Academy for Wayward Authors: Welcome to Season 3

Congratulations! You’ve been admitted to this prestigious Academy.

Few are admitted, and even fewer will take what they learn here and turn it into a full-time career as an author.

From our ranks, the silent giants will rise to the top of the industry because of what they’ve learned in these hallowed halls.

Why were you admitted?

Have you ever noticed that elite programs are all filled with volunteers?

At one point, everyone who climbed Mount Everest, became a SEAL, joined a top university, or played sports started out as a volunteer who put their hand up and said, “This is for me.”

After the hand raise, they got sorted. Did they have what it takes to succeed?

Not everyone reading this article will turn what they learn into money, mainly because they lack commitment.

They decide other things are more important.

Read that again.

Your decisions will shape your results from here on out.

I’ll be reminding you of the choices you make these next forty-five weeks and the impact they will have.

We will revisit decision-making, as it is critical to business operations.

You will learn to make educated choices with a high probability of delivering the desired outcome. Sometimes they won’t pan out. Does that make it the wrong decision?

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No. You make the best decision you can with the information at hand. Even if it had an unsatisfactory outcome, it was still a good choice.

Excuses and claims that you’re out of options won’t be tolerated at the Academy. You always have a choice.

You chose to create excuses and not accept responsibility for the success and failure that will come. That was a choice.

At the Academy, we own both successes and failures.

What to expect…

If you’re new to publishing

The objective for you is to build a business system and products that can turn a profit. The business you’ve chosen is publishing. You’re here to entertain readers and get paid for that experience. Everything that needs to be done seems overwhelming, so we will get you back to just “whelmed.”

If you’re looking to level up

If you are already doing well and have followed the first two seasons, don’t fret. You’ll continue to be amazed about where we go.

We will be pushing into your UNcomfort zone. Some of these ideas will be original concepts I’ve developed, but others will refine ideas we have already touched on. I promise this season will be less theoretical and more practical.

Expect this to be challenging, and your initial response will be resistance. That’s because you’ll be going into a place that’s NOT comfortable—a place where change happens.

If you feel stuck

You may feel adrift, and all around is an endless sea. How do you get to the port you seek? Applying what you learn at the Academy will get you to find your guiding star. Only then can you move towards it.

A different process at the Academy

I observe that publishing business practices are often designed by the Frankenstein method—trying to build something superior out of inferior parts—the opposite of systems thinking.

Another approach is the copycat. We look to someone who looks successful and mimic what they do.

The fatal flaw I’ve discovered is that many of the most successful authors don’t know why they are successful. Many have built huge enterprises that churn cash around but generate little profit—some don’t even generate profit at all.

There is the seat-of-your-pants method, where you just get into the business and hope for the best. This method is not scalable and can be pretty scary.

I’m sure there are others, but those hit 80% of the businesses there.

Most experts in author success apply the scientific approach. They take something apart. Try to understand what the parts do. Understand the parts to understand the whole.

This method reminds me of Frankenstein. Do I need more grip strength? Sew bigger fingers on the hands.

The Frankenstein method can work, but it completely misses the concept of emergence.

Emergence is the process of coming into being from the interaction of the parts of a system. We will deliberately put parts together that create the emergent property we seek—cumulative advantage.

We will follow some other Mad Scientists, Dr. Ackoff and Dr. Feynman.

Dr. Ackoff holds that over 90% of the problems that arise in a corporation are better solved somewhere other than where they appear.

What if your business system is designed to do the wrong things the right way over and over?

What are the right things? This next part is imperative to understand.

  • We seek a business (a complex self-organizing system) with the emergent properties of influencing the publishing market (a larger complex self-organizing system).
  • Within your business, another complex self-organizing system exists—you. Your capacity as a creator and business operator is the catalyst.
  • Funds and fans creation is the emergent property and positive feedback loop for your business and the larger publishing market.

Think about it.

Your business and all the other author businesses are participating in this larger self-organizing system with an underlying profit motive that is best served by collecting and concentrating funds and fans. So how do we engineer the best system to do just that?

Everything is connected around that premise. The market favors those that do better at concentrating funds and fans and rewards them with more.

The opposite of analysis is synthesis.

In synthesis, we look for how the parts connect to create emergence.

  • What is this a part of? Identify the whole of which this is a part.
  • Try to explain the behavior of the whole.
  • Disaggregate the understanding of the containing whole by identifying the role or function of what I’m trying to explain in that whole.

Ackoff provides a system (pictured below) that we will follow. It’ll help us to learn from the past to design our future.

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Next is Dr. Feynman. He is here more for me than you.

He is legendary for taking some of the most complex subjects and making them approachable to laymen.

His process is:

  • Choose a concept.
  • Teach it.
  • Return to the source material if stuck.
  • Simplify your explanations and analogies so that a 6th grader can understand it.

I’m going to work real hard on simplification.

I know these are complex and new ideas that, once absorbed, you’ll adopt and use to advance your business.

Next week, I’ll begin talking about you and your role.

Read: What You Create Is a Function of You