Why to Ignore the Muse with Robert GreeneNov 09, 2022
Of all the interviews I've done, the one I'm asked about perhaps the most often is with the iconic Robert Greene.
This, of course, is not surprising. Greene is an icon in the writing world—as adored by rappers as he is by intellectual entrepreneurs for his meticulously researched tomes on power, seduction, narcissism and more.
What is surprising is what he revealed in this interview—namely, that traditional publishers don't do anything to support authors, why podcast promotion is so important and how listening to "the muse" while you write is one of the worst things you can do.
Please soak in this re-release as much as you can. It contains GOLD.
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So, as I was telling you, this is about book launches. So the first thing I wanted to get your take on, since you've written so much about narcissism, how does narcissism play into a book release? Cause you gotta be a little bit narcissistic to think that what you have to say is so interesting. Other people should read it, right?
Robert Greene (00:23):
Yes. Yes. Of course everyone has an ego and I certainly have one myself and you want as much attention as possible because in my case, I've spent three, four, five years writing a book. So to have no publicity can be, it can be pretty depressing, pretty damning. On the other hand, a writer by nature has to be able to get into other people, has to be able to get outside of himself or herself. And so it's the kind of, to write a good book, really have to have the power, the ability to kind of slough off that narcissistic self that you have and get inside you readers and what they want and what they're interested in. So a book launch is kind of like a strategy. It's kind of like a war that you're law that you're waging against the public. You have to think, and you have to strategize you can't just be in your head and be thinking, I wrote the best book ever.
Robert Greene (01:20):
People are going to love it. It's just going to be wonderful. Instead you have to think, and you have to plot and you have to go, what are the, what is the target? What is the audience I'm trying to reach? What is it that I can say in podcasts that will excite people the most? How can I seduce them? How can they maybe even manipulate them a little bit? How can I create some controversy around my book? Cause controversy sells in any form. So if you're too narcissistic, if you think that no matter what you, whatever comes out of your mouth is gold, then you're doomed. So narcissism is good in the sense that you believe in yourself, you know, and we're all narcissists, as I say in my last book, but it can be a real problem if you can't control it.
Well, and what's interesting about what you said is I think about appeals appeal to people's self interest. And that is so important with a book because people aren't reading a book to find out about the author, they are reading a book to find out how to solve a problem. Right. Right, right. So can you talk more about that in regards to books?
Robert Greene (02:24):
Well, to make a book successful, you can't really just rely on marketing and publicity. It's all the real work comes in the actual production of the book, right? So when you're writing the book, you have to be thinking ahead, you have to be thinking about your audience. You actually have to be thinking of the marketing and the publicity surrounding the book and how you can maximize that in the writing. Right? So I'm always thinking whenever I'm in the process of writing, and it's very important to do that before any book launch. And I'm not addressing exactly your question here, but, but when I'm writing a book, every step of the way, I'm thinking of the audience that I'm writing to, I have a voice and I'm trying to reach them. And I'm thinking about what are the ways that I can write that will get them into my texts, where I can kind of insinuate myself into their mind and which I can kind of hit upon issues that maybe I'm not, I never really directly talk about the present in my books, but it's always in the back of my mind.
Robert Greene (03:28):
So the laws of human nature is just drenched in Donald Trump public. I never mentioned him once, right? But I'm very aware as I'm writing the book, what are the little points? The little trigger points that people can talk about in social media, that people can talk about an Instagram, et cetera. So if you're just relying on the publicity and the marketing to sell your book, you're in trouble. It has to start in the writing. When you're thinking about how this book can easily be promoted and you're thinking deeply of your reader and what their interest is to get back to your question. So it's not what excites me. I think that's what makes a lot of writing really boring. And I believe me, I read a lot of really boring books and I put Xs in them and I throw them to the side. I get angry because people are not thinking of the reader that they hear about how wonderful their own ideas are.
Robert Greene (04:20):
They're wrapped inside their head and they're going, God, my language is so beautiful. I can just write poetry, blah, blah, blah. But they're not communicating. Communicating involves the other person. You're communicating to an audience. You're not just mouthing off your own brilliant ideas. So to do that, you have to step. As I worked turned in my first point, you have to step outside of yourself and think about the audience and what they're going through right now. If you're writing a book right now, obviously we're going through the coronavirus. It's very big, but maybe in two years, that's not where we're going to be at. It's going to be slightly in the rear view mirror. Let's hope. And so what is it that is going to be, what are people going to be thinking about in that moment? When we suddenly entered this new economic landscape, that's been devastated, all kinds of businesses that we knew, all kinds of things that exist before are just simply gone where people's heads are going to be. So you have to think a little bit ahead and think about when your book comes out, where we will people's minds be, et cetera. So it's just a medicine said, getting back to my war analogy, you have to be thinking ahead, you have to be plotting your moves. Even while you're writing the book.
