This Is The BEST Time To Be A Writer, If You Work For It

There has never been a better time to be a writer. But that doesn’t mean that it is easy to find an audience, or find success as defined by book sales, positive reviews, or bestseller lists.

I attended the Writer’s Digest Conference this past weekend, spending my days chatting with writers, literary agents, and many who support authors. Below are the top three things I took away from the many conversations I had at the event.

AUTHORS ARE ENTREPRENEURS
AUTHORS ARE ENTREPRENEURS
If you want to “just” write, that is fine. But if you want to engage with the business of publishing, put on your entrepreneurship hat.

This year, I noticed that the writers in attendance were much more willing to embrace the many facets of what it means to be engaged not just in writing, but in the publishing and audience development processes.

This requires a broader range of skills, from market research, to messaging, marketing, partnerships, and learning how to not just craft a book, but craft a platform.

What this means is that if you are just looking for a lottery ticket, for someone to magically make your writing dreams come true, that you may be grossly disappointed. What I see at events such as this are writers in the trenches, sharing not just inspiring stories, but talking about the daily work of learning all facets of publishing and ensuring their work has an impact with readers.

The reality of what it means to be an author today is: there have never been more opportunities to find and audience and sell books; and that takes hard work.

DON'T LOOK FOR SHORTCUTS TO ENGAGING WITH READERS
DON’T LOOK FOR SHORTCUTS TO ENGAGING WITH READERS
It always surprises me when a writer indicates that they don’t want to talk to readers. They do this by calling it “marketing,” making it seem like a soulless process whereby you trick readers to read your work. But really, this is the good stuff. Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, memoir, poetry, or other work, wouldn’t you WANT to chat with others who share your love of this work?

Too often, I hear an author subtly asking for a “secret button” that shoves their work in front of thousands of people. They want some trick to using Goodreads or LinkedIn or Amazon that magically delivers an audience. But as any successful author will tell you, it happens one reader at a time.

When I work with authors, we work through the hard stuff that many writers skip: the deep research of their market, their audience, and how to establish communication channels and messaging that aligns them with readers.

For me, this is a process of creating meaning, establishing relationships, and turing ideas and stories into conversations. It is NOT about spamming social media sites with promotions for books.

Your journey as a writer should be filled with helping hands
YOU NEED A TEAM
Whenever a successful author talks about their journey to finding an audience and selling books, they always talk about their team: the partners who helped them. It could be critique groups, beta readers, literary agents, editors, publicists, and many others who support writers.

Consider who you can partner with on this journey. Information can be powerful, which is why I write this blog and create ebook guides on topics such as blogging and social media for writers. But I also feel that working WITH others is critical, which is why I teach online courses, and work one-on-one with writers to help them find and grow their audience.

Your journey as a writer will be uniquely yours. Be wary of excuses that close doors. The writers I find who are having the most success, be it traditionally published or self-published, are those who are open to rethinking what it means to engage with readers, and find ways to align with them, not sell to them.

Thank you.
-Dan

Platform is Craft

Platform is how we communicate, not how we sell.

Platform is how we earn trust, not how we try to shorten the path to “influence.”

Platform is built slowly, over time, not because of “going viral.”

Platform is about the same human qualities of connection that have existed for thousands of years, not something developed because of the internet.

Platform is not about status updates, but about being a person others want in their lives.

Platform is doing that which matters most in your lifetime, and disregarding the rest.

Platform is managing your energy, not just your time.

Platform is prioritizing the impact of your creative work and the relationships that will create your best memories.

Platform is not about leveraging other people’s credibility, but establishing the basis of a lifelong friendship.

In a world where we rush; where we constantly check our texts/emails/phones; where the TV is always on, platform is how we make time for the human connections which matter most.

Platform is one conversation at a time, one expression at a time. It is not shouting at the world all at once.

Platform is developed slowly, as we find a way to better communicate and earn trust.

Platform is how we develop the skill to share, to come together, and create a shared vision for what is, and what is possible.

Platform is more about empowering others, and through that, yourself.

Platform is craft.

Platform is Craft

Platform is Craft

Platform is Craft

Platform is Craft

Platform is Craft

Platform is Craft

Platform is Craft

Platform is Craft

New eBook: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media

I am excited to announce my second ebook to help writers grow and engage their audience online: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media.

Social media has empowered writers to develop an audience for their books in incredible new ways. What’s more, you can leverage social media to develop an audience years before you even publish your book.

After working with hundreds of writers to help them develop and engage their audiences on social media, I am now offering my best advice in an ebook. I guarantee that this ebook will jumpstart your own efforts, whether you are new to social media, or trying to revitalize your existing social media channels.

