Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

How To Be A Famous Writer Who Makes Fat Wads of Cash

Are you ready to publish? To learn my rules of success? Let’s get writing.

Alex Baia
Alex Baia
May 24, 2018 · 4 min read
(Listen to this piece!)

Students of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, you are here because you want to be a successful writer. As the world’s best-selling author, and your visiting speaker, I am here to share my wisdom.

Thirty years ago, I was hungry. I had so much to say. I traveled the world. I found my voice. I had a sublime mystical experience in a Tibetan monastery that inspired my first novel, Lhotse Speaks. Then, a vision: my novel would land on the literary landscape like a Boeing 747.

Writers, I will not bullshit you. No publisher would touch Lhotse Speaks. But one rejection note said this: “take out the talking mountain, add some accessible business tips, and we’ll reconsider it.”

And now my tale begins: The story of how I discarded my dreams as a writer and made an absolute shit ton of cash by churning out a line of vapid, bestselling business nonfiction. Are you ready to publish? To learn my rules of success? To use my literary turds as inspiration for your big ass payday? Let’s get writing.

Rule #1: Name drop the Dalai Lama.

As my naïve career illusions slid into a yawning crevasse like a cursed sherpa, The Dalai Lama Principle was born. It’s a bunch of random Buddhist quotations interspersed with some trendy pop science horse shit I called “corporate mindfulness.” The Dalai Lama Principle was, objectively speaking, a goddamned farce. It was also a Fast Company selection that sold 350,000 copies.

Rule #2: Justify people’s laziness.

My second book. The Nothing Principle: How startups are making millions by not having bosses, employees, or physical objects of any kind.

Nothing sells better than telling morons that they should do nothing. The final chapter is “The Nothing Checklist,” and it’s just a list of common office objects preceded by the word “No.” The Facebook fan page for The Nothing Principle is liked by 9,257,873 idiots. I check the fan count each morning, as a reminder of how I let my artistic hopes be publicly incinerated.

Rule #3: Use the word “principle” to create the illusion that you know what the hell you’re talking about.

My third masterpiece. The Invisible Chihuahua Principle: How the new biology of quantum creativity is teaching tech companies that extroverts can’t ride bikes…And what that means for commercial space flight.

No one has a clue what this book is about. Anyone who says otherwise is an asshole. But Invisible Chihuahua was the biggest business-science crossover hit of the year. My first royalty payment was $2,375,000. To recognize this milestone, I put my fist through the drywall in my Aspen vacation home twice — once for each of the shitty-ass commas in that check.

Rule #4: Make up a fake concept and claim that it explains everything.

The Flippity-Boop! Principle.

Did you know that Web 3.0 companies are succeeding by flipping and booping? The meaninglessness of that question did nothing to prevent my unmitigated shit-stain, Flippity-Boop!, from selling 7.6 million copies in Silicon Valley alone. When the sales figures came out, I questioned the existence of a just god. A week later, during my knighting, I leaned in, praying the ceremonial sword would cut me. As my neck emerged unscathed, my conversion to atheism was complete.

Rule #5: Give an inane truism a book-length treatment.

The Smaller Principle.

“When you decrease the size of things, it makes them different in other ways too.” And when you write a thesis that plainly fucking stupid, many jerks will mistake it for genius.

Smaller won all business nonfiction awards on Earth and was translated by monks into every human language, including Dutch, Malagasy, and 11,113 dead tongues. After an unprecedented bidding war, Disney adapted Smaller into a 3D IMAX film starring Tom Hanks. It received a Rotten Tomatoes score of 105%. To celebrate, I burned myself with a cigar.

Rule #6: Flatter your reader’s ego at reality’s expense.

The Scientist Principle: Why Left-Brained Nerds Rule the New Economy.

The Artist Principle: Why Right-Brained Creatives Dominate the Business World.

For my final act of depravity, I released two contradictory books simultaneously. What happened? Scientist and Artist sold 450 million copies. Each. Not including the commemorative box set. They sold 1.2 billion copies. This was my Rorschach test for the book-buying world. Result: the world failed.

The success you want is not the success the devil will grant you. Learn to embrace the universe’s inexplicable cruelty, and you will find, if not happiness, then perhaps a mega-yacht on which to hang your shame. As for me, I now live in seclusion on an island that I purchased (Australia). I have renounced business nonfiction writing.

Finally, I write what’s in my soul: literary fiction about lost love, lost time, lost dignity. I write for self-expression. Or is it to atone for the monstrosities of my past? Either way, I’m having a tough time finding anyone to read my shit.

Alex Baia contributes to McSweeney’s and runs where he publishes humor, essays, and interviews with amazing writers.

Sign-up for Alex’s newsletter to get his best writing once a month.


Medium humor. Large laughs.

Alex Baia

Written by

Alex Baia

Writer: McSweeney's, The New Yorker, Slackjaw. Get my best words, delivered monthly, by a majestic falcon:



Medium humor. Large laughs.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade