Episode 304: The Live Show With Paul ShirleyMar 25, 2020
After graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in mechanical engineering, Paul Shirley embarked on a nine-year professional basketball career that included stops on three NBA teams, five teams in Europe, and several minor league outfits, some of which even paid him on time.
While playing for the Phoenix Suns, Paul started a blog that led to a book deal with Random House. That book, Can I Keep My Jersey?, was released to wide acclaim in 2007. Paul has since written for Esquire, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, ESPN.com and for FlipCollective.com, a website he started.
Paul lives in Los Angeles, where he runs a co-writing space called Writers Blok. His second book, Stories I Tell I Dates, was released in 2017 and developed into a podcast of the same name in 2018.
But more relevantly than any of that, he was the first person I've ever interviewed LIVE—yes, this episode was recorded in front of a live audience in Los Angeles. Considering the fact that it's nearly impossible to get anyone in LA to go anywhere at rush hour, I was blown away that people showed up to listen to two authors talk about book launches on a Friday night.
If you're looking for an incredibly funny episode, this is it. YES, a show about book launches can not only gather a crowd on a Friday night in LA but also make people laugh.
If you listened to the episode, you know that I promised you a deal at Paul's "writing studio" Writers Blok. All you have to do to get 30% off membership for up to 12 months is go here and use LAUNCHPAD as a coupon code.
Anna David: 00:00:03 Okay. So I'm going to say welcome to Launch Pad. Woo. This is the very first live recording of this podcast. So you guys are, you know, making history. Congratulations on that. And it's a podcast that is all about book launches, how to make money as a writer and why the hell anyone would ever choose this crazy profession. And so you guys are either the perfect audience or you're really hurting for things to do because you're at a place called Writers Block on a Friday night.
Paul: 00:00:38 Is that a dig at the name? Cause I created that name. That's not how you get off to a great start with your guest. Insult the name of the brand.
Anna David: 00:00:46 I love the name. I will say that, don't you dare put the apostrophe between the R and the S like I did or Paul will correct you.
Paul: 00:00:54 Oh yes, yes, that's true. It's a collective, not a possessive.
Anna David: 00:01:00 See, who's the smarty pants here. So, okay. So it means so much that you guys are here. This podcast, by the way, it's been around for about three years has over 800,000 downloads. Yeah. And top 2% of podcasts on iTunes. I will tell you a dirty little secret. Podcasts have so few downloads that any podcast that has over 300 downloads an episode is in the top 3% of podcasts.
Paul: 00:01:31 Is that true?
Anna David: 00:01:31 Yes. It's both depressing and inspiring. So anyway, and it's been through many incarnations and right now this incarnation is talking all about book launches. So I will tell you guys also that when Paul agreed to let me do this here I kind of had to beg him to be the person I talked to and he was like, well, I, you know, they know me. And so it was like, I begged, it was demoralizing, but I'm a writer so I'm used to being demoralized.
Paul: 00:02:02 Well, it wasn't, yeah, it wasn't that, it wasn't that they liked the general populace knows me. I meant that my members, our members have already heard me talk so much because we do a bunch of Q and A's here and including your Q and A, right? Like you did a Q and A here for us. And so I think people get a lot of Paul.
Anna David: 00:02:21 But can you guys give him a round of applause to show how happy you are, more of Paul. And so, okay. And so by the way, there are treats for you guys. So for the people here, anybody at the end, you're going to get an opportunity to ask a question and you'll get either a free tee shirt or a free course on me. Yeah, yeah. Thank you. Also we have this special where I am hosting a memoir weekend workshop two days, March 21st and 22nd at my house in Hollywood. It is everything I know about how to write a memoir and how to publish it. Like including disclaimer and dedication and acknowledgements and all ISPN and all this stuff that nobody tells you. And if you're a Writers Block member, you get $50 off. So you need to come grab that.
Paul: 00:03:11 Are you at all worried that you're giving away your home address and that somebody is going to come back the next weekend?
Anna David: 00:03:19 How many writers do you know who are like super aspiring memoirist who are like super dangerous guys?
Paul: 00:03:24 Oh, they're not dangerous, but they could be scary.
Anna David: 00:03:29 It's always like the guy who has that theory. That's the scary one. Right?
Paul: 00:03:36 I'm not coming to your workshop. Don't worry.
Anna David: 00:03:43 Thank you for getting me a little freaked out about that. I, yeah, I've thought about it but like, but you know, it's a risk I'm willing to take to share my knowledge with the world. Okay, so Oh by the way, if you're listening and you're like, what is Writers Block with the apostrophe not there. Paul, we this episode is sponsored by Writers Block. So will you tell our lovely listeners what it is?
Paul: 00:04:08 It's like a gym or yoga studio only for writing. There's a lot of, we talk about how there's a lot of information out there about like how to write, right? But there are very few places to actually do that work. And so we are the place people come to physically sit, get the work done, talk about building good habits share with other writers the process that people are going through and importantly commiserate about how terrible it is.
Anna David: 00:04:39 And it's a monthly membership model, right?
Paul: 00:04:41 Yup. So again, works a lot like a gym. People can choose the number of sessions that they're coming to each month and pay accordingly.
Anna David: 00:04:49 Is it like a Like a gym in that people pay the money and then don't come.
Paul: 00:04:51 Yeah, for sure. Those are our best members.
Anna David: 00:04:55 And for people who are not in Los Angeles, you now have an online component?
Paul: 00:04:58 We do. Yeah. We have just started using Discord, which is a lot like Slack only usually for gamers to create online sprints so that people all over the world can jump on, set a goal, write for 50 minutes and then let us know how they did.
Anna David: 00:05:16 So they're listening. How can they find that?
Paul: 00:05:18 That's writersblock.org/online.
Anna David: 00:05:22 Amazing. Okay. So now for anyone who does not know, I'm going to tell you about Paul Shirley. He was a pro basketball player for nine years playing on three NBA teams. And while playing for the Phoenix suns, he started a blog that led to a book deal with Random House. This very book, Can I Keep My Jersey; 11 Teams, Five Countries, and Four Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond.
Paul: 00:05:46 Which we're going to, the cover of which we're going to just trash later, which I'm really excited about because I hate the cover so much.
Anna David: 00:05:55 I told him, you'd think this was self published one and the other ones we're going to trash publishers a lot, so just that's a warmup. But yeah, the book did really well. So what do I know.
Paul: 00:06:07 Yeah, the book did well but the covers a catastrophe.
Anna David: 00:06:08 So he, so it was released to Wide Acclaim in 2007. He's written for Esquire. The Wall Street Journal, Slate, ESPN and Flip Collective, which is a website he started. His second book, Stories I Tell on Dates, which is right below was released in 2017 and developed into a podcast of the same name in 2018. Please welcome the one and only Paul Shirley.
Paul: 00:06:37 Thanks. Thanks to all 400 of you who are here tonight, I appreciate that. There could be, they don't know out in podcast land, 4,000 people welcome to Staples Center. I'm glad you guys could make it here this evening.
Anna David: 00:06:54 Hey listeners, there really are. There are nice, lovely human beings.
Paul: 00:06:59 Yes. And what people out in the world don't know is like getting people to do a thing in Los Angeles is difficult.
