What It Takes

What It TakesWriting Wednesdays

What It Takes

By Steven Pressfield | Published: December 1, 2010

I’m going to try something new over the next few months. Remember, a few weeks ago, we commandeered this Writing Wednesdays space to post a series called, with apologies to John Steinbeck, a “A Writer’s Journal of (Finishing) a Novel?” I was, then, in the final writing throes of a book I’d been working on for the past three years, and I posted a blow-by-blow account of that adventure.

Well, now I’d like to do that for the next stage: the editing, publicizing and marketing process. This doesn’t mean the end of our regular Writing Wednesdays posts, I promise. But we will intersperse them with the publishing saga as it unfolds. It’ll be a window, from one writer’s experience, into what’s happening right this minute as the publishing biz gets turned on its head by the meteoric takeoff of eBooks, print-on-demand, “platform promotion,” not to mention the near total demise of the newspaper and magazine book review (a catastrophe for all writers, including me), and thrashes around wildly, trying to figure out how to keep its head above water.

I live in Los Angeles but I’m in New York now. I’ll be meeting today, as this post goes up, with my editor and publisher, marketing execs, etc. for the first time on this new book. Next week I’ll go into detail about exactly what’s happening in the process—the old way, the new way and the new-new way, whatever that may be.

There are three primary people on my little team, and each one will contribute posts from their specific perspective and expertise. Shawn Coyne is my manager; he was my original editor at Doubleday; he left there to launch his own publishing house, Rugged Land, in 2001. He published The War of Art.  Without him, I’d be nowhere. He knows the publishing business inside and out, and he’s a bit of a black Irish wild man. His posts will probably be crazed rants on what’s wrong with the book biz, how to fix it and what the rest of us, at all levels of aspiration, have to do in the meantime if we want to survive. A lot of his thoughts will be right-on, I’m certain, for artists and musicians, filmmakers, designers and entrepreneurs of all kinds.

My publicist is Callie Oettinger, who works out of Washington, D.C., and whose primary beat has been the Pentagon and the military, but who is expanding rapidly into many other areas. She’ll post about the publicity and promotion aspect of this process. They say the difference between advertising and publicity is you pay for advertising but publicity is free; you just have to figure out how to get it. Again, I’m certain that what Callie has to say will be of interest across the board to any artist or entrepreneur who’s trying to get the word out about his or her projects.

Jeff Simon designed this site. He’s a little shy verbally, but I think I can prevail upon him to write a bit about design and blogging and some of the tech stuff that we all have to know these days.

If you’re reading this, here are a couple of questions I’d like to ask you. First, does this area sound like it might be of interest? If it is, are there any specific issues or questions you’d like to see addressed? I’m figuring we’ll do ten posts at least in this series, maybe more if it gets an energetic response.

Now: a little bit about this new book and where it stands in the long process from inception to publication and beyond. It’s a novel, a contemporary military thriller titled The Profession. I started it three years ago under contract to Doubleday.  But as has happened again and again over the last three years, Doubleday’s corporate parent (German behemoth Bertelsmann) decided to radically “restructure” their American empire in 2008.  They kicked Doubleday’s publisher upstairs, let go a number of people to shrink their overhead, and put Doubleday underneath Knopf Publishing, another one of their American publishing houses.  My editor was caught in the fray and was transferred to yet another Bertelsmann-owned publishing house—Crown Publishing.  I followed him when my contract with Doubleday was transferred to Crown.

Payment for my novel comes in three equal installments—on signing the contract, on “delivery and acceptance” of the manuscript by my editor, and on publication. We’ve just passed the second stage. And between now and publication, which is in late June 2011, we have to figure out what to do to get the word out.

I’m a big believer that writers and artists have to participate all-out in this process. The days of mailing in the manuscript and sitting back are long gone. You’re dead meat if you do that, unless your name is Grisham, King or Roth. This blog is a big part of that effort on my part. So is having a manager and a publicist and a webmaster. When I first started fifteen years ago, I would have considered such an arrangement outrageous, narcissistic and bordering on megalomania. Now it’s indispensable. It also happens to be fun.

