Bestselling Author Ben Mezrich is Now Listening…

06:33

BenMezrichCTracyAiguier[1] Ben Mezrich is the author of eleven books, including six novels and five non-fiction titles. He’s been writing — not always successfully — since he left college and allegedly still keeps all 192 of the rejections he received pinned on the wall in his writing den. But Ben kept at it and success came. He sold a few novels then finally hit it VERY big with Bringing Down the House, a true story about a group of M.I.T. students who swindled a series of Vegas casinos out of millions by counting cards (the movie version was called “21”). The book sold over two million copies in twelve languages. Most recently, Ben published The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal, which spent 12 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List.
 
Now, here’s where you come in. For the next week (or so), you get to ask Ben questions Accidental Billionaires Cover_smallin the comments area below. About what? Well, anything, but Ben is a working writer who struggled to make it at first — like so many others — so maybe start there. In any case, Ben will pick the questions he finds the most compelling and answer them, Q&A style. If the questions are really good (or quirky or straight bizarre), maybe they’ll even be two parts to the Q&A. It all depends on you, the asker. Want to know a little more about Ben, to fine-tune your questions? He wrote a piece for the Boston Globe a while back that details how he got his start in writing.

So ask away. Ben is now listening...


--John

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40 comments

  1. I've been writing since kindergarten, yet I have never been able to finish a book. Last year, my English teacher said I have a lot of potential as a writer. Ever since then I've wanted to be an author. How did you get your start?

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  2. Hi
    I lack inspiration sitting at a computer I much prefer to write old style pen and paper in the corner of a coffee shop gives me a chance to people watch! How and where do you write?

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  3. Hi, it's so great of you to be answering our questions!
    I was wondering how you know that you're a good writer? Most of the time, I seem to think what I'm writing isn't quite the stuff to get me published. Then I read it to my friends or parents and they're kind of awed by it. I guess I'm asking how I can get my self esteem up to keep writing and not give up on any specific idea?

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  4. Hello there,I've heard of your writting but never really read your books. You've written alot, and I was wondering how you found the inspiration to keep on writting? I write and write, but I tend to lose focus, do have any ways to keep focus?

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  5. Hi! Ben,congratulations on your success, it feels good to hear how you perservered. Counting your blessings instead of your losses. I've heard many times before, how writers dream up their words. Was this the case with you? If so could you tell me a personal experience, where you were extremely challenged by a dream. Good luck with your writing, you truly inspire me to keep believing always, love Wennie xxxhugs

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  6. I'm just starting out with wanting to get my work published. I have very humorous accounts of crazy dating experiences in Chicago, but I'm slightly confused as to what genre to put them under. Everything in the novel is true, except for a few minor things that I embellished for purpose of keeping the readers attention. Does that still count as non-fiction? Thanks!

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  7. I'm so glad your shaking off that negative energy and keeping your positive energy flowing. I truly enjoyed reading about your journey, great strength involved...

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  8. Hey Mr. Mezrich. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.
    I am currently working on a project through Webook and am hoping to get published. Then I look at someone like yourself who has been rejected 190 times and think that getting published is probably not likely.
    Are there some things that you could point to in your rejected projects that I should avoid? Would you say it was the topic, dialogue, plot, writing style, etc.?
    If anything, I would just like to avoid some of those problems at all costs.
    Thanks for your help.
    Ernest Dempsey

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  9. Hi, i'm Sharon Brown aka sing51074 and I am writer. i would like to know if i can get some feedback for my submissions. Is it possible you could take a look at some of my work and give me a critique.
    thanks in advance:O)
    S.B.

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  10. LisaFlint: first offering an invitation to hang out with WTF a group of writers in WEbook that may have 193 letters of rejection between all of us, and we're still chugging along.
    next: what do you think of self-publishing. do you know of any success stories with a writer taking that route or do you believe that a writer must have proper representation in order to get anywhere.

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  11. Hi Ben,
    In preparing to ask you "quirky" questions, I read your August 4, 2002 blog on how you got your start in writing. Three questions come to mind all of which probably have a remote connection to writing:
    1) are you still a "hypochondriac?" Photos of you and the Bugman tell me that perhaps, times have changed.
    2) do you still not drive and dislike flying, and why? Why do you also need to have a magazine open to a person with a "happy face?"
    3) Why did you read Hemmingway's "The Sun Also Rises the first of every month and do you still do this?"
    4) Okay, I have four questions: Do family members still move your books around to help you with publicity? Maybe we ALL could help! :D
    Signing out with my quirky red pen,
    Merle

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  12. have you ever had writer's block, and/or how did you recover from it?

