Episode 311: Scott Carney on Switching From Traditional to Self Publishing

May 13, 2020
Photo by Jake Holschuh
 
Investigative journalist and anthropologist Scott Carney had a blow-out success with his traditionally published book What Doesn’t Kill Us—it was a New York Times bestseller that sold 150,000 copies.
 
So why would he make the switch from traditional to self with his latest book, The Wedge?
 
The long answer involves lawyers, shoddy editors, a good deal of hustle and just some old-fashioned common sense. The short(er) answer is in this episode.
 
So who is Scott Carney when he's not truthtelling about the publishing industry? Well, his other books include The Red Market and The Enlightenment Trap. He was a contributing editor at Wired for five years and his writing also appears in Mother Jones, Men’s Journal, Playboy, Foreign Policy, Discover, Outside and Fast Company. His work has been covered on NPR and National Geographic TV. He's won a bunch of awards, gives TEDx talks, teaches and does a whole lot more.
 
In this episode, we talked about the realities of traditional publishing, why he grabbed the rights to his book back from a major publisher, the ins and outs of audiobook recording and much more.

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

 


Relevant Links:
The Wedge Book Page Link

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT:

Anna David:                  00:00                There we go. So Scott, I love how I quote, discovered you on Reddit. I have never, of all places, it was almost the first time I've ever been on there. And this is the actual, if we're going to trace the breadcrumbs, it was Jane Friedman wrote about your Reddit post. Did you know that?

Scott:                           00:21                No, who is Jane Friedman?

Anna David:                  00:25                Scott! Jane Friedman is a publishing expert as, as opposed to a lot of people who go around calling themselves publishing experts. She really knows her stuff. She comes from traditional now she just covered go, this is not a plug by the way. Hey Jane. She has something called the hot sheet, which just gives all this publishing news and when something is a big story in publishing, she covers it. So one day her newsletter said, you must check out this Reddit post that's getting all this buzz. And it's about a very successful traditionally published author who is now going indi. And so I said, what? And I went and I stalked that and then I stalked you. So here we are today. Okay. So your story is fascinating to me for a number of reasons. And I told you before we started recording that I know very few people who are very talented writers who are also entrepreneurs and you are clearly that. Is that something you had to develop when you realize, Oh, Hey, writing isn't enough?

Scott:                           01:30                Well, the Genesis point is being broke for me. Like, so I started out as a graduate student in anthropology, getting a PhD in that subject. And I was broke. I had no money. So I you know, I was making like $9,000 a year or whatever a graduate student's salary is. And I joined a clinical trial. This is the true story of how I became a writer. I joined, I was broke. It was the summer. I didn't get the grants I wanted. So I joined a clinical trial for the erectile dysfunction drug Levitra, and was stuck in a room full of like 40 guys on these penis poppers. And I thought it was hilarious that this was happening to me right now. And I was making a lot more money on the drug trial than I did in graduate school. And so I wrote an article about that and I made even more money. It was like in, it was in like the local paper. And I think if Playboy picked it up or Nerve or someone like that when they were a thing. And I was like, Holy crap, there's money in writing. I was probably the only person to think there was money in freelance writing.

Anna David:                  02:34                Well, what year was that? That there was money in writing? Once upon a time. Was that the nineties?

Scott:                           02:41                2006. A little later. This wasn't the $3 a word era. But, but realize that what I considered money was not really money. Right. I was like, Oh, I just have to be $9,000 a year. So I started writing for, I started learning to pitch. I started getting really interested in the process of that, but I also wasn't anthropologist. I wanted to tell big stories. So I started you know, my, my field of site was in India. So then I moved to India, which was probably the smartest move of my life because what I could do is I could write for a magazine like wired for instance, I was hooked up with wired very early on and I would spend six months on one story, like one article, I'd be like, I going in, I was like interviewing criminals and I was getting a shot at all this sort of crap to get the story. But it was an awesome story and I sold it to Wired. And for like $5,000, like nothing again, nothing. But what happened is that because the contracts at Conde Nast, which is who owns Wired at the time were different than they are now. I was able to resell that article in the abroad markets for like $20,000 you know, to like Red Bull Thailand and like, like Maxim Germany and like all these like random publications. And I was like, because I was living in India, I was earning in non rupees and spending in India. So I was able to develop a really strong business sense that, you know, and then I, and then now what my philosophy is, is the only way to make money as a freelance writer in the magazine industry is to write stories that have, that can grow bigger, either a huge syndication effort, which actually I don't focus on anymore.

