Category Archives: Choose Yourself

The Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth – Not your father’s financial advice

(Quick update. Go here to get a limited time offer hardback of the book, plus some other goodies.)

(Update 2. The book is now available on Kindle and in paperback.)

James Altucher has self-published and traditionally published several books.  His last self-published book, Choose Yourself, has sold over 200,000 copies since it came out in 2013.  He has made and lost millions and then made it back.

He has a follow up to that book, The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth, which will be available on March 1.  I was lucky enough to get an early copy.

Choose yourself Guide to Wealth cover

 

In 2015 things have changed and are changing.  You just know things are different.  You can’t quite put your finger on it, but advice for your career and finances aren’t working anymore.

James wrote about the changes in his 2013 book Choose Yourself.  Which really was a book on health.  Not just make a lot of money, but be healthy in all aspects of your life.

Here James has put together a blueprint, a handbook, to help us navigate the new financial quagmire we too often have found ourselves in this century,  As James says in the book “This is not a self help book.  It’s just exactly what I did for myself.”

If you are looking for save a 1000 bucks, pay down your smallest credit card first, go to college because it makes you more money, then please stop reading.  This book will only make you furious.  And then you will hate me.  So please stop reading.

But if you need new ideas, then please keep reading.

Okay.

Still with me?

A little background

I first discovered James’ writing around 2012.  I was doing a search on “do I pay down my mortgage or save?” and I came across a blog post about why you should never buy a house.  Ever.  Is that advice you normally get?

So I read some more.

And I discovered that James was writing about other ideas.  And ideas that I agreed with, but no one else wrote about.

Such as having one job to make money is not safe.  In is in fact, the opposite of safe.  That I completely agreed with.

I was also beginning to put my first book Kevin and the Seven Lions together.  And James is a big proponent of self-publishing.  He shared his experience of publishing the traditional way, and the new way.  He advocates for self-publishing big time.  So I was on board with his writing ever since.

So he was writing about two ideas that no one else, I could find at the time, would ever have the courage to write about.

In terms of jobs, I have been employed full-time as a videographer, a minister, in retail, and as a teacher.  I have also run a freelance business on the side, and over the last couple of years I have published children’s books.  My wife has said I have ADD.  But in spite of being teased, my experience has taught me that being able to do many different things is a valuable skill.  And now in my early 40s it is beginning to pay dividends for me.

In terms of publishing, my books have brought not just a few extra dollars in, but they have brought in other opportunities to work with other people.  I have been doing several things at once.

That is the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of what is taught by schools, colleges, and parents.  “What is your major?”  “What do you want to do when you grow up?” “You need to settle down?”

It would be great to settle down.  But what happens when your boss fires you because he can’t make payroll?  Or because the company was bought and now you are considered redundant?  Or simply because your boss doesn’t like you.  BAM!  You’re outta there.

Then what?

Well you need to reinvent yourself.  Or to borrow James’ phrase Choose Yourself.

At the beginning of the book James uses graphs and stats to show the financial trend that is affecting all of us.  That feeling of unease is explained in his graphs showing just how flat wages are for the middle and lower class.  And it hasn’t just been occurring since 2008.  It’s been going on my whole life time, and probably yours.

College, housing, and healthcare have also done nothing but gone up faster than inflation over the last several decades.

Your income.  Not so much.

(And you teachers that read this blog know EXACTLY what I am talking about.)

James lays all of the facts out in the beginning of the book.

And here is what he recommends to get out.

Ideas are the most valuable currency of our time.

This is simply the thrust of the entire book.  He calls it becoming an idea machine.  His chapter alone on the Idea Matrix is enough to recommend buying book.  He has written before about the Idea Matrix, but here he gives more details on how ideas turn into wealth.

 

This idea alone is worth the purchase.

This idea alone is worth the purchase.

And how do you work your way up the Idea Matrix?  Write down 10 ideas a day.  Everyday.

Using Mark Zukerberg as an example, James explains how ideas are more valuable than cash.  Yahoo wanted to buy Facebook early on.  Mark would have gotten $250 million.  He said no.

