You Only Get 365 Shots A Year

Every day brings the optimist new opportunities and the pessimist new ordeals. When it comes to self publishing, it's never too early for the pessimist to give up or too late for the optimist to sell books. Reading a WSJ story today about what it takes to get noticed online, I get the impression that they are unconsciously talking a lot of people into the pessimists corner. It reminds me of the chorus of the Academy Award winning EMINEM song from his 2003 film 8 Mile (and you didn't think I was down with the hood:-)

You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime

It's an attractive philosophy to kids and to thrill seekers who want to cram their whole life into a make-or-break split second, but it's not what I'd call a rational approach to making a living self publishing. You can spend your days trying to get onto Oprah and your nights trying to build and finance a website that can stand 10 million visitors in an hour, but the odds are long against you on both accounts. Not impossible, but not something that reading how-to books is going to help you with.

In self publishing, you only get 365 shots a year. OK, 313 shots a year if you take my advice and observe one Sabbath or another, maybe knock off another week for festivals, fasts and the such. Every book that you sell is another book that may land in the hands of a seriously connected blabbermouth who will tell everybody on the planet to buy a copy. Every compelling page you post on the Internet is another page that might be found by a fan with a thousand MySpace friends or linked by a NYT reporter desperate for supporting documentation. Each new book you publish will benefit from the lessons you learned doing everything wrong with the last book.

Perhaps most importantly, every day you stay in the business is another day you have your eyes open looking for your next publishing opportunity. It's not by chance that many self publishers end up publishing clusters of related titles, though each cluster may be on very diverse subjects. Working in a space is the best way to find out what that space is hungry for, what titles readers are waiting to read rather than what titles authors are anxious to write. The tortoise and the hare both met their end on the menu of a French Restaurant, but it's the patient publisher who can afford to eat out - not that he would because it's all treif.

Or, as EMINEM concludes, You can do anything you set your mind to, man.

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