Anna David: 00:07:05 Impossible. On a Friday night at rush hour is, I actually did not know it could happen. So I'm totally amazed with all of us. Okay, so let's talk about this first book. Can I Keep My Jersey? So obviously many athletes have published memoirs, but I would guess that not one of them was praised by Booklist for having remarkable insight, humor, or self-awareness as yours was. So let's talk about this journey from sports due to literary due, what happened?
Paul: 00:07:39 First of all, thank you. You are right that if Ricky Henderson wrote a memoir, it would not be self-aware. So I'm glad that I, I think my self awareness also was what made me such a mediocre professional athlete. Like you need to have a lot more hubris than I probably did. But that also made for a lot of good stories along the way. The Genesis of that is that when I was in college, I knew this guy who got to go play basketball in Spain and he would send out these email updates of all of the craziness that was happening to him. And I vowed that if I got to play professional basketball, I would do something similar because I thought it was fun and festive. And so then, sure enough, my first year out of college I came to training camp with the Los Angeles Lakers and then got cut as soon as they could cut anybody. And took a job in Greece where I spent the remainder of that season and started sort of aping that friend sending out these email updates every week.
00:08:42 I was very lonely because professional sports can be a really lonely existence when you're just a mercenary, like I was. And I realized that if I made these emails funny, then people would respond and I would feel less lonely. So I started to like some effort into like hamming it up a little bit and I had the benefit of just like a weird existence because no one in my family or most anyone I knew had ever been a professional athlete. So I had great like hook, like what is it like to be living in Greece playing professional basketball. So anyway, yeah. So these were just like a straight up, yeah. Old school, like Listserv of, Hey Paul, I really like your journals. Do you mind if we add like five of my friends to this email list? So it just kept growing and growing. And for three years I would send out this email every week of just like, Hey, here's what's happening. And the list just kept getting bigger. And I kind of started to develop a little bit of a shtick, right? I had this automatic feedback loop of if people are responding and saying this is really good, then what I just did worked. If they don't respond, then that probably means that it doesn't work. Which I think is actually interesting when I talk to writers about like, so are you sharing your stuff? And they're like, no, no, no, I don't. It's not ready to share it.
00:09:57 I'm like, yeah, of course not, but that's how you're going to find out if it's good or bad or you should stop or keep doing it. So anyway, then my career was weird and ramshackle, and it involved like, you know, as an example and stay with me. It's kind of, it'll seem boring at first, but it gets kind of interesting. One year I go to training camp with Atlanta Hawks. I get cut the night before opening day by a guy who was from Silver Lake, Kansas, which is right by me. And I was furious that he had done that. And then I went to play for the Yakima Sun Kings in the CBA, which was its own thing. I lived in a motel and I drove around a 1980 Chevy Malibu and I was making 700 bucks a week and it was miserable. And I was ready to quit basketball. And then I got called up by the Atlanta Hawks because they had fired that asshole from Silver Lake and played for the Atlanta Hawks for 10 days. I signed a 10 day contract with the Hawks. Right. And then got cut. I went back to my parents' house, had to decide, do I go back to the CBA or my agent called and said, there's a job in Spain. Do you want to go there? So I went to play in Barcelona, Spain for team that was wonderful. Except that then I got hurt 10 days in, I blew out my brachial plexus nerve, which is this nerve that goes here.
00:11:10 Yeah, it was really long, this was as long as I can go. And so then I was in Spain recovering and like the musculature here, here and here went to nothing. But I was writing through all of this. Right. So it's like interesting I think for people to go on this journey of like what does it really like to be a professional basketball player. The next couple of years, more craziness ensues. And then I get a contract playing for the Phoenix Suns after coming home from Russia of all places and basically saying like, I'm done, I can't handle this any longer. When I was in Phoenix, their website people said, Hey, you're not playing a lot, so you've got some time on your hands and you at least have a college degree unlike the rest of these dum dums so would you be interested in writing a blog for our website? Which at the time it was 2005, nobody knew what a blog was really. It was sort of newfangled and I was like, sure. And I, but I knew I had been doing this thing for like three years. Right. I had been writing and kind of knew my way around how to like keep some interest. So I was at the time I thought if I do this well, it will go somewhere. I'd always been thinking, I will write a book when my career is done. So I didn't know exactly where that would go, but sure enough it caught the attention of Bill Simmons who wrote for ESPN and the Wall Street Journal was writing about it, and then Random House. An editor at random house called my basketball agent.
00:12:32 He was like, does Paul want to write a book? And I don't think you turn down Random House even when you're 26 years old. So I was like, sure, let's do that. And that's what led to that their book, which, so in the vein of talking about publishing, I think one thing that is a bit of a, I don't know, I don't know what to say about like is it a misconception exactly. But like it's a lot easier when somebody comes to you obviously. Right. That goes without saying, but also I think you have to put yourself in a position where someone could possibly come to you.
Anna David: 00:13:09 Yes and yes, absolutely. But in listening to that, I'm just thinking how many millions of people write blogs going like and Random House is going to find it and like.
Paul: 00:13:20 Right, but you got to figure out what is it about your story that's different and interesting other than just like here's my day and I went on this date and it was not that great. And like whatever. Like people don't care about that. So what makes it so that people were like, I need more of what you're doing. I think that's one thing I see all the time with people where I'm like, you just have some again, self-awareness that there are so many humans. And so many of them are writing. You've got very little chance of making this work unless you throw it all out there. Right. Unless you tell us really what's going on.
Anna David: 00:13:56 Yes. But also I think it's kind of like people will say to me, Oh you know, I want to self publish and then like get picked up later by a Publisher. Like these things that happened to 0.0001% of the population. The majority of people are not going to be discovered through, through their blog. So yes, absolutely put it out there, but also plan to go and do the pursuit. If you want to go traditional, which nobody should, hopefully by the end of this you'll be totally convinced of that. Yes, I agree. And I don't. Let's talk about how you got Chuck Klosterman to do the intro. How'd you do that?
Paul: 00:14:29 Wrote him an email.
Anna David: 00:14:30 Really?
Paul: 00:14:31 Yeah.
Anna David: 00:14:32 People love that chocolate costumer guy, right?
Anna David: 00:14:35 [inaudible] Actually, but yeah. Yeah. I don't think he's like a woman's, I think it's like a dude thing. Sorry Chuck if you're listening.
Paul: 00:14:41 He yeah, I, I'd read his stuff and liked it and said to Random House, like, what if I could get Chuck Klosterman to write the intro? They're like, that would be amazing. We'll pay him X. Like, I think it was $2,000. So I wrote him an email and I said, Hey man, here's what I've been doing. Would you like to get $2,000 to write a foreword? And he's like, yeah, of course I would. And then he wrote the forward.
Anna David: 00:15:08 That also I would say is kind of a rare thing, but that's awesome.
Paul: 00:15:12 Knowing how to send someone an email?
Anna David: 00:15:13 No. That they say yes. I think
Paul: 00:15:16 Not if you have $2,000 that you're ready to pay. I mean, I didn't, I didn't have $2,000, but if, you know, but that's another thing. Like I get frustrated when people are like, how do I, I don’t know, send them a fucking email and see what happens.
Anna David: 00:15:27 I do actually know a guy who got Jonathan Franzen to blow up his book and he didn't know him so it happens. But who knows.
