Aggressive versus Obnoxious in the Land of Publishing

When I give presentations to writers I joke that the difference between being aggressive and obnoxious is that the aggressive writer has a good manuscript and the obnoxious one has a bad manuscript.  For over a decade that’s always gotten a good laugh.

The only problem was, I wasn’t following my own advice.

I’ve grown much more assertive in the past six months.  One of the largest mistakes I made coming out of Special Forces and going into traditional publishing was trusting that other people would do their jobs without having to look over their shoulders.  This cost me.  I have to remember Special Forces are the elite.  I could trust my life to the men on my A-Team to do their jobs to the utmost of their capabilities and I did.

Now I push others, gently, but consistently, in order to achieve goals.  No one cares more about the success of your book than the author does.  Always remember that.  Perseverance and persistence count for a lot.

My experience over the last several years as an indie is this:  the absolute best bang for the buck and time is networking.  To actually meet the people who make this industry run.

The biggest mistake I made in traditional publishing was sitting back and thinking my agent, my editor, my publisher, etc. would take care of me.  They’re not bad people, but like any job, they focus on the fires and not the person who isn’t on their radar.  Getting on the radar is key.  I actually thought that by not calling, emailing, etc. they would appreciate me more.  Wrong.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Sitting back and expecting people to come to you is a fatal assumption.  There’s a reason the entire staff at Cool Gus Publishing—which is Jen Talty and I—have/will be attending in 2012:  Digital Book World, Romantic Times; Thrillerfest; Spellbinders in HI; Indiana RWA; Desert Dreams; New England Romance Writers; NJRWA; Utah RWA; Valley Forge RWA; and a score of other conferences.

I’m sitting in the Delta Crown Club on the way back from Desert Dreams in Phoenix.  Was it worth it?  Yes.  I gave a four-hour presentation on Write It Forward.  But the most important part is talking to people.  At this conference I talked to a Vice Dean at Ohio State who said I might be a good person to speak at their faculty retreat this summer.  We agreed ‘retreat’ is a bad word for something that is supposed to be a positive experience.  Retreat, hell.  We just got here.  I also talked to Brenda Novak for a while.  Have to remember to donate some stuff to her auction.  I’m thinking a year’s free enrollment in our on-line classes.  You donate something too or bid on something.  Yeah. YOU.

I listened to a panel of agents and editors.  And it confirmed that no one really knows what’s going on.  I’ll do a post on my instant reactions to that on Wednesday morning at Genreality.

It takes persistence to really network.  You have to look at all the cards you gather at a conference and after a few days to let everyone gather their brains, follow up.  Another thing I got at this conference was a three CD set of my presentation.  So we have to upload that to digital.  Then I want to figure out a way to coordinate the audio with the actual slide presentation.  I believe there is a program to do that, correct?  It’s something I just emailed Jen that we probably need to outsource rather than learn another entirely new skill set.  We’ve got enough work.  So, hint, if you know how to do this—drop us a line.  See. You can even network on a blog.

I force myself to go talk to people who I need to meet.  At Digital Book World I stood like one of those doofuses you always see hanging at the edge of the circle after the speaker is done and everyone else is talking to them after an exec at Amazon spoke.  I waited until everyone had said their piece, then talked to him.  Here’s a key though—you need an icebreaker.  Bella Andre says “I made a million dollars selling eBooks last year.”  She says it tends to get people’s attention.  Duh.  I said to this guy:  “I’m selling one thousand eBooks a day on Kindle.”  That got me some face time.

Actually, one piece of advice I give people now is that one of the best networking tools is to go to people’s blogs and leave cogent comments.  People tend to read the comments on their own blogs.  If you make sense, you will get noticed.

Bell Andre said something at Digital Book World:  you email someone and they don’t reply, you keep doing it.  Politely, spaced out.  Nine times you won’t hear back as they’re swamped with work.  But sooner or later you’ll hit that window where they have the time to respond.

As important as the writing is, networking is also important!

By the way, Jen’s new cover for Atlantis is working.  Sales doubled last week.  We have to redo the rest of the books in the series now.  But this is what I love about being an indie publisher.  We can change things quickly.

What do you do to network?  Any special tips?