Do you ever picture a person? You know, they talk about avatars a lot in marketing or, or is that too specific
Robert Greene (05:39):
Picture of a reader? Yeah.
Yeah. One person that you write to her.
Robert Greene (05:44):
No, absolutely not. Because my strategy, my belief is for me, particularly the kind of books that I write, I want to reach everybody. Right? If I read a book on seduction power who doesn't want to read about that? Yeah. I mean, there might be a few people, okay. But I want to reach people who have power, who want to know how they can protect themselves. But mostly I want to reach the vast majority of people who are struggling up the anthill who find gain very difficult, who have all kinds of problems. So I'm thinking of as vast and audience as possible. That's part of the element of my own strategizing. So, you know, if you know my books, I'm very big on telling stories. Every chapter begins with a story, which is a strategy, a strategy that I highly recommend to readers, no matter what kind of book you were writing, you need to be able to tell stories because otherwise without it, your book will be so dry.
Robert Greene (06:41):
People will look at page 15, the close it up. And you know, like I often do with other books. But when I tell stories, I make sure I'm thinking, I don't want this book to be just for white men. I'm thinking of, I've got to have this many stories about women. I have to have stories about black people, all cultures around the world, Asians, et cetera, because I want a global art. I'm ambitious. I have to admit it to you. I'm confessing something to you. I want a global audience and it's not just for money. I mean, I know that that's a, that's a byproduct of it, but it's more that I like the fact that what I'm writing about is universal. So I'm not, I'm running about power. It's not just for white men in executive offices. It's for everybody around the world who wants more power in their world. So to answer your question, I'm trying to expand my audience to as large as possible. And I'm always thinking about how I can reach people that normally aren't reached by these kinds of books.
Well, that's true. I mean, most people are not in, in your position. Most people certainly are not writing books for, for everybody. So you are like one in a billion listeners. You listener, I, as a writer, I target, you know, I did six books with Harper Collins where I never once thought about my audience. And guess what? Those six books did not sell well and shame on the publishers. I didn't know, like why didn't somebody tell me it wasn't until I got into publishing my own books that I finally understood. This is not about me. But I wanted to talk. Okay. So for anyone listening, so you open every chapter with a story your stories are historical examples often. What should, what are other ways to tell stories?
Robert Greene (08:27):
Well you know, it's a lot of it is in your research. So I'm always looking for anecdotes and things that have lessons tagged to them. So it doesn't have to be about just dead people and things about history. You know, there are things going on in the news right now. I happen to not put things in there that are to note newsworthy because I feel like it dates my books and my book, the 48 love my book. The 48 laws of power came up 22 years ago. And it's selling more now than it ever did because I tried to make it timeless. I'm not bragging. I'm just saying that there's, I mean, I'm very lucky.
It's not luck. It was strategy, right?
Robert Greene (09:09):
Yeah. But it doesn't mean you have to follow that because you know, most people write books that are very timely, that are dealing with things in the news, but you're looking for stories that illustrate your point, because if you just have ideas and theories, look, here's how to sell something. Here's what you can do with your life. Here's how to find the right career. That's great. But we, the kind of animal that doesn't, that needs to have specific concrete things to latch onto and when somebody tells the story, okay. But part of, part of it is a seduction process where you're creating a kind of fable, a kind of myth. And sometimes you're even flattering the reader, which is something I consciously do, but you're getting, giving people some meat to not on, okay. There's all these ideas. That's really great. Now I often get so frustrated with books.
Robert Greene (10:01):
When I go, when I'm thinking there's so much theory in here, I can't figure out how it applies to my life. Well, stories give people immediate application. So, you know, you have to find something dealing with people or animals or calves, depending on what your book's about. So it has to be some kind of story. It doesn't have to be history. It could be about things going on in the news right now. You know, the reason for instance, I did not specifically target Donald Trump. So I have chapters on irrationality, on narcissism, on the shed, the dark side of human nature. Obviously I had incredibly in mind as I was writing the book, but I've never mentioned him by name because I don't want people to start getting angry and pissy, Oh, this is, this is a liberal, a Democrat, blah, blah, blah.
