[0:00:00.2] TG: Hello and welcome to the Story Grid podcast. This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better writer. I’m your host, Tim Grahl, and I am a struggling writer trying to figure out how to tell a story that works. Joining me shortly is Shawn Coyne. He is the creator of Story Grid, the author of the book Story Grid and an editor with over 25 years’ experience.
In this episode we just talk a little bit about what it’s like to have Running Down a Dream out. So for those of you sick of hearing about Running Down a Dream and The Artist’s Journey and you’re ready for us to get back into fiction, that is going to come on next week. We’ll be back into it next week, but I thought it was good to just reflect a little bit on the first week of having the book out. What it’s been like? The kind of feedback I’ve gotten and just to hear from Shawn, he’s not just my editor now. He’s also the publisher. Him and Steve are running Black Irish Publishing who publish my book and I want them to be happy with publishing my book.
So we talk a little bit about what Black Irish expects of me and expects of the book and the future as well. So I think it’s a good conversation. Hopefully you’ll get a lot out of it. So let’s jump in and get started.
[0:01:12.6] TG: So, Shawn, the book’s been out a little under a week officially. We’re selling it a couple days before that, Running Down a Dream, and it’s been just interesting to have this book out into the world for a couple of reasons. So one is probably my favorite part is I’ve had several friends that did the friendly thing and he was like, “Okay. I’ll read Tim’s book,” and then send me text that we’re surprised that they like it, that it was good. I’m like, “Whoa! This is good.” I’m like I don’t know how to take that.
So that’s been good. I feel like there’re these – Because most people, they won’t – They’ll either say really nice things and mean them. They’ll say really nice things and not mean them or they won’t say anything. Most people are not going to just tell you it’s a complete shit.
So I feel like that’s been a good sign and the reviews on Amazon have been good, but one of the things that has surprised me a little bit is I’ve had several people basically like send me long emails offended at portions of the book. There is one about cursing in the book. There is one I had sent out just the introduction of the book, like up to where it breaks for the first, because there’s book 1, book 2, book 3, end of the book. So just that first introduction part just taking complete like umbrage with what I wrote and wrote me just this probably 1,200 word email calling me a liar saying that she’s glad that I’m going to sell a lot of books lying and making money off of it. It’s was just like – It’s just been strange because –
[0:03:03.8] SC: Whoa! I mean, I just have to stop for a second then, and this is the – You see, here’s the big problem about starting to really think through and read criticism that is completely off the mark, because what happens is that you’re attracted to it, right?
[0:03:21.8] TG: Oh, yeah.
[0:03:22.5] SC: Yeah. I’m so attracted to hear the reasoning behind how somebody can fault you for a subjective experience and say that you’re lying when you’re saying this is what happened to me subjectively in my mind as I experienced it.
So what did she say? How could it be a lie? I mean, the introduction is just setting the scene of the book. It’s setting up the problem, righ?
[0:03:47.8] TG: Yeah. It’s the part where I say that every problem is fixable and it was basically – Her take on it was, “It’s nice that I’ve been able to fix all my problems, but eventually I’m going to come across a problem that I’m not good enough to fix, and at that point I’ll have to realize that God created me broken just because I need him. So I can come to him because I can’t do things on my own.”
[0:04:14.4] SC: Okay. Well, she didn’t read the rest of the book, right?
[0:04:17.7] TG: Right. That’s my thing. That’s why I wrote back. I was like, “Well, I addressed this later in the book,” and I never heard back.
[0:04:25.8] SC: I guess she doesn’t know anything about the maturation plot, right? Where the character starts out naïve and then at the end of the story they actually change. So that’s what storytelling is about, right? It’s about experiencing the process by which the character changes over time, and people don’t understand that in nonfiction, nonfiction works best when you use the principles of great storytelling to make your ultimate point.
This is what Steve Pressfield did for you and for me for that matter when we met with him in the fall, is that you and I were like, “Well, here’s the point of the book and we’re going to lead with this,” and Steve said, “What are you? Crazy? You’re going to lead with the payoff? Are you crazy? That’s your payoff.” I mean, he was a lot nicer about it than that.
[0:05:26.3] TG: He is very nice. Yeah.
