How to Create an Amazon Best-Seller

Today’s interview is with Kyle Cadigan, who self-published a best-seller (currently one of the top 300 of all 8 million books on who also got two degrees in 4 years…while playing semipro soccer.

Lots of gems in today’s interview for the self-starter who aims high. Let’s dive in!

Drew: Thank you for joining us. This is Drew Long, founder of and I’m here with Kyle Cadigan. If you haven’t heard of Kyle yet, he is the author of the best selling Grow the ‘F’ Up. It’s actually spelt out, I’m just trying to be a professional here in the interview but “Grow the ‘F’ Up, which is one of the top 300 of all 8 million books on was a viral sensation on Reddit. We’ll talk a little bit about how Kyle made that happen. And he also is a semi-professional soccer player with Burlingame Dragons FC, is currently also training to be an EMT and firefighter and also has a lot of other accolades to his name, including, I believe you actually got a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in a total of 4 years. Is that right?

Kyle: That is correct.

Drew: Well this is awesome. There’s a lot of great stuff we’re going to talk about here tonight and thank you for joining us.

Kyle: No, thank you.

Drew: So I’d love if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself, kind of a brief thumbnail sketch, what’s your background, how did you come to be where you’re at today and what you’re currently working on that we should know about.

I don’t find myself binge-watching TV shows very often.Kyle Cadigan

Kyle: Yes. Sounds good. Well, let’s see. I was born in Palm Springs, California. Grew up in the Central Valley in Fresno and when I was growing up I was actively involved in sports; you know baseball, basketball, soccer, you name it. But around junior high school, I had to start to make a decision about whether or not I wanted to pursue soccer full time, or dabble in every other sport. So naturally I chose to go competitive with soccer and play full time. And as I was getting into high school, I was fortunate enough to make the varsity soccer team my freshman year. But those couple years after that, I was noticing my teammates were really starting to just get a leg upon me. I don’t know if I was hitting my growth spurt but that time was just kind of an awkward period, I almost started to become almost unsure of myself in terms of my abilities, my capabilities playing and competing. But one thing that stuck with me, and it’s kind of been apparent is, you know, that work ethic and the time that you put in to really try and surpass all those that are doing the same things around you. It enabled me to actually go play collegiate soccer at Cal State Stanislaus, and shoot from there I was a starter in my freshman year; started captaining the team as a sophomore, eventually became an All-American that same year and just been playing ever since. Right after college ended I had an opportunity to play semi-professionally with a team over in Burlingame that’s associated with the San Jose Earthquakes. And that’s really like my story in a nutshell.

But outside of soccer, you know, I’ve been involved in all sorts of different academics. I have my Bachelor’s in Business Administration. I have my MBA as well. And for both of those I was actually fortunate enough to have completed my schooling in a total of 4 years. So I kind of got in and got out, you know, even with soccer on my plate. And then shortly after graduating I started working on a book which is now available on Amazon called “Grow the Fuck Up” so I guess you could say I’m a published author and it’s been a number 1 seller in multiple categories; made the front page of Reddit. So it’s just a lot of things going on at once.

You need to be cognizant of what you’re spending your time on.Kyle Cadigan

And I think the most difficult thing with all that is really juggling my time and making sure that I’m organized and constantly doing something. I don’t like to be lounging around too often. I don’t find myself, I guess you would say binge watching TV shows constantly or anything of that sort. One thing I think that has made me very successful is the fact that 1) I’m very motivated but 2) you need to be cognizant of what you’re spending your time on. I know a lot of people or a lot of colleagues and even classmates who started to fail in the classroom or athletically because they weren’t dedicating their time or I guess, applying their time to things that could have bettered themselves or bettered their career.

So for me, every single morning I wake up, I have a to-do list that I’ve already created the day before and I just start tackling it, one thing after the other. So I try to hit a certain number of things by lunch; stop take a break, grab some food, eat and then immediately pick back up on it. Maybe add a couple of things, maybe I’d left some stuff off and remembered I need to complete some other tasks. And it’s pretty much like that up until, I’d say, about 7 or 8 p.m.(ish) or whenever I decide I’ve had enough for the day.

So typically that’ll happen for about 2, 3 weeks but now I basically work myself to the bone so that I’d need to take a couple days to regen. But I guess that pretty much how my life has gone and how I spend my day in a nutshell.

Drew: That’s fantastic. Thanks for going into that detail right off the bat. I love that. What’s your take on weekends?

Kyle: Sometimes I forget they exist. They happen to kind of blend in with my regular routine, you know, just because as I said, I’m pretty much busy all the time. You know more recently, now that my girlfriend and I are closer in proximity with one another, I really like to tackle everything Monday through Friday, that way I have the weekends to kind of kick back and relax. I think it’s incredibly important that people do kind of take a step back, find some time to recuperate, because you can’t just work, work, work all the time. I think the times that her and I are driving to maybe a vacation or something of the sort, that’s kind of when, not only do I get to have that social time with her but it allows me to think. It kind of clears my mind. It allows for the fostering of new ideas. That’s where I came it up with a lot of material for my book.