Not all ideas bring in cash, but they do bring experiences and opportunities.  James got to see the inside of Amazon’s self-publishing set-up when he sent Amazon ten ideas.  He wasn’t paid, but he got to meet new people and plant seeds for future opportunities.

And writing down ideas has worked for me.  James sharing his book with me, and you reading this post, happened because I have been working on becoming on my own Idea Muscle over the last several years.  This blog post is the direct result of working my way up the Idea Matrix.

P.S. His wife wrote a whole book about the process of becoming an idea machine.  Check out my review of it.

The rest of the journey

James really delves deep into details on:

  • How to negotiate (I really learned from the section.  Always have a longer list than the other person.)
  • How to build a company
  • How to be a super connector (Interviewing people on a blog, which I have done here is one way to be a super-connector)
  • Look for trends when investing (surprisingly he doesn’t mention self-publishing here)
  • What to do with your money once you actually have some.  (His advice is very different from, well, every other financial writer.)

But I got the most out of the stories.

There is a lot in this book.  And too much to comment on here.  This post is now over a 1000 words.  But here are some of the stories I got a lot out of.

Richard Branson started Virgin Air when his flight was canceled by leasing a plane on the Virgin Islands, and then to help with the costs stood in the airport with a sign that read “Puerto Rico $39”.

Brokers will lend out shares you own, to other investors so they can short them.

Warren Buffett is really more of trends investor. And that early on he made money by the fees he made from other people’s money.  He didn’t just invest his own money, as it is often portrayed.

Gene Wolfe invented the Pringles can and then writes one page a day and got so good at writing he won awards.  (I also wrote about the idea of one page a day.  Just 150 words a day and your life changes.)

Marni Kyrnis creates a Craiglist ad to be your wing woman at the bar.  And starts a new career.

That Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, asked the agent who wanted to represent him who else they represented, and they got quiet and then responded “Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes”.

It is the stories that really show what James is talking about.  Despite his skill at finances, he is actually a skilled story teller.  (He needs to publish a fiction book sometime.  Seriously, though check him out on Wattpad.)

Things are changing

To thrive emotionally, career-wise, and financially in the 21st century you must NOT think like the 20th century.  A corporation or job will not choose you and protect you.  30 years and a gold watch are done.  Those days are over.

And that is a good thing.

We can get through this by choosing ourselves first, and then helping each other.  This isn’t a selfish me only, way of thinking.  This is I am healthy, and now I can help you way of thinking.

Pick this blue-print up when it is available in March.  I will also update this post with a link to the book.

In the meantime you can pick up Choose Yourself and Become an Idea Machine now on Amazon.

     

 

Here is my original review of Choose Yourself.

 

 

How to be famous forever

There was a question on Quora that I answered.

As a person of the arts, (drama, literature, music etc.) what does it take to be remembered by history and to stand the test of time?

I thought it was an interesting question.  So I did a little reading on those that I considered to have stood the test of time, at least 300 years time.

First, let say me I think there is some luck involved here.

After that, you need to be prolific.  

Seriously, over 450 books.

Seriously, over 450 books.

Isaac Asimov wrote over 450 books.

Van Gogh made over 2,000 works of art.

Mozart composed over 600 works of music.

Charlie Chaplin made nearly 100 movies.

Miles Davis’ had at least 48 studio albums, plus dozens of live albums.

Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays.

Dickens wrote at least 15 novels, five novellas, and hundreds of short stories.

Steven Spielberg has producer credits on at least 147 movies.

Hitchcock directed over 50 movies.

Be prolific.

The lasting effects so far of Bookbub

I am now over a month out from my Bookbub email blast and brief run at the best-seller’s list on Amazon’s Children’s List.  See that post here.

Here is a screen grab of Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien‘s raking:

Book Bub effect with text

I admit it was not a great for a long time.  In fact it hadn’t sold a single copy  in several months.

It now averages more than a sale a day.

I’m not quitting my day job on that news, but it is way better than before.

