Our Wiley Valentines

February 13, 2006 · 1 comment in Miscellaneous

Demo seems to be a very lucky conference for me.  This year was terrific, but it is dwarfed by what happened last year, when it was held during Valentine’s week. Last Feb. 14 would become a milestone moment in the Naked Conversations saga.

By early December, Robert and I completed our book proposal back in December 2004 before we found this name or started this blog.  We had begun with a good deal of flamboyance. We had I had originally declared that we would auction off book rights on eBay, but we backed off from the ledge when authors we knew told us that publishers would tell us to jump from t before they went transparent on negotiations with author wannabees.

But we wanted publishers to at least find us through blogging. Five publishers did. Four began serious talks with us. But in the end it came down to two Wiley and Thomas Nelson.  Both highly respected publishers and both were wonderfully aggressive in wanting to sign us.

Robert and I headed to Demo not sure of who we’d go with. But Nelson was in the lead. The week before Demo, they made us a "preemptive offer" for a sum we considered more than acceptable.  Pre-emptive means that we had to accept it within two weeks or the offer would be withdrawn.  In the Bubble days VCs used to offer pre-emptive term sheets. It uses money to pressure a decision and to cut off the chance of bidding wars.   I never liked pre-emptives because they are really power plays and manipulate the smaller party to act faster than they may be able to make a decision. Still, it was a very nice offer and Robert and I knew it was time to close a deal and start writing the book.

We went to Demo thinking we would sign with Nelson.  I told Jim Minatel, a Wiley acquisitions editor that we had an offer, it was generous and we were leaning toward going for it.  Jim asked if he could get back to me.  While I was packing to catch my flight. How about if he and his boss ,Joe Wikert and Dave Mayhew, a Wiley marketing executive all flew down to Scottsdale, where Demo was being held, met us face to face and told us what Wiley could do for us.

Sure, I said.

Scottsdale, you may know, is smack in the middle of the desert. Annual rainfall is about 10 inches. All of it came down in 2005 on Valentine’s Day.  Wiley had trouble finding a restaurant on short notice but finally landed a table for the five in the epicenter of Mason’s a pricey, trendy, noisy steakhouse.

For the first hour or so, we all smiled and nodded a lot.  It would have been easier to have a conversation next to a jackhammer at the SuperBowl because of the decibels of conversations at surrounding tables. But as the wine began to to wend its way through diners and steak and lobster filled the mouths, the room quieted down considerably. 

I liked these guys.  Jim made me feel comfortably and I knew that he would remain my key contact. Chemistry matters. Dave talked about big marketing stuff that was exciting, but we would have to see if they would come through and come to think of it, they would have to see if we did the same. Joe was eloquent about the partnership between authors and publishers.  He has the ability to make one feel warm and fuzzy.  But I have previously been badly burned by people who have made me feel extremely fuzzy. I told him I thought trust was something that built slowly.

Robert was coming from a different place. For me money and relationship were huge issues.  I was going to work on the book fulltime and had nothing else going after Demo. To Robert, this was all about extending his passion and knowledge of blogging.  he wanted the book, and was going to trust me to write it, so that he could spread the word about why businesses should blog and he wanted to share what he had learned in his years as a successful blogger.

He was reserved that night.  He chatted about the wine and the humongous Maine lobster he had ordered. He watched the Wiley guys with a sidled glance and spoke little. What he wanted to see and hear was a commitment to blogging. At that time no one at Wiley blogged, and from Robert’s perspective that was a cause for suspicion.

They made us a cash offer. It was significantly over Nelson’s. I was sold. Robert remained aloof. Then Joe said he would like to start his own blog and he hoped Robert would coach him on how to get it going. That was the closer.  Robert warmed up.  He started talking about how to get a blog going. He became the Scobleizer.  We clinked glasses.  We had a deal.

Robert and I celebrated in the restaurant bar with a couple of $50 Couvosier XO Cognacs.  We went outside where the torrent had finally stopped.  It was after 10, but you could see the water steaming off the pavement.  I called my wife and told her we had a deal.  I think she started crying.  later I would learn that she had been told she was going to be laid off from her job of seven years that she had loved so much and done so well.

It took a couple of weeks to get a contract signed.  We didn’t get everything we asked for but we got a whole lot.  t was a good deal, a great one for two first timers.

Joe started a blog a little while later.  Robert coached him by blogging about what Joe was doing wrong.  Jim started a blog about a month after that.  I think he has given us more links than anyone else I think it’s because he reads us so closely and has been so .

The Wiley guys have exceeded our expectations in all areas. I went beyond "comfortable" with Jim. He became my friend. We spoke every Monday afternoon for one hour for nearly a year.  He kept a steady, but soft hand on this project.  He was always candid. He never got mad, even though we gave  him good reason on several occasions. He made Naked Conversations a better book in many ways.  It was his idea to acknowledge everyone who left us a constructive comment on this blog. He educated me on the ways of publishers.

Wiley marketing came through big time.  Naked Conversations has been advertised in seven national magazines including Fortune, BusinessWeek and Forbes. They’ve employed a PR agency that is smiling and dialing on our behalf, getting us on the phone at 5 in the morning for Live AM radio interviews on the East Coast. We’re speaking to editors all over the country.

Of course there have been bumps. We argued over cover design for months. but in the end, Wiley listened and gave us a cover we love.

Joe Wikert was right.  We became partners. Now all we have to do is sell a few more books.

It’s hard to believe that Valentine Dinner was only a year ago.  It seems like a lifetime.

{ 1 comment }

Joe Wikert February 17, 2006 at 7:56 pm

Shel, I'm glad the "warm and fuzzy" feelings at the beginning didn't wind up being hollow in the end. Also, my thanks to you and Robert for helping me get my blog off the ground. It's hard to believe it's been a year since we first hooked up. It's equally hard to believe my book publisher blog is now one year old. It's been a blast and you guys got me hooked on blogging — thanks!

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