When an author and entrepreneur who has sold over 3 million books puts out a book on marketing, you know you have to learn more! Tucker Max on the show today.
In the intro, I talk about the introduction of pre-orders for indie authors on Amazon KDP, already available on iBooks and Kobo. I've used it immediately, so you can now pre-order my next book, ‘Business for Authors: How to be an Author-Entrepreneur,' all the links here. I also thank my new backers of the show through Patreon and explain a bit more on how that works..
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Kobo’s financial support pays for the hosting and transcription, and you can now support my time on Patreon.
Tucker Max is a multiple New York Times bestselling author with over 3 million books sold. He’s also a serial entrepreneur, running a publishing company and a marketing business, as well as other ventures. His latest book is “The Bookstrapper Guide to Marketing Your Book, Creating a Bestseller by Yourself.”
- Tucker's early experiences with rejection in the book industry and how he built a platform online, transitioning to being an entrepreneur and moving into the publishing business himself.
- Why professional publishing is so important
- Why some people still perceive a stigma of self-publishing, but readers don't actually care
- On asking permission
- Tucker's advice to writers starting out
- How much of the marketing advice out there is espoused by people who haven't sold many books. Be careful who you listen to.
- The importance of deciding your definition of success
- Marketing suggestions for introverts
- What's next for authors? Tucker talks about what he thinks is coming …
Transcription of interview with Tucker Max
Joanna: Hi, everyone, I’m Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com, and today I’m here with Tucker Max. Hi, Tucker.
Tucker: Hey, how are you doing?
Joanna: I’m good, thanks. So, just a little introduction.
Tucker is a multiple New York Times bestselling author with over 3 million books sold. He’s also a serial entrepreneur, running a publishing company and a marketing business, as well as other ventures. His latest book is “The Bookstrapper Guide to Marketing Your Book, Creating a Bestseller by Yourself,” which is fantastic.
So, Tucker, tell us a bit about your background in the publishing world and how you came to reject the traditional way.
Tucker: Well, the honest reason is because at the very, very beginning, I was rejected by publishing more than I rejected it, in 2001, I just graduated from law school and I got fired from my first job as a lawyer, I wasn’t very good at being a lawyer. Actually, I did the work fine, I just wasn’t very good at dealing with the sort of things you’re supposed to do, like be nice to your bosses and stuff like that. And then I went to work for my father, he owns a restaurant company in South Florida, and my dad actually fired me from the family business.
So I clearly wasn’t good at law business, or restaurants. I kind of had to figure something else out to do, and it was funny, the whole time I was doing this, my buddies and I, we’d just graduated law school and we were all writing emails to each other, because we were all living around the country, and my friends thought that my emails were the funniest things that they’d ever read. So, one of my buddies was, “Look, man, you need to do this, because you’re not good at law, you’re not good at restaurants, but you’re very good at writing, and you’re very funny.”
And so I thought, “OK, well, if you’re going to be a writer, then you have to get a publishing deal, and you have to be a published author,” because, especially in 2001, that’s sort of the thought process. And so I sent the emails that basically became “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” to every single publisher in New York. Any agent, I didn’t care if you did cookbooks or you were a fantasy agent, you got a query from me, right. And I got not just mostly rejected;
I was 100% rejected from every agent and every publishing house.
And so, this was late 2001, early 2002 by this point, and I had literally nothing else to do, because at that point, if no one wants to publish you or represent you, you’re just kind of done—truly, that’s what people used to think—except now this thing called the Internet existed, and so, I was, “OK, well I can just put my stories up on a website.” And this is 2002, so Geocities is kind of the big thing.
This is pre-MySpace, pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, this is almost pre-Google, this is how early this is. Google’s still just a search engine run by nerds at Stanford.
And so I had to learn to code HTML, and I put my stories up, and it’s kind of funny, because my site was so plain, and now the site that I designed looks kind of like Tumblr looks now. Clearly it was nowhere near as good technically, it was just crap HTML. I put my stories up, and they kind of blew up, because they’re funny, and so people read them and forwarded them to their friends—this is back when email chain letters existed—and it became this big thing.