Robert Greene (10:51):
But it's sort of, I'm implying that, but you don't, you don't have you, the listener out there, you don't have those constraints. So go at it, look at things in the news. But it's many times, as you can tell a story that illustrates your, write your ID, your book will be better. Now I read books where there are too many stories and I often help people edit their books. And that's often sometimes been a problem. They think they're going to imitate my idea and have too many stories that gets really get bogged down with that. And it gets kind of tedious after a while. So, you know, a good ratio would be maybe something like a quarter of your book or a fifth of your book is actually anecdotes and stories, but never, ever like a half. I think that's too much unless you're writing like a novel or whatever.
Well, it's interesting because you know, let's talk about creating controversy. So, so you don't want the kind of controversy where people are going to get distracted from your message, but you know, your books have been very controversial and let's talk about that. Cause should you, you should not be afraid of getting people speaking and potentially even misunderstanding your character.
Robert Greene (12:02):
Yeah. I mean PT, Barnum, who was the character and when my first book, he said, no, publicity is bad publicity. He deliberately went out of his way to get bad publicity because at least people were talking about it. The worst fate that you can have as a writer is that no one's paying attention. No one's writing about you. And personally, I faced that once. It was really hard for me because my artist's deduction came out in September of 2001, two days, three days after nine 11. Now, obviously I know I'm a bit of a narcissist damn, and it's ruining my publicity here, but then I can step outside. I can see the human, the tragedy. And I had to get rid of that horrible instinct that I had a little voice in me, but my book had zero publicity, zero. I mean, I had one article in the New York post.
Robert Greene (12:50):
I think it was. And we had all this stuff planned and it, it was pretty devastating, you know, but book slowly gained attention because it's kind of a weird book. But with the 48 laws of power was my first book. And I was basically react. The thing you have to do when you're writing a book is you're looking for the niche that no one else has filled. That's the golden spot of writing. If you're writing a book, that's comes from an angle or the deals with the subject that isn't out there. Wow. You've, you've got you're onto something right there. Right. So I knew when I wrote the 48 laws of power that all of the self help books out there, I knew this would be classified itself. I'll be, even though I kind of hate that terminology, that terminology is that they're also soft.
Robert Greene (13:38):
They're also touchy feely. They're also new agey. This is what power is about. You have to be nice. You have to be fair, blah, blah, blah. To me, me not nauseous, literally because I had worked in Hollywood prior to writing that book. And I saw what power was really like, it wasn't anything like what these books were describing. So I'm going to take the opposite point of view. I'm going to say power is this kind of dog eat dog world that all of us have experienced. And in order to generate controversy, as you said, I kind of went to the other extreme as a deliberate strategy. So I had things in there that I knew were going to irritate. People like crush your enemy. Totally what I'd want to go around, crushing my enemy. Totally. Okay. Or get other people to do the work, but always take the credit.
Robert Greene (14:25):
That's too ugly and nasty for me. I'm too good for that kind of thing. But it has. We're also, we live in such a culture that's so politically correct. So puritanical in a way, I, in this art of seduction, I call it the new prudery. The new prudery is all the political creams. What I can't talk about, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That's what people love to read about. They may hate you as they, some people hate me to this day, but they're going to read it. They're going to talk about it. And the more people talk about it, the more your books your sales will go up. So I always look, you know, like in writing the art of seduction, you know, people try to soften it and make it all about this touchy feely thing. That's all about romance and Valentine cards and roses.
Robert Greene (15:12):
You don't know seduction is the psychological manipulation it's could be pretty nasty. It's also pretty exciting as well, but it's a psychology in which you're playing on people's weaknesses to a degree. And I'm going to go out of my way. I might even use the word victim. I'm going to say the victim of your selection. And people really hated that. I still get a lot of, you know, people attacking me for the use of that word, but I knew it would generate controversy. So these are kind of conscious. I don't know if I'm answering your question.
