Jeff Steinmann: Welcome to the How to Quit Working show. You know, if you want to write a book, it doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or nonfiction. You have to find a publisher. And you have to get that publisher to tell you that you’re good enough and that they’ll take your work on and that they’ll help you get it out there and sell it. So, you have to wait for these gatekeepers. Well, that’s what everybody thinks but the whole world is changing and there’s a whole lot of options out there that let you do something that we’re going to talk about today that is really awesome. And that is getting rid of the gatekeepers.
In other words, there’s no waiting for someone else to tell you that you’re good enough to be published because you have a lot of different options now these days and you don’t have to be starving broke as a writer because Garrett Robinson, who we’re going to talk to today, is not broke. He is not starving. He is making quite a decent living and quite frankly, he is just getting his career started. And he’s going to tell us how he did it. He’s going to tell you how you can do it whether you are wanting to get something published or whether you’re just trying to get a business off the ground. You’re going to get a lot of great information out of this show and let’s get it started. Garrett, welcome to the show.
Garrett Robinson: Thank you very much, pleasure to be here.
Jeff: I am so happy to have you here because you know what I think is so cool is that so many people want to be an author, and it’s easy to be an author. But it’s not so easy to make a living as an author. Would you agree?
Garrett: Yeah. Yeah. Very, very much so. Pretty much all of the arts these days—it’s easier than it’s ever been to become an artist and make some money from it but it’s also still very, very difficult trying to make it actually become your full time job.
Jeff: Yeah. And you’ve done that successfully, and I look forward to talking a lot about that and helping our listeners to understand how they can do the same thing for themselves. But you know what’s so fascinating is we as human beings, we love the arts. We love—do you know anybody who doesn’t like music? Anybody who doesn’t like a good story whether it’s a book or a movie or a play or whatever it is or likes some good art? So, why is it so hard to make a living as an artist when we love it so much? And I say artist in a very general term. As an author, I consider you an artist.
Garrett: Yeah. And I think that’s exactly true. I think that the difficulty that people have is actually the same difficulty which is for your audience, you have a lot of business people, entrepreneurs, that sort of thing. It’s actually the same problem because it’s easy to be an artist. It’s easy to develop the talent and the skill to create a good—like, if you just consider art as a product, it’s really—it’s easy to have a great idea for a product or for a piece of art and create it.
It’s very, very hard to make it work as a business. It seems hard. It’s actually not as hard as it seems, but that’s where many artists fall down is not being able to translate their product into an actual living for themselves. So, you kind of have to be artists hate the word business. They hate the word marketing. They hate having to try and sell their own stuff. But if you can figure that out and create good art, you can absolutely turn that into a career for yourself.
Jeff: So, you didn’t—you say that’s where a lot of people fall down but you didn’t fall down there. What did you do that other people don’t do?
Garrett: I just educated myself to the nth degree. I do have some—I don’t want to say formal business training because it sounds like I went to college for it. I didn’t go to college, sue me.
Jeff: I’d like to shake your hand (laughs) for not going to college.
Garrett: Well, I heard growing up that it was one of the worst things that a writer could do was that—and I call it ruin, absolutely ruin writers in particular and when I was growing up, I wanted to be a writer. Then, I transferred that love into film. And then, I came full circle and became a writer again.
Garrett: But what I did was I just educated myself on what people were doing. I went out, and I read as many blogs and articles and books on publishing and marketing yourself as an author as I possibly could. I read things by Hugh Howey who wrote a book called Wool that sold millions and millions of copies and then Ridley Scott.
Garrett: Yeah. Ridley Scott auctioned his book for a million dollars. I read C.J. Lyons who is an internationally acclaimed best selling thriller author. And she’s what’s called a hybrid author where she does have a deal with a traditional publisher and she self-publishes at the same time. And I also listen to a fantastic podcast called The Self-Publishing Podcast which is pretty much—it’s pretty much the reigning authority in terms of podcasts about self-publishing. The three guys there are absolutely fantastic and I actually started to develop a relationship with them which is—it is another thing that I think any business owner needs to do. You need to build relationships with people who are already doing it successfully.
Jeff: Oh, okay. Yeah. Have you built relationships that have been helpful for you?
Garrett: Oh very, very much so. I don’t want to get too technical but there’s a writing program that any writer should be using. It’s called Scrivener. It’s a fantastic writing program and I connected up with the woman named Gwen Hernandez. Really, really smart girl. And she wrote Scrivener for Dummies. And I was working on my books and developing them and I would start contacting her with questions and so forth. And then I of course got Scrivener for Dummies and so I developed that relationship.
I started contacting the guys on The Self-Publishing Podcast so often with questions about how to do this, that or the other thing that eventually they just had me on the show to do a Q&A where I just brought a whole list of questions and ask them and we did that. And that was actually one of the biggest steps on getting my audience was getting in those guys’ good graces. And I had recommendations from them because I wrote so much. I write what many people consider to be inhumanly fast. It’s actually not that difficult when you really get your technique down but—and when the guys on The Self-Publishing Podcast said, “This guy writes—he works so hard and writes so fast,” all of their listeners, of course, were like, “Oh, well I got to go check this guy out.”
Jeff: How long have you been supporting yourself as a writer full-time?
