This week we are joined by Jeff Carson, who is a novelist and author of mystery-fiction books and Cristina's husband. We dive into collaboration and creativity, how they go hand in hand even in a career that is much more solo oriented. Jeff shares how he ended up choosing the path of fiction writing and the importance of being the "authors" our own lives with the support of people who believe in us and help us brainstorm ideas from the very beginning of their inception. Jeff's books are found on Amazon in print, audiobook, and kindle versions. Episode Notes and Bio can be found at uncoverthehuman.wearesiamo.com
Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.
YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human
[00:00:00] AC: Welcome to Uncover the Human where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives.
[00:00:06] AC: Whether that's with our families, co-workers or even ourselves.
[00:00:09] AC: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.
[00:00:12] AC: This is Cristina Amigoni.
[00:00:13] AC: And this is Alex Cullimore. Let’s dive in
[00:00:15] CA: Let’s dive in.
[00:00:18] Group: Authenticity means freedom.
Authenticity means going with your gut.
Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself not just the parts you think people want to see, but all of you.
Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself.
It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep-rooted and true.
Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be.
It's transparency, relatability, no frills, no makeup, just being.
[00:00:55] AC: Well, we're joined today by Jeff Carson. Jeff Carson is not only Cristina's husband. He's also a mystery novelist who wrote The David Wolf series, available on Amazon. He's up to 14 books now plus a short story and has been doing this for around eight, almost going on nine years now since about 2012, which is incredibly exciting. We wanted to talk to Jeff a little bit about both being in a very specific creative profession. It's a very unique one to be able to talk to an author and talk a little bit about the process. So I wanted to talk a little bit about creativity, about collaboration today.
Jeff, welcome to the podcast.
[00:01:26] JC: Hey, thanks for having me.
[00:01:28] AC: Yeah, welcome on. And we are in separate rooms if anybody's wondering.
[00:01:32] JC: I’m directly kind of below her.
[00:01:35] AC: We don't sleep in separate rooms, but we're in separate rooms for the podcast.
[00:01:40] JC: Get the bed over here, yeah.
[00:01:41] AC: Even work separate.
[00:01:41] AC: Yeah.
[00:01:43] JC: Yeah, right.
[00:01:44] AC: The whole work-life blending doesn't exist. There's no separation in this house.
[00:01:49] AC: And Jeff is way ahead on that curve being an author. There is no work-life blending. You're just writing and not liking writing.
[00:01:56] JC: Right.
[00:01:58] AC: So let's talk a little bit about the entry into getting into such a very unique profession. What was it like? What were you doing before? What led you to start being an author? What was that whole transition like?
[00:02:07] JC: Oh! That was quite the story. We went to Italy in like 2012. That was after William was born, right? He was like a year old, and we decided to go to Italy for a while. And right before we went I was doing like internet marketing and like blogging and stuff like that. Basically like affiliate marketing online and then I was also teaching people how to do it. And we proceeded to pack up all our stuff. We went to Italy. And then right when we got to Italy I was like, “All right, I’m not doing this anymore. I’m going to start writing books,” because I – Well, say I got it back up I guess. But I was getting like constant like I felt like hate mail all the time. The people I was dealing with, the people I was helping, the things I was doing, there was like a lot of – I don't know. It wasn't in line with like my values I guess, stuff like that.
[00:03:09] AC: Someone's been talking to Cristina.
[00:03:11] JC: Exactly.
[00:03:13] AC: We didn't know it was about values, but it turns out it was.
[00:03:16] JC: Yeah, but I couldn't sleep. I was just not good. And then I just was like I was like in a forum with a friend of mine who's like a very actually famous author now, L.T. Ryan, and he was coming on this forum that we were both part of and he was just like, “Hey, I’m starting to write fiction and I’m going to quit everything else and I’m quitting my day job and everything because it's going so well and this and that.” I was just like – And I just remember that moment like reading that forum post and just being like, “Okay, wait a minute. This is what I want to do.” Like I can't believe you can just write stories for a living.
And then I kind of was like looking back on my life how we used to always listen to like novels, audiobooks when we go on these long road trips as a family, and I remembered talking to my dad and being like, “It would be the coolest thing to be a novelist,” and like we would talk about that. But then in my mind there was some sort of like there's just a disconnect. It's just like you couldn't just do that. Like you had to somehow like have a job, make 10 million dollars then just start writing. So there's no pressure or whatever or something. I don't know. It was like a leisurely man's thing to do or something. I don't know how it never occurred to me until that point, and I was like about 35-years-old at that juncture in my life. But I realize, “Wow! I can do this.” So anyway I just said to Cristina, “I’m going to do this,” and she –
[00:04:46] AC: Blessed it.
[00:04:47] JC: To her credit was like – You didn't bless it, or else I wouldn't have done it probably. Yeah. So then she went ahead and made the money for quite a while there for us and while I tried to write and she helped whatever. We got through it and now we both make livings at doing what we do. Anyway, yeah, it’s fine.
[00:05:10] AC: That's awesome. You talked little bit about it not being as much in line with values and that was that it was more value-aligned to go be an author. What kind of values were you discovering along the way? Have you done that kind of, I guess, self-work?
[00:05:20] JC: I have now that I’m –
[00:05:23] AC: Married to coach.
[00:05:23] JC: Married to Cristina.
[00:05:26] AC: Married to values coach Cristina Amigoni, yeah.
[00:05:27] AC: It's part of the ongoing marriage contract.
[00:05:31] JC: Yeah. Back then, yeah, I mean I don't know if it was that. Yeah, it was never – I would never thought in those terms at all. Like it was just a feeling, I was like, “Dude, something's wrong. You're not supposed to be this unhappy every day,” and Cristina was just like – I remember she was, yeah, like, “Just whatever you want to do. I just want to see you happy.” I remember you said something like that and it was just like, “Okay. Well, I’m doing it.” Yeah.
[00:06:03] AC: So what have you discovered along the way? What felt good about it? What did you like about doing it?
[00:06:07] JC: Oh, I’m sorry. Yeah, that was the question. Yeah, I just feel like I’m outputting something that people want. Do you know what I mean?
