Not the first time The New York Times would be wrong about something …
I’m working on the book proposal for the Social Media Is Bullshit “sequel”. I’m using quotes around “sequel” because it’s sort of a sequel in the sense that Perfect Dark was a sequel to GoldenEye 007. And if you’re not a giant nerd like I am and don’t get the Nintendo 64 reference, what I mean to say is that the Social Media Is Bullshit sequel is a sequel in the way a Daniel Craig James Bond film is a sequel to a Sean Connery James Bond film. Yeah it’s James Bond and it’s another adventure filled with the same sexism, anarchy, and alcoholism that you’ve come to expect, but everything else is different.
For the Social Media Is Bullshit sequel, that means you don’t have to read Social Media Is Bullshit to follow this one, but if you did, you’ll know immediately that the new one is a follow-up. and understand why it starts where it starts. Make sense? So “sequel” is kind of a relative term. It’s a follow-up, but it’s not exactly the follow-up you think it’s going to be. This isn’t “SEO Is Bullshit” or “Content Marketing Is Bullshit” or even “Growth Hacking Is Bullshit”. If you read through the first book, I already sort of covered all that, even though the term “Growth Hacking” doesn’t actually appear in the book itself. This is because the first book was just using “social media” to explain that a lot of what we know concerning online marketing is bullshit. Not just the social media part of it. That’s not to say, “Don’t do online marketing”, but it is to say, “Hey, that guy calling himself a growth hacker is probably a fucking asshole. Don’t listen to that guy. Here’s why.”
By the way, it’s not too late to buy a couple of copies of Social Media Is Bullshit and give it to your friends and co-workers. The book is going to celebrate it’s second anniversary on September 4th, 2014, but it’s still as relevant (and needed) today as it was when it was released. So if you want to help pay the rent and support this site, you can do that by clicking here and buying the book from your favorite bookseller. And while we’re doing some random bits of house keeping here, if you want to get the latest from me whenever I update this site, make sure you scroll down to the bottom of the post and enter your email address. This way you can get new posts delivered right to your inbox.
Why Does A Social Media Is Bullshit Sequel Need To Exist? Reason #1: This Time, It’s Personal!
I’ve been having some trouble with this one section of the book proposal, where you basically have to explain why this new book needs to exists. Here’s what I think the answer is:
We all know that you don’t make money writing books, so that’s not really a factor for me. This will probably put me in a terrible negotiating position later, but I’d probably take a super low advance from a traditional publisher (enough to make sure my agent is paid but not much more) in order to put out the Social Media Is Bullshit sequel. The reason being is that the new book’s existence is deeply personal. I have something I need to prove to myself.
The other thing you need to keep in mind when writing a book proposal, and explaining why YOUR book needs to exist, is that whatever it is you choose to write will wind up consuming your life for at least two years. So, you better like whatever it is your writing about and be able to justify it’s existence without hesitation. Otherwise, what’s the point? If you can’t justify your own books existence, writing it is going to feel like you’re being tortured by watching all the bad Christopher Llyod movies that exist. And there are many. Have you seen Camp Nowhere? You’re going to wish you hadn’t after you do!
You have to love what you’re writing about and you have to understand that you’re not (likely) to see any money from doing what you’re about to do for a really long time. That alone usually scares people off from writing books.
And I can tell you right now, I’m not going to spend the next two years of my life researching and writing about social media again. I barely made it through the first time without wanting to stab myself in the face, and that was even with all the research being done before I sat down to write the actual book. I’m happy with the way the first book came out, don’t get me wrong, and I know a lot of people found it useful, but I’m definitely not doing that to myself again.
So … why does this thing exist and what is it that I have to prove?
First things first: I have something to prove to myself. And this won’t make any sense unless you do a lot of fiction writing, but hang with me here for a second. When I was working on Dracula & Kittens, I was able to “hear” John Harker. There’s that point when you’re writing fiction and the character sort of dictates what happens next and you just sort of go along for the ride. I think that stems from building out characters so well that you know them as well as you would another person, at least, if you’re doing your job right as a writer I think. After I had the heart surgery, John Harker was gone. And I’ve tried pretty hard to bring that character back, but I just can’t do it. Whatever was fueling that character is gone forever.
The same can also be said about the way I write in general. It’s completely different now after the heart surgery. I see, think, and interact with the world in a totally different way. Whatever the engine was that was fueling a lot of what went into Social Media Is Bullshit and Dracula And Kittens doesn’t exist anymore. Some of that is really good news. I think there was a lot of “anger” people picked up on in the first book, and that anger isn’t there anymore. And some of that is really bad news, because a lot of that “anger” fueled the humor that went into the book, so I’m a little worried if there was another one, it wouldn’t be as sharp or funny. So the question is, can I write another book at all? I think so, but I also know it’s going to be so different from the first time through that I’m anxious to see how it comes out.
The thing I want to prove to myself is that the “new”, post-heart surgery / catastrophic near death experience, me is capable of writing a smart, funny, and entertaining book. One that far exceeds the first one. Because if you’re going to do a sequel, it better be like The Dark Knight and not Spider-Man 3, you know? Otherwise, and you’ll notice a theme forming here, what’s the point? Why put yourself through at least two years of bullshit just to put out a product that’s well inferior to its predecessor?
In my case, I gotta be honest with you, I don’t want to write anymore books. At least, not for a really, really, long time after this one. Social Media Is Bullshit was supposed to be a sort of one and done thing itself, so I kind of want to really nail things this time through and then move on to the next thing.
