Chuck Wendig on Owning Your Voice and Choosing the Path of Your Career as a Writer

I’m excited to share my interview with bestselling author Chuck Wendig. He gets really honest about:

  • How he got a 3 book deal to write Star Wars book via a Tweet.
  • Why he says Twitter won’t help u sell books, but that it is filled with a lot of professional opportunities, giving you access to amazing people.
  • When Marvel approached him to write for a comic book series, they gave him a choice: a super popular one or a much less known series. He chose the lesser known book, because it would give him more creative freedom that would really leave a mark.
  • The not awesome jobs he took while trying to become a professional writer.
  • The reality of what it is like to make it as a freelance writer.
  • How he wrote four novels that no publisher wanted, were never published, and why he is thankful for that.
  • How he approached his last ditch effort as writing a successful novel differently, and why it worked.
  • How he changed his writing practice from taking 4-5 years to write a book, to writing the next one in 30 days.
  • The reality of what it is like to have your book optioned for a deal in Hollywood, to assemble a team, to get offices… and then have it fall apart.
  • Why he describes book series as having diminishing returns in terms of sales and audience, with each additional book.
  • How he got death threats because of his books, and how he dealt with it.
  • How when one opportunity closes, many new other opportunities open up.
  • The reason his new book, Wanderers is 280,000 words long, and how his publisher encouraged him to go where he needed to with it.

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

You can find Chuck in the following places:

How I Helped This Author Grow Her Platform From Scratch

Today I want to share the specific steps I took to help a first-time author establish her platform and release her book. The topline results of our work together so far:

  • Her book was released this week. It hit #1 New Release in the Divorce category on Amazon.
  • She now manages a thriving private community of 1,350+ people. Imagine what it must feel like to see your readers share photos of themselves with your book two days after it is released. To not just hope your book is reaching people, but to see it. That is what this author has experienced this week.
  • She has 2,500+ people who like her Facebook Page, with lots of engagement. This is not about just gaining likes. The other day she shared an 800 word post that 31 people shared to their own friends and family. She has been focused on truly connecting her writing with people in a meaningful way.

Reminder: Tomorrow is the final day to register for my 4-week Be the Gateway program. Get personalized feedback from me each week to establish your author platform. Register here.

But there is so much more that she has accomplished too, which I will get into below. Okay, meet Whitney Boole. She’s a therapist who helps clients who struggle with issues including depression, anxiety, relationship struggles, codependency, infidelity, parenting, trauma, addiction, and grief and loss. This is Whitney and her book, You Got This: Healing Through Divorce.

Whitney Boole

When she came to me, she had written a first draft of the book, but had no online platform as an author. Like most writers I speak with, she was incredibly busy. Quite frankly, I am astounded by all that she does in life, it is truly inspiring.

For the work that she and I did together to establish her author platform and launch her book, I want to highlight two particular things that we did. I often recommend that an author should pick one or two specific things to focus most of their attention on in order to not spread themselves too thin, and to ensure that they are creating a meaningful connection with readers.

Too many writers try to do it all. They read a list of 100 marketing tactics, and they end up trying all 100 of them with the minimum amount of effort. The results are always the same… an overwhelmed author whose work was a mile wide, but only an inch deep. Vast, but with disappointing results overall.

The two specific things that I want to highlight which made all of the difference:

  1. The creation of a private Facebook group called You Got This: Healing Through Divorce. Early on in our work together, Whitney and I analyzed which social networks would be best suited to reach her ideal audience. It’s easy to justify any of them, but we finally concluded that Facebook had the right balance. So she doubled down on Facebook.

    The private group was created so that Whitney can provide people a place to come together and get support around a complicated topic: divorce.

    The result is that 1,350 people have come together to get advice, to cheer each other on, to go deep when needed, and give each other a good laugh when needed.

    It’s Whitney’s group, she sets the ground rules, she encourages certain conversations and shares her own advice when appropriate.
    To see this community come together from 0 to 1,350 is astounding.

    In the process, Whitney has heard from her readers again and again about what they need most. This has allowed her to not just tailor her messaging to meet their needs, but she actually wrote an additional chapter for the book at the last minute based on topic that she saw come up again and again in the group.

    This group has created meaningful human connections around Whitney and her writing. I don’t have the words to express how powerful that is.

  2. The second thing that Whitney did that made all the difference is to break the rules in order to go deep with her audience.

    I have helped thousands of writers get started on social media, and in that process, I have seen an endless stream of articles about “best practices” for using social media. You know, articles with headlines like “If you are doing this on Facebook, you are doing it wrong!” Or “241 tips to go viral on Facebook.” Or “The data is in, this is what science says works best (and what works worst) to succeed on social media.”


    Instead, Whitney has been experimenting with a wide range of different ways to engage her ideal audience on her Facebook page. Links, photos, quotes, etc.

