Robert Adams served fourteen years in the U.S. Navy and eighteen years in the Army. He changed services to attend medical school and currently practices medicine at the University of North Carolina. In November 2017, Robert added another line to his resume: author.
The FriesenPress-published Six Days of Impossible: Navy SEAL Hell Week – A Doctor Looks Back is Robert’s first book, a firsthand account of the infamously brutal Navy SEAL Hell Week. With Six Days’ readership growing every month, we caught up with Robert to learn how this first-time author has found international self-publishing success.
FriesenPress (FP): Thanks for joining us, Robert! Tell readers a bit about Six Days of Impossible.
Robert Adams (RA): Navy SEAL Hell Week is an individual and team survival experience – only 20% of those who make the attempt actually succeed. They become brothers for life and risk it all to perform the missions assigned to them. Six Days of Impossible is my attempt to explain why they succeed and why our nation continues to call on them.
This story needed to be heard. How sad if only a few ever read it. And so began my journey into the world of publishing.
FP: Six Days was published with FriesenPress in November 2017, but you also had interest from traditional publishers. What about self-publishing appealed to you?
RA: I had contacted traditional publishers about publishing my book and had been accepted by an outfit who specializes in military-type books. But, at the last minute of negotiation (with contracts in hand), they said "we're going to have to put a couple of books ahead of you. We still want to publish you, but it's going to be a year and a half from now.” I discovered that that's pretty common in the traditional publishing arena.
I then decided to try self-publishing. Writing the book was a labor of love. If I sell 100 books, I'm great; if I sell 10,000 books, I'm great. Either way, the story is out there, and a piece of history has been captured.
The folks at FriesenPress helped me a lot. The greatest benefit I had was with my very first content edit. Among other things, the editor was able to say, "You don't grab readers right off the bat, so let's take Chapter 5 and make it Chapter 1.” And that simple change had a hugely positive impact on the story.
FP: Describe your initial marketing push for the book; what was that experience like?
RA: I have a history in my community, and I'm fairly well-known as "the Navy SEAL guy who became a doctor.” Most of my initial sales were generated by word of mouth and the excitement that generated – people telling other people "hey, the doc wrote a book!"
When I look at my Amazon-sales history, I see the initial sales bump that most good books experience. It scooted up to a Wow, he's selling bunches of books level, but then it settled back down to smaller bumps that I can tie to other marketing efforts that I've made, including those that occurred after I started using The Chilton Method.
FP: What appealed to you about The Chilton Method?
RA: I think I was one of the first FriesenPress authors to say, “Hey, for $195, I'm doing this.” You can't beat that price for a 17-hour class, and the previews made it interesting enough to give it a try.
When I started watching the marketing sections, I found them very useful. I watched every single video (a couple more than once!), making notes as I went. Often, I would go, "That's such a good idea. I'm going to stop right here and do it.” I'd then come back and watch another video later. Almost every time that I stopped and implemented something interesting from The Chilton Method, it generated interest and sales.
I’d absolutely recommend The Chilton Method to authors – the content is fantastic. It's a relatively inexpensive educational investment for your book marketing.
FP: What were some of the lessons that had a direct impact on your book-marketing efforts?
RA: One of the key messages I took from The Chilton Method videos was that nobody else is going to market your book for you – you've got to do it yourself. If you don't, nothing will happen.
Another lesson I learned is the power of setting up your Amazon Author Page – a critically important marketing tool.
As I successfully set up my Author Page and started learning what it can do, Dave [Chilton] pointed out that there are British Amazon Author Pages. And Australian Amazon Author Pages. These aren’t automatically linked – this has to be done manually. The month after I linked my pages, boom: I've got sales in England, Australia, and New Zealand!
FP: What have been some of your biggest marketing successes so far?
RA: Book marketing is a process of casting bread on the water. One unexpected result of that process was the Six Days of Impossible audiobook.
My activity on Amazon caught the attention of Tantor Media, a well-known audiobook production company. They sent me an email, out of the blue, inquiring about Six Days’ audio rights. I’d been thinking about recording the audiobook myself, but they wanted to pay me up front, distribute [the audiobook] to libraries nationwide, and pay me a commission on the sales. And they’d record it with a professional voice actor. Well, okay!
I’ve also had success on Goodreads, a platform that was briefly mentioned in one of the Chilton videos. After claiming my Goodreads' profile, I held a book contest where I gave away fifteen books. That alone generated thousands of hits on my page from people asking for Six Days. When the promotion was over, I mailed out fifteen books – one to each of the winners that Goodreads picked for me. What a wonderfully inexpensive way to generate interest in the book!
Get it out there. Let people see your book. Don't be afraid to give away copies – casting bread on the water starts a conversation, or keeps a conversation alive. And that results in sales.
FP: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give a new author?
RA: I have had a few new authors contact me for advice, and the first point I make is to make sure that what you write is great. Certainly, the four-year process of writing one good book – multiple drafts, re-looks, rewrites – taught me a good deal about that subject.
Although there are a lot of people out there buying books, a lot of time and effort can go into making something that isn't fun to read. It’s the little details that make a book entertaining for the reader, and that’s what matters most.
FP: Could you sum up your publishing journey from when you started writing to where you’re at today?
RA: I'm working on my second book now, energized by the fact that I know what to do, who to reach out to, and what my responsibilities are as an author. No one else is responsible for my story – it's mine, and the process to get it out there is mine, too. That's the biggest part of the learning process: knowing that there's help out there, but the final responsibility lies with the author.
My new book is going to be doctor stories, drawing upon my 40 years of experience as a doctor. It's going to be a fun story. Over the years, I've had some amazing experiences with patients. I'm writing it using what I've learned from the FriesenPress editors and from readers’ feedback on my first book.
I'm a whole lot better, and I'm much more mature as an author. We'll see if there's any more after that, because both of these books are labors of love – stories that I need to tell.
FP: That’s a great note to end on. Thanks, Robert!