The Greener Grass Or Some MisAdventures In Self-Publishing

Welcome to the Book Bizness


As an author, I had two bizarre Amazon related experiences last week.

First, I saw this:

Guitar Book Used Price

Click to see at full size

Which was odd, because 1.  The cover art still isn’t updated on Amazon and 2.  The new book is $31.50 on Amazon – so I have no idea why it’s someone would list it at that price. (It’s not going to sell at that price but even if it did I, unfortunately, wouldn’t see any money from that sale.)

Second, I got a list of book sales from Lulu.

Lulu is a POD (Print-on Demand Service) that prints physical books and distributes physical and digital versions of the books.  The main reason to use Lulu is that they have a distribution deal with Amazon – which is the largest book distributor on the planet.

One line on the spreadsheet caught my eye in particular:

Format Channel Quantity Earnings Author Name
Paperback Amazon 1 $0.3 Scott Collins

Yep.  My “profit” on one of my books turned out to be $.30.

How does this happen?

Well…in short –  it happens when you make a deal and parameters change that you couldn’t anticipate or

Sometimes you can make the best laid plans and not have things turn out the way you expected them to be. 

Guit-A-Grip is going to be undergoing a major transformation, refocus and relaunch as we go into 2014.  This article will hopefully be a part of that process but in the meantime – how I got to the point of only getting a $.30 return on a book from Amazon is a longer examination in motivation and execution and whether examined from a business perspective, an entrepreneurial lesson or a how-to/how not to instructional – I hope that you’ll find it very much grounded in The Why.

The most bizarre path to writing a book I can imagine.

Okay.  Here’s how this starts.

It’s 2005.  I’m in Boston.  I’m playing in several bands.  I’m not making any money.  In fact, I’m outlaying money for rehearsal spaces and rehearsing and recording for several projects that are not going to see the light of day.  My previous assessment around 2000-2001 of the live scene imploding is proving to be accurate.  The traditional model of revenue from clubs, bars etc. is dead – and I realize that it’s going to be another few years before everyone understands what the odor is, and that I need to be ahead of the curve.

So, I come up with a plan.  The only lucrative area of my musical endeavors at that time was coming from teaching.  It was something that I was fairly good at and something that I enjoyed doing.  I quickly came to the conclusion that if I was teaching in an academic environment

  • I could make a reasonable living
  • I would have access to things that would help me make music
  • I would theoretically have a supportive environment to create that music in

So I had to go to grad school. This plan, however, had a huge problem.  From an academic standpoint, my undergraduate education had been a dismal failure.  I’ve detailed this in substantive depth in podcast #2 and podcast #7 so I’m not going to go into it here.  But needless to say, I grew a lot as a player after my undergrad experience and the concept of going to grad school (and not making the same mistakes I made in my undergrad) was appealing to me.

So I did three things.

1.  I researched grad school programs that I was interested in.  I found two – The Third Stream studies at New England Conservatory and The Multi-Focus Guitar program at California Institute of The Arts.  CalArts was appealing to me because I was familiar with the Krushevo cd and really dug Miroslav Tadic’s playing.  Also, I had read a number of quotes from him in Guitar Player and I sensed a kindred spirit in some ways.  After meeting him at the CalArts campus, I knew that that was where I needed to go.

2.  I pulled together a 2-song demo with the strongest playing I could pull off.  I also sent a copy of the Tubtime CD (which in all honesty probably sealed the deal more than the 2-song recording because when I met Miroslav again it seemed like he really dug Tubtime).

3.  I pulled out an ace in the hole.  I had been working on researching 12-tone patterns to add some additional dimension to my playing and I had done about two years of research mapping out every possible 12-tone pattern based on symmetrical divisions of the octave.

Previously, I had written a 300 page book (The title:

The Guitar Pattern Technique Reference Book

A systematic positional mapping out of the guitar fretboard for technical and compositional resources

Volume I: One Note Per String Patterns

rolled right off the tongue)

that was literally a series of photocopies that I took a sharpie marker to marking out all possible positional fingering patterns with 1 note-per-string on the low E string.

