500 Writers Came Together for This

Last week something unexpected happened, I’m still trying to process it. I announced a weeklong free program I was going to run called Social Media for Writers. I invited people into a Facebook Group that I had used for a different program back in the Fall, there were 203 writers in there from that time.

Last Friday, the group quickly grew to 250 writers. Then 300. Then 350. Then 400. Right now there are 536 writers in there.

That blew me away.

You see, I’ve been doing this work full-time for nearly nine years. My days are spent in the trenches with writers who want to double-down on their creative vision and ensure it reaches an audience.

In that time, I have:

  • Sent out 400+ newsletters.
  • Run more than 14 mastermind groups.
  • Worked with hundreds of private clients.
  • Taught thousands of writers in online courses, webinars, and workshops.
  • Wrote and published a book.
  • Published more than 50 podcast episodes.
  • Spoken at dozens of conferences and events, and run a few of my own.

Yet, you never know what will work — what will resonate. This past week, I had the privilege of engaging with these 500+ writers. They were from all corners of the world: Dublin, Ireland; Albany, New York; Pismo Beach, California; Auburn, Alabama; the mountains of North Georgia; the Cooloola Coast in Queensland; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Wellington, New Zealand, and hundreds of other places.

I spent time on typing each of these places into the map to see what they look like, and to consider what it means that all of these individual writers in these unique locations have come together with me in this group.

And this relates to something I have been thinking a lot about in terms of how writers should consider social media, author platform, marketing, and book launches. The information alone is not what brings people together. It is how we connect that matters just as much.

Each day last week, I recorded a video from my studio in New Jersey, welcoming everyone into this space, a 12×10 room. In return, they shared their challenges, their goals, and lots of conversations sprung up.

I shared my philosophy for how writers should approach social media in four videos, each about 12 minutes long, and today I shared more than 30 minutes of video where I answered questions.

What I heard in their questions illustrates why we write, and why that writing is complete when it connects with another human being. People asked:

  1. How can their voice be heard when it seems so many others are talking?
  2. How can they find readers who would resonate with what that author writes?
  3. How can a single person balance creating and sharing?
  4. How can we go deeper — to meaningful conversations and connections — not just shallow “likes” and “follows.”

The context of theses questions — social media — is a modern context for questions that people have considered for years, centuries even.

This week, it was a pleasure to engage with these writers to help them find answers that feel right for each of them. For the 536 people in the group, there are 536 unique and personalized answers.

That is both the opportunity we each have as writers, and of course, the challenge.

For the past six months, I have been completely rethinking not just how I view social media in terms of how it can connect you to readers, but how it is a part of a bigger process of engaging readers.

Next week I’m going to unveil that system. This is partly the culmination of years of working with writers, and partly a new vision that I have been challenging myself to fully flesh out. When I started, this is what it looked like in my mind:

… and the work of the last six months has been to make it simple. More on that next week.

In the meantime, if you were curious about the free Social Media for Writers program, but hadn’t joined yet, you can still do so by joining this group. Once you get in, click on the “announcements” tab and you will see the four main videos, plus all the Q&A videos.

Thanks!
-Dan

Inside Children’s Book Publishing, My Interview with Emma Dryden

Today I share my interview with Emma Dryden, who in the course of her career has edited more than 1,000 books for children and young readers. She spent more than 25 years working in traditional publishing as an editor and publisher, working within Simon & Schuster and Random House. A decade ago, she founded her own company, drydenbks, where she is a children’s book editorial and publishing consultant. We dig into every aspect of her career, but the part that really touched me is how she describes the massive creative shift in her career. At that moment, she asked herself a simple question that changed everything: “What could that look like?” when dreaming of her next act.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

Social Media for Writers

I want to invite you to a free program I am running from January 14th through the 18th,  it’s called “Social Media for Writers.” That week, I will share advice on four steps to develop your author platform via social media in a manner that encourages meaningful connections with readers. You can join me in this program by simply joining this Facebook Group.

This simple system will help you establish and grow your social media presence. But this is about more than just getting followers and likes; it is about knowing how to share your creative vision with the world, and engaging in meaningful ways to real people. In this free one-week program, I will share daily videos and prompts to help you:

  1. Identify which social media channel(s) to use.
  2. Figure out what to share on social media that is both authentic to who you are, and strategic to your writing goals.
  3. Grow your audience on social media.
  4. Get deeper engagement beyond just ‘likes’ and ‘follows’.

You will also be able to engage with other writers to brainstorm and get ideas to establish and grow a social media presence that feels authentic to who you are. I will end the program with a Q&A session.

