Episode 309: Joel Stein on How a People Pleaser Can Promote a Book

Apr 29, 2020
Joel Stein wrote a weekly column for Time magazine for 20 years, was a columnist for Entertainment Weekly and the Los Angeles Times and is the author of the books Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity and In Defense of Elitism: Why I’m Better Than You and You’re Better Than Someone Who Didn’t Buy This Book
 
He's also such a funny person that he manages to come across as incredibly likable both while penning a book defending elitism and while dis-inviting me to his book launch party (true story; listen to his defense in this episode and let me know if you think it means you think I should forgive him).
 
In this episode, we talk about how to ask friends to recommend you to a show as a guest, why to never rely on a publicist and ways to make an audiobook much better, among many other topics.

 CLICK ON ANY OF THE LINKS BELOW TO HEAR THE EPISODE!!


INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT:

Anna David:                  00:02                Now that I'm recording, are you going to stop speaking? Oh my God. Are you really not speaking? Wait say something. You're freaking me out right now. Because I can't hear you.

Joel:                             00:17                I know. I just wanted to see how you would handle that.

Anna David:                  00:19                Oh no, I did not handle it well. You know what you would have, it would've been so much better if you had been mouthing words so that I really could have thought, okay, don't do it again. Oh, we're having so much fun. So thank you again for agreeing to do this. I will say I was able to enjoy your book right when the world shifted. So I had about half of it back in the old world and the, and the rest I listened to once we were in this new world.

Joel:                             00:54                Well, I have a question then because I'm only interested in myself and my book. Did it seem more interesting or relevant or compelling before the Coronavirus lock down or after?

Anna David:                  01:07                It felt, it feels relevant in both worlds. It seemed less amusing I would say in our current world. Feels like it's ending. You know, you do such an amazing job of, you know, pissing people off and making them laugh at the same time. I mean, it really is your strong suit. You don't piss me off. But I could feel.

Joel:                             01:36                Were only like a minute or two in.

Anna David:                  01:38                I could feel other people's rage. As I was listening to it, I was like, I wish I was as ballsy as Joel [inaudible]. That's what I said.

Joel:                             01:45                Wow, that's an odd but nice compliment.

Anna David:                  01:50                So, let's talk also. So let's talk.

Joel:                             01:53                Okay. It actually means a lot to me. I'm only ballsy in print, as you know from meeting me. Cause I have some social anxiety and I'm desperate to be liked, but somehow if I don't have to look at the person I'm offending or annoying, it's a great joy to me.

Anna David:                  02:09                I think we're opposite. I find.

Joel:                             02:13                I like instigating too, like I like entering a conversation and causing other people to argue. So that's the same kind of, but you, you're gutsy in real life. You're not afraid of things.

Anna David:                  02:24                Well, I will tell you, because I am a former journalist and I was terrible at it because I was so, I just didn't know how to not want the person to like me when I wrote and nobody's ever happy with how they're being written about. Almost never. Right.

Joel:                             02:41                It's random. Because you can write something that you think is going to make people someone angry and they can have a really good attitude about it and really love it or just love attention. And then you can, you can write something that you think is very flattering and it has one line or one word that makes someone angry. I can never predict how someone will react. I learned that in college.

Anna David:                  03:00                Yeah, I learned it. I learned it when I worked at People Magazine where we only wrote fluff pieces and still people would be pissed off. But yes, you, and my friend Vanessa Grigrad is like, she would write these things and she's like writing mean things about Barry Diller. And I'm like, how do you have the balls? I don't, I do not do not do not. And I thought it was interesting because you have this chapter on Scott, the Dilbert. Scott Adams, the Dilbert Scott. Who kind of comes at it from the opposite, the opposite political sphere. But like I had always, sorry, I'm just talking. We don't really need you about like I had always kind of thought of him as a very hateable figure until I read your portrayal of him. And now I think of him as a stud, cause he married that hot chick in his town.

Joel:                             03:45                Well, I don't think they're married yet, but that is a very surprising number of people who read my book, which is a surprisingly small number, have found him to be the most odious character by far in the book. Way more than Tucker Carlson or even me.

Anna David:                  04:00                Well, I had read a lot about how odious he was before and I had heard, you know, everybody hated that guy. And so and so to see a human being who is actually, I could look at him as sort of just like you, but for the other side and you are so endearing and likable.

Joel:                             04:19                He is, you would enjoy. He's a very sweet man. You would enjoy spending time with you. You might get infuriated with him, but I think you would think he's nice.