It  took about a year and a half to do (in the middle of the worst living situation I was ever involved in) and had 1 breakdown and 2 major revisions.  I had it bound at KinKos with a vellum cover and sent it out with a cover letter to some publishers (and Brian Buckethead Carroll if I recall) to see if there was any interest and (not surprisingly) there were no bites.

As a commercial release – it was a huge failure and the loss of 18 months or so.

As a book – it was my first success.

I don’t view it as a success because it was well written (it wasn’t) or because it was well executed (it wasn’t in particular) it was a success because it was a book that I conceptualized and executed.  I had to learn how to lay out pages, how to write (in the sense of explaining my ideas), how to edit and how to budget.

This was 1994.  I think each book cost me $25 or $30 to print.  I remember spending close to $300 getting them out into the world.  I still have 2 copies.   I’m leafing through one of them right now and it makes me wince and smile at the same time.

Basically, I spent $300 to put myself on an internship for how to produce a book.  And I learned a good lesson on how not to release a book.

It was a damn cheap education and it became the foundation for the aforementioned ace in the hole.  While I knew that my undergrad education wasn’t going to win me any points with an admissions committee, I also knew I could take the research I did and pull it into a book.  I knew I could avoid some of the mistakes I made with my previous book and make it a much tighter thesis.

I realized that if I could throw down, essentially a graduate level thesis paper (a typical graduation requirement of a grad level program) as part of my ADMISSIONS APPLICATION – it would be difficult to ignore my application and no one would have any question of my ability to handle the intellectual rigor of graduate school.

So I went to work.

Mind you, I was working a day gig, playing in two bands, teaching and trying to move from Boston to California at the same time.  It was nuts.  But I got it done and a key factor in that was Lulu and the POD model.

Print On Demand

It turns out that technologically, a lot had happened between 1994 and 2004.  Doing what I wanted to do in 1994 would have required going to something called a vanity press.  A vanity press is (soon to be was) a place where authors would pay a publishing company to press a run of books (usually 500 or a thousand) and then would have to sell the books to try to make back money.

For the musicians out there reading this, it was essentially pay-to-play for book releases.  Authors would end up giving most of the copies away in the hopes of getting reviewed or selling them to friends or family.  A slim majority would break even and an even slimmer margin made any money on it.

The print on demand model changed that model.  Once printing became something that could be automated and scaled on a small level, authors could have people order books  and have them printed and shipped as the orders came in.  There was no need to maintain an inventory.  The cost of becoming an independent author with a self published book went from thousands of dollars to nearly nothing.

So I went with Lulu for the book.  I used other books as a model for layout and the initial 12-tone release looked a thousand times better than my first effort.  Lulu sent a copy, and I put the copy in with the application materials.  Eyebrows were raised and I got a scholarship and went to CalArts.

A funny thing happened in the meantime.  It turns out that there was a Quartz error in the PDF conversion for the document and that meant the physical book I held in my hand (for reasons no one has ever been able to explain to me), interchanged every sharp and every flat.

In other words. 200 + pages of the book were wrong.

So I re-did the book. (This was the first time but I’ll talk about the 2nd time later and put it up on Lulu for sale.  I was making about $10 a book.  Mind you that initial book, Symmetrical  12-Tone Patterns For Improvisation, was the answer to a question that no one was asking.  I think it sold 10 copies or so.

As a revenue source, a complete utter failure.

As a device to get into grad school – it was a wild success.

Also, it brought my game up to another level.  I got deeper into book design and my writing was stronger than my previous book.

School Daze

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum.

  1. It turns out that while I didn’t make the same mistakes I made in undergrad (I had really good grades for a change in grad school), I did make all new mistakes.  My biggest mistake was that I was so focused on getting the skill set I thought I needed for teaching, that I focused on all the things I couldn’t do rather than improve the things I could do.  So instead of putting a good foot forward and then making that an awesome foot, I put a bad foot forward and had a mediocre foot to show for it when I was done.  I might be unnecessarily harsh on myself here.  I had some great experiences while I was there – but I was so focused on my post college plans that I didn’t get the things I needed out of that experience until I was out the door.  What kind of a moron has access to a Vinny Golia and doesn’t study with him because he’s working on his fingerpicking?  Right here (Thank GOD that I had the opportunity to play with Vinny on multiple occasions afterwards and get my ass handed to me in the best lessons imaginable later).
  2. Another funny thing happened – this time in 2006 when I got out of school.  The market crashed and it seemed like every teaching job in the world went underground for a while.
  3. Still holding onto the teaching idea, it became REALLY obvious that no one was going to take me seriously unless I had a PhD (or to a much lesser degree a DMA).  I just got done with a 2-year grad school stint, I wasn’t ready for a 10 years of a doctoral program to get an ethnomusicology doctorate.
  4. However, while at CalArts, I started teaching a lot of lessons and it turned out that I DID have a unique way of presenting things and looking at the guitar.  I started writing my guitar opus and created the 2,000 page monstrosity that got re-edited and written into 5 books and counting.

