Volume 3 | April 5, 2017
Welcome back!

To read Vol. 1, the introduction newsletter, click here.
To review last week's Vol. 2, go here.
To suggest topics for future issues, email me here

You can also send stories of your successes based on the ideas you read in Conspired. Author and consultant David Fisher did that after reading the last newsletter. He sent photos (see one below) of his Don't Break the Chain calendars from 2014, 2015, and 2016, affirming the effectiveness of the concept, especially the visual, real-world tracking. He says it helped him write seven books in those three years.

Sharon Woodhouse
Book publisher, publishing consultant, and small business coach
Everything Goes Media, Lake Claremont Press, and Conspire Creative

Win to the X

Not either or...and! Not you over me or me over you...us! We all know what win-win is—securing positive outcomes for both parties rather than one side winning at the other side's expense. It's naturally a great attitude for success in relationships and business, and it's an important habit for those of us like authors and publishers who need to stretch every marketing task and interaction into as much win-potential as possible. The good news is that once you get going it's very easy to boost win-win to "win to the x" (Constant Contact doesn't do superscripts), that is, get some exponential winning underway.

Bookseller Javier Ramirez and Booklist executive editor Keir Graff  run Publishing Cocktails, a bastion of winning for everyone involved. Publishing Cocktails is a regular drinks night in Chicago for authors, editors, booksellers, publishers, publicists, marketers, librarians, and devoted readers. Getting this particular crew together is fundamentally based in symbiotic admiration and opportunity, but J&K keep going. Every event takes place at a different locally-owned bar (boosting another favorite cause of theirs—supporting the local economy) and sometimes they tie their event with cash mobs: Before we drink together, we spend money together . . . at a local bookstore. Afire with winning.

One of my go-to's of uber-winning is hiring a trusty Uber driver I once met to deliver large book orders. The minute it becomes cheaper to pay him to deliver books than to send them by FedEx, I give him a call. He makes more than his typical hourly rate (win) and for me it feels great paying an individual directly rather than dripping another deposit into FedEx's corporate coffers (win). Then, not only do I save money on shipping (win), I save time by not having to specially prepare the books for FedEx—reinforcing box seams with extra tape, filling out online forms, and printing labels (win). Finally, my customer gets their books sooner (win) and with a greatly reduced chance of damage (win). Last week, I received an order at 3 p.m. on Thursday, I texted him about his availability (he was available), and by noon on Friday, my customer 100 miles away had safely received ten cases of books. I saved $10 on shipping and an hour of time, pleasantly surprised my customer, and gave a guy with a newborn some extra money and an easier day's worth of work.

Here's a starter idea almost any nonfiction author can use—vary as necessary—to get the hang of instigating a chain of wins. Before your next book signing, visit the store and take a photo of yourself holding up your book (if there's a splashy display for your event in the background, all the better). Introduce yourself to the staff and ask if you can send them the photo for event promotion on their website, on their social media sites, in their newsletter (spell it out for them). Use the photo yourself on your own social media sites to promote yourself, your book, and the upcoming event. Send the photo to a local paper and a local blog to see if they'll also cover the event. At the event itself, take another photo and repeat.

Can I say it? So much winning.


  • Attunement. However you do it. Start absorbing the idea that there are rippling powers of winning in most of your author / publisher activities and interactions.
  • Use the next couple of marketing activities on your list, whether social media tasks, events, media pitches, or other, to practice supercharging win-win. How can you add more value for yourself and others in the way you carry out your marketing?

Big Ideas
Defensive Entrepreneurship

The robots are coming. So are self-driving cars. Elon Musk's new venture looks at meshing human brains with AI. Globalization is on steroids. The internet and mobile technology is bringing information and opportunity to billions of the world's poorest people who rightfully want their piece of the pie and have motivation in spades to claim it. Environmental crises mount. Political upheavals tear at the international balance of power. The Final Frontier is buzzing with space tourism, asteroid mining, and hints at alien life and a bounty of Earth-like planets.

In other words, if you think the last year has been disruptive, there's more to come. I'm a bit of a reckless optimist, so even in the face of daunting challenges, my brain homes in on the possibilities and bright side. But disruptive is disruptive. And one of the biggest disruptions for most individuals would be losing a job, an unexpected interruption in their steady income. 

Whatever more secure place may exist down the road, it is likely not just around the corner. You may be a reluctant entrepreneur, but I take this space to remind you that should you ever need it, your book is a center of income, a launching pad for a side hustle, a means to make extra money. Consider it defensive entrepreneurship. Something on the back burner that can be moved front and center.

How does one begin monetizing their book and its possibilities at this level? There are different routes for different people. Two authors, hint, hint, I currently work with could make decent money by only doing high-paid speaking events ($500 to $5,000+ a pop) on their book's topics ( Children of the Kingdom: Bridging Genetics and Islam to Save the Children of Saudi Arabia and Buzz Ride: Driven to Disruption: Memoirs of an Uber Driver) through speakers bureaus, with back-of-the-room sales and royalties being incidental.

