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Ramp jumpThe best solution for conquering fear is to do the same thing a patrol must do if it is ambushed:  attack right into the fear.

Your patrol is suddenly fired upon from the right. Your fear wants you to jump in the convenient ditch to the left—to avoid the ambush.

However, if the ambush is set up correctly—that ditch is laced with mines and you’ll die if you do that. In life, avoiding problems by running from them doesn’t solve the problem.

Your next fear-driven instinct is to just hit the ground. Stay where you’re at and do nothing. Except you’re in the kill zone and if you stay there, well, you’ll get killed.  We all want to ignore problems.  Because that’s the inherent nature of a problem.  But ignoring your greatest problem will keep you in the kill zone and the result is inevitable.

The third thing you want to do is run forward or back on the trail to get out of the kill zone– escape without dealing with those who ambushed you. Except, if the ambush is done right, the heaviest weapons are firing on either end of the kill zone. And you’ll die.  We want to avoid problems by going back to the past or imaging it will get better in the future even if we don’t change anything.

The correct solution is the hardest choice because it requires courage: you must conquer your fear, turn right and assault into the ambushing force. It is the best way to not only survive, but win.  To tackle problems, you must face them.

You’ve heard write what you know? Maybe write what you are afraid to know. I see many writers who avoid writing what they should be writing because it would mean confronting their fears. Be curious about your fear—it’s a cave, but instead of a monster inside treasure could be inside.

Remember fear is an emotion. Action can occur even when your emotions are fighting it. Taking action is the key to conquering fear.

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How do you expand your comfort zone by venturing into your courage zone? Every day try to do something that you dislike doing, but need to do. If you’re introverted, talk to a stranger every day. If you’re a practical person, do something intuitive every day.

Do the opposite of your Myers-Briggs character.

Attack the ambush!  Write it Forward and Who Dares Wins!

 

Overwhelmed by all the well-meaning advice given by experts, industry professionals and even other authors? Tired of hearing the exact opposite things spouted by different experts as to what we should do as authors?

Closely monitoring the publishing business I see many different paths and approaches suggested to aspiring authors regarding everything from writing the book to publishing the book to promoting and building platform and brand.

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There’s a lot of advice out there, much of it contradicting other advice.  My Write It Forward program focuses on the author.  As part of that, I’m going to sort this out for you with a template you can use to develop and continue your own career path.

There’s a simple reason for all the conflicting advice:  no two authors are exactly the same.  We all approach our careers with different goals. How we define those goals plays a key role in the questions we need to ask ourselves up front. Do I want traditional publishing? Is self-publishing a viable option for me? What other options are there? Or should I pack up and go home?  Making an educated decision on our publishing path leads the author into this mass confusion of varying opinions on the subject. In an effort to bring some clarity to the issue, I offer up three variables and examine how they affect the way a writer should view getting published and, more importantly, their writing career.

The variables are:

Platform

Product

Promotion

Quick definitions:

Platform:  Name recognition is what people think of, but there’s more to platform than that.  Are you an expert in your field?  Do you have a special background that makes you unique?  Everyone has some sort of platform, even if it’s just your emotions, exemplified Johnny Cash in Walk The Line, mining his anger into art.  I use the film clip of his audition at the beginning of my Write It Forward workshop, book and presentation, and show how quickly he changed, mined his ‘platform’, and was on his way to becoming a star.  All within three minutes.

So don’t get close-minded on platform.  However, for traditional publishers, they immediately are looking at name recognition (brand) and ability to reach a market (which ties into promoting).

However, with the explosion of eBooks, there are other paths to take, I’ve really changed my views on how to approach getting published. While some disagree, I think traditional publishing is probably the best option to pursue for a new author, rather than self-publishing, unless the writer has a unique set of skills at marketing, or has designed a unique approach that will make their product stand out from the other roughly half a million self-published books flooding the market every year. Remember that most of the successes in the indie world came out of the traditional publishing world and had backlist they could use to establish themselves with.

Product:  The book.  Or at least a proposal for a book for nonfiction.  This is your content.  Most authors become totally fixated on content, while ignoring platform and promotion.  Do so at your peril. But also understand that the best possible marketing is a good book. Then more good books.

