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'Idea, Timing, Brand, and Network' Hero's Journey with Bruce Tate

May 20, 2020


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Bruce Tate

This month we met with PragProg author and series editor, Bruce Tate, to discuss writing, software development, branding, and partnerships. If you’re struggling to find your footing as an author, Bruce’s recipe for success is sure to put you on solid ground.

On becoming an author…

In the early nineties, Bruce was working on a database project at IBM that spanned both the DB2 database engine behind the scenes and the customer-facing components. That’s when Bruce noticed an absence of practical content to help people fine tune this powerful and complex product.

Confident in his abilities to communicate, Bruce seized on a low risk opportunity to be an author by way of an internal group at IBM, IBM Mechanicsburg.

Bruce knew that so long as a book was published through an actual publisher, the IBM Mechanicsburg group would make the work available to every single employee at IBM. And that was a built-in audience.

Before long, Bruce connected with Van Nostrand Reinhold, wrote, and then published his very first book.

Bruce himself says it “wasn’t a great book,” but with a ready-made audience, the book sold well. More importantly, Bruce discovered that having a network to turn to when you’re writing is extremely important.

From peer reviews and feedback from customers to conversations with the “nerds” who were working on the optimizer, Bruce says that “not knowing tons of people” was okay, because it was all about “knowing the right people” who can give feedback and help further your goals.

For nearly 30 years, Bruce has returned to and refined this formula of idea, timing, brand, and network to grow a significant and impressive body of work.

On the writing process…

When you have over a dozen book titles to your name, you know a thing or two about writing. And while every author has their own preferences and process, Bruce has it boiled down to four essential ingredients:

  1. Self-Belief – For Bruce, it all starts with believing in yourself and your capabilities as an author and as a person. Simply put, Bruce says, “you cannot write a book without self-belief.” In fact, Bruce sees self-belief as the very cornerstone of all career success: “Successful people in their profession aren’t the people with the best grades at the best universities. They’re the people who believe…and love what they do.”

  2. Passion and Joy – Bruce concedes that writing a book is a “massive commitment” and that authors really have to be into what they’re doing to see things through to the end. But Bruce also says that writing a truly great book takes more than just passion and dedication, it takes joy. “The laughter comes through and the passion comes through in the words,” explains Bruce. And that’s what sparks a reader’s own imagination and intellect.

  3. Partners – Whether it’s his publisher, his co-authors, reviewers, or friends, Bruce relies heavily on his personal network to produce his best work. That said, Bruce reserves an extremely special place for his editor, Jackie Carter. “As an author,” Bruce says, “she’s my conscience.” What’s more, Bruce believes that every author needs their own Jackie⁠—someone who can pull them aside, point out what isn’t working, and encourage them to do better by reminding them that they’re capable of doing better.

  4. Idea – With everything else in place, Bruce says you have to have the right idea for your book and that it can’t be random. It has to be related to something you really want to know yourself. Whether that idea comes from a problem you’re trying to solve at work or an intellectual itch that you need to scratch, having the right idea as you set out on your journey is essential.

“My most successful books are books that I wrote because I was afraid. Books that I wrote because I really wanted to know something. Books that I wrote because I…liked the people I was writing the book with,” reflects Bruce. And with these four ingredients in hand, Bruce believes any author will be well on their way to a fantastic book and writing career.

On career and beyond…

Right from the outset, Bruce recognized that writing books and being an author was also about building a brand. Whether it was seizing on a built-in audience at IBM or naming a book Bitter Java just to make it stand out in the marketplace, Bruce knew that everything he was doing impacted and contributed to his personal brand.

“I am a full-time writer,” explains Bruce, “but part of the job is supplementing my writing with video. Supplementing my writing with projects. With working on the [Groxio] platform to provide something engaging that people will want to join me with and be a learning partner on.”

From software developer, consultant, and instructor to author, series editor, and more, Bruce has invested heavily in himself⁠—and his readers, clients, and Groxio customers now get to reap the rewards. But above all else, Bruce hopes that his body of work inspires other people to go out and invest in themselves, too.

Now that you know his story, complete your collection of Bruce’s titles below and then continue the learning by subscribing to Grox.io today!

Then, start or continue your own author journey by sharing your latest book idea with us.

You Could Be a Published Author

Is there a tech topic you are deeply passionate about and want to share with the rest of us? You could become a published Pragmatic Bookshelf author! Take a look at our pragprog.com/write-for-us page for details, including our 50% royalty (yes, for real!) and world-class development editors.

Upcoming Author Appearances

  • 2020-05-21 Johanna Rothman,
    PMI Webinar: Portfolio Management During a Pandemic
  • 2020-05-28 Fred Hebert,
    Code BEAM V
  • 2020-05-30 Jeff Langr,
    Mob Programming Conference 2020, Boston, MA, US
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