[00:06:17] AC: As opposed to getting the hate mail from — ?
[00:06:19] JC: Right. I’m spending so much time and energy on things that people just don't even want to see from me. You know what I mean? I feel like I’m using my creative energy. I feel like I’m using all of my skills and talents to create something and then it's very satisfying to be in that and then like have a finished like product thing where it's like a book. I wish I could reach the books over there. But you know what I mean? And just, “Hey, here's a book.” You can actually read it. That's just very fulfilling to me. I think, yeah, the big value I discovered was creativity. Like I had to be doing that in my life and I wasn't doing that much yeah.
[00:07:03] AC: That’s awesome. And so the process of the first book, you decide, you commit, you want to start writing. How long does it take to get that first book out? What's that process like when you haven't done a full book before or at least not one to publish?
[00:07:15] JC: That first book took like two months straight up. Didn't it, Cristina?
[00:07:22] AC: it feels like it was more, but maybe not.
[00:07:25] JC: Well, I’m talking about the bad version that got one-star reviews, but –
[00:07:30] AC: There's a story there.
[00:07:32] JC: Yeah, I’m not done yet. No. So like it literally was like, “Okay, I had a goal of like writing,” because I wanted to be like a writer but I also wanted to make a living at it and I wanted to make money doing it. And I knew that like you have to get up to like five, six books, maybe 20 books before people start reading your stuff, or I don't know what the number was, but I just knew I really wanted to do it. So I picked a really high number of 10 books and I figured, “If I can sell 10 books a day of 10 books, that's 100 books a day. Then I’m making three dollars per book. And that's 300 a day. That would be awesome.” And I was just thinking like along those lines.
And then also I was thinking it would just be so cool to be a writer, and I didn't want to create like a benchmark of like, “Oh, after two books I should be making a living, and if not I’m going to quit,” because I just knew I wanted to fight to be the writer, if that makes sense. So I made this benchmark of 10 books. So then we literally didn't have any money in Italy.
[00:08:38] AC: Not much.
[00:08:39] JC: And it was just like something we didn't really talk about, but we're like, “We're probably not getting home. Like how are we even getting home?”
[00:08:49] AC: Miles, united miles.
[00:08:52] JC: And we knew we didn’t have enough miles for that. You know what I mean? It was just like, “Okay, I better write very fast.” So I wrote the hell out of that book and made it a cliffhanger ending, which I learned is you don't do that because people will hate you for it. They'll love the book until that last sentence and then they'll be like, “I hate this person.” Like go on Amazon and they'll give you a one-star review. So I had to –
[00:09:22] AC: Kind of feels like ending dinner with like a really bitter pill to swallow.
[00:09:27] JC: Yeah. People are reading, they’re like, “By the way, nice outfit.”
[00:09:31] AC: It’s like ending dinner with food poisoning.
[00:09:33] JC: Yeah, right. Exactly. So anyway, I wrote the book. Published it and then I just went straight to the second book. That was like December when I published that first book.
[00:09:45] AC: Yeah, that’s true.
[00:09:47] JC: I got the second book out before we were leaving Italy, which was going to be like April, and I got that done like March, beginning of March. And then when I got home I think I wrote book three, and I had I had to come home early to get a real job. Anyway, that's a whole story. But I came home early. Started working to make money to supplement this thing after borrowing our way home. I’m all good with talking about this now, but back then –
[00:10:21] AC: It was a bit of a process, yeah.
[00:10:22] JC: It was a bit of a process.
[00:10:24] AC: It's a vulnerability episode. Not a creative and collaboration episode.
[00:10:28] JC: Yeah, right. I’m going to switch it up. Anyway, and then at that point I realized like, “Okay. I got to chill out here and make sure that I’m making a good product,” because after 10 books, like if someone reads that first book and they're just like, “Oh, these are crap books,” nobody's getting to that 10th book. So what's the point? So I went back and like rewrote the whole first book.
[00:10:52] AC: Did you have the cliffhanger for that one too?
[00:10:54] JC: No. Cliffhanger was done.
[00:10:56] AC: Version two, no cliffhanger.
[00:10:57] JC: No cliffhanger, even though it's kind of like – No. It's not a cliffhanger. It's completely not a cliffhanger. It might not be satisfying for some people because it's not the way – Well, I’m not going to ruin the plot for people if they want to –
[00:11:10] AC: Go read it.
[00:11:12] JC: Right. Read it and you'll find out.
[00:11:13] AC: “The killer was John —“. Just — I’m kidding.
[00:11:15] JC: What? Yeah.
[00:11:18] AC: They get food poisoning.
[00:11:24] JC: Yeah, there’s no bathroom scenes in my books, okay? But anyway, yeah. And then went back and like hired a real editor, like had to take like a thousand bucks and just kind of go and just say, “All right, we don't have this money, but we're going to some time. Let's make these books good.” Anyway, I think I made them good, and then just kind of went on from there.
[00:11:47] AC: So that's interesting point too. We were talking a little bit about like what it's like to be an author, and obviously it's a bit of a solo endeavor. You're the one with the name on the book. It's your process of writing it, but it doesn't come together necessarily alone. But what is the process? You get editors along the way. What do you find helpful about the process? What have you discovered about just making that a little easier for yourself or maybe just relying on yourself? Either way, I mean there's so much that has to be dependent on you as the author.
[00:12:14] JC: Yeah, I’m like hesitating because I don't know if I buy the concept that it's gotten any easier. Cristina knows.
[00:12:23] AC: It hasn't.
[00:12:24] JC: It just hasn't. It just never – And I think that like the thing that's making it hard is that I think it should get easier. You know what I mean? And like it's almost gotten harder, because like back then I was just like, “Right. Right. Right. Spit it out. Spit it out. Spit it out.” And now it's like, “Okay, chill out. Make sure this is good,” and then that abstract thing like, “Okay. Well, when is it good enough?” You know what I mean? It starts creeping in there. But anyway, like the things that help are just writing forward. Like the things I know that I don't necessarily follow myself but I tell myself all the time are just like don't worry about it being perfect. Write forward. And then the next day right forward, the next day right forward. Instead of looking at what you wrote yesterday and then be like, “Ooh! Let's fix that. Ooh! Let's fix that.” And then, “Ooh! That could be cool back then to fix this,” and then you're just going back and forth in circles, and that's the thing that has gotten – Help let me got 14 books out is do that.