About Bob Mayer

Bob Mayer is a NY Times Bestselling author, graduate of West Point, former Green Beret (including commanding an A-Team) and the feeder of two Yellow Labs, most famously Cool Gus. He's had over 60 books published including the #1 series Area 51, Atlantis and The Green Berets. Born in the Bronx, having traveled the world (usually not tourist spots), he now lives peacefully with his wife, and said labs, at Write on the River, TN.

Posted on May 1, 2012, in Write It forward and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 50 Comments.

  1. I’m commenting because instead of a thousand comments, I’m the first. I read your blog religiously. I think what you have to say always makes sense. In fact, I will be recommending your blog as one to read to the creative writing class I will finish teaching next week.
    Keep up the good work.

  2. great post bob, doubly important to remind those of us who are involved in such a solitary profession of the importance of networking, face-to-face…… I find myself depending too much on the on-line type of networking, which can only reach so far…… hi5

  3. You’re so right about meeting people face to face. Even in a solitary profession, relationships are key. Notice I said relationships, not talking at people. In response to ansyholloman, I do a good deal of on-line networking too, but then when I meet the people I network with in person, it makes for a richer conversation and a better continuing relationship. On-line networking opens doors to in-person meetings.

    One thing I’ve learned recently, that you mentioned, Bob, is to not be afraid to ask. Now I ask for things I need, and nine times out of ten, or maybe seven times out of ten, people pull through. Of course, I always return the favors or do favors in advance.

    I’m so glad you’re doing the conference rounds. You’ll be heading out my way in September. I’m looking forward to meeting you.

  4. I was at Desert Dreams too. This was my 3rd time through your workshop, Bob – and while it’s changed, the overall message hasn’t. I learn something every time through, and I re-set my goals every time through, as well. Thank you for keeping us on target.

  5. Jen’s new Atlantis cover is beyond fabulous! No wonder sales doubled.

    Was Atlantis selling poorly? Is that why you & Jen made the cover change? Or was some other factor involved?

    • There were a few reasons we decided to make a change. Sales for the Atlantis series has been pretty solid, though up and down at times. As we’ve begun to implement so new plans with branding, marketing and moving forward with Cool Gus Publishing we revisited those covers and decided it was time to make a change. I actually just emailed Bob all six new cover mock-ups, though we are not sure about one image, but we are excited to bring out the new covers. Sometimes you just have to update with the times. That’s what’s so lovely about indie–we can change when we need to.

  6. very little in the way of face to face yet but what has helped in online has been culling the Twitter hashtags for #civilwar, #cw150, #militaryhistory, etc and finding posts that are worth retweeting for general information and interesting blog posts. I also do it to help other civil war fiction authors promote their work.
    The second is participating on a civil war forum where I’ve run into several other fiction authors and we chat and share tid bits of marketing advice. Being generous with my twitter followers and fronting someone else’s work other than my own is starting to have some results in making contacts. An experiment I started this week was to create a Facebook page for civil war fiction promotion for myself (not entirely altruistic) but to hopefully build a place for exposure to other civil war fiction works by indie authors called Just Civil War Fiction. We’ll see how it goes.

  7. Wonderful blog post. Still trying to push the limits of fear when I speak to industry professionals. I try to keep in mind everyone was at my stage at one time. Hoping I will never be one of the obnoxious.


  8. So true. Networking is important. Unfortunately, so many authors seem to get caught in a search engine web and confuse talking to other authors with networking. Breaking out and speaking to those who run the show (conferences, publishing houses, radio stations, big blogs that reach readers, etc…) that is networking.
    Great covers and blurbs are essential to attracting readers. If it doesn’t look good as a thumbnail, change it.

  9. Great blog as always, Bob.
    Q: how much time do you spend writing daily & weekly? Because I find I go in cycles of mad networking. Followed by a bit of burnout. Which guides me back to about a week of purely writing. Wash, rinse, repeat.
    How much writing will you do while attending a conference?

  10. Which do I want be obnoxious or aggressive?
    I’m a shy introvert.
    I wanna be too good to be homemade.

  11. I try to put the writing first. I have to shut down the internet and just focus on the words. It varies, but we have four hours of creativity, so I try to devote at least that much to writing each day.

    • I used to throw the wireless thingee over the curtain rod in the living room where I needed a step stool to get to it. That worked for a while, but I’ve done sopme backsliding. Need to get off the net again.

