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.

 

 

 

1992 Marvel Masterpieces vs The Movies (Part 2)

This is a continuation of my series of the 1992 Marvel Masterpieces card set, which I consider to be the greatest comic book card set in history. I told my personal story on the last blog and set off to see how well the 1992 set predicted the look of the films.

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Loki has been in three movies so far. The look is pretty close, however the movie version is less maniacal looking. The horns are there (although it looks more like ram horns than the card version) but the little dongle on top of the helmet is missing. I am unsure what is going on with the hands on the card (is that yellow paint or some really thin gloves? For the most part, it was a decent effort.

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Bishop was one of my favorite characters of X-Men when I was eleven years old. He was this badass that traveled from the future to try and prevent the horror of mutant armageddon. In the movie version of the same story, they created this dude that couldn’t look more lame. It was almost as if Bryan Singer didn’t give a shit and just aid “hey, just give the guy a gun and a red cape.” The Bishop from the card would have been so much better. It hinted that he was a little bit flashy but ready to save the world.

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Ultron appears in the second Avengers movie. It appears as though the fit was pretty close to the 1992 card. I think the movie version (although in a nonsensical plot) looks much cooler and believable than the silver-surferish look on the card. The movie version is more diabolical looking.

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Hulk looks like a solid match. The hair is a bit more crazy on the card, but the movie has a more recognizable look. The muscles are ripping and the facial anger is noticeable. Hulk has appeared in 4 movies so far, and each time looked like I imagined in 1992.

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Dr. Strange was a character I didn’t pay much attention to in 1992. All I could tell is that he looked into some orb. To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the character until the Dr.Strange trailer was released. It appears some effort was made to match the look. The movie version doesn’t quite have the gray hair and an over-the-top collar, but the goatee is in fact there.

1992 Marvel Masterpieces vs The Movies

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I still remember when I saw this on the back of a comic book. Wow. When you are like 11 years old and a huge comic book fan during the peak of baseball card collecting, there was no better idea in the world than combining the two and making comic book cards. To me and my friends back in the day, the 1992 Marvel Masterpieces set was the set of all sets to collect. I still remember going to the store to buy them.

You see, nobody knew how huge of a hit these cards would be, so the stores didn’t pre-order a ton. So as kids, the only place to get them in a fifty mile radius was this grungy card store shop (remember those) where we would go in and some fat and smelly dude would eye you the entire time as if we would ruin his merchandise. I remember my first visit, there was a rookie Michael Jordan basketball card in the case for $50. My dad was like “Hey, what about that?” I shook my head in disdain. Nobody collected basketball cards. Marvel, now that was where the action was at.

So I plunked down $10 for 4 backs of this sweet set. I went home and opened them with my brother watching on and discovered we had just bought (co-investment opportunity, of course) 24 marvel cards, but didn’t hit the big home run which were hologram cards (the only time to admit as a boy to like sparkly things). Damn. I showed the other kids on the block and they of course had to buy some and before I knew it, I was smack dab in the middle of a ponzi scheme of some sort.

Each time I returned to the shop, the prices skyrocketed. Two weeks later it was $3 a pack. Then $3.50. Then $4. Then $4.50. The fat and smelly guy was raking in a good profit per box thinking the good times were never gonna end. (Ironically, these tactics kind of contributed to crushing the hobby. When all was said and done, I owned the entire set and all the holograms. I don’t know much it is worth, nor do I care. They are in a box somewhere in my house and represent a part of my childhood.

Thus, with the craze that Marvel comic book movies have been the last decade, I thought it would be funny to see how accurate the 1992 set depicted the characters that would eventually hit the silver screen the following 25 years. I plan to continue the series in the weeks and months ahead.

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Apocalypse was adapted pretty faithfully for the movies. His face is a little different, blue vs white, but the color and armor are pretty darn close. I don’t know if he can summon a green fireball in his hands, since the movie isn’t released yet, but hey, it sure looks pretty faithful to me.

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Sandman looked the part for a little bit. An attempt was made to match the t-shirt and hair color. The only problem was that after Spider Man danced on the tables and destroyed the franchise, the Sandman became the Sandmonster in an nonsensical ending.

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Hawkeye was just okay to me. The bow wasn’t as bad ass and just look at his arrow. Pretty damn weak in the movie. On the 1992 card, I could imagine that thing blowing up something huge. And what’s up with having no mask? Does the movie Hawkeye not care about his identity? Does he like the wind to flow through his hair? The movie fails a little bit in the mask department.