Lessons Learned:

Simply writing a great book and putting it up isn’t enough.

I know.  Most don’t want to hear that.  You’ve written a great piece of literature, therefore the world is going to beat down your door.  Nope.  Being recommended by others matters.

In this case the book was recommended by Bookbub, and that matters.

Build your own email list

At the time of the email Bookbub told me their children’s email went out to something like 330,000 people.

Off of that email and Bookbub website I had about 350 sales and Kindle borrows.

Let’s do that math.  That’s about one-ten of one-percent.  .1 of 1%

To be able to sell 350 copies from my own list, I wouldn’t need nearly that many subscribers.  If just 10% of an email list bought a new book, all I would need would be a list of 3,500 people.

Now, that isn’t easy.  But I figure my choice is to either focus on building my tribe through an email list or be completely dependent on Bookbub.  And I reapplied to Bookbub for the original Kevin book, which has 48 reviews on Amazon.  But they didn’t accept it.  Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien they did accept only has 12 reviews.  So I will focus on building my own list.

And if you’re a writer then that is what your marketing efforts should be on as well.  Building your own email list.

So Bookbub was wonderful!  If you can get your book accepted.  Take it!  But in the long run you should have your own email list to send a blast out too.

Hey look at that: http://eepurl.com/1EWcT

That’s the link where you can sign up my Insider’s List (my email list).  You get a couple of free short stories, some photographs I have taken, and you will get the chance to get new books for free before they are available on Amazon.  Plus I send out a lot of blog posts and other content on that list before I send it here, or on Facebook.

What to do when you have no idea what to write about

When you don’t have any ideas.

I had dinner with some friends tonight. One friend, like many teachers, has always wanted to write a children’s book.  But she says she doesn’t have any ideas.

There is the mistake.

Most people who want to write but don’t, make a fundamental mistake.  They wait for the idea first and then they begin writing.  This is wrong.

Wrong.

Louis L’more said “In order for the water to flow you must first turn on the faucet.”  Or something like that.  I’m not looking it up.

In other words, come to the paper (or computer) first, then you write.  Then come the bad ideas, and then later come the good ideas.  But it is, always, first write.

When I decided to try and write a children’s book, I had no idea where to start.  So I did what any good teacher does.  I gave a writing prompt.  When writing Kevin and the Seven Lions I sat down at the computer and wrote several sentences as writing prompts.

Kevin slept in class.

That was the sentence that started the Kevin series.  That sentence didn’t make the final book, but it started the whole thing.

Here are some of the other sentences I wrote

Bobby rounded third and slid into home plate.

Sally was a shark.

I am still thinking about the shark book.  The baseball reference above I don’t think has anything to do with Baseball and Aliens.  But just writing down words.  ANY WORDS.  Got the ball rolling.

When you are completely stuck my recommendation, just write a sentence.  Any sentence.  Put your fingers on the keyboard and let the fingers talk.

Seriously any sentence, and see what happens.

If you are stuck.  Write your sentence.

Trust me on this.

 

P.S.

Get this blog post early, free short stories, and my next book for free if you join my Insider’s List.

The amazing fun of a Bookbub promo and being on the same page as Harry Potter

I got freakin’ lucky.  I submitted Kevin and the Three-Headed on a whim to Bookbub, the very exclusive book promoting website and mailing list, and to my shock they accepted the book.  At that point I agreed to the $110 for the promo.

A very brief best-selling children's book.

A very brief best-selling children’s book.

Currently Bookbub is one of the most powerful ways to promote a book in a short term blast.  For the longest time Bookbub didn’t promote children’s books.  The children’s market is definitely a smaller market than romance, thrillers, and science fiction.  But I believe to be a growing market as school start buying iPads and Kindles for their classrooms.  So for a long time there just wasn’t a way to really reach a lot of readers outside of your own platform.

$110 you say!?  I was setting the book to a 99 cent Kindle Countdown sale.  Meaning I would get about 70 cents per sale.  So to me it was worth the investment.  The days of having a bump from a free run, even a really good free run, seem to be over.  So a 99 cent sale would keep the book visible on the sales charts and the Kindle countdown chart.

