Do You Need a Publisher for Your Book?



Last week we discussed the six areas to consider if you plan to self publish. This week I’m spinning the lens around to examine at the same key areas you need to know to publish your book and how publishers add value in each of them.

The first is the most abstract and difficult for most authors to appreciate, but if you own a business you likely can appreciate the “hidden value” you bring that sometimes not even your employees or contractors can appreciate. That is, capital. Read more

Guidelines for Crafting Story

Image: Unsplash

Image: Unsplash

So who’s your Story about?

I generally feel a wee bit disoriented right after shaping a book proposal.

What’s it worth? I wondered. What if my agent rejects it? What if this is all a fool’s errand? What have I done with my life? Okay, I don’t go quite that far.

Last time this happened, my six-year-old peeked in my study. She wanted to show me her outfit – a summer skirt and a short-sleever atop a long-sleever.

“I just couldn’t wait any longer to wear summer clothes,” she said as she twirled around the study. And at that moment, I remembered again why I’m writing this book, why I’m building Tracking Wonder, why I utterly adore engaging readers. Read more

Warning: You Cannot Plug in Your Potential


Acorn seed via

Let’s face it, this fellow cannot write.”
– Bob Manning about a young Tracey Kidder

 “It is better to pursue and to perform your own duty imperfectly than someone else’s perfectly.”
– Krishna to the reluctant warrior Arjuna, The Gita

“The life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise this year higher than man has ever known it, and flood the parched uplands; even this may be the eventful year, which will drown out all our muskrats.”
– Thoreau, conclusion, Walden 

1. The potential for defeat abounds.

Tracey Kidder was twenty-seven years old when he walked into the hallowed Boston offices of The Atlantic Monthly, one of the United States’ most respected and longest running magazines, and asked for a freelance assignment. He found encouragement from an editor, Richard Todd, thirty-two. (1)

Kidder starting submitting several freelance pieces to Todd. Some of them  were workable enough that Todd could help Kidder shape them into something publishable. Many were not.

Atlantic’s chief editor, the notorious and tenacious Bob Manning, once scrawled on one of Kidder’s pieces a note:

“Let’s face it, this fellow cannot write.”

But Kidder did write. He had to write. And eventually he learned how to write like a captivating author.

Had Kidder ever heard or listened to the publisher’s voice, Dr. Paul Farmer’s story of wanting to cure the world would never have been told in Mountains Beyonds Mountains, readers would never have experienced the inspiring story of fifth-grade teacher Ms. Zajac in Among School Children, or had their minds cracked wide open to a whole new computer wave that not every one could see coming in 1981 as Kidder (and Todd) saw in The Soul of a New Machine.

And Kidder might never have won the Pulitzer.

Tracey Kidder, that kid who couldn’t write, is known now as a master of creative nonfiction and literary journalism.

Kidder had three things working for him that can work for any of us.

He found the kind of writing he loved to do – literary journalism – and he became devoted to mastering it even when his pieces were not accepted (and even though he feared the public seeing his really bad writing that Todd got to see).

He let his audacity override his doubt. Seth Godin would say that Kidder let his hubris fly. Judging from Richard Todd’s accounts, Todd would probably agree.

Kidder found a mentor, Richard Todd, whom he didn’t bow down to but whom he respected enough to keep his editorial direction. For over 20 years.

That is, Kidder learned his stuff. For over 20 years, he learned the choices writers in his field make to tell a good story. He learned how to get out of the way of the story he needed to tell. He made choices for the good of the story and of his readers’ experience – not for the good of his ego or the market.

He wrote really crappy stuff, by the way, including a novel based on his experiences in Vietnam that he and Todd can laugh about now.

2. Your writing potential is like dynamic water.  Read more