The trouble with tribbles

So, with one book under my arm – I started releasing other books.

Here’s what I did right:

(note: some of this was by design but a lot of it was by dumb luck)

  • I cultivated an audience.

I was developing a lot of content on the website and writing for and other blogs.  I had some good web traffic and people who were digging my approach.  On the minus side, this was incredibly time consuming and didn’t generate any income.  When I say incredibly time consuming, a sample blog lesson entry might have taken 20-30 hours, for a free blog post.

  • I strengthened my writing.

Again, I wasn’t making money from the posts I was doing, but my writing was getting much more focused and I got really good at generating ideas quickly and editing graphics quickly.  Both really useful skills later.

  • I had a unique promotional angle

So, one idea I came up with, that turned out to be a really good one was that I did pre-release sales of the book.  Basically the pitch was, I’m releasing this book.  If you buy it now, you’re getting a rough version at a much cheaper rate than the final book, but I’ll send you a free update (or updates as the case would be).

A couple of interesting things happened from this approach.

1.  People felt like they were getting a good deal.

2.  People felt like they were helping support me.

3.  I got to edit the book over a longer period of time that wouldn’t have ben afforded by a one time deadline – thus making the final product that much stronger. (this philosophy was employed later.  I had stopped printing the 12-tone book because I felt that my writing and relationship had completely evolved since the first edition – so I re-wrote it and released it as a new book in 2013.  I’d still argue that it might be the best thing I’ve written thus far).

4.  I was getting a mailing list that I could contact with every subsequent release.

Point #4 turned out to be invaluable as the other books were released. The percentage of people that I contacted on the mailing list that bought multiple books was about 95%.

  • Give people value.

That was something I was really adamant about in making the books.  I didn’t want anyone to feel like they were ripped off.  When I saw print editions that were 30-40 pages and sold for $30 and it got under my skin a bit.  So I decided to release 300 page books for that price and still do better financially than I would do in a traditional publishing deal.  (Here’s a telling story – I had a guy complain that $10 for a PDF was too high.  I recommended that he buy the $5 light edition I had on fiverr at the time and see if that was a good deal.  He liked it.  He then bought one book at the $10 rate and subsequently bought ALL of the books I had as pdfs 2 days later.  He never complained about the price after that because the content was there.)

In a related note, once I had final versions of the books, I offered bundle deals for the books.  Which turned out to be smart because people were hesitant to spend $15 a pdf but were psyched to spend $20 for 2, $30 for 3 or $40 for 4.  Regarding this issue of providing value with pricing here’s

A brief diversion with a music business book publishing lesson

The first thought I had when I did my books was to get them published.  I had a friend who was published on Mel Bay and he told me something that was confirmed by Mel Bay – namely, that if I sold my books on Mel Bay that my return would be about $1 per book.

Many musicians reading this post will likely look at those margins and think about CD (remember those?) profit margins many artists on major labels tried to FIGHT for.  And this is highlighted by this quote, “Well that might seem low – but they are ethical and they do pay.  I have several other books with other publishers that I’ve never seen a dime from.”

So this isn’t the Steven King model where someone throw a ridiculous amount of money out at you, it’s – you put a lot of work into a book and then get to call yourself a “published author”.

I figured I’d call myself a published author and make a better profit margin.

Full disclosure here:

On a $30 book.  My profit margin is probably $6-$8.  To get $10 or $20 a book, I’d have to sell it for closer to the $50 range, and while I might have been able to sell a few at that price point, I really wanted to make sure that the reader had value.