                                    04:32                Or like a book deal or a self published book or something where you're like connecting your really good work. Like you can't put shlack out. A lot of people suggest like just writing a lot of shit and make it shitty and then you'll get fans or something. My philosophy is like, you write a really good book, you put a full on effort into it and then you get it out into the world. And yeah, I've been innovating with this. I've written three books with the mainstream publishers. The first one was called the Red Market. The second one was called the Death and Diamond Mountain. And then I changed its name to the Enlightenment Trap and there's a self-publishing story in there. Then there is, my I wrote a book called What Doesn't Kill Us, which was a New York Times bestseller. But here was the thing, here's my new innovation. I'm just going to give you all the good stuff up top so then people can just turn it off and just go revolutionize their lives. I started to get very, once I started making most of my money through books and I was getting six figure advances pretty regularly at that point. Is that I started breaking off to write. So I would only sell the paperback and the e-book, or if I could just the paperback, although I never managed that. But I always tried to retain something of mine so that I could still be incentivized to make money. And so what often happens in publishing contracts, let's say you get $100,000, and probably the most of your, the people listen to podcasts, at least know these things are structured. You get you're shaking your head, you're like, no.

Anna David:                  06:03                Don't assume that anyone knows anything, especially in publishing. Go on.

Scott:                           06:07                All right, so you get a hundred grand. Yay. And, and that's a good deal, right? And then your agent takes 15%. So she gets 15 and then your, and then you get trenches of the money. So you, let's say it's a hundred grand, it's like 33,000 upfront, 33,000 on delivering an acceptance of your manuscript and then 33,000 on a publication day. And that's generally how advances get paid out. I mean, sometimes the numbers are a little different, but it's generally in that realm. So your $100,000 quote advance is actually $28,000 to actually do the writing, which takes you like years, and then you only get your paid your second amount if the editor is like, I like it, or I think that I can sell this and make the rest of my money. So there's all these like conditions that come up. And then finally it comes out and you've gotten your last $28,000 of the 33 they owed you and then you never earn another dime until you earn out the advance. Right? So, and that's usually like a 12% royalty on the cover price. So it comes out to about $4 a book, maybe less. Do the math, and you have to sell a shit of metric shit, ton of books to ever make any more money on your books. So what happens is these authors drop the book and it doesn't become a mega bestseller in the first week. And most people like me, that's not what happens.

                                    07:33                Like you may be super talented, but unless you got like a movie deal by Tim Burton in the first week, you ain't going to fucking earn out. So you end up chasing book advances because you invested all that money and then you're broke and then you're chasing the next book advance and you don't get ahead of it. So my innovation, the thing that's sort of like the next thing that blew my mind is when I sold this last book, or one of my books to Rodale, I had retained the audio book, right? And so I recorded my audio book I did through ACX. And then when the book came out, every time I did a press interview or whatever, I would get like somewhere between one and $10,000 on audio book sales on that book because I do a podcast, you go on a big podcast and then people like listen to your audio and they're more likely to buy your audio. So I made a ton of money that way. And I was like, well why the fuck am I dealing with publishers anyway? Cause they don't publicize your books anymore. They don't have like a good PR team. They don't get you press, it's all on you but you don't have any incentive to get them press.

                                    08:37                So what I've done most recently is my current book. And there's some drama with how I had to go self publicist cause I did sell it to a publisher. I just sold the print and then I had the audio still and then we got to the second stage of the advance for the edit. I'd written a manuscript, I gave it to my editor, but it wasn't the editor I sold it to. Actually, Rodale got acquired by another publication by Pun Penguin, and I had this other editor and she was like, I don't get what you're writing about. I don't get this concept, which is called the Wedge. And I was like, no, but I wrote it really good and my fans are going to love it. She's like, no. And so we went back and forth and I realized that this editor wanted me to write a self help book and I was an investigative journalist. So lots of things drama has ensued and now this book is out.

Anna David:                  09:29                So you got the right back? Is that what you did?

Scott:                           09:31                There are many lawyers debating this question right now.

Anna David:                  09:35                Wow, that's interesting. Well yeah cause I was going to say when you said, Oh, you only get the second third, if the editor approves it. I was like, well that's very rare in my experience that, you know, most people at that point are probably going to acquiesce to whatever the editor says, I would think. But go on. Go on. Yeah.

