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Episode 317: Adam Carolla on Why Having a Great Book is the Best Launch Tip of All

Jun 24, 2020


Adam Carolla is, well, Adam Carolla. The comedian, actor, radio personality, television host and NY Times best-selling author also hosts a podcast you might have heard of since it holds the Guinness Book of World Records record for most downloaded podcast. He was also the co-host of the long-running radio show Loveline, co-created The Man Show and does like 190 other things. 

His first book, In 50 Years We'll All Be Chicks, was on the New York Times bestseller list for 10 weeks, while the audio version went straight to the #1 position on iTunes. He has since released a bunch of other New York Times bestselling books and it's probably safe to assume that his newest book, the just-released I'm Your Emotional Support Animal, will also make it there.

In this episode, we talked about why he doesn't know his publisher's name, how to write a book while driving to a comedy gig and the best  launch tip of all: have an amazing book.


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Anna David:                  00:01                All right, Adam. So your new book I'm Your Emotional Support Animal will be out by the time people hear this. This is, is this your fifth book?

Adam Carolla:               00:11                Fifth book. Yes.

Anna David:                  00:13                Here's what I was wondering as I was looking through your books, why do books, why you have all of these mediums that where you can communicate, why do you do? Book publishing some horrible industry? I mean, I know you had New York Times bestselling books. But why even do them?

Adam Carolla:               00:29                You know, I think people pardon the pun read too much into many of the things I do, including writing books. People say, why did you do Dancing with the Stars? And I always just go cause they asked and that that's my answer for most things, they go, what got you interested in and why? And I go, well, they asked, they offer you money and they asked you to write a book and you think about how much money and how much time and what we're talking about. And then you do it. And nobody wants to talk about that aspect of it because they think somehow the material will be compromised because the fact of the matter is, the first book I ever wrote was, In 50 Years, We'll All Be Chicks. And it was about 10 years ago. And by the way, that process happened a lot faster than 50 years. But they came to me and they said, Hey, would you like to write a book? And I said, okay, how much money are we talking about? And it was like $350,000.

                                    01:35                And I said, Oh, okay. But the good news is I wanted, I'm glad I wrote a book. I would have never written a book on my own. They incentivize me to write a book. Now they paid me to write a book and I wrote a really funny, interesting, I think insightful book and the process has worked that way all throughout. And I think people think like, Oh, they came to you. They paid you money. So now what? I don’t know, it's like going to a good restaurant. You came to them, you paid them money, and you got really good sushi. Like, it's not like, well, you've been bought and sold by the guy that makes sushi now. It's like, no, that's how life works. And I'm not, I never mail it in.

Anna David:                  02:18                And so, but didn't you do a book with Drew before that? Or does that not even really count?

Adam Carolla:               02:23                Oh, that's interesting. I did. And in my mind it doesn't, it doesn't count because we had like a ghost writer. I mean, even though we fed him everything and told him everything, it was me, Andrew was like, Loveline the book. It didn't feel like me. It just felt like they wanted us to write a book. Loveline was popular. So we'll just write a book, but it never felt to me, like really writing a book, like the subsequent five have been. So maybe I've written six books.

Anna David:                  02:56                Yeah. I know what that's like, where it's hard to know what to count. I'm always like, Oh, I'm the author of either six books or eight books. I don't really know if you count those two. So, what has been the process for you? You don't work with ghost writers on all the other ones or you do, or how does that work?

Adam Carolla:               03:12                I work with a fella named Mike Lynch and trying to think of like, I guess ghost writer has kind of a negative connotation to it. He's an assembler of the thoughts that I regurgitate on a daily basis. And so our process is he's not even in California, he's in Massachusetts. And he, it's a guy that I've written with, in different capacities for awhile. And so he listens to my podcast on a daily basis and he starts pulling things that I've seen said, ideas, you know, sort of spontaneous riffing on mostly that's where my ideas come from as a sort of pontificating on something or bloviating on something. And something interesting comes out. It's a little bit, I'm sorry. It's a little bit like panning for gold, which is you go through a lot of silt and sand and eventually get to little nugget of something that has some value. And then he starts kind of assembling it. He starts putting it in different places and adding and subtracting. And then at some point we start having these daily conversations. Like here's what I got. Here's what I'm thinking about.

