Play With Rules, Not Within Them

Routine is crack to the human mind. We like the structure. We like the simplicity. Routine wraps us like a womb, comforting even as it confines. We create systems to live by, and we chastise anyone who doesn’t do the same. Publishing is no different. When you read, you begin with A-B-C. When you write, you begin with 1-2-3. And when you publish? Everyone has a version, but it all sounds like Do-Re-Mi.

Thing is, publishing is not checkers. Over time, the rules change. And they don’t get changed by some big-wig who suddenly decides, “vampires are out, love triangles are in.” It’s the little guy who changes the rules. And he changes them by revealing new ways to play. Like in make believe, when the robber says to the cop, “No, but I’ve got slippery wrists!” The point of the game isn’t to win, but to keep playing.

Stephen King is famous today because he thought it’d be fun to write about menstruation. Andy Weir is famous because he brought hard sci-fi back from the dead, on a blog, then published it for a buck just as it was going viral. And try telling Bella Forrest “vampires are out.” Who was recommending these strategies before the authors changed the game?

So go back to first principles. Get as close to the hard facts of reality as you can. What do you really know about the publishing world today? And how does it differ from what the gurus recommend? Whatever you see that no one else sees—that’s where you break the rules. That’s where you change the game. That’s your gift to the world.