Oh yeah, yeah. I mean, you can't be afraid of that kind of thing. And you know, really writing is not for the faint of heart anyway, but the seduction book in particular got really, I think, with the Neil Strauss and the, all the, it got really, did it bother you that this brilliant, you know, book that's been researched for years kind of got put in with these guys wearing funny hats and all of that stuff
Robert Greene (16:05):
A bit, because I'm not really into the pickup artists scene, believe it or not, I'm not, I have a lot of empathy for what women go through. And I know that women are very much the victims and that there are a lot of men preying on women. So I made my book, had nothing to do with men picking up women, half the stories are of women seducing men and the stories they're gay, seductions, they're lesbians. There's a transgender story in there. You know, I wanted to make seduction this human phenomenon that isn't just sexual, but it's also social and political. So I deliberately wanted to take it out of that kind of cosmopolitan magazine angle that most people have in seduction or the pickup artist scene. Because I find that pickup artists seem kind of gross, to be honest with you, it's kind of stupid.
Robert Greene (16:56):
And what was so interesting in LA when it was going on, because you live in LA too, is that I would hear from women that they, they would hear the same stories over and over again from men trying to seduce them, that they were onto their tricks. So, you know, th the nagging and other little kind of bullshit stuff that they go through, it was so transparent that after like two or three attempts, every woman in LA knew how to see through the pickup artists. You know, it was very limited. So I tried to make my book much more sophisticated if you will. I hope I'm not being pretentious, but I did. I tried to be,
Hey, I said it not you, or you said it too, but go on.
Robert Greene (17:36):
But it's not a book about men picking up women. It's, it's a lot of it's. I said this about how to get people to like you, to, to fall in love with you, to want to fund your project, to want to you, because those are all forms of seduction and they're all high levels of psychology. You can't help help people pigeonhole your book. You know, like I'm not someone who has great interest in business. I happen to come from more of a literary background, but I knew my books would be kind of categorized for, to sell in the business community. I don't care because the book is what it is and it's going to, it's going to seduce the reader. And if I'm telling stories about Greek people in ancient Greece, that business man or woman at IBM, they're gonna have to read that story even though they don't want to. So, you know, I, I don't let, I don't worry about who pigeonholes my book because the product kind of can transcend what people do with it. I hope.
Yeah. I mean, and what's interesting about seduction in a book and what you said about using seduction to get people, to hire you. Many people, particularly entrepreneurs are writing books in order to get hired for a very specific to get there. I do it. I want people to hire my company. So, and so, so how, how does one do that effectively in a book subtly, for sure. And in terms of a law of power hiding your intention, but is there a specific strategy for that
Robert Greene (19:10):
For doing what exactly for getting people to hire you?
Yeah. you know, people who are writing they're D they're, they're writing a book so that they can have expertise in their genre and therefore people will hire them. People will put them on media, whatever it is, but particularly about hiring them.
Robert Greene (19:30):
Well it's kind of a general question. I'll do the best that I can hear. But a lot of it comes back to what I said earlier. The marketplace is crowded with people, right? So if you're doing self help books, be running books for entrepreneurs goddamn. If you look on Amazon, you can get really depressed. There are like 8 trillion books out there that are launching every week, every month, right? So no matter how brilliant you are, you write your book, it won't stand out. You won't get any attention. You won't get people to notice you. So the trick is to find that niche that separates you. That's the marketing that is so critical. So if somebody can identify you, Anna, is it enteron, I'm sorry. Ana Ana is what, you know, what about, Anna's both, it's so different. What does she stand out?
Robert Greene (20:24):
Why do I want her to be my Ted talk person? Why do I want to hire her to do the public speaking? What is her specialty? What makes her stand out from the 8,000 people I can choose from to come speak at my forum or whatever it is that you're interested in, and that's not easy, but it's extremely important to think about, you know, I talk a lot about it in my book mastery, the fifth book I wrote, and it's all about realizing what makes you different? What makes you original? And I believe truly on sincerely believe that everybody is unique and an individual. They just don't realize that you have to be able to bring out your own inner weirdness, whether that's your sense of humor, whether it's your weird way of looking at the way it can be, you know, your, your kind of ironic viewpoint, or it can be whatever it is it's you, and it's different.