And then like I was just going to say like but I have also author friends that have like 50 books in the same amount of time or less, whatever, but just double what I have, and I think that's a major thing that I need to always think about also is never get caught in that comparing scenario where I’m looking at other people and going, “Oh! Well, they wrote four books this year and I wrote one.”
[00:14:00] AC: Yeah, comparison's got to be a big one when you're –
[00:14:02] JC: Yeah. And then like we were talking about this last night, Cristina and I, I came up and I was just like, “I got to talk about the book,” and then we talked about the book. And then I don't know if we even came up with the solution or whatever, but that is something big that I’ve learned is that I have to give it over to someone else or talk it out loud to someone else and get it out of my head so someone else can be like, “Wait. Why are you doing that?” And I don't know why. I don't even know why I picked on to that idea for the plot.
[00:14:44] AC: I asked a lot of whys? What? That doesn't make any sense. Why would you ever do that?
[00:14:49] JC: She's really good at that.
[00:14:52] AC: I’m not very coach-like.
[00:14:52] JC: Too good.
[00:14:55] AC: I would fail my coach test.
[00:14:58] JC: Yeah, there's no coaching involved.
[00:14:59] AC: There's no coaching involved there.
[00:15:00] AC: Compliance right out the door. I just feel bad about this thing I did at work. Why?
[00:15:06] AC: Why would you ever think that would work?
[00:15:08] AC: Why'd you do that?
[00:15:09] JC: Well, that's stupid obviously.
[00:15:12] AC: Hopefully I never use the word stupid.
[00:15:15] JC: No you didn't. Just about my plots. Not me.
[00:15:20] AC: As long as you can separate yourself from your plots.
[00:15:23] JC: Right, which I can't.
[00:15:26] AC: That's a good point. What is that like? You've got work that has literally your name on it. There's a lot of pressure in the creative space to kind of – And honestly in in the professional space in general we tend to lead as if our identity is our profession. I am a developer. I am a coach. I am a writer, whatever it is. We associate ourselves with that. So given that propensity, and maybe you don't have that as much, how do you feel when you have to go reach out for feedback? I don't want to call it criticism, but just generally like being able to bounce ideas off people when it's something that you could easily attach your identity to.
[00:15:58] JC: Yeah. I understand what you're saying. Yeah, because it's like, “Well, it does kind of rub me wrong.” I’ve learned in the past that I have asked people for criticism. I’m like, “Hey, what do you think about this?” And then I’m immediately just like, “No.” Whatever they say about it –
[00:16:16] AC: You’re wrong.
[00:16:17] JC: I don't even know what you're talking about. I don't say that to them, but I’m like, “Oh, thanks.” But for some reason like I do respect like what Cristina says. And I would probably respect a lot of other people, but a lot of other people's opinions if I just – You know what I mean? But like I just have made it a point where I feel better when it's like my story, because when I do – And it's like a thing. It's just a weird feeling when you give up part of the plot to somebody else. Do you know what? I mean like if they give you an idea and you go, “Oh, yeah, that's a good idea.” Then like subconsciously you're thinking, “This isn't my story anymore. My plot's a pushover.” You know what I mean? Or something like that.
[00:17:01] AC: Mm-hmm. Lose the ownership.
[00:17:02] JC: Yah, you lose the ownership and the drive to do it or something. And then if you get like bad reviews or something or someone – I don't know. It's just weird. It's like it's just not yours anymore. Anyway, I guess I’m pretty guarded with what I do. I talk it out loud and I’m like, “What do you think with Cristina?” And then other editors that I use and hire, they'll tell me what they think and it's my job always in the end to just be like, “Okay, that's a really good point, and that's the second person who said that. So obviously there's a disconnect there that I have in that.” You know what I mean?
[00:17:36] AC: There's a huge element of trust both in the person that you're asking for feedback as well as yourself to decide whether to take that on.
[00:17:42] JC: Yeah. And also it's like trusting myself to be like, “Well, these people are saying that, but they're wrong in what they're saying. All I have to do is make it more clear back here in chapter one.” You know what I mean? Like I have to trust myself that, “No. No. No. This is the way I want to go.” Do you know what I mean?
[00:18:00] AC: Yeah, you own the solution.
[00:18:01] AC: I think one of the things that helps me, it's knowing that you're looking for creating a good product, and so for good or bad. I don't worry too much about your feelings being hurt over –
[00:18:19] JC: No, you don’t.
[00:18:21] AC: Ever. Over the fact that you're coming because you're stuck. Otherwise if you weren't stuck or you didn't have any doubts about the plot you wouldn't come to me. And so it doesn't help you if I sugarcoat or just say like, “Yeah, that sounds great,” if I don't actually believe it, if I’m confused or if I think there's something that doesn't make sense or could be done differently. I know it wouldn't help you because you're going to come back the next day with the same piece being stuck.
[00:18:48] JC: Yeah, or I’ll be sitting at dinner depressed and not talking to anyone.
[00:18:52] AC: Yes, exactly. Yes. And pissed off the next day and needing to go on a road trip for five days. So we're not resolving the problem. And so I might as well go through the process and be, as Alex said about me multiple times, unflinchingly communicate good or bad news.
[00:19:12] AC: So it kind of goes back to something we've talked about a couple times is the idea of having the shared purpose in mind if you both have the idea. Like the desire is that this book is good and then there's trust between the two of you and you can have the unflinching communication. You can have the easier – I don't want to say let downs, but I just think like letting something say like, “I want to change this,” or “This didn't make sense.” Would absolutely come across harshly if it's somebody you don't know, I would imagine. I would definitely take that a little harshly if somebody I didn't know came up and was like, “This is the worst thing that ever happened. I can't believe you shared this with me.” That'd be hard to just immediately take if I was like, “Please tell me what you think about this.”
