Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Rule Number One of Authorpreneurship

My bad.

No, really.  I promised, last time I reorganized my blog page, to keep a list of the blogs I frequent down there and to the right.  Yep, right down there below the list of followers, the "My Blog List."  I've done part of that, in removing some of the ones that went away (e.g., Bookends -- a sad, sad day when I removed that one) or the ones I no longer wanted to read (nope, not even giving them the advantage of a mention), but I haven't added new ones as I've found them.

Granted, I've stopped reading most as quickly as I started, so there hasn't been a lot of net loss.  One blog, though, I've enjoyed but not added.

It's fixed now.

The blog is Chuck Wendig's.  He's an author, and a smart guy, and he's just a little foul-mouthed.  Okay, he's a lot foul-mouthed, but that's something I like -- his writing has an edge to it.

So, anyway, back to my OPB (Other Peoples' Blogs) commentary, I was reminded to add his blog today because I decided his latest post needed commenting on.  He wrote about diversifying your supply chain as a writer, and made some perfectly fine points for why you should do it.

To paraphrase (a little) his post: "Amazon is not your friend.  Amazon is not your friend.  Amazon is not your friend.  Amazon is . . . ."

Okay, so it was repetitive as hell.  I wanted to scream by the end.

I mean, it's a great point.  Amazon isn't your friend if you're an author.  Neither is Amazon your enemy. Amazon is naught but a business partner; some of us choose to do business exclusively through them, and others choose to spread the wealth, and all with varying results.

But here's the MBA coming out in me: no, Amazon isn't your friend.  Neither is Barnes & Noble.  Neither is Apple.  Neither is your editor or your book cover artist.  Neither is the owner of the little bookstore down the street who's offered to give your books some shelf space the second Tuesday of next month (or even longer if you sell more than a few dozen copies through him).

If you want writing friends, that's fine.  I have some amazingly good friends, both in person and through social media, based on mutual writing interests, but here's the deal: we don't do business together.

My beta readers?  They're all friends, and wonderful ones at that.  But again, we don't do business together.

Rule Number One of Authorpreneurship, something from MBA classes that we should teach in every MFA program out there, is that people with whom you do business are not your friends.  Granted, there's no reason to be unfriendly with them; most if not all are great people.  Great people make for great business acquaintances. They also make for great friends.  One, or the other.  Not both.

Here's why I say that: friends, by most common definitions, put your needs and interests somewhere in their own list of priorities.  People doing business with you might do so as well, so long as your needs and interests are aligned with their own.  When the two sets of needs and interests differ, though, as they can and very often do, guess what happens to your own set?

*flush* (that was a hint, only perhaps not a subtle one)

The bit I sometimes find hard about business is that the opposite needs to be true.  When you're doing business with someone and your interests diverge from theirs, you need to be able and willing to say so, and to act accordingly.  I've seen several people invest in editing services offered by friends only to see the friendship crash and burn because they didn't act accordingly.  Editing, you see, needs to be just a little bit confrontational and somewhat raw to the touch if it's done well.  That's a good thing in a business acquaintance, but it's really hard to do in a friendship.

The same applies to the numerous services that are out there for authors.  There are a crap-ton of companies all out there on the Internet, offering a myriad of services that will of course help you make more money. The one consistent trait?  They all want your money.  "Buy my book and I'll...."  "Send me $25 through Paypal and we'll advertise...."  "I design covers for the low cost of...."  Some are good, some are bad.  Some are competent, some aren't.  Most are friendly, at least till you tell them you're not sending them any money.  All, though, belong to the "not your friends" category.

Think large scale for a sec.  Let's say you're a multi-million-copy bestselling author, okay?  Now let's say Amazon's Select sole-source contract is inhibiting your business model rather than helping it.  You need to be willing to (in a contract-law-abiding manner) walk away.  No hard feelings, Amazon, it's just that your model doesn't work for me any more, you see?  Now, if they're your friend, you might feel bad.  They're not your friend, though.  They're a business acquaintance.  So long as you uphold any contractual obligations, you have no reason to feel bad.

And now, with a salute to my friend (or, the guy who'd probably be a friend if we ever met) Chuck Wendig, I say happy authoring, and may business fortunes be ever in your favor.

Oh, and Amazon is not your friend.  *grin*


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