Last, but not least, you have to love (really love) what you do. This comes across in your writing and makes other people love it, talk about it, share it, recommend it to their loved ones.
Aspart of my series on the “5 Things You Need To Know To Write A Bestselling Book” I had the pleasure of interviewing Javier Hasse.
Javier Hasse, a young, Latinx, best-selling, cannabis-focused book author (“Start Your Own Cannabis Business” via Entrepreneur Media), and award-winningreporter with more than 4,600 unique articles published across numerous mass media outlets (CNBC, Playboy, Entrepreneur Mag, High Times, Leafly, Dope Magazine, Benzinga, CNN Money, Yahoo Finance, MarketWatch, MSN Money, Morningstar, The Street, etc.).
Beyond writing, Javier serves as the Director of Benzinga’s Cannabis Newsdesk, hosts and produces cannabis-focused multimedia shows, sits on advisory boards for marijuana companies in Africa and Latin America, and has recorded songs that were featured on Billboard charting albums with big names like Wu Tang Clan’s RZA and Twista.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
If I’m allowed to be brutally honest, I’d attribute it to fate. I wasn’t one of those kids who were passionate about writing. I was always decent at it, but had never considered making a career (or even a hobby) of it.
Fresh out of college, while living in Latin America, someone offered me a job writing about finance, hedge funds and insider trading for American media outlets. Money was good and hours were great, so I took it. Within a few months I was finding my articles on the front pageof The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch.
Things snowballed from there: I got better at writing, I started loving it, I cultivated relationships… Nowadays, it’s one of my favorite things to do — and I do it full time roughly 350 days a year.
What was (so far) the most exhilarating or fulfilling experience you’ve had as an author?
The whole process of writing and publishing a book is extremely fulfilling and exhilarating, if you go at it the right way. I enjoyed the entire experience: the research, the learning and re-learning, the writing and re-writing, the editing and editing again, the thinking and the re-thinking, the back-and-forth of it all…
However, if I had to choose the most exciting moments I’ve experienced as an author, I’d say these took place right before and after the official launch of the book.
I remember vividly waking up one morning, a week before the launch of my book, “Start Your Own Cannabis Business,” scheduled for 4/20/2018. As I turned off the alarms on my phone (it was like 10 a.m., I must confess), I caught a message: “Tried to pre-order your book. It’s sold out.”
I was ecstatic. “Wow, this is a real book. People will actually read it,” I thought.
I had received some positive reviews in the media before that, but was worried the nice words were just a professional courtesy. People actually buying the book provided a whole new level of validation.
As my publisher printed more books on Ludicrous Mode, my excitement built up.
The day of the actual release was the craziest. I remember receiving constant updates:
– “Only 10 left in stock.”
– “Only 3 left in stock”
– “Only 1 left in stock”
– “We made it to the #1 Best Seller spot!!!!”
I stopped paying attention after that. I turned off my phone, called my friends, went for some drinks, and celebrated a well deserved home-run.
Publishing a best-selling book about weed at age 28 definitely changes your life. That’s all I can say about this. Everything about it seems too surreal to rationalize.
What was the craziest, weirdest, wildest experience you’ve had as a bestselling author?
I mean, beyond actually being one?
That’s probably the craziest, weirdest, wildest experience: seeing yourself become a bestselling author. And, with a book about pot, of all topics!
Another crazy thing is the book tour.
I travel a lot for work; at least 10 days of every month I’m out of my home. However, a book tour is just hectic, not only because of all the moving around, but also because of the ridiculous schedule you get: you can easily hop off a flight in the morning, and have to head to a TV studio, then a radio studio, and then a convention center to keynote at an event, all before joining people for dinner and cocktails on any (and almost every) given day — and wake up the next morning to repeat the entire cycle.
I can remember looking at my schedule with a certain level of despair.
March 27 to Apr 1: NYC
Apr 1 to Apr 8: San Francisco area
Apr 8 to Apr 12: San Jose, CA, area
Apr 12 to Apr 14: Pittsburgh
Apr 15 to Apr 18: Chicago
Apr 18 to Apr 22: Detroit
Apr 22 to Apr 27: NYC
Apr 27 to May 4: Miami area
And so it continued…
I knew I’d experience amazing things, but I could not help but feel lazy. Airports tend to suck for most people; imagine the experience for someone whose official Google profile features him in a marijuana field.