[00:19:48] AC: I’m pretty sure I’ve never said that.
[00:19:51] JC: No. Right. Yeah.
[00:19:52] AC: But you guys have the trust and you guys are both on the same page. Assuming we've talked about a few times on the podcast, it's just shared purpose, right? You've got some goal in mind and everybody can agree this is what we're working towards at which point the goal becomes something that doesn't supersede the relationship but the relationship doesn't have to be at stake for both pursuing it.
[00:20:11] JC: Yeah, exactly. There's no hold back with her, and that's good. I mean I would never want it any other way. I’m just like – Because like even if you are trying to like placate me because you just think, “Oh, he'll just work through it,” or something. I won't like leave the room. I’ll just sit there and whine until you yell at me and then we figure it out.
[00:20:29] AC: Why are you still here?
[00:20:30] JC: Like you know, like when I – i don't know. Yeah, I mean if I’m not leaving the room like, “Oh, yes! Okay.” And then I just leave the room in mid-sentence. Then she knows it's okay. But if I’m just sitting there, she knows. She has to just keep needling me until it's out.
[00:20:49] AC: So it's like forced rubber ducking/forced – Rubber ducking being the idea like that they say in just the general world where you just talk it out loud. You have to have something said out loud. It's just that you get actual input when you have somebody who's also invested. You get to talk to people who also have pieces of this. Then, yeah, it may still be your solution. That way you don't feel like you're giving up the plot, but you still have to say it out loud because your brain needs to hear it out loud.
[00:21:11] JC: Yeah, and I guess like working with Cristina, I guess I don't feel that giving up the plot at all because it's like it's our thing even though it's my name on it, but –
[00:21:22] AC: She'd probably start putting my name on it too.
[00:21:26] JC: Maybe.
[00:21:28] AC: No.
[00:21:29] JC: No. No. But I mean it is like there's not that I’m – And I’ve learned that too like where you just have to give up the selfish feelings and like hanging on to sales and stuff in order to just let it flow and then the sales happen more and then the growth of the books happen more and stuff.
[00:21:53] AC: That's a good lesson for life in general is some amount of letting go ends up letting things work a lot better generally.
[00:22:00] JC: But writing a story and letting 10 other people input their little chunk of the story is just like, “Okay. What's the point of this?” I’m like a dictator, that I’m dictating – Not dictator. But like I’m dictating. You know what I mean?
[00:22:15] AC: Not Hitler.
[00:22:17] JC: Not Hitler. But, yeah. Anyway, I don't even know what I’m talking about now.
[00:22:20] AC: Stenographer.
[00:22:21] JC: Stenographer. Yes. There you go. But, yeah, with me and Cristina it's just like, yeah, we kind of hammer out these plots, and I like it. It's good.
[00:22:32] AC: So let's talk then about you get to work a little bit with Cristina. You get the collaboration there where you come in to help form the book. So you've talked a little bit about, you said, the first book ended up getting one-star reviews, which sounds like it was somewhat cliffhanger oriented. Just how does that relationship? You've got reviews of sorts. I’m going to call them reviews that you get from Cristina that kind of help form and move this. Now you've got the book out in the world. What's your relationship to reviews at that point?
[00:22:56] JC: Yeah. Like right now I realized that I don't even read them at all, but for a couple of years, or like maybe four years or three or four years there, I was reading all of them.
[00:23:09] AC: Funny years.
[00:23:10] JC: Fun years, yeah.
[00:23:11] AC: On the receiving end.
[00:23:13] JC: Yeah. Because I mean there's some – Because the type of person that gets mad after reading a full book gets on Amazon and then just decides to bash the writer is not a happy person. And I just had to realize that it's like there's nothing I could have done –
[00:23:32] AC: At that point it's not about you.
[00:23:34] JC: Yeah, it's not about me.
[00:23:34] AC: It’s not about you.
[00:23:35] AC: Or the book.
[00:23:37] JC: Or the book, or anything, or it's just like – Just the way I look at it is like if you're walking down the street and you put on an outfit and then you get on and you walk down the street and someone comes up to you and he's like, “Nice outfit.” Like that's how I literally feel like it. It's like, “Okay, thanks. Bye.” Like, “What are you going to do? Be upset about that?” No. It's like, “That person's weird.” But if they're like, “Oh, that's a great outfit.” Also you can't – I mean I wouldn't allow myself to be like – I’d be like, “Oh, thanks.” But I don't know how to explain it. Like I just have found that I can't take too much from the reviews. It's just like asking people for advice for the plots. It's like it's giving too much up to other people for my own happiness and my own creation. You know what I mean? Because I know that people can turn.
[00:24:29] AC: And you also just don't have the trust relationship with somebody random, username3145.
[00:24:36] JC: Right, because I have had that too and I told Cristina about that. Yeah, like I’ve had people – Well, they'll email me. Every time they read a book they'll be like, “Book one. Oh! This was the best book.” Then I’m like, “Thanks. Thanks for reading.” Then they email me again on book two, “This is the best book.” Three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and then book eleven or whatever the book is, they'll be like, “I can't believe you did that to the dog, or his girlfriend, or his wife, or the weather.” Yeah. I mean it's just like – And they get so mad at me that they say they're never going to read the books again.
[00:25:09] AC: Thanks for reading the first 10.
[00:25:11] JC: I mean I love my readers. I’m so grateful for them reading. You know what I mean? But at the same time I cannot – You can't do that. You can't just allow the whims of any people. Yeah.
[00:25:28] AC: I can't deliver a nuanced critique of a basketball game because I’ve never played basketball. I could shout at the players, but I don't think it's going to really change what they think they're going to do.
[00:25:39] AC: They're still going to play basketball.
