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A Very Little Sea Monkey in the Great Big Ocean. 2/25/2011

posted Feb 25, 2011, 4:51 AM by Kathryn Simpson
This writing/publishing/literature business is pretty much uncharted waters for me--at least from the perspective of an author. As such, there have been unexpected surprises and developments of both the positive and negative varietals. It's a learning experience with an as yet unpredictable curve for new knowledge. That's just part of the journey, right? Of course. It's the same for every new-to-you type adventure. Writing, playing in a band, starting a business, starting a family.... It's all learning curves.

Here's some of what I've learned so far on my journey:

1.  The business aspect of the business is as--or more--tedious as the line editing.

2. Don't be afraid to be liberal with the marketing copies you share with media outlets of all genres. Yes, that costs money, but it's also like Horace Vandergelder said, "Money... is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow...." New creations desperately need that encouragement. You've got to be prepared to give more than a few copies away.

3. Everything in #2 is absolutely easier said than done.

4. Oprah's Book Club is a walled fortress that requires more miracles, fairy god-whatevers and scientific anomalies to breach than any combination of Broadway musicals ever conceived. I believe there isn't a writer on the planet that isn't thinking on some wistful level, "If only I could get a copy to Oprah...." But it is not that simple. Dwelling on that "if only" only makes hair turn gray and fall out. You've got to move on.

5. Be wary of corporate book store signing events. Rather, be wary of corporate book stores in general.

6. NEVER make a gentleman's agreement with a sales manager that doesn't include an itemized and numbered invoice for whatever it is they've asked you to provide. Cash up front is best, but definitely a numbered invoice. You and Manager B may both be gentle people, but Manager B is an advocate for Corporation X and as such does not hold your best interests as a first priority. Corporation X may, for example, be plotting to file Chapter 11 in the future. That filing could therefore stall your reimbursement indefinitely. Could Manager B have known what Corporation X was planning? Could that have been why you were asked to provide your own product for their "corporate event" in the first place? Conspiracy theories abound. Just remember what Ellen Barkin said to Kirsten Dunst in Drop Dead Gorgeous. "If they ask to see your boobs, get the money first."

7. If you are self-publishing (which I recommend, and will do again with my next novels), understand up front that you are a very little sea monkey in a great big ocean. You must prepare yourself to be marginalized and dismissed. The machinations of the traditional publishing industry maybe wounded, but are still deeply entrenched. Many resources simply will not consider you as a viable client, vendor or review candidate if you do not have a publishing contract, manager and/or agent.

8. Have a plan. After considering #7, do not let that be a deterrent. Just have a flexible plan for tackling those obstacles.

9. Do not assume that independent stores are going to be your champion. Corporation Xs have their pitfalls. You may be tempted to put your faith in independent stores because, hey, it's us against the Man! However, Moms&Pops have a whole 'nother level of challenges simply because they are in that battle. Their resources are likely spread as thin as yours, and they won't have a the storage space for a hundred pieces of your product on a regular basis. But you have to remember what Michael Corleone said. "It's business. It isn't personal."

10. The single most important thing which is sometimes the most challenging thing...KEEP WRITING. Or keep playing. Or keep doing whatever it is that you started doing in the first place. Keep going. Don't stop. Make the time. How did the sea monkey cross the ocean? It kept swimming. And the same should go for you.

Do. Not. Stop.
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