_ After a score of years thinking about it; one year of honing my craft, writing my first (but unpublished) manuscript; 74 queries and rejections; and another four months of writing _THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM_ … on January 21, 2011, I became a published author. It’s amazing the changes that have taken place since then – changes for me personally and changes for the entire publishing industry. Those changes have been well publicized by so many already, I won’t rehash them in detail, but I will share with you two of my objectives for 2012, along with a few friendly suggestions for my brutha and sista neo-pro writers out there.
Before I do, let me tell you some of what I accomplished in 2011. Keep in mind, I started at virtually 0 with everything. As of January 21, 2011, I had 0 sales, 0 Facebook Likes, and 0 Twitter followers.
Today, December 31, 2011, I have two published novels that have made a total of six Amazon Bestseller’s lists in four countries (2 in US; 1 in UK; 2 in Germany; 1 in France); I’ve now sold THOUSANDS of my novels around the world; and I grew my total LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter/Goodreads/MyWebsite followers to over 22,000! All praise to Him! You can also take a look at the Popularity Rankings of _THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM_ and _SIGNS OF WAR_ on the right of my home page here. As you see, pretty impressive rankings across a number of sub-genres ... again, all praise to Him Almighty!
I want to stop here and shout out special thanks to the following author/friends of mine for their guidance, motivation, support, and friendship ... I simply could not have accomplished the above without them:
Also, keep in mind, neither of my books were break-out successes. In fact, in the entire first quarter of 2011, I had only sold a total of 21 books … not exactly “The Help” numbers. c”,)
One more thing … though it seems to irk so many whenever I mention my mantra for success, I’m gonna say it again here – the mantra that has most influenced my success so far has been something my older brother Peter taught me “ALL THINGS, ALL THE TIME!” That means sacrificing time with my sons and friends, time in front of the ‘idiot box’ (my mom used to refer to the TV as the Idiot Box, when we were young) or playing video games or just ‘taking a day off’ during the week, other than on Sabbaths (that’s what God made the weekly Sabbath for, in the first place). It also means turning over every shell, constantly investigating new ways to market and promote, constantly engaging with the global audience, constantly working on my writing, constantly edifying myself in my craft – keeping up on the new technologies …. Interacting with other writers, sharing ideas and cross-promoting … and all of it every day! I apply the exact same work ethic that I utilized for working in four other industries to writing … yes it’s an art form but to professionals, it’s also our business.
Final thought on this: The actor Will Smith was once asked in an interview what he attributed most to his great success. He said unequivocally that it was the fact that he was “willing to DIE” in order to achieve his objectives and goals in life. I’ve personally made a bunch of sacrifices in pursuit of my goal of becoming one of the most successful published authors of my generation someday. My wife and sons also had to make sacrifices … I couldn’t do it without them. I’m willing to die to achieve my goals … so failure is not an option!
Now for two of my objectives and suggestions:
WRITING: Being a student of Dean Wesley Smith, I’ve set my writing objective at three full-length novels for 2012. In 2011, I was able to publish two full-length novels and have begun the third, so I’m optimistic that I will accomplish this objective. I may even be able to begin work on a fourth novel, sometime in December ’12. I may also experiment with something a number of prolific authors do – that is, to work on more than one novel at a time. I listened to James Patterson talk about how he was working on 37 novels at the same time. He explained that some were in concept stage and others in various stages of completion. I figure if Patterson can work on 37, I should be able to work on two at the same time. I’m a contiguous personality-type (I like to finish one thing first then move on), so to make it easier for me, I will attempt working on two novels in two different series. That could work and even end up benefiting my creativeness with each series, as they are so diverse – switching between the two could offer me a bit of a respite while still writing.
