Sally Harris is a 28-year-old teacher and author of Diary of a Penguin-napper. She lives in Melbourne and when she’s not writing, you can find her blogging, dancing, drinking chai lattes, reading children’s books and scouring the paper for unlikely news articles to turn into exciting fiction. Sally loves animals, including penguins, and if she can’t have one of those as a pet, a dog would be the next best thing.
This time last year, I was in the UK watching yet another season of The Apprentice on television and wishing I was on it. Apart from the fact that Lord Sugar hadn’t exactly come knocking to demand my presence on the show, there was another reason that I wasn’t on The Apprentice. I had no knowledge, acumen or skills in the world of business. I couldn’t sell my way out of a paper bag. I didn’t have my own start-up. And I look ridiculous in a suit.
But, there was something in The Apprentice that really appealed and it really got me thinking. Why couldn’t I have my own business? Why couldn’t I be an entrepreneur? The obvious thing stopping me was that I didn’t have anything to sell. But lying awake in bed one night, I realised that I did have something to sell – my writing.
Since I wrote my first ‘book’ back in Grade Four, I’ve wanted to be a writer and yet, after querying my middle grade fiction book – Diary of a Penguin-napper – around a dozen agents and publishers, I was still no closer to achieving my dream. With the economy making it tough for publishers to take on new writers and with self-publishing really taking off (and no longer a ‘dirty word’, so to speak) I decided that my business would be selling my writing and, after gaining some experience, selling my knowledge of the experience, giving a frank and honest appraisal from the perspective of an Australian, children’s writer. And so, ‘Frankly Books’ was born.
1. Learn from those around you
Before I decided to set up Frankly Books, I did some serious research. Lots and lots of reading blogs and books about those who had done it successfully. (Well, if I was going to do it, I’d want to do is successfully!) I think it took a full 12 months of reading, pondering, researching and making notes before I was happy that I knew enough to have a go at it myself. Even now, I’m still learning a lot by following people that I consider to be mentors – on Twitter, on Facebook and through blogging – as well as keeping up with books and articles that I consider ‘professional reading’.
2. Have a plan
When I finally decided I was ready to do it, I realised that I needed to think about making arrangements for the long term. I needed to think about things not as a writer, but rather from a business point of view. Before I could do anything, I needed to know how much it would cost, how long it would take and how I would manage the marketing of my ‘product’ – my book. Whilst you may not need to go ahead and create a full business plan, it is important to have thought through things like your budget and marketing strategy before getting started. I found the Business Victoria website a really valuable resource for this.
3. Set some goals
After you have set up your ‘business plan’, the next important step is to set yourself some goals. When you are working for yourself, it is easy to lose sight of what you are trying to achieve and it is an excellent idea to have something to focus on, to work towards. For ‘Frankly Books’, I set myself four different goals:
1. The minimum “I would have to achieve this to not be so embarrassed that I would have to dig a hole, curl up and die to escape the shame” goal.
2. The “I’ll cry if I don’t achieve this” goal.
3. The achievable aspiration or the “Crack open the champagne” goal.
4. The “Pinch me! I’m dreaming!” goal.
You can read more about my goal setting process here
4. Just go for it!
It is very, very easy to sit there and think “I wish I was doing X, Y or Z” (like me: “I just wish I was on The Apprentice.“) and it is much harder to get up and work towards achieving your dreams. But guess what? It is totally worth it! During the first week Diary of a Penguin-napper has been out, I’ve almost reached my #1 goal and I’m working towards achieving the others. Sure, Lord Sugar still probably isn’t going to be knocking on my door any time soon, but I’m currently fulfilling my own dreams as an Author-Apprentice!
Sally is currently blogging about her experiences at Frankly Books and you can get a taste of her frank insight at @franklybooks on Twitter. She is on a blog tour at the moment and you can see her doing a reading from her book at We Do Write. Tomorrow, she’ll be with the Word Spelunker.