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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

To My Fellow Solopreneurs

by Alton Gansky

Alton Gansky is a full time writer, director of BRMCWC, founder of Gansky Communications and host of Writer's Talk. He is the award winning author of over 40 books. Prior to turning to full time writing, he was the senior pastor to three Southern Baptist churches. In addition to his writing, he speaks to writers groups and church organizations.

I’m a fan of magazines and I enjoy reading them on my iPad. Not long ago, I was looking for some new periodical to flip through when one caught my attention: Solopreneur Magazine. The name caught my attention more than the content and for good reason: I am one.

Solopreneur is a new buzzword. Your spell checker won’t recognize it. Here’s a definition: A solopreneur is an entrepreneur who works alone. That is, an entrepreneur who does everything by his or herself. Some entrepreneurs build a team; the solopreneur sails the ocean alone. What better term to use for the contemporary writer? These days, we are more than writers. We are speakers, promoters, marketers, pitchmen, and more.

We writers are a solitary bunch. While we like hanging out with others of our ilk, we get cranky when anything interrupts our writing—no matter how much we long to be interrupted. Yes, that’s contradictory. It is also true.

Writer’s learn to work alone. Sure there are others in the writer’s universe that help: agents, editors, marketing folk, but for the most part we work alone.

Are we really alone? Or do those voices in our head count as a social network? Writers are a rare breed: they can be alone in a crowd, or conjure a crowd in their mind when they sit alone. I used to spend a lot of time in Starbucks. There were people everywhere but you couldn’t prove it by me. If the place got too noisy, I slipped on a  pair of headphones and everyone went away.

This is a rare mental advantage and the reason why many people can’t be writers. Several times I’ve been told by those who learn I’m an author, “I couldn’t do that. I’d get bored setting at a computer all day.” I try to explain that it is only my body that’s in front of the computer, my imagination can be anywhere.

As a novelist I’ve traveled to Antarctica, Africa, several European cities, and deep below the ocean. I’ve even journeyed into low Earth orbit. I have lived through tsunamis, hurricanes, military conflicts, murder attempts, and a long list of other adventures. As a writer of book length nonfiction I have journeyed to the past, walked with biblical figures, had coffee with the most influential shapers of the church, and I did it all solo.

Okay, back on topic:

I used to think that a writer wrote and other people took care of everything else. Aside from doing radio interviews and book signings, the author did little else but write and cash big checks. Reality is different. Things have changed. The twenty-first century writer (especially in the CBA) must now write, create a platform, take a major role in marketing, drum up speaking engagements, answer reader e-mail, create web-sites, manage their agent, manage their business, and a dozen other things. Only the extremely successful can afford to hire people to do this for them. The rest of us must learn new skills to make the most of our hard fought writing.

It is not my intent to discuss why this has hurt publishing (although I could easily be persuaded to do so). Most of the pitfalls associated with the let-the-writer-do-it-thinking are obvious, especially to those of us who have been doing it for many years. It is my intent to say that we writers are solopreneurs whether we like it or not. We are called upon to understand Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, blogging, and a dozen more social outreach tools. We are not only book builders but platform builders too.

For some of us, working alone is not only acceptable but preferred. The solopreneur moniker seems tailor-made for the contemporary writer. Veteran writers have already embraced the lifestyle even if they’ve not heard the term before. New authors may be stunned to find out what’s expected of them.

So, I am a writer of books, a teacher of writing, a public speaker, a podcaster, editor, blogger, and a self-marketer. And, like many of you, I do it solo. Solopreneurship can be frustrating or it can be an adventure. One thing is certain: it ain’t boring.


  1. That's cool, Al. I like it and I'm adopting it!

  2. What authors are asked to do is often counter-productive. Even though we're solopreneurs, most of us are only skilled in a couple of the areas where we're supposed to perform - and will never be good at the others.

    Good post, Al. Thank you.

  3. Thanks Ane. Feel free to use the term. I stole it fair and square.

  4. Nicole, you're absolutely right. In many ways, its backward thinking. I can see why publishers feel compelled to do this, but I wonder if it's best practice. In some cases, it's not only counterproductive, but disastrous.

  5. Hey there! I'm a proud solopreneur and I think that makes me (and all of us) pretty darned smart :) I don't try to do everything myself though, I outsource a bit - like having a Virtual Assistant take care of my customer support and having a bookkeeper taking care of the books. I just don't do 'staff' and have to worry about all that comes with it.

    I DO do a lot still though. Like you, I'm blogging, podcasting, creating products, creating graphics, designing my sites, managing my affiliates and all that.

    I love what you end with: "One thing is certain: it ain’t boring." That's the Truth!

  6. Solopreneur? A year ago, I couldn't even spell it, and now, I still can't. And the voices in my head have unfriended me. Still, I press on, knowing that one day an editor will look at my work and decide that maybe, just maybe, the restraining order against me can be lifted. Thanks for the post and see you at BRMCWC!

  7. It's just the way things are in general. In my role as an office manager, I was receptionist, secretary, bookkeeper, customer rep, (I could go on all day), at an extremely low rate of pay, all things considered. I was on my own. The upside: when things went well, I got all the glory. It carries over into the publishing world. We're on our own. If things go well...

  8. Nice post! I love the word solopreneur, and I am one and I help others become one. It's just a business model that works for some people, especially those of us that don't aspire to manage others.


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