    Because her work is about truly helping people, she also breaks the rules in order to go deep.

    This Facebook post is 800 words, and even includes a photo that has words in it, which I have read Facebook doesn’t like. The result? 31 people shared it.

    When she shared a post just before her book came out about how terrified that made her feel, she had 70 people share it with their friends. This wasn’t a promotional piece, there was no link to the book or even a mention of the title.

    The ‘share’ is a powerful thing. It’s not just a ‘like’ where you click and move on. When someone shares your post, they are advocating for your work to the people closest to them: their friends and family.

    Again and again, Whitney goes deep and tries to connect with her readers in meaningful ways.

Beyond these two specific tactics, she and I worked through the processes I share again and again in my blog, podcast, and programs:

  • We got radically clear on her messaging.
  • We refined her public presence to include her work as an author, not just therapist who is in private practice.
  • We did deep research in identifying her ideal audience.
  • We studied the marketplace to understand who reached that audience, who were her colleagues.
  • We setup social media channels and created a content strategy of what to share.
  • She did direct outreach to total strangers who share the same mission she does.
  • We took a close look at her existing network and how to best encourage them to be a part of all of this.
  • She wrote blogs.
  • She learned how to be on camera and record videos.
  • She did her first Facebook Live event.
  • We strategized how every part of her platform connects to potential business goals down the road.
  • We went through the decisions in book production from cover design to book description and so much else.
  • She clicked “publish” and “send” on dozens and dozens of items to connect her mission to the people who would appreciate it most.

The platform you create for your writing and the ways that you connect with your ideal readers will be unique to you. That is why I am such a big advocate for not doing all of this work alone, of finding a collaborator or community to help you through it. That’s why in everything I offer, I truly show up to work with you. To ensure you feel heard. Where you get feedback consistently. Where you can brainstorm ideas based on your goals. Where you have a safe space to ensure that the ways you engage with your ideal audience are based on a meaningful human connections.

Whitney’s work has inspired me, and I hope she has inspired you as well. You can listen to me talk through all of this on my podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

Thank you.

P.S. The process I shared above part of my Be the Gateway methodology and program. Join me for 4-weeks starting Monday May 13th where I help you work through this. Register here.

“The support of my work often stopped at a Facebook Like.” My interview with author Leigh Stein

Leigh Stein did something that few writers do: she talked publicly about how many copies her books have sold. Her novel sold 8,000 copies. Her memoir that followed it sold 1,345 copies, which was hugely disappointing to her. In particular because it came out at a time when she was running an organization of 40,000 people. We dig into the highs and lows of the writing life, and what she learned in publishing fiction, memoir, and poetry. Plus we celebrate the sale of her new book to Penguin!

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

You can find Leigh in the following places:
Her books on Amazon

A Love Letter to the 1970s, My Interview With Author Brian Heiler

In this episode of The Creative Shift podcast, I share something completely different. I interview author Brian Heiler about how he developed a thriving online community around his love for 1970s toys and pop culture. He runs and is the author of the book: Rack Toys: Cheap Crazed Playthings. I can’t even express to you how excited I was to chat with Brian. He blew me away when he told me that in order to do the layout and design for the book he wrote, he went to night school! In our conversation we discuss how he developed an online community after years of engaging offline with fellow collectors and fans. How he sustains blogging for so many years. His rules for collecting that without hoarding or going broke. Oh, and we talk about the time his dad came home with 5,000 General Urko dolls from Planet of the Apes. I mean, this is not an episode that you want to miss!

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

You can find Brian in the following places:
His book: Rack Toys: Cheap Crazed Playthings
Instagram: @plaidstallions

An Incredible Marketing Case Study, with Author-Illustrator Lori Richmond

“The most interesting marketing opportunities are those that are unconventional.” That is how author-illustrator Lori Richmond sums up the case study we are about to present here. In today’s episode of The Creative Shift podcast, we take you step by step as to how Lori discovered a way to get her work seen by more than a million people in the middle of New York City.

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

You can find Lori at the following places:

Here are some highlights of our talk:

“The most interesting marketing opportunities are those that are unconventional.”

That is how author-illustrator Lori Richmond sums up the case study I’m about to present here. Lori and I sat down to discuss how she discovered a way to get her work seen by more than a million people in the middle of New York City.

You see, Lori is an author and illustrator. She’s had a whole bunch of kids books published in the past few years:
Lori Richmond Books

Plus she does illustration and design work for clients and private commissions. Recently, she started this little side-project that she calls View From My Run. She describes it like this:

“I combine my athletic and artistic practices by drawing something I see on each run, in the same amount of time as the run. This ongoing art series is a visual journal of my training—and my love letter to New York City.”