Paul: 00:15:36 We were talking about Tucker Max earlier. I remember that same time. Like for anybody who doesn't know, Tucker Max was known for writing like these really misogynistic, disgusting emails to his friends. Well, it was, he wrote, yeah, he wrote a book called, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. That had started as a blog. And similarly he just like wrote to me out of the blue one time like, Hey man, kind of like your stuff. Let's have lunch sometime. Yeah, I mean I think that's how things get done. You just are like, if you're honest and vulnerable and say like, Hey, I really like your stuff, here's what I do. Would you get together? Then it goes well.
Anna David: 00:16:19 I love to like shake of the head. I mean, yes, sure. The Pollyanna world. Yeah. Sometimes.
Paul: 00:16:25 I'm telling you that this happens.
Anna David: 00:16:26 He's from Kansas, I'm from California.
Paul: 00:16:31 This isn't, this isn't, I didn't write a screenplay where this occurred. These are the actual events.
Anna David: 00:16:36 No, we both, we we're on your side. Now let's talk about, okay, I, in doing my research, I, I've read that you write in the mornings before you turn on the internet.
Paul: 00:16:49 Well, yeah, before I turn on my phone, I'm not in charge of the internet. As it turns out, this is not Iran and I don't just go like click, everybody's got internet. Paul wrote.
Anna David: 00:17:03 Yeah, I have just actually just started like a few weeks ago I started this thing controlling the internet. I took over, where I don't turn on my phone until I've written cause I [inaudible].
Paul: 00:17:14 Yeah, that's, I, we can talk a bit later about like my figuring out that I was not treating my writing practice with the seriousness that it deserved. And that was one of the things that occurred to me was like, I'm distracting myself on purpose as a sort of self destructive tendency. And I think we're all just prone to these temptations, so therefore just take it away, right. Like just don't even allow it. So yes. I will write for my hour a day before I, I try to get in breakfast, meditation and a little bit of exercise, and writing before I turned my phone on.
Anna David: 00:17:58 That's good. I, yeah, I just learned this thing. This guy from Amsterdam was talking about Dusseldorf days where he goes to like Dusseldorf for the day and he doesn't turn on the internet till four o'clock. Sorry. He controls the internet. He doesn't turn on his phone till four o'clock in the afternoon. And I was listening to it and I was like sweating going, I could never do that. That sounds so horrible. Whatever. And then I just tried and the next few mornings I just didn't turn on my phone and you know, I made it till noon one day and you know, it was amazing. And the quality of my writing is so much better.
Paul: 00:18:28 Yeah, well I think we're all prone in the time we live in to self-importance because we're the center of this weird little universe and I'm just the same as everybody else. We start to think like, well the people would not be able to get by unless I was in touch at all times. And that's just not true. Like people will sometimes say to me like, what if an emergency happened in the middle of the night? Right? Cause I'll just leave my, I turn off my phone before I go to bed, sleep. Don't turn it on again until after I've written. I'm like, but what could I do to help? Right? Like I don't have any expertise. I can't save your life.
Anna David: 00:19:02 If they were choking you could.
Paul: 00:19:03 Who's going to call me if they're choking? If I'm your first call, then you deserve to be dead from choking. But I think like that's, I think we all have to examine like, do I really need to have my phone on or do I just want to feel like I need to have my phone on because that makes me feel good.
Anna David: 00:19:22 Yeah, and it's dopamine too.
Paul: 00:19:24 Totally.
Anna David: 00:19:25 Have you guys heard about dopamine fasting? I bet Caitlyn has. I just read about that.
Paul: 00:19:31 How does it work?
Anna David: 00:19:32 You can't, you cannot allow yourself to be stimulated by dopamine. And so it's like a big Silicon Valley thing. So I read this first person piece, this woman wrote for New York Magazine where, so you can't, you can't deal with your phone, but she just had a baby. And she was like, she had like, her baby was doing something really cute and she was like, I got to get away. She'll stimulate my dopamine.
Paul: 00:19:49 Oh, that sounds really smart to me. Like there's the Pascal quote of like most of man's problems can be attributed to his inability to sit in a room quietly for 15 minutes. And this was, you know, 200 years ago. Right. So imagine now where like we can't sit. Like I find myself like what I'm at, I'm in a waiting room and I'm going to have to wait for 90 seconds before something happens. This is outrageous. This is absurd. So I like that idea. I used to, when I was in the sort of human that I was going to be was sort of already defined in grade school when they introduced chocolate milk at Jefferson West elementary school, and everybody was just like, this is the best thing that's ever happened. I was like, that seems too good. I'm only going to allow myself chocolate milk on Fridays. So I would just have regular translucent white milk that wasn't real milk probably, Monday through Thursday and then on Friday I would allow myself chocolate milk. But then it was so much better because I had like waited for it.
Anna David: 00:20:52 We're like polar opposite. Okay. Something else that I read that I think is really interesting that you work on a book. This is what I've read, what you've told somebody, you work on a book for three months, then you send it out for feedback. While working on something else, does that mean you wrote each of those books in three months or is that.
Paul: 00:21:13 Well, so first book, Can I Keep My Jersey, was written between the time I was like 23 and 26 in those emails. So that book is actually mostly just our recapitulation of a journal style look at three years in my life. And then subsequent to that I wrote like 60,000 words of a novel that is pure trash. Just while I was living in Menorca, Spain when I was like 30 years old. And then I came home from playing, I quit playing basketball when I was about 32. I had a couple knee surgeries and broke my ankle and had three surgeries on that. And so the world was saying, it's time for you to be done. So I came home and spent like two years working on another novel that was also subsequently deemed by me, and lots of other people to be bad. And then that's when I had this like come to Jesus moment in a coffee shop that's no longer there on Venice Boulevard when I, so I had taken this novel to my agent at William Morris and he'd actually taken it to publishers. They all said no. And I was like, well, fuck that. I'm going to self publish this. I sent it off to an editor friend of mine saying like, will you be the editor on this self published book? She took like six weeks and I got that email in this coffee shop in Venice Boulevard where she said, Paul, I'm sorry, but this is, it's not really a novel.
00:22:37 It's not really a memoir. I don't think this is going to work. And I had that moment that we all need to have where I was like, I'm either going to give up on this entirely or I'm going to rethink the way that I think about writing in general. And so that was when I built what I like now as a writing system. And it's also around the time that I started Writer's Block because I also knew I wasn't, I didn't have enough of a writing community for myself and thought there would be lots of other people like me who needed just a sense of a team, right? Like we all, you hear about these little writing collectives. We had a guy here who was at UCLA in the time of a bunch of well known screenwriters and they, so they just had this natural pool of writers. I didn't have that cause I was, my degrees in engineering of all things. And then I was a professional fucking basketball player. Like these are not feeders for being a professional writer. So I started Writer's Block and I also committed to this system of like, I'm either going to write an hour a day or I'm going to write 1500 words if it's a rough draft, I'm going to do that six days a week for quite a while. And then we'll see where I land. And that's when I also in reading books about writing, kind of landed on this idea of working on a draft for three months, send it out, work on, be working on something else for the next three months so that you forget about that thing you sent out. And what I've kind of honed over these last six or seven years is the ability to let go of things, right.
00:24:04 So like in this six year period, I've written a lot. I've already thrown away another novel because it just wasn't good enough and that's fine, right? Like it's, that's fine. Stories I tell on dates came out of that. I have now in the seventh draft of a YA novel that I think is pretty good. It has a chance. The second draft of a different novel for grownups that's about a rock band. And then I just started a new nonfiction book. But again, it's because of this system. It looks like an hour a day, whatever that is, 310 days out of the year. It's amazing how much you can get done.
