We had the good fortune of connecting with Lance Conrad and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lance, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Before I begin this story, I have to say, I don’t necessarily recommend this particular method to anyone else. A job had just ended and I was offered a new job. This new job had everything: good pay, good benefits, company car, flexible hours, the works! And I said no. I said that I was going to be an author. Even by my own twisted judgement, this was reckless. Like the Moors invading Spain, I was burning my ships. I would succeed or I would starve. But I knew myself. I knew that if I didn’t have that kind of backed-into-a-corner manic energy, I would quit when it seemed hopeless. And believe me, there were times when it seemed hopeless. When I started, nobody knew my name and nobody cared. Lacking street cred with libraries or bookstores, I started out selling books door-to-door! It was absolutely miserable and I highly recommend it. Those months on the doors sharpened my sales pitch and my drive to a razor edge. Later, when selling at conventions, I outsold other authors four or five to one. While this may not be the classic answer to a “thought process” question, it still reveals what I felt was most important in that process. I knew that there was a whole lot that I didn’t know. And I knew that I would have moments of weakness. So before I even started, I made plans, not for sales or budgets, but to manage my own discouragement and motivation. Everything else followed after.
Please tell us more about your work. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way.
About once a week, for the last six years, somebody finds me, either online or on the street, and tells me that they read one of my books and it meant something to them. By even the most basic math, I’ve had that experience upwards of three hundred times. The thrill I feel at that hasn’t dimmed one bit from the very beginning. When people ask about my greatest accomplishments as an author, I will often take the easy way out and tell them about some award or professional honor. It moves the conversation along nicely, but it’s a lie. For some of those awards ceremonies, I remember the food more than I remember a feeling of accomplishment. But every time someone tells me they enjoyed one of my books, I am renewed. I have now published six YA fantasy novels and created over two hundred Word of the Day videos. The videos were probably my biggest surprise, as I only started doing those to get out of writing a blog. Now they are used in classrooms as far away as Australia. I can’t claim to be anywhere close to where I’d like to be professionally. I’d still describe myself as a regional author, with most of my fans being concentrated in about six or seven states. However, I have deeply enjoyed the journey. My primary means of promotion has been speaking at schools. It has been fascinating and rewarding to teach these bright children about writing and to hear their questions and ideas. At the end of the day, I love my job!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
For context, it is worth noting that I am a little eccentric. As we all know, eccentric is best defined as, “crazy, but not the kind we lock up.” While I enjoy a good restaurant and a movie as much as the next person, if my best friend is in town, I want them to leave with a few good stories. Here are some experiences that come immediately to mind… Cheapskeet! – This is a charming little game of my own invention. Best of all, no one has been seriously injured playing it yet! The premise is childishly simple. You stand over there with one of my best machetes. Then I’m going to throw water bottles at you. There are some patterns and guidelines, but ultimately, it’s all about bladed weapons and looking awesome in the slow-motion replay. Vinegar tasting – Ah, the complex, tangy richness of an aged vinegar. It warms my soul and stings my throat. Anyone who has only tasted that swill they sell at grocery stores is missing out on one of the finer things in life. Ethiopian food – In Salt Lake City, there is a little hole-in-the-wall Ethiopian restaurant named Mahider. You eat with your hands off of a central, common platter. There are no utensils, just a thin, spongy bread called injera that you use to scoop food into your mouth. It is a truly unique dining experience. Most of all, bring me! Because half of the fun for me is explaining the culture and history that led to this cuisine being so different from the rest of the world. Anybody ready to visit?
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I grew up the fourth of nine children and my father was a cowboy turned entrepreneur. If that doesn’t paint a picture, I don’t know what would! My shout-out is to my parents. I am able to live without fear because I saw them lose everything multiple times. Every time, they would pull together and pick themselves back up. It really took the sting out of failure seeing firsthand how it doesn’t really break the strong. I don’t think I could have done half of what I have done without that example of resilience.