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For Authors Ready for the Life-Affirming Fact

In the Tower of Babel that is publishing these days, it’s easy for authors to get distracted and to side-track their creative process in favor of over-thinking viable creative products.  The push to publish and profit can override the hardest fact.

I’m offering four spots in a program and then a free call for a select group of authors who want to be smart about the hardest fact.You can’t ignore the push to publish, and you need to know your options for shipping – whether your shippable product is a book, ebook, educational experience, brand, or seminar. But that’s not the hardest fact.

If you’re self-publishing (or self-enterprising), it’s almost near-impossible – although I’m not convinced yet it’s impossible – to bypass the traditional or even Amazon’s alternative distribution models and, hence, knock out middlemen’s profits. But that’s not the hardest fact.Publishing among the Big 6 (or is it 5 or 4 now?) still puts up big gates for you to learn to navigate. But that’s not the hardest fact.

You need to build your own audience, and you need to learn how to promote and market. It’s part of being an author-entrepreneur, like it or not, who figures out how to build a platform and craft a brand that fits. But that’s also not the hardest fact.

A former Yahoo exec nailed the hardest fact at the Tools of Change Conference.

Tim Sanders, the C.E.O. of NetMinds, defined it this way in Betsy Morais’s New Yorker piece “A Book is a Start-Up.”

“The biggest problem with authors today is that they overestimate their writing and editing skills. [Without editing], it would have been the ‘The Meh Gatsby.’”

Oh, how we don’t like to hear that. But his statement is true of all of us. Every one of us. Even of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He had on his side Max Perkins, the editor of editors who virtually helped reshape Gatsby and even nudged Fitz toward the great, and ironic, title.

But Sanders’ model and even Peter Armstrong‘s model at LeanPub don’t completely solve the problem.

I’ve been surveying the industry by listening to, talking with, and reading what agents, editors, distributors, and authors are saying matters today. And it keeps coming back to unsexy matters like hard work, learn your craft, practice, study the market, study your options.

Almost every author in the highly recommended Why We Write anthology says as such.And according to this Time Magazine article by Megan Gibson when Random House snagged 17-year-old writing sensation Beth Reekles’s The Kissing Booth, her editor Lauren Buckland was impressed less by her vast online fan base than by her writing:“The book was in fantastic shape….It was quite a new thing for us to find such a talented writer on an online platform.” Never mind she’s 17.

I heard this same mantra repeatedly among publishers, editors, and consultants at the Digital Book World Conference:You can have a million Twitter followers, but if you can’t write a good book, you won’t get a book deal. (and probably not much of an audience who really needs your book’s medicine)

So what do you do?

First, know where you are on the Amateur-to-Maestro Continuum. If you’re a power horse in one field, but you’re an amateur in the authorship field, admit it. If you’re a well-published author who, like Fitz, has gotten along well enough but admittedly is still learning your craft with this new book project (uh, when do you stop learning it?), then admit it.

We can admit we’re apprentice-authors. No, don’t admit it.

Announce it! Don’t admit it as if it’s a self-denying, shameful confession. Announce it as a self-affirming confirmation that you love to learn as a continuously curious and seeking human being.

We can learn specific arts as apprentice-authors.

We can find our Wild Pack – which is an improved refinement to crowd-sourcing your start-up book.

We can mentor ourselves and each other.

We can commit to the life’s path toward mastery without expecting to reach it. At least not within the next few weeks.


Between being a wide-eyed and big-hearted amateur and being a gratified and engaging author is being a hard-studying and life-affirming apprentice. And in our culture at large and in our Internet culture specifically, we have an Apprenticeship Gap.

And here’s the real hard fact: Most real authors remain apprentices their whole life. Acknowledge that, and you realize nothing is “wrong” with you. You’re just a human being hungry to do what we do best – learn.

We love to learn and thrive in optimal learning spaces. That’s not a hard fact. It’s a life-affirming fact.

So grateful to run with you – and Happy Spring,

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