Most of Your Website Visitors Never Even See Your Homepage

In a guest post for Jane Friedman, I share reasons why you may be spending too much time worrying about what your website homepage looks like:

“For many sites I have worked with, fewer than 20% of visitors even see the homepage. Instead, they spend their time on blog pages, the About page, events pages, or other “interior pages” of the website. Why? Because most people find your site via search engines, social media, links from other websites, or newsletter. This is why search engine optimization, social media, and related topics are so powerful and commonly discussed when trying to develop your audience. They provide context by which to engage people.”

Read the full post here.

Thanks so much to Jane Friedman for hosting this piece!
-Dan

Please Welcome Andy Blank to We Grow Media

I would like to announce that We Grow Media is itself growing, and welcome our newest employee: Andy Blank to the team. And just to clear things up right up front:

  • With Andy joining the team, we now are a “team.” Before, it was just me.
  • Yes, Andy is my brother. More on why I think that is a huge bonus, below.

His role is Operations Manager, and has a strong retail background? Wait – WHAT?! Why would I bring someone with retail experience into my company, which is focused solely on helping publishers and writers? Well, Andy spent 9 years at Disney, 5 years at Target, and then another 5+ years before that in retail management positions at large chains such as Staples. His experience, by any measure, is impressive. Just for starters, here are three things he will bring to We Grow Media:

  • The knowledge and implementation to create a great brand. Both Disney and Target are legendary for their branding – the consistency of an experience that truly meets the needs of their audience.
  • The ability to serve customers better than anyone else. Again, his experience at Disney and Target means that he will bring an amazing level of customer service to We Grow Media. Have you ever walked into a Disney Store or theme park and not smiled? Have you ever walked into a Target and not found it to be a bright, pleasant experience? These are the standards by which I am holding my company.
  • A backbone for creating a sustainable and growing business. Throughout Andy’s 20 year career in retail, he has been tasked with meeting aggressive expectations about sales and business growth. He has managed very large stores in crowded markets, and helped to open new locations. He knows how to look at a business and implement a strategy that meets business expectations and leads to growth. He will be helping me to manage my existing business, and develop new ways to be of assistance to publishers and writers.

Andy BlankThe funny thing is, Andy is so much more than that. He is a real down-to-earth nice guy. He always has a smile, is very giving, and cares deeply for helping others.

We originally began speaking about working together a year ago. We went through lots of scenarios and really talked a lot about the future – of what we both want from life, and how we can achieve that. Last Fall, we began a series of experiments to see how well he would fit into the business. For months, I looped him into projects, gave him some responsibility, and was blown away by how good of a fit it was.

With publishing being in such a huge state of flux, I think there is incredible value in bringing in outside perspectives. Yes, there needs to be total and complete respect for the history of publishing, and the many ways that the world of writers and publishers are indeed unique from other industries.

But… I want to be a part of building a vibrant future for writers and publishers. And I am convinced that Andy’s experience will be a core part of that.

To be honest, it also feels really good to have a family member be the first person I bring into the business. I work with many writers who take my courses. We forge strong relationships as we work together, and it does begin to feel like they are family. I am helping them meet challenges and move towards their goals. Bringing Andy into We Grow Media extends that sensibility – that I have 100% trust in him, that I can share anything with him and know that he will only extend its value. That we can be honest at every stage, and not worry. And you know what: it is nice to talk to my brother every day.

I am excited about the future of We Grow Media, and how bringing Andy on board provides more resources to work with those who truly inspire me: writers and publishers.

You can connect with Andy in the following places:

Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+

FREE WEBINAR: Why You Need an Author Platform

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 explains the value of building an author platform, the biggest challenges to creating one, and some of the essential steps in the process. I will also be outlining the upcoming online course I am teaching: Build Your Author Platform.

The webinar will take place on Thursday March 15th at 2pm ET. You only need your web browser to attend.

There are limited spaces for this webinar, to reserve your spot, click here:

Register

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

Loneliness, Depression, and Developing Your Writing Career

It can be lonely to be a writer. It is often a second identity, where even your friends and family define you by your family role (mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter) or what pays the bills (your day job), and not by your passion – your writing.

You sneak away writing sentences in stolen moments, as a squirrel stores away nuts for the winter. Your year is filled with resolutions to get back on track, to find a system that works to really finish your book, to really grow your audience.

I love social media, but do notice that my feeds on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere are filled with mostly positive affirmations. We update Facebook to tell people we just ran 4 miles, not that we just at an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s, then ate half a bag of potato chips. And then had a slice of cold pizza.

We don’t talk openly about things many writers face on a daily basis: the loneliness and depression of developing your craft and of building your audience.

Writing can be a lonely endeavor, with many ups and downs that those around you never see. You are creating something from nothing. You are trying desperately for an idea to be born, to grow, to spread. I often look at writers as entrepreneurs because of this. Most businesses fail. Most writers’ work goes unpublished, or worse yet: unread.

I work with writers to help them build and engage an audience for their work – to grow their author platform. Now, when you hear about a successful writer – you often imagine that they started with more than you did. What you don’t see in their story is the long lonely months and years of effort that went unrewarded. My favorite website is Mixergy.com, where Andrew Warner interviews successful entrepreneurs, telling their stories of how they went from a lonely idea to really having an impact in the world (and often earning millions of dollars along the way.) Here is a 30 second story that is not unusual, about how one interviewee’s wife’s blog went from nothing to something. Does the first part of this story sound familiar?

