I desperately wanted to publish a novel because I wanted to disguise the real me. I wanted women to think I was interesting and maybe they would agree to go on a date with me.

The four novels I wrote from 1990-1995 were rejected by hundreds of publishers.

Were they bad? Probably. But I wish someone had given me the below challenge. I wish someone had held my hand and told me the below.

I wish someone had told me how to short-cut the authoritocracy of publishing.

After 21 published books (two coming out within the next few weeks) I have gotten so much pleasure from this process.

I’ve been published by the biggest publishers in the world and I have self-published. I have been on bestseller lists and I’ve had books sell almost nothing.

I’m just happy now that I can help people who want to do this, to maybe experience the same pleasure I have in publishing a book.

It fuels my mind.

People say: I can’t write a book. People say: you can’t make money writing a book.

YOU can prove these people wrong.

I originally posted this challenge in the “Choose Yourself Publishing Circle” Group on Facebook. I will post more of these challenges there.

But I’m posting here to show how I would think about writing a book if my goals were:

A) Make money
B) Establish expertise in an area (for later consulting or speaking or more books)
C) Write a book quickly
D) Be creative and have others enjoy my creativity (non-fiction or fiction)
E) Practice for writing even more books.

For “A” and “B” this challenge represents just the first step.

The definition of a book has changed. The definition of a good successful book has changed.

Here are some old myths: some people use these myths as excuses and some people actually believe them.


1) MYTH: You NEED a publisher.

I just interviewed David Goggins, who self-published.

Because he self-published he got no advance (he was offered over $300,000 but turned it down), and he will never make the NYT bestseller list.

But HE SOLD 250,000 copies in the first week and his audiobook is #2 on Amazon after Michelle Obama’s.

A publisher is OLD SCHOOL.

The real way to make money and have success in writing is to control your content, your marketing, your design, your timing. You will ALWAYS be better at this than your publisher.

Always! No exceptions.

People feel good when they are “chosen” by an agent a publisher. But who is more qualified to judge your writing than you?

2) MYTH: A book is 250 pages, give or take.

This is the publisher’s definition. And the bookstore’s definition. I can give many examples of people who pay all of their bills from a 20-50 page book they wrote 5+ years ago.

The new definition of a book is… no rules.

3) MYTH: “But I have no platform”.

First off, neither does the publisher. Second, even if you have a big platform, (e.g. 100,000+ Twitter followers), less than 1/2 of 1% will buy your book.

People buy books that look good, that are on topics they are interested in, or books their friends buy for them or suggest they buy.

And success is not measured by book sales. It’s measured by people you impact.

The biggest pleasure I get is when someone stops me on the street and says, “Your book changed my life.” This is an ego trip for me but I am afraid I love that feeling.

I can’t help it.

But don’t book sales translate to money? Yes. But more money is made from the byproducts you get in life from writing a book.

More on that in another post.

4) MYTH: Books with a publisher are BETTER than self-published books.

Hugh Howey, author of the bestseller “Wool”, did a study and found that self-published books, on average, had more 5 star reviews than non-self-published books.

And that on average they had higher rankings on Amazon than regularly published books.

So self-published books, on average, sell more and are higher quality than regularly published books.

5) MYTH: There is a stigma to self-publishing.

See #4 above. That stigma is going away. See the example of David Goggins above. That stigma is going away.

See EL James (who originally self-published “50 Shades of Grey”). 150 million copies later I bet she doesn’t care about stigma. See “The Martian” (and my podcast with author Andy Weir). I doubt he cares about the stigma (he originally self-published “The Martian” when he couldn’t find a publisher).

Nobody will ever ask, “Who is your publisher?” If they like the book, then they like it because of the writing. Because of you.

Not because of some mediocre marketing department.

Those are some myths.

But here’s the challenge I posted in the Choose Yourself Publishing Group.

This is just one specific challenge.

I will post more of these in the near future that are completely different.

Let me know if you write this and I will promote the hell out of it.



THE CHALLENGE: Write a 20 page book about HABITS and upload it to Amazon.

TECHNIQUE: search “habits” at and pick some academic research and then write the book: “20 Scientific PROVEN Habits to DO X” (pick a good X, like “negotiation” or “investing” or “aging”, etc.).

WHY 20 pages? Why not? Nobody defines how many pages a book is anymore. Kamal Ravikant‘s “Love Yourself” is 8,000 words, for instance.

The average book in a bookstore (which has sold far less than Kamal’s book) is 65,000 words.

In terms of impact I know of few books with as much impact on people as Kamal’s book. (Although David Goggins’ book will get there fast.)

WHY Habits? It’s easy to find three categories where you might end up at #1 in at least one of the categories. Plus, we all want better habits.

BUT if you don’t like that topic, pick another one. I’ll pick other topics in future book challenges like this.

WHY SSRN? It’s a good place for academic research so your book won’t be BS.

There are other places. Start there.


Include your own story of having bad habits and the consequences. Story telling is everything.

A book is not a list of habits and research.

IT MUST contain your story. Your heartache. Your hardship. Leave your blood stains on every page.


Explain how good habits increases your well-being in terms of “connection”, “mastery”, “freedom”.

Those three terms are the building blocks of positive psychology.


Let me read it. If it’s good I’ll write a blurb.

GROUP POWER: Put it for sale for 99 cents and tell us the day it is released and maybe we’ll all buy it so it hits #1 in your category.

Then you’d be a “bestselling Amazon author” and you can use that to get speaking gigs or consulting gigs.

I can’t do this for everyone but if someone writes a good book on this topic and it’s a topic I like then I’ll interview you about the book and your experiences on my podcast.

Don’t worry if you don’t go on my podcast. Write another book.

Again: I’ll put up suggestions like this more frequently.


(Writing these suggestions as they pop in my mind.) Focus group chapters by answering questions on Quora relating to the habits you are writing about. REMEMBER TO TELL A STORY.


(Optional.) Try the habit and write about your journey using the habits you discover. Even better if others do this with you so you can get testimonials and tell more stories.

This reminds me of AJ Jacobs’ style of putting himself in the story on high-stakes concepts he writes about (religion, gratitude, knowledge, health, etc.).


Use to get a cover and don’t use one of the templates on Amazon.


Get 10 friends to read your book and write honest reviews on the first day.

Since your book will only be 20 pages and also easily skim-able (everyone can see the habits in the table of contents) it should be an easy read.


Keep the F-K score low. This is the benefit of going from academic research to a book. You become more readable than the experts.

Search for my article on the F-K score.

Don’t forget that “Old Man and the Sea” has a score of 4, meaning Hemingway wrote it at a fourth grade reading level.


Bleed in the first line, first chapter, first line of each chapter.

Try to have a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter.

Like “Doing pushups every morning for the first month made my negotiating better than I could have imagined. But then I found one more technique that I could not even believe would work and yet…”


Start the second book as soon as you finish and upload the first book.


Everyone has a book in them. Some people want to write books so their great-great-great grandchildren will know who they are.

Some people want to write books that will help people.

I first wanted to write “the great American novel” because I was so insecure I thought it was the only way I’d meet a woman.

Some people have a need to tell a fun Western Romance after spending a day of drudgery at a cubicle.

This “challenge” is not so you write the best book in history.

It’s a challenge to write your first book. Maybe even your second or third.

This is practice.

I look forward to the day when I read the best book in history.

By you.

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