CEO Interviewed by Student Literary Award Winner

The 2010 Student Literary Awards were announced and presented at the Denver Public Library on April 29th. Winning students in both the Letters About Literature and River of Words contests were recognized by the Colorado Humanities in front of a full crowd of teachers, parents, and supporters.

During the event, Cassie Lipscomb, the 2nd place winner in Category IV of the River of Words Poetry contest, asked to interview me for a school project…

Cassie: Is it necessary to go do further schooling to make my writing better? What kind of schools does it take?

Brent: No one will frown on you for having a higher education. Not only does going to college make your writing better, but it makes your life better, although perhaps not for the reasons you may think. College isn’t about attending a lot of English and Latin classes and/or getting your MBA in creative writing. College is about having an experience and being surrounded by intelligence 24/7. You can learn as much sitting in the student union participating in a lively discussion with other classmates as you can in a 500-person auditorium listening to a professor.  You will literally become smarter through osmosis while attending college, and that’s before you even step into the classroom – and yes, the classes will help you become smarter still.   After all, writing fiction involves your ability to create an experience for the reader while writing non-fiction involves your ability to effectively impart knowledge.  Regardless of what kind of writing you prefer, college will help you improve your craft. What kind of college becomes secondary. It’s not what the school brings to you; it’s what you bring to the school.

Cassie: What do you like about your job? What do you dislike about the job?

Brent: I’ve always said I’m a writer first and a CEO second, but nowadays I spend the majority of my time on the latter instead of the former. I love helping writers. Nothing is more gratifying than getting a jubilant email from a newly published author, or seeing a photograph of a writer holding their book with tears of joy in their eyes. It is very fulfilling and I love it.    Things I dislike about the job are the same things that apply to nearly every job – the daily and sometimes minutiae-riddled “grind” of producing something. Whether you are writing a book or running a company or buried in a cubicle somewhere, production takes effort and discipline.  It helps if what you produce is something you love.  Since you’re going to be spending so much time doing something, you had better love it, right?

Cassie: What does a regular day of work consist of?

Brent: I spend a lot of time managing departments and projects via email.  But… that’s not quite right. You can’t really manage departments or projects. You can only manage the people involved with the departments or the projects. So I manage people, but the ultimate goal is to aim departments in a certain direction and aim projects to fulfill a certain benefit for our authors.   So email takes up quite a lot of my day. And the phone, although I find the phone somewhat inefficient, unless it’s a conference call. As for writing, it is my personal goal to write and publish a new book each year. I didn’t pull that off in 2009, so I must in 2010. I do not carve out a specific time each day to write anymore.  With an awesome 5-year old in the picture, I just haven’t got the time. You’ve probably heard it before and you’ll probably hear it again, and it gets repeated so often because it is so true: A writer writes.  You can’t be a writer if you don’t write. And writing a book requires a lot of writing, and a lot of discipline.

Cassie: Is this what you thought the job would be like?

Brent: I never had any preconceived notions about what it would be like to run a publishing company, or what it would be like to be a writer, but I am enjoying the ride so far.

Cassie: Where do you get your ideas to write?

Brent: When I was younger, my mind was constantly alive with ideas for novels and short stories, and I wrote a lot of both.  As I’ve grown older, my writing has turned to non-fiction and is related to what I do for a living. That is probably out of necessity more than heartfelt desire.  Writing a book takes so much time, I feel it needs to accomplish multiple goals to be worthwhile.  As sad as it makes me to admit it, I’m not sure fiction can accomplish multiple goals. At least, my fiction can’t.

Cassie: How do you get over writer’s block?

Brent: I don’t write unless I’m feeling it.  I don’t try to force anything. Which means I don’t get over writer’s block. Every once in a while, it just goes away. That isn’t a very inspirational answer, but it’s an honest one. It’s also the reason my book production is so erratic.  Fortunately, I have the flexibility to write that way.  Other writers on ‘deadlines’ might have quite a different answer, and probably a better one.

Cassie: How do you choose between publishers?

Brent: Interestingly, this is the subject of one of my books. There are five paths toward publication that you can pursue.  Conglomerate traditional publication, small press traditional publication, full-service self-publishing services, D-I-Y (do it yourself) self-publishing websites, and fully-independent self-publication.   They all have pros and cons. The path you should take depends upon your talent, your patience, your goals, your desire, your pocket book, and your time.  The good news is, and it seems to be an epiphany for many writers when they realize this, that you can take multiple paths. 
 
Cassie: Is there a lot of competition to deal with these days?

Brent: I assume you are referring to competition with other writers, but regardless of what this question refers to, the answer is “Yes.”  There is always a lot of competition for everything.  The trick is to not view competitors as ‘the enemy’ but rather as opportunities to learn and excel.