Anna David: 00:24:40 You're making me feel like I should've thrown out a lot more books?
Paul: 00:24:45 Well, no, it doesn't matter. Like well that's probably, there's two and a half books in the world that will never see the light of day. That's not that many. I mean, we were talking to your lovely boyfriend earlier, and he was mentioning that like that like in screenwriting, there are so many projects that don't get made right. There's just, there's just stuff. And I think in books for some reason we're more precious about like, wow, but I worked hard on it. Nobody cares how hard you worked on it. I had to learn that. Right? Like I worked hard on some stuff that nobody cared about
Anna David: 00:25:23 But we have full control over this as opposed to a movie where you have to get lots of people on board and actors to say your lines. Because we live in this magical time where we can publish ourselves.
Paul: 00:25:32 Yeah. That doesn't mean that anybody wants to read it. Just because you can publish it doesn't mean you should publish it. In fact, I would say like most people, there are probably exceptions, but we have a person here who was a Writer's Block member, became a Writer's Block staff member named Katie McElhaney whose first book came out like two years ago. She had written like three books before even that book, which was not, I mean, she will tell you it was not a smash hit. But there were three others, three other like miscarriages before that. And I think that's how most people are, is like, there's going to be a lot of bad stuff. And that's one thing I see at Writer's Block is people get so enraptured by their first idea and if it's, you know, if it's been six or seven years, maybe it's time to just write something else.
Anna David: 00:26:25 Yeah. Again, I think we're opposite. I mean I just, I have one book that I abandoned and it was, this was my lesson and I had never outlined a book in my life. I just always just wrote. And sometimes if I sold a book proposal, I had to sort of work with that as an outline. The one book I outlined it, I did workshops, like that's the book, that like I just got so sick of, I feel like I've worked too hard on it. I don't know.
Paul: 00:26:47 Yeah. I mean that's, I, the novel that went first into the trash was heavily outlined and I sucked the fun right out.
Anna David: 00:26:54 Don't outline. That's the message. Nothing else. Take that away. But okay, so this book six printings, right?
Paul: 00:27:05 Yeah. Something like that.
Anna David: 00:27:06 What was that like? I don't, how much money did you make when you talk about money?
Paul: 00:27:09 Yeah, sure.
Anna David: 00:27:10 Let's talk money. How much did they pay you?
Paul: 00:27:12 So when I, when Random House called, right I knew nothing about book publishing, so I Googled how much is a book deal? Cause I didn't know, like, is it $1,000? Is it like automatically $1 million? There's just no way to know. Right? When you're a kid from Grantville, Kansas. And I also knew that I didn't know how to do it, so I needed an agent. And so in that process, my aunt and uncle lived in LA and I was like, if you're in LA, you must know agents. Right? So I just called my aunt and uncle like, do you guys know any agents? And sure enough, next door to them in Hancock Park was this guy named Erwin Moore who was a TV agent at William Morris. Right? And so Erwin is like, yeah, I'll get you hooked up with the people in New York. This was like a little nugget we can come back to. He said, but why don't you come up with an idea for a TV show while we're at it? And I was like, well, what about Wisecracking 12th man on an NBA Team? He's like, that's gold. Let's go sell that to Fox.
Anna David: 00:28:16 These things don't happen to most people. Just to be clear keep going.
Paul: 00:28:21 Where are you from again?
Anna David: 00:28:22 Cynical California.
Paul: 00:28:24 Yeah. It sounds like it, we need to get you into Kansas, get you a little more hope in your life.
Anna David: 00:28:30 So a stranger says to you, let's go see a huge agent says to you, let's go sell that TV show. Okay, great.
Paul: 00:28:36 But anyways, so the, with the book deals, Random House said, I think their initial offer was like an advance of $50,000. Right? And so for anybody who is not aware in book advances.
Anna David: 00:28:48 That's a shitload of money.
Paul: 00:28:48 They just give you the money and then, well they don't give you the money. They give you a contract saying you get a third of this when you sign a contract, a third of it when you deliver the manuscript, and a third of it when you publish the book. Right. but you don't, you're never going to have to give that money back, which is another thing I probably Googled. Right. Like if they give me this money, might I have to give it back? Then that is applied toward all sales throughout the life of the book. Right. We got it up to, my agent got it up to $85,000. That was the advance that I got from Random House, which is pretty good.
Anna David: 00:29:21 Especially well today advances are so low.
Paul: 00:29:22 At the time it was not like outlandish.
Anna David: 00:29:25 What year was it? It was 2005?
Paul: 00:29:27 Somewhere around there. 2006 I think was the actual, like when we signed it. That book has now sold 40,000 copies and it is $850 away from me making back my advance. When you get to, so on a hardcover book you'll get about, you get credit of like, and you know this of course, but like you get like $2 and 50 cents or $2 or something like that toward that advance, right? Like credit back. But with paperbacks it comes down to like 80 or 90 cents a book. So I have to sell like a thousand more books and then I will finally have made back my advance such that I'm getting royalties, which also speaks to how good those business people are at nailing exactly how much they should pay.
Anna David: 00:30:13 But they're horrible. The publishing is like the craziest business. I mean.
Paul: 00:30:16 This is a crazy business, but I just mean like they're good at knowing like this is how big this book can be. Wow, we should get you some therapy. I didn't enjoy it, but I don’t know if they screwed me over. They gave me $85,000 to write a book. There are worse things. They've probably, if out of 40,000 copies they've made, you know, $280,000 or something like that, whatever, I don't know, 300,000. Yeah. Right. It's a great deal. For sure.
Anna David: 00:30:46 So, okay. And so was that a good experience? Did they listen, since we are focusing on launches, how did you launch this book? Did you have a plan? Did they get you publicity? Like what did you do?
Paul: 00:30:56 I, at the time was writing, I had a blog for ESPN because the Sun's blog had done well. And so then ESPN was like, again, this is the, the roaring odds when they would just pay you to write online. So they would pay me like $600 just to write a blog entry about what it's like to be a professional basketball player. So then that year I was playing in Spain and I would just write this missive about like, here's what happened in the world of being a professional athlete. And then it would, they would get hits because like again, it was weird, right? Like, nobody had, nobody at that time had really done that. Which is not to say that I was like a trailblazer. It was more just I didn't, I don't know why, but I didn't care.
Anna David: 00:31:41 You're the first athlete who could write.
Paul: 00:31:44 Yeah, it was me and Jim Booton. Is it Bouton or Booton? He wrote Ball Four, which was a seventies book about baseball that was famous. That is better than my book.
Anna David: 00:31:55 Better cover for sure.
Paul: 00:31:56 So anyways, so that's a long way to come around to, I had this blog at ESPN so we were able to like link to, if you liked this blog, you can buy this book here, which helped a ton. And I think they had set up, like I did a chat on the Washington Post website. The tricky part there was that I was playing in Spain, trying to help a team that was in last place get out of last place because in European sports leagues, if you finish in the last two spots, you get sent down to the next level. Right. So while this book was coming out, I was also still playing basketball and had just taken this job in Spain. So the book came out two days after I got back from the US complicating factor, I had just broken my ankle on the last play of the last game of the year. So I was hobbling around New York city, which was where we were going to do some events to finally go see my book on its shelves on crutches, which was kind sad. But so then yeah, so then we did a lot of radio, a lot of sports radio. I got asked so many times the, like I was laughing with somebody the other day about like, what's the worst way to do an interview? And the worst way to do an interview is to say, so this is a book, tell us about it. And you're like, what? How, where? So like there were a lot of those you get on, you know, you get on with Bob and Bear in the morning. We got funny man, an NBA player, Paul Shirley you're going to tell us some stories about what it's really like to play in the basketball world. What is, so Paul, we'll talk about those dicks that you've seen or whatever they're going to say. Yeah. So that got old real fast.
