How we share, and the tools we use to do so

Join me for a free workshop next Friday February 3rd at 12:30pm ET: Create a Sharing System: A Simple Plan to Share on Social Media, Newsletters & More! I will discuss the system I use for myself and with clients that is practical and demystifies the common issues writers face when considering how they will share online. Plus: I will be happy to answer your questions in a live Q&A. If you can’t make the live event, please register anyway, you will receive a recording of the workshop. Register here.

Today I want to talk about pressure that writers face to share their work, and the tools we have at our disposal to do so. Are you being unfairly asked to do too much by sharing online? Or are these opportunities you should be taking advantage of to reach your readers? Let’s dig in…

Many writers bemoan that they are asked to not only create, but share their work. Even those published by big publishing houses realize that they are expected to do a sizable portion of marketing for their books. Again and again, I have heard writer pine for “the good old days,” back when they were simply expected to write, and others worried about sharing and marketing that writing.

Well, let’s take a step back in time and consider the tools we had to create and share, and how people consumed this creative work. Below is a sampling of items from my personal collection of mostly vintage technology here in my studio. If you are of a certain age, you can perhaps even hear the sounds of these items in your head: the rotary dial of the phone, the gears of the 8mm camera, the clack of the typewriter, the static between stations on the radio. Or perhaps you smell the ink from the letterpress, and the shavings from the pencils. Yes, creating, sharing, and consuming art used to be a smelly and loud affair!


It was also expensive and not always easily accessible. For every song you wanted to hear, you had to seek it out and buy it. For an illustrator, you didn’t have the unlimited canvas of the screen to just sketch endlessly. Every sheet of paper cost money. I remember nursing the one pad of tracing paper I had when I was younger. Each sheet was an expensive commodity. When I earned $4.35 an hour in the food service industry, a $9 pad of tracing paper meant two hours of work to pay for:


For someone listening to music, they couldn’t follow their favorite artist on social media; instead they often invested in making a stereo system the centerpiece of their living room. Below is the stereo system my brother had back in the early 1990s. I counted 93 buttons and dials on this stack of equipment, which was common years ago. Is tech today complicated? Sometimes. Was it complicated back then too? I think so.


As I hold these tools in my hand, I consider:

  • It was expensive to create. This differs depending on your field of creativity. A photographer would need not only a camera and lenses (no iPhone!) but film, and money to have that film processed. To share a photo would require making expensive prints, and then mailing them to others (no Instagram, no email!)
  • It took time to share. Everything was slower than today because we often relied on physical mail or traveling to meet in-person.
  • Our options to share were much more limited. Years ago you needed a publisher, because the cost to publish and distribute yourself was exorbitantly prohibitive, even if you could figure out a way.
  • There was little distribution available to the writer or artist themselves. When I created my own fanzine in the early 1990s, I had to get on my bicycle and hand deliver issues to every store that I could talk into carrying them.
  • Publication in even the smallest way, was very expensive. Want to print a brochure? A flyer? A newsletter? Go down to the print shop, or the 24 hour Kinkos (as I often did at 1am), and be prepared to spend money. This was sometimes serious money, especially for anything in color. I spent thousands of dollars to print single color issues of my fanzine back then.
  • Access to others within your field was often expensive, difficult, and slow: It wasn’t easy to find someone’s phone number, long distance calls cost serious money, and letters or packages in the mail could take weeks to hear back about — if you heard back at all.
  • Plenty of writers and artists talk about how they have a fear of being seen. Yet years ago, to share your work at all often required you to physically show up somewhere. You had to get to the place where you could maybe talk to the person who was a gatekeeper in your industry to make a pitch to them. You couldn’t just send an email from the comfort of your home.

Do I have fond memories of these times as well? Of course. Were there some upsides to “how things used to be”? Sure. Many of us can go on and on about a certain cafe, or bookstore, or place that was a “scene,” was filled with inspiring people, and that this was something that social media can’t replicate in the same way.

I also consider the tools and process we have today in order to create and share our work. Nowadays, many of the tools are free, or there is a free version of them available. When I was learning Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator in the 1990s, they were very expensive. The Illustrator program alone would cost $700. At the time, I couldn’t afford it, so I bought “Illustrator 8 Bible,” an 800 page book that weighed nearly 4 pounds. I read it cover to cover before I even had the program itself, as I slowly saved up money. But today there are many other options for design software beyond the Adobe tools, many of them are free or inexpensive to help new designers get started.