A Writer's Guide To Social Media

In this ebook, I focus on helping you:

  • Understand exactly how social media can help you grow and engage and audience for your writing.
  • Determine which social networks are right for you.
  • Learn how to craft updates and content that reflects your voice, and attracts your target audience.
  • How to manage it all.

For a limited time, I am offering two bonuses if you purchase the ebook today:

  • Social Media Planning Worksheets to help you create and manage your social media presence.
  • Social Media Basics video tutorial of my best advice from the ebook.
Bonuses

All of this is included in the price of the ebook: $29.99. To get the ebook and these bonuses, grab them today:

Buy Now

A Writer’s Guide to Social Media covers the topics that I have found to be most critical to authors today. Here is a look at the table of contents:

Table of Contents

This ebook, the bonus worksheets and video are guaranteed to supercharge your blog. If you aren’t completely satisfied within 30 days, I am offering a 100% money-back guarantee. There is literally no risk.

To get the ebook, plus the bonus worksheets and video, grab them here now for $29.99:

Buy Now

What you receive:

  • A Writer’s Guide to Social Media (70+ page PDF ebook)
  • Bonus: Social Media Planning Worksheets (20 page PDF)
  • Bonus: Social Media Basics video (25 minute video)

ABOUT ME:
DanBlankMy name is Dan Blank, and I help writers build their platforms, and work with publishers to grow their online communities. I have worked with hundreds of writers to help them develop the skills they need to build and engage their audiences. I have taught courses for Writer’s Digest and Mediabistro, and spoken at many of the major publishing and writing conferences. For my full background, please check out my bio and LinkedIn profile.

Brands I have worked with:

Events I have spoken at:

The Dirty Secret of Author Platform (Hint: It’s Difficult)

My friend Jane Friedman shared a blog post encouraging newer fiction writers to forgo the idea of developing an author platform, in favor of focusing exclusively on the craft of writing.

One writer immediately responded by saying “hallelujah!” So today I want to talk about three things:

  • Why Jane is right. But why she may be misinterpreted.
  • Why writers are scared of the idea of author platform.
  • Why a platform is critical to your success.

Okay, let’s dig in…

Why Jane is right about author platform, but why she may be misinterpreted.
Jane is not saying author platform is unimportant, but rather, she is saying that the conversation around it needs to be elevated. This is a topic for serious authors who are ready to make a commitment to their writing career and establishing connections with readers. For those who are struggling to even find the time and focus to even write, it may be premature to fill up their days Tweeting and blogging.

I feel that Jane may be misinterpreted because authors are frustrated with all that is on their plate. If you only care about the sound byte of “author platform is dead,” then you are only doing yourself a disservice as a writer. You, as a writer, are not off the hook for understanding and developing your audience.

What I find again and again is that many writers are unable to tell an agent, a publisher, or even a friend the following:

  • What their comps are – what other books published in the past five years are like theirs.
  • What genre or topic the book would be categorized on a bookshelf at a store, or on Amazon.
  • Anything about readers beyond vague demographics. Instead of describing what their ideal audience already reads, and why, they opt for broad descriptions of who they hope their audience is. EG: “women between the ages of 13 and 65.” If you think your audience is potentially everyone, then you will not be able to take meaningful steps to actually reach anyone.

Even these three basic elements of describing one’s book stump many writers. And they are inherently tied to author platform – to helping others understand how your book fits into the world.

Why many writers resist the idea of author platform.
Let’s face it: writers are busy. They are likely juggling:

  • Their writing time
  • A day job
  • A family
  • Managing a home
  • Hobbies
  • Other responsibilities to their friends, community and personal life
  • The publishing process

Also, there is an emotional component to writing that Joanna Penn recently discussed on her blog: On Writing And The Fear Of Judgment.

So when the topic of author platform comes up, this is often the straw that broke the camel’s back (sorry for making the writer a camel in this metaphor.) And I have a great deal of empathy for that. My days are spent working with writers, and have have helped hundreds of writers find their audience. I live in the trenches with them, and don’t glamorize what it means to be a writer.

Because they are overwhelmed, many writers simplify the concept of author platform to mean surface level tactics such as Tweeting, or Pinning or spamming people on email.

This is an incorrect view of what author platform really is.

Oftentimes, writers put off developing a platform until it is too late to matter for their book. They mistakenly assume that a publisher can magically create a platform for them, or that the author themselves can craft a meaningful platform with readers in the narrow window of thee-months before their book is published.

But developing an author platform takes time. Here’s why…

Why a platform is critical to your success as a writer.
Whenever an author talks about their success, invariably, they talk about the many people who helped to create the book and ensure it found it’s way into readers’ hands.

When I define author platform, these are the two words I use to describe it:

  • Communication
  • Trust

That as a writer, your author platform is about learning how to best communicate the value of your book, and developing trusting relationships with those who will care about it.