[00:25:40] AC: Yeah. I’m going to assume they're going to do it better regardless of what I say. So one thing I am curious about, just in a creative endeavor in general and especially something as big as like a novel, you create all this, and you talked about it a little bit and I just want to highlight, and I’m curious how this goes. You want to move towards perfection, but you know that there's nothing that's necessarily perfect. You need to know that there's no time at which a book can really be called. It’s just, “This is done. Nothing else can possibly be changed about that.” It's the same with any like artistic work or any creative work. Something could always be tweaked if you wanted to, and at some point you usually hit a point of diminishing returns. But what is that like on a novel and how do you feel and how do you kind of feel out for yourself, “This is done. I can publish this.”
[00:26:27] AC: Set a deadline for the publish date.
[00:26:30] AC: Aha! Timelines.
[00:26:32] JC: Yeah, set a deadline. But I feel like at the beginning of my career I think that was a real reason why I became successful because I was able to see that that first book was not working and then therefore the second book was not working and I had to – Since I’m self-published, I can just go in and change the book and re-upload it, and that's always an option for me, and I know that's always an option even now. But I feel like I’m just better at spotting things that would – And Cristina too, even back then you probably weren't as good at spotting things that would – As I am now either. But like even the last book, like you were like, “This might be really a hot button topic with what's going on in the world right now.” I mean we don't even have to talk about what it was because I don't want to bring it up as a hot button topic. But I mean it was just like – And I hadn't even thought of it. I was just like, “Oh! Oh, yeah.” So we spot those types of things. But I think I can't remember exactly what your question was. But the point is, is like I never – I know that I can change it if I want to if need be.
[00:27:49] AC: And so the freedom of like knowing this isn't permanent is a little easier to make that final cut.
[00:27:54] JC: Yeah. And I think maybe like – And there's just like a line that moves, like a fuzzy line between like good enough and not good enough and then you just have to be like, “Look. There's going to be 10 errors in this book at least. Even though I edited it, then I edited it again, and I gave it to Cristina, then I edited it again, then I gave it to a professional, she edited it, gave it back to me, then I edited it.” You know what I mean? And that's the things that insert the errors also. It's like someone gives you, “Oh, fix this,” and then you fix it wrong and then you give it to the other person. You know what I mean? And then – Anyway. Yeah. So the point is it's just like at some point you have to just jump off that cliff and learn how to fly on the way down.
[00:28:43] AC: One of the things that I think it may be worth explaining a little bit more is the self-publishing route and the freedom with that because that's also why this career exists.
[00:28:54] JC: Yeah. I think like at the beginning I was just learning about writing and what the publishing industry is about, and that was a big deal at the beginning was like, “Okay. So do I try to get somebody who can publish my books like a professional and then my career can blossom from that? Or do I do it myself?” And what we were learning about – I would just come home every day and I was reading books and I’m like, “Oh, yeah. Published authors are getting only this small amount of percentage and Amazon's giving 70% to their authors.” Well, I mean there's just math. I mean I would have to like – Like I sat down and did a lot of math. I was like, “Okay. if I sold a million dollars’ worth of books and I only got 12 percent royalty from a big publisher, and that's if they even read my stuff because I all I was reading was like, “Oh, you're going to get turned down, and then you're going to get turned down, and then you're going to get turned down, and then you're going to –” 30 times and just keep going at it. And I’m like, “Why would I want to do that?” First of all, I’m like, “Why wouldn't I just show it to readers and they tell me what they think about it and then I make money doing that at the same time?”
I said, “If I sold like a million dollars of books and they're telling me in these books, “If you get published, really published, that don't count on selling a million dollars’ worth of the books also.” And then I’m like, “Okay. Wait. Why would I do that?” There's a strike two. And then you'd get a hundred and twenty thousand dollars out of that because you get twelve percent, and then you'd have to split that in half with your agent. So you get six percent, so $60,000. And I’m just sitting there going, “Wait a minute. Like from the beginning, this doesn't even – Why would I do this? Why would I –” And then people will say, “Well, it's for the love of writing books.” And I’m like, “Well, yeah, but I want to make money too. Like I want to –”
[00:30:58] AC: Have your cake and eat it too.
[00:31:00] JC: Yeah, and we had no money. So it's like, “We want money.”
[00:31:06] AC: We had to get home somehow in Italy.
[00:31:07] JC: We’ll have to get home, or pay back whoever we’re going to borrow money to to get home.
[00:31:12] AC: Well, you want to make a living, and you can’t make it a living if you have to wait until you sell two million dollars to make a living.
[00:31:20] JC: And then so then the opposite is Amazon, they gave you 70%. So if you sold a million dollars you would get $700,000. That's like absolutely night and day. And I was like, “Okay.” And then there was all these stories of people doing it, like Hugh Howey who Wool, a science fiction book. I don't know if you've heard of that.
[00:31:46] AC: Really good book.
[00:31:46] JC: Yeah, it's like a trilogy. And he would do like an omnibus edition. So he wrote like the first sixth of the book, published it and then did that six times and then published the whole thing. And just did this all self-publishing. And he was making six figures a month he was saying. And I was like, “What the heck? That's amazing.” And then there was just all these stories of people doing that, and that just really got my juices flowing that I could be doing something I love and being well rewarded for it and it made me – And not that being regular published could be good for other people, but for me it was like I hated the concept of that. I was just like, “I’m doing this myself.” And, plus, like there's all these stories online about people who would get big publishing contracts and then two years later they're going, “Hey, what are you doing to market my book?” And they would like not get emails back from the publisher.
And so I’m like, “Okay. Wait a minute. I’m not going to put my career in someone else's hands and allow them to give up on me.” Like nobody's given up on me except for me. You know what I mean? And I’m not going to give someone else that power to just say, “Okay. You're not a writer anymore.”
[00:33:00] AC: Especially since if you do get that publishing gig. You have to sign the rights to them and some – Like at least they have control over where the distribution goes. So not only they have like if they don't do it, that they've given up on it, but that stops it entirely because they own it.
[00:33:15] JC: Right. And then it's just like logic too. It's like if I’m one person and I have one set of books I have to deal with and think about marketing for, that's doable. These people in these big firms, there's like one guy or one girl in an office and she has 400 authors that she has to think about the marketing for. And you're trying to email, you’re going, “Hey, do you think you might BookBub deal this?” That's a marketing deal you could do. It costs like 200 bucks. So to do that little marketing bump, and I can do that because I can just think about that and it's my own books and me and Cristina can talk about a good way to do it. But like someone who's got 400 authors with each of them have five to ten books, it's like where do you even begin to keep up with that? Or I don't know how many authors they have. Maybe it's much less.