Colorado Humanities publishes with Outskirts Press

Our first book for Colorado Humanities was published at the end of April.  The title is 2010 Student Literary Awards Anthology: Winning Art, Poems and Letters by Colorado Students.

As the title suggests, it is an anthology of the winning entries in this year’s Student Literary and Art awards, held by the Colorado Humanities and sponsored by Outskirts Press.

It is a beautiful full-color publication at the 5.5″ x 8.5″ trim size, which we made available earlier this year. Proceeds from the sale of the book support the literacy and art programs of Colorado Center for the Book.

You can read the full press release by clicking here and you can purchase the book on Amazon by clicking here.

The blog time vortex

One unfortunate aspect of writing so many blog entries at once and then scheduling them out into the future is that a lot of “new” stuff happens on a daily basis, and by the time there is a “break” in the blog schedule to discuss the new topic, a month has gone by, and what seemed “new” or “important” then just doesn’t hold the same weight later.

One example is the publication of the second edition of SELL YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON, which has been available for a couple weeks now, but we were in the middle of the Entrepreneur blogs, which occupied about three weeks of blog entries. So it doesn’t seem so important to “announce” its availability now. But I probably will make a specific blog posting about it, just to highlight some of the differences between the first edition and the second edition.

And this brings me to the duration between my blog postings. I’ve done this pretty deliberately. I started this blog on January 1, 2010 and blogged every day. Then I moved to every other day. Now I’m at every 3rd day, which is where I plan to stay. One reason for this, obviously, is controlling the amount of time I devote to blogging. But another is that by blogging every 3 days and showing the ten most recent blogs on the screen at a time, it is easy to get a one-month snapshot of what’s happening in the world of self-publishing, entrepreneurism, and Outskirts Press.

Of course, in the 3-week span of time that we have been covering the Entrepreneur of the Year blogs, other things have happened, and some deserve their own blogging, too.

So, with that said, in the coming blog posts I’ll cover:

– SELL YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON, second edition
– The semi-finalist reception for the Entrepreneur of the Year awards
– The publication of the Colorado Humanities Anthology
– The presentation of the Student Literary Awards
– A winner at the Student Literary Awards interviews me

Hmm, that’s good enough. That covers another half month, and by then, a whole new crop of things to blog about will come up.

Entrepreneur of the Year Criteria #4

According to Gregory K. Ericksen in his book Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Insights From the Winner’s Circle, the fourth criteria the judges use to help them determine a winner involves the culture, values, and incentives surrounding the work force, the company, and the community. 

An example of this involves our EVVY Book Awards.  Every Diamond and Pearl book we publish is eligible to be nominated for an official Outskirts Press EVVY Award Nomination.  Those nominees are subsequently submitted to the annual Colorado Independent Publishers Association EVVY Awards.  Recently we won 16 different awards, the most among all participating publishers.

The Outskirts Press production team members for each first, second, and third place award also won compensatory bonuses for their valued contributions in producing EVVY-award-winning books for their authors.  One of our internal goals at Outskirts Press is to help our authors publish award-winning books. So by creating a bonus structure for our production department that recognizes when that goal is met, our authors are happier and our cover designers, book formatters, and author representatives are happier, too. Win-win. 

Another example is our $10,000 donation to the Colorado Humanities last December and our sponsorship of their Colorado Book Awards and Student Literary Awards

Later this week, on May 6th, the winners of the Colorado Humanities Student Literary Awards will be announced in Denver.  I will be attending the event and revealing the full-color anthology, published by Outskirts Press.   The anthology is titled 2010 Student Literary Awards Anthology: Winning Art, Poems and Letters by Colorado Students.

Handing out awards to young and aspiring writers is very fulfilling. And seeing their faces light up when they discover they are published authors is extraordinary.  I love it. Another win-win.  And that is culture, values, and incentives in a nutshell.

Outskirts Press, Colorado Humanities, and TIE

I’ve been trying to avoid blogging about the “day-to-day” details because, frankly, that’s not very interesting. Strategic topics are great to discuss here, but when I find myself composing a blog about the minutiae of running a company, I usually end up erasing it. Why? Because the minutiae here is probably the same as the minutiae everywhere else.   Once companies reach a certain size, there’s a certain similarity to what is involved, and while the “big picture” might be different, many of the steps are often the same. 

But last week had a few exceptions. I met with the nice folks at Colorado Humanities to discuss what they were going to do with the donation Outskirts Press made to their non-profit organization last year.  We are sponsoring their Colorado Book Awards and Student Literary Awards and also discussed some other potential collaborations.

Last Thursday evening I also attended a TIE Association meeting. TIE stands for The Internet Entrepreneur and Thursday’s speaker was Steve Knopper, who was discussing his book, Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age.

I don’t think I’m saying anything surprising when I say it has some similarities with what is happening now with the traditional publishing industry…