Anna David:                  04:27                I went to college with Tucker Carlson by the way, so I don't find it. Yup, Trinity College.

Joel:                             04:32                And were you the same year-ish?

Anna David:                  04:34                He's a year ahead of me and we were part of the same friend group. And I certainly didn't know about his politics because all we actually did was drink, like, we didn't actually talk about anything interesting, but my roommate.

Joel:                             04:47                And smoke Marijuana or just drink, marijuana?

Anna David:                  04:51                We didn't drink marijuana. We did a lot of things. Obviously he did, but my college roommate, Amy married Neil, who is his partner at the Daily Caller. Like they very connected I would say.

Joel:                             05:05                And what's that guy like?

Anna David:                  05:07                So nice. So, so nice. Can we not talk about, let's not let me monopolize anymore. Let's talk about.

Joel:                             05:14                Did Tucker wear the bow tie in college?

Anna David:                  05:15                No, I don't think he wore bow ties in college.

Joel:                             05:17                You would remember.

Anna David:                  05:19                I was drunk so much.

Joel:                             05:21                Nobody's that drunk. They don't remember a college getting a bow tie all the time.

Anna David:                  05:24                At Trinity college. It's possible. It's possible. I just, but anyway, I am, I, it's rare that I'm tired of monopolizing.

Joel:                             05:32                Why did you do to Trinity? That's, you're a nice Jewish gal, right?

Anna David:                  05:36                I know. That's what my grandparents said too. It was the only school that was considered good enough by my family that I got into, actually it was a safety, you know, remember the safety. Stanford, your safety was Yale. What was your safety?

Joel:                             05:55                Well I got lucky cause there was this rolling admissions at the university of Michigan, so they would tell you like weeks after you applied. So I applied like the day you could apply, which was back in like September or something. And I got into Michigan before I had applied anywhere else. So I was in somewhere way better than my safety school. So I didn't even have to bother with the safety. It was the, it was, I still root for them in sports. I'm still very grateful.

Anna David:                  06:20                Yeah. I was waitlisted at Penn and Vassar and those were my two that I really wanted to go to. And I thought, well, obviously I'm going to get off the wait list. And the school called Trinity that I never even been to doesn't require a deposit in order to be, you just say, yes, I'll go to you. And it was the only school that didn't require a deposit. I know. And so.

Joel:                             06:43                That's a thirsty school right there.

Anna David:                  06:44                What's ironic though is people think Trinity is the greatest school. I mean, Tucker Carlson went there. Am I right? And his friend Neil. Now, but, yes, it was not a Catholic school. Despite its name. Oh, I know. My family, my grandparents weren't pleased either. But I'm a, I'm also a very bad Jews. So let's get that out of the way.

Joel:                             07:07                Was there a different Trinity they were referring to?

Anna David:                  07:11                It used to be called Washington College and through some bizarre college name switching thing, it changed to Trinity College.

Joel:                             07:18                I think they just told the Jews this story cause this is not adding up at all.

Anna David:                  07:22                There were other Jews there.

Joel:                             07:24                Yeah. All told this odd story about a different Trinity. Look, it's the three branches of government we're referring to.

Anna David:                  07:34                There was a chapel that I never set foot in if that makes it any better.

Joel:                             07:38                Well every college has a chapel. We had a giant church do.

Anna David:                  07:41                Exactly. Exactly. You are as guilty as I am. Let's move on.

Joel:                             07:45                By the way, is there anything more Indefensible Leadism than spending the first third of the podcast talking about what college you went into and didn't get into and Oh this is perfect. This is our people.

Anna David:                  07:57                Exactly. Exactly. So we've already weeded out anybody who would not buy your book.

Joel:                             08:04                Yeah. All the state school people are gone from this podcast now.

Anna David:                  08:07                Now. Okay. So, so this was your second book and actually you waited quite a while into your career as a writer to write a book. I would say. Why?