Here are some of those illustrations:
Lori Richmond Illustrations

So, a couple months back, she’s walking on the street in New York City, and she sees this:

It’s basically a kiosk that has replaced all of the old public pay phones that used to line the streets. It gives out free wi-fi, acts as a charging station for your phone, and gives you information about New York City.

Now, you and I see this and we think, “Meh, my phone is charged already.” Lori saw this and said:

“Why isn’t my stuff on there?”

Meaning, why isn’t her New York City-centered artwork being displayed on these kiosks? I asked her how she made that connection, and she said that in publishing so much work recently that, “I’ve developed a bit of fearlessness.”

There wasn’t a phone number on the side of the kiosk that said, “Artists! Display your work here! Call this number….” So she started working her network, reaching out to friends and colleagues to see if they knew anything about these kiosks, she searched online, and eventually she found some contact information.

Now two points I want to make here that you can use for your own marketing efforts whether you are an author, an illustrator, or do some other creative work:

  • Be an observer of the world around you. Look for interesting connections. In the photo of the kiosk above, do you know what I see? A thriving New York City intersection with lots of interesting people, stores, architecture, transportation, and food. Somehow, amidst this, Lori didn’t just see the kiosk (which I would have overlooked), but she connected it to her artwork. She saw the possibilities that thousands of other illustrators missed.
  • Be prepared. Lori was ready for this opportunity, having spent hundreds of hours creating the View From My Run idea. There are many version of the quote: “Luck favors those who are prepared,” and this is a good example. She had art ready to go that very minute. She didn’t see this kiosk and think, “Maybe I can pitch them on the idea of a series of illustrations I can create from scratch.” She had dozens of display-ready files ready to send them.

Lori did reach out to the people who manage the Kiosks, which are called LinkNYC, and pitched her idea, “Can you display my illustrations on your kiosks.”

They said yes!

Take a look:

And here is another:

Let’s talk about the results of this effort. I am sharing this as a marketing case study, so let’s talk about ROI — return on investment.

They agreed to display 8 of her illustrations on the 1,700 kiosks that are placed throughout the 5 boroughs of New York City. We did some back of napkin math:

  1. 8 pieces of art.
  2. Images on the kiosks rotate every 15 seconds or so with ads, messages, and artwork.
  3. Let’s say that 1 kiosk displays Lori’s work every minute.
  4. Her artwork was up on the kiosks for two weeks.
  5. New York City’s population is estimated to be 8,398,748, and in Manhattan alone, it is estimated that there is a weekday daytime population of 3.94 million people.

I feel like it’s possible to say that over two weeks, hundreds of thousands of people likely saw Lori’s artwork, perhaps more than a million. Lori’s illustrations appeared on every one of these 1,700 kiosks (each blue dot is a kiosk):

I mean, imagine this kind of exposure. Lori has a friend who put it best: “New York City is your museum.”

Another result is that Lori was able to take the photos I shared above (plus many others) of her illustrations being displayed on the streets of New York City. She can use that in all kinds of ways for marketing and branding purposes.

She had friends seeing her artwork on the kiosks and sharing it on social media.

More direct results from a business standpoint: a few people reached out to her about potential collaborations and commissions. She shares some details of that in the podcast of our chat.

I asked her why she didn’t consider asking for money from LinkNYC for this? I can easily see someone say, “they are displaying your artwork, you should get paid.” Lori’s reply: “If you don’t give your stuff away, who will see it?” Does that apply to everyone’s work all the time? Nope. You as a creator get to choose when and how you are okay with that. In this case, Lori’s motivation was different.

Perhaps this is the biggest “result.” When I asked why she wanted to have her art on the kiosks, she said that she wanted her kids to see her artwork featured in the streets of New York City.

Once it was, she said this: “I felt a lot of gratitude.”

I mean, isn’t that the best result?

Oh, okay, one more….

A week ago, Lori reached out to me and said, “I was just recognized in the bathroom at Whole Foods.” Meaning, someone noticed her like she was a celebrity.

She continued, “I saw this woman looking at me, and a minute later we wound up at the sinks at the same time. She looked again, and finally says, “Are you on Instagram?”

It turns out, the woman recognized Lori from a NYC Marathon group they are both a part of online, and this woman had previously bought a piece of Lori’s art!

Now, this is not a direct result of the Kiosks, but it is a great reminder that:

  • Marketing happens fluidly online and offline. There is no such thing as just a “Facebook strategy” for marketing.
  • The kiosks are just one part of the larger View From My Run project/brand that Lori has been developing. She has run workshops on it, done collaborations and so much else to support it. The results are often not seen at the micro level, “Did the kiosks give me ROI?”, but rather on the macro level. Over the course of a year or two, there is a cumulative result of all of her efforts. And one of those results is getting recognized by a stranger in a Whole Foods bathroom!

You can listen to Lori and I chat through all of this here.