By Rebecca Forster
My first was as an advertising executive. I wrote marketing plans, handled my client's marketing budgets, and supervised creative and media teams.
My second career as a traditional novelist working for the big five publishers lasted twenty-five years. During that time, editorial and promotional teams supported me.
I am now an independent author responsible for my own product, production and promotion. This new career has been challenging for many reasons not the least of which is that for a long while I was the only one on my team.
Digital publishing is a fast and furious, ever changing marketplace. Readers expect a new book every three to four months instead of once a year. Each book had to meet the exacting formatting specifications of multiple platforms. I had to build and maintain a website and learn how to navigate social media. I had to educate myself about online advertising and promotion. Response from the marketplace was instantaneous. My sales soared because my craft was on target, but my lack of technical expertise impeded growth. After two years on my own, I realized I needed to invest in my business; I needed to create a trusted, affordable and creative team to take me to the next level.
Technical assistance was plentiful, easily identifiable, and affordable but vendors were transient. I needed consistency, but I also had to trust the people I hired because I didn't have the skill set to understand their work. Eventually, I found a formatter and cover artist in the U.K. Both had been in business for years. Given that the expense of their service was a set cost, half of my problem was solved in an affordable manner.
Engaging a freelance editor and a coach/marketing expert were another matter entirely. The cost of these services fluctuated depending on the number of books I was writing at a given time and the promotional opportunities that presented themselves. Since my income could also fluctuate dramatically, I needed partners who would be willing to be reactive.
The editor was a no brainer. I began working with a freelance editor when traditional publishers expected authors to deliver print-ready manuscripts. I knew her well, but now she would be the only editorial touch point, and I had to be sure we could work compatibly together at a cost that would be agreeable to both of us. The transition to fulltime, freelance editorial was smooth because in the first year we continually asked if we were optimizing the billable hours. Adjusting the length of my submissions for her review and taking more responsibility for initial editing helped the bottom line, allowed her to give me more targeted feedback, and forced me not to send work that wasn't ready for review.
The harder call was a coach/PR/marketing expert. Given my background, I had hoped to handle this on my own. This proved to be impossible because it's difficult to blow your own horn, the time constrains took away too much writing time, and I did not have the contacts I once had. I searched online, asked for recommendations, and came up empty. Then I met my current coach when I arrived at a speaking engagement.
She greeted me on behalf of the group, handed me a beautifully executed press kit, introduced me to the media in the audience, and then followed up by forwarding tear sheets. To say I was impressed was an understatement. I did a little homework and read her books on public relations and marketing for creative professionals. She was proactive, knowledgeable about digital publishing, and open to allowing me to execute some projects under her guidance. This partnership was perhaps one of the most satisfying because I felt she understood all the aspects of my business and truly cared about me as a client.
I was the last hurdle in the process of building an effective team. For the first time I was the client. If I pulled rank and rejected the advice of the professionals on my team the outcome - good or bad - would rest on my shoulders. Suddenly, I had a greater appreciation for the faith my clients put in me years ago, and I took a lesson. I learned to listen carefully, weigh my team's advice, and not make snap judgments. That was a tough transition for someone who had already established a business in an emerging industry without help. I also learned something else. The benefits from assembling the right team are unlimited. My team's work and expertise advance my career, and in return the growth of my career advances theirs.
That, is teamwork.
First published on Christine Ink
Rebecca Forster is author of best selling legal thrillers. The acclaimed Witness series and all her books can be found at her website: Rebecca Writes
Listen to her podcast on Author Biz
Listen to her podcast about the Witness Series on Crimefiction.FM