[0:05:28.3] SC: But that was what he said, right? He was like, “You’re going to start with the ending payoff. Are you nuts?” So anyway, that’s funny. I’m glad, occasionally, when you do get criticism like that, you can walk through the process and say – And it’s not an arrogant sort of approach where you go, “Well, I just know better than that person and I’m right in they’re wrong.” This is why knowing storytelling and the structure of storytelling, for me, it really deflates other people’s and my own mistakes. So you’re not saying, “I don’t believe this woman and she believes something I don’t believe.” What you’re saying is, “Oh, she didn’t read the whole book, A. So that’s not good. B, she’s not familiar with story structure, and that to hook somebody, you feed them something that is attractive. It attracts them literally hooks and cools them in.”
So that was the point of your introduction was to say, “I can solve any problem,” right? That is pride and intellectual arrogance that every single human being has moments of. This is why life is so wonderful, is that the environment that we live in is constantly challenging us and proving to us over and over and over again that that intellectual arrogance will be painfully brought to its knees. That’s what your thing is, it’s Running Down a Dream, is it’s a painful process, but very enlightening at the same time.
Anyway, keep going. To tell me more about –
[0:07:10.4] TG: Tell me more about all the negative. Yeah. Well, I’ll come back that. I was curious, like does Steve get emails like this about stuff he’s written?
[0:07:19.7] SC: All the time.
[0:07:21.1] TG: Okay. Because I remember on writing, Stephen King talked about after – I forget. One of his books were in the opening scene, the villain like kicks the dog to death and he got like angry emails saying that he was encouraging animal abuse, which is just so crazy. So that’s where I kind of feel like, well, I’m just not used to having to process the fact that people are willing to spend that much time writing that much stuff to criticize when they could just not buy the book, unsubscribe and ignore me, which is long-term worse. I don’t know. It’s just interesting.
[0:07:59.4] SC: I mean, yeah, the answer to the question is does Steve get stuff like this? Yes, he gets it all the time, and it’s a very difficult thing to ignore, and I’m trying to think of what the psychology of that is. But you really need to sort of do your best to let it go and take solace in the fact that if you’re not getting people who are wildly opposed to what you write, you’re not mining a thematic thing that is challenging to people.
So if you just tell people what they want to hear and not try to truthfully and authentically describe an experience in all of its – In its dual paradoxical nature of, meaning, the good and the bad, then you’re not going to get negative feedback. It’s very difficult to face the fact that there are forces in the universe that are negative. I think it’s very, very difficult to accept the facts, because no one likes to feel poorly. No one likes to experience a negative emotional thing. This is why I take great umbrage – I don’t know what the world would be, but I guess it would be umbrage, with the whole happiness movement, right?
The happiness movement is sort of like, “Hey! Why don’t we all just be positive and happy?” and that’s fine for what it is, but that is not the way we experience things. We experience things at a very – It’s the loss aversion fact, right? In psychology and in all the research indicates that we would much prefer not losing something to gaining something greater.
So loss aversion is a very, very important part of our brain chemistry. Just to survive, we have to feel negative emotion so that the predators don’t destroy us. To say, “Oh, the predators are a figment of our imagination, and there is no good or evil in the world. It’s all subjective in the way you look at it. So if you just look at everything in a positive prism, then there is no badness.” No. Not true. There’s plenty of evil and malevolence in the world, and with the way we experience things, begins negatively and then we sort of have to process the experience in order to understand that that’s just our initial first reaction to things and that’s an evolutionary thing where that’s the way beings have to act on earth. The first thing that’s unknown and strange, you have to say, “Oh my gosh! It might be this something that could attack and kill me.”
So this whole happiness movement, and I know that there is great thinkers and there’re entire university projects and research all about this happiness movement. But I think it’s basically slicing half of the experience of the world and saying it doesn’t exist. Anyway, I don’t know how I got into that, but –
[0:11:21.5] TG: Yeah. I mean, we’re getting off subject, but I do feel like it also can create a lot – For me, it can create a lot of fear and shame when you’re not always happy. Then it’s like, “Well, I’m supposed to be, why am I not? There must be something wrong with me.”
[0:11:36.5] SC: Yes. Yeah.
[0:11:39.1] TG: But yeah, it’s been interesting. I’ve worked with clients that have dealt with criticism. I’ve, of course, have dealt with some criticism, but it’s definitely different with a book like this. It reminds me a while back I was getting interviewed about the Story Grid podcast and the person interviewing me, she was like, “You must have to have a really thick skin,” and I’m like, “No. I know that Shawn –I don’t have to have a thick skin with Shawn, because I know he’s looking out for me and he wants my best,” and I also realize that everybody on the other side that are listening are just projecting on to me their own stuff.