And so, long, long story short, publishers started coming back to me, MTv did this thing on me, and publishers started coming back to me, wanting to publish my books, and, and so I did “Beer in Hell” and I did “Assholes Finish First” and those did really well, New York Times Number 1 bestsellers, etc. and then I realized,
“Well, I don’t have to use publishers, there’s another way to do it.”
So what I did with my third book, “Hilarity Ensues,” is I realized, I was like, “Right, here’s what I’m going to do.” I went to Simon & Schuster and said, “I want a publishing deal,” because look, there’s only about seven to ten distributors, but there’s thousands of publishing companies, so who owns the trucks and the warehouses, and who has the sales reps that talk to B&N? It’s only those ten distributors. I went to S&S and I said, “If you guys don’t give me a distribution deal, as a publisher, then I’ll just go to Pegasus or someone else, and I’ll do it.”
I went from making 15% of a hardcover royalty to making 89% of net receipts,
really just by kind of redefining who I was going to be and how they were going to treat me. It was really funny: in one meeting, I went from having the publisher of Gallery Books and my editor, they left the room, went and talked to someone way above them, a C-level person, this CFO, they came back and were, “Right, we have to go now and the CFO and the VP of Distribution and somebody else are going to come in,” and then they asked me, “Tucker, can we stay in this meeting?” and I was, “Well, yeah, sure, why not? Why do you guys want to stay?” they were like, “We’ve never actually been in a meeting with C-level people here or talked about distribution,” and I was, “Yeah, sure, you guys can be my guests.”
So, the CFO and the other people come in, and it’s a totally different negotiation, because I’ve sold millions of books, I’m a big author, I was able to do that. And then now, as a result of all those experiences, I built my own publishing company. It’s hard to do that deal: you have to be a big-selling author, but, as you know, Joanna, I don’t have to tell you, there’s a million different self-publishing type options that are available now. And so I help authors sort through what’s good for them and what works, and then I help them to effect them.
Joanna: What I love about your story, obviously your own books are quite irreverent and a certain type of humor, but what you’ve done with that is also turn around the kind of ‘Pick me’ attitude, and you’ve just gone, “I don’t like being told what to do,” and just kind of got on with it. But what I also wanted to ask you is, I didn’t realize that was 2002. That’s a long time ago, now.
What have you seen in the attitude towards self-publishing, has that attitude changed completely in that time?
Tucker: The only place the attitude hasn’t changed are the snobbiest, most powerful people in publishing. It’s totally changed everywhere except those people, because those people don’t want self-publishing to work, because it reduces their power. As you said at the beginning, Joanna, I own a publishing company—actually, I started one, I sold that one, and then it’s funny, the company that, the company that bought my old publishing company, I worked for them for a while, I quit, and then the publishing company didn’t collapse, but they stopped wanting to do it, so I went back and bought the publishing company that bought me for less than I sold my other publishing company. It was a pretty cool deal.
So now I run that publishing company that bought my publishing company, and it’s all mine now, and I help tons of authors. And then I don’t run a marketing company. Ryan Holiday owns Brasscheck, he’s the owner, he started it, I just helped him found it. I’m a small part of that.
But I see publishing from those two ends, so I see customers, I see authors, I see every day: no one cares who publishes a book anymore, except two people, the fancy people in publishing, and then some fancy people in the media, because, again, it’s, it’s reflective of their power. But never, ever, ever have I seen a customer, an actual reader who buys a book, say “Who published it?” What they do say is, “Does this book look professional, or does it look reputable?” so that’s one of the big things that we emphasize to all of our authors now:
whether you are self-published or traditionally published, your book must look and feel very professional and very high status,
or it needs to feel for whatever it is. If you’re writing a humor book, it doesn’t necessarily have to feel high status, but it has to feel what you’re trying to project, and I think what’s ironic now is that a lot of traditional publishers do a worse job with making professional books than some self-publishers.