Scott:                           09:58                But I'm a hard guy to deal with. I actually like what I do and I believe in my writing and I think a lot of people who've worked with me have negative like, like in this sort of relationship or like, well Scott, you're sort of full of yourself. And it's like maybe, but I like my work. Like I have, I have feelings about what this is. And anyway, the real problem is when you sign a book deal with any publisher It's like a minimum of a year before your book comes to that editor. But more than likely two or three before that book comes out from signing the contract to coming out. And I have only written one book where the editor who bought the book was the same editor who was there who released a book. Cause these people cycle out. Like they find better jobs, they get fired, they end up in PR, like all sorts of crap happens to these editors. And if you don't have the right person, like you're rolling the dice. Every time you do this, you're rolling the dice. And like, if you get the wrong person they either don't care about your book. So they're like, yeah, yeah, it's good. Just put it out and just like falls off a cliff. One book that I had the editor was afraid of losing his job. This is a fucked up situation. He was afraid of losing his job. I released this book called I wrote this book and it was awesome.

                                    11:15                It's my best book I've ever written. And he was afraid of losing his job. So the marketing team said, well, you need to give it a title that's going to sell. And so without reading the manuscript, without reading, he titled the book a Death on Diamond Mountain. And then they gave me a cover of a dirt road. There's no mountain and there's a diamond on it. It's just a dirt road. And that was the cover of my book with this really nineties thing. And I'm like, but you didn't read the manuscript. You don't know what it's about, sir. And but I got sort of screwed on the contract for a number of reasons. We released the book total flop, like just a, like a horrible dead flop of a book because it wasn't about a Death on Diamond Mountain. And that's why every released, it's called the Enlightenment Trap now because that's what the book was about and now it's doing better. But it could have been so much better. And then he, Oh, he was fired two weeks after the book came out. So there, you know, that it didn't help him.

Anna David:                  12:15                Yeah, I think moves made out of fear don't tend to help anyone. He doesn't sound like he was very good at his job. So, okay. And so in terms of a timeline, the Red Market came out in 2011. Correct. And that was your first and then the Enlightenment Trap. Then you had this experience with What Doesn't Kill Us. And to be clear to anyone who has not read it, first of all, shame on you. Second of all, it was not only in New York Times bestseller, but it sold probably more now, but over 150,000 copies. Correct?

Scott:                           12:52                Yes. Yeah. So it did pretty well. Right?

Anna David:                  12:54                I mean, as someone who has never earned out in advance, I actually got an email this morning from my agent three agents ago that said, attaching your unearned royalty report. I'm like, why are you sending me this? Not a great email. Delete them automatically. But so, so it probably what happened to you with that, with What Doesn't Kill Us was a major Oh, ha no, I'm doing math. So you rerelease the Enlightenment Trap before What Doesn't Kill Us, correct?

Scott:                           13:27                Yes. Yeah. And I also have a book called the Quick and Dirty Guide to Freelance Writing, which has a lot of these ideas, isn't it? That that one, it was just my first foray into self publishing, not as important as these other things.

Anna David:                  13:41                Okay. And so when you had this experience with traditional publishing, you know what I've heard I, okay, I had an New York Times best seller, sort of, I co-wrote it with an actor, which is to say he never read a word of it, but he's the one who got the money when it started to come in. But what, so in a quote normal situation with a publisher, I have heard when you hit the list, suddenly these doors open that you didn't know existed and your publisher's like, let's have these meetings. And you're like, I thought we already had our marketing meetings and they're suddenly very, very invested in your success because they see they've got a hit. Is that something you experienced?

Scott:                           14:18                No, not at all. I had a complete sort of failure on the side of the publicity team who had no, I actually hired a publicist. So this is crazy. Like the fact that this book made it is insane because I was like, okay, I've done the publicity thing before and I just really tired of it, I don't really want to invest myself. And so I hired a publicist for, I think it was $16,000, which is a lot of money. And I paid him half up front and he was like, cool. You know, I'm going to, I'm a shark, I'm going to go out there and do everything. And they, and there were also sharks over at Rodale. Everyone's a publicity shark. They were the best, right? They always say that. They always lie. And so he had like, I gave him like a several month lead time to do anything. And one month before launch, and this was in 2017, one month before launch, he'd managed to score one local paper in Pensacola, Florida, commitment to publishing this. And I was like freaking out because this was also the interregnum. This is where Trump had just been elected. He was not in office yet. And the news was like, let's talk about this dude. And they were not saying, let's talk about random books. And I was launching on January 4th of 2017. So I fired my publicist on like December 1st.

