How To Rise Above The Competition

ApplePyramid_OpDecades ago – when I was a baby – I tried my hand at real estate sales. Interest rates were low and houses still sold for $125,000 in North San Diego County (I said it was a long time ago). It was a brand new business for me, and there were a of new terms, processes, and paperwork to absorb. The learning curve was rough.

Still, it was like the Wild West. Sales contracts were a single page long, disclosure requirements were nonexistent, salespeople didn’t need training to get a license, and continuing education was nil. Newbies were flocking to the industry and setting up shop right and left. The real estate sales gig was turning into a gold rush, and every day bright-eyed new salespeople were hammering in open house signs and glad-handing everyone they knew. Spreading the word about their new vocation. Begging friends and family to think of them first if they wanted to buy or sell a house.

Agents who’d been around for a while lamented the good old days, before the competition ramped up to ginormous proportions. They had to adapt. They had to actually be excellent at their job to stand above the crowd.

Sound familiar?

Fast forward a few decades, and here we are. Thanks to Amazon’s book sale platform, self-publishing has become the latest gold rush. Fledgling authors and wannabe writers are uploading millions of manuscripts to multiple ebook sales platforms, shouting “buy my book!” on social media, and queuing up a thousand deep for a chance to get a place on book bloggers’ schedules, and competing for coveted reviews. Why?

Because, like real estate sales back in the day, you don’t need training or deep pockets to self-publish. Words to the wise be damned, lots of newbies are skipping editors, proofreaders, and cover artists and doing it all themselves – often poorly – then throwing their hats in the ring, vying to be the next Fifty Shades or Colleen Hoover, and just knowing it’s going to happen for them.


So, of course, the situation has bred a new group who are busy lamenting the fact that the good ‘ole days are gone. Naysayers. Troublemakers. Authors who focus on what isn’t working. “We can’t get into Bookbub, the proliferation of free ebook promotions are ruining our chances to sell our work. Readers’ Kindles are so packed with freebies they’ll never need to purchase a title, ever again. They have ruined it all, it’s their fault, wah, wah, waaaaaaaaah.”

Do you see a pattern here?

One of the first lessons I grappled with in my real estate career was to avoid people. I know that sounds all wrong, but I’m talking about a certain clique, that small but vocal crowd that hung around the water cooler and griped about the crappy market. How the influx of new agents and resulting competition had ruined the business, how tough it was to make a sale, how few and far between those commission checks were – all because the number of agents had boomed.

Part of that was true: getting business was harder. Still, it didn’t take me long to realize that although the swollen ranks of new agents would force me to work harder and smarter, it wasn’t difficult to be better than the majority of people who were after easy money. As an agent, I was head-and-shoulders above 90% of my compadres because …

  1. I kept my word. I did what I said I would do, when I said I was going to do it.
  2. I was hard-working, professional, experienced, and pleasant (imagine that!)
  3. I was generous with my knowledge, shared it freely, and was willing to help others without expecting payback.
  4. I knew my stuff, and I added to my skill set/education all the time.
  5. I put people before money. I focused on relationships, not numbers.
  6. I ceased behaviors that didn’t serve me, like flipping off other drivers (I said I was young), being snide, and ranting in public.
  7. I learned to listen closely to clients when they told me what they liked and disliked, what they wanted in a house or property.

Back then, we depended on positive word-of-mouth to get new business. We advertised our latest listings and sat in open houses, ready to talk to all comers. If we were diligent agents, referrals from satisfied customers could account for as much as 50% of our business. Back then, we asked satisfied clients for testimonials and referrals. And if they liked us, we got them.

The more things change …

Fast forward to today. Today’s testimonials are good reviews, and referrals are happy readers talking about their latest read. Today’s clients are readers. Listen to them. Cease behaviors – like public rants and stalking reviewers – that might turn your clients off.