Joanna: I agree, although I want to come back on that, because it’s also some authors who are down on self-publishing.
Some of the nastiest comments are actually from authors. So, why do you think that is? Do people still expect that dream?
Tucker: Yes, well, it’s almost like a version of Stockholm Syndrome, to be honest. I’m 38, and I’m right in the middle of the digital divide. People 35 and younger kind of don’t remember pre-digital. Those are people who had email addresses in high school. And people older than me didn’t get email addresses until maybe toward the end years of college, or after college. I got my first email address my freshman year at college, and they started handing out email addresses at the University of Chicago two years before I got there. So, I’m literally right in that divide, I kind of straddle both worlds. I think people 40 and over, not everyone, but generally speaking, most older people don’t like anything they didn’t grow up with. Every old person thinks it’s so much easier now and kids are lazier and stupider, and it’s never, ever true. Everyone’s always said that, and it’s never true. Well, I think that’s a lot of what’s going on.
But then combine that with the fact that if you’re 48, let’s say, and if you grew up your whole life being told, “You’re an author if you get published,” and, “You’re an author if you get chosen by the New York literary elite,”, and then let’s say you’ve actually done it. I’m one of those people now—not me, personally, because I hate those people—but the people like, whatever novelist you want to pick, Jonathan Safran Foer, those type of people, to them, their identity is about being chosen and selected by the literary elite. And so now what they see is people like you, or Amanda Hocking, who are selling way more books than them, who are way more famous and way more popular, and they’re not getting chosen by the New York literary elite; they, more importantly, actual people are buying their books because they actually enjoy them. But they hate that, because that takes away from their status and their prestige and their power.
That’s why they have nasty comments. Because to them, writing is, is—I’m not saying this about all writers, but to those people, writing is about their identity, and part of their identity is exclusion. “You’re not allowed in my club. I made this club, and you’re not, because you write down-market vampire novels for white trash in Nebraska.” Which I think is total bulls**t, but that’s just how those people think. And it’s one of those things that’s hard to understand until you actually talk to them and you actually work through it, and you realize, “Wow, these people are such incredible elitist snobs, and in the worst way. They basically think what makes them special is that they’re in a small club, and the only way they can feel good is if other people are excluded.”
And to me, that’s awful. And to most people, I think,
any idea should compete on its merits, in a fair marketplace, and that’s what self-publishing has allowed,
and that’s why you’ve seen the death of the literary novel, because, guess what, most literary novels are terrible. They’re just terrible, and no one wants to read them. That’s just the reality of it; they just are.
Joanna: I’m not going to come back on all of that, but the one thing I think is interesting is the permission aspect. I think what you’ve got and what I’ve got is, we do not like asking permission. That is one of the reasons I hate the whole rejection thing; it’s like, “You don’t reject me, because I’m not asking for your permission.” But many authors don’t have that entrepreneurial streak.
So, in “Bookstrapper,” you say in the first chapter, “You’re in charge of the marketing.” But how do authors get more entrepreneurial with their whole attitude?
Tucker: These are different things, though. Saying that an, an author needs to be entrepreneurial is not the same as saying an author needs to get permission to write themselves. They’re different things. There are people out there, I think—and that’s the reason Amanda Hocking took a traditional publishing deal, because she didn’t want to do all the things around writing, the business around it. I can actually understand that, as a writer. But if you conflate the two things, you confuse two different issues.
Asking for permission is the same thing as saying, “I’m not allowed to be a writer until I get a book deal,” which to me is ridiculous.
I meet people all the time who are, “Oh, yeah, I want to be an author, tell me how to be an author” and then I look at them and I’m, “You didn’t ask me how to write, you didn’t ask me anything about writing,” and, “Oh right, I just want to be an author”. “Well, that is what being an author is!” They’re looking at all the, “Oh, you’re famous and you’re respected and girls like you and you make money and you blah, blah, blah,” and I’m, “Wait, I did all that because I wrote stuff people want to read: that’s where it all starts, being an author.”
So, I think your point is a good one.