[00:34:10] AC: That's actually the part I was going to ask about, because usually they talk about self-publishing and then there's one of the benefits of having a publisher is that you then get their distribution. And I’m sure that's what they try and sell authors onto when they ask you to pitch to them. They'll distribute this. They'll do the marketing. So how do you think about promotion? How does it feel doing promotion of your own work? You found strategies around that? It sounds like you were doing some of that in your work before being an author, but I’m just curious what it's like doing promotion for your own work.
[00:34:39] JC: That was a weird concept that I had to divorce myself from. What I mean by that is like all the mainstream people are saying you have to have like a huge presence on Facebook. You have to have a huge presence on social media, and then you can sell your books. And I remember I was so disenfranchised with the whole online marketing thing that I was just like, “Wait a minute. But is that what these writers –” I would look up writers and then check their rankings of each book and I’d be like, “Wait. These guys are ranking really well.” And then I would go look at their Facebook page and it would be like, “Here's my cat,” from like three years ago and they did nothing up until that point. And I’m like, “Wait a minute. This guy's doing nothing on Facebook.” And then I’d look up his Twitter and there's nothing and all he's doing is writing. So the writing was the marketing. And that's what I really like about this writing process is like it really is the marketing. Like at the end of a book if someone has a really good feeling at the end of that book and it's like a euphoric thing, they close that book and they go, “Ah!” Or hopefully they don't close the book and they go, “Oh my gosh! There's still time in the night. Let's move on to his next book.”
And so that's the marketing right there, it's just the book. Everything is just packaged into a nice little neat thing. And from the beginning I was like, “All right. I’m not going to do the social media because I just don't want to.” Again, Cristina was like, “Okay. Fine.” If you think so, and I feel like that was a really good turn of events back then because like it could have became this thing where I was just obsessed with –
[00:36:22] AC: The metrics of social media. How many likes? How many followers? Yeah.
[00:36:25] JC: Instead of just hammering out those first three books that I had to re-hammer out.
[00:36:32] AC: Well, and doing something you're not passionate about. So your energy comes through that you're hating the social media instead of putting your energy into writing books, which is where your energy and passion lays.
[00:36:45] AC: And who doesn't love a good cynical social media presence?
[00:36:50] JC: Right. Who doesn't just love that? It's passionate, yeah.
[00:36:54] AC: That's what I get out of bed for. That's interesting. So then how do you go about promoting like your first book? You're talking about divorcing yourself a little bit from some of the social media stuff. I’m just curious what – I totally understand that would be – Like especially having a series of books, you get like that continual rolling. If they like the book, they'll do the next one, they'll do the next one. So how does that first kickstart go?
[00:37:15] JC: So it was probably a little bit different back a number of years ago than it is now, but like I just had to – There's like these marketing tools that Amazon gives you. So for every 90 days, each book that you have could be set for free for five days or set at a discount for like 99 cents for seven days. So I would set the book for free, like book one for free, and then you would have book two linked to book one for sale. So book two was just for sale at normal price and then you set book one for free. And then you could go on to these websites, and you still can do all this same thing now, and go and list your book as free this week and some people will charge you money like 10 bucks and they'll tweet it out to their tweet followers or they'll give it to their email list. So if a thousand people go to that and maybe 100 people buy your second book then you're like, “Oh, sweet.” And then it kind of goes up in the rankings, that second book, and then more people buy it and then everything kind of dies down again. And maybe you could do that with the second book. And then the first book it would link to the second book, or first book, and then the first book would go up. So you could see how this really would start building momentum when you have like seven books and you're like, “Ooh! I’ve got a freebie going out for book one three and five this month that links to all the other ones.” And so then after book – Then now it's more of advertising and you actually buy advertising on Amazon, and I advertise book one a lot. And so I just know that if a certain amount of people purchase my first book then maybe around 50% of them will read through to the next book. And then from book two to three it's more like 90% of those people will read from two to three, and then three to four, and then it still stays up. You know what I mean? A little bit higher and then probably goes down.
But anyway, those are things where you can just do calculations so you're blue in the face and the bottom line is is just like you just try to make really good books the best you can, books that when people close the book they're like, “That was the coolest ending ever,” or whatever. That's what I’m hoping for every time.” And then they just go to the next book or they tell their friends. And then there's like a thing where you can't even do the metrics. It’s just put it out in the world. And people email me all the time. They're like, “Oh, I got your books recommended to me by my brother, or my niece, or my grandma, or whatever,” and I’m just like, “Okay, it's working,” and all I can do is just put it out there and just try to put it out there as much as I can with these ads. So to answer your question, that's what I’m doing now is just advertising.
[00:40:12] AC: That's super interesting. I have never thought about the idea of like a series of books being one of the greatest like marketing for itself. And of course if you can get people on that, then you've also got your own name and you can probably go through a different series, etc., that just have Jeff Carson on them.
[00:40:27] JC: Well, I think, yeah. It's been like this forever. It's been like Agatha Christie had Miss Marple and then she had Hercule Poirot and she had – And so she knew what she was doing. And then like The Hardy Boys, I think they have like seven. We were looking it up the other night because I was explaining the series to William, and I think they have like 72 books. The Garfield books, they have 72. Garfield books have 72 books. That’s what I was picking up the other night.
[00:40:53] AC: There's got to be at least 70 Hardy Boys.
[00:40:56] AC: Yeah, there's got to be a lot. I don't know. I think it was literally like 72. But anyway, just the marketing is just contained right there in the product, yeah. It's probably the same with the podcast, I mean I would think.
[00:41:09] AC: It's the hope. Yeah, people hooked on an episode.
[00:41:11] AC: Let’s hope, yes. It is on the receiving end. I mean that's how I subscribe to podcast and listen to them. I’ve listened to one episode that I really like and I’m like, “Oh! Let's see what else is out there, and let's keep going and subscribe and always listen to these three every week.”