That’s Rand Fishkin talking about his wife Geraldine’s blog http://everywhereist.com.

This applies to most creative endeavors, and certainly to many writers. No, we don’t talk about it often, but it’s there. I like how Rand talked about the need to start with a small team – just a few people around you, supporting your work. I spoke about the importance of building a team in another blog post about how writers can learn from Weight Watchers. That we often need support and accountability in order to reach our goals.

A profile of author John Locke makes a similar point. He wrote his first novel only three years ago, and has since sold more than 1 million ebooks on Amazon. Even after he went through the process of writing and publishing his book, it was a lonely road:

“It took nine months before anyone bought anything. It wasn’t a matter of price point but word of mouth, people telling others, one sale at a time — just like insurance.”

How many would-be successful writers would have thrown in the towel at month 3 or month 8? Just moments before they would have found their audience and had their dreams become reality?

I recently came across some blog posts from the startup world about how to help reduce depression & loneliness when developing something new. I think writers may find lots of helpful tips here, things such as:

  • Get an advisor/mentor.
  • Be open with those around you about your challenges, not just your successes.
  • Create rituals.
  • Create stability in other parts of your life.
  • Connect with colleagues.
  • Sleep.
  • Break large projects down into smaller milestones.
  • Know when to step away and recharge your batteries.
  • Focus on one thing at a time.

Here are the articles, be sure to check out the comments in those posts as well for other stories/tips:

I work with a lot of writers via online classes, workshops, one-on-one consulting, and a mastermind group. I have found that these types of things often provide the structure and support to help folks stay on track in developing their craft and grow their audience. They provide not just a framework, but a team that works with you. This is not a pitch for my services, but just an observation about it’s value. LOTS of folks offer classes, groups, workshops, and events that may help you in your writing career. Find a partner that speaks to you, aligns to your purpose and goals, and take that step to reach out.

And of course, if there is any way I can be of assitance, just let me know:

-Dan

973-981-8882 | dan@danblank.com | @DanBlank

Building Your Author Platform Should Be Like Joining Weight Watchers

A primary reason Weight Watchers works is that it is inherently social. You are encouraged to show up to a group meeting for a weigh-in, to chat with other members, and the Weight Watchers staff. This process offers encouragement, you learn how others are finding success in losing weight, and you build powerful relationships with those who have similar goals. Over time, you may want to lose weight not just for your own sake, but to ensure you don’t let the group down. Your purpose has become communal, and you feel a sense of accountability.

If you are a writer trying to grow your audience and develop your platform, there is so much to learn from the Weight Watchers model. Here are three lessons:

You Need a Team

It is hard to find the time and ability to grow the audience for your writing. When you bring others into the process, it can provides so much benefit. These relationships may be informal: friends, colleagues, those you meet at conferences or on social media, mentors, etc. But when you check in with different people on a regular basis, they become a part of your team.

This is the team you need to help work past challenges, brainstorm ideas, align tactics to you goals, and ensure you stay motivated and accountable. This process helps you build positive habits – it is harder to get off track if you have to speak to a mentor or a colleague once a week to check in on progress. You can even work with other writers with similar goals.

Differentiated Learning Matters

We all learn differently, and build behaviors and habits differently. In education, this is called “differentiated learning,” and is meant to provide multiple avenues into course material to ensure that students with different educational styles can effectively learn. Another way to look at this is the 9 types of intelligence, of which we all leverage in different ways.

All this to say that: Weight Watchers offers multiple ways to be a part of their program. Some prefer to follow along online instead of in-person, others focus primarily on managing points, whereas others find the meetings and weigh-ins to be the primary driver for staying in the program. Either way, Weight Waters developed their program to ensure it works for different types of people.

When you develop your platform and try to grow your audience, you need to consider this for yourself. How do you take strategies and tactics and personalize them to fit your style, personality, and goals?

The Value of a System that Keeps Improving

Weight Watchers has points system for food, giving you a model to follow. Different food has different points, and rules around what you can consume to be on track in their system. What is neat about the program is how much flexibility is built into the many ways of using points. Instead of becoming something restriction, it allows the point/food relationship to become part of your lifestyle, not a separate activity that you need to squeeze into your already busy life.

When you develop your author platform, you need to do so in a way that is sustainable. Iteration is often key to this, that you are always learning and improving what works in growing and engaging with your audience.

It is always inspiring for me to hear about people’s experiences in programs such as Weight Watchers. I see how life-changing it can be, and the ways it has positive effects in many other areas of peoples lives, such as family and relationships.

When I develop my courses for writers, I always try to remember the lessons listed above. That my courses need to be accessible to those with different learning styles; that it needs to provide a system that is flexible for different types of writers; and that the courses need to provide a team that helps writers grow and engage their audiences. What is most amazing to me is the long-term relationships that form in these courses and groups.

If you have been through programs that have positively shaped your life such as Weight Watchers, I would love to hear more about your experience.

Thanks!
-Dan