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Authorpreneurship” was the title of an article in the Economist that included this:

“Standing out as a book writer today requires more than a bright idea and limpid prose. Authors need to become businesspeople as well, thinking strategically about their brand, and marketing themselves and their products.”

My first thought was: What’s new?”

Charles Dickens was an “authorpreneur” almost two hundred years ago. But business book authors are relatively new to the game.

The business book explosion

After In Search of Excellence and The One Minute Manager hit the best seller lists in the early 1980s, people began to realize that writing a business book might be good for business.

By the middle of the decade we were starting to see more business books than ever. Some were by management “thinkers” like Russell Ackoff. Others were by successful executives like Buck Rodgers. Major publishers came out with many books, but self-published authors got into the game as well.

Jerry Anderson self-published Success Strategies for Investment Real Estate, which he described to friends as “a business card that no one will throw away.” The book paved the way for successful sales calls. Along with success in the field and teaching in professional programs, the book helped boost Jerry’s reputation.

What made the book successful was that Jerry knew what he was talking about, the book was well-written, and Jerry promoted it effectively. That’s true for successful business books today.

Building an empire based on a book

For most business book authors, the book is just a piece of the puzzle and not the piece that directly produces revenue. Authors whose books are published by traditional publishers don’t get big royalty checks. Authors who publish their own work may cover the publishing costs, but not much more.

The book becomes the key to other revenue sources. About the same time that Jerry Anderson was publishing his book, Gordon Burgett put out a little book with a provocative title. It was Empire-Building by Writing and Speaking: A How to Guide for Communicators, Entrepreneurs, and Other Information Merchants.

You can make money by writing a book, but you probably won’t make it by selling books. You can increase your fees for consulting or speaking. You can win more of the engagements you desire. You can make money from other products like workbooks and classes and audio and video.

The Economist is right that authors “need to be businesspeople as well.” But that’s the way it’s always been. What’s different is that now there are many more tools to build your information empire.

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