                                    04:36                And so for me, especially living in LA pre-pandemic, I would say to him, Hey, I am driving to the comedy store from my house tonight, on Saturday night, I got to be there for an eight o'clock set. I'm going to get my car at seven. It's going to be 10 O'clock your time. You want me to call you when I get in the car? He says, call me when I get in the car, I call him and we worked the book, the whole, and also the process is better. Cause he'd be reading it out loud to me and I'd be hearing it versus reading it. I'm much better at hearing it. And then I'd get to the comedy store and I'd say to him I'm going to go up, you know, do a 20 minute set. I can be back half an hour, 40 minutes. He'd go, okay. Call me when you get back to the car. Get back to the car, drive back to [inaudible] from Hollywood. Work on it again. If I had a road trip or it's going to be somewhere for awhile, I'd say we put it on the calendar. Here's two hours. I got to go to San Diego to do a corporate gig or whatever. I'll be in the car for two hours. So let's do it. And that's we do it.

Anna David:                  05:49                Dare I say that sounds pretty fun. I would say that sounds like the most fun book writing experience I've ever heard of.

Adam Carolla:               05:56                I'll tell you this, you don't get writer's block or whatever that is. You don't find yourself doing like what they do in movies, where you sit down and bang out a paragraph and then your race it, and then you bang out another paragraph and erase it. It's very functional. It's highly functional. It's like really pragmatic. It's symbiotic. Like I talk, he grabs, once you start getting an outline of the book, then you realize that almost everything you say will fall into this chapter or that chapter. And it's very collaborative and it moves fast. Like it's a really, and look, a lot of people can't afford to do it that way. It's not free. I don't get to keep all the money. I break off a good chunk and give it to him. But if you're willing to do that, then it's a very good process. But also that person has to be good. They have to hear, they have to have your voice in their head.

Anna David:                  07:07                And so, and was he somebody who came to you because he was a listener? You have your crew, he's just like a member of the Carolla crew, right?

Adam Carolla:               07:18                Yeah. For, yeah. I mean, it's a, you've oversimplified it a little, which is completely fine. Yes. He's a member of the crew and we've been working together for years.

Anna David:                  07:31                So, okay. So if this book, if the podcast focuses on book launches, what do you do when you're launching it? But I mean kind of you just tell your legions of listeners and they go buy it. But again, I bet I'm oversimplifying a much more complicated process. So how do you approach it? What do you do when launching a book?

Adam Carolla:               07:50                I talk about it on my podcast, and anyone who will have me, like, you, thank you.

Anna David:                  07:57                I mean you are hustling it when you're coming to my podcast.

Adam Carolla:               08:00                I will start to play little clips of the audio book that we record in the studio where I'm sitting right now. So we get to keep the whole recording of the audio book in house, which is just like the writing of the text of the book. And it makes it a lot easier when you can go to the place where you work and, and do it kind of on your schedule with the hard out at the end, but still it's on your time. And we started playing little clips of it in the podcast and send it out to some of the more notable people I know to get blurbs for it, you know, the usual wiggle. And at some point they'll start setting up a little press, junket and that kind of stuff. It's nothing groundbreaking. You know, it's a, I don't know, you're going to sell a book based on press junket. People need to read your book, like your book, recommend your book and share your book. I can't imagine another way of doing it.

Anna David:                  09:12                Yeah. I mean, if you think about like, if I think about what I read, I only read because somebody told me to, or because I'm a fan or a friend of the person.

