I’ve known David Meerman Scott for several years. We’ve presented together at a conference. He cheered me on when The Corporate Blogging Book was published in 2006. I watched in awe when his New Rules of Marketing & PR was published a year ago in June 2007 and rocketed to best-selling PR book on Amazon.
Turns out New Rules is David’s third book and he has a fourth coming out if you count the just released Tuned In, of which he is a co-author. What happened to his first two books? Why has New Rules become a best-seller?
As an author I find this kind of stuff fascinating. Maybe you will too. In any event, it gave us a chance to have a long phone conversation and catch up.
I typed as we talked. These are David’s responses, more or less verbatim, with a bit of editing to smooth out transitions.
Q & A With David Meerman Scott
Tell us about your first book, a novel
David: My first book was a novel called Eyeball Wars. It was self-published. I call it the first thriller about an Internet start-up co. It came out in 2001 just as the dot com boom collapsed. So it was too late for the frothiness of market and way too early to be a nostalgia piece.
I found an agent, but a novel from a first time author is one of the most difficult to sell. Every month it didn’t sell to a major publisher it was less fresh—given the topic. I got some nibbles, but after three months I decided to publish it myself.
I started a publishing company, Fresh Spot Publishing. I hired an editor and a designer, got an ISBN number, lined up national distribution through Midpoint Trade Books and got it into Barnes & Noble stores in April 2001, before 9/11.
How much did self-publishing cost?
Ballpark, it cost $30,000 net to self-publish. I did make some money selling the books. I spent two years writing it, starting in 1998. Publishers’ Weekly wrote about it, twice. Paramount Pictures read it as a possible movie. It got good reviews and sold pretty well. [Ed note: I’ve read it and it’s terrific.]
Basically I looked at it as a personal branding investment. It sold in the thousands. (He declined to say how many copies exactly. No author will tell you that, BTW.)
I will do another novel. BTW, writing a novel is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. With a novel every single thing has to work: character, plot, conflict. If you can write fiction your non-fiction is going to be better because it means you’re good at creating conflict. If you can put conflict into your non-fiction work it makes it much more interesting.
After Eyeballs came out, David found himself without a job. He’d been working for Newsedge which was sold to Thompson. So he started his own business in 2002 as online marketing consulting.
What’s the story behind your second book?
In 2002 – 2003 the idea of a book began to jell. Cashing In With Content (focuses on why) the most important part of a site is the content, not the technology. I sold it to a small publisher, Cyber Age. It was a practical approach of “let’s get it done.” It was a small publisher so there was not that much distribution. It came out in 2005.
What was the genesis of New Rules?
A free e-book, The New Rules of PR, led to the book. It proved the market. It was downloaded 50,000 times in a month and publishers were competing for it. People wanted to work with me.