  12. I think respect is a key word in this area. I try always to be respectful of others – of their time, their role, their talents, but I also need to respect myself and my needs. There’s a fine line, sometimes, between persistent and painful, but if one is polite, pleasant and professional, I have yet to have someone mind being approached. Still a novice, though, in both the books and the networking, so it’s good to read blogs like this!

  13. When I was trying to break into traditional publishing, I attended many conventions and networked. I generally focused on agents, editors and industry people, as well as of course, other writers. Now that I’m not actively seeking that route, I havent been out in well over a year. I just havent been able to justify the cost or the time. However, I think it’s time to get back out there.

    My question to you, Bob, where should I be focusing my efforts? Who am I looking to network with? What are my objectives?

  14. For years, I sat beneath my rock, writing. I was happy, fulfilled, and working. However, after a reviewer mentioned that she’d never heard of me, I realized I had to “get out more”. After twenty-some-odd books, you would have thought I’d be a household name. (LOL.)

    Social networking is coming easy to me. Industry networking is not so easy, because I was always the “good little author” in the back who never said a word, always made her deadline, and could be counted on to be cooperative. Now? I’m still a “good little author” but I’m just a little more mouthy.

  15. Living in the sticks, it takes concerted effort (and cash) to network face to face on a regular basis. But I do find that giving it away helps get me out there, helps make new connections.

    I teach short story writing for continuing education classes at rural high schools and learning centers, and I give book readings and talks anywhere that will have me.

    Social networking is not my thing, so I have to set a schedule and do a set amount every day. It’s getting better, I’ve found a system that seems to work for me and have to just keep at it.

  16. I’m going to quote you on this. (So many bloggers don’t get it. They sit alone, crying in the wilderness.) “one piece of advice I give people now is that one of the best networking tools is to go to people’s blogs and leave cogent comments. People tend to read the comments on their own blogs. If you make sense, you will get noticed.”

  17. jenniferlynking1

    Thank you, Bob, for sharing your experience and wisdom. It’s timely for me as I prepare for a writer’s conference later this month. Networking is important. Good advice.

  18. Author Kristen Lamb

    I think one common misconception is that networking takes so much time. That’s untrue. I minimize my Internet and work my tail off and then I pop in to do my Law of Three on Twitter and Facebook. It takes less than ten minutes MAX, to post a link to my blog or a colleague’s (Information), repost something for another person (Reciprocation) and then to congratulate someone or offer sympathy if they’ve had a bad day or to comment on a post (Conversation).

    This method takes very little time and it helps forge relationships. Others know we are busy and they know we are professionals who don’t have all day to goof off on Facebook. If we pop in a couple times a day in meaningful ways that is far more memorable than blasting out non-stop self-promotion.

    When I teach social media, I like to ask: How are you going to be different? When everyone has access to the same exact tools that you do, how are you going to stand apart?

    The answer?

    Be human. Humans stand out in the sea of bots. Humans who are kind, supportive and genuinely thoughtful are rare treasures.

    We have enough of fake. We have enough automated, “Gee, my book is the best thing since microwave pizza…” “FREE!!!!” “99 cents!” We have enough of authors who only talk to people when they want something.

    Those who stand apart are those who serve. Thanks for all you do for us.

  19. Hi Bob, thanks for this post. It’s the motivation that I need. I have to start networking and I have to figure out how. I released my first book in Feb, 2012, digital and print. It’s doing ok, over 100 copies sold per month (mostly print) and that’s because I’m out doing presentations.

  20. Bob and Jen–
    We look forward to meeting you in August at Valley Forge Romance Writers.

    My favorite networking tools are group blogs and Facebook. I do many other things online, and occasionally attend conferences and conventions, but those work well for me.

    Best of luck for your continued success~ Adele

    • Looking forward to it too! Saw a few of your chapter mates at the NEC conference.

      I get asked a lot how Bob and I ended up working together since I was not traditionally published. Basically networking. He had knowledge about the industry and writing that I wanted and later that turned around into I had information he wanted. Cool Gus Pub actually came out of a conversation at a conference.

  21. Adele– looking forward to Valley Forge also.

    Who to network with? That’s hard to answer because sometimes you never know exactly who you’re talking to or sitting next to. I think the key is to be open. Also, someone who doesn’t seem “important” today could be a key player in a year. So treat everyone with respect.

