Saturday, August 22, 2009

Benefits of Being an Author, On Expectations and Making Goals Explicit

To go along with the new look of the Lake Claremont Press blog, we will be including additional types of content here, everything from opinion pieces to book excerpts and author musings. In that spirit, I will start by sharing some of my observations on one of the most interesting and complex aspects of being a small-press publisher, one who has lots of direct contact with her authors at all stages of the publishing process…author expectations!

That authors and publishers do not share identical interests would be obvious to any businessperson, but since that was not my background it took awhile for this reality to become clear to me. We both want an author’s book to be wildly successful, right? That at least was my vague, muddled view. Until the day several years ago when two separate authors with whom I had and have warm, friendly relationships sent me a New York Times piece about authors vs. publishers with a quip to the effect: we’re glad you’re not like those publishers. It hit me instantly when I read the article: I am like those publishers, and you are like those authors. I am a publisher, and you are authors. Thereafter I worked on understanding and unraveling these identity differences for win-win outcomes.

As you might suppose, one complicated element of author expectations is not that authors have them but that every author has different ones. Then there’s meeting company goals that may or may not have anything to do with the sea of expectations around us. These come with the picturesque territory of publishing. What optimizes the author-publisher relationship in this environment is what most concerns me about expectations, and being unequivocal about our different interests is a good start. My top priority is the surviving and thriving of the company, not any individual book necessarily. An author’s goals are…

My sense is that many hopes are pinned on one’s book and that without a bit of reflection, every author’s goals for their book are the grand and amorphous: for it to be wildly successful, to be a life-changing experience, and to make everything better. Sure, and world peace too. Lofty expectations are not in themselves a problem but non-specific, non-explicit lofty expectations can be. How will they know when they’ve met them (and can take proper satisfaction at that)?

Here is my evolving list of the benefits I’ve seen different authors enjoy over the past 15 years of publishing almost 50 books, whether or not these results of writing a book were specifically desired or made explicit. My not so inventive idea is that the earlier in the publishing process an author defines for themselves what they want out of their book, the better able they are to marshal the resources necessary to achieve them (including the publisher where appropriate), the better choices they can make about time and energy expenditures, the greater their results, and the greater their satisfaction. As a bonus, they will also enjoy plenty of unexpected rewards and delights along the way.

In no particular order…

Community/Social Benefits

  • To gain entry to the “club” of writers.
  • To participate in the community interested in one’s topic.
  • To join the conversations related to one’s book.
  • To make a difference in people’s lives
  • To win converts to a cause.
  • To popularize one’s ideas.
  • To sway public opinion.
  • To correct misconceptions.
  • To expose injustices.
  • To entertain and delight others.
  • To capture stories before they’re lost.
  • To preserve history before it’s lost.
  • To bring attention to local businesses.
  • To meet interesting, new people.
  • To amplify one's social network.

Personal Benefits

  • To express oneself.
  • To create something original.
  • To experience elevated self-esteem.
  • To enjoy personal satisfaction for having written a book.
  • To achieve something significant.
  • To accomplish one of the top American goals that others only talk about.
  • To springboard to bigger and better things.
  • To open doors (public speaking, media interviews, business opportunities).
  • To practice a hobby more fully.
  • To learn new skills (blogging, public speaking, media savvy, networking)
  • To enhance skills (writing, editing, speaking)
  • To overcome personal obstacles (procrastination, shyness)
  • To make a name for oneself.
  • To share unique experiences and perspectives.
  • To become better-known, well-known, or famous.
  • To bask in the prestige.
  • To live a fuller life.
  • To leave a legacy.

Career/Business Benefits

  • To establish one’s authority on a subject.
  • To show expertise in a field.
  • To define one’s position (role) and position (perspective) in some area.
  • To contribute to a body of knowledge.
  • To build one’s reputation.
  • To exhibit leadership.
  • To leverage the power of the printed word.
  • To complement one’s primary business.
  • To advance in your field
  • To enlarge one's professional network.
  • To have something to give away (a calling card, gift, premium)
  • To develop a side business.

Financial Benefits

  • To earn passive income (royalties).
  • To increase income through turning one’s book into a cottage industry (re-selling, speaking fees, etc.)
  • To find a better-paying job (with new skills and enhanced resume)
  • To justify a pay raise (increased value to company)
  • To extend the reach of one’s business (passively locate new customers).

Please post other advantages that should be on this list.

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