It was incredibly difficult to whittle this book list down to twelve, but I did it so I could present you with a monthly reading list for the New Year. I believe anyone can benefit from these books, whether or not they are an entrepreneur of any kind, and whether or not they have a handmade business.
I selected these books after careful consideration of the areas in which I believe Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs can use the most encouragement as we head into 2016. It is my intention to read each of these books (I've already read a few of them!) during 2016, and to share what I learn with you. (For those paying attention to such things, the links to these books go to my Amazon affiliate store.)
Donna Maria Coles Johnson, Indie Business Network
Top 12 Books for Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs in 2016
- Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses
by Jo Pulizzi
This book appears first because creating consistent, high quality content is an urgent priority for Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs.
If you are not using a blog and an email publication, along with carefully selected social media outlets to engage your customers and help your message spread across the Internet, you are on your way to past tense.
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
by Elizabeth Gilbert
I am about halfway through this book, and my favorite thing is that it points out that fear and creativity cannot happily coexist. If you need to be reminded to embrace more creativity and less fear (and every Maker I know needs this reminder), then this book is for you.
It's a raw and honest look at how living with failure, but without fear, is both possible and rewarding.
- The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion
by Elle Luna
Handmade entrepreneurs are constantly struggling to find the sweet spot between what they “must do” and what (everyone is saying) they “should do.” There are no easy answers to this dilemma, but this book does promise some relief.
A big bonus for creatives … it's filled with colorful graphics and poster-like pages you can copy and hang up around your personal space to encourage your creative spirit.
- Rising Strong
by Brené Brown
2015 was my year of rising strong. It has been incredibly intense and heart breaking in so many ways. Now that we are almost at the end of it, I am thankful (and absolutely exhausted) for the experiences, which I know will help me be an even more effective entrepreneurial mentor.
I reached the summit of several spiritual and internal mountains this year — and I did it without the help of this book. My hope is that I will summit some physical mountains in 2016, and I plan to use what I learn in this book, plus the experiences of 2015, to do it.
- Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life
by Gretchen Rubin
This book is about happiness, a topic I love to study. I am endlessly fascinated by what makes the human heart happy, the goal being to create and embrace as much happiness as I can in my own life.
Who doesn't want to break bad habits and implement new ones, all for the sake of enjoying a more happy and fulfilled life?
Based on the reviews I have seen thus far, this book promises to be a useful tool in my 2016 positive habit forming arsenal. There is also a companion journal, if you're into that sort of thing.
One of the reasons I selected this book is actually also one of the things it has been most criticized for … it uses more stories than analytical data to illustrate its points. I love reading other people's life stories. For me, they are a far more powerful change catalyst than pie charts and statistics.
- Meaningful: The Story of Ideas That Fly
by Bernadette Jiwa
This is a book about identifying a problem and creating a product that specifically addresses and solves it. It's especially interesting to me because I serve a group of entrepreneurs who almost always start their businesses by creating products without first identifying the exact problems that product will solve.
For many Makers, solving a problem is an afterthought, and it shouldn't be. Hopefully, this book will encourage everyone to take the problem solving approach from the beginning, or help them reverse engineer the process if necessary.
- Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business
by Paul Downs
One of the things handmade entrepreneurs struggle with the most is feeling like they are the “only ones” going through the “valley of the shadow of entrepreneurship.” This book looks like it takes a load off in that regard. It is apparently a very human look at the business of business — through the eyes of a furniture maker.
(Bonus: the author is a Maker!)
I am excited to read a business book that is more about life experiences than it is about business acumen.
- The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life
by Bernard Roth
I have never considered myself to be an especially “creative” individual. In fact, because of my pragmatic nature, I've been somewhat intimidated by the term over the years. The author prefers the term “design thinking” to terms like “creativity,” and this intrigues me.
The author is also a college professor who encourages his students not to wait until they graduate to start doing amazing things. I like that way of thinking, so I selected this book not only for me, but also because I work diligently to pass that exact mindset on to my children.
- 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management: The Productivity Habits of 7 Billionaires, 13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs
by Kevin Kruse
I selected this book based solely on the title. While I don't ascribe to the notion that time management is more important than priority management, or even task management, I do find that — even when I am certain of my priorities — I often struggle to fit in everything I need to fit into the 24 hours I have each day.
Pretty much every handmade entrepreneur I know shares this challenge, so this book makes the list. In fact, I'll probably schedule it for right after I finish reading Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses
- The Automatic Customer: Creating a Subscription Business in Any Industry
by John Warrillow
The Indie Business Network is built on a subscription-based business model platform. In fact, I think IBN is the first online subscription-based business model in the world. (Do you know of any that preceded my launch date of January 16, 2000?)
I believe every entrepreneur (handmade or not) should study the subscription model and rule it out intentionally if they decide not to use it. Technology has made it almost easy to handle repeat sales on a subscription basis, and if you have a deep niche where you can add a unique value proposition, you really do need to consider this approach to creating repeat customers and relationships that help sustain your business far into the future.
This book claims to explain how to set up a subscription business in “any” industry.” I will be looking for it to deliver on that promise.
- Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary
by Linda Kaplan Thaler
I believe that grit trumps everything in business, and I think more creative entrepreneurs need to believe that too. It's not your awesome products, or your innate talent, or how smart you are, or how much education you have that makes your business successful. While all of those things are important and add a lot to your chances for success, the reality is that your willingness to tough it out at all costs is ultimately what separates you from everyone else.
- The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be
by Jack Canfield
No matter how many years pass, The Success Principles will always be on my short list of books to read. Each chapter is like a mini-primer on a specific project you can do to improve yourself, making it the perfect book to read one day at a time, one chapter at a time.
To get you started, you might begin with my Indie Business Podcast episode featuring my one-on-one interview with the author.
Canfield says that the habit creates the reality, and when it comes to success in business, there is no more perfect truth. Whether it's your manufacturing processes, your content marketing strategies, or how you plan your workday, the secret is in the habit. With good habits, you can accomplish anything. This book examines core behaviors that, if turned into habits, will propel you to success … not only in your business but also in your life.