Why Does A Social Media Is Bullshit Sequel Need To Exist? Reason #2: I Didn’t Finish The Fight, This Time, I Will
You know what the most common response I get to Social Media Is Bullshit is? “Ok smartass, I get what you’re saying, but now what am I supposed to do?”
The book did a really good job of explaining what didn’t work, but really only touched briefly on the stuff that does. Although that was deliberate, it also was a problem. Especially because a lot of colleges across the country are using the book in their classes and it sort of leaves the students hanging. (The most frequent thing I’m asked when I talk to college students is also, “Now what do I do?”)
I really didn’t want to write a marketing book, and I really didn’t want to be the guy running around and prescribing advice when the truth is, we’re all different. What works for me might not work for you. That’s why I cringe whenever I see all those gurus out there spouting off their nonsense. What worked for them or that person might not work for you, and in a lot of cases, these guys never even used the advise on themselves that they’re getting paid handsomely to spout off to you. So I was really hesitant to get into that stuff in the first book for that reason. This was a big mistake. There were many mistakes with the first book, but this is the one that absolutely needs to be corrected, and doing it in the form of a book is the appropriate way to do it. This way those classes aren’t just using the first book and then using some social media guru dipshit’s book to explain “What to do next”. No! Don’t use that guy’s book. I just got done explaining to you why he’s an asshole, why would you do that?
This problem is what gave me the idea for the Social Media Is Bullshit sequel. Having something to prove is one thing, but that leaving people hanging thing though? That needs to be corrected. “Why does this book exist?” I have something to prove to myself, absolutely, but more importantly I left the audience who read the first book sort of hanging, and we’re going to correct that.
How Do I Answer The Question Of “Now What Do I Do Smartass?” In A Non-Guru Like Way?
So I have this thing I want to prove and I have a job I need to finish. There is not going to be another book after this one. You can roll up to my parent’s house with a truck filled with solid gold bars, strippers dressed like Wonder Woman, and my ex-wife wrestling my best friend Jackie in a kiddie pool filled with mud, and I’d still say no. There is absolutely nothing on this planet that’s going to get me to write another one. It just ain’t happening.
That’s because I sort of subscribe to the philosophy that you should plan your decades. I’ve been at this book thing since 2009, and by the time I research, write, edit, have published, and then promote this second book, we’ll be pretty damn close to 2019. There’s other stuff I want to do with my life. The book thing was fun, but there was a lot of stuff I also messed up the first time around, and I’d like a chance to correct that before I move on to the next thing.
That means this new book has to be pretty damn good, right? Right. And here’s how I know it will be good: I already know what the next thing I want to do in my life is, and that’s make movies.
More specifically, I want to make funny movies. But here’s the thing: I know absolutely nothing about making a movie. I don’t even know anyone in the film business. So this is a thing I want to be doing, that I know nothing about, and I don’t know how to get there. Sound familiar? It should. This is really the same question people are asking me when they say, “Ok smartass, I get that it’s bullshit, now what do I do?” That’s the root of the question. I want to spend my life doing this fun thing, and not this shitty thing I’m obligated to do for any number of reasons, but I don’t know how to do it. Can you get me there? And, can you get me there in such a way that anyone can copy this and doesn’t require me to already be wealthy or well connected?”
That’s the real question, and if you read a lot of books about entrepreneurship, you’ll see that most of them fail to answer this question in the same way the online marketing books fail to answer the question of “How do I promote this thing successfully?” So, I want to make movies, you want to do stuff that you enjoy doing, how can we both do what we love successfully?
I’m going to answer that question by applying my own advice to a project I’m working on, and then take people step by step through the process. It’s really the only way to answer that question in a way that’s not total bullshit.
I’d love to have a parallel case study going on where I’m working on something with a big brand, and I’ve talked to a few ad agencies about this, but I have no control over that process. So if that other case study happens, great! If not, that’s ok to, we got the one case study of my film, and the one case study is pretty damn close to what a lot of people want to do with their product / brand: Take something from concept to creation and then market it successfully.
So that’s what this “sequel” will do: I’m going to make a short film, then release it online and market it the same way I would tell the startups I advice or the Fortune 500 brands I get called in to consult for. I’m following my own advice and showing that it legitimately works without the typical preconditions you find in a marketing or entrepreneurship book. I’m not a wealthy guy. I’m not terribly well connected when it comes to the entertainment business (unless you want to count a very loose connection to Lady Gaga, which I don’t). This way when I work on the book, I can enjoy writing it and transition into what I actually want to be doing, which is making films.
This book exists because I have something to prove to myself, I left a lot of people hanging with the first one, and I hate these entrepreneurship books that come out that are totally disingenuous and just sort of give you platitudes about what to do all the while the author talks about how awesome they are. Or worse still, the author just sort of gives you advice that they never actually had to follow or never bothered to use because they already had some other kind of advantage, like holding a marketing position at a huge brand or already being wealthy and just spending their way to more wealth.
I want to make a funny, short, movie and release it online, and then promote it in the same way I’d promote something for a company regardless of its size. All the while explaining why I did X,Y, and Z but didn’t do A,B, and C. And since the film is being released online, there’s absolutely no reason why someone reading the book couldn’t read it and do exactly the same thing I just did to similar success. And THAT’s what I’m going for. I want a book like that. You read the thing, and you can just fucking do something with it. If I can do it, you can do it. Simple. Easy concept.
So, that’s a long answer, but that’s why this sequel exists. And if I can do this in a smart, funny, and entertaining way that exceeds the first book? Then I have nothing more to prove on the book front. It’ll be on to the next adventure.