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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?
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.