Never Operate Out of Fear


One axiom I learned the hard way is: Never operate out of fear. It's up there with: Never food shop while hungry.

When I was initially diagnosed with a brain tumor (luckily benign although it'll ultimately destroy the quality of my life), I operated out of fear. My fear was (now supplanted by the brain tumor) that my novels will be discovered posthumously.

I wanted to enjoy the monetary rewards while still alive and relatively healthy. Not to be distributed after my death to my beneficiary - The Mad Dog and Cat Society.

In this vein, I signed one book with an indie publisher. This particular book I published myself years earlier as an ebook. In its infancy stage, it sold well until it flatlined. Although hysterical and way ahead of its time (still is), it simply needed an oomph outside of my own marketing efforts. I believed that a highly touted and hyped promotional and marketing campaign would be just the right touch and may hit an audience outside of my paltry efforts.

"Customarily I charge $2,500," I was informed. "Given you're poor, I'll charge you only $500 for the same campaign, but don't tell anyone."

"Are you crazy?" thundered my close friend, Laslo. "You're paying them? Do you know who they are? What are their credentials?"

I lived in the same building as Laslo, an award-winning graphic artist as well as an esteemed executive in the publishing industry, for almost a decade before going forward with my first novel, Five-Star FLEECING. We socialized for years and served together on the co-op board. He has done all the work on all my books. Amazing work that not only includes covers, but formatting. Formatting is quite important even though a lost art due to the labor-intensive effort.

"Laslo, one of my writer friends retained them. I kinda trust him as he's a successful business owner."

I should've listened to my gut: sometimes success in one business doesn't transfer well into another. 

Hence, the bad decision.

To my utmost distress, I witnessed the most unprofessional 'work' done.

When the publisher sent me the newly designed cover, I freaked. It resembled a blur, the kind you get making a copy while paper is jammed in the machine.

"What the fuck is this?" I shrieked.

Dryly, the publisher responded, "This represents the computer world."

At that moment I realized I was doomed. The relationship quickly devolved the moment I saw the formatted edition. 

"What's with all this wasted space, dangling words, orphaned sentences?" I diplomatically yelled. I should know about formatting, having self-published three award-winning novels, beautiful pieces of art. 

"We know what we're doing," said the publisher. "In fact, we make computer programs for the publishing industry."

Evidently, it had nothing to do with formatting.

I complained to Laslo. "They're killing my book!"

Dryly, he said, "It's not like they're doing it on purpose. They don't know any better." He spat out, "Amateurs."

I got him to make the cover for them. Insofar as the interior, I couldn't push the envelope.

Besides the inability to accept criticism, the publisher took umbrage and sent me vilifying emails, misunderstanding on purpose everything I said.

The excuse for not pushing the bevy of authors (yes, I'm not the only idiot) into major distributorships has been: "These distributors! They refuse to sell my company's books saying they're shit!"

I developed a newfound respect and admiration of those distributors.

Over the two years of our relationship, this is what I got for a $500 investment:

  • A poorly made book equivalent to a mimeographed copy
  • Total publisher sales:  2 books
  • One blog radio interview
  • 18 tweets
  • Incorrectly spelt title on her website

I, on the other hand, sold tons of hard copy books I purchased myself. The publisher received 50%.

The relationship languished during this time until the publisher went batshit crazy on Facebook. Let's say I don't want to get into the insanity that was written for the public towards me. My response was, "I'm severing our business relationship. And now I'll put out a PROFESSIONAL edition."

By this time, Laslo was revving to go. He created seven covers and formatted the book PRECISELY the way I wanted. Just like the pro he is.

It took a few years, but now I've a product to be proud of.

The moral of the story: NEVER OPERATE OUT OF FEAR!

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