Adam Carolla:               09:22                Yeah. Well, that's an interesting point. Have you ever read a book where you saw the person talking about it on a TV show and bought that book or if you have done it that way, isn't it a much smaller number than the number of books you've read because folks, who you respect have recommended this book to you.

Anna David:                  09:47                Yeah. Well, you know, it's like, there's this marketing rule of, I think it's seven or eight. You have to have heard of something seven or eight times. If, if you don't know the person for it to even resonate. So it's like, if you go on the Today Show, okay, cool. Someone has to hear about you six more times to even buy your book. So that's why something like people like you who have this built in audience, like, that's how you're going to sell books, not by going on a TV show, you know?

Adam Carolla:               10:14                Yeah. I, you know, I agree. And it's sort of like this pandemic thing, which is, we don't really know exactly how it works, so we're just going to wear masks and wipe shit down. Like not go to any basketball games. And I don't know if it works, I don't know what works, what doesn't work. I just know this is sort of the protocol and it's kind of that way with books. Like you do this show, you do this radio junket, you talk this guy, you do that. And that's just sort of what you do and you go, well, let's really try to define which one works or what's fertile. And the answer is we don't really know, just do everything. And how could it hurt?

Anna David:                  10:59                I will say you are the very first and congratulations on being able to compare the book publishing process to the pandemic. Yes. The first. It's not wrong. It's not untrue. So have all of your books been New York Times best sellers. So it's safe to say the process is working.

Adam Carolla:               11:19                Yes and no. I think three out of the four, have been New York Times bestsellers as I recall, I know two, maybe three, but not all four. Three out of four.

Anna David:                  11:33                Pretty good. Pretty good record. I'm not a mathematician, but that's a good percentage. So, and how has your publishing experience changed? I mean, this first one, you've switched publishers. Right? Right. How has publishing, has it changed over the past decade that you've been in it?

Adam Carolla:               11:52                You know, it's funny a little like insight into my wiring. I oftentimes don't know the name of my publisher and the reason I don't know the name oftentimes is because it's not important to me, but what's important is the product and I'm lazy or something. I have this weird process where I'm only interested in things I can control. And if I can't control, God's honest, you'd have to look up to see who published my last books. Cause I honestly don't know, but Crown maybe.

Anna David:                  12:40                Well, first of all, they all swallow each other up, so they all have different names.

Adam Carolla:               12:46                That's right. Take my take. It's to me, it's academic. My thing is I'm going to write a good book. It's going to be, it's going to be edgy. It's going to be funny and it'll be thought provoking and it'll be accurate. And then I'm just going to push it out there and we'll see if everyone makes their money back and we'll see how it works.

Anna David:                  13:07                Here's what I'm going to tell you why I believe you. I had been on your show three times and then saw you. And I was like, Hey Adam. And you basically said to me, I don't know your name because I only learn the things that are kind of relevant. You said something like that. It made me not feel bad at all. It was like, Oh, okay, cool. I don't have to feel bad about that.

Adam Carolla:               13:25                When did I say that?

Anna David:                  13:28                We were in a green room at HLN, like back when drew had his show there, and it was pretty refreshing. Cause I was basically like, do you remember me? I've been on your show and you were like, no, but don't take it personally.

Adam Carolla:               13:42                I, so I don't know. I understand I have a wiring that's off putting to many, many people. Crown published the older books. And then more recently it was Harper Collins, I guess. So says the screen, Matt it's written in front of me, but so here's the thing. I somehow have decided that there are certain things I need to know and then certain things I don't need to know. And if I decide and sometimes it can be arbitrary, but if I decide, I don't need to know it, then I don't need to know it. Like, I don't know. I don't know any of the names I have twins. They just graduated from the eighth grade. I have no idea what any of their teacher's names were and the reasons that I have no ideas because I don't need to know it. But also I only have a certain amount of room in my head and I have a lot of stuff I want to know. So I somehow just decided writing a book is important. And coming up with thoughts that are going to go into that book is important. But the name of the publisher for that book is not important. Now, if I was doing a radio junket, I would write it down on a pad and put it in front of me so I could glance down and see it. And then after that, I would forget about it again.

