The Accidental Millionaire: How To Succeed in Life Without Really Trying – author interview – Gary Fong

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ABOUT THE ACCIDENTAL MILLIONAIRE:

The Accidental Millionaire: How to Succeed in Life Without Really Trying is the humorous memoir of top wedding photographer and highly successful inventor and entrepreneur Gary Fong. Recently published by BenBella Books, it reveals how the author’s decision to leave behind his goal-oriented, deadline-driven way of life and welcome fresh opportunities turned him into a happy multi-millionaire.

ABOUT GARY FONG:

After earning a B.S. degree in pharmacology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Gary Fong spent some time as a pleasure-loving slacker, before changing into a goal-driven entrepreneur. He became one of the best-known wedding photographers in the world, shooting nuptials for many celebrities. After a decade of that, he was stressed and very unhappy—until a bumper sticker saying: “Since I gave up hope, I feel much better” inspired him to change his work philosophy. Afterwards, Fong went on to invent the “Lightsphere” lighting accessory which went on to sell  nearly a half million units, co-founded a digital photo lab that later sold for $29 million and expanded into owning high-end real estate, a yacht-chartering firm, a distribution warehouse and a plastics manufacturer.  : www.garyfongaccidentalmillionaire.com

INTERVIEW:

Hi Gary

Welcome to Paperback Writer.

It’s an honor to be here.  Thanks for having me.

Q:  Would you share with us how you came up with the idea for your book? 

A: I have always been a fan of memoirs, and I realized that I had a treasure trove of offbeat stories from my many years as a wedding photographer.  I photographed over a thousand weddings, starting at $150 per event to the top of my industry.  These weddings had colorful stories with unusual characters.  As the book progressed, I realized that my story had so many other facets.  It’s an immigrant story, the story of a self-made person who achieved the most when goals were discarded. 

Q:  Was it a light bulb moment or something that you thought about for a very long time?

A:  The inspirational message in the book, about letting go of high or unreasonable expectations and goals, was a light bulb moment.  In the middle of the book, I almost rear-ended a car that said, “Since I gave up hope, I feel much better”.  I was going through a rough time, where all of my expectations weren’t materializing, and I was miserable.  It was at that moment I gave up trying so hard, and from that moment forward my business multiplied 20 fold.

Q:  How did you come up with the title?

A:  My friend, NYT Best-selling author Jodee Blanco suggested the title.  At first I bristled against it, I thought it was too braggy.  I’m not one to go around calling myself or thinking of myself as a millionaire.  But the true summation of this book is this: it’s a humorous, offbeat memoir that starts off with my immigrant parents dealing with bouts of poverty, as an asian kid I’m heaped with huge goals and expectations, and I rebel.  I rebel against my parents as well as this idea that I must “be” something or do something.  So as soon as I stopped trying to achieve goals, I stumbled into one unlikely business after another, and “accidentally” built a multi-million dollar business and fortune.

Q:  How did you find an agent and publisher?

A:  I was reading the New York Times Bestselling book, “Please Stop Laughing At Me” and I loved Jodee Blanco’s author voice.  So I just figured I’d write her a thank you email and mentioned that I was writing my own memoirs.  Graciously, she said, send a page.  She flipped over my author voice, sent it directly to her friend, the legendary publisher Kent Carroll founder of the “Carroll and Graf” publishing house, he flipped over it too, and then they sent it over to Glenn Yeffeth of BenBella books, and he acquired the rights right away.  There were no agents involved.  I still don’t have one now, and I have another book in the works.

Q: How long did it take you to complete the first draft?

A:  Three weeks.  I spoke into a voice recorder and had a transcriptionist type it out in word format for editing.

Q:  What’s your favorite time of day to write?

A: Late late at night, when the house is quiet.  I go into the sauna here, and do voice recording.  I’ve also found that “macscribe dictate” is great, I can talk right into the computer and it types, and does a very good job at it.  

Q:   Do you have a writing routine? Daily goals (# of pages, word count) or a specific ritual you do to jumpstart the writing muse

A:  I am a very unstructured person and the idea of having a quota per day to do makes me feel grumpy.  I may be very odd, but what inspires me is to say, “I’ll get to it later”.  Then when I do write, the words flow out creatively rather than having to be plucked out as the calendar or goal sheet dictates.

Q:  With all that you have encountered on the road to publication what advice would you give to new authors

A:  I have learned a lot from publicists.  Know who the audience is and stick tightly to that.  My book is an inspirational memoir, and a biography.  If your book is about weight loss, stick tightly to that, and have the publicity trumpet why yours is different.  Avoid for example, having a weight loss book that has political commentary.  The book’s focus has to be tight.

Once I started the final edits, and had assembled the people who were going to do the publicity, we started moulding the book to fit the publicity campaign.  While social media is great, and I’m heavy into facebook and twitter, to reach a larger market, you have to have a good P.R. strategy.  If the book doesn’t have press releases, publicity right at the onset, it becomes stale, and would no longer be newsworthy.

Lastly, when writing the book, focus on the process, not the goal.  Don’t have expectations that it’s going to get published by a major publisher, because if you saw the odds, you wouldn’t even start.  Write because it’s a release for you, it makes you giggle, and you should be proud of it even if you have only a few copies to share with friends as gifts.  From there, if it looks like it is something that might delight a larger audience, then say hi to people in the publishing world, and see how it goes.

Thank you, Gary, for stopping by Paperback Writer. I wish you continued success with your tour.

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