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Allen Gannett: One Book Agent Away from Inspiring Creativity in the Masses

Welcome back to The One Away Show! This week’s guest is Allen Gannett, Author of The Creative Curvewhich lays out an actionable, clear, and effective methodology that can empower anyone to achieve moments of creative genius.

Allen Gannett’s vision was to inspire creativity into reach for the masses, and I can personally attest that he’s brought that vision to life. Allen’s one-away moment is relational before all else. Meeting his literary agent Jim Levine had an incredible impact that resonated both personal and professional perspectives. 

Allen Gannett’s One Away Moment Began With a Mentor

Jim Levine was a pivotal figure in bringing Allen’s dreams from idea to reality. He consistently provided support and encouragement, yet never failed to give unwaveringly honest feedback. Jim’s expert critical eye and radically candid critiques pushed Allen to be better in his work and his writing.

This was anything but negative. Allen Gannett realized that Jim pushed him so hard because he genuinely cared, and truly believed in his vision for the book. In his own words, he describes how closely he took this dynamic to heart: “I remember realizing, “Wow, this man who is super smart, talented, and experienced, not to mention very busy, is investing his time into making this better… and making me better. If he believes in me like that, I definitely should believe in myself.”

After navigating all the challenges of writing a book proposal, Allen describes the surreal experience of signing a book deal with Penguin Random House – at none other time than during President Donald Trump’s election. Towards the end of the episode, we get into the wees about the aftermath of releasing his book and the opportunities that arose after releasing The Creative Curve.

BW Missions has a special knack for getting ‘it” done and “it” can truly be anything. Throw a multi-city book tour? Check. Run a multi-channel social media strategy? Check. Connect two people who need to meet, together? Check. Bryan and his team are all that and then some.”

Allen Gannett

A Story I Watched Unfold, and the Ripple Effect it had on Me

Having worked together for over a year, I really cherish the opportunity more than ever today and all that it has led to for my own career. Hearing Allen speak to this experience mirrors my own recent path.

Just like his book agent had on him, meeting Allen was transformative for me. Before we connected, I’d heard so many special things about him. A mutual friend encouraged me to reach out via LinkedIn. We arranged an initial meeting where he told me all about his book, The Creative Curve.

Top 5 Takeaways From Allen Gannett

1. It’s okay to ask for help from experts with the skills you need to learn, improve, and ultimately succeed. Understand the tools and relationships you don’t have, and seek out people who do. For Allen, this came in the form of meeting Jim. For me, Allen was this person.

2. Pairing the right opportunities and resources can create compound results. When you work in synergy and combine skillsets that mesh well together, you can create results that extend far beyond your personal capabilities.

3. Find someone who can give you constructive feedback with radical candor. Sometimes, it’s worth breaking down your work at the granular level if it ultimately will make you better.

4. Every detail counts. Allen worked so hard to make every aspect of his book absolutely perfect, and Jim pushed him to be better and better. When I worked for Allen, he pushed me to be better, too. At a time when I was content with “good enough,” he helped me raise my standards and pushed me to be the best I can- every single time. 

5. Leverage all the platforms in front of you to maximize your credibility – and results. As an author, Allen was working with an incredible business book agent and top publishing firm – Penguin Random House. Having two great platforms at his disposal and brilliant people in his corner accelerated his success.

The Transformative Power of Radically Candid Mentorship

Allen taught me so much about marketing and launching a book, but he taught me even more about life. One of the biggest lessons I came away with was the crucial importance of attention to detail. It’s absolutely a prerequisite to success. Allen gave me the mentorship, guidance, and hands-on marketing experience I needed to launch BW Missions into the company it is today. I used to struggle with this all the time, but now I know it’s a non-negotiable.

Read all the lessons he has to share in the transcript below!

BRYAN WISH: Welcome to this week’s episode of the One Away show! I’m here with Allen Gannett. You have a “One Away” moment that I was actually a part of. Do you mind sharing what that was, and how it was impactful for you?