You don't need permission to be an author. All you need to be an author is an audience. And you get an audience by writing things that other people care about and want to read, that they feel like will help their lives.
Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. Both. Fiction helps people’s lives, or they would not buy it and read it. Same with non-fiction, because non-fiction tends to have a more direct ROI.
Now, that’s a different question. If you’re an author, and you don’t want to be entrepreneurial, I get that. Because for a lot of people, being entrepreneurial is about thinking about how to solve problems, which you actually use different parts of your brain than being creative in the way of thinking about story and about character and things like that. So, I totally understand authors who are, “I just want to write, I don’t want to do the business of writing.” If you’re in that situation, I think you need to hire people who are good at the things you’re not good at.
So, if you’re a really good author, let’s say you’re selling, I don't know, $300,000 worth of ebooks a year or something, you’re in a good spot. At that point, you can easily hire someone to handle your marketing; you can hire someone to build your author site, your authority site; you can hire someone to run your email list; you can hire someone to do your book marketing; you can hire someone to do all your covers; and you can even hire a virtual assistant type to manage all those people.
Joanna: That’s true, but most of the people listening don’t have that!
Tucker: Well, here’s the thing. You can’t hire people to do that work until your writing is popular enough that lots of people are paying you for it. But look, Joanna, ten years ago, even, the path didn’t exist to go from unknown writer sitting at your computer to making a couple, even a hundred grand a year: you can easily hire that whole team. They’re not going to be the best in the world, but you can hire capable people at all of those levels.
But if you’re starting at the beginning, my advice would be to not worry about marketing, to not worry about any of the business stuff.
My advice would be to write. Write, write, write. Figure out what you like you like writing, you’re good at writing, and people want.
Where is the overlap between those three circles?
I like writing this—I’m good at writing this—and people will pay to read this. If you can figure out that overlap, then that’s where you need to focus. And then, once you get good enough that you’re making a little bit of money, I would really start thinking about, “OK, how big can I get?” and then start learning. I’ll learn the basics, and then figure out, OK, I need to make let’s say, 60 grand a year to be a full-time writer, and then I’m going to need to make, I think, 20 to 40 a year easily is more than enough to hire essentially a full-time team. It doesn’t mean that they only work for you; you’re hiring people who maybe have 50 clients, and you’re one of them, but I think 20 is probably more than enough a year.
I’ll tell you what, if you have a great job and you write on the side, you can even allocate your first 20 grand to say, “Alright, I’m going to hire a really good team to build my site, I’m going to hire a great team to do all these sorts of things,” and then you can just focus on writing, if that’s what you want. Or, if you want, you can go the other way round, you have, and I have, and you can learn the business behind it, too, and you can focus on that, and then you don’t have to hire a lot of people. Or you can know, “Alright, I only need to hire one person for this specific thing, I want, and then I know what all the prices are, you know,” etc.
The more you know, the less you have to spend on other services. It’s a trade-off, you know.
Joanna: Absolutely. So, for people with just I think about six dollars, they can get your “Bookstrapper” book, I love the tagline, by the way, I like “Bookstrapper,” I feel like that’s a great line. I want to be a bookstrapper.
So why did you and Ryan and Nils write this book?
Tucker: We have a pretty good book marketing firm. I don’t know who to compare with us, but I don’t know anyone better. We’ve done the marketing for my books, which have sold over 3 million copies, Tim Ferriss’s books, which have sold over 3 million copies, Robert Greene, who’s sold millions of copies, who else have we worked with? Paolo Coelho, Seth Godin: we’ve done specific things for them, we’re not responsible for all their success. But you go down the list, there’s dozens and dozens. I think we’ve launched 17 bestsellers, four number one bestsellers, and this is only in about a year and half, two years we’ve been doing this.
So, we’re really busy, and we’re really expensive. A book launch with us basically starts at about 20 grand, and can run up to 50, depending on how much work you want us to do and whatever. Very few people can afford that, and, and we totally understand that. But what we see on the other side is, we see a lot of people out there selling these online courses about book marketing, and they’re f**king frauds.
