It’s an amazing feeling when you see your dreams come true. It’s an even more amazing feeling when realizing that dream helps improve the lives of others.
It took me 3 tries and about 18 months to get my book out to the world. I’d like to share with you the failures, mistakes, disappointments, hurdles and successes that I encountered in pursuing my dream and how not quitting helped save the life of a child with brain cancer:
My First 144 Failures
After completing the final draft of my manuscript, I sent out 144 query letters to literary agents who specialize in self-help to see if they would represent me in finding a publisher. Only about 30 had the courtesy to respond and all 30 said no thanks. That whole agent process took about four months.
136 Failures – 1 Success
Despite failing to secure any interest from agents, I persevered. I spent another six months sending 136 letters to traditional publishers. Like the literary agents, most didn’t even respond and those that did said no thanks. Except one. One said they would like to review my manuscript. I was elated and immediately sent off my manuscript to that publisher. Two months later I received a call from the publisher saying they liked what they read and would be happy to work with me in publishing Rich Habits. I can’t put in words quite how I felt that day. It was the closest to pure happiness I had ever experienced.
Four months later I received a call from my publisher that they were filing for bankruptcy. It’s actually indescribable the anguish I felt at that moment. My newly bankrupt publisher gave me a few names of some contacts to call. He suggested Mill City Press. He knew the top guy there. Only problem was they were a self-publisher. I knew what that meant. Money out of my pocket. Worse, I considered self-publishing an option only for authors who were not good enough for traditional publishing. And it hurt. Nonetheless, I reached out to Mill City Press to begin the long self-publishing process. Eighteen months later, in March 2010, Rich Habits was published. When I held the final product in my hand I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment that words cannot adequately describe. I believed I had written a great book. One, I believed, that would change the lives of millions.
2,000 More Failures
I mailed out over 1,000 books to newspaper and magazine book reviewers along with a cover letter asking them to either write an article or a review. My cost? $3,500, including postage. No one responded, not one. I then proceeded to call or email each one of them over a two months period. Not one person returned my calls or responded to my emails. I was, once again, at a low point. Failure, was becoming a familiar companion. But, I didn’t quit.
My Asbury Park Press Failure
My local newspaper is The Asbury Park Press. I was sure they would want to review my book. I was, after all, a local author. So, I physically delivered a book to the book reviewer hoping a personal visit would help my cause. I followed up with the book reviewer about 10 times by phone and email, begging her to review my book. She did not return one of my calls or emails. I didn’t quit. I reached out to the editor and a few others at the paper. None of them returned my calls or emails. Another low point. But I didn’t quit.
100 More Failures
I spent the next eighteen months doing free speaking engagements everywhere around the New York metropolitan area. I spoke to over 2,000 people at high schools, colleges, libraries and business associations. My goal was to create some local buzz. I reached out to the local media to let them know about my speaking engagements. No one from the media showed up.
I gave away about 2,000 books, mostly to the schools. I sold about 100 books everywhere else. I spoke at night, at lunch, in the mornings, on Saturdays and on Sundays. Eighteen months and all I had to show for all of my effort was the sale 100 books. No buzz happened. Once more, failure, despair and depression wrapped themselves around me like a blanket. But, I didn’t quit.
2,500 Failures – 1 Success
I spent a year emailing over 2,500 newspaper book editors across the country about doing a piece on me and my book. I pitched them a hundred different ways. One of the editors from The Star Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, interviewed me. They wrote an incredible article about me and my book. The piece appeared in the business section on Easter 2012. It was my first media triumph and I felt like a million bucks. My family was proud of me. I sold 173 books from that piece over a 3 month period.
2,000 More Failures
I created a scholarship program to elicit interest in Rich Habits. I offered 3 scholarships totaling $5,000. The $5,000 was all the profits I had made from book sales since inception. I sent out 2,000 letters to guidance counselors in NJ and then followed up with each one of them over a 2 month period. I thought the scholarship idea was going to be a home run. Unfortunately, the guidance counselors weren’t interested in promoting my scholarship. End Result? I received 2 incomplete scholarship applications.
At this point I had run out of ideas. It was May 2011. I was about as low as one could get. I was severely depressed. I felt like a failure. I was depressed. And I decided to quit.
The Email That Changed the Course of My Life
For nine months I did nothing to promote my book. Then in February 2012 I got an email from a fan. The email said that they loved by book. It reminded them of The Wealthy Barber, a book that sold over 2.5 million copies. The email said that my book was better than The Wealthy Barber.