That’s the plus side of self publishing.  You get to make those calls.

On the minus side, it’s all on you.  That sounds like a plus, but it’s a double edged sword.  The writing is on you.  The editing is on you.  The layout is on you.  And you can ask for help, but you’re going to burn out friendships quickly.  Believe me on that one.

True independent self-publishing is not for everyone.  Now I’m not talking about going to bookbaby with 2-5k and having them release a book for you, I’m talking about taking it all on yourself and having to do everything on your own.  It gets easier and harder simultaneously and it’s not for the thin skinned.

Okay I talked about some things I did right – here’s a host of things I did wrong.

  • I took all opinions as equal.

I had some people complain about the 2-12 hours it sometimes took to process their paypal order.  By some I mean 3.  Typically I did it in the same hour, but in one case the order came in at 1 am and I was sick and passed on on cold medication and didn’t get to it until the following day.  In my memory there were 10-12 increasingly angry e-mails in my box when I woke up, but in reality it was probably 5.  Even with the note I put on the site about a 1 day turn around, some people wanted instantaneous turn around and that was when I went fully to Lulu.

  • I put all the orders on Lulu and Amazon.

Again, this had positives and negatives.  My reason for doing it was to give customers instant access to digital content, and I still think that was a good move.

The problem is, I don’t get a list from Lulu of WHO orders anything from them or from any of the distributors just when it was ordered and what the revenue was.  So the entire previous model I used of being able to contact a mailing list went out the window.

  • I spread out my message platforms.

I thought that being on Guitar-Muse and all of these other sites would drive traffic to my site.  Turns out that I was driving traffic to other sites.  Furthermore, by focusing content on Guitarchitecture, Guitagrip and Guitar-Muse, I was dividing my readership between multiple places, also bringing down my rankings for GuitArchitecture in Google.

  • I relied on forums for traffic

I was spending a lot of time at one point contributing content to various lists.  I never hawked my products but if I had a free lesson up on a site – I’d post it on a lesson page of a forum as an FYI. “Hey if anyone’s looking for help with sweep picking there’s a new post here type of thing.  That got me kicked off of the Guitar Player Forum (they still don’t understand what a forum is and that’s why there’s was still merde last time I went) and ultimately got my wrist slapped on several others.  I was also submitting to Guitar-Squid for a while and the weekly e-mail they sent was generating a lot of traffic.

The problem with that model is that people would go to the page, read one item and then immediately go back to whatever they were doing.  It wasn’t building any kind of loyal readership, it was just intaking people and sending them out just as quickly.

  • I assumed that content was what mattered academically.

My thinking in getting books done was that if I didn’t have a doctorate degree that being an author with a number of substantial reference books under my belt would provide some clout.  It turns out that many academic circles are firmly entrenched in peer review.  While there are a number of positives that occur (and the necessity for peer review particularly in science publications) the process can hold up publication for years – if not decades in some circumstances and many of those books are published by the academic equivalent of vanity presses.  Small runs of a 1,000 books or so written by academics for academics being sold at inflated prices to make back their investment.

That IS changing and the stigma around self publishing is changing, but there are still a lot of places that look down their nose at people who work outside the traditional system.  So, whether that is a mistaken perception in the long run remains to be seen.

  • I didn’t understand the downside to being sold on Amazon.

I say this as someone who is a faithful Amazon purchaser, there is a dark side of publishing on working with Amazon.

First, here’s what happens with a book on Lulu.

Let’s say I decide to sell a paperback book.  Lulu says, “Here’s what we charge to make a book, how much money do you want to make?” then the calculate a price based on that.

Here’s a Price Breakdown when you go offsite

An accounting miracle happens when you want to sell on platforms OTHER than LULU.  When you get to the review process, you see two profit margins.  It looks like this:

Revenue Model

So that $6.75 you were making per book – just went to $2.30 a book if it’s sold elsewhere because some money has go to whoever is selling it.  My initial thought was, “geesh – that percentage seems really high – but it’s still $1.30 more than I’m making on Mel Bay and the important thing is that people are reading the book.  If they like it, perhaps they’ll get more or tell other people.”

Then the squeeze comes in.

