From Malcolm Gladwell's MasterClass

When Your Story Enters the World

Once your story is published, the world will respond. Learn Malcolm’s tips for promoting your work, dealing with critics, and what to do when readers misinterpret your intent.

Topics include: Let Go of Your Ideas • Promote Your Story Until It Works • Learn From Your Reviews • Don't Mistake Critics for Your Audience


Once your story is published, the world will respond. Learn Malcolm’s tips for promoting your work, dealing with critics, and what to do when readers misinterpret your intent.

Topics include: Let Go of Your Ideas • Promote Your Story Until It Works • Learn From Your Reviews • Don't Mistake Critics for Your Audience

Malcolm Gladwell

Teaches Writing

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Once you've written something, it no longer belongs to you. It belongs to your readers. When your readers buy your book, they really buy your ideas and your ideas become theirs. And you can waste a lot of time and energy worrying about how they use your ideas, but you shouldn't because they're not yours anymore. So when I was writing "Outliers," I ran across this bit of research about trying to estimate how long people have to do something complicated before they master it. And this is the literature that is described as the 10,000-hour literature because the notion is that you need to have 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to be good at something. So I wrote this in an article-- in a chapter of my book, "Outliers," and thought nothing of it. I didn't think it was that significant. It was in the service of another point. I was trying to make the point that if it's really that long, then no one can do-- can prepare for something hard by themselves. So 10,000 hours is-- it takes you 10 years of practice to get up to 10,000 hours, roughly speaking. So it takes you 10 years to be good at something. You've got to have help. Parents, a spouse, government, I don't know. Somebody has got to help you out. You can't do 10 years of preparation on your own, right? That was my point. And then I just kind of went on with the book. And then the book comes out. And there was a time when it seemed like the only thing-- not the only thing, but the chief thing people got from the book was that 10,000 hours was necessary to be great at something. And then as that kind of took off, the argument that I made was simplified, and further simplified, and then distorted until it came-- there was a version out there at one point that said, and Gladwell thinks that talent is unnecessary for being good. All you need to do is to practice 10,000 hours, which is not what I said, even remotely. [CHUCKLES] And I had this curious sensation of reading people attributing a position to me that I had never taken. Now, part of you is like, that's a good problem to have, that you're widely enough-- in order for your work to be misconstrued, your work must first be read. So it's better than being ignored, I suppose. [CHUCKLES] And then I went through a period of where I was constantly trying to correct the record and say, I never said that. Blah, blah, blah. So I was irritated by the way-- and then I realized, well, if you're misinterpreted, it's probably your fault. Right? I should have written it more clearly. And then ultimately, I took the position that I am not the police of my readers. If my readers would like to construe an idea certain way, that's entirely up to them. [MUSIC PLAYING] I wrote my first book called "The Tipping Point," and I had no expectation that it was going to be successful. I was just thrilled that someone wanted to publish something that I was-- that I had written. I cut my-- I was at "The New Yorker" and I ...

Transform the ordinary

Ketchup. Crime. Quarterbacks. Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s books, these ordinary subjects have helped millions of readers grasp complex ideas like behavioral economics and performance prediction. Now, the renowned storyteller and best-selling author of Blink and The Tipping Point is teaching his first online writing class. Craft stories that captivate by learning how Malcolm researches topics, crafts characters, and distills big ideas into simple, powerful narratives.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This lesson is fun, informative, and honest. I wasn't familiar with Mr. Gladwell's work but his insights on how we can mine for creativity are great!

I learned to tell the story from the perspective of the person I am writing about.

A complete paradigm shift in my intent and process as a writer. Thank you Malcolm.

In a lot of ways, there's always new things you can learn from each chapter!


Ekin Ö.

This lesson gives some suggestions on how to deal with the process after publishing the article or the book. There are useful tips though: Don't try to control everything after the process, do your best to reach out to a greater audience.

Donovan Y.

I love how he talked about going on tour around the country to promote his book. I'm in the process of writing a book. Hopefully a publisher will want to publish it, and I guess I will have to do what he did: go around the country and promote the book. Also I loved how he talked about he would do his writing in the morning and go to office in the afternoon. It's nice of him to have that job that allows time flexibility.

A fellow student

It's a remarkable power a writer shares with his audience when either the audience or critic becomes our teacher.

Tina K.

I really liked the concept that a critic is not your audience. If they write the review well (or in the spirit of improving the writer's skill), they can be of tremendous help.

Jana J.

Wow - I just grew up in important ways and finally "get it" for understanding MG to say: once people buy your book they own the ideas you imparted. My "fatal flaw" in my career has been how I hated that others profited from my ideas without even thanking me privately or publicly for what they gained, as if they stole credit from me (at worst), or neglected to treat me reasonably (at best). I saw them as users. What MG describes of the relationship between author and readers reminds me of being in an ad lib comedy theater class or group. An idea expressed takes on a life of its own in the next person to receive it, and what each person does with it is *their* contribution to the world. In an ad lib group, it is easy to see who the best contributors are ... the trick for any "ideaist" is to share his or her idea in the best forum, ya?

Dean B.

Thank you for sharing that creative ventures don't have to be new in order to be worthy of promotion, and reviews about creative work, pro or con, are not facts.


All i can really say (not really true but for this post it is) is thank you, Malcolm, for being willing to offer your insights and and help to the rest of us. Having the opportunity to gain from other people’s generous success is one of the biggest contributions to the world i can think of. And for all these other successful people to similarly offer their skills, insights, etc to the community is a gift. So thank you. For the the record, listening to your classes (Malcolm) solved a giant writing organization problem i didnt realize could even be a problem until i experienced it. Your solution was masterful and ridiculously simple. For me it was a thank god moment. 1, 2, 3, 4,.....

Yvonne B.

Very helpful insight into critical feedback and how to view it in a learning experience rather than a personal attack

Laurie O.

"Promote your story until it works." Good advice. I self-published a novel in 2007 that I stopped promoting except to list it on my Amazon author's page and my blog page. Someone just asked me yesterday why. I said I felt the book was too old. This lesson made me rethink that. It's just a story. It doesn't contain outdated scientific information that would mislead readers. Perhaps I'll resume promoting it after all.


I appreciate Mr. Gladwell's statement that one's book is no longer one's own once it's published and "out there." It really (in my imagination as I have yet to get my first book published ;-) ) prompts me to suddenly feel simultaneously dramatically less anxious and a bit "struck with the consternation" of whether or not I could, or will possibly freak out about that fact, down the proverbial road. ;-D I hope I shall be cool, calm and collected and simply smile as I recall Malcolm Gladwell's words to us in MasterClass. Thank you, again, for another fascinating lesson!