So, I emailed the author of The Wealthy Barber. In the email I shared with the him the email I had received from my one fan. And I asked the author what he had done to sell so many books. I said I didn’t understand why I was failing, especially if my book was a better book.
The author immediately called me. In our ten minute phone call he gave me advice, which in hindsight changed the course of my life. He said, “you must conquer the media: TV, radio, print and the Internet”. He told me that if I really thought my book was great then the only thing standing between me and success was a lack of publicity. So, I got back upon the horse.
1,850 Failures – 1 Success
I purchased the Radio Publicity Course from the legendary Alex Carroll. It was like an MBA in media promotions. I learned from Alex’s course how to promote myself to the media, particularly radio. I spent 18 months calling over 2,160 radio stations across the nation. I succeeded in getting 150 radio interviews. I sold 700 books. 500 of these came from one radio station. That one radio station gave me hope and kept me from quitting.
Enter Farnoosh Torabi and Dave Ramsey – Success # 4 & 5
The email I received from Farnoosh Torabit was in response to one of the 16,000 Twitter pitches I had made to the media since my call with The Wealthy Barber author. She was the host of the award winning Yahoo Internet show Financially Fit. Farnoosh wanted to interview me for her show!
In June of 2013 her entire production team made the trip from Yahoo’s prestigious mid-town Manhattan offices to my nondescript office in Rahway, NJ. to shoot two interviews. I asked the producer how many hits they normally get on their videos and she said 40-50 thousand. I then asked her what was the most hits they ever got. She said 400,000.
The first interview aired on July 17, 2013. I was out most of that day at clients and didn’t get back home until around 9:30 that night. As soon as I walked through the door my wife told me some guy named Dave Ramsey was trying to get hold of me. I didn’t have any clients named Dave Ramsey and I told her so. She said he’s not a client. He’s some radio guy. “He was talking about you on his show for about 1/2 an hour today”, my wife said, “and he kept saying he wanted to get you on the show”.
I then remembered who Dave Ramsey was. He was a huge national radio personality. He had the 3rd largest radio show in the U.S. right behind Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. He had 8 million radio listeners! I was shocked.
I logged on to my computer and immediately went to Amazon. My book, Rich Habits, was #1 in personal finance. More importantly it had broken the top 100 IN ALL BOOK CATEGORIES. My books were flying off the shelves.
That Yahoo video of mine? It had over 1 million hits on the day it was released. By the end of the week, the video had over 2.2 million hits.
One of the 2.2 million individuals who had watched the video was Dave Ramsey. I eventually got in touch with Dave’s producer and Dave interviewed me about my book for 30 minutes on Friday, July 19th. Over the next 8 days I sold 12,000 books.
Rich Habits rose as high as #7 on Amazon in ALL BOOK CATEGORIES in the U.S. I was ahead of J.K. Rowling and, at the time, the #1 NY Times Bestselling book, Lean In.
I received numerous designations from Amazon: the “Best Seller” designation, the “Best Books of the Year” designation, the “Most Wished For Book” designation and in a separate Personal Finance category I received similar designations.
Amazon recognizes you as a Bestselling Author when you break the top 100 in ALL BOOK CATEGORIES. It’s a very hard thing to do. To say I was in a fog for those 8 days is an understatement.
CBS Nightly News – Success #6
When it rains, it pours. That same July I received an email from Bob Dumas, a CBS T.V. Producer in Boston. He wanted to interview me about my book. I made the trip to Boston in early October 2013 and about a month later seven CBS Nightly News affiliates across the nation and in parts of Canada aired different versions of the interview. This was my first national T.V. interview. And I sold another 2,000 books from those 7 interviews.
Here’s one of those 7 famous interviews – CBS Interview
MSN Money – Success #7
Life continued to rain success on me. Gerri Detweiler, a writer for Credit.com, sent me an email asking if she could interview me about Rich Habits. The interview was released in January 2014 and was picked up by MSN Money. Another unintended consequence. That interview also went viral. So viral that Gerri sent me an email that the number of hits was overwhelming MSN’s website and so they moved it to the front page of their MSN Money website where they had more bandwidth. Close to 10 million read that article. I sold another 2,000 books.
Enter SUCCESS Magazine – SUCCESS #8
Not long after the Dave Ramsey interview, I received an email from Susan Kane, Editor-in-Chief, at the time, of SUCCESS Magazine. Now, I had spent 2 years trying to get Susan to interview me for SUCCESS.