Now, of course, the tour was beyond exciting. From hanging out with famous musicians and athletes, to leading panels on social justice, to being shown around cannabis grows, to attending dinner cruises and house parties with open weed-bars, it was an indescribable journey — both literally and figuratively.
Ah, wait! I’m missing the best story of the book tour!
It all started in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during one of the events where I was keynoting. During a conversation, I brought up a poem about cannabis legalization I had written. Someone suggested I performed it later that night during a dinner cruise. While somewhat embarrassed, I decided to perform the poem anyways.
A few days after that performance, I got a call from producer Jonathan Hay, who said he was about to release an album with Mike Smith, from Smith & Hay, Ranna Royce, Wu-Tang’s RZA and Inspectah Deck, Twista, Lil Windex, Riff Raff, Cyhi The Prynce, Faincarter, Compton’s Most Wanted’s MC Eiht, The Wake Up Show’s King Tech, Parliament-Funkadelic’s Jerome ‘Bigfoot’ Brailey, Iliana Eve, LX Xander, and Eminem’s artists Kxng Crooked and Conway. He said he wanted to include my poem on that album.
A few weeks later, I woke up to a text from Jon telling me our album had hit eightdifferent Billboard charts. This would have never happened if I hadn’t been presenting my book at diverse conferences around the U.S.
What is the greatest part about being a successful, bestselling author? What is the worst (if anything) part?
The best part of being a successful author is the recognition, the respect you get, the feeling of being a source of information for many, and of being able to help many others in their quest for success. I also enjoy being able to write for several news media outlets nowadays without going though a long pitching process: people know who I am and my work, a just trust my judgment most of the time.
The worst thing about writing a best-selling book is being defined by it for years. No matter what other great things you accomplish, it’s usually your book that people bring up first and foremost.
Do I sometimes want to be defined as a best-selling book author? Yes.
But many other times, I want to be Javier, the photographer; or Javier, the rapper; or Javier, the reporter; or Javier, the guy to chill out with.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer?
I’d say there are a few habits that contributed to becoming a best-selling author.
Perseverance, hard work and what I like to call consistency (showing up for work every day) definitely help.
Beyond habits, there are some attributes that are central to successful writing, in my humble opinion. These are being pragmatic, willing to pivot, change, learn and adapt, as well as being able to recognize which topics are hot and not fully explored or developed by other authors.
In my case, I realized cannabis-focused business and finance would become a hot topic several years ago. And so, I worked on developing a name for myself, almost a personal brand, if you will. Understanding how to sell yourself can really help you understand how to sell your book.
Last, but not least, you have to love (really love) what you do. This comes across in your writing and makes other people love it, talk about it, share it, recommend it to their loved ones…
Which writer or leader has had the biggest impact on you as a writer?
I could never pick one. Not even a handful. Improving as a writer is a complex, long process, over which lots of people have influence.
The way I see it, there’s no one person who can help you improve on every front: some people will give you hard knowledge, facts; others will help you ameliorate the way you say things when you write, or how you structure a story; others will instill and incentivize your passion for certain topics…
Every editor I’ve had, every source I’ve spoken with, every consumer I’ve met, every writer I’ve read, every show or movie I’ve watched, have molded my writing and helped me develop not only my craft but also my people skills — which are 100% indispensable when shooting for the proverbial stars both in the professional and personal realms.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge any writer faces, usually, is getting out of their own way.I struggle to remember the exact quote, but someone once told me that, faced with a big challenge, one should accept it and then figure out how to face it effectively.
Fear of not accomplishing your goals, falling short of expectations, or simply failing at an enterprise should never dissuade you from trying.
When I received the offer to write a book from Entrepreneur Media, my first thought was “I’m not good enough to do this right.” I told them I was only 27 years old, not a native English speaker, and that I had never written a book before. They said they were familiar with my work and were willing to take a chance on me. If these people who barely knew me felt confident I could do it, why shouldn’t I?
The thing is: it’s rare to find people who will believe in you to that extent. So, let this be the lesson here: no matter how much or how little support you get from others, it all boils down to what you think you can achieve, and how much work and effort (not sacrifice, though) you put into attaining these goals of yours.
What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? What lesson(s) did you learn?
Honestly, it’s when I fail to meet expectations (others’ or mine) that I learn the most.
