Why Authors Should Adopt The Mindset of An Entrepreneur

I’d recently guest posted on The Authorteers and wanted to share with you all here as well. =)

I don’t accept criticism well. Oh sure, I say I can handle less-than-stellar feedback. But then when it comes, I sit with my eyes open wide, nodding my head as the critiques pelt me like icy cold drops during a monsoon-like rainstorm, a tight smile stretching my lips so they won’t quiver… yep, I crumble like a house of sand. Worst poker player ever. You always know what I’m thinking… always.

I think this is attributable to a few different factors. First and foremost, I’m an approval seeker. I crave accolades, and positive reinforcement totally charges me. Second, I have an insane amount of passion for my endeavors, whether it be handbag design, writing, blogging, or my career in general. I work hard and when I really believe wholeheartedly in the quality of my efforts, I want them to be recognized. It’s not enough for me to be satisfied with the end result. And when people I care about are less than starry-eyed over something I’ve done, well, it’s a tough pill for me to swallow.

Such was the case this weekend. My husband and greatest supporter, read a book I’d recently finished. He is not a romance reader, but he loved my other books to the extent he could, as someone who much prefers reading Michael Creighton. I felt certain he’d love this one too and truth be told, I was excited for him to read it because I think it’s my best one yet.

But there were no kudos for this story. Instead, I got a boatload of Post-Its and an overall assessment of “it’s… okay.”

Young crying woman in depression drink drinking alcohol

Heartbreaking is the only word I can use.

So by now you’re probably wondering – why is she telling me all this?

Trust me, there is a point.

I took a chance with my manuscript. Publishing a story with a predictable plot isn’t going to send people flying to Amazon and elicit gasps as the scenes unfold on their e-readers. I chose to push the envelope and navigate outside the norm. Maybe it will be to my detriment but I wanted to give my readers something a little different. I took a risk that may turn people off or make them die-hard fans because I believe in myself and my work.

Criticism is tough to swallow but it’s not always a bad thing if it drives you harder and helps you perfect your end product. Don’t give in to self-doubt. Stay true to yourself. Embrace any feedback that will help you achieve your goals.

My advice? Think like an entrepreneur! Establishing an author platform is similar to launching a new business, so why not adopt the mentality that will help you sharpen your focus and build your brand?

Start Up Business Launch Success Office Desk Concept

Passion Is A MUST! – Trying to gain traction with any new endeavor can be extremely disheartening at times so the more you believe in your offering and your ability to sell it to the masses, the more effective your end product (and outlook) will become.

Listen To The Naysayers! – Don’t delude yourself into thinking your offering is the end-all, be-all.  You need a thick skin if you’re going to succeed as an entrepreneur. People will slam your ideas. Get used to it. Graciously accept criticism and feedback then figure out how to respond to objections. Figure out what your key differentiating points are and highlight those to everyone and anyone.

Never Be Complacent! – You’ll have to work harder than you’ve ever worked before to create momentum and then work even harder to KEEP it. I heard a really cool quote this weekend that totally applies. I was at a writing conference and a number of bestselling authors were presenting on sales strategies. They all said market yourself like you’re nobody EVEN IF you’re somebody. This applies to ALL business endeavors.

Be Restless! – Let your creativity flow! Don’t be complacent and accept the status-quo. Dig deep and figure out to disrupt. Take risks! It’s okay to incorporate new ideas into your offering. Make it as compelling as possible and if at first you don’t succeed…. well, you know the rest.

Mark Cuban’s Advice To Entrepreneurs – Risk, Energy, and Funding

According to online dictionaries, an entrepreneur is “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money” or “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”

Well, I get a check for both of those. My past venture into the fashion industry was fraught with risk and cost me plenty. Now, I have little to show for it, save for a closet full of the most amazing handbags EVER CREATED.

I’m normally a risk-averse person, but somehow, when I’m on a quest to find the formula for success in some endeavor, I throw tons at it – money, energy, time – hoping to find the magical components. The problem is, when you invest in something you really don’t understand, you come up empty more often than not. Knowledge is power, sometimes more so than money, and that’s what struck me with this video from Mark Cuban.

The big takeaways?

Seeking funding for a new business venture is failure. It’s an admission that you can’t hack it on your own, can’t find success with the resources you already have, and need to sell-out in order to plunge forth. The question is, how successful will you really be when you are on the hook for millions of dollars to others who believed enough in your idea that you probably could have rocketed on your own first, albeit a little slower??

