A few hours ago, my beloved partner and I walked up the Third Street Promenade after a lovely dinner, headed home for him to host his weekly writers group.
Even though I had heard the massive Barnes & Noble at the top of the Promenade had closed, it stopped me dead in my tracks to see it empty, stripped bare. Cold. Bookless. A sad little sign on the door thanking Santa Monica for 22 great years.
I dutifully took a few Instagram stories and then Keith said something I decided would become today’s BonBlast.
“This is the first place we reverse shoplifted.”
Now, you certainly know there’s a book called Self-Management for Actors and you may even know there was a book before that one, called Casting Qs. And quite possibly you know that Keith and I self-published these titles (and others) from humble beginnings in the living room floor of our Hollywood Hills apartment in 2002.
Back before self-publishing was much of a thing.
This was a time when authors turning down book deals from major publishers (which I did) was unheard of. The idea of going into debt to SELF publish rather than accepting the $5K advance and 8% royalties was crazy.
I’ve been called worse.
Of course, today, massively top-selling authors regularly self-publish because OH MY GOD why WOULDN’T you want to keep the majority of the profits if your book is popular, all while maintaining full creative control? Duh.
It’s fun being ahead of our time. 😉
Back to this “reverse shoplifting” thing.
It’s one of the more ninja moves we made early in the life of SMFA.
You stealthily take a copy of your self-published book into a major bookstore. You casually plop it on the shelf next to its peers. Y’know… that position it WILL hold someday, but doesn’t at this point because Barnes & Noble doesn’t give a poop about your little book.
Then you wait.
Trusting you have a good product — naturally; you don’t waste your time trying to get massive reach with something you’re MEH about — you wait for someone to come across your book on the shelf, take it to the counter, and try and check out.
It’s got a barcode because you’re not some janky-ass self-publishing operation; you’re the real deal (just boutique, as empires go). It’s a real ISBN. It’s registered with Bowker and that means it’s got the potential of being in the picking warehouses of Ingram and Baker & Taylor (which feed megastores like Barnes & Noble, Walmart, and of course Amazon).
When it gets scanned at the counter, it goes through… sort of. It’s not in the active inventory of the bookstore. But it’s SELLABLE. It’s flagged as wonky, but the book does get sold. So, that’s something. If you’re lucky, an order gets placed for more. But if budgets are tight (which they are… see: MASSIVE bookstore CLOSING, ahem), it might not be that simple.
Step two: You go in and ask someone if this book is in stock. They look it up. It’s in the system… sort of. They say they see that they CAN order it for you. Would you like that? Yes. Yes you would. Very much so.
They order it. They call you to tell you it’s in stock. You never go pick it up. It goes on the shelf.
Again it gets bought.
Repeat ’til you don’t have to be the one doing the ninja moves here.
If you’re me, you go into every Barnes & Noble that’s convenient to go into and not only do you visit your book on the shelf to make sure it’s got good positioning (FACE OUT, LOUISE!) but also you run a search of the book in the “look it up your damn self” locator computer thingy. You leave it on the screen for the next person to stumble upon.
And when the book is not in stock, you always ask them to order a copy for you. And they do.
Eventually, they hold book signings in stores all over the country and you do Q&As and have posters with your fancy book on ’em.
But you still get nostalgic when you walk up on the first Barnes & Noble in which you ran this little game of ninjosity because it reminds you of a time when you didn’t have an empire; you had an idea. But you believed in it and others believed in it and that faith grew. Exponentially.
The self-produced film version of this, BTW, has several dimensions to choose from. I’ve had clients find empty screening rooms in the major venues of local film festivals and toss up their own film to an audience of a dozen. Ninjas have left screeners in lobbies of casting offices or production companies. And of course, many many many of you have turned simple little reel scenes into IMDb credits thanks to submitting to a $5-entry film festival via Without A Box.
You go from having no footage to having totally on-brand made-just-for-you footage that corresponds with an IMDb credit, just because you used a combination of hustle, talent, and faith.
That’s all I’ve done, really.
I self-produced (because I’m not afraid to hustle). I knew what I created was worth a damn (because I’m talented). And I waited for the buyers to see something worth investing in (because my faith is unshakable).
This is why everything I teach is something I’ve lived some version of. It’s why I know it works. If you have the willingness to hustle for the talent you have faith in, you’ve GOT this. You WILL build an empire.
What are you waiting for?
Being seen is totally within your control, if you’re creative enough. And of course you’re creative. You chose this awesome storytelling life BECAUSE of your creativity. Use it for more than just delivering scripted words. Use it to figure out how to get buzz started about you. Then be ready to take action at that next tier.
Wanna jam with me in a few hours over at another superfun Facebook Live broadcast? Tune in at 2:30pm pacific and let’s jam about your social media strategy. (Do you even have to have a social media presence? SPOILER ALERT: Nope! You absolutely do not have to.) I’m also gonna cover the biggest mistakes I see actors making with their web presence. It’s stupidly simple, but it happens EVERY damn day.
If you won’t be around for this live broadcast, yes, I’ll put up a replay at my YouTube channel. You’re subscribed, right? Natch.
Hope your February is off to a great start, beautiful ones!
I’m looking forward to you sharing YOUR most ninja move in the comments below, if “reverse shoplifting” has gotten you thinking about how you can add hustle to your talent and faith. Share away!
’til the next BonBlast, stay ninja!