I love it when an editor or a reader loves what I write. But I learn a lot more whenever an editor butchers a story of mine, when they send feedback detailing all the reasons that made it suck, when they say something more than “this is great.”
I’ve failed a lot. The secret is to maintain the success ratio above the fail ratio.
I’ve had lots of articles rejected, lots of media outlets say no to my ideas, or tell me I just wasn’t up to their standards…From every failure, I’ve learned.
The best tip I can share here is: don’t take it personal. Only someone who cares about you and about seeing you progress will give you honest, constructive feedback, even if it’s negative and could hurt your feelings.
Embrace criticism and failure, and progress will sprout from your shipwrecks; let today’s crap be tomorrow’s fertilizer.
What are the 5 things a writer needs to know if he/she wants to become a bestselling author?
1) Know your strengths and weaknesses.
Understanding what you’re good at and accepting your limitations is key to successful writing.
For me, it’s people skills over writing skills. When faced with my first book, I felt like neither my writing nor my knowledge were good enough — I wasn’t the best writer nor the #1 expert on cannabis business topics. So, I reached out to dozens of people and asked them for advice, help and feedback. I then acknowledged each and every one in my book. People are often more willing to help than you’d imagine. Thanking them, recognizing their contributions publicly, will make them want to help you again and again.
2) Never. Stop. Writing.
No assignment is too big or too small. Good writing takes practice — and a lot of it. Writing a long-ass feature will certainly help you improve your writing, but so will a brief, descriptive story. A wordsmith has to know when to write long-winded paragraphs, and when to go for short, convincing, conclusive or blunt sentences.
I’ve published more than 4,600 articles across the media. Some of them were good; some weren’t very good… But all of them taught me something about getting a message across more effectively.
3) Don’t be pretentious.
In relation to the previous point made, I’d recommend writers not to be pretentious.
Unless you’re writing poetry, or working on very specific creative writing genres, people want to read a good story and be able to understand it without going back twice on every other paragraph. Excessively showing off your writing skills and vocabulary can be off-putting to many readers — and remember a best-seller has to have mass, mainstream appeal.
The way I landed both my first cannabis writing gig as well as my first book deal was by writing simple, straightforward stories. Even complex topics can be expressed in a simple manner. It sometimes demonstrates more prowess to put a dense topic in plain words, than to present a simple topic in a byzantine fashion.
4) Recognize what’s hot.
If you were to take a look at the best-selling books charts at any given time, you’d notice a lot of the titles relate to hot topics, trending issues. In my case, it was cannabis: I recognized people were increasingly interested in one of the topics I was most passionate about, and decided to focus on it.
Others have found similar opportunities around say, vampires, or Donald Trump, or healthy eating. Find your “cannabis” and stick with it.
But beware, for I am not saying you should just go after any hot topic, just for the sake of selling books. What I’m saying is that identifying what interests people and becoming an expert on it will help you reach more readers and ultimately sell more books. And, again, I warn you: don’t just take a hot topic like feminism and vainly address it to sell books. If you’re interested in it, learn, work, and then write. But, dotry identify what will interest readers and write about that.
That’s my final tip. Just put in the work. Work on your craft, work on your book, work on getting feedback, work on being receptive to this feedback, work on getting a good team around you, work on striking a good publishing deal, work on your book some more, work on your personal relationships, work on professional connections… Just work.
Don’t burn yourself out; don’t over-work; but do establish goals, and minimum and maximum amounts of work. I like to work a full eight hours, Monday thru Friday; I find that to be a good balance for me. Find yours and stick with it.
And make sure to find time to rest! Take weekends off and vacations at least once a year.
What are you most excited to work on next?
I’m excited about everything, all the time. Passion drives my work. However, it’s important to balance it out with focus. Mine is put on continuing to do what I do, and reach an ever increasing number of people. I want the world to know the great things cannabis can do for the world and humanity, and to understand the terrible consequences prohibition brings instead.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’m a strong believer in all things green: green energies, cannabis, hemp, the power of plants… Also, fortunately, or coincidentally, feminism (especially in Latin America, where I’m from) has recently been associated with the color green, allowing me to say: most things I’m passionate about and feel deeply about relate to the color green.
So, if I could inspire a movement, a change of thought, or even mild interest among people, it would be one for all things green, for a green world.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d invite people to follow me on:
Thank you so much for these great insights!