These tools are often easier to use and more intuitive than they used to be. A lot has been learned about usability in the past 30 years, and the better technology in our computers and phones means it is easier to create and share than before. Is “easier” better? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. For the example of Adobe Photoshop, I used to wait 20 minutes for the program to apply a blur filter, because my computer was slow. Then if I didn’t like the amount of blur it applied, I would have to redo it, waiting another 20 minutes. Was it better to have to wait 3 days to have film developed, and then learn from my mistakes, and then wait another 3 days to see if I got it right? Honestly, I prefer to see that in the moment now, with my DSLR camera. The cycles of learning and experimentation are so much quicker, and it makes me a better photographer.

That said, I also still have a film camera that I use occasionally, because film is truly magical to me. I have a beautiful Mamiya medium format camera that takes amazing film photos. My iPhone weighs 6 ounces, but this camera weighs 7 pounds, so I think twice before deciding to carry it around. Here it is, I included a pen in the photo as a reference for size.


For professional level tools, they are now often cheaper and more available today than they were years ago. I can share countless examples. That $189 Fender Telecaster back in 1959 would cost nearly $2,000 in today’s dollars. You can get a brand new Telecaster nowadays starting at around $500-850. The same goes for tools like video editors, word processors, and so many other creative tools and those we use to share as well. Do I need to tell you about the wax paste-up machine I used in the 1990s at an ad agency that helped us physically glue together ads that would run in a newspaper? That thing probably cost thousands of dollars at the time. Now we can do the same thing (with much better quality) via free or inexpensive tools.

Of course for writers, typewriters were often the tool of choice, the epicenter of the creative process, weighing in at 15+ pounds. Here are some from my collection:


Our phones are creation and sharing machines. Are they also a distraction? Sure… I mean… wait… oh this cat video is sooo funny! Oh, where was I…

We have much greater mobility in how we create and share. Not only can we create and share from home (which is amazing), but we can do so on the go, and in the moment. Likewise, we have greater mobility in consuming writing and artwork. We can experience great art whenever and whenever. Is that always ideal? Maybe not. But I’d rather have the option than not.

Of course, all of this creates new challenges for you, the writer. I’ve heard many versions of these observations from writers:

  • “So many more people share now than ever before! I feel like my work is no longer special because of it!”
  • “The marketplace is soooooo crowded. Is it overcrowded? It would be silly to step into an overcrowded marketplace, right?”
  • “Every trend is already over. I’m too late. Too late for newsletters, Instagram, online courses, podcasts, getting essays published. Again and again, I missed the boat.”
  • “I absolutely want people to see my work, but definitely not see me. Can’t someone else share for me?”
  • “Nothing works! I went on #bookstagram, but didn’t get many likes, so I stopped.”
  • “I’m being a good literary citizen by scrolling on social media 9 hours a day. No, I haven’t written in weeks, why do you ask?”
  • “I can’t look at Instagram anymore. Everyone is more successful than me. Plus… they have better hair.”

Every week, I help writers work through resistance to sharing. I do so with total empathy, and for every individual I work with, we customize a plan for them. Is sharing today easier than it was years ago? I think so . But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

I’m not implying one is better than the other: old school vs modern times. I’m simply considering how the tools we have at our disposal to create, share, and truly connect with others are so much more accessible than they were years ago. This, like all things, is an opportunity for you the writer to make use of how you like.

Please join me next Friday February 3rd at 12:30pm ET for my workshop: Create a Sharing System: A Simple Plan to Share on Social Media, Newsletters & More! Register here.


Find your readers with intention (podcast)

I want to encourage you to do is be intentional about connecting with potential readers. No, I am not saying that you have to embrace networking. Instead, consider how you can regularly create moments and experiences around the kind of books or themes that inspire you. Joy should be infused in the process.

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

You can watch the episode here:

Find your readers with intention

Join me for a free workshop today at 12:30pm ET: Author Platform and Book Launch Essentials. I will share three critical strategies for anyone who is trying to grow their audience as a writer, or prepare for a book launch. Plus: I will be happy to answer your questions in a live Q&A. If you can’t make the live event, please register anyway, you will receive a recording of the workshop. Register here.