00:33:35 I mean, again, quality problem because at least people cared. But it was like you're doing it. It was a pretty big radio tour. Like we would do a lot of again cause sports radio. This is like catnip for 45 year old dudes who want to know like that, that they basically could have played in the NBA or whatever. And there was a little bit of a book tour, or I was actually pushing a lot harder for more of a book tour because I thought like if I can get in front of a crowd, they will like me guys. And then they'll want to buy my book. And I also was kind of thinking like, I'm from the Midwest. I had played basketball at Iowa state, which has this very rabid following. So like, let's just hammer these Midwestern towns because nobody comes to them. And they were not having that. I remember vividly that. So Iowa State's in Ames, Iowa. Des Moines is the capital of Iowa, end of podcast. So Ames is about an hour from Des Moines, but there were two very separate communities and they had set up a book signing in Ames, Iowa, which is where I had gone to college. And it was gigantic. Like we sold like 120 books, which is really hard to do as you know, in a physical setting. And so I was like, we need to do another one of these in Des Moines. They're like, no, no, those markets are too close. They're too saturated. You can't, cannot overlap. And I was like, but I am willing to do it. All you guys have to do is just ship the books there. That's it. And then I'll take care of the rest and be like, nah, we can't. If you want to, if you want to call Barnes and Noble, you can, but we're not going to set it up. So I had to like call Barnes and Noble and be like.
Anna David: 00:35:14 This is what I was saying about Publishers.
Paul: 00:35:14 I know, I'm, I'm on your side. I'm just saying it's also, there's great things about it, right? Like that $85,000. Yeah. Yeah. And like it, it is an experience that's fun. You know, I got, I had such a good time fighting about that cover. Like I was, I just was all over the place. And, but similarly, like I was like, but why don't we just do a book signing in Tulsa in Wichita and all these places. Like nobody cares in Wichita, which they turned out to be right. I actually set up book signings in Wichita, Tulsa, Oklahoma city, and like four people showed up but as we could discuss and as you know, like I, I think even then I had this inkling, and maybe it's because of sports, that it's not really about the sales of the book at the Barnes and Noble in Tulsa. It's about telling people you're going on tour because then that gives you that cachet of like, people give a shit about what I, like, is it going to change my life? Even if I like selling 400 books versus four is pretty irrelevant really. But like, but meeting the people and like getting them on your side for the long-term, that is invaluable.
Anna David: 00:36:22 Yeah. I mean, I always tell people it's not about the, it's not about even making money from the book. It's like, what can you do with that book? Have a plan because otherwise you'll end up bitter like me. Let's talk about, okay, this is where I started to get un-bitter when I talk about self publishing. So now let's talk about your second book. So you had this fantastic experience with these delightful people. What made you decide to do this one on your own?
Paul: 00:36:50 My editor at random house left for Amazon and now has the best job in the world. He's a tastemaker at Amazon. He's in charge of picking out like these are the books you should read this month, which is the best job. So I might, as some of you may know, like you're really attached to your editor. He's, he has probably, it's kind of like, again in screenwriting or TV, like if you've sold it to one regime and then they're out, the next regime probably doesn't give a shit about like whatever the project you had was. So Random House had the writer first refusal on my next book, which was that not very good novel. So they had refused that. I had been playing basketball for a long time. My agent and I, he really was like in on it mostly just to sell that first book. So we didn't have like a real relationship. And I think he also was like, this guy's a basketball player. He can't write books. Like this was a one time thing. And so then I spent a bunch of time in the wilderness just working on getting better as a writer and starting Writer's Block and running Flip Collective that you were talking about. And also knew that with memoir, unless you're famous already, it's really hard to sell a memoir to a traditional publishing house unless you're, I mean if you have like, I was a heroin addicted whore in Amsterdam and I'm going to tell you my redemption story, like that might be the story that that like they're interested in. Or if you're again Clayton Kershaw, you could probably write a memoir and get it published. Right. But in the between, probably nobody cares.
Anna David: 00:38:27 It's easier to solve memoir than a novel.
Paul: 00:38:32 Not if you're just a person. If you don't have a hook, there's no, you're not selling a memoir. Right.
Anna David: 00:38:41 I don't know. I saved one.
Paul: 00:38:42 Well what was your hook?
Anna David: 00:38:44 Well, okay, there was a zipper, cause there was already with Harper Collins and they had the idea for me that was, it's appalling for me. Okay. And yeah, it was there, it was back when like you're in the life books where thing like [inaudible] love and Julian Julia. So it was, I spent a year following everything. Helen Gurley Brown recommended in Sex and the Single Girl.
Paul: 00:39:03 Oh right. Yeah. And I still think that like in even 2005, you could do some of this stuff, right? It isn’t going to happen.
Anna David: 00:39:12 Okay, so let's talk about the glories of self publishing or hybrid publishing you said [inaudible].
Paul: 00:39:16 Right. So I yeah, I would never say that I self published it. First of all because that's a good way to get nobody to read your book is to say that you self published it. In fact I didn't tell anybody I started a publishing house in order to publish that book. Yeah. But what does that mean? Right? It wasn't mean to start a public house. You pick a name, pick a name, and then you start to figure out like how do I get this book into the world? I hired a graphic designer, I hired a photographer, I hired an assistant. I hired like a bit of a PR team. And again, I did not tell a single person that I self published it. In fact, I've don't talk about that ever because that's a good way, again to like make sure that no one's going to read it.
Anna David: 00:39:54 So, do you say somebody's acquired it or you just kind of?
Paul: 00:39:57 I just don't, I just gloss over that. Like why? Like most of the time I remember for like social media, I was just like, I have a great announcement, my next, my second book will be out this date, right? So I set a date for it. I had bookmarks made, I, you know, again, I named a publishing house that sounds kind of reasonable. Publishing Fourth Bar, which is this is, we're going to get real nerdy for a second guys. So I told you I have a degree in engineering and a three bar linkage does not move. That's basically just like a table when you add a fourth bar. That's when movement happens, which I like as a metaphor for like, you put that fourth bar in and that's when stuff starts to happen. Anyway, so yeah, I so I was like, I sent it to three pretty big agents who liked it, but they were like, ah, I don't think I could sell this for a bunch of money. So like I don't, I'm not the person. So then I was like, well fuck it. I, I think I didn't love the experience of doing it with Random House the first time. I felt like I had enough of a platform that I could tell some people about it. And like we keep saying, I had learned like it doesn't really matter. You know, maybe, maybe I make $20,000 on that book, but probably not. It's more about like the experience of getting it made going out on tour again, I've gotten a ton of like much more lucrative speaking gigs because of that book of like going back to Iowa.