How this works:

  • Click here and join this private Facebook Group. (this is the same group I used in the Fall for the Reader Connection Project, so if you are a member of that, you are already in!)
  • Each day starting Monday January 14, I will upload a video to the group that outlines my advice and suggested actions you can take, which aligns to the four areas above.
  • Throughout the week, you can share your questions, your progress, and learn from how others are doing this.
  • You will have the chance to submit questions for me to answer on a final video to be shared at the end of the week.

That’s it! As context, I will say that I have been thinking about social media is changing, and how the way in which writers think about social media needs to change as well.

What I want to share in this program is not just ‘the usual advice’ on the mechanics of social media, but a new vision for how you can not only make social media a part of your career as an author, but actually have it feel good, and like you are connecting with real people.

So many writers I speak to worry about social media — they are told they must do it, but then they feel like they are shouting to the wind.

The program I share next week flips all of that on its head.

I hope you can join me.
Thanks!
-Dan

“It takes one person to write a book,” My Interview with Author Joseph Finder

In this conversation with New York Times Bestselling Author Joseph Finder, we dig into the value of a writer connecting with their audience, how he got his agent and made writing his full-time career, his experience having his books turned into major motion pictures, and what his creative process looks like today. I loved how he underscored the incredible power that writers have: “It takes one person to write a book. To make a movie it takes 500.” His new thriller, Judgement, hits stores later this month.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

You can find Joseph at https://www.josephfinder.com.

How I Helped Create a Successful Online Summit for 600 Writers

A lot of writers I speak to want to engage an audience online. Today I want to share a case study of the exact way that I helped one of my clients do this. Her goals were similar what many writers want when developing their author platform and growing their audience:

  • To truly help her audience tell their own stories.
  • To find a way to grow her audience (without spammy tactics.)
  • To develop a meaningful connection to colleagues (eg: readers, writers, agents, and editors.)
  • To learn how to leverage online media to do this, something which may have been unfamiliar.
  • To potentially earn revenue in the process.

What I share here is the work I did with author Alison Taylor-Brown.

While she is primarily a historical fiction writer, she also runs the Village Writing School, and is even considering writing a memoir of her own. You may remember her story from my post last year titled, “Choosing the Writer’s Life.”

This Summit was a way for her grow her audience as a writer, support the Village Writing School, and establish some wonderful connections with writers, agents, and editors.

Will you ever run a Summit yourself? Probably not. So I framed everything below in a manner that could help you consider how to engage your audience, even if you never run an event like this.

Okay, let’s dig in…

What We Did

Let’s start with the results of what we did. We created an event called the “Memoir Success Online Summit” that was an online event where writers were given access to:

  • 7 expert interviews, all focused on various aspects of what it means to write, edit, publish, and promote a memoir.
  • There was a special limited-time offer from one of the agents who would read the query letters from any of the attendees.
  • Registrants were given access to a private Facebook Group where they could meet other memoir writers, and ask questions of Alison and some of the other speakers.

More than 600 people signed up, which was much higher than our expectations.

Earlier in the year, we had created another summit, the Historical Fiction Online Summit. We took what we learned from that and then evolved it. That is perhaps the first big lesson here: if you only do something once to grow your author platform, then you don’t have the chance to refine it. The Memoir Summit allowed us to try new things, we saw significant growth in terms of results.

One of the things we changed was the price. The first summit had a registration fee to access it. For the Memoir Summit, we made it a free event. You could register for free and access everything. After a week or so, we shut it down, and if you wanted lifetime access, you could purchase that for $45.

That was a scary decision because it meant there would be no certainty of a return on investment. I think that is second big lesson to take away from this: take a chance by doing what feels right, even if you don’t have any certainty that it will work. That is the only way to learn, by taking that risk.

How We Did It

These were the steps we took to create the event:

