November 5: My Last Waltz as a Newspaper Columnist

“I pulled into Nazareth, was feeling about half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head”
-The Band

This November will mark my 10th year as a weekly newspaper columnist.

It will also be my last one.

I will submit my final column to the Richmond Register, the same place that gave me my start in 2003.

Writing books, launching other authors and doing long pieces for Huffington Post are where the next ten years will be.

I’m ending the column strong. I’ll continue to write weekly until November 5 and will release Don McNay’s Greatest Hits: Ten Years as an Award-Winning Columnist, just before I appear at the Kentucky Book Fair.

Writing a column is a true calling. Ending the privilege of appears in hundreds of newspapers each week was not an easy decision, but I feel another calling: the publishing business.

A while back, I met with some big time writers and high-powered New York literary agents, thinking it was time to go to the traditional, big publishing house.

I came to two conclusions: The New York business model doesn’t work for me, and the business model I already created works pretty well.

It’s time to ramp up my publishing business for a wider audience.

Several years ago, I went to great lengths to create a publishing company, RRP International Publishing, to publish my own books. I am a businessman and wanted a model that made economic sense.

I stumbled on a process to write best-selling books (all of my books have been Amazon bestsellers) quickly and inexpensively and get them to a wide audience. I’ll have four books out this year and more than that next year.

Using that concept to launch first time authors gets me excited. Adam Turner, who has edited and designed three best-selling books for me, is taking over as Editorial Director of RRP International and we are going full tilt.

I read somewhere that about 70 percent of all Americans, or 256 million people, have started or thought about writing a book and only 80 thousand have ever done it.

People are constantly telling me that they are thinking about writing a book. That doesn’t impress me in the least. I’m impressed when someone actually writes one.

Even if it is written in crayon. Even if I hate the topic. Even if it only sold 10 copies. Writing a book is a feat where many are called, but few are chosen.

There’s something about the hurdle of writing the final chapter that seems to stop most people. I am going to help a few people jump the hurdle.

Once they write the first book, they may write 10 more. Al Smith, one of the greatest journalists in Kentucky history, took 84 years to finish his first book. He then wrote another one a year later and is working on a couple more.

Once you learn the ropes, it is not so hard.

As a businessman, I’ve watched in horror at how good books by good authors are poorly marketed by publishing companies. If someone interesting has something important to say, I want to make sure it gets noticed by the right audience.

RRP International’s first book where I am not an author or coauthor is  by Dr. Keen Babbage and Laura Babbage. It comes out in October and is something I am truly proud to be part of. And it’s also the model for the future.

I’m making the columnist announcement three months in advance as I don’t want to leave the newspaper business quietly. Newspapers have given me an incredible opportunity to have an impact.

I always liked Martin Scorsese documentary The Last Waltz which was about The Band’s final concert in 1976. The concert was a way to end on a high note. As I plan to do.

The Band, like The Who and several others, wound up doing more “last concerts” a few years (or decades) later, but that won’t happen here. It’s been a great ten years, but time to go.

There are some who will be happy I am gone.

I wrote six columns over six weeks about how Peter Lynch’s Fidelity company was marketing a rip off called contractual mutual funds exclusively to soldiers. Congress banned the practice, and I feel pretty good about that.

I wrote several columns about Magic Johnson advertising for a company that did tax refund anticipation loans aimed at the poor, and those people are gone too.

Newspapers allowed me to corner the market on what to do when you win the lottery and spurred three best-selling books on the topic.

Newspapers allowed me to bash on Wall Street and on payday lenders. They are still around, but I am still around too.

I’ll just be in a different forum.

So keep your eyes open.

One Response to “November 5: My Last Waltz as a Newspaper Columnist”

  1. David Shew

    Don, I have enjoyed your columns and this one hits home with me. Over a year ago, I convinced my sister (Rhonda) to co-author a children’s book with me. I wrote a chapter and emailed it to her and then she would write the next chapter and would email back to me. About half way through the process, she said that we should add educational material to our book and we did. Late last year I found an illustrator who breathed life into our dream. Then this past June, I selected WestBow Press to publish the book. They are the self-publishing arm of Thomas Nelson. Look for “Midway Dreams” on Amazon and in the bookstores this fall. Good luck and congratulations on your publishing company.