I never thought of it that way…

My latest venture is challenging, to say the least. And while I’ve researched the concept itself, I’ve thought many times about how I’ll pitch the idea to investors, how I can get into an accelerator, how I can get the attention of venture capitalists…all so I can command funding and leverage expertise from those who have already found success.

But after watching this video, I realize my mindset needs some fine-tuning. Funding is not necessarily the answer. Preparation is the missing element in my formula. It’s where I fell short with my first business. Not taking enough time to learn about the industry before jumping in, spreading myself and my resources too thin to be even slightly effective, not doing enough research in the form of focus groups prior to designing my products. It was a totally ad hoc, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, throw-lots-of-crap-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks process, with no tried-and-tested repeatable elements. I had no blueprint, no measurable metrics, and no plans for future execution. So, what did I do? Hired a new, more expensive PR firm (which did squat, btw), designed even more products without customer input, spent more money than I could afford…only to land flat on my face with no answers and lots of anguish.

I never acquired the knowledge, though I did amass mountains (now they’re more like hills) of debt as a result. I could have mitigated the risk with a deep understanding of the business landscape, including potential pitfalls and competition elements. But not me! I’m an instant gratification whore, way too impulsive and impatient to waste time on LEARNING, of all things.

To my own peril. I’ve raised many a glass to that toast, regrettably…

So, Mark. Thanks for the advice. Knowledge is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. The more ammo you have, the more prepared you are for battle. And yes, it IS a battle. But winnable if your head is in the right place.

So You Wanna Be A Blogger?

Blogging is a great way to connect with a target audience on a somewhat personal level on one condition… you actually BLOG. It sounds great in theory – start a blog, write about a cool topic, get a bunch of readers to follow you, and BOOM! All of a sudden you’ve graduated to Perez Hilton status, with 14,500,000 estimated monthly users. Who wouldn’t want THAT????

But you need compelling content that people crave. It doesn’t happen overnight and it definitely won’t happen unless you do a few key things right up front.

Your first step is to figure out your topic and blog name. It can be your name or something that is related to the type of content you want to write about. When I created my blog, I knew I wanted to write about innovation, entrepreneurship and startups. So I agonized for DAYS and finally came up with The Idea Mama. It’s catchy, right??? =)

Once you have a name, you’re ready to roll! So here it is… my top 10 list for starting a new blog! These steps come way before your fingers hover over the keyboard, itching to type that first entry. There’s a lot of prep that goes into the setup. Don’t rush the process. Take your time, think long and hard about your goals with the blog. These tips will help you get started.

Group of BLOG related 3D words. Part of a series.

  1. Buy the domain. You can’t have a website without a domain name. It’s your home address… on the web. Go to http://www.godaddy.com and find out if it’s available. If it is, GRAB IT! If you want to test the waters, buy it for one year instead of three.
  2. Select a blogging platform. I use WordPress and I like it. I’m not wild about TypePad. I’ve used that in the past and found it to be extremely frustrating. One of my other sites, Author Navigation, was built with Weebly. They have a free trial available. Weekly is very intuitive. You can drag and drop components onto your page according to the theme you select. Easy to use and very reasonably priced.
  3. Get a logo for your website. Fiverr is THE place to go for a cost-effective graphic. It’s one of my favorite places on the web. It’s a community of freelancers who offer gigs for graphic design, online marketing, advertising, music and audio, writing and translation – all starting at $5. You can always beef up your gig for an additional amount but let me tell you, I’ve gotten kick ass results with only $5. Go. NOW! If you need a recommendation, I’ve got a guy… =)
  4. Create a Twitter handle…I have a couple… @kristen_luciani, @theideamama. Use your new blog name and if it isn’t available, come up with some variation. Then, HAPPY TWEETING! You’ll share your own content, as well as content you come across on the web and with your fellow tweeps. We’ll get to that in the next tip…
  5. Create a CrowdFire account. This will help you find the right target audience to follow on Twitter. It helps to grow your following, which you NEED to grow. You’ll also be able to find INFLUENCERS using this tool. Influencers are people who are subject matter experts in your topic and have a large following, which represents a large opportunity for consumption of quality content. Establish relationships with a few key influencers. Retweet and comment on their content and hopefully, they will eventually return the favor.
  6. Create a Facebook page for your blog and start to get likes. Make sure you post to it several times daily. You can post images, links to articles or anything else that is relevant to your blog. The purpose is to engage with your fan base and sharing compelling content is the best way to engage. Videos are cool too. People really appreciate the personal interaction, so get out of your comfort zone.
  7. Set up an Instagram account. You can post images or 15 second-long videos. AND you can link your Instagram account to Facebook and Twitter, so any of your images will post to all three locations.
  8. Establish a Hootsuite account. This is a tool that allows you to consolidate all your social networks and post to all at once. TIME SAVER!!!!!!
  9. Register an account on Quora. This is a great way to get exposure to a new audience. Establish yourself as a subject mater expert on your topic by answering questions in that category. It really helps get your voice heard and people will start to become familiar with the value you bring to the table. AND, you can always use those questions/responses as blog posts!
  10. Subscribe to a photo site. I belong to Dollar Photo Club. It has great images and is extremely cost-effective. $99 per year entitled you to 99 images. Each additional one will cost only $1. There are plenty of other sites, but this is my preference. You can’t post random Google images on your blog, even if you credit the website. If you get caught, you’ll get a nasty letter warning  you to take the image down or else legal action will be taken and you’ll most likely be threatened with a fine.

