Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gabrella's Question for Keith Raffel

Are there any common themes in your lives as an entrepreneur and an author?

Do you know, there are more than I ever would have guessed. Here are a few.

As both an entrepreneur and an author, a compelling, gripping story is the starting point. In one case the deliverable is called a business plan that you try to convince a venture capitalist firm to invest in. In the other, it’s called a manuscript that you try to convince a publisher to print and distribute. In both cases, though, you need your story to be sufficiently compelling to convince someone else to put time and resources behind it. Most of the time, the VC or the publisher is going to say no. So the next step is that in both cases, you need to believe in the story you’re telling. To find investors for the company I started, I spoke to 30 venture capitalists. Before finding an agent, I queried 30 of them. I love the quote from my pal, doctor/novelist/playwright/dance writer Larry Vincent: “When my manuscript was accepted, I suddenly changed from being delusional to determined.” Exactly.

While in high tech, I loved meeting with customers and seeing what they thought of our products. It was both validation of what we’d done and inspiration for what we’d do next. No different with novel-writing. Listening to what readers like – and even what they don’t – provides inspiration and impetus for the next book.

One more similarity. In both cases, those who have made it already are incredibly generous to those who have not. Other CEOs counseled me on mistakes they made, offered introductions to potential investors, and helped me find employees. Here’s just one example of the generosity of our fellow writers. When I needed a blurb for Dot Dead, my first book, the late Stuart Kaminsky, the MWA Grandmaster and a real mensch, took the time to give me one despite having deadlines for books in four different series. I’ll never forget. I guess when someone helps you like that, the way you repay is by helping someone else.

That’s the end of my week of blogging here. Thanks, CJ, Becky, Sophie, Kelli, Tim, and Gabi. It’s been a blast!


As counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Keith Raffel held a top secret clearance to watch over CIA activities. As a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, he founded UpShot Corporation, the award-winning Internet software company. These days he stays busy writing his mysteries and thrillers in his hometown of Palo Alto, California. His latest novel, Smasher, is out this month. Check out his website and book trailer at

1 comment:

Sophie Littlefield said...

hey keith - i just wanted to say thanks for a great week of question-answering. I learned tons and also am in awe - how did you get all this done while recovering from Bouchercon *and* launching a book? Amazing...