So that’s where we stand. Please let me know if this stuff is interesting or a snooze. Or if there are specific areas of the process that you’d like me to focus on.

More news to come. Stay tuned.

[The first “What It Takes” post is up and running. Thanks everyone for your comments.]

Posted in What It Takes, Writing Wednesdays

60 Responses to “What It Takes”

  1. December 1, 2010 at 2:50 am

    I’m a music producer and as our industries are going through similar travails I’d find this extremely interesting and enlightening. Many thanks for your continuing inspirational missives.

  2. December 1, 2010 at 2:56 am

    Definitely – as a writer barely out of the starting blocks this kind of in-depth detail about the publishing/marketing process is absolutely fascinating.. As you say, it should be of great interest to people right across the creative industries.

  3. December 1, 2010 at 3:06 am

    It’s a great idea. The industry has changed, however a lot of the teachers I had were still stuck in a very academic and traditional mold. The blogosphere has changed everything!

  4. December 1, 2010 at 3:15 am

    As a writer currently revising a historical fiction, I find your unfolding, writing journey informative and invaluable. I look forward to reading and learning more about the publishing and marketing process. Thank you and all the best with THE PROFESSION. -Mia

  5. December 1, 2010 at 4:02 am

    As a writer at work on two books, one a memoir about a prison writing group and one a book on applying the classical mythic journey to life, I enjoy and benefit from your writing, including The War of Art and your blogs. Living here in New York in the midst of the communications maelstrom, I’m really looking forward to following your new series! Thank you for sharing it.-Julie

  6. December 1, 2010 at 4:22 am

    ABSOLUTELY interesting. Looking forward to it!

  7. December 1, 2010 at 4:45 am

    Can’t wait for this series! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

    I’m a ghostwriter of nonfiction books, and I often help my clients develop platforms. I’m interested in new developments in platform/community building.

  8. Lee Porter
    December 1, 2010 at 4:49 am

    I love Writing Wednesdays. Look forward to posts on grinding out the job, creatively. Posts that force us to write with a sharp stick, tub of monkey blood and a mighty yawp. You make me look forward to kicking resistance down. So lets see where the casing of the sausage really comes from. I’ll read and probably enjoy the series. But please, please, please gives us a little beat of that prehistoric chest thump, occasionally. Cheers!

  9. December 1, 2010 at 4:56 am

    This definitely sounds interesting to me. As for suggestions, I would love for your guest bloggers to also write a little something for those of us who are not well known (and might not have any connections) and are doing things independently.

  10. December 1, 2010 at 4:57 am

    Steven – yes please. I was intrigued by Seth Godin’s talk on the future of publishing which talked a lot about who owns the database of readers. He was recommending that independent publishers build “tribes” of interest groups who would be interested in new content around their subject area. I’d be really interested in your views about whether authors should take charge of collecting a database of interested readers or whether you still feel this is the job of a publisher.

    For example – why doesn’t every copy of your book include a specific offer to encourage the reader to sign up here? That would, over time, give you a database of past buyers and future readers.

    I’d be very interested in you posting about how the dynamics of publishing have changed over recent years and how you think it might change in the future – as well as the nuts and bolts of the process.

  11. December 1, 2010 at 5:08 am

    This sounds fascinating and helpful. Looking forward to it.

  12. December 1, 2010 at 5:12 am

    Absolutely. I look forward to reading your insider’s views of how a book moves through the cycle once the writing is completed, especially the editing and marketing phases.

  13. December 1, 2010 at 5:22 am

    Just the tidbit of information about your changing contract is very enlightening. This is the kind of business of writing stuff that seems to be a big secret to a lot of writers out there.

    The publishing industry is indeed changing and to see it from the inside I think is a grand idea.

    Also excited at the prospect of new Steven Pressfield book!

  14. December 1, 2010 at 5:23 am

    Yes! Very interested!Thank you for sharing.

