This is Why the Smarter Artist is Important


You know what I always wanted to be, ever since I was a kid? A storyteller. Not just a writer, but a teller of stories.

At no point did I want to be a blogger. At no point did I want to teach or sell knowledge. At no point did I want to be an “authority” in anything. I’m entrepreneurial by nature, but that has much more to do with my desire for freedom and choice than it does with my wanting to build a business for the business’s sake … so you never would have caught me, growing up, talking about the big business I’d one day own. I just didn’t care that much.

The business was always a means to an end. Same for blogging, teaching, authority-making, entrepreneurism, and so on. I was in no way opposed to any of that, but it definitely wasn’t what was frontmost in my heart. I had bills to pay and a family to feed, and up until recently “telling stories” wasn’t a viable or reliable way to do those things. My dad said (affectionately, at least) that I was “whoring my talent” to do the things I did before I told stories for a living … but hey, a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do to make it in the world.

And admittedly? The Self-Publishing Podcast, for me, began as a means to an end. I liked speaking to an audience, but didn’t want to SPEAK TO AN AUDIENCE just because it was neat in and of itself. Sean and Dave knew how to make fiction work as a career, and I wanted to learn more. That was why I pushed the guys to start SPP. We never figured the Self-Publishing Podcast or anything that came from it would make us any money. For all of us, it was about masterminding with each other, meeting people who knew more than we did, and reminding ourselves, every single week, that we were writers.

Along the way, something changed.


A friend of mine once said, “If people don’t regularly thank you for doing your job, I don’t think you should do that job anymore.” And do you know what happened immediately, as soon as we began broadcasting the Self-Publishing Podcast? Do you know what damn thing totally derailed our intention to write stories as much as possible, teaching or imparting wisdom only when necessary?

You guys did. The Self-Publishing Podcast community turned out to be amazing. We got thank-yous all the time. So it just made us want to do more podcasts, more Q&A sessions, answer more inquiries, respond to more blog comments. It made us, in short, want to “do the job” of being on SPP, rather than just “happening to have a podcast as a sideline.”

We realized that in our own way, we were making a difference for people. People watched our trials, tribulations, and experiments (many ballsy, many foolhardy or flat-out foolish) and learned from our successes and failures. We didn’t think we were doing anything unusual. We were just trying to tell stories, then talking about it on the podcast. But it turned out that not everyone worked as fast as the three of us ended up working together. Not everyone was crazy enough to try the things we tried.

As it turns out, that kind of production, craziness, an willingness to look foolish helps to push this art and business further … and that, accordingly, meant that what we were doing was important. Not for us, but for smarter artists everywhere.

So as we saw that effect more and more, we wanted to do more and more of it. Teaching suddenly became something we felt we needed to do. Something people wanted. Something that pushed everyone further in their own little artistic empire.


What A Smarter Artist Is

There are artists, and then there are smart artists. The first kind of person is amazing and makes wonderful things, but the second kind actually manages to sell those things. And that, my friends, is important because artists who are able to make money from their art are therefore able to make more art. It’s not about commercializing and it’s certainly not about greed or selling out.

It’s about art begetting art. 

It took us over two years of recording the Self-Publishing Podcast every single week (and publishing a bestseller, and doing a live “writing performance” with Fiction Unboxed) before we decided that the nonfiction arm of our weekly work — the part where we didn’t just “build stuff,” but then also talked about the building process itself — deserved its own name, as its own discreet imprint within the Sterling & Stone publishing company.

And of course, that name should be “The Smarter Artist.”

Because really, that’s what The Self-Publishing Podcast, Write. Publish. Repeat., Fiction Unboxed, and all we did in the “talk about it” part of Sean’s “We build stuff and talk about it” equation boiled down to: We wanted to help artists become smarter.

It’s terrible when great art dies on the vine. If there was something we could do to help more artists get their art out into the world (or at least out of themselves), we wanted to do it. So “The Smarter Artist” became more than just a name for the imprint where we pushed limits and undertook experiments designed to advance the business of art. It became our mission.

But that’s us. What about you? If you’re reading this, you’re some sort of an artist. Many of you write fiction, and plenty of you write nonfiction. As The Smarter Artist imprint matures, we hope it will also attract Smarter Artists of all stripes: filmmakers, musicians, floral designers, interior decorators, beat poets. Whoever and whatever. If you make art of any sort, you’re an artist.

But are you a smart artist? Are you a Smarter Artist than the artists who “ship and pray” with what they create … or, in many cases, can’t overcome internal blocks enough to ship at all?