Excuse my language, but it really pisses me off when these people who have literally never marketed a bestseller or any book at all are essentially just picking, “Oh, yes, someone said this,“ they just read a bunch of stuff on the Internet, they don’t know what’s right or wrong, all they know how to do is sell stuff on the Internet, and so they put this video course together, and then they have this email list, and this email sequence they set up, and they essentially trick people using very sophisticated marketing, scammy marketing techniques, to get people to pay anywhere from $400 to $4,000 for these big courses. At best they teach them nothing they couldn’t get for free; at worst, they teach them stuff that’s wrong, or even negative; that hurts them.
And so we would see these people doing this stuff, and it wasn’t even because they were making money, I’ve made plenty of money, it’s more that they were making money scamming people. And so, all these people come to us, “I already paid $500 for this video course and it didn’t help me,” and then they come to us, and we help all these different people, and I realized, I basically begged Ryan, because Ryan is so busy marketing books and doing things, he’s, “I don’t have time to write this book.” So I begged him, “Look, man, we have got to do something to give to people that have very little money but have a lot of time, and are willing to put in the work and learn this.”
Because we’re authors, too: Ryan has bestsellers, I have books,
we know what it feels like to spend a year or two years working on a book and then put it out, and it falls flat,
or something like that, and it’s terrible, and we don’t want authors to be in that situation, so we decided to write the definitive book on how to think about book marketing, and then exactly what to do to launch a book. So that’s, that’s sort of what the book is.
Joanna: And it’s great, it’s really detailed and there’s lots of stuff in there. Just one thing, there’s a lot that’s crossover, but it is mainly targeted at non-fiction authors.
I’d probably say that at least 80% is relevant for fiction, as well, but do you guys talk about fiction marketing?
Tucker: No. We actually debated calling it, “Book Marketing for Non-Fiction.” The only reason we didn’t is because I gave it to a couple buddies of mine, I think you know Sean Platt? I gave it to a couple of buddies like Sean, because we’re not fiction market, fiction book marketing experts, but Sean said, “No, there’s a lot of good stuff in here for fiction guys, just make sure you delineate.” And so we did. I actually think it’s less than 80%. I would say there’s, 40 to 60% of this book you can use for fiction, but I don't write fiction, so if you say 80, I’m going to go with what you say.
Joanna: I think so.
Tucker: But it’s definitely geared to non-fiction. We’ve never had a fiction client, I don’t think, or if we have, I can’t remember. We don't do much fiction, because fiction book marketing to me, it seems, I think the best book marketing you can do for fiction is write more books.
Joanna: That’s very true, and get your metadata right.
Tucker: Right, whereas for non-fiction, writing more books doesn’t necessarily help you. How you market your book is far more important.
Joanna: Exactly. There’s so much in the book, I could ask you about everything.
But one thing I do want to ask you about is why is it so important to decide on your measurement for success, i.e. hitting a list versus income versus something else?
Tucker: Because that fundamentally determines what you’re going to do, your strategy. If if your goal is, “I want to hit the New York Times bestseller list,” then you have to pack as many sales as possible into one week, your release week. And that’s really hard to do, and it prevents other marketing strategies. You can’t do everything, like I can’t be in two places at once, I can’t do this podcast and write a book; I had to pick. Same thing, you can’t hit every goal with marketing.
Most of the people who come to us at the beginning are, “Alright, I want to hit the bestseller list, and I want a bunch of evergreen marketing and I don't want to spend any money, and I want to be an astronaut, and an actor, and everything.” And it’s, “No, at best you can have a secondary goal, but you need to pick your goal.”
And then once we kind of break people down, most people in non-fiction, when you actually describe what the various goals are, they realize hitting a bestseller list is one of those things that would be nice, but is not crucial. Most people nowadays, for non-fiction, want their book to serve some other purpose. So they want it to establish authority in a certain field, or to establish their career as a speaker, or to promote their business, or to promote themselves in some other way, or whatever.