Joel:                             08:21                Yes. I didn't, I have an idea I thought was good enough for a book and I have one point early on in my twenties I had an idea, I did pitch and no one wanted, they found the idea offensive in fact. And then and then I just never, I never came out with an idea I liked enough and eventually I had some friends who said, look, books are going to go away if you want to get a real advance, do this right now. And so I was really motivated by that more than anything. And then friend of mine kind of gave me the idea for my first book and I got [inaudible] blinds deal for my second book, which was just supposed to be a bunch of funny essays. I kind of turned it into a memoir and then I thought it was awful. And given the pre Coronavirus populous turn in our country, It just felt, and also Me Too, and Black Lives Matter, just the culture had changed. So that my memoir, which in, you know, I first started my career would have seemed like punky and cool and weird. It seemed really flat. It seemed like other stories were so much more interesting then mine that no matter how I told it, I didn't like it. So I asked to have it back and they said yes, but we also want our money back, which I heard they wouldn't do, but they did. And then my editor said, look, the head of Grand Central Publishing, she's known by Ashed, the top two people are leaving. We're getting a new president. If you have other ideas, I'll pitch them to this new person and maybe this person will go for it. It was, I felt like it was just them being nice before they took their money back. But it worked. I gave them this idea. And so I wrote this and I was much happier with this than the memoir.

Anna David:                  10:18                Yeah. Interesting. So at the time that you pitched it, you hadn't been to Miama, and done anything yet. It was all just a concept.

Joel:                             10:26                Yes. I had written a couple pieces in Time Magazine, kind of defending the elites. It was just starting I think when Sarah, maybe before that, no. Yeah. When Sarah Palin was nominated, I started to freak out about populism in this country. And so I had a couple pieces on that that I thought, I felt that were funny and I felt strongly about. So I, in desperation I pitched it.

Anna David:                  10:52                And how did the people, especially those, those Texans respond to the book once it was out? Did you hear from them? Did you definitely [inaudible]?

Joel:                             11:00                Yeah. I haven't spoken to all of them, but I talked to this guy Jerry in the book pretty regularly. I talked to him about a week and a half ago. So he checks in a lot.

Anna David:                  11:09                He's the one who sent you all the Christ movies, right?

Joel:                             11:12                Yes. Yeah. And, and that there's a church in Miama that I went to once.

Anna David:                  11:18                And they prayed for you, right?

Joel:                             11:18                And it's been, I think over more than two years. And they pray, they pray for me every week. There's a list of people they pray for, but it's a short list of 10 people. It's like the president, the military, a rotating list of sick people in the town and me. And they've stepped up the part for me since the Coronavirus because I live in LA and they know that's a dangerous part of the country as far as infection. So I'm a big part of their service, which is now a drive in service. So you drive to the parking lot of the church, you tune into a radio station. It's a very, it's about 50 people maybe. And at least it was when they were fully open and they drive to a parking lot and there's a bunch of evangelical churches that do this and you see the minister and you can listen to him and you're on your cars together.

Anna David:                  12:06                That is amazing. So you're still like a, a star there.

Joel:                             12:11                Yeah. Well, I was very nervous. I still am worried that this, I have not heard from a lot of people there. He assures me it's a very small town and he assures me everyone liked the book. But I find it odd that I haven't heard from a bunch of the other people in the book. I've heard from him and this woman DeAnn. But there's, but there's a couple of other people. I'm curious as to what they really think and I haven't reached out of fear, but Jerry, Jerry makes me think they're okay with it.

Anna David:                  12:41                Okay. But so, okay, so back to this whole, okay. So first of all, back to publishing is going away. If you want to deal, you better do it now. Your friend said this to you, very prescient. This friend said this to you, what, five or six years ago?

Joel:                             12:53                No, like 10 years ago.

Anna David:                  12:56                And then, I've told you this before, but you have this tweet that I often quote, which is to say misquote about when Manmade came out, basically saying my book is out. It's just like having a movie but no one cares or something like that.

Joel:                             13:09                Yeah, that's exactly. My first book was, it was called Manmade, I think it was 2002 and yes, I had really high expectations for this cause I had a pretty, at that point, particularly and maybe I was on the tail end of it, but I still had a pretty decent following from writing in Time Magazine. And when I found out how many books you had to sell on a week to be on the bestseller list, I was like, well that's a done deal. Even if 0.001% of people who like tell me they like my column and email me, then I'm on the bestseller list and I was not on the bestseller list and I was crushed. And it was, you know, it just, I realized from working at Time Magazine and seeing how many books got sent to me and I was not a book reviewer. That there's just a flood of books out there. There's a flood of everything. I mean, I've worked on TV shows that didn't get reviewed that were on networks, you know? It's hard to get attention for things you do that People don't love it.

Anna David:                  14:16                It is hard to get attention. I mean, it's unbelievable. I mean, I do think also that, that it's very easy to go, Whoa. I mean, Time Magazine, you know? And then there's this marketing rule of seven where someone has to hear about your book. They say seven times before they'll think about buying it.

