Completely Useless Advice For Aspiring Authors: Pre-Write Your Book

Completely Useless Advice For Aspiring Authors: Pre-Write Your Book

M writing process is brutal. It takes me three years to do a book. Here’s why:



  1. Outline


  1. Pre-Write the entire book


  1. Research what’s in the pre-write version


  1. Book Proposal


  1. More Research (Primary documents like scholarly journals and books, secondary documents like links and online articles.)


  1. Write for knowledge


  1. Edit


  1. Distribute for feedback


  1. More Research (Specifically, interviews with everyone named in the book.)


  1. Write and edit for humor and clarity


  1. Legal Review, line Edits, proofread. Get blurbs.


  1. Publish



Every author has their system. My system is not better than yours. This system is just how I do things.



I tell you this because, while I’m in the pre-writing stage, you’re going to see a lot of stuff go up on this website that looks like it’s from “The Internet is Magic” (project title, not the actual book title.. yet).



About 70 percent of that material will not appear in the finished book. It’s just me working some shit out in steps two and three.



What Do You Mean By Pre-Writing?



You always start with an outline. If you don’t have one, stop everything you’re doing and don’t proceed until you have one finished. Seriously.



Don’t be like my sister and have no plan and no outline and then randomly tell people, “I’m finishing my book” for like 40 weeks in a row. “Oh no, the killer doll has more people to kill. I can’t finish the book yet.” (Yes, this is something she said.)



For me, pre-writing the book means banging out the entire book in its roughest form. There’s not a whole lot of editing and research in this phase. It’s just me following the outline and writing it all out. That may sound like a lot of unnecessary work, but it’s not.



For my second book (the ghostwritten one), pre-writing the book helped me figure out that the original thing we wanted to write about: 1) Wasn’t enough to sustain an entire book. 2) We were only talking about the symptoms and not the disease itself. In pre-writing the book, I identified the actual ways that X does X successfully and repeatedly, and that’s what the book became. Had I not done this, we would have wound up with something short and fun, but not quite what the author had wanted regarding being authoritative and knowledgeable.



(No. I can’t tell you what X is. Use your imagination. I CAN tell you the first X is not “B.J.” and the second x is not “procreate” because it’s been five years and, despite wanting to be the world’s greatest Dad, there are no takers on that front.)



So with “The Internet is Magic,” I have the outline for the book completed. What I need to do now is just write it all out in its roughest form, and then start looking at the research. This allows me to do a few things that I think are important for authors to do:



  1. I can look at the entire project in a fully fleshed out form and make a lot of cuts. If something is repetitive and unnecessary, I can spot and remove it now before it’s too late.


  1. Anything in the pre-written version is open to debate. I’m not married to or committed to anything that appears there. Meaning if the research says that Snapchat is an entirely reliable platform to use and their metrics are honest (LOL), and if I said otherwise in the pre-written version, the research is going to win. Out goes the dismissive statement and me making a wanking motion. In goes the research once I’ve verified it with two or three different sources.



Assembling the book as quickly as possible, even if it’s in a raw form, lets you then bang out a solid book proposal too.


You’ll know exactly how to describe the book, what’s in it, why people should buy it. You’ll have data you can share to help pull an editor in and keep them interested. You can’t do an excellent book proposal without having that first draft done. (Again, my opinion. Every author is different. I just prefer you know what the fuck you’re talking about when you go to an agent and publisher.)


And hey, if you buy into that “platform” nonsense (most do), then the pre-written version of the book, once you’ve started to check your work with the research, gives you things you can roll out as op-eds, columns, guest posts, and use the soundbites in interviews. That allows you to build out the platform BEFORE you even need to do so with a publisher.



And So, A Word About Content For “The Internet is Magic.”



You must know your audience. If you don’t, you’re fucked. It’s as true as it is in life as it is in business.



The response to “The Internet is Magic” (again, placeholder title, not yet the actual title for “Social Media is Bullshit 2”) has been good. I am open to all suggestions from everyone and welcome them. The best thing is to email me constructive thoughts / comments / suggestions to, so I have it all in one place.