Garrett: I started writing December 2012, and it’s now as we’re recording as September 2013. It’s been just under nine months. However, at the time that I started, I was working a full-time job. And when I started, I had up to that point in my life been planning on breaking into the film industry. I was trying to get movies off the ground. I was trying to sell scripts and if anybody has ever tried to get into the film world, you know how insanely difficult that is.
So, a friend of mine who was already an author and who had been writing for quite some time said, “Why don’t you just turn your scripts into books?” And I was like, “Well, I don’t know about that.” Because I thought that book publishing was just as hard to get into as filmmaking and traditional book publishing is. But self-publishing, the thing about that is, you can’t make a movie for no money. You need people. You need cameras. You need time. You need all of these things.
For a book, you need a computer and your mind. That’s all you need. So I started doing that. I published my first book in December 14th, mid December 2012. And I was publishing several works and they were all based off from scripts that I’d already written so my outlines were already there. And then, rather than—see, I have a little bit of a funny thing most people are like well, and then I built up a living for myself and then I quit my job. I actually in May or June, I was actually let go for my job.
Jeff: Oh, congratulations!
Garrett: I know, right? It was all very amicable. My boss was great, but the company was downsizing and I was downsized. And I had just an absolute panic moment when I went home and my wife and I were just—I was hanging my head and I said I’m going to have to give up my writing while I go try and find myself a new job. And then, when I looked at it, my writing without me even like really realizing it—because I hadn’t paid that much attention—my writing had started to supplement my income.
So, I just asked my wife “What if I keep doing this?” And of course, my wife who is the greatest woman on the planet said, “Yeah, I think we can actually make that work.” And we’ve been making it work ever since. For the first few months, I had this like—I was sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I felt like I had this thing hovering over my shoulder. But it’s turned out to be a blast.
Jeff: What do you mean by “waiting for the other shoe to drop”?
Garrett: Like, I felt like it was too good. Like, I felt like, “No way!” and all of a sudden just…sales are absolutely going to dry up. I’m not going to be getting any money, and all of a sudden, it’s going to be panic mode to find a new job like, in the next week. And I thought that was going to happen after the first week, and then the second week. And then I thought it would happen after the first month, then the second month and still hasn’t happened. And we’re like five, six months later and things are just going up and up. The latest book is getting a really, really gratifying great response.
Jeff: Oh, that’s awesome. And I want to come back to that latest book. But I want to go back to what you were talking about how—you started out wanting to be a film writer in the film industry and your focus changed, but it sounds to me like you’re technique changed. Because whether you’re trying to get a screenplay published and purchased by a big movie house or whether you’re trying to get published fiction or nonfiction by a big New York publisher, either way, there’s a whole hell of a lot of hoping involved in that process.
Garrett: Completely. Completely.
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Jeff: Okay. So, you got rid of that hoping and you started to actually—you got into a situation where you were making something happen. I mean, there’s not a lot—certainly is always some hope in sales (laughs) but certainly there’s not that same degree of “God, just let me please get that call from the big publisher or the big movie house.” You don’t have that anymore.
Garrett: Yeah. I’ll tell you exactly what it is. It is—you are—and I think that this applies to anybody no matter what they’re doing out in the world, if they want to be their own person and make their own life doing what they do, you’ve got to get rid of the approval—the need for approval from gatekeepers. Because publishing houses are gatekeepers. Movie studios are gatekeepers. And all that I did is I took the exact same stories that I was creating already. And I stopped asking for big shot movie producers to say “Yes. I approve of you, and I will help you.” And I took it directly to the customer, my viewers of my short films and my readers of my books. And I just said, “Do you like this?” and a lot of people said yes.
Today’s world, you can get rid of gatekeepers so much more easily no matter what you’re doing. You’ve got to build up that relationship with the people who are actually going to be buying and using whatever it is that you make, whether it’s my books, my films, or somebody who just invented the newest widget that’s going to take over the world. If there was a widget publishing house or a widget industry or whatever and you tried to like sell it to them, sell it to them, it’s all about getting relationships and getting approval from these people that you really shouldn’t be begging for approval from.
If you can get the distribution lines in to go direct to your consumers—ironically, in the industry that I started out in, people are doing this in film now. There’s a great filmmaker. He steps a little eccentric for my taste but there’s a great filmmaker named Shane Carruth and he directed his—he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in his first feature film which he produced for a total budget of $7, 000 and a lot of favors, right? And, it’s pretty much all shot in the garage, but it’s really good story telling. And he took that, and he put it online. He put it in iTunes and Netflix and everywhere else that he could get it where nobody was—like he didn’t have to pay to get it into these places and he didn’t have to get anybody’s approval. It’s just like, “I put it there.” And then he also made it available to download directly from the site and he handled his own marketing and everything like that.
And he did the same thing with another film a couple of years later for a total budget of $10, 000 and each of those films has earned $250,000. So yeah, exactly, and he is just going out there directly. No studio has ever touched him. No producer has ever gotten a cut of what he’s doing. And he’s making a very comfortable living for himself as a film director. He’s not Steven Spielberg level of wealth but he’s doing what he loves and he’s giving it to his consumers and they love him.
Jeff: Yes. And you say $250,000, that’s not like somebody buying rights or something like that. That’s just direct to consumers. Is that right? It’s all direct to consumer?
