Three Reasons Why Being an Author is Much Tougher than Being an Entrepreneur

My book The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices, goes on sale tomorrow, an event that I have anticipated for three years.

In many ways, it is a bit anticlimactic. No big parties or celebrations are planned. Today, I am traipsing around a steamy New York City doing media interviews, and tonight I will have a quiet celebration with my daughter Marissa and her husband Mike. My day will probably be not all that different from scores of other authors who are doing exactly the same thing.

It will take a few weeks until the dust settles on the media tour and I can begin the process of serious reflection on the process of birthing a book these days. But I don’t have to wait to know that it’s been a whole lot tougher than birthing start-up companies, which I have done more than a few times.

For me being an author has been much more difficult than being an entrepreneur. I have always loved books and had respect for authors, but as a result of my experience I now hold them in the highest regard. There are three main reasons:

(1) Writing a book is an endeavor that requires long stretches of deep concentration and focus. But in today’s world of constant connectivity and communication, it’s impossible to get more than ten minutes at a time alone with your thoughts. Entrepreneurs thrive in this frenetic 24×7, interrupt-driven environment of emails, tweets, Facebook posts and blogs; it’s poison for someone trying to construct a complex long narrative that makes any sense at all.

(2) It is authors who really have the odds stacked against them, not entrepreneurs. If it was tough to get a major publisher to take your book in the past, it is brutal now, especially if your manuscript is about anything other than sex, lies or murder. Getting a publisher to take your book makes getting a VC to invest in your start-up idea seem like a piece of cake.

(3) This was the biggest surprise for me. Once final copy-editing is finally done and your on-sale date is set, you soon learn from your publicist that the only way to get attention is if you constantly produce new and compelling content on blogs (your own and others), Twitter, and Facebook. If you don’t have a big “social media footprint” already, you better get one quickly and keep it growing. As an entrepreneur, once you get the product out there, a team of developers takes over producing new versions, freeing you up to find ways to grow the business. Not so for authors.

My conclusion: We should return to canonizing authors, and not just entrepreneurs as is the fashion today. In terms of inspiring and instigating the changes that are needed, the former have the toughest job, but ultimately the biggest impact.



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