Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Interview with Aaron Goldfarb, Author of How to Fail

Today, I’m interviewing Aaron Goldfarb, author of How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide. Read the interview below to find out more about Aaron and how you can win a free copy of his book.

Aaron GoldfarbJeff: How did you get started as a writer?

Aaron: That’s tough to answer exactly. I could say I decided to become a writer when my professional baseball prospects dwindled — at age 14.

I could say that once I saw Pulp Fiction in theaters (at age 15) I was so floored that I too wanted to be a writer.

Or, I could just say I got started with my first paid gig: ghostwriting the college application essay for a future reality show airhead.

Jeff: Do you have a “day job” or is this your full-time gig?

Aaron: I don’t have a “day job” which makes people think:

a) How to Fail has made me a fortune. (It hasn’t. Yet.)
b) That I just goof around all day drinking beer and never actually work.

I don’t have a traditional day job, sure — I actually write this from bed where I’ve been working since 6 am — but I work harder during the day than I ever worked when I had a real day job.

When you don’t have an office to go to, you start to feel like you’re “on the clock” every second of the day you’re awake. That’s a good thing productivity-wise, but can be a bad thing for your mental health. It can also be scary if the money isn’t coming in.

But, I still love it. And, yes, sometimes I do drink beer in the middle of the day!

Jeff: You’ve gone the self-publishing and traditional publishing route. What are the pros and cons for each? Which would you recommend for a new writer?

Aaron: I’ve found that we’re getting closer and closer to the pros and cons for each being exactly the same, with perhaps more pros on the self-publishing side now.

It used to be with traditional publishing you got a large advance, a carefully edited and well-made book, tons of marketing/advertising dollars backing you, and amazing placement in bookstores all over planet earth.

Now? Advances are pathetic, editing has become a quick once-over, no one is paying for marketing/advertising unless you’re a real big-shot, and bookstores may not even exist soon enough.

Most of the jobs that traditional publishing long made authors think only they had control over are so easy to hire out yourself now: it’s easy to find “professional” editing, easy to get your own graphic designer, easy to use a top-notch printing press, easy to market yourself for free online.

Plus, you get the advantage of having the final say on everything:  how the cover looks, what size the book is going to be, where you want to speak and sign copies, etc. Not too mention, you get a ton better royalty percentage when you self-publish.

I see the rest of my career hopping back and forth between traditional and self-publishing releases.

Then again, I kind of only feel that I’ll go back to a traditional publisher if they can get my book in airport bookstores or are seriously committed to ponying up to market the hell out of it. I think I’d recommend a new writer do likewise.

How to FailJeff: What is How to Fail about? What are you hoping people get out of it?

Aaron: How to Fail is the world’s first self-hurt guide, the opposite of a self-help guide. It’s really a satirical novel/guide on success in America.

I originally wrote it just hoping people would get some laughs out of it. Especially those kinds of people that typically don’t read books. But, what I’ve found is that people are actually deriving great inspiration from it.

I even had a man who started his own church e-mail to tell me that the book had made him cry and had inspired him to stand up against people in the community that didn’t believe in his vision!

Wow. (He also told me he doesn’t approve of all my cursing and lurid sex scenes, but I digress…)

Jeff: As a member of the Domino Project’s street team, can you share a little bit about that project — how you got involved in it and why?

Aaron: I was originally set to perhaps work for Seth Godin on the actual Domino Project.  Unfortunately, I was still on my 30 Bars in 30 Days book tour promoting How to Fail. I actually had to turn down a job opportunity from Seth Godin! I still can’t believe it myself.

Whatever the case, I still believed strongly in Seth and the Domino Project’s vision, so I would have been an unofficial evangelist on my own.

But, being on the street team allows me to more formally promote the projects, meet a lot of cool people, and, of course, get advanced copies of the books!

Jeff: What advice do you have for an aspiring author?

Aaron: The advice I have is to start getting projects done.  So many aspiring authors spend too much time aspiring!  You can come up with some many excuses for not having a book in the marketplace right now:  you can’t get an agent, can’t get meetings with publishers, keep getting rejection letters, etc.

But, really, you have no excuse nowadays. Write the best book you can, see if any traditional publishers want it and offer deals you like, and if they don’t, self-publish. I guarantee that second book will be a ton easier to do anything and everything with.

Jeff: What’s your current or next writing project?

A new paperback edition of my short story collection The Cheat Sheet just came out.

I’m also working with my manager/producer Craig T. Wood on adapting How to Fail for the big screen, plus I’m currently putting the finishing touches on my next comic novel.  It’s called A Guide for the Single Man.

* * *

You can connect with Aaron on his blog or via Twitter and Facebook.

To enter to win a free copy of How to Fail, you need to do the following:

  1. Leave a comment on this blog, answering the question below.
  2. Tweet a link to this post. Here’s an example:
    Win a free copy of the novel How to Fail by @aarongoldfarb here: https://bit.ly/pg7X45

That’s it! If you don’t hear from Aaron or me, you can trust that you didn’t win.

