This week Naomi Blackburn says goodbye to her “Authors Gone Wild” tales in order to introduce a brand new column with amazing advice for authors: The Author CEO.  

Naomi is founder of the Goodreads group Sisterhood of the Traveling Books, as well as the Nordic Noir group, dedicated to discussing Scandinavian mysteries. This year, Goodreads ranked her at # 11 on their top reviewer list, in both the U.S. and in the world (2011 rankings). As a reviewer, Naomi is brilliant, insightful, and, as she puts it, “brutally honest.”

Please feel free to leave questions for Naomi, as well as any suggestions you may have for future posts. I hope you enjoy the column!


The Author CEO: A New Name

by Naomi Blackburn

Naomi BlackburnFor the first few posts, I wanted to give you examples of authors behaving badly, from the readers’ perspective. I feel that it’s important for authors, as business people, to know how the things they say or do impact their customers and what readers think and do when they come across such bad behavior.

I know there were some tough posts to read and some were pretty dang depressing. They were, at times, pretty rough for me to write.  It was almost like going into the deep, seedy side of a neighborhood and seeing things you didn’t particularly want to see. Still, I thought it important to show authors that readers do pay attention. As business people, authors need to know what their customers think and how they (authors) are perceived. It is also important for authors to remember that, in the age of the Internet, anything that happens online impacts you and your career for a long time.  Although, from time to time, you might see these issues pop up: this will no longer be the ‘theme’ to this series!

With that out of the way, it is time for me to take off my reader hat and put on my business one!

From now on, posts will focus on the various aspects of running a small business. I will help you move from the creative side of writing to the ‘nuts and bolts’ business side of publishing.


Don’t Let Your Book Get Lost in the Crowd!

Today, authors can no longer think of books as ‘write it and they will come.’ I recently read a blog post about the number of ISBNs being issued and the number was mind boggling. I don’t have the data on hand, but I believe, between now and 2015, approximately 1.5 million ISBN will be issued. That is a lot of books and a whole lot of competition. My guess is that the better chunk of these will be self-published.

As the competition increases, it will become even more imperative that you, as an author, stand out. To do this, you must change the way you think of yourself and your book. You made the decision to self publish and, in my humble opinion, that isn’t something to sneeze at. However, with that decision, you also made the decision to be involved in all aspects of publishing-including the business side.

You are not only the author, but the CEO of your own small business, called your book!


And: Full Circle

As I take off my reader hat and put on my business hat, you will be taking off your author hat and putting on your CEO hat! My first goal is to give you steps, information, tidbits, and ideas on how to help you to accomplish that.  My second goal is to help you start to think like a CEO of a small company. The product of that small company is your book(s).

With our changes, comes a new name! Welcome to THE AUTHOR CEO!


Start thinking Like a Business Owner (Hint: this means a Big 6 publisher)

Why, Oh Why: the inhumanity of it all? 

There is a ‘Big House’ author I adore, as much as I adore Terri, by the name of James Thompson. Jim is the author of the Kari Vaara series and one of my favorite authors.  I have been stalking him for a while now (knock on wood, no orders of protection yet, but then again, he does live in Finland!).  I cannot remember how Jim and I connected, but talking with him has been quite the learning experience for me.

Recently, on his blog, he wrote a post that discussed Indie authors; as usual, I responded with my typical opinion of large printing houses.

But, I must give him credit, Jim brought up some excellent points.  Big House authors have some wonderful resources, in the forms of marketing, sales, PR, writing advisors, at their disposal that you don’t have (or do you???).

Discussions then went into private email and Jim, I thought, explained things so BEAUTIFULLY that I asked his permission to post his response.  So, here are the words and wisdom of James Thompson:

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what being an author entails-if you want to be successful. Many things are misunderstood. For instance, big advances.  A debut author wrangles a six-figure advance. What if the advance doesn’t earn out? The publisher is disillusioned and may drop the author. A career killer. Better to take a modest advance so the publisher makes money from the get go. And the career building takes years of careful planning, especially the business aspect, to ensure that each book advances the writer financially. Being a writer is so romanticized that people don’t learn these things until they get there, and are often disappointed that it’s not the dream job they imagined.

I have every advantage available to an author. A prestigious publisher that assigns a publicist and marketing person to me. An incredible editor. Copyeditors. Graphic design artists for the covers and promotions. A sales force pushing my books to every book store and sales venue in the U.S. and Canada. I have a powerful agent to negotiate on my behalf and troubleshoot when things go wrong. Yet, I work 7 days a week, 8-15 hours a day. If someone with the advantages and the resources I have at my disposal must put in that kind of effort, what does an indie author without them have to do to build a career?


The Big House Publishers Do It-Why Shouldn’t You?

I know it is hard to hear these things, to take emotion out of the way you think of your ‘baby,’ your Mona Lisa. Let me stress this, though: the big house publishers are doing just that. Large publishing houses look at books with dollar signs in their eyes. How much, they ask, are they going to make from the book? If they anticipate a win, they throw their resources behind it to make a profit. If it doesn’t, as James Thompson states, they move on to the next author begging to get into their good graces.

It is imperative, once your book is finished, that you do the same thing.  Like the big house publisher, you are going to take off your writer hat and put on your business person hat! Before you know it, you will be able to where both hats at the same time!

MAKE NO MISTAKE, THIS WILL NOT BE EASY!!  I have a motto that I live by: ‘You can play now and pay later or you can pay now and play later.’ Put your hard work in now and you will be whizzing through implementing your future works business plans!

Next post: What exactly is a small business??  Really, my book applies?


The Author CEO - Naomi Blackburn