You can’t just work, work, work all the time.Kyle Cadigan

I have a few other projects that ‘m working on right now that all kind of come from shooting the weekend and actually taking some time to step back and just really relax and let my brain recover, so.

Drew: So you have a natural rhythm, it sounds like, where you work very hard and then you recover, maybe for longer than a weekend it sounds like, maybe 2, 3 days, 4 days perhaps?

Kyle: Yeah. And that kind of fluctuates, it really depends on what projects I’ve been working on and for how long. I know around the time I was publishing “Grow the Fuck Up”, I was working from sun up to sun down on just trying to finalize the cover, the interior, publishing, getting it online, getting into the stores and because I am self-publishing the book, you know, I had to be so thoroughly involved in every single part of the process that it just took so much time and effort, you know. That was a few weeks to a few months where I was just working constantly and so in that instance after I had completed the novel and publishing it, I had probably taken a good 5, 6 days to really recuperate because I was so mentally exhausted from that whole venture.

Drew: Yeah, so that’s a perfect segue. I want to hear about the book. So for people who have aspirations to self-publish, I mean, I would love if you could just take us through, not only what’s the book about and who is it for and why should people get it? But also, what’s the experience like of having a book that, I believe, I think it was in the top 300 of all the 8 million books on Amazon. So, it’s a best seller. At what point do you think…was it a decision? “I am going to have a best seller.” Or was it like, “Oh, this is really taking off. Maybe I should add more fuel to the fire? What happened?

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that something can’t be done.Kyle Cadigan

Kyle: Those are really good questions. So first of all I’ll let you know what the book is about. It’s called “Grow the Fuck Up”, its subtitled “What your parents should have taught you and what schools never did”. It’s basically a step by step how to that teaches teens and young adults how to perform the most basic of tasks in life and that could range from, you know, preparing for a job interview, creating a resume, cover letter to simple things like changing batteries in a smoke detector or changing your car tire or changing a battery, you know, basically the things that get overlooked; things that we don’t necessarily learn in school. I never had the opportunity to take a Home Ec class or anything like that so a lot of my friends really missed out on that. And so that’s what the book is about and in terms of whether or not I have thought about whether it was going to be a best seller, personally I pursued the idea because I thought I would enjoy it and that’s what really drives me to do some of my projects. “Hey if I enjoy this maybe similar people will have a sense of humor, maybe they’ll enjoy it as well.” But I knew that it could be big when I initially published it and I threw it onto Reddit one day and it hit the front page in like, I think it was 20, 30 minutes. So it was up on the front page and it had like 5,000 to 6,000 votes and was just making some waves on there. So, that’s when it really hit me that maybe this book could be a little bit more than just a project that I was pursuing.

Shortly thereafter, because it was published in late October, it started to make its round on Amazon and it was number 1 best seller in a few categories and I’m thinking that some of that success had stemmed from the Reddit exposure. It’s the top all time post on the Reddit, the sub-Reddit- ‘Shut up and take my money’. So, it’s just been really interesting to see all that occur.

But, you know that, to people who have aspirations to create such a project or anything of the sort, I definitely say go for it. I mean, you’re never really going to know whether or not your product or your idea is going to succeed or fail unless you actually try it. Try it, test the market, if you get some people that give you some negative feedback early on, try to brush them off, don’t let it discourage you. I know that some of the people that I showed the book to originally didn’t really have the sense of humor that would appreciate such a thing and so, I was getting some negative feedback. But, after the whole Reddit exposure and how well it’s been selling on Amazon, you know obviously there’s a market out there for that product. And like I said, I definitely have to say go for it and don’t really let anyone tell you that something can’t be done.

Drew: I love it and as someone who is also self-published and just kind of knows about the process of bringing out a book, or writing a book at least, what was that experience like? A lot of people want to write a book but how did you actually write a book and I’m particularly interested in, I think the two main important parts are, starting and finishing.

Kyle: I would have to say that starting and finishing the book, actually the biggest thing for me was getting my thoughts organized and really knowing what I wanted the book to be about. I think that a lot of people start projects with just kind of like a notion or small idea of what they want it to look like but, you know, I sat down for the first couple of days that I’d come up with the idea and I started taking down idea after idea of what I wanted to throw into it. So, I had created a list of over 60 or 70 things of what I thought things or young adults should know how to do. I eventually limited that to the 44 that are in the book and the organization, that’s what enabled me to really begin and complete the book.

Drew: How long did it take you to write, a weekend or…?

