How Writing Just One Book Can Make You an Expert
You might wonder why I would have spent so much of my career writing books and then teaching other people how to write books if I know what bad economic sense they make and how emotionally traumatic they can be (see the last section on my previous post).
But here’s the thing: books only make bad economic sense and are emotionally traumatic if you’re looking at them from the old school perspective.
Back when I got into publishing, you hoped to make enough from your book advances to not have to do any other work.
Then I noticed something.
I Was Suddenly Considered an Expert
“An expert gives an objective view. He gives his own view”
Right before the book was released, pretty much out of nowhere, I got a call from The Today Show asking if I would come on and discuss the “party girl phenomenon.” It was the first time I spoke on TV with the chyron under me that read “Author, Party Girl”—but it wasn’t the last.
Even though I had no medical degree, had never worked in a rehab and really knew no more than the average addict who’d been sober for a few years, I had written a book about addiction and so the world believed I knew something about it.
One of the first things I asked my first TV agent when I signed with him was if I should go get a Master’s in Psychology so I could have credibility on TV as a so-called expert.
He smiled. “Being on TV,” he said, “has given you that credibility.”
Once You’re In, You’re In
“The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing”
I learned something when I started to do more and more TV appearances: TV bookers work under extreme pressure.
News breaks and they need to find a bunch of people who will come in and talk.
While this shouldn’t be difficult—who doesn’t want to have their mug shown on national TV?—the bookers need to make sure they find people who won’t get them fired.
If you do a segment, prove that you don’t panic when the LIVE button shines and can provide complete sentences, chances are you go on their “call her again” list and you will get called again.
The Talking Head World Has Changed
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude”
Of course, when I started going on TV talking about addiction, I was one of the only people out there doing it. Over the past decade, every single rehab owner has hired a publicist and there are roughly 60 times the number of sober bloggers and authors out there hawking their wares.
My point is this: despite the fact that I’ve always completed my sentences and done my job on TV—whether it’s been on Today, The Talk, The CBS Morning Show, Showbiz Tonight, Hannity or any number of other shows—my phone just doesn’t ring off the hook with offers to do it anymore. The genre is entirely saturated with experts who have actual medical degrees—those people with what I always considered the real credibility.
Also, in our current day and age, shows aren’t doing many segments on celebrities and their nighttime escapades. It’s Trump Time so most segments are about politics (or what passes for segments about politics these days).
And that leads to new opportunities: people who are becoming experts because they’re putting themselves on video and loading. Say what you will about YouTube stars; there are some out there doing great work by speaking openly about mental health. But you don’t need to have millions of downloads to be making a difference—or moving your career forward. Facebook Live and Insta stories have provided all of us with the opportunity to be our own production companies. The savvier among us are taking advantage of it.
But Free TV Led to Paid TV
“Everybody’s life has these moments, where one thing leads to another”
Back to me and what happened after I started doing those free TV appearances.
First I was offered a job, as the on-air relationship expert on a G4 show called Attack of the Show, where I hosted a twice-weekly segment with Olivia Munn answering viewer questions.
That led to numerous paid appearances and TV hosting jobs (including one on swingers that aired on Playboy TV; yup). I even built up a steady following from right-wingers after appearing dozens of times on a Fox News cult show.
That led to being quoted in magazines and even being profiled for no other reason than that I was sharing openly about my recovery.
My point is this: future thought leaders should look at TV as just one stopping point. Because while TV is wonderful exposure, you’re always dependent on other people booking you for it.
The goal is to be in control of your own destiny.
What you really want is to use your book to become an influencer. The author Michael Ellsberg has a fascinating piece, “The Tim Ferriss Effect,” in which he explains that when his book The Education of Millionaires was released, he was able to write a piece about it for The New York Times and then go on CNN talking about that piece.
And yet, he explained, the book didn’t sell well until the day Tim Ferriss blogged about it.
And about Tim Ferriss? Sure, we came to know him as the author of The 4-Hour Work Week but he’s heralded more for his podcast and wise Internet investments—in other words, for being a thought leader.
When You’re a Thought Leader, You Can Do Anything
“You can do anything if you have enthusiasm”
In this 1000 True Fans era we’re living in, being a thought leader can mean anything from hosting a podcast to booking speaking gigs to creating and selling online courses to developing curriculum at schools to working in advocacy.
The ways the authors I know have been able to capitalize on their books to build massive careers is astounding.
In other words, if you want to publish a book in order to make money, you should spend the time you would doing that going to therapy to try to address your delusional state. Books won’t get you rich. And yet they can make you rich. Having a book published traditionally instantly catapults you into the forefront of whatever space you’re in or topic you’re writing about. You become, overnight, an expert on your topic.
What you do with that is entirely up to you. For a long time, I lamented the fact that my books didn’t make me more money, failing to see that what publishing books really does is present you with opportunities.
If you can go into this considering your book a means to an end, in other words, and not the end, you can skip about a decade that it took me to realize that.
Call to Action
If you want a list of happiness hacks I’ve learned over the years, as well as information about how I’ve been able to turn my darkest experiences into material for books, TV and more, click here.