Garrett: I think his movie costs $10 if you downloaded directly from him. I don’t know what kind of world he gets from Netflix or iTunes or whatever. But if you just take that as a metric, that means that 250—it’s like 2, 500 people had bought his film. That’s not that much when you consider how many millions of people go and see the new Transformers. But it adds up and he is doing it all on his own terms.
Jeff: Yeah. How did you actually get your book out into the hands of people aside from the marketing and logistics of it, did you have to like, pay a printer to print a bunch of copies or how did you do that?
Garrett: No. There are so many solutions for independent artists out there right now. Amazon had—okay, so, there’s the big four. We call them the big four retailers out there. The first one is Amazon. Amazon is just you can’t—like they’re the king. They’re the top of the dog pile there. They are the B.L. and all. And you can publish your books with them as an eBook for free. And that’s what I did at first for my first several titles. It was all just eBooks and I also signed like…You can make an agreement to publish exclusively with them and they give you a several free promotional things that you can do.
So, that’s what I did the first few times. Then, I started looking at the other big four. The second most famous one is Nook. Everybody knows about Nook books and whatever. And then, most people also know that Apple has an iBook store and that’s also decent. But for the independent author, the next biggest market is actually international. And the biggest international market is a website called Kobo. They are smaller than all three—than the other three of the big four but they are the fastest growing eBook seller in the world and they are huge internationally. And of course, most Americans tend to be sort of insular so we don’t really think about that so much.
But Kobo is actually my second best marketplace. Nook doesn’t care about me. Apple doesn’t care about me. They don’t do anything to help the struggling in the author. Kobo is a company that was formed by a bunch of independent authors who just wanted a marketplace that worked exactly the way that they wanted it to. So, they are very, very helpful to new authors. Their customer service is fantastic and I actually like—if you take my Amazon sales, and you take my Kobo sales, Kobo sales are about 50% of my Amazon sales. And Nook and Apple just—they don’t even make the chart like there’s so tiny.
Jeff: Oh wow. Okay. So, how do you spell Kobo?
Garrett: Kobo. K-O-B-O.
Jeff: So, is it kobo.com, I assume? We’ll link that up below.
Garrett: Yes. I think it’s kobobooks.com. If you search that, you’ll find it.
Jeff: Okay. We’ll get the exact link and put it below.
Garrett: Sorry, you asked about print as well. So I started doing print and for print, there are two—I mean, there’s really more than two—but there’s two main avenues that authors can take. The first one is Amazon’s own company called CreateSpace. Now, CreateSpace will produce paperbacks. And you have to design the interior, you have to do all your own formatting.
You can also pay them to do this for you but don’t do that. It’s dumb and it’s really expensive and it’s like you can hire—if you don’t know anything about formatting and design, you can hire independent like, freelance people who know what they’re doing better than CreateSpace does. I did everything myself. So, if you do everything yourself and you hand them a formatted interior and a formatted paperback cover, it’s free. It’s completely free and they take your paperback and they put it up on Amazon and people can just buy it—like it literally doesn’t cost you anything, which is awesome.
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Jeff: Wow. Well, what about payment process and everything? Do they handle all that?
Garrett: Yeah. They handle—they take everything. It all goes through Amazon store, and you get your royalty check once a month. It’s kind of annoying because they accumulate your royalties for let’s say, June, but then you don’t actually get that payment until three months later. I think it has something to do with their 90-day return policy. So if people return your book, then it’s going to go down or whatever. But yeah, once a month, I just get my check and it’s quite nice.
And the other thing that I was going to say, the thing about CreateSpace which is Amazon’s company that does the paperbacks, if you’re trying to get into actual bookstores which, first of all, probably isn’t a really good idea as an independent author but if you are, CreateSpace is not good. Because they don’t have stored distribution line setup.
There is another place called Lightning Source who is—they’re much better quality. They cost. They cost an amount of money and they cost—for me, for my perspective as an independent author, they cost a prohibitively high amount of money. But again, you can go through them. They will do hard covers, which Amazon will not. And they have a lot of other formatting things that really do make them amazing. If I just end up in the coming months having just the money to blow on it, then I’ll absolutely go to them and do my hard covers and whatnot through them but right now, it isn’t cost effective.
Jeff: Okay. So, those are the two main print options are CreateSpace and Lightning Source. So we talked a little bit about the logistics of it. But let’s get into the really interesting part. Because the logistics—well, they are important and they’re rapidly changing these days, and you gave us same great information. The real stuff, what we really want to know is, how the hell do you get people to buy?
Garrett: Yes, and that is the one thing that will never change for the independent artist in my personal opinion. Kindle didn’t even exist a couple of decades ago. So that wasn’t an option. And Kindle changes every month. So, even the advice that I just gave, if somebody listens to this show back a year from now, it’ll probably be completely obsolete.
But the best marketing for any independent artist is create good content, put it out there in the world, and do it again. And cultivate your tribe. It’s like just keep creating good people and build relationships with your consumers. For authors in particular and for a lot of other artistic ventures such as filmmakers and musicians or whatnot, the email newsletter is still the best tool that there is. Because if you get people to sign up for your email newsletter, you have a higher percentage of people buying your book from an email newsletter than from your Facebook post or your Twitter or whatever it is.
But you’ve got to keep creating good stuff. Traditional publishers will only put out a book a year or if you’re George R.R. Martin, a book every seven years, or something like that. That’s fine for them because they’ve got these lines and they’re millionaires and they’re not whatever. If you’re an independent artist, you need to go a lot faster than that. I’ve published 25 individual titles this year.
