It was 1994. Spencer Johnson, who was a family friend, had read the manuscript of my first book (To Lead is to Serve) and told me, "You are going to make a million dollars from this book. But you have to self-publish."
His words were a death blow.
Self-publish? That's for losers. "If it is that good, why self-publish?" I asked him. "Because the publishing industry is a dinosaur," Spence replied.
Fortunately, I took his advice. It was hard to self-publish in those days. Really complicated. And then even harder to get into bookstores and get a distributor. Not to mention the hardest part of all, the marketing.
Everyone thought self-publishers were losers.
But I persevered. I had spent years supervising as many as a thousand people at a time. I had learned a lot about leadership and wanted to help young managers who were struggling like I had.
Then one day a young techie that I met in Austin said, "You should call this guy in Seattle. He's starting an online bookstore."
Online? I was trying to get into Barnes & Noble and hardly anyone was even using the internet then.
Fortunately, I called. Jeff answered. He was soooo nice. He thanked me for putting my book on his platform. I remember it vividly because his reaction was the exact opposite of what I had received from large and small bookstores and the then king-of-the-hill distributor, Ingram.
Today, amazon owns Ingram. Barnes & Noble barely exists.
Self-publishing is extremely easy to do, thanks to amazon which developed
software to make it possible for almost anyone to create their own book.
Was Spencer Johnson right?
I haven't made a million from "To Lead is to Serve" but close. I think I will. That first book plus two more of my books have been amazon #1 bestsellers. In this photo, two were on the list the same day. (Leadership with a Twist of Yoga and To Lead is to Serve.)
The books launched a speaking career that took me all over the world. Last night, I hosted my first radio show on two stations in California. The owners chose me because they like the ideas in my books.
Do you think I'm grateful to Jeff Bezos? You bet!
Do you think I'm glad Spencer Johnson gave me that "disappointing"
advice? Yes! Yes! Yes!
Do I think YOU should self-publish? Absolutely!