Eliot Peper’s inspiring story of chasing his passion
Art, so often, imitates life. For entrepreneur-turned-best-selling-author Eliot Peper, his own past experiences provided the necessary verisimilitude for his page-turning techno thriller trilogy Uncommon Stock.
Since his college days Eliot has worked in and around startups, before taking on the role of entrepreneur-in-residence at T2 Venture Capital, a job that entailed working with multiple small companies as they moved through their growth milestones.
The experience of being around all of these groups struggling for the lives of their companies laid the foundation for his series: the soaring success, scorching failure, fortunes won and lost, betrayal, intrigue, inspiration, scalable impact, and relentless dedication that every founder goes through.
But Eliot’s path from advisor to author had it’s own twists and turns along the way as well. It wasn’t until a work sabbatical spent travelling the world with his wife Andrea that Eliot started writing. But once he did, it was like someone had loosened the nozzle on a firehose.
Uncommon Stock follows the story of Mara Winkel as she navigates the turbulent waters of building and growing her financial fraud detection startup Mozaik from garage to the global stage. Sound boring? Not at all. Eliot manages to weave in all of the elements of a good thriller—intrigue, romance, mystery, and danger— into the startup world.
And it’s exactly this combination, which makes the story so appealing. He takes the locations, the scenarios, the conversations, that anyone in the entrepreneurial world knows, and pushes them to the extreme.
To get a taste of the novel and Eliot’s writing here’s a short excerpt from the first book: Version 1.0
Mara looked out into the hazy glare and took another breath. Now, or never. She flashed the brightest smile she could manage.
“I hope all of you are accredited investors, because you’re about to see the future of financial security. Budding Madoffs beware.”
The minute she started talking the nervousness started to ebb. She was hitting her rhythm. She’d gone over this pitch at least 20 times. She walked back and forth across the stage, facing the sea of tables. She started with the enormity of the problem they were tackling. The billions spent on sniffing out fraud. The even greater cost incurred by the success of fraudsters. From there she jumped to the origins of Mozaik.
It’s the realism of the whole thing that pulls you in.
During the course of writing the 3 books, Eliot interviewed not only a number of CEOs who had taken multiple companies through IPOs, but also federal special agents, cybersecurity experts, money laundering investigators, investors, and technologists.
It was this level of detail (as well as Eliot’s gripping story) that got fellow author and venture capitalist Brad Feld involved. Brad was in the midst of setting up an internal ‘micro-publishing’ company and after a few chats with Eliot, signed him on as the publisher’s first release.
“Once we decided that we were going to start FGP it was a natural fit. Eliot had, what was essentially a working manuscript at the time, and so he and I hooked up and started going down the process of ‘Hey, let’s see if this is a good fit for both him and on our own end’, which it turned out to be.” explains FG Press CEO Dane McDonald.
“When someone reads a story and looks at the characters—even if it’s for half a second—and thinks of them as a person rather than a character, I mean, that’s powerful. That’s really cool.”
“A book is a startup. The author is the CEO. And we’re sort of the VC in that regard in terms of the relationship. An author like Eliot fits that model to a T because he is obsessed with the book—with the copy. You mentioned how detail-oriented he is especially around timelines. It relieves so much pressure on the side of the publisher because we have this overwhelming sensation that we have a partner in crime.”
Speaking of timelines, that’s one place where Eliot’s entrepreneurial spirit has helped propel him into his writing career.
Here’s Eliot talking about the 2nd book in the series, Power Play:
“I think, unlike many other authors, I was actually super hardcore about the deadline, even though my publisher was very friendly and flexible about it. So they said get us your next book when you want to. And I said, I’m getting you my next book by September 1st and I want it to publish by December. And so I don’t think that many authors do it that way, but I actually found that to be incredibly useful.”
That deadline kept coming up again and again as a source of drive and inspiration for Eliot. And while some creatives fear the restrictions of a hard deadline, it’s an integral part of his process:
“I’ve never had a standard creative process and some authors will say, I write for 2 hours a day to the minute, or ‘I write 1500 words a day, every day.” I’ve never really been that way. I’ve always tried to and failed. And, so my creative process ends up being a little more uneven or lumpy. And so it was really helpful to have that deadline because mentally I knew I had to be at a certain point in the story in order for me to actually cross the finish line when I want to.”
“The one thing that almost every single author of fiction has told me is, the most important thing that you can do in any sort of sense of the word in terms of sales, promotion, or just craft, anything, is write the next book.”
But writing a book and publishing a book are very different things. As Dane explained earlier, a book is like a startup and its author is the CEO. For the first 2 books in the series, Eliot had been under the guiding wing of FG Press, but for the 3rd and final installment, he decided he wanted to take on the entire process, opting to self-published Exit Strategy.
“The difference when you’re working with a publisher is that when you have questions or when you want to figure out what’s happening you’re always interfacing with them and sort of, really, bugging them. Like ‘hey, give me an update!’. And I actually found that it was somewhat of a relief in a sense even though it was a lot more work, to just have to do it myself, because I knew the buck stopped with me. So it was just like ‘oh, ok, if there’s ever a problem, I know whose fault it is.”
Now, with three books under his belt, Eliot has successfully changed his life and fulfilled his dream of becoming a professional author. Yet, like all dreams, they don’t always end how we’d imagined.
Along the way, Eliot explains how he’s struggled with his own self-expectations. How once the initial high of releasing the books has worn off, he faces the same issue that all creatives do: how do you measure success?
“One of the things that I think any author can identify with, and my guess is, any maker or artists or musician or entrepreneur can identify with, is that when you start making stuff and you’re releasing it into the world, there’s obviously a difference between making that thing and then that thing becoming an extremely lucrative crazy breakout success. You obviously believe it is important, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it in the first place. But you have only limited levers to control how much it resonates.
“It has emotional implications for people who make stuff, because you’re both trying to make the best thing you can, and you’re also trying to figure out how you can share that thing with the people who might love it. The way I think about my writing career now is: how much can I pour into making books that I would love to read? And I think doing that and then hoping those who discover and love them will themselves decide to share them is a more effective approach than making something and then pouring a lot of effort into promotion or trying to make a lot of noise.”