Jeff: Oh, wow. You have been busy.
Garrett: I have been really busy. And there are 25 titles that are four different stories because a lot—I’ve done a lot of serialized content where it’s like a title will be 20,000 words and it’s called an episode and there’s six episodes that make up a complete book. So, you could call that one title but I’m publishing something new every week or every other week sometimes or I’ll take a couple of weeks as a break, as I work on my next thing. And if you can do that, you stay in people’s heads.
If George R.R. Martin was like an independent author and he put out the first Game of Thrones book, or the first book which was Game of Thrones, and he got independent author levels of book sales, then by the time the next book whirled around, very few people would remember him. Because it was years, it was years in between the two of them. So, you’ve got to keep creating stuff that keeps—it’s like, I’m telling you, I’m working harder now than I ever was when I was in the workplace but I’m so much happier. I’m working harder but at the same time, I’m not really working. You know what I mean?
Jeff: Yeah. That’s so awesome. The thing about the show, How to Quit Working, it’s not called “How to not do anything”.
Garrett: Right, exactly.
Jeff: It’s not called “How to lay on a beach”, there’s plenty of shows about that. It’s called How to Quit Working because I know people like you, you don’t define what you’re doing as working. Now, I thought a couple things are really interesting about what you’re saying and I want to dive a little bit deeper.
But you said it’s all about building relationships with your fan base or your followers, whatever you call them, depending on what you’re doing. But, how more specifically do you build that relationship, because I know you’re publishing smaller books in a more frequent increments which is getting stuff in front of them more a bit—I’m guessing that’s not all you do, right?
Garrett: No. That is what I do. When there are complete volumes, they are pretty large—the book that came out today is actually a 600-page fantasy novel but it’s been coming out in parts for the last six weeks or whatever. But yes, aside from constantly having new stuff for them to look at, I manage my online presence. I blog. Probably my biggest and most intimate interaction with my fans is I have podcasts. I have three of them. There are three weekly podcasts, so that’s three hours a week. And I invite listener contribution when I’m doing that. I will do chats with people. I hang out with people.
And see, that is like, you could consider that work and it’s part of my job because it’s building up my relationship with people which then makes them like me as an author more and be interested in my books and then the book is what finally hooks them in. But that’s what I’m saying, it’s like, I spend probably 15 hours a week just interacting with people online whether it’s on social media or my podcast or whatever. But like, how can you really call that work? Yes, it leads to something. Yes, it’s marketing. But I’m just hanging out with people who love the same books that I do and who love my books which obviously, I like them because I wrote them. It’s awesome.
Jeff: Yeah. That sounds amazing. I mean, you love writing. You love the stories in your books. You love talking with the people who are reading your books. And I’m sure that you and your readers develop relationships with the characters in the book. I mean, that sounds like a really, really amazing lifestyle. So, tell us a little bit about how does this whole thing affect your life?
Garrett: Gosh, that’s a funny question. I know that my wife, who is literally the most tolerant person in the world, she has to put up with a lot because I’ll just suddenly be like, “Oh, I’ve got to go. I’ve got to go work or write,” or something like that and I’ll just be in my office which is in our house and just for hours.
Jeff: So, that’s like a moment of inspiration?
Garrett: Exactly. That happens every once in a while. Honestly, I don’t like to rely on inspiration. I think that if you rely on inspiration, it’s a slow ticket to the death of your artistic creation because you aren’t always inspired and sometimes, you have to sit down there and you have to figure out your story and you just have to put the words there. And what’s funny is that people say that…like I mentioned before, people look at how much I write because I’ll average about 10, 000 words a day on my books. Sometimes, it’s a little more. Sometimes, it’s a little less.
Jeff: Wow. That is a lot.
Garrett: Yeah, but the thing that props that all up is a lot of prep work and a lot of post work because I can’t write that fast if I haven’t paired my story ahead of time. Now, I’m not saying that everybody needs to outline. Many, many fantastic works of art were never outlined in the first place, and that’s totally fine. But what I find is that if I outline it, then I can write it at about 2, 000 words an hour so in five hours of work a day, I’m done.
Jeff: Oh, wow. Okay.
Garrett: And then afterwards, when the whole book is done, even with all of that prep work, my first draft is still a big steaming pile of something that you don’t want to step in. So, I have to then go back and it’s the revision process going over and over it, analyzing my word choices and correcting my structure and fixing all of my gaping plot holes. So while I do produce a lot, the stuff on either side, the prep work and the post work takes actually more time than the writing. That’s just a really important thing to keep in mind.
Again, you can’t call any of it work like, I’m spending my day in these worlds that I’ve created and everything like that. And yes, it can get a little annoying for my wife and friends and families sometimes. I’m terrible at parties, terrible at parties now because I just want to talk about the book that I’m right in the middle of and they’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I used to be the guy sitting at a party talking about the script that I wanted to direct. And now I’m the guy sitting at a party talking about the book that I am publishing next week or just published. So, that’s a little bit better. We’ve all met those people at the party who is like, “Oh, just shut up and write your book already.” Well, nobody can say that to me anymore so I appreciate that.
Jeff: Yeah. Because your response is, “And if you like what I’m talking about, you can get it on Amazon next week.”