Two other authors I've worked with have each given variations of their same program dozens of times over the last 12 (!) years, making money on more modest speaking fees ($75-$250 at a time), selling books, earning royalties, and getting side gigs from these side gigs. Grace DuMelle's ( Finding Your Chicago Ancestors) frequent book talks on genealogy topics easily connect her with ideal clients for her other business, Heartland Historical Research. Author and geriatric social worker Charles Billington ( Wrigley Field's Last World Series) is also a classical pianist. Many libraries and senior centers have hosted him for both his talks / booksignings on sports history as well as for concerts.

Nineteen years ago, Ursula Bielski's first book, Chicago Haunts, was so popular, it led her to writing five more books and founding a tour company, Chicago Hauntings. In addition to an active schedule of bus tours for tourists and schoolchildren, her company stages paranormal conferences and hosts overnight trips to haunted historical s


  • For the fun of it, imagine that you'd have to indefinitely make a living from your book while looking for a job or starting another business. How would you go about it? What would that look like? What activities would best lead to your accustomed pay grade?
  • Decide if you're in a situation now that requires actively putting a defensive entrepreneurship plan into place. If you are, stay with me and this newsletter. Everything in this and future issues will support your efforts.
  • Even if you're not immediately in need of an alternate income plan for getting by, keep in mind that creative, entrepreneurial thinking is a powerful tool for reaching your author goals, which for just about everyone includes making more money from your book.


Respond on the Spot

Responding on the spot to topics trending in the media and to reporters covering stories and themes related to your book is a practice I hope you'll add to your repertoire pronto.

In doing so, you're increasing your chances of coverage by being newsworthy, memorable, provocative, useful, resourceful, speedy, etc. You're positively contributing to the information gush that is their jobs and making their lives easier.

Here's a recent example from my business to demonstrate how little time it takes once you have the orientation to think like this and the habit of doing it.

This last March a journalist wrote about Jane Austen as a hero, icon, adoptee, new obsession of the Alt-Right movement. Within a couple days, dozens of articles in major publications appeared on the same topic.

My Spidey sense was tingling. I have a client, Tiny Golem Press, a new indie publisher that will be specializing in fiction with protagonists-who-just-happen-to-be-trans. Its first release, Itche & Ari, is entirely not Alt-Right. It's a trans, Jewish, New York City, gender-fluid, bro-mantic novel using a Pride and Prejudice template. 

You're writing about Jane Austen? I have a Jane Austen story for you...

Day 1: Notice first Jane Austen / Alt-Right story in my newsfeed.
Day 2: Notice multiple spin-offs and references to above story online.
Day 3: Ding. Lightbulb. I could, I should, I'm going to do something with this. Now, as a matter of fact.

Start clock: 1:10 p.m.

  • Google story. See that the recent articles on the topic go at least three pages deep.

  • Actually read (aka skim) some of the top stories for the first time, so I know what I'm talking about.

  • Craft a short four-sentence email for reporters. 1) Your story caught my attention... 2) This is why... 3) Isn't Jane Austen SO universal? 4) Keep Itche & Ari in mind if you write more about this topic.

  • Send email to the top five article writers whose email addresses are easy to find. Those happened to be at The NY TimesThe AV ClubFast Forward ("Quick Reads Through a Jewish Lens"), Elle UK, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Not too shabby

End clock: 1:30 p.m.

What's come of this so far? The New York Times reporter wrote back in ten minutes and said she'd definitely check it out. I found another writer on the topic who went to the same university as the author, so we will follow up with a special pitch to her later. That's what this twenty minutes yielded so far, but I'm willing to bet that these folks will remember that there is a trans, Jewish version of Pride & Prejudice out there, and maybe one day they will do something with that information...


  • Do the mental acrobatics or brainstorm on paper: What are the likely points of interest for the media of your book? Consider trends, controversies, affiliations, niche topics, etc.
  • Follow the news in general and more targeted sources relevant to your book and its points of newsworthiness.
  • Note your developing sensitivities to the possibilities and the right-on fit. 
  • Remind yourself that as soon as that dashboard of sensors in your brain registers a match between something related to your book and something going on in the press, you will jump into action.
  • When you get a match, follow my little template above.
  • Report back on the experience and I will cover it here.
Cold, Hard Calls

When Diana Schneidman of Standup8Times approached me for help producing her first book,  Real Skills: Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days, I more than kind of wanted to publish it myself. Sure it was the evergreen topic aimed at a broad, hurting demographic in an "easy" niche like business/self-help, and sure Diana's dry humor, direct approach, and natural writing style was fun to read.

