The Author’s Marathon: 10 Things To Remember

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  It’s become a refrain of experienced authors to those rushing into the “gold mine” of self-publishing.

My first book came out in 1991.  My 53rd was published recently and I’m aiming to complete six books this year (4 down, 2 to go).  I made a living in traditional publishing for 20 years and an even better one in indie publishing the past several years.  I’ve written thrillers, science fiction, romance, an alibi, men’s adventure, hit-women, non-fiction on writing, non-fiction on team-building, a confession, a musical, Michael Crichton type books, and more.

One of those is a lie.  Perhaps two.  Perhaps that’s a lie.

backgroundOn twitter I notice that the Chicago Marathon is off and running today.  I’ve run a bunch of marathons (none recently) including NY, Boston, Marine Corps, Jooisy Shore and others.  So let me tell you what I’ve learned about the marathon of being a writer and how I’ve stayed in business a quarter of a century.  Geez, that makes me feel old:

  1. Know your goal.  Each of us has a different goal for our writing.  Thus each of us is unique.  I call this the strategic writing goal in Write It Forward and it should be stated in one sentence, with a concrete, external outcome and a time lock.  Much like your protagonist’s in your novel.
  2. Write.  Sounds easy, right?  When I was under contract for three books a year, I wrote four.  In traditional publishing I always stayed on ‘spec’ manuscript ahead.  Thus, if a contract wasn’t renewed, my agent was already out pitching a new book to a new publisher.
  3. Write.  I set my own deadlines as an indie author/publisher.  Writers are TERRIBLE at meeting deadlines.  Here’s the amazing thing though:  if you force yourself to write every day, it’s interesting how the pages add up.
  4. Focus on the story not the book.  I’m going to blog more about this, but I recently saw that the COO of one of the Big 5 said something to the refrain of “it’s all about the book” and my first thought was:  Duh.  Then my second was, no, it’s not.  It’s about story for fiction and content for non-fiction.  How that story and content get to the reader can vary from the book, to digital, to audio, to etchings on cave walls.  Don’t limit yourself.
  5. Network.  This business is run by people.  The BIGGEST mistake I made in traditional publishing was not doing more networking.  At Cool Gus we spend a lot of time and money going to events like BEA, RT, ITW, and other events to meet people.  To put a face, besides that cool dog face of Gus, on Cool Gus.  We’re heading out to Seattle in three weeks to visit the Death Star.  Jen is going to do her hair up like Princess Leia.  I’m going to charge my phaser or am I mixing scifi?  Light saber?  Let’s not go there.
  6. You must market and promote, but you can’t.  But you must.  But you can’t.  But you must.  Enough on that.
  7. When choosing between writing time and marketing and promoting time, lean toward writing time.
  8. Being a guru feels good but it doesn’t sell books.  Because I’ve done it (and still do with things like this blog), I can tell you, it can reach 50,000 people and lead to zero sales.  Seriously. How many of you are going to read this and go “Gosh, that Bob Mayer guy knows what he’s talking about, I’m going to buy his book!.  Right.  Thought so.
  9. Admit when you’re wrong.  When I first started dipping my toe into indie publishing I was reading Joe Konrath’s blog and he quoted some numbers and I basically said he was full of shit in the comments section.  He replied that I was dumber than I appeared or something to that extent.  Six months later I had to write a blog entitled “I was wrong, Konrath was right.”  At Cool Gus we constantly re-evaluate our business plan.  What worked?  What didn’t?  We can’t change for the better if we don’t admit what we did turned out wrong.  Be prepared to change course when the winds of publishing blow in a different direction or be prepared to sink.  As James Jesus Angleton said about the Bay of Pigs, they didn’t have an “escape hatch”.  (I’m writing The Kennedy Endeavor now and a lot of it is about the Cuban Missile Crisis, etc. etc. you don’t really care do you?)Kennedy_Final
  10. Keep track of what other people are doing but remember, each of us is unique in terms of Platform, Product and Promotion.  Thus what someone else is doing is never going to fit us exactly.  Sometimes what someone else is doing could be a disaster for me.  Pick your own path wisely.  This loops us back to number one.

11. Because Spinal Tap says you have to go up to 11.  Don’t take it all so seriously and be slow to react.  The internet is a very dangerous place.  I’ve seen internet lynch mobs go crazy over the slightest thing (done it myself a time or two) but a day or two of waiting and watching isn’t going to change anything.

IMG_0879Cool Gus, BTW, is not a happy camper, but he is healing up.  He hates the cone of shame.  He’s lying at my feet right now whining.

And oh yeah, Breaking Bad tonight.  Long shot on ending:  Jane’s father as the wild card?  But Jesse takes out Walt, gets Brock and HEA?  And do you realize if Marie had not stolen that spoon, none of this would have happened and Hank would be alive?  That’s story-telling.

