Quill and Quire
Zelinski's Way - Successful Self-Publisher Eyes U.S.
This is my favorite article written about me. It was written in March 2004 by
Lisa Gregoire and published by Quill and Quire Magazine.
The complete text of the article follows the scanned image of the
self-publisher eyes U.S. market
March 1, 2004 | By Lisa Gregoire
He has written 11 books, self-published half of them, and, armed with little more than gumption and a pile of free
copies, negotiated 70 book deals (now 101 book deals) with publishers in 20 countries (now 27 countries). As far as
authors go, Edmonton's Ernie J. Zelinski is unusually successful. And if his
dream deal - a contract with a big American publisher - has so far eluded him, Zelinski should at least boost
his U.S. profile this year.
Next month, California's Ten Speed Press will begin distributing an expanded American edition of
Zelinski's latest self-published manual, How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, in the U.S., Australia, New
Zealand, and Europe. The book has already earned him national press attention in both Canada and the U.S. Last
fall, Ten Speed Press released a fourth edition of his cheeky The Joy of Not Working, originally self-published in 1991, and Ten
Speed Principal Phil Wood says it's in steady demand. "His success is just getting rolling. I think he'll be pleasantly surprised with what we do
for him," says Wood, predicting sales of 25,000 copies at least, and, perhaps optimistically, up to 10 time that
if the book takes off.
In Edmonton, where Zelinski already has a high profile, Audrey's Books has carried his titles since he started
writing in 1989. Audrey's co-owner Sharon Budnarchuk says Zelinski is eccentric
enough to imagine wild ideas, and prudent enough to make them work. "If he was in a different kind of business,
he'd be one of those successful entrepreneurs on the covers of magazines," she says.
Distributor Nancy Wise says catchy titles, clever advice, and good timing have served Zelinski
well. Wise, the owner of Sandhill Book Marketing in Kelowna, B.C. has distributed Zelinski's books in Canada for
15 years, and says he appeals to a wide swath of readers - as evidenced by the hundreds of letters he receives
from fans. It's no accident, she adds. Zelinski knows his market and pays attention of social trends. When
companies were downsizing in the early 1990s, the newly unemployed ate up The Joy of Not Working. Today, How to Retire
Happy, Wild, and Free is geared to appeal to baby boomers reaching the end
of their careers.
An electrical engineer by trade, Zelinski got fired in 1980 after taking an unauthorized
two-month vacation. He spent two years enjoying life, ran out of money, and went to college for an MBA. He
started writing soon afterward. Part conventional wisdom, part media gleanings, and part chicken-soup advice,
his books offer and promote stress-free living, from The Joy of Not Being Married to The Lazy Person's Guide to Success.
"The book business is tough in certain ways, and yet it's rewarding," says Zelinski, who rises from bed most days
around 11 a.m. and writes at coffee shops, where has become a local celebrity. Such is the life of a childless
bachelor. "if I don't feel like working, I can just sit and watch people." A writer, entrepreneur, and marketer, Zelinski nonetheless abides one rule: work only when
necessary to maximize leisure and recreation - though Ten Speed's Phil Wood considers Zelinski a closet
But Zelinski's real talent lies in his ability to cut deals
publishers, Nancy Wise says. Before he
embarks on a new project, he always wrings out the benefits from his last. It takes less work, after all, to
exploit one accomplishment than to begin another. While some thought it naive, he mailed hundreds of free books to
publishers in Europe and Asia in the mid-1990s, offering to sell them foreign rights. The fruits of that postage now deliver a tidy sum of
international royalties. The Joy of Not Working alone has sold more than 160,000
copies (now 225,000 copies) worldwide in 15 languages (now 17 languages), and currently earns him between
$20,000 and $30,00 annually. He now has four agents in Asia to facilitate deals there.
And while Zelinski has gotten where he is through self-publishing, at 54, he's starting to find the process a bit
tedious. "I would rather not self-publish at this point [because I want to spend time becoming an Internet
millionaire]. I only self-publish books I truly believe in, that I think will make
money," he ways.
2022 by Ernie J. Zelinski
Owner of VIP
and Author of the World's Best
All Rights Reserved