Anna David:                  15:15                Yeah. I mean, I think we're all like that, what's refreshing about you is that you just say you're like that as opposed to people who are like, yeah, yeah, yeah, no, I totally know. I totally know. You know what I mean? You're not faking it.

Adam Carolla:               15:28                I guess. I mean, I feel that way with a lot of time with birthdays and stuff like that. Like, I don't know. I'm just, I'm not wired for I guess not trivia. I like trivia, but, but things that don't feel like they will benefit me or my family or the what have you. I'm also not a big, like if you and I were going to meet for dinner and you were 15 minutes late, and you came into the restaurant and were like, Oh my God, I'm so sorry. I just go and sit down. I'm not interested in, well, we don't have to do this part where you tell me why you were late, your late. You're 15 minutes late. I don't need to know why. I understand you feel bad about it. Let's order.

Anna David:                  16:25                Yeah. Like it less than not your relevant information, but less than relevant information is I feel like what your saying.

Adam Carolla:               16:30                Well, also, if you could give me information that could affect you being late. Like if you could give me information and I could go back and use it to not make you late, then I'd be all ears. But this is done. Not that you're late. But as an example, it's a done deal to me and let's move on to appetizers.

Anna David:                  16:56                So about this book, in looking at it, would you say, I mean, it's sort of my cursory glance at your earlier books. It's most like your first book, right? Or is it not?

Adam Carolla:               17:08                I'd say yes. Thanks for doing your homework. And I would say it's probably more like my first book then than any other book I've written.

Anna David:                  17:18                And is that because you felt like, Hey, the world needs to hear this stuff now again?

Adam Carolla:               17:25                There was an element of the first book really resonated with people. I don't know why. I mean, it was a funny book, so I understand that people thought it was funny. It also had a lot of kind of truths kind of tough truths in it, so. And because the first book was sort of a, here's where we're going to be in 50 years and then people kept kind of coming up to me and saying, Oh, it looks like we got there in 10 years, you know, or way under your Prognostication of 50 years. So I sort of went, yeah. Everyone liked that book. It's been 10 years since I wrote that book. And I also that's my style in terms of, you know, writing a book about being a dad or writing up autobiography and or some version of that, that's fine but my style would be more suited for, I'm just going to say everything I want to say in a book form. And that's what this book is.

Anna David:                  18:33                And you know, one other thing, this is kind of like going back to the conversation about these publishers who we can't, we can't remember. Why not Publish yourself? You do everything yourself. Like your entire thing is like a media company. Why not just have ace publishing?

Adam Carolla:               18:49                Okay. It's a good question. Mmm. You have to, it's kind of a twofold answer. You have to kind of figure out how much stuff you want to do yourself because the answer isn't going to be everything, you know, because it's like saying I'm a carpenter, but I don't do everything myself, but I could, because I have the skill set, you know. But it also to certain point, how are you using your time? So, you know, I have a pool, man. I have a gardener. It's all stuff I could do, but I'm trying to allocate my time a certain way. And it's true. People go, well, wouldn't save a lot of money if you just did your own pool, you know? Yeah. I know. But I just, and it's not analogous exactly. But you have to kind of think like you do a podcast or you make documentaries or you sell [inaudible], whatever you do your stuff. But then every once in a while someone wants to do a TV production and you're going to have a hosting gig. And they're going to handle it. You know, you can't, at least I can't sort of shoulder everything all the time and it has to be some allocations to others on occasion. And in this particular case, my partner Mike Lynch was looking to get from, he's a working as a social worker therapist to starting his own business and getting his own office and hanging his shingle out. And he needed money to get an office, to buy furniture, to start a business and so on and so forth. And so part of it was an eye toward, let me see if I can get you paid. And if we did it your way, which is a good idea, he wouldn't have gotten paid, tell whatever until I got paid or whenever the money came in.

