Most authors pontificate about how many publishers and agents rejected them before they made it big.
Ten years ago, Scott Ginsberg hired himself. Since then, he’s written and published thirteen internationally recognized books that have made money, made a career and made a difference. And the best part is, he hasn’t been rejected once.
“Why torture ourselves listening to voices that don’t matter when we could be executing work that does? Seems to me, the best way to bring home the bacon is to raise our own pigs. That way, when we’re hungry, all we have to do is grab a knife and go outside.”
Impatient by nature, Scott’s release of eight books on one day is a world record, a global message about the state of the publishing industry and a thank you in perpetuity to the audience that has supported, shaped and stuck with him over the past decade. Here are six lessons Ginsberg, aka “The Octomom for Books,” has learned in ten years of publishing:
1. Digital isn’t the future – it’s the present. “Books aren’t going away, paper is,” writes Ginsberg on his award-winning blog. “Which sucks, since I love the smell of books. But I write faster than I can print. And now, thanks to digital, that velocity can convert into value for my readers.” That’s the state of the industry, Scott says. With the infinite shelf space of the web, with the major publishers approaching irrelevancy, with the long tail knocking down barriers to entry, with behemoth retailers like Borders going bankrupt, with zero printing and shipping costs, and with minimal design and setup costs, digital is here to stay. “Never again do writers have to wonder: Who’s going to let me? Now the only question that matters is: Who’s going to stop me? And the answer is, nobody.”
2. Volume is the vehicle to value. “Some authors are good writers,” Ginsberg tweets, “but most are just good businesspeople riding the wave of past literary glory.” For Scott, his enterprise is all about ubiquity. And after a decade of writing, publishing, performing and consulting, here’s what he discovered: Volume trumps accuracy. It doesn’t matter if you’re right; it matters if you’re everywhere. Volume trumps knowledge. It doesn’t matter if you know what you’re doing; it matters if you’re doing a ton of it. Volume trumps popularity. It doesn’t matter if the world likes you; it matters if your audience loves you. And volume trumps influence. It doesn’t matter if you’re persuasive; it matters if you’re pervasive. “Some people have babies, I have books,” laughs Scott, “they’re not as fun to make, but certainly less expensive.”
3. Mainstream is lamestream. “Instead of buying tickets for the starving artist lottery, I just went out and created market for what I love,” Ginsberg shared on a recent podcast interview. “The hard part was divorcing my ego from the illusion that market size matters. It doesn’t. If size mattered, the dinosaurs would still be around.” In order to win the publishing game, Scott encourages us to change the game, change the rules of the game, or create our own game so there are no rules. That way, by learning which of the mainstream hoops aren’t worth jumping through, it’s easier to forge ahead without stopping. “Artists like Henry Rollins, Radiohead, Trent Reznor, Seth Godin and Kevin Smith have been doing this for years,” Ginsberg notes, “And those heroes taught me that we can’t sit back and wait for some invisible jury to stamp our creative passport and tell us our art is okay. We ship our work to express ourselves and please our audience. Everybody else can go to hell.”
4. Access doesn’t lead to the value – access is the value. “It’s impossible for writers to matter in a void. If we want to win, we need an audience. Otherwise we’re just winking in the dark,” Ginsberg tells graduate students during a campus seminar at Xavier University. Fortunately, our work is no longer limited to living in one place, he says. Thanks to the web, access is the new currency. Thanks to the web, we can reach anyone, anytime, anywhere. Artists who used to be chained to a single gallery now have multiple entry points to their marketplace. Businesses whose sole distribution used to be limited to a few channels now have the advantage of infinite digital shelf space. Foundations whose financial support used to flow from a few wealthy donors now have access to social microfunding worldwide. Access doesn’t lead to the value – access is the value. “When we run into the corners, nooks and crannies, make something we love for the people who love us, focus our time on creating brilliant work that speaks to people in a way they have never been spoken to before, we change everything,” Ginsberg says.
5. Where have all the original ideas gone? Everything that comes out seems to be a sequel, a prequel, a remake, a revisit, a reboot or a reinterpretation of another artist’s work. “That’s fine if we want to ship easy, predictable safe work that appeases our corporate masters and their incessant pressure to create fail proof work,” Ginsberg tells the viewers of his online television network, NametagTV. “But there are no cover bands in the rock and roll hall of fame. We need to make our own music and walk a new path. Not an old path in a new way. Not some supposed new path that’s really just a nicely packaged book report of a bunch of old paths. Something new. Something scary. Something people don’t even have a name for.” And this stuff is possible because it’s always been possible, he explains. As long as we’re willing to cede permission, risk our face and step across the lines of artistic safety – at the risk of getting a few black eyes – originality can happen. “If we think there’s nothing new under the sun, remember that the sun is eight hundred and sixty four thousand miles in diameter. If we can’t find something new under it, we’re not looking hard enough.
6. Build a strategy to leverage free. The greatest barrier to success as an artist isn’t incompetence – it’s anonymity. For that reason, Ginsberg recently gave away all of his previous books for free, no strings, forever. “It was a tough call to make, but I’d rather be heard than paid. Besides, my entire career as a writer, publisher, performer and consultant has flourished on the power of giving myself away. Considering the current expectation of the marketplace, why charge customers for a digital cow they’re already milking for free?” He knows it’s a bold move, but by leading with this gift, he believes his new work will be discovered, attract attention, spread and then lead to some portion of the masses actually buying his other products and services. “We can’t set art off in a corner,” Ginsberg says, “Without a collision between our work and the outside world, we’re the tree in the forest that nobody hears. The upside of exposure is everything, and I’d rather be risky and everywhere than safe and invisible.”
Ginsberg’s eight new books, published through his company, HELLO, my name is Scott, are now available on Amazon.com. The titles of these books include: Winking in the Dark, Consistency is Far Better Than Rare Moments of Greatness, Friendly Costs Nothing But Changes Everything, Hire Yourself, One Smoking Hot Piece of Brain Candy, Playing for Keeps, Stick-to-itiveness and You’re Not There to Answer Their Questions.
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