Starting Something From Nothing

I mentioned a while back that I had some big plans in place for 2012 with regards to some projects for The Simple Dollar. I thought I’d share part of these plans with you today.

One of my big goals for 2012 is to find a publisher for my fantasy novel. The novel is mostly written at this point and I’m pretty happy with it. I intend to pass the completed document along to some friends this winter for a round of editing, then start pursuing the process of getting it published.

Obviously, one big point of leverage I could use with getting it published is the presence of The Simple Dollar. I could mention it on here and some of the readers would buy the book, simply because my long-time readers know I’ve been working on this novel off and on for almost as long as I’ve been working on The Simple Dollar (some have already publicly pledged to do so, thank you). I also know that a lot of my readers are fans of fantasy novels, too.

At the same time, I also know that there are at least some of my readers who have considered writing a novel but discarded the idea because they don’t have their foot in the door at a publisher. They don’t have any reason to get the attention of a publisher other than their finished book (or partially finished book) and it feels like an insurmountable obstacle to them.

I know I felt that way for a long time. I’ve written two complete novels earlier in my life and dreamed of getting them published. All I ever got from them were rejection letters.

My experience with writing two additional books and having them published since then (365 Ways to Live Cheap and The Simple Dollar) has shown me that if you can demonstrate that you have an interested audience, publishers will most definitely listen. My experience with The Simple Dollar has shown me that anyone can build an audience if they take the time to do it.

Are you seeing where I’m going with this yet?

In the next month or so, I’m going to start trying to build an audience for this book online completely from scratch. I won’t mention it on The Simple Dollar until I’ve either given up on the project or I’ve secured a book deal completely independent of The Simple Dollar. Obviously, I’ll use a pseudonym so that searches for “Trent Hamm” won’t find it.

If this works – and I believe that it will – I’ll actually offer up a guide for doing this, because the techniques I intend to use won’t be all that different than what I did with The Simple Dollar and they’ll work for pretty much anything you want to do. It will be a recipe for building your own side business on a shoestring budget, no matter what that business is.

Obviously, this is going to take some time. How am I going to come up with that time? To put it simply, I’ve already been writing posts for 2012 so that next year, my writing load for The Simple Dollar will be lower and I can use that saved time for this project.

Will this work? Will this fail? I don’t know, but I do know it’ll be interesting to find out. If it does, it’s going to be the source for a lot of valuable information to share here.

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  1. moom says:

    Why use a pseudonym rather building on you existing brand?

  2. Steven says:

    I think it’s pretty cool that you won’t be riding n the coattails of an already successful blog. It’ll prove (one way or another) if what you’re doing is valid and not just getting attention due to your other work. Bravo for taking this step. I hope it works out for you. I’ll be interested in learning how it goes!

  3. John says:

    This is an incredible plan. I’ll really want to see how it works out.

  4. jim says:

    Interesting idea, I look forward to seeing the results.

  5. Kevin says:

    Best of luck, but do you have to start every other sentence with “obviously”?

  6. Geoff Hart says:

    My best wishes too… I know how hard it can be to get published. I gave up at the point where the letters I received from publishers were handwritten “good stuff but we’re not publishing that anymore” letters instead of the traditional 20th-generation photocopies. You can be the judge about whether they were just being kind; all my fiction is online for free reading at .

    Since you have such a huge brand to build on, you really should not use a pseudonym at this stage. It provides no value, and I simply wouldn’t do it unless you specifically want to develop a promotion process from scratch. If you do manage to land a publisher, they’ll tell you whether a pseud is necessary. Why jump the gun? If you build buzz, it will be easy to notify everyone what name they should use when looking for the book.

    You’ve already mentioned that you like going to gaming conventions. I’d recommend adding SF/F conventions to your itinerary. You’ll meet a ton of really smart, really interesting people, including publishers, agents, and other authors, and pick up a ton of really good advice. Aim for the literary conventions rather than the media (Star Trek, Stargate, etc.) ones. Nothing against them (they’re a ton of fun too!), but unless you’re writing in that segment of the audience, you get more bang for the buck from the literary cons. Here’s a good place to start looking:

    Volunteer to serve on a few panel discussions (at least 3 to 6 months before you plan to attend). If you speak interestingly, people will start to recognize your name as someone worth listening to. And bring business cards or flyers for your book. As long as you’re not obnoxious about it, it’s fairly traditional to promote one’s own work this way. I’ve gotten a couple novels past the slush pile simply by striking up good conversations with editors at major publishers and asking their permission to send them something. “As we discussed at ReaderCon” in your cover letter is a great way to get past the slush pile.

    Keep us posted!

  7. Geoff Hart says:

    Oops! The URLs in the previous post disappeared. You can find them by searching for “Geoff Hart” and “fiction” to find my stories. Search for “science fiction convention listings”; the hit you’ll get for SF Site is a good place to start looking.

  8. kristine says:

    I-Con as well. LI is great- many of the top authors have places out here, and attend. Complete sadness that Harlan Ellison no longer attends.

    Many publishers no longer accept new authors sans built-in audience or buzz or startling controversy. Sounds like Geoff has first class conversational skills to get the in that way. If an editor does like you, it can go a long way. Likewise the CEO of a publishing company, or the head of marketing. Takes some research to find out who they are.

    Volunteering for a panel is great, but you have to really know your stuff- because the fans do. In NY/ CA you have to be a big name draw to even get on one. Out in the midwest I am sure it is different, as you do not have thousands of known personalities/authors living in close proximity.

    Of course- it helps if you are typecast into a genre neatly. I have been at meetings where we did not promote certain book as they did not fit neatly into a category. It was a disappointment- but the ability to sell easily is a huge concern in a shrinking industry (print versions). Those books we usually put into QPB; that customer was more open to nuance and innovation.

    Currently on Ebay- Harlan Ellison is auctioning off the rights to have a short story critiqued by him. Wish I had the money!

  9. Ben says:

    Trent,

    As I understand it, Amazon is going to be starting up their own publishing arm soon. Traditional publishers aren’t all that happy about it though.

    I think it was just announced the other day. Something to look into.

  10. kristine says:

    Ben- I am betting it will be e-books. It’s inevitable, a separate e-book publisher is totally unecessary.

  11. dianne says:

    Having worked with authors through the proposal>publication process, my fear for you would be this other identity you’d have to construct in order to pull this off. It’s a “novel” idea . . . to track the process from nothing, but it’s just not who you are. It’s not an honesty thing so much as an identity thing. New authors put a lot of effort into creating a platform, and to do this without drawing upon who you already are just seems a waste of effort. I don’t think you can achieve that level of anonymity easily and without losing something in the process. Besides, there are plenty of authors out there now who are wise enough to see the value of recording their journey . . . from scratch . . . for others.

    Another idea instead would be to record your journey for those authors who have already published non-fiction titles and are looking to make the leap to fiction. That would be consistent with who you already are. As well, it would certainly be of value to “wannabe” authors in your situation.

    Just some honest thoughts from a reader who respects and appreciates what you offer here.

  12. Laura in Seattle says:

    I’m really looking forward to hearing Trent’s take on this as I’m also a writer trying to build a following from scratch. Remember, Twitter is a terrific tool for gaining both information and attention. And I second what someone said above about going to cons – DragonCon and PAX Prime both had some great panels for writers this year, and quite a few of them had at least one writer who was pulling in most of their income via e-book sales rather than traditional publishing.

  13. almost there says:

    Why and How I Self-Published a Book
    by James Altucher

    This article may point out a better way to go instead of looking for a publisher. Goggle it.

  14. Nefretete says:

    Best luck… and I’m off googling that new gig! (-;

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