This week The Author CEO Naomi Blackburn talks about the importance of networking – and not just in the usual forums and groups but looking outside the box to sites and organizations that can help you as a small business owner as well as an author.
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: Networking – Looking Outside the Box
by Naomi Blackburn
Most indie authors are familiar with industry resources such as the Independent Author Network, The Indie Exchange, Indie Author News, and Indie Reader, as well as the various writing support groups that assist writers through the writing process. Besides keeping authors abreast of industry news and events, these terrific sites provide invaluable networking opportunities, with authors sharing information and offering support. While most authors take advantage of industry-centric networking opportunities, few focus on building a support network to help them navigate the business aspects of bringing a book to market.
Most authors I know are rockin’ on the creative side of publishing. But many feel like a fish out of water when it comes to running their small business, in part because they don’t think like business owners.
Two weeks ago, I discussed best practices in business. Using Toyota Corporation as a model, I advised authors to figure out best practices in publishing and tweak them to fit their own business model. The same applies to networking: authors should look outside publishing and tweak to fit their own needs.
A large network helps business owners navigate the many aspects of running a successful business.
In business, a support system can never be too large. A network helps small business owners navigate the many aspects of setting up, running, and managing a business, providing necessary information and support as well as, in some cases, counseling on a wide array of issues such as (among other things) finding and securing business loans, buying reasonably priced health insurance, and figuring out tax law.
As I always point out, indie authors are small business owners. As such, they can benefit from much of this same information. Networking with professionals outside the publishing industry can also help authors develop innovative business ideas that they might not come across inside the publishing bubble.
The Small Business Administration or SBA and SCORE
The U.S. Small Business Administration* runs a free, must-use site for anyone starting his or her own business. For help with questions related to my own independent contracts, I use SBA.gov. The SBA offers insight into laws and regulations, starting and funding a small business, provides information on loans and grants, and hosts online community pages, including a blog, among other excellent resources.
What I love most about the SBA is their partnership with SCORE, a non-profit organization with LOCAL offices that host in-person networking meetings, as well as online support and mentoring to small business owners-remember: this includes you! SCORE also offers low cost or no cost webinars to help with business planning. Most rockin’, they offer personalized counseling either in-person or via email.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses or NFIB
The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB.com) is another great resource. For a $180 membership fee, business owners gain access to resources related to starting and financing a business, healthcare, sales and customer service, marketing and advertising, and so on. The NFIB offers members deals on services like shipping and credit card processing-both important to authors-and products like auto and health insurance, and also offers business and legal advocacy resources. On the NFIB members’ forum, members can ask for or provide advice on business planning, taxes, budget preparation, marketing/sales, etc. Remember, these small business owners have had to squeeze $1.50 out of $1 in building their own businesses, so they have learned to be very creative with how to budget the bucks!
Online Resources Include Meetups
There are, of course, a plethora of blogs and other online sites that offer resources related to business management, planning and marketing. One interesting development is the proliferation of Meetups, a new online gathering place for all sorts of different groups. In a brief search, I found meet ups for indie authors wishing to expand their support network and for authors looking for small business support. Here is one example.
Will all this information apply to authors? Nope. But to be successful, it is important to keep an open mind. You never know from whom or where your next great business or marketing idea will come!
*The government in most countries offers small business support. For authors outside the United States, do a Google search to locate programs in your area.
Up Next: LinkedIn-another very important networking source for authors
About Naomi Blackburn
Naomi Blackburn, owner of The Author CEO, a consultation firm dedicated to helping independent authors navigate the development of strategic business plans and the marketing world, holds an MBA and has worked in the field of business development, sales and consulting for 12 years. A former social worker, she has helped hundreds of clients meet their life goals. An avid reader and top Goodreads reviewer, she comes to the world of books from a reader/reviewer’s perspective. She strives to help authors achieve their goals by teaching them to think of themselves as CEO/entrepreneur of a small business and helping them negotiate the business side of selling books.
Naomi: You hit the nail on the head again. I enjoyed last week's post about best practices, and this post digs deeper into the business side of indie publishing. And you are right that many of us indies feel lost when it comes to this area. In the old days, growing up in an ethnic neighborhood, a lot of these things were handled by friends and "friends of friends"; nowadays it is far more difficult, so it's nice to see these resources you've listed. Thanks once again for sharing.