My suggestion: Set your writing objectives for 2012 now! Consider what you want to accomplish - the body of work you would like to complete by 31 December, 2012. Instead of setting deadlines that could cause distraction, set time-frames for completion. Perhaps an entire month as your time-frame for completion (for example, I’m using April, 2012 for my next novel, _RISE TO THE CALL_). I believe the most important aspect of developing a successful writing career is not marketing or social networking … it’s WRITING & PUBLISHING! Final though: Don’t set your objectives to low … push yourself. You’ll be surprised with what you can accomplish when you do.
SOCIAL NETWORKING: There is no doubt that social networking will continue to play an important part of promotion and marketing for most writers. I utilize my blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter to stay connected with my friends and potential readers. There’s little I need to do in this area except more of the same. The #1 most important thing to remember when utilizing your social networking is NOT to talk AT people … talk TO them! So many people are advertising and promoting nowadays that the general population is becoming deaf and dumb to most of it. Simply tweeting a promo of your book won’t cut it – you first need to ENGAGE with your audience! Granted, not everyone is comfortable interacting with other folks, but I know for a fact that virtually everyone has something to offer – either informative – compassionate – passionate (about something) – funny … or even just a good listener. If you can’t offer one of those things, you shouldn’t be a professional writer anyway. And remember, informal is what you want to convey but always be PROFESSIONAL. Consider every single public or private communication as communicating your brand … and for pity’s sake spell check … nothing like trying to get readers to buy your books by sending out messages like “For a limit time …” or “I would aprreciate it if you take a look at my book …” Yeah … that’s the author I want to read!
My suggestion: The most important aspect about social networking, for a professional utilizing it as a form of marketing and promotion, is to do it CONSISTENTLY! Social networking isn’t about ‘firing & forgetting’ … it’s about communicating every day. I never take a day off from it. To give you an idea, in 2011, I sent out over 27,000 personal messages – mostly in the form of replies to requests to connect or my introducing myself to someone. In every single one of them, I addressed the individual by their name (spelled correctly) – not bulk messages … treating people the way I like to be treated. The only way to send out that many messages is to social network EVERY DAY, on a schedule – as part of my ‘work day.’
2011 will go down as the year Self-Publishing broke wide. A critical mass of eReaders has now been sold, which means the paradigm has forever altered in literary publishing. eBook is now king. Paper will continue to be around, but it will find its new place as a less important medium … just like faxes are still around but they’ve given way to email.
I won’t go on and on with predictions but I will make one for you to keep in mind: Now that ePub 3 and Kindle’s new format has been approved, it will most likely make a beachhead by fall of next year. Along with those new formats will come a new generation of eBooks. In fact, I’d go on to say that it will spark a dawn of an entirely new MEDIUM … fully interactive eBooks with embedded multimedia – music, video, animation, etc.
2012 will see the birth of the OMNI-BOOK!
And as more stuff get's published QUALITY content will begin to rule the day!
I can't wait!
Blessings, health, joy and success in 2012!
The indomitable Joe Konrath just published a new 'ThoughChat' with Barry Eisler, you can check it out here. As I was reading it, I noticed the list of his older posts, going all the way back to 2005. That alone impressed me - Joe was publishing blogs in 2005, years before I even had a clue about seriously publishing my own novels. More than that, his posts from 6 YEARS AGO still hold water today ... now that's impressive!
One of his blogs in particular hit me over the head. He titled it, "No Vacation for You." He published it on December 24, 2005. I'm gonna cut and paste it below, but you can check out his original post here.
I named this blog, "Paying your dues" 'cause I've been asked by several neo-pro writers lately questions like, "How did you get _The Watchman of Ephraim_ to hit #1 on Amazon's Geopolitical Bestseller's list?" and "How did you possibly pull off a 75-day blog tour?" and "Why are you trying to publish three full-length novels a year?" and "How can you possibly reply personally to every email and invitation you receive on every one of your social networking channels?" (I'm on a pace to have written over 27,000 personal messages to people connected with me on LinkedIn, Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter in 2011). My answer to all the questions above has to do with two tenants that I truly believe are the keys to success in any field ...
