Sunday, June 30, 2013

Guest Post by Douglas Dorow

Joe sez: Two weeks ago I invited others to guest post on my blog by donating a minimum of $100 to Tess Gerritsen's War on Alzheimer's.

To be honest, I thought perhaps ten people would donate. A hundred bucks is a lot of money, and though I knew my blog got a lot of traffic, I didn't expect there were that many authors who wanted to guest post.

I was wrong. There have been over 150 writers who have donated, which means I'll be hosting guest blogs for months. I'm overwhelmed by the generosity of my blog readers, and you folks have raised over $15k.

Originally, I ended the offer on June 23. But writers have kept donating, and I'm not going to say no to them. Tess's goal was raising $25,000, and right now she's at $21,643.

I'd like to see her hit her goal. So my offer is still good. Donate $100 or more, and you can write a guest blog. Here's what you do:

1. Email me with the heading TESS GUEST BLOG 7/15 (or any date you want), forwarding the confirmation email that you donated.
2. Attach the blog post in MS Word with all hyperlinks already embedded.
3. Attach the cover art to your book as a jpg.
4. Remind me the day before you want the post to go live by sending all of the above to me a second time. If your date is already taken, I'll email you and you can pick a new date.

I'm known for many things, but organization isn't one of them, and sorting out these guest blogs has been a bit daunting. But I'm doing my best, and I promise to get to everyone.

If you've missed the previous guest blogs, they've been fascinating and informative, and a nice change of pace from my spouting off my tired, old rhetoric.

You can read Dakota Madison talking about finding success as a romance writer here:

You can read CG Cooper talking about his Rule of Three here:

You can read Todd Travis talking about fear here:

You can read Patrick Balester talking about how he learned to love e-publishing here:

You can read Shantnu Tiwari talking about publishing cliches here:

You can read Mike Dennis talking about noir here:

And here's today's guest blogger, Douglas Dorow, a retired little league baseball player and Minneapolis thriller author of THE NINTH DISTRICT.

Shall We Play A Game?

In the movie War Games, Joshua the computer asks, “Shall we play a game?” David replies, “What is the primary goal?” Joshua answers, “To win the game.”

The game they’re playing is Global Thermonuclear War where Joshua discovers the only winning move is not to play.

As writers, we’re all playing a game. Like Joshua we’re playing to win, but in our case the only winning move is to play the game.

What’s the game? For most of us, it’s to write stories and get readers to read/buy them. The best thing about this game is that we each, individually, define what Winning is to us. Is it to see our book on a bookstore shelf, or on an online shelf? Is it to see our friends and family read our stories? Is it to make enough money to pay some expenses? Is it to make enough money to quit your day job? Is it to sell enough books to be a best seller?

The other great thing about this game is there are multiple ways to play. You can pursue the traditional path or choose to publish independently or do both.

Most of the arguments you see between writers is where one thinks they’re playing the same game and that the way they’re playing is the right way and the other person is playing it the wrong way. There are also comments by individual writers who are disappointed in how they’re doing. They’ve defined winning in terms of how someone else is doing, or aren’t winning in their own terms. They aren’t being realistic based on where they are in the game.

One thing about playing the publishing game is that I’m not really in competition with anyone but myself. I may compare my results to those of other authors, but it’s not a I win or I lose to them, because I set the criteria for what winning is to me.

The crazy thing about this game is that there are different variations, and when it comes to rules, some are set, some are ambiguous and some are changing.

In the spring of 2010 I was getting ready to enter the publishing game. I was drafting my query letter to send to agents for my thriller, The Ninth District. Then I read a post that Amazon was changing the options of the game, offering 70% royalties and I decided to jump in and play as an indie author.

I’ve published my thriller as an ebook, paperbook, audiobook and in Spanish in order to reach readers in the format they want to read in. I’ve also published on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks… I’ve played the KDP Select game, Free and 99 cents… I’ve reached the kindle #100 and in a couple of categories a few times. The rules keep changing so I keep changing how I play the game. The new game I’m playing is to release more titles; both as the second novel in the series and a companion novella series.

Like all games, to win this game it takes some innate skill, some developed skill and some luck.

Play the game. Have fun. And good luck.

Thanks to Tess Gerritsen for her War on Alzheimer’s, to all those who donated to help her reach her goal, and to Joe for making me aware of it.

I’m a writer because I’m a reader. And I’m a reader because of my mom, Millie Dorow, who taught me to read using Dick & Jane books before I headed off to kindergarten, and who was a victim of Alzheimer's.

Joe sez: I repeat myself a lot, as do most evangelists, because it drills the points home, and I never know when my information will reach someone who hasn't heard it before.

Two of the points I constantly make are:

1. Set attainable goals. Those are goals that don't require anyone else to say yes or no in order to achieve them. "I will write 2000 words a day, finish my novel by November 6, get it edited, proofed, formatted, and live on Kindle by November 25" is a goal. "I will find an agent and become a bestseller" is not a goal, it's a dream. Know the difference and act accordingly.

2. Ebooks are not zero sum. Douglas and I aren't in competition. People won't buy his ebook or my ebook. If they enjoy thrillers, they'll buy both.

At the end of my novel thriller Bloody Mary, a defeated and depressed Jack Daniels is contemplating quitting the police force, but she remembers some words of wisdom her mother taught her.

Life isn't a race we can win. The end of the race is death, and it happens to everybody. There is much that is out of our control. So don't worry about coming in first place. All we can do is run as best as we can.

It's the journey, not the destination.

Whether you think of your career as a race or a game or an endless mountain to climb, you'll be better off if you understand what it is you want, learn how to get what you want, and constantly adapt and experiment and grow from your mistakes.

Right now I'm the #67 bestselling author on all of Amazon. I've made it as high as #3. I've been as low as #2000. It's a journey of highs and lows, of taking risks that pay off and taking risks that fail spectacularly. I've made as much as $130,000 in a month, and as little as $1400. I've watched, mystified, as some of my titles sell 10,000 in a few days and while others (that I think are better) sell 100 in a few months.

There are no guarantees, no shortcuts, no clear paths to success (no matter what your definition of success is). There's only trying your best, writing as much as you can, rolling with the punches, changing and learning, and figuring out how to be happy with where you're at right now, not where you might be tomorrow.

There is also another rule I like: pay it forward.

I don't believe in karma. But I do believe we should treat each other as we want to be treated, and if someone does you a solid, you should pass that along. Every writer should have two outstretched hands. One, reaching for your next goal. The other, reaching behind you to give someone a boost up to where you are. And sometimes all that takes is buying a fellow author's ebook, or making a $5 donation to stop Alzheimer's.

No one said this journey would be fair, fun, or easy. It involves a lot of hard work, a lot of luck, and a lot of perseverance. But it can be rewarding, both monetarily, and emotionally.

Don't stop to simply smell the roses. Water them, too.