There are also a ton of informative books on blogging. Here are a few of my faves:

Feel free to browse other titles…just be careful that the book wasn’t published too long ago otherwise the industry will have changed too much for the information to be really relevant. Sometimes, though, you can find diamonds in the rough.

Okay, I’ve gotten you started. Next steps?

WRITE, then SHARE!!!!

Social Media Ideas Designer Desk Architectural Tools Office Concept

Social Media Ideas Designer Desk Architectural Tools Office Concept

How Do You Know You’re Ready For Launch?

We all want a big-splash launch – no matter what the offering. Who wouldn’t want mountains of accolades and recognition for a job well done?

In the period leading up to your big day, the best advice I can give consists of one very important word – plan.

Planning is critical to a successful launch, so make a list of everything you can possibly do to make your event as grand as possible. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

  • Create a Task Timeline – Identify each component of your launch prep along with an expected timeframe for completion and a point of contact.
  • Prioritize Each Task – For each group of tasks you’ve outlined, ask yourself which ones will have the greatest impact on your launch. Focus on the ones that will deliver the biggest bang for your buck first.
  • Ask For Help – Reach out to all your contacts – family, friends, colleagues – anyone who can help you spread the word. Send them Facebook posts, tweets, images to share via Instagram, fliers to hand out in their towns – anything that will highlight awareness.
  •  Leverage Your Existing Fan Base – Come up with creative ways to engage your existing fans. Word of mouth is the most effective way to generate interest because of the credibility factor so ask your fans to get involved with your launch.
  • Cross-Promote – Identify potential partners who have launches around the same time as yours and augment your target audience by gaining access to theirs.
  • Maintain Your Plan – Update all notes and statuses so at any given point, you can see exactly what your progress has been in preparing for the launch.
  • Follow-Up As Needed – People generally don’t have a sense of urgency about someone else’s endeavors so a gentle nudge is sometimes warranted.
  • Get Out the Corkscrew – When you’ve fully executed your plan and feel confident you’ve done all you can do, the rest is up to the stars. So sit back, relax and have a glass of wine because you deserve it.

Red and white wine pouring on wood background

Take Control Of Your Future And Reap The Rewards

Self-published authors have a pretty steep learning curve if they want to joint the ranks of the bestsellers. And I’m not talking about the Amazon bestsellers, I’m talking about the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. Not an easy feat. It also doesn’t happen for everyone. Authors can bust their tails for years and years, writing book after book and never make it.

So is it possible to make their dreams become a reality?

Absolutely – through education and execution.

I watched a video tonight, hosted by Nick Stephenson, bestselling fiction author and entrepreneur. His book, Supercharge Your Kindle Sales, is flipping fantastic!! He provides invaluable insight about self-publishing and how to launch a successful author career on his website, Your First 10K Readers. But what I want to point out to you here is a really great point made in the video… one that’s not only applicable to self-pubbed authors but also to aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Here’s the gist. Authors have a choice. They can endlessly spin their wheels, trying to figure out how the publishing industry works while using trial and error to test new ways of gaining traction and visibility for their work.

OR…

They can make an investment in their careers and pay for that knowledge. Learning from someone else’s missteps can save a tremendous amount of time and money. It can also preserve their sanity. =)

Then, they can apply their newfound knowledge and execute their success strategy.

Business training group organization concept. Team of students learning from mentor sharing common vision for education success as gears and cogs shaped as human head on gray background.

Business training group organization concept. Team of students learning from mentor sharing common vision for education success as gears and cogs shaped as human head on gray background.