Jeff: That is really cool. From a lifestyle standpoint, what’s the best part of this for you?
Garrett: Honestly, without a question, the best part is being home. Because I get to spend all day with my wife, who I can understand that that might sound like it’s own kind of hell for some people, but my wife and I were always best friends long before we were romantic. And we have two children and a third one on the way. so I get to spend a lot more time with them. And just, my family relationship is so amazing. I mean, there’s other little things which sound really, really immature and they kind of are.
But if I want to work with my ripped jeans and my Star Wars t-shirt, I can completely do that. I don’t have to dress up to go into the office. If I get my five hours done really, really early and it’s 2pm and I want to grab a beer, I can do that. It’s just, nobody’s sitting over my shoulder telling me what to do and even when I was working, I wasn’t working for long periods of time because I was a freelance filmmaker working on sets before I moved into the workplace.
And now I’m doing what I am now. And there was only a few years where I was really in the work place, but the level of control that other people are able to exert on your life when you are in the workplace is just not my cup of tea. And I’m sure it’s not the cup of tea for a lot of people out there. And I encourage you to escape.
Jeff: Yeah. It’s not most people’s cup of tea but unfortunately, we’ve decided as a society that that’s the way we should all do it.
Garrett: Yeah. It’s crazy.
Jeff: Which I think is a load of crap. (laughs)
Garrett: I think that there are great places to work and there can be great working relationships. But the corporate structure—even some people do love the corporate structure, and I’m like, “More power to you. That’s great for you.” But it’s just so not what I want my life to be like.
Jeff: Yeah, and I think that the statistics tell us 80% of us hate our jobs. The other 20%—I think 15% of them are lying to themselves. They’re not lying to the people who do the surveys but they’re lying to themselves and keep convincing themselves that they’re really truly happy. But I want to go back to the—so you have two and a half kids. What are their ages?
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Garrett: My daughter is about to turn four. My son is about to turn two. And my third child who is another boy is going to be born about a week after my first son turns two.
Jeff: Oh, okay. Well, congratulations on that.
Garrett: Thank you. We’re excited.
Jeff: How is your relationship with your kids different because you work from home and do something that you love?
Garrett: I’m definitely a lot more available to them. Not that I ever made myself—I was never one of those like, workaholics at work who could never find time to be home. But if my daughter gets sick at preschool, I can go and pick her up. Every once in a while my wife, who also runs a daycare out of our home, she will say “Hey, let’s go do a fieldtrip,” like her and five kids. I think she’s got five kids. And I can go on those if I want to and if I’m not behind on my writing deadlines or whatever.
I can’t wait to see how it develops because obviously, with the three-year-old about to turn four, there’s not a whole lot of intellectual conversation about the facts of life. But I hope that when she grows up, she’s inspired to think “Hey, whatever I grow up wanting to do…” She’s already shown some interest in music. If she grows up doing music and wanting to be a musician, I know that I’m not going to be the father saying “Well, you can’t make money at that.” I’m going to be the one saying “Hey, awesome! Do you want to start guitar lessons? What do you want to do?” I’m going to be encouraging that and hopefully serving as an example, I guess, fingers crossed.
Jeff: Yeah. I know. I think that’s awesome. We actually had a very successful independent musician, Charlotte Eriksson, on the show just a couple of weeks ago and she was awesome. And very similar story to what you’re talking about. She really works hard to build a relationship with her fans. You jumped the gun on my question which is perfectly fine, but my next question for you was going to be, how do you think your kids’ lives are going to be different because of the example that dad is setting?
Garrett: Oh, gosh. I just hope that they grow up as independent as possible and just feeling like they can do whatever they want to do. But at the same time, having the reality that things don’t necessarily happen overnight and second of all that meteoric is not the only standard for success. I’m definitely not E.L. James who created Fifty Shades of Grey and then became a multi, multi, multimillionaire. I’m not pulling in six figures a month even, which is like, you hear success stories about that all the time in self-publishing.
All of these people are now pulling in six figures a month, six figures a month. I’m like, “Well, I’m pulling in a nice four, five, depending on the month but that’s totally okay for my lifestyle.” I dislike when people act like, “Oh well, the number of people who become instant millionaires is like less than 1%.” I’m like, “Yeah, but if you compare that to the people who could make a living as a writer in the days when traditional publishing was all there was, that percentage was less than 1% of 1% of 1%.” It was so miniscule, you couldn’t even see it on a pie chart, you know?
So, me having my moderate success which continues to grow, I’m completely fine with that and if my kids grow up understanding that, my daughter could become a guitarist in a band and make herself a nice steady income with that, that is okay too. And she’s better off than somebody who is—unless they want to—but she’s better off than she would be if she was locked into a corporate structure that had maybe a nicer weekly paycheck and some benefits, but that kind of sucked away the happiness and fulfillment of her life.
Jeff: Yeah. Sure. That’s awesome. I’m so glad that we’re having a conversation about that middle ground because we talk so much about—and this is not just the artistic type thing. It’s whether you’re any kind of an expert or guru. We always talk about people at the ends of the spectrum. So, whether you’re just starving or you’re not making any money or you’re like a bazillionaire like J.K. Rowling or somebody like that.
