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The Power of Good Storytelling

storytellingSince starting my own business, I’ve only had one moment when I questioned whether I made the right decision. Actually, it was a moment when I wanted to jump up and down, scream, and cry my eyes out.

I was working with an author to help write a book that got picked up by a major publishing house. The publisher outbid another, and won our business by presenting the best offer. We were given a contract with a sizable advance, and told to get to work immediately because the manuscript was due in three months. We sprang into action, working feverishly to churn out quality content.

The author planned to compensate me using the advance, which was to be paid out in installments. As the weeks turned into months, we noticed the first payment was late. This isn’t unusual for publishers, so we sent a reminder email and kept working. The author also noticed the publisher hadn’t sent a countersigned version of the contract. As time ticked by and we kept working, we arrived at the due date for the manuscript, but still hadn’t received the countersigned contract or payment. At that point, the publisher let us know they wanted to review half of the completed manuscript to decide whether they still wanted to buy the project.

Ummmm… what? The author, literary agent, and I had already collectively spent hundreds of hours on the project and turned down another perfectly good deal. We never anticipated being told that without a countersigned contract, the deal wasn’t official. We were at the publisher’s mercy and felt helpless. All we could do was turn in half of the manuscript, like the publisher requested, and hope and pray all of our hard work showed in the content.

Thankfully, it did. After confirming the manuscript was high-quality, the publisher sent the countersigned contract and issued the late payments. After several months of uncertainty, we finally felt like we could exhale.

I was sharing this experience with another author-client as an example of the uncertainty that comes with publishing, and I had barely finished explaining what happened when he interjected.

“Great story!” he exclaimed enthusiastically, as if he were happy to hear about our, albeit short, publishing tragedy. Taken aback by his excitement, I stared at him wondering if I had explained something incorrectly. Sensing my confusion, he elaborated.

“That’s a great story for your business. I felt good about deciding to work with you already, but how do you think I feel now? It’s proof that you’re good at what you do.”

In truth, I had been so upset by the experience that I had only thought about the story in a negative way. But he was right—it showed that I deliver the high-quality work I promise to clients.

The moral of this story is that there’s nothing better than getting lost in an interesting story, especially when it comes to your business. Captivating stories hold our attention span hostage and make us forget everything else. Next time, instead of telling people you’re good at something, try showing it through a story. It’ll be a more interesting and powerful way to convey your message.

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