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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Finding the Right Marketing Assistance: Author Interview with Terrance Layhew

Most everyone thinks they can write a novel. What made you decide to write one? 
It’s actually a surprise that I wrote a novel. I’ve always been a writer, but in my late teens I decided to put my efforts towards non-fiction. For nearly a decade now, I’ve been writing essays on various blogs and platforms. 

Talking to a friend, Scott Hebert, I’d mentioned starting a book one too many times. He challenged me to actually finish writing one for a change. Taking the bull by the horns, I picked a premise which I’d joked about as a book idea, and ran with it. Now that I’ve finished my first novel, I'd actually be surprised if I ever try writing a book of non-fiction.

How long did it take you to write that book? How many rewrites did you do on it? 
It took about 18 months from serious start to completion, I began writing it in December of 2020, and finished the final draft in December 2021. After finishing the second draft in July 2021, I passed it along to a few friends whose opinions I valued for feedback. Some of them had great notes which actually became incorporated into the book as I wrote the third draft.

The fourth one was a final pass to smooth any transition points and correct as much of my horrible spelling as possible before I passed it along to an editor. The fifth draft was created after the editor I hired, Meghan Stoll, who read through it and corrected the grammar.

What made you decide to self-publish rather than seek a traditional publisher?
I flirted with the idea of traditional publishing at first, but frankly I didn’t have the patience to deal with sending it out, getting rejected, and sending it again, and again, and again. Still, there’s a part of me which wishes I had tried. It’s probably just my ego, but I think Reason and Romance is better than I gave it credit for when I wrote it.

The idea of self-publishing has always been attractive to me from the start. Mainly because I have (presumably) more control over the process and timeline.

Since self-publishing means you do it all (or pay someone else), what has been the hardest learning curve for you?
Definitely the marketing process. I’ve never been shy about self-promotion, but this is a different context than I’m used to. Since this is my first book, I’m experimenting to see what works and what I can improve on with the next book.

What has worked best for you in generating sales?
It’s still a little early to see what tactic worked best to increase sales or notice, but I did a couple of things which I think are fairly rote for self-publishing these days. I ran a giveaway on Goodreads which netted 10K requests in two weeks for three copies; worked with bookstagram accounts on Instagram and early review copies; and I wrote content pieces about the book to publish on Medium. 

The thing I think I enjoyed most was making a short YouTube video about the book. For some of these things, it wasn’t so much that I was focusing on quick turn around (which I’ll improve on next time), but I also wanted linked content out there for people to stumble on the book in the future also.

What do you know now about writing/publishing now that you wished you had known sooner?
I should have hired a publicist.  There were a lot of things I did which I could have hired someone else to do better. Sure, it’s great to try yourself and get experience with it. Some authors do it all themselves and create an amazing effect, but I don’t think I’m one of them. I like writing, and I’m good at talking about it, but all the detail work to get in the right conversations and in the right places, I don’t think I possess the patience or disposition for.

Recently, I came across a Tim Ferris article where he asked what one decision you can make to improve your life. For him, it was not reading any new books as they came out, because he gets sent nearly every book published these days. For me, I think that decision is to double down on what I can be better than average, then hire other people who are better than me at the other things. That's why I hired Meghan to edit my book. I know grammar isn’t my strong suit, so it worked well to have her review it. Hiring a publicist or marketing guru doesn’t need to be any different.

Your website shows that you do consulting and speaking engagements based on the Suit Up Philosophy. Can you explain what that means?
I love this question. That’s actually a remnant of the past life of my website. For five years I hosted a Podcast called The Intellectual Agrarian where I talked to farmers and agricultural professionals about farming and philosophy. Since my day job is in agriculture, it was a great show to host and produce. 

When my website was created, it was actually to market myself as a moderator, speaker and consultant for agricultural events. A brilliant move to make in late 2019 before a pandemic. Though that idea died on the vine, I’ve modified my website around my writing and other work, but never changed the offer to speak and consult because I can talk about anything anywhere (as this interview has probably reflected).

The Suit Up Philosophy is an idea I’ve been teasing and developing in many of my essays over the years unconsciously, and more consciously started codifying in the last two years. It’s the idea of becoming fit for every opportunity. We’ve all seen the scene in the movie where the hero needs to step up to face the villain. That’s when they Suit Up to face the foe. 

It’s the visual transformation where they take the skills, knowledge and training and apply it to the challenge they face. We experience the same challenges in life, the same open doors, the same moments where we need to Suit Up if we want to win the day.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
In an interview with Joel Salatin on The Intellectual Agrarian Podcast, I’d asked him advice for writers since he was actually a reporter prior to farming and has been a prolific author about agricultural topics. His advice was to know what you want to write before you sit down to write it. It’s something I’ve tried to apply as much as possible.

Any other comments about writing that you'd like to add?
I started a Podcast earlier this year called The Daily Pages, it’s a daily podcast with meditations and tips about writing and creativity. It’s principally a Podcast for me, a way to force myself to engage with the ideas of creativity on a daily basis using quotes from other writers and creatives as prompts for creative principles.

That's all for today's interview. If you'd like to learn more about Terrance's writing and podcasts, here's where you can start.
The Daily Pages Podcast:
Suit Up Philosophy:

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