So if they get angry, like one of the reviews of the podcast – I think we’ve talked about this before, but I think one of the reviews of the podcast it said like, “Shawn is smart, but Tim is dim.”
[0:12:31.7] SC: Oh, yeah. I love that one.
[0:12:34.5] TG: Of course! No, but just realizing, like that’s them dealing with their own issues that they can’t deal with so they put it on me. Just realizing some of the emails I’ve gotten people are just like they’re not ready to deal with the fact that my book disagrees with them and that makes them uncomfortable, or that another thing that I’ve run into a little bit when I’ve shared this story outside of the book is this like almost like a fear that they don’t want to be that hard. So they have to kind of reject my story because they don’t want to have to go through that on their own, if that makes sense.
So it’s just been interesting to get some of the feedback on it, but most of it’s been good. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. My aunt who I haven’t – We’re not super close. She’s like tweeting at me about how much she likes the book. So that’s cool. So it’s been good. I feel like it was – I’ve been happy with how it turned out after working on it for so long. Then finally get a box of them in the mail and you’re like, “Oh my gosh! This thing is real. Now it’s going to happen?” So it’s been good. It’s been a good first week of having it now.
So one of the things that now I’m looking down at what’s next for it, because one of the things I’d like working with you and Steve is you don’t put a lot of pressure on that first week of launching. Most of the publishers, when I’ve worked with authors, it’s like that first week. It’s almost like the book doesn’t sell after that first week, because that first week is just so important. With you guys, you guys are like, “Well, we’ll put it out and then it’ll and then we’ll go from there.”
Originally, when we had 34 preorders, you’re like, “Well. I’m happy with that.” So how do you – Thinking now, putting on the fact that like you’re my publisher and I’m the author that you’ve invested a lot of money and time into publishing the book. How do you see this playing out over the next year or two with this book? If you could you wave your magic wand about like how this book would go and what I would be spending my time doing around the book, what would you like to see as far as – We’ve sold a little over a thousand copies of it, I think, but we don’t want to stop there.
So what would you like to see happen with – What would you like to see happen with the book? Two, what would you like to see me spending my time doing around the book over the next 1 to 2 years?
[0:15:13.9] SC: That’s a great question, because it too me – I don’t know, 25 years to even come up with a semblance of an answer to that question. So I’m going to really bore a people a lot of people by talking about the global progression of my career in a way, because at some point in your career, you have to, especially in the creative universe, you kind of have to draw a line in the sand. It takes a while to find where that line is for you personally, right?
So for me, the great dynamic is commercial success, which is units sold, volume of dollars, review attention, accolades, moving up the hierarchy of sort of external reward, and the external rewards are money in the bank, being able to – Upon an introduction to another person to be able to say, “Oh, that book that’s number one on the New York Times bestseller list? Well, that’s mine.” That’s a really potent thing. It immediately establishes you as a remarkable human being in the eyes of another person, and it’s shorthand. It’s just like, “Well, I’m the President of the United States,” or, “I run this organization that is the most beneficial to X group of people.” That’s a really potent elixir that it’s great to have. So that’s on the one side of the abstraction.
Now the other side of the abstraction is sort of the way you feel at the end of a very solid creative effort, and I’m not saying like you’ve produced anything amazing. I’m saying like at the end of three hours of intense writing, and you think, “You know what? I don’t know if this stuff is going to work for me in any real way, but boy, I’m exhausted and I feel like I could go mow the lawn without feeling like I haven’t done any work today.” It’s sort of – That’s an old reward system that is really, really satisfying.
But if you see somebody on the street and you go, “You know, I’m feeling really great because I wrote 2,342 words today that we’re pretty, pretty interesting that I didn’t know that I would ever be able to write.” They’ll look at you like, “Yeah? So? I don’t care. Whatever.”
So that’s on the other side of the reward system, which is fully – It gives you a level of contentment that will last for maybe nine hours until the next morning when you have to wake up and start it all over again. So you have these two poles of reward system. One is very external and the other one is extremely internal. Somewhere in between those two poles, you want to find your line in the sand.