It’s never acceptable to just give up. You really have to keep pushing.Kyle Cadigan

Kyle: Oh God, no. It was my goal for 2015. So, under a year, I believe it was about 8 months and it was 8 months because in that time I was a manager at Target, I was playing soccer as well. Just wasn’t a whole lot of time to get to the book and finish things up. But, you know, obviously you have to deal with creating all the content. There are about 80 or so images in the book, so I had to go ahead and create all of those. I had to create the cover; you know, find someone who would print and distribute for me. It’s just a ton of work that went into it, which I believe is why it took so long. But like I said, for me personally, it was just a goal for 2015.

Drew: I think we can say, tick that box, right.

Kyle: Yeah. The work is not done and I’m definitely finding that out right now. Like I said, it is available on Amazon and working on getting it into Barnes and Noble and other retailers and things of the sort but getting into brick and mortar has been more difficult than originally anticipated because I’m not going with your traditional publishers; they’re a lot more hesitant to carry self-published books and obviously you’ll have to be able to give them trade discounts and a lot of leeway with returns and things of that nature. So, it’s still a huge learning process and the project definitely isn’t completed, that’s for sure.

Drew: Yes, that’s interesting. So tell me, I want to switch gears a little bit, and talk about soccer, and I would love to hear, cause you did allude earlier to the fact that you had a challenging period, in soccer, and I’m guessing you had more than one, so I’d love to hear a story about what that sport has done for you in terms of challenge and also about overcoming challenge.

Kyle: Ok. That’s like my whole soccer career in a nutshell. I’d say, with regard to challenge, the one that immediately comes to mind is my high school career. That’s only because I was coming on to a team with, you know, your colleague Dennis and twenty other guys who were older than me, cause I was the only freshman on the team and there was a lot of having to prove myself. You know, I was the new face, the youngest kid out there, maybe a lot of them thought that I should not have been out there in the first place and so there was a lot of doubt in some of team mates from early on, right after try-outs had ended. Maybe they didn’t think I could hold my own out there on the field and so, you know, you kind of have to mentally prepare yourself for those sort of things and just continue being dedicated and focused on bettering yourself an bettering your team and eventually everything will work itself out.

Drew: Yeah. I like that. I think mental strength is one of the best things we get from sports. Would you agree?

Kyle: Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, I think that, personally a lot of athletes that I’ve been around, as soon as they transition into, you know, a career where they’re no longer in athletics, they tend to do very well and I think that’s because, as you said, athletics does seem to really train us mentally in terms of just being able to overcome challenges. It could be your fatigued in the 60th minute, you still have 30 to go, you don’t have any subs on the field and maybe you’re down 1 nil in the soccer game and you just have to try and find a way to come together as a team and overcome that adversity and challenge on the field. So there are a whole host of challenges that help to really shape, at least my mentality.

Drew: Yeah. I was having a conversation with someone about tennis recently, and the concept of sportsmanship and being a good competitor and I don’t know if you guys have this as well in soccer, I never played soccer; but the concept in tennis is being a good competitor means even if you’re down and there’s pretty much no way you can win, you’re still giving it your all.

Kyle: Absolutely. Yeah. And that’s the thing with soccer, I don’t know about tennis, I’ve played tennis many times but never really competitively, the thing about soccer is that the better team doesn’t always win. You can have 3 field goals or any amount of goals that really put you out of a game, and 95%of the time, you’re probably going to end up losing that game if those goals came in the 2nd half and you really know there’s no chance. But that doesn’t mean that you can just sit down and make the other team win. To me I think that speaks to character. If you’re just going to give up when facing adversity, I feel like that’s going to transition to how you act off the field, to how you’re going to be in a professional setting or in the workplace, anything of that sort, so.

Yeah. I actually really like that statement because, you know, to me it’s never really acceptable to just give up when things are looking down. I mean there were many times in soccer or even working on the book that I was like, is this project worth undertaking, or this game, does it even look like we can win the game. But you really have to keep pushing because if you give up, you’re not only giving up on yourself but you’re giving up on your team as well.

Drew: Yeah, that’s so key. In my experience, it has always helped me when I had some kind of a team that I was pulling for. It’s not just about my ego and my success. It really has to be more than about you, ultimately, doesn’t it?

Kyle: Yeah, I strongly believe that and I think that’s why I keep going back to soccer time and time again is because I, you know, I can’t escape that camaraderie, something that you know, at least I didn’t find when I was in retail, you know. We try to promote a team atmosphere and a team culture but in the end it just wasn’t the same. You just don’t have people fighting by your side to win a match, you know, you don’t have those people who are infuriated when someone slide tackles you or takes you out in the box, and I think that it just brings you, 1) it brings you closer as a team and 2) I think that makes you stronger mentally and overall it just makes everyone better.

