By Rod Mebane, Starshine Galaxy

Rod was MIPA’s scholarship participant at the 2013 IBPA Publication University (PubU), held in San Francisco in March 2014. This is the second of three reports that Rod is sharing with fellow MIPA members from his experience at the conference. (The first report was on “Covers that Connect.”) Contact Rod by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 312-343-2235 with your questions and comments

I’m not sure what early birds catch down by San Francisco’s South Bay, but at the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf Hotel on Saturday, March 22, the early birds caught the “early bird” session, of course. But this one—“Learning Curve to Earning Curve”—was notably eye-opening. (I’d be inclined to say “phenomenal,” but I’m not sure what phenomenal looks like in the gray mist of dawn.) It was a presentation given by Jason Lewis, who is the only person in the history of mankind to circumnavigate the globe relying just on human power. And he was accompanied by his independent publisher, Tammy Stevens (who now also partners as his wife). Together they gave a delightfully entertaining and inspirational talk on Jason’s exciting adventure alone and their remarkable publishing venture together.

How often do we feel that we are pedaling in place or just treading water?

The Adventure: IBPA Executive Director Angela Bole summarized it beautifully in her introduction of the adventurer. “Jason Lewis completed one of the longest, most grueling expeditions in history. He walked, biked, and in-line skated five continents. He swam, kayaked, rode, and pedaled a boat across the world’s rivers, oceans, and seas. He survived a crocodile attack, blood poisoning, malaria, incarceration for espionage, and two broken legs during the record-setting, 13-year quest to become the first person to circumnavigate the world using only human power.”

The Venture: Jason’s expedition is being published by BillyFish Books (which Tammy manages) in a series of three The Expedition books—Dark Waters, The Seed Buried Deep, and To the Brink. The first two have been released, and the third is imminent. The story has also been made into a film, and there’s a terrific, worth-watching, three-minute trailer available at:

The presenters cleverly used the very engaging story of Jason’s remarkable around-the-world voyage as a metaphor for the challenges of independent publication, and they drew some poignant parallels. We all know how challenging it is to be successful as independent publishers, and Jason and Tammy shared some relevant insights. For example:

  • Publication is like a journey, and you do not know what you will encounter or how long it will take.
  • It is critical to follow your passion. Hold on to your story.
  • Sometimes it takes a leap of faith to jump into the abyss. But the important thing is to begin the journey, take the first steps, then learn and adapt as you go.
  • Don’t focus on the end goal. Break the journey down into smaller, more navigable segments.
  • As long as you are headed forward, there is always hope.

The piece of advice that really stuck with me—one that I have shared with others on a number of occasions since the conference—pertains to a time when Jason was in a pedal-boat by himself in the middle of the Pacific. He found himself in an ocean stream that was flowing in the direction opposite to where he was headed. So, for days at a time, he pedaled the boat for 12-14 hours a day, and at the end of those days, he found via GPS that he was simply pedaling in place – all of his effort resulted in going nowhere, making no forward progress. (At this point, I ask: How often do we feel that we are pedaling in place or just treading water?)

The significant point that Jason made was this: By pedaling in place, it turns out that he was in a fortuitous position to exit the stream when the current finally shifted, and in retrospect he learned that he was hundreds of miles better off than had he not held his position by pedaling, going nowhere, day after day. By inference, sometimes we independent publishers just need to have faith to stay the course, and, eventually, the tides will become favorable.

Some may say that little piece of advice and 50¢ will get you a cup of coffee. (Wait, this is San Francisco—change that to $5.00.) But in my opinion, either way, it’s a great way to start an early day.

(And BTW: If you’re wondering how Jason Lewis and BillyFish Books are doing financially, all Tammy mentioned in hard dollar terms is that they are happy with their decision to turn down HarperCollins’ $250,000 offer for rights to the story.)