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You did it. You got the words down. What now?
Now you have to close the deal. The film clip in this blog is from Glengarry Glen Ross, featuring Alec Baldwin (in an academy-awarded nominated role) giving his infamous ‘Coffee is for Closers’ speech in a David Mamet movie. If you haven’t seen it, it’s enlightening (be warned: plenty of profanity).
How did you react? Most people react negatively to Baldwin. But he makes quite a few good points:
If they don’t want to hear what he has to say to him, they shouldn’t be in that room.
If they want to make money, they have to close.
If you want to succeed, follow:
In Write It Forward I teach the three steps of change: Moment of Enlightenment (Attention and Interest), make a Decision, and then have Sustained Action.
What do you want to do with your book? If you’re happy you wrote 80,000 words or so and you’re done with it, then you’ve closed. Congratulations. Go get a cup of tea. But if you want to publish successfully, then put down that cup of coffee. Coffee is for Closers.
Most aspiring writers aren’t closers. And most lament it’s because getting an agent is so hard, the odds are terrible, publishing is contracting, no one really reads, etc. etc. etc. Except here’s the deal: Agents, publishers, readers, all exist to consume books. They’re the given. They’re the lead. YOU have to be the closer.
You have to be the Closer with great material. By constantly improving your craft of writing. You have to Close by studying and following the business, by being a professional who wants to be employed in the world of writing. By following up every possible opportunity you get with determination and professionalism. By shutting up about the unfairness of it all and doing everything in your power to Close the deal.
I was amazing, stunned, when I heard that less than 10% of writers who were told to follow up a one-on-one at a conference by an agent actually sent in the follow up material. Essentially, those writers called a client who had expressed interest, talked about the interest, then hung up without closing. They got the Attention, had the Interest, then made the Decision to quit. To not take Action.
If you’re going to self-publish, you’ve just become an entrepreneur. You’re running a business in a very competitive environment. Yes, we all talk sweet, but they’ll cut ya!
Publishing is a very hard business. It’s tough to get published in any mode. Then it’s tough to succeed once you’ve been published. But people do it. They’re called Closers.
Write It Forward!
This is the flip side of my 13 Harsh Truths post of 29 April.
It’s a great life. I’m my own boss. I wear shorts and t-shirts to work, which is in my house. I sit at my desk with a great view of the TN River with a blank stare, drool running down the side of my mouth, and I’m working. Well, not really. Because no one’s paying me for my great thoughts. They’re paying for my writing.
I’ve been doing it for over a quarter of a century and here are some Great Truths I’ve learned about making a living as a writer.
- You can. You constantly hear “No one makes a living writing novels.” I’ve heard it for decades. In 2012 I was at a conference where I gave a keynote, then was listening to another keynote speaker saying “Don’t quit your day job”. And it started to worry me, until I realized my day job was writing. So I didn’t quit.
- It’s the best time ever to be a writer. I’ve been doing it for over 25 years and have heard all sorts of gloom and doom, but I can honestly say, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time. That’s not to say it isn’t an extremely confusing time, but that’s why I’ve done other blog posts on that, including one about 99% of advice coming from 1% of authors.
- There is more information than ever before out there. Which could be bad too, but seriously, you can garner a wealth of information about the craft and business of writing without leaving home.
- Leave home. One of the greatest mistakes I made in my early writing career was not networking. Even in self/indie publishing, it’s key to network with people. I know you’re an introvert, but get out there and talk to people. It’s a people business. And network with a couple of other serious writers on your craft. I’m not a fan of large writers groups getting together and doing line by lines, but 2 or 3 serious writers working on story, like we do in Write on the River, is invaluable. Find better writers than you to work with.
- Publishing is full of great people. Yes, both in the trad and indie world. Everyone I’ve met is there because they love books and stories. You hear terrible stories about publishers, editors, agents, Amazon etc. but pretty much everyone I’ve met has been really nice. In fact, I’ve been very impressed with how nice the people at Apple, Amazon, Pubit, Kobo etc are, especially to authors.
- Writers support writers. Mostly. I always advise writers to join their local RWA chapter. It’s the most professional writing organization around and your local chapter has tons of expertise and friendly people and monthly workshops.
- It’s about story not the book. Change your frame of reference. I sell stories. In various modes: digital, audio and print. Wrap your brain around that concept. It’s about the content not the format! I market using . . .
- Slideshare, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc. all from home. I used to not be a fan of book trailers, and while I don’t think they do much direct selling, they increase your digital footprint. And they’re cool.
- The framework of the story is evolving in the digital age. Since you can self-publish just about anything, you aren’t constrained creatively. I think self-pubbing is doing what the cable networks did to TV. HBO broke ground on new formats for series and characters. Sopranos, The Wire, and Deadwood. Other networks have picked it up. Have you seen Orange Is The New Black? And its precursor Weeds, which my wife and I are binging currently? Jenji Kohan does things with story that are crazy. And seriously, Weeds was Breaking Bad before there was a Breaking Bad. Definitely a different format there. I love studying story and then playing with it.
- You can study story in books, but also on Netflix and On-Demand. Watch everything twice. The first for enjoyment of the story and characters and to learn what happens. The second time is the key as a professional writer. Because you know what’s going to happen you can see how the writers crafted the story and characters now. The second time is eye-opening. If Marie hadn’t stolen that damn state spoon in Breaking Bad, Hank would still be alive and the story would have gone in a completely different direction. Get it? You didn’t the first time you saw it and probably forgot that little event. The second time, it looms large.
- Focus on craft; not marketing and promotion. You can’t promote crap. The best marketing is a good story; better marketing is more good stories.
- The gatekeepers are readers. While traditional publishing is still a viable path, they no longer control distribution. This is such a fundamental change in the business paradigm, I truly believe very few people grasp the implications. New York is hanging on to its antiquated business model instead of embracing change. As part of the transition in the Army from a focus on conventional forces to Special Operations, I saw how hard change is in a large organization. But evolve or . . .
- Bottom line: The only person who can stop your success is you.
I’m linking to an article I wrote that was published today in Kirkus:
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.