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  13. I understand that you love playing poker. Was this passion the underlying motivation for writing "Bringing Down the House" or was it the other way around. Did researching and writing the book, result in your interest in poker? I also hear that you play a mean game of Uno....perhaps you have a naturally competitive side?? I believe all successful authors have a "stick-to-it" competitiveness. :D Merle

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  14. Ben,
    Thanks for playing along. I've got a question: After your considerable success, how do you keep it real? Do you ever worry about losing your edge? Do you do stuff to try to re-capture your hunger from your days when you struggled? And how do you find new ideas to write about? Do you actively search for stuff or do new ideas just sort of arrive?

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  15. You mentioned subsisting off peanut butter and jelly before getting your books published. I can sympathize with that. While eating cheap food is certainly a start, what did you do for money before you'd made any off your writing? I want to be writing full time, but I need to make rent and have enough left over for at least three PP and J's a day. Barring the obvious choice of selling my own blood and semen, got any suggestions?

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  16. It looks like you spent your early writing years concentrating on fiction, but later made a comfortable home in the non-fiction genre. What caused you to make the switch? And after “Bringing Down the House,” what was it about writing non-fiction that has kept you going for four more books? Do you still write/ plan on publishing more fiction in the future?

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  17. After all that rejection, how did you finally get some of these publishers to pay attention to you? Or did you got the agent route,even there again, how did you get or more importantly whom did you get to even read your stuff?

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  18. I was never into reading, but I loved writing. Most of what I wrote was... let's just say, not "good", until I started reading and learning to truly love my increased vocabulary.
    Now that I'm writing seriously, it's getting more and more difficult to motivate myself. This is bad! Daihen, daihen!! It's getting more and more difficult to simply write because I haven't been writing as much due to the lack of motivation. It's like letting a slinky go from stair to stair... the farther it gets, the closer to the bottom it is. That's what's happening to me. My writing even seems to be getting worse with the less that I'm doing.
    Do you have any suggestions to help get me movitated? Keep in mind, I have a short attention span [yes, I know. It's hard to handle when you know you have it and am an unpublished author (almost)], but it's true, and an idea of motivation doesn't last long. Please, please, please~ help me out here. I just can't seem to figure out what to do...

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  19. In your opinion:
    Is there room for uncompromised natural writing styles - say for instance that which is rich in detail and digression - perhaps even pushing a few ‘prison yard’ boundaries? Or these days, would you say minimalist instant gratification?
    Do you think that when you need to prove yourself as being unique to potential Agents/Publishers that their criteria for that only apply to the actual premise of the story? Might they balk at anything straying from the norm - say a diverse way of storytelling or length - regardless of otherwise very high opinion from those (non-affiliated) numerous reviewers who highly praise the manuscript for originality in every way? If so, would you advise the author to use an alternate route regardless, i.e. Kindle and Sony Electronic?)
    Did they need to use a defibrillator to get the old ticker beating again when you made it big?
    Thank you sincerely for taking the time to offer your advice here and I wish you continued success

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  20. Ben,
    I heard somewhere that you first met some members of the MIT blackjack team in a Boston bar, which led to your book, “Bringing Down the House.” Is that true? If so, how did your interaction with them make you decide it would be worthwhile to write a book about them?
    Thanks,
    Anne

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  21. Hello Ben
    How nice of you to offer this service. I live in Australia and I write quirky murder mysteries (as yet unpublished). Can you offer any suggestions as to how I would find an agent in the USA, please?

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  22. I so get your need for a 'The Sun Also Rises'. I've been doing the same thing since I first read it in my teens. I am now on my way to fifty years of age and have moved to Dublin Ireland from the states. I sold everything and came only with a suitcase and my book, 'The Sun Also Rises'. Just because I need the art in every sentence Hemingway wrote.

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  23. I can't keep writing a book at once-I have another idea for one-then I replace it!
    I myself, I must say, that I really want to hit myself because of my problom.

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  24. I was wondering when you should copywright your manuscript if you are hoping to get it published.

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  25. What do you do when you have a dream? MLK-'I have a dream'? Well-I have an amazing story-I met my dad in a prison cell for the first time when I was 32 yrs old. Problem-My brother knew the truth and I didnt. We lived in the same apartment-but different lives-different corridors of our heart! My brothers corridor is different than mine-same dad-different story-same mom-different story-How do I get this into print?! Where do I even begin to start?!! How do I get over the fact that my bro. is a better writer than me?..:).....I HAVE A DREAM...

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  26. HALP! MAJOR writer's block! I have a plot, but as for actions and dialogue, I am blank. A little help, please?
    Somebody Bear
    ps meow.
    pps I am a cat sometime. Please don't mind.
    ppps meow.

