Business lessons learned recording my audiobook

Home studio

I’ve been recording the Fearless Salary Negotiation audiobook and boy-oh-boy is it a lot of work! Some of it has been a lot of fun, and some has been miserable. Along the way, I’ve made lots of mistakes and learned several good business lessons. I thought I should share a few of them here.

Not everything is about ROI

The standard way to think about business stuff is “What’s the ROI on that?” And I think that’s fine most of the time. But sometimes ROI just isn’t as important as other factors.

In my case, I have no idea what the ROI on the Fearless Salary Negotiation audiobook will be. I’m recording it because I don’t feel like it’s complete without an audiobook version. Audiobooks are very popular—I’ve been listening to them more and more—and a lot of people primarily read books that way. I want to make sure those people can benefit from Fearless Salary Negotiation as well.

Beyond the decision to even do an audiobook, there are lots of ROI-type calculations that I’m ignoring. For example, I’m not a professional voiceover actor, but I do know a few. And it would be easy to reach out, negotiate a rate and have them read my book.

But I’m doing it myself because I think it’s better for my readers to hear me read my book in my own amateur voice.

I need to trust my gut

I’ve been planning to record my audiobook for many months now. I finally had a window on my calendar, so I found a local studio online and booked some time. When I talked to the audio engineer, he told me that his studio space had been acquired by a bigger firm, but that he kept the equipment and moved it to his home studio.

This made me a little nervous, but I know a lot of home studio setups are great for audiobooks, so I didn’t think much of it.

There were several red flags when I got to the studio on the first day. It was a small house with three dogs and tile floors. The studio itself had no sound proofing/dampening, and my ears told me right away that the audio in the headphones was “wet” (echo-y).

But I figured I was already there, and I had been planning this for months, and the audio engineer claimed he knew how to get great results with audiobooks, so I just went with it.

Fast forward to the following evening. We finally finished recording the book and I asked for the files so I could review them over the weekend.

The audio was…not great. I sent it to a couple of friends and said, “This sounds pretty bad to me. Can it be turned into an audiobook I would be proud to sell?” The answer was universally “No. You can’t use this.” I had wasted 14 hours over two days.

The thing is I think I knew that pretty early on, but I didn’t trust my instincts. I should’ve stopped after the first day.

I made several mistakes

Here’s a list of mistakes I made, ordered so the ones that could’ve saved me the most time and money are first:

  1. I didn’t ask for a sample of his previous work. If I had heard other audio from that studio, I probably would’ve just kept looking for something better.
  2. I immediately recognized the studio wasn’t set up to do voiceover work (tile floors, no sound dampening, dogs walking around with their nails clickity-clacking everywhere). I probably should’ve just parted ways as soon as I saw the studio.
  3. I didn’t ask for a sample of our work product after the first day. This could’ve saved me eight or nine hours of studio time if I had skipped the second day.
  4. The morning of the second day, I had concerns and thought about cancelling the session. I should’ve gone with my instincts. I even texted a friend about the situation, and he agreed. But I went in for the second day anyway.
  5. I still could’ve left a few hours into the second day. As we began the second day in the studio, I was thinking, “This isn’t going to be usable. I should just leave and save this time and money.” I should’ve trusted my gut.

So I made some pretty big mistakes. But! I did avoid one very common mistake that would’ve cost me a lot more time and money…

Fighting the Sunk Cost Fallacy

It’s hard to describe how exhausting this whole process was, but I was totally spent. I literally stood in a room, held an iPad and read aloud for about 14 hours over two days.

The second studio day was a Friday. So that meant I had the weekend to listen to the audio files we had produced, send them to some friends, and determine if they were worth editing or not.

I wanted to believe that those two days and hundreds of dollars weren’t totally wasted. But when I sent samples to my friends, I said, “Do not sugar coat this. If these files are unusable, tell me. I need to know and I don’t want to produce a bad product.” It was all unusable. I had literally wasted hundreds of dollars and two full days for nothing. I would have to start over.