Onto today’s message…

I was speaking with an author recently who was reflecting on her book launch plans, and she said, “It’s tough when the few contacts I have aren’t panning out.” I’ve heard so many versions of this over the years from writers. They often feel frustration that they don’t have the network they need in order to adequately reach potential readers. Maybe a writer hoped an influential colleague could help them go viral, or a friend will introduce them to a well-known author to write a blurb, or that an old friend will invite you as a guest onto their successful podcast. These disappointments can also happen in smaller ways: a writer assuming that a friend will definitely take a specific action to promote that author’s book, and then are shocked when this person doesn’t.

I’ve heard plenty of stories where a writer says, “My friend said she would post a review of my book to Amazon, but now she says she’s too busy.” Or “All my friends said they would buy my book, but now a week after launch and I found out none of them did.”

These are not “bad” people. Likely, they are busy, they are overwhelmed, they are not fully aware of how much a simple action can mean to you. Or sometimes they simply have stage fright from having to do what we all tend to get nervous about: sharing publicly or promoting something. A few months ago I wrote about “Why your book isn’t getting reviews,” and broke down how a simple question of “Can you post a review of my book to Amazon?” is actually a 10 step process. At each of these 10 steps, someone might feel overwhelmed, and bail on the entire process.

What I want to encourage you to do is be intentional about connecting with potential readers. No, I am not saying that you have to embrace networking. Instead, consider how you can regularly create moments and experiences around the kind of books or themes that inspire you. Joy should be infused in the process.

Sometimes, this connection can be expressed as gratitude. Simply send someone a thank you note. Other times, it can fueled by a sense of curiosity, inviting people into a conversation.

Eight years ago I interviewed designer Tina Roth Eisenberg on my podcast. At the time, she was running three organizations out of Brooklyn, and had a huge following. When I sent an email asking to interview her, I was surprised when she replied back and said yes. We conducted the interview in her office, and after the 40 minute conversation, I began packing up my equipment. I couldn’t resist, I had to ask: “Tina, you are clearly so busy. Why did you say yes to meeting with me and taking the time for this interview?”

She said, “Well, you were smart. A few days ago, you said something really nice about me on Twitter. When your email came in asking to be a guest on your podcast, I had a good feeling. I figured, why not?”

That Tweet I sent was me being very honest about my appreciation for her work. But it also seeded that connection. Would Tina have noticed me if I simply followed her silently? Likely not. Or if I occasionally clicked “like” on some of her Tweets? Likely not. But a complimentary Tweet? That got her attention.

I encourage you to be intentional about connecting with readers, writers, and those who inspire you (which may include librarians, teachers, booksellers, podcasters, etc.) Being intentional is not easy. I heard this interview with Jane Fonda recently that illustrates the point:

Jane Fonda: “My favorite ex-husband… said this to me, “You don’t make new friends after 60.” But I think that he’s really wrong. What you have to do is be intentional. I never used to be intentional. I would meet Sally Field for example, but not pursue her. Oh… but I did pursue her.”

Sally Field cuts in: “Oh for goodness sake, I couldn’t make you stop.”

Jane: “See, because she tends to be reclusive.”

Jane: “You have to pursue people you want to be friends with, and you have to say, “I’m intentionally wanting to be your friend.” And it works. People hear that, and then they stick around, and you develop new friendships.”

Lily Tomlin (with Sally Field agreeing): “I don’t really like people that much. I try to avoid them. But those who are intentional (pointing to Jane), you just can’t get rid of them.” (they all laugh, looking each other in the eye with a sense of deep connection.)


Is it easy to be intentional? Honestly, it often isn’t. It takes clarity and, dare I say, work. Recently someone I follow on social media was talking about how she is trying to make friends in her neighborhood. To do so, she hosted a backyard event for her neighbors to get to know them, and shared this: “I’m following the advice of ‘Be the friend you hope to have.'”

