Archive for the ‘Selling’ Category
A great story. A social media lesson. And a wonderful novel.
It’s tempting to say this is a triumph of new media. And it is … but it’s really a triumph of a very good book. That’s not a new media story — that’s a classic story. Good products win; good marketing only helps them win faster. And such is the case here.
Hugh Howey has successfully created a community that loves his writing. That is not done easily, and he has done it independently.
He was a part-time writer and book store employee struggling to find his way. He wrote a novella called Wool, which began to find an audience. He marketed it as a e-book on Amazon.com. As people began to find it, they became invested in his success.
They encouraged him to keep writing. He published more parts of the Wool story. Remember, this sort of episodic publishing is not new — authors have serialized their stories since soon after the printing press was published.
His readers volunteered to help with proof reading, and they helped correct Wool’s errors.
They submitted cover artwork.
Hugh Howey lives in Florida,. He is still a fiercely independent author in the US, though Wool will be coming out in hardback in 2013, from Random House UK.
And he kept writing. Howey recently gathered the first 5 Wool “books” into a single omnibus edition which is what I read. It’s a fabulous book, and worth your time. The movie rights to Wool were just sold to Sir Ridley Scott. You’ve seen his stuff: Thelma & Louise. Alien. Blade Runner. Gladiator. And he’s the executive producer of the best show on CBS: “The Good Wife.” Here’s hoping he can do something wonderful with Wool!
Today, some established authors have decried the lack of quality found among the independent authors that are self-publishing. Sue Grafton famously talked about the “wannabes” of independent publishing in this article published in August. It’s illuminating to note a few facts comparing Grafton’s latest novel, V is for Vengeance, with Howey’s Wool Omnibus.
V: 343 Amazon reviews averaging a 4.1 rating. $14.99 for the kindle edition.
Wool: 1,908 Amazon reviews averaging a 4.8 rating. $1.99 for the kindle edition TODAY … it’s Today’s Daily Deal!
I’ve read much of Grafton’s alphabet series; I have enjoyed following Kinsey Millhone, her private investigator that lives in the fictional southern California city of Santa Teresa. I certainly appreciate the professional presentation of her traditionally published novels. Who doesn’t appreciate good proof reading? On the other hand, even her deep catalog on the kindle is still $5.99 each. It seems traditional publishers expect readers to pay for that proof reading. Handsomely.
Howey has succeeded in tapping into his audience in a way that old-school authors like the 72-year old Grafton just can’t emulate. Check out my favorite part of Howey’s website, his chart of how many words he’s written for each of his ongoing projects. His readers know exactly where he is and what he’s working on.
But back to Wool.
Great opening line: “The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death; he could hear them squealing as only happy children do.”
Life has gotten very small in this post-apocalyptic story. The exterior world is deadly; the living world is limited to the inside of a giant buried silo that holds everyone and everything. The only view of the exterior world is limited by the cleanliness of the sensors mounted above ground at the top of the structure. When a silo resident goes outside to clean those sensors, they die.
How did people get into this situation? Why can’t they get out of it? What IS out there?
Read the book. You need to read this book. Buy it today for your kindle; only $1.99 on Amazon.com!
Me, I just bought Wool 6, which is a prequel. And since Wool 7 is already 60% done … can’t wait!
Our electronic tether has become shorter and shorter. I used to train my sales reps that they had 24 hours to return a phone call. Today, that would seem hopelessly unresponsive.
The average 18-24 year old exchanges about 16 text messages every waking hour according to Pew Research.
A client contacted you? You had better respond within the hour. And if you don’t respond within 5 minutes, you may well frustrate your client just as assuredly as you would frustrate a comically insecure girl. Watch “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” if you need a refresher on how what happens when you are unresponsive to a person of the opposite sex (and it’s a good romantic comedy as well).
HOWEVER, what’s good for your professional life is anathema to your personal life. I believe you should have 1 appointment and 1 rule for your family every day. Every day.
Every single day.