What I discovered is that at the very beginning of my career, the inputs that I was getting from this system, meaning the big publishing commercial publishing universe, were really get into that external situation so that you get better projects sent to you from the biggest agents. So there’re hierarchies of editors. There’re hierarchies of agents. There’re hierarchies of publishing companies, and the goal when you become an editorial assistant, is to rise up those hierarchies until you reach X position, “I am the publisher of X, which is the best at X, and my best sellers are X, and I get to eat here and I eat with this person who’s the best at that.” So there’re all of these hierarchies that you’re trying to climb up.
Now, on the other side of the equation, there’s another hierarchy, which is the thing that got you into book publishing the first place, which is your interest in the creative art of writing. So you have these two things again that are competing for your attention in your own internal mind. Where do I really put my energy? Do I not spend an extra 20 hours editing that book? Because I need to spend those 20 hours going out to drinks with the head of ICM so they’ll send me their next big project.
So you’re constantly making these value judgments to progress in your career, and in order to rise within the publishing world, you really need to put your chips on the external reward system and do the best work that you can creatively, but not at the expense of getting the big project in, because you could get fired if you don’t get the big project in.
So that was probably like the first half of my publishing career, was negotiating that world and thinking, “When I have 40% of my list are on the New York Times bestseller list, then I can breathe. Then maybe I can start doing something else.” But guess what happened, is that once you get to that place, then you need to have 50% on the bestseller list, then 60% or whatever.
So what I’ve come to full circle is that I finally figured out after a major career crash, I fell in through the thin ice of my life into a deep, icy chasm of pain after I turned 40 or 41. It’s usually – You haven’t reached that point. I think you’re on an accelerated path than I was though, Tim. So don’t worry. The big crash is probably not coming for you. I think you’ve had a big one.
So after I realized that those pursuits were leading me to unhappiness, massive negative emotion, now I don’t have a problem dealing with negative emotion, because it’s – I do, like anybody else, but I understand the necessity of it. I needed more positive emotions. So I said to myself, “What does give me the most pleasure?” And that’s sort of being very introspective, and introvert, and working on manuscripts and thinking about global story step. That’s when I was talking to Steve and he’s like, “Well, you got to write this Story Grid book, because that’s the thing that you’re here to do, Shawn. Let’s face it,” and this is after working with him for 15 years and he finally said, “You know, you’ve been running around like a madman for 15 years. It’s time that you write that book,” and it took me another four years to write it, but I did.
So then we started the Black Irish Publishing Company, and at the very start we wanted to really lay out what’s our bottom line here. What Steve wisely said at the time was, “I’ll tell you what. Let’s not get too heady about it. Let’s not get too overwhelmed with our philosophical world. Let’s just use something. If it becomes a burden to the point where we don’t want to deal and it’s so ugh, then we have to stop it. But until that time comes, if we’re not – Let’s have some fun and see what happens. But if it gets too much of a drudgery and terrible, then we’ll just shut it down,” and it was that simple process that started Black Irish, and the first book we brought to the world was a new edition of The War or Art.
So here we are almost 10 years after we started Black Irish, and we published your book and Steve’s new book, The Artist’s Journey, which is a really – It’s like The War of Art 3.0, and the question that you’ve just post to me is, “What do you want me to do about making this thing continue to perform in an external way that brings in enough money?” My answer is simply, there’s a very fine line between hawking your wares and being a guy at the county fair selling toys that cost $2 and just you try to get people to spend $20 for it and not doing anything.
The one thing that Steve and I always say is like the thing that is the closest to you as your authentic creative process should be the least marketed. What that means is that when you have sort of plumbed the depths of your soul and done everything that you can to be authentic in the project that you’ve created, that should be the thing that you talk about the least.
Steve has been approached over the years for any number of really great marketing ideas to take The War of Art from where it is, which is a very nice place to, say, a level that would make it sell a million copies a year for year after year. He and I look at each other with stars in the eyes and go, “Wow! Wow! This is great external stuff. We’ll get doing that.” Then one of us will go, “You know we can’t do that.” He’ll go, “Yeah, that’s true.” We’ll all say that’s true.
The reason why we can’t do that is that it wouldn’t be a good thing. It would hurt the book. The book is the book and it’s sort of – It’s not Steve’s or mine anymore. We’re just sort of like the guys who make sure that it’s available. I think that’s true. I think once the artist creates the work, we want people to know about it. So we don’t want to sort of like bashfully just put it out there and say, “Oh, I’m done. I’ve just created the thing, and now I stick it out there and it’s up to the universe whether or not it’s going to work.”