  1. We brainstormed ideas for the theme of the event. Having already done one summit on Alison’s core focus, historical fiction, we used this as an opportunity to dig into memoir, because she has been considering that so much for herself. She had also noticed that a lot of other writers she spoke to were interested in memoir. We created a long list of ideas, and just went with our gut on this. Could we have driven ourselves nuts by trying to get data to prove to us which theme would have the widest possible audience. Sure. But this just felt right. Alison chose a topic that she was curious about, and wanted to invest her time and energy in.
  2. We identified the structure and picked a date. This is where our earlier experiment with the historical fiction summit gave us something to work from. Also, I have run quite a few other summits in the past, using various formats. In the end, we tried to pick something that was ludicrously simple. Keep it simple for us, simple for the speakers, and simple for those who registered. The system we used to run the event? Password protected blog pages. This is technology that is 15 years old, and really easy to setup. That removed about 100 potential technological barriers.
  3. We brainstormed ideas for speakers. At first, we considered the types of speakers we hoped to get: authors, agents, and editors. Then we figured I could run a session too, so that would cover the topic of marketing a memoir. Then, we started to brainstorm ideas of potential speakers that we knew of, and did research for others. A lot of time was spent on Google and Amazon, on blogs and podcasts, on social media, just trying to identity potential speakers and seeing if they would be a good fit. In the end, the decision was hers if she felt that someone should be a speaker. I can say we were soooooo happy with the roster that Alison ended up with in the end!
  4. Alison invited the speakers. Without question, this was Alison’s event, and she is the face of it. It was important that she do all of the outreach to potential speakers. She sent short email invites, explaining what the summit was, what the commitment would be, and why she felt they would be a perfect fit.
  5. Alison recorded the speakers sessions. The format for the sessions is that Alison would research each speaker, and then interview them on video for 45 minutes. I was 100% certain that Alison would be amazing at this. But this is how she put it: “You dragged me into interviewing when I really didn’t want to.” See what a perfect team we make?! In truth, Alison did have to get comfortable with a lot in this process. She (of course) did an amazing job, but for me it was just so cool to see her get more and more comfortable with the process. I think that is another big lesson here: if you want to get comfortable with learning a new skill, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable first.
  6. We planned for promotion and launch. Honestly, we kept it simple here as well. We crafted a simple email and some resources for the speakers if they wanted to share with their audience. Alison shared it generously on her own email list and social media, and that of the Village Writing School. I think the fact that it was a free event, very focused on a specific topic, and filled with incredibly accomplished speakers made it easy to market.
  7. We ran the event! Once again, you will notice the theme of simplicity. Since all of the sessions were pre-recorded it meant that we had reduced the risk of any technical issues on the day of the event. We had prepared all of the sessions ahead of time, and on the morning of the event, we simply sent an email to invite the registrants to access it, we kept an eye on email for any technical issues, and we encouraged conversation in the private Facebook Group that accompanied the event.
  8. We turned the event into an evergreen product for the Village Writing School. After a week or so, we closed down free access to the sessions, and shared that people can get lifetime access if they purchased it. We didn’t make a huge deal about the offer, instead looking at this as an evergreen product that Village Writing School can offer. Here too, we kept it simple. We used a company called e-junkie as the shopping cart to make it easy for someone to purchase and access the summit via the Village Writing School website.

Alison sent out a survey afterwards to help her understand how we can improve on things for 2019. Right now we are quietly sketching out a series of new Summits and workshops.

Why We Did It

By now you are likely thing, “Um Dan, if Alison is primarily an author, why is she doing all of this? How does it help her?” The fact of the matter is, Alison is still months (or potentially years) away from the release of her books. But this is what she has gained in the process of running these events:

  • She helped people learn how to share their own stories. Alison had a deep desire to help others tell their own stories, and the summit was a new way for her to do that. That is why she founded the Village Writing School, and it is a driving force behind much of what she does. The Summit was a new way to realize that vision.
  • She greatly expanded her audience and established her author platform. This is easily measured by newsletter subscribers and social media followers. But there are qualitative measures here too: she has had soooooo many conversations this year with readers, writers, agents, editors, all about books, writing, and what it takes to succeed as an author.
  • She has established meaningful connections to colleagues: bestselling authors, agents and editors. She isn’t just sitting in the back of the room of 300 people at a writing conference — she is having long 1-on-1 conversations with these people, learning from them, and actually establishing professional relationships with them. I’ve said this many times before, but if you don’t have colleagues, you aren’t a professional. Here she is stepping outside her comfort zone to create human connections with those who know publishing and books inside and out.
  • She is mastering skills like interviewing that will come in handy throughout her career as an author. Imagine that 18 months from now, she publishes a historical fiction book and is being interviewed on podcasts. Instead of being nervous about how to do that, she will have had dozens of experiences of knowing how to talk about books in an engaging manner, how to pace the interview, and she will have zero fear of the technology. Oh wait, that should be it’s own bullet point…
  • She will have zero fear of technology. Long before her books are published, Alison has been getting comfortable with social media, blogging, newsletters, video, events and so much else. What that means is that she no longer looks at these as “scary marketing things,” but rather tools and resources that are a natural part of what it means to connect with readers.

But perhaps the biggest thing she has gained is that she has learned how to share her passion for writing and books with the world, and engage in meaningful — human-centered — conversations around them.

What You Can Learn From It

This is the work I do with writers day in and day out. No, 99% of them never do a summit. Instead, we identify a custom plan for them to grow their author platform, and reach their ideal readers.

What will work for you? That will be personalized to who you are, and how you want to manage your career as a writer. The case study above is just one way it can happen.

I think the key is to not just sit back passively and hope it unfolds for you. Take the wheel. Put your foot on the gas pedal. And go in the direction that celebrates the words that you write, and connects them to readers in the most meaningful way.

Thanks.
-Dan

P.S.: If you think I can help you do that, you can read about how we can work together here.