It’s Time To Retire The Phrase “Authorpreneur”

Stop using language that normalizes a hustle mentality.

If you have spent any time in the social media book marketing scene, you have seen the word (often used as a hashtag) “authorpreneur.” This term has been around for a handful of years now. Obviously, it is the mashing of “author” + “entrepreneur.” It started as a reference to the rise of author-publishers (aka “indie publishers” or “self-published authors”) as a way to credit the business skills that particular group had to adopt in order to create their career. Now that expectations for authors of all publishing paths has shifted so much, I have begun to see that term applied more broadly.

It is true that modern authors have entrepreneurial qualities. And I of course believe that writing is a “real” job. Your legal paperwork, business bank account, and annual tax write-offs are proof that you have created a business.

Nonetheless, I hate this term. That perhaps seems strange, considering I help authors with book marketing. And I launched a workshop last month that focused specifically on creating an author brand. On paper, I sound like someone who would lean into the “authorpreneur” label. But the focus of my work at Good Enough Book Marketing is to help authors slow down and do minimal marketing. The “authorpreneur” term normalizes the expectation shift in the publishing industry and implies that it is acceptable for authors to have to be everything all the time. That is the opposite of what I am trying to put out into the world.

I love entrepreneurs. I am one. My husband and I have started two businesses and I am intimately aware of the exhaustion and slow growth and self-doubt and sacrifice and risk that comes from being an entrepreneur. But authors, you are selling yourself short if that is how you see your role in society.

You are not an entrepreneur. You are an artist. Your books are not simply products. They are insight and imagination and research and perspective. They are a gift to the world as well as a rejection of the world’s standards. They are a piece of YOU.

So with that opinion established, here are the top reasons why I think the “authorpreneur” term doesn’t actually fit an author’s business model. Keep in mind, my use of the term “author” here is aimed at writers of creative genres: fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, essay collections, etc. (which is my primary audience.) Not something like How-To books or Self-Help, which can certainly have a more “business-focused” mindset.

Top 10 Differences Between Entrepreneurs and Authors

  1. Authors don’t have “customers.” You have an audience. Yes, your audience probably buys your books (i.e. product), but your continual interaction with fans is that of an intellectual nature, not customer service.
  2. You couldn’t get a loan to start your business. Tell me I’m wrong. Who out there had a bank say, “sure, we’ll float you for the next two years while you get your book off the ground…” Even artist grants won’t fund you unless you already have something to show.
  3. Entrepreneurs hustle and grow. Authors (and all artists) reflect and nurture.
  4. Entrepreneurs typically have a big-ticket item that their business is based on, where the majority of their money is made. They use sales funnels and upselling strategies to point their audience to that item. Authors don’t have a big-ticket item to “anchor” their business, so in order to make ends meet, their entire thought-process and business approach has to look different (and be more creative).
  5. The stereotypes don’t match. Entrepreneurs are seen as charismatic, determined, natural leaders. Authors are insightful, creative, self-aware.
  6. Most entrepreneurs sell a product or service that can be easily multiplied. Authors can’t just crank out a new book quickly in order to capitalize on the short attention span of repeat customers.
  7. Entrepreneurs are stereotyped as overworked and sleep-deprived. Authors, in the advice of the great writing sage Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way), have to “take themselves on a date” and practice self-care in order to keep their inspiration flowing.
  8. Entrepreneurs adjust their products based on external trends. Authors’ content is driven by their inner muse.
  9. An entrepreneur can sell their business if they desire and profit off their past effort. But it would be very rare for anyone to be interested in purchasing an author’s pen name or fan base.
  10. An entrepreneur’s success is measured by money. An author’s success is measured by cultural impact.

So what say you? Are you also ready to flush the term “authorpreneur” down the metaphoric toilet? Or do you think I am splitting hairs? Let me know by leaving a comment on Substack! (Don’t worry—I can take a healthy debate!)