Yes. It was BIG seller before…

On the day of the of the promotion, Friday October 3rd, I kept an eye on sales as best I could.  I was at school so I couldn’t check in that often on my phone, but I noticed that it sold a copy before the email went out.  So someone had seen it on the website and purchase a copy then.  The email blast went out about around noon.  So the downloads began then.  By the time school was over at 3:15 my ad with Bookbub was profitable.  Let me say that again, three hours and profitable, I had the remaining five days of the promo to still run.  Which is why I recommend when doing a Bookbub promo make it a 99 cent promo and not a free one.

Well that night the wife and I went to the movies.  I was good and put the phone away.  When when left the movies about 8:30 pm the book had just past 200 copies.  After watching other books on Bookbub I noticed that children’s books were hitting the top 100 children’s list, and some were getting to around the 1,000 overall ranking and passing the 1,000 ranking.  So my hope was the get somewhere near there.  Since the book hadn’t sold in a couple of months.  Yes, a couple of months.  The ranking of the book was some where around 970,000.

So #970,000 was where the book started on Friday October 3.

It reached #575 sometime that night.

575.

Wow.

But even more enjoyable was seeing it hit #20 on the overall children’s list when I got out of the movies.  There on my phone it was on the same page as Harry Potter and Wonder.   Try as I might I couldn’t get a screen grab on my phone.  Never mind the fact that my phone will take random screen grabs in my pocket.  BUT THE ONE MOMENT I WANT A SCREEN GRAB.  No go.

On Saturday it was still climbing the children’s list.

Hey look! I am photobombing Harry!

Hey look! I am photobombing Harry!

I took a screen grab on my laptop so I could fit on the screen with Harry. Silly me.

It was surreal, it peaked at #14.

October 4 will be a day long remembered when Kevin got to hang with Harry and Greg.

October 4 will be a day long remembered when Kevin got to hang with Harry and Greg.

Lessons learned:

  • Getting into Bookbub once doesn’t guarantee a second time.  I submitted the first Kevin book, Kevin and the Seven Lions, it has a lot more reviews than three-Headed Alien does, yet Bookbub turned it down.
  • An author needs their own platform and email list so as not to be completely dependent on something like Bookbub.
  • Sales lead to other sales-in a series.  The promo helped the first Kevin book as well, but so far none of my other books.
  • It is possible to make a living selling children’s books.  There are several writers in the top 100 who are self-published and they have several books on the list.  Marcus Emerson and Noah Child the authors of the Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja
    Series have 8 books at $2.99 in the series.  They are doing very well.  A new series to me, My Monster Farts, is currently doing very well, even at 99 cents that’s good money.

So overall a very cool experience, if you’re an author and can get a Bookbub spot.  Take it.

It would be very cool if you joined my Insider’s List.  You get free stories and free books before I release them.

Learning Facebook ads and books

Kevin and the Seven Lions is a 99 cents Kindle Countdown Deal this week. (Click here to get it.)

"Kevin and the Seven Lions"

 

 

But the real news is that I noticed when I promoted a Facebook post announcing the deal that I got more clicks on the link then I had when I hadn’t boosted it.

Here is the post:

//

 

I do think the click increase also has to do with the language of the post.  This time I mentioned that the story  of Kevin also includes a good teacher.  And since I am selling to teachers that seems to have increased the post engagement.

I run a Facebook just to see what sort of engagement I can get.  Writers will pay for a Bookbub or Freebooksy Promotion, why not try a Facebook post that will give you more info?  You get no info from the others on how many  people click through to see your book.  I get that info with a Facebook ad.

This was just an experiment.  I believe that part of our jobs is marketing.  Finding new readers and fans.  This is the business part of the equation.

If you have any experience with Facebook ads, leave a comment and share your experience.