Robert Greene (21:18):
And so you're paying right away. People know that Anna is different and she fills this particular niche that we don't have. We don't have anybody who can speak on this specific subject. A lot of that is in the world today, has to do with synthesis. And I talk a lot about that in pastory. So we live in a world. That's an incredible glut of information. You can go on with one click on the internet. You can find out whatever you want to know. You can become a specialist after several weeks. And epidemiology is everyone is right now, the trick is to combine things that no one else has combined before different fields, different ways of thinking, you know, this kind of science with this kind of business approach, you know, Malcolm, Gladwell's the genius at that. He takes the latest trends in science, and he applies it to the world that ends up being for business and people love it. And, you know, he's huge seller. So finding things that no one has connected before, two different kinds of ways of thinking about approaching the world a little bit, maybe a little bit more specific than science and business can be a particular kind of science or whatever. That's brilliant that sets you apart. That gives you that niche that you want. That's the main kind of strategizing. I think that I would go through for that is that
Yes. And the book I recently published, I called a biz war because it was a 75% Bismarck, 75% memoir, 25% business. It's how to write a book. Yes. I feel so smart right now. You know, one thing I wanted to, well, here's what I am really. So, so you write your first book. Did you, you had spent years researching it. Did you have any idea what was going to happen and that, you know, Titans of the business world would, would consider it a pile of 50 cents going to say, like, we got to write a book together. Did you know what a sensation it was going to be, or did you think, well, this is an obscure thing. Who's going to read a 400 page book.
Robert Greene (23:17):
That's a good question. To be honest with you, they were both parts of my brain was kind of split in the middle, you know, ever since I was a kid, I would always imagine I've always wanted to be a writer. I always imagined being on talk shows and, you know, being famous and celebrity, et cetera, and kind of mapping it out, what it would be like. But then I had a very humbling experience in my twenties and early thirties where I was essentially kind of a failure sort of a loser, but my parents would call loser in that I never had any success. I tried my hand at journalism. I worked in New York for many years in journalism. I bummed around Europe for so many years, writing novels, et cetera. I worked in Hollywood and I was in pretty abysmal failure in Hollywood because I hated it mostly.
Robert Greene (24:01):
So I had some humility at that point enough to realize that this book could really sink. So I was in two minds. It's a weird book. Anybody who opens it up, even visually, it's weird, it's got pink things on the margins stories on the margins. It's got SIM words, symbols, you know, it's kind of the, layout's very strange. And also the structure is strange. This could sink like, you know, 10 people could read it because it's so weird. On the other hand, it could have 20 million readers in the first couple of years and I could be on Charlie Rose back in the day when Charlie Rose existed. You know, so I was in two minds and I'm afraid to say being Jewish, I have to confess, you know, Jewish people often see the negative and things. So if anything, if anything, I was kind of leaning more towards, this will be a dismal failure. I'm going to have to go back to working in television. It's going to be, I don't, I didn't really expect, I don't deserve any success, kind of preparing myself for the faith. So in that sense, I wasn't really prepared for like the hip hop community to glom onto it. I had not anticipated that at all. You know? I mean, wretched. Yeah, go on please. So in retrospect it makes a little bit of sense, you know, as they've explained it to me, but it was never intentional on my part
And the irony that no. So now you're doing a TV show with Drake and here you are feeling like an abysmal failure in the TV business. Did you, I mean, you couldn't have expected, you're going to circle back with Drake and a TV show. He wasn't even born yet probably, but
Robert Greene (25:38):
It was boring. Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's pretty weird. You know actually, I don't know if the Dre project will ever quite get up, we're working on it, but I'm also working with 50 to try and do the 50th law that we wrote together into television that may, that may come out happened before the other project. But yeah, it's kind of poetic justice, poetic irony in a way in this world that inspired the 48 laws of power because I kind of just liked it because I found it full of sharks and manipulators here. Now I'm being dragged back in, but in a much different capacity. So I think the gods are having a good laugh on my behalf
And in terms of 50. So, so what happens is you find out that he's a fan of the book. I mean, how do you guys Cobra? I mean, it seems that he was very clear that he didn't do the writing and he's referred to in the third person in your book, but what is that like that collaboration?
Robert Greene (26:38):
Well you know, a lot of celebrities don't write their own books as we all, we all know they have ghost writers, usually whose name you never know. So, but in this case, the reason it was a joint project is it's not fifties biography. And both basically he came to me for this project. He wanted my spirit, you want the 48 laws of power, excuse me. And his kind of story put together. So it wasn't like a celebrity biography. It was more like my way of thinking and his biography. And, you know, I kind of had the idea myself. Speaking of going back to a level we were talking about earlier, the marketing, the promoted thinking of it beforehand, I had this idea most of the time, my books are about dead people. To be honest with you. And here I have a chance to see someone who I considered kind of, I call them the Napoleon Bonaparte of hip hop and to people who come from vastly different backgrounds, a middle class Jewish kid from LA and the guy who grew up in South side, Queens, dealing drugs at the age of nine, his mother was killed when he was, when she was 16, she was a drug dealer, you know, or a little bit, I'm sorry she had him when she was 16.