But this is actually a great result, and I finally went with my gut and saved a lot of time and money. The editing and mastering process would take even longer (more studio hours) than the recording process, and would cost hundreds more dollars. Even worse, the result would’ve been a terrible audiobook. So by finally trusting my gut and getting help from my friends, I saved a lot of time and money.

This was the hardest decision of all because of the sunk cost fallacy: I didn’t want to waste all that hard work and all those hours. I wanted to get something useful from all that effort. And this happens constantly in business. It’s often called “Throwing good money after bad” or “Chasing your losses”. In my case, I didn’t succumb to the sunk cost fallacy and I saved a lot of time and money.

Starting over from scratch

The good news is I had seen the recording process in action, and heard the (bad) results. And I knew I could do better with my own equipment. So I set up a home studio in my hallway using equipment I already had, and started over from scratch.

It’s not much, but it doesn’t take much. And I’m able to get “dry” (no echo) audio, which is ideal for audiobook narration. I’ve already started editing some of the early chapters and it sounds much better. I’m proud of the product I’m creating and that’s not something that shows up in ROI calculations.

I hope to release the audiobook in the next few weeks, and I’m glad I decided to put the extra work in to make sure it’s a product I’m proud of.

Make Better Hashtags With Camel Case

There you are, casually perusing Twitter, when all of a sudden you’re forced to decode a jumble of letters–you’ve run into a garbled hashtag. “I don’t even like word jumbles!”, you shout at your poor, startled roommate, who fell asleep on the couch watching Mythbusters re-runs again.

You didn’t sign up for this, right? You’re only messing around online because you’re procrastinating on a paper that’s due in 12 hours–you’re trying to avoid thinking hard about words and letters and English. No, it’s not fair that the Internet gave you this hashtag to decode, but there’s nothing you can do about it now. You just have to soldier on, decode that sucker, feel that twinge of disappointment when the effort isn’t worth it, and move on to the next Tweet.

But you can do something to help future generations: start using Camel Case for your hashtags, and maybe the change you make in the world will boomerang and make your life better in the future. I took to Twitter on Valentine’s Day to try and get the word out:

Camel Case is a way to write human-readable, multi-word strings sans spaces and special characters. Basically, you capitalize the first letter of each new word in the string, so you can see the individual words at a glance. It’s been around for a long time in computer programming and chemistry, whose taxonomies involve long, continuous strings of words and individual characters. Most user-facing applications and interfaces don’t need Camel Case because they’re usually pretty comfortable with spaces–they’re designed to be human-facing, human-readable interfaces–but you may have seen Camel Case in online usernames (“FrankTheTank”) and a few other places.

Aside from usernames, the most common user-facing, non-spaces, multi-word user interface element is probably the hashtag. But for some reason, people haven’t adopted Camel Case for their hashtags. The result is that hashtags are as much of a nuisance as a tool. But they don’t have to be! Here are some examples of hashtags with and without Camel Case:


  • #followfriday
  • #justsayin
  • #nofilter
  • #happybirthdayjosh

WithCamelCase 1

  • #FollowFriday
  • #JustSayin
  • #NoFilter
  • #HappyBirthdayJosh

See how much easier it is to read the Camel Case hashtags? The Camel Case hashtags are still clumped up, but at least we immediately know where their words begin and end, making it a lot easier for us to process and decode them.

So, do yourself and everyone else a favor and use Camel Case for your hashtags. Your followers will thank you.


Off to Vegas for the 2012 WSOP and lots of work

I’m writing this post from a plane somewhere over New Mexico, and I’m on my iPad, so this may not be the best-written or -formatted post I’ve ever written.

Anyway, I’m heading to Vegas for my annual trip to the World Series of Poker. This is the first year I’m staying in a condo instead of hotel hopping like I usually do. My typical routine is to hop back and forth from the luxurious Gold Coast to the Rio (where the WSOP happens) since they’re right across the street from each other. I will usually stay at the GC on the weekends (when it’s significantly cheaper than the Rio), and at the Rio during the week.

