Tucker Max | From the NY Times Best-Selling List to Book Publishing Trailblazer
Tucker Max
Smart Business Revolution

Tucker Max is a Co-founder of Scribe Media, the premier professional publishing company in America. He has written four New York Times best-sellers (three that hit #1), which have sold over 4.5 million copies worldwide. He is credited with being the originator of the literary genre, “fratire,” and is the fourth writer (along with Malcolm Gladwell, Brené Brown, and Michael Lewis) to have three books on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list at one time. 

Tucker was nominated for Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential” list in 2009. He received his BA from the University of Chicago in 1998 and his JD from Duke Law School in 2001. He currently lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Veronica, and three children.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Tucker Max, Co-founder of Scribe Media, about the story behind the founding of Scribe Media and how he became a published author. Tucker explains how he started writing, talks about his legal background, and shares how he helps people write and publish their own books.

Available_Black copy
Available_Black copy
Available_Black copy

Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Tucker Max talks about writing while in law school and how his emails went viral
  • How Tucker’s academic background and personality impacted his career 
  • The story behind the founding of Scribe Media 
  • The challenges Tucker faced building the business
  • Tucker talks about his hiring strategies and explains why he works with freelance writers
  • How bringing in a CEO impacted Scribe Media’s sales
  • Tucker shares his thoughts on alternative forms of media
  • The peers Tucker respects and the people he acknowledges for his achievements

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right. Welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. And I feel such a great privilege to talk to smart CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs every week. You know, go check out my back catalog, so many great episodes and interviews. I interviewed the co-founder of Netflix recently, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, OpenTable. Those are a few of my favorites. Go check them out. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. 

And today’s guests, I’ve been reading for a long time. Actually, when I was in law school, in 2004 to 2007, I actually read his columns long before I knew him. His name is Tucker Max. He’s a Co-founder of Scribe Media, the premier professional publishing company in America. He has written four New York Times bestsellers, three hit number one, and sold over 4.5 million copies worldwide. He is credited with being the originator of the literary genre, “fratire”, and I might say it incorrectly. There we go. And is one of only four writers to have three books on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list at one time along with Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, and Brene Brown. Truly phenomenal. He was nominated to the Time magazine 100 most influential list in 2009. And he has his BA from University of Chicago and JD from Duke Law School. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and three kids. 

And this episode, of course, is brought to you by Rise25 Media, where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcasts and content marketing. You can email us at [email protected] if you have any questions about that. Tucker, it’s a pleasure to be here with you, and a bit of a roundabout journey for you getting to where you are today. But it’s always been a focus on the written word. And, you know, the funny thing is I just mentioned when I was in law school, somehow I came across these crazy columns that you wrote when you were in law school, and what motivated you to start writing those in the first place? Obviously, I’m sure you didn’t know where misery is.

Tucker Max 2:42

That’s misery in law school. I was like, I could not be more serious, right? Law schools, actually, I had a lot of fun in law school being miserable lawyers. I had a lot of fun, because I learned very early on that you don’t have to go to class at all, that when I was there, you didn’t have to go to class. And your entire grade is one exam at the end of the semester. So I was like, Well, why could I just go be in Cancun, or I can drink five nights a week in Chapel Hill, or I can do whatever. And I did. And I had some great friends to do so we had an amazing time, it was actually my, the only person for whom law school was way more fun than undergrad. It was bad. But no, it was great. But where I was miserable was during the summers, like, and then after that, you know, my friends and I went to work at a law firm. And I hated it, and they hated it. And so I would just write about something funny, like emails to my friends. Yeah, that’s really where it started, man. Like I was trying to make my friends laugh in the midst of all our misery.

John Corcoran 3:50

Right. Right. And you had some crazy experiences during that time. At what point? Did you realize that this writing could take me further because it did it? I guess the emails started getting forward and forwarded and then they started getting attention.

Tucker Max 4:05

Oh, that was really when you start getting your writing shared with you by people that you didn’t share it with them, you know, it’s like, oh, there’s something here because like, I would send my stuff to my nine friends in law school, and then they would send it to their friend and like I told him to this wasn’t like, hey, share my stuff. This is 2000 2001 2002 This is before, like, my space even existed, right? There was no sharing economy. There was no virality there was no likes on social media didn’t Yes, yeah. And so like, email was still relatively new. And so like, it is back if you’re old like me, and you, you remember email for it. And so like this is back when email forms were a thing. And so I would get my emails forwarded back to me by friends and other social networks. Right? No, seriously, I cannot tell you how many times some friend would email me Like, dude, this is so funny, you should read this. And I’m like, scroll down, you don’t remember all the headers, right? Scroll down to the bottom look at who the original author is like, oh, no wonder I send it to you reminded me you happen all the time. That’s like in entrepreneurship, when someone is paying you for a service you’re not even trying to sell then you know, you’ve got a madness, right. Same thing with writing when I mean, people are sending it to you

John Corcoran 5:25

fascinated by people that have different elements, their personality, you know, there’s some people that are clearly right brained, and there are some people that are clearly left brained. On the one hand, you’re proceeding down a very traditional conservative path of becoming a lawyer. On the other hand, you have your Catching Fire lightning in a bottle, in a sense, for writing that was exhibiting a wild side to you. Did you feel like that? And did you struggle between which path I go down?