Robert Greene (27:57):
Okay. You know, you couldn't imagine two different worlds and nobody thinks of those in those terms of how we can bring two such disparate minds together. So I was thinking of already in the planning of the book, how weird that would be, because in essence, we come from totally different backgrounds, but we think alike, right? So bringing that together would be interesting. I thought nobody else had done it before. And the process was simple. I just followed him around for six months. I was like tagged to, is attached to his side, went to Vegas for the, for the MTV video awards. I saw him do business deals in New York. I went to his house in Connecticut. I hung out with his homeys. I hung out with him in the South streets and South side Queens. I got to know his friends, et cetera. And I saw things that were pretty, pretty outrageous, pretty exciting, you know?
Robert Greene (28:54):
And from that, I kind of devised what I thought was the essence of 50. What made him, you know, people coming from the streets of Queens or, or any urban area in America, there are hundreds of thousands of them and they usually are killed at an early age or in prison. Unfortunately it's a terrible, terrible damaging story about the United States. Why did 50 avoid that? Excuse me, how did he, out of all these people come to detain such power. So there was an element of luck, but I determined that it was because basically has a particular attitude towards life that I characterized as fearless. And I shared that with him and he loved it. And the great thing about him, because I don't like writing books with other people. I'm a control freak. I don't want other people to be telling me what to do, but I knew from the beginning he would give me carp launch. It was like, Whoa, just, just write whatever you want. You know, just show it to me, but I'm not going to battle with you. And that was sort of the reason I decided to go along with it, because it was a great opportunity to get outside of reading all these people about dead people, et cetera, and actually experienced somebody who's alive. So that was sort of the Genesis of that book.
Well, and, and in terms of, of launching I'm sure, obviously your publisher has always has big plans, but what do you do specifically? You're thinking about the marketing throughout writing the book, but what do you do at the launch time that is the most effective?
Robert Greene (30:27):
Well, for my last book, things kind of were thrown a wrench in that. I finished the book basically in the summer of 20, excuse me, 2018. And on August 17th of that year, I had a stroke, which I'm still recovering from it by Monday. It'll be exactly two years ago and that threw everything off. I was in the hospital. I came this close to dying. I couldn't do the audio book. I couldn't go out on tour. So, you know, everything had to be redesigned and most readers, most of your audience is never going to have to go through that. So this was kind of strange, but to answer your question I know my weaknesses, I know where I'm not good at, you know, I come from a different generation. I'm not very tech savvy. I have to admit. So when it comes to the social media landscape, I'm a bit of a moron.
Robert Greene (31:23):
And I know I admit it. So I cover for my weakness and my, and so I hire the best person. I know Ryan holiday, who used to be my apprentice, my assistant, my apprentice to handle all of my digital media. He's half my age. He grew up in that world. He knows that like it's in his blood, he's an absolute genius when it comes to the digital world. So with the laws of human nature, my last book, even though I had a stroke, I could leave it in his hands. And we just basically did a podcast you know, to like sweep tour, but we just inundated the best people. We could find people with the most, the biggest audiences and it worked, it worked like a charm. The book sold really, really well. And so I, and I've been relying on Ryan since the 50th law, because book publishers, let's just, let's just call it you know, a spade, a spade book, publishers are suck when it comes to publicity, they are absolutely the worst.
Robert Greene (32:31):
They live, not even in the 20th century, some of them live in the 19th century. They have notions of publicity that are just so outdated. You believe it. So if you rely on those publicists at whatever publisher you're doomed, right? You have to be willing to take some of it in your own hands, even though you may not have the money. No, cause it will cost you money. I have to pay for these, this luxury. But to the extent that you can strategize yourself, if you can kind of craft your own digital media strategy, because that's whether the week is dead, they're starting to catch up. You know, because it's, it's a, it's a pretty competitive business. And there are only like four major publishers right now. So they're all fighting and they're getting a little better at it, but there's still really, really five or six years behind the ball.
