Friday, March 20, 2009
Publishing. Doing it Our Way
I had a fascinating call this morning from an author (not one of ours) who explained how frustrating it was to be an author.
We discussed how hard he had worked researching and writing his book, the difficulties he met along the way when nearly everyone told him to abandon his project because he (fill in the blank), the four years it took to find a publisher, and how quickly the book died and was in the remainder bin at WalMart. "I received a modest advance I will never earn out, and won't see another dime," he grumbled. "Once the contract was signed I rarely heard from the editor or marketing department again. They didn't want my ideas, did not want to support my efforts, and that was that. What an eye-opening experience."
What memories this call brought to mind. When I began publishing with David Woodbury in the very early 1990s, we heard the same thing from other publishers, some authors, and others more "in the know" than us. I won't name names because many who read these blogs will know them.
"You don't know the industry. Stick to your day jobs."
"This business will chew you up, and you can't make it a go."
"You want to include how many original maps in your books? [laughter]. You can't do that."
"You don't need to include all those maps and quality binding and paper. By the time people realize you used cheaper materials, the book will have sold through the first printing, and you will have already made your money."
All my life I listened (but almost never heeded) warnings, cautions, and "advice" from people who tried to steer me . . . AWAY . . . from potential success. When I was about to begin law school, a disgruntled 40-something told me to not waste my time and provided a host of excuses.
And I have learned the lesson: The sad truth is that most people do not want you to be successful, or at least more successful than they are.
I knew what I wanted, the kinds of books I wanted to publish, the types of authors I wanted to attract. I have never worked fewer than 55 hours a week in the last ten years, and have tirelessly driven around, under, and over obstacles others put in my path to prevent me from reaching my goals. As I tell my kids (and my students, and my authors), there is only one thing standing between you and your goal: YOU.
If you are an author (or whatever you do in your life), my advice is that you do not heed the doomsayers. Smile politely, push aside the roadblock, and move toward your goal. Surround yourself with people who are MORE successful than you are. Surround yourself with people who are successfully doing what you want to do.
I fondly recall the help I got from Bob Younger at Morningside and Tom Broadfoot of Broadfoot Publishing. I joined them at book shows, listened to their conversations, absorbed how they did business, and learned to avoid potential mistakes.
And the author I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Guess what he is doing?
That's right. He is finishing his next book and pressing forward.
That news plastered a giant smile on my formerly young and handsome face.