Tucker Max 5:57

Yeah. So to be just really frank about it, man. I, so I was a weird, unusual kid. I was really like, I was always kind of like that, like, I was really smart. I was in all the AP advanced classes. And I was also a good athlete, right? And so like those, but I wasn’t like one of those weird Uber successful nerds who are great at everything, you know, people who are great, like I wasn’t bad at all, either. I was like, the guy in the smart people classes, who also played sports, but I didn’t like either groups, but didn’t like the nerds because they were too dumb. Like, why? What is wrong with you guys? And then the jocks. There were meathead assholes. So it was wrong with any of them. Yeah. And then like, so you get I’m, there’s a million ways, like my life played out like that. But the reason I think I had that dichotomy is, we, as you go through school, I know, you know, this, because we went to the same, you know, we went through the same process, right? And, you know, like, you have to get, so to speak, put in a box, right, you get on a track, and it’s like, okay, on this track, you know, there’s the doctor track, the lawyer, track, the finance, Wall Street, track, the business MBA track. And like, there’s a certain way you have to act, a certain thing you have to do in a certain person you have to be, and that never worked for me. Right? Even though most people who tell that story don’t do well in school, I did really well in school. And only it’s not because I’m smarter than all these, all these brilliant entrepreneurs who failed out of school. I’m no smarter than they are. I just realized school was a game and I hacked it. And they did. That’s it. That’s the only difference. And so like, I was like, I’m like the weird Renegade, sort of Rogue entrepreneur who learned how to hack school. And so I did really well at school. But I never know, I was never really one of those people. I was too young and immature and stupid to realize I didn’t belong in the normal, you know, tracks. Because as a young kid, you think, well, you get status and money by being a lawyer or a doctor, or finance. So like, of course, I’m going to go do that. Why would I write to be a writer? Like, entrepreneur? What is it even like to be an entrepreneur? Me at least back then now? It’s cool. It wasn’t cool when we were in school, right? Yeah. And so like, now, for me, it was more like I was going after the easy money in the easy status, like consciously, but subconsciously, I knew man, I was never going to be able to be one of those people. And so, that inevitable collision was coming. It just happened, right? spring up the way to deal with writing coming out as a result. And you said, Well, it sounds like perhaps where the rubber meets the road was you said two and a half weeks into your legal career. You

John Corcoran 8:52

You got fired, right? 

Tucker Max 8:54

So I deserved to be fired. It was like, it was 100% the right move

John Corcoran 8:59

Did you ever fear that the wild side was gonna get in the way of this trajectory down the conservative path? 

Tucker Max 9:13

No, he didn’t. So that was a subconscious side of you. Yes. Okay. So it’s like this. Um, alright. I do you know, I’m Geoff Woods, Geoff, right. So he runs like The ONE Thing Program for okay, so I just did his, The ONE Thing has a great sort of value thing you go through and like you find his process and running through and you get your he just ran me through it and you get your three primary values. And I knew it was so funny. I knew going in when my first one was, it took me an hour to pick them all because it’s like, impossible. But once I got there, I was like, Oh, I knew that was gonna be number one. My number one true value is truth. Right? And it has been my whole life. And so like, I’m gonna, this is a way to answer your question. So like, the, if you truly and then my number two value is freedom. And it’s been that way my whole life right? Now my third value has changed a lot in my life. I forget what it was before when I was younger, but I don’t even know it was something else. But now it’s relationships. But if you actually value truth, and you pay the price for that value, and you actually value freedom, and you pay the price, you can’t be a lawyer. You can’t be a doctor. Yeah, you can’t be, you know, a corporate executive in any conventional sense. Because if you are, you’re a part of a bureaucracy that demands obedience from you, you must act a certain way, you must do a certain thing. I’m not even saying that judgmentally, it’s bad or good. It’s just you have to be a certain person. I’m just not that dude. Nothing against being a lawyer, Doctor, whatever, right? But I am just not the type of person who’s going to do it that way, right now. So it’s just inevitable.

John Corcoran 10:51

So when you hit that reckoning, you get fired two and a half weeks into it after three years and taking the bar exam. Where do you turn to next? What would what was the decision

Tucker Max 11:00

I saw I was 25. And stupid. So I didn’t realize all this, right? And so I was upset and a little bit distressed, right? I wasn’t like broken or that. But it was like, it was stressful, because I’m like, this is the thing I was thinking I was gonna do, I am trained for it even though not what I should be doing. So after that, I went to work for my father. He has a bunch of restaurants in South Florida, and still does. And my father ended up firing me from the family business in six months.