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Now, you all know how I feel about stupid stupid houses and people’s insatiable house lust in Toronto. That’s why readers expressed shock when I featured Sean Cooper on this blog during my “week of respecting opposing views”. But what people don’t know about Sean and I is that even though we are on opposite ends of the “rent versus own” spectrum, there is one thing that unites us.
Because not only were our stories the most shared stories in CBC history, no two other people have ever been flamed so hard.
I recently caught up with Sean Cooper when we flew back home to visit family. And that’s when I discovered we now have something else that unites us, despite our differences in opinions.
A traumatic brain injury.
And by that I mean he’s published a book.
Because a traumatic brain injury is the only thing that could explain why anyone would ever want to go through the Herculean effort of publishing a book.
As a newly minted author, Sean Cooper now knows exactly what I’m talking about when I say “every book you write kills you a little.”
No one truly knows how much work goes into writing a book until they actually do it. That’s why I brought Sean on the blog today to peel back the curtain.
Sean, let’s travel back in time to that fateful day when you revealed your story for the first time to CBC. What were your thoughts about the reaction that you got?
I was pretty surprised. I didn’t think it would be so controversial. I was just a guy paying off my mortgage but I guess some people took it the wrong way thinking I was telling them this is the way you have to live: buy a house and pay it off, eat Kraft dinner and all that, but that wasn’t the case. So I decided to write the book to show them that you can pay off your mortgage in 3 years if you want to, but for most people it’s not realistic. I wanted the book to give them some practical tips on how to pay off your mortgage.
Ahh Kraft dinner. That takes me back to University days. But here’s the truth. You worked 3 jobs, brought your salary from $40K up to $90K from these side hustles, and the only thing people can focus on is “he must’ve eaten Kraft dinner and had no life”. Haters gonna hate.
But apparently you didn’t get enough the first time, because you just lined up for more abuse didn’t you? By writing a book? Tell us about that.
I find that a lot of people feel the home ownership dream is out of reach (especially young people and first time home buyers) and I want to show them how to do it.
For example, in the first chapter of my book, I talk about goal setting. If you have a goal set and know how long it will take to achieve said goal, then you’ll be more motivated to work towards it. So I get people to picture how financial freedom will look to them and then once they have the picture, like if they want to work a less stressful job, or they want to travel the world like you, it’ll be easier to achieve it.
I guess what sets it apart from other books is that it’s easy to read and written in a conversational style, similar to talking to one of your friends or like a series of blog posts. It’s a great first reference manual if you’re a first time homebuyer or if you already own a home and want to pay off the mortgage. It’s got sections relevant to everyone, even if you’re thinking of not buying a home, you’d probably benefit from reading the first half of the book on how to save money.
So it’s a guide to getting yourself in financial shape to buy a home or be mortgage free. It’s a fun read because I include a bunch of celebrity references and pop culture to make it interesting because I realize mortgages can be a pretty dry topic, so it’s not your typical dry finance book.
Well, you know what? Despite the fact that I preach against buying overpriced houses and not doing the math, there is still plenty of house horny virgins (mostly in Toronto) jumping into the housing market without thinking about the costs of owning a home, or understanding how mortgages work. They are about to make THE BIGGEST PURCHASE of their lives and yet some of them took less time to pick out a pair of shoes.
I think you did a great job in the book explaining all the ins and outs of homeownership so that they don’t get blindsided by all the complexities they have to deal with when it comes to mortgages, maintenance, and insurance.
And while I spend all day on this blog arguing that a home is NOT a good investment, if you still absolutely, positively must own a home or you’ll consider your life a failure *eye roll*, then at least read this book first. As one of the biggest purchasing decisions of your life, being an educated homeowner is way better than being an ignorant one.
Sean, I distinctly remember you saying you were going to take time off after you paid off your mortgage to go to Disney World. And yet you decided to work even harder by busting your ass at your full time job AND writing a book on the side. Why? Do you like pain? It’s the traumatic brain injury isn’t it?
Okay that was a joke, I wasn’t really planning to go to Disney world, I’d rather go somewhere like Vancouver or Asia. But to make a long story short, 6 weeks after paying off my mortgage, people congratulated me after my story went viral and not only that, they wanted my advice on buying a home and paying off their mortgage. So I took a look at the information that was out there and there wasn’t really anything like my story. So that encouraged me to write a book to give hope to the younger generation and show them that home ownership is still possible. So even though I promised myself I’d work less hours, I worked even MORE hours. I only took 1 day off from conception to completion of the book during that 15 month time frame.
Okay, definitely a traumatic brain injury.
Remember when life was easy and you were only working 3 jobs and paying your mortgage? What happen to those fun and easy days huh?
How long did it take you to write the book?
3.5 month to write it (I basically blitzed through it), 4 months editing/re-writing, and 6-8 month working with a publicist and literary agent on marketing. The distributor I hired took care of getting it into big bookstores like Indigo and Chapters, but I still had to do a ton of work promoting, getting a press kit ready, etc.
Pretty much a year and half of my life has gone into this book. Definitely more work than I originally anticipated. It’s worth it but I’m glad I didn’t know how much work went into publishing a book before I started, because I consider myself a hard worker, but if I had known, I wouldn’t have written a book.
Wow. 1.5 years gone. That’s half the time it took to pay off your mortgage! So was it worth it? If you had a time machine, would you do it all again?
