When You Know Better, Serve Others with a Re-Direct: “I can do that, but I shouldn’t”

Updated: Oct 15


My friend Mary once said that the best talk on self-publishing she ever heard ended with the line, “If I have convinced most of you to not do it, I will have done my job here.”


Years ago my dad told me that one of the most gratifying ways he helped people was by changing their minds: “They tell me they want the light switch on one wall, and I say, ‘No, you don’t. You’re having a hard time getting in and out of bed. I’m going to put the switch by your bed so you can reach it.’”


Recently an author asked which company I used for short-run print jobs — his mom wanted to print 200 copies of a book she had written and he knew I would know who did the best job at the best price. I did. But that’s not the information he needed. His mom lives in Alabama and so the additional cost of shipping that print run from the Midwest down South would override any savings from my preferred vendor. Instead, I helped him help her find the best company at the best price near her.


Over the years, I have helped many authors who pitched their book projects to me by saying some version of, “I would love to publish this book, but I would be doing you a disservice. There’s a better publisher for you and your book.” Many balked and only took it as another rejection. Others appreciated the candor.


Sometimes I believe in a book so much, and know that another publisher would too, that I make a personal intro to another publishing company for an author. One that comes to mind is The Ragged Edge: A U.S. Marine’s Account of Leading the Iraqi Army Fifth Battalion* by Michael Zacchea and Ted Kemp. Chicago Review Press does a beautiful production and promotion job with memoirs like this one and I also suspected they would want to work with authors like Zacchea and Kemp who not only had a riveting, well-told tale to share but wide and varied networks and platforms from which to personally market their book.


Here’s the big idea. If you’re a writer or an author, a solo professional or a small business owner, or if you happen to be a human being who’s lived on Earth for some time now, you know things and have a perspective that others don’t. One way of helping others, surprising them, and making yourself memorable is by not giving them the help or answers they think they want.


Give them different information that better addresses their need.


*affiliate link