Remember: The ideal situation for this book is that I get an agency to cut me a check, I write the thing, and then it’s distributed for free to the press, the agency’s clients, companies, and everyone who wants a copy. Maybe they throw in some money for a researcher and co-writer so I can get the thing done in a year. Will that happen? I don’t know. It’s being discussed. I will continue to have those conversations as I pre-write this thing.



For me, I just want people to read the thing. I want to get it in as many homes as I possibly can. The specifics of the distribution don’t matter much beyond that. If I can make people laugh and inform them at the same time? I’m good with everything else.



That said, with the pre-written version that’s going to run on this blog, I want to make sure I firmly establish something. It’s going to be my content my way because I know, as other authors should that the audience for the website is not the same audience for the book.



They may overlap, but it’s a mistake to treat them as if they’re the same.



For that reason, the book itself likely won’t have many swear words, references to my Wonder Woman fixation, or other screwball stuff that I find hilarious but doesn’t appeal to a mass audience. There WILL be jokes because it’s impossible for me not to make them, but I’m going to exercise some restraint this time.



The book’s audience is a broad, global audience. We want my niece’s grandmother in Malaysia to read it and enjoy it.



What I want to also avoid is another situation where I’m right about everything, but I gave people (looking at you, The New York Times) an excuse to ignore the book because of the style of content.



But that doesn’t mean those jokes are gone. This website’s audience is not a broad, general audience. It’s for people who like me, like my writing, and already know what they’re getting.



So as I roll out the pre-written version on this site over the next few weeks and months, we’re going to have some fun with my style of humor. For those looking for the clean-ish version, you’ll have to wait for the thing to be released in print.









Social Media is Bullshit Is Getting A Sequel (Finally)

Social Media is Bullshit Is Getting A Sequel (Finally)

About two years ago, maybe a little longer, I was talking to you about writing a sequel to “Social Media is Bullshit.” Then, not long after I started that process, I wound up ghostwriting a book that dealt with similar themes. (As Forest Gump once said, “And that’s all I have to say about that.” Since, you know, talking about something you ghost wrote defeats the purpose of ghostwriting for somebody.)

I have a few people now who want me to ghostwrite books for them, but that’s not exactly the career I envisioned at this point in my life. I’ve always had two tracks going in my head.

Track A: World’s greatest stay at home Dad.

Track B: Selfishly, and not to sound like your typical egotistical male author, the career I wanted was filled with lots of media coverage, dating beautiful women, and having enough money where I would just write and not be bothered by anything else.

I can easily do Track A doing the ghostwriting thing, but not Track B.

Until recently, I was all set with Track A. Track A was awesome, but then …

Last week, I removed myself from a multibillion-dollar project. I don’t want to get into why just yet, but for our purposes now, I walked away from A LOT of money.

If I were still going out with the girl I was dating in September, I would have stayed with that project. Track A, you know? My mindset was, “If she’s in, I’m in. Let’s have children. I can be the world’s most awesome Dad, and if I need to deal with the issues that come along with this project, I’ll do it for her.” But she said she wasn’t in. Bummer, for sure, but on the plus side, the reason to deal with those issues associated with this project were now gone.

I was happy to go with Track A because the challenge I’ve had with writing another marketing book is the question of “why bother?” What more is there to say?” For you, I wrote just the one book, but this new one would actually be my third. That’s years worth of research and writing about this stuff going back to 2009.

But given that I’m now in a situation where I’m looking at a blank slate, it’s given me a lot of time to think about Track B. And thanks to the project I walked away from, I realize there’s still plenty left to say.


The List of Jericho


I’ve been keeping a list in my head since “Social Media Is Bullshit” came out. It’s all stuff that I wish I could have included but didn’t, either because I wasn’t aware of it at the time or because it got cut by editors:

1.   I want to get into more detail of how the media tends to interact with this stuff because in doing so, you have a way better understanding of why things explode the way that they do, and you’ll see little of it has to do with “the power of social media.” (This is especially true every time you see some story about influencers or “rising stars on X social media platform.” You never hear about the PR firm or the agency pushing those “rising stars” and the amount of money spent offline to drive that online “influence,” what of it that there is.)