Joel:                             14:33                It's also a much bigger ask to ask someone to read a column you wrote in a magazine that they subscribe to or run into because they want other things or a TV show that they flip onto. It's very different to ask someone, I think A, spend the money, but B, spend all that time reading it because I mean, the amount of people after that book came out or this book, who walked up to me, and strangers walk up to me on the street and say, love your column. Love your writing. Think you're the best. And then the, I would say, did you read my book? They're like, no, I heard about that. Yeah, I heard it. You know, so they got the information. They clearly had a generally warm enough feeling about me to walk up to a stranger on the street, but they were not going to read the book.

Anna David:                  15:22                It takes a lot. It takes a lot.

Joel:                             15:24                And these aren't, I'm not writing like, you know, you know, a three part series on theater, Roosevelt. These, this is a pretty slim volume of jokes.

Anna David:                  15:31                Enjoyable educational. I will say I listened and you read so well and you know, frankly, most people don't.

Joel:                             15:39                So that's the second book you listened to.

Anna David:                  15:41                Yeah, I didn't read the first one. I'm just going to be honest.

Joel:                             15:45                I was very nervous. I did not think I did a very good job reading in the first one. I went to an actor, friend, the last day, I went to a very good place to produce my first audio book. And I felt like despite being kind of famous, gave me very little direction. And the last day I was recording Marylou Henner walked into re-record some stuff and she had played my mom on a sitcom, My Road that never aired. And we stayed in touch. And she walked in and she suddenly gave me like five tips on reading a book. And I was like, this is amazing. And then so when this, when I had to record this new one, I had an actor friend give me advice and then the guy who was supposed to produce it, like how to go do someone more famous book. And so I got this young guy who was quitting the business and I was, I felt screwed, but he gave me the best advice on every line of how to deliver a joke. I'm so grateful. I think, you know, I haven't really listened to it, but I think it's so much better than my first one.

Anna David:                  16:53                Interesting. So wait a second on every line. So basically he didn't stop you on every line and go, Hey, you should do that with inflection at the end. He did?

Joel:                             17:02                No cause I got into a rhythm where I got better at it, but not every line, but at least once a page. Yeah.

Anna David:                  17:09                Yeah. It's very enjoyable. I've really, I really did. Yeah. Because I don't know if you've had that experience when you're listening to a book of an author you admire and you hate them, you hate their voice.

Joel:                             17:20                Bill Bryson the best. Like Bill Bryson, he should get someone else to read his books or get trained because it, it ruins his box. His jokes don't work. And I'm like, let's say Davidson Harris. You would much rather hear read. Then you can read yourself. It's funnier when he does it. He's got an amazing delivery.

Anna David:                  17:40                Yeah. Yeah. I okay. But my point is that I had a point and it was this, it was in terms of launching, Oh, here's something good. This is like a bit of a confrontation. For this book. The second book of yours. I received an invitation that looked very fancy that said, Joel Stein is having a party at library bar or something downtown. I said, that is so lovely. I'm on Joel Stein's like A list. This is so great right back. Would love to go, immediately right back. Get an email that says I am so sorry. But we've reached capacity. So, and you basically, you're disinvited so tell me about that. Not about me but about what this party was and how I could be invited. I was total B-list as I should have been. You know, we've only met twice. Go on.

Joel:                             18:31                So I thought everyone loves a book party. No one loves going to a book party. They just like to be invited to a book party and there's nothing more impressive than no one knowing someone's having a fancy book party. So instead of having a book party, I just invited people to a book party and then told them it was full.

Anna David:                  18:51                That's not true. That would be the best story.

Joel:                             18:53                That is not true. But that is, that is totally what I'm going to do for my next book, that is a brilliant. Everyone listening to, they should steal that idea cause that is a great idea. You're having it at the fanciest place in town and yeah. Then then you have to disinvite people cause there's too many people. No, that's not what happened. Do you really want to know what happened?

Anna David:                  19:13                Kind of. Only if it's relevant to someone listening and an experience they might have promoting a book.

Joel:                             19:18                The odds are the infinitesimal. But this very nice publicist said, I would like to throw you a book party a couple did, and this one booked an amazing place and asked me for a list and I said, here's everyone I'd love to invite. Let me know how many I can bite. And she sent them all out and the place freaked out and they said our room is simply not big enough. Now it turned out that the room was big enough and we could have fit like three times as many people there and that was, it was breaking my heart. So anyone, you didn't email me cause I basically got everyone in, who emailed me and told me this happened to them.