                                    15:36                And I was like, all right, I'm just going to do it. So I made a list of journalists, and podcasts and like everything, I have this list that I have that's about 340 names long of all personal emails that I've just pulled together out of the ether. Some from by Gmail, since I am a writer, I know people but also just like the internet spoke. And in one month I was able to score a ton of press. Just, you know, I use the same techniques that I use for pitching normal magazine stories. I created a bitchen book trailer that was not designed to go viral, but it was designed to get editor's attention. And yeah, ultimately What Doesn't Kill Us had like 120 or media appearances you know, Men's Journal, NPR, New York Times, like all these people. And it was just cause I hustled my ass off and that's what a writer needs to do. Like if any point you relax and you're like, someone else has got me, you have just failed 100. No, no. 99.9% of people who feel that have failed and 1% get picked up like kittens by their godly cat and picked up and then ushered into fame. But that is not going to be you, promise. And if it is, you can just be like, fuck that Scott Carney guy.

Anna David:                  16:58                My name's Elizabeth Gilbert. It just happened.

Scott:                           17:01                But listen, Gilbert had a big career beforehand. Right?

Anna David:                  17:04                True. Same with Jensen Shero who also, you know, had a crazy hit on her fifth book or something like that. But yes, I think so. So somebody who does not have your contacts and your experience in journalism, what could they do? You know, they've got a book, but say they're self publishing and they want to get on NPR. Probably NPR isn't realistic, but one never knows they got to put somebody on there. What would be your recommendations?

Scott:                           17:35                NPR is totally fine to do. You can get it. It just, it's just getting the book into their hands. And also, you know, self-publishing does have this stigma against it in a certain number of press houses. Like New York Times is not going to cover me right now. Even after having a New York Times bestseller, they're not going to cover me now because they're like self publishing books bad. Right. and, and even so I'm following in the footsteps of guy named David Goggin’s who wrote a book called Can't Hurt Me. He his book is self-published. He but it's with the imprint Lion's mane Alliance. Yeah. Lions Crest, so that you pay $15,000 and they'll put, and if they like you and they think that there's like hope behind you, they'll put you on that imprint. And you too can be a David Goggin’s. I looked at them and I very nearly bit the bullet to go in that direction, but I didn't think they had the, the editorial services that I wanted ultimately. And I also, I can do a lot of this myself and there's sort of a little bit more basic on their offerings. You can do it. You can also make an imprint and I would say make it, call it like Imperial Column Press or something that sounds like sort of bland but also like a publication or, and you can too, just don't pitch yourself as self-published author. On the other issue, which is, and you know, I don't care about the New York Times, I've already done it once. So I'm like, when I have the brand, like I can say New York Time bestselling author forever because I was on that list.

                                    19:11                But it also doesn't matter. I don't know if it drives sales. I just, you know, my book just came out and I've been looking at other friends' books who have published books in the same week and I know two people who had books come out in the same week. Both were covered in the Times, and their books are, one person's book is doing about the same as mine. One person's book is doing like significantly worse, even though the topic is relatively similar, it's because they're not hustling as much. Like you got to get out there and just because you have something in the Times doesn't mean that drives sales. Like how many New York Times reviews have you read that have made you be like, Oh, I have to buy that book. I mean, I'm sure it's happened, but it's not the way that things move. It's much more important to build a audience that cares about you, build fans, get, you know, and I think podcasts are a really good way to sell books right now because people listen to you, you have more time to talk about it. And you really have to start your media campaign like three months before your book comes out. Like start hitting those things really hard. And that's what I did. And I think if I didn't have COVID, you know, I don't have COVID. If I wasn't, if this wasn't during COVID, this book would have just gone crazy. Cause I had, I even had the Today Show lined up for this book. And then they canceled all their book coverage two days before I was supposed to go on, which was a big hit to my life.

Anna David:                  20:33                Wait, you've said so many things, so I just, I just want to jump in and say a couple of things. One thing, if anyone's listening there is a difference, and it's, forgive me if I'm, I hope I'm not being patronizing, cause this may be obvious, but there's a difference between hitting the New York Times list and getting coverage in New York Times, getting coverage, getting your book reviewed, having a, you know, lifestyle story about you. Whatever doesn't sell books at all. You have sold a significant amount of books. However, if you hit the New York Times bestseller list, but there's a lot of other things that go into it. They're not just looking at book numbers, they're looking at all sorts of things, including their own you know, predilections and potential snobbery. One thing that I wanted to go back to before I forget, because you did, you talked about ACX and the audio, and I read a blog post that you wrote about, you know, and, and to be clear to anyone listening, your book hit number one on audible. Isn't that right?

Scott:                           21:30                Number one audio book on the planet for one day, one day, July 9th, 2017. That was me.

