Monday, March 18, 2013

Fight For Your Dreams

   Why fight? Because you are your only friend. More importantly, you’re the only one you can trust completely. Not your spouse, not your children, not your friends, not the government and certainly not the company you work for.

   Just you.
   The only problem is, you might be unintentionally blocking yourself from having the life you want. I discovered that’s exactly what I was doing and that’s a hard lesson to learn.
   You see. I was born at the end of the ‘Leave it to Beaver’ era when fathers left for work each morning and moms took care of the kids and the house. Dad worked for a pharmaceutical company and made a good salary. As kids we were taught to study hard and keep our noses clean so that we too, could grow up and work for a big company and make a good salary and have a good life.

   And so we studied hard, kept out noses clean, graduated and went to work for big companies.


   Somewhere along the line, that agreement got kicked to the curb. They discovered that their American made products could be manufactured cheaper overseas, and robots could do assembly line work for free, and by doing so profits would go through the roof.  Isn’t that great? The only problem was that all the people who were in that line of work got kicked to the curb.

   Did anybody care? Well, at first they did, but eventually the public was convinced it was for the overall good and those people would easily find other jobs. Then those big corporations began outsourcing everything to the cheap labor force of third world countries and even more people got kicked to the curb.

   And the government said that it was good. And don’t worry about the people who lost their jobs because they were Americans and Americans weren’t afraid of hard work. They would find jobs because people who aren’t lazy always manage to find jobs…   

   Raise your fist and chant with me people, “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!”

   Five years ago I was on top of the world. My YA novel Frostie the Deadman was selling well, I had a good job, owned a house and had bought a new sports car. I had fully recovered from my divorce, was dating and had returned to performing my music before live audiences, which was something I hadn’t done for over a decade.

   Then it all went to hell.

   I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I’d be willing to bet that you, dear reader, have a similar story or have a close friend or relative who found themselves in the same predicament. Very few were spared with the economy collapsed and the recession began. And like most people I was confident it wouldn’t affect me. I had won employee of the month earlier that year and consistently had better percentages than my co-workers.

   I soon learned none of that mattered.

   I wasn’t looking at the big picture. I didn’t realize that what affected one part of the company, affected all parts of the company. I was only mildly concerned when management announced that our fabrication department was being closed and that the marketing department was being phased out.

   Then over the next few months I’d arrive at work and discover yet another empty desk, and yet another work buddy shoved out the door. Don’t worry, they said, the lay-offs won’t affect you, they said.

   But… they… lied.

   So there I was; middle-aged, divorced and unemployed. “This is probably for the best,” I told myself. “When my publisher releases my follow up to Frostie the Deadman this spring, I’ll be able to devote all my time to promoting it.”

   Not much later I received a letter from said publisher stating that due to unexpected financial downturns they would be unable to fulfill their contractual obligations regarding my book’s release. Then the writers strike hit and all those suddenly unemployed writers decided to become novelists and the book market got saturated. 
   The turnaround time for queries and sample chapters quickly stretched to 6 to 9 MONTHS!

   So I decided to start my own company and began studying the business. The first thing I learned was that as a writer, I didn’t know a damn thing about the business end of my craft. Didn’t know that in most cases the author receives the least amount of money from the sales of their book and often have to rely on public appearances to pay the rent.

   Big, BIG learning curve. Money was flying out the door and very little was coming in. At the time I didn’t know the MOST IMPORTANT THING regarding publishing. And that, my friends, is promotion, publicity and marketing. Looking back on my book tours, I often wondered why I’d be a big hit in some cities, attracting crowds who had come to see me and buy my books and in other cities find an empty store with no buyers and no interest.

   The answer is promotion, publicity and marketing. If you’re not actively doing that or aren’t at least paying some company to do it, your career is doomed.

   Unless, of course, you catch a lucky break like I did.

   Then within a week or so things really started turning around, hits to my weekly blog began to skyrocket, the number of people LIKING my Facebook aripublishing fan page went through the roof.