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Before Publishing a Book, You Need to Know Your Limitations

Jun 02, 2020

I didn’t set out to start a company that writes, edits and publishes books for entrepreneurs and other people who want to share their stories.

In fact, after a somewhat horrific experience writing a book for an actor, I vowed to never write another book for someone else again.

(That book ended up becoming the New York Times bestseller but was that worth it when this guy regularly threw his phone at me and called me a “stupid c***” whenever I asked him to talk about something that made him uncomfortable? Still not sure.)

But in 2018, a major sports agent named Darren Prince who wanted to start doing recovery advocacy work came to me and asked if I’d help him tell his story.

I said, regretfully, I could not.

He Was Insistent

There’s a reason that this guy represents people like Magic Johnson and Dennis Rodman…he’s persistent.

And so I asked my friend Kristen McGuiness, also a bestselling author of multiple books who had experience with ghostwriting, if she’d consider writing Darren’s story. She said yes. I told Darren I’d edit it.

Then he said he wanted me to publish it, too.

I told him I didn’t know how to publish books.

That’s okay, he said, with the smile of someone accustomed to people saying yes. He’d pay me to learn.

That book, Aiming High: How a Prominent Sports Agent Hit Bottom at the Top, became a huge hit, launching Darren onto the speaking circuit and netting him so many new clients and opportunities that he had to hire his own team of agents.

Launch Pad Publishing was born. And it would not exist without the amazing Darren Prince. Yes, this is a man who is pretty much single-handedly responsible for the fact that I have a thriving business today.

Since Then, My Attitude Has Done a 180

I now see that having a book is pretty much a necessity in the business world today and that any entrepreneur who doesn’t have one is missing out on the most crucial part of their marketing.

I’m thrilled to be able to help people — those who didn’t spend their formative years trying to pick the perfect word to craft the ideal sentence — release the best quality books they can. I’m thrilled to watch their careers skyrocket once that book is released.

I’m thrilled to have discovered my mission.

So, let me ask you: what’s yours? And if it’s to write a book, do you know your limitations

Here’s What I Mean by Know Your Limitations

Once I determined my place in the writing and publishing game, I learned just how much other people need to do the same.

Here’s what I mean: at Light Hustle, we screen every client, thoroughly. And we pretty much reject any of the ones that come to us insisting that they are great authors who want to write their book but just want us to oversee.

Why are they coming to us if they are great authors? Great authors tend to be people who have been writing their whole lives.

It’s like this: if you saw a massively overweight man wearing a tube top, you might think, “Just because you can wear that doesn’t mean that you should.” Yes, anyone can write a book. But should they?

Here’s what I mean: just because someone has the ability to sit in front of a keyboard and peck out letters that make words that make sentences that make paragraphs that make pages does not mean that those keys will create high-quality material.

If you are a writer — and by that I mean someone who has always read a lot, has been crafting sentences for as long as you can remember and who often feels more at home in front of a screen than anywhere else — you should write a book.

If you’re someone, on the other hand, who thinks you have a great story to tell and want to take a stab at writing, you probably should not.

If you’re someone who thinks, “I speak well so I probably write well, too,” you probably should not.

The Truth Is, You Know If You Should Write a Book

You know if you’re a writer.

If you’re not, deciding to write a book is as crazy as deciding that you should try to operate on someone even though you haven’t had sufficient training.

(If you listened to the Dr. Death podcast, you know how terrifying that can be.)

When people can come to terms with the fact that they’re not writers, they can set themselves up for excellence.

I’m not here to tell you whether you’re a writer or not.

The only one who can tell you is you.

So please be honest with yourself. Don’t let your ego answer. Ask yourself: Would I spend a year writing this out of sheer joy for the act of writing, even if I thought no one would ever read it?

If the answer is yes, go write it. Otherwise, I think you ought to reconsider.

The Would-Be Client That Taught Me This

We had one guy, a rehab owner, who came to us with the seeming intention of working with us.

He kept three of my team members, including me, on the phone for an hour apiece, explaining the originality of his book idea and how it would revolutionize the industry.

He emailed us what he’d written and it was if not illiterate then at least illegible.

I don’t blame him for not being a talented writer. He was, after all, a talented businessman who spent his days owning and operating a rehab.

His having produced the brilliant opus he claimed he had would be as ludicrous as me showing up at his rehab that day and explaining I would like to run it, despite never having learned the ropes of his industry.

It was clear to my whole team that he just wanted to be told that his writing was amazing — all he was waiting for before signing on the proverbial dotted line.

But I told him the truth…that his book was not publishable and that if he wanted to pay us to write and publish his book, we’d have to start from scratch.

We’re good at telling stories, I explained. What we’re not good at is fixing stories that are badly told.

He didn’t respond well.

He told me that he had lots of contacts at the big publishing houses and he would submit there.

I didn’t tell him that roughly three out of every 10,000 book proposals sell.

There’s nothing I can do to help people who don’t know their limitations.

Our favorite clients are the ones who come to us very clear about the fact that they’re not writers. They let us do our thing and we let them do theirs — namely share with us all the experience that has led them to have a story that will make a great book.

It’s not about how interesting your story is. It’s about how it’s told.