Anna David:                  21:39                Luckily you were there to take a screen grab of it so it can live on now, but then what you wrote about, and I thought it was really interesting as you wrote about how ACX, which is the, you know, self-publishing, arm of audible changed things and suddenly you went from making a lot of money from that to not making as much money from that. And I want to say too, I have dealt with ACX. What's happened since then is they've gotten super bogged down. We waited, my publishing company, waited four months for a book to be approved. So and you know, I'm sitting in this audio studio that I just had built in my home in order to so that clients could record audio books and I'm now kind of moving away from, we're now working with a company called Find a Way Voices.

Scott:                           22:26                Yeah. Terrible. Yeah. I actually released a book through them. So I often am trying to get rights back to different books and I actually got the rights to the Red Market back, recorded myself, put it out to find a way voices and they're terrible. I'm getting like terrible royalties through them.

Anna David:                  22:45                Well, they do. What they do is they take a percentage on top of what the other places that they're distributing them take. But otherwise, were you just exclusive to ACX or did you go and get your audio book up on all those other sites?

Scott:                           23:03                So I had these long conversations with some sales rep over at find a way voices, and he was like, Oh man, we're going to take your Red Market book. There's so much interest in nonfiction right now and we're going to put it everywhere. We're going to put this huge push and they sort of blow smoke up your ass. And I was like, cool, I'm going to give you a shot. And I rereleased the Red Market. So I rerecorded it myself and put it out, you know, invested a few thousand bucks into doing that and a lot of time. And then I was like, we're going to do Find a Way Voices. And then you, then you self publish an ACX. And when you do this, the downside is that when you publish ACX, you get a 40% royalty in a way, right? They monkey with the numbers, but it's roughly 40%. And but if you don't go exclusive, you get like 25%. And because ACX is 90% of the market, you're actually losing a lot when you do that. And then of course, Find the Way Voices didn't do any promotion that they promised they would. So I'm actually, and I really went hard on this. Like, I, I was looking at Find a Way Voices, I was looking at Google Voice, trying to do individual deals with them, trying to do individual deals with Apple. You know, I, I really went around to everybody and still the King is Audible and if you're not dealing with audible, you're, you know, and weirdly the royalty rates at Google, right? So let's say Google wanted to run the market on audio books like, so you can, okay, I'm going to go exclusive with Google. They're paying actually under the exclusive rights of Audible. So why on earth would you go that with them? Like, what would be the point of doing that? There's a big problem in the, in the, in the way all of those economics work out. So go ACX is my advice.

Anna David:                  24:51                Well, to be clear though, Find a Way Voices does also put your book on ACX. So the difference is that if you're going to go exclusive with ACX and you get this much higher royalty it can't be on Google all those places. Yeah, I am sort of at the point where I had such a bad experience with ACX exclusive that I'm now turned toward Find a Way Voices. But now I haven't, I only have one book up there. We haven't started putting all our books up there and you're kind of making me think.

Scott:                           25:22                Yeah. Actually what you should do is you should go to the author support people over at ACX and they're sort of like a shark team. Like they're better team. There's the, no the better team is good. The entrepreneur team is better. You should hook up with them because they can actually get stuff approved and sort of a reasonable amount of time. But what the other thing that we can do, here's what I think the model should be for, all authors going forward is, so right now when you try to sell a book, you have to sell. Like you go to Simon and Schuster or you go to Harper Collins or whatever, you will sell all your rights to them cause they want everything they know audio books, there's money in them, and they just say, Nope, those are ours. And they don't pay you a dime extra for them. Now, if they had paid you more for like oh we like your audio, but we're going to give you 40% more, then maybe it would be fine, but they're actually just saying, no, we own it and here's your advance that you're going to get. What you do instead, is fire your agent. You don't need your agent for this, but you can use your agent if you love them. Go only to Audible and sell your audio book and they will give you a higher advance than what the publisher will give you. And then you own the rights to your print and your e-book. This is possible. I know people who are doing this.

Anna David:                  26:45                Hold please though Audible is only going to acquire a very small percentage. It's not like, it's not like ACX where anybody can go do that. Correct?

Scott:                           26:55                True. Yeah. I'm giving advice to people I think who can get book deals already. I'm not giving, this advice is not for someone who's just trying to enter publishing because you just, you have to make a name for yourself first. No matter what you do, you have to make a name for yourself. And, and the selling of that book to audible is not easy. Right. The selling of any book to a mainstream publisher is not easy, but what I'm talking about is to people who have the ability to sell a book to a mainstream publisher.

