Being a tech entrepreneur is hard work (think: excessive time commitments, constant mental acuity, boatloads of stress, etc.). In part, because of how quickly internet technologies are evolving, tech entrepreneurs understand that to stay on top of the heap you have to remain alert and always be ready to act. Technologies that aren’t able to keep up in this rapidly changing world become obsolete.
Inaction isn’t something a successful tech entrepreneur can afford and similarly, neither can a successful author. Today, being a successful author means acting on opportunities as soon as they present because if you don’t, the next-best author will. Being late to the table or delayed in engaging with your fans, means those fans will find a new favorite and that conversation which could have turned into a sweet deal, can no longer be had.
When an author completes a book it’s safe to say that their first draft isn’t perfect. Not only is it considered a draft until their Editor gives the final thumbs up, but words, sentences, chapters (and yes, even characters), are axed and/or reinvented at many points throughout the writing process.
So how does a writer take an imperfect piece of writing and make it better? By iterating.
Read, assess, change, read… and then rinse and repeat. If this sounds easier said than done, I’ve included some activities that I found helped me ‘assess’ and determine what changes to make:
Revising your story is a form of refinement and the more willing you are to do it, the more refined and better your story will be. Tech entrepreneurs, especially those dabbling in software, are experts at harnessing the power of iteration when it comes to creating value.
Tech entrepreneurs need to be experts in receiving feedback because whether they’re serving consumers or businesses, today’s buyers expect a lot from technology providers. Some of the most valuable insights an entrepreneur gains into how their product can be better, come from the harshest critics.
Tech entrepreneurs understand the value of user feedback and so develop a positive and productive attitude toward receiving it — an approach that authors can learn from, especially debut writers. By being open and receptive to what other people think, tech entrepreneurs and authors alike can gain an appreciation of how their offering (story or product) is going to be received by others before making a massive investment of time and money.
High-growth tech startups really only begin to ‘take off’ once they’ve nailed product-market fit. Product market fit happens when a company has created a product for which there is an actual need, and the market is receptive and willing to pay for it! Tech entrepreneurs understand that investing lots of time and money into a sales strategy for a product that doesn’t have this magical mixture of ingredients, is wasteful. Similarly, busting butt to sell a book to an audience that won’t be receptive to it (because it’s too mature or too juvenile, for example), is wasteful.
As an author, try asking yourself: who am I writing this book for? You are in control of creating something the audience you’ve identified, will like. Determine what your audience will like by exposing yourself to other success stories that have been written for that same audience, engaging (even before you’ve written your book!) and having conversations with members of that audience, you can even solicit volunteers from this audience to read and provide feedback about what you’ve written to date.
Tech entrepreneurs understand that to make something succeed, sometimes you’ve just got to figure it out your own way. This is expressed in a number of ways such as new product ideas that the world hasn’t seen before, or new approaches to software development that result in a better quality product, faster.
The beauty of being an entrepreneur is that you’re the one at the helm, forging the way. Entrepreneurs can learn from others who have done it before but ultimately, as a self-starter, you’re piloting your own ship and the same can be said for authorship. Whether you’re writing/have written a completely-new-never-been-done-before story, or whether it’s a fresh take on old tropes, as an author you’re piloting your own ship.
Sometimes, to become a successful author, you’ve just got to figure it out your own way.
Like authors, not all tech entrepreneurs are cut from the same cloth. In fact, just like authors, each tech entrepreneur is different — some are extroverts and some aren’t, but either way they all have something in common: they’re networkers.
Hiring in tech is highly competitive and oftentimes the most sought-after professionals will be brought into a company because of who they knew at that company. Needs are expressed, introductions are made, hands are shaken and contracts are signed. Because this is the case, successful tech entrepreneurs are always looking for the best people to recruit to their cause — they’re alwaysnetworking.
As an author looking to find the best agent or looking to pitch your story at a conference, or when you happen to sit down next to the head honcho of a top-notch publisher that you’ve had your eye on for years, being comfortable networking is a must.
Or as my entrepreneur husband frequently says (in quoting startup mogul, Paul Graham), “The negotiation begins at No.” In tech, rejection is always around the next corner — you lose a customer to your competitor, a fund declines to join your fundraiser, a key employee churns, a highly sought after professional denies your offer of employment, and the list goes on. These are just a few of the gut-wrenching rejections a tech founder experiences but because frequent rejection is a reality of the job, tech entrepreneurs learn quickly that what matters most about being rejected is what you do after it happens.
As an author, when a literary agent passes on your manuscript do you hang your head and decide to not be a writer anymore? Of course not, but even beyond picking yourself back up and reaching out to the agent next on your list, you should ask that person whythey said no. What would they have liked to see you do differently? Do they think any of their colleagues would be interested? Would they be willing to introduce you?
How can you learn from your failure?
Tech entrepreneurs learn that ‘No’ is just another step in a fruitful conversation and not the sound of a door closing, being locked, and soldered shut.
In part because of constant rejection (of course, the big wins and gains help soften the blows), and in part, because the job can be so energy-taxing, tech entrepreneurs develop a thick skin. Not being given what you want and having to fight tooth-and-nail for it, can certainly be demotivating but tech entrepreneurs learn to take that disappointment, bare it with a grin, and channel it into motivation to ‘do better next time’.
For authors, a thick skin is required when querying agencies, negotiating contracts, selling your book, getting your book reviewed, being the center of attention at book signings, and engaging with fans who may take personal affront to a character you’ve ‘killed off’ (just like those technology customers who take personal affront to price or product changes!).
A tech entrepreneur understands that what they are trying to provide customers, is value. They also know that they need to believethat what they’re providing has value otherwise how can they expect anyone else to spend money to buy it?
As an author, understanding the value of what you have to offer is powerful because this understanding is your platform when networking, selling your books, and when you’re negotiating a contract. An author provides value to their readers whether what they’re delivering is pure entertainment or thought-provoking prose. Books can be much more personal than tech products (although that’s not always the case) and so it’s critical for authors to understand the value they bring to the table so that their sense of self-worth stays strong.
Starting your own company is risky business — entrepreneurs make an investment of their (and often their family’s) time/money, energy, health (emotional and physical), and frequently the rewards are a very long time coming. Because of this, entrepreneurs are willing to do what it takes to make it work which is exactly what a lifelong author needs to do! Those lucky few who are overnight successes are just that: a lucky fewand more often than not what appears as ‘overnight’ took a lot of hard work and was years in the making.
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