Look Outwards to Shift the Paradigm

In the small world of publishing, the danger is not whether you can keep abreast of current trends, but whether that’s your only source of inspiration. New ideas enter our nook infrequently, and when they do, the nuance is quickly lost to the game of telephone that carries them from author to author. It leaves too many of us trying to cook with only flour, salt, and water. Yes, it’s enough for matzah, but not much else.

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn argues true innovation comes from outside the field. This is why we celebrate chefs that bring in new ingredients from foreign cultures. The same with authors. Chris Fox brought the audience-first mindset from the tech sector and sold gangbusters. N.K. Jemisin brought literary experimentalism to epic fantasy and swept the charts. Whether in as a creative or an entrepreneur, it pays to think outside the box.

But does this mean you shouldn’t take advice from other authors? No! Seek wisdom wherever you can find it. Just don’t limit yourself to your telephone book. Rather than only reading author business books, read all business books! And read about what’s working in neighboring fields like indie music, YouTube, or paid newsletters. Pay attention to what’s happening in “the creator economy” more broadly. There are a million great ideas out there publishing knows nothing about.

To shake up your genre, read everything. Everything. Read as far outside your niche as you can. And also read history, poetry, psychology, biology, economics, anthropology, mythology, and everything else too. Bring that wisdom and freshness to your future projects. Life is a tapestry, and to find success beyond the ghetto of your subgenre, read it all. Don’t merely react to paradigm shifts—create them.