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  27. My problem is with rewriting, always trying to make it sound better. I spend so much time doing this that i never seem to get anywhere. For example, i thought i had completed my first novel. Thought is a key word in that sentance. When i mailed my first three chapters to the agent i wanted, i just knew she would see how great it was. Ha-ha. I got back the standard letter saying thanks, but no thanks and i pouted for a while and now am in the process of rewriting the thing. It's insane i know and i am glad to read that you recieved your fair share of rejection letters yourself. But now i find i write, then rewrite, then rewrite some more. I don't know if i am making it better or worse. Any advise or have you experienced anything like this.

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  28. i'm writing a new story, and i was wondering... how do you come up with inspiration?
    i mean, i do re-writes of other stories, as well as my own ideas. i really need to know how i can get inspirationfor my new story. i'm stumped!

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  29. So, I've always wondered something about writing, or aleast my writing in genral. What do you do about writers block and other blocks known to the arting world? I heard that people travel to places and it seems to work for them. I'm just not sure. Can I have you're opinion?

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  30. Hello Ben,
    It's nice to meet you!
    I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed "Bringing Down the House" and, in my opinion, is one of the best books taking a look at what happens behind the scenes in Vegas. How did it feel to immerse yourself that deeply into a culture? And how did it feel to see it on the big screen? Were you pleased with the results or did you think "I could have done a better job"?
    Thanks in advance and best wishes for the future. I'm looking forward to the new book!
    Rachael :)

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  31. 192 rejections and you still kept at it, that, anyone has to admire... I'm working on getting my first book published, and well... 8 rejection letters later I'm almost ready to give up.
    How do you keep your spirits high after getting rejection letters? Each one seems to just shatter me.
    I am planning on getting an agent, which I've heard will help a lot, but it's a lot of work and I've got my studies to concentrate on...
    Also, do you ever have it... where you're writing one book, but then another idea pops into your head for another one, and you can't write anything else except for that idea? I hate and love when that happens... I can never seem to finish a book cause of that
    Congrats on all your success!! :)

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  32. im only a new writer, young and still in school...but my imagination is boiling over i want to write all these things down and i can visualise my stories coming together...but i just cant write it down day after day after day its like i dont want to but i do...should i concentrate on school and finish that then should i concentrate on my stories?? i just cant juggle it all
    also, i find it hard to put a story to some of the things i imagine...names, people, places, any aspect of the story and those kind of things i can simply whip up and write about them too, but making a compelling storyline is what i want to create
    how can you help??

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  33. It seems as you begin to study the publishing business that there is always a chorus of experts that determine what is in and what is out. I understand that as writers, if we want to play on the team with the big kids, we have to learn the rules, but did you ever disregard what the experts were saying? How do you know when to follow your own instincts instead?

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  34. Kathy Ziolkowski20 October 2009 at 10:25

    Hi Ben,
    Your books are awesome! Who is your agent? Does he take new writers. I find that no matter how great your book is there are those that will still reject it - what finally worked for you - was it a killer Inquiry Letter or what?
    Thanks for your insight!
    Kathy

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  35. What type of book are you writing next if you are tellinng... and what motivates you to create stories and ideas.

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  36. hey, ben
    well im starting a new project on webook obviously any way and i was wondering how did you get your start? i mean iv always done short stories poems proses simple stuff but never really attempted a book any suggestions would be apreciated.
    thank you,
    brittany

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  37. Hello Ben-
    Great to see you here on WEbook. I have certainly heard of your work and have great respect for all you have accomplished. Some questions:
    Let's ease in here: What three authors, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why?
    -You claim that you write at least 10 pages every single day--for you is writing like a 9-5 job? If it is just a hobby (say, for late nights or lazy Sundays) can one still find success?
    -On your website you mention that you have gone through several agents, editors and publishing houses. Was it them or you? For those lucky enough to land a spot with any of the aforementioned, what advice can you offer to establish and maintain healthy and successful relationships?
    -You write that keeping a career in the industry is like winning the lottery over and over-with such a risk, what keeps you going?
    -You bravely admit that you have gotten over 190 rejection letters. As someone looking to submit a manuscript to the new AgentInbox service on WEbook, what advice can you give to perfecting my work? When do you know that something is DONE?
    -What is the most rewarding part about having published (not to mention highly acclaimed) novels?
    -How do you research for your work? Site exploration, interviews, background?!
    -Who are your heros--literary or otherwise?
    Thanks so much! Cannot wait to hear more from you.

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  38. I have written professionally for years and have a book written but vascillate between first and third person. One critic writer friend said first person as the reader wants to know more about the character-writer, I say third to let the writer fade into the background and the tale reveal itself. Any opinion or thoughts on what publishers currently prefer¿¿¿¿¿

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  39. I have a question about your writing technique, do you plan and structure your books before you write them, or do you just start and see where it ends? I know a lot of writers structure their work before writing, but there are writers that don't, like Stephen King for instance.

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  40. Hi i want to became a famour writer. how do you publish a book for free?

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