Publishers Freak-Out As Freaks Move In

Typewriter and gun

Thursday, 12:40pm
Reno, NV
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., 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.

Now, go buy my book already. 

Stay frosty,


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 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…






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  • John, thanks for your encouragement, and kind words– proud to have helped get it out to the world!

    -lawton chiles

    • I think the space is READY for a overhaul–the old guard is falling and the new kids are coming out to play. Really exciting to see you, Bond and others get into the space. It legitimizes it. Gives it legs. And hopefully lowers the lesser novels and how-tos. We need quality amid the chaos.

  • Russell says:

    Hey John,

    Picked up your book about 20 minutes ago…and stopped to put it down to write a ‘thank you’ email, and saw you put a new post up.

    Screw the email, I’ll say it here: I just wanted to say thanks for consistently delivering hugely valuable content, pin-point accurate advice, and for being a reservoir of infectious enthusiasm. You’re the steel-toe boot that kicked my slacker ass off the couch and into the pool.

    So thanks again!

    And kudos on the new book…it’s a cracker!


  • Bond Halbert says:

    Great book and a great post John. Having just been through the whole experience, you have described it better than I could.

    I wish I had Lawton’s help earlier and your whole team did an excellent job.

    • John Carlton says:

      Yeah… as simple as it is, I still benefited tremendously from having help. I’ve counseled clients for decades on the wonders that even having a part-time assistant can do for your time management — having someone do something that would take you an hour frees up MORE than just that hour, because you also save the brain stress and physical energy. Doing everything on your To Do List might take 6 hours one day, and because you’re so busy, you don’t get any writing done. Invest that 6 hours into a writing/research/call clients session, without interruption, and you’ve done a week’s worth of solid work. Have a well-paid assistant take care of the details stuff, and you’ve got a juggernaut going. Lawton did a great job, and I’ll be using him again…

  • Kerry Finch says:

    I’m writing a work of non-fiction about a pilot in WW2, based on the hundreds of letters home from the Middle East. He was a very erudite 22 year old whose use of language has me constantly turning to the dictionary.

    My concern has always been who might publish it, and the options available for self-publishing.

    Now I know, and I thank you.

    Congratulations on the superb launch of The Entrepreneur’s Guide.


  • I picked up the book last night and downloaded it to my Kindle for iPhone. You can thank Facebook and people posting about the book on social media…may not have heard of it for a while.

    Only through chapter 2 right now and I’ve already gotten over “writers block”…which is why I am only through chapter 2. I put the book down and started working on things that I’ve put off for way too long. You advice kicked me square in the ass!

  • HMC says:

    Legend! Too much whinging going on about self-publishing, flooded markets-all realistic, but the opportunity outweighs it all. Thanks for the positive spin 😉

    • John Carlton says:

      It’s like sounding the alarm, but it’s legit. The world done changed, dramatically so, with this new opportunity for writers who otherwise would have been ignored by publishers…

      Thanks for the note.

  • Ken Ca|houn says:

    Brilliant classic Carlton title, had me clicking the ‘buy’ button faster than anything. Newsflash — Carlton’s on Kindle. Been waiting years, thanks for getting this done. 10 bucks. really? woulda paid $200 (really), but ok 10 it is.

    I’ll be studying this carefully for years, like all your other thoughts… world-class chops, a master at work. Plus damn fun to read, along with all the insights. All modern and hip and stuff on kindle…wtg. keep it burning.

    to the sizzle,


  • Bernie says:


    I bought your book…still reading and loving it. I like your writing style and no BS approach. I have noticed a trend happening lately in web marketing. The BS artists seem to be falling by the wayside. The people who can offer real value for the dollar are rising.

  • Colin says:

    Great going, John!

  • I’ve been hanging around you for some time. You’re edgy, and dangerously effective.

    I’ve also noticed how brain-dead writers and marketers are who have college degrees and think it makes ’em smart. MBAs are a disaster in business unless they have degrees in physics or engineering. Too much of college is theory by non-practitioners.

    Hopkins’ “My Life in Advertising” is a real treat. No wonder college profs don’t mention him after his attacks on their “skills”. And he took ’em on an entire century ago!

    Methinks the college-bred thinking has been the problem all along. Time for the direct-response gang to kick ’em to the curb and clear the highway.

    A psychologist I met years ago said, “An excess of education leads to constipation of the mind.” The suits of Corporate America are full of it
    and the world is getting ready to pass ’em by.

    I love the photo of the gun and the typewriter. Now if we could just get rid of the keyboard key arrangement imposed on us by those
    old mechanical devices and replace it with the layout Kinesis came up with. I’ve used my Kinesis keyboard for over 15 years and I LOVE it.
    The only way to go for a fast touch typist.

    Now I’m going to have to check out your book. I just wish I could get it as a PDF because I still prefer the flat-panel monitor. I even use my Linux machine as a reader when I have to. Some of us old geezers still have our preferences. 🙂



    • John Carlton says:

      Printed versions are on the way. They’ll be pricey, though. And you always want to have a virtually dog-eared copy on your desktop anyway, for reference.

      We should invent “virtual dog-earing” of pages, you know…

      Thanks for the note, CE…

  • Carl Picot says:

    Hi John

    OK I’m about to hop on over to Amazon UK where I hope they will have a copy of your new book. I bought The Boron Letters last week, Joined Marketing Rebel Insiders Club (after your FB post asking us to check it out for a dollar) and found a superb interview with Gary Halbert and yourself, which I have listened to 10 times already 🙂

    Yes I am in the process of putting together my own kindle book and am as excited as a school kid who’s just scored his first snog at the school disco (without the Headmaster catching him) 🙂

    OK … this IS indeed a great time of change – first it was the record industry (I’m an ex pro musician) and now the book publishing industry ….

    I wonder what will be next??? Maybe the Internet will out do it’s self and there will be a ‘Design your own World Wide Web”??

    How cool would THAT be ?

    OK .. I’m staying frosty as it’s snowing here in the UK

    Thanks for all you’ve done and said 🙂



    • John Carlton says:

      I’ll bet your actual headmasters hated you. Sounds like you’re deep into our end of the entrepreneurial world, so I know you’re already having a blast. That question of “what’s next” just keeps getting stranger and stranger, and remains exciting, doesn’t it…

      • Carl Picot says:

        Yes the headmaster (along with the rest of them apart from the art teacher) hated me John lol

        I am learning fast – for sure 🙂

        …and yes it’s exciting … lets see what’s next ehh



  • Jeff says:

    Great to hear you have published your own ebook on Amazon John…to hell with the tradtional publishing dinasours!

    Truth is that self-publishing was coming on strong even before Amazon took it mainstream…even bigger opportunity now, but not the only one certainly.

    Enjoyed the read, will go over and take a look at your ebook – congrats!


  • Hey John,
    It’s a buzz watching your very own words rise to the top. I recently published my first book on Amazon and reached #1 in both Kindle and create space formats. The most exciting 12 hours of my life.
    The thing is that it’s not just about the publishing. It’s the authority that is bestowed on you by being published, having social proof and using the book as part of your marketing system. ( You are offering bonuses from inside your book aren’t you John…?)

    I look forward to reading your words John.


    Thai guy

  • Hi John, I got pretty upset a few years ago when my top-flight, “spiritual” editor (whom I was paying to edit my self-published book) changed everything in my manuscript that I considered funny, outrageous and important. But then the next day I woke up and fired her, and found myself another editor. I am so glad I did that, and self-published my book in January 2008, a memoir of my process of learning to trust my own intuition. What I found most outrageous about her is that she crossed out the amazing events and happenings and realizations that were most instrumental in my process of reconnecting with the source of my inner power! How crazy is that? Anyway, I wish you the best! Christine Hoeflich

    • John Carlton says:

      In the end, we’re responsible for the important decisions in our lives. Finding editors, even proofreaders, and especially partners in projects is a never-ending exercise in frustration. When you find someone you can trust, hang on tight — they’re rare. I’m not a detail guy, and reading my own stuff more than twice is brain-numbing for me… so I’m a horrible proofreader, and I easily lose sight of good writing I’ve done and can screw it up royally if I’m not careful.