Anna David:                  27:26                Okay. And that is point. .000001% of the populations.

Scott:                           27:33                Not really.

Anna David:                  27:33                Yes, it is

Scott:                           27:36                Look how many books come out every year. Look how many books come out for the mainstream presses. Every year it's thousands of books. Most are totally unthought of and unread, but there's thousands of books. You just are only thinking of the hits. But there are so many books that come out.

Anna David:                  27:51                Okay. There are so many books, but the New York Times had a story, I don't even know how long ago. That's a long time ago. 10 years ago that said 81% of people believe they have a book in them. I would guess that the percentage is even higher today. So if you compare that number with the world's population and you look at the number of books out, I would say that it is a very, very small percentage. I'm no mathematician.

Scott:                           28:13                That's true. No, no, no, you're absolutely right. But I'm really talking about people who are making this their careers and can make a go of it. If you are somebody who's like a dentist who thinks they, they wrote a book that they want to call a Life Well Lived, you are not the audience that I'm talking to right now. That book isn't even going to sell well self-published, okay. But that's a vanity project.

Anna David:                  28:35                My whole philosophy is that you probably won't make money from your book, but you can make a lot of money from having a book and building a business around it. I know because I've never made money from my books and I have made plenty of money building a business around my books.

Scott:                           28:52                I need your advice for how to do that for me cause I'm really good at making money off books, but the ancillary is I'm terrible at. So now school me.

Anna David:                  28:59                Oh yeah. Well I mean you're already, you know, if you look at all the things that you're doing, it's like, teaching on Skillshare. I'm sure that doesn't make any money, but it's still cool. Right? you know, you've done TEDx talks. You, what's great about you is that you're very diverse in what you know, you will talk about. I do a talk about Wim Hoff. I also do a talk about how to freelance write. You get that it's that kind of, in order to succeed, one must have a bunch of different arms. You started and I'm curious about this. I guess it's Fox Topia? Fox Topez.

Scott:                           29:35                Foxtopus. It's a fox and octopus got together.

Anna David:                  29:37                Ah, okay. So, so that is, I mean it looks like something you and your wife created and you sell signed books through it. Right. And what else do you do through that?

Scott:                           29:47                Foxtopus Inc. is my sort of media arm of, that's my personal publishing company. But we also do podcasts. We've released one really big podcast and they're all narrative nonfiction cause she's an NPR person. She knows, think this American life. So she did a podcast called Wild Thing. We have another podcast in conjunction with imperative media, which is a like a movie company, movie studio that's coming out in July. And then we have a season two of my wife's podcast now. So, actually their whole media arm is actually building up in sort of interesting ways. And we're sort of acquiring, we're becoming, you know, we're, we're actually putting our tentacles everywhere, our little Foxy tentacles and all sorts of things.

Anna David:                  30:30                But I wanted to, before we get into my life advice for you, I wanted to, I thought it was very interesting. So you sell signed copies of your new book for $30. And you'll do a personal inscription inside of it, does that make money? Like what is it just to connect with fans? Like what was the sort of logic behind that idea? Cause I might steal it.

Scott:                           30:51                It is fascinating. It is the best thing ever to do and you need to do it so you, so fans when you really get a good fan base that changes a lot of things. And I didn't even realize I had fans until this book, you know, honestly, where people who actually really came to me and they want a personal connection and I want to give it to them. I want to connect with people, I want to go back and forth and I want to give them something special. So what I did is I, the book was released on April 13th, but I had the preorders for signed copies up way early and I was like, look, if you want the book before it comes out, I will sign it personally. I'll mail it to you as soon as I can, as soon as I have like the finished copies and I didn't know exactly what the date would be for that. And it came out. I think I started mailing like a month before launch. And then what I had were, you know, I think I, it was like. I think at that point I had about 50 copies. So not a crazy amount, but actually really good money considering you get $6. If you sell through Amazon, you're getting 30 per book elsewhere.

                                    32:04                So it's about the equivalent of selling 200 books. So I had that. And then what I did is I wrote them an email, I wrote a letter in the book, a personalized inscription, and I had this letter. I said, look, when the book comes out, I really want you guys to review it because here's the problem with Amazon. Like it needs reviews, right? You need to feed it reviews and you need them there quickly, but no one's going to have read your book for a while, right? It's going to take people a while to process and get to that point. So I had all these readers who are willing to read the book in advance, wanted it. I knew they wanted it and I was like, look, when the book comes out you need to do me a favor and we need to sort of mess with the algorithm over at Amazon is that I need you to buy the Kindle edition as well. And on the day it comes out, you write your review and you put it out, and then I will reimburse you the cost of the Kindle, you know, was just PayPal, you the price back. And so what this does is then it populates the Amazon with verified reviews, which are so, so important to have early. So that the one schmuck who does happen to read your book early, I was like, I didn't like that it wasn't a romance novel.