Absolutely not. Ha ha. No, just kidding.
I would do it all again because while it’s fun to have your 15 min of fame, I wanted to make my mark. Once you’ve written a book, it stays out there forever, even after you’re gone. I wanted to create a lasting impression.
So how much have you spent on publishing this book? For our readers out there who want to do the same, how much should they budget?
You can control your costs and put out a book for $500, but you get what you pay for. I went with a literary agent, who acted like a project manager for my book, so after the cost of editor, trade distributor, publicist, the cost ended up being around $20,000.
It wasn’t cheap by any means, but it’s my first book so I wanted to put my best foot forward and build my brand and reputation.
Before you write a book, you need to decide why you’re writing a book. I wanted to build my personal brand, and have it lead to speaking engagements and higher profile writing opportunities. So the higher cost was worth it. Also, since I self-published the book, there’s no publisher to take majority of the profits, so I can keep more for myself.
That actually brings me to my next question. Why did you pick self-publishing over traditional publishing?
There are so few Canadian publishers that self-publishing was pretty much the only route for me. That and the fact that I didn’t want to write an entire manuscript only to have it rejected by a publisher. I want to have control over my book.
Originally I was afraid that when I self-published a book that people would not take me seriously and not cover my book. The reporters would ask me “who published your book?” and I was afraid to answer that question, but I spun it in a positive way. I told them I self-published because I didn’t have many options in terms of Canadian publishers these days, and since even bestselling authors like David Chilton are self-published I decided to go that route. With self-publishing, you own your book and your brand and you continue to have creative control over everything so it made sense for me.
I think the best option for people out there is self-publishing, unless you can get one of the big publishers to pick you up. Just beware that it does have more of an upfront cost. But if your book does well, the payoff can be better in the long run.
What advice would you give to people who, despite all the warnings, still want to publish a book?
Step 1: See what’s out there. You don’t want to waste your time writing a book that already exists.
Step 2: Make sure you hire the right people. Hire a good editor to help you create a polished product. You could try to do everything yourself but that would be penny wise, pound foolish. It’s money well spent to get them to help you create a good book.
Step 3: Decide traditional or self -publishing. On the traditional publisher side, the biggest pro is that they cover all the overhead costs for you (editor, cover designer, distributor, etc). But at the end of the day, they have the say on the finished product, so they can change the cover, title, etc. They have complete creative control, and can even kill your book and decide not to put it into the book store. I’ve heard of that before. They also get a huge percentage of the profits. This is why more and more authors are going with self-publishing.
And finally, what are your future plans after this book launch? Are you FINALLY going to take a vacation? Or are you going to now start law school?
Yeah no. My next goal is to have a net worth of a million dollars by the age of 35. I should be able to achieve that unless the real-estate market crashes. I don’t really have any control over that.
What I’m doing now is I’m trying to build up my investible assets. A paid off house is great but it’s only the first step in achieving finally freedom. If you have a paid off house but no savings, you can’t just sell one of the bedrooms to have extra money. It’s either sell the whole house or take on more debt through a HELOC. So my plan is, since I’m already used to putting that cash flow aside for my mortgage, I’m taking that cash flow and I’m splitting it between my TFSA and RRSPs and building investible assets.
I want to be able to leave the workforce one day, but I don’t want to sell my house to finance my retirement. I’m already living in a small house, I can’t really downsize any further from here. I don’t want to live in a condo because I’m happy with my house so I’m building up my investible assets. I’d like to, maybe, start a company one day and turn it into a fulltime business. Maybe if I become super successful I can become a dragon on Dragon’s Den. That would be a nice long-term goal, but I need the money to invest in the ideas before I can do that. So that’s a longer term dream for me.
Also, traveling more. Maybe at least 1 trip a year going forward. Because what’s the point of having a ton of money if you just drop dead one day and never spend any of it. The whole point of spending money is so you can enjoy it.
No more 100-hour work weeks for me. Though I said that last time…
So there you have it, readers! Sean Cooper, my fellow CBC flamee, traumatic brain injury sufferer, and now newly minted author.
Here’s a taste of what Sean’s book is all about:
Sean Cooper made news headlines around the world when he paid off his mortgage at 30 on a house he bought just three years prior. In Burn Your Mortgage, Cooper’s extreme achievement is made accessible as the acclaimed personal finance expert shares the secret to his success: simple yet effective lifestyle changes that anyone—from new buyers to experienced homeowners—can make to pay down their mortgage sooner.
Burn Your Mortgage combines inspiring anecdotes with realistic and jargon-free financial tips and resources for achieving financial freedom no matter your financial situation. This easy-to-follow guide will help you pay off your mortgage at your own pace and show you how to live well while doing it.
Inspiring, insightful and fun, Burn Your Mortgage will transform the way you think about money and debt on your path to independent home ownership.
And guess what? From March 6 to 12, if you order online from indigo, you can get the book for 50% off!
If you already have a mortgage and want to burn it like Sean did or if you’re a first time home buyer and want to educate yourself on homeownership, this book is for you.
(Full disclosure, this is NOT an affiliate link. I’m not getting paid anything to promote Sean, I just think he is an amazing hustler and that his book is actually useful for people who have no idea what they’re getting into when they sign up for a mortgage)
Come meet us at this year's Chautauqua UK! Details here