sites. I use WordPress.com for my blogs as much as I can. Take a look at the site I built with WordPress.com over at http://ReelHeroes.net and you’ll see how much you can do with a free WordPress.com website and blog.