Tripping down someone else’s memory lane on the way to the Future via Hercules
So, as you know, I meet up with Bob last week for the Cool Gus 2013 Executive Planning meeting. Bob’s travel plans didn’t work out so well. I on the other hand, came in my trusty old SUV named Hercules, so had no troubles at all, until Bob sends me an email asking if I could please (yes, he said please) pick him up at LGA instead of Stewart Airport. Okay, what was I going to do, leave him stranded? Trust me, the thought did cross my mind. Can’t tell you how many times he managed to get an earlier flight home at an airport while I sat there waiting, waiting, and waiting for my delayed after delayed flight…
Now, I am not a city girl. I don’t like cities. Sure, NYC is a nice place to visit, but after about five minutes, I’m like, okay, can we go to the lake or how about a farm? I don’t do well on roads with mega amounts of traffic, so I was starting to twitch at the idea of having to drive into the city. I mean, I’ve seen how those people drive when taking a cab. It’s worse than my husband!
I emailed my husband to tell him what was going on incase I got carjacked or something. He started sending me emails about how to get to LGA and then Bob started sending me emails on how to get to LGA. I was tempted to tell them to fight it out amongst themselves since oddly enough, they both had a completely different route suggestions. Do I listen to my business partner? Or do I listen to my husband? Neither. I listened to Hercules’ GPS system and I got there just fine. There was very little traffic and at this point, I figured I could handle anything.
He got in Hercules, turned down the radio and start yacking away about da Bronx. The best part was when he pulled up to his first childhood home and said something about a yard. I said, “what yard?” Really, there was barely a patch of grass. Then he makes a comment about some big ass tree in tree the back. I said, “what tree? I don’t see tree?” It was a tiny tree, really.
The drive to West Point was filled with more interesting tid bits from my personal tour guide…Bob Mayer…and his childhood.
West Point was really cool. I loved the buildings. I loved the entire area. The drive across the bridge was breath taking, even in the dead of winter. The drive back down some road through the mountains and along the Hudson was wicked. We went to the museum and walked around. I think Bob was hoping that the museum would be enough to wet my whistle for sight-seeing so he wouldn’t have to go to the cemetery, which I REALLY wanted to go to, no matter what!
Bob was kind enough to actually get out of Hercules and walk around the cemetery with me. Trust me, he balked. He was like, “do you really want to go the cemetery? We’ve got a lot of work to do.” He relented since we were right there. But about every minute or so he’d say, “seen enough? I’m cold.” At least I was dressed for the occasion with my big winter coat and wickedly warm Ugh boots. Granted, we had yet to go get his suitcase from the airport, but he could have worn a heavier jacket. I did warn him it was cold in NY. However, we won’t mention the walk to the West Point bookstore when I decided not to bring my big bulky winter jacket and left it in the car. I didn’t realize what a long walk it would be and had on nothing but a little sweater…Bob really got a kick out of listening to me bitch about being cold after making him freeze in the cemetery.
Once we got into Newburgh, I pointed out the Burger King that I used to work at, but Bob was too interested in the Super 8 Motel across the street and some party he went to there when he was at West Point…something about being a firstie and the 10K rule…
We finally sat down at the Newburg Airport Diner (Denny’s is better, just saying) to talk business. I pulled out my color-coded charts and folders and we started going through them and our detailed business meeting agenda. But then, he did something really weird. He closed his laptop, pushed all my papers aside (so unlike Bob) and he said, “this is all fine and dandy, and we need to talk marketing, price points, etc, but we’re missing something. We’re missing something big. Something really important.” Then he proceeded to tell me every single thing we had done wrong. He started asking me, “why are we doing this, why is that there, what is the message we’re sending…” and I began to see the problem as he saw it…
We had gotten distracted by so many different things that we’d forgotten the crux of what Cool Gus was all about.
Oh boy, he comes another trip down memory lane….
I remember the first time Bob and I ever talked about the digital age. I don’t remember what conference it was, but he asked me a lot of questions about my releases and sales with my digital publishers. He didn’t seem too impressed, and I wasn’t quite sure what he was getting at, but I gave him numbers etc. From there, we had a short email exchange about the business and the future and that’s when I had an idea, so I emailed Bob my brilliant idea. It was simple. I told him he should digitally publish his backlist on KDP. I got a one-word response.
So I think I sent him about a five-page email on how to do it. I learned very quickly that with Bob, if he has to scroll, fuggetaboutit, or whatever they say in da Bronx. But I remember the document was pretty detailed, giving him information I had already gathered about file conversions, cover art, metadata, pricing, etc. In a nutshell, I had sent him our very first business plan.
But he wasn’t quite sold on the idea yet. As many authors are, Bob was, if he doesn’t mind me saying so, a bit afraid. Or maybe that isn’t the right word, but I know that document I sent him was a bit overwhelming. The amount of work that goes into making a title ready for the digital world isn’t magic (though sometimes I think Bob thinks I wave my magic mouse and stuff happens…). Even way back then, the process wasn’t necessarily easy. And we’re talking about his career as he has made a living off of his writing full time since the early 90’s. This was his livelihood and I was asking him to take a risk. But after careful consideration, and many emails, Bob realized two things. One: this was a really good idea. And two: he needed help doing it. He was a writer, and his focus needed to be on content, not…everything else.
And thus, our partnership began.
Back to the present… at the Newburgh Airport Diner…
We talked a bit about where we had started, where we had been, and where we wanted to go. We talked big picture, and that’s when he said something I still haven’t quite wrapped my brain around. He said, “in this partnership, you have to be the face of Cool Gus and all that WE represent.”
Smart ass me said, “I have to be the brains and the pretty face too?” I joke when we speak at conferences together that I am the brains’ of the operation and he is just the pretty face.
I was really struggling with this concept and I still am. It’s not that my face is going be the logo or anything, which is and will always be, Cool Gus, but that the one main key element that has made us so successful is the “partnership”. Bob partnered with me for a reason and it is that partnership that is the core essence of what Cool Gus is all about. This was a key concept for us to grasp as the next morning we were having a meeting with an author who wants to partner with us on a project.
It sounds as if it’s all semantics, but in business, and in life, having the right mindset is often key to projecting your message to your audience. That mindset gives you focus and helps you stay on the path. Keeps you from getting distracted by the all the little details, though important, but not the bulk of the message. It was this partnership that Bob and I projected at a conference that first began the talks with other authors. The partnership has always been at the core, but we weren’t focusing on it. We were focusing on this over here, and that over there, and something else over there…
Bob and I are partners, but essentially, he as the author. I work for him. It’s my job to get his books to his readers. They aren’t mine. With our other authors, we work for them. It’s our job to get their books to their readers. It’s our job to support their careers and free up their minds so they can do the thing they do best…write good books.
Writers produce the product. Readers consume the product.
Now, off to get a facial. If I’m going to be the face, my face might as well be pampered…