Ernie J. Zelinski
International Best-Selling Author: 
Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free

Ernie J. Zelinski and His Best-Selling Books


Quill and Quire Article:

Zelinski's Way - Successful Self-Publisher Eyes U.S. Market

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 article.

Quill and Quire Article about Ernie Zelinski


Zelinski's way Successful 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 self-published 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.

The Joy of Not Working Cover Image Retirement Gift Book Image

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 workaholic.

But Zelinski's real talent lies in his ability to cut deals with foreign 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.



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