Are you just joining us? Catch up on my previous discussions of how the 22 Immutable Laws relate to Indie Authors by clicking here. That link's at the top of the blog, too, and it'll always be there so you can find the complete series anytime. If you'd prefer to download the series to read offline, the complete series will be edited and released in eBook format "soon" (est. end of February, 2012).
Today, we've arrived at the very last entry in this series, Immutable Law 22: Resources. Although Ries and Trout talk about making a financial investment, I'm going to talk about something far more valuable to an Indie Author: investing your time and effort. Click through the jump-break to read more.
Law 22: Resources
When you're trying to sell widgets, you need to invest money into advertising and general marketing materials (collaterals). You then leverage these collaterals to make your new widget "discoverable" by your potential customers. Discoverability is the direct result of marketing activities and its primary purpose. To sell widgets, you also need to spend money on a PR service to spread the word, build the buzz, light up the media with that hype we talked about in Law 20. That makes your widget recognizeable after it's been discovered by a prospective customer. PR hype helps you create and then own a single word in the mind of your prospect.
When you're an Indie Author, the story's a little different. We're not selling widgets, so we could spend money on banner ad space (and it'll probably help) and we could spend money on creating marketing collaterals like business cards with your book cover and a web address on it to hand out to people you meet out on the street. We could hire a PR firm to build hype. You could, but you don't have to and to be honest, at first, when you're just starting out, you probably don't have that kind of money. I know I don't! But you can't sell something online if people don't know it exists.
When just starting out as an Indie Author, your money is probably coming from a day job. Don't quit, not yet ^_^ I know I'm tempted because just finding the time to write can feel like a challenge. Well, guess what? You need to find even more time to do all the marketing, advertising and PR work until your books are generating enough income that you can pay someone else to do all that for you.
The Low Cost of Indie Publishing
Here's where I actually part ways with the advice Ries and Trout offered. For a small business owner selling widgets, I'd encourage you to listen to them and go get a loan from the Small Business Association. Going into debt when you sell widgets is part of the cost of doing business and usually comes back as a tax write-off.
Although an author's taxes can be written so as to deduct all kinds of things, our sales have to be substantially higher than a few hundred items moved to see a benefit. That's why I advise Indie Authors not to go into debt to pay to launch your writing career. It's simply not cost-effective, especially in the 2012 world economy. No matter what country you're in, deliberately going into debt is not the path to business success. And for an Indie Author, it's totally unecessary!
Not only is ePublishing completely DIY (Do-It-Yourself) and free of charge, but you'll gain so much valuable information, insight and confidence in your career path by doing it yourself rather than handing over control of the reins to a total stranger. You simply have to spend the time and effort to learn what needs to be done and how and then do it. That's a lot easier to say than do (grin)
Can You Afford to Hire Out?
The more successful marketers will "front load" their investment--that is, take no profit for the first few years (yes, years)--and instead they'll pour profits back into the business. Once your book is generating income, it can start supporting itself. Until then, you should be performing all of the tasks involved yourself--not just to save money. You should know what's involved and how much it should cost, so you won't get ripped off--or not as easily as you might if you just threw money at the problem from the start.
At the beginning, an Indie Author is better off deciding to afford the time, afford the effort. This is what you're spending instead of money. Your time is money. You're doing this, all by yourself, all for yourself. My mother used to love to cite cliche's at me but one or three of them actually are valid. She used to say, we afford what we want to afford. So true in this case. If you really want to afford an effective marketing and promotion effort for your Indie Published book(s), you'll choose to afford the time to make it happen.
Suddenly, watching TV every night after dinner or going out to a bar on the weekend won't be as important as getting another chapter done or a new distribution channel set up. You'll make the time and find the energy to learn the latest tools on Facebook and Google and Twitter because your Indie Author business career is what's important to you. It's a second job. You'll find you have the time because you'll make the time. If you don't, your second job--your career as an Indie Author--will fail. Guaranteed.
Indie Author Does
The number one complaint, excuse, rationalization used by Indie Authors who are not selling large numbers of books about why their sales aren't cutting it is that they simply don't have time to do both marketing, advertising and promotional efforts and write the next book. Try again, without those business activities, you'll have no business. If you don't tell yourself that you are in business, running a company--you are the Company--then your company will fail, your career will stall.