Robert Greene (33:21):
And the other thing is they don't understand how to publicize. So they know that Instagram is very important, but if you look at what they do for Instagram, it's just so flat. It's so uninteresting. They don't know how to get attention. So you have to be willing to take that into your own hands and not rely on these dinosaurs to publish publicize your book. Whether you find somebody to help you with your digital media, if you're not good at it, like I am, or you can craft it yourself. And the beauty of writing a book now, which I didn't have when my books first came out is it's an incredible landscape out there. It's like the wild, wild West. So many podcasts out there that can help you push your book. Right? Some of them have huge audiences. I developed a strategy early on and I get criticized for it that I will even go on podcasts that don't have the a hundred thousand followers.
Robert Greene (34:17):
I'll go on ones that have 10,000, even 5,000. If I like the person, I feel like they have a future because I want to be like maybe the first person that kind of helps blow them up. And I've had that happen a few times, but I know publicity is bad publicity. And if you spend, do you take those people who only have 5,000 followers and you do 20 of them and you, and you do it well, it's going to spread word of mouth is the best. Publicity is the best way to get your book sold. Other than ads, ads are useless. Word of mouth podcasts are the best thing, but when you go, you have to be able to understand how to promote your books on podcasts. That's a whole other subject. We can take three hours on it. I'll shut up. Now
Speaker 3 (35:00):
The five minute version of how to promote your book on podcasts.
Robert Greene (35:08):
Well, you have to think a little bit in advance, you know, and you have to kind of come up with a shtick that you can sort of repeat and repeat, rinse and repeat over and over again. Even though, you know, you have to, you have to vary it up a little bit because people will be seeing it on the internet and they'll still kind of see through it, but you have to know your strength. And if you're not good at this, at this particular kind of media, then maybe you try something else, but you have to be, you have to be kind of yourself. You have to be a sort of authentic and relaxed and be willing to tell stories and to be willing to have some self deprecating humor, nothing is worse than an egotistical writer who kind of shows, you know, just kind of all into how wonderful they are and how great their book is.
Robert Greene (36:02):
They're so eager to promote it, but it comes off as they have no sense of humor. I always try and introduce as much self deprecating humor as possible to kind of humanize myself. I'm thinking of each podcast as a different audience. So your audience, I didn't have time to prepare because honestly it's like a vaudeville act. This is like my 800th podcast. So I don't have to, you get better at it. The more you do it, which is another thing that's important. It's a skill that you get better. You get relaxed at. And after a while, you can kind of do it in your sleep. So I don't, if I were just starting out. And I knew that that Anna does things that book launch, I would have thought a little bit about how my book will apply to your world. But you know, each time I'm dealing with the audience, if it's real estate developers, who've had me on their podcasts, finance people, artists, political people, I think in the moment or beforehand of how my book will apply to that audience.
Robert Greene (37:13):
So you're not just doing a cookie cutter approach. So I mean, you have a steak, but you don't want to have it like kind of memorized. You don't want to keep, you want to be alive in the moment and be able to not just simply rehash, like you've remembered that you've memorized certain answers, right? And you're responding. So the most important thing, and it depends on the interviewer because in my experience a lot depends on the interviewer. Some interviewers are awful. Most of them are really, really good podcasting interviews. I much prefer to the mainstream media. Mainstream media was awful. Thank God. It's pretty much disappearing because the people interview have their own egos and they think they're so superior to you. And they want to kind of, you know, show up your weaknesses, et cetera, podcasts, people are much better and they're much more human than much more accurate level.
Robert Greene (38:09):
Right. But I forgot what I was saying. No, you have a stick, but you know, you sort of, Oh, I know. Yeah. I'm sorry. So you have to be alive to the person's spirit. You have to be able to kind of work off of them. So you're not, as they're asking their question, you're not in your head. You're kind of thinking of your answer, but you're also looking at them. You're thinking of, okay, so there's sort of, or I'm going to get into their spirit, right? I'm not going to be like all cold and serious when they're kind of making jokes, et cetera. If you can do that, if you're good at that. But you have to be alive to the person interviewing you. Siri, shut up. She heard me use the word serious. And then she she's a narcissist, you know, she was serious. And she said, it's going through
Jeez, eavesdropper, like crazy.
Robert Greene (39:01):
Oh God, she's the worst. Anyway, so you have to be alive to the person who's interviewing you in the moment, which is not easy, but it's something that you develop over time, but you tell you, you adapt what you say to the audience and the person who's interviewing.