                                    33:15                I wasn't trying to write one, but they give you one star has this undue effect. You know, I don't mind getting bad reviews, bad reviews happen. I just don't want them in the first week. Give it to me in the second week. So then I sent this letter out to them and then people you know, read the book, they reviewed the book and there's now really good reviews. That's sort of your baseline in there. And you know, then I pay people back and actually some people said, no, don't even pay me back. It's fine. I just, I really want to see you succeed, which is also really awesome. And yeah, so now that's how the book is existing on Amazon. It's doing really well. Like it's, you know, it was the audio book, was it like 120 last week? And the paperback and the Kindle are in like the five to 8,000 range and sort of bumping up and down since then. So I feel pretty lucky. And also because I'm self-publishing, I have to sell a lot fewer books to make the same amount of money that I would have with the mainstream publisher.

Anna David:                  34:14                So, okay. So it's because you are self publishing, you have the opportunity to hold off when COVID-19 descended, what made you not, because these advanced people already had it because you had press set up. What was the thinking there?

Scott:                           34:29                Yeah, I mean, I didn't, I couldn't predict COVID. I actually was like, where? Remember like five months ago. Do you remember what it was like five months ago? Maybe you don't like there was a point when we talked about politics and you know, there was, believe it or not, there was a democratic like primary or something going on and people were really interested in this. I mean, I've totally forgotten about it too, but at that the point. I was thinking, well, where is going to be the slowest news day between now and like September? So I knew I needed that before September for a number of reasons. Right? Because after September, you're definitely talking about the election forever, right? There's no, there's no space anywhere. So it's like the slowest news day between when I made the decision to go self publish, which is in September and next September was the day after Easter. I don't know why that came into my head. That was like, that seemed reasonable. Because I figured the democratic stuff would be sort of like at a lull at that point. And I think I was right about the democratic stuff. If I had just predicted global pandemic. And so I dropped so much information and so much prepress in that I had stuff lined up for April 13th, so I couldn't move the date. And actually I still think that this was the right time to pop it out. Like, you know, in, in two months we're still going to be COVIDing, in four months we're still going to be COVIDing, and then we'll be in September. And that would be COVID Trumping. I think this was still the right plan.

Anna David:                  36:04                And in terms of doing it yourself you know, you talked about having that editor who gave you the terrible title and the terrible book. How gratifying was it to just go, I get to pick my cover designer and my editor, you hire, you know, I think this can be a misconception. Everybody needs an editor. I guarantee you hired an editor. You didn't just go, I'm going to write this book. So you got to pick who you wanted for each stage.

Scott:                           36:28                Not only that, let me tell you another horror story with my publisher. Right? So it went from one editor at Rodale, Rodale got acquired by Penguin, penguin took it over and this person read my barely read my book and I was like, yeah, I don't get it. I don't like it, you know. And I rewrote the book three times. And so this delayed everything up by a year. I should have been out a year before. So I rewrote this trying to like sort of navigate a path between what her comments were and what I wanted to write. And eventually she said this was in June. She wrote me this long letter after waiting on the manuscript, not even writing me for three months. She wrote to me, Scott, I think you need to hire an editor. And I was like, what the fuck is your title? And this was like really the end of my like desire to even like give them like any emotional support or put anything in because I was like, I'm not going to hire an editor. Your title is editor and this is why there are lawyers now because they I feel like they were very bad face. And I think a lot of publishers are very bad face in dealing with authors. And so then I hired an editor. I did, I paid them a real money for the editor.

                                    37:37                I did the whole thing. And then I got to the point where I was like, I'd gotten the manuscript and actually the editor was super useful. They made the book much better and all they had to do was two weeks of work. And then I did two weeks of work and they were like, Hey, look, the manuscript perfect. And I went back to that to my editor at Penguin and I was like, look, I still want to work with you. I still can do this with you. But you need to promise to publish me before June. This is what I said. And it's the ultimatum. Like, if you don't tell me, you can't put this out before June I'm going to go my separate way. And they said, and they said, we'll totally try to do that, but we're not going to put anything in writing. And then I was like, well, fuck off. I'm out. And that is how I, that is the instigating moment and for how I am where I am right now.