And the picture that you’re painting for us is that yeah, you can make a really nice living on this. Not getting rich yet because based on everything that I have heard, you’re going to be in that very wealthy category if you keep moving forward and doing the things that you’re doing. No question about that. And the other thing that I think is really cool is—and correct me if I’m wrong here, but when that movie deal comes along, you’re going to get a much larger cut of it because you’re not splitting it with a big publishing house, right?
Garrett: Exactly. And that’s the other thing is that it moves you into a position of power right off the bat. Actually, before I get into that, just one quick thing is that the other thing is that catapulting off of your own success is easy. Men in Black for example, was a movie based off a graphic novel. And somebody of course—they have the rights to the graphic novel and they came in with the script and you know how much Hollywood loves doing adaptations of books and things like that, is that Men in Black, the graphic novel, had only ever sold in its entire print run about 10, 000 copies. That’s nothing in terms of like the book [inaudible 00:36:05] but that was enough for some producer to go “Yes, we can do this and we can merchandise the crap out of it.”
So, even if like my current book which is very young adult fantasy wizards—I just want to clarify I’m not comparing it to Harry Potter but it’s for that kind of audience, you know what I mean? It’s aimed at the same demographic, that, I don’t need to sell a million of them for somebody to be interested and go “Hey, why don’t we try to do something with this?”
But back to the earlier thing that you were saying, you come and do a tremendous position of power. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind taking a traditional publishing deal because I’d still be writing for a living. And I wouldn’t mind taking a movie deal and—it’s not that I abhor the institutions and the work they create. Because you can’t argue with the fact that J.K. Rowling wrote one of the best book series at least for that genre ever. And you can’t deny that Hollywood, for all of the Transformers reboots that they do, they still do produce some amazing, amazing films like Lincoln and The Hurt Locker a couple of years ago. They do great work.
So, I wouldn’t mind working with them. I just don’t want to desperately need their approval for years before I get that opportunity. I would love walking into a meeting with an agent or a publisher from HarperCollins and say, “I’m an independently published author. I sell hundreds of thousands of copies every time I put a new book out. How would you like to publish my next series? And you can take care of all the formatting and my editing and my publicity so I don’t have to do any of that crap anymore and I can just turn out a book that hundreds of thousands of people will buy.”
You are in such a position of power because they can say “Well, yes, but we want your eBook rights and we want your film rights.” And you say, “No! No, no, no, no! That’s not the deal. You are going to publish my print books and we’re going to have that relationship. If you do this with me, we will both make money like that’s a guaranteed thing. But if you don’t want to do it on my terms, I’m out of here because I don’t need you. I don’t need the approval of somebody who is like—yes, they could help me. They’re not helping me so much that I have to do whatever they say.
And J.K. Rowling famously did this. She published the Harry Potter books and she retained her eBook rights because when those books were coming out, eBooks were not a thing yet. So she retained all of her eBook rights, and she created all of her eBooks, and she sold them independently of anybody.
And eventually, she came to Amazon and she was like, “Do you want to put my books in your store?” And they were like, “Yes! Please, please give us your eBooks!” And she was like, “All right, but here’s the deal…” and they said, “Where do you want us to sign?” and she did. Like that, not J.K. Rowling level necessarily, but that position of power is what I want to be in when I do start going into the artistic institutions.
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. Well, you certainly have got the foundation and the trajectory to get there. No question about it. Garrett, what’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in this journey?
Garrett: Oh, gosh. (laughs) There’s probably been a few. We should just do another hour interview and I can talk—now, probably the biggest is biting off more than I could chew. When I first started, I started doing freelance editing of other people’s books and freelance formatting of other people’s books for print and for Kindle. And I made commitments to my fans on when certain books were going to be coming out. And then I made commitments to my clients on when certain of their books were going to be formatted and/or edited.
And it went okay for a while but I definitely overcommitted, and it eventually got to the point where I really hate to do this, but I had to go to my clients and say, “I’m sorry but my writing has to take first priority, and I’m not going to be able to do your job in any realistic frame of mind.” I do have a tendency to have a difficulty saying no. So if somebody says, “Hey, can you do this?” especially if they’re like, “Hey, can you do this and I’ll pay you money.” Then I’m sort of like, “Yes. I can do it.” And it works for a while, but I can only go so many nights without sleeping, and I can only go so long without sort of burning out under the pressure.
So since then, I’ve come to a much more realistic expectation of my own workload and how much I can handle and what I can do for people but that’s the biggest thing is, don’t over commit and don’t promise that you will do something that you then back out on. And if you find yourself in that really unenviable situation where you do have to back out on something, back out on the fewest people possible.
Like if I had stuck with my freelance clients and said, “Hey, I’m going to do this for you,” and then delayed the release of my books which my fans were expecting, then I’m pissing off however many hundreds and whatever number of people out there who—that’s my long term career. My long term career is not as a book editor or formatter. I don’t want to anger the people who rely on me and love my art.
If anything, and it’s also much more difficult to explain yourself to that many people. It’s difficult to go out there to all that crowd and say, “Hey, listen, I’m sorry but I’m not going to make this deadline.” It’s much easier to go to one person and say, “Listen, here’s the scenario. You’re an author. Hopefully, you can understand. If not, all I can say is that I’m tremendously sorry.” But just try not to bite off more than you can chew in the first place. That would be my biggest piece of advice.
Jeff: Well, that’s awesome. And you know what I think is really cool about that story that you just told us is that, you chose what you really wanted to be your long term career over what was probably some more certain short term cash for those editing jobs.