      And nobody is gonna understand why the important stuff I write IS important. I’ve found you gotta be really, really careful about asking friends especially for opinions on stuff you’ve created — you’ll almost never get an answer you like. Not that they’re right, but they’re often mistaken in their idea of being “honest” with you, as a friend, and they get critical in bad ways. I prefer to let the markets tell me if what I’ve done is any good or not, and let friends comment on their own if they feel like it. Then, if they say something stupid, I can just tell them to shut up with a smile. Just cuz they’re friends doesn’t mean they have to — or are even able to, given their temperment — like my writing. Keep it separate.

      The whole adventure of producing written material is an ongoing process. What’s cool now is you can change the digital AND the printed versions quickly and efficiently when necessary. Print-on-demand changes the grief of having to do print runs (and discovering major typos only after the run).

      Anyway, thanks for the note, Christine. Continued good luck on your own books…

  • Janice says:

    Hi John,

    Congratulations..I know you’re proud.I once took some lessons from you on story telling. It was short, about 7, but it really opened my eyes on story to tell stories..

    Thanks to you..I’ll check your book out, know it’s gonna be good!

  • Pete says:

    Hey John, I went over to Amazon via your link and there’s no option to buy it here in the UK. Have you decided on only selling in the USA? Or maybe forgot to check ‘worldwide’ when loading into the Kindle store?

    Cheers – Pete.

  • Stan Scott says:

    A fellow author suggested Createspace for publishing my book about five years ago. I’ve been sold on them ever since. I’ve sent several other authors to them and they love it for both book and music publishing. I’m glad to hear you’re so tickled over Amazon’s new paradigm, John.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Stan. Good to hear from an early adopter. I’ve seen multiple tipping points in my life, from infomercials dominating late night TV (for free, at first) to the Web finally becoming merchant-account-friendly (and even older folks willing to buy online)… and this recent point of Amazon making self-publishing so simple (while providing a newly-device-enabled audience) is by far the most dramatic. It’ll take a while to reach peak culture-changing power, but we’re in for a wild ride. Right now, it’s up to quality writers to cram good stuff into the space, and crowd out the crap that’s clogging things up…

  • Bernie says:


    I bought your book on Amazon as soon as I heard about it on Facebook. I love it! I really enjoy seeing the old publishing guard getting their ancient empires dismantled. The saying you mentioned, “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,” applies to any type of business…real estate, stock trading, and even internet marketing. It kind of parallels the greater fool theory. Great job!

  • Jean Paul says:

    Here is what I hate about your book, John:

    Every other paragraph/page I gotta go apply your advice.

    This feeling gets stirred up, I get restless, and then I have to take ACTION. At this rate who knows when I will finish!

    The good part though is that my life will never be the same.


  • Bill Davis says:

    Awesome stuff, John. We are clearly and most definitely in the new world of opportunity. Anybody doesn’t see that needs freaking Coke-bottle glasses.

  • Brett Allen says:

    Just bought it…because if there’s one thing I need it’s “to get my shit together.”

    Thanks John.

  • James Brine says:

    Congratulation John.

    You sound stoked mate. It’s great to see how the internet and technology is making it possible for the little guy to not only compete but excel.

    This goes for everything, from publishing, to creating videos and even developing complete marketing agencies from your bedroom.

    It’s an exciting time to be alive and I for one love it.


  • AndreLOu says:

    Hello John!

    Dude your writing is awseomely great!! I knew abot your reputation for some time now but , after reading a copy of entrepeneur’s guide to getting your shit together I can relate to a lot of the things you talk about ( i just read about the timee wasters now).

    Anyways.. I have not had much of my money pured into your account… yeah… still going through that shitty 9-to-5 daily jobs with some amateur experiments on selling chinese stuff over the web… anyways… gotta make my transition to capitalist freedom! I hope I can enjoy your company and your mind live someday soon.

    long live to you pal (along with increasing happiness and accomplishments)! from a (little drunk) brazilian fan!

  • Mike says:

    Never sugar-coated! That’s what I like the best. Thanks, John!

  • I have a typewriter exactly like that. Cool article.

  • Joseph Ratliff says:

    When that paperback comes out… I’m all over it. 🙂

  • Rick T says:

    Bought the book, love the book, but can’t I get in a hard copy as well? Don’t/won’t have a Kindle & my desktop is a little hard to read while lying on the couch/bed. Fun reading though!

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