Instant Guru – Just Add Spin (or, How To Be An Expert By Saying You Are)

Photo By Sam Segar

I think my head just blew off.

Minutes ago, I finished reading a blog post by a writing/publishing “guru” with thousands upon thousands of loyal followers. This person’s even got a few (self-published) books, a nifty headshot, an online community, even an agent. All good, right?

Um, no. I met said guru a couple of years ago at a retreat. It was clear from numerous conversations that this person was ready to move manuscript mountains by the shear force of their will, despite a gross lack of knowledge and experience. After a little digging, I discovered that many of the accolades the guru spent the day bragging about were blown more out of proportion than job descriptions on an entry-level resume. Now, I find it staggering that they’ve built the online equivalent of the Taj Mahal out of these simple mud bricks. Could they have gained required wisdom over the last few years in order to become an expert? Sure, anything’s possible. Is it likely, given what I know? Hmmmm…

Bottom line: anyone can be anything on the internet by saying it enough times.

I am a famous author, I am a famous author, I am–  Sorry, got caught up in the moment.

Hey, I’m not against blowing your own horn (or, lest I offend, listening to actual Gurus). Au contraire, mon ami. Social networking provides us with the means to tell others about our projects, our lives, our dreams, even offer advice. But I am against the “all sizzle and no steak” model and am generally wary of those without demonstrated real-world accomplishments to back up their words when they bill themselves as one of the Three Wise Men of publishing. I read tons of blogs by everyday people sharing advice on what worked for them and even some by honest-to-God experts who’ve fought in the trenches. But I’ve never fallen into the trap of believing one person has all the answers. Maybe I’m jaded from too many years in marketing and sales where my life’s work was, to quote a former boss, “put a shine on that turd.” (You think I’m kidding, don’t you?) Or perhaps, it’s made me more aware of the dizzying sway that the cult of personality holds over some.

But don’t let me stop you. If you want to set up shop as a guru, there’s never been a better time. All it takes is a few mud bricks and an internet connection.


Gurus abound in all industries. But the rise in indie publishing has created more than its fair share. Anyone else out there have experience (good or bad) with them?


5 thoughts on “Instant Guru – Just Add Spin (or, How To Be An Expert By Saying You Are)

  1. What frustrates me no end is the number of “gurus” giving out advice based on their personal experience and turning it into rules that everybody should follow. And there are way too many desperate souls trying to work their way through the tangle of indie publishing, who gulp it all down. We all make mistakes, but I prefer to make my own and learn from them.

  2. Personally, I don’t mind advice that comes from qualified individuals. I even seek it out. But it’s the “smoke and mirrors” stuff that makes my skin crawl. Any time my BS meter goes off, I take a step back and evaluate.

    Your handle is so familiar to me, Catana. I think I’ve seen you post on Konrath’s website… Anyway, thanks for the comment!

  3. I comment on Konrath’s blog now and then. Not very often. Actually, using him as an example, he’s an expert in many areas, but I’ve also seen him hand out advice that would be exactly wrong for some newbies to self-publishing. There’s a natural bias in humans that makes us assume our experiences are similar to those of the people we’re talking to. Probably every one of the self-publishing gurus show this bias every once in a while. Like you said, we need to keep our BS meter active, but that isn’t a big help for the inexperienced people looking for advice.

  4. Desperate times! People are looking for an easy way out. If they hear something that appeals to them they will blindly follow it and unfortunately there are a lot of unscrupulous “gurus” that will take advantage of the situation. And yep keep that BS meter active!

    • Hey, Usha! Thanks for stopping by. Your comment about people looking for what’s easy struck a chord with me. You know the old saying, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Always do your homework.

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