THE STORY GRID: A Five Part Video Series from Shawn Coyne.




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What It Takes

What It Takes

The 10,000 Reader Rule

By Shawn Coyne | Published: November 27, 2015

Here’s a post from 2014 that has resonated with many of my book marketing friends.  A number of them now use it to explain to their clients why and when it’s best to let their book go and move on to their next project…

The sum total of my twenty-two years of experience in book publishing comes down to the number 10,000.

What is a book publisher’s job?

Is it to get a writer on The Today Show?

Is it to buy a full-page four-color advertisement on the back page of The New York Times Arts and Leisure section?

Is it to make sure a book is on the front table of Barnes & Noble for its first two weeks on sale?

Is it to entertain every cockamamie marketing idea an author has…Why don’t we have an ice cream social in Times Square to promote my book about William Howard Taft?

I’ve contemplated all of these tactics over the years as an editor at the major book publishers, an independent book publisher, as an agent and even as an author for a Big Five publisher myself.

What I’ve concluded is that a book publisher’s job is to get 10,000 people to try the book.

Ideally, those readers will give their full attention to at least its first paragraph. If they like what they’ve read, they’ll read the second paragraph…and so on.

That’s it.  Get the book to 10,000 people who will sincerely give it a try.

I know, this pronouncement seems glib and just more headline fodder for Buzzfeed, but think about it.

There are three major trade book-reading generations in the United States today.

1. The Baby Boomers (75 million)

2. Generation X (50 million), and

3. Generation Y (75 million).


Posted in What It Takes

What It Takes

What It Takes

The Next “Next”

By Callie Oettinger | Published: November 20, 2015

""When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." —Jonathan Swift

“”When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” —Jonathan Swift

Wyck had a brilliant mind. Quick witted. Educated. Creative.

Depending on when you landed in his life, he was the next Jim Morrison, the next Mario Puzo, the next Casey Kasem, the next Babe Ruth.

During the next-Jim Morrison phase he was Molly’s first boyfriend. Unlike Luther, who was his replacement years later, he was a close friend of mine, too. We discussed books and music and dreams. We thought he’d “make it” and that inspired us to want to make it, too.

Looking back . . . He was the next Ignatius J. Reilly.

If his life was a movie, this would be an oft-repeated scene:

Wyck walks into his parent’s kitchen, where his mother and her friend are playing cards.

He walks in with “purpose,” making a point of clearing his throat once he stops to pose, so his presence isn’t in question. He’s wearing his best Jim Morrison uniform (black leather pants and a white, gauzy, poet’s shirt).

Wyck: I’m the Lizard King.

Wyck’s mother: That’s nice honey. Would you like a brownie?

His mother’s line is delivered as she places down another card, not breaking to look up at Wyck.

Wyck pauses. For a heartbeat the audience expects him to scowl like all the other misunderstood twenty-something’s embracing the emerging grunge movement.

Instead, he quick steps to the table, leans in, picks a brownie from the glass plate and then exits the kitchen, looking more Dennis the Menace than Lizard King, a child distracted by a treat.

I thought his parents didn’t “get him” — that they underestimated his potential.

The reality?

They’d lived through 20 years of him being the next x or y or z before I entered their story — and were used to being the test audience for the various incarnations of “I’m the Lizard King” lines that went with each “next.”

I thought about Wyck after reading Mark Manson’s article “Screw Finding Your Passion.”

Read Mark’s entire post. For now, here are two slices:

Today I received approximately the 11,504th email this year from a person telling me that they don’t know what to do with their life. And like all of the others, this person asked me if I had any ideas of what they could do, where they could start, where to “find their passion.”

And of course, I didn’t respond. Why? Because I have no fucking clue. If you don’t have any idea what to do with yourself, what makes you think some jackass with a website would? I’m a writer, not a fortune teller.


The problem is not a lack of passion for something. The problem is productivity. The problem is perception. The problem is acceptance.

The problem is the, “Oh, well that’s just not a realistic option,” or “Mom and Dad would kill me if I tried to do that, they say I should be a doctor” or “That’s crazy, you can’t buy a BMW with the money you make doing that.”

The problem isn’t passion. It’s never passion.

It’s priorities.


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What It Takes

What It Takes

Instinct and Intelligence

By Shawn Coyne | Published: November 13, 2015

What now?

What now?

[To read more of Shawn’s stuff, subscribe to]

There’s a very instructive moment about the education of a writer in the documentary film, The Promise, a Story nerd nirvana experience about the making of Bruce Springsteen’s fourth album, Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Do you know this story?

Bruce Springsteen was that slight, shy but indomitable guy that those of us who grew up in the industrial heartland of America in the 1960s and 1970s all had at least one of in our school classes.

The Springsteen kid didn’t play football or run for student council or get straight “A”s. But we could all tell that beneath the dirty flannel shirt and primary layer wife-beater t-shirt, lurked the heart of a poet. He’d blurt out some bon mot when no one expected or banged out a rockabilly version of fur elise on the music teacher’s battered upright before class. And those of us jockeying for hierarchical supremacy in the secondary school madding crowd would look at each other, raise an eyebrow and nod respect. (more…)

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