How to Write a Bestseller Even If You Failed English Class

Mignon Fogarty
4-minute read

The School of Greatness coverThis post is a personal story from Lewis Howes. It’s not the kind of thing I typically run, but I know Lewis through the podcasting community, and when he told me how excited he was to have a book coming out because he was a dyslexic, horrible student, it reminded me of other stories I’ve heard over the years from people whose teachers told them they were hopeless and who went on to become successful authors, and I thought, maybe this story would reach some kids who are struggling and give them hope. It’s all about working hard and getting the right help. Here’s Lewis’s story. - Mignon

When I was a kid, school was a nightmare. I had dyslexia, couldn’t read, scored in the bottom of my class constantly, and was sent to special needs classes in middle school. By the time I was in 8th grade, I was performing at a 2nd grade reading level (and I felt like a loser because of it). 

Thankfully, my one sanctuary was the athletic field. I figured out that if I hustled hard enough in sports, I was able to perform really well and it was the one place I felt I belonged. I channeled all my anger, frustration, and sadness into sports and also somehow managed to graduate from high school.

I put all my eggs in the basket of becoming a pro-football player and worked by butt off in college. I got drafted into the Arena Football League and was living the dream. Until one day, when I smashed my wrist against a wall during a game, and my football career was finished.

I spent the next 18 months on my sister’s couch, broke and depressed, wondering how on earth I was going to make a career out of my injury and horrible academic record. Long story short, I started using LinkedIn to network with sports professionals and eventually scaled that skill into a seven-figure coaching business for professionals teaching them to use social media and online marketing. 

Fast forward 8 years later, and I’m releasing my first major book, The School of Greatness, to tell the story of what I have learned from the many amazing mentors and people I’ve met along my professional journey from injured athlete to successful entrepreneur.

How did I write a book like that (that a major publisher, Rodale, purchased for a major advance) if I failed English repeatedly and write mostly tweets and Instagram captions?

I’ll tell you. I didn’t do it alone. I knew I would need to improve my writing skills and need a team of brilliant people to support me. 

I spent several years building relationships with the best in the business, including spending months consistently contacting the editors and agents who had worked with bestselling authors. I networked like a crazy man, giving huge value to anyone I knew could eventually help me write and sell a bestseller.

I also built up a large audience, cultivated relationships with influencers, and wrote hundreds of blog posts as my testing ground for being a better writer. 

When the opportunity finally came, after I launched my podcast, where I interview the best and brightest in the world about what they’ve learned about greatness, I started calling up those same connections I had developed through the years and asking if they would be on board.

They said yes, and the project began. I had worked for months on a proposal for my book, and this is where I poured my heart and soul into my writing. I told the most authentic, vulnerable stories from my past, how I had overcome hardship, and what I had created from my struggles. Vulnerability and honest writing always speak louder than perfect grammar or amazing sentences, so I had a leg up there. 

Once my book proposal got picked up by a great agent, it was time to really get the work done and find someone who could help with the grammar and amazing sentences. This time I hired one of the best writers I could find, through the same network, and worked with him for months, edit after edit, to craft the stories and lessons I included in the book. While we both did a lot of work together crafting my ideas and stories, I knew I was in good hands with his editing skills.  It took a long time. But I had my eyes on the bestsellers list, so it was worth it.

When we thought the manuscript was “finished,” I had the whole team from my company read the whole thing again and offer advice. 

Finally, it was time to send the final draft to my publisher. The first run came off the press, and I found myself holding a hardcover book in my hands in complete joy. It was surreal and amazing. Especially for a guy who almost didn’t get into college because of poor English skills and who still relies on spellcheck and autocorrect to get through the day.   

If you have a powerful story to tell, but you don’t feel like you have the skills to write a book, remember this: anyone can write a bestseller if you do the prep work to build the right team, share an incredible story, and hustle like a crazy person to make your dream a reality.


LEWIS HOWES is a lifestyle entrepreneur, high-performance business coach, author, and keynote speaker. A former professional football player and two-sport All-American, he is a current USA Men's National Handball Team athlete. Lewis hosts The School of Greatness podcast, which has received millions of downloads since it launched in 2013. His newest book, The School of Greatness, provides a framework for achieving real, sustainable, repeatable success. You get the tools, knowledge, and actionable resources to take your vision and turn it into a reality. Lewis was recognized by the White House and President Obama as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs in the country under 30. He is a contributing writer for Entrepreneur and Yahoo Health and has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Men's Health, The Today Show and other major media outlets. Learn more at LewisHowes.com.

You can buy The School of Greatness on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at most other major book retailers.

You can follow Lewis on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, and listen to his podcast on iTunes.

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.