20 Questions with Mourning Goats
INTERVIEW FIFTY SIX
I've been following Seth for a few years now, and back in February sent my first email to him. Once he agreed to the interview, my first thoughts were, "Goat, what have you gotten yourself into this time? Seriously, what do you ask someone who's been touted as the greatest marketer of our time? Someone who sold their company (Yoyodyne) to Yahoo for $30 million? Someone who's written over a dozen New York Times bestsellers?" After some research, I came up with these twenty. I hope you enjoy, I know I did!
1. What comes to mind when you hear, "Mourning Goats?"
Nothing. At all. Sorry.
2. Congratulations, you just had your 5,000th post on your blog! Why do you think your blogging has gone longer than any of your other professional projects?
Blogging is magical because there's no business objective. I just get to share. Since there's no peak, there's no end. It's me, thinking and sharing and ranting and musing. I guess I'm hooked.
3. You've had a plethora of New York Times best sellers, what do you owe your success to? Marketing, subject matter, timing, a mixture of it all?
Certainly a mixture. I've been fortunate enough to stand up and name things that needed naming, and to do it at a time when ideas were easier to spread than ever before.
4. You've resisted the pull of social media because it would take you away from what's most important to you, but for the rest of us, just getting started, do you think that social media is a necessity or does it all come down to putting the time in to create something and continue on that path, letting things fall where they may.
I think that for just about everyone, Twitter is a time-waster, not an asset builder. There are exceptions, but not many. Facebook and LinkedIn can amplify your work as a generous connector, but they are more of a symptom than a cause.
Do work that scares you.
5. I usually get your emails between 5:30 and 6:30am, what's your writing schedule for the blogs, the books, and everything else? Do you try to keep any kind of schedule? Is that possible in your world?
I'm super disciplined about many things, it makes it easier to be crazier when I need to be. So yes, there's a discipline to the blog.
6. You recently did a search for a two-week internship and one of the asks was that the person gave back to society in some way, I also saw that you give 5% of profits from Squidoo to charity. Are you a big believer in Karma?
I'm a big believer in doing what you can, when you can. If you can't be generous, who can be?
7. Are you still in contact with your 9 six-month MBA students? Are there any who are really standing out?
I hear from them all the time. I'm incredibly proud of the paths they're choosing to walk.
8. As someone who hardly watches any television, do you read fiction at all? Or is your creative reading in the non-fiction world?
I read junky fiction, but I find I lack the patience for real literature. That's my loss.
9. In one interview you said that a successful book of yours led you to a book that was a failure, led you to another successful book. What deems a book a success/failure in your eyes?
For me, every book is a success, in that if I thought it was a failure, I never would have sent it to the publisher. But many of my books haven't met the publisher's hopes for sales, so in that respect, a failure.
10. One of the questions you included in the internship interview was, "Where are you going?" I'd love to ask you the same, where are you going?
I'm trying to build a reputation, a platform and to leave things a little better than I found them.
11. In one interview, you were asked if you were "satisfied creatively" and you responded, "not even close." Do you think as a writer and as an entrepreneur, this is the biggest driving force in what you do? That feeling that there's always more to explore?
Exactly! It's hard to say, "this is perfect, it's done, I'm done." Some people can do that, but I can't.
12. Mourning Goats published an author interview book in May called Chewing the Page. We went through a traditional publisher (Perfect Edge Books) and I was wondering, do you think kickstarter is a good way for up-and-coming authors to help build their audience and procure a publisher?
Read this: http://www.thedominoproject.com/?p=2228
13. Your thoughts on education are dead on. Do you see passion, experience and insight being something that schools look at and implement in educating students in the future?
We can hope! I think it's going to take longer than it should.
14. I feel like your thoughts on goals and making money are a lot like a fiction writer's. Put hundreds, if not thousands, of hours into a project, do your best work, do something that you're proud of, and if it makes you any money, good for you. Is that about right?
I'd add: make generous connections. Contribute as much as you can to the community that you depend on. Raise the bar and teach what you can...
15. You once said, "When anyone can publish an ebook, anyone will." Do you think this helps or hinders what's put out into the world?
Both. Without curation, it's really difficult to choose. On the other hand, without curators, there's no gatekeeper to keep the undiscovered off the market.
16. 900 rejection letters? Many of the authors who read this interview just fell in love with you for pushing through! What's the best piece of advice you have to get past rejection and on to success?
Rejection isn't about you. Rejection merely means that the story you told to someone didn't resonate with them. Blame the story or blame the rejector, but the work is the work. I saw rejections as, "no for now."
That doesn't mean you shouldn't learn from what doesn't work. But failure is an event, not a person, as my friend Zig used to say.
17. In fiction, most, if not all of us fail, a lot, before getting published; did you write any unpublished books before Permission Marketing took off?
I created 120 books as a book packager--YA fiction, books on gardening and business and many things in between. Some I wrote, some I commissioned, some I built teams for. The Information Please Business Almanac, for example, took 6 people a year of full time work to put together. The original Kaplan review books were a huge project as well.
18. In 2010, you said that Linchpin would be your last book you publish in a traditional way, how do you think this has played out for you and where do you see it changing in the future?
Well, it's been true. I love people in book publishing, but an always not-so-good business model is now officially a terrible one.
19. I started this interview site back in 2010 and have interviewed over 50 of my favorite writers, so far. Who would you go after next? Which authors out there do you think have the most to say?
20. Finally, I've seen a ton of similarities between three of the Mourning Goats interviews; you, Gary Vaynerchuk and Tony Hsieh. Do you think most successful entrepreneurs, as well as authors in general, are the ones not scared to take the risk of failure?
Entrepreneurs don't take risks. We see opportunities.
Thank you, Seth!