Part two of my conversation with Aaron Goldfarb (Part one: How To Market a Self Published Book). He’s smart. He’s funny. He wrote a successful book about failing (How To Fail) that you should buy. Even if you don’t want to read it, consider it a tip jar for the advice he gives here.
That’s awesome to hear about the book. So it’s still reaching new peaks a year after it has been out? Has it been a little bit of a roller coaster or a slow incline?
Yes, it’s very much still reaching new peaks and I’m actually starting to make some legit money. I say this for perspective–not bragging–but I made several thousand dollars on Kindle alone in the first week to ten days of the new year. It was so seductive to be able to pull my iPhone from my pocket, log into KDP, and just keep hitting refresh – refresh – refresh and watching sale – sale – sale tick off, the $2 royalty for each sale just spinning in my head, $ signs appearing in my eyes like a cartoon character. I met with a movie producer at a bar last week and I was telling him about it and I literally pulled my phone from my pocket and showed him, refresh – refresh – refresh. I said, “I just made $70 in the half-hour we’ve been sitting here drinking beers.” Talk about showmanship–what better way to show legitimacy. It’s been a steady incline, with occasional roller coaster peaks and valleys–for instance, I have literally sold ZERO books today. Ha. Hubris.
Dumb question – When you gave away your book for free did you make money from it? When I did the free promotion I thought it said I wouldn’t get money from it, but when I checked the report I think I got 22 cents per free ebook. Thankfully not too many people downloaded it that day since I hired an editor last week and resubmitted a new version of the book.
That’s not a dumb question, it’s actually an interesting one because I was wondering the exact same thing. It would appear on my report that I too made money from the giveaways. But what I think it is is that since the report is week by week, you/we’re confused because free “sells” are mixed in with money sales and then averaged out. I think.
On another note, I’m curious how the lending will work. Amazon is supposedly dividing up around $500,000 per month amongst lending authors based on the proportion. I’m really really curious to see if the several hundred copies of my book that were lended in December will make me any money. I’m also curious why people “refund” copies, especially when they are so cheap to buy and are a free lend. If I was a cynic I would say there are people that “buy” a book, blaze through it in under 24 hours, then return it. But I don’t really know and probably less than 1% of my books are refunded.
Do you have a routine for writing? Do you have a set number of words that you write each time you sit down?
Not really. I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner, so it’s not very hard to find time in a 24 hour day to run a few dashes. I write so many less hours a day than most authors (I’d assume)–but probably a lot more words. An entire pot of coffee thrown down my face and I can bang out five pages in an hour. A subway ride downtown and I can hand-scribble another thousand. Waiting for a friend at the bar and I can punch another thousand words into my iPhone. I’m always “writing” in my head, no matter what I’m doing, so when it’s time to put that shit on paper, or screen, it’s not very hard. I don’t get writer’s block, though I won’t lie, I do get “fucking around” block and waste too much time emailing, reading blogs, masturbating.
Are there any books that have influenced your writing?
Not a book, but “Pulp Fiction” was the first written work that made me want to write for a living. I saw it when I was fourteen and thought, “Wow, SOMEONE wrote that?!” It was so original, such one man’s vision.
Tom Wolfe changed my life prose-wise. I came to him later in life, but I read all his books in a month or two. I just love his voice. It gave me the confidence to know I could write in my own voice, and fuck it if that voice is different from “normal.” All the better.
Tucker Max was an influence too, though most writers are scared to admit his influence. I had a shitty job just out of college when I discovered him, well before his books had come out and he was just some dude in Chicago with a website. I read ever single thing he’d written online in one day. I couldn’t believe his audacity. You could write about this stuff?! This was the kind of stuff I wanted to write about–young, overeducated, understimulated people in major urban cities, drinking and fucking around (and fucking) their ways through town.
“American Psycho” is still iconic, “Fight Club” too. “Confederacy of Dunces” might still be the pinnacle of comedic writing. I love Cormac McCarthy but he isn’t an influence. Likewise DFW, Franzen, “The Art of Fielding.”
Not a lot of current novelists excite me, but I’m a big fan of Chad Kultgen’s stuff. He has a great, original, ballsy voice. I love how breezy and easy-to-read his shit is. That’s a major skill I’m jealous of. I don’t even think he’s written his masterpiece yet which really excites me.
