By Steven Pressfield
Published: July 31, 2014
Today we talk about Jeff’s work habits. Eighteen-hour days, writing via Skype with his two partners, organizing the episodes of the web series using his own digitial version of the Foolscap Method. Jeff also takes me on a tour of his house and workspace. It’s like Van Gogh’s tiny room at Arles, only with graphics-power computers, music synthesizers, a micro-recording studio—and Jeff’s bed, tucked into the only leftover space like the pallet of a fourteenth-century monk. This is what “saving all the money and putting it up on the screen” is all about.
(The transcript of today’s video is below.)
Posted in How The Millennials Do It
By Callie Oettinger | Published: August 1, 2014
In his “Acting ‘As If’” post last week, Shawn wrote:
“Our books are not Frontlist. They are backlist, evergreen, long-term commitments. So we spend weeks, months, years on every single one we put out there in an effort to reach what we think is the publisher’s job . . . getting the book into the hands of 10,000 readers. We have plans to promote all of our titles every chance we get, in any way we can do it, for as long as we’re around.”
How is this accomplished?
By getting on base and playing the long game.
Getting On Base
“Your job is to get on base,” says my son’s baseball coach. Ego likes a line drive, resulting in a double or triple, but, end of day, the goal of getting on base eclipses the how of getting on base. Just get there.
In outreach terms, this means focusing on what makes sense, rather than on what Ego wants. Just like a homerun, a weeklong New York City publicity blitz can feed Ego, but just like a homerun, it isn’t a guaranteed grand slam. You can hit it out of the park, but that homerun won’t guarantee more runs batted in than any other type of hit. In other words, a media storm focusing on your book can result in your book being the “it” topic of the week, but it isn’t a guarantee that the book will hit the bestseller list—or sell that many books period.
Going back to Shawn’s “Acting ‘As If’” post, Black Irish Books plays to get on base, just as if it was a Big 5 publisher, but it’s prepped for drawing a walk and advancing play that way, too. Walks aren’t a Big 5 strength. They slow down the game and eat through the time the Big 5 have allotted for outreach. Their business model is focused on larger quantities, on which each title is given a set amount of time to succeed.
The Long Game
Adding a little football to the mix: Think Dan Marino. Marino’s one of the best quarterbacks of all time, yet his fingers are void of Superbowl rings. Marino was drafted 27th in the 1983 NFL draft, with five quarterbacks preceding him. “Some, like Jim Kelly and John Elway, went on to have splendid careers,” wrote Kristian Dyer for Yahoo Sports. “Others such as Tony Eason and Todd Blackledge, well, not so much.”
Marino’s a backlist bestseller. He didn’t launch at the top of the list, but he outlasted and outplayed many of the others who launched that same year.
When you’re playing for a lifetime instead of for a season, you’ll find yourself adjusting the view.
Posted in What It Takes | 10 Comments
By Steven Pressfield | Published: July 30, 2014
One of the outcomes that has always surprised the hell out of me about my own work is that, until I did it, I had no idea I was going to do it. Do you know what I mean? I wrote Book X and looked at it and said, “Where in the world did that come from?”
Then I wrote Book X+1 and said the exact same thing.
We discover who we are by the works we produce.
Did you know who you were when you were twenty? But who-you-were was already there. And a compulsion was on you, even if you barely felt it and could not articulate it, to become that yet-unknown commodity. When you encountered a force in opposition—a boss or a parent, a societal prejudice or expectation, even the snarky voice of Resistance in your own head—you instinctively reacted against it. You took steps to overcome that opposition.
To feel the pull of our calling and to follow it produces what psychologists call individuation. We become ourselves. To follow our Muse is a way of answering the question, “Who am I?”
We answer that question the way that artists have always answered it, by producing works. Consider Meryl Streep’s roles over a lifetime, or Bob Dylan’s albums, or the novels of Philip Roth. Each one of those works, in the moment it was unfolding, was for the artist a step into the unknown. Risk was present. It took courage to go forward. And a happy outcome was far from certain. Did Bob Dylan know when he left Hibbing, Minnesota that he would one day go electric, or pass through a Christian phase, or write a lyric like “I used to care but things have changed?”
But when we regard these artists’ bodies-of-work from the end backwards, when we view them as completed (or partially-completed) entities, they seem inevitable, don’t they? Like an oak arising from an acorn. The ineluctable flowering of an identity that was there from the start but that few, if any, perceived—including the artist himself.
Why do I keep writing this blog?
I’m making the case for this journey of self-discovery. What’s the alternative: to not do it? (Again, I’m aware of how high this stuff sits on the Maslow Pyramid. But I see no reason to apologize.)
Which brings us to the democratic side of this question. Not everyone is Meryl Streep. There’s only one Philip Roth and no duplicate of Bob Dylan.
What about the rest of us?
What if we try all our lives and never produce even a decent demo tape? Are we idiots? Look to your right, look to your left. Those poor strivers are clearly going nowhere. What makes you and I believe we’re any different?
If in this blog I’m encouraging people to pursue their artistic dreams, am I doing more harm than good? Lord knows I get plenty of notes from people who are clearly in greater need of psychiatric intervention than of creative encouragement.