Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

Tackling #GIRLBOSS: A Trendsetter Roundtable

#GIRLBOSS by entrepreneur and businesswoman Sophia Amoruso has shaken up the genre of business books in more ways than one. It’s being described as Lean In for young women, and Amoruso is definitely not your typical business woman. In the book, she confesses to thieving, hating school, and how she used Myspace to build her original fanbase. In a book that’s part how-to and part memoir, Amoruso outlined the rise of her clothing company, Nasty Gal. Editors Kimberly and Samantha sat down to talk about what takeaways Trendsetters could take away from the book, be they aspiring #girlbosses or #boybosses.

Samantha: Are you #ready to talk #GIRLBOSS?girlboss

Kimberly: Always ready to hashtag it up.

Samantha: Thank goodness!

Kimberly: So, what were you thinking you were getting into with #GIRLBOSS before you read it?

Samantha: I really wasn’t sure, to be honest. I guess I was expecting a bit of a relaxed how-to. What about you?

Kimberly: Well the hashtag and Sophia Amoruso’s pose on it really sets it up to be a kind of alternative self-help/business motivation book.

Samantha: Yeah, very true! After having read it, what would you categorize it as?

Kimberly: I would still say business motivation. It definitely tries to give concrete tips about running a business. I just think that her story, about kind of stumbling upon a big business that grew out of just selling vintage clothes on ebay, is more interesting/compelling than advice that she gives after the fact.

Samantha: I think that’s a very apt description. I would like to add that it also felt geared toward readers a bit younger though – high school or college age perhaps?

Kimberly: So maybe it’s a business motivation book that could’ve been a great business profiles book. It’s definitely written for a millennial audience, in that it stresses some very basic etiquette kinds of things that people who grow up connecting through the internet may not realize.

Samantha: Yes, maybe I was just trying to pat myself on the back, but some of the advice like, use spell check and try really hard to write a great cover letter, I was like pssssh I already get the importance of that. And she also tries to console her fellow Girlbosses that aren’t great at school, which definitely centered into a younger mindset for me.

Kimberly: True, though I think that plays into the whole ‘alternative approach to business’ thing, too, in that your past doesn’t matter if you can enter into something with confidence and skill.

To backtrack a little — how do you think this book defined a “Girlboss”? Also, a friend asked, why not woman boss? It was a joke, but now I wonder…

Samantha: Hmmm. After reading this book I’d say a Girlboss is a young woman who really, truly buckles down to take control of her situation and make it into something profitable and powerful.

Kimberly: I like that.

Samantha: Does it match what you got out of the book?

Kimberly: More or less. I think the definition eluded me a little. That was one of my big issues with the book. There were interludes where fellow “Girlbosses” gave little excerpts about what they do. But I didn’t really feel a through-line there. Like it was hard to connect what made those women good examples of Girlbosses.

Samantha: I agree with you. With those profiles, I think a reader might take away that any successful female entrepreneur is a Girlboss, but I don’t think that’s exactly right, at least from Amoruso’s point of view.

Kimberly: I do think Amoruso’s business is interesting, though. I had never heard of Nasty Gal before this, and it’s amazing to see someone grow an ebay business into a multi-million dollar company.

Samantha: Oh absolutely! It’s insanely impressive, especially when paired with the struggles she had with school. It was really awesome that she just really committed herself to making her business work. It’s an amazing story. I loved reading about her marketing tactics and how they were better than other ebay sellers, and how she grew her audience on Myspace.

Kimberly: Yes, I think it really hit on the idea that sometimes in business you just need to hit on the right thing at the right time, too. She used social media to communicate professionally in a time when people didn’t do that. It really is amazing!

Samantha: I think an important thing to note is that she kept saying that she doesn’t like the idea of luck, especially in terms of the kind of success that she’s had, but as you just said, she was definitely doing the exact right thing at the exact right time. So maybe that’s not luck, per se, but it’s something that can’t easily be replicated now. If you or I were inspired to open up our own online store, it wouldn’t be the same situation in many ways.

Kimberly: Yeah, I mean, her experience isn’t necessarily a template. Though, as I think I mentioned to you yesterday, maybe this book is proof of the existence of a long tail. Because she found a customer base that was willing to pay high prices for vintage things through ebay, and through good customer service and determination, she was able to turn them into a loyal fanbase for anything she styled.

Samantha: And that is an excellent point. Her business seems pretty different now then what she described the early days as, in terms of what Nasty Gal sells. There is still a vintage section on their site, but it doesn’t seem to be a main focus from what I could gather. Did you see any actionable steps that you could implement into your life to becoming your own Girlboss?

Kimberly: Well, before we get to that, I guess a question we should ask for the sake of Trendsetter is, how can Girlboss be applicable to publishing?

Samantha: Well, tenacity is definitely something that she regards highly, and definitely something you need to break into, and stay in this business, especially since it’s such a crowded field, with lots of people trying to break in at any given moment. Amoruso really focuses on the value of hard work, which is a must in publishing if you want to get noticed!

Kimberly: Definitely. I also think she stresses the idea of owning your experience, including your mistakes. It’s about being confident and taking pride in what you do, no matter what.

The social media stuff is interesting– embracing technology and niche audiences. I suppose that can never hurt when trying to sell a book.

Samantha: Definitely. As I said, I think the most I learned from the book was when she discussed how she started marketing Nasty Gal in the early days. That was really illuminating, and again, showed her commitment to her business.

Kimberly: So enact-able advice from this book?

Samantha: This is where I have a hard part with the book. I’m not sure what the specific takeaways are! Other than very general like, you can do it! Own up to your mistakes! Be smart with your money! kind of suggestions, I’m not sure. It’s so deeply steeped in Sophia Amoruso’s very specific rise to success, which is incredible, but not something easily recreated.

Kimberly: Her one thing about not taking your cell phone out at any point at an interview weirdly stayed with me.

Samantha: Oh, interesting! Is that something you’ve done before? Had your cell out? I always wish I could bury mine in a hole somewhere outside before I go into an interview.

Kimberly: No, but you think about how tempting it is, especially if you’re sitting in a lobby, waiting.

Samantha: Oooh! Did she mention not even having it out while you’re waiting? I’m very guilty of having done that.

Kimberly: She just said she wouldn’t want to see it at all. Then again, that kind of thing is kind of subjective.

Samantha: Well right. A friend asked me what I thought about this book and part of what I said is, well, it’s partially (and accidentally, I’m sure) about how to get hired at Nasty Gal. She tells the reader everything she likes and doesn’t like about people who apply to work for her in some way. Which is fine, but not true for every business everywhere.

Kimberly: That seems to be a trend, doesn’t it? A fascination with all the quirks of getting hired at a startup? Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google? comes to mind.

Samantha: Absolutely! It’s kind of bizarre to let people in on exactly what employers want in an applicant during their hiring process. Some people are good at faking those things in an interview!

Kimberly: It’s true. When does the one about how to crack publishing come out?

Samantha: Gosh, let me know when you find it!

Kimberly: Seems like we’ll have to write it. #LadyPublishingBoss

Samantha: Come on editors, who wants it?

Kimberl : Hahaha. We’ll be drafting, in the meantime.

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