And so, those sorts of things, if those are your goals, then a lot of times, the things you have to do to hit the bestseller list actually trade-off with those other goals. And so we have a big section about how to understand what are your goals, what are all the possible goals. We list about nine different possible goals, or the big ones that we see over and over, and then how those goals trade off, and help you understand which goal makes the most sense for you.
If you’re like the rich CEO and making the bestseller list matters, then, “OK, fine, you’ve got a lot of money to spend, we can help you,” because spending money absolutely can help hit the bestseller list.
But what’s funny is, beyond a certain point, beyond about 15 or 20 grand, it’s like another 20 grand isn’t going to make much difference. Either you hire people who know what they’re doing, and you have good content and you do the right things, or you don’t. And then, most people, once we talk them through it, they realize, “My book needs another focus, so I’m going to focus on those things, and that’s how I’m going to get my return.”
Joanna: That’s fantastic. And then, you’re really well-known for doing some quite outrageous stunts, and Ryan as well.
But many authors are kind of introverted and hate attracting attention, so what are your tips for authors for making more of an impact, even if they’re introverted?
Tucker: Well, here’s the thing. I don’t recommend stunt-based marketing for many people. It worked for me because I had that sort of personality, and I wrote those sorts of books, that it made sense, and the same with Ryan. I think you’re totally right: stunt-based marketing doesn’t work for most books, and I don't think it works for most authors. That being said, even if you are an introvert, you can do quite a few things.
First off, let me just point out, one of the bestselling books over the last two years is called “Quiet,” the book by Susan Cain about how introverts can operate in the world, and why they’re important. And and I would actually buy that book: the book’s pretty fantastic.
But beyond that, here’s the thing actually you need to think about first is, you need to think about what matters the most to me? If you’re a writer, what matters the most and what’s giving you the most results?
So, if you’re a writer, and let’s say you already have a website, and you have a decent email list, maybe 5 or 10,000 people on your list, and you’ve got a good core audience. And, let’s say that you do a guest post on a couple of blogs, and then you do a couple of freelance things, and between that and your books, you’re making a good living, 60 grand a year or something.
Then, I would actually recommend—it depends what your goals are. If you just love writing, and you don’t like marketing, then I would do as much as possible to set up automatic marketing, where your site sort of markets itself, and you set up, “OK, I’m going to pull stuff out of my previous books and send those out as blog posts to my list, and I’m going to put those out on these sort of blogs that redirect back to my site, that get people on my list, and then that’s going to be 20% of my time, and 80%’s going to be writing, because I love writing new books, because every new book earns me, let’s say, an amortized value of 20 grand per year or five years, then I’m just going to spend my time writing books, and then kind of create auto-marketing.”
That actually works for a lot of introverts. It takes a little bit of time to really understand how to set up that process, and then automate it, and at the beginning, you might have to spend a little money to hire people to help you do that, but once you get an automated marketing, or quasi-automated marketing process set up, you can spend 80 plus percent of your time doing the things that you love.
Or you can look at other types of marketing that you do love. Let’s say, you’re introverted, you don't like talking to people, so I’m not going to do podcasts, but I really like email or typing, looking at a screen. So let’s say you just do all your interviews as email text interviews, or you can do Reddit sort of “Ask me anything,” AMAs, or I think Goodreads is doing Q&A things now. You can do any number of those things, and schedule those: every Friday I’m going to try and do one, and then you do one on AMA, you pull all the best stuff out, you make it a blog post, you put it on Huffpost, you send it out to your list.
What you can do, too, if you’re an introvert and you don’t like doing press, you can say, “Alright, I’m going to do five press pieces,” and then you can repackage those five pieces in three different ways apiece, so five pieces become fifteen pieces or something like that.
So, think about what do you like doing, what are you good at, and then how can you take those pieces and then repurpose them in other places so that you can one hour sitting doing press can launch into three to five to ten hours of equivalent sort of work.
Joanna: That’s fantastic, and there’s so much in the book, and I really want people to get it, it’s fantastic. But just one last question. What do you see happening in the next couple of years in publishing?