Well, no. That’s not true. You have to expose it, as I’ve said, a million times before, to like 10,000 people who would be mildly interested enough to read the first page. Once you do that, then I think you’re done. I think then the thing is going to live or not live, or percolate or not percolator, or do whatever it does on its own.
What I would say to you, to wrap up this very long answer, is that once we’ve sort of exposed it to 10,000 people, and I think were probably really close to that number now, then your job is kind of done. And when people talk to you about it and say, “Well, why aren’t you doing more for that book?” You say, “Well, we’ve done what we’ve proposed to do, which is to find 10,000 people who’ve been naturally interested in this subject and we’ve said, “Hey, here’s the thing I’ve created. Check it out and I hope you buy it,” and now we kind of let it live its own life,” and that has proven to be a satisfying for Steve and I.
Now, would it be great if more of our books sold more all the time? Sure. But we don’t want to invest our limited creative energy on marketing after we’ve done our core marketing work, which is 10,000. So what I want you to do is to say, “God bless you, Running Down a Dream. I’m really glad that I created you, and now you’re on your own.” It’s sort of like – It’s like your kids, right? At some point you have to say, “Okay, you’ve got to go play that baseball game. I can’t play it for you. I’ve given you everything I can, but you got to do it yourself,” and I think that’s what we have to do with our creative projects. We say, “Hey, this is an important thing that I’ve created, and I hope you take a look,” and then you say, “Okay. It’s now yours. I’ve got to go work with my other kids. I’ve got to go create my other kids now.” That might sound cliché and cheesy, but I think it’s true.
Sometimes the things don’t explode immediate. Years and years ago when I first started up, there was this really terrific book, and then it was called A River Runs Through It, and it was written by a guy named Norman MacLean and it had been around since the 70s. I remember there’s this is great – He’s not here anymore. A guy named Knox Burger, who’s this great agent. He’d been through the business forever. Really cranky, had a cane. He would yell at you once you made a mistake. He represented A River Runs Through I.
What happened was is I think Robert Redford bought the rights and he was going to make a movie, and he had this new young star who’s going to be in it named Brad Pitt. So Knox, he’s like, “You know what? It’s time to reissue this puppy,” and he sent it out and people were like, “Yeah, okay.” He got maybe $100,000 to reissue the book. It sold a million copies 23 years after it initially been published and was selling maybe 8 to 9,000 copies a year for 20 years, and then it became a much larger thing.
I think when you write something of quality – And River Runs Through It was written by – It was ode to this man’s childhood and his relationship with his brother and his father when they used to go flyfishing. So it wasn’t like, “I’m going to write this incredible thriller about the explosion of the Mars.” It was really a very personal story buy a guy who didn’t really write anything after that. My point is that he created this thing and it found a really sweet, wonderful 8,000 copy audience for 28 years, and then it got exposed to a larger audience through no work of his own, just through Robert Redford reading the book and going, “You know, I’d really like to make this movie. I’d like to take this guy’s creation and give it a visual context,” and then it became even larger.
But he wasn’t knocking on Robert Redford’s door for 25 years saying, “You got to read this and make a movie of it.” No. It was an organic process that was a beautiful process that created something from somebody’s imagination, a reflection on his past that had a 45-year lifespan that took a long time to develop. Those of the things that we just smile about and we say, “Hey, that’s really cool. That’s what creativity is about. That’s art.”
Then there are other things that are more about marketing and sizzle, and that’s fine too. But for me, I’m at the point in my life where I’m really skewing towards the, “I feel better when I get in my 2,000 words a day, and I think I might be able to use them at some point in my future creative life,” and I think that’s where you intuitively feel yourself, Tim.
And even though you’re the book launch marketing guy, I think you have sort of been moving on that spectrum of value further to the creating your own novel and building your own sort of – And Steve said this in our podcast a couple of weeks ago, “Hey, man. You’re just beginning on your artist’s journey. You don’t know where this stuff is going to lead, but you’re intuitively on the road. You’re on the road now,” and I think you don’t want to step back and go, “Oh! Well, I’m the book launch guy, so let me just go back.” Not that you can’t still do that stuff, but if Steve hadn’t said to me, “Shawn, yeah, I know you’re an editor. That’s great, and you can continue being an editor, but you’ve got to write.” Steve basically said that to me, “I know you’re an editor, but you’ve got to write.” I’m like, “Yeah, okay.” He’s like, “But you’ve got to write what it means to be an editor. So you have to take your internal obstructions about the craft and broaden them so that other people can understand what you do, because what you do is really important, and the more people know about what editors do, the better stories there will be, and the better stories there will be, the further chances that we won’t be duped by really nasty storytellers who only tell us half the story, the better.”
