The Author’s Marathon: 10 Things To Remember
Posted by Bob Mayer
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.
On 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- You must market and promote, but you can’t. But you must. But you can’t. But you must. Enough on that.
- When choosing between writing time and marketing and promoting time, lean toward writing time.
- 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.
- 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?)
- 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.
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.