Writing as Lean Startup

I’m an author. I’m an entrepreneur. My company consists of me and my words. When, as a kid, I dreamed of writing, I didn’t envision creating a brand. I didn’t anticipate the need for a marketing strategy and a business plan. Even as I began to write my first novel and then shop it to agents, or even when I realized that indie publishing provided more options for me, it never fully dawned that I was starting a company.

I can’t look back at a single aha moment. Rather, it settled in layers. In bits and pieces, I discovered the world of startups. Admitting I run a startup company based on my writing eventually led me to Eric Ries’s book, The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.

While I was asked to read the book due to my involvement in another startup company, I found the values and principles appropriate for indie authors. If you are an indie author and you can admit you’re an entrepreneur, I think the book will prove helpful for you as well. Several critical questions brought up in the book should be answered by any author trying to make money from their craft:

What is your guiding vision?

Another way to think of this is the big picture that won’t change even if your first efforts fail. For me, I deduced early on that my writing is about bringing vivid events and relationships to life. My first slogan was, “Enjoy the show.” I still like it. Since then I’ve added the idea that I write bad guys who do good things and good guys who do bad things. And the most common thread in all of my writing is that, “I explode things.” I believe in writing books that serve as an escape. Only when I convince the reader to let down his or her guard do I sneak tiny reflections of life into the story. In so doing, they glide seamlessly into the subconscious and impact life without even knowing it. I’m subversive like that. [Read more…]

Why My Eighth Book is Different

Yup. Eight. It’s been three years since I started writing full-time. During the first year I worked exclusively on my first book, Fistful of Reefer. The next year I hammered out The Austin Job, Twitch and Die! and a compilation of Lost DMB File shorts.

Over the last twelve months, I’ve written De Novo Syndrome, Desert Gods, The Green Ones: Season One, and now I’m polishing up First Relic. And you know what? I’m starting to learn the ropes as a professional writer.

The reason I’m most confident of this fact? My eighth book has been nothing but pure product. The kind of product you dip your pinky finger into and dab on your tongue. You smear it across the front of your teeth, turn to your peers and say, “It’s pure. Break it down, boys.” [Read more…]

Platform Building, I Bid Thee Farewell

If writing fiction is like playing the lottery, then as far as I can tell there are three ways to increase your chances of a payoff.

  1. Sleep with the lottery commisioner
  2. Mooch winnings from previous winners
  3. Or buy more tickets

Nowhere in this equation is there room for what so many writerly pontiffs have called platform building. What? Am I supposed to continue to believe that adding facebook friends and fans will somehow improve the odds one of my tickets will transform magically into a winner? I’m sorry, I just can’t do it anymore.

Recently I’ve landed on the truth. You know what platform building really is? [Read more…]