Pitching, Productivity & Strangers: That’s Not How It Works

productivity by Mark McGuinnessMark McGuinness has a new book out. He’s giving it away for free.

I haven’t read it yet, but I’m suggesting you check it out.



I know I’ll respect whatever Mark produces.

That’s Not How This Works

Last week a pitch letter from a stranger arrived. The stranger has a book idea and wants to obtain a signed author contract with a publishing house before he writes his book. In order to achieve this goal, the stranger explained that he is requesting support from established authors. He wants the established authors to provide an endorsement for his book idea.

Breakin’ it down:

The stranger doesn’t have a book to review.

The stranger has a book idea he’d like supported.

The stranger doesn’t have a relationship with the established authors.

The stranger wants established authors to spend their time on his work.

The stranger doesn’t have a proven track record.

The stranger wants authors to trust him and lend their names to his unproven work.

As I read the pitch, an Esurance commercial — the one with the woman posting pictures to the wall of her home — came to mind. She and her friend start disagreeing and her friend says, “That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.”

You know that saying “time is money?” When you ask an author to spend his time on your work, you’re asking him to give up time that he could spend on his own work, which means you’re also asking the author to give up money. Instead of the author making an investment in his own work, he’s making an investment in your work.
Why would he do that? He doesn’t know you or your work.

That’s an ask you’ve got to work into. It requires getting to know the author, showing that you’ve taken the time to familiarize yourself with the author’s work, and it takes doing some work on your own. We’d all like a book contract without writing the book first, but that’s not how it works for most authors — especially when those authors are first-time authors. Usually the book comes before contract — or a large portion of the book-in-progress is available to submit with the contract.

Back to Mark McGuinness.

Mark didn’t ask me to share his book. I learned about the release because I subscribe to his site. I subscribe to his site because I value his work. Part of the reason I value his work is because I’ve had the honor of being in touch with the gentleman behind the work.

He’s not a stranger.

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Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

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A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.



Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.



Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"



  1. Mary Doyle on September 23, 2016 at 5:41 am

    Thanks for the McGuinness link – I’m looking forward to reading his new book. Thanks for this post too – it got me laughing before I had finished my first cup of coffee this morning. The short-cuts people try to come up with are astonishing.

  2. David Kaufmann on September 23, 2016 at 6:41 am

    Based on your recommendation, I’ll get the book.

    About the rest of the post: I shake my head in wonder. That’s not even chutzpah. Even a “newbie” knows better. Even most fans, when approaching a favorite author or artist, and wanting to share something, know to be polite and acknowledge the author’s work, encomium after encomium.

    Eye-roll and face-palm. (I’d bang my head on the table, but that hurts.)

  3. Martin Haworth on September 23, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Hey Steven, on your recommendation, I’m in.

    I’ll let you know what I think of it.

  4. Anne Janzer on September 23, 2016 at 8:04 am

    Wait, a good idea isn’t enough to get perfect strangers to spend their time and stake their reputations? (I don’t know if this story makes me laugh or cry.)

    Thanks for the book recommendation, though, and I loved the post.

  5. Michael Beverly on September 23, 2016 at 8:10 am

    Hey Callie,

    Another quick point: One should try to provide value to someone long before asking for anything.

    Nice post, thanks for the heads up on the free book!

  6. Brian Nelson on September 23, 2016 at 9:24 am

    So…I’ve been that guy. It hurt a bit to read the post, but I also had to laugh in that wounded, I’m a bit older now kind of way.

    For the past six years, I have fought to produce a race here in Tacoma. I have always thought it was the greatest race idea in the history of mankind (you may detect a hint of unhinged, manic hubris in that statement. Glad you could meet the crazy part of me…)

    I have fought, cajoled, begged, hustled, and chased runners down during their run to hand them a flyer for my race.

    The upside? We are now a legit event, successfully just had our 6th anniversary with almost 500 runners. We are not the Boston Marathon, but we are a true event here in Tacoma.

    There is an organization in town that is our ‘Sports Commission’ whose sole mission is to grow or attract athletic events to our city in order to spur tourism. They are funded by the tourism industry.

    I met with them a few years ago, asking for their advice, support, buy-in.

    “Meh” was the answer.

    This year, a week after our race, the Executive Director of said commission calls me, “Brian, do you have time for lunch today?”

    Long story short. Tacoma wants to rebrand as a healthy, vibrant community–but we do not have a “Signature Athletic Event”. Spokane has a race called Bloomsday in which 60,000 people run annually. Big deal. Huge deal for the local economy.

    So, after being in a knife fight to get this race off the ground for the last 6 years, this guy wants to put all his chips in behind our event.

    We meet again next month to do some deliberate planning, but this is my equivalent of a publisher saying yes. It is great, exciting, humbling, and I have a little puke in my mouth at the same time. It is scary.

    So, I was that guy. I wanted everyone to buy into my idea before I had any product that someone could sample. I did not understand that 6 years ago or even 4 years ago.

    I could see my vision so clearly–I thought I was explaining it so well–why didn’t anyone else (of consequence, i.e. a publisher) see the same thing?

    Hubris is dangerous, but it can also be fuel.

    In all honesty, I understand the guy in this post. It is not to say I like him, but to totally dismiss him would be to dismiss part of me. Kinda gross, but true.

  7. Joel D Canfield on September 23, 2016 at 9:31 am

    Mark’s book is marvelous. (All Mark’s books are marvelous. Resilience changed my life.)

    I wonder who of us hasn’t been that guy. I know I have. Erg.

  8. Anjelica on September 23, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    In the last two days I have read War of Art and today I read Productivity for Creative People, due to this post! Recently I have stepped up my game when it comes to writing and I have experienced more resistance than ever. Having structure has been a great way to combat it. Thanks for this recommendation. Both books are definitely worth reading and have boosted my inner confidence tremendously! THANK YOU!!!!!!

    Ps. I downloaded speech recognition straight away! 😀 Can’t wait to give it a try!


  9. Mark McGuinness on September 24, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Thank you for your kind words and for sharing the book Callie, much appreciated, as always. I hope your readers find the book helpful.

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