I am unbelievably blessed to call some of the biggest names in the industry my friends. What is even MORE awesome is that these experts are willing to give so generously to me and to you guys.
The goal of this blog is to train y’all how to be PROs. So many writing books are addressing the hobbyist. Though there is nothing wrong with that because writing is the best hobby EVER—and that is mostly why all of us want to be PAID to do it—we need much more than the average, Gee, I’d love to write a novel resource.
We have ALL been there. When someone asks, “So what do you do?” and we tell them, “I’m a writer.”
When the world rarely takes us seriously, we gotta be extra careful that doesn’t rub off. Above all, if we don’t take ourselves seriously, no one else will.
We have to step up our game and I don’t care about all the arguments that “real” writers are legacy published or have awards or an MFA. At the end of the day, real writers get paid (or are on a trajectory to BE paid). Because when people are using the term “real” it’s really just a poor synonym for “professional.”
Which is why today, y’all are getting a treat. My close friend, author and producer Joel Eisenberg is IN PRODUCTION right now. His book series The Chronicles of Ara is being made into a television series, and right now he is in production on “Then Again with Herbie J Pilato” for Decades—so VERY busy man—yet he took time to be here and give the real digs on what we do…which is why he is pretty epic.
Take it away, Joel!
Welcome to my world. A world of promises upon promises, of big-talk and scant return, of endless parties and meetings …
My world, that is, of 15 years ago, though I remain what I’ve always been: a writer.
I’ve been a writer for as long as I can recall. I remember my first short story too. The plot went a little something like this: The crew of the Starship Enterprise teams with the Six Million Dollar Man to save the world from the Planet of the Apes.
No, not kidding at all. And then, in 2015, about 30 years later, this happened (though I had nothing to do with it):
It was not exactly the same, but close enough.
Clearly, I was ahead of my time. But up to 15 years ago, I was also flat broke. I owed tens of thousands of dollars in credit card bills, and was nearly homeless. Daily breakfast and lunch was a tuna sandwich from my local 7-11 and dinner, if I was lucky, was a canned meatball ravioli, courtesy of Chef Boyardee.
And then I got smart.
I had just worked (and quit) my 100th day job. I was sick and tired of being … You know the rest. Thing is, that day would define me moving forward. I told my new wife, who was understanding but not thrilled with the idea, that I could not do this anymore. Not for her, not for me.
If there was any chance of my career moving forward, if I had any real opportunity for an upward trajectory, I needed to place our lives where my big mouth was and write a book. I would call it, “How to Survive a Day Job” and I would interview celebrities about how they made their own creative dreams come true.
My success would only help us in the future, I argued.
“But you don’t know any celebrities,” she said.
“Uh, you’re right,” I replied. “But I’m doing it anyway.”
I kept that promise. I interviewed 70 some-odd public figures for the book, from actors to writers to producers and more. I sabotaged them at local book signings. I emailed them through their personal websites. I tortured personal assistants.
I did what I needed to do.
I self-published the book in 2005, under a horrid branding but nonetheless: Aunt Bessie’s How to Survive a Day Job While Pursuing the Creative Life. Don’t ask about the title. It was my first effort and a mistake. The book is long out of print, but I kept in touch with nearly everyone who participated.
That was the second best thing I’ve ever done. I still cannot believe any woman ever put up with me for so long, but nonetheless.
Through the years, I’ve referred to that volume as my “mentors in a box.” Since then, I’ve opened networking groups of my own, that were ultimately hosted by Paramount Studios, Warner Brothers Studios, Sunset-Gower Studios and more. I moderated groups of maybe 200 film and television professionals monthly for ten years, having only recently left the endeavor for a partner to run due to an increasingly insane schedule.
Thing is, my book, and that networking business, changed my life.
Going full-circle, back to the beginning of this diatribe: Everyone talks. Everyone yaps in this business about having money to finance your film, or having the ability to get your book to a major publisher. There is so much unbearable talk, it’s easy to believe that no one could ever make a living in this business.
I’m reminded of an ex, who meant well but did not understand that my path was a need and not a want. I needed to be a writer. There was no other way for me.
“You should be a school psychologist,” she said. “You’re great with students and, let’s face it, you’ll never make it as a writer. You’re already in your thirties. It’s time to be realistic.”
Another life-changing moment. I ended the relationship two days later and immediately decided to move from my native Brooklyn to Los Angeles, to dig in and truly work towards my goals. That was 1989. I began my book in 2003. It took me some time, but the time it took proved invaluable.
I’ve been my own boss for nearly 15 years now – save for one more gig to help a friend – and I’ve never looked back. Money and satisfaction happens and, frankly, it’s an awesome feeling being paid to practice your passion. I wake up at 3 or 4 (I know), hit Starbucks and write for hours before anyone in my house is awake. It’s great having the freedom, however, discipline is every bit as important.