Anna David:                  38:21                Fascinating. So, so if you had to give your top three tips, and now we're not speaking to that 0.001%, we're speaking to the 81% of people who know they have a book in them. What would be your top three tips for launching a book successfully?

Scott:                           38:41                Well, is the goal, what is the goal is the first question, right? Because what you're saying is write a book and then use this as a brand home to create other things. It's the platform to do other things. So it's like, it's essentially a business card. It's like, look, I did this thing and I'm awesome because of this, and now you can hire me for your speaking gig or for your advertising campaign or whatever it is. It gives you credibility. In which case, I would just say, listen to you and do what you're doing because it's easy to self publish a book. It's easy to put a good title on it. You can hire an editor, but you know, honestly, you're not going to get a ton of [inaudible]. Do not expect to make money on that sort of book. You might, right? If you're selling out your speaking gigs for 30 bucks a piece, you might make money, but I wouldn't, that shouldn't be the home. For me, when I'm talking to people giving advice, I am talking to somebody who wants to make revenue off the book itself. And off those that $6 you're making per book. And for that, you have to think about your business model.

                                    39:45                You have to take responsibility for everything and you have to put just as much money and time into marketing as you do into the public publishing of the book and, you know, minimum free monthly and time. And you really have to have a good story. You're like, it has to be compelling. It has to be well thought out. You have to have, if you don't have the instincts, like you haven't written a book before or haven't been published in a major magazine, you need to be talk to somebody with instincts who has had a track record of success and say, look, can this even work before you dump two years of your time into this project. I am very, I'm harsh on people because I really think that rationale, it's really good to get bad news up front than waste. Then be three years down the line and be like, well, why didn't anyone tell me this was a bad idea.

Anna David:                  40:38                Okay. Was that one tip. It was a bit depressing and yet real. But was that one tip or three?

Scott:                           40:44                That was 20 tips. I think I was like on the whole a bunch of tips.

Anna David:                  40:48                It was plan your launch three months ahead of time tip to have and it was sort of like have a great book. That was, that was sort of built into it. What else?

Scott:                           41:00                Plan your launch. Have a great book. Take responsibility at every step of the way, you are the pilot of this craft and there's no one out there who is going to do it better than you. I would never hire a PR firm. I just don't think they're worth the money. I've gone down that route. I just did not think they can do it. Maybe if you are like super famous already, it's useful. But then again, does Stephen King need a PR firm?

Anna David:                  41:29                No, publicists are there to field requests for the people who are getting inundated. That's my experience. Having wasted money on publicists way too many times. Okay. Well Scott, we have to wrap up. Tell everybody the best way to find you. Find the book. And get a signed copy if those are still available.

Scott:                           41:53                Yeah, I still have a few left. So yeah Scott Carney, S C O T T C A R N E Y. That is my website. I am on Instagram and I'm on Twitter Graham and I am on Facebook Graham and all of those places. I SG Carney, I believe. You can find me. You can Google, you can go get it and you can get a sample chapter of my book. If you sign up for my mailing list and then I'll send you several emails over the next 10 years. And yeah, that's the game. But before you, before you hang up on me, I really want your actual advice for how to make my career better. Cause I think you know something that I don't and I want to get that information out of your head?

Anna David:                  42:36                I do. I do. What I've been sitting here thinking since you asked me that, is that you could make a lot of money as a consultant. And you know what we're talking about how don't hire a publicist if you said pay me $500 an hour to consult with you. And again, you're not talking to those, you know, you're talking to the very successful entrepreneurs who are publishing books, who would pay a lot of money, who would not even consider it a lot of money, to get an expert to tell them how to do this. And they don't care about making money from their books, but they care about making an impact with their books. The other thing, and I know we live in a post COVID world now, so it's different, but, but I don't even understand why you're not hosting again for this clientele. Breathing workshops and kettlebell tossing, and being the guy being the, you know, Dave Asprey wrote the intro to your book, like being. You know, building a business around all this knowledge.

Scott:                           43:41                That's a great idea. Yeah, it just sounds so, it's so much work to do that. I am already, it's like fully in on this other stuff.

Anna David:                  43:50                You know what it is. It's not nearly as much work as you've been putting into the publicity of the book and, and it's going to pay off a lot more. That's my intervention. Okay. We have to stop recording now, but we'll keep talking about this. I think we could do like some speaking of Skillshare, I think we should be doing some of that. Yeah. Okay. But I'm going to stop recording you guys. Thank you so much for listening. Go grab Scott's book. Check him out everywhere you can and I will talk to you next week.

 

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