How Life Got This Way

How Life Got This Way is my first full-length book. I researched, wrote, and self-published it between 2008 and 2022. It is now for sale at Amazon in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. Upcoming editions will include an audiobook and full access to the HLGTW website (available for free sampling now). I use this page for updates, backstory, and other resources related to this book.

Comparing the Formats

Launch Date Promotional: Free Zoom call

The Making of HLGTW

Comparing the Formats

The ebook is the economy version. It has a regular price of just $2.99. For the first 90 days, I am enrolled in “KDP Select”. As a benefit, the ebook is available FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited. I worked hard to make the ebook look good, but ebook formatting is inherently awkward. Although it’s in color, the images are compressed; my chapter timelines in particular are disappointingly small and blurry. Please follow my own tables of contents and ignore the sidebar TOC provided by Amazon, which is utterly useless.

On the other end of the spectrum is the hardcover, the “deluxe” version. Unfortunately, print-on-demand hardcovers are expensive. I have to pay a high fee to print this version, so I can’t pass it on to you for much less than the current price of $59.99. However, it is clearly the highest-quality format. I exercised great control in laying out both print editions. The hardcover is printed in high resolution with premium color ink. The back matter includes the citations, which are vital for the full experience of reading and learning from the book. I recommend the hardcover if you can comfortably afford it, and / or if you try a cheaper format and really, really like it! It would make a great gift too. I am actually offering a free half-hour Zoom call to personally thank the first ten paying customers who buy the hardcover. Please email your proof of purchase to me at [email protected], and I’ll let you know how to set up an appointment.

The paperback version is your price / quality middle ground. It is currently set at $13.49, the geometric mean between the ebook and hardcover (e.g. 4 – 5 times more expensive than the ebook and 4 – 5 times less expensive than the hardcover). The paperback is printed in high resolution with black ink. The citations are omitted from this book as another cost-cutting feature, though there is a QR code directing you to the references on a webpage. I retained the glossary in the paperback edition because my test readers found it so valuable.

In the next year or so, I intend to offer two additional formats. I plan to record an audiobook. I would also like to offer full access to, the website where I originally wrote the book (available now for free sampling). I like the website format much better than the ebook. It offers cover images for every section, not just every chapter. The glossary is built in (click a word to see its definition). There is bonus material such as my blogs, Chapter 0, and Margin Notes for updates on current research. It’s easier to navigate around the site than the ebook. The website is also interactive; you can leave comments on each page, which are linked to your Facebook account. This website was open and free while the book was in progress. It will now take me some time to figure out the technological issues of converting it into a pay site (and I’m not allowed to launch this during my first three months on Amazon anyway). Subscriptions will be affordable, maybe around the cost of the ebook for a one-month subscription or the cost of the paperback for an unlimited subscription.

Launch Date Promotional

I would like to offer free half-hour Zoom calls to the first ten customers who purchase the hardcover. Amazon’s print-on-demand service is an incredible opportunity for independent writers like me, but unfortunately the hardcover printing cost is so high that I can not offer a competitive price point. The hardcover will have to be a deluxe format for those special few who particularly connect with the book. I appreciate it!! If you buy the hardcover and you would like to talk about it, please email me with proof of purchase at [email protected]. I will let you know how to schedule a Zoom call. This offer is open to the first ten paying customers to inquire.

The Making of HLGTW

The idea of a logarithmic history struck me all at once in April 2008. The notebook sketch below was the book’s initial conception. I wrote it in one brainstorm while eating lunch in the Santa Monica College cafeteria. Now I know that some of the themes were in the wrong chapters!

My original working title for the book was simply “The History of Everything.” My oldest surviving computer file is an early draft of the Preface from 2009. I lost at least one draft of the book-in-progress in a computer crash early in the 2010s. That has made me MUCH more conscientious about backing up files from then on!

Frankly, I hardly did anything with the idea for a few years. Many people idly fantasize about writing a book, and I was one of those people at the time. This wasn’t a “plan” as much as a cool idea. I didn’t know if I’d ever pull it off or not. In those early years, though, I read about book proposals. To get a book published, I’d have to submit a proposal with at least two completed chapters. That benchmark became my dividing line between “pipe dream” and “I’m actually writing a book.” It took me until 2011 to finish Chapter 10, the first one I wrote. I decided to write Chapter 1 next. My reasoning was that those chapters were very diverse. If I only wrote Chapters 10 and 9, they’d be fairly similar, and a publisher might pigeonhole me as a science writer. If I could submit one chapter about cosmic origins and another at the edge of current events, it would be much more feasible to argue that I could fill in the middle.

