“I write because I cannot NOT write.” (Charlotte Bronte)
I want to cover three important things today.
Important Thing #1: Very exciting news this morning: My first Kindle ebook (“The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together”) elbowed its way into best-seller territory on Amazon in less than half a day. It’s #4 on the “entrepreneur” books-for-sale chart, with a bullet, and surging on the “business” charts (in the top 35).
This is like watching your latest album climb the Billboard rankings. I labored over the book (with superb editing help from our pal David “Flashman” Raybould) for many months, whipping it into shape and waiting for the right moment to dive into the wonderful new world of self-publishing that has just hit the Big Turning Point.
Now, it’s up to the reading public to decide if it’s worthwhile or not. A little scary, a little thrilling, a lot of fun for a writer who has craved being in control of publishing my own stuff, in my own damn way, for most of my life.
And, as satisfying as it is to read the great buzz-comments on the Amazon page (and in social media) for this new tome… it’s even more energizing to have finally busted my cherry in digital publishing. This first book took a while to finish and get launched. The next one will follow blazingly quick, and there are even more in the hopper.
If you are so inclined, you can check out a free preview of the book (or even, gasp, buy it) here.
Leave a comment, too. And hit the “share” button on the page. The tome is getting rave reviews, which makes sense since it’s a lovingly-revised compilation of my best Rant newsletters (which I mailed to subscribers for 6 amazing years). This is time-tested stuff, the best “here’s what Carlton’s been teaching all these years” resource possible.
Hope you enjoy it, if you buy it. Hope you stay awake all night thinking about it if you don’t buy it, and feel compelled to buy it first thing in the morning. Cuz it’s damn cheap as a digital book, and you really SHOULD own it. (And yes, we’ll be offering a paperback version down the road, but this digital version is what you need right now.)
Important Thing #2: I now know much about self-publishing ebooks that was a mystery to me before.
For example… the publishing industry is in complete upheaval now. The tipping point was last summer, when Amazon introduced it’s “so easy an idiot can do it” self-publishing model for Kindle (and other e-reading devices)… and it turned out to actually BE just that easy to do.
This was a huge blow to the traditional publishers. Much like the revolution in digital music-sharing spelled big-time trouble to the entrenched old-school music industry. At first there was denial, then disbelief, and finally much gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes as it became crystal clear that the Publishing Game had changed permanently and dramatically.
Now, I’ve dealt a bit with traditional publishers. The old model sucked for writers like me, because there were huge roadblocks on the way to getting a book produced and put on shelves in bookstores… including agents who were assholes, publishers who hated anything outside of their comfort zone, and a sales process rigged like a back-alley craps game. (My favorite line about gambling: “If you look around the table and you don’t know who the sucker is… then you’re the sucker.”)
I was given the fisheye by so-called “publishing professionals” who assured me a deal was in the works, if only I changed everything funny and outrageous and important in my writing. Oh, and they’d charge $20 for my book, and give me (maybe) 90 cents of that, down the road after the accountants had cooked the books.
Traditional publishers mocked ebooks, smug in their surety of how things would never change. They were slow to accept even Kindle’s open-armed invitation to make digital books more inviting.
I have zero sympathy for them now that ebooks are outselling “real” books (where trees must die so they can be printed)… and especially now that those agents are increasingly out of a job, and the publisher mucky-mucks are looking at early retirement now that ANYBODY can self-publish on Amazon… and enjoy a level playing field amongst other authors. Which is something the trad pub folks just hate.
And they can’t even mock self-publishers anymore, after Amazon bought Create Space, which prints your book, on demand, for a couple of bucks, and ships it for you. No need to pre-order a print run (or store boxes of your damn book in the garage). You just do the writing, and they take care of everything else. You make a sale, they print ‘er up and ship. And you collect your moolah.
Plus, if you really have your little heart set on seeing your tome on a shelf at Barnes & Noble, they can help you get that done, too.
All this revolution has all taken place just in the past year or so. Ebooks have been doing well for a while, but with the recent smoothing-out of the process (making it truly brain-dead simple to plunder the vast market share that Amazon provides) and the sheer volume of ebook reading devices (including your mobile arsenal) now out there… it’s officially a brand-new world of sizzling opportunity for writers.
Now, there are numerous entrepreneurs offering you advice and insight on using these new powers of self-publishing, and you can hook up with them if you like.
However, this ain’t brain surgery. You really can figure out almost everything on your own. I opted to have a colleague (the very tech-savvy Lawton Chiles) help me finish the formatting, and get this first book actually up on Amazon… and it was an excellent small investment that sped up the process hugely. I also paid my primo designer pal Rick Allen to do the cover. All optional, all at extra (but very reasonable) cost… and all worth it, because it shortcut the process and assured the best possible finished book.
So I’m happy.
And you should be happy, too. If you have a book cooking inside you, or even if you just have an idea for a book… there is now a functional, efficient and profit friendly vehicle for you to quickly create a digital book that can literally be ready for purchase overnight. (And you get to KEEP most of the sale, instead of getting crumbs from a trad publisher.)
Entrepreneurs are especially getting hip to the wild opportunities this revolution has created. Short books that introduce you to the market can be offered for free or a couple of bucks. You can release material in serial form, so a new chapter appears once a week (just like magazines used to offer novels chapter by chapter in subsequent issues). You can choose to release an audio book, or a series of podcasts, or — hell — you can re-invent the entire CONCEPT of what a “book” is, and see if the world likes it.
We are in the early days of a self-publishing Brave New World that is so exciting for authors and wannabe-authors I get teary just considering where it might go.
