This morning I read another story about the ten keys to success as an indie writer. I read articles about the essential things a writer must do to get an agent. I read articles on how to succeed as an author. Reading those is part of the job. They are all well intentioned. Occasionally there are interesting nuggets, but honestly they’re kinda sorta all the same.

I started writing in 1988. First book came out in 1991. 42 books traditionally published, 5 with an Amazon imprint, around 30 indie published. I ran my own publishing company. I understand the gamut of publishing in a way few people do from idea through story through writing the book, publishing, marketing, running a business, etc.. I don’t say that to boast. Career-wise it would have been better to do one thing and been wildly successful at it. I did it out of necessity. My success as an indie author actually rests to a large degree on my “failure” as a traditional author because I got the rights back to every traditional book I had, including a series that had sold over a million copies in paperback. Trying doing that today. Essentially, I was ‘fired’ over and over by publishers. They don’t call it that; they call it not offering you a new contract. Frankly, I’m very glad not to have my livelihood depend on the next contract any more. That’s just my thing. Might not work for someone else.

Yes, you want the secret handshake. It’s coming. I’m just giving you some credentials because a lot of well-meaning (and perhaps not so well meaning) people are out there dispensing advice and teaching at conferences and workshops. I attend workshops not based on topic but rather on presenter bio. Do they have something I want? Or do they have something I haven’t done and I could learn? Do they have something that pisses me off, because anger is a sign I’m doing something wrong (at least for me but I’ve been close to a lot of explosions and gunfire and also am on the autism scale, high functioning, at least according to the shrink, my wife might have another opinion).

I’ve taught tens of thousands of writers over the years from one on one to presenting to hundreds as a keynoter. I’ve heard more pitches than your average agent under 35. I’m an old dog, like Cool Gus, but I always want to learn new tricks, unlike Cool Gus.

I go through cycles in terms of publishing and marketing and all that. And it always, always, always, comes back to one thing. The secret handshake for your best ROI– and the investment is not money. It is the one thing that we cannot barter or trade or change. It is time. Here it is:

Write a good book.


Write another good book.

And the first rule of writers club? Don’t tell anyone else the secret handshake. Oh. Wait. Oops.

Anyway. So go buy my next book, New York Minute, because it will be my 77th book and I do believe I’ve gotten better with each one. I made some big changes in my writing style and the way I approach story in this one and the sequel which is just about done, Lawyers, Guns and Money.

I used what I have learned from all 76 previous books, from lots of articles on how to write, from lots of workshops, from having the honor of collaborating with Jennifer Crusie, and from having my brain examined and being willing to work on it.

Write a good book

Write another good book.