[cake from my TWF Launch Party at Nilofer's]
In November 2007 I received the news that I had a generous offer from a MEGA publisher to write a book. A bloody book. ME! A blogger and frequent user of words like crap, frack and awesome. They were going to sign ME to write a book that would sit on shelves in grown-up bookstores. I was completely flabbergasted. At the time, I may have used the term STOKED.
So over the next year, I wrote and re-wrote (there were a few edits...surprise!) that book and submitted the final draft, signed and sealed in November of 2008...during the election of Obama and the economic crisis hitting the news at 100 stories per second. The official launch date of my book was April 21, 2009 - amidst the big bailouts and general public mayhem.
I thought to myself, "Well, at least I got a healthy advance. Nobody is going to buy this bloody book now."
Unfortunately, my publishers had the same thought.
We had talked about all sorts of cool things for launch -launch parties in various cities, a NYTimes.com community campaign, an Amazon.com feature, bookends in stores, fliers, posters, etc.- they were positioning the book to be the 'breakout bestseller' of 2009. The time was right. Social networking was hot. And mine was one of the first books that talked about the theory and practice behind it for everyone from a musician to a Fortune 500 company. But all of that disappeared with the sound of the US economy going down the drain.
I was heart broken. I felt like a huge failure. I worked really hard on getting the word out myself, but everyone was hurting and it felt like an uphill battle. I had amazing support from friends (like my mentor, Nilofer Merchant, who had that amazing cake in the header made for a Bay Area launch party and my wonderful friends at Office Nomads in Seattle who did a Seattle launch party for me) and even came up with the concept of a karaoke road trip to tour my book (dropped the book bit and just went karaoke because I lost heart).
My publishers couldn't even look me in the eye. I'm sure they felt as heartbroken as me, but what could they do? They are running a business and pushing a book during a national crisis is not good business.
So I stopped caring and ignored everything after a point. I stopped looking at my ranking on Amazon (it was dismal) and tried not to sob openly when a year and a half later, a very similar book to mine, Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith (I should note that it was a VERY good book. Well written and very worthy of it's acclaim.) launched and was an overnight New York Times Best Seller. When I noticed my book was in the 'Business Autobiography' section of a major bookseller, I decided I didn't care enough to change it (misclassifications can be murder on sales - this one was particularly bad). One commenter on my book page on Amazon in 2011 wrote, "Whatever happened to Tara Hunt?" Indeed. I really disappeared. I wanted to live under a rock.
(side note, as the awesome Sean Coon replied to the commenter, I was actually working very hard on my startup at that point, but whatever...I actually abandoned that book as completely as my publisher did.)
When asked about my next book, I would grimace and reply, "Nothing in the works!" Truth be told, I wanted to reply, "I'd rather have my tongue removed with a fish hook," but I refrained. I was bitter. Jaded. Completely turned off by publishing. I lost my love of writing completely. Subsequently, I had a 3 year writers block.
Until a few weeks ago.
You know that Elizabeth Gilbert TED talk where she tells the story of poet Ruth Stone hearing the rumbling of an idea coming over the hills and she needs to run like mad to get to a pen and paper to capture it before it goes away? I had that. I experienced that paranormal experience of an idea flying at me that needed to be captured. And I wrote it down in a frenzy on this blog. And in the minute I hit publish, I knew it was my next book.
So like a mother who said after her first childbirth that she would never experience that pain again, I contacted my literary agent and started putting together a new proposal. All of my memories of that awful labor and pain and agony went away with this new idea.
And one of the best parts of this story is that, upon receiving my excited email, my awesome literary agent said, "Really? It's going to be a tough sell. Your first book didn't do very well." And though I didn't want to look, I did. And guess what?
My first book actually did QUITE well! The Whuffie Factor wasn't a huge flop after all! I checked the numbers internationally and -much to my surprise as well as my agent's- my sales told a different story than we thought it would. I'm not going to give exact numbers, but the average U.S. book sells less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime. Only the top 1% sell over 25,000...and wow...TWF made it well into that top 1%!
Take THAT economic downturn. Take THAT no publicity. Take THAT Tara of little faith. I'm no Malcolm Gladwell or Trust Agents, but I sat and looked at my numbers and had a good weep of joy.
This will be a very different book. It will NOT a book on social media. It's more of a psycho-social-marketing book. It's going to be a well-researched with real science and data marketing book about the consumer mind. The main focus is on understanding consumer desires, but as with everything I do, there will be a world-changing undertone to it. I want people to understand their own drives as well, if not better than the marketers themselves. This isn't data that marketers alone should be privy to. And it won't be easy to find. It's going to take serious focus to do it. As I say in my book proposal, I plan to combine extensive research including behavioral psychology, sociology, anthropology and neuroscience alongside real-world examples and strategies that work. Sort of a Dan Gilbert meets Paco Underhill approach.
If nothing else, I'm going to enjoy the hell out of researching this one. I've learnt a LOT in the past 5 years. Patience being the key learning. And I hope that those elves that live in the corner of my office are good to me for the duration.
Thanks for buying my first book. I'm still proud of the fact I wrote it. Thanks for keeping the faith for me even when I lost it.