So that’s what I want you to do over the next two years, I want to do finish the threshing and make that your next thing, and I think you need after you feel comfortable, that it’s not for me to tell you when, but when you feel comfortable, then you’ve exposed your Running Down a Dream to as many people as you think is necessary, then you say, “You know what? Steve and Shawn are happy right now. So I just have to make me happy. Once I’m happy, then I can move on,” but I don’t want you to think that there is this menu of tasks that Steve and I think that you should do in order to make us more money.
The other thing Steve said to me when we started Black Irish books was, “Hey, man. As long as we break even.” We’re a little ahead of even, so we thank the gods and we keep doing what we do. So I’m not saying don’t do anything. I’m saying, do what you think will make the most sense for you to reach a point where you can say, “Hasta la vista Costa Running Down a Drain,” and it’s going to have its own life and I can’t be shouting from the rafters about it all the time.
[0:33:09.7] TG: Yeah. That’s just so interesting. It’s still just like – It doesn’t surprise me that you answer that way, but at the same time I’m like, “Yeah, but you’re the publisher. You’re the one that – Your job is to tell me to work so that you don’t have to work so that you can make money off of the book.”
[0:33:26.7] SC: I put my trust in the creative process, right? So if I had phoned in my editorial work with you, meaning if I didn’t invest everything I had in getting you to write the book that I think you wrote, then I might be like, “You know what? We got to sell as many of these suckers as fast as we can, because there’s no way this thing is ever going to have a life of its own.” But I’m satisfied with the work I put in there. I think I did a great job. I think you did a great job, and the end.
So I don’t look at the work that I do now as of revenue stream. I look at the work that I do now as, “Did I give everything I had to the process? Did I bring all of my experience and everything I know about story up to the moment that I’m learning, I’m continuing to learn every day more about the story?” So I need to just sort of bring my A game, and if I have, then I’m satisfied. If the book – I’m not going to ever say, say, nobody buys anymore copies of your book. Let’s say, for whatever reason, “Yeah, we like the book, but it’s just not – It’s not going to live a long life.” I don’t care. I did everything I could for the book. It’s its own thing.
I think when you hit that place, it takes a long time. It really does take a long time and it doesn’t mean that I don’t get upset when people make a critical remark on Amazon about Story Grid, or I don’t get upset when people think I’m making up stuff as I go along. I do, really, but I know I’m bringing everything I have to it. As long as I do that, then I’m cool, and it takes a long time to get there. Even if – I mean, this is the point of your book. Even if the Story Grid isn’t bringing in revenue anymore, it’s still my life. It’s still what I know I’m supposed to be doing here. I’m supposed to – Helping people create better stories makes the world better. I truly believe that.
That’s my purpose, and whatever revenue or external reward comes from that is great and I appreciate it, but it’s not the reason why I am doing it. I think that’s what you have to find as a writer is that, “Yeah, we all like the external reward. We all want the money. We all want to be introduced as a New York Times best-selling writer to strangers, but that only – That’s really empty, and anyone who has reached that level would confirm that. If they don’t confirm that, they probably just have their book hit the New York Times bestseller list.
[0:36:10.0] TG: They’re currently on it.
[0:36:10.9] SC: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
[0:36:12.7] TG: Yeah, okay. That’s helpful. I mean, it’s interesting, because I’ve been thinking about how I want to continue to talk about this book. A friend of mine, well Jeff was encouraging me to just start putting it out, like start talking to small groups of creative people. I spoke at like a group of about a 100 national podcasters the day the book came out. That was a lot of fun. It went well. I gave a lot of books away, and then I got invited to two other just local events where it’s 100 or 200 people that are just creative people. One of them is a writer’s group. Another – I think it might just be like artists in general.
Then I’m talking a friend of mine at the gym. He’s a musician here in Nashville and he’s a successful musician here in Nashville, and I had given him a copy. He’s like, “Well, I want to pay you for it.” I figured out the code phrase to get people to just take a copy of the book and stop offering to pay me for it. I just, “Oh, my publisher gave me these to give away,” and they’re like, “Oh, okay,” and then they’ll take the book. Otherwise, they keep trying to pay me.
