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Newbie author rediscovers his natural aversion to all things bureaucratic

The shift from writing to platform-building as book launch approaches

Last week I talked about putting pen to paper, or keystrokes to Microsoft Word, and all the behind the scenes work that involved. When I felt I had no clue what I was doing, I remembered what my developmental editor told me. Don’t judge and don’t stop, so I didn’t judge and I didn’t stop.

I quickly learned that I needed to quiet my mind to open my vein to paper. That was tough while at work or even being in the city that I live in, Atlanta, Georgia. There were too many day to day neurons firing off in my brain. Writing, for me, requires a meditational state of mind that allows my raw and honest thoughts to come out. That is too tough when I have so many external events vying for my attention.

I got it firmly in my head that I should just keep writing and pour out what was in my head, worrying about cleaning it up later. This helped me keep going and avoid writer’s block. However, if I felt disengaged, as if I was only going through the motions, I would get agitated. My self-imposed deadline was that I needed to have this book out by the fall of 2013. (I had no idea why this made everyone with experience in publishing chuckle.) This pressure did not help. If I knew I was just typing a mess I would walk away, take the dogs to the dog park, watch TV, or take a nap. That is a fine balance between making yourself get on with it and knowing when to take a break.

And when I took those breaks, where did my mind go? Sales, marketing, platform, and the exhaustive list of what needs to be done to launch a book.

I came to a conclusion early on. Traditional publishing had the following characteristics: Powerful, bureaucratic, slow, unhelpful with promotion, controlling the gate to bricks and mortar bookstores, and suffering from the throw-it-up-and-see-what-sticks mentality. Life was good for the few who made it through the eye of the needle.

As an entrepreneur, this did not sound sexy to me at all. Then I read “Be the Monkey” by Barry Eisler and J.A. Konrath and that took care of that. The one guarantee about selling a book was that I was going to have to work my ass off promoting it regardless of which route I chose. While some like to delegate to others, I love business, sales, meeting others, learning, and having control. Why would I want to turn over my heart and soul to anyone else? No. Not doing that. I was going to take my time and surround myself with smart people that were available to join my team. A good book is a good book. Word of mouth moves it. All the tea in China won’t move a bad book. The rest of the stuff is just inviting too many cooks into the kitchen. Now that there was more than one game in town, I decided to take my chances. I was playing 80/20 by this point; 80% writing, 20% platform-building. That percentage would shift as I got closer to launch.

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  • Vern Westgate

    Michael, you have what appears to be a very realistic handle on this publishing business…Do retain your abhorrence of bureaucracy and bureaucrats. In another life, I became good at dealing with them in the defense/aerospace world. That became my ever-increasing assignment. So I bailed out (of Southern CA), moved to North Idaho and found the change, while truly challenging, also well worth the effort in the long run.
    I do editing now days…except for some occasional writing gigs. Your calling is writing so keep on keeping on…but never listen to the bureaucrats…They are a different species…
    Vern

  • Sabrina Edoward
  • Doc Sheldon

    I’d say your aversion to all things bureaucratic was come by honestly, Mike. ;) As for your choice in mode of publishing, I would say you made the right choice. As you say, you’re going to work your ass off regardless… better that you maintain control of the process.

    So… how’s that shift coming?