No, because as a podcast or you have to do the same thing to be an effective interviewer, you can't just read from a list of questions. So,
Robert Greene (39:29):
And, and a podcast, or has to actually read the goddamn book. The worst interviewers are those. Who've just got like some notes from an assistant and they've never read your book. So there's no kind of engagement with them. And you can tell those people pretty early on. And then you have to like double your effort to make it interesting for them
And get over how offended you are that they're taking your time. And can't take any time to speak to you. Okay. Finally, we can, we can wrap up, but I, so let's talk about what a book can do for someone's career. I mean, for you, you are strictly a writer, a TV producer, and these things as a, as a result of that, but what can a book do for someone's career?
Robert Greene (40:11):
It does everything. It's the best thing. It's, it's the, it's the Royal path to any kind of success you want in life. It's like a big board that goes around wherever you go, you can show it to anybody. First of all, there's a lot of prestige about it. Your book could be terrible. It could have sold 11 copies over the course of 10 years, but you haven't, you can show people and people are impressed. It is something. So it's very good for, I hate to use the word brand because it's so overused, but it's really good marketing tool, right? No matter where you are at. And you know, if you're not a good writer that, you know, that's, that's obviously an impediment, but most of us who try it realize that we have some skill or we can hire someone to help help us. But writing is the best thing that you can do.
Robert Greene (41:02):
First of all, it's a really good way for you to coalesce, to understand yourself, to coalesce your ideas and to organize your mind and to make you realize, you know, what is valid about your thoughts and your theories and what is invalid? It really is a challenge. It's a major confidence booster. So if you've never written a book before, it's daunting, it's going to take you at least a year. For me, it takes a lot longer, but for some people it'll take a, and in that period, we were alone a lot. You have to be alone to write a book, right? And you're going through doubts and you're feeling frustrated. And you're looking at that blank computer's page or whatever page you are. You're getting a headache and you don't want to do it in the morning. And you're doing all kinds of distracting things on the internet because you don't want to face it.
Robert Greene (41:54):
It's a way to overcome your own weaknesses. It's a major confidence booster. You've overcome your impatience. You overcome your need for distraction. You've organized your thoughts. You've made them coherent. You can feel great about yourself. Even if your book isn't going to be a million seller or bestseller, you can feel proud that you did it because so many people have never done that. So it's a major confidence booster. And it's a major way to kind of show people who you are. Because even though we have to live in a world, that's glutted with information, having people who write things on Instagram, who are tick, tock, moguls, et cetera, we still live in a world where the rider has more prestige because that little momentary jolts and writing your little stupid Instagram posts or doing your three minute video to talk. Yeah, we might like, you might give me money, but we don't really respect you, but people respect writers and it's thank God they do.
Robert Greene (42:52):
Otherwise I'd be pouring out on the streets right now, but people respect, right? It goes back hundreds of years, thousands of years, the prestige. And I mean, I could go on for hours. Why people give so much honor to writers and a lot of it's it's is, is, is worthy. It's excuse me, the word Meredith. Thank you. So, but they do because it's like literature, it's part of our history. It carries weight to it. So you're giving yourself weight, grabbing toss. You're giving yourself a way to publicize yourself that everybody you can see for the rest of your life. And you're giving your own ego and incredible boost because you've now joined the relatively small number of people. Who've published books and you've overcome all of your weaknesses. So if you're out there and you're even thinking about writing a book, please, please do it. No matter how challenging it might be. It's the greatest experience. Yes. It's frustrating and irritating and, and, and downright depressing sometimes. But when it's done, there's no other comparable feeling. I don't know if you agree with it, but there's no other comparable feeling.
Yes. I agree. There was nothing else I knew how to do. So I didn't, I didn't think about it like that. I, but, but I think it's absolutely, I've now witnessed it for many, many people and yeah. I mean, anything worth having is frustrating and hard, but I think the pride and sense of accomplishment is unparalleled to anything else I've ever done. Yeah.
Robert Greene (44:32):
Well, that's a wonderful note to end on Robert Greene. My God, I can't thank you enough for this. Like I said, it's just a true honor. And thank you.
Robert Greene (44:44):
Thank you so much for having me. And you're one of those really good interviews. If I was like having to separate them out, you, you, you know, it's very easy to engage with somebody who's animated and excited. So if you're a podcaster out there study Anna David, because she does a really great job and I'm not trying to flatter you. It's true.
If he was trying to flatter me, he would have said it at the beginning.
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