In other words: it is about deep foundational things, not about flippant surface level tactics of promotion.

Jane told me this quote years ago, and to me, underscores the value of developing an author platform:

“The most disappointed writers I know are not unpublished writers, but those who have been published.”

The implication is that upon publication, no one bought their book, and no one cared about their book. They published into a vacuum of their own creation. They didn’t develop the communication channels or trusting relationships that they needed to ensure their book found readers.

No one is more motivated to communicate the value of your book more than you, the author. Why should you consider building an author platform now? Because it takes time to develop meaningful relationships and trust with others.

Should this only be pursued by serious writers? Yes, because this is hard work. Establishing an author platform is about ensuring your book is not just “published,” but finds readers and has an impact in their lives. It is about thinking about a book beyond just an object whose effect is measured by a publication date or a point of sale. That the book is something that lives in the hearts and minds of readers long after it is read.

This is what an author platform delivers.

Why do I feel this way? Because I spend my days working with writers to develop author platforms that truly built an audience for their books. One of the ways I do this is via a course I teach on the topic called “Build Your Author Platform,” where we demystify what an author platform really is. What I find again and again is that writers make breakthrough’s in areas that they have long resisted: understanding who their ideal readers really are, and how you can develop trusting relationships with them.

This type of work is not easy. But it does creates something that many writers dream about: not just having a book with their name on it, but a true connection to readers whose lives you have shaped.

Thank you to Jane for sparking these ideas, and for talking about author platform with the seriousness that it deserves!
-Dan

How to Build the Relationships You Need to Become a Successful Author

To become a successful author, yes, you have to write an incredible book, one that speaks to the hearts and minds of your readers.

But there’s more.

Whenever you speak to a successful author, they will invariably talk about the people who helped make their success possible. It could be their editor, agent, or publicist; other writers and peers who helped provide guidance or make introductions; bookstore owners, librarians, and reviewers who spread the word; or the readers themselves who didn’t just buy the book, but connected with the author, each other, and helped turn the book into a conversation.

So when I work with writers, I focus on not just developing strategies and tactics to ensure they find readers for their books, but also develop relationships with some of the most amazing people I know in publishing.

On March 27th, I launch the next session of my 6-week online course: BUILD YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM. Built into the heart of the course is access to those with deep experience ensuring books get published and find raving fans. These are literary agents, publicists, authors, publishers, and those who have decades of experience ensuring books get read.

Here are the incredible bookish folks who have agreed to speak in the course:

Joanna Penn
Joanna Penn is a author, blogger, speaker and entrepreneur who helps writers learn how to best publish and sell their books. She knows the trends, and knows what works by speaking with hundreds of successful authors, and by publishing her own series of thrillers. She blogs at TheCreativePenn.com and you can find her on Twitter at @TheCreativePenn.
Jason Ashlock
Jason Ashlock is the President of Movable Type Management. He manages more than 100 authors across categories, aiming to tell stories across platforms, devices, territories, and generations. You can find him on Twitter at @JasonAshlock.
Justine Musk
Justine Musk is a writer of three traditionally published novels, who is currently working on an edgy psychological thriller called THE DECADENTS. She blogs about how to live a creative life at JustineMusk.com. You can find her on Twitter at @JustineMusk.
Joel Friedlander
Joel Friedlander helps writers navigate the publishing process. He has an extensive experience in book design, and knows the ins and outs of how to take a book from a manuscript to a powerful connection between author and reader. You can find him at TheBookDesigner.com and on Twitter at @JFbookman.
Kathleen Schmidt
Kathleen Schmidt owns the public relations firm KMSPR, and has worked in publicity roles at Simon and Schuster and Penguin. She spends every day working with writers to ensure people hear about their books. You can find her on Twitter at @bookgirl96.
Richard Nash
Richard Nash Richard Nash is an independent publishing entrepreneur – VP of Community and Content of Small Demons, founder of Cursor, and Publisher of Red Lemonade. For most of the past decade, he ran the iconic indie Soft Skull Press for which work he was awarded the Association of American Publishers’ Miriam Bass Award for Creativity in Independent Publishing in 2005. You can find him on Twitter at @r_nash.

 

There is no doubt that I look at this list and feel a profound sense of gratefulness that not only do I have the pleasure of knowing these people, but that they are so generous.

If you are a writer looking to grow an audience of readers, and to connect your book with the world, consider signing up for my 6-week online course BUILD YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM. Everything gets started on March 27th.

You will be able to submit questions to ask to each of these guest experts listed above, plus you get:

  • 6 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.
  • 6 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.

To find out more, you can read the full course description here.

So many writers I speak to keep putting off connecting to those who have the power to not only get their books published, but ensure they find their way into readers’ hands. But true relationships take time to develop. Start building them now.

Thank you.
-Dan