Radim Malinic doesn’t like to sit still. At 40, the Czech-born designer has lived many lives — first as a heavy metal musician, then as a DJ, then as an economics student, and ultimately as his own boss at multi-disciplinary design studio Brand Nu in London.
But when you ask him about his most fulfilling journey, he’ll tell you it’s the one currently underway: Malinic has written the second volume of Book of Ideas, his self-published collection of advice and observations for people in creative jobs. The first volume, released in 2016, defied self-publishing naysayers and not only became an Amazon No. 1 bestseller in graphic arts, but turned a profit. To date, more than 10,000 copies have been sold.
In the interview below, Malinic muses on how he found success in writing and offers advice for anyone looking to start a money-making side project.
You wrote and self-published Book of Ideas to help and inspire other creatives. Did you think it would make a profit?
Not at first. Being in charge was my first motivation. Initially my objective was to complete the work and get it out there and see what happens if anyone finds it. I printed 1,000 copies and hoped for the best. Little did I know that those 1,000 copies would sell out in three weeks and there would be a huge demand for what I’d written. From there I became more shrewd about the profit margins, the production, and I discovered that, indeed, books actually can make money. If you’re working with a publisher, your cut is small. A book could make $20 and you could be getting $1 or less per book. By being in charge, all the money goes back to where it started.
Self-publishing is great because anyone can do it, but that also makes it a crowded marketplace. What did you do to stand out?
I followed the exact marketing strategy and tools of big titles and publishing houses. I spent money on advertising. I made sure that I promoted the book well beyond the regular cycle of a publishing house title. Being in control was key here. I kept pushing the book out to various channels for more than a year just to make sure I covered all ground.
The problem is that many people who self-publish think that once they’ve published a book and they’ve got it in their hand, that’s where the journey stops. But that’s only the first half. What you do after your title is released is the most important part.
A lot of people are unable or unwilling to think like a big publisher because they see it as being expensive. How much did you spend on advertising and promotion of your first book?
Normally it’s around 20 percent of what you bring in. If the book takes home £2,000 a month, I spend around £300 or £400 on advertising. It can vary, but I would say 20 percent is a good mark. It’s something I’ve learned from people in the self-publishing bracket who have done it successfully.
What was your biggest challenge in starting a side hustle?
The first challenge is creative freedom. The book could have been anything; I had to validate the concept in my head before I started. I needed to make clear to myself “What’s the book I’m trying to make? How I am going to make sense of everything I’m going to do to say?” It took me awhile to come up with a very simple idea — that one page of the book equals one idea. Having a clear concept in my head proved to be absolutely crucial.
The other challenge is time. We all think the life of an author is somewhat of a TV series — we get a cottage by the sea, write, have a fish lunch in the afternoon, go back to writing. It doesn’t happen like that. I would find time to write whenever I could, at 5 a.m., on plane rides, train platforms while waiting for a train, wherever I could.
What’s your advice to someone pursuing a side hustle on top of their day job?
I think the nature of whatever we do, if it’s a full-time job or side hustle, is that you live and breathe what you believe. When I decided to write a book, I first established when it would come out because, without a deadline, I’d still be writing today. That’s why it took me four years to publish the first book, because you think there’s always tomorrow; today doesn’t feel urgent. The latest Vol.2 took just six months from start to finish. I learned to how to incorporate the side hustle in around everything else.
Treat your side hustle like it’s the most important thing next to your day job. I’ve found that there’s always an hour at the beginning or end of the day where you can do something for yourself. If I write a half a chapter at the beginning of the day before I get to the studio, or at 8 p.m. right before I leave, I get instant satisfaction that I’ve achieved something. Those little stages of completion that you go through are so rewarding and inspire you to do more.
I’d started something quite full of obstacles and unknowns and mistakes. Now I have an idea for another three books.