We’ve seen so much change over the last couple of years; what do you see as the next thing, is it audiobooks, is it global sales, is it China, what is it?
Tucker: You’re talking about small things or big, global sort of shifts?
Joanna: I’m more interested in big shifts, personally. And my pick is global, it really is.
Tucker: This might sound kooky, I’ll tell you my kooky, crazy, this is what we’re going to be in five years. So I think it’s weird. Reading is going up. And ebook sales are going up. But physical book sales and book prestige, if you think of prestige as the way it used to be in the 20th century, are going down. So, if you look at those things, and you think, I’ve been looking at that for a few years, and I kind of thought to myself, why do people even care about books? I think for a long time, people cared about books because books were this weird cultural artifact that had this prestige and status attached to them, which is why, like we talked about earlier, certain authors, especially traditionally published authors, they’re the ones who look down their noses the most at self-published authors, because that’s about their identity. But those people are old, and they’re dying.
So, who’s replacing them? It’s people who grew up in a world where physical books either didn’t exist or weren’t that high status, so they don’t care about them. But those people do want information; people always want information, people always want entertainment, so fiction and non-fiction are always going to be a huge, huge place in our society.
And when I thought about it, I remembered, a lot of my fans are guys that say things like, “I hate reading but I love your books,” or “I had never bought a book before, before I bought your books.” And then I thought for a while, for years I’ve been thinking, “What if they’re right? What if reading does suck?“ Because if you actually understand neurology, neurobiology really well, you know, reading is a very cognitively difficult task. And, well first of all, most writing does suck, and it’s not clear, and it’s very much about the writer and not about the reader.
And so you pull all these weird threads together, and I actually think the future of books is not books. Because books, aside from the social status, that really only matters to old people, serve a function to people. People buy books for a reason. You, you buy fiction because you want to be told a story that tells you about yourself, or you learn something through or you escape through. Or you read non-fiction to learn something because you believe it will help you get something in your life.
And I actually think the future of books is not books, but writing combined with both audio and video, what I call information ecosystems. And I think the future is going to be people who can either convey information in all mediums in a way that people can understand it really quickly and easily—that’s non-fiction—for fiction, it’s going to be people who can tell great stories, that don’t have to be limited to text.
So, that’s a little different than, than a lot of like futurists talk about. Some of the people doing this right now, in non-fiction one of the best ones doing it is this guy named Ramit Sethi. Ramit does a fantastic job of combining, audio, visual and video together with text, and if you go to his site, he’s, “What do you want? Do you want to make more money, do you want to start a business, do you want to get a better job, do you want to negotiate something?” He doesn’t try and sell you a book; he figures out what you want, and then he pushes you into a funnel where you can learn how to get the things you want out of life. Books used to serve that purpose before the explosion of digital technology, but I think now books are only going to be a part of that ecosystem.
People who are authors only won’t exist, will be at the fringes, in maybe as quickly as five years, but at least ten years. And the people who are going to dominate the future are, in non-fiction, the people who can curate and learn and synthesize a ton of knowledge and make it easier for other people to learn, in all mediums; and in fiction, it’s going to be the people who can conceive of amazing universes in their head, whether they are broad and expansive and fantastical, like George R. R. Martin, or whether they’re really deep and personal and emotional, like Jeanette Walls.
Those people, I think, are going to dominate the future, and they’re going to do it through platforms because George R. R. Martin’s never going to run a huge author site; he’s never going to run TV shows, whatever, but someone like that, who has that sort of storytelling and character genius, I think companies are going to arise that can essentially create all of the audiovisual writing stuff out of his mind, and so I think the company that can essentially do all the work for the great informer and educator or the great storyteller, those companies are being built now. We don’t know who they are or what they’re looking for – I’m trying to build one of those companies, to be honest: that’s why I think this is the future, but someone’s going to build those companies, and then those companies will connect with the best educators or the best informers or the best storytellers, and they will create the media fiction and non-fiction of the future.