#1 Paying your dues ... which to me means, doing all the behind-the-scenes stuff, EVERY DAY, EVERY WEEK, EVERY MONTH, EVERY YEAR ... the not glamorous stuff, the sometimes difficult, sometimes boring, sometimes mundane stuff ... the stuff that usually no one sees you do, but needs to get done.
#2 "All things, all the time" - this is something my older brother Peter taught me. He made it to the top in his profession by out-hustling his peers ... getting in before everyone else and staying after everyone else leaves ... working while others watch football and baseball, while others spend a quiet day with their kids, while others go on vacation or just take the weekend/day/afternoon off. It also means that you have to get to everything. There's no time to just "study your craft" or just write or just promote or just ... anything! Remove the word "just" and you begin to understand what it takes to really make it as a self-publisher.
I have to tell you ... all of the successes in my life in business have come by living those two tenants, every day. Now I'm waist-deep in establishing my professional writing career. This is the fifth industry that I have worked in, in the last thirty years. I've achieved success in the music industry, manufacturing industry, transportation/logistics industry and financial industry ... and all of my successes are due to #1 and #2.
I simply don't know an easier way. Perhaps I'm not as smart as others or as talented as others but two thing I am ... are tenacious and methodical. I plan my work and work my plan and I never give up. I'm up at my desk around 5am every morning and I don't clock out until everything is done.
Well, apparently I'm not the only one. When I read Joe's blog, I smiled 'cause it seems he succeeded the same way I'm succeeding in publishing - 'paying his dues' and 'all things all the time.' The question you need to ask yourself after reading this is ... how bad do you want it?
Here's Joe Konrath's hard-hitting piece in its entirety: (my thanks to Joe ...)
Saturday, December 24, 2005
No Vacation for You
I haven't had a vacation in four years, and I don't expect one next year either.
This July, my family demanded some 'together time' so I took them up to a cabin in Michigan. Along the way I did signings. And I brought my laptop.
My two closest friends, whom I've known for 26 years, coerced me into taking a three day weekend off to go on brewery tours. I went with them, but managed to fit in a library event while they were boozing it up.
The kids have been off school for a week, and I managed to do some bonding. But I also did some editing, some writing, some website updating, and a few blog entries.
Am I missing out on life? In a word: Yes. And since misery loves company, I want you to miss out too.
Remember listening to your grandparents talk about the Great Depression? They used words like "Sacrifice" and "Hard work."
Writing involves sacrifice and hard work. That means denying yourself some things, like friends and family and free time. If you want to make it, you have to put in the hours.
I'm not going to argue that your writing is more important than your children---that isn't true. Family is far more important than career. But if your family loves you, they'll also understand how important your career is, and give you time to pursue it.
If you want to succeed in this biz, be prepared to make sacrifices and find the time to get things done.
Here's a handy list of some things you can sacrifice:
Now I fully expect some vehement disagreement. Replies that speak of values and priorities and happiness and importance, and examples of authors on the bestseller list who take plenty of time off. I'm sure plenty of folks will feel sorry for my family, or for me for not 'getting it.' Some of you will insist you can have your cake and eat it too, and some of you may indeed do that.
But the next time you're lamenting your career, ask yourself two questions: What have I done so far? & What have I sacrificed?
If you've never finished a novel, have only gotten 50 rejections, and plan on using the holiday break to relax, are you entitled to the disappointment you feel about the state of your writing career? Or if you published your book, then did minimal self-promotion, can you really feel betrayed that you sold so poorly?
Here's an axiom that no one likes, me included, but I adhere to it anyway:
"You can always do more."
And the next time you're relaxing, pick up a copy of Who's Who, or crack open a history book, and look at all of the successful, famous people that our society reveres. How many of them are in there for being good parents? For taking vacations? For watching a lot of television? For partying with friends?
Happy Holidays! I gotta get back to work.