[00:41:27] JC: Exactly.
[00:41:28] AC: That's interesting. So just a couple things that strike me is interesting, and I don't know if you can relate to these, but they sound like similar things I’ve heard echo in some people that jump into creative careers and have this pursuit. One thing that stuck out is you're talking about your original first step just to bring us all the way back to Italy. You're in Italy. You decide you're going to write books. One thing that I’ve heard a lot of people talk about that they got a lot out of is having exactly what you were talking about, which is an absolute need to have this succeed. I think they call it like burn the ships is the metaphor they talk. Like Cortez comes over to the stage and then he ordered some of his men to burn the ships because we're staying in Central America now to make this work or whatever. And that's what I was reminded of when you're talking about, “Well, I’m going to make this work, because otherwise we're not getting home.” There's some strong impetus. There's some amount of like forcing yourself like – And I think Conan O'Brien described it, and he's talking about becoming more successful in comedy. He's like, “Yeah, people started to congratulate him once he got his late night show and everything and he was like, “Yeah, but it's kind of like congratulating somebody who set the entire house on fire but you congratulate them for going through the one door that is now left.”
[00:42:39] JC: Exactly. Congratulations on getting out of that.
[00:42:44] AC: Yeah, getting out.
[00:42:45] AC: There was no choice. Like you keep going that way.
[00:42:48] JC: And I do remember my dad asking me, “So what's plan B?” And I remember just going like there's not a plan B. And I remember just like that moment just being like, “Am I stupid for not having a plan B?” And like, “Shit! There's no plan B.” Yeah, there's no plan B.
[00:43:10] AC: So I’m curious, if you have a good recollection of that time, because I can relate to that feeling of like somebody thinking like, “So is there no plan B?” What helped you through that or did you just say, “Nope. There's no plan B, and I’m already off the cliff.”
[00:43:23] JC: Yeah, I mean to keep with the vulnerability thing. We had to borrow money from my parents literally to get home, and they're pretty good about it, and that's when my dad was like understandably so, he's like, “Hey, look you're 35-years-old. I’m not going to start – I’m sorry, but I can't start paying for your family, supporting you guys, okay?” He’s like, “We’re retired. What the heck?”
[00:43:49] AC: You’re two adults.
[00:43:51] AC: What’s your plan B? And that's when I was like, “There is no plan B. I’m going to do this.” And he's like, “Okay.” And I could tell he was like, “Oh, whatever. Okay. We'll find out.” But me and Cristina had already talked about it that we were going to make it happen. We had already done all the calculations in our head like of worst case scenario we'll be making 100 bucks a day after 10 bucks.” Got to be at least. And then we can live off that, and this and that.
[00:44:22] AC: We still can.
[00:44:22] JC: Right. And it's just – Yeah, so that was just the desperation and just like – But it was also a thing that I felt really passionate about too. It wasn’t just the money I think that made the big differences. It was like the creativity was there. It was like, “This is what I’ve always wanted to do and I just didn't realize it until now.”
[00:44:44] AC: Yeah, I think that's always funny when people try and use the burn the ships metaphor on something that they're not as passionate about. Like, “Yep, this is my only option.” Like, “Oh boy! Okay. You've signed yourself up for the only way out being something you're miserable with.”
[00:44:59] AC: I hope you know how to build that boat.
[00:45:01] JC: Yeah, because I think I could picture that. I could picture like what if I do succeed being an author? and I’m like, “Awesome.” Whereas up until that point I remember doing the internet marketing thing, and that was one of the conversations I was having with Cristina. I’m like, “What happens if I succeed at this? Then I’m doing this terrible thing like that I don't want to do for the rest of my life because I took this path?” Yeah. Anyway.
[00:45:30] AC: It's funny because the same conversation or similar I think helped us get to starting the podcast is when we were going down a path with Ciamo and then you kind of stopped and were like, “Wait, do you actually want to do what you guys are doing now every single day? What does that look like when you succeed?” And I’m like, “Oh my God! That's going to be miserable” — fifteen years later. I was mad because you were bursting at the dream that I thought I wanted to chase. And so then you just blatantly asked. I’m like, “What is it that you want to do today? Not in 10 years. Not in two years. Not after you have a million dollars. Today.” And I said, like, “I want to start a podcast.”
[00:46:08] JC: She's like, “I want to, I don't know, start a podcast and just be on a podcast and just like talk and like and just do that for a living.” And I’m like, “Oh, okay. Interesting.”
[00:46:17] AC: Why aren't you doing it?
[00:46:21] JC: But she was like, “Yeah –” And I remember it was a real emotional time in Italy. Whatever. But it was just like you have to get, yeah, I had to explode all that energy out and break through and decide to do it, and that's when it clicked I think is when I realized, “Oh, if I do get successful at this then I would be happy,” and that's when it clicked. It's like, “Oh! I should be doing something that makes me happy? Okay. Instead of just for money.”
[00:46:54] AC: And be miserable the whole time and hate work.
[00:46:56] AC: That was the connection you talked about, like if I become successful with this, then I can be happy at this. And you had mentioned earlier when you're talking about publishing and if somebody else is not marketing your book, like somebody else has then given up on your career, but if you have this self-published, you are the one that would – Either you're giving up on the career or it's not being given up, which brings up an interesting idea about the idea of success. We often have the idea that similar to the idea of, “I’m going to have to have 10 million dollars before I start this.” The idea of success tends to be, “Okay. When I’m selling my fourth movie deal for the book series, whatever, that's when I’ll be successful and I won't have been successful until X-point of no return, or not no return, but X-point of success.”
And it's interesting you brought up that nobody else can give up on the career but you because then success has an entirely different definition. I mean success doesn't – There is no light switch moment of I was not successful, but today I woke up and I am, because you're doing it and you're the only one that can say, “All right, this is over.” The light switch can go off I guess in that way. It just never really like is a straight click on.
[00:48:04] AC: Nobody declares your success. Nobody tells you, “Here's the trophy. You are now successful.”