When you tell people you are a writer, in certain circles you become an instant celebrity regardless of your output. You will be wined and dined. You will need to learn the difference between what is real and what is not and yes, there are groupies on both sides of the equation (and no, I’ve never indulged, thank you very much).
My point with this post is simple. I found my way. I’ve since been traveling around the country teaching others how to find theirs. I write novels, and produce movies and television.
Certainly beats telemarketing, I tell ya.
One more thing. My friend Kristen and her organization, W.A.N.A., consistently delivers the most truthful, and helpful, of all online seminars for writers. It is for this reason that I happily offer my teaching services. If anyone reading this would like to attend my upcoming Master Classes, check them out below.
It’s your life, and your career is precisely what you want it to be. Do what you need to do. Work on your craft daily and, as Steve Martin once said:
Become so good at something you cannot be ignored.
And if the world gets you down, remind yourself of this: John Lennon, Mark Twain and Stephen King have the same number of hours in the day as you. So what’s your excuse?
Trust me. I’ve been there.
Thanks so much Joel! Joel will be around for those commenting so here is your chance to rub elbows with an amazing person and one of the top talents in the world. Networking is a HUGE deal, so what are your thoughts? Questions? Do you struggle to believe you could be paid to write? Do you feel overwhelmed at all of it? Do you have a similar story of how everything changed in your attitude/world? DO NOT BE SHY! Joel is fantastic to talk to!
Hey, Valentines is coming up. Chocolate will make you fat but these might make you rich. Hey, why NOT? Someone has to be! 😛
Joel is running his Master’s Class HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR EARNING POTENTIAL AS A FULL-TIME AUTHOR for $199 (this series is normally $400, but Joel loves me 😀 ).
Or you can take each of the four sessions individually for $65 a piece. All are recorded and is included in purchase price. Potentially Lucrative Multi-Media Rights (February 21st), How to Sell to Your Niche Market (February 28th), It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows YOU (March 7th), Making Money Speaking, Teaching, Blogging and Retaining Rights (March 14th)
Thanks for following and as always I reward the faithful!
I love hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of FEBRUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!!
Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! All you need is an internet connection!
Joel, Thanks for a great post full of difficult and mountain top moments. You’re inspiring! I’ve been writing for awhile as a journalist/columnist, making “money” (if making enough to pay for a tank of gas, at a modest Midwest price, counts), and believing I can get the numbers up is a challenge. I have written some for quite a bit more that has been well received, but haven’t been able to move up permanently into a higher market. Plus, I really want to support myself with novel-length stories. (I don’t ask much,) Wondering if you had a step-by-step plan to succeed or grabbed opportunities you were able to create? Ironically, I’m making a trip to L.A. soon and am not sure how to maximize that. I’m visiting a friend in a somewhat complementary field, who is also struggling to make a career. There’s a writing conference but sometimes those seem the worst place to boost a career, do you think? Maybe a book of interviews like you made makes sense? lol How do you think the book helped? I’m really curious about how you connected the dots exactly, and went from small jobs here and there to supporting yourself.
Thanks for the compliment, first of all. A step-by-step guide is difficult and I tell you why. Very simply, everyone has their own journey. Some have children and unbreakable time commitments, some do not. Some are willing to sacrifice, some either do not or cannot. Some live in areas that don’t respect or appreciate art … and so on.
I can give some hints, many of which will be supplemented in the class: ALWAYS keep a mentor nearby, a mentor who lives a similar life and yet makes it work. A google search for “writers’ beginnings” or even looking at Wikipedia entries of your favorite writers will help. Network, network, network. Never stop. You never know who you will meet. The person you run into at the supermarket today, may become your dream weaver tomorrow.
I connected the dots by realizing how much I was told what I wanted to do was impossible, and how much time I was spending AWAY from my passion while making companies money in exchange for a weekly paycheck. Clive Barker said he never wanted to be a “wage slave.” That hit me like a gut punch. John Grisham, one of the most successful novelists of the last 50 years? He was an attorney or wrote in whatever few spare hours he had. And then “The Firm” was released and he became a made man.
I realized that the answers were inside of me all along.
I hope that helps … 🙂
Yes, very helpful! Thanks.
Happy February Kristen, thank you for all you do. You are my writing sunshine, a true inspiration and triple thanks for sharing your friends! I’m putting it out there to the universe my intention of being in this ever so amazing class. Truly-Jess<3
Thanks “Send Sunshine.” Looking forward to meet you virtually.
Wonderful stuff, as usual!! Thank you!
Reblogged this on Jerri Perri.
Wow, I love this post! I have to reblog and share it!! Any aspiring writer or those that have tried and want to give up should read the post!!!