By my birthday in 2013, I had finished my first draft of Chapter 1 as well as the preface and introduction. At that point, I promoted myself from “thinking about” the book to “writing” it. I took a little more time out to study the publishing process. I learned that publishers will want to see a book of about 100,000 words. Hmm, I’d never even thought about word count before. When I checked my work, I was shocked to see that I’d already written 80,000! I also learned that all publishers care about is “platform”, the number of potential readers in my network. I read advice to develop a web presence for at least a year.

The mid-decade was a period of serious gear shifting. It took me until mid-2015 to pare chapters 1 and 10 down to my new target of about 10,000 words per chapter. I created a Facebook page for my book, and I began posting my material on Blogger. The page gathered about 100 “Likes” through the years. Not much of a platform!

So by the turn of 2015, the book concept was seven years old, and I had written two chapters. That was not good progress! I then took the step that proved to be most important of all: I set a pace. I told myself to write two chapters per year. I then had two key parameters for each chapter: roughly 10,000 words, and a six month deadline. Something about that structure gave me the intense focus that I needed. I continued writing chapters from the outside in. Following my guidelines, I wrote my first draft of chapters 9 and 2 in 2015, 8 and 3 in 2016, 7 and 4 in 2017, and 6 and 5 in 2018. First draft complete!

At this time, my full working title was “The Evolution of Human Beings, Institutions, and Belief Systems: A Logarithmic History of Everything.” I knew it was awkward. I thought that the shortened title “The Evolution of Human” had a nice ring to it, and I shortened that even further to TEoH. I created a website for the book,, where I posted each chapter as I finished it.

By the time I finished, my research and writing had matured by a decade. The most recent chapters were much more focused and properly cited than the earlier ones. I was pretty embarrassed of the oldest chapters already. I spent all of 2019 writing a 2nd draft, roughly one chapter per month. The overhauled book was much more consistent and polished by that point.

My project for 2020 was to bounce the book off of test readers. It was hard work for all of us, but I found a test reader for each chapter, as well as an old chump, I mean *chum*, who volunteered to read almost every chapter. I got plenty of good advice. I read all of it and followed about half of it. (It was a test reader who gave me the idea of using QR codes in the print books). Test readers encouraged features like the timelines and the glossary. They weren’t keen on my title or the cover art that I’d whipped up.

One of the biggest themes of the test-reading process was the “hook”. How could I catch people’s attention and get them to look inside? After brainstorming 100 alternatives, I came out with a completely new title and a professional cover. The book was now renamed “How Life Got This Way”.

By this point, I had given up on the idea of getting traditionally published. Publishers generally require a platform of 10,000 – 50,000 fans; a writer has to be famous already before getting published! I understood that publishing the book myself was the only practical option. I turned 50 on September 3, 1971. I vowed to self-publish “by the age of 50”, which gave me one more year to wrap it up!

My 51st year was what I called the “post-production / pre-publication” phase. I worked with a professional designer to finalize the cover (again and again). I started compiling my individual chapter PDFs into full book formats.

While all this was going on, I watched with shock and awe as the book Sapiens came out and exploded as a mega-bestseller. It was clearly in the same vein as HLGTW. This gave me great hope that there was a market for books like mine. At the same time, I was a little crushed that Harari had beaten me to it. But I had to wonder: of all the books in the world, why did this one take off like a rocket? I came to realize that it was most likely due to its exceptional endorsements. Sapiens was recommended by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama! I’ll never understand how Harari got such endorsements, but they clearly explained the sales numbers. I realized that I’d need a big name on my team. Obviously, I couldn’t just ask famous people to read my book and recommend it. I read a blog somewhere advising the approach of interviewing someone with name recognition. That way, I’d only have to ask for an hour of their time, and then I’d have a “foreword-interview”! I sent out several inquiries, and I got no responses until suddenly I got two. Sean Carroll and Peter Turchin were both up for it! I spent six months just reading their books to prepare for their interviews.

In the last few months, I became a self-publishing guru. I devoted more and more of my time to book preparation. After incorporating the interviews, I perfected the formatting: the page size, margins, picture placement, tables of contents, section breaks, headers, etc. I learned that formatting an ebook full of pictures and tables is a pain in the ass!

But you know what, I did it, and I even did it by the age of 50. I posted the paperback, hardcover, and ebook files to Amazon in the week before my 51st birthday.

Wow, it was such a journey. This review hasn’t even touched on all the fascinating subject matter or the book’s crowning touches. I’ve realized that “The Making of HLGTW” could fill up its own book. You never know, I might actually write that book someday.