Anna David:                  19:58                No, but I'm glad there were others. I just felt, good good.

Joel:                             20:03                It was so many. I was Angry. Like, wait, I got super and the publicist got crazy angry emails. I think it worked out so harm this beautiful hotel cause they angered a lot of people. Yeah, I was able to get everyone in but we could have. And I kept telling them like first of all their room was huge. I don't understand what they possibly thought as far as it being not big enough. And secondly, people say yes all the time and then like it's a weekday night party, people are going to say yes and then not show up.

Anna David:                  20:31                I was not going to show to be frank.

Joel:                             20:33                Yeah, exactly right.

Anna David:                  20:36                I wasn't. And even at the time I was like, wow, that sounds really fun. I've never heard of that place. I bet Joel has like fancy, fun friends, but it's downtown on a Thursday night. And even when I said yes, I'm just like, I probably won't go. But I love being invited. Love the option.

Joel:                             20:51                Yeah. So that was a mistake that no one should ever make.

Anna David:                  20:55                Okay. But so let's talk about good things. A launch. Like what, so what are some of the things that you tried and worked?

Joel:                             21:05                Oh, this is simple and everyone will tell you this, who writes a book, and you will not listen. So it's, you have to experience this yourself to go through it. But I'm assuming that Stephen King and David Sederez and I don't know the rest of the popular authors names David McCullough. No.

Anna David:                  21:26                Glennon Doyle. How about, Glennon Doyle. Come on, go on.

Joel:                             21:33                There's all these, all the people who have like colorful books about murder.

Anna David:                  21:37                So this isn't relevant for them or it is?

Joel:                             21:40                Not relevant. But for the rest of us, do you not hire a publicist out of your money? Use your book publicist. And you will think they're awful. Whoever your publicist for your book is, you are going to think they are talentless and awful. The truth is they can't help you. You have to work every connection you have ever had or friends have had to get right to the person in charge of booking or hosting the show. There are only about 12 shows. We're talking about TV and radio. Everything else is a waste of time. All your social media is a waste of time. All of your tweet, you know, everything else, it's not worth it. So you have to get on this one or 12 of these dozen outlets and do everything you can. And if you get on a thousand other podcasts and outlets, it won't matter if you get on these 12. I'm sorry, it's TV, radio and a couple of podcasts.

Anna David:                  22:42                Okay. What are they, do tell? I don't totally agree with what you're saying, but I still want you to talk.

Joel:                             22:47                That's a great sentence by the way. Yeah, I don't totally agree with what you're saying I want you to talk. I like that. So it depends on your book, right? If you have a book about knitting, it's going to be very different then if you have a book like I did, which was sort of about a little bit about politics. So for my book, what would have helped would be as far as podcasts, the ones that would have helped almost none of which I got on were Joe Rogan, Adam Corolla, which I did get on. Sorry, Mark Marin. Conan O'Brien, Doc shepherd. I know. I'm naming a lot of white dudes. But that's how.

Anna David:                  23:38                Tim Ferris, you didn't name that white dude. Lewis House?

Joel:                             23:42                I don't know who that is, but I bet that's right. Yeah. I don't know if there are any more. Oh, Oh, maybe. Maybe Sam from my kind of book. Sam Harris. And then TV wise. That's where like the, the Conan’s and Jimmy Fallon, those are useless. That won't help you sell any books.

Anna David:                  24:03                Have you been on those shows a lot?

Joel:                             24:05                For my first book I did Conan and Craig Ferguson a couple of times.

Anna David:                  24:10                And Didn't sell books?

Joel:                             24:10                No, almost none. But what will sell books is Bill Maher. Morning Joe. The other morning shows to a lesser extent, Fox and Friends. The other morning shows and especially the Sunday shows, but also the weekday shows. Then network news shows, you know, Good Morning America. Oh, the biggest thing you can possibly do is Terry Gross. Terry Gross. And then any other NPR is also huge. If you can get on this American Life, you can get on Morning Edition or All Things Considered. The biggest thing I did for this book was Steven [inaudible] on Morning Edition on NPR.

Anna David:                  25:07                Nice. And you know that it's sold the most books because you went to Amazon right afterwards. How do you know?

Joel:                             25:15                Exactly. Yeah, you can watch the Amazon rankings move really dynamically and you can watch, and that's where 80 something percent of books are sold anyway. So you're really watching almost real time sales of your book.