Anna David:                  20:55                But he would make a lot more. I do think it's fascinating that he's a, so that I would not think the coauthor of an emotional support animal would necessarily be a social worker. That's just interesting.

Adam Carolla:               21:08                Yeah. Therapists, you know, social worker therapist now. Yeah. It is, he and I work well together because we do have a strong sort of psychological vent, and an interest. And we lean that way. I don't think people, I don't think we will think of me that way. But I do. They think of me is kind of a blue collar, you know, dude, who, you know, says what he thinks and thinks what he means or says or whatever the fuck they think. But for me, I'm like, I'm very interested in the human condition, psychology, motivation. It's where most of my comedy comes from and Mike is obviously very interested in that as well. He does it full time for a job. So when he and I get together to kind of approach a subject, it goes a little beyond what's funny, you know, we're trying to kind of figure out what's true and how people work and what motivates people. And then how do we find the comedy? How do we find that sort of psychological truth? And then where's the comedy in that. And when you find truths, sort of emotional, psychological truths, you will find a lot of comedy. That's why all the best comedians are sort of, you know, that's why people are going he's right. He's right. That's the way my wife thinks, you know, that's the way my husband acts, you know, those are the truths. Those are, if it doesn't ring true psychologically, it's not really funny.

Anna David:                  22:47                Yeah. Well, okay. This has been fantastic. Now, if you had to give us somebody who's not Adam Carolla tips for what they should do to launch a book, what would they be?

Adam Carolla:               23:01                I'm you know, I'm trying to think about launching a book versus creating a book. I'll answer it at some point in this dissertation, but I'm very interested in the process and the product versus the outcome. And I think people get a little fixated on the outcome. You know, like I'll write a book, as long as I know it's going to be a New York Times bestseller and it's like, well, then everyone would write a book, there are no guarantees. You should write a book because you would like to write a book or more importantly, because you have something to say or an idea you need to share. If you're just writing the book because you want get on this list or get paid or get laid or get whatever, then maybe, maybe you shouldn't be writing a book. So my feeling is it's a lot easier to push a product if the product is really strong, you know? So you could say what's the best way to launch a line of T shirts. Men's tee shirts and I'd go, I don't know how good is the tee shirt? Like, is it a killer t-shirt? Tell me why someone would need this T-shirt. I got a drawer full of t-shirts, you know?

                                    24:22                So in a world where everyone has a drawer full of t-shirts and a shelf full of books why do we need your book? Write that book, create that book, create that product. And then, you know, once you do that, it's everything you can access. You know, for me, I know Jimmy Kimmel and Howard Stern. So perhaps I can go talk about it on their program, but not everyone knows Jimmy Kimmel and Howard Stern. So you can't talk about it on their program, but maybe there are other people you know. And I get it. It's, it'd be much nicer just to go on Howard Stern and talk about it than it would be to go on podcast with eight listeners and talk about it. That's where you have to start. I mean, you can obviously only do it to whatever, and by the way, I couldn't go on, I don't know. I'm trying to try to think where you would like to sell a book. I probably couldn't go on Stephen Colbert show and do it, I don't get to go everywhere. I want to go and talk about it, but I could go on Tucker Carlson show and talk about, so you have to kind of figure out like, well, where could you go? Who would have you? And you know, be persistent. But again, if the products not there, it's all going to be a mood point anyway, because it's mostly all word of mouth.

Anna David:                  25:52                Yup. Excellent. That's perfect. So thank you, Adam. Thank you so much for your time. Listeners go grab I'm Your Emotional Support Animal. I'm assuming it's wherever people can buy books, maybe bookstores will be open by the time they hear this.

Adam Carolla:               26:11                They yeah. Wherever you get books, that's where you get it.

Anna David:                  26:15                Okay. Awesome. Thanks again, Adam. I really appreciate you.

Adam Carolla:               26:19                Thanks Anna.