Your Author Business: How Being an Author is the Same as Running a Business

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Now that I’ve been immersed in author life for the past year or so, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend: not all authors consider themselves to be running a business. This can have detrimental effects on their book sales and net profit.

A business is defined as any activity carried out with the goal of earning income. Many authors write books hoping they will one day earn income by publishing those books, whether that be through traditional or self-publishing means. There are four main ways an author can treat their writing more like a business: create a quality product, know your target audience, track income and expenses, and evaluate your overall efforts.

Create a Quality Product

All businesses should aim to create a quality product or service, otherwise, why be in business? It’s no different for authors. Create the highest quality book you can. This includes not only the writing, but the cover and formatting of the book too. You can have a book packed with amazing information or a super compelling story but nobody’s going to read it if the book’s cover looks terrible. In the case of books, packaging matters just as much as the contents.

Know Your Target Audience

Who are you selling to? Knowing your target audience, or reader in this case, is really important. If you wrote a book for middle-aged moms, it sure doesn’t make any sense to market it to teenagers. To market your book more effectively, you need to think like your reader thinks and use the type of language they use when creating your marketing copy.

What’s in it for them? Know the benefits readers will get out of reading your book. Will they learn how to bake a better cake or enjoy a few hours of escape as they read about an amazing fantasy world you created? Whatever that benefit is, make sure you focus on that when you’re marketing your book.

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Track Your Income and Expenses

It’s hard to map a path to where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re starting from. By tracking your income and expenses, you’ll be able to see patterns such as top-selling books or even times of the year when your books are selling the best. Seeing your revenue (or lack thereof) will help you set sales and profit goals.

Even if you’re not making any money selling your books yet, you will have expenses associated with publishing and marketing them. You may be able to claim these expenses as a business loss on your tax return which could result in a tax refund. It’s important to work with a professional accountant to make sure you’re not missing out on any deductions.

Evaluate Your Efforts

Tracking your income and expenses also makes this step a lot easier. When you have recorded your income and expenses on a regular basis, you can step back and determine if you’ve met the goals you’ve set for yourself. If not, then you can analyze why and make adjustments for the next month. Your marketing efforts should correspond to an increase in sales. If they don’t, then you need to figure out why.

Evaluating your efforts is another area of your author business where a professional accountant can be a great asset. If you’re not sure how to go about finding an accountant, I’ve put together a workbook that can help you determine what questions you should ask when interviewing prospective accountants. You can download the workbook here.