If you are willing to be as creative in exposing your art to new eyes and ears as you were in making the art to begin with, you’re a Smarter Artist than most.

If you are as willing to stretch your comfort zone in terms of promotion as you were willing to push your comfort zone artistically, you’re a Smarter Artist than most.

If you understand that finding ways (perhaps unconventional ways) to profit from your art is not “shameful,” “dirty,” or “selling out” but is instead the clearest way to free you to do more of what brings you joy and fulfillment, you’re a Smarter Artist than most.

And if that’s you, you’re very much in the right place.

What The Smarter Artist Does

There’s a meme we saw recently that says, “The thing about smart motherfuckers is, they look like crazy motherfuckers to dumb motherfuckers.”

But the corollary is that sometimes, even smart motherfuckers do things that, when all is said and done, turn out to be much more “crazy” than “smart.”

At The Smarter Artist, we’ve already said that the three of us and our six-imprint story studio aim to “build stuff and talk about it.” So at base, yes, The Smarter Artist is where you can listen to or watch or read us “talking about” what we’ve built. It’s where you’ll learn which pricing strategies are working for our books, how we’re bundling our stories, what promotion avenues we’re trying … stuff like that.

But on a deeper level, The Smarter Artist is where you get to watch us be crazy motherfuckers without actually taking the risk of being one yourself.

Plenty of what we do doesn’t work. Some does. I once heard Anthony Robbins say that the definition of an entrepreneur is “someone who can make enough money to pay for all of his mistakes.” We can relate, and we’re just bold (or foolish) enough to keep plugging on doing crazy things anyway. Sometimes, great ideas fail. But if you don’t fail, you’ll never succeed.

New frontiers in any field are not forged by playing it safe.

In any field, it’s the crazy motherfuckers who take the risks that show everyone else what’s possible.

That, my friends, is what we do here.

We act crazy for everyone’s benefit.


Why The Smarter Artist Matters To You

In June of 2014, we decided that a neat way to answer our audience’s process-related questions about writing novels would be to write a full-length novel ourself, starting from absolutely nothing, in 30 days, and to let everyone watch us do it.

In May of 2014, Sean and I told a few people around a table at a conference our plan for the coming month. I’ll never forget the reaction of the woman to my right — a publishing veteran who, after we’d finished, just looked at me with eyes like saucers.

“You’re crazy,” she said. “But not just crazy — you guys are drool-bucket crazy.” 

But we did it anyway, in Fiction Unboxed. Were we scared? Yep. Did we know we might fail spectacularly? Yep. But we did it anyway.

But here’s the cool part: Because we did it, you don’t have to. We did it for everyone watching Fiction Unboxed live, and everyone who continues to join up and watch today. Everyone learned, but only we took the risk.

Write. Publish. Repeat. is filled with years’ worth of experiments in self-publishing that you don’t have to try, because we did and are happy to share the results. (And the same is true of our podcast.)

When we created our first Udemy course as another avenue for our art (“meta-art,” where we deconstructed the process of the process itself), we can tell you whether all the work to create the course was worth it so you won’t go in blind if you decide to try something similar. (It did.)

And when we created our second course (this one a 30+ video series) and then gave it away FREE as a ninja way of promoting the sale of the book version of Fiction Unboxed (which itself was an experience: a book based on a project wherein we wrote a book), you don’t have to try the same to know whether we’d recommend it for nonfiction authors. (We would.)

Review-getting tactics. Genre-hopping. Our methods in writing experimental literature. Serialization strategies, on our blog or on Amazon. All things you don’t have to try if you’re paying attention to The Smarter Artist and what we produce within it, here at Sterling & Stone.

If you’re an artist, want to make you smarter.

And if you’ll join us, then you have our thanks.

If you’re a Smarter Artist, and want to make our world stronger together, please share this post.


About Johnny B. Truant

Johnny started out as the writing everyman, barely managing a novel a decade. From there, he has become a storytelling superstar, pounding out a novel a month. He's the co-founder of Realm & Sands, as well as the host of the Self Publishing Podcast.


  1. Hearing about Hugh Howey made me interested in Indie Publishing, but it was finding your podcast and all your smarter artist stuff that made me decide to properly give it a go. So keep up the good work! Thanks.

  2. Jason Fuhrman says:

    Great post. You guys have really opened my eyes to the world of self-publishing and the exciting possibilities therein. I hope one day this will be a full-time gig for me as well. And in case you needed another one…

    Thank you!

  3. Ditto–thank you, guys, for making me smarter and, just as importantly, making me laugh. (The occasional SPP-induced cringe also helps stretch my kinked writer neck muscles.)

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