  15. December 1, 2010 at 6:17 am

    SP – Perfect timing! Just finished up the edits phase of my first book (remember standing in your house 10 years ago!) and now I am completely confused about the options that are now available and the pros and cons to each one. I’ve already had a publisher who wants to change a word on the cover, etc…

    Working on book 2 as I write!

    Thanks for all that you do.

    MB

  16. David
    December 1, 2010 at 6:21 am

    I think this is a great idea and valuable for all of us who are writing books. I’m specifically interested in what the value proposition is for traditional publishing in the time of e-books, “print on demand,” etc. I’m struck by how much of your own effort goes into the marketing versus the publisher’s effort. If your marketing effort is very much responsible for readers finding your material, could you in fact move beyond the publisher and “self-publish?”

    Thanks again – this is great stuff.

  17. December 1, 2010 at 6:23 am

    Steven,

    An incredibly creative idea which I anticipate will teach me invaluable lessons.

    I’m an entrepreneur.

    Ken Blanchard wrote in his book, The One Minute Entrepreneur, “Without good cash management, you’ll never make it as an entrepreneur. The secret to success is generating CASH, CASH, CASH.”

    I’m curious to understand how generating cash and profit are discussed within your team. (My assumption is that none of you are non-profit organizations!)

    Sincere thanks for all you do!

  18. December 1, 2010 at 6:34 am

    I think it’s a fascinating idea because it empowers everyone who has a book in them to see how it all works. I love when you say that the writers and artists have to participate now more than ever in the process. The writer really is essentially a partner in the success of the book now more than ever because of the current climate. Looking forward to your posts!!

  19. December 1, 2010 at 7:03 am

    Hey Steven!

    Absolutely interested in the business side of the creative side.

    Many are of the opinion that you can sit on the business side of the table – or the creative side of the table. Not both. Two different mindsets. But the reality is now that you have do both and be the point person in aggressively promote your work.

    Especially interested in your go-to-market approach using real-time marketing & PR (social media networks/apps) and videos – how you’re going to do that.

    WAR OF ART – will forever be an inspirational classic. Continues to help me fight the good fight and defeat the INNER DEADBEAT. I know you were the writer and mind behind it – but a hats off and thanks to Shawn Coyne as well. Tip of the hat to Callie too!

  20. December 1, 2010 at 7:05 am

    Definitely interested, Steve. I’m not writing professionally, but that what is going on in the publishing biz today is important, so please have at it.

  21. December 1, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Steven – this could not come at a better time! Some things I’d love to see covered:

    – I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes with my book, but I also refuse to leave its success to other people. When it comes to the editing, publicizing and marketing process, what is NOT the author’s responsibility?

    – At what point does an artist need a team like yours? Did you seek these great folks out or were they assigned to you and things clicked?

    – On platform promotion and building a tribe, I’d love some insight on what to share with the tribe, and when. Especially when I’m waiting for “real” news, like a contact signed or pub date set.

    Thanks again for this, and I can’t wait for The Profession.

  22. December 1, 2010 at 7:19 am

    The idea of providing fresh reports from the new publishing front is a GREAT idea!

    Nearly the same issues causing upheaval in book publishing are hitting the independent film world too, as well as other creative endeavors. The new paradigm requires the artist to be entrepreneur as well as creator and you documenting your full immersion into this world will be a valuable resource for others to utilize.

    But then, that’s what you’ve been providing all along!

    Keep up the great work,

    Bill

  23. Deborah
    December 1, 2010 at 7:21 am

    love the idea of perching on your windowsill during The Process, fascinating stuff – thank you Steven!

  24. December 1, 2010 at 7:21 am

    Definitely. THE WAR OF ART gave me the shove I needed to keep on keeping on. Now I need directions for navigating this new “road” to publication. So many potholes.

  25. December 1, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Like pretty much everyone else here, I would LOVE to see these updates from you, Mr. Pressfield. Such a great look at a side of the industry that few people get to see until they’re already going through it all. Would be great hear thoughts and insight on the process from someone like yourself who isn’t just telling us what happens but can also explain why it matters. I’m definitely looking forward to where this goes in the future. Thanks.