New Short Story-The Four Mile Sprint

I am working with an illustrator on a new picture book. In the meantime though I wrote a short story. It is based on characters and situations from my book Dolbin School for the Extraordinary. I’ve written about the idea that as an indie writer, or any writer for that matter, can work in terms of universes and not necessarily sequels. This short story tells the background of a supporting character from my book. I had fun making it. I am okay if I am the only person who buys a copy.

I was inspired by Hugh Howey, who in the past fews weeks has published at least two short stories quickly. There are short story categories in Amazon, making it a category that people search for anyway. Dean Wesley Smith has recommended writing short stories and then submitting them to magazines. I would still consider that, but I must admit, writing a short story and then submitting it to Amazon is easier.

This was also my attempt at book cover creating. I used Sketchup and Photoshop CC. I have a ways to go. But I’m learning.

Four Mile Sprint Cover 2

Click on the pic for the story on Amazon.

Four reasons why teachers should write books

This is an updated post that I guest posted over at AJ Cosmo’s blog.  Check my interview I did with him a year ago.

I am a teacher.  I think more teachers should write books.  They just should.

Cats.  Internet.  I win.

Cats. Internet. I win.

Here are four reasons why.

 

1)      Writing a book is hard

 good-writing-is-hard-work

 

Even in this new world of indie publishing, with the gatekeepers falling away, completing a book is still hard.  I have seen teachers tell me they have an idea for a book, but as time moves along-no book.

A colleague told me she always wanted to write a book, but she had no idea of what to write.  Another one apparently started, but never finished because the illustrator was an unpaid family friend who didn’t complete the work.  So the project was abandoned.

Finishing a book is hard.

Which is exactly why it needs to be done.  When you finish such a difficult task students will look at you differently as a teacher.  Your colleagues will look at you differently.  Your boss will look at you differently-with more respect.

 

2)      You will inspire your students

 

This past year I taught fifth grade.  After sharing illustrations and rough drafts with my students, they all were inspired to write their own books in class.  During literacy station time, a lot of students spent time creating illustrations and writing their own stories.

There was a whole series about Zompires in my classroom.  What is a Zompire?  Why the combination of a zombie and a vampire. Apparently zompires don’t eat your brains, they just suck your blood.  But you need garlic and to cut their heads off to stop them.  I liked reading about Zompires.  I would actually have to remind students to work on other projects outside of making books.  I had a whole chart up in my room about it.  Too much book writing, nice problem to have as a teacher.

As a side, I teach in a high poverty school with a lot of English language learners.  These aren’t students with lots of books in their house.

See my link about my first fan fiction.

 

3)      You will bring added value to your career

 

I taught first grade for several years.  In Virginia, the fifth graders are tested in writing.  I published a book.  Boom.  I got moved to fifth grade.

Moving from first to fifth was a challenge.  But I enjoyed the challenge.  Having experience at first and fifth brings me a lot of value.

Teachers teach read reading and writing.  With a book a teacher will bring credibility to their lessons, students and colleagues will respect you more.

When you write a book, BAM!, you’re an expert.

School administrators need experts in their buildings and their classrooms.  Write a fiction or a nonfiction book, doesn’t matter, put it out in Kindle and paperback format and you are now an expert.  You’re an author.  You’re officially different.  And different in a very good way.

4)      You will experience a tear in the space-time continuum

Space time continum

What! You say?  Stay with me.

Early in the year I ordered classroom copies of two of my books, Kevin and the Three-headed Alien, and Dolbin School for the Extraordinary, and put them in my class library.  The students competed on who would read each book first.

During one lesson, the students were to get out a book we were reading.  One student was reading one of my books.  He didn’t put my book away.  I instructed him again to put away other books and get the book we were working on.  He still didn’t comply.  He was more interested in reading my book.  I was so confused.  The writer in me jumped for joy.  The teacher in me was frustrated.  My body was split in two over the meta-physical problem that was occurring right in front of me.  Seriously.  Who has this problem?

Who has students who would rather read books written by their teacher, as opposed to books the school system tells them to read?  I do.  I have that problem.

I love having that problem.

I want you to have that problem as well.

 

P.S.
One of my books Dolbin School for the Extraordinary is free for a couple of more days.  Check it out.

