Aggressive versus Obnoxious in the Land of Publishing

When I give presentations to writers I joke that the difference between being aggressive and obnoxious is that the aggressive writer has a good manuscript and the obnoxious one has a bad manuscript.  For over a decade that’s always gotten a good laugh.

The only problem was, I wasn’t following my own advice.

I’ve grown much more assertive in the past year.  One of the largest mistakes I made coming out of Special Forces and going into traditional publishing was trusting that other people would do their jobs without having to look over their shoulders.  This cost me.  I have to remember Special Forces are the elite.  I could trust my life to the men on my A-Team to do their jobs to the utmost of their capabilities and I did.  The rest of the world is somewhat different.  Yesterday I flew into Laguardia and went up to White Plains for the NINC Conference and then too the Metro North train into the city for the Self Pub Expo.  I talked with reps from Amazon, Barnes & Noble Kobo, Audible ACX and other authors, such as Bella Andre and Barbara Freethy (by the way, it just amazes the way NY is sticking its head in the sand regarding the amazing success both of them, and Marie Force, have had as indie authors).

Now I push others, gently, but consistently, in order to achieve goals.  No one cares more about the success of your book than the author does.  Always remember that.  Perseverance and persistence count for a lot.

My experience over the last several years as an indie is this:  the absolute best bang for the buck and time is networking (beyond writing a good book and more good books).  To actually meet the people who make this industry run.

The biggest mistake I made in traditional publishing was sitting back and thinking my agent, my editor, my publisher, etc. would take care of me.  They’re not bad people, but like any job, they focus on the fires and not the person who isn’t on their radar.  Getting on the radar is key.  I actually thought that by not calling, emailing, etc. they would appreciate me more.  Wrong.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Sitting back and expecting people to come to you is a fatal assumption.

It takes persistence to really network.  You have to look at all the cards you gather at a conference and after a few days to let everyone gather their brains, follow up.

I force myself to go talk to people who I need to meet.  At Digital Book World I stood like one of those doofuses you always see hanging at the edge of the circle after the speaker is done and everyone else is talking to them after an exec at Amazon spoke.  I waited until everyone had said their piece, then talked to him.  Here’s a key though—you need an icebreaker.  Bella Andre says “I made a million dollars selling eBooks last year.”  She says it tends to get people’s attention.  Duh.  I said to this guy:  “I’m selling one thousand eBooks a day on Kindle.”  That got me some face time.

Actually, one piece of advice I give people now is that one of the best networking tools is to go to people’s blogs and leave cogent comments.  People tend to read the comments on their own blogs.  If you make sense, you will get noticed.

Bell Andre said something at Digital Book World:  you email someone and they don’t reply, you keep doing it.  Politely, spaced out.  Nine times you won’t hear back as they’re swamped with work.  But sooner or later you’ll hit that window where they have the time to respond.  It took a while, but this month, Amazon features one of my KDP books, The Rock, in their 100 books under $3.99.  My sales on that title jumped ten-fold (by the way, you have just a couple of days left to get this at $1.99).

As important as the writing is, networking is also important!

What do you do to network?  Any special tips?

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  1. D.D. Scott says:

    Excellent points, Bob! :-)

    I use the same Gutsy Guy/Girl Approach that you do when it comes to speaking with people at conferences and other events. It’s an approach I learned from reading Kate White’s fabulous book “Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead But Gutsy Girls Do: Nine Secrets Every Working Woman Must Know.” The book most certainly applies to men too! Kate was the Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan magazine for years. I used her techniques on her when I met her at RT10 in Ohio and she took the time to talk with me for a bit and was thrilled to see her techniques in action!!! An experience I’ll never forget!!!

    So, yes, definitely, as you said, “be a doofus,” and have your great line ready and wait after or before and between workshops to use it!!! Or…use it in the bar or lobby.

    I also do a ton of emails and Facebook and Twitter direct messages and get great responses that way too! For example, I emailed you to see if you’d want to blog here at The WG2E, after reading your on-writing and publishing books for years and attending many of your workshops, where I did wait in line to tell you thank u and that you rocked.

  2. I think also think that there needs to be an important component that people often don’t mention: You have to be having fun. It’s going to show if you’re just going through the motions.

    I realized this about Twitter. I’m an introvert and horrible at cocktail conversations, so I don’t always enjoy Twitter that much. As a result, I have been leaning towards blog related things where I am better. I’ve been using blog chains on a message board to find a range of posts that interest me so I can go in and comment. I also participated in one this month and went in most of the other posts to comment. I’ll admit, I’m having a lot more fun doing this than trying to dig through the writer spam on Twitter to have conversations.

  3. Julie Day says:

    As someone with Asperger’s I find it hard to network anyway, but I am learning not to be too shy. Says she who approached five agents at a agents’ party last month. I try to wait for a gap in the talk to the author/presenter, then say hello. Yesterday, I met Carole Matthews, a well-known rom-com author here. I spoke to her briefly when I first got to the place, but later on when there was only her and me in the room and before she gave her talk, I said what I wanted to say to her. I now try to speak to her via FB.

    BTW Bob, am currently reading your ebook ‘Writer to Successful Author’ and learning a lot from it. Just done the experiment and am an ‘INFJ’ author.

