Novel Ideas: Entrepreneurship Lessons from Your Favorite Fiction Authors

Reading is the easiest way to work on your skills, both hard and soft. While any entrepreneur should have those nonfiction works they always return to, fiction shouldn’t be neglected. Reading fiction has been shown, for example, to increase empathy— something that no entrepreneur should be without. It’s also thought to improve our theory of mind, which is our ability to perceive the thoughts and desires of others that they may not explicitly state. It’s easy to see how both of these can be of use during negotiations.

A cool article by Emmanuel Nataf in Fast Company takes it one step further, and how reading fiction illustrates several creative habits of novelists that any entrepreneur can find useful. A quick summary follows below, but be sure to head over to the site for a deeper dive!

Practice Makes The Perfect Pitch

Just like a startup founder pitches their idea to early investors, authors pitch their book ideas to publishers. But Nataf draws a unique distinction. While company founders make the same pitch to multiple VCs, authors learn early on that each pitch needs to be tailored for every publisher. You may have a great idea for a company, but if you get turned down do not assume that your pitch doesn’t need polishing.

Know When to Let Go

Faulkner’s old advice to “kill your darlings” is something writers hate to do, yet they do it anyway. Sometimes there’s a great character, phrase, or idea that you love… but it holds the story back. So, you have to ditch it. It works in the business world to. If there’s some aspect of your company that you worked very hard for, yet it isn’t catching on or is detracting from potential business, you need to be able to change direction. People don’t like to see their favorite projects left behind, but sometimes we must do it.

Show It

Great writers are able to put you into their created world. They could describe a scene with simple and familiar phrases, but that would be the easy way out. Instead, the best writers use descriptive language to create texture and color for the reader. As an entrepreneur, investors already expect you to simply tell them about the product. To really get them onboard, you’re going to need to prove it. Knock your presentations out of the park, but don’t be afraid of testimonials or demos.

Look Outside the Box

Great authors don’t just read the same kind of book. They vary their sources in order to find inspiration elsewhere, which leads them to create unique worlds and characters. Same goes for your new business. Many startups fall into the trap of imagining themselves in the mold of other successful unicorns. How often have you heard a business pitch that begins, “we are the Uber/Warby Parker/Snapchat of [insert niche]”. Modeling after success is great, but don’t shy away from forging your own path.

Fill in the Blanks

There are a lot of novels out there that riff on the same old expectations, but best novels tell stories that needed to be told. A handful of businesses try to replicate the space in which a successful one is already thriving. Take Uber and Lyft for example. Their massive success has led to many other ridesharing apps/services, and that’s great! But it’s also worth thinking about problems that haven’t been addressed, and creating products that solve them.

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