You are correct in your belief that doing all of this marketing, advertising, promotional and other behind-the-scenes effort is time-consuming--maybe even taking time from "better" things in your life. If you were not designing marketing materials, coining catch phrases, tweeting promotional links, learning the helpful promotional tools out there for exploiting the full potential of social media, you could be relaxing, unwinding with a drink over the game in your easy chair, out with the buddies at the local pub, dancing with your friends to the hottest band in town--you could be doing a hundred other social activities that are not selling your book.
You could even be writing another book.
Unfortunate as it is to hear, if you want your Indie Author "company" to succeed, you have to do it all--marketing, promotion, and writing the next book--and that means you have to give up the rest of the social life activities to do it. Not forever, just until your writing starts turning enough of a profit to make you financially secure and stable. Then your social life can take on a whole new meaning--you'll have the financial means to enjoy it!
Here's a little reality check I learned back when I ran my first small business (web design and development and internet consulting from1994-1999). Back then we were selling the intangible, the invisible--no one even knew what a web site was, let alone how much it should be worth. Sound familiar? It should. The ePublishing industry is going through the same initialization and growth now.
A small business will require 18 to 36 months to start seeing a profit and that 1.5 to 3 years are the hardest on the soul. You have to give up so much to make any small business start turning a profit, it feels at times like you've given up everything. It can even feel like you're punishing yourself when you "should" be rewarding yourself for all the hard work. The level of difficulty, the level of personal sacrifice required to get a business started and through the growing pains to stability, is quite frankly, just too much for most people.
Far too many think that by being self-employed, they'll be rolling in the dough and not have to give anything up at all. The sad truth is life doesn't work that way--and not really grasping that is why so many small businesses fail. The commitment to do the hard work wanes after a few months when the large financial rewards fail to materialize overnight.
The average length of staying power is 6-8 months. That's when most small business owners give up. The irony is that around 10-12 months is when you might start to see a profit (non-sustainable yet but the tide will definitely start turning around the one-year mark if it's going to turn at all). It's ironic because most people are giving up just before they would have started to see the tide turn.
Balance is Key
They say that a mediocre idea, with sufficient backing, will find greater success than a great idea with no backing. Same is true of Indie Publishing. If you're rich, you can afford to buy services, to outsource all of the things listed above, but that's not necessarily the smartest move to make. At first, you probably won't have the knowledge required to know what services you need to buy, not unless or until you try to do it yourself. At least try it yourself once before you try to buy any service. Not knowing how your own business works is the #1 way to insure its failure. Ignorance is bliss in some areas of life; business is not one of them.
Whether you do the work yourself or throw large sums of money at the problem to get other people to do the hard work for you, the hard work has to get done by someone--and it will take time. Even if you pay lots of people lots of money to do everything for you (say, like a large, traditional publisher does), it will still take a year or more for a book to start finding a following. The "overnight" successes take 6-12 months to find a footing even when hundreds of thousands of dollars are poured into backing them.
If you've done all the hard work yourself, you'll be better equipped to purchase services wisely later and get your money's worth when you finally give up the DIY path. Stay informed and up-to-date on the industry changes even if you stop taking the DIY path because this hands-on knowledge can make or break you in an industry where technologies change overnight. Just never forget that the Law of Unpredictability (Law 17) still applies :-)
Because this was the last entry in this series, next week I'll have to come up with some new-fangled marketing tip for you (LOL). Don't worry, I have 3 more Ries/Trout books to discuss and a myriad of marketing ideas from other sources as well. They may have written the book but not the only book! ^_^
If you've missed some of the entries in this series and/or would like to download the whole thing to read offline, no problem. I'll be editing the entire series and publishing it as an eBook just as soon as I get my first book out, so probably sometime in February, 2012. Of course, Immutable Laws Series will always be available FREE in its original form, linked at the top of the blog.
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Tomorrow's Tuesday Tip will be a tossup between the new Google Privacy Policies and Facebook's new "forced upgrade" to timeline. Or maybe I'll discuss this Great Divide and how the users are affected. You remember users, right? They're the people for whom we do all this writing and blogging and linking and promo work.
Thanks for joining the blizzard. Follow @webbiegrrl on Twitter for more tips (re)tweeted throughout the week as I happen upon them.