I love a no-nonsense approach to life and so the title of this business book grabbed my attention. As a copywriter and entrepreneur myself, I had great hopes that the author - considered a copywriting great and a man who's made it in life - would have some serious knowledge to impart. Furthermore, the author touts himself as a free-thinking rebel; and I like that. And so, with much anticipation of good things to come, I got stuck in...

He Never Quite Gets His Sh!t Together
Hmmmm. As I read, I kept expecting, hoping, for the author to weave his promised magic. After all, this is a man who - as he keeps reminding us - is one of the leading sales copywriters in the United States. I felt sure that there must be something I could (should?) learn from him. How could I - a lowly copywriter from Durban, South Africa - possibly question the wisdom of The Man from America himself?

The title is the best thing about this book

Well, I reckon there are no sacred cows. It's not difficult for me to put a finger on why this book simply doesn't work for me. It's encapsulated in a story Carlton recounts of an engineer who buys one of his guides, then sends it back, asking for a refund, citing the author's style as 'disorganised' and complaining that the guide was 'written as some sort of haphazard diary of an unorganised freelancer' - in short, not at all useful. Carlton thinks the dude's a bit of a jerk for not liking his work ('He's clearly wrong on his accusation') - no surprise there. 

Alas, I tend to agree with the engineer's assessment. I found that:
  • The tone and voice is unashamedly brash - giving Carlton the benefit of the doubt, maybe this is a cultural interpretation; and therefore perhaps his work only appeals to readers of a North American persuasion 
  • There's too much hard-sell - at the end of every, single chapter, there's a page or two of pure sales copy urging you to call up Carlton's PA and buy into his products and services (again, whilst off-putting for the rest of us, this may indeed be the sort of approach which appeals to an American audience)
  • It's a hard read - stylistically, it's just not pleasing. There's no flow and instead of reading like a book, it's rather like a series of short-form copy pieces unceremoniously jammed together. Annoying features of his writing - the excessive use of ellipsis here, there and everywhere, and paragraphs of only one or two lines. Both of these writing tools can be effective when used appropriately (read: sparingly), but when used at every verse-end, it merely interrupts the flow, rendering the text clumsy and awkward. Like so many self-published e-books, this would benefit from some work by a professional book publisher or editor. 
  • Despite his aversion to what he terms 'the unfocused babbler', Carlton is just that - the content has little cohesion, and he jumps from topic to topic rather like he'd forgotten to swallow his Ritalin before he set to work. At the end of the book, one is left dazed and confused, wondering what the point of it all actually is. 

Did You Learn Nothing From the Man?
I believe in giving a book a fair critique. It's not all bad. As I ploughed through it, a few gems of wisdom did indeed reveal themselves. Here are my top five take-outs from John Carlton's The Entrepreneur's Guide to Getting Your Shit Together:
  1. 'Figure out what you don't want to do...and don't do it.' (You don't have to be a salaryman all your life)
  2. 'Skip the rules. Make up your own.' (Be your own boss)
  3. 'Make yourself part of the product.' (To prevent others from ripping off your products and services)
  4. 'Pay an expert's fee; expect an expert effort. Pay a cheap fee; expect a cheap effort.' (On getting paid what you're worth)
  5. 'Consider how your product fixes something broken in your client's life.' (On how to sell your product or service).

About the Author

John Carlton is described as a 'legendary advertising copywriter and marketing mentor'. Or as his Twitter profile puts it, a 'copywriting guru and marketing wizard'. 

For More Inspiration...
Visit John Carlton's blog, appropriately titled The RANT, and his website The Marketing Rebel

Buy the Book
Amazingly, The Entrepreneur's Guide To Getting Your Shit Together is an Amazon best-seller. So don't take my word for it; make up your own mind!