Which leads us to the last point…
Important Thing #3: When I was a kid, I enjoyed both writing short science fiction stories and graphic novels of cartoons in a long-story format. It was immature stuff, but it was edgy and entertaining.
My audience consisted solely of my pals, a few teachers who caught me drawing during class, and occasionally a stranger who’d borrowed a mimeographed copy somewhere. I didn’t really care — I wasn’t writing for an audience, I was writing for the pure joy of creating something from nothing. I’ve always been a storyteller, and writing them out (sometimes with accompanying illustrations) was a thrill in and of itself.
I was almost embarrassed to have anyone else see these efforts. Their praise made me wince (I’ve been a shy dude forever), and their criticism broke my heart (usually because it was so far off-base and irrelevant).
I don’t believe I would have pursued getting any of that early stuff published, even if it was possible. It was my training period, in a way. I was self-aware enough to know it was early-stage stuff, not a final product.
However… just knowing that I COULD publish it would have re-focused my energies ten-fold. What a trip, to decide on my own when I was ready to release my stuff into the world. Not when some publisher decided. When I decided.
I got a taste of wider readership in high school, when I took journalism (wanting to earn a spot writing for the Teepee Times sports page)… and the teacher caught me doodling and ordered me to do a weekly cartoon on the editorial page instead. I was terrified, especially to be working in ink for the first time (pencils have erasers), and to have my drawings and humor laid out bare and vulnerable in front of God and everybody like that. Every week.
I survived for two seasons. There was no credible celebrity involved, either — I had to play it safe in the newspaper, and the other kids just took it for granted that another dumb Carlton ‘toon would be in the weekly issue. No biggie. One transfer junior from La Habra (tough school) offered me $5 to draw a grinning demon on his notebook, but otherwise my high school “career” as a cartoonist was uneventful.
Then, the same thing happened in college. I happened to meet the editor of the university daily, who demanded that I do a weekly cartoon… and he didn’t care what I did with it. That got me reinvested, and I drew edgy, weird stuff that did get me a little notice. Decades later, I occasionally still get a nod from someone who remembers my strip fondly.
This was the same period of time when Doonesbury was just making waves, and other “underground” comix were getting noticed. But I had no idea how to go further with the career, so I just stopped.
The “bug” for being published, however, had been planted.
When I first met Gary Halbert, one big thing we had in common was a reverence for the “classic” age of self-publishing back in the 1950s. A nobody like Hugh Hefner could scrape together $500 and enter a crowded magazine market doing most of the writing (he was also a cartoonist, remember)… and, if his stuff stood out from the pack, he might create a little empire. The field was wide open. (Underground comix — which are now mainstream — went the same route.)
But traditional publishing remained a closed game, dominated by big-name authors and taste-making mavens who decided what America could and couldn’t read en mass. Gary’s way around that was to publish his own newsletter (which you can peruse at www. thegaryhalbertletter.com), mailed monthly to subscribers. I took the same route with my direct-to-consumer Marketing Rebel Rant newsletters.
It was freaking exhilarating to write, design, print and mail my own publication. The audience was still small (it cost a cool grand back then to be a subscriber to the Rant for a year), but large enough to support my speaking career by ensuring most events would have at least a handful of supporters egging on the crowds.
We still self-publish my first course/book, “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”, and the Simple Writing System. We have a printer back east who binds and ships the packages (along with whatever CDs or DVDs are included).
But, again, the audience for these are whoever I can entice into my world through my blog, or via a speaking engagement. That ensures a healthy, but relatively segmented base.
So, when I caught wind of what Amazon was doing with the Kindle store, I perked up fast. This is a global market we’re talking about here, and Amazon is the 600-pound gorilla dominating the process.
Yes, allowing “just any bozo with a manuscript” to self-publish and be available on their world-wide virtual bookshelves may lead to a certain amount of chaos. Some prospects will be overwhelmed with the choices. Some undeserving books will catch fire, while better ones sink into obscurity.
The bits of marketing you are allowed on your sales page are critical to your self-published dreams of grandeur. Just like every other marketplace in the universe.
However, with the interactive opportunities also available… comments, testimonials, “buyers also bought” lists of robot-guessed stuff you might also want to buy, sharing in social media, etc… I see excellent chances for quality stuff to stay high on the charts for very long periods.
You aren’t dependent on a trad publisher dripping your book out to a few big-city bookstores… or on your ability to generate PR by going on endless author tours (and maybe snagging a desultory 2-minute slot on some foul-mouthed radio or cable chat show)… or on the sodden criticism of some unqualified reviewer in the New York Times (or Beaverton Gazette).
All the obstacles to producing and getting your book in front of a wide audience have now been obliterated.
O. Blit. Erated.
I was excited when the Web marketplace really got going a decade ago, and I’m a Net Junkie for sure. Modern tech changed my world view and my lifestyle habits. I’m fully wired, dude.
However… this publishing revolution rivals all the recent tech innovations put together.
This ain’t your father’s blog. This ain’t your grandfather’s hard-cover trilogy.
What we got here is a stunning opportunity for the Little Author to beat up the Big Authors, in heroic fashion.
Self-publishing will change your life in ways none of us can yet imagine. (The TED talks on this subject are expanding exponentially.)
For those of us who’ve been hoping for fresh audiences, it’s paradise. Yet another thrill ride aimed right at entrepreneurs.
P.S. If you want to contact Rick, my designer… or Lawton, who helped get the book formatted and looking good on all devices… or Flashman, who is a primo copywriter and brilliant editor… just email my long-suffering assistant Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for their contact info.
I only work with the best, and this team is spectacular at what they do. And, they’re open to working with you…