Don’t let fear take you down.

As a former Infantryman and Green Beret, I learned a lot about fear.  Now I’m seeing it consuming publishing and authors.  I’m going to cut to the chase here.  I did a booksigning this past weekend and was seated next to a traditionally published author who was giving away free copies of his mass-market paperbacks.  He’s selling well, probably has a decent contract with his publisher for two or three more books (coming out in two or three years…).  But.  He kept glancing at my POD trade paperbacks and also noticed how much I really didn’t care if I sold any of my print books. Well, it’s not that I don’t care, of course I care, but 99% of my income comes from eBooks. I could tell he wanted to ask me about about ePublishng. How it worked. How I got into it. But I could also tell he was afraid. Too many people really believe it’s better not to know reality rather than face the fact that perhaps they are approaching reality the wrong way. Letting go of the traditional world of publishing is tough. I know. Been there. Done that.  I’ll go back into it with the right deal; one that accepts reality rather than wishful thinking.

I’ve had three bestselling authors approach me in the past month to ask how eBooks work.  Jen Talty just got an email today from another. The simple fact they were asking tells us how little most authors understand about how bookselling is changing.  How much disinformation people in publishing are putting out there in a desperate attempt to save their jobs. Lets face it, eBooks are a game changer whether we jump on the digital wave or not.

The amount of information Jen and I have learned about publishing in the past two years is staggering.  I’ve been in publishing for over two decades. I thought I knew the business. But the last two years taught me that there is still so much to learn. We’ve taken a close look at what we’ve done right. What we’ve done wrong. And all the little tricks of the trade.  We’ve actually put a document in our Dropbox where each of us is putting tidbits about lessons learned so some day we can run a workshop and publish a book about it. We’re not just talking about eBooks and publishing, we’re making our living at it.

Frankly, I don’t think anyone in NY Publishing really understands the big picture of ebook publishing from writer to reader.  I keep seeing panels at conferences made up of “experts” on digital publishing, but rarely are these people making their living off selling their own books through digital publishing, so I submit they are observers, not experts.  That doesn’t mean their opinion isn’t valid, it just means it isn’t completely solid.  I had an editor from Random House tell me they were chasing the technology to see where it would lead—such a statement staggers me as the primary rule of combat is to act, not react.

I make my living writing and publishing eBooks.  I made over six figures in profit in August from my eBook sales.  My latest release, The Jefferson Allegiance just peaked at #2 on the Nook bestseller list.  This is a book New York editors didn’t see how they could market.  I’m putting these numbers up not to boast, but to show how it’s about the book, not the publisher’s perception about the book.  I think that’s a key change authors need to understand:  the gatekeeper in publishing now is no longer the publisher—it’s the author and the quality of the book.  I’ll have a blog post about this soon.

It’s sort of like historians writing about battles they weren’t in.  You want to know about the battle?  Ask a veteran.  A historian can theorize, the veteran can tell you the real deal.  I submit that a lot of these conferences and convention springing up should start inviting authors who sell rather than the same experts who theorize.

Here’s the thing I want authors to understand.  Take your emotions out of it.  Let go of your fear.  You now have an opportunity that’s unprecedented.  You can reach your readers directly.  You don’t need all the people in between.  Learn from what Jen and I have accomplished, and others like us. The authors doing it. Not the people  theorizing about it. However, on the flip side, you can’t do it all alone.  You need to work with people who are experienced in the new technology and the new market for books.  You can stay with the known or venture into the unknown where the future lies.  You can keep switching deckchairs on the Titanic or you can find a ship that’s actually going somewhere.

Lately, publishers and editors have been trumpeting how much they’ve done for authors.  My experience after 20 years in the midlist?  They could care less.  Publisher after publisher threw my books out there with no support.  They made money off them, great.  They sold a million copies of Area 51 without a single dollar in promotion, great.  But did Random House care about me as an author?  They passed on my new series which we will launch by Xmas and I know it will sell. As I stated above, it’s not about the publisher, but about the book.  Once more I ask:  if mass-market sales were the benchmark by which publishers determine future sales, is selling 5,000 eBooks a day a benchmark of success?

Fear is at the core of the book Writer It Forward, from Writer to Successful Author, because conquering fear is the #1 key to success.

Fear is ruling publishing. Those who have the courage to see past the fear will succeed.

Write It Forward.