Interview with Vince Poscente, a New York Times Best-Seller

Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with my dear friend, Vince Poscente, New York Times best-selling author of the book Age of Speed. Vince shared his insights on editing, self-publishing, the book industry, and writing a great book.

EditorMuse: In your book, The Age of Speed, you state that speed is no longer a luxury, but an expectation. Writing a book is a long process, and the publishing industry is notorious for being slow moving. Do you think an author’s need for speed has resulted in a diminished quality of books?
Vince Poscente: YES! I wish I had a clear picture of the quality of books in decades past but I can say that there are a huge number of books wasting paper today. There are about 200,000 titles printed in the USA each year now. The barrier to entry for an author has never been lower. Combine that with authors who write a first draft and then expect readers to fawn over their work. Just last week a friend sent me his first book to review and give feedback. It was horrible. The author wrote the book on his laptop, sent it to a POD operation, dropped $300 for a box of books, and asked if I would read it. He felt it was 80% ready to go. In my opinion it was 20% of the way. Don’t even get me started on the slowness of the publishing industry.
EM: Are there shortcuts in any stage of the writing process? Does cutting down time have to lead to cutting corners?
VP: Yes, there are short cuts. No, it doesn’t have to lead to cutting corners. I’ve used a technique by the prolific author, Dianna Booher. She taught me how to map chapters then add subheadings and super-subheadings, followed with insertion of research. In this technique you fill in the structure and research in your own words. The extemporaneous part of the writing is done last. When the outline is fleshed out (in one book I did the outline complete with researched parts in 3 months. It was 165 pages long ), you go to a remote location and write the book. Get up at 6 a.m. Write until you have to pee. Come back and write until you have to eat. Come back and write until you go to bed. RULE #1 … don’t look back! Just follow the outline and fill in the parts of the outline that you know from your experience or from your creative center. I wrote a 225 page book in seven days with this technique. Then I sent it to an editor and a few weeks later the book was done. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was a good book.
EM: Does working with an editor speed up or slow down the writing process?
VP: Good editors don’t slow down a book. Insecure, egomaniacal, procrastinating, dysfunctional, perfectionist authors do.
EM: One of the major motivators for self-publishing is the time it saves in looking for an agent and a publisher. What are your thoughts on independent publishing?
VP: I LOVE SELF-PUBLISHING. Maintaining control of all aspects of a book, especially the intellectual property is an important thing in my world of non-fiction books. I have worked with two publishers and found both experiences to be rewarding and challenging. With that said, the king of the castle in the game of book selling is DISTRIBUTION. He who distributes calls the shots. If you have a great self-published book and no distribution, I hope you have a large garage. Expecting word of mouth or viral marketing on the Internet to see you into the book writers’ hall of fame is pure fantasy. So is winning the lottery. BUT… if you have a market and can sell to that market…self publishing is definitely the way to go.
EM: According to the Age of Speed philosophy, more technology gives us more options. Our existing technology enables practically everyone to write a book, and people are no longer waiting late in life to write a memoir. With so little time, how do we determine which books deserve our attention?
VP: Step 1. Step 2. Determine if the book deserves your attention.
EM: How do you write a book that will stand out?
VP: The tip of the spear must be the experience that the reader gets from your book. If you give someone a profound experience (emotional or logical), then you will be talked about. Combine that with a great title and you have some magic. Eat, Pray, Love is a good example. Another good example is that knuckle head who wrote I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.
EM: You prepared yourself for the Olympics in four years and wrote a New York Times best-selling book on the second try. Are you the exception or the rule?
VP: I am not an exceptional person, but I make exceptional decisions. If you focus and drive forward then you will amaze yourself how far you can go. Working hard combined with working smart is a great combination that helped me get to the Olympics and in the top five books on the NYT list.
EM: Books can establish credibility, but reading and writing books takes time. Is there some faster-quicker-now method to being seen as an expert?
VP: The quickest way to be an expert in the minds of others is to tell the world you are an expert. But every cheeseball expert does this. The only way I know how to be an expert is to combine academic methods (reading and science) with real life experience (living it and observing it firsthand). Think about it. If you know more than most anyone else about a topic or concept, then you are an expert. If you know enough to be dangerous, you’re a hobbyist.
EM: What have been the greatest benefits from writing the book?
VP: I’ve learned about myself. I’ve learned that an opinion is pretty useless without data to back it up. Writing a book forces me to research and be extra clear on my point of view for the benefit of the reader. Long term it is the legacy my books have. I feel in a small way I’ve left the campsite better than I found it. Finally, another benefit is that I realized that negative book reviewers are cruel, mean, and angry people. I feel sorry for them.
EM: In a wonderful quote in your book you say, “…one can win a race even against unlikely odds if she is humble, courageous, determined, and focused.” What advice would you give to someone writing their first book?
VP: Writing a book is a lot like giving birth. First you have to plant the seed. Fertilize your little egg of an idea. Give your book specific DNA. Don’t be all over the place. Be specific about what the book will become. Let the book bake. Feed it through that little umbilical cord attached from your keyboard to your computer. Stop feeding it and it dies. Let it take shape and grow. Then after nine months scream out “I can’t take this anymore!!!” and deliver your baby.

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