This advice definitely hits home for me as an author as well as an entrepreneur. What Nick is saying makes so much sense. If you’re looking to build a business – whether it be in publishing or another industry – spend time up front to figure out how to avoid common pitfalls. The intelligence you can gather is worth the investment and it will help guide your decision-making processes. Save the time for doing what you love and apply the tried-and-true methods of building your success. Leverage lessons learned and reap the rewards earlier.

Why put off until tomorrow what you could definitely achieve TODAY?

Startup Spotlight: My Super Nanny Is Now In The USA!

Finding a reliable caretaker for your child is no easy feat. Word of mouth may find you the perfect babysitter, but what happens when said babysitter decides to get a full-time teaching gig, leaving you high and dry? What if the next babysitter allowed your toddler to walk up and down a steep staircase unattended, when they’d only just begun to scale those stairs under Mom’s watchful eye? What if you just can’t find anyone you can really trust to watch your precious angels, and you really are in need of a night out with the girls???

Then, it’s My Super Nanny to the rescue.

The Australian-based company is centered around three core values they believe all nannies need to possess – reliability, care, and intuition. Not all nannies are the same, nor are all families. Needs differ greatly. My Super Nanny uses a special algorithm to pair the right partners, leaving parents with more time for enjoyable tasks. For a small monthly fee of $6.95, you have access to lists of carers. You don’t pay for your nanny unless you feel comfortable with your choice and want to establish contact, making it a lower-risk proposition.

My Super Nanny provides fast, efficient and safe methods for contacting carers. After that initial contact, they let the client and the nanny make the rest of the arrangements such as pay, hours, and tasks.

And, the great news is, My Super Nanny has just launched in New York and California! To celebrate the launch, they would like to offer a free 365-day membership, which allows full access to their services. The code to use is MSN-S157L and it is only available for a limited time.

It is as easy as putting sprinkles on your ice-cream:
2. Enter code MSN-S157L
3. Contact unlimited nannies or post as many jobs as you’d like
Follow My Super Nanny Online & Find Your Perfect Nanny Now!
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Startup Spotlight: Ditch The Dummy

I remember the days of pacifiers…and my little Lulu was an addict. She couldn’t take a step without one in her mouth and one in each chubby little hand. And nighttime was the worst because she’d constantly knock them out of her crib and scream bloody murder, giving my and my hubby near-heart attacks from being shocked out of as deep a sleep as we could hope for with a very vocal baby. There were no solutions beyond tossing them into the trash when we’d had just about enough, which is exactly what we did. And we paid. Handsomely.

But now there is a solution! And it’s created by a company called Ditch the Dummy! The dummy is the pacifier, not you, by the way…

Penny Angela is the CEO of Ditch the Dummy and she had a plethora of sound bytes to share about entrepreneurship, motherhood, motivation, and potential pitfalls of creating a brand-new business.

1. Penny, what made you decide to delve into the world of entrepreneurship?

The reason I decided to delve into entrepreneurship was purely accidental. My husband and I fostered a beautiful 20-month old little boy called Joey. He was addicted to his pacifier. The only time it came out of his mouth was to eat.

Joey was a very shy little boy and could only speak a couple of words. We waited a couple of months before trying to wean him from his pacifier, giving him a chance to settle in, feel comfortable and with the minimal amount of stress.

Pacifier weaning Joey was horrendous! We tried just about everything, from cold turkey to losing it, nothing worked. Then a friend suggested poking a hole in one of his existing pacifiers. We did it, and it did work.

After a few days Joey just put it aside and that was basically that. He had effectively weaned himself.

Then purely by chance, I came across an article on pacifier weaning and how it can be harmful to alter your child’s existing pacifier, apparently pieces of silicon can become embedded in your child’s gums or even create a choking hazard. Basically the integrity of the pacifier nipple can be compromised.

Pretty horrifying!

But knowing this method does work, I thought if I could create a product for pacifier weaning along those lines, but with a manufactured hole, it would still work the same, but be totally safe.

I went online to see if there were any pacifier weaning tools available, and only found 1 tangible product, (besides books) a set of 5 pacifiers reducing in size. I sure this works very well, but it’s quite pricey, ranging from $20 to $30 depending on which site you made your purchase.

I thought that if there was a pacifier weaning product that could be retailed for around $10 including shipping, it would be affordable for most parents. I would definitely have bought it!

Hence, “Ditch the Dummy” was born.

I originally came up with the name “Binky Stop” but after research, found the word “Binky” was trademarked by another company, and so were most catchy pacifier names.