Thanks Jerry. Always realize the old cliche is true; Where there’s a will, there really is a way …
Yes Joel, I agree!
Love Joel’s wisdom. Alas, I am one who took the road more traveled by and had another career first. No regrets, but I admire Joel’s tenaciousness and passion.
You know something? My wife is presently producing her first television show at 60 years of age, following a career as a pharma rep. She took the road most traveled by as well … but now she’s not.
It’s never too late … 🙂
Thank you for your kind words everyone. I’m here to help, and hope to see some of you in Kristen’s class. Feel free to leave messages here; I will get to them and am very interested in what you have to say.
Thanks for offering your advice! I enjoyed the article, and have a question:
Do you think the best networking opportunities happen “organically”, or is paying for pitch sessions (I’m a screenwriter) and reviews of one’s work equally beneficial? It seems that there’s no end to the opportunities to pay other people to approve your creative work, but how frequently does that actually translate into making one’s work more marketable???
I hope my question makes sense…thank you for your time.
Honestly, I don’t believe in paying people a penny to “approve your creative work.” Hollywood, and the publishing business, is full of pariahs who take advantage of hopeful writers. Organic networking is great. Speak to EVERYONE. You will never know who they may know or how they may be able to help otherwise. Also, never sell. In real-world networking, overt solicitations tend to turn people off. Ask them what they do (for a living), let them ask you … and hope they are interested enough to ask questions.
For pro networking, I prefer certain ongoing networking groups, film festivals and the like. Networking is not a “stiff” endeavor; it should be natural.
How does it help marketability? Again, someone you speak to may have a big social network following, for example. Or something else that can further your endeavors. It’s a two-way street, though. Give and you will receive in return.
Thanks for the inspirational post!
Anytime. Thanks for reading it.
Would you call your story of becoming a writer…relatable? How much of your path relied on luck, being in the right spot at the time, etc.? I hear stories like yours a decent amount, and I always find myself sighing: How could that ever happen to me?
From what you said, I understand that you literally gave up everything to become a writer. Maybe it didn’t seem like you were giving anything up, but from my perspective, it certainly seems like it. You ditched reason and what others would call having a “normal life” (by ditching your job!). I understand that this worked for you in the long run…but would you encourage others to do the same thing, even though this could potentially distort someone’s life…and then, in the end, it may not even pan out the way it did for you?
Just coming to you honestly, thanks for any advice!
Love the questions, Dominic. Thank you and I appreciate your honest feedback more than you know. Let me try to take these in order.
“Would you call your story of becoming a writer … relatable?” – My path was my path; some may relate, others may not. Remember, Dominic, as I mentioned in a prior reply above – everyone’s path is individual. Some may have commitments with their children, for example, while others may have no children. Some may work 15 hour days to pay bills and work jobs they loathe, while others may have certain freedoms based on the amount of money in a savings account. Your path will never exactly follow another. However, like John Grisham, who worked countless hours as an attorney and wrote “The Firm” in whatever spare moments he had, like Stephen King and so many others … A person can ALWAYS find the time to write, or send an email query, or replay to a blog post. It becomes then a question of time management and discipline to most prudently work with the tools you have to attain your goals.
“How much of your path relied on luck, being in the right spot at the time, etc.?” – That was actually my problem for so long. I waited and waited and waited some more … and nothing happened. There were projects here and there, stacks of returned scripts … but my career went nowhere. It’s only when I got desperate that I realized only I could turn all this around. I did something I never did – I wrote that book (and did have a few non-performing films prior) – and it made all the difference for me. I PROACTIVELY kept in touch with all the people who contributed that trod similar paths, and I PROACTIVELY kept up my networking group for years. I got out of my comfort zone. I don’t believe “luck” was part of the equation.
“I hear stories like yours a decent amount, and I always find myself sighing: How could that ever happen to me?” – I made that same observation and asked myself that exact question for so many years. I’ve so been there. But see above. I never stopped writing. I never stopped dreaming. The sacrifices were outrageous and I would not recommend those sacrifices to everyone. But, again, I’ve always had a sort of primal “need” to write; it’s always been more than a simple “want” for me. I made it work. The others who share similar stories made it work as well.
Look, sacrifice is a monster. I ended relationships, risked sleeping on the street, and a relatively new marriage, didn’t eat well, paid bills late … I would not recommend this. But my point is — I found the way. I tell people who attend my courses, speaking engagements and such that they don’t have to go to the extent I have. I did all the work. I learned what works and what does not, and why. There is no road map; if there was everyone would follow it and everyone would share the same degree of success.
There’s not a roadmap, though, but what there is are very specific strategies to save you an insane amount of work to help you get where you need to be.
Not luck, science.
Hope the response helps …
Thank you so much for the advice and for being honest with me. I was curious because I believe that I DO have things in my life that “hold me back”…but hold me back for good reasons (school, work, family, etc.). It’s encouraging to know that giving up everything isn’t the only way.
