How I Got My First Book Published

Entrepreneurs must be on the “cutting edge” (black ink) versus the “bleeding edge” (red ink) of new products, ideas, and trends.

In October 1985 I was introduced in the United States Congress by then-Vice President George H. Bush. I testified about the coming S&L Crisis, saying that if the scandal was left unchecked it would cost the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars and cause millions of U.S. citizens to lose their life savings.  My written prepared remarks were titled: “Taking Uncle Sam for a $200 Billion Ride.” I was ridiculed for using such a enormous figure, $200 billion, to describe the magnitude of the situation–no government scandal prior to then had cost more than a few billion dollars.

The same week in 1985 I met with an editor at Simon & Schuster (S&S) about writing a book, called Other People’s Money,  to expose the scandal.  S&S stalled me for three years (1986-1988) while I kept writing articles and op-ed pieces about the S&L Crisis. I became a media darling on the subject on CNN, NPR and national news and talk shows.

In December 1988, when the S&L Crisis was already a household word, I appeared onThe Larry King Live! Television Show. The next morning I got a call from the same editor at S&S saying they wanted to publish Other People’s Money right away. I was furious!  I exclaimed to the editor: “You could have published this book three years ago when it was new information, now everyone knows all about it.”

The editor calmed me down and explained. “Paul,” he said, “three years ago when you came to me with this story I presented it to my colleagues and they thought you were a nut. If we had published your book back then, it would have sat on the shelf. Now that we have five different book proposals from prominent people on this same subject, we can see that this story is finally ready for a popular book. We are a business, not a charity. We want to hear about new things when they are on the bleeding edge (red ink), but we don’t want to publish a major book on new things until they are on the cutting edge (black ink), and the public is ready for the information.”

The editor added that if I would stop screaming at him he would outline the business terms of their offer to publish my book. S&S published Other People’s Money in 1989 and it was an instant success–being featured on the cover of The New York Times Book Review and paving the way for my future life as an author.

P.S. Readers following the current U.S. Banking Crisis should note that the main cause—100% insurance of consumer bank deposits—has never been fixed. As first pointed out by FDR in 1932, and highlighted in Other People’s Money, only a system that puts the depositor at some manageable level of risk (say 10% of their money) can keep risk-taking financial institutions from having unlimited access to capital before it’s too late.  For more info see the New York Times Book Review.

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