Big mistake. Big. Huge.

Last night, I turned down an offer from a publisher. I’ll give you a second to pick up your jaw off the floor.

Turning them down was not the “big mistake.”

The entire affair gave me a “Pretty Woman” flashback, I think there’s an important lesson in the transaction, and so I’ll walk you through the events.


I write about the big questions (life and death, individualism, what makes us human, discrimination) through a lens of soft science fiction. And then I stumbled across a call for short stories outside of my genre; they wanted ‘zombie apocalypse’ flash fiction (5,000 – 10,000 words). I’m always up for a challenge, thought it would be an interesting distraction, and so I worked up an idea.

I wrote something about the evil men do to one another in tragic times, imagine “Masque of The Red Death” meets “Dawn of The Dead” and a touch of “Eyes Wide Shut”. Trust me, I hit some social mores that made me flinch as I wrote.

So I sent a sample to this independent publishing house and got an offer. They had very nice things to say, wanted a five-year exclusive to the story, and asked me if I could do a minimum of 10,000 words.  Home run, right? The Lotus has pulled up to the curb.

lotus-esprit-pretty-woman

So we emailed back and forth, I agreed to the word count and 5-years exclusive,  but asked for some controls on the promotion channels and a slightly larger advance.

I got some of what I asked for, some not everything, and then he broke my only rule.

No. Not no kissing.
nokissing

They asked for me to ghostwrite.

ghostwrite

So you like my story, enough that you want more, and are willing to pay for it… and you want to take credit for it?

My response: “I appreciate the positive feedback and the offer but I don’t ghostwrite.”

If it’s good enough to print, it’s good enough for my name. Now you’ve forced me to turn this story into something so incredible that I can come back and say…

bigmistake

Update 11/21/2015: If you would like to read this story, I’ve released it as a serialized novel using Channillo.

Write Something That Matters.
D.G.Rettig

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Promoting Your Book – The Right Way and The Wrong Way

I do public speaking from time to time, mostly cloud computing and leadership. Imagine that you’ve come to the conference because you are interested in this topic. You are in a crowded room with dozens of other people, I walk up to the lectern and say:

“Good morning. I was invited here to speak to you because I am one of the leader in the industry. I have two master’s degrees in the subject and over fifteen years in the industry. In addition, I’m one of the best speakers I know. Please applaud now.”

I’m kind of a jerk, right. A self-promoting egotistical ass.

Okay rewind time.  Same conference, same room, same lectern.  I’m standing beside the head of the conference; he is behind the lectern. He checks the mike and says:

“Good morning. I invited Dave here to speak to you because he is one of the leaders in this industry. Dave has two master’s degrees and over fifteen years experience. In addition, Dave is one of the best speakers I know. Make him feel welcome.”

Now you are looking forward to hearing me speak. You are expecting a dynamic, interesting speaker with lots of knowledge on this subject.

What’s the difference? Both passages said essentially the same thing. Read them again, if you like.

When someone else says nice things about you, you are perceived one way. When you say nice things about yourself, you say another.

That’s the problem with self-promotion on Twitter.

When I see a Tweet that says:

@Some_Author:  I loved this book. Fun exciting #newauthor #couldntputitdown. #amreading. http://some_ebook_link.somethingelse

FakeBook

You come across as an arrogant jerk, just like I did in the first hypothetical situation.

So how do you self-promote without sounding like an ass?

First, real reviews. Ask your beta readers to post reviews of your finished work. Real reviews about what they really thought. Include the good and the bad. We all have a built in bullshit detector. If you have twelve people post “Best book ever!”, “New Classic, better than The Bible”, and “Some Author is the next George R.R. Martin”, we all know those are bullshit reviews.

bs

Real reviews read like this: “I liked reading the Dandelion Project. I connected with the main characters and thought the subject matter was interesting. There were times when I felt a little lost because the book doesn’t give the backstory of the Dandelion Project, you just sort of jump in but it was good.” – Joe Reviewer

The review mentions some good stuff and some bad stuff. It doesn’t make the book sound like divine inspiration.

Then quote the review:

@Some_Author: Thanks @JoeReader, for the nice review. I always love hearing from my readers. http://linktomybook.

You seem like a decent chap. I’d like read what Joe Reader said.  Heck, I might buy that book.

eh-bleed

Second, don’t make your price your selling point. People will pay for a good book.  They really, really will. Really. The key word is good. As an author, you are putting yourself on a page. Don’t put out crap. You are worth more than 99 cents. Really. Write a book so good that people would willingly pay $100 a copy.

Write something that matters.

Write Something That Matters.
D.G.Rettig