2.  I want to talk a bit more about algorithms and some of the other black hat stuff out there. Not in a ton of detail, you can lose people when you talk about anything too technical, but part of showing people the Internet (and Social Media) isn’t magic has to include some coverage of this. Because the second you learn that Facebook has a system that can be gamed, and even to this day, continues to be gamed, you realize that it’s just a channel like anything else. The Fake News thing is only the most recent example in a long history of Facebook’s system getting gamed.

3.  I do want to give the devil its due. Three things should have been said in “Social Media is Bullshit” in a bit more detail:

-Social media can be useful regarding giving a voice to communities and people who traditionally have not had one. What’s going on with Standing Rock is a good example of this. (Ditto: What is true in Western Cultures is NOT true in Eastern cultures in terms of their use of social media.)

-Social media can be good when used appropriately with a strategy and a lot of money (because it is a paid advertising channel).

-And sometimes, your boss doesn’t give you a choice. You MUST use social media, not because it’s great or will serve your needs, but because you have NO choice. People at P&G were the first ones to tell me about that last one in 2012, but I’ve encountered it again and again ever since.

4. I want to talk about goal setting, putting a proper plan in place (and having an excellent Plan B), and using data to make better decisions without letting the data ruin you. Even today, there are LARGE companies with huge national presences and a lot of money to spend that have no idea what the fuck they’re doing. That’s terrifying because (as I said in the first book), what the large enterprises do, the small businesses follow, and that’s not acceptable. However, what I did NOT do in the first book that I should have, is presented people with a plan. That is what I heard the most from this first book. “OK smart ass, I get that its bullshit. So, what do I do?”

5. I want to have a section just on the presidential election of ‘08, ‘12, and ‘16. There has been so much bullshit surrounding all three campaigns about data and social media, and I don’t want to go into 2020s presidential election without feeling like I did my part to explain why stuff like “Trump won with Facebook quizzes” is nothing but hot garbage.

6.  I want to talk about people and why they do what they do. Why they share the things they share and how to increase the probability of success (something else that I’ll cover) regarding any of your future projects. I’ve been a word-of-mouth Marketing guy since 1998, and while other books have tackled this, a lot of it is done with the same kind of bullshit you see in the social media and digital marketing space. So being able to talk about this, even if it’s just a chapter, I think is incredibly useful.

7.  And then, close the book talking about what I think the larger trends are (Peak Internet and people going offline).


Will There Be A Sequel To “Social Media Is Bullshit”?


I know, with other authors, they’re constantly churning out books. I’m going to tell you straight up; I can’t do that. It took me three years to do “Social Media is Bullshit” (2009, 2010, 2011), and it took me three years to do the ghostwritten book (2014, 2015, 2016).

That’s just the sheer scale of research that goes into these things. I still have a crate in my parent’s garage right now with all the books used in the ghostwritten book, and in addition to those 60 books, there was another 30 on my Kindle in addition to scholarly, original research I did using university archives and conducting interviews. It’s a lot.

If we’re realistic, if I started RIGHT NOW on “The Internet is Magic” / “People Are Assholes” / “Peak Internet” / “How To Be Internet Famous” / Whatever the sequel is called, you ain’t seeing it until 2020. MAYBE 2019 if I self-publish the thing, but not until 2020 if it’s put out by St. Martin’s or whomever.

So yes, because I’m back on Track B, there will be a sequel. It will cover everything I mentioned above, and it’ll probably be out in 2020.

I’m also going to be fully transparent in this whole process. That’s something I couldn’t do with the ghost writing, and it’s something I didn’t think to do with “Social Media is Bullshit.” As I work on this thing, I’ll post everything on this website. So in addition to possibly running for Congress and blogging about depression in the tech industry (and managing my own) you can look forward to that in the not too distant future.

The funny business book reviews are getting their own website along with my new agency. Speaking of … There is a way I can do the book much, much faster. It requires the support of a larger advertising agency. That’s a discussion that was had in 2014, and given what’s going on with my company right now, that’s a discussion that may pick up steam again in January.

If anything happens there, I’ll let you know. Actually, if anything happens concerning the sequel, I’ll post about it right here.


(Photo Credit: B.J. Mendelson, from the second floor of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.)