San Francisco, CA

Aaron at AppleBack in 2013, when my newest company was just getting off the ground, we scrounged up the money to send a volunteer marketing rep and me to represent Draft2Digital at a writer’s conference in Manhattan. It was a thrill.

Two months later, at another writer’s conference (this one in our own back yard), I got to meet Patrick Rothfuss and (thanks to Draft2Digital’s imprimatur) spend two or three hours talking shop with him.

In the time since, I can’t think of a lot of other opportunities like those two. They came in a burst at the beginning, and then we had two years of hard, focused work just keeping the fledgling company from dying.

Don’t get me wrong! The company has been growing at an unbelievable rate. We more than doubled in size during 2014, and we plan to do at least as much again this year. It’s just that all the big, dramatic developments mostly happened on a spreadsheet.

But last week, I went to San Francisco at the invitation of one of our best business partners. Apple asked us to visit the campus to discuss how we could grow the business together.

I can’t get into the details of the meeting, naturally. Naturally. But my biggest takeaway from the meeting was this:

Draft2Digital is one impressive startup.

Several of the Apple representatives took pains to point out the parallels between our companies, our positions with our respective markets, and most of all, our business strategies. One of the execs went out of her way to say that we’ve basically built our business around the same principles that define Apple: easy usability, customer-friendliness, and first-rate execution on meticulous design.

We grinned like idiots and thanked her for saying so. But, in all honesty, none of this was news to us. We did it all very much on purpose. The startling thing–the astonishingly fun thing–was getting to hear from people who definitely know what they’re doing that, yes, we’ve accomplished our goals. We’ve accomplished them so thoroughly that we’ve been noticed. And that feels good.

Apple treated us like kings, and I like to think we conducted ourselves well. Everyone I met was friendly, well-informed concerning a deeply volatile market, and sincerely concerned about the ways we can work together to benefit readers and writers alike. It’s everything I would have hoped for from a meeting like this.

And that wasn’t our only meeting in San Francisco (even if it was the clear headliner). We arranged meetings with a couple other business partners (or potential partners) while we were in town, and that trip left us thoroughly committed to setting up face-to-face visits with all of our retailers in the near future.

It’s amazing how much we can accomplish once we really start talking.

“New Media” Empires

I just started a new hashtag on Twitter: #NewMediaEmpires. Apparently it’s something much on my mind.

A couple weeks ago I had a dream that I was at a party–some Comic-Con social thing straight out of that last season of The Guild–when Felicia Day came up to me at the bar. She was the party’s glittering hostess, and for whatever reason, she really wanted me to dance with her.

I turned her down and (since this was my dream) she was pretty devastated. As a consolation, I invited her to sit with me and compare notes on our New Media empires. She settled for that, and we had a delightful conversation into the wee hours.

Then last night–just now, really–I dreamed that I ran into Jim Gaffigan in the parking lot of an Olive Garden. I heard someone mention that he was there, and I went searching for him like some kind of crazed fan. But as soon as I found him, he cocked his head and said, “Hey, aren’t you that Aaron guy?”

We settled into a pleasant conversation about our New Media empires. As we went, Nathan Fillion wandered up (clearly there at Olive Garden with Jim Gaffigan), and I started suggesting to Jim in some not-so-subtle ways that he needed to introduce us. Jim played dumb, as though he couldn’t understand why I might want to know Nathan.

“I’m just saying,” I told the comic, “If you knew anyone who was interested in working on some New Media projects, it could be fun. Especially somebody plugged into the geek community. Somebody interested in science fiction. Somebody funny and serious and cool. Maybe…I dunno…somebody who knows Felicia Day?”

The whole time (since this was my dream), Nathan Fillion was bouncing on his toes, waiting excitedly for Jim Gaffigan to introduce us.

Sometime later, we three were gathered around an Endless Salad Bowl, munching on breadsticks and discussing our empires. Nathan asked me about my goals. I shrugged and said, “Oh, you know. Standard rich-and-famous contract.”

Jim looked surprised (and a little offended). Nathan said (in a fatherly kind of way), “You can’t just be in the business to get rich and famous.”

I shook my head. “I want to be rich so I can pursue my projects without regard to profitability. I want to be famous so I can have a voice in this rapidly-changing world. I want to make better things, and I want to make things better.”

And (since this was my dream), they were startled by my brilliance and burst into spontaneous applause.

I have no reason to suspect Jim and Nathan know each other, or that either of them eats at Olive Garden (and certainly no reason to think Felicia would ask me to dance). I’m also well aware that hearing about other people’s dreams can be devastatingly boring. Still, it gives you a bit of an idea where my head’s at.

Standard rich-and-famous contract, please!