Ever heard the saying “Can’t see the forest for the trees?” It can be all too easy to work day in and day out on a project, only to lose sight of the big picture. That’s why I was so excited to be on holiday this week in southern Spain, keeping me off the grid for almost a full week, so I could think about what the heck it is I’m doing with my writing and publishing business.
In my home office, I have a gigantic business plan written on a gigantic roll of paper on the wall like a map. I look up at it from time to time to make sure I’m on track and to remind myself not to sweat the small stuff. Whenever I get stuck on a problem, the business map helps me to see that it’s only a small blip on the radar, and I need to just solve the problem already and move on without wasting any more precious time on it.
However, I realized that it’s been a while since I put my business plan together and I haven’t yet stepped back to ask the question: Am I still on the right track? Is it time to re-adjust my strategy? My main goal was to start an independent e-publishing company to take over the world to primarily publish the books I write and to take advantage of the rapidly transforming publishing industry.
Now that I've had several days in the sun to think, lie around, eat, and drink—basically exhibiting general sloth-like behavior with the occasional walk for good measure—I've been able to shake my head out of the everyday drone of work and rise above the noise to gain perspective on the big picture. Here are some ironies I've noticed in my business that beg the question: Do I need to shift gears?
- I started an independent e-publishing company (e.g. ebooks), yet most of my sales are coming from the paperback version of my novel. What gives with that? I thought ebooks were taking over the world and that I was riding the wave along with the rest of the innovators?
- I thought the following equation was true, which it is not: "marketing = book sales". Identifying and targeting your market is a tricky business.
- It’s hard to be a writer and publisher at the same time because these roles are both full-time jobs. This lends itself, unfortunately, to strict scheduling of time.
- Social media is my friend and my foe. I love spending time on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc., but that’s just the problem--time is precious. Learning about trends and chatting with like-minded people online is time I’m not writing my next book (but it feels so gooooood...)
Fortunately, there are some things I learned to be true over this past year, which proved to me that at least I do have some business sense (yes!).
- A book is judged by its cover—a good book cover is appreciated by readers and the industry alike, and will increase sales.
- Picking up the phone and actually speaking with someone (as opposed to email) is still very efficient and reaps great results. Old-school one-on-one communication still holds its weight in gold. People ask me how I got my book into bookstores and I say, “I called and asked the manager if the store would carry my book and he said yes.”
- You can’t do everything yourself. Outsource all that you can, so that you can spend more time doing what makes you a great writer and entrepreneur.
Needless to say, this vacation has given me some much needed time and space to think, and I learned that I've got some re-jigging to do with my business plan when I get home. Specifically, I need to be more efficient in my business practices, I need to write more freely and more often, and I need to continually seek out my market.
Piece of cake, right!
Stacey D. Atkinson is the author of the newly released novel Stuck, which she published via her independent company Mirror Image Publishing.