If one follow’s the lead of Harlan Coben (skilled and successful thriller writer), then an author should plow every cent of their revenues in their first five years of publication back into promotion, to build their brand and longevity. If I’m not mistaken (and tell me in the comments if I am), Harlan also did a book tour cross country to meet indie book store owners.
I like Harlan’s thinking.
Definitely in years one and two we re-invested in me and in SkipJack Publishing and our fledgling school of authors. And we visited 43 of the 48 contiguous states on book tours to stores both chain and indie and to libraries and even RV parks and coffee shops.
But a weird thing happened in year three. In year three we started making too much money to spend, at least at first. It snuck up on us. and it made me very, very happy because I hated feeling like an expense to our household.
As often happens, the workload increased as the income increased. More PFH and SkipJack books. More promotions. More at stake. More to manage. Eric kept impressing upon me that we could recreate PFHs to do everything but write PFH books (because we are not interested in becoming the James Patterson of the indie book world, ahem). I resisted, because I a) am a control freak b) didn’t want to train people, lose them, and retrain new people over and over c) can do it faster myself because I can read my own mind 😉 d) liked making a profit for a change and e) am a teensy bit anti-social.
Then one of our SkipJack Publishing authors, Ken Oder, came to us seeking author services: the ones he needed, in the way he wanted them, when he wanted them, and without making it a hassle for him. He told us he wanted someone who could do it like Eric and me. Then another of our authors, Rebecca Nolen, needed help we didn’t have the bandwidth to provide. Well, the only way to make that happen for them was to hire and train our own folks. About that same time, a great book and author, Marcy McKay, fell into our laps, and despite our vow to each other not to take on any more work, we stopped and took stock. If we hired help, could we solve the problems for PFH and the other SkipJack authors as well as make it possible to say yes to this incredible book and new author?
But that begged the question: what was it we were trying to do with SkipJack anyway? Eric and I put our heads together to reconsider and came up with this: We are trying to create a non-traditional publishing company where we provide an avenue to authors of magnificent books to publish with our brand yet maintain complete autonomy. We want books that are mysterious, thrilling, and suspenseful, that are not inconsistent with a life of faith—whatever that faith may be, and whether questioning or not. We had planned this as a “retirement gig” that bloomed ten years from now. We got lucky, and it bloomed quicker. Ready or not, now was the time.
So we put an ad in our small town free paper. It cost forty-two bucks and ran for a week. I mentioned on Facebook that I had capitulated and was going hire an assistant for SkipJack. Ten days later we’d had thirty applications. THIRTY APPLICATIONS for a job in a Nowheresville town of 500 people as a “publishing assistant.” It was crazy.
We met with four of the candidates, although many more were great. Three were just right, though what they were just right for took me by surprise. Two were perfect for the job we had envisioned, and each wanted to work part-time, thus equalling one full timer. Both are authors and have a burning desire to learn this crazy world SkipJack publishes within, and how to do it successfully. The third was a wild card, someone who had spent years in indie music promotion and booking, but lived five miles away and was looking to reinvent a part of herself. She didn’t fit the job we’d advertised for, but she did fit something else: visioning, branding, growing, looking for the new ways to monetize that we hadn’t pursued yet.
So . . . instead of one publishing assistant, we ended up with three new employees! (See our whole team, HERE) With our potential excess capacity, we can even provide author services to non-SkipJack authors, on occasion. And it’s been fun and exciting and, yes, it’s been hard because I’m trying to learn how to run payroll through Quickbooks and put together job tasks and projects and teach people how to do them and review work and answer questions and finish my book. Eric tries to squeeze a meaningful contribution into his busy travel and work schedule for his day job. I’m not complaining. I’ve enjoyed it. I get to do what I love full time. I am occasionally a wee bit stressed but I love it and can see the possibilities for the future.
I still wish I could clone me. The writing part.
But maybe if I just closed Facebook occasionally that would happen organically?
Feelin’ thankful, and that’s all I’ve got.