  4. Sibel Hodge says:

    Thanks so much for your post, Bob. Very informative.

    I think it’s hard when you first start out because networking is probably not something a lot of indies are used to. But with time, it gets a lot easier, even if you’re shy! And you never know when that person you met or conversed with online is going to offer you an amazing opportunity. :)

  5. Tamara Ward says:

    Thanks, Bob, and congratulations on the success! I think you said it, that consistency is the key – to keep at it and not give up if you don’t hear back the first time or the ninth time.

  6. Bob:
    I have the tendency to “hang back” – as a girl child in the 1950s I learned it was not not considered “nice” to brag…I have to tell myself that networking and marketing is not “bragging”. I missed the chance at a recent writers’ meeting to talk about my anthology. I still need work on this.
    Thanks for the post. I’m saving it to reread at times when I need to remind myself that writing is only part of the process.

  7. Bill Beaman says:

    Several excellent ideas were put forward in this post and they are greatly appreciated. Thanks to you and the E-Publishing team for the tremendous set of resources they offer to Indie publishers. Bill

  8. Good points, Bob. Love this post. When I was at the BEA in June, Amazon had flown me out and I was hanging out at their booth waiting to do a talk when one of the staff members told me that the guy from Huffington Post wanted to talk to a traditional author who was also e-publishing, but I would have to do since they had nobody else available to talk to him. I walked up to him and blurted out that I was solely indie published, had been writing for 19 years and I sold over 300,000 books in a little over a year and I told him what my last deposit was from Amazon. He grabbed my arm, pulled out his recorder and we talked for 20 minutes. He called me when I arrived home a month later to do some follow up and then he interviewed me for another article. I spent all week at BEA spitting out numbers to get people’s attention but I figured that’s why I was there. It’s the only thing that gets anyone to pay attention. Yeah, I was a big doofus for a week. :)

  9. Liliana Hart says:

    I think that’s sound advice, Bob, especially if you’re like me and have to really work at not being too introverted. Honestly, I’m still not completely comfortable going up to the execs and industry people and telling them I’ve sold half a million books in the last year or so. It’s just not me to be that “in your face.” But I know I need to give them that information, because they’re always shocked when the info does come out, and I’m always bombarded with questions after that initial shock wears off.

    I needed to hear this post. I’m more than happy to sit with other authors in the bar and tell them about my success in a relaxed setting. I can’t tell you how many editors have asked me who I write for, and I immediately say, “I’m self-publishing,” only to have them turn their back and walk away before I can tell the about half a million books sold, or that I make 6 figures a month. I’ve already lost the conversation before it begins.

    As far as networking goes, I still feel like reader conferences are the best bang for my buck. I go to several a year, and make sure I’m visible and reachable to my readers. I’ve picked up a lot of new readers that way. Sure, the editors and exec people are important, and I know that the right person at Amazon could make my career explode, but I remember who buys my books and who got me to this spot.

  10. Bob, thanks for taking this time to share.

    What I’m doing now that I’m on the Indie path (having left the traditonally published path after 4 books) is educating myself by focusing on trustworthy sites/blogs/books that resonate with me. I’ll post if I have something to say, not just post to get my face and name out there (I’ve recently unsubscribed to A LOT of things so my inbox is reasonable now!). I agree that comments need to be helpful or insightful.

    With that said, I’m also starting to “ask.” I requested to do 2 guest blog posts recently–my first one was last week (and saw a little spike in sales). And when I got that “yes” I worked to make the posts spectacular!

    I also “think big” as far as networking–I recently sent a message to Ellen Degeneres because she is part-owner of the pet food company who has a charity I support with 10% of my debut book’s royalties (Halo Pet Foundation sponsors the sites; I’m specifically pushing the site because my debut ebook Kindle romance features 9 cats!) . Cross marketing is something I’m thinking about all the time…trying to make smart decisions but thinking BIG. Who knows? At least if I create a reason for someone like Ellen to mention me and my ebook, it could happen, right?

  11. This is the best ever piece of advice on how to use social media “one of the best networking tools is to go to people’s blogs and leave cogent comments. ”

    People keep asking me the “secret” to having a popular blog. It’s visiting OTHER blogs and joining in on the conversation. That’s how you get to know people. Social Media is about getting to know people, not spamming them. Great post.

  12. Great blog! I love this thought: “Perseverance and persistence count for a lot.”

    I’m relatively new to social media networking, with just over a year in the arena. For the past four years, I’ve gone to local conferences, authors’ readings, and different writing groups. The more I network, the easier it gets.

    Some of the seeds I planted a long time ago are sprouting now. I haven’t found any immediate gratification in writing and it can be a discouraging, bruising endeavour. Having taken time to build a network of people on the same journey has made it easier to keep going.

    I have a book deal now, a result of hard work and stick-to-it-ness – good old perseverance and persistence. I keep writing. I keep reading. I network more than ever.

    Thanks for a great blog,

  13. Brit says:

    When you speak I listen, even to the point of reaching for my Kindle as you said $1.99. I half-expected to get the screen that said “You already own…” I used to feel guilty when it popped up, but no longer as The Rock made book number 691 on a device not even two years old. I’ve always read a lot, but my Kindle made me a reading demon. I’m sure there are others out there like me.

    Now if I could just get over the imaginary hurdle and self-pub.