00:41:30 I toured it really hard in Iowa and in the Midwest and in general, that helped me get a lot better at telling stories. So for my book signings, I would just tell stories as opposed to reading from the book. I would tell like three stories and people liked it cause it was a, it was an experience. I had a giant step and repeat made one of those like eight foot by eight foot things, right? It cost 200 bucks. But when you show up with that at Barnes and Noble, they're like, Oh, this guy is serious. Right? Like he cares about this. And it's the same with the audience. They can sense like, Oh, you give a shit. So maybe I should give a shit about it. And that's hard because you're at the Barnes and Noble in Minneapolis and there's, you know, four people who heard about it in an advertisement, three of my college friends who happened to live there. And like for people who are wandering the Barnes and noble at that time. Right. but I do think as hard as it is, that's, it's your job. It's like that that line with in Almost Famous where the lead singer is played by Jason Lee, right? And he's talking about like my job is to find the one guy in the crowd and get that guy off. Right. And so I think like when you're out on tour or when you have any chance to talk about what you're doing, that's your job is to figure out like how do I entertain this person? It's not their job to come buy my book. Cause like who cares? There's a zillion books I have to figure out like what makes my story interesting or what is engaging about me and then maybe they buy my book along the way.
Anna David: 00:43:03 Getting the perspective shift like of just like to get one person to care, you know, it's like we were talking about it before. It's like I vacillate between this like self aggrandizement. Like there should be auditoriums and then like, Oh my God, like you guys showed up. I can't believe it. Like I really. You really get how special it is that anybody cares about this thing you made up.
Paul: 00:43:25 Yeah. I mean like think about quick survey. How many books did you read in 2019? Just throw out some numbers. There's no judgment. Three? Jamie writes books by like 10? Any six? Five, 20? Yeah, sure. We'll count that. Yeah. All right. Now we're inflating some stats. I read a lot and I bet I only read 25 books last year. Right? And our lives are short. So the fact that someone would get all the way through one of your books in a certain year or whatever is like kind of a miracle. It takes hours and hours and hours. So I think you're totally right. And that's something that I've had to learn to come to terms with, especially because it's so different from basketball where like playing in front of 10 people would be tough honestly. But with books like, if you can think about like, if I can get 10 people to get all the way through this book, that's a win, then you might write something great. You probably won't, but that's fine. You might, however you start thinking like, I'm going to get 10 million people to read it. You're not going to re write something great. Like it's impossible. Yeah.
Anna David: 00:44:37 Okay. So there's a couple of things I want to do. I want to open it up for Questions do keep in mind this is a game of bribery. Like you, if you ask a question, you get a tee shirt or a course the course is worth $297. So pretty good deal.
Paul: 00:44:52 I like, I like that. Yeah. I like that. A choice you've set up is smart.
Anna David: 00:44:58 When you get to walk out anyway. Who has a question for Paul? You don't want me to randomly call on. Here we go. Daniel. For listeners, Daniel said, what would you do differently if you could go back in time?
Paul: 00:45:15 For the books or the time that that one girl that wouldn't go to that dance with me? I think with Can I Keep My Jersey I would have been more patient because it was actually like a layup. Pardon the pun there. Like we should have shopped it probably instead of just being like, well, Random House came and called us. Right. and otherwise I think I should have stayed more compulsive about staying on them. About, what are you guys doing? Because I was young and I'm a people pleaser by nature, so I was like, well they got this figured out. I was like, I don't think they're doing X, right. But like they must know better than I do. They don't know anything. Like it's the William Goldman quote, like nobody knows anything. My editor, again, in case he happens to be listening, we had a great time with it. We're still friends. But I remember being in New York sometime after the book had come out and he's like, you know, this was pretty good. Like you almost made it to being a New York times bestseller and I bet Paul, Oh shit. You know what? I forgot to make the call to Barnes and Noble to get your book in the upfront displays at all the stores. If I bet if I had done that, it would have been a New York times bestseller, but I just, it slipped my mind. Sorry about that. I was like? Of all the things, you don't have that many things to remember, but you forgot that. So I think like as hard as it is to just be like staying on them about like what are we doing this week? Let's, we've got to have a plan and if I need to go hire someone to do the marketing and the PR, great. I don't care because you, you just get so few chance, I will probably never sign another advance that big. So knowing like that's rare, let's maximize it and make the most of it would've been the main thing.
Anna David: 00:47:21 Excellent question.
Paul: 00:47:22 Does he get, is he getting a shirt or?
Anna David: 00:47:25 I genuinely, we'll discuss afterwards. There's sizes. There's a lot to figure out. Okay. So wait, let's remind me your name again. Turn your, Thomas. What kind of material lends itself to self publishing? Do you want to Paul?
Paul: 00:47:47 I think that's more your scene.
Anna David: 00:47:49 By the way, I say hybrid cause the words self publishing does freak people out as an expression. Any material you want. That's the kind of beautiful thing about it. It is, you know, and it just, the, the most important thing is, well I think it's like the riches are in the niches. Know who your audience is, even if it's incredibly small. Even if it's people who are fans of like plants that hang from a bill, like, find, you're so insane. Find out who know that that exists and write to them. I used to make such a mistake of like trying to appeal to the masses. Like, what are people going to like, what's big right now? And it's like, no, what are very specific people going to like that also like keeps you up at night because you care about it so much, and then make sure you hire an editor. You know, we were just talking about how many drafts you know, I'm sort of like couple of drafts and then you get an editor. Paul was like, like 18 drafts. You know, but just make sure that it's, make sure that it's, it's, well, you know, it's the best cover, not like this one, like it's the best cover. It's, it's as the words are as great as, as edited as well as possible and that it's like a beautiful production because today you can release a book and it's going to look indistinguishable from something that Random House or Harper Collins does. Does that even answer your question? Excellent. Yeah. Okay, so the question was, great question. What do you tell people when they ask if they can make a living off of self publishing? You, you will never make a living off of book sales. So find something you can write a book about that you can build a business off of.
00:49:41 Like we are all experts in something. So figure out what yours is and then have a plan. Like, am I going to be a coach? Am I going to go get certified? Am I going to have an online program? Am I going to create a product? Am I going to build a business? You know, something I did, I built a business around this. I know how to do one thing, which is like write books. Now I know how to publish them, but like, and now people pay us money to do that. Anybody can do that. Don't do what I did for 10 years, which was like, Oh, this is totally going where I'm totally going to. Like, you know, yes I did. This is going to be the book that's hit. This is the time I'm going to make the money off the book because that's true for 0.001% of the people who are writing. There's a very depressing statistics that I read. I posted on Instagram today just for everyone's inspiring Friday. That like I forget what percentage of writers in 2017 made $0. It was like 20% of writers in 2017 that is $0 million. So literally that was like a statistic.
Paul: 00:50:41 Well, yeah, and I would jump in to say that if you can't figure out why you like doing it, then don't do it because you're, there's no way that the material rewards will be sufficient to keep you pounding away at it.
Anna David: 00:51:01 They can be though. That's the thing. I think if you approach it like a business person, and I was going to say, when Aubrey first connected us, she was like, you are both writers who are entrepreneurs. Like I think you have to approach it as a business and don't be precious about like, Oh, I'm just, I'm putting together these words and they're meant, they mean so much, you know? I, I think you have to be very practical and methodical and yeah, and of course if you don't like doing it, then you shouldn't be doing it.
Paul: 00:51:32 But I, what I mean is like, if you don't find some satisfaction in the actual act of writing, then you're screwed. Like it's not going to happen. So I see a lot of people who their parents were writers and they like, for some reason they think they need to be writers or they love the idea of being a writer, that's attractive to them, but they don't actually like writing and they're sunk.