[00:48:10] JC: Yeah, and even like now what I’m been talking to Cristina a lot about too is like what is success with these books? Because I mean like I can come out with a new book, and it's not like I just go, “Oh nice!” And then I go party for a month because I’m so happy about it. Like now I’m trying to figure out like what does success look like to me? And it's like – Anyway, I don't know where I’m going with this, but I mean to me it would be like a real success would be every single day I wrote, and it was just part of my process. And so it's not tied to which book I’m on or which series I’m writing or how much sales it is and stuff like that. So I’m trying to kind of think down those lines and just realize that like success will happen if that happens. So you know what I mean?
[00:48:58] AC: I remember listening to an interview with Jim Gaffigan, the comedian, and he was talking to another comedian and they were talking about like he's done a couple movies. He was in like Super Troopers and other various like TV spots and whatever. And he was talking about it doesn't really matter at some point whether you get the next audition, whether you get whatever. You win. You get to do this thing, this thing you wanted to do. You just get to do that. And maybe it's for smaller audiences. Some of you maybe you don't get the movie deal, you don't get the TV show whatever, but his idea was that he'd already won. They got to do stand-up and they got to do that every day if they wanted to.
[00:49:33] JC: Yeah, and that's where Cristina will step in and be like, “That's what you're doing right now. You get to do that. You should feel grateful and this and that.” And I’m like, “Yeah, you're right.” And then like the next day I’ll be like, “Well, we do this for money too.” I don't know. So I feel like I’m in a crossroads also of just maybe starting some new stuff as far as writing goes.
[00:49:57] AC: That's exciting. Have you ever thought about any other collaboration opportunities? You work with anybody else or you like doing more solo works?
[00:50:04] JC: Well, yeah. It's funny. Yeah, a friend of mine actually just texted me today and he was like, “Hey, I feel like I’m asking a girl out or something.” I’m like, “Okay.” He's like, “But will you write a book with me? You can just tell me to screw off. Don't worry about it.” And I’m like, “Oh!” and I was just like shocked. I’m like, “That's funny like I’m doing a podcast today and we had already talked earlier about talking about collaboration and creativity and stuff like that and how me and Cristina collaborate with the creativity even though it's a solitary thing and here he is texting me.” So I told Cristina, I’m like, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure the universe is talking to me here.” So I think I’ll probably be doing something like that, collaborating with another author and just see how that goes. See what happens with that. Might be the new spark.
[00:51:00] AC: That's awesome. Jeff, I really appreciate you coming on and sharing these thoughts. Being an author is such a very unique and interesting career and you've got a good view of it and you get to have a little bit of a longer view of it now you've done it for – We did the math multiple times now. We did those. What is it? 9 years, 10 years?
[00:51:16] AC: 8-1/2 years.
[00:51:16] JC: 8-1/2 years, yeah.
[00:51:18] AC: 8 years, 5 months, 3 days, 27 hours. No. I just made that out. And I have not been counting.
[00:51:26] JC: Yeah, and you haven’t been counting at all. Yeah, well, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. Yeah, I’m happy to be on the podcast. I’m glad you guys are doing this. I’m really proud of you guys for –
[00:51:36] AC: Oh, shucks.
[00:51:38] JC: Starting from nothing and making it something.
[00:51:42] AC: We've already succeeded. We have a broadcast.
[00:51:44] AC: That's right. So when people want to find you and want to find your work, what do they look up? What's the best way to get to you?
[00:51:50] JC: My website is jeffcarson.co, no M, which is weird. So you can just go on to Amazon. We’ve talked about that too. I got to change my blog and everything, but we'll figure that out later. You can just go on to amazon.com and look up Jeff Carson books, or The David Wolf mystery thriller series.
[00:52:13] AC: That's awesome. And I hear you also have – Did you just mention a blog that you have too?
[00:52:17] AC: It's just my website that I have. I don't blog on it because it's just something I don't do like we talked about earlier. It's just like I’m not going to beat myself up about it. It's more like an online business card where you can go there and sign up to my newsletter and be kept abreast of everything and find all my books there and audiobooks and paperbacks and hardcovers there. So, yeah.
[00:52:40] AC: Yeah, the books are available in all mediums, all media, hard book, paper book, yeah, paper cover, audio, Kindle.
[00:52:48] AC: Well, thanks again, Jeff, for joining. Hopefully everybody gets to check out The David Wolf series. It's a fun series. It's a fun time. I’m glad you've been having a fun time doing it.
[00:52:56] AC: Yes, thank you so much.
[00:52:57] JC: Thank you for having me guys.
[00:53:00] AC: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast.
[00:53:04] AC: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara; and our score creator, Rachel Sherwood.
[00:53:09] AC: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts.
[00:53:17] AC: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas or questions. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at our website, wearesiamo.com, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.
[00:53:36] AC: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.
Jeff Carson is the Amazon-Bestselling author of the David Wolf Series. Set in the high country of Colorado and mountain west, his books are chock-full of action, mystery, thrills, and suspense. Add a bit of humor and romance, a colorful cast of characters, all set in ruggedly beautiful territory, and it's clear why the David Wolf series is gaining acclaim.
The first novel in the David Wolf series, Foreign Deceit, is an international mystery-thriller he wrote while living in Italy for a year with his wife and son. The next twelve books in the series are set in the mountain-western United States. There are more to come in the Wolf series, and he is writing book one in a new international-thriller series.
Jeff acquired a love for adventure-thriller-mystery-suspense fiction at a young age by listening to audio books while driving the vast landscapes of the western U.S. with his family. One leg of a trip from Denver to Payette, Idaho (to visit relatives) was enough time to squeeze in a good Cussler, a Christie, a Child, a Silva, a Box, a Flynn, or one of the others he considers master story-tellers. Now he incorporates many the same elements of those authors in his own writing.
When not writing, Jeff enjoys disc golfing, hiking, camping, and whatever his two sons are into at that particular moment. You can keep in touch and learn more at JeffCarson.co (no "m"). Be sure to sign up for the early notification newsletter to receive a complimentary short story and be kept abreast of new releases, which are always discounted early.