On May 7, 2019, Kasie and Shennice welcomed Raegan Teller, mystery author and independent publisher into the studio. Here are the show notes:
Kasie Whitener, Clemson Road Consulting, DMSB
Shennice Cleckley, Smart Cookie Coaching
Raegan Teller, Authorpreneur
Theme for the day:
Disruptive Businesses & the Publishing Industry Part 3
- More about the publishing business
- Authorpreneurship vs. Indie vs. “Self”
- Raegan Teller’s journey and choices about Authorpreneurship
- What is a disruptive business?
Two weeks ago we hosted a workshop with the South Carolina Writers’ Association on “The Business of Writing” and our guest today, Raegan Teller, was one of our panelists discussing “How to Choose Your Publishing Path.” You said something at that event that made me think, “We have got to have her on Start Something, Columbia!” You said there was a difference between Self Publishing, Indie Publishing, and being an Authorpreneur.
So today we’re going to talk about that.
Let’s recap the so-called “traditional” route to publishing most writers and authors are familiar with.
- An author writes a book,
- queries an agent,
- gets the agent to agree to represent the book, and
- then the agent sells the book to a publisher.
The big publishers (Penguin Random House, Wiley, Harper Collins, Knopf) typically won’t accept manuscripts from anyone except practicing literary agents.
How to become a literary agent? Decide to be one. Call yourself one. No kidding. This linktakes it more seriously. And this onelists all the same steps you’d take to start any business. To obtain a Richland County license of business click here. I couldn’t find anything that specifically said literary agents needed licensing in South Carolina. So there’s that.
There are a lot of small and niche publishers that will take direct-author queries. You can go to Submittable and search for those that are currently accepting manuscripts. But the bottom line is, authors represent their work to industry professionals. Then those professionals decide whether the work is good enough to be printed. In this old model, the agents’ value-add was that they had connections at the big publishers and they could get your work seen. The publishers’ value add was that they had editors to prepare your manuscript, designers to lay it out, and the resources to print your book (1000 copies, say) and distribute it to a network of retailers.
Until Amazon made publishing ebooks more cost effective for everyone and opened that capability to anyone who could learn how to use the software. CreateSpace, KindleDirect Publishing, LuLu, Lightening Source, SmashWords all these platforms broke the mold. They told publishers that their “value add” was no longer a value.
At the same time, publishers started trying to get more competitive by cutting costs on things like marketing, editing, and distribution. Many writers say they have to hire their own publicists to get their books out there. They pay their own travel expenses to do readings and signings. And they approach independent bookstores themselves about carrying their titles.
So, really, what does the publishing company offer? They expected you to turn in a perfect manuscript. They held it for two years through their publishing cycle. Then they put all of the marketing on you.
After the publisher and agent take their cut from your book sale, that $20 manuscript might pay you $1.25 per copy.
Says Raegan, “A self-published author can easily make $5/book profit, but traditionally published authors generally make around $1.25 a book (I know some that make less than $1). I don’t know any traditionally published author making anywhere near $5/book.”
Writers / Authors who turned to self-publishing have done so for a number of reasons:
- Creative control over the cover, layout, and presentation of marketing materials.
- Editorial control over the content.
- Higher percentage of profit from the primary product: the book.
- Traditional publishers’ continuously cutting royalties and marketing budgets. (This, I think, is one of the biggest drivers. Royalties have been cut drastically. LINK
But it’s not just about the book, right? Like any good entrepreneur, an Authorpreneur knows there must be additional streams of revenue. Let’s talk about how you build a business around the product when the product is YOU.
Raegan Teller is a mystery author, writer of the Enid Blackwell series (raeganteller.com) who wrote this great blog about being blessed to find her reader community. Tell us about writing the Enid Blackwell stories and what it was like creating a community of readers.
Where did Enid come from?
How did the stories emerge?
Where did you find your readers?
Tell us about your process – draft to beta readers to publishing
What made you decide on Authorpreneurship?
What suggestions would you have for new writers about deciding where and how to publish?
What surprised you the most about becoming a book publisher?
Where and how have you learned about growing this business?
Were there any big mistakes you made that you’d like to help others avoid?
I met a book club leader at Arts on the Ridge Saturday who said they’d read your book and had you to their meeting to discuss it with them. What was that like?
You were a founding member of the Palmetto Chapter of Sister in Crime, here in Columbia. Tell us about that community and how it’s been a marketing effort (intentional?) for you.
We frequently talk through the “channels” business owners use to reach their customers. We did a series on them back in the fall. Here’s a link to those show notes. But, summing it up:
- Targeting Blogs
- Traditional PR
- Unconventional PR
- Search Engine Marketing
- Social Media and Display ads
- Offline ads
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Engineering as marketing
- Encouraging customers to encourage others
- Business development
- Affiliate programs
- Existing platforms
- Trade show participation and/or sponsorship
- Offline events
- Speaking engagements
- Community building
Which of these channels tends to be most effective for authorpreneurs?
Which ones did you have to learn? Which ones came easily for you?
Disruptive business models create an entirely new way of navigating established industries. Typically, this means a new company addressing the needs of a population not being served by the existing players in the industry. The first strategy is to create an entirely new market with this super amazing product you’ve invented.
Questions to ask about the market to determine whether you can build a disruptive business:
Do consumers not use existing products because they are expensive or complicated? Are they willing to use a simpler product?
Will your new product help people do something they already do easier?
Some examples of disruptive business models: Netflix — instead of the Blockbuster model of retail locations, Netflix was wholly online and via mail; when they abandoned discs for streaming, it was a natural progression; Uber — instead of the centralized Taxi agency model, this app makes any car a taxi.
Other general opportunities to disrupt your market:
- Freenium model — provide a service free-of-charge but put the upgrades behind a paywall; examples LinkedIn, Spotify
- Subscription model — services offered into a split-payment model that keeps users engaged; examples Netflix, Amazon
- Free offerings — the service being offered is not how the company monetizes, instead, it’s what they get from the users that pays their bills; examples Google and Facebook
- Sharing economy — goods and services that traditionally can only be purchased, are made available for “rent”; example Air B&B
- On-demand model — the value is in the mechanism that executes the build; no inventory risk; example CreateSpace via Amazon Publishing
- Marketplace model — connects buyers and sellers on a single platform, earns revenue in transaction fees; examples eBay and etsy
Events coming up this week:
Office of Business Opportunities 7th Annual Small Business Week “Leading the Change” conference. We have 25 tickets for Start Something, Columbia! Listeners. You can claim yours by going to Facebook.com/StartSomethingColumbia and commenting on today’s mid-point live feed. Let us know you want the ticket and we’ll direct-message you the details.
Where can you meet Raegan Teller? Link to her website events page.
Ready to support Start Something, Columbia! Call 803-569-8200 to talk about becoming a patron.
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