Garrett: Exactly. That’s a perfect metaphor for people leaving a job. It’s like, “Yeah, you’re getting a paycheck right now but, man.”
Jeff: Yeah. What’s the greater cost? Well, Garrett, this has been a pleasure. I want to know finally before you tell us about your latest book, what is the biggest piece of advice or the biggest thing that you want to leave our listeners with?
Garrett: Whatever you want to—this is also the number one question that anybody who is succeeding on what they’re doing gets asked, and I’ve been asked this so much—whatever it is that you want to do, whether you want to be a writer, you want to be a filmmaker—and I don’t just mean practice. I don’t just mean like get completed products and put them out there in the world.
There are so many people who have been working on a manuscript for five years and they’d say, “How do you do it? How do you make it as a writer?” and I say, “Well, how many things have you published?” And they say, “None.” And I’m like, “There. Right there.” If you’re still not ready to publish that manuscript, put out some short stories. If you’re a filmmaker, make a freaking film on your iPhone. Don’t use the fact that you need money or that you need resources as an excuse because—I mean, this is a little bit different in the world of business, but there are so few things today that can’t be done for no money. You can make a film on your phone for no money and there are award-winning examples out there of films like some guy who already knew he’s filmmaking was like, “I’m going to see if I can make a good film on an iPhone.” And he did and it’s a great film. And you’re like, “I can’t believe this was made on an iPhone.” And then he puts it up on Vimeo for paid op, where people have to pay to watch on Vimeo. He only charges $0.99, but then 10,000 people go and watch it and boom! He just made $10,000 off of a film he made on his iPhone.
Now, not everybody’s going to have that. But you’ve got to practice, and there’s no sense in practice without getting your stuff out there. Because the only people whose feedback really matters is the people who are going to consume your stuff. I didn’t really start learning tips, techniques, and tricks on writing until I published my first few books. Because my first few books got some—they got reviews from my friends and family who was like, “Oh, it’s Garrett. I love him!”
And then they got reviews from real people out there in the world who were like, “You don’t know how to do this. Da da dad a.” And on all of those people I just thank you so much for the feedback. I went back. I edited. I revised the book. And now, everytime I write a new piece, I’d know those things. I’ve learned them. I kept them in mind. That’s always the case whether you’re a musician, whether you’re a director, whether you’re an author, you’ve got to get stuff done. It doesn’t matter what you’re getting done but without things to get done, you can’t evaluate yourself. And without evaluating yourself, you’ll never get better. It’s a whole vicious cycle.
Jeff: Awesome, awesome advice. And we could probably do a whole another hour just on getting comfortable with that feedback. Because I know that’s not an easy thing. But Garrett, tell us where can we go to get your latest book or more information about you?
Garrett: On my website, which is garrettbrobinson.com and that’s two R’s and two T’s in Garrett. And on there, there’s the My Books page right upfront. You can also just Google Garrett Robinson. I’m pretty sure that I’m the first person to pop up there now. If you go to Amazon and Google my name or search my name on Amazon, they’d give you my author page right up at the top. Wherever you prefer buying your books generally. But you can get all of my paperbacks on Amazon because I do all of my printing through them right now. And they ship internationally. They’re fantastic, and the books are great.
And the latest book actually just came out today. That’s the 600-page fantasy novel. It’s young adult but there’s plenty of stuff I tried to put—it’s actually co-authored with me and my co-author. We tried to put lots of stuff in there that adults would enjoy, kind of like when a six-year-old watches Shrek, they just love the cartoon animals and doing a thing. But when an adult watches Shrek, they say certain things that as an adult you’re like, “I see what you did there.” So, we did that.
It’s really a fantasy book for people who love fantasy. We didn’t try to create the most—we didn’t try to create some—I don’t know. It’s not Lord of the Rings. Do you get what I’m saying? We tried to create something that fantasy lovers would read and there’s in-jokes. There’s a lot of humor. There’s a lot of Easter eggs and things like that, but at the same time, it’s about six high school kids who start going to another world every time they go to sleep. And so when they sleep here, they’re wake over there. And over there, they are these wizards that are responsible for saving the world. And when they sleep over there, they’re wake here.
But their main conflict is that here, they’re in high school. They can’t be awake over in the world called Midrealm for 16 hours because that would mean that they would be sleeping for 16 hours back here. So they have to find this weird balance between the lives that they’ve grown up into and this new life where they’re literally responsible for the lives of other people. But of course here, they can’t tell anybody about this because they’re going to get clapped in an insane asylum.
So, it’s all about them finding that balance in their lives. And these are my favorite six characters that I’ve ever had a hand in creating. One of them is basically just me in high school, a total nerd who loves everything. Like, he’s the only one in the entire group who’s like, “This is the best thing ever!” And everybody else is sort of like, “This is a major distraction from my regular life.” But anyway, it’s come out. The reader responses have already been really fantastic. And I hope that anybody out there who enjoys a good fantasy story will enjoy it.
Jeff: That sounds awesome. What’s it called?
Garrett: It’s called Midrealm.
Garrett: It’s the first book in the Realm Keepers series. We’ve got six books lined up for that one. And the new one comes out every three months.
Jeff: Oh, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. We’ll look forward to it. It’s about 3pm Central as we record this and you already have reader feedbacks. So people who have bought and consumed it already.