But the clincher was her premise. It was insane. And when I read it, I knew she knew what she was talking about and that her knowledge was hard-earned from firsthand experience. This wasn't recycled and repackaged pap. Work on making 1,000 phone calls in a month and you'll land the business you want and need. Yeah, that's about 50 calls a day for 5 days a week for four weeks. It's a sort of "Don't Break the Chain" of phone calling.

Schneidman promises that this system has worked for her every time she needed it to—like really needed it to (she was a single mom raising three kids when she "discovered" her secret)—and that she's never actually had to make close to 1,000 calls to get decent work.

How does this apply to you? Well, one very good reason I believed Diana's system was that I had often used a version of it myself to keep my company going over the years. Phone calls. Lots of them. One after the other until enough sales were made to pay the bills. Day in, day out in the leanest times. Calls to past, current, and potential customers. Targeted cold calls using lists of stores and potential buyers an employee would compile for me. It worked every time for me, too. Playing the game of numbers, persisting through rejection, mustering more gumption and hope than you'd think possible...it works. 

This applies to you because book marketing and sales is a numbers game. If you have something of value that deserves to be shared in the world (and your niche is broader than Esperanto-speaking polo players) but aren't getting the sales and exposure you want, then working some version of 1,000 calls in 30 days will get you results (sales, media exposure, event bookings). Calls to bookstores, gift shops, volume book buyers, libraries, program coordinators, media types, book clubs, etc. Who do you want to reach? Call them.

Yes, it's calls and not emails. Calls don't have to lead anywhere to "count," they can end in voice mails or left messages, but a call means a real shot at a human connection. Yes, there are other ways. Yes, this isn't the only way. But it is a way that works and should be considered for many reasons, and not just in desperate situations.

Back to Defensive Entrepreneurship (above) for a moment. Should you ever find yourself needing to make your book a primary source of income unexpectedly, this is the idea you should start with on Day 1. Now you know and now you have a plan.


  • Tuck the idea away that you now have a proven method for making money off your book if you ever need it to become a viable income source. Phone calling is unsavory for many, but it works. Even for introverts and amateurs and non-sales types. If you need to, you can do it.
  • Regardless of your situation, consider that more phone calls—you reaching out and touching someone with your voicemay bring more results. How many a day or week are you willing to make?
  • What do you want for your book, from your book, and who should be receiving these calls that can help make those things possible?

Follow-Up / Real World Report
Don't Break the Chain

As I mentioned at the start, David Fisher contacted me right away after reading the last issue of Conspired saying that he had heard Jerry Seinfeld's Don't Break the Chain idea before and that it worked for him, motivating him as he wrote seven books in the last three years. 

How about you? Did learning how effective this idea has been for others prompt you to start your own calendar? How's it going?

If you found this newsletter useful, will you please share it with other established and aspiring nonfiction authors you know? 

If you are seeing this newsletter and haven't yet subscribed,  you may do so here.

Coming soon in  Conspired, Vol. 4:
Service marketing, curiosity, a million little things, "process" events, and more.

 © 2017 by Sharon Woodhouse
No part of this newsletter may be reproduced without permission.

Sharon Woodhouse | Conspire Creative

"Put Me on the Chart"
What's the chart? The chart is a clipboard next to my desk with the names of a subset of my clients. It's a group of authors, publishers, self-publishers, and others floating and nosing around the book business who want quick answers from a publishing pro, and they pay only by the minute for that information.

Instead of spending their precious time researching what they want to know or worrying about different courses of action, they jot me an email and as soon as I can reply, I do.

What sort of questions? Everything and anything! Some examples: Publishing fundamentals: How do I get an ISBN? Where can I buy a barcode? How do I determine spine width? Budgeting queries: How much does a good book cover cost? How does an indexer charge? Should I print 2,000 copies offset or 50 at a time with print on demand? Judgment and style calls: Read the query letter I wrote for agents and let me know what you think. How can I improve the back cover copy for my latest title? What's missing from my author website?  Strategy advice: What do I need to know for a Kickstarter campaign to fund my book project? Should I start a publishing company after one self-published book? Where should I begin with marketing?

Pay by the minute? Yes. Many of the ways I help such clients take place in 3-, 5-, and 10-minute blocks that I do in between the tasks of running my own publishing and consulting businesses. I keep track with the chart, with tick marks next to your name to track the minutes. It's the awesome right technology for the job. 

I bill once a month if charges are over $25. If not, the charges roll over to the next month. So, let me know if you want to be "on the chart." Being on the chart comes with  no obligationit just means that down the road if you have questions about the publishing industry or publishing processes you can feel comfortable dropping me a line and just asking. Same thing if you want an experienced editorial and executive eye providing input on letters to agents or publishers and things like that.

My basic rate is $1.50/minute ($90/hour) for email answers and miscellaneous publishing work like reviewing manuscripts, commenting on/proofreading query letters, etc.
Scheduled phone calls are $2/minute (or $100 for a set, one-hour call).