When I consider the “business of publishing,” and how one can get their book into the marketplace and reach readers, I sometimes think about how it works for other industries. How does a plumber get new business? How does a bakery sell more cakes? How does a travel agent get new customers? I saw a post recently from a realtor that said: “Prospecting every day for 30 days starts today! 17 agents getting proactive about their business.” It included a photo of people around a conference room table, basically making cold calls:


My mom was a realtor during the 1980s and 90s, and I can say this is not easy work. But can it lead to good things? Sure! It can help strengthen existing connections, make new ones, lead to new business, and for sellers to get a good deal on houses they want to move from, and buyers to find the home of their dreams.

What these people clearly have in place is a system. They have lists of prospects, they have scripts to work from, and then they set this progression of prospecting every day for 30 days. I read a lot of headlines about how challenging the housing market is right now. This is one way that professionals are trying to be intentional to find success in a changing market.

Of course, you are likely looking at this photo and thinking, “Dan, that is not how I want to exist as an author, sitting around a conference room table and cold calling people!” So let’s not do that. Instead, consider what a deeply meaningful version of this could possibly look like.

Could you:

  • Reach out to a writer you met years ago, but haven’t spoken to for awhile?
  • Support a local bookstore by buying a book, then posting about it in your town’s local Facebook group?
  • Email a podcaster telling them that you love their show, and the best piece of advice you heard on it?

All of this is intentional outreach, and can support your goal of reaching readers, but in a way that feels fulfilling.

Let me give you a clear example of how this can work in real life. I’m friends with Jennie Nash, who is an amazing book coach, and basically a genius. She and I speak every week to discuss our creative and business goals, and help each other navigate decisions and ideas. I once shared the story of how we met and became friends, and it is infused with examples of intention.

I went back through my calendar and email to see how my connection with her really started. To my surprise, the first thing I ever said to her was “No” to an idea she pitched me. The second thing I said to her was “No” to another idea she pitched me.


August 4, 2012: Jennie signed up for my email newsletter. At the time, when someone signed up I asked about their biggest creative challenge. She replied back and I then sent her a note in return. That was our first communication. Thank goodness for my newsletter!

July 5, 2013: It was nearly an entire year later before our next communication. She wrote to me pitching herself as a speaker for an online conference I was running. This is how the email started:

“Hi Dan, I’m a stealth fan of yours, and just read your newsletter about all the projects you have going on. It made me laugh, because it sounds so much like me — a thousand irons in the fire and loving it all. I was particularly intrigued by the online conference you are planning, and wanted to throw my hat in the ring as a speaker.”

This was huge. Like a lot of us, we “follow” people online quietly. But she took this action to tell me how much she appreciated my work, and then connect it to her own. She then shared two specific pitches for sessions she could run at my online conference. In doing so she said something that would be a staple of how Jennie operates:

“If these ideas are intriguing, I’d love to talk more about how I could hep make your first online conference a hit.”

In other words, she was helping immediately. She considered my goals, and what I hoped for when hearing from someone about the event. I mean, don’t we all dreams of hearing this from someone: “I can help make your creative idea a hit.”

What happened next? I turned her down. The reason was that the event was all about connecting with readers, and I think her ideas focused more on her specialty of actually writing books. I ended with: “But clearly – we should know each other regardless!” And she replied back: “Now we DO know each other. Keep up all the inspiring work. It’s fun to watch it unfold.”

A few months later, she signed up for the paid portion of the conference. Then I received this email from a writer: “Hi Dan- I am glad that I discovered you (through Jennie Nash)…”

I see so many people “pitch” someone in their field, and then if they are turned down, they shy away from that person. They stop supporting their work. Which, of course, is a mistake. Jennie did the opposite. She was supporting me and the conference anyway.

November 2013: A few speakers dropped out of my conference at the last minute, and I received another email from Jennie, with her offering to jump in and fill one of their slots. She shared two brand new ideas for presentations.

What did I say to Jennie? “No” a second time.

Sometimes we can’t see opportunity staring us in the face. I was too focused on the tasks at hand, and had decided that adding more speakers at the last minute added unneeded complexity to an already overwhelming event I was running. Her reply? Total support, and yet another supportive offer:

“Probably a smart decision. The event will be fantastic without any additional speakers. I’d like to ask you about contributing a piece (or Q&A) to Compose literary journal. I’m the features editor and I think our readers would love to hear from you.”

Luckily, this time I said “yes.” We hopped on the phone that day and it was the first time we spoke.