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Professor X pretty much was nailed. There is no argument about that. They even got the blazer and tie going. If I was to nitpick, his wheel chair in the movie looks a bit more slick. But good on the film getting the look right.

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Red Skull is a little bit off. The card has more teeth and a skeletal look to him and the eyes filled up his entire socket, but nonetheless, the adaptation was pretty close. The more fleshy-red look was suitable to get Hugo Weaving’s acting chops to show up rather than some CGI bullshit.

CONTINUE WITH THE NEXT BATCH OF COMPARISONS…

https://mmleonard.com/2016/04/14/1992-marvel-masterpieces-vs-the-movies-part-2/

Ice Bucket Challenge: Who Took Part?

Every so often while phenomenons sweep through the nation like wild fire.

The rubik’s cube.

The pet rock.

The slinky.

The Macarena.

In 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge swept through the nation, freezing all the wild fire from the east coast to the west coast. Celebrities of all kinds participated in the ritual of having ice dumped over your head.

MATT DAMON (With Toilet Water)

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TOM CRUISE (Looking Cold)4613338032.jpg

Not to be left out, business people got involved

BILL GATES (With Contraption)

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MARK ZUCKERBERG (Looking Happy)

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Not to be left out of the attention, politicians of years past involved.

GEORGE W. BUSH (With Laura)

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SARAH PALIN (Turned Away?)

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MITT ROMNEY (Took It All)

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PAUL RYAN (In Mid Speech)

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Not to be topped, athletes participated.

LEBRON JAMES (Where is the Ice?)

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JAMES HARRISON (EXTREME ICE CHALLENGE … WOW!!!) 

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Look at the stats per http://blog.iconosquare.com/time-frame-viral-ice-bucket-challenge/

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This got me thinking. How many of the presidential candidates this cycle took the challenge in 2014? President Obama and Vice President Biden famously wrote a check instead. (President Obama gave $100)

MARTIN O’MALLEY

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BOBBY JINDAL

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SCOTT WALKER

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JOHN KASICH

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CHRIS CHRISTIE

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TED CRUZ

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DONALD J. TRUMP

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You can interpret the data as need be. The winner was clearly the ALS Association, raising $100 million since.

NEXT: CHECK OUT THE CONFUSING 2016 PRESIDENTIAL FASHION CAMPAIGN 

 

The Spring Collection: The Business of Political Apparel

2016 is a big election year. I’m staying neutral in the political debate. What I will comment on are some of the products available to sale. SNL needs to have some sort of fashion show for all of this stuff.

Hillary Clinton (shop.hillaryclinton.com) 

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What the heck is going on here? Unisex pantsuit t-shirt? Do they really think this will energize the youth of America? Do they envision people going door to door wearing this … and convince people to vote for her?

Bernie Sanders (store.berniesanders.com) Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 11.48.56 PM.png

A step up from the red unisex pantsuit t-shirt, but still, a yellow revolutionary shirt? That is so 1932.  One thing I did notice was Bernie at least priced his shirt a little better than Hillary.  Truly, a man of the people. People might deserve free-everything, but I guess that doesn’t include t-shirts.

Ted Cruz (store.tedcruz.org) 

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Is this the craziest primary ever? Nothing says conservative like a Cruz Christmas sweater. Only at $65, Cruz is obviously going for a smaller demographic. Nice strategy. Market segmentation at its finest.

Marco Rubio (store.marcorubio.com) Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 11.54.50 PM.png

I guess some reason, this shirt didn’t catch fire. The trend continues with no other candidate with the ability to underprice Bernie. Just look at this picture. What does it even mean? Is there a warehouse full of these shirts somewhere?

John Kasich (store.johnkasich.com) 

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This one really cracked me up. Do you see it? Look close. Yeah … that’s it. THEY CAN’T EVEN DECIDE ON A PRICE! OMG. Did they have to focus group this thing? These products are usually to raise money for the campaign. Are profit margins really that thin? Maybe it has to do with the small detail that he doesn’t pay attention to the detail other candidates did by specifying his shirts as made in the USA.

Donald Trump (shop.donaldjtrump.com) 

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In a parallel universe, this might have made sense, but for obvious reasons, this picture a paradox in itself. This screenshot might need to go up in a history museum someday. At least it is only $20.

Conclusion:For all the power they would have as President of the United States, inspiring the American people, and leading the free world, you would think they could afford better fashion advisors, right?

NEXT: CHECK OUT THE ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE FACT CHECKER FOR 2016 CANDIDATES