I quit writing but made $30K last month on Amazon

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So there I was last summer. With two completed novels and a couple screenplays under my belt, I dove confidently into submission query hell. By my calculations, I submitted 78 queries to literary agents, but got rejected by all but one. And by rejection, I mean most didn’t bother to reply, and the ones that did were basic form rejections. Most didn’t bother writing my name, although by submission standards they all call it a sin to not write theirs when submitting. The irony.  I personalized a bunch of the queries and it didn’t help, in fact, it seemed to make it worse.

I submitted both novels when it seemed to be in a literary agent’s wheelhouse. This only doubled the limits of my exasperation. Where I still know the name of the agent that rejected me the fastest (23 minutes to the first agent I queried), now I know the name of an agent who rejected both novels in a span of eight minutes.

Eight minutes.

Yes, in a span of time it takes to boil and cook a bag of ramen, one agent decided both my queries were such a bag of shit they rejected both without reading more than a couple paragraphs from each (if they got past the first line).

Some say they want diverse voices. I said I had a diverse background and nobody believed me I guess. Maybe it is my surname. There was this thing when Scarlett Johonson was cast in Ghost in the Shell about whitewashing an asian out of a role. Some asian literary agents wrote about not getting a chance or getting stereotyped, and how real asians can’t get a chance in entertainment and I laughed a little, because the very same agents didn’t reply to my query when I stooped to a point of taking time to point out my mixed diversity and they don’t bother responding. Why they ignored me is the same reason why asian actresses didn’t get a chance; everyone is looking for the big hit for the big paycheck.

One agent said they never got it after I sent the second novel and referred to the first.

Then I got a call two hours after sending my Sci-Fi novel.

She wanted to see more. Said I wrote well, and managed to get to the end of the first 5K words. She then said I must be new to professional publishing because I still put two spaces after periods. Oops. She asked for the full.  I went home, told my wife, and edited all night to send the cleanest copy I could.

Then I waited three weeks.

Then four.

Then a month later, I sent an email and she said, “Let’s do this.”

Then the bizarre happened. She said she didn’t want to hold me down to sign anything. She wasn’t full time anymore. She said I could give her 30 days and then go from there. We worked on a couple drafts of the first two chapters. Then she finally admitted she never read the entire thing. I guess she was looking for a quick sale. Her agency was reputable with a couple decades of big sales. But it seems the reputation was more about going after bit hits and not really developing new writers. Things seem to be getting worse with now some agencies wanting numbers for online sales. Like, they want ZERO risk.

We broke ways and I continued head on. I began tweeting non stop, but then figured out that in the weird writing world of social media, it has become 90% about promoting digital and print books non stop. The only people that subscribe to these groups seem to be aspiring writers and not readers. (It’s like hot dog salesmen trying to sell hot dogs to each other, after everyone has ate four of them already that day).

I pushed on. I would go on the bike machine at the gym and tweet an hour during the workout. I would respond to tweets. I would make some digital online friends. I would get into deep philosophical conversations with some. Some kept talking about burning shit down. Some were in a perpetual state of “editing” of their novel. I tried forming different mini-groups of writing rejects but easily found out that larger groups had already formed and now had enough followers and bot programs to like and RT their posts, it was hard to get higher on the feed. I began the Midnight Traveler writing project, which started out strong but faded more and more people wigged out at having to figure out a solution to the next step of the story. I learned photoshop and blogged about it. I added content as fast as I could, mainly movie review and food/travel reviews just to get some eyeballs.

Nothing really worked.

I got lucky by predicting a Game of Thrones reveal last season, and my traffic spiked the night it debuted. I had little GoT content to go with it and my traffic crashed to normal soon after. Then I learned just how many writer accounts with over a few thousand followers were all fake or bought anyways. Then I discovered how many posts were automated. It seemed like a rigged system yet again. I guest blogged for another site and learned they aggregate blogposts with bots and FB groups, and their traffic went parabolic in no time while mine stagnated doing things the boring way.
I was basically like damn, I wrote two books and can’t get any traction the traditional way with literary gatekeepers in NY and I can’t get any traction building up an audience of potential readers to do a successful book launch on Kindle. What I did learn was just how many services there were to milk the dreams of aspiring writers in editing/promotion/advice/cover art.  I looked into Amazon’s imprints, but deep down, the system seemed rigged toward those who could go on goodreads and convince a ton of people to like their novel. Successful book launches were more about connections/investment to manipulate a system rather than writing a solid story.

