In my eclectic past I've reached a level of success in four different industries - music, manufacturing, transportation/logistics, and financial. The secret to my successes was not particularly brilliance (though I'd like to think that my method is pretty smart). I learned one simple axiom from the man with which I apprenticed as a mechanical engineer. His name is Venerio J. Rigolini. He was a maestro ... a Leonardo Da Vinci of mechanical engineering - and of all the things that he taught me, the one philosophy that has had universal application is "don't reinvent the wheel!"
How did I adapt that simple principle to achieve success in multiple industries and endeavors? By doing my diligence, finding people that were ALREADY successful at what I wanted to accomplish and simply ... emulating them - not so much exactly what they did, though at times I'll do exactly as they do or say - but in how they go about things in general.
I can tell you this - after thirty years of working, the one common thread that I have seen in every successful individual across all industries is discipline! Discipline incorporates tenacity. It incorporates method, not a specific method - everyone has their own methods - but discipline incorporates the consistent utilization of one's method. And since I mentioned it, discipline incorporates consistency.
So when you x-ray the 'success' of successful people, you find discipline running through all of them and when you look deeper, you find all the things that discipline incorporates - tenacity, method, consistency.
Discipline leads to continual improvement and continual improvement utterly leads to success in any endeavor.
When I wrote my first full-length manuscript last year, as I followed the traditional path of querying agents and sending proposals to publishers, I also did my diligence. I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit ... it's in my blood, so I was never fully satisfied with having to rely on agents to get me publishers to get me distributed. The traditional model didn't make sense to me anymore, because of the internet.
Back in 1995, my brother Peter came up with an idea to market our music directly to the global audience via the then mysterious 'worldwide web,' whatever that was. As with many of my brother's brilliant ideas (and I mean that sincerely) he was ahead of his time. The project was a failure but the concept wasn't. So fast forward 15 years and here I am shopping a novel to someone (an agent) that should never ever be acting as a gatekeeper. Agents are supposed to work for the writer - so how can they act as a gatekeeper to the publishers, basically representing them ... and represent the writer also? It smacked of a BIG conflict of interest to me and that for 15% of my earnings? ...Not liking it!
In any case, I went through the process and sent out 34 queries and received back about 90% rejections (the other agents didn't even respond). I ended up not releasing that novel, not because of the rejections but because I decided it wasn't the story I was trying to tell. Hey, it was my first full length manuscript. So I sat it next to me and began again. This time I wanted to make sure I told the story I wanted to tell. The result was the concept for _The Watchman of Ephraim_ series and the first novel in the series of the same name. I completed the novel in mid-December 2010, spent about a month editing it (I did the first edit, then had my wife Lisa edit it, then sent it to a writer/friend of mine S.M. Carriere in Canada and she was kind enough to send me back her own edited version. I learned that editing is not a static process its a progressive, dynamic process - something I'll talk about in another log.
Anyway ... I started shopping it traditionally. This time I had a list of 54 agents and a dozen publishers. I started shopping _TWOE_ on January 14 of this year and in the first day, after sending out only eight queries, I received three requests for manuscripts (2 full, 1 partial). That excited me but something about the whole process ... the timeline - it takes so bloomin' long to get 'signed' by an agent, then have them ask me for re-writes (that one NEVER made sense to me, an agent asking me for re-writes???), then the agent having to secure a publisher - which I knew from my rock band days was just their sending a few manuscripts out with hedging cover letters to cover their butts. Then ... if I was 'lucky' (I'm a man of faith, I don't live by time and chance) a publisher would sign me ... and then ... I'd have to wait for their release?! What the ... so the whole process could take 18 months?! I didn't like that at all.
So I went back to doing the diligence. I stayed up late researching alternatives and what I found was a BIG difference of opinion when it came to the topic of self-publishing as a viable alternative to traditional publishing (TRADPUB). Like many, I was brainwashed to believe that 'self-publishing' was another name for literature not worthy of being written on toilet paper being printed with the quality of a Singapore newspaper and reading like it was written by a dyslexic illiterate.
Then one night I came across a blog by an agent I will leave unnamed who wrote an article about how some writer had the audacity to turn down a contract with her to self-publish. I always read the comments (something everyone should always do - you can sometimes learn as much from the comments to blogs as you can from the blogs themselves) and I came across one from a writer named Laura Resnick (Laura, if you ever read this, I owe you a hug and dinner ...9-)).
In her comment, Laura BLASTED this agent about everything from her attitude to her ignorance about self-publishing. Laura made one killer point after another, not only of why self-publishing is a viable alternative to TRADPUB but also why most writers were idiots for trusting agents with their careers and why, after traditionally publishing her own works she was now self-publishing and NOT using an agent at all, even for her TRADPUB contracts (Laura uses intellectual property attorneys ... who actually have gone to university for contract law).
This log is rambling a bit ... but one can do that in a log. Well ... I emailed Laura who was kind enough to reply and point me to Dean Wesley Smith's blogs on self-publishing and from the moment I read the first of Sensei Dean's in-your-face, stick-it-where-the-sun-don't shine blogs criticizing the TRADPUB process, particularly agents and his step-by-step process of how to self-publish ... I shaved my head, put on sackcloth (well, I do need to shop for some new clothes), burned "DWS" into my forehead and became a devout follower of the 'Tao of DWS."
I was published in ONE WEEK after following Dean's teachings and every single thing the man said was point on - from the nuances of make-ready to projected cash flow and what to do and not to do in trying to sell your book.
From Dean, I found the blogs of his wife Kristine and also of the self-published sensation Joe Konrath. I'm adding Master JK's link below.
Dean, Kristine and Joe are all experienced, talented and successful writers/publishers who are graciously sharing their expertise with the rest of us. Together with their followers who post helpful, insightful comments (Laura Resnick regularly posts to Dean's blog and always has something extremely informative to say - no holds barred) have formed a community of self-publishers that I consider my brothers and sisters of the craft!
One of the reasons I publish this log is to hopefully pay it forward and in any small way that I can, help other new self-publishers - mostly by pointing them to the masters I'm learning from but also by publishing my actual experiences of implementing what I've learned from people like Dean, Kristine and Joe.
To me, they invented one kick-butt wheel ... so no need for me to reinvent it ...
Hey, check out Dean, Kristine and the new link to Joe Konrath's excellent blogs below ... and always feel free to send me a message or comment if you have any questions. I'm an apprentice but I'll always offer any help or guidance I can.
If you self-publish or intend to self-publish you need to check out the blogs by Dean Wesley Smith and his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Here's the links:
Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing
New World of Publishing
Think Like a Publisher
The Business Rusch: On Writing
Joe Konrath's Blog:
A Newbie's Guide to Publishing
(Please feel free to leave comments – your comments can be as helpful as anything I write for others. I hope this series turns out to be less my talking at you and more – a group of like-minded storytellers that self-publish or intend to. Peace & God Bless!)