[ I wanted to share this story because I just read Chris Guillebeau's Side Hustle. Guillebeau was never really an author that I respected in the past, his earlier works glorified financial independence a little too much and reminded me of MLM programs and the kind of rotten insurance agents that I troll on a regular basis on this blog. His latest book, however, was extremely useful and highly accessible. The stuff he brought to the table was quite intuitive and often based on common sense, but he had a lot of interesting examples from folks who managed a side hustle.]
I did not get into writing because I wanted side income.
My finances were doing ok and I was just discovering dividends investing. The primary motivation for writing my first book was just to prove that I can get shit done when some folks around me are just shuffling their feet and just talking about their grand ambitions without shipping a single product despite talking about it for yonks. In fact, my parents were somewhat against me writing a book and spilling the beans on how I invest. I mean, why share anything if it work surprisingly well on the family wealth right ?
Truth is, I always had some friends who were always talking about finishing a published work. I never figured out why was authoring was so hard. I finished my undergraduate thesis fairly early and spent most of my final semester refining my algorithm so to me, a published work is simply a thesis that people would actually find use to read.
Just to say that I can finish-off what other people can only talk about, I looked for ways to hasten the process of getting a book into the bookstore. The manuscript was strangely the easy part. Once I finished up my table of contents, I can sustain a lot of writing for hours once I got off work - a lot of it was actually done in Bangalore when I experienced outsourcing destroying engineering jobs in Singapore.
The original aim was to lose all my allocated money on this project, get the book on the shelf, and possibly act smug because of my quick time to market. I hired a consultant, ponied up about $6000 and passed him my manuscript. Within a few months Growing Your Tree of Prosperity was on the shelves of major bookstores.
The book was initially a shit-storm of a product.
I had listened too carefully to my consultant. He advised me not to hire an editor to keeps costs low so it turned out to be badly written. The feedback was also negative from some folks I met in the writers guild, some author said that my grammar was unforgiveable. Some friends pooh-poohed this product because it was self-published and lacked the cachet and pedigree of a real published product. The book has also gone through two distributors. I pulled out from the first one because I felt the owner did not have integrity and the second distributor even gave up because of the disruption the book business was facing from e-books at that time.
Then, amidst the horrible feedback and brickbats, something strange happened.
People clicked with the contents of the book.
Maybe the bad grammar made the book more intimate.
I was featured on Me and My Money, got a radio interview and the book hit no. 10 for just one week on the Straits Times non-fiction bestseller lists. The fact some people thought I was an attention seeking troll who claimed to save 70% of my take home pay helped. Turns out bad publicity is awesome publicity.
I also cannot escape this new found attention at work, management began to see me as a possible asset to be deployed in financial institutions. Of course, the biggest benefit was that in writing a book on personal finance, I have to really get rich because I would not be able to live with the cognitive dissonance of not making my first million before I retired.
In conclusion, I'm not sure whether there is ever a moral to this story.
My first book was a pissing competition. It was basically the length of my dick against the length of the dicks of everyone else I knew who had literary ambitions. I wanted to show that my dick was longer. I even had money to make it happen. On hindsight, I did not even win this pissing competition properly, I self-published and neglected to hire an editor.
But this pissing competition took me to quite a few places.
- I have this blog. It's not a big deal, but you're reading this, right ?
- I quit the workforce and took a 4 year holiday to argue with Millenials over some finer point of Constitutional Law.
- I can conduct a segment in a financial seminar and get a 100% full house record in all my talks given so far. ( No one ever paid me to talk when I spent 10 years with the Toastmasters movement. )
- I have awesome friends who are truly investing experts. This has rubbed off on me to take bigger risks with my portfolio and share with everyone new ways of making money.
- My awesome friends even offered me shares in their company that will be paying dividends this year !
As a side hustle, Growing Your Tree of Prosperity was a failure on many counts. But failure sometime pays its own dividend.
If you are an artist who is always criticised by other, why not put it up on Etsy and see if you can do something good for your personal cash-flow.
Or like me, you have friends who were dreamers and can't seem to take the final step to ship a product, why not just finish the job for them? It sure beats criticising other people. Show, don't tell!
Anyway, my stock of Growing Your Tree of Prosperity is about to be sold out, I might have only a few copies left.
Tomorrow, I am going to find whatever copies I have left and will sell each copy for $88.88. Whoever buys my final copies will get my two other books for free.
[ Ok, I just salvaged 8 copies and have updated my store-front. I guess at this stage, I don't really mind if they never get sold.]