WARNING: IDIOTIC BEHAVIOR AHEAD
The following is the second part of a special two week blog post. If you haven’t read part 1 of 2, “2015 THE BEST YEAR EVER,” don’t worry. I’ll be doing one of those recaps just like they do on the TV shows to ensure you are caught up.
Well, this is without a doubt the most anticipated blog post I have ever written. So much so, I’d like to scrap the idea of a two-part blog post and let us all just move on with our lives. Seriously, I’m not sure I can live up to the hype. In particular, I have been getting inquiries from my mother (“What’s the bad thing that happened, that almost made you quit writing. Was it me? What did I do? You know your father and I did the best we could with you.”) and fellow author Jenna Brownson (“When’s part 2? Tell us already! Is today the day you post your new blog?”)
Well, despite the tremendous pressure, that I know I’ll never live up to, probably forcing me to start a Part 3 dealing with addressing the negative email and comments I get, I’m going to try. Here’s a look at why 2015 was the worst year ever.
To take a small step backwards, I’d like to reiterate how good 2015 was going. While it had started out reflecting what had been going on with my writing career for most of the year, when I published the book Bourbon Mixology things started to change. When I say “things” I really want to say “everythings” even though I know that’s not a word because I want to emphasize how much everything in regard to my writing had change.
The first change came with the selling of Bourbon Mixology. The book took off like a comet. It was selling like nothing of mine has sold to date and would continue to do so all the way through the holiday season. There hasn’t been anything quite as satisfying in writing as going to bed and waking up and you’ve had 17 sales overnight… or you go to lunch and come back and 8 books are sold. It’s just a continuous flow of momentum and excitement that kept going, with a crescendo that landed it #4 on Amazon’s bourbon books, a spot it continues to hold on to even today.
That was just one great “thing.” The next was I began thinking much larger about marketing. This has always been one area where I’ve been lacking. I think it’s worked out for the best in that it allowed me to solely focus on the writing leaving me to create a wonderfully diverse catalog of content.
When I began to think about marketing to my readers, and social media followers, it became very clear to me. Ideas for reworking my newsletter making it more of a mass appeal publication rather than a very targeted “read about Steve” would mean I could increase interest and readership in my newsletter, which, in-turn would increase interest in my writing.
I totally revamped my newsletter and even landed sponsors for the reworked look. The first publication in the new every-other-month format gets published February 12.
Another great thing that happened to me in the fourth quarter of 2015 was the fact I simply got organized. I have a flash drive with all of my books on it I keep at the house. It was a mess of book files, photos from inside the books, copies of covers, invoices from direct sales of book, business plans, etc. I went through, got everything it into files, including future projects.
As I was doing all of this, I got an idea for a project called Bourbon Zeppelin. I’m still not actually talking about this one yet as it won’t launch until June 1, but it was born during the time of creativity for me.
Even the mini promotions I was doing in the fourth quarter worked. I don’t like to do a whole lot of “selling” types of tweets on Twitter, but every time I tweeted out about Bourbon Mixology I would see a spike in activity afterwards. I even did a promotion I called the 12 Days of Christmas on Black Friday where I offered 12 of my books for free (mostly my mini book and short stories). I’m not big into giving away my work for free but I have to say this worked. Other titles in my catalog began selling right after I did this. While I have no way of knowing for sure, the connection between this promotion and the selling of those other titles is too strong for me. It just worked!
The final great thing I accomplished at the end of the year in 2015 was I got my to do list cleaned up. I organized all of my jazz Christmas songs and completed the final book in my Coffeehouse Jazz series with a special Christmas edition. I had an amazing 8+ hour editing session with businessman Greg Schredder with whom I am collaborating on a biography on called Architect of Passion. After this marathon phone session (Greg lives in Hawai’i) I went on to write a few more chapters, including an epic tale about how he found himself in over his head in a cockfighting ring in El Paz, Mexico. The book is basically about his business career, but he tells so many great stories which aren’t necessarily tied to the topic at hand I came up with the idea of a bonus chapter where I told one of these tales. It came out great. I even had one of my editors go through the whole book getting it ready to publish.
The last thing I was doing with my writing in 2015 was to finish out four mini books from my book Small Brand America V: Special Bourbon Edition. There were four chapters from my Small Brand America that I want to expand upon.
Basically, I take the chapter from the book, add some additional information I didn’t have room for in the standard 10-page layout Small Brand America gives you and then add some extra photos as well.
