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!


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

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  1. Brianna Theresa February 2, 2018 at 9:00 am

    You really were/are a ninja!!

    It’s ideas like these that get me nervous, because I would have never have thought of that on my own.

    Thank you for continuing these Bon Blasts even through the hiatus!!

    1. Bonnie Gillespie February 2, 2018 at 10:32 am

      *smooch* The only hiatus is the Facebook group. The rest of the empire continues to grow, babe. Glad you liked this tip!

  2. Tonya Kay February 2, 2018 at 9:43 am

    Thank you for posting the WithoutABox link. I’m in pre-production on a targeted piece ad was just starting the conversation about IMDb listing last night.

    I did some research and found it’s become easy to list a short piece on IMDb via their Video title. The piece must be “publically viewable and of public interest” for theIMDb credit to go through. Publically viewablenon YouTube for one example.

    Which brings me to a question: is there a reason one would prefer a Title have a Film (Short) vs a Video listing on IMDb? I typed in those criteria in a Google Search with your name, certain you’ve already addressed this, but my search terms just brought me a bunch of Video and Film (Short) listings on IMDb! I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this!

    Thanks, again, for the WithoutABox link!

    1. Bonnie Gillespie February 2, 2018 at 10:32 am

      Yes! The Without A Box trick is one we’ve long taught as a means of getting your project listed on IMDb — even if you have no goals for taking it to a festival. The act of ENTERING one is all it takes. 🙂 Woo hoo!

      It doesn’t matter whether it’s a film or vid listing, in most cases. If you’re trying to beef up one or the other of those sections on your resumé or at IMDb, you could have reason to put it one or the other, but it’s a credit — an indie credit for something most folks are never gonna see so no one really cares too much about it other than as a line item on your ever-growing IMDb page — so, for instance, when I was beefing up my producer credits, I would have folks who hired me as a casting director give me lower pay in exchange for a producer credit so that section would start bumping up ahead of the casting credits when you searched me at IMDb.

      As always, it depends on your needs/angle/targets/trajectory/agenda/yada yada yada. 😉 Go get ’em, tiger!

      1. Tonya Kay February 2, 2018 at 3:30 pm

        Thanks! For some reason I don’t get an email notification when you reply to me from your Blog. I wonder why? Thanks for your perspective on Video vs. Film (Short) as a Title’s listing category.

  3. Jim McKeny February 11, 2018 at 2:57 am

    Love this story. If I’d been privy to all that is available now for actors when I was just starting out…OMG!!! Your BonBlasts are the wonderful “manifest destiny” moments of my day. Thank you, Bonnie.

    1. Bonnie Gillespie August 31, 2018 at 2:33 pm

      Thank YOU for reading, Jim! 🙂 So glad you’re here.


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