Saturday, October 2, 2010

Getting Started

Well, I started like most aspiring writers -- by writing. I "completed" my novel more than three years ago. By completed I mean I finished four solid drafts, got a bit of feedback, then stuck it in a drawer and procrastinated away the next few years (at a demanding new day job) while I waited for my confidence to catch up with my manuscript.

About a year ago I dusted off that manuscript and started thinking seriously about looking for a literary agent, and quickly realized I was facing a very different world -- one in which my fiction category was considered glutted (I disagree!), agents were more under water than ever (I totally agree!), and it seemed that traditional publishers were only interested in blockbusters, preferably featuring vampires. Since my novel is light women's fiction of the Jennifer Weiner or Emily Giffin ilk and without a bit paranormality, I was mildly concerned but willing to give it a go. But after several months of querying and waiting, querying and waiting, getting encouragement but no offers of representation, I became really interested in how the business of books is changing, and how I might take advantage of that to pursue a different path to publishing, one that would let me take advantage of my latent entrepreneurial instincts.

I have an MBA from a top ivy business school and a passion for understanding how technology disrupts traditional business models and reorganizes whole industries. In the mid- to late nineties I worked in several Internet start-ups (one of which was, funnily enough, sold to and was a researcher at Harvard Business School, working with a fabulous professor and mentor who had started the first MBA-level course on e-commerce in the country (maybe the world). During that time I worked on case studies about Internet startups and helped develop a CEO guest series that brought many an Internet entrepreneur to campus, including Jeff Bezos and an MIT guy named Joe Jacobson who had this very cool technology called e-Ink. (Later, one of my business school classmates would become the CEO of the company that commercialized e-Ink, the electronic "paper" that is the basis of the Kindle e-reader.) 

I followed my mentor from academia to a strategy consulting firm, working in a unit that focused on digital strategy, and I distinctly remember hearing a certain mantra about the Internet at that time: people tend to way overestimate the impact of a new technology in the first couple of years (as we did, in dramatic fashion, at the time of the dot com bubble and its subsequent bursting), and way underestimate its impact over the next ten years. Or something like that. It seems to me that is what has happened around the promise of the eBook -- like many, I've been anticipating this revolution for some time, and it is pretty exciting to see it unfolding in front of us now.  I also love how Print on Demand is completely shifting the dynamics of how books can get to market -- and who can get them there. (Incidentally, Annie Begins is set in a dot-com startup right at the beginning of the bubble...)

I've been away from technology companies for a while now, having focused for the majority of the last decade on leadership development and organizational learning -- both as a consultant and coach and as a director of talent development for a financial firm.  Over that same  period, I became a member of the board of directors of one of the most amazing literary arts organizations on the planet, the nonprofit Grub Street in Boston, Massachusetts. It is through Grub Street that I nurtured my love of storytelling and writing and also got immersed in the extraordinary world of writers that make up the Grub community. Working with the founders, we've spent countless hours thinking about how to support writers and how to connect writers with readers, excitedly contemplating how the evolution playing out in front of us could help make that connection possible.

So, that brings me to here and now, where I'd like to rekindle my entrepreneurial instincts and combine them with my Grub-related efforts to connect readers and writers and my desire to bring Annie Begins to the world. I'm starting an independent publishing venture called (sixoneseven) books and Annie Begins will be my first title. And I have lots to figure out before that can actually happen, and I'll share it all here (and invite others into the discussion), with the hope that it will help all of us who are pursuing the crazy, exciting, fast-moving option of indie and self publishing. More to come!

1 comment:

  1. I feel so aligned with your journey, right down to the ivy league MBA (it's that other school ;-). The industry changes are truly fascinating, and I'm finding that my business side is as much or more satisfied with writing as my writer side is!