I was born in England, we call pacifier “Dummies,” and so “Ditch the Dummy” was it.

We are currently selling “Ditch the Dummy” from our website www.ditchthedummy.com, as well as on eBay and Amazon.

2. The number of aspiring entrepreneurs is rapidly growing, and everyone is looking for a way to click with their online target audience(s). Do you have any tips to share about how to connect with potential buyers?

Connecting with potential buyers is always going to be the hardest part of bringing a new product to market. Luckily with a niche product like mine, with a defined target “parents between the age of 20 and 40”, it’s a little easier to narrow down your target audience. I find Twitter and Facebook advertising to be my best source for customers. By joining lots of parenting groups on both these platforms, posting articles, blogs and ads regularly.

Website SEO is also an ongoing work of art. Pay per click advertising can be quite expensive so spending some cash on search engine optimization may be a must, if you’re as non-techie as me. I definitely recommend the Yoast Premium plug in for any website.

3. What are your top three tips for people looking to establish an online presence?

Top three tips for people looking to establish an online presence would be: 1. read lots of books on marketing strategy, social media and e-marketing and take plenty of notes. There’s also a huge learning source out there on YouTube – I found most of my social media advertising tips from an Australian YouTuber called “Lazy Ass Stoner”! 2. Get to know your competition, follow them, what are they doing that you can do better? Then do it. 3. Be prepared to spend hours and hours on your computer.

4. What is your favorite part about running your own business?

My favorite part of running my own business, is not that I don’t have a boss (in fact I do, it’s Me, and I’m a toughie). But I love that I can stay home and work. I’m here if my little boy gets ill and needs to stay home one day. This was a huge problem when I had my 9 – 5  job.

5. Did you have any big aha! moments as you launched Ditch The Dummy?

When I launched “Ditch the Dummy” I guess my big aha moment was my first sale! You just can’t beat that feeling.

6. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

I believe the top 3 skills needed for any budding entrepreneur would be, first – time management. I was all over the place at first, but now I have my days planned, I know what I’m doing, I no longer feel that I’ve worked all day and just spun my wheels!

Second would be delegation. You soon find out that you can’t actually do everything yourself. If you have family or friends who can help out in any way, don’t be afraid to reach out. This can save a lot of time, frustration and energy on your part. Let people know what your doing – the helpful tips will soon start rolling in.

I believe the third would be tenacity. You have to believe in your product and stand beside it 100%. You have to be as tenacious as a bulldog, your product is your chew toy. You need to keep shaking that chew toy to get it noticed. The minute you stop, your sales will too.

7. What have been some of your failures since launching Ditch The Dummy, and what have you learned from them?

I guess my biggest failure in the “Ditch the Dummy” launch was in the development of our website. I’m not at all techie, and actually got my website account suspended in Google Shopping. There were a lot of hoops to jump through to get it reinstated, believe me. There’s a lot more to a website than pretty pictures and a shopping cart, so do your research; make sure you have all your policies in place. Do not – I repeat do not, upset Google!

8. As a momtrepreneur, what advice can you offer other moms who are trying to launch a brand-new business?

As a momtrepreneur (We eventually managed to adopt Joey) I think the best advice for other Moms starting their own businesses would be to get a mentor or a series of mentors. At the very beginning of my journey, I joined Micromentor.org. I think I’m on my 6th mentor at the moment and still in contact with my first. Micromentor.org a free website where you can connect with mentors for all stages of your business, from creation to marketing to website SEO. These mentors are experienced business people who make themselves available free of charge and have a wealth of knowledge.

9. If you had the chance to begin your career again, what would you do differently?

If I had a chance to start my career again? Well, this is my new start! In retrospect, I should have done a huge pre-launch. I waited for my product to land in Miami before I actually did any marketing. I basically wasted quite a lot of time. I was just so worried about something happening to my product and not being able to fulfill pre-orders. Well, we did have a hurricane!

10. What motivates you?

Motivation? For decades parents have been snipping holes in their child’s pacifiers for weaning purposes without knowing the dangers and this needs to stop. We need to educate. This is my mission.

Every transitional period in a young child’s life can be pretty traumatic, for both parent and child. I hope “Ditch the Dummy” will make life just a little easier and safer for the 40%, yes, 40% of toddlers who have “Pacifier Addiction.” This is my motivation.

If you’re not motivated by your mission and/or your product, then maybe, just maybe it’s time to look elsewhere for your entrepreneurial success.

Check out Ditch the Dummy on Facebook and visit their website!