Garrett: Well, this is the one that’s been coming out in parts over the last weeks.
Jeff: Oh, I got you. Okay.
Garrett: So everybody’s been reading it and we’ve got—I think we’re up to like across all of them we’re up to like 45 star reviews in a total of like 75 reviews so far and everything’s well over 4 ½ stars on Amazon. This one was also open up for pre-orders and so we had a lot of people getting it in advance and everything. So, yeah, people. I hope that stays the same.
Jeff: That is awesome. Well, thank you so much Garrett for being on the show. Thank you for sharing all of the ups and downs and ins and outs of your journey. And I wish you the absolute best of luck with your new book and everything else. I look forward seeing what awesome things you do, and go into the theatre someday and seeing one of your movies or one of your books in the theatre.
Garrett: Thanks very much, Jeff. I think it’s absolutely fantastic what you do on this show for people. And if anybody’s out there wanting to start making their own life and everything, just get out there and do it, man. There’s never going to be a better time than today. Thanks.
Jeff: Awesome advice. Thanks Garrett.
Great stuff from Garrett Robinson. Thank you, Garrett, for being on the show. And I want to play out a couple of things that was interesting about what Garrett said. So, first of all, there’s no more gatekeepers. There’s no more people who were out there—whether it’s a writing a book, or if you go back to my interview with Charlotte Eriksson from a couple months ago, she proved this in the music industry as well. But whether you’re writing a book, writing music, maybe doing art—we talked to Bob Baker about his art.
But no matter what you’re doing in the creative field, there’s no more gatekeepers. There’s no more waiting for the Hollywood producer to tell you that you’re good enough and buy your script and pay you the rights. There’s no more waiting for the New York publishing house to tell you that you’re good enough to publish your book. There’s no more waiting for the big record company to sign you to a deal. If you want to get your creative work, if you want to get your art out into the world, there’s plenty of ways to do it and you no longer—I want to be abundantly clear—you no longer have to wait for some big corporate entity to tell you that you’re good enough. The choice is yours. And you got all the information you need here. If it’s music, go back and listen to Charlotte Eriksson, great stuff. You can totally, totally do this.
Now, the other thing that I thought that was really interesting that we talked about with Garrett is this is whole concept of making a living. We only talk about those who are starving and broke and poor or we talk about the raving successes like J.K. Rowling or Bono or big, hugely successful people like that. And the reality of it is, that yes, those extremes exist, but there’s a whole lot more a middle ground in there. There’s a whole lot of people—an insane amount of people, okay, actually everybody who if they want to do this, could not be starving and also not right away be at the J.K. Rowling level. But they could definitely make a comfortable living for themselves somewhere in there now, that there is no more reliance on gatekeepers in this world.
So, there’s no more reason to sit around and say, “Well, someday I’ll do this.” “Someday, I’ll write that award-winning novel.” “Someday, I’ll get that album that’ll be hugely successful.” There’s no more reason to sit around and say that because you’re not waiting for anyone anymore. You got all the information right here that you need to make it happen.
So, the other thing that’s so cool about it is when you are in that middle ground and you’re in that position like where Garrett is, where he is making a very comfortable living—although he’s not J.K. Rowling, right? But when you get into that position, you’re then able to keep doing what you’re doing and the efforts that you did, the things that Garrett did yesterday, are going to benefit him six months from now and things that he has six months from now are going to benefit him two years from now. It’s going to be a snowball effect that he’s just going to keep building and building.
So, if that doesn’t inspire you to go out and write that book and go sell a bunch of copies, I don’t know what will. But as we know, nobody has success. You can have all of the tools and techniques and all of the information about publishing a book or whatever it maybe. You can have all the information, doesn’t really matter if you don’t have the tools, the mindsets, and the habits of all the most successful people in the world. And those tools, mindsets, and habits are not some big secret that is locked away in a cave somewhere that only a few people know. It’s actually very commonly understood.
The problem is just we don’t talk about it enough. We don’t talk enough about where the things that people do, how do people think, how do people act, what kind of habits do people have when they’re really, really insanely successful. I’m talking insanely successful like Oprah Winfrey, the most wealthiest woman in the world or Michael Phelps with all the golden medals that he’s won, or Michael Jordan with all of his success or someone like Barrack Obama who regardless of your political leaning, you have to respect the fact that anybody who can become president is a very productive person, who’s able to get things done, who’s able to influence people, and who’s able to make things happen.
All those habits are well known and well understood. And we don’t talk about them enough. We don’t teach them at school but you can learn more about them if you go to the new LinkedIn group that I’ve created called How To Get What You Want group and you can get that by going to howtoquitworking.com/group. Again, that’s howtoquitworking.com/group and that will take you right over to LinkedIn where you can click the Join button and join that group.
Now in that group, we have a bunch of really high-achieving people. We have people who have created multimillion dollar software companies. We have college professors. We have successful published authors. We have all the kind of crazy successful people that you could imagine, and we all just kind of chat in there about what it is that makes people successful. And we have some great conversation. It’s a great place to go and get inspired and—Yeah, I think we waste a lot of time on social media but my goal with that group is to make sure that it’s a group that no matter how much time you spend there that you will not be wasting time.
Howtoquitworking.com/group and that will take you right over to the LinkedIn group and you can click on Join. I hope to see you there so that we can interact personally and have great conversations but other than that, until next time.