Uncommon Stock: Exit Strategy

The third installment in the startup thriller trilogy

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My pleasure to introduce Eliot for AMA today at 1 PM PST! Eliot Peper is the author of The Uncommon Series, the tech startup thriller trilogy. When he's not hacking away at his next novel, he works with entrepreneurs and investors to build new technology companies as a drop-in operator and advisor.
@eriktorenberg thanks for having me. I’m excited to field questions from the @ProductHunt community! For anyone unfamiliar with my books, The Uncommon Series follows a young entrepreneur, Mara Winkel, as she leads her company from garage to IPO. They develop a new kind of algorithm that can help uncover fraud in financial data but get sucked into an international conspiracy along the way. It’s a page-turner about tech entrepreneurs. Exit Strategy is the third and final book in the trilogy but you’ll want to read the book in order. You can find all of them here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product...
Thanks for doing the AMA @eliotpeper! Love the startup thriller idea you've built. How much of your writing gets based on real life interactions you have with entrepreneurs? Feel free to name names :)
@kunalslab The Uncommon Series is fictional so I get to make everything up :). The characters, plot, etc. are all imaginary. That said, the story and setting are definitely informed by the work I’ve done and the friends I've made in the startup world. I worked at my first startup in college. The company was developed a waste-to-energy system using plasma arc gasification technology. After that, I cofounded a consultancy with a few friends and we advised clean tech companies on international market entry (our clients ranged from energy storage startups all the way to one of the top 10 global solar firms). Then @ghorowitt recruited me to be an entrepreneur-in-residence at T2 Venture Capital where I sourced/vetted deals, accelerated our portfolio companies past growth milestones, and helped advise foreign governments on innovation policy. Now I work as an independent strategist, helping entrepreneurs and investors build new technology companies. @bfeld at Foundry Group has been an enormous supporter of The Uncommon Series since I drafted the first few chapters. He’s inspired and refined the story enormously and many of the lessons I’ve learned from him and his writing have made their way into the books. I’ve also learned a ton from @mattblumberg at Return Path, @bobholmen at Miramar Venture Partners, George Eiskamp at @GroundMetrics, Ken Davenport at @MissionEdgeSD, @daniellemorrill at Mattermark, @davidcohen at Techstars, @dgmandell at Pivot Desk, @micah, @craiglauer, and so many others who have been extraordinarily generous with their time and mentorship.
Hey @eliotpeper! Can you explain a bit about your publishing process. I know it was a bit unique.
@jeffumbro FG Press published my first two books and I self-published the third one. Publication options are proliferating like crazy and any new writer has a lot to choose from. There are five large companies that dominate the publishing industry (The Big Five). I wasn’t interested in working with them initially because first time authors of fiction usually face a two year (at best) timeline to publication, small advances, and draconian contractual terms. When you average out different formats and channels, the author/publisher royalty split is around 15/85. FG Press offered a 50/50 net royalty split and were very open to trying new, crazy things. They’re backed by Foundry Group and Brad Feld invited me to publish with them. It came totally out of the blue and I didn’t submit through a typical literary agent or anything like that. When serendipity strikes, it usually pays to run with it and we’ve had a blast collaborating on the books. Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0 was FG Press’s first title. I’ve always been interested in experimenting with all publishing paths. That’s why I wanted to go full indie with Exit Strategy. I might even consider running with the Big Five if my audience grows to a point where I would have leverage to negotiate a reasonable deal through an agent. The way I look at it, the important part is finding the right channels to reach new readers, learn new things, and make fans happy. Here are a few random posts I've written about different aspects of my experience with the process: http://janefriedman.com/2015/03/... http://www.eliotpeper.com/search... https://medium.com/fg-press-auth... http://rocketship.fm/episodes/ep...
How do you build a fan base from scratch?
@melissajoykong Make things that improve people’s lives. If you write a book, make sure the story is important to you. If you go on a podcast, don’t just talk about yourself. Instead, think about what you might be able to share that would make a real impact for listeners. If you write a guest post, don’t just try to drive traffic to your work. Craft something that’s valuable on its own as a piece of evergreen content. Basically, put the interests of your readers ahead of your own. Even if you only have a few readers, do everything you can to make their day. Don’t force email blasts into their inboxes. Send them personal, substantive notes that show how much you appreciate and respect them. I respond to every single email from folks who subscribe to my newsletter and cold emails from readers who loved the books. Last fall, I heard from a startup founder in Ireland who read and loved the trilogy. We corresponded back and forth a few times and when my wife and I visited on holiday in June, we grabbed beers with him in Dublin. That conversation was incredibly special for us both and neither of us is likely to forget it. I’ve heard from financial executives that found the books terrifyingly real, aid workers in East Africa who deal with corruption everyday, and random readers who blew through one of the novels to mitigate the boredom of a long flight. Don’t treat fans as metrics, engagements, or anything else. They’re people. The more we treat each other like people the more we earn each other's respect. I’ve found this essay and book quite formative on this topic: http://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-t... http://www.amazon.com/Discoverab... I’ve also shared some of my own process here: http://www.williamhertling.com/2... http://blog.reedsy.com/post/1042...
Hey @eliotpeper! When can I get one of those awesome t-shirts James is always wearing in the books?
@adchamberlain Hahaha, great question! A number of readers have asked about this. I tried to find an amazing designer to bring the t-shirts to life but haven’t yet discovered the right person to do them justice. If folks have suggestions here, I’d love to hear them. It would be a lot of fun to sport James’s infamous apparel.