There are no HEAs in Breaking Bad.

About Bob Mayer

West Point Graduate, former Green Beret and NY Times bestselling author Bob Mayer has had over 50 books published. He has sold over five million books, and is in demand as a team-building, life-changing, and leadership speaker and consultant for his Who Dares Wins concept. He's been on bestseller lists in thriller, science fiction, suspense, action, war, historical fiction and is the only male author on the Romance Writers of America Honor Roll. Born in the Bronx, Bob attended West Point and earned a BA in psychology with honors and then served as an Infantry platoon leader, a battalion scout platoon leader, and a brigade recon platoon leader in the 1st Cavalry Division. He joined Special Forces and commanded a Green Beret A Team. He served as the operations officer for 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and with Special Operations Command (Special Projects) in Hawaii. Later he taught at the Special Forces Qualification Course at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, the course which trains new Green Berets. He lived in Korea where he earned a Black Belt in Martial Arts. He's earned a Masters Degree in Education.

Posted on September 29, 2013, in Write It forward and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. Thanks, Bob, for reminding us what the frenzy is really about! Things are changing on the ground so fast, it’s easy to just feel like hiding in a cabin in the woods until it blows over. Better to pace yourself and remain loyal to your work and your plans.

  2. Just had a flash back to 1977 when the first Star Wars movie came out and I dressed as Princess Leia for Halloween…

  3. Bob, you are the bees’ knees. Or the red beans on the rice, or maybe the head on the beer. In any case, excellent advice, and the comforting feeling that IT’S out there if we’ll just do it. If we’ll just keep on keeping on.

    Thanks for the heads-up on keeping one’s head in the game and not up the arse.

    Now then, let me get to work, dammit.

  4. “An Alibi: The Musical” by Bob Mayer! Can’t wait until that comes out. Ditto for the Kennedy Endeavor – will it will be out in time for me to give it to my dad for Hannukah? He LOVED the Jefferson Allegiance.

    Great advice as usual and exactly what I needed to hear today.

    Jenny would look great with Princes Leia buns. I’d be happy to chop up an old sheet for the rest of her costume…

  5. Thanks for reminding myself and everyone that it’s important to slow down and let everything catch up!

  6. Great post—thank you. Just wanted to point out, though, that the Chicago Marathon is Oct. 13.

  7. This is a great post. It actually lifted me up and made me write a simple little post of my own. Thanks.

  8. Exactly the kind of reminding I needed today. Love your work. Help it evolve.

  9. Good post. Interesting idea on John de Lancie coming back. They set it up in Ozymandias. I predict somehow Flynn of Holly ingest the ricin. It’s a Shakespearean tragedy after all.

  10. In your honest opinion, why is it so hard for some of us to sit down and write every day? Theoretically, I love to write (although I love having written more). I wonder, is it a lack of discipline? An inherent fear of failure?

    Do you think your military training–hence DISCIPLINE–is key to you being so prolific? What makes one author take over a year to write a novel, and you’re able to knock out 4 in a year?

    If you have written a post on this, I’d love to read it.

  11. Ditto and what they said – I definitely needed this reminder today after pitching a writerly catfit and tossing 40K words and starting over. Oy. Sometimes it sucks to be all fast-twitch and bad temper.

  12. Thank you for this — I love this post! Everything is spot-on, but in particular, I really love #4: It’s about story for fiction and content for non-fiction. How that story and content get to the reader can vary from the book, to digital, to audio, to etchings on cave walls. Don’t limit yourself.

    So true.

  13. Very often, you post something I really need to read at just that moment. Thank you.

  14. Thank you! This was the boost I needed today; it was tremendously helpful.

  15. Thank you for all the right reminders – I’m going back to my desk now :)

  16. As a fellow Breaking Bad fan, please explain your comment:
    “And do you realize if Marie had not stolen that spoon, none of this would have happened and Hank would be alive? ”
    I have followed all the nuances of the show and thought I understood most of it, but I don’t get this point.

    • Because she was arrested– and the guy who arrested her then came back to Hank with the file on Bettecher’s death; which had the inscription that Hank tied to Walt at the end of Season 4. Hank would have never gotten that file if that cop hadn’t gotten Marie out of jail for him.

  17. Ah, yes. Thanks. Great, great writing and story telling with this show.

  18. Thanks, Bob, for the reminders. It helps to keep things in perspective.

  19. Reblogged this on Vampire Syndrome Blog and commented:
    A perfect summation of what really matters!
    Thank you Bob Mayer!

  20. Brother Dave said it : Don’t you know a diamond is just a lump of coal that stuck with it? Looks like we all agree.

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