ALLEN GANNETT: One of the biggest things for me, on the career side of things, happened a few years ago. I got interested in the idea of writing a book as a side project or a hobby. After I started noodling on it, one of my friends introduced me to his book agent, Jim Levine. He was immediately interested in working together and was excited about the idea I had. Later on, I realized that Jim is the biggest business book agent in the world. He’s worked with all these incredible people like Ray Dalio and Eric Schmidt from Google and Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce. It’s wild! I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I got on the call; I only realized what a big deal it was after the fact. 

Jim turned into a much more impactful relationship than is typical with literary agents. He’s super wise, and has been doing this a long time, so he had a lot of guidance for me. He really helped me shape the whole thing, from the proposal to the book itself and the marketing plans, in a way that I don’t think a traditional agent does. Meeting him was a very key moment in my side hustle.

BRYAN WISH: What makes Jim so unique and successful?

ALLEN GANNETT: What’s interesting about Jim is he has an excellent ability to be encouraging and supportive, while still providing very clear feedback. Whenever I talked to him, he was excited. We spent about four months going back and forth on drafts of the book proposal. He’d give me feedback that pushed me. Even when I thought things were really good and other people who had read it thought it was really good, he was like, “It can be better.” Jim’s feedback was clear, actionable, straightforward, and most of importantly, it was right. He does a good job of  what Kim Scott talks about in her book Radical Cando. He’s very candid. You might say he’s blunt, but it doesn’t come off that way because you also know he deeply cares about you and wants you to be the best that you can be. That not only pushed me, but also enabled me to pull myself up to his standards, which was a very helpful mechanism.  That’s a combination of his natural ability and long-term talent or long-term experience in it. That ability to push very constructively is something that’s pretty special and unique. 

BRYAN WISH: Were there any specific moments from chapters of the book to the proposal that were so clear to you that looking back on it now, it made all the difference 1 ½-2 years later?

ALLEN GANNETT: Oh yeah, I had a version of the proposal that I was like, “I’m done. This is good. I’m locked in and ready to rock.” I remember sending it to him and we planned the next time I was in New York we’d meet in person. He sits down is basically like, “there’s this problem and that problem” on every single page. I had come in with this extreme sense of “being ready to go” and he totally batted that away. I remember thinking, “Is this something that’s ever going to actually be able to get to a place where it needs to be?” I remember realizing, “Wow, this man who is super smart, talented, and experienced, not to mention very busy, is investing his time into making this better… and making mebetter. If he believes in me like that, I definitely should believe in myself.”

That as a big inflection moment where I had some serious self-doubt but sort of realize that I was looking at that self-doubt in a way where if I flipped it on its head, it also is a sign of deep confidence and commitment. This is someone who is so busy where if he didn’t believe in me, he would just not put the time in. That was a very impactful change of mind and had an impact through a lot of aspects of my life and career. Sometimes the people who truly care about you and love you aren’t necessarily “nice.” They might be kind, but being nice can actually be the wrong thing to do. Sometimes you want someone that is going to push and make sure that you’re doing the best job that they know you can do.

BRYAN WISH: I know your radical candor very well, Allen. 

ALLEN GANNETT: Bryan and I used to work together and he’s used to me. 

BRYAN WISH: Don’t make small mistakes if you ever work for Allen. You made a great book proposal at the end of the day. Jim helped you navigate your way through the process. He helped you get signed with Penguin. What did that feel like? What was that moment like for you that you were going to have a published book?

ALLEN GANNETT: We actually got word on election day 2016. I’m not a big Trump guy, so, it was a pretty bizarre day. It started with being the world’s biggest publisher wants to publish your book; great, exciting. It ended with this guy, who I’m definitely not a supporter of and very fearful of is going to become president. It was a very bizarre day. I remember at the end of the say just being, “I just need to stress eat.” I had this giant jar of mixed nuts and tequila. It was a totally surreal moment. It’s one of those things where you definitely have sort of imposter syndrome where until the book was actually out, I constantly was like, “It’s all going to fall apart. They’re going to pull the book. Everyone is going to hate this book. They’re never going to publish it.” Every possible moment where I thought something could fall apart, I thought it would fall apart. That’s a great example of having a Jim in your corner. Jim is like, “It’s not going to fall apart. It’s not a problem. Calm down.” It was very helpful because he’s a very credible witness on this stuff. I believed him when he said it. That was a very surreal moment. It was also funny because it was the moment that happened mostly over email and phone. When you get really great news over email, it can sometimes feel anti-climactic because it’s very impersonal but still very exciting. 

