Salesman, Businessman. Police commissioner, Politician, Author….
If Mensa were furnished with all those as variables, given Cliff Roberts as a teaser and asked to convert the data set into a mathematical equation to find the one constant across that series, I wonder if their analysis would lead them to the same conclusion as me?
SD Conclusion: Successful.
Cliff Roberts is a native of Detroit-who now lives in Sevierville, TN. He rarely gives interviews; they say he is a reformed politician who now prefers to spend the majority of his time at the QWERTY…and there is no reason to suggest otherwise as Cliff has released several novels of which his most recent Reprisal: The Eagle Rises became an Amazon Number 1 Bestseller.
Should it really come as any surprise that a man who has been forced into reinventing himself on so many occasions would not have the imagination and wherewithal as a writer to create an Amazon Number 1 Bestseller?
Let’s attempt to find out what led him down this interesting career path as Cliff runs the gauntlet of Simons 10 Q Interviews; The author and man who lives by the statement “The most successful people in life are those who make the best of plan B,”
Let’s see which plan Cliff Roberts sets in motion…
Cliff Roberts – Author
SD Q1: You have had a varied career leading up to becoming a Bestselling Author. Do you feel that the interpersonal skills developed working within these front line roles has given you an edge over other authors when writing about people and human behaviour?
CR A1: Absolutely, as a writer you need to know how people behave. Every job I ‘ve ever had required that I interact with the public and that education, “in people”, has helped me tremendously. I strongly believe if you’re going to be a writer, you also need to be a people watcher.
SD Q2: Throughout your sales career what is the most challenging thing you have had to sell and how did you overcome the difficulties you were confronted with in selling it?
CR A2:As I am sure most sales people will say it was overcoming the price objection. Price is a big deal. For many years I struggled to convince myself that the products I represented were worth the price. What I really needed to do was convince the buyer the product was worth the price. I finally found a way to do both by changing my sales tactic. I stopped trying to sell things and started trying to help people. It was Zig Ziglar that said, this is probably a paraphrase,: “Help enough people get what they want and you will get what you want”. In the case of a professional salesman, you want more sales, and once I turned the corner in mind-set from selling to helping, I never encountered trouble making sales again. That was just one of the many situations I found myself confronting in life. It was a challenge I had to overcome. It is that stick- to- it -ness that has helped me develop my writing style and the story lines that have struck a nerve with readers, thus making me successful as a writer.
SD Q3: Salesman, Businessman, Police Commissioner? Perhaps these things work differently in the States, but for the benefit of my UK readers; How did the role of Police Commissioner come about and what was the most interesting or memorable case during your time in office?
CR A3: It was more the Safety Director than a Police Commissioner, though one of the departments I oversaw was the Police Department. I also oversaw the Fire Department and the Emergency Medical Service. The position came about by default really because as the first outsider ever elected to a Township Supervisors position I was continually challenged by the old guard regarding my proposed changes to how the community was governed. When I started asking questions about issues in the Police Department, the safety board members, all the old guard clique, thought they’d put all the heavy work on me and I’d give up and let them tell me what to do. Nah, I liked being in charge despite the whiners who never had any ideas to help make anything better, but simply preferred to whine about not liking ‘this or that’.
Now, the community I lived in was a rural community outside Detroit, MI about sixty miles. We didn’t have violent crime, other than the occasional fight or domestic disturbance. The position of Safety Director was a field position so the most action I saw was riding along a couple of times and doing a few traffic stops and on one occasion I got to tour the morgue; that was setup to embarrass me. The Police Chief was hoping I’d pass out while watching an autopsy. No such luck. I’d spent plenty of time on the farm growing up and had helped take cattle to the slaughter house a few times, so an autopsy was no big deal.
SD Q4: It is said that you are now a recovering politician; who is your favourite politician ‘yet to recover’ and what do you feel he/she has achieved to make them stand out from others?
CR A4: It’s not so much that I am recovering. I like to think I’ve reformed. Just don’t let me get a hold of the microphone or get on stage. I tend to talk a bit and I can usually talk about anything to anyone at anytime. That’s a hold over from politics and sales together.
At the moment I don’t have a favourite politician. In our country there really aren’t many of them I’d give you tinkers damn for! In America, the politics of the moment seem to be; let’s make a deal and see how much money they can stick in each others pockets at the taxpayers expense. Our founding Father’s were hoping for Citizen Statesmen to lead the nation. Unfortunately, there isn’t anyone in Washington who thinks about the country before they think about what’s in it for them. I am a strong proponent of term limits, forcing the politicians to work the average wage of the community they represent and the politicians not receiving a pension or any perks at all. They need to serve the Public. I doubt that will ever happen, but I am hopeful.
SD Q5: When were you first inspired to become a writer, what was the trigger that set you in motion, and as an ex salesman/businessman did you set yourself SMART targets to ensure it got finished within a set timescale or was it an ‘as and when’ project?