    Also, it’s a two way street. Listen to people and help them when you can.

  22. Bob, your final comment “listen to people and help them when you can” rings true with me.

    I have always been put off by the in-your-face-networkers I used to meet at business-after-5 functions. So while I don’t actively network, of course I’m still networking but in a under the radar kind of way, if that makes sense… In my day job as a PR writer, it pays to know who else is working in your niche and having a wide range of contacts often means a quick phone call can save hours of resesarch alone in the office. I pay it forward too – I often have work I can refer on to others. Am happy to share assignments with my ‘competition’. Who knows when that favour will be returned?

    As others have said, when seeking to meet people you think have specific relevance for your writing career at conferences and the like, be polite and professional – and find something relevant to say!

    I enjoy your blogs, Bob. I learn so much about the business of writing, thank you.

  23. Kristen Lamb and Bob have some great points about helping others. I was asked on another forum why I bother with what they called “collective marketing” groups if I didn’t feel they were helping with sales. I couldn’t think of a reason other than socialization, but what I do is retweet and link others’ articles, free days, events, and informative posts. I love to retweet. I think other people are a lot more interseting than me, anyway.I’ve found when I share just to be helpful, when I need a boost down the road, I get one without even having to ask.
    I also recommend others that do great covers. formatting, websites, etc…

  24. Good advice here, as usual. Thanks.

  25. Hey Bob! You’re awesome! :) I’m so glad we met (aka “networked”) in NYC. As you know first-hand, I absolutely love to meet people in publishing. (So much, in fact, that I still feel a little sorry for my new friend Stephen from Kobo that I met at the London Book Fair recently. As soon as we started talking about ebooks, he couldn’t get me to shut up…Eventually, someone at another booth had to come by to tell us to take the laughter down a level. We couldn’t help it, we were having a good time!) They’re all so enthusiastic and innovative and supportive. There really has never been a better time to be a writer.

    So, for me, the entire idea of traditional networking (which I never cared) for, has been completely flipped on its ear, because it’s FUN.

    ~ Bella Andre

  26. I think the future of publishing is writers working together to reach readers. Many of the people in between have to figure out where they fit in. Either they facilitate (and there are many great people doing that) or they don’t.

  27. Hey Bob,

    One thing I’m doing this year since leaving my job to write full-time is a ton of cons. So far this year I’ve done ChattaCon, StellarCon, IllogiCon, MidSouthCon, Pulp Ark, and am booked for LibertyCon, ConCarolinas, DragonCon, NY Comic Con, Fandom Fest, Heroes Con and Memphis Comic and Fantasy Con. I’m finding the networking invaluable as I’m building my brand and my career. Hope to cross paths with you at one of these someday!

  28. I’d offer to help you with the movie making thing, but I don’t have enough time to do it. But, you can easily make a video with the audio files and the images you used in your presentation using Windows Movie Maker. Add the images in the order you presented them for the given audio file. Then add the audio file. Click make movie and badda bing it’s almost done. All you have to do is shove the images back and forth on the elapsed time slider thing to get them in the right place. Compared to publishing a book, it’s a piece of cake. :)

  29. Yvette Carol

    Hi Bob! I always use the person’s first name. People generally love to hear their name, and respond to it. Every time I leave a response on a blog like this, or meet someone in person, I remember the name and use it as my starter. Works like a dream :-)
    Yvette Carol

  30. When people first meet me they have a hard time believing I’m an introvert in part because I have a lot of nervous energy. I’ve learned to harness that energy and put it to good use, especially when I am presenting and also networking at conferences. Anyone who has ever attended a workshop of mine knows I’m high energy and to be careful in the front rows since I talk a lot with my hands! LOL.

    I always say hello to the people I pass in the hallway, ride elevators with and whoever is standing in line with me waiting for that yummy chowder we had last weekend at the NEC conference. As long as I follow the one conference golden rule: don’t hide in your room, once you leave for the day, you don’t go back. I was successful this past weekend and I got to hang with Kristen Higgens for a while. Well, actually, I tripped right into her lap. A ghost tripped me. Really. Anyway, if any of you have the opportunity to listen to her do a keynote–bring a tissue because you will be crying right along with laughing. One of the best keynotes I’ve ever heard.