BRYAN WISH: And that’s why you use emojis in email, right?

ALLEN GANNETT: Yes, use emojis in email. It’s important. I’m an aggressive emoji user. 

BRYAN WISH: I know when you use a smiley face and put some exclamation marks in there, I’m doing a good job. If it’s very straight to the point, it has a more serious tone. You’ve taught me. Why do you think Jim does what he does? What has kept him in the industry so long with sustained success? 

ALLEN GANNETT: He’s incredibly honest, high integrity. His business is all about his relationship with the publishers. He wasn’t going to bring me until it was right. Having high standards, having integrity, being willing to have the hard conversations, those things not only made me do my best work, but also meant that when he brought me to publishers, publishers knew that if Jim was bringing me, there was a certain level of standards and quality that it would be, and they’d take that email more seriously. I think that high integrity, high standard culture is very important and very useful. 

One thing that’s interesting to me about him is they’re this powerhouse literary agency but they’ve always kept it pretty small. They never want to expand to 100 people. They never sold to some giant talent agency. He’s always been very focused on building his company as a family style business and they have apprentices and junior agents and trained people and really invest. That builds, for him, a sense of satisfaction in what he’s doing that makes something you can do for 20 plus years and enjoy and thrive at. I think with a lot of high pressure careers, you can burn yourself out if you don’t find multiple streams of purpose in it, which I think he’s done really well.

BRYAN WISH: He helped you launch the book. What has happened since you launched the book? What have you learned about yourself and things you were least expecting?

ALLEN GANNETT: Publishing a book is definitely one of those things that I would generally highly encourage if you ever have the interest or motivation to do it. It’s very emotionally rewarding. It’s very intellectually rewarding. The biggest thing for me is I submitted the manuscript a little longer than two years ago. I haven’t written the book in over two years, but it’s still something where people read it for the first time. They experience it for the first time. They hear about it for the first time. They’ll send me a note saying how it had a positive impact on them or I’ll see a review pop up on Amazon. That’s a very neat feeling to do something or build something that has this long-term impact. I’m done writing the book but it still continues to have a positive impact on people. That’s a very fulfilling thing. The book industry is super wild and crazy and you learn a lot about it and things to do and what not to do in the future. It’s super fun. 

One of the other things I found really rewarding is as your book gets translated into multiple countries, that’s a really cool feeling. Seeing how the book relates to international audiences. My book is in like eight languages now. What I thought was very funny is in Asia it’s come out in Vietnam, Japan, mainland China, Taiwan, and Korea. Most of them are doing somewhere between meh to good and in Korea, it’s doing really well. To me, that’s really interesting because Korea has a lot of things culturally that make the book really interesting to them. The Korean version of the book is probably the prettiest version. It has the wild colors and it’s really well designed. They’re really into design culture. It makes sense. Seeing that has made the world feel a lot bigger. I’ve gone over and spoke in Korea. That’s been an eye-opening experience about how international the world is now and how international the economy is and how international the market of ideas are and to not limit yourself to just thinking about English or North America or Europe. 

BRYAN WISH: Why don’t you close out by telling people what the book actually is and where people can find you?

ALLEN GANNETT: The book is called The Creative Curve and it’s all about how you can learn to be more creative. I examine this question through three lenses; looking at the history of creativity. I interviewed 25 living creatives greats from billionaires to Oscar winners to mission star chefs. Also, looking at the science around creativity. Everything from psychology to neuroscience to anthropology. You can find more about the book and me at allen.xyz.

One Away Podcast
Catherine Kushan

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