Anna David: 00:51:54 Okay. Yes. But I also see a lot of people who think they don't like it because they don't have a format, they don't have a structure. They're going crazy and so, and they're stuck. And if they actually had guidance and a structure that they, they would like it, you know, then there's that Dorothy Parker's quote, like, I don't like writing. I like having written, it's not joyful all the time, but like, I agree.
Paul: 00:52:16 Well, yeah, I mean it's, I think it's, I think it's a lot like it's a lot like working out, right? Like, I don't, like I'm a former professional athlete, I don't like going to the gym, but once I get in the middle of working out and I'm like this, I have reached a state of, I love this book called Deep Work. And he talks about like there's basically nothing more addicting than being fully engaged with something that's difficult. Right? So like if that's being a blacksmith or playing professional basketball or just doing yoga, whatever it might be, if you're truly engaged with it and you've kind of like lost track of time that that's the best high that we can get. So now what's important about that is I think setting up a system so that you can achieve that regularly. But if you don't ever find that, if you're never hitting that, it's like I don't ever, I have never found a runner's high, ever. And I again have run a lot, but I'm six, nine and I weigh 230 pounds. Like it's like getting a Clydesdale to try to run distance. Like it's, my body is not built for that. I'm just never going to find that. So I don't run for fun. And I think writing is that way too. Yes, it's hard. And yes, you need to come up with a system. It's not going to feel good most days. But at some point in there you're going to find something joyous about it. And if you don't find something joyous in it, then go play the piano and that's fine, you'll find it in the piano.
Anna David: 00:53:39 I think if your here or you're listening to this podcast, you probably find some joy in it.
Paul: 00:53:42 I don't know though, cause I think there are a lot of people who actually need to be told like, you don't have to do this. Just because your mom was a critic. Creative writing professor doesn't mean that you have to be a writer.
Anna David: 00:53:53 I thought most of our parents told us not to be writers.
Paul: 00:53:55 Well I'm telling you about that very specific case because I am around, I've see a lot of those, especially in LA, right? Like you get people who sort of fetishize the idea of being the thing, but they don't necessarily want to do the work.
Anna David: 00:54:11 Will, I had a question. Yeah. Okay. So the question was which would he choose being an entrepreneur or a writer since he does both.
Paul: 00:54:37 So I saw one time a question for BJ Novak of The Office, right? So he was like a writer on The Office and an actor and he's written a book, and somebody was like, how are you doing all these different things but doing them well? I'm not going to pretend that I'm on a BJ Novak level, but I think his answer was informative cause he said it's never about the thing, it's about figuring out the system for anything that I do. Right. He's like, I'm always, I'm good at figuring out systems of how to accomplish whatever. So I, it will seem like I'm dodging your question, but honestly for me it's all about figuring out the system and has very little to do with the result. Like I didn't, I didn't love being an engineering student. Right? Like it wasn't, it wasn't my thing exactly. But like I loved figuring out the system for like how do I crack this? How can I do the least work and still get good grades? Right? And it's the same in basketball. Like I was not as gifted, I wasn't big enough. I know it's hard to believe, but I was actually really small for an NBA basketball player. But I loved cracking the system like how do I, some of it was working on my jump shot. Some of it was be really nice to the trainer and the equipment guy and they'll take care of you and say nice things about you to the coach. Right? So for me, like it's pretty much indistinguishable whether it's writing or running a business. It's all about like, how do I, how am I going to figure out how I can make myself the best at this according to some systematic approach and Coda?
00:56:17 I really do think that when I was, when I was in college and I was getting a degree in engineering, which was hard and I was playing basketball on a really good basketball team, people would say like, how the hell could you possibly do these two things at once? And the answer was they fed off of each other. Right. So I knew I had these, one of my brief college fellow Iowa Staters is here and he can attest to, like there would be, I would see my friends on the dorm floor who had nine hours to finish the engineering homework and they would never get it done. I had 30 minutes because I had to go to practice, whatever. So like knowing I only had 30 minutes made me so much better at studying cause I was like, I got to get into it now and then get out of it and go to the next thing. So I think I was a better student and a better athlete because of the other thing. And I think now I'm probably a better writer and better at business because I'm doing both things and as they say, I say this all the time. Somebody wants told me like if you want something done, you give it to a busy person. Yeah. Like the more you do, the more it starts to generate, the more you start to think like, I've got to have five hours to write today. No you don't. If you had five hours you should be, your output should be like 7,500 words or something because you can get in an hour what you need to get done most of the time. Does that make sense? All right. Somewhat.
Anna David: 00:57:41 Yeah, so Shannon was asking how do you pick what to put in the book? Out of all the experiences, if you're doing a memoir?
Paul: 00:58:01 So memoir you mean specifically? Stories I Tell on Dates. Yeah. So yeah, that that came about because I've been on a lot of dates and I noticed that like I was going into material. Sometimes it's like, wait a second, I know how this story works and I know that it does work and that's kind of shitty, right? Like it's like, I'm like it felt manipulative in a way. Right? So I, at first I honestly was like, I kind of want to write down as many of these as I can almost to retire them because I'm so tired of telling these stories. Some of those stories are like the grand story of when I had my kidney and spleen ruptured and almost died while playing for the Chicago Bulls. But some of them are less glamorous and they just have to do with like rejection at a middle school dance. But there's the sorts of stories that I always find myself telling. So my process actually was, I'm going to write down, what are the 50 stories that I can think of that come to my brain. I spent like a week thinking of these are the 50 stories and then I spent three months writing every single one of those stories and then I started to analyze like some of these stories have the same lesson in them cause there's, there was, there's always like a lesson at the end of each chapter, like what did I get from it? Or whatever. And so then figuring out like, Oh shit, I love both of these stories but they have the same takeaway. This just a little more impactful. It works a little bit better. So I'm throwing that other one out. So there are like 34 other stories that didn't make it into that book.
00:59:31 It also, so one thing that happened with Stories I Tell on Dates, which honestly I'm really proud of because I spent so much time on thinking about how do these things tie together. It's really a story of me looking for love. It starts, each chapter starts on a date and then I explained like, how did I, I'm in a New Yorker, I'm in Moscow or I'm in Barcelona. How did I meet this person? How did we get here now? Why would I tell this person a particular story? Like what do I want her to get about me that she doesn't get right? So like in a lot of cases when I was somewhere glamorous, I wanted to explain like I came from a town of 700 people and this is completely bizarre that I'm here. Right? And so then each chapter ends with me going back to this is what happened with that person and now we move onto the next place. So it actually starts kind of with me at about age. I don't remember exactly, but like 27, 28, 29, never having had like a real girlfriend because I was just traveling all the time. So there's this through line that it took me four or five drafts to get to, and it was actually a suggestion of my friend Madison Perry that we were talking about who's a moth storyteller to figure out this through line needed to exist. So that started to govern, like which stories were important to that. So I think it's the unfortunate truth is it took three or four years of just like, ah, this isn't working. This isn't working. Oh, it's working. No, you're bullshitting yourself. It's not actually working to get to where it got.
Anna David: 01:01:02 So he was asking about if Paul edits other peoples, cause we were talking about this before. I don't, I have a company that does, but I don't personally do it. But you do?
Paul: 01:01:38 Editing?
Anna David: 01:01:39 Yeah.
