MOST BOOK AUTHORS ARE ENTREPRENEURS—WHETHER WE KNOW IT OR NOT—AND EVERY BOOK IS A STARTUP
After I committed to writing back in 1986, the last thing I wanted to know about was business. Instead, I determined to focus solely on writing and creativity—and somehow to try and bring that elusive story, GAMES OF THE HANGMAN (inspired by actual events) to maturity.
Though fortunately I didn’t know the true scale of what I was up against, the odds against me were were colossal. What I was trying to do was virtually statistically impossible. I had never written anything of significance other than business reports before. I had no formal qualifications in book writing (though I have a Masters in Economics, English, and History). I had neither network nor mentor, and I had no training in technique.
Those minor details apart—although I didn’t fully understand it then—I was entering one of the most competitive markets in the world where the competition—carefully selected and invested in massively by major publishers over the decades—could (and did) crush anyone fool enough to challenge their hegemony over the book market. I would be up against authors I loved like Nelson De Mille, Tom Clancy, Frederick Forsyth, John Le Carre and other luminaries of that caliber.
I hadn’t a hope in hell.
Evidently, Hell is survivable (occasionally).
In 1991, I was on the New York Times Bestseller List close to James Mitchener. A little later, I was featured in an international advertising campaign for CNN along with Hilary Clinton, Nelson Mendela—and the Dalai Lama. This scarcely happened overnight. It took five long years.
Subsequently, I was offered $1 million to write two books. My reaction? I laughed.
Everything didn’t work out the way I would have liked after that—such is the publishing business-but I still did pretty well. And, I did get my million (rather more, in fact).
When my fan mail started to arrive in volume—thanks to the wonders of e-mail—I was on cloud nine (and still haven’t entirely come down). I owe a great deal to my fans—thousands and thousands of you. They/You gave me the strength to keep going.
My real success and joy came—slowly and painfully over the years—from learning how to write well—if not as well as I would like. That was, and remains, my goal. Everything else is nice—but secondary.
Now, nearly 30 years later, my world has gone full circle. I am now re-entering business—starting up a new publishing company in fact—while remaining a writer.
Neat, wouldn’t you say?
Am I nervous?
Nothing is certain in business—except stress, treachery, death, and taxes—and a lot of fun if you do it right—but my primary concern remains writing to an ever higher standard.
That said, Mark Cuban’s rules make a great deal of sense to me—especially the first and the fifth. The fifth is a polite way of saying: “Know your limitations.”
We all need help and none of us excel across the board. I certainly don’t.