This year, I have a job, so I need a place where I can work without the sounds of slot machines and depression in the background, so I decided to rent a condo. I managed to talk Luckbox Larry into splitting it with me, so I’ll even have a roommate. The bottom line is we’ll probably both feel like we’re living in the lap of luxury since we’ll have our own rooms and, you know, the creature comforts like a fridge and oven. My guess is it’ll cost 30-50% more at the condo than it usually does I’m the hotels. But it’s hard to compare because we’ll have much better accommodations, WiFi, laundry, a gym and that sort of thing. All in all, I think it’s a good value.

Originally, I booked this trip so I could be here to promote the heads-up book, which we were trying to release before the WSOP Main Event, but that ain’t happening so I’m just here to work and pay poker this summer. When I say “work”, I really mean several things: my “day job”, of course; ShareAppeal, which is really getting rolling; writing a new book about my career so far (I’ve already written about 2,000 words since we took off); and editing the heads-up book so it’s ready to release later this year. I’m keeping pretty busy, as always.

But of course there’s poker too, right? I hope so. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to play with all the other stuff I have going on, but I’m going to at least try to play a few WSOP events and some side tournaments. I would like to play the Main Event again, but I have no idea if that’ll actually happen. Last year, I didn’t decide to play until about three hours before the beginning of Day 1 D (scroll down to Day 18), some still have about three weeks to figure out a way to play again this year.

We’re starting our descent, so I’m going to sign off. I don’t know if I’ll do a daily diary this year, but I’ll be sure to keep everyone up to date one what’s going on.

Oh! But I would like to give people a better sense of what the WSOP is like, and what it’s like for me every summer I Vegas. So, if you want to know more about that sort of thing, leave some comments with suggestions on what you want to know or see. I’ll do my best to create some content to give a sense of what it’s like out here at the WSOP.


Keepin’ busy

I really need to update this thing more than once a week. That being said, time for my weekly update!

Let’s see… I’m finally starting to get into a good workout routine. That’s nice because I’m also starting to gain a couple pounds. Nothing serious, but it’s obvious I’ve been lazy lately and it’s time to get to the gym regularly.

I’m still playin’ poker online. The past couple days have been good for me and I’m still way up overall. I had a couple weeks there where I wasn’t running so hot, but I’m back on track now. I hope to be able to finance my trip to Vegas next month with my winnings.

Turns out I’m getting a nice tax return this year. I wasn’t expecting anything, so I’m having to figure out what to do with the extra cash. I think I’ll probably just sock it away or throw it at my loans or something awesomely super duper fun like that.

I went into the leasing office to drop off my rent and I asked the guy in there if he could recommend some good places around Plano to eat. His response: “You got a date or somethin’?” Of course I had to tell him that I’m just tired of “the chains” and I want some local variety. As he was suggesting a few places, a girl that works in the office came in and heard what he was saying. She said, “You got a date or something?” My first reaction was to be the funny guy and say, “That depends on if you’re free tonight.”, but I held my tongue and just said, “No, just looking for some good food.” The guy that was already telling me places was kind enough to bail me out by saying, “He’s just getting tired of eating at the chains.” It took me a good ten minutes to recover from feeling like a total loser, but I’m doing alright now.

I sent out some more mailers to local agents this week. That puts me right around twenty… I haven’t heard anything back except for the few I’ve had returned undeliverable. I’m going to do one follow-up call (from my first set) tomorrow and then six or seven follow-ups next week. All I need is one stinkin’ agent to pick me up, but I guess that’s easier said than done.

Meanwhile, I’m looking for all the angles I can find, so I’ve been writing. Saturday night, I finished my first screenplay. It’s only a short (about 20 pages), but it’s a start. It’s better than I thought it would be and I think it’ll be “decent” after the first re-write. I’m thinking through it and revising it now and hopefully will finish the second draft in a couple weeks. Then, I’ll start another screenplay of a different ilk. The first one was a ‘drama’ (I guess) and the second will probably be more straight comedy. …or at least it’ll be comedy to me. It might just be “stupid” or “terrible” to everyone else. At least I’m keeping myself entertained!

