How self publishing can help your career

On November 3rd I was in Atlanta at the Strategic Self Publishing Conference demonstrating how publishing a book can help one’s professional career.  For those interested in such things, you can follow the hash tag #sspb on Twitter for all the details.

There were several other published authors in attendance, all of whom were currently using their own published books as “business cards” for their businesses.  

On a different day recently I was interviewed by Executive Report on the same subject matter, how publishing a book can elevate your professional status.  It’s a quick 2 minute interview and you can listen to it here.

In my opinion, it’s  a no-brainer. If you are a business owner or entrepreneur, you really owe it to yourself and your career to publish a book.  It’s a concept that’s quickly taking hold.

In fact, several weeks ago I was interviewed by Cultivating Small Business on this topic as well. This interview was a part of a 60 minute radio show on growing small businesses and I appeared in the studio along with another entrepreneur. These are just samples of the interviews I find myself conducting more and more, and since they shared a common theme with where I appeared in Atlanta last week, I thought I’d mention them.

Entrepreneur of the Year Criteria #6

According to Gregory K. Ericksen in his book Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Insights From the Winner’s Circle, the final criteria the judges use to help them determine a winner is the degree of difficulty in launching and/or growing the business.

This can include everything from the competitive landscape to more specific triumphs like overcoming personal adversity.  Obviously, this is all a matter of perspective, since launching any business is somewhat difficult, and the odds become stacked against you when it comes to growing a thriving business with revenue growth percentages in the multiple-hundreds, as is the case with Outskirts Press.  

Ultimately, all businesses have competitors, naysayers, and hecklers. True leaders persevere and succeed in spite of those obstacles, not in the absence of them.   The same can be said for books. All books have competition, naysayers, and negative reviews. Professional authors persevere and succeed in spite of those obstacles, not in the absence of them.

Entrepreneur of the Year Criteria #5

According to Gregory K. Ericksen in his book Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Insights From the Winner’s Circle, the fifth criteria the judges use to help them determine a winner is “originality.”

A lot of factors can contribute to originality. Have you pioneered a new approach or created a new technology?  Are your business practices or products/services original? Are you constantly working on improvement and innovation?

As far as Outskirts Press is concerned, examples of all of the above are encapsulated by our Version 4.0 website, which will be launching sometime this month (with any luck).  I’ve discussed Version 4 in previous posts (and will again in future posts, too), so I won’t here.

Entrepreneur of the Year Criteria #4

According to Gregory K. Ericksen in his book Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Insights From the Winner’s Circle, the fourth criteria the judges use to help them determine a winner involves the culture, values, and incentives surrounding the work force, the company, and the community. 

An example of this involves our EVVY Book Awards.  Every Diamond and Pearl book we publish is eligible to be nominated for an official Outskirts Press EVVY Award Nomination.  Those nominees are subsequently submitted to the annual Colorado Independent Publishers Association EVVY Awards.  Recently we won 16 different awards, the most among all participating publishers.

The Outskirts Press production team members for each first, second, and third place award also won compensatory bonuses for their valued contributions in producing EVVY-award-winning books for their authors.  One of our internal goals at Outskirts Press is to help our authors publish award-winning books. So by creating a bonus structure for our production department that recognizes when that goal is met, our authors are happier and our cover designers, book formatters, and author representatives are happier, too. Win-win. 

Another example is our $10,000 donation to the Colorado Humanities last December and our sponsorship of their Colorado Book Awards and Student Literary Awards

Later this week, on May 6th, the winners of the Colorado Humanities Student Literary Awards will be announced in Denver.  I will be attending the event and revealing the full-color anthology, published by Outskirts Press.   The anthology is titled 2010 Student Literary Awards Anthology: Winning Art, Poems and Letters by Colorado Students.

Handing out awards to young and aspiring writers is very fulfilling. And seeing their faces light up when they discover they are published authors is extraordinary.  I love it. Another win-win.  And that is culture, values, and incentives in a nutshell.

Entrepreneur of the Year Criteria #3

According to Gregory K. Ericksen in his book Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Insights From the Winner’s Circle, the third criteria the judges use to help them determine a winner is the management team the leader has put together.

The management team of a company can include executives and board of directors members, but ultimately, I think this criteria probably examines all the people of an organization.  Has the entrepreneur successfully pulled together talented people who are committed to the company’s long-term goals?  

It helps if the executives and members of the board bring different talents and experiences to the table, so the overall advantages experienced by the company are wider and therefore the benefits offered to the customer are more valuable.

Entrepreneur of the Year Criteria #2

According to Gregory K. Ericksen in his book Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Insights From the Winner’s Circle, the second criteria the judges use to help them determine a winner is the financial performance of the company.

In this regard, there are two categories of entrepreneurs, and two ways entrepreneurs get money for companies. Some entrepreneurs start companies that are good at earning money from customers.  These leaders spend the bulk of their time managing and growing a company that makes money.

Other entrepreneurs are good at soliciting money from investors. These leaders spend the bulk of their time convincing larger companies into giving them money.

The majority of the articles in magazines like Entrepreneur are aimed at CEOs who fall in the latter category.  Often, the revenue figures that are publicized about companies do not reveal the amount of money those companies earned but rather, the amount of money those companies were given.

I’ve always felt that if you are a leader who falls into the first category, you don’t have to worry about being good at the second.  Run a company that earns money and a funny thing starts happening — bigger companies with money start banging on your door asking if they can give you more.

Six Keys to Entrepreneur of the Year Success

I mentioned previously that I am a semi-finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards. The next stage is a reception where I meet some of the judges.  This is as close to an “interview” as a entrepreneur gets; so like anyone applying for a new position, a new job, or sending out a new book proposal, the first step is to conduct some research and prepare yourself.