When the Dave Ramsey interview hit I sent an email to Susan and she then went to bat for me at SUCCESS Magazine to get me that interview I so desired.
In March of 2014 Susan asked me to write a 2,500 word piece for SUCCESS, which I immediately did. The Publisher at the time, Darren Hardy, liked the piece I had written so much that he asked to interview me for the free CD that comes with the magazine.
You have to understand how significant that CD interview was. They interview people like Jack Welch, Jack Canfield, Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Rudy Giuliani and many other high-powered celebrity types for the CD. SUCCESS Magazine pulled out all the stops for my interviews. Prominently displayed on the CD cover inside the magazine was a picture of yours truly. The 2,500 word article? They devoted five high-quality pages, with incredible graphics, to my article.
The SUCCESS interviews ran in the November 2014 edition of SUCCESS magazine and on its website. To 1.6 million people, I was no longer invisible. I sold about 3,000 books.
How My Dream Helped a Child With Cancer – Success #9
I get about 20 emails/comments from fans every week telling me how my books have helped them in some way. One of those emails/comments came from a woman who was trying to save some money. She adopted one of the Rich Habits – saving a part of her paycheck. She said she was able to save $1,800 over a six month period. That’s nice, I thought. Then I continued reading.
She went on to say that she was hoping to keep building up her savings. That was her goal. But then her daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer. The brain cancer doctor they recommended was a good one but expensive. Fortunately, she said in the email, she had the $1,600 to pay the brain cancer doctor. She wrote to thank me for helping her save her daughter’s life.
She went on to say that if she had not saved that $1,800, she would not have had the $1,600 to afford that doctor. She concluded her email by saying that her daughter was recovering and things look very good.
That email stopped me in my tracks and I am choking up just writing this. I never imagined my book would help save anyone’s life. I’m actually at a loss for words. How many authors can say their book helped save the life of a child with brain cancer?
Money Magazine – Success #10
In August of 2016 I received a call out of the blue from a Money Magazine writer. She said she had stumbled across me and my research on the Internet and wanted to include me in an article she was writing for the September issue. I had been relentlessly pitching Money Magazine for 6 years. Money Magazine has 1,927,000 magazines in circulation every month. I think I must have pitched them over a thousand times. I was floating on air after the interview. I finally got my Money Magazine interview!
If you do the math, that’s 10 successes over an eight year period. Ten successes that were the result of 46,000 tweets, 2,160 phone calls, 1,280 letters, 3,500 emails, 153 speaking engagements, 158 radio interviews, 76 podcast interviews, 10 TV interviews and over 300 other media interviews. Ten successes and 53,628 failures.
I’ve invested close to $100,000 in my dream. As I write this, I’ve sold close to 50,000 books. While that may not seem like a lot of books, keep in mind that I sold all of those books as a self-published author. My PR team is made up of: Me, Myself and I. I am selling about 1,000 books per month and that number increases every month.
I have absolutely no idea if the Money Magazine article will be the big break I’ve been waiting for. I’ve had so many failures and disappointments. Unfortunately, uncertainty, failure and disappointment are the work clothes all dreamers wear until success happens.
Pursuing a dream involves risk and uncertainty. It also requires hard work and persistence. My dream is to sell at least 1 million books. It could happen next month, this year, next year, in ten years or never.
I’ve learned an important thing from pursuing my dream. There is some magical force of nature at work that rewards those who pursue their dreams. Pursuing a dream fills you with passion. Passion, in turn, gives you incredible persistence. Persistence eventually gives birth to good luck. Everyone who has ever succeeded at anything has done so because, at some point, they got lucky.
You only find out how amazing you are when your back is up against the wall and your dream feels like it’s collapsing under the weight of all of your failures, mistakes and disappointments. When you are about ready to quit, that is when life blinks. That is when life throws you a Farnoosh Torabi, or a Dave Ramsey or a Money Magazine. When you persist, life eventually raises the white flag and bends to your will. It goes from adversary to ally, very quickly.
To everyone out there on the verge of quitting on their dream I want you to remember my story. I don’t want you to remember my 53,628 failures. I want you to remember my 10 successes in spite of those failures. I learned that success comes from the left when you are looking right. I learned that success comes only after you reluctantly make that 46,000th Tweet or after you send that 10,000th pitch. I learned that success is always there, hiding right around the corner. It’s waiting and watching. It wants to see if you have what it takes to overcome all of the obstacles it puts in your way. It wants to see how you react to your mistakes, failures and disappointments. But most of all, it wants to see if you deserve success.