Anna David:                  25:27                And so how did you get, so you, did you, I mean, and here's the thing, how do you get shameless in terms of working connections? Because it's like I've talked to, it's like I have this, this feeling of like you should care so much mixed with who am I to ask you this? I'm annoying you. You know, how do you not be annoying while asking people to feature you?

Joel:                             25:51                It's worse than that because you have to like ask your friends who've been on these shows to ask the people at, it's a big ask. Right? So Adam Grant and I talk about this a lot, a huge name drop because he helped me a lot with this stuff and he and I also have similar personalities where we say yes to everything and we want to be liked and we're people pleasers. And we hate asking for things. And we've also noticed that all we want to do is help other people like us, who don't ask and are nervous, and we spend 90% of our time helping pushy assholes, right? Because they're the people who are asking you once, twice, three, four times, and eventually they wear you down and say yes. And even though they're the last people, we want to help even we wind up helping those people instead of reaching out to people ourselves proactively. So you sort of have to adopt that attitude. And luckily email makes it a little easier then pre email when you had to either call or take your horse and visit someone's porch seems so hard. And that's what LBJ does, right? Like that's all he does is drive up people's porches and bother them. That's his entire life.

Anna David:                  27:14                Such a, it's a method. But, but I mean the thing is, yet again, pushy people will tell you email doesn't work. You actually do have to pick up the phone to get people to say yes, which is the worst.

Joel:                             27:24                That's right. And I did not do that, but that is the much better move. And I couldn't quite get myself to do that.

Anna David:                  27:33                But so, okay. And so not everyone listening has friends who've been on Jimmy Fallon and all of those steps. So what do you do if you're someone who's like, okay, great, how am I, how can I get there?

Joel:                             27:45                That's the thing. Like I have so many friends, both self-published books and are like, the publishing industry is stupid. It's a waste. If you can buy these, you know, Facebook ads and you can reach out to people. I don't know, man, that seems like the success rate there is pretty low. It depends who you are. Like I was talking to Grant Achatz the chef and they're selling all, they're self publishing all of their cookbooks and they're selling, they're making millions literally selling their cookbook. And they're mailing them out themselves or they're mailing them to Amazon for distribution and they're figuring it out all themselves. Like they have to know which Amazon to send it to cause you have to pay for storage where Amazon holds you. So self-publishing on that level, it's almost like being a publisher. It gets very complicated.

Anna David:                  28:32                Yeah. It doesn't have to be because Ingram can distribute to Amazon, it's a whole thing

Joel:                             28:37                And they'll figure out where to send them to and storage costs, but they'll charge you. Right? So it depends how efficient you want to be, is what Grant and his partner, Nick were telling me that if you can outsource a lot of that work, but then you're paying X amount of cents more per book. And at their level it doesn't matter that much cause they're selling these super expensive, you know, photo, coffee, table book but and cookbooks. But at our level, most people's level, it probably matters more. Anyway, I don't know how, if you don't have connections, you get a book published. I don't know all this, the barriers to entry on a book are not the same as they are for a movie or a television show. They're much lower. But they're still there.

Anna David:                  29:20                Yes and no. I mean, my company, that's, that is what we do for people. And we've seen, you know, I have published books where the author has gone and gotten it into 70 bookstores. My books published by Harper Collins, weren't in 70 book stores. You know, we have a guy, a client who bought on you know, Lewis Howe’s podcast. I know you don't know who he is. So, so people, it's about being a hustler. I mean, I think it goes back to what you were saying about, you just have to ask, you cannot rely on a publicist, you cannot rely on anybody. You just have to look at like what you've got. Who do you have in your address book, who do you know? And sort of try to trace where that can lead you.

Joel:                             30:02                Yeah. And I know it from the other side, right? Like if I get an email from a publicist about a book, I don't even write for any outlets right now. And I probably get about a book, probably get more than 15 a week. And I'm not even writing, I've never written about books and I still get like 15 a week. More than that, I probably get, and no one knows my address. I live at this house. I don't even work in an office anymore. I still probably get five, six books sent to me a week. Physical books. And the odds of me responding are next to nil. It's some publicist who I probably maybe never met, telling me about an author I don't know. I mean it's a needle in a haystack. Every so often someone will email me about a book about something I'm particularly fascinated by, that's an obscure subject. Like the odds of that are really like one in 500. So but when I send email about me to someone I know sort of have to respond. Whereas if a publicist sent that email about me to that person, they do not have to respond.