I’m like I understand what they’re doing and I felt that way too, but I’m like, “If you just read the book, that’s worth more than the $9.” I was like, “Well,” I said, “Instead of paying me, why don’t you tell me how I can get a copy of this book in every musician and songwriter’s hand in Nashville.” He’s like, “I can help you with that.”
I think that’s the thing, if I think about what I want for the book, it’s mostly just like I want to get it into as many people’s hands as possible that do creative work and probably have been or are stuck in the kind of places that I write about in the book. So that’s kind of what I’m thinking now, is I’m just going to keep like trying to find small pockets of creative people, make sure they know about the book and then just do that for a while and see how that feels.
[0:38:17.7] SC: That’s the perfect approach, because you’re just saying, “Hey –” It’s like what Seth Godin always says, “Hey, I made this. You want to check it out?” That’s like the best soft sell. It’s just explaining, “Look. The way a book sells is if people love it and they tell their friends. So, my publisher gives me these books so that I can give them to people who are interested, and if they like it, then don’t tell somebody else. So if you don’t like it, you’re not going to tell anybody about it.” So that’s the way our marketing works. I mean, it’s really that personal.
So if you can make the personal connections to people who will benefit from reading it, then yeah, that’s a great marketing effort. As long as you’re not like, “Two for five bucks!” You know? As long as you’re not on the corner, “Buy one, get seven free!” Don’t devalue –
[0:39:09.7] TG: Not yet.
[0:39:10.2] SC: Yeah. Don’t devalue the project. It’s like what you always say. It’s like there are two ways that you work, either your set price, which is very expensive or free. So that’s the way we operate too. So, yeah, taking 995 each time – You know what people do is they give you the 10 bucks and they go, “What am I going to do with this piece to shit now?” and then they throw it out and they’re like, “The guy really doesn’t – He was just after my 10 bucks,” and that’s the beauty of books, is that nobody thinks that anybody is trying to – When you give a book away for free, they know it’s a gift. It’s a literal gift. It’s not trying to sucker you into buying 25 dance lessons.
[0:39:55.6] TG: Right. Yeah, I was talking about that yesterday with some people of like it’s the perfect – Because I think a comedian said at one point talking about the people handing out flyers in New York where he’s like, “They’re basically saying, “Here, you throw this away.”
[0:40:11.5] SC: “Here. Take this and throw it away.”
[0:40:14.0] TG: That’s how like almost every marketing material is. We try to ignore billboards. We go to the bathroom during commercials, but yet a book is still a gift. But the best marketing is just having somebody read your book, because then if they like it, they’ll tell somebody else.
Yeah. It’s an interesting thing, and it’s interesting too the way that books have a timelessness that other things don’t have. If you hear about a book that’s been out for 10 years and you still hear about people reading it, you’re like, “Okay. Yeah, I need to do that.” But, like you want to watch the new movie, not the old movie in most cases. Unless it’s like definitely a classic, but it’s always the new thing, the new thing, the new thing, where like even how I select books is like if it just came out, I’m like, “Let me give it a while.” I literally like kind of forget about it unless I hear about it again six months later.
Then I’m like, “Okay. Well, maybe it’s going to stick around, or maybe enough people told me about it.”
So yeah, I’ve always appreciated that about the way you guys think about marketing, and you’re much more interested in is the book still drip, drip, dripping a year from now than whether or not it had a big launch?
[0:41:27.9] SC: Oh, yeah. That’s the real test. Some books do and some books don’t, and oftentimes something will get discovered like A River Runs Through It 20 years after publication. So never say never.
[0:41:40.6] TG: Yeah. Okay. Well, next week we will do what you say. Let Running Down a Dream start living it’s life and we’ll get back into the threshing and start seeing if we can turn that into the next thing.
[0:41:54.0] SC: Right.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:41:54.4] TG: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Story Grid podcast. For everything Story Grid related, check out storygrid.com. If you want to pick up that bundle where you get the audiobook and the e-book of Running Down a Dream and Stephen Pressfield’s new book, The Artist’s Journey, you’ve got like one more day to get that. So you can get that at blackirishbooks.com.
If you like to check out the show notes for this episode or any past episodes, all of that can be found at storygrid.com/podcast. If you’d like to reach out to us, you can find us on Twitter @StoryGrid. Lastly, if you’d like to support the show, you can do that by telling another author about the show and by visiting us on Apple Podcast and leaving a reading and review.
Thanks for subscribing and being a part of our work here at Story Grid. We will see you next week.