You see, Amazon decided that they wanted to be able to sell the books at the lowest possible price.  So they set a 10% discount on the books from Lulu on their site.  They can impose that on Lulu because they’re so huge.  That’s why my $35 book sells for $31.50 on Amazon.

Guess who eats part of that 10% discount?

You got it.

And that’s how $6.75 goes to $2.30 -> $.30 in one fell swoop.

So why sell on Amazon then?

Because they’re the largest seller on the planet.  They can sell my books in Canada, The UK, Italy, France, Japan or anywhere else in the world that they have a portal.

When Hootie and the Blowfish signed with a major label, they had a dilemma,  which was that as an independent act – they were making something like $5 a CD profit selling them at shows and would only make $1 a cd on a major label.  They took a shot and realized that if they were selling MILLIONS of cds that they’s ultimately make a lot more money even at only $1 a cd.

So, that $.30 was extreme.  In general my books on Amazon make between $1-$2.  So it’s not great money, but it’s something and it’s convenient for people who don’t want to buy pdfs.

Why not sell Kindle versions?

Largely, because the books are heavily graphics driven and would have to be completely reformatted for Kindle.  I don’t know that I’d ever make the money back on them.   Also, I’m happy I have those books out, but I don’t want to keep working on the same material endlessly.  It’s time to move on.

If you make more money from PDFS- why sell physical books then?

I like books.

My mom taught me to read and a read my first book at 2.   I like physical books, and there’s an entire generation of people who like physical books.

Having said that, I like ebooks and REALLY like the kindle app on my phone, but, especially when playing guitar, there’s something about having something tactile…about having a physical object on a music stand or a desk that allows people to interact with the material in a different way.  (Some people will doubt this but did you know that it’s been proven that it takes longer to read an e-book than a physical version of the same material?    Researchers have no idea as of this writing why that occurs, only that it does.)

It’s about depth of experience.  It’s why I don’t tweet, even though from a business standpoint, it’s idiotic for me not to tweet.  I don’t use Twitter because it’s part of the ADD mindset that that our technology encourages and that our society cultivates.

It’s why I write 4,000 word articles instead of just posting a video.  It’s not about the 10,000 that will read a sentence and click to the next thing.  It’s about the 100 people who read through the material and really get something from it.

I write books because I think the material is important and I think it will help people either because the material itself (or the process behind that material) helped me.

I release the material in forms I think people will respond to.

I do it in a way to make money –  to keep going  – to help people and thus – help myself.

So you have a reason why (a higher why? a higher calling?) and you adapt.  You learn from your mistakes, try to anticipate things that won’t work out the way you like they will (like getting a $.30 royalty) and try not to make them the next time.

(In a related note – this website is adapting…but that’s a whole ‘nother story for another day. But I’ll talk about that more as we get closer).

In the meantime, as always I hope this helps and as always, thanks for reading.


Two Steps Back Or Setbacks In Project Management

Recently, I had a substantial graphics setback in one of the GuitArchitecture books that will delay publication by at least 2 months.  This is the latest in a series of obstacles that have come about from starting this project, and I thought it might be beneficial to talk about the books in a little more depth and also to talk a little about dealing with setbacks in project management.

When I was at CalArts, I was a TA for Miroslav Tadic.  This meant that in addition to grad studies, I was teaching 10 hours a week (all in ½ hour lessons and about an hour of  built in lesson prep time).   At Berklee, lessons were a fairly straightforward affair – each term had proficiencies and you had to prepare the material you needed for each proficiency over the course of the term.  At CalArts, there were no proficiencies per se.  Lessons were centered on student interest and what I started seeing as a commonality among guitar majors was an interest in modes, scales, chords and their applications.


Understanding the fingerboard


When I first learned these things – I used CAGED shapes – which really didn’t make a lot of sense to me.  What was instilled in me by my teachers during this time was the concept of – you don’t have to understand it – you just have to play it.  This also did not make a lot of sense to me.

I realized later on that what my teachers were trying to instill (at least what I hope my teachers were trying to instill) was the concept that you don’t have to understand it – you just have to hear it and get it under your fingers so you can play it.  Having said that, if the fingering you have to work with doesn’t make any sense – you’re not going to be able to assimilate or utilize it easily.

