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?