Promotion:  The ability to do it.  The access to promotional outlets.  Unique hook or angle that gets attention.

If you consider three variables, with a sliding scale from ‘none’ to ‘the best’, you end up with an infinite variety of authors.  To simplify matters, let’s go with ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ although it is a sliding scale.  This gets us down to eight possible types of writers.

  • Strong Platform            Strong Product            Strong Promotion
  • Strong Platform            Strong Product            Weak Promotion
  • Strong Platform            Weak Product              Strong Promotion
  • Strong Platform            Weak Product              Weak Promotion
  • Weak Platform              Strong Product            Strong Promotion
  • Weak Platform              Strong Product            Weak Promotion
  • Weak Platform             Weak Product              Strong Promotion
  • Weak Platform             Weak Product              Weak Promotion

If you’re in the bottom line, fughhedaboutit as we used to say in the Bronx.

But for  the other combination of the three P’s, we can  see a different type of author.  Where do you fall? Where do you want to fall? Yes, we all want to be the top line, but that’s rare, especially for someone new to both writing and publishing.

Plus, these are not discrete entities.  They all rely on each other.  You have to consider that promotion is based on platform and product.

Product is often based on the platform.  If you have a platform you will most likely write a book mining that platform (if you don’t, well, that’s okay too, but it is a limitation).

There’s a degree of luck involved in promotion.  Going viral.  But luck goes to the person who climbs the mountain to wave the lightning rod about.  It’s called hard work.  One key lesson we’ve learned at the Cool Gus Author-Author-Centric Team is that consistency and repetition of message are key.  Slack off for a week, and fughhedaboutit. When I say repetition, though, don’t think it’s spamming; it’s says the same core message, but varying the method by which you spread it.

Product is the one you can improve the most by working on your craft.  However, you can improve both platform and promotion, which many authors ignore.  Become known as THE writer of that type of book.  That’s platform.

Promotion is often hard as the Myers-Brigg INFJ is labeled ‘author’ while the exact opposite, ESTP, is labeled ‘promoter’.  We HAVE to get out of our comfort zones as authors.  In Write It Forward I emphasize practicing and working on the opposite of our Myers-Brigs personality types, because it is our greatest weakness. For example, I’ve just begun a policy of having copies of my books with me at all times; in my Jeep, in my bag when traveling, etc. and making sure I give away a copy every chance I get. If someone asks me what I do, they get a copy. Even if they don’t. My goal is to give away several books per day. It’s a seed of viral marketing. Personally handing a book to someone makes them share in your process. Is it hard for me to talk to complete strangers and give them a book? Certainly. But if I don’t do it, who will? I know an author, Andrew Peterson, who has been doing this for years and it has yielded great results for him; on top of writing damn good thrillers.

The advent of social media is a boon to writers.  We can actually do promoting from the safety of our offices, although I do truly accept it is not as strong as the personal touch, face to face. Too many authors leap blindly into social media and I watch 95% of them wasting their time and energy flailing about inefficiently.  Also we tend to market to other authors, instead of readers.

imagesThe bottom line is, as a writer, we have to evaluate ourselves on the three P variables and figure out what type we are.  Then approach the business accordingly, while at the same time, working hard to improve in those areas where you are weak. This morning I was at a business and ended up talking to the guy who does their financing. I had a copy of one of my books in hand and gave it to him. We ended up talking a while and he mentioned Area 51, and I said, wow, one of my bestselling series is titled Area 51. And we moved forward from there.

Just like in What About Bobbaby steps. Enough baby steps and we end up getting where we want to be.

 

I’m linking to an article I wrote that was published today in Kirkus:

To “Self”-Publish, You Need a Team

 

Currently in Seattle where we infiltrated Amazon’s Death Star yesterday, Jen teaches at Bellevue Library tonight and I teach for PNWA down the road.  Then then Emerald City Writer’s Conference tomorrow.

IMG_0830Nothing but good times ahead.  I’ll leave you with the indelible image of Cool Gus & Sassy Becca hard at work:

 

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?

Time Patrol: Ides of March

15 March 2016

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