As a writer, my life is very similar to that of an entrepreneur. I feel compelled to write stories to escape reality and an entrepreneur feels compelled to innovate to disrupt the world. Our commonality lies in creating a product, we hope the world will embrace. All it takes is one idea to change the world. But the road to disruption is a roller coaster ride of highs and lows that ultimately never ends.
I am not a writer by profession. I actually spent most of my career in Developer Relations, helping start-ups bring products to market. But writing has always been a passion of mine, something that soothes my soul from the chaos of life. I fell into high tech when I was 20 years old. A chance encounter with a high school alumna led to a summer job at Adobe. After college, I ignored my degree in International Relations, and decided to roll the dice and stay in Silicon Valley. I worked for some no-name start-ups, went back to Adobe, and then eventually ended up at Apple.
I immersed myself into a world of helping entrepreneurs navigate the bumpy road to success that Hollywood can’t even make up. And that’s when the idea came to me. I decided to disrupt what I know and write a fictitious tale about the people behind Silicon Valley. But life got in the way and it would take years before I got serious.
Four years ago, I made the concerted effort to “Write that book.” But I couldn’t quit my day job as that income would fund this side project. And I couldn’t abandon my family and go live in a cave to finish the book as I’m a wife and mother of two. So everything had to be done after work, when the kids were asleep or on weekends. And although I didn’t realize it at the time, I slowly began to reinvent myself. This past month, I became an APE (Author Publisher Entrepreneur) by releasing my debut novel, Privileged Corruption. Here are some tips that helped me achieved this goal.
BECOME AN EXPERT OR HIRE ONE
If you have an idea but don’t know how to bring it to fruition, either educate yourself or hire someone who can do it. I did both. I was always a “closeted writer” but to actually write a novel, I went back to school. I attended several writing classes and workshops. I also sought advice from published authors. It took me two years of blood, sweat, and tears to finish the book. But then I realized I had completed a rough draft. I had to hire an editor to help me fine-tune the final product and that took an additional two years.
DON’T LET REJECTION STOP YOU
I tried to go the normal route to publish my book and pitched it to over 80 agents and a handful of publishers. I was rejected every single time. Some gave me constructive feedback. They said the writing was good but they did not see a market for a high tech thriller. I didn’t want my book to just sit, so I opted to go the self-publishing route. In this day and age, technology makes it much easier to distribute your own products. But don’t be fooled. The self-publishing process is not easy. My husband and I researched and learned by “trial and error” how to create an eBook in multiple formats and a hard copy. I also had to hire a graphic designer to create the book cover. After two months of many frustrating, sleepless nights, I published my book as a digital download and a paperback through iBooks, Amazon and Create Space.
USE TECHNOLOGY TO MARKET YOUR PRODUCT
Before I announced my book to the world, I had to create an online presence. I hired someone to create my website and a book trailer. I also created a Facebook Page and Twitter account. And now that I consider myself a writer, it only seemed fitting to start a blog. I even signed up for a Klout account to track my social influence—a respectable 56. All of these social vehicles can be used to promote your product with very little cost.
NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
Attend events where you will meet like-minded people. I jump at the opportunity to meet other published authors. You can always learn something new from people in your industry. Most entrepreneurs will want to see you succeed because they know you will return the favor when they launch their own product. Build up your professional network through LinkedIn. And don't forget to use your local connections. I am currently contacting local bookstores to create author events for 2014, and soliciting book reviewers and periodicals. A local newspaper recently interviewed me for a story about my journey. A friend of mine commented, “How did you make that happen?” My response, “I just asked.” If you don’t network, no one will ever know anything about your product.
NEVER GIVE UP
It takes a lot of hard work and a ton of perseverance to make that idea a reality. But you should never give up. I wrote and published my first book. And through the process, I altered my career. I am now a consultant helping marketing organizations build better brand identity through my writing. I would love to go “all-in” and be a full time writer but it's expensive to live in Silicon Valley and raise a family. Although I won’t be giving up my day job any time soon, my journey to write and publish a book is not over. I now have a goal to write one book a year. And I am already hard at work on book #2.
If you have a dream and want to change the world, disrupt what you know and go for it.
Ursula Ringham is a high-tech consultant by day, author by night, and a wife and mother of two. She grew up in the Silicon Valley, specifically Palo Alto, Calif., in a family heavily immersed in real estate development and local politics. At age 20, she took a summer job with a then small software company, Adobe Systems, Inc. A graduate of the University of California at Davis with a degree in International Relations, she eventually ended up working in Apple's Developer Relations group. Today she stays engaged in the high-tech industry as a marketing consultant and enjoys writing and developing fiction in her free time.
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