For the Week of February 14, 2005
America has always had its cult of the individual. Our Euro-Americans (and I am one) probably have a high preponderance of ADD because our ancestors bought into this myth. Start over, be your own man (or woman), be solitary and self-reliant, alone on the plains (or in the mountains), self-reliant, a cowboy.
The Internet has always fed on this myth. You can create your own world, your own products, be a one-man band. This newsletter is a product of that myth.
But it is just that, a myth.
It doesn't just take a village to raise a child. It takes a team to do just about anything.
Every business worth its product requires a lot of different skills sets to reach the buyer, from people with a wide range of interests and attitudes. You need an anal retentive organizer to keep the books straight and to make procedures run. You need an ADD genius to come up with the ideas you can sell. You need managers, and salesmen, and you need grunts who can follow orders.
This is true whether your team runs a restaurant, or a newspaper, or even a Web site. Some teams are smaller than others. Your goal is always to grow your team.
Alone, on your own, your reach is quite limited.
Take this product, for instance. It is what it is. It hasn't changed in nearly a decade. That's an eternity in this business. It has no real marketing plan anymore (it was all about self-promotion), and it brings in no money.
You can call it part of a larger enterprise, but there's a lot that gets left undone every day. My office is a mess. My books are a mess. I'm not properly marketed. No one is out selling me.
Even the most rugged individualist has an agent, and a bookkeeper, and probably a personal assistant to keep them on track. I have a wife, and she has her own work to do.
It takes more than knowledge of a thing to do a good job. It also takes passion. I know a lot about marketing. I have no passion for it. The process bores me.
I have learned in the last year that I don't have a passion for entrepreneurship, either. I've had the privilege of watching an entrepreneur in action. He's good at what he does. I'd be all at sea in his shoes. I'd drown.
But I can write. I can think, and do interviews, and produce stuff others will want to spend time with. My thoughts are valuable. Every time I've thought about quitting this unpaid gig, you've asked me back, and convinced me I have something to say.
But I'm now 50, and my net income for the last two years, I've recently learned, was zero. There was some gross income, some freelance, some consulting, even some advertising and book sales. But the costs of my PC, my Internet connection, my office, and my incidentals ate all that up, every penny. Never mind the value of my time.
Don't get me wrong, I have a wonderful life. Thanks to my relative poverty (and my wife's burgeoning career - she was recently promoted from engineer to architect) I've been able to spend a lot of time with my family, to maintain the home, and to cook. It's a great retirement.
But I'm not retired. I work hard every day. I come in at 9, I write until 3, I publish it all, and I'm tired when it's done.
I need some help. I really need an agent, who can bring me the money to hire an assistant, and a bookkeeper. That would be perfect.
I'm willing to take some discipline, some direction. My work today covers a wide range of subjects - not just online marketing but the future of technology, politics, social commentary, even alternate history. The problem is it's scattershot, it's all over the map. Nothing I've done has sold worth a darn, mainly because I've been the one selling it.
The difference between a journalist, which is what I was, and a writer, which is what I know I am now, is that a journalist's day is defined by a boss, an editor, who says 'talk to this person and write this story,' and who then decides whether it's good or bad. The editor, in turn, works for a publisher who understands both the readers and the advertisers, who is in touch with the market. Then there are salesmen and production people - a whole village of folks, whether the result is done in real or virtual ink.
The short version. A journalist is someone who works for someone.
A writer, on the other hand, just writes. It's what I do, it's what I am. It's what I will always be.
But I could really use some help to reach the market.
Consider this a help-wanted ad. Pass it around and let's see what happens.
In partnership with ZDNet, I'm now helping to produce a special blog on Open Source.
I work as a freelance writer in Atlanta, and am on the development team for EgoScout, a new kind of marketplace for cellular data services.
My last non-fiction book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards. Write me for a PDF copy of my latest novel, "Baptists are for Dunking."
On my Mooreslore blog I've written a new novel, "The Chinese Century." It's a story told in real-time, with real characters, but entirely fictional, dealing with the consequences of the falling dollar. I'm beginning a sequal, "American Diaspora," exploring the themes of the first book but with more fictional characters. It's a true alternate history, but set in the present day.
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