What Robinson Wells Learned Last Year

Look, this is just an excellent post by Robinson Wells: Five Things I’ve Learned In The Last Year About Writing.

I kept finding myself saying yes, yes, yes!

Yes! I hate “networking” too. Icky, icky, icky. Like squishy underwear. Like buddying up to someone to get them into your network marketing downline. Like flies in soup. I love how Robinson replaces that with the real deal. I think I’m going to summarize him every time anyone asks me about networking. 

One point. I do think he might be overstating the you-need-to-know someone deal. It’s easier, sure. But Larry Correia didn’t know anybody. He just wrote a book a lot of people in a certain demographic loved. I didn’t know my agent from Adam. Didn’t know my editor, but did have an endorsement from one of his authors. But that didn’t get me any deal. It probably got me, at most, a fair consideration. I can name others who didn’t know a soul. In fact, go to the facts and figures page in the On Writing section. Look at the author polls there. A lot of authors didn’t know a soul. Of course, knowing someone can help.

Yes! Be cheerfully flexible. Oh, my gosh. This is such a good approach. And I’m living it right now, although there have been a few moments when I’ve had to regroup for a moment to capture the cheerful.

Yes! Sometimes the thing you love doesn’t work for the project. Sometimes it does. I would advocate making sure you get to the root of the issue. But we’re artists. If the thing we don’t love doesn’t work, we can create a new thing to love. That’s what it means to be creative.

Work! Yes! It’s amazing what happens when you work.

Good stuff.  

I’m so bullish on this, I say Robinson for President.

Of what, I don’t know. But he should be President, of something.

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8 Responses to What Robinson Wells Learned Last Year

  1. Speaking of networking, missed yah on Wednesday night at Sam Weller’s. Hoping 2011 has good things in store for you. Will you be at LTUE?

  2. John Brown says:

    Yeah, I wish I could have come. It was just not in the cards with everything we had going on. I will be at LTUE and look forward to catching up. Was it well attended?

  3. The signing was at Sam Weller’s, and we had decent traffic. Not a big crowd, but decent traffic. For Laurie Tom and I, the real action was at the seminar itself. People kept asking for copies of WOTF 26, so I brought my box from home and sold all of them. Plus some copies of Analog too. That was fun. And of course the seminar itself was very, very good. Top notch content from some top notch professional writers.

  4. John Brown says:

    Dang it, I wish I could have gone. What were your big 3-5 ideas or takeaways?

  5. Regarding the commentary about networking, that’s a rather slippery fish. I think the big key to remember is that if you’re dealing with someone in the industry and you’d like something from them, you need to think about it in a reciprocal fashion. If the person might be able to help you, how might you be able to help them? Even if it means simply offering to buy them lunch or dinner, in exchange for some of their time or whatever else it is of theirs that you need?

    The other side of that is learning how to be relaxed and not “vibe” people. I’ve seen aspirants do this, and am probably guilty of it myself at times. You meet someone way farther up the food chain, you get this urgently excited tension, and it often translates badly. Especially if the person you’re talking to already has bruises from the numerous bombardments (s)he gets all the time anyway.

  6. Regarding the Superstars seminar, the most eye-opening things for me, were Eric Flint’s comments. Not because the other panelists didn’t have tons to offer. They did. It’s just that having done WOTF and being local to Utah, I’d already been exposed to a lot of what Dave, Kevin, Rebecca and Brandon had to say. Eric was the self-styled “grinch” who brought graphs and numbers and disected novel contracts, royalties, self-promotion, and so forth.

    If I had to boil it out, I’d say the things I picked up on most were:

    1) Self-promotion can be a very time-consuming, financially-problematic exercise that may or may NOT result in increased sales. Eric Flint seemed to feel that self-promotion, beyond occasional book signings or some simple items like customized bookmarks to hand out to fans on occasion, was a project of diminishing returns. He felt writing the next book was way more valuable — in terms of time investment — than doing a lot of self promo.

    2) Novel contracts. Eric took us all the way through one of his from Baen, and explained all the clauses. This was interesting on several levels, especially when compared to my Dell Magazines contracts. Lots more to worry about in the novel contract, but the Baen one was fairly straightforward. Eric warned that other publishers can have nightmarish contracts twice as long. I’d have liked to have seen what one of those looked like.

    3) Royalties and the realities of publishing economics. Eric had pie charts and bar graphs for this part — eye-opening material I’d never seen before. Holy smokes, it’s almost like the author gets nothing for paperback sales. And the publishers doesn’t expect to make money on the first book either, or so Eric said. He’s right, he’s the “grinch” of the seminar. But it was nice real-world material, and leavened the rest of the program.

    4) No replacement for writing, writing, writing. Kevin and Rebecca jumped on this a lot. It never hurts to be reminded that the #1 job of the writer is to keep his or her butt in the chair, and write. I’ve been too often guilty of FAIL in this regard, the past six months. I am trying to develop better discipline, but the number of good and not-so-good excuses to get out of writing are legion, as you well know.

    5) Also no replacement for persistence in the face of long odds and adversity. That one is also basic, but again it never hurts to be reminded. Eric talked about how it took him four years to sell his first book after he won Writers of the Future. Wow, I’d have gone nuts if it had taken me that long to sell after winning. So I count myself lucky with the Analog sales. And of course there is Brandon writing 13 books before he sells his first. Humbling data, that.

  7. John Brown says:

    That’s really good stuff. #4 and #5 resonate with me. #1 does as well. Some of the promotion I’ve done has cost me very little, but it’s been well worth the time. In fact, the things I spent a lot of money on, well, I don’t know that any were worth the dollars. I do think that it might have been better off to save the few thousand I did spend and take unpaid time off to FINISH MORE PRODUCT.

    I love talking to people. As an author I love answering questions from folks wanting to know more. When I want something from someone higher up on the food chain, I will simply ask. The thing that feels icky to me is not being genuine. And I say this more from my perspective having done this, not from folks approaching me. When I shake hands and talk, not because I’m interested at all, but because I want something, I just can’t stand it.

  8. Ami Chopine says:

    I love what Robison has to say about networking. And reading these comments here were pretty useful too!