A good friend is in town and we’re having dinner tomorrow night. I’m looking forward to seeing someone from back home and having some good food and conversation. I don’t get much of either since I spend most of my time on the couch, watching something on TiVo and playing poker.

I’m not breaking up this post with little headings because I don’t feel like it. I’m really writing all this gibberish for myself anyway, so the headings really wouldn’t serve a point. Peace out!


Screenplay writing

Last night, I sat down and wrote the first Act of the short screenplay I’ve been working on. My co-writer is on an indefinite hiatus, so I’ve taken over writing responsibilities. So far, I’m not super impressed, but I didn’t expect to be. My philosophy is that I need to get something down, so I can edit it and mold it into what I want it to be.

Anyway, it was a good experience and it only took about 90 minutes. I’m hoping to get the second Act done this week and maybe finish the first draft by next weekend. I don’t think this short is going to be all that great, but I’m more interested in the process than the product right now. Once I’m done with this one, I’ll try to write another one and I’ll have higher expectations next time around.

Time to sleep.


I am lazy

…and also, I haven’t updated my blog in a while. I don’t really like calling it a ‘blog’ because that seems too pop-culture-ey, so I’m gonna’ go ahead and stick with weblog from here on out.

Anyway, I haven’t done too much lately, but I’ll give the update regardless. This weekend, I had a great run at the online poker tables. I am still playing a lot of Sit ‘N Gos (SNGs), but I upped the stakes and it paid off pretty well. I played all 1-table SNGs and I finished in the money 75% of the time. That ain’t bad at all, but I’m also not expecting it to happen again any time soon. I feel good about my strategies and abilities, but that kind of performance is most likely an anomaly.

Today, I sent out mailers (headshot, resume, cover letter) to a dozen local talent agents. I’m hoping to get a call from one or two of them and I’m obviously hoping to be represented when it’s all said and done. I also e-mailed my headshot and resume to a local independent film producer who put out a call for submissions through an e-mail I get from an actors’ support group here in Dallas. I’m hoping to win the run-on sentence award by the end of this post.

Finally, I’m still co-writing a short film with a friend back home. We’ve made some good progress and should have our first draft pretty soon (although I can’t say if that will be days or weeks). Once this short is finished, we’re going to write another. When both are finished, we’ll start production. I really don’t want to think about how much work that’s going to be, so I’m going to wrap this up now.

Goodnight, me.


Livin’ large in L.A.

Not really. I mean, I’m out here for a couple days, but I’m only workin’ and then heading back to the hotel. I did make it to an In and Out Burger today, so that was good.

I’m stayin’ in a Sheraton and it’s really nice. Same one I stayed in when I was here back in October. Free high-speed internet and cheap valet parking make it a steal. Of course, all of this is made possible by my company.

The best part of my trip is definitely the First Class plane ticket. First class is so much nicer than coach, it’s not even funny. Seriously. Once the plane takes off (and sometimes before), the flight attendants offer you something to drink. Then, they bring a little dish of warm, assorted nuts and your beverage. Then, they bring you a little moist, warm towel to wipe your hands or face or whatever. Then, they take dinner orders: salad, entre, drink, dessert. I had so much leg room, I could put my legs straight out in front of me and not hit the seat in front of me. Also, the seats recline to nearly horizontal and they have foot rests that extend in front of you. Totally ridiculous, but really fun and comfortable.

Movie in the works?

Ok, so it’s been a couple years since I had any movie ideas in the works and I may be the boy who cried wolf, but I’m working on a short with a few friends (one in particular). I don’t want to talk too much about it (because I don’t know much about it), but it looks like we’re going to keep it short, simple and hopefully poignant. We were initially hoping to shoot while I’m home in Florida for Christmas, but that’s only about 2 weeks away, so I’m not counting on it.

Regardless, I’ve been wanting to work with this friend for several years and I think the end result will be excellent. We have complimentary skills that should lend themselves to creating something meaningful through collaboration.