Anna David:                  31:19                Yes, and I mean it's just, I'm surprised it's that that's shocking that you're getting 20 whatever emails a week. You've never written about books and it's just this, it's that kind of spraying mentality of publicists. Like people are hiring people, paying them five to $10,000 a month so that they can send you someone who's never going to open the package, a book that you will never read. I mean that is really why publicists, some are great, but the majority are not because that is how they are operating.

Joel:                             31:50                Well a publicist is great if you have something that people inherently want to write about that they may not know about, so, right. But if you have something on the level of me, it's not great.

Anna David:                  32:05                So what are your other tips? You know, sort of shaking the trees, working the angles is tip number one. What's tip number two?

Joel:                             32:16                I don't think I have a second tip.

Anna David:                  32:18                You have to have a second tip.

Joel:                             32:19                It was really emailing my, so it was not just emailing people I knew who booked MSNBC show or hosted shows. Most of which didn't, weren't able to get me on, but some did, but it was also like, Oh my God, I want to go on Joe Rogan. Let me go look at it every guest who's ever been on Joe Rogan see which ones I know. I would email say Adam Grant and be like, who's the Booker Joe Rogan. Can you send them an email about me? And they would do that. And then I still didn't get on Joe Rogan, but that was, but it worked out for some shows for sure. I got on two MSNBC shows because the hosts had worked for my friend Josh when they were at Bloomberg, and I've been on their show since. And the other thing is like, if you can regularly go on shows, even when you build those relationships, even when you don't have something out to promote, then it's a lot easier when you do have something to promote.

Anna David:                  33:18                I think that's key too is it's like nobody wants to hear like, Oh, Hey, I've got this thing where you feature me, but it's about having a relationship with the person. Right. But wait a minute, did Time?

Joel:                             33:31                But there was something that used to always go on when I was at Time, right. Cause I love going on and I knew they loved me and I would still go on and then like, and then when I emailed them about my book, like I, you know, I was on right away.

Anna David:                  33:42                Exactly. Exactly. It's and so, okay. Okay. So, really what about out in the world, do you carry copies of your book? Do you talk about it? Do you put it in your email signature? Like you must have done other things aside from a party that you ended up dis-inviting me to and emailing your fancy friends. There are other things you've done.

Joel:                             34:05                I got to say I the book party, I had one in New York. I don't think that really helps.

Anna David:                  34:11                I don't think it does. No.

Joel:                             34:12                It's good for your ego and it's fun, but I don't think it really helps. I've been told that is very effective too. Go to an event like I was at Politicon when my book came out and to carry your book and stand by the bookstore early, just pretend to be reading it or whatever it is.

Anna David:                  34:32                Pretend to be reading your own book?

Joel:                             34:33                I guess. I don't, I forgot the advice itself. Or carrying it. Hope people ask you about it. You know, by a Starbucks. I've been told to do that. I have not either had the guts or cared enough to do that.

Anna David:                  34:49                Well all the fancy elite events that you write about in the book, would all be great places to have your book, correct? Summit and.

Joel:                             34:59                Yeah, so I haven't done that. I did speak somewhere at like at one of those kind of things and the person I was just moderating and the person offered to put my book in the front and sending people free copies if they signed up. So I've got some copies out. So if I kept doing that, that might work. Speaking gigs to a large convention are helpful, but those are hard to get anyway.

Anna David:                  35:29                They are over.

Joel:                             35:29                Oh, they are over, sorry. Right? Yes. They were probably over a long, long time. Yeah. In fact, why are we talking about like being outside of a Starbucks? This is like, I'm not going to die for my book?

Anna David:                  35:40                Remember Starbucks?

Joel:                             35:42                No, not fondly. Like that. That was weird.

Anna David:                  35:45                Yeah, I know. It's hard to know. It's hard to know, I, you know, as the day that we are recording this I have been hearing good news and that things are going to be back to normal soon. So that's the tag I'm going with.

Joel:                             35:59                From your mom? Where are you hearing this?

Anna David:                  36:00                No, I heard from our governor, I've just been hearing, I let my boyfriend, I let it all filter through him because I'm sort of Pollyanna slash ignorant and he's way more paranoid slash informed. So I let it filter through him and then I take my own brain and now I decide that everything's okay. Are things not okay?

Joel:                             36:23                I don't know. I think that that's a perfect information system you have now.

Anna David:                  36:26                I think so. Okay. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Okay, so we have to get towards wrapping up. I think this has been delightful. I have no idea if it's been helpful. Have you had fun?

Joel:                             36:35                Who were we supposed to be helping? Me? Who are we helping?