This is the effect of digital distribution. Call it the uberization of writing.  On one end, I was jaded by literary agents, but now, I kind of wished I had one of quality again. I felt that I’d rather publish traditionally at 7% royalty than 70% e-royalties, if it mean’t the piece of fiction I invested my heart and soul writing was taken seriously. I already have a good career and make a great income. It was never about the money anyway. It was about doing something happy and enjoyable that I could share.

On a whim, I wrote a screenplay for a tv pilot and submitted it to the Blacklist. As you can read from the journey I posted about that on this blog, it was a total failure. I still think it was a solid debut script, but who knows, maybe I should have essentially written “Ocean’s 11” as my paid reviewer told me. Why write anything new when I could just copy a blockbuster? Sheesh.

I then hired an editor. I paid in full and got “full edit” which was really just a proofread. She said I understood plot and structure and needed little help. I then paid for my second novel to be proofread, send money via paypal only to have her quit three weeks in. (Yes, she even shut down her website and everything, then refunded all my money). I told myself, maybe this is a sign.

So I basically took a break in July.

Or quit.

It depends on how long of a break it was to be I guess.

I had become accustomed to Amazon publishing videos on youtube for quite some time and ironically, the google search algorithms must have put me as a huge Amazon fan. My ads and suggested viewings were all related to Amazon. Either that, or I needed to see Tai Lopez with his Lambo in his garage for the 94th time.

I then saw a new video about Amazon. How about selling other stuff? I used to sell books out of college about a decade prior but quit as physical book prices collapsed to pennies where people made money off shipping. I had a full time job, and the hobby soon became a pain. What did the new videos reveal?

Amazon FBA.

Fulfillment by Amazon is the breakthrough Amazon has found to win on price and margin. Instead of taking inventory risk, they let independent sellers send in inventory for them to sell, pack, ship, and any returns are the sellers risk. Amazon just takes a generous cut from brokering the deal that rivals their digital sales cut. The sellers then reverse auction prices to underbid each other with apps, and all of a sudden their prices beat Walmart’s because Billy Bob Inc got in a pissing contest with Sally Joe Inc over a jar of mayo.

Yep, it’s that big.

Anyways, I soon discovered after some light research just how littered the field is with promotional wunderkinds that can teach you anything and everything about the process for the low low low price of ________. (take your guess and multiply by insanity). I joined a couple groups. Paid one, and it was a scam from the get go. Advice: Most of them are scammers, otherwise they would be too busy scaling up with their business. This is the same reason why JK Rowling or Stephen King or James Patterson (oops) doesn’t peddle a “How to make millions by writing in under 30 days” courses. It simply doesn’t work. Only scamsters sell courses like that. On FB groups, they even have the stupid gimmick of posting motivation quotes on instagram filtered stock photos to build up likes, except it’s all business related instead of Elmore Leonard.

So I learned the old fashioned way (circa 2017). I watched a shit-ton of youtube videos and learned to source product. I began with thrift stores (which gets old fast) and garage sales (which is awkward and weird), to moving to retail arbitrage. I can probably write 500 tricks to making money on Ebay and Amazon now as there is a steep learning curve and even the paid scammers don’t know what they’re talking about. This is the thing. When you learn a secret in the reselling game, you basically lose when you tell others. Reselling groups are a highly secretive bunch now. There are seriously secret societies in America who work together to essentially bring the downfall of physical retail. Their partner/big brother is Amazon who has created an army of UPC scanners in stores from sea to shining sea.

There are courses that cost as much as $3000 for shit I learned in 8 minutes watching youtube clips. There is a $8000 course for private labeling that I learned in 50 minutes listening to a podcast. Nobody gives a shit. Some idiot will pay and people will fail and go broke just like gold miners in the Klondike. In the writing world, this is just like the mini-gold rush of people that made a business of formatting old books without copyright and posting them on kindle for a profit when the same book was free somewhere else. It is mind boggling the scamming that is going on in the veil of education and “life changing opportunity.”