    I also had the most awesome conversation with Michael Hague, who is a very interesting person and full of great tips for writers. And then I got to share an old memory with Mari Mancusi from 6 years ago with her bite me pins, that I wore at that same conference.

    When asked, I did an interview (on camera) for documentary about the romance writing community. Mari Mancusi went after me and when I was done she told me how articulate I was and I said, “really, because all I could think of was OMG there is a camera in my face and I must sound like that teacher in Charlie Brown AND my hands were flying all over the place.” Mari laughed and I wanted to say bite me but refrained. I loved those dang bite me pins, great ice breakers!

    Then I sat near the front of Marie Force’s workshop. I asked questions and then stood in line to talk with her after. By the time Saturday night rolled around I had laryngitis. I also had a notebook of stuff I had jotted down that I’m still trying to sort through to give to Bob.

    The problem with all that nervous energy and using it to talk to just about everyone, I crash and burn when I get home. Its now Wednesday and I’m now just feeling human again.

    The hardest part for me these days is the After Action Review and reaching out after the conference. So, today I will be reaching out to those new connections from last weekend. And find my bite me pins so that when I got to BEA in June and meet up with Mari Mancusi I can be a fan girl!

  31. I find it hard to network due to my Asperger’s but the one thing I have been doing is to visit my local libraries with postcards promoting my ebooks and asking them to display them for me. Who knows what reaction I get from that, I don’t know. But it is just spreading the word about my work.

  32. My day career has always involved networking and customer-facing activities. So I’m very good at “working a room” in a conversational manner. I agree, Bob, that put the listener first is important. If you are interested in what they do, they will be interested in and remember what you do.
    In the sales field this is the differance between “product-push” selling (BUY MY BOOK!) and value/relationship selling, which doesn’t even sound or feel like selling in practice.
    Even as an indie, it is important to attend conferences. You never know who you will meet or what great tip or idea you will come away with. I also try use various opportunities like business networking events, book clubs abd signings to get out and meet people/readers. Even at parties, when asked what I do, I ask: During the day or my passion. People always want to hear about your passion (writing). Then they share theirs and it takes the energy to another positive place and connection.

  33. Ouch! Spotted at least one typo just as I hit send. I’ll blame it on working and eating lunch at the same time LOL

  34. I like that cover. When the image is sort of under the text, rather than separate, it looks much more professional. And the minimal number of colours is nice too :)

  35. Hi Bob,
    I was excited to see that when I was doing a Google search of for market research purposes, I saw your name and I remembered that you sent me a piece to post on my site years ago. You’re known and trusted when you work directly with people as you have been. Thanks for that and thanks for the excellent advice.

  36. I really appreciate all the comments. Gives me some food for thought.

  37. Communication is key to success, by staying in the background and being silent, you won’t be noticed. I know this, but for some of us it’s difficult to do. I’m an introvert, so walking up to someone and start talking to said person doesn’t come natural to me, nor does sending thousands of emails to garner attention. Still I try.

    Looking back at my career (my day job) I now see the opportunities I missed because I chose to stay in the background. Yeah it’s comfy there, but missing out on the money I could’ve earned hurts.

    My writing career still is in it’s infancy but this time I’ll work on not being the guy that stays hidden. First, I’ll have to improve my writing then I’ll throw myself to the spotlight, but it doesn’t hurt to practice before that time.

  38. Bob, networking does not come easily to me. I’ve always been on the shy side. I never seem to know what to say to people or how to say what I do say. It seems as though everything comes out wrong. Or I feel like everything I say sounds forced. Which is why I love social media, I can rework my replies to people’s comments over and over until I get the right tone. I’ve worked hard to build a presence using social media and am surprised when someone knows me or even reads when I’ve written. I do go to RWA conferences even though I haven’t been since my husband passed away, but I will be at Anaheim since I live so close. And even though I’m looking forward to the conference, I’m already feeling tense with having to meet people.

    Thank you for such an informative post. I read everything you, Jen and Kristen have to say. The three of you are the only blogs I read religiously. So thank you again.

  39. Ack! Good advice as always, Bob, and a great reminder that I must get out from behind this computer more often, and I must spend the $$ to get to conferences occasionally. It’s so hard to find the balance between writing and marketing, especially when you’re just starting out.

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