And so I think ‘author’ as a standalone job will not exist, and it will be a quick process, simply because the kids, and I deal with some pretty exceptional teenagers and some 20, 25 year olds, and no one wants to be just an author. They all want books, but a book, to them is a piece of this information ecosystem: “Oh, I have the website and I have the cool YouTube channel and I have books and I have all this other stuff,” because they live in digital media. They don't interact with digital media, they live in it, and I think books are essentially not going to be seen as different; they’re going to be seen as a part of it, and then eventually, they’ll almost not exist on their own.
Writing, I think, absolutely will. Books as their own separate artifact and authors as a separate job independent from other things I think eventually will phase out and will no longer exist.
Joanna: It’s good you said that, because on my to-do list is to figure out how we can get into Oculus Rift! That is coming.
Tucker: People don’t understand, it’s so funny. People don’t realize, people are like, “Ah, OK, there are no more great poets.” And I look at them, and I’m like, “What are you talking about? The greatest, some of the greatest poets who have ever lived are alive today, they really are. They’re called rappers. Exactly!” And people are like, “Oh, all the great novelists are gone,” and I’m like, “Some of the best storytelling that’s ever existed is coming out right now, and they’re called video games designers or storytellers, I forget what their name is, but they're the story editors for video games. Some of the best, greatest, most amazing creatives just have different names, and they’re operating in different mediums.
So if you think about poetry, going from T.S. Eliot to Eminem, then think, that transition is going to happen in books. Because we’re going to go from George R. R. Martin to whoever, we don’t know what the next person’s going to do, but it’s going to be someone who can create incredible universes in their head, and then translate them into a medium that is comprehensive and inclusive of sort of all human senses.
And you’re absolutely right, Oculus Rift is a perfect example. If you’re a great storyteller and a great fiction writer, especially if you’re young, you’re not getting a lot of traction in books, why don’t you go start writing, go team up with some programmers, because I’ve never met an engineer who can tell a fucking story. So, you team up with an engineer who’s designing things for, for Oculus Rift, because they’re going to need story. And story is hard, and story is difficult, and it’s a very distinct skill. It’s funny, people won’t call you a storyteller, or a novelist, even though you’re going to have to write novels inside of Oculus Rift, just like video games.
Joanna: We live in exciting times! We do indeed. So, where can people find you and your books and your services online?
Tucker: My publishing company is called Lioncrest, just go to Lioncrest.com; or Bookstrapper, the book is called “The Bookstrapper Guide to Marketing your Book,” that’s on Amazon, or, I’ll tell you, Joanna, I’ll do your readers or your listeners a favor. The first let’s say 25 people of your listeners who email me, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and say, “Hey, give me a, a pdf of the book,” I’ll send the first 25 I get a free copy of the book marketing book.
Joanna: Ah, thank you.
Tucker: Because, look, we make plenty of money publishing and marketing these books: I, I’m more than happy to give out the information, basically, as long as the person’s going to actually read it and use it: I understand most people who listen are actual authors?
Joanna: My audience will.
Tucker: Exactly, so if you’re a real author and you really want to know how to market your books better, especially non-fiction, but fiction are welcome to use it, then I’ll give a copy to 25, and then just all I ask, come back and tell me what works, what doesn’t work, because we’ll keep updating this book. Because that’s how we get better at our jobs. We make a lot of money doing what we do, but the reason we’re really good is because we stay up on the newest. Shit changes fast, right! The best way to stay up on the newest things going on is to give your information away for free, and then get feedback from other people about what’s working and what’s not working, and then I make all my money on the extreme margins with the high-value authors, who don’t want to worry about marketing, they’ll just pay me. “I don’t want to worry about publishing,” they just pay me; they don’t want to worry about creating an author platform, they just pay me, right. I’m not trying to sell a thousand $3 things. I’d rather sell one $30,000 thing.
Joanna: Very sensible. Well, thanks so much for you time, Tucker, that was brilliant.
Tucker: Thank you, Joanna.