This isn’t Tai Lopez pushing 67 steps in his mansion.

These are shady amateurs that basically would rather work from home pontificating obvious information with the “get 1000 people to pay you 1000 bucks” scam.

Here is my tip to Amazon. Join  bunch of FB groups, watch a bunch of youtube videos, and listen to a bunch of podcasts. The more you put in, the more you’ll learn. This is like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting … you wasted your money paying for education when everything can be learned for free.

Don’t worry, I’m not selling shit. No course. No youtube channel promotion or affiliate marketing. I’m just telling it how it is for free. Why? I don’t know. With my traffic at next to nil after my hiatus, maybe it doesn’t matter. The scammers always win. Maybe I just want all my 6 months of learning to be kept a secret. Maybe there are hundreds of people that all know the easy money to make and want it to be kept a secret so the party can keep going.

So where am I now?

I still have a full time career doing something else, but now dabble in Amazon FBA and ebay as a side hobby after I stopped writing, and just about reached the $30k per month milestone in March (Now over $37K in April) which is insane considering how little work I put into it.

IMG_1651.PNGMaybe Amazon is the future. Their drones will deliver me a cheeseburger in 5 minutes or less as they put fast food out of business after big box stores are obliterated from our suburban landscapes. Maybe we’ll end up like those fat kids in Wall-E with everything fed and delivered to us by robots. It’s like David Foster Wallace’s prediction for us. We are a species all about instant gratification. Maybe I need to just get with the program and self publish my stuff and let Amazon make me a boatload of cash on their platform.

Or maybe there is one literary agent out there who will take a chance on my great American novel.

The End.

 

 

 

Movie Reviews: Hell or High Water

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This movie was good in the boring Old-Cop chases young-robber sort of way. It harkened back to No Country for Old Men to me, except the anti-hero was actually likable here.

To me, I never understood why people resorted to a life of risky crime where you area asking to get hunted down by armed cops with a major ego trip. All the risk for a few thousand bucks, which could be made manning the counter of a convenience store or working at Taco Bell is a much more peaceful way to get by where the only people to rob you is the tax man.

This movie didn’t answer that question.

Instead, it is a well acted movie with an ending that leaves us a little unfilled. They try to tell us the “why” but never actually do outside of serving a plot line that was supposed to be a mystery of motive the entire film. I felt annoyed. Like what a bunch of dumb shits.

There was a little depth a moments in the film. To me, the Native American partner and the allegory of lands being conquered over and over was pretty deep … but then they pretty much shit on that irony by FORCING and ending.

Chris Pine is good. Better than as Jack Ryan.

Ben Foster pretty much plays Ben Foster.

Jeff Bridges kind of does a dumb accent like he did “The Seventh Son.” It was annoying and didn’t necessarily add authenticity.

It appears they spent a bunch of money on Ford F-150’s, and zero on a cinematographer. Shit, all the angles and close ups and lighting seemed off. It is so much cooler watching the shots from behind a shooter, if shots are being made. Better to see the car from overhead when in a chase and making a huge turn (not a close-up of the tire, steering wheel, outside landscape moving). This is basic storytelling. When it all looks fake as hell, nobody believes it.

If there is one lesson, tip your waitresses well.

Movie Rating: 6/10 Sniper Shots

Clash Royale: Update Review

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It’s been a while since my initial review of Clash Royale. Okay, so now I’m level 10. Supercell’s plan to dominate the late minutes of my day as well as every 3 minute break I get has worked. The higher you go, the harder it is to get 3 chests, and quite frankly, half the people are pretty darn good, so I lose a ton. On some days, it takes me 15 tries to get my 10 wins to get my chest.

Do the math.

I have become a slave to the game.

Not only that, but I have been duped buying all those awesome “deals” that come around for a limited time … every week.

100,000 gold pack? Sure, I’ll do that twice.

500 gems for a legendary card? Okay. Sure.

Oh wait, I just got my third lava hound and not the archer. Let’s keep spending 500 gems on every offer.

Don’t get me started on the new cards each week. I refuse to buy yet another card only to get an opponent using a level 4 version of it on me on launch day.