For actual writing books I like William Goldman’s “Adventures in the Screen Trade,” Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and Noah Lukeman’s “The First Five Pages” REALLY helped me as an editor of my own work. It helped me get HOW TO FAIL from a 550 page behemoth into the 373 page book it finished at. And, of course, Pressfield’s “War of Art” and everything Seth Godin writes is invaluable.
Marcus Aurelius’s “The Meditations” is my favorite book of all time and influences me as a human every single day. I’d bet I’ve sold more copies of that book to people than my own.
How do you approach a blank page? Do you get anything on there with a “shitty first draft” or edit as you go?
As I said, I absolutely blaze shit out there on the page (“Write drunk. Edit sober” said Hemingway, good advice). I’m writing and editing in my head before I’m writing on the page, so it’s usually in decent shape as a first draft. You really need dozens upon dozens of edits to get something perfect though. I used to hate editing until I really saw how valuable it is. Now I revel in it. You’ll be amazed how much better your work becomes when you start subtracting the fat.
Feedback can be immensely valuable, but getting good feedback on humorous writing can be more difficult. Sometimes it feels like you end up with a camel (horse designed by a committee). Do you look for feedback on your writing from a humor perspective or just go with your gut instinct of what you think is funny.
That’s a great question, I’ve never really thought about it before, but yeah. I trust myself to know “funny.” And I think I’m usually right. I like feedback more about structure and overall “enjoyability.” My friends and people I talk to about writing are funny too, so they sometimes suggest stuff to help punch things up and I shamelessly steal from them.
Having said that, I love looking at HOW TO FAIL’s Kindle highlights and seeing what other people think are the particularly funny lines. In many cases, the lines I thought were just so-so throwaway lines have got the most traction and highlights. I fucking love that authors can now literally see which lines in their books are resonating with the masses. Just three years ago all the way back to Gutenberg, we would have never known (that boner jokes are killer).
When you mentioned 99% of writing is crap, why do you think that is? Do people write in a bubble, much like a guy who is hilarious around friends, but bombs on stage at an open-mic? Or is it something else?
I think it’s cowardliness. People afraid to say what they want to. A lack of balls. A lack of a willingness to be different. I get sent a lot of manuscripts from people trying to “make it” (ha ha) like me and the majority suck. Not because the writers have bad ideas, or are bad technical writer, but because they’re trying to be exactly the same as me or Tucker Max or someone else. They’re so afraid to just let it all hang out that they become boring. They’re so worried about appealing to the masses that they appeal to no one. They aren’t trusting their own voice, they aren’t trying to be original or different. It’s almost stunning nowadays when you do read someone different like Chad Kultgen. It’s absolutely fucking thrilling. More people need to try to be thrilling.
Wow. Making money from books is so interesting. You hear people say, “Don’t write a book to make money” while also reading about a 16 year old self-published author who made more money than you(me) last month. I haven’t really done any promotion yet for my book (waiting for paperback to be available), but I’ve been surprised that I already broke even after paying an editor, a designer, and someone in the Philippines to convert my book whose work I didn’t end up using. Though my one unintentional blog mention helped .
I guess you write expecting that it will pay off in some aspect – credibility / passive income / experience.
Checking KDP is like opening your wallet and suddenly finding more money in there. Being able to make money while I sleep, even though currently in small amounts, has shifted my thinking to more of an entrepreneur mindset than freelancer. It’s addicting. I’m also happy to see Amazon giving a boost to the KDP program. I signed up for it on a whim, but it looks like it could be a good experiment.
Looking back at my report, it looks like the free copies were averaged out with the paid copies at 35%. That makes sense.
I don’t understand the mentality of someone who returns a book. From researching it a little bit, it looks like you have up to 7 days to return a Kindle Book. Maybe it’s worth their time to get back the $2.99 they invested in it. They’re probably the same people who I get stuck behind at the grocery store who debate the validity of a coupon worth 50 cents. I’m still batting a thousand with German readers, though.
Yeah, I don’t think you write a book EXPECTING to make money, but you certainly CAN make money. And it seems more and more likely if you self-publish. Love that passive income.
Get Aaron Goldfarb’s book below and follow him on Twitter: @AaronGoldfarb.