How to Author Like a Strategist: A Primer

Plan, execute, fail, learn, pivot. But you already knew that. 😉

This is a 6-minute read. You’ll be done before your coffee mug is empty.

At a convention in Austin, Texas last year, I spoke about how writing a book is like managing a project. Scratch that—writing at all is project management. A book is a project that starts when you conceptualise an idea and finishes when you’re like, “I can’t do any more appearances and promo, I must move on to another book!” Sometimes, multiple books in a series mean that instead of a simple year-long project, yours becomes like the Nigerian government attempting road construction: a neverending endeavour. To combat this going scattershot means treating your work/authorship like a project, which then means you have to—as much as I hate saying this word—strategize. (Yuck, I think I threw up in my mouth a little.)

At that same convention, I spoke about how the triumvirate of my time as an engineering undergrad, a senior associate at a professional services consultancy and a business unit manager at a nonprofit all informed my approach to Authorworld. It’s impossible for me to have succeeded in those three roles without some modicum of strategic management (whether I actually succeeded is up for debate, lol). I haven’t spent too long as a professional author, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the little time I’ve spent, it’s this: Author = Business.

I know, I know; I can see y’alls artist brains gasping and falling into The Sunken Place at the mention of that word. But surely, your non-artist brain understands that when one creates something and puts it up for others to purchase, one’s a business? And guess what every business fails without? Three words: strah-teh-gee.

So, the real questions about strategy here are What’s that? and What’s mine? The easy answer to both is: Not what you’re thinking. But for the next five letters in this series, I will attempt to give the harder, longer answer. Now since I’m an author, it’ll involve a lot of references to authoring (which is why we have that heading). But because I’m also a self-employed businessperson (face it, authors, this is what we are, lol), and have also carried over competencies gained by working within business and institutional settings, I will draw a lot from my experience within organizations and as a freelancer. Everyone will leave with something. Everyone.

But what exactly am I going to be talking about? Basically, I’m going to discuss the five facets of successfully managing a project from start to finish. Not the process of managing a project—you can do a Coursera for that—but basically the five things to be most aware of when working with any project. A project culture to imbibe, if you will. These best practices will help you discover the best way to strategize for a project, as it works for you and your unique circumstances. This is particularly useful since each author differs from the other, every book from the last, every business from their competitor, each project from the next. You simply need to imbibe these five cultures:

  1. Planning meticulously

  2. Executing immediately

  3. Failing swiftly

  4. Learning lessons

  5. Pivoting tactically

Now is a good time to remind you that if you aren’t already signed up to After Five, you should, posthaste. How else are you going to know when a new letter goes out?

Here’s what things are going to look like: in the next letter, for instance, I’ll start off with How to Author Like a Strategist, Part I: Planning, where I’ll break down planning meticulously. I’ll explain how planning can be interpreted in so many ways (so many!) and how you shouldn’t think of plans as Mountains That Can’t Be Moved, but as Play-Doh that can be reshaped as quickly and as often as required. I’ll talk about how meticulously means less of perfection and more of constantly being aware of your changing circumstances and adjusting plans/goals accordingly.

Interpreting these concepts in new, unfamiliar ways might not be novel for all, but I’m hoping that trying out at least one of these will bring some value to whatever project you want to embark on (especially if it’s a book). Let’s go through this together, shall we?

See you at the next letter, dear ones. Ọkhionwiẹ.


Before you go…

You’ll notice that I sent today’s letter only a week after my last. “That’s not half-monthly,” you grumble. Yes, that’s true. Thing is, I wouldn’t like these next few letters to take 10 whole weeks (!) to deliver, so I’ve decided to post them to you weekly instead. I wonder if that’ll be okay with you, and if you’ll be okay if I continue to do so.

So, here’s how I need your help: kindly let me know in the comments: how often would you be okay receiving After Five from me?

  • Weekly?

  • Half-monthly?

  • Thrice monthly?

  • Monthly?

Let me know what you think!

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