There’s a book quoted in The Secret called The Master Key System. It’s by Charles Haanell, and it was written over a hundred years ago. Haanell describes the law of attraction as the law of love. The idea is that positive energy draws positive energy. So if you’re doing good deeds, thinking positive thoughts, and being helpful to others, positive acts will occur in your environment, not because you’re seeking them, but because it’s a natural law of the universe. Of course, if you’re doing good deeds in order to make good things happen for you, that’s not going to work; it’s manipulative.
But I was born with a natural desire to help human beings, and I think that desire has been one of the main reasons for the success I’ve had. Even when I was a teenager, when I saw someone bullying someone else, I used to go up and say, “Stop that! That’s not right.” And in addition to my desire to help people, I was always very good at math; I think I went through all of high school without ever getting a problem wrong. The two things feel related to me; life is problem solving. The more problems you solve, the more joy you create for others.As an agent, I always get my 15 percent, so I’ve become relatively wealthy. But I’m not doing it for the money. I’m doing it because I’m helping other people, and sometimes the problems I encounter are intriguing. I imagine most agents, when they get a negative response from a publisher, think something like, Oh no! What am I going to do? I think, How interesting! There must be a better publisher out there. There must be something else in store.
Of course, it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes we end up never selling a particular book, especially in these difficult times. But 95 percent of the books that Waterside takes on we do end up placing, partly because we are very selective but also because we are humble about what we’re doing. We’re not just here for the $50,000 or $100,000 advance. If somebody has something they’ve put their heart and soul into, we’ll do business with publishers who pay $3,000 to $5,000 advances. Just the other day we concluded a $200,000 negotiation for a well-known author and a $2,500 deal for a doctor’s life work about alternative cures for cancer. He’s not very well known, so we felt blessed to get the $2,500, and it was just as much of a joy for me personally to get that $2,500 advance for him as it was to get the $200,000 advance for the better known author.
Similarly, as an author, you have to put your heart and soul into everything you do. You have to write a wonderful book. You have to have the right motivation for writing it. It has to be about making a contribution—and that contribution can be just to entertain. Seinfeld made millions of people laugh. That’s bringing joy to others. So having the right motivation doesn’t mean you have to set out to save the world all by yourself. We save the world one second at a time by making someone laugh, or by touching someone’s heart, or by showing something they might not have been aware of, or by making it easier for them to accomplish something. The Dummies books are so successful because they’ve really helped people. Initially, they helped people figure out computers. Now, for whatever you want to do—use a computer, sell your house, even grow spirituality—there’s a how-to book. All of the success we and our authors have had is really about sharing something that is going to be of value to someone else and sharing it in the best possible way.
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