1. Your family should eat together every evening. That’s difficult with a baby, of course, and it’s difficult with a teenager. But you need to make it happen every possible day. It doesn’t matter if you are doing home cooking (though that is great — even if you are a lousy cook like me). It does matter that you sit down as a family and break bread as a family. Work schedules will interfere; high school activities will as well. Do your best: eat together absolutely as often as possible.
2. Electronic devices are not allowed. No television, no cellphones. No one answers their phone while at the dinner table. A musical background is recommended: music is good for the soul. But no cellphones. No text messages. No handheld gaming systems. No iPads. None.
Our family dinners were so good — and yes, Velda’s cooking was so good — that Alley’s # 1 choice for a wedding gift was a cookbook of family recipes. That became a part of her wedding celebration, with recipes contributed by family and friends. It’s important to build memories with your family.
Normal Rockwell was right: family dinners are important, and not just when turkey is being served.
What’s the purpose of dinner? Sharing thoughts about your day, your week, your life — with everyone and for everyone. Young children learn how adults think. Adults learn how teenagers think. And that’s good for every member of your family. The benefits accrue gradually, over years. Share a laugh, share an idea, share your life.
I was struck last weekend by a young boy exiting a very nice restaurant with his family. He was so engrossed in his video game that he couldn’t see to walk out of the restaurant. He bumped into strangers. He bumped into hard objects like chairs and walls. What did Mom do? She caught up to him, grabbed his head, and steered him between the obstacles so he wouldn’t lose his place in his game.
What did he learn? Mom would be in charge and it didn’t matter what he did: he could be remote, unengaged and rude. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful future employee? Husband? Father?
What did Mom learn? That her son needs her to be in charge, as he’s unable to cope in polite society. She’s a future helicopter parent, the scourge of teachers and colleges everywhere.
If you have young children, start this today. If you have older children, start this today. If your kids are grown up and out of the nest, then begin having an appointment meal at least once a week.
If you’re already doing it, you have my thanks. If you don’t do this … you’re missing it.
When you set a goal, it should be challenging. Otherwise, what’s the point? If the goal is easily, quickly obtained, then it’s not a good goal. Don’t waste your time “working” to meet a goal that you can do with your eyes closed. When you’re going to go to all of the trouble of saying you have a goal, working towards it … make sure that it’s worth the effort so that when you get there, it’s going to be worth the effort to celebrate!
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” — Harriet Tubman
In business, it has been called a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. If you can get every member of your organization to buy in to a seemingly impossible goal … then you can achieve amazing things.
Setting big goals isn’t a new idea, of course. It’s a pop culture phenomenon, too: will.i.am got NASA to help him premiere his new song, “Reach for the Stars,” which became the first song broadcast from another planet when it was beamed back from Mars this year. Here’s a sample of the lyrics:
Why they say the sky is the limit
When I’ve seen the footprints on the moon
And I know the sky might be high
But baby it ain’t really that high
And I know that mars might be far
But baby it ain’t really that far
Let’s reach for the stars
What’s this got to do with the Ultimate Family Event, you ask? EVERYTHING!
Our family tradition was to go camping every Memorial Day in the sequoias. There’s a pair of adjacent National Parks, the Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park, that are about 5 hours north of Los Angeles. Our family built big memories there. When we went camping one year, we had to set Lauren’s playpen up in a snowdrift (it is not warm in May at 7,000 feet!). Another year, the kids got their first (unsuccessful) fishing experience. We explored caves. We saw really, really big trees. Every year we did it, and every year it was great.
The Mowry family, ready to GO! Kings Canyon National Park, 1995.
In 1995, I wanted the family to go hiking. By this time, Christopher was well into Boy Scouts, Michael was a Bear in Cub Scouts … and our Cub Scout Pack regularly went hiking locally. But it was our big annual vacation in the Sequoias, and I wanted to push the envelope.
Two things happened during this vacation that became legendary in the family. The first was Velda’s immortal announcement during our first dinner, “Look at that big dog!” The “dog,” of course, was not a “dog,” it was a “deer.” And so began Velda’s reputation for, uh, having trouble identifying wildlife.
The important thing that happened, though, was that we had a wonderful hiking experience.