While CAGED allows people to connect chords and scale shapes it doesn’t adapt well outside of the major scale. My method breaks all scales into modular shapes that cover the fingerboard in an intuitive way. Instead of twenty-one positional fingerings to cover major, melodic minor and harmonic minor – GuitArchitecture uses seven core fingerings to cover all of these scales.  This approach allows players to break out of performance ruts and substantially reduces the need for memorization required to play scales.

In other words, it gets the notes under your fingers faster and in a way that makes sense.

The people who studied with me seemed to get a lot out this approach.  When I took a pedagogy class with Susie Allen at CalArts, it made sense to take the material I codified and make a presentation out of it.  I pulled 120 pages together pretty quickly and then had the idea that maybe there was a book hidden in these lesson materials that I generated.


Forming the clay


The approach that I use is very straight forward, but where I saw students getting hung up was in the application of the scales (i.e. breaking out of the stock forms and making music).  I realized a number of method books had been done – but the majority of these books presented a scale with a 2 sentence explanation and then had 40 licks using the scale.  If these happen to be licks from your favorite player, this may work for you – but it’s going to be hard to get people to practice licks for the sake of learning them in the scale.

I decided to go in a different direction from a standard lick book, and create something that would be a combination of instruction and reference.  I wanted to create a book that you could get ideas from really quickly to make music – but would have enough depth to be something that readers could go back to over and over again.  The first area I decided to tackle in-depth would be the issue of sequences.  Here’s lesson 1 in project management:


Build off of past experiences (or go with what you know)


I had never seen any book that took a systematic approach to generating melodic sequences so I decided to work out the permutations to generate all possible unique melodic sequences.

When I wrote my Symmetrical 12 tone book, I used this same process to generate all of the possible 12 tone rows that could be created using symmetrical divisions of the octave (whole tone scale (6 divisions), augmented chord (3 divisions),  diminished chord (4 divisions),  and tritone (2 divisions).  This was extremely helpful in knowing in advance what would be required in terms of mental discipline to generate these ideas.  It was also a little daunting as material in the 12 tone book couldn’t be measured in hours or days – it took almost 2 ½ years of constant work from concept to cover.  This brings up another important point in project management:


Whenever possible start with the heavy lifting


The reason for this is, as a project drags on – your endurance to complete the project will wear down exponentially to the point where even the slightest bumps in the road will have you questioning whether or not you can finish the project.  You need to get whatever really ugly stuff (in terms of work) out of the way while you have the energy to do so.  So I decided to start the process of generating all of the patterns and notating them.


Beware of the rope swing


You know those cute graphics of kids grabbing a piece of rope hanging from a tree and swinging into a lake?  The story I know about a kid who did this ended differently.  In the story I know, the kid was unfamiliar with the lake, swung into the shallow trying to do a flip, landed the wrong way and broke his back.  Unless something’s on fire or you’re chased by zombies you should always go into the water before just diving in so you know what you’re getting into.  Even knowing that, it’s easy to get into a situation and then get overwhelmed by the enormity of it no matter how well prepared you think you are.  This brings up another point.


Be realistic about what you can do


I could have sat down for a week or two straight and probably generated all of the graphics I needed, but there would have been thousands of errors – in something where the tolerance for errors is 0%.  Knowing what kind of concentration was required I did no more than 2-3 hours of work in a single sitting.  This meant it took a lot longer, but the review process was ultimately easier.


Break up overwhelming things into small chunks


How many of you have seen Bobcat Goldthwait’s Shakes The Clown?  Truly worthy of the title of “the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown films”, the opening sequence is a fade in to an apartment in squalor.  While a record skips in the background, a dog is trying to choke down a full slice of pizza.  Project management is like this.  If you try to do all things on all frontiers at once, you’re just a dog choking on a slice of pizza in Florence Henderson’s apartment in Shakes The Clown.  The key is to have a strong overall view of the project.  In doing so, you can identify what else needs to be addressed and work small on multiple fronts as you need to.  While working on the graphics, I also started expanding on the modal application idea and applied this same approach to modal arpeggios, modal pentatonics and modal chord voicings (and harmony).  In Frankensteining these together I realized that I had a problem but


Contortion doesn’t hurt if you’re limber


When I assembled all of these components – I had about 2,000 pages of material.  This was prohibitively expensive to produce  and (in that form) something no one would read (much less purchase).   If I was dead set on releasing only one volume, I’d be in a lot of trouble – but working with the material I had and creating something new gave me more options.