Drew: Yeah, awesome. So I wanted to just ask and go back to the question about productivity and focus, ’cause you’re obviously a guy who has gotten a lot of things done, you know, self-publishing a book, playing soccer semi-pro. You talked about a list earlier and I’d like to know for you, where does productivity and focus come from. How do you achieve that?

Kyle: This is probably going to be a crap answer but I honestly believe that it stems directly from creating my lists and keeping everything organized. I mean I have, here’s one of the things that I use, I’ll use sticky notes in the car, whatever works, I have them on my desk. I have an application on the homepage of my computer, that way when I pop it open I have the same exact to-do list to mimic whatever is on paper. That way, wherever I go, I know exactly what I have to do, I know what I have to catch up on and it just keeps me on task and organized. But, it could be something that is potentially just inherent and maybe something that just comes naturally to me personally, just because I just like, for me I like being busy and I feel it’s rewarding to keep completing these tasks time and time again and I have this entrepreneurial spirit, you could say, to where I just want to keep creating different products and generating new ideas and I guess overall, just in my mind being successful and finding things that are fulfilling, so I guess you could say that all that just stems from being organized with my notes time and time again.

Drew: I also swear by crossing out to-do list items, I get a recharge out of it, so, that’s my explanation as well. So we’re going to work towards wrapping up here but I just want to ask, so you’ve written “Grow the Fuck Up”, what do you think are some future projects or some things that you have, if you can tell us, kind of what you’re thinking about for the future.

Kyle: Oh man, I keep a notebook, that my girlfriend was kind enough to get me, it’s got “Passion” on the front, and it’s just a blank notebook that I keep all of my projects in. Actually, I can scroll through there real quick, but I know in the immediate future, for some reason I want to break into clothing. I don’t know why but it just seems like, for me personally, I’m just kind of content when I buy from the store or I buy online, I just don’t feel that it fits well, the material could be better, the price points, you know, are iffy at times. That’s one of my ideas, I haven’t really gotten around to brainstorming and generating the complete concepts, but I’d love to do something with that. And also kind of along the lines of “Grow the Fuck Up”, I’d like to do greeting cards or something of the sort but the idea wouldn’t be like getting them into a store, it would be like an online marketing place where users can go online, create, basically type in the text that they wish to put on any greeting card and it’s like the book, it’s going to be raunchy, it’s going to be crude and probably not going to be accepted by most but I want to put a spin on it where people with a sense of humor would really enjoy it.

Those are two of my more immediate ideas, but like I said I have a whole book that I keep a track with because for me personally, I think it’s really important that if you come up with something, write it down, no matter how idiotic it may seem, it could be a really brilliant idea at the end of the day. I wrote down the idea for “Grow the Fuck Up”, I think in mid-2014 and I eventually got around to it as my 2015 goal. So, you know, just write everything down and eventually, you never know, something might come of it.

Drew: Love it. Couple of final questions, one is what do you think is most important in terms of being a man in the 21st century, what do you think that means and what do you think people should know, from your perspective, from your experience about being a man and what should a man be like in the 21st century. I know that’s a huge question.

Kyle: Honestly the first 2 things that pop into my mind are respectful and professional. I feel like we’re getting to a point where you don’t see, I guess you don’t see those that are punctual or I guess in a professional setting I’ve had people starting showing up late or showing up to interviews just dressed in casual gear; sending out resumes in an email format that’s, you know, just not even legible. We’re becoming so complacent and I think that’s really becoming an issue to me personally, you know, so I would just say that, if you really want to be a man in the 21st century, really focusing on bettering yourself in a respectful and professional manner. I think that will get people a lot further than, you know, I guess just wasting time on unnecessary tasks or…

Drew: Or Netflix.

Kyle: Yeah. Right.

Drew: I love the quote “Netflix is fun but so is being rich”. So: where can people find you and find the book?

Kyle: Oh, let’s see, you can find me on Facebook. The book is actually written under my pseudonym John Kyle, so you can find me on Facebook, Twitter; if you want to look up Unrefined Publishing, that’s a publishing company I’ve created for the book itself. That’s also all over social media. The book is available on Amazon; I know it’s on… A whole host of online stores. If you wanted to find it on those affiliated sites like – ‘This is why I’m broke’ or ‘Dude I want that’; it’s all over the internet as well and hopefully you’ll be able to find it in stores in the near future. I’m working on developing my publishing company into its own distributor to hit those independent bookstores. That’s going to be one hell of a challenge. So, social media and shoot if you want to find the book, it’s definitely online there for you.

Drew: Awesome, yeah man, I think you are up for the challenge based on this conversation from what you’ve said so far.

Kyle: Thank you very much.

Drew: Thank you for sharing some time with us and with the Fierce Gentlemen audience… Really appreciate it. And best of luck to you in the years to come.

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