Registration Ends Tomorrow: Build Your Author Platform Online Course

Registration ends tomorrow, Tuesday April 3rd at Noon PST for my 8-week online course BUILD YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM.

An incredible group of writers is already on board to spend the next two months learning how to grow their audience, and create the community they need for a successful writing career.

You get so much in the course, including:

  • 8 career-shifting lessons that take you step by step through the process of how to develop your author platform.
  • Personalized feedback via weekly homework assignments, where I directly address your challenges and opportunities with advice to ensure you are on the right track.
  • The ability to ask questions 24/7 via our private online forum. Here, you can discuss key topics in developing your platform with myself and other students in the course.
  • 8 Exclusive Insider Calls, where I get on the phone with the entire class and you can ask anything. Here you have a chance to brainstorm ideas; dig into specific challenges you are trying to move past; and build close relationships with myself and the other writers in the course. All Exclusive Insider Calls are recorded, so if you miss a call, you always have access to the recording.
  • 6 Guest Expert Calls from leading publishing professionals. These experts get on the phone with the class, and allow you to ask them any question you want. They provide personalized insight that helps you build your author platform. All Guest Expert Calls are recorded, so if you miss a call, you always have access to the recording.

For full information, and to register, click here.
Thanks!
-Dan

Writers: The Path To Success is Not a Privilege, But a Choice

I saw a video recently that showed the quality and craftsmanship of how products were made years ago, a look at the Fender guitar factory in 1959. What you see is a world operating at a different pace than the one we know today – what looks to be a community of people crafting guitars, not an assembly-line of replaceable wage-slaves:

Even though they were creating what you could call a commodity, you see a level of caring and craftsmanship at every step of the process. Today, the very guitars you see being made in this video – if they survived the test of time – would be coveted and worth thousands of dollars.

There are videos showing the modern Fender factories, where a premium price is put on products that are made in the USA, and done by hand, and not machine. (EG: this video and this video.) Our culture has become so automated, that anything crafted with human hands and a deep level of passion is treated as special.

With all of the transformation in the publishing world, the one thing still done “by hand” is the writing. Sure, it’s maybe done ON a computer, a laptop, even a iPhone, but it requires the meticulous care and attention of an individual. In any other industry, their work would have a premium price associated with it. It would come out with a gold label that said “hand-crafted” or “made in the U.S.A.,” or insert your own country of origin here.

Whenever I experience poor customer service – a bad relationship with any brand – I often here these words from the person on the other end of the phone, or other side of the counter:

“The system won’t let me.”

In some instances, they are referring to the computer not giving them the option that I am asking for – to return something or reprice it or special order it. But most of the time, they are reading from a manual about approved procedures in their company. I have had managers at companies tell me the “system won’t let me,” when I know full well their job should not be to just enforce rules, but to know when and how to bend them to meet the larger goals of that company, and how it values their relationship with customers.

Writers are facing a wildly changing landscape in publishing, and while few like uncertainty, there is one notable change that they should embrace:

“The system WILL let you.”

Writers now have more options than ever for having their work published, shared, and read. To connect their ideas to the world. You have the choice of a variety of “traditional” avenues for reaching an audience, new “self-pubbed” avenues, and a mixture of the two. There is no longer “one way,” even in a single writing career. You, the author, are an entrepreneur.

You not only get to create a world in your writing, but you get to choose how that work reaches and effects others. No, it isn’t always a straight path. I love this drawing I found on the web months ago:

What success really looks like

When we look back at videos like the 1959 Fender factory above, we tend to want to think “it was a simpler time.” But it wasn’t. The cold war was raging, the undercurrents of a dissatisfied population were brewing – to come to a head throughout the 60s, and people then had the same concerns as people do now. Even those with a stable job and stable family lie awake at night worrying about things. People are people.

No, we do not live in simple times. But what is important – CRITICALLY IMPORTANT – is that you have the ability to choose your path. To make the decisions necessary to craft your writing career. To not only create the best work you can, but to get it into the hands of readers, to ensure it has an effect on the world.

I can’t predict the future – I don’t know what the future of publishing is. But I do know that it is your choice as to whether you want to be a part of it or not.

-Dan

Scholarship Winners: Build Your Author Platform

I had no idea how hard this would be.

When I decided to offer a scholarship for my 8-week online course, Build Your Author Platform, I figured it would be a nice way to make the course more inclusive to those who could otherwise not afford to join me in the class. I didn’t expect to receive so many wonderful applications, many of which made me wanted to immediately say: “YES, I WANT YOU IN THIS COURSE! I WANT TO WORK WITH YOU.”

I realize that for many writers, becoming an author is a passion they follow amidst great challenges. That they are often defined by others first by their career or role in the family or other responsibilities that cannot be neglected. That really, they are defined as a “writer” last, and sometimes, begrudgingly by friends and family who may see it as a lark.

I have worked with hundreds of writers, helping them grow their careers and connecting with readers. I love doing this – I love spending my days chatting with writers and publishers. I believe in investing in one’s passions, and have seen the powerful effects that come to those writers who invest in developing their skills and platform. But there are so many writers who are stretched too thin financially. They have the drive to create something the world has never seen, something the world is waiting for, but cannot easily make the financial investment to make this happen.

So I created the scholarship for my course. For me to invest in writers and help them connect with readers.

I received applications from writers of all types, with different goals, different walks of life, different backgrounds, and of course, different styles of writing. In their applications, they shared details that were personal and moving. Everyone who applied deserved to receive the scholarship.

I wrestled with the decision, trying to find an easy way to make the decision. But there isn’t one. In the end, I had to go on gut instinct. There is no objective way for me to decide that one person is more deserving than another, that they would be a better fit for the class than another.

