A recent release from the Association of American Publishers, which reports continuing growth in eBook sales, prompted some reflection on the business of self-publishing. While our Evolved Publishing venture is not self-publishing, neither is it a clone of the traditional publishing model. We are a hybrid small press.

When I was in the U.S. Air Force—about a million years ago—I toiled in an office where nine individuals worked with, and often against, each other. Within our section, we performed three primary functions. The nine individuals, in random combination, rotated between those three functions. Seems fair, right?

Just one problem: one of those functions provided greater headaches and pressure to perform than the other two, and nobody wanted to go anywhere near it. Hey, we were government employees—no one advanced on merits; only seniority mattered. So why bust your butt to perform a stressful, thankless job if you didn’t have to? I should make clear that this was not my attitude.  Mama taught me better. Four or five in our section, however, had not learned those proper lessons.

When half a team—geez, I hesitate to call what we had a team—crashes the team bus in a fiery ball, the entire team burns up. The end result? Poor performance, poor service, poor atmosphere, poor outlook. Poor. Thus, some lowly bottom-of-the-ladder two-striper—that would be me—approached the section chief with a proposal: convert the nine hey-I’m-just-in-it-for-me individuals into three let’s-pull-together teams. Let each team of three learn to rely on each other to succeed—no whining, no finger-pointing. If one member of the team failed, the entire team failed, and their individual performance reviews would reflect that. Suddenly, it was in everyone’s interest to ensure that the other members of the team succeeded (only two others on the team now—much more manageable).

If my teammate needed help, I helped—this new dynamic swept through the section. Even the one or two hopeless sourpusses had to step up, because no one wanted to shoulder the blame for a team’s poor review. No one wanted to be a pariah. Better yet, and on a more positive note, those very sourpusses appreciated that now, finally, someone else was in their corner, rather than constantly fighting against them.

We no longer suffered the lesser demons of nine individuals. We now encouraged the greater angels of three teams.

This lowly two-striper even received a U.S Air Force Achievement Medal, for “designing creative solutions to promote excellence in service.” Hoo-rah!

I took the lessons learned in that setting into the real world (working for the government bureaucracy, even if military, is not the real world). As I took on management roles in a couple companies, responsible for hiring, training, project and personnel development, I focused heavily on the team approach. No, all was not bliss. You can’t bring together a large group of people and expect everything to be perfect.

Nonetheless, I saw firsthand, time and time again, how a well-coordinated team always outperformed a group of individuals focused solely on themselves. On top of everything else, the sense of camaraderie it promoted, when it worked well, created a pleasant working atmosphere… and quite often, lasting friendships.

Now, we bring this same philosophy to our new publishing company. If you haven’t already, and particularly if you’re an aspiring writer, I hope you’ll check out what we’re doing at Evolved Publishing.

‘Til next time, and as always, remember: To write well, you must work hard. To succeed in this tough gig, you mustn’t be lazy (or discouraged).