In the name of trying things, you wouldn’t happen to know anyone looking to publish a YA fantasy series, would you? Or turn make it into a movie/TV show? 🙂
YA is becoming an evergreen – always hot (though Lionsgate is having some issues in that regard lately), I don’t off the top, but I would certainly google that query. You’d be surprised how many responses pop up; do your diligence but for several of these companies you will not need an agent.
Wow! Okay, thank you! I’m glad to hear that. Thanks again!
This sounds fantastic! I signed up. 🙂 I’m not sure which one I’m looking forward to most, but I think I *need* the second one the most.
My main issue was trying to make the first book such that it will please everyone. That will never happen. I finally realized it didn’t want to be a novel at all – it’s six novellas in twelve different universes, so I’m bound for self-publishing. 🙂
I doubt I’ll ever be able to quit the day job, though. I need the health insurance. 🙁
Thanks Laura. Looking forward to meeting you. We can discuss all of this in the class. It’ll be fun and informative. Promise. 🙂
Terrific story. I ‘ll give him credit, there’s not much I’d go hungry or homeless for other than my children. I love writing, but not that much. Perhaps that makes me less of an artist or only a hobbist. I don’t know.
I also give him kudos for being so persistent with the celebrities and keeping it touch. Perhaps he should offer a networking class for introverts 🙂
The flip side of this is that some people who want to be writers, who’d love to make it their day job, also have good day jobs right now. And families they support. Families they will NOT let go hungry or homeless.
I could probably handle hungry and homeless (I have an RV and don’t eat much anyway 😉 ) – my issue is the “approval rating” thing. And health insurance. I don’t have kids, and I’m lucky to be able to travel for work, with time off between assignments, and I usually get a lot of writing done then (although I do take a notebook to work and have been known to scribble a thousand words or so on my break when I AM working), so I do write a lot… but I am definitely an introvert, and until recently have been terrified at the thought of releasing anything that didn’t have some kind of stamp of approval from about ten completely different people on it. I’ve given up on that idea now. Lol. My writing goal is to publish enough to pay my bills to the point where I can afford to only work enough hours at a day job somewhere to get health insurance. I don’t know if that will work, but that’s the goal…
Health insurance is a huge issue, especially with kids. Especially this year when they are constantly sick!
I was hungry once in my life. I vowed to NEVER be there again.
Elizabeth, I was once the biggest introvert there was. Still am, in many ways. Even today. But I’ve developed a real love for helping others in my business, which supersedes any fear. And also, note, we absolutely WILL be talking about networking.
Hope you join us. 🙂
Good Morning, Everyone.
I’m on a couple of deadlines today but I see I have some questions above. Thanks for your interest, and I will answer ALL as the day goes on … 🙂
Thanks for the encouraging words, Joel and Kristen!
You’re very welcome.
It’s so nice to hear a blog that, while telling me I’m not alone in my experience with “Debbie downers” and other “you can’t make a living at that”, affirms there is also light somewhere at the end of the tunnel. While I have support from a spouse and lots of other writers, it’s always in the back of my mind that they’re just being nice saying they think I’ll make it big someday. The book that DID get published helped, but its sales didn’t. So, I’m still riding the roller coaster but I’m not ready to get off, and Joel’s story helped reaffirm that decision. Thanks, both of you, for helping all of us remember why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Terri, keep moving forward! It’s so much better than the alternative.
Reblogged this on authorkdrose.
Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
Check out this great post from Kristen Lamb’s blog
Thanks Don. Appreciated …
Reblogged this on Erotic Vampire and commented:
Thank you Kristen and Joel for these extraordinary words from a master. Last year I published my first novel, When Darkness Falls, The First Vampire Redemption Story. I’m 68 and this is a brand new career for me. It’s never too late. And, by the way, I’m making a little money at what I love to do.
Love it! Congratulations. As I mentioned above, my wife is producing her first television show, for a CBS network, at the age of 60. It’s never too late.
Oh, do I ever have a similar story…
Got that Master’s in writing, failed at life for a couple of years, moved across the country because of a friend from World of Warcraft (much to my family’s panic), ended up getting married to said friend, self published four books that flopped, failed at life some more but got a journalism job, met a LOT of cool people while working for the paper, got hired to ghostwrite a book by one of those people I met, and he liked my writing and working with me so much that he hired by the same guy to work full time as a writer for his company. *dusts hands of 7th grade English teacher job*
I’m finishing out the school year and start full time this May. I’m beyond delighted to be able to write as my primary profession. It’s taken me a good 13 years to reach this kind of success. I will keep plugging away at writing books and I have marked on my calendar to take a W.A.N.A. class after school is out. I have 7th graders to deal with in the interim…