It was in Kings Canyon National Park, and it started, appropriately enough, at “Road’s End.” From there, we did a 9 mile loop hike to Mist Falls, which is the entrance to Paradise Valley. Sounds gorgeous, right? Yup.
John Muir is famous for his love of and passion for the California wilderness. His packing advice couldn’t have been simpler: “Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence.” I don’t think he was traveling with a 5 year old, however.
Here’s the hitch: Lauren was 5 years old.
5 years old. 9 mile hike. At altitude. Really? Yup. Let’s reach for the stars.
That was our family’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal. We began talking about this hike weeks in advance. The kids were always excited to go to the Sequoias, and were absolutely excited about the big hike we had planned. They wanted to go. They wanted to see Mist Falls. We were going to conquer a 9 mile hike, and we were going to do it together with a kindergartner.
The morning went great. The forest was lovely, the trail very well maintained, the King’s River was splashing merrily along with snow melt. It was really a gorgeous hike. We had lunch on the granite rocks overlooking Mist Falls.
And then it began to rain. We were about 4 miles from the car. This was a great mountain rain, with a quick temperature drop of 30* and grand claps of thunder in the thin mountain air that sounded like the world was ending. There were guys on the trail in shorts & a t-shirt that were fighting hypothermia as they ran for their cars … which were 4 miles away. “Road’s End,” remember?
The Scouting motto was and is key to our preparation for family outings. Be prepared, indeed. We had layers of warm clothing, and we had ponchos for everyone. The temperature was not an issue, and the rain was not an issue.
Except for our kindergartner. The poncho was actually too long for her short legs. She had to be very careful; it was often a trip hazard when walking uphill. She had to hold the poncho up, or it would drag on the ground. No problem. She looked like a yellow ghost as she chewed up miles of trail in the rain.
Did she hike 9 miles — 4 in the rain? Absolutely. There was never really a question in anyone’s mind, and the family achieved that big, impossible goal.
With poncho held high, the Mist Falls trek proved to be one of the best parts of this great family vacation in Kings Canyon National Park.
Two sales reps walk into a bar.
The first one says, “I had such a great day! I met with 6 different prospects, and I had great conversations with each of them. I’m really making progress!”
The second one says, “Yeah, I didn’t sell a damn thing today, either.”
It’s a classic problem: how do you set goals that are meaningful? Goals that actually will help you succeed?
According to Wikipedia, the concept of SMART goals first appeared in 1981, and the mnemonic has been re-worked in several directions since then by various writers. Here’s my take. Your goals should be SMART:
S – Specific
It’s not enough to create a general goal … such as “I will increase sales” or “I will make more phone calls.” In the end, those goals aren’t strong enough to stand the test of time. Rather, you need to make goals that state exactly what you intend to do: “I will increase sales 5% this year,” or “I will make 50 calls each day next week.”
M – Measurable
Goals have to be measurable … so you know if you made it or not! “I’m going to work really hard the next month” is not a good goal, because there isn’t a way to reliably evaluate your performance.
A – Attainable
Goals are actually harmful if they are impossible to achieve. If the goal is to increase sales by 5,000% each of the next 3 years … well, in most companies, that’s not possible. Sometimes management wants to saddle a sales team with the goals that they “need” to achieve their department goals. However, if the sales team perceives the goals are impossible, they will quickly ignore the goals … and create different personal goals that they CAN achieve. You know, goals like “find a new job this month.”
R – Relevant
It might be great to have a goal to cut the grass by 8am (especially in the summer heat!), but is it really important to have that goal? We all have daily tasks we need to achieve, from cleaning to laundry to grocery shopping. On the other hand, good goals should propel your life forward either personally or professionally.
T – Timely
Good goals should be time-bound: “I’m going to increase sales 15% in the month of April over prior year sales” is very specific; sales are going to be increased in the month of April.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I believe in big personal goals, like the 15-year 2012 Plan, or the 5-year goal of Creating Family Photo Scrapbooks. Big goals are great, certainly, but note that these goals were actually attained.
The best goals are the ones that you focus on, work on, and achieve. We have all made New Year’s resolutions that don’t survive January before they are forgotten. Next year, make a SMART goal.