A few weeks ago, Dave Portnoy, owner of Barstool Sports, posted a video review about the pizza at my friend’s bar. For those who don’t know, Barstool Sports is a podcasting, video, and blogging empire known for its rabid fanbase, controversy, and yes, pizza reviews. For years, Portnoy (aka el Presidente) has flown around the country in his private jet testing pizza, and in doing so, has become the most influential pizza expert in the country. Like millions of people watching his videos influential. A thumbs up from el Presidente can make a restaurant’s year.

My friend’s bar, the Venus Café in Whitman, scored an 8.1, which in Barstool-land is a great score. Since the review posted on Portnoy’s social media, my friend reports the restaurant has seen a huge jump in business. 

Here’s the thing though. The Venus didn’t court Portnoy. They didn’t send him an invite or a special sample pizza. What they did was make great pizza day in and day out. The pizza Portnoy discovered was the same quality pizza they made the day before his review and the day after.

What do pizza and books have in common? Plenty.

Writers and publishers know what a viral post can do for sales. We’re told to maintain a large social media following, write to market trends, and court influencers so that we might be the next viral book sensation. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to be the next Colleen Hoover?

But what gets left out is the fact that Colleen Hoover didn’t write her books for BookTok. Nor did Emily Henry or Taylor Jenkins Reid. BookTok discovered them. What these authors did was write the best books they knew how to write. Readers would have gotten the same great reading experience whether TikTok existed or not. 

Do you see where I’m going with this? The Venus’s Portnoy review, Colleen Hoover’s BookTok explosion, these events were magic in a bottle. Serendipity can’t be created. What can be created is a quality product so that if serendipity knocks on your door, you are prepared. 

Therefore, stop stressing out about going viral. Focus on writing the book. Focus on being authentic with your social media posts. Focus on connecting with people one-on-one. The magic will find you.

PS: You can view Dave Portnoy’s review here. You’ll note that his score encompasses more than just the pizza taste – it’s the whole package. Something writers should remember.

Currently Reading: 

Supercommunicators by Charles Duhigg

Unf*ck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and into Your Life (audio version) by Gary John Bishop

The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon. 

Donna Alward and I will discuss this historical thriller with Sydney Snelling Young on Step into the Story this Tuesday. (February 15th.) You can watch our chat at https://www.youtube.com/@stepintothestorybooks

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