About the Dude

It’s a jungle out there. Aspiring authors and poets labor in a fierce person-eat-person jungle where everyone learns the hard way about the often-unwritten rules of the publishing industry. Too many people stumble early, through no fault of their own, because of misaligned expectations about writing and publishing. To succeed, you must—

Hone your craft. Find your voice. Join your tribe. 

And there’s no better way of accomplishing these goals than by enjoying essential services to help aspiring authors, poets and editors to gain traction in our messy and often subjective industry.

Hone your craft: Learn new techniques. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your own writing. Improve your manuscripts in ways that editors will appreciate.

Find your voice: Grasp the nuance of the industry’s rhythm and flow so that you can approach editors, agents and publishers with confidence. Master the essential business acumen that sets you apart in the slush pile and helps you to grow a loyal following of readers.

Join your tribe: Connect with your peers who are also eager to learn. Network with them, share ideas with them, and take comfort in knowing that regardless of where you’re at on your literary journey, you are not alone.

Who’s the Dude?

The Diction Dude’s real name is Jason Gillikin. He brings more than 20 years’ cumulative industry escapades to the table, including:

  • Experience as a columnist, copy chief and (briefly) editor in chief of a small daily broadsheet newspaper.
  • Publishing credits in several trade journals, a peer-reviewed entry into a major trade publication, and credits in both anthologies and lit journals for short fiction and creative non-fiction.
  • Co-founder of a small traditional indie press.
  • Publisher of a literary journal and an annual anthology.
  • Preceptor to creative-writing interns (for academic credit) affiliated with several Upper Midwest colleges and universities.
  • Board member of a (tiny) literary non-profit organization, and one of the organization’s faculty for business-of-writing seminars.
  • Freelance writing and editing for several major media corporations.

Why Does the Dude Care?

In the summer of 2018, Jason attended a few different writers’ events in West Michigan. During networking chats with local authors, a few common themes emerged:

  • Authors generally don’t receive substantial business-acumen training about the publishing industry in their humanities courses or MFA programs. So a lot of the logic behind acceptance/rejection decisions, business processes and contract terms remains opaque and therefore subject to mythologizing. A lot of frustration or misaligned expectations can be cured with a simple dose of sunlight!
  • There’s a ton of bad advice on the Internet—and even on the “how to be an author” bestseller list. Very few people with experience as editors or publishers contribute their knowledge, so the overwhelming amount of blog advice, newsletter tips or mass-market books tend to be written by authors, who gloss the vital parts of the process for which they enjoy limited or no expertise. The upshot is the advice tends to distill to the ridiculously toxic message of “just write every day and soon you’ll have a book, and then you can shop that book to an agent and then success will find you.” As far as guidance goes, this slogan is irresponsible to the point of malevolence.
  • Much first-page-of-Google results for publishing tend to be occupied by information for vanity presses. I’ve come across dozens of authors who paid to be published because they didn’t really know any better. After all, Google said so. When they discover the truth that authors should sign their checks on the back, not the front, a light bulb goes off. But by that point, they’ve sunk four figures into a book that has zero commercial prospects.

Diction Dude represents a good-faith attempt to help emerging literary talent who otherwise have little understanding of the rhythm and flow of the publishing industry to get their bearings, from a perspective borne of being a writer, an editor and a publisher.

What’s with the “Diction Dude” Name?

Once upon a time—long ago, in the twilight of the last millennium—diction dude became nickname bestowed by a newspaper colleague after a light-hearted argument about the relative readability of one of Jason’s early editorials.