Jennie was being so intentional. I did end up writing that essay for her and in the process we spoke a few more times. We got along really well, and I noticed that our creative and business goals were very similar. I then proposed something via email: “Jennie, would you be open to talking every week, kind of like a mini creative mastermind?” She called, and in a skeptical voice said, “What are your intentions here?” It was a big commitment to have a weekly call with someone, and she wanted to understand why I was asking and what the commitment would be.

I was just honest, telling her how impressed I was with her work, how I appreciated how she thinks and approached problem solving, etc. Long story short, she and I have spoken nearly every week for nine years. All because of being intentional about reaching out and connecting with those who inspire us.

This is why I encourage writers to begin developing their platform and working on their book launch early. Years before you think you need to. If you want to explore this more, please join me today at 12:30pm ET for my workshop: Author Platform and Book Launch Essentials. Register here.


How to build your author platform in 2023

Join me for a free workshop next week: Author Platform and Book Launch Essentials. The workshop is on Friday January 20th at 12:30pm ET. I will share three critical strategies for anyone who is trying to grow their audience as a writer or prepare for a book launch, and I will be happy to answer your questions in a live Q&A. If you can’t make the live event, please register anyway, you will receive a recording of the workshop. Register here.

Okay, Here is today’s message…

In speaking with writers every day, I get to hear about their challenges, their goals, their progress, and their fears. Last week I spoke with a wonderful group of novelists, digging into topics about growing their author platforms and preparing for a book launch. Some of these writers are familiar faces, those I have worked with in programs in the past or who I have seen on social media over the years. It was an incredible reminder that this work is a craft, a journey that can encapsulate our lives in so many ways. Step by step, we attend to the work of finding our voices as a writer, completing a book we’ve dreamed of, finding a path to publication, and of course, ensuring the books are read.

It always inspires me to see the faces of writers who are in this work. That is what I appreciate so much about Zoom workshops, because for the most part, I am seeing writers within the spaces they create. These spaces are sometimes ordinary — a kitchen table with a microwave behind them; sometimes extraordinary — a carefully constructed writing room where every detail has been chosen for inspiration or function; and sometimes out and about — a library, cafe, car, or other third place that serves as their place of solitude from home and family, to focus on writing. Thank you to the Women’s Fiction Writers Association for inviting me into the lives of your writers.

Last week I also had the chance to participate in an externship for a writer who is just getting started professionally. This was organized by author Angelina M. Lopez, who had set up a series of writers and publishing industry professionals to speak with a college student, helping her get started with her professional journey. The three of us met for an information session via Zoom. What was striking to me was how the woman’s questions as she begins her career were not dissimilar to the challenges that many writers face mid-career or even later in their journey as a published author.

So often, I think we hope that if we just figure out X problem in how to write, publish, and share, that it will all get easier. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from author Dani Shapiro:

“Not only does it not get any easier, it actually gets harder.”

She was reflecting on on the desire that nearly every writer and artist has: when you are working so hard to try to create work you can be proud of, and develop a career around it, you often hope to reach a place where everything isn’t such a struggle. Where it is easier to create, easier to feel validated, easier to reach your audience, easier to get your next book deal, or client, or exhibit, or the like; to where it is easier to earn money from your craft.
Dani’s quote is a cold splash of water on that desire. That, as you get more successful, it may, at times, actually becomes more difficult to create; to reach people; to get another deal; to feel that any of this is sustainable.

Dani talks about her own experience navigating this:

“There isn’t one single piece of writing that I have done in the last 20 years, that did not begin with my thinking, “Here goes nothing, this time this is not going to work. Whether it’s a book review, an essay, a blog post, or a book. That feeling that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew here.”

Yet, Dani has continued to thrive, finding more success with each new book, with each new project.

My mission is to encourage people to create and share their work. Because this not only has a profound effect on their lives, but it can truly change the lives of others for the better. For someone to read your story, your words, your ideas, and have it speak to them in their heart, reframe how they see the world, and influence the way they live.

As you consider how you will develop your author platform this year, or how you will lay the groundwork for launching a book, I want to encourage you to do three things:

  • Keep going. Create more, and share more. Find more excuses to raise your voice, not lower it.
  • Connect to people, not content. Focus on names and faces, not algorithms and technology.
  • Know that your work matters.

