Sramana Mitra Interview: How Authors Can Build their Personal Franchise
May 3, 2009 | 1:29 pm
By Paul Biba
Editor’s note: the following in reprinted in whole, with permission, from Mark Coker’s Smashwords Blog. PB
Last month I wrote a two-part series examining why publishers are like venture capitalists and authors are like entrepreneurs. In both pieces, I drew parallels between technology startups and publishing.
Today, I add a part three to the series with an exclusive interview with entrepreneur, Forbes columnist, and now Smashwords author, Sramana Mitra.
Yesterday, Sramana published two books on Smashwords that explore the secrets of successful entrepreneurship.
In the interview that follows, Sramana explores the intersection between entrepreneurship and indie authorship, and shares how authors can think beyond the book to build their personal franchise.
[Sramana Mitra] – I am deeply interested in mentoring entrepreneurs and teaching them how to build companies. As a self-taught entrepreneur myself, much of my learning came from my own mentors – coffees, conversations, dinners – through which they told me their stories, shared their insights. Entrepreneur Journeys is my attempt to capture that knowledgebase and institutionalize it, so entrepreneurs all over the world can vicariously experience those conversations, those dinners, lunches, coffees which I have been fortunate to have access to, and through which I built myself up. There are so many stories, and so much tribal knowledge. I want to capture a great deal of it, and leave it as a resource for those coming after. That is why I am doing this project – so that we can unleash a vast mass of entrepreneurial energy upon the world. As I developed the series, the 2008 financial crisis came upon us. Capital started drying up. Entrepreneurs are now left with little option but to bootstrap. That’s where the idea for the second volume, Bootstrapping, Weapon Of Mass Reconstruction comes from. We have to rebuild. We have to reconstruct. Entrepreneurs have to play a critical role in this process. Learn from the masters. And not give up!
[Mark Coker] – What led you to publish your books independently, rather than through a mainstream commercial publisher?
[Sramana Mitra] – I wanted a fast-track way to get this book series out ASAP. I am publishing 5 books in a span of 18 months. Traditional publishers take very long to get their acts together, and frankly, I don’t operate with those timelines. Besides, I got a great royalty structure plus lots of other goodies from my “special” deal with Amazon (BookSurge). It gave me an opportunity to be an entrepreneur and disrupt an industry. You can imagine how attractive that is for someone with my profile. But also, I have a traditional publishing deal with Hachette in India, so it is not that I am not working with the regular publishing industry. I am. I am simply doing whatever makes the best business sense to me right now, given my agenda of getting to the right audience, and as fast as possible. iPhone is one such audience, and hence, I am on Smashwords, Stanza, etc. I am also on Kindle.
[Mark Coker] – In your books, you study and interview many of today’s most successful entrepreneurs. What lessons can indie authors learn from the best practices the entrepreneurs you’ve studied, and what can entrepreneurs learn from authors?
[Sramana Mitra] – Entrepreneurs often bootstrap their way to proving their concepts, and then follow up with additional financing from investors. Authors can think of it the same way. Develop your concept. Bootstrap. Build a blog. Write books. eBooks. Columns. Build a platform. Build a franchise. Build a following for your work. Then, if you like, you can also get to work with regular publishers and get additional leverage. This is how I operate. I have a very good blog that showcases my work, and I have a good readership through that. I have a Forbes column. I have a series of books. I syndicate my writings to many other publishers. And lo and behold, I have a franchise. And I operate a publishing franchise with the mind of an entrepreneur, because at heart, that’s what I am, first and foremost.
[Mark Coker] – Many non-fiction authors earn the bulk of their income not from book sales, but by consulting and public speaking. Based on your own experience, how can authors leverage and monetize their expertise beyond the book?
[Sramana Mitra] – Yes. My blog started off as a brochure for my consulting practice. It still serves rather well in that capacity. I think it is one of the absolute best ways in which to monetize a personal franchise. Publish books, blogs, columns in your area of expertise. Then you become known. Your work becomes known. Your point of view becomes known. And you can consult, speak, monetize in many different ways. You may want to read this piece on the future of journalism that talks more about the phenomenon. I see it as becoming more and more important and prevalent.
[Mark Coker] – What role do you see ebooks playing in the future of publishing?
[Sramana Mitra] – I think ebooks are going to be an essential piece of the portfolio of franchise building tools. You need to think about the various touch points through which your audience can be accessed. Kindle. iPhone. Blackberry. Palm. The laptop. The Netbook. Physical books. The big desktop screen on your desk. May be, the television. All these are access points. The devices and the windows into the user. You have to build your franchise in a way that those whom you want to touch can find you at those various access points. And there is no question in my mind that the eBook is one of the key building blocks of this strategy. Stanza has been downloaded what – over a million times – on the iPhone? There must be Stanza readers who would be interested in my books. My writings. My point of view. How can I not be there?
[Mark Coker] – Thanks, Sramana!
Learn more about Sramana Mitra by viewing her Smashwords author profile, or purchase Entrepreneur Journeys (Volume One) and Bootstrapping, Weapons of Mass Reconstruction at Smashwords as multi-format ebooks for $9.99 each.
Sramana blogs at Sramana Mitra on Strategy.