“Success is the best revenge.” ~ Unknown
I have always wondered why some people do the things they do. Or perhaps, I should say, “Don’t do the things they should.”
I wrote in a recent article my very basic tips for becoming a writer. Thanks to so many people for their kind words of support. Now, I am going to tell you about the next mountain that any person, dedicated to becoming a professional writer, must climb: Making your book a seller.
All your life, you will be told by various people that you can’t do this, or you can’t do that. Don’t listen to them. They are like a cancer. And they are always wrong. Avoid these people at all times. Of course, be polite to them, but avoid them.
When I played in my Punk band in the late 1970’s, I was told we would never sell any records. The biggest jerks who told us that was The Knack of My Sharona fame (they were one-hit wonders too). Well, thank you very much, but we were number one on dozens and dozens of college radio as well as regular FM stations’ charts and sold over 600,000 singles in Europe. When The Clash first toured the United States, the only American band that they played for their pre-show BGM was my band. Back then, bands that are very famous today, were the opening acts for us.
Elvis Costello & me in Tokyo — December 8, 2004
Elvis Costello once told me that Dire Straits were the opening band for one of his European tours. He also told me what I already knew, “Don’t listen to other people. Do what you want.” I didn’t care what others told me — especially if it was negative — I only cared what I thought.
Now, my current publishing company — the company that awarded me an "Editor’s Choice" award for 2005 — seems a bit reluctant to become my publicist. I am astounded by this. Their reasoning is that I don’t live in the United States. Well, I find that more than a bit absurd. Don’t writers who live overseas get promoted in the USA? Don’t British Rock bands get promoted in the USA? I know for a fact that most American and British bands don’t live here in Japan, and yet they sell records. You cannot tell me that just because I don’t live in the USA, that a competent publicist couldn’t get my book into the right hands for some decent reviews. It’s ridiculous that they claim I have to be in the States. What? Do I need to be available to hold someone’s hand to read my book and turn the pages for them, too? Of course not.
The United States is a big country, even if I did live there, do they actually think that I would fly around the country just to get a book review? Hell, if I had to do that, then I wouldn’t need a small-company publicist, would I? I could do it myself. In fact, I would.
But enough about my complaining. This article is a forewarning — a lesson, or a diary — if you will — of the progress of my book. I will sell lots of books whether or not my publishing company wants to handle my publicity or not. I don’t wish this, I know this. And when that happens, I know they will regret it. Because I will probably not put out another book through them again. Would you? (Never say “Never!”)
If you are aware of what’s happening around you, then you’d know that certain things happen sometimes that just make you know in your heart how something will turn out. I look for, and am aware of, these “signs” everyday.
For example, today, I had a lunch meeting for the first time with a nice man named Mr. Mochida. Mr. Mochida handles the biggest English bookstore in Japan. He is going to arrange a book-signing for me in August. Great, eh? But there are other forces at work here, my friends. Remember I said that you make your own luck? Well, it just so happens that Mr. Mochida is the very first Japanese Libertarian I have ever met (now, ain’t that unusual?) He likes my book so much that he is arranging nationwide distribution for me for every bookstore in Japan that has an English book corner — and just about all of them do — Japan has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. Just this one lunch meeting has sold thousands of books for me. How did this happen? I believed. I made the effort. I made the phone call. I had the lunch meeting. Is this plain lucky? I don’t think so. I can’t be sitting around here, letting my future depend on the whims of other people. You too. You are the master of your destiny — and there’s not a single one of us that has time to waste.
My publisher requires that I pay about $5500 for 3 months of publicity work. I have allocated that money ($5,500 in Japan is not all that much money) and they still seem negative-ambivalent about handling my publicity. Are they nuts? And, now, I have sent them an e-mail asking them for further negotiations, that’s been more than 72 hours ago, and I have yet to receive a reply. That points to laziness or incompetence to me. Even if they said, “Yes,” should I say, “Okay” after what I have just told you? I’m beginning to think I would be an idiot to do so. So, now I’m making the effort in writing this article to you.
I’m beginning to think that I would have to be a complete dim-wit to even want these people to handle my publicity. Why should I pay someone to do something that they don’t want to do? I shouldn’t, should I?
A successful project, whether it is a concert, a CD, a TV show, a play, a movie, or a book, or whatever, requires a huge effort by many people involved. Only a fool would hire people who: Don’t know the project (book), and; don’t seem excited; and make excuses before anything is even done. I’m no fool. This book will be successful. Too many things have happened in the course of this project — and my life — that I believe point to no other outcome but a successful one.
So would you, or should I, let my book sales die on the vine just because some person in the Mid-West says that they can’t handle it? Who are they? God? No they are not. That is completely unacceptable.
So now, I’m doing what I must do: I’m investigating new avenues for possibilities; new avenues for making my own luck. If you run a publicity company and you think that you can sell my book, then contact me. Someone in the USA is going to do this and be damned glad they did. I know this for a fact. I am not interested in excuses. I am only interested in enthusiasm, professionalism, effort, and as my luck continues, results.
This is where my book stands right now. I will write again and let you know how things turn out — so you can avoid the same mistakes as me. But there’s no way that I will allow some other person to dictate to me how far I go. And when you finish your book, you had better not either.
Professional publicists, please contact me at the e-mail address below.
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has the distinction of being fired from every FM radio station in Tokyo — one of them three times. His first book, Schizophrenic in Japan, is now on sale.