Every week I see writers worry about the right tactics to take. Should they ditch social media? Are newsletters overdone? Should they take out ads? Is that new book review service legit? Then they may have new worries, such the potential impact of artificial intelligence on the publishing world. It is a lot to consider each of these decisions all at once. A writer shared a wonderful term with me the other day for how she views Instagram: she refers to it as Angstagram. Which is genius. It perfectly encapsulates how social media can fill you with even greater angst about being public with your creative work.

Yet in sitting down and chatting with my wife at night, we tend to talk about art, since she is an artist, and I’ve spent most of my life in one creative field or another. What I notice is that the three themes above tend to come up in one way or another. That those who succeed are those who create as a part of their normal routine. That those who succeed are those who connect with others who appreciate art, and do so with joy, not as a chore. That those who succeed may struggle with their direction or identity as a writer/creator, yet they still share their work consistently. They know their work matters.

How can you do one thing this week to connect with another person around the kind of writing you love. It could be as simple as a gratitude email, celebrating the work of another author on social media, or simply starting a conversation or asking a question. This may seem simple, but I find that it is a powerful way to develop your platform as a writer, without worrying about technology or new trends.

Please join me next Friday for my workshop: Author Platform and Book Launch Essentials. Register here.


Finding the time, energy, and confidence to create

(Reminder: Join me for a live workshop today at 12:30pm ET: Creative Clarity: Find More Time, Get More Done, and Live with More Confidence.)

This is a photo of my mom from the early 1950s on the street she grew up, in the Lower East Side of New York City:


I have dozens of images from this period of her life, most of them out on the streets, which was filled with families, kids, strollers, stores, and a thriving neighborhood. That was the 1940s and 1950s.

But I know the neighborhood went through dramatic change in the decades that followed. I’m the family historian, and have been endlessly researching where she grew up. Recently, I came across this photo of the same exact block from the opposite angle, but from the 1980s:


(photo by Peter Bennett) He took another shot just a moment later:


The change to that block is surreal. All the buildings across the street from my mom in that photo are gone, replaced by piles of dirt and garbage. Much of that area of the city looked bombed out by the 1980s. Many abandoned buildings, all in disrepair, and stories of landlords burning down their own buildings for the insurance money.

I belong to some Facebook groups that talk about this era, and people share story after story of what it was like living in or visiting this area in the 1980s. In short: it was very dangerous. Most of the buildings on my mom’s block were destroyed by the 1980s, including the one she grew up in. In the 90s, the city replaced them with some low-rise housing units which are still there.

As I look through the photos from my mom’s childhood, I try to imagine what it must have been like. Her parents, her and her sister lived in a three room apartment, all four of them sharing a single bedroom. The bathtub was in the kitchen, and the bathroom was in the hallway.

My grandfather worked one job his entire life, at a local bakery. He started as a slicer in the back, and eventually got his own delivery route. One day in 1965, while delivering bread, another driver ran a stop sign hitting my grandfather’s delivery truck. The large side door to his truck was open, and he was thrown from the vehicle, killing him. Here he is slicing bread at work in the early 1950s, just a few blocks from the street in the photos above:


This time of year, I consider what I seek to create, the milestones that matter to me, and the experiences I hope to fill my days. I won’t lie, I tend to think about my mortality, the years behind me, and the years ahead. I think about my grandfather, who I never had a chance to meet, and the dreams he had as he sliced bread for long hours. I think about how that street my mom grew up on changed, and how time marches on. This encourages me to be proactive in attending to my creative work and to filling my life with the experiences that matter most.

Working with writers, I am fortunate to be immersed in the dreams of those who create, and who want to ensure that their voice is heard. That may be a story, a poem, a way to help or educate others, or so many other things. These writers are often confronted with the challenges of identifying what to create, how they will find the time, how they can muster the energy amidst so many responsibilities, and whether others will take them seriously.

To answer these questions, one of the systems I use is Clarity Cards, which is what I’m teaching a workshop on today. You can download the entire process here if you want to work through the system yourself. I have taken hundreds of people through this process, and the results are powerful.

Please join me today for the Clarity Cards workshop. If you can’t make the live event, sign up anyway, and you will receive a recording of it.