CR A5: I first started writing a novel back in the eighties. I had no goals for its completion and really no idea whether or not I’d even finish it. I’d thought about writing after High School and while in college, I took several creative writing classes and performed quite well in them, but life was just far too busy to stop and take the time to write a book. The desire to write finally returned after I was forced to retire and I quickly ran through the books at the library I enjoyed reading. I wasn’t much for watching TV or re-runs of the movies I’d seen a dozen times before. So, I did as one of my fellow authors recommends, “If there is a story that interests you write you’re own”. So I did. Unlike before I now wanted to finish it and I wanted to write something that would have commercial value. First, because I thought it would be nice to leave a legacy to the family but then it occurred to me that I might actually be able to make few dollars at it.
I write pretty much by the seat of my pants. I do use outlines, I use a story summary of sorts. I don’t tell myself to write so many works each day or set a deadline for completing the story. I am a writer and I write until I’m happy with the story. Some stories take a month some have taken a few years.
SD Q6: I read a quote of yours suggesting along the lines of “when plan ‘a’ doesn’t work, always be prepared to use plan ‘b’, and then ‘c’, then ‘d’ etc….” Is this a kick back from contingency & disaster management when you were a Police Commissioner and can you give an example of a time you have stretched your way down that alphabet?
CR A6: I’ve always been someone who was looking for alternatives. Better ways to get things done. I had to literally live by that quote several times in my life but the first major change of plans happened when I was eighteen and suffered a work injury that nearly put me in a wheel chair for the rest of my life. So I didn’t learn it as Politician or a Safety Director, I’d already had to practice it several times in my life. In fact running for election was one of those times when I had to change my plans to deal with my life’s circumstances. I am hoping that God or life doesn’t have anymore big shakeups for me to deal with. I like being a writer and hope to be one for the rest of my life.
SD Q7: You recently took on the PR man who assisted your rise to Bestselling status. Would you recommend first time authors go down this ‘outsourcing’ route for their PR efforts and if so, why?
CR A7:I don’t think of my hiring Nick as an outsourcing. He’s part of my team. Let’s face it despite having thirty years of experience in selling and promotion, I’m a bit older now and I don’t have the energy or the expertise on the computer or internet to get the job done. I would absolutely recommend that any one who is looking to build their career as a writer hire someone to promote them. But I also need to stress that promotion isn’t a one time thing. It’s an always thing. You have to let the public know you’re here and you have books they should read. Even the current greats or popular authors -James Patterson- for example, advertises everywhere. He’s at the top of the authors charts and the only way he’ll remain there is to keep his name in front of the public. Even if you’re a first time author, in fact because you are a first time author, you need to get your name out in front of the public. Now, I understand the issues because… well, I’m retired on disability and have a limited income, and most first time authors probably don’t have a pile of cash they can invest in their books. But, notice I said invest. If you’re going to be a known author, you will have to advertise/promote yourself and your books. Traditional publishers for the most part require you to sell a certain amount of books before they will spend any money advertising you and your books. Now they won’t give you years to sell five thousand copies so you’ll have to promote yourself before they will promote you. Many publishers require that every new author have a promotion package in place before they will offer a contract to them. That is of course, assuming you’re not a celebrity or a political figure. If you’re going to be an author and not write as a hobby you had better figure out who you’d like to work with and then hire them. Nick will work with you if you have the drive and the willingness to obligate yourself to a budgeted monthly amount for his services. As the budget increases his services increase. But I have to say, I didn’t have that big a budget and he really made a huge difference in my sales.
SD Q8: When can we expect to see your next novel on the shelves, what is the subject matter and what will you be doing to top your recent successes with; Reprisal! The Eagle Rises?
CR A8: Yeah that’s always the case isn’t it. What are you going to do to make the book bigger and better than the last one? It’s hard to know how to answer that. Of course, I’ll be doing my best as a writer to create a book every bit as good or better than the last one I put out, but its no guarantee that the public will think it’s as good, even if I think it is! The next book, “The Motor Home,” will be out for the holiday season, its a short true story book about an old motor home that helped me find God in my life. Not exactly Reprisal material but fear not, in the early part of next year, The third book in the Reprisal Series will be released, “Reprisal! The Sorrow”. It’s written from a different perspective on the whole terror genre. It is still filled with lots of action, adventure, suspense, thrills, and chills but the story is probably not anything close to what the Reprisal readers might be expecting. Plus, I have two stand alone novels working through editing right now and they will be out as soon as they are done. So they might make Christmas, they might not.
SD Q9: Cliff Roberts; Salesman, Businessman, Police Commissioner, Politician, Author…. What comes next?
CR A9: I am hoping that author is the last title I’ll have. I really enjoy writing and I can see me doing this right up to the time God calls me home.
SD Q10: You are told that you will be sent forward in time, destination and era unknown. What three things would you be sure to take with you and why?
CR A10: First of all I wouldn’t take any technology. Anything we have will be hopelessly outdated and antiquated even if the future is only a year or two away. So I’d be taking one of my Reprisal books, to make sure they know who I am. I’d also take a large bottle of antibiotics-strong ones, because the WHO and CDC in Atlanta both are saying there will be new bugs in the future and hopefully the antibiotics will help protect me from them until I get acclimatised. And the last item would be a great recipe for pizza. A guys got to eat, right?