Author John Gray: Monk to “Martian” Millionaire

By Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D.

John Gray, author of multi-million-book best-seller Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, was interviewed by Steve Harrison of Bradley Communications, who present a year-long training program for 100 authors who want to become millionaires, too. See their site 

Harrison sends me multitudinous emails with useful information as part of the campaign to get this year’s hundred students registered for the program. No doubt the program is valuable, to the attendees and to the company.

Authors, like myself, dream of being as successful as John Gray. Whether we can replicate the process that got him there is not so clear. Before becoming a famous writer, for example, John Gray spent nine years as a monk. I’ll skip doing that. He has written 16 books, of which only one has had exceptional success. Men are from Mars… was written at a time when people thought, at least you were supposed to think, that men and women are nearly identical. Doll houses for little boys and guns for little girls were sometimes recommended. Gray’s message was simple: men and women are very different, more different than people from different countries, almost as though they come from different planets.

To be a successful author, Gray maintains, you need to give a new perspective, with passion. To be a successful author, you must not only write a worthwhile book, you must promote yourself and the book, and market it successfully.

In fact, a successful book is not likely to be enough to give you the luxurious lifestyle you might envision for yourself. Instead, you need something to follow up, perhaps more books, but more likely special programs, such as training programs for people in general or perhaps for authors specifically.

Ideally, you would have done substantial groundwork, such as presenting workshops, before writing and publishing your book. John Gray, having left the monastery, worked as a computer programmer, then as a coach, giving workshops on interpersonal relationships.

The original source material for Men Are from Mars… was titled Men, Women and Relationships. Gray says that the text was much too long, even though it did sell 50,000 copies in its first year. A book agent was willing to represent Gray, and in fact found him due to a seminar that Gray had given. 

Gray came to realize that his book needed to be substantially shorter, and he took something like the best dozen of roughly a hundred concepts, and wrote them up in a friendly fashion, easy to read. Men might be described as “martial,” a word derived from “Mars,” and they see themselves as problem-solvers. Women could be described as from Venus, seeking partners, not problem-solvers.

Even though, as events proved, the ideas in the book were right for the time, it took another year after it was published before it made the New York Times bestseller list.

Once Men are from Mars… left the bestseller list, some seven years later, Gray found himself somewhat depressed. He soon learned, however, that one can make more money from activities related to the book, such as seminars and training, than one may make from the book itself.

Gray advises new authors that radio and TV, especially radio, can be successful venues for book promotion, as long as you have something fresh, with “a hook,” like his Mars-Venus analogy. Jack Canfield made similar points. Harrison’s company produces a “Radio-TV Interview Report” in which one can advertise to attract interviewers.

I appreciate the free training materials that I’ve gotten from Steve Harrison’s company, Bradley Communications,  and other providers of writer training programs. Although I was very pleased with my own first book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, it has not flown off the shelves. I have done most of the things that have been recommended for promoting the book, and I have gotten some local publicity in the form of newspaper articles and magazine articles, yet sales have been slow, roughly a couple per week.

A year from now, Harrison’s program will have nearly another 100 graduates. Will there be room on the bestseller list for all of them? Successful authors can tell us what they did, and they can sincerely believe that what they did caused their success. What we don’t know is how many other authors did much the same things and were never heard of. Still, if one doesn’t try, one will never succeed. 

The Harrison-Gray interview was valuable. I was not convinced enough to try to be among the elite 100 chosen to be allowed to pay for and participate in the year-long program, but perhaps if I were younger, more ambitious, more optimistic….

A few players shorter than six-feet tall have played in the National Basketball Association. How did they make it? Later do they end up giving seminars on that, too?