How A Meeting With Amazon's CEO Inspired My Second Act

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 22:  Ceo of Amazon Jeff Bezos attends TheWrap's 3rd Annual Pre-Oscar Party at Culina Restaurant
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Ceo of Amazon Jeff Bezos attends TheWrap's 3rd Annual Pre-Oscar Party at Culina Restaurant at the Four Seasons Los Angeles on February 22, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for TheWrap)

I've only met Jeff Bezos once.

It was way back in the spring of 2000. The Nasdaq had peaked and the air was coming out of the dot-com bubble.

I was a business reporter with CNN and was sent to cover a media conference at one of the hotels in New York. Bezos was on a panel that day with other Internet executives, and had agreed to an interview afterward. I honestly don't recall what we covered in the interview, but let me tell you what I do remember.

I remember Bezos walking into the room where we were set up for the interview full of energy and enthusiasm. We introduced ourselves and he sat down opposite me and the first thing he spots is a book.

My cameraman that day was an avid reader, one of those people who always had a book with him. He had put it down to set up the shot and Bezos spotted it. The next thing he knows, he has the CEO of Amazon firing questions at him.

What book is that? Who's the author? What's it about? Do you like it?

Another author was mentioned and more questions were asked, and for a few minutes, my little interview had morphed into a book club discussion.

At first I thought it was nothing more than the CEO of a bookseller asking about product. I was wrong. As I sat there and watched the two of them discuss books, I realized that this guy likes books. I mean, really likes books.

As I said, I hadn't thought about that meeting since then, until a few months ago. I found myself in my early 50s with a drawer full of manuscripts and the urge to make a long-held ambition a reality. It was right about that time when I started reading about Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing. That's when I realized that after years of sending out manuscripts to agents and getting nowhere, that Jeff Bezos, this guy who I remembered as really liking books, was giving me an opportunity.

He was giving us all an opportunity.

After decades of Big Publishing telling writers they weren't good enough, Bezos, and the folks at Amazon, were giving us a shot. They couldn't tell you if you were good enough or not, but they could get your writing out there on the Kindle, and then let readers decide if it was any good.

What I've learned over the last few months, mostly the hard way, is that self-publishing is a lot of work. An awful lot of work. Not only are you the writer, but you're in charge of getting your book edited, and edited well. You're in charge of getting your book proofread, and proofread well. You're the publicity department and marketing department, and the IT department. For a writer, that last one, the IT department, can be the toughest.

What I've also learned is that there is a sizable community of writers who are self-published success stories, and they are willing, even eager, to help. They'll tell you what worked and what didn't work for them. Guys like Robert Bidinotto and David Gaughran. If you're thinking of self-publishing, check out their blogs. If you have questions, email them.

Even with all the resources available, self-publishing is still a lot of work, but the good news is, you have an opportunity. You can take your shot.

Cold Open is my first shot. It's the first in a mystery series featuring cable news reporter Sam North. Let me know what you think.

Greg Clarkin is a mystery writer and former broadcast news reporter. Check out his website, or contact him on Facebook or LinkedIn.