  26. Mike
    December 1, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Hi Steven,

    This sounds interesting. On the one hand, it does not directly relate to my personal concerns but I think that if you can allude to the larger issues at work, it will be relevant to more people. For example, I follow your work as a PhD student struggling to succeed as an academic, both creatively and professionally. I’m not going to be dealing with publishers and book promotion anytime soon but your new subject is nonetheless relevant to me because it is ultimately about more fundamental issues such as the tension between artistic integrity and self-promotion, the changing nature of information distribution, and so on.

    I think that this will be useful to the extent that it relates the nitty gritty of the publishing industry to the broader issue of how any type of creative person brings his or her product to the marketplace (and how THAT challenge is itself a target of Resistance).

    m

  27. December 1, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Dear Steven,

    It would be my greatest pleasure to receive the wisdom of your team. I am the author of 5 books, 3 artistic renderings of my photography and 2 in natural medicine. With a thriving international practice, it has become key that I only market my books to resonant venues in ways that will yield the most viable results. This takes savvy discernment on the part of the author and if I can learn through you, and your team,I anticipate that you can save me time and potential heartache, enabling to maximize my honed efforts. Kindly, Allyson

  28. December 1, 2010 at 8:43 am

    As I read your post this morning my excitement grew with every word! I’ve worked in the film industry, written scripts that sit in a box somewhere, and am well aware of this ever changing (& challenging) terrain that I also believe is our responsibility as artists to navigate. I’m looking forward to all of your insights into the “reality” of putting our work out there and being published or produced!

  29. December 1, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I’m very interested in reading about this process. I’m also going to second Becky’s suggestion on possibly offering tips to those of us trying to break in that are shorter on resources and connections.

    Because I currently live over seas in Asia, the availability of e-books is a god send for me. I am however very curious to see how it is impacting all aspects of getting a book out to the market.

  30. Randy
    December 1, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Absolutely Steve. This is “mission critical” information that we all need. Thank you again for such a great blog!

  31. December 1, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Hi Steve, I’m within days of finishing my epic saga Shadow of the Lion. Next comes all this seeking an agent/publisher stuff so I am sure I’ll find these posts very informative and useful.

  32. December 1, 2010 at 10:51 am

    I just bought your book The War of Art based on a lot of positive comments about it and am looking forward to reading it. Totally agree with you about an author having to be much more than just a writer. I have a foot in both traditional (45 books) and non-traditional publishing and am seeing the industry change at an exponential pace. Looking forward to your posts.

  33. Janet L.
    December 1, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Yes, I find it interesting to learn every aspect of the writing process, from the art to the craft to the commerce. They’re connected and since you’re going through it all firsthand I’d learn from the best. Thanks, Steven, look forward to more posts.

  34. December 1, 2010 at 11:20 am

    …no snoozing here

    …wide awake and looking forward to the team’s creative wisdom

    …thanx!

  35. December 1, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    One of things I’ve learned as a self-published mystery writer is that if you can get your book jump-started on Amazon, you’ll sell a lot of books—assuming it’s a good book in a popular genre at a good price.

    One of my suspense novels made it onto Amazon’s Bestseller list for Romantic Suspense. Then Amazon began to work it’s marketing magic. The book has now been on that list for months. As a result, I’m selling thousands of my Kindle ebooks every month.

    Now the trick is to get my new mystery book on a Kindle Bestseller list. It’s not easy to do. But having a great website, a Facebook Fan Page, and a monthly newsletter (each of which include a new short story) all help.

    Best wishes to you and your marketing team, Steven. I’m sure the book is great.

  36. December 1, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Steven:

    Yes, this is enormously helpful. Am in the midst of it myself! Mine is my first, so this is particularly interesting to me. I’m sure that there will be plenty to learn that will transcend fiction vs non-fiction and the rest. Carry on! And thanks, as always.