Paul: 01:01:39 Not really. No. I mean, I used to do a lot of that kind of as, like for hire. Like I would just be kind of a freelance editor sometimes. It's a tough job, it's weird because like people, it's like graphic design or something where like people are like, wait, it costs what? And you're like, yeah. I mean, that's not Microsoft paint. Like, yeah, it's going to take some time. It's just, yeah, I do it for fun, for like friends. If somebody says, Hey, I need you to read this and give me these certain things. Like I actually host like a feedback group just for my friends where we get together. But I think we all that in reality what we have time for is like, I can read 1500 words for you. I'm not, unless you're going to pay me probably or you're one of my very best friends, the prospect of me reading your entire book is onerous at best.
Anna David: 01:02:34 Yeah. And it's hard too because I always ask people when I do it, I'm like, do you want the truth or do you want me to tell you it's great cause I give people things for both reasons. I, it depends on where I'm at with it. You know, the worst is when someone starts giving you feedback on of something that's out. You're like, okay.
Paul: 01:02:50 Yeah, right. I do. I mean I think that we were talking about my loose guideline is first draft, no one sees second draft, one person sees, third draft, five people see. But when you get into that five people zone, and I think, I'm sure I stole this from someone, it's also a matter of finding different sorts of readers at that, of those five people. So like one's your mom who's going to say something really nice but also something snarky that you didn't expect coming out of her. And then like ones your significant other who is really rooting for both your creative outputs but also your long-term success, who's probably not going to bullshit you. And then one's like an old friend who's going to say just nice things. And then there's an old friend who's going to be an asshole. So like finding that group think and knowing, going in like, I know that Anna's going to be really mean to me, so I'm not going to, so I'm going to take it with a grain of salt. But I also know that this other person is really, it's going to be clear if they like it, right? Like I will be able to tell like, Holy shit, this is really good. Or yeah, it's good, right? Like you have to be, you have to put that bullshit meter into I think.
Anna David: 01:04:04 Okay. We have to get close to wrapping up? Was there anyone, Lisette had a question? What is the Writer's Block community done for Paul's career?
Paul: 01:04:20 So I think it, it forces me to lead by example and there are lots of times where I'm thinking about how whatever I need to send Anna David an email, just making sure that like we're good for Friday night. Right? and that's in the back of my head or I'm thinking, this person is a new member and we need to make sure that he or she has their lanyard and whatever else. Right? And so it's tempting to be like, ah, maybe I just won't write today. But I think actually the pressure that I've built for myself of saying, here's how you should do this means that I then don't want to let them down. So I'm like, I have to practice what I preach and so I'm going to go get my writing in and I'm going to commit to that being the first thing that I do. And then I'm going to start turning my attention to business. And it's a little bit like the phone thing we were talking about. I have some really great employees here and it's now starting to kind of run itself and I'm less important to it functioning. But that's hard on your ego, right? Just like when a kid leaves for college and you start to be like, ah, shit, they don't need me as much anymore. But that's also means that something's working right. If you're able to let it go. So I think it is understanding I'm not that important to other people, but my writing is really important to me, so I have to keep doing that. And if I do something good will come of it.
Anna David: 01:05:49 Well, okay. Before we end you guys have been a fabulous audience, obviously, but will you give your top three tips for a successful book launch?
Paul: 01:05:59 Oh, for the book launch itself? Oh yeah, Step and repeat is tops of the, of the list. I think it, I mean it's difficult for me to say what I'm about to say because we live in Los Angeles and we live in the time we live in, but being as joyful as possible about it. And thinking of it as I want to share this with you and not that someone owes you to read it or to be excited about it. If you can get kind of that mindset, I think a lot of good things start to happen. Also using it as a chance to tell people you admire about what you're doing. So like writers that maybe are in your sphere but maybe you're not quite at their level, but being able to say like, tweet at them, Hey so-and-so, Hey Chuck Klosterman you don't know me from Adam, but would you write my forward? And sometimes they're just going to be like, sure, I'll do that. I think it's a great calling card, right? So like, I have done this, I want you to read it. With Stories I tell on Dates because it was all on me, and I had hired an assistant. It was a lot of like combing my contacts list and be like, Oh shit, I forgot. I know X person. Maybe that person will talk about it. I remember sending it to Mark Cuban, right, who's the owner of the Dallas Mavericks because he and I had vaguely been in contact a long, long time ago. So I'm like addressing this book that I'm sending to Mark Cuban. But he didn't end up tweeting about it, but that's fine. Then I remembered, Oh, I know this girl who used to work at this channel in, in Canada, who now is a WWE personality and has 1.1 million Instagram followers. I'll send it to her.
01:07:48 She wrote for Flip Collective, this website I ran. So I was like, Hey Renee, would you read this book? And so she like did several Instagram stories about liking my book. So Mark Cuban didn't do anything with it, but that's fine. He's very busy. And this other person that I kind of forgot about came through in like great style for me. So again, using it as a calling card with people that maybe you've always admired or would like to get into. And I think the last thing is sort of similar to the first as far as like, just don't expect anything out of it. And then, but not to be pessimistic about it, not to say it's going to go badly, but to set your expectations that kind of a middle zone and then just think of it like this is amazing that five people showed up to this book signing instead of, ah, I wish 10 people were here. Cause again, who gives a shit if it's five or 10, it doesn't really matter. What's amazing is that it's not zero people who are there.
Anna David: 01:08:47 And if it is zero, because it did happen to me once, just pay somebody to come. I had to do it once it was demoralizing.
Paul: 01:08:55 Oh yeah. Yeah. And then like, but it also, I, I actually have I've talked a lot about failure as a teacher for businesses and schools and stuff. And I think as we age, we all start to see that, like our quote, worst stories turn out to be our best stories, because those are the things that are really interesting is when you're, we were laughing about like my first book got translated into Spanish by a different publishing house because I had a column in a Spanish newspaper and he was like, I think we can sell some books. We didn't really, but we had a ball touring around in Madrid and Barcelona and like getting to see great things. So that was the experience and I didn't make any money off of it. I probably lost money, but I still, I will say that one of my greatest accomplishments was my Spanish is okay. It's not great. But I did a full radio interview on the phone, all in Spanish in his car and I didn't screw it up. And I was like, this is amazing. Like that I've pulled this off is one of my life's greatest accomplishments. And that wouldn't have happened if I had just been like, well, we're not going to make enough money.
Anna David: 01:10:06 Yeah. And that's such good advice. I know that we said I'm from cynical California, but I will say I had six miserable book releases and that's why I'm such a fan of the self hybrid thing. Cause the one totally joyful one was the one I did on my own with no expectations around a publisher. It can be super fun or it can be hell.
Paul: 01:10:22 Yeah. And like that's I guess that's the fourth piece of advice is throw a party. Like when you have a book that comes out, we had a huge party for Stories I Tell on Dates and it was so fun. Like that's actually where these red socks are from. I bought like a red vast cause the colors are red and black and we had red balloons everywhere. It was unfortunately time, because the movie IT came out like one month before my book came out. But we did it the right way. Like I was, I was telling stories and I made everybody, like I made the bartenders circulate with shots and we like everybody had to drink a shot when I finished a story, which is what I want out of a book signing. I don't want somebody to just up droning at the last bookstore, while people like filter by. I want you, you want to turn it into a party and share that with people.
Anna David: 01:11:11 Okay, well that's it. Thank you much. You guys, our live audience of 4000 people. Thank you so much for listening. If you liked this live podcast, please throw a review on Amazon, say how much you loved this format and we'll see you next time.