The silver lining here is that instead of choosing just one person to receive the scholarship, I selected two. The bottom line is that I want to work with all of the writers who applied, and choosing two was just my selfish way of ensuring I worked with more of them than originally promised.

I am pleased to announce the two writers who will be receiving full scholarships for the spring 2012 Build Your Author Platform course:

Laura HollingsheadLaura Hollingshead
She is working on a book for adult children of aging parents, helping them address financial, relationship, and health related issues.
 
Ritchie WhiteRitchie White
He writes western novels and historical fiction.

The energy of both Laura and Ritchie are wonderful, and they seem very giving. I think that mostly, I was intrigued with each of them because their work is inherently focused on helping others and sharing stories. It is an honor to have each of them in the spring session of Build Your Author Platform.

Thanks to everyone who applied!
-Dan

How To Record Video At Home

Today, I want to share details on the specific tools and processes I use to create videos.

I have blogged for years, and more and more, I am understanding the power of connecting with others via video. There is such a personal connection when someone can see your eyes as you speak, hear your voice, and get to know you as a person, not just a lump of text.

In the past, I recorded videos in a variety of ways:

  • Flip cam
  • An older digital camcorder
  • iPhone
  • My computer’s webcam

And over the years, I keep investing in more and more tools to up the quality of what I shoot. Here is my latest video, an 8 minute description of an online course I teach for writers:

Is this video perfect? Nope. Definitely not full professional quality, but I do know it’s miles better than videos I have shot in the past.

Here is a shot of me in “production” at home:

my video setup

This is the full list of tools I used:

I bought these items over the course of two years, slowly increasing my understanding of what I needed to improve the quality of my videos. Previous videos were shot in a spare bedroom, and LOOKED like they were shot in a spare bedroom. With my latest video, I wanted to present a clean image to match the overall feel of my brand.

Changes I made to give things a more professional look:

  • I enlisted help during the planning and shooting process, my brother Andy who also works for my company. It was an immeasurable help to bounce ideas off someone else, and have him provide feedback after every single take. An “extra set of hands” is definitely the best investment you can make in most anything you create. But luckily, he was so much more than that, helping to hone things at every step of the process.
  • Background matters: This time around, the background was the big addition. I had already used a three-point light system, but the background gave more of a studio feel. I didn’t go fancy, just a clean white background.
  • Practice makes perfect: In the past, I shot one long video. This time, I shot many takes, and edited the best takes together.
  • I shot at night to control natural lighting causing inconsistencies between takes. If you go to a professional studio, they are situated so natural lighting can’t affect things.
  • Editing helps tell a story. I spent more time editing the video – adding text slides – playing with the order of different components, and focusing on detail such as fading audio and changing the contrast of the image.
  • I bought royalty-free music to provide a light mood to the video. It’s a detail that is small, but really made a difference.
  • I also shot with a second camera to get “b roll” footage of me speaking at a different angle. I have seen this used effectively in others’ videos, breaking things up. But when I edited it together, it just looked strange, so I didn’t end up using it in the final cut.

Even though I am happy with the video, there is a lot I would do differently next time:

  • Better audio: The audio doesn’t sounds as crisp as it should, likely because I am in a small room with a lot of hard surfaces. Next time I will experiment with a lavaliere microphone that I have, and with positioning the Rode VideoMic closer to me when recording. I may also try recording in a different room, where reflective sound may be less of an issue.
  • Create a script: I would have a completed script prior to shooting the video. This time around, I just had an outline, which meant we wasted a lot of time trying out different wording, and just rushing to squeeze in a few takes of each element.
  • Allow for more time: I would schedule more time for shooting. We were a bit rushed, a 2-hour window is all we had to work with.
  • Shoot multiple videos at once: I would shoot multiple versions of the video for different uses. Instead of just one long video, I could have created shorter videos for different purposes, all with the same look and feel.
  • Get B-roll footage: I would try a different setup for the second camera.

And of course, there are dozens of details that could be even more polished: from slight changes in lighting, to smoother audio transitions between the music & voice, to me learning to speak more slowly and clearly during shooting.

For editing, I used Screenflow, which worked really well. I have Adobe Premier Pro 5.5 installed on my computer, but was reticent of the learning curve. Luckily, Screenflow provided all the editing capabilities I needed.

For hosting the video, I use Wistia.com which captures detailed analytics as to how viewers interacts with your video. In this screenshot, the green represents the parts of the video people watched, which would allow me to optimize future videos based on this data:

my video setup

(Note: the blurred out area is location and IP address, nothing that is personally identifiable.)

In the end, so much of this is about establishing a process of refinement. That with each video I create, I analyze what is working, and take another step forward to improve quality and effectiveness. Have you tried recording video at home? What works best for you? What challenges do you find difficult to overcome?

Thanks.
-Dan

FREE WEBINAR: Author Platform Makeover

Are you a writer who is passionate about your work, but find it difficult to build an audience? What you need is an author platform – a strategic way to communicate your purpose to the world and establish trust with those who can help make you a success.

This FREE 1-hour webinar shows a case study of an author platform makeover of a writer I am working with, and as a bonus, I will do three “5-Minute Author Platform Makeovers” of writers who sign up for the webinar. The webinar will also cover the key elements to develop your author platform, and review an 8-week online course I am teaching called Build Your Author Platform.

The webinar will take place on Wednesday March 28th at 2pm ET. You only need your web browser to attend.

There are limited spaces for this webinar, to reserve your spot, click the registration link below. If you would like to submit your website as a possible candidate for a “5-minute author platform makeover,” you can do so in the registration form:

Register

If you have any questions, please reach out to me at dan@danblank.com or 973-981-8882.
Thanks!
-Dan