  37. John Roth
    December 1, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I think this will be very useful information that will help demystify the process. Thank you. Steve.

  38. Ines
    December 1, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Yes, I am very interested!

    I am writing my first book, a spiritual memoir. I have been spending a lot of time learning about the publishing business, internet platforms, self-marketing, etc. Actually, this is monopolizing the time I have to write the book. Your blog has always been very helpful! I think this series can help me learn in one place what requires hunting on more than a dozen websites. Thank you!

  39. John Boring
    December 1, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Steven, Semper Fi my friend. This is great stuff for those of us who are just now taking baby steps towards publishing and I’m looking forward to following this as it plays out. I have a small book being published by a digital publisher, not yet out, and I’m not sure how it’s going to work. I have another book I’m rewriting and hoping to have published in the near future. So, bring it on, I’ll be eating it up. Best.

  40. December 1, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    As an artist and instructor, I keep the War of Art close whenever I feel resistance rising up again. I also recommend the War of Art and have made your ‘Do it Anyway’ post accessible to my students. Looking forward to seeing this develop.

  41. December 1, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Yes! I would *love* to see more posts like this. Especially that you’re an established author who already has inroads into the publishing industry, this is a rare glimpse that those of us just starting out don’t often get.

    It’s hard to give you specifics of what I’d like to hear more about — it’s one of those situations where I don’t know what I don’t know. :) I guess I would just say that any details about the specifics about the process would be appreciated! Thank you!!

  42. B Zeitsman
    December 1, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    I’d love to hear how your books generate enough money to support you, a publicist, a manager, a webmaster (and an editor who is employed by the publisher). I don’t mean this question to sound snippy. I really wonder about this. Also, I don’t hear about any literary agent. Is that correct? You have all these people, but no agent? I’d be curious to hear about that also. Thanks!

  43. Elizabeth Meloney
    December 1, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    I am always, always inspired by what you share on Writing Wednesdays! Thanks for taking us all along on this “nuts and bolts” journey. I’m looking forward to it.

  44. December 1, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Steven,
    As a fan and a fellow marketer I would love to see posts from all your partners.
    Perhaps, if you gave this community some more information on the demographics we could throw out some marketing suggestions. Most of us follow you because you constantly offer great advice and real life lessons. It would feel good to give something back. I can almost guarantee you would get one or two gold nuggets that your marketing team could act on. We see things different out here. Lets create a social marketing book campaign! We could create Tweet ups in all the cities you are traveling in. Promote it to all your followers in the military-every branch. There is so much we could do here!
    Feel free to contact me if you want informal input from a loyal fan with a marketing background. Good Luck! The Gods are working right now to put things in place so this book succeeds.

  45. December 2, 2010 at 12:01 am

    I will be following you here, it all sounds of interest!

  46. December 2, 2010 at 5:13 am

    Love the whole idea! It’s one thing to read about this process generally in the how-to books, another entirely to see it unfold in specificity. Thanks!

  47. December 2, 2010 at 6:02 am

    This will be an extremely interesting topic to us artists in the trenches. Press! Semper Fi.

  48. Josh Tatter
    December 2, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Finally there’s news of a new book! I’ve been waiting impatiently since I finished “Killing Rommel” two and a half years ago for some little tidbit of information about your next novel. From what you described the new book sounds intriguing. I must admit I’m slightly disappointed that you haven’t gone back to the ancient world with this book but new Steven Pressfield is always a good thing.

  49. December 2, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Pressfield, This post is valuable! I’m working on the Author’s platform that will sell the first 5000+ books at launch and then the platfrom that will sell it in the bookstores. Keep it coming.

    Dan ‘go sell something’ Boe

    • December 2, 2010 at 8:54 am

      Is the marketing platform more important than the book?

  50. December 2, 2010 at 10:29 am

    I love everything you post here Steven! I have read The War of Art, and that’s how I stumbled on your blog months ago. I love the way you write.

    I like all this behind the scenes glimpse that you are giving us into the world of publishing today.

    I look forward to all your future posts.

    Thanks!