All for what? To get to legendary? (Already did that). To get to the highest in my clan? (I’d have to climb to nearly 4000). To spend the most (um, probably already did that).

So thank you supercell. You have roped me in once again, but thankfully, I’m now playing clash of clans only 2 minutes a day instead of 2 hours like I used to.

As for tips. I use two decks. One, I just put all the legendary cards in there and just spam to get my quick wins or quick losses. The other deck I use involve a golem, sparky, minions, and the defensive flame balls. It annoys the heck out of people. If you want beat me, just put everything on air and I won’t defend.

Do any of you have tips or tricks? Let me know. An alarmingly high number of my readers now come from India, so let me know what you all think too.

Movie Reviews: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is for folks with an IQ of One

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Directed by Gareth Edwards and Tony Gilroy

It’s not surprising to find why Rogue One needed to pay another director $5 million bucks to swoop in to “save” the film. Simply put, Rogue One is a very PG story that is essentially what you get when the focus is on mindless diversity for the sake of diversity to execute a very basic plot. There isn’t an ethnicity not filled here, almost in a Hollywood way to say the strongest teams is when everyone is different (despite the only asian guy in a galaxy far far away doing martial arts, the leading lady being a spunky white chick, the black guy being crusty and angry, the middle eastern guy being resourceful, etc). As we learned from the last election, people are tired as fuck from getting social engineered by the media and Hollywood that only diverse teams and harnessing everyone’s unique talents that impossible obstacles can be overcome.

I say bullshit.

Go to the majority of high school cafeterias, restaurants, churches, small businesses around the world and you’ll see this simply doesn’t exist in 90% of culture. People tend to stick to people similar to them, unless forced into some sort of draft or military conscription. But we are talking about Rebels here. What rebel group in the history of the world been this diverse? (Study history, because none of these writers/execs do) Usually rebels have narrow sets of ideals. In A New Hope, almost everyone on Yavin was white. Everyone in the Empire was white and spoke like a Brit. I don’t know, maybe everyone different were busy doing the real missions. (And yes, I know, in ROTJ, the rebels even has fish admirals against the white imperialists in the Empire).

I’m not totally against women leading the SW universe, but at this point, it feels forced as fuck. At least Captain Janeway had a purpose as the leader, and was legitimate because she rose up the ranks through hard work. Commander Sisko survived Wolfe 359 and was eventually assigned to Deep Space Nine to oversea a giant wormhole. Neither of them were artificially contrived for their roles because they were the son or daughter of anybody. Why couldn’t she have been just a badass? Maybe the baddest of the bad.

Despite very nostalgic visuals that are cool to see and a story where we know the ultimate ending, the story itself is made for 12 year olds. I guess they know who will buy the video games and see it 3 times over christmas break and will ask for the toys for Christmas … despite all the marketing toward girls.

Where is the Intergalactic Saving Private Ryan we were promised? Where is the darkness? Why do people talk in short sentences as if the film has to be dubbed in 38 languages? Why is the dialogue so damn simple, and frankly, dumbed down as if there can’t be any confusion to offending the “fake outrage” groups.

Fucking Disney, come on.

I sensed things had gone to shit when I saw all the action figures filling up the shelves. This is The Force Awakens Fiasco all over again. At least the overall plot here isn’t as batshit stupid as Episode VII.

The film is better than any of the prequels (except for the Darth Maul vs Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan fight, and the Jango-Obi-Wan fight, and the first 2 minutes of Revenge of the Sith).

I recommend you see it, because if you read this far, you’ll see it anyway. Just post a comment how you agree that Disney is turning Star Wars into a marvel universe where everyone is so damn likable that they want fanboys and fangirls to cry out for six thousand spinoffs so we can explore each backstory so that eventually we’ll have a thousand different characters to know and love. How can they not? Nobody says anything offensive as a rebel fighting for the galaxy. Few characters act like they have a braincell, including the oh-so-tough leading lady.

Please GRR Martin, don’t ever sell the rights to Game of Thrones expanded universe to Disney. I couldn’t imagine the “reimagining” version they would do to Westeros.

TV Reviews: Black Mirror – San Junipero

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I had heard about Black Mirror, a show that is part twilight zone and part technological cautionary tale, from a couple friends who recommended some episodes for me to watch now that I’ve binged Stranger Things. It’s streaming on Netflix, so I figured there was nothing for me to lose.