If you don’t win, you can always get a free copy by buying The Cheat Sheet. Aaron has graciously agreed to give away a copy of How to Fail to anyone who buys his new book. Get it here, and then send Aaron the proof.

What’s your best advice for how to fail? Share it here in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • June Freaking Cleaver

    I think the most sure-fire way to fail is to fail to start a project. But to truly feel like a failure, you have to think about your not starting, and comment to friends about how you’re sorry that you couldn’t get the job done.

    As a perfectionist, I want to fail perfectly.

  • June Freaking Cleaver

    I think the most sure-fire way to fail is to fail to start a project. But to truly feel like a failure, you have to think about your not starting, and comment to friends about how you’re sorry that you couldn’t get the job done.

    As a perfectionist, I want to fail perfectly.

  • To quote Nike, “Just Do It!” Another almost cliched answer is the one, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” The point being you’ve got to take the shot in order to fail, so just do it. You might fail but you get the experience and then you see the trajectory. 

  • Great interview … which succeeded because now I want to get the book for myself and for my recent college grad son who wants to write, but keeps waiting for the right time. 

    • This is typical, Janet, in young writers. Feel free to give him my email, as well.

    • Ditto, Janet.  I’d be happy to have him email me too.  There’s no better time to start writing than TODAY.

      • Well, yesterday would technically be better.

  • I believe Seth Godin said “if you’re going fail, then fail early, get up and move on” will you miss out on the bests opportunities of your life because your afriad of failure? Here’s a couple of great quotes for you on failure:
     Niney-nine percent of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses – George W. Carver
    “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Nelson Mandela

    • Kimanzi,

      Thanks for the reply.

      If you like quotes about failure from famous people, oh boy, do I have a long list.  I was going to start each chapter of “How to Fail” with a famous failure quote, but I eventually scrapped that idea because of some rights concerns.  Nevertheless, I included those quotes in a “deleted scene” blog post here:



      • I checked out your site, pretty awesome. I’m so jealous that you get to be involved with Seth Godin, I love everything he writes. He, Jeff, Dan Miller, Jon Acuff have inspired me to stop making excuses and to “ship it”!

        • awesome, kimanzi. that’s quite the company to be listed with!

    • Thanks Kimanzi. It’s true that failure and excuses have a close relationship.

  • Mbetters

    “The advice I have is to start getting projects done.” <ditto

  • I feel like I could name a couple chapters of my life “how to fail”

    this is a good interview jeff. Thanks for it.

  • Guaranteed way to fail – get a self image of yourself as never good enough, a loser, underachiever, useless and an outsider from a young age, combine it with impossibly high expectations and procrastination. Sadly its a method that worked for over a decade with me, and only now coming out of it…

    • wow. powerful. thanks, james! appreciate your courage in sharing.

  • I really hope to work for myself or at least an entrepreneurial organization someday where there is the energy and pressure to be “on the clock”, but the freedom to risk failure and create.

    Thank you, Aaron for calling out the closing gap between traditional versus self-publishing. I’m an aspiring author who certainly needs to do MUCH less aspiring. If I don’t win your book I promise to add to my Amazon wishlist and buy a copy.

    Jeff, as always, thank you for sharing your insight and that of others into creativity and writing.

    • Thanks, and good luck with the writing!

    • my pleasure, KC. Thanks for not only reading it, but taking it to heart.

  • Anonymous

    I think the best way to fail is to do it at full speed pursuing something that you think is important to the world. If you aren’t willing to fail at full speed you’ll never succeed like you might if you were willing to run at it! 

  • Not sure if someone’s said it, but I think the best way to fail is like a child. 

    If you fall, look around. If an adult’s paying attention, cry for a little while, get your feelings soothed, then get up and go on.

    If an adult’s not watching and you fall, get up and go on.
    Either way, go on. That’s all that matters anyway, right?  And what’s the other option?

  • Nikalas Nowell

    My best advice for how to fail? Set your goals so high that you exhaust yourself thinking about them let alone actually moving towards them. #2  would be to listen to your inner critic instead of telling her to stuff it and moving on without her. I’ve been there.

    I’m new here and I’m very inspired by your site and this interview with Aaron. Thanks so much! Now it’s time for action!

    • Thanks, Nikalas. Good advice. And welcome!

    • This is totally true.  Worrying more about the fruits of your labor than your actual labor (the writing), if I can paraphrase Krishna.  It can be deadly and paralyzing.

      • Nope. No quoting of Krishna on my blog. 😉

  • …i hope i win or i’ll feel like a complete failure. i fail harder and harder every day. i make better mistakes everyday… so it’s a good thing! but i’d rather succeed here! 

  • My best advice is to keep talking about and thinking about and planning what you are going to do and never actually start doing anything. Talk is cheap and easy, action and follow through is much harder.

  • If your going to fail do it in a big way – no pussy-footing around.  Then you’ll have the freedom to recreate yourself.  Life is too short.  Try to enjoy it. La vita e` bella.

    • “No pussy-footing” is one of my favorite expressions too.