Projects have a tendency to run wild on their own – so plan on constantly monitoring their growth


The good news was that I did have an overall view of what I was trying to achieve.  In reviewing the material, I realized I could severely edit the material and expand some of these areas into five full books on their own:

  • The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes
  • The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes: Melodic Patterns
  •  The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes: Modal Arpeggios
  • The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes: Modal Pentatonics and
  • The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes: Chords and Major Modal Harmony.

In the meantime, there was a 6th book that I was developing, The GuitArchitect’s Positional Exploration. This book had started as a technical book, but I realized mid way through that the technical issues I wanted to address would be much better served by looking at a video.  So I refocused what I had to make it into something useful.


The main modes book would have to be one of the first ones released and I wanted to get the sequences book done at the same time but the Positional Exploration book was the closest one to being done.  Working within those parameters, I decided to release these three books this year and then focus on releasing the remaining books at the rate of one a year until I get to the point that I no longer want to read another book much less write one.


Be prepared to go a lot of it on your own


People generally have an aversion to things without proven track records.  When people see something new in terms of a project, they typically want to wait and see how it’s going to work out before they get on the bandwagon.   Once it gets rolling and other people sing its praises, there’s no shortage of people who will want to lend a hand or be associated with it in some way, but in the beginning expect to spend a lot of money and/or a lot of time to get the skill sets you may be missing to complete your project.  Along those lines:


Be ready to make a lot of mistakes


Do you know the story of Thomas Edison and the creation of the light bulb?  Apparently Edison tried some 3,000 filaments in creating the light bulb.  There was nothing glamorous about this work.  It was just shoving a bunch of different things into a light bulb to see what worked the best.


If you’re working on any project there will be multiple points that you are literally in the dark and will have to triage a solution.


When I first came up with the book idea, I wasn’t sure what the layout was going to be and didn’t have the money for a graphic designer.  I made some initial design decisions that, once I had enough material together to really get a sense of what the book was going to be, I realized really wouldn’t work.  This required a lot of labor to fix so…


Be ready to improvise because you can’t plan for everything


Many solutions are wrong.  Unless you’ve done the same project before – there will be countless things that go wrong.  Solutions to problems will not always be obvious, easy or desirable.  But if you’re flexible and have a strong conviction about what the project will be when it’s done – it will be easier to adapt solutions to the project (or vice versa).

In going though the review stages of the books I realized that there was an entire graphics section I missed.  Even being as methodical and meticulous about it as possible, when working on something with this scope you’ll miss things.  Fixing this will now set the book back at least 2 months and while it is immensely frustrating – it’s also manageable because I know the books are going to be done this year and along those lines:


Have a deadline or know when you’re done


Deadlines allow you to get things done.  I’d write more about this but I’ve already written on it here.


You really can’t do it alone


I am really fortunate in that I had a number of people who were willing to take a look at what I had done and offer feedback.  Some of that feedback resulted in me realizing just how much material had to be edited further and/or corrected.

Even with innumerable revisions and examinations – it’s really difficult to catch everything. Even if you can, it’s unlikely that you’ll be objective enough about the project at that point to see all of the angles that other people see when they examine what you’re doing.  This might cause a lot of discomfort in realizing that something that you thought was mostly done actually had a ways to go, but in my case, having a stronger book makes it all worthwhile.  And this leads to the final point:


The difference between 99% and 100% isn’t always 1% – sometimes it’s 100%


The paradox of most long term projects is that the closer you get to completing the project, the more every instinct in your body will tell you to bail out on it.  By the time you get to getting the project to 99% it may take as much energy as you’ve put into the project up to that point to get that final 1%.  In the end,  the payoff is in the 1%.

I’m bummed about doing a lot of work I’ve already done all over again, but I’m really excited about these books.  I don’t think there’s really anything like them and hopefully other people will feel the same way.

I hope this helps with your long term projects!

Thanks for reading.



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