I watched the first episode, and to be honest, I was a little turned off by the show. It felt more like satire with little technological caution, outside of the power of viral social media. Much of it could have been summarized in a 5 minute spoof with the same impact I think. What I did observe was the production quality of the show was actually surprisingly good.

So I gave it a chance.

I watched the next episode and it was a little bit technological, but more of a social satire to me. It was darker than the first episode in a couple ways, but overall, I was beginning to dig the “final reveal” groove that gave the show a comparison to the twilight zone.

I made up some nachos and pressed play on one of the episodes recommended to me, San Junipero. I was bored at first, then intrigued. Then all of a sudden, I was like holy damn shit did they really just do that? Not to spoil a damn thing here, but it was one of the most sci-fi stories told in the most un-sci-fi way. The acting was superb. The story was deep and had me thinking long afterward about the mind, body, and soul. Going in spoiler free was part of it, so I’ll leave you one of my rare spoiler free reviews.

Unlike many trash movies, this TV shows deserves to be watched spoiler free.

Movie Reviews: A Bigger Splash

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As many who know me can attest, I am a fan of foreign films. Usually, I would even admit that English films that take place in Europe usually get a pass from me for effort. In some regards, it is even more relatable to watch the cultural fish out of water story than something more authentic and locally made. You can read my review of Lost in Translation as an example of this. It had an impact on me that a Japanese made film with Japanese actors could not.

To a certain degree, most Science Fiction works this way. We want to see humanoids battle space dictators and enter light speed. Seldom are the protagonists in film a six foot one-eyed blob called Qloip.

Simply, we want to relate.

A Bigger Splash basically throws those principals out the window. Most of the characters are so unlikeable  an uninteresting that they might as well be Qloip. I was incredibly bored most of the movie, despite the effort Ralph Fiennes put in to try to make it entertaining. There is a limit an eccentric character can save a film if it isn’t a comedy.

Then, there were the flashbacks as if it would reveal some secrets that audience couldn’t infer from the acting and dialogue.

Tilda Swinton, despite being a decent actor, is pretty unbelievable as a rock star. Matthias Schoenaerts is pretty unforgettable in playing the boytoy boyfriend that represents a physical outlet.  Dakota Johnson is just as convincing as she was in Fifty Shades of Gray.

Ralph Fiennes is decent, and maybe it would have been a better story if it just followed him  in his POV the entire time, even to the splashy ending.

This movie simply will be flushed from my mind, which is a rather difficult feat with an interesting environment.

Movie Rating: 2/10 splashes

Movie Reviews: London Has Fallen

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London Has Fallen directed by Babak Najafi

Just in case moviegoers were confused whether or not London Has Fallen was a sequel to Olympus Has Fallen, the marketing folks made sure to clarify that. With White House Down, Air Force One, the last season of 24, and Vantage Point all telling similar stories, the movie populace could have easily confused this for one of those Redbox Ripoff movies. You know, the low budget films shot for under a million bucks in an attempt to bait and confuse people.

To me, I think I might have been more entertained with the Redbox Ripoff flick.

I mean, how many times can a President be put under siege with the only guy to save him is his best friend and secret service agent. What are the odds? And let’s be honest, what is the point of it all when there is a line of succession? (Ironically enough the plot of the latest Jack Bauer Keifer Sutherland TV show) Heads of State are important people, but in Democracies, there is really little point.

I know, the classic “Revenge at all costs” plot makes it clear that logic isn’t the point of motive.

If you want to watch this film, go ahead. Turn off your brain. You might as well play some Call of Duty in my opinion because at least that has some inventive storytelling.

The movie does have some pretty kick ass special effects, mostly in the attack sequence. But with that said, some of the effects were downright CGI-ish. Morgan Freeman was pretty good playing himself. Gerard Butler picks up another paycheck. I assume he has pretty much given up trying to be a real actor. Aaron Eckhart plays the typecast role that was predominant of the 80s and 90s.

I did beat Call of Duty Advanced Warfare on the same night I watched this. Kevin Spacey made for a better villain.

Movie Rating: 2/10 London Bridges