Against all foreseeable odds, I have a hit on my hands. A bona fide, number one, widely reviewed and widely praised (well, widely within a rarefied world) hit. It happens to be a book about poker, and it happens to be a hit within that rarefied world largely on the strength of the public profile of my co-author, the wonderful and glamorous Annie Duke, she of Celebrity Apprentice and World Series of Poker fame; she of the 33,000 Twitter followers.
Decide is a case study in collaboration. I could never have written this book by myself. I don’t have the poker theory chops. Nor could Annie have written the book by herself. She doesn’t have the writing chops. Thanks to our complementary strengths and synergy, we have produced 425 of the most awesome pages on poker ever written. That said, the book goes nowhere without the public profile and muscle of Annie Duke behind it. It does no business; hell, it doesn’t even get published. In that sense, it’s a case study in everything we’ve been talking about in this column: how authors in today’s market are greatly aided by being broadly well known – or figuring out how to get well known. Anyway, thanks to Annie’s coattails, I have a book ranked number one (among poker books) on Amazon. (And more than half those sales are Kindle sales, for what that’s worth.) Decide to Play Great Poker has only been out for a couple of months, but it’s already clear that it will sell better than any of my other books. There’s a very good chance it’ll sell better than all of them put together.
I should be happy, and I am.
But I’m also perverse.
So when it occurred to me that there was a wonderful parody of the book to be written – a slender volume called Decide To Play Drunk Poker – I didn’t waste time. I sat right down and wrote it. Knocked it out in, basically, a long weekend, then spent a few weeks refining it, Kindlizing it, bastardizing the cover of Decide To Play Great Poker, and getting it up online, where it instantly commenced to sell literally tens of copies. Less than a month from conception to completion.
Less than one month.
Why was I in such a hurry? Because I knew that the fire of Decide to Play Great Poker was burning so hot it couldn’t last long. If I wanted to leverage my fifteen minutes of fame (in the small world of poker writing) to introduce new readers to my humorous writing and the rest of my oeuvre, the time to strike was now. So I struck. Without fear. Without doubt. Without procrastination. And without the slightest regard to potential outcome. I didn’t think, I Just acted, for I knew that if I let fear or doubt creep in, procrastination would follow, my progress would stall and I’d miss my window. I didn’t want to miss my window.
There’s so much to say for this approach. We writers spend so much time fussing and fretting over what we write – worrying the details to death. But the fact is that most readers aren’t as obsessive about the details as we are. They just want a generally good read, and if we give them that, they’ll forgive the odd underpolished sentence, even a typo or two. Even a slender eBook parody of one’s own successful book.
Don’t think. Act.
If you’ve got a great idea for a great big book, or even a great little book, don’t sweat the details. Just get the thing written and get the thing out there. It’ll either sell or it won’t. It’ll garner either cheers or jeers. But it damn well won’t do anything if it remains just a figment of your imagination.
We know we’re living in tough times, we writers. The huge advances and prestige publications of old, they’re largely gone. Then again, there’s Kindle, and Kindle has kindly (Kindley?) opened a new door for us. Now we may write any damn thing we please, just as fast as we can, and put it out there where people can find it. Of course, there still remains the challenge of helping people find it. No doubt we have to flog and keep flogging our products through Facebook, Twitter, websites, and blogs, blogs, blogs, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes we get lucky and collaborate with someone with 33,000 tweeps. Thanks to that happy accident, Decide To Play Great Poker is selling well, and Decide To Play Drunk Poker is, well, selling.
But again, I want to stress that none of that happens if I don’t decide to do things now. No one said I had to write this parody. No one would’ve noticed if I hadn’t. I don’t even know if it will prove to have been worth my time in the end. I just know that not doing it does verifiably nothing for my career. And something is better than nothing.
There’s a motto I adhere to, one I’ve followed all my life, “Go off in all directions at once. You’re bound to get somewhere eventually.” This little parody project of mine is a manifestation of that thought. I’m going off in another direction, hoping and trusting that it will add another little boost to my efforts to reboot my career in this new, post-modern world of publishing. I’m deciding to do things now. I hope you are, too. It’s the only way any of is us ever going to survive these times. On the strength of our personal hustle. On our willingness to just “throw it off the roof and see if it lands.” On the principle of, “Don’t think, act.”
Oh, yeah. You can find Decide To Play Drunk Poker at http://tinyurl.com/decidedrunk. For just $2.99, it makes a moderately amusing and only modestly time-consuming read. It’s only 15,000 words, by the way, and it’s worth nothing that many people think 15,000 words is the magic number for Kindle-only projects. eBook readers seem to be developing a taste for consume-in-a-sitting works, especially those priced at impulse-buy prices. Think about this when you’re framing your next do-it-now endeavor. It needn’t take a year of your life; it might only take a long weekend.