_ The ever-informative Passive Guy published a provocative article this morning, “Publishers Constantly Mistreat Their Suppliers” that made me recall my time querying agents. All in all, I only queried for a period of two years (2009-2010), longer than some, but not nearly as long as many other writers. Totally, my count was 74 agents queried; 10 who asked for full or partial manuscripts; and ultimately 0 that thought my works were worthy of their time (I never even received the dignity of a reply from 19 of them and one took 16 months to reply – my reaction, “Get over your friggin’ self!”).
Looking back on the entire process now, it leaves me shaking my head in utter amusement. What an insane situation … a writer writes a manuscript and then, in order to try and get it published, has to contact an agent to give themselves the best chance at getting a legacy publisher to even look at it. The big question I asked myself back then, even as I was preparing and sending out queries was: If an agent, by the very name, is the person who is supposed to represent me, then why is he/she acting as the gatekeeper to the publishing houses? Can anyone say ‘conflict of interest'?
You can tell that things needed to be changed by how inane the requirements of some of the agents were becoming, with respect to querying them. A small library of books was written on the subject (I own a few of them) – the form of the query … how to address it … how long it should be … what should and should NOT be included in them, etc., ad nauseum. Then there were the specific, individual guidelines of each prospective agent. Now that’s where the fun really started!
I won’t use agent names but I’m sure writers reading this will smile … some of my favorite requirements and guidelines from agents, with respect to querying:
+ “Write ‘QUERY’ in the subject line or I will DELETE your email!!" The exclamation points still make me feel like I was being scolded.
+ “I take between 12-20 weeks to respond to queries on average and sometimes longer …” Okay, by their own guidelines, queries are only short summaries. I’m personally on a pace to respond to over 27,000 emails this year alone (I reply to everyone that’s nice enough to write to me or invite me to link to them via social networking) and usually reply to everyone in under 72 hours, with most of my replies averaging within 24 hours. Since the usual response of an agent to a query is (by their own admission) >95% to just reject via a short scripted reply and for the rest, simply to request a full or partial manuscript … why exactly would it take anyone 20+ weeks?? Just sayin …
+ (I call this one “The Double Whammy) “I only accept exclusive queries, so if you query anyone else, don’t query me! + “I take between 12-20 weeks to reply to queries!” Riiiiiight, so, in other words, I have to query this agent first and then put my manuscript on ice for the next three to five MONTHS … only to possibly get a scripted rejection … maybe.
+ (And my favorite) “I DON’T ACCEPT UNSOLICITED QUERIES!” Wha … huh??? You have a friggin’ website DEDICATED to telling aspiring authors (read: paying clients) all about you, your agency, who you represent, the genres in which you’re interested, the books you’ve represented … WHY??? My point: If you only accept ‘SOLICITED’ queries … THEN WHAT’S WITH YOUR FRIGGIN’ WEBSITE WITH THE 20 PAGES THAT YOU MADE ME READ ONLY TO TELL ME YOU DON’T ACCEPT UNSOLICITED QUERIES?!
One particular agent only wrote that she didn’t accept unsolicited queries at the very last page of her website, AFTER specifying on the home page that writers are to “read ALL of the instructions and information in the order presented!” I wasted an hour …why I oughta!
Back then, I was also told by not a few agents that even though they were rejecting my manuscript, self-publishing it would be like my pinning the scarlet letter to my lapel. So, basically they were telling me, #1 – I’m your only shot at getting published … #2 – I’m not interested, better luck next time AND #3 oh yeah, and if you even try to publish the manuscript that I turned down, your career is effectively over.
To all those agents all I have to say is “… I don’t accept unsolicited advice!” c”,)
Some writers continue to wonder whether things are better now … I don’t. This past July, my debut novel (the one that received 54 rejections) _The Watchman of Ephraim_ became a #1 Amazon-Bestselling Geopolitical Thriller and remained #1 for 26 days. All praise to Him!
My continual and infinite thanks to the following authors that showed me the light of self-publishing:
Laura Resnick ... Dean Wesley Smith ... K.K. Rusch ... and my man, Joe Konrath!
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