Gregory K. Ericksen has written a book about the E&Y EOY awards titled Insights from the Winner’s Circle and he identifies six key criteria the judges use to gauge a leader’s performance.  Even if you’re not up for an award, these are valuable focus points for any leader or entrepreneur and I will discuss them each in the following  blog postings.

They are:

1. Leadership
2. Financial performance
3. Management team
4. Culture, value, and Incentives
5. Originality
6. Degree of Difficulty

Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist

I found out last week that I am a regional semi-finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.  I met with two folks from Ernst & Young along with one of the sponsors at the E&Y offices in downtown Denver last Monday for a one hour formal interview.  I was asked to bring some marketing materials, some financial statements, and anything else I wanted to “show off” that best represented Outskirts Press.  So, of course, I brought along some of our books.

After I summarized our history, our 5-year plan, and our most recent 3-year 850.5% revenue growth that was recognized by Inc. Magazine for their Fast 500 list, one of the Ernst & Young representatives told me that even before he knew I was a semi-finalist he had learned that a close friend of his was publishing her children’s book with Outskirts Press and enjoying the process immensely.  What a nice surprise; and what a small world!

Ernst & Young are not judges of the EOY Award. That responsibility falls to another group of individuals who I will have the pleasure of meeting at a Thursday night reception at the Cherry Hills Country Club on the 29th.

The trouble with blogging – part two

Another reason I’ve personally been reticent about blogging is due to the dilemma I have with preserving confidentiality, and this is probably something any CEO, or company employee can understand.   In other words, what is okay to say, and what isn’t?

On one hand, the more personal, confidential, or private something is, the more “interesting” it is, so part of me wants to divulge stuff that will make this blog popular, or at the very least, interesting.

On the other hand, I have a responsibility to our authors, our people, and our board of directors to avoid saying anything that would jeopardize them (and by that, I mean, anything that could “cost them money”).  In my position I learn things about the industry that isn’t common knowledge. I know about deals before they happen. I have an intimate knowledge of our own trade secrets and unique competitive advantages – the things that make Outskirts Press the fastest-growing self-publishing company and the only Inc. 500 company in our industry.   Revealing ‘insider-y” information on those topics would make this blog fascinating to other entrepreneurs and CEOs, and certainly our competitors, and maybe even our authors, but revealing them could also jeopardize our value proposition.

If a CEO doesn’t reveal SOME of that stuff, what’s the point of reading the blog? I mean, the whole point of reading a blog by a CEO is that you expect SOME level of details not attainable elsewhere, right?  But, on the other hand, how does a CEO blogger reveal interesting things that aren’t TOO confidential?

I’m not saying I have the answer. I’m just saying it’s something about blogging that troubles me…

Writers and entrepreneurs

Why, you might ask, am I spending so much time writing about choosing a theme for the blog? Isn’t this blog supposed to be about entrepreneurs, CEOs, writing, self-publishing? You know, interesting things? Yes, and it is…

Here’s one reason for the details: When I have less time to devote to the minutiae, I often advise a self-published writer or a CEO to simply “create your platform.”

And when they ask “How?” I answer “Start a blog.”

That’s short and to the point. WordPress even makes it easy. But for many people, that advice is not very helpful in its generality. Just because something is easy for one person doesn’t mean it is easy for other people and it certainly doesn’t mean they will do it “right.”   And that’s a good thing, because if everyone else knew what you knew and could do what you can do, you wouldn’t have anything of value to offer or sell.  The trick is taking your knowledge, infusing it with necessity, and then packaging it, and offering it to others, either for “free” as in the case of a blog, or for some amount of money as in the case of your book, product, service, or company.

When starting a blog and creating a platform, doing it “right” means taking into consideration all of the things I’ve been pontificating about for the past few posts, like branding, SEO, and here’s another one — consistent content. Blogging is like the antithesis of writing a book, which is perhaps one of the things that has always bothered me about blogging — blogs are not supposed to be succinct. If your blog is too succinct, you run out of things to say, and then your blog only lasts 5 months, like my last one did in 2005.

Although I should mention that any blog effort you make could always have a positive effect. Early in 2009 I received a call from a reporter from the New York Times who was writing an article about Kirkus Discoveries, and saw one of my blog postings about that very topic. He referred to it 4 years after I had written it, so the first few minutes of our phone conversation were interesting because, to him, I had just written it because he had just read it. Yet, for me, that posting was 4 years old in my mind. I barely remembered what he was talking about. Nevertheless, it led to an interview with the New York Times. Can’t beat that with a stick…

And that’s just one of many reasons why entrepreneurs and writers should have a blog. In fact, by and large, I’ll probably use the word “entrepreneur” and “writer” somewhat interchangeably. All self-publishing writers are, in essence, entrepreneurs. And, even though all entrepreneurs may not consider themselves authors, they should consider themselves writers. So even though I’m devoting a large portion of the beginning of this blog about inane details revolving around the selection of a blog theme, the AUDIENCE of this blog is entrepreneurs, self-publishing writers, CEOs, CMOs and other marketers (both b-2-b and b-2-c), people involved in any kind of start-up, and anyone else who would find value in improving their sales platform.

Platform. Is that a term I’ve used on this blog yet? It’s going to be a recurring topic. The cornerstone of nearly every speech and presentation I make involves creating and maintaining ones “platform” – the foundation upon which you build your career, whether you are a writer, a doctor, a speaker, or an entrepreneur. You need a platform and it needs to be branded.

And that takes us full-circle back to choosing a theme for this blog. I think I “spoke” too early with my last posting, because for some reason I though the “thinner” column of the “Contempt” theme was on the left-hand side, when in reality, it appears on the right-hand side. So far, it’s still the best theme (after Blix) that I’ve seen on WordPress, so I’ll add a few more widgets to the column and see how it holds up…