P.P.S. Join my mailing list to be the first to know when my new picture book comes out.

Lessons learned from George Lucas

I am a Star Wars nut.  I admit it.  I was four when Star Wars came out.  It apparently was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theater.  From there it took over my childhood.  Now in middle age I enjoy it for the fun of it.  I have long read about George.  There is a lot there to learn from.

These are quick lessons I have learned from reading about his work.

George Lucas

1)  Own your creations

Lucas broke the mold by not accepting a directors fee.  Instead he held onto the rights.  AND THAT MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD.

48965-lucas_destroyer

If you are an independent writer, filmmaker, musician, remember this lesson the most.

2)  Do it yourself.

Kuberick’s 2001 was the cutting edge of special effects when Lucas began work on Star Wars.  No one had ever done what Lucas needed.  When he got the first shot back he didn’t like it.  So he took over the special effects department.

 

From the need to create ground breaking special effects Lucas created ILM, Industrial Light and Magic.  ILM became the go to place for everyone else’s special effects for an entire generation of movies.

154px-ILM

Steven Spielberg uses ILM for all of his movies.  Enough said.

3) Borrow and steal from everywhere

Star Wars comes from everywhere.  I have seen a lot of references to his study of Jospeh Campbell’s work on mythology.  Yes, he studied Campbell.  Star Wars though is the intersection of Campbell, religion, Flash Gordan, Kuirosauara, and movie serials.

In one interview, Carrie Fisher described Lucas as just breathing film.  He took everything he liked and made it his own.

4) Lower expectations and then you can surpass them

For several years the original Star Wars was the highest grossing film of all-time.  Lucas though had no idea it was going to be a success.  In numerous interviews he states that all he wanted to do was to make enough to make another movie.  Well, he made another movie and then some.

5) Be independent and get outside of the group think

Skywalker Ranch not located in Hollywood.

Not only was Lucas financially independent, I would say  that he was also emotionally and intellectually independent.  He set his business, not in the Hollywood capital of Los Angeles, but outside of San Francisco, several hours away from Los Angeles.  Apparently he didn’t want to get caught up in the thinking of Hollywood.

6) Create in spite of criticism

Lucas is also famous for his prequel trilogy.  It didn’t reasonate with the original fans of the of the first three movies.  But he kept making them inspite of people’s down right hatred of them.  In many ways, The Phantom Menace, is the world’s highest grossing indepent movie.  He made The Phantom Menace with his own money that was made from his billion dollar company.  So whenever I hear someone complain about the prequels, I tend to think, “Oh, and how did your multi-million dollar independent movie do?”

Sure, I may not be emotionally as drawn to the prequel trilogy, but if anybody else made the prequels they would be a career highlight and not a side note.

I could go on.  He made the Indiana Jones movies, and others.

He owns education and software companies.

But in the end Lucas has created worlds and companies that affect us daily.

Learn from that.

Another reason why teachers should write books

I have written before about why teachers should write more books.  I had another experience today, that I wished I could share with others.

I presented to my class a couple of copies of Kevin and the Triple Creature today.  I had several students who were particularly asking me to be the first to read them when they would be ready.  I learned to predetermine who would get the books first.  I almost had a, let’s call it an “aggressive disagreement” between students, when I dropped off copies of Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien.  Lesson learned.

You could get picky and say that phrase didn't come from the above scene.  You could.

You could get picky and say that phrase didn’t come from the above scene. You could.

(Aggressive disagreements are similar to aggressive negotiations that Jedi’s have.  Just minus the lightsabers.)

How many other writers can say they had to stop an “aggressive disagreement” over being the first to read their books?

Today my two students brought their copies of the book with them to lunch.  They read them while walking to lunch.

Those copies came from this box.

Those copies came from this box.

I wish you could experience that.

This is why teachers need to write books.  I have so many teachers tell me they want to write a book.  If you could experience this, you would be motivated finish that book.  Students will be impressed that you wrote a book.  They will be motivated to write like you.  They will send you their books for you to review.

Teachers, write your books.