There is no real difference between what I learned about selling real estate and what I see happening in the self-publishing industry now. It’s not hard to be better. You just have to write really good books, put your readers first, give a lot of stuff away, and engage with people in a venue that’s comfortable for you. Be accessible. Be patient. Be in it for the long run. Ignore the naysayers. Detour around the crabby crew that hangs out at the water cooler, lamenting the good old days. Focus on what you can do to sell books and carve out a place for yourself. But most of all …

Write really good books, and keep writing them.

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34 Responses to How To Rise Above The Competition

  1. Alison DeLuca November 10, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    So true!

    • Molly Greene November 10, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

      Hi Alison! And thanks so much. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

  2. Gregory Carrico November 10, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    Well said. There is no substitute for doing it right.

    • Molly Greene November 10, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

      Thanks, Gregory. And there’s no substitute for being “in it for the long haul!”

  3. Garry Rodgers November 10, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    Sage advice as usual, Molly. The key really is in building great relationships and producing great content that readers actually want and willingly promote for you. It takes time and dedication to continually replicate the process.

    There’s an old saying about perfection – you only have to be a four if everyone else is a three. There’s a newer saying about how times have changed (you may have heard this) – it used to be word-of-mouth. Now it’s word-of-mouse 🙂

    • Molly Greene November 10, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

      So true, Garry. I think that’s the sign that an author has “made it” – readers shouting their praises from the rooftops. I’m going to take a deep breath and cross my fingers that I’ll be there before too long!

  4. Anne R. Allen November 10, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    Excellent advice, Molly. There IS more competition, but a lot of it isn’t worth paying attention to. Rising above and showing you’re different is the way to keep in the game.

    BTW, I used to live in Escondido in those heady real estate days. It was crazy but fun!

    • Molly Greene November 10, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

      OHHH my gosh, Anne – that’s where I sold real estate, in Escondido. Lived there for twenty years. It WAS crazy and fun, what a small world!

      • Anne R. Allen November 10, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

        Amazing! I used to work at the Patio Playhouse in the late 1980s. Teaching and directing. I was artistic director for a while. Did you ever see shows there? I’ll bet we know some people in common. Although a lot of mine are probably dead now…

        • Molly Greene November 11, 2014 at 7:10 am #

          And that’s when I was selling real estate there – but I know I didn’t attend any plays, unlike you, I was a dud with no social life (was?). Sounds like you had fun! I bet we did know some of the same people, although I’ve not stayed in touch w/anyone from those days.

  5. elainepinkerton November 10, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    Excellent reminders, Molly, about how to succeed in (the book) business with trying ALL THE RIGHT STUFF. You’ve summarized vigorously and thoroughly. This comes at the perfect time for me as I just attended the Santa Fe Tony Hillerman Writers Conference and am highly motivated to write, write, write.Thanks for your sage, intuitive, and professional but kindly-dispensed advice. Once again, you’ve taught me so much and I’m sending {{{{}}}}s of thanks to you through the blogisphere.

    • Molly Greene November 10, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

      Laughed out loud when I read your comment, Elaine. You sound so excited! One of the best perks of conference-attending, to get revved up again about your work. Thank you so much for your lovely message, and best to you!

  6. Debbie A. McClure November 10, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    Well said, Molly! Oddly enough, I was in real estate and then mortgage sales before becoming a full time writer, and those days prepared me beautifully for this writing profession. In addition to what you mention, and yes, you are absolutely right, is having learned the value of just showing up to do your job-every day. Not just when you feel like it, or when the sun shines, or when you need money, but every work day. You learn to live with feast and famine, you learn to accept rejection, you learn to build relationships that foster trust, and thereby, referrals. Yep, lots to find that’s similar between real estate sales and writing, and I’m thankful for the early lessons.

    • Molly Greene November 10, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

      Debbie, you are SO right and I hadn’t thought of the correlation until you mentioned it – the REJECTION that real estate and mortgage sales teaches you. I grew a really tough skin that’s served me well as a self-published author. I also eventually moved on to mortgage, but not sales, in the marketing departments of some pretty large firms. Corporate politics has taught me a lot, as well. ;-O

  7. Jan Christensen November 10, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    This is a wonderful post, Molly. Something I needed to read right now. It can be discouraging to see sales go up, then down again. And never knowing if you will reach a certain point where they stay pretty steady. Your summary of what makes a good salesperson was wonderful. I’ve always considered myself weak in sales. Thank you.