I did three of the four of these and it couldn’t have gone any better.
I mean these 99 cent mini books started selling right away. The best part, though, came from Dave Huffman, owner of Ozark Distillery. Dave loved the mini book so much he asked me write a book just on his company he could give to important customers and sell in his gift shop. Creating this book would involve actually going to Ozark Distillery (about 2 1/2 hours from my house) and working there for a few days during a bourbon run to see what he does.
Are you kidding? For me, a bourbon fan, this is like fantasy camp. I’m going to go work in a distillery, then write about the experience where I have guaranteed sales of my book because Dave’s buying them for his gift store?
It literally couldn’t have been going better. Then it happened.
The thing that ruined my whole year and made me want to walk away from writing.
My mother gave me a bad review.
Just kidding. It wasn’t Mom at all. It was Jenna Brownson. Her smarmy attitude made me want to walk away.
Again, just kidding.
I was working on that final mini one chapter bourbon book when my computer locked up. I got that spinning vortex of hell. Nothing could undo it. Finally, I pulled out my trusty flash drive and shut down the computer.
See warning at the top of this post.
I lost it all.
Every word I had ever typed. All 50+ books in my catalog… wiped out.
My initial reaction upon trying to open up that flash drive…
I can’t recreate everything I have ever written. I had a save on a different disk when I had like 8 books, but I didn’t even know how accurate that was. I continue to tinker with the books. In my mind, that was useless. Everything I had written, or would ever write was on that corrupted flash drive.
My hope was my brother-in-law. An IT guru, if it could be fixed, he was the guy.
A few days after the incident, I got it to him.
He felt like someone could recover it. This would take expertise beyond his capabilities, though. He had no incite on where to turn. It was basically go onto the internet, pay someone you don’t know to evaluate it and then, they may, or may not, be able to fix it.
Then I got the speech about using the cloud for saving. Not to put it on a flash drive.
Like I need this.
I had one last hope. A friend I know who has a decent sized company had an IT guy he used to manage his business. Unlike my brother-in-law, who did this as a hobby, it was this guy’s job.
I got the contact information for this IT expert and reached out to him. The guy calls me back. He can barely speak English. This comment isn’t what you are thinking. I am not saying he had an accent. I mean he is so smart, and IT-focused, he speaks in tech.
I’m thinking this is good.
I explain what’s going on (this is over the phone mind you), how it happened (kind of leaving out the part about me grabbing the flash drive out of the computer, only focusing on how it locked up) and what the files look like now.
The guy says, well, I’m stumped. It’s almost like someone took that flash drive out without ejecting it properly corrupting your files. They are a complete loss.
Well, that I understood.
He went on with a 15 minute attempt at selling me some $600 device he then talked himself down to $300 when I couldn’t speak because I was too shocked by the fact my files were gone for good. Something about how this thing stores your tech in the cloud. I don’t know.
Anyway, as bad as that was, I decided I wasn’t quitting. I contacted Amazon and Kindle. Amazon got my copies of my books so all fourteen paperbacks were restored as I published them. I still lost a lot, mind you. All of the extra photos, drafts, etc. was gone. I had these books, though.
Kindle provide instructions to get the HTML files which I could convert back to Word documents. Some things do change in the conversion, though, I have found.
Actually, that’s okay. It’s going to be tedious, and time consuming, but I am going to update and fix my entire catalog… book-by-book.
What is gone forever, though, is the one project I didn’t complete. (By the way, the piece I was working on when the flash drive crash wasn’t corrupted so I did manage to publish that last mini bourbon book. Go figure!)
Architect of Passion.
The 8+ hours of phone calls. The El Paz story. The editing done after the fact.
Even though I haven’t quit writing like I initially thought I would, I haven’t been able to face that book yet. I have the version prior to all of the fourth quarter work being done, but it’s just too painful. I haven’t even told Greg this yet. It’s tough. It really is.
At some point I’ll man-up and just start writing, editing an interviewing Greg to get it back, make that better than it was before.
By the way, I don’t need any speeches about how dumb I was. Trust me, I know. I’ve paid a steep price for not saving my work properly so I think I’m more versed as to why what I did was dumb. I don’t need your take on it… nor do I need to hear anything about the cloud.
I’ve got new processes in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
I am looking forward to 2016, and what this year will bring for my writing career, like you can’t believe. I’ve got so many exciting things going on and I know I am going to make great strides in realizing my dream of becoming a writer.
That, my friends, closes out 2015… the best, and the worst, year ever!