Anna David:                  36:37                We're not helping you. No, no, no. You and I together are helping the listener.

Joel:                             36:46                What's the listener's main problem?

Anna David:                  36:48                Promoting their book. They want to know how to successfully launch a book. They may not know Adam Grant.

Joel:                             36:53                Look you, you know better than me cause you have, you have actual data from more than two books. But I am, I deeply believe that you have to create something good. And that's far more important than promoting something. And when I say good, it depends on luck a little bit, right? Like if Hillbilly Elegy comes out a year earlier, it's less of a hit even though it's a great book. So there's all kinds of issues that you can control and can't control. And I've always been of the opinion that. And I think if you look at anyone successful, this is true, that you're going to have a ton of failures and pushing that Boulder, that failure uphill is less a good use of your time then creating another Boulder. My analogy is falling apart, but I'd rather get a lot of trips to the plate than to like, you know, try and push the ball over the, again, analogies are hard.

Anna David:                  37:54                Sports isn't your thing.

Joel:                             37:55                Well, I tried two, I tried [inaudible], I tried Greek mythology. I tried sports. What is my thing?

Anna David:                  38:03                Words, humor, humor. I don't know. I don't know. I look, they both semi work. They both work enough for me to say. What you're saying is like, if the book doesn't hit, forget about it and write another. Really?

Joel:                             38:20                That's my advice. That's my main advice. Yeah. If you look at people who had successful books or successful anything, they probably had a lot of books. Right. But even my old boss, Walter Isaacson, there were a couple of books before their hits and been books since the hits. You know, and he, he's really mastered his craft. There's no limit to how he can promote his Book. And even some of his aren't hit. So I would say, yeah, just do produce a lot.

Anna David:                  38:53                I think it's good advice. But with this caveat, I mean I used to, when I was writing books, my agent was like, you're doing a book a year. And so it was sort of like, okay, this one, no one cared. Let's do another one. Okay. And I regret having sort of treated them like they were so disposable when they were they were books. So I believe that yes, you have to except your books fate in a way where it's landing in the time that it's landing, but you also should do everything you can to try to set it up for success.

Joel:                             39:24                Sure. Yeah. I mean, you're going to though, right? Like after you work on that hard on something, you're going to promote it. I mean, some people are pushier than other people, but you're going to use your connections. But I would say I don't regret bothering the guests on Joe Rogan, even though that didn't work out. I probably regret, I did it for my first book, bothering celebrities I didn't know that well to tweet about my book, which they then did because it's just a tweet, but it didn't help and I was just annoying.

Anna David:                  39:58                Right. And it just, it felt shameful a little bit, you know? Yeah. Forget Twitter. Okay. Joel, what a delight, thank you so much.

Joel:                             40:08                Really I was, Wasn't I? What was your favorite part?

Anna David:                  40:11                It was probably before we started recording. That's not true. Every minute, every minute has been a joy. I'm not, I'm not kidding. I mean, I find you very, very fun. That's the truth. I mean, hopefully you helped people, but if not, they had fun. Oh, he's, Oh, you're doing the thing where you're pretending to freeze so that I can freak out. Okay. It didn't work. It didn't work. Hey, if people want to find you, where could they go?

Joel:                             40:37                Right here in my book. They should buy my book. What are you talking about? My book, which I haven't even mentioned. Indefensible Leadism. Why I'm better than you and you're better than someone who didn't buy this book. Go to your Tower Books. Go to your Barnes and Noble. Walk around the aisles. Make some friends and buy it there.

Anna David:                  41:01                Don't rub it in. You should also go to Joel's website because he updates it, I think hourly.

Joel:                             41:07                I updated it twice during this podcast to tell people I was on here.

Anna David:                  41:11                And you can get his book. I know because I was on the website this morning, there are links to both books. So that you can just go to Joelstein.com correct. That's it.

Joel:                             41:21                THE Joel Stein, but you can also go to JoelStein.com. He's a, he's a very nice musician. Exactly my age who lives in LA.

Anna David:                  41:28                But don't, yeah, go to the Joel Stein because really we want the, we don't, I'm sorry, Joel the musician. Okay. Thank you so much. Thank you guys for listening. I will I will talk to you next week. If you liked this podcast, obviously review it, review it, and say the Joel Stein episode, THE Joel Stein episode was your favorite. Okay.

Joel:                             41:46                I couldn't even promote my book well, on this podcast, I have a lot of work to do. I'll learn from you. Okay.

 

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