    • Molly Greene November 10, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

      Oh, Jan, my pleasure! Real estate sales is considered a “roller-coaster ride,” as well. We’ll be fine if we keep our heads and write good books!

  8. Debra Dockter November 10, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

    Really good advice Molly. Whatever the market’s like, knowledge, hard work and good writing is the answer. And while wine might help, you’re so right in that whining won’t.

    • Molly Greene November 11, 2014 at 7:06 am #

      Made me laugh! I’m going to borrow that phrase sometime. Yes, Debra, wine will help but whining won’t. Brilliant!

  9. Laura Zera November 10, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

    Super awesome post, Miz Molly. I’ll hang with you and your vibe anytime!

    • Molly Greene November 11, 2014 at 7:07 am #

      Thanks so much, Laura – and ditto. I’ll hang with you anytime, too.

  10. MM Jaye November 10, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

    Excellent analogy, Molly! That’s one of those articles all of us new writers should bookmark and keep reading. It’s extra special since it’s seeped into your own experience. Thanks for sharing!

    • Molly Greene November 11, 2014 at 7:11 am #

      Thanks so much, Maria. Life experience does help – we see that the market changes, situations ebb and flow, and focus, determination and long-term thinking help us ride it all out.

  11. Terry Tyler November 11, 2014 at 2:12 am #

    Brilliant post, Molly!

    • Molly Greene November 11, 2014 at 7:12 am #

      Mwah! Thank you so much, Terry. I know you’re a long-term-thinker kind of a gal, too, so we’re on the same page.

  12. Elaine Jeremiah November 11, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    Great advice that I found really helpful. Thanks Molly! 🙂

    • Molly Greene November 11, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

      My pleasure, Elaine, thank you so much for stopping by!

  13. Dannie Hill November 11, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    Hard work, good story, good editing and think of the reader first! You’ve said it all Molly!

    • Molly Greene November 11, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

      Thanks so much, Dannie. Add persistence and humor to that and, hopefully, we can’t fail!

  14. Mia Marlowe November 12, 2014 at 3:28 am #

    Thanks, Molly. Just what I needed to hear today!

    • Molly Greene November 12, 2014 at 7:37 am #

      My pleasure, Mia. We all need to hear it! Thanks so much for stopping by.

  15. Aya Walksfar November 17, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

    Another wonderful article, and one that gives hope. Sometimes, it is difficult to keep plugging away when all of this negative stuff rains down like a thunderstorm. And just as loud!
    For me it’s a case of “I can’t not write.” As important as the air I breathe. Thanks for helping to keep my spirits up as I continue to seek the ability to write better and better stories.

    • Molly Greene November 18, 2014 at 7:35 am #

      Thanks so much, Aya, and I agree, it can be disillusioning (word?) to read all the negative articles that tell us why we won’t be successful. That’s exactly why I thought we’d reach out to authors who are proving them all wrong.

  16. Angelo Marcos December 28, 2014 at 4:49 am #

    This is a really great post!

    I’ve heard this advice time and again in so many different areas – including acting classes and discussions with other stand up comedians – as well as in terms of writing advice. So it’s really good advice for any profession, as you’ve illustrated with the real estate examples!

    I also avoid ‘those people’ who spend so much time talking about how difficult everything is that it becomes a reward in itself, an excuse to not do anything because ‘what’s the point anyway?’ Writing is so tough in so many ways so the last thing you need is negativity around you too!

    And your last sentence sums it up for me perfectly. That really is the key to success in my opinion. I mean, of course marketing, platform building, etc is important, but the end product has to be great or all that other stuff is rendered pointless!

    Thanks again for this post, I thought it was really great!

    • Molly Greene January 4, 2015 at 8:13 am #

      Thank you so much, Angelo. It’s tough sometimes not to be swayed by negativity, but if we can keep reminding ourselves to keep our eyes on the goal, I think it helps us stay on the path. Best to you in 2015!