Launching Two Books in Six Months, a Case Study

In the past year, I have worked with author Mary Carroll Moore to help her release two novels within six months of each other. There is so much to learn from this experience, I wanted to share it in a mega case study today.

Mary and I worked together twice in the past year (with a small break in-between):

  1. First, for the launch of her novel A Woman’s Guide to Search & Rescue, in October 2023. We also did planning for the period between the two novels.
  2. Then we worked on the strategy for the launch of her next novel, Last Bets, which will be released this coming April.

Throughout this experience, there have been many highlights for her, including:

  • Overwhelmingly positive trade reviews.
  • Becoming an Amazon bestseller and landing in their Hot New Release category.
  • Recruiting a launch team that truly loves her writing and supports her books.
  • Appearing on many podcasts feeling 100% prepared and truly enjoying it.
  • A huge turnout for her in-person book launch party, as well as her virtual gatherings with readers.
  • Great reviews from readers on Amazon, social media, and elsewhere.

In the Acknowledgements of Last Bets, Mary generously wrote: “Thanks to Dan Blank for more than I can say; ground-level inspiration as well as much-needed education about effectively sharing my story with readers today. Working with you was one of my best decisions ever.”

I was shaken when I read that. Mary has been a successful writer for a long time, and one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met. And what she had been planning for 2023 and 2024 was huge. She framed it this way:

“I’m going to be 70 in April, when Last Bets is published.  It will be my 15th published book.  For most of my writing career, I let my publishers handle all the publicity and promotion.  Sometimes it worked well, sometimes it was very half-hearted.  The books usually sold well anyway, but I always wondered if there was more that could be done, even when I worked with in-house publicists or did a book tour.  I mostly wanted to reach readers in a more intimate way for these two novels, which I have worked on a long time and love very much.”

“So I decided I’d give these two books my all—to do everything I wish the publishers had done for my books in the past, and more.  I wanted to learn as much as I could while I could still do it.  I had saved the money from my years of teaching and coaching writers. I also made a wish list last April of what I would most want to experience through this process.  Every single thing on that list came true.”

“I mostly wanted people/readers to be very affected by the stories, very involved with the characters, and let me know this in their feedback and reviews.  To love the books as much as I do. That also happened.”

Isn’t that every author’s dream?

Mary Carroll Moore

While Mary has a rich history with publishing books (she started in the late 1980s), A Woman’s Guide to Search & Rescue was her first book in over a decade, and her first novel since 2009. What that means is that this was her first time publishing into today’s marketplace, which is quite different from how books were marketed years ago.

Reminder! My next workshop is next Friday: Build a Better Book Launch: Essential Steps to Take Way Before Publication Day. It’s packed with huge mindset shifts, specific strategies, and real-world examples. Everything I share will be helpful even if your next book launch is years away. Join me for the live event on Friday, February 16, 2024, at 12:30pm ET. All who register will receive a recording, so if you can’t make it live, pease consider registering anyway. There will of course be a full Q&A where I answer your questions. All this for $49. More info and registration can be found here.

Everything with Mary’s books is happening because of her intentions and hard work. For planning the launch of A Woman’s Guide to Search & Rescue, we used my system as the foundation. When I work with a writer on a book launch, I have a 25-tab spreadsheet that we use to map out a clear plan, and to track progress as we take action. This includes:

  1. Messaging to talk about the book
  2. A detailed launch timeline
  3. Specific marketing tasks
  4. An outreach plan
  5. Marketplace research
  6. Audience identification
  7. And so much else!

Mary and I identified the strategies that felt right for her book, and what we planned was developed months in advance. You don’t have to do it this way, but one thing I think we were optimizing for was balancing mental health with book promotion. Launching a book can be a very emotional endeavor. Things you are certain will work won’t, and surprise opportunities will pop up when you least expect it. Being prepared and leaving some margin allows you to navigate it smoothly.

Working with Mary on A Woman’s Guide to Search & Rescue, our process culminated in one of the oddest ideas I’ve ever encouraged a writer to do for the sake of book marketing. That book features women pilots, and Mary’s mother was a pilot, so I suggested: “You should take flying lessons, then use experience, photos, and videos from that to promote the book.”

A few weeks later, Mary was in a plane taking flying lessons! Here she is in her first lesson inside of a Cessna airplane:

Mary Carroll Moore

When working with a writer, making plans isn’t enough. We focus on taking action early and often, because building a sense of momentum is critical.

After the launch of that book, Mary and I met to discuss if she should delay the launch of her next book. Without question, releasing two books within six months of each other is a lot. We went through a list of pros and cons, and in the end decided that leveraging the momentum she created was important, so she was going to release it as planned in early 2024.

So much of this experience is not about doing work out of obligation. Instead, it is about choosing the experiences that matter to you. For her, now is the right time to share these books with readers.

An important aspect of this intense duo of book launches is Mary taking time for herself. Before the release of her next book, she is traveling across the country in her camper, and will be spending weeks painting!

For the release of Last Bets, we focused on doing less, but what really mattered most to Mary. Of course, we had the experience of launching A Woman’s Guide to Search & Rescue to pull from. Recently, I wrote about the importance of setting limits, and that is exactly what we have done here.

For Last Bets, Mary was able to recruit a new launch team and be clear about which efforts she wanted to replicate, and which she was letting go.

I asked Mary about the most useful processes she established. She said:

“Learning how to talk about my books from the perspective of meaning in my own life. This is what resonated most with readers and interviewers.”

This one is huge, and I think many writers overlook this. They come up with catchphrases to describe their book too quickly, and land on vague-sounding descriptions of the themes in their stories. Mary and I dove deep here, and consistently came back to this again and again. To hear an author talk effortlessly about their books in nuanced ways that really resonates with readers — it is such a beautiful thing to witness!

Another that Mary described was to do heavy-duty podcast preparation. This included tech, her “set,” and of course being prepared with answers: “Getting the right equipment and a good background setup for podcasts, as well as having sample questions and scripted answers to let me practice ahead of time.  I didn’t have to re-invent this for each interview, since most of the interviews were very similar in their questions and approach.”

As with many authors I work with now, we focused quite a bit on her Substack newsletter. This is what she said of the experience: “Getting set up on Substack changed my entire experience with writing my weekly newsletter.  I’d been doing it since 2008 and it felt somewhat stale to me.  The Substack community changed that.  All the new subscribers!”

Writers ask me all the time about how early they should start promoting their book, and the value of pre-orders. This is what Mary found: “Pre-orders turned out to be very successful for me, in terms of getting higher ranking on the online bookseller sites.  It takes being very organized to do this, but it was a success I repeated for the second book.”

I often talk about the value of infusing how you share about your writing with people, and human-centered connections. Mary found that recruiting a launch team made a big shift in the success of her book launches, saying: “Having a launch team of volunteers who received the ebook about two months before pre-orders began and posted reviews on Goodreads and BookBub, then later on Amazon.”

It isn’t easy to launch a book, and as I mentioned, it can be a very emotional process. Don’t just focus on the logical plans around the tactics, but prepare to go deep. Invariably, sharing what we create can touch upon deeper fears we have of being seen, of showing up, of connecting with others, being rejected, or even fear of success.

I do this work because I feel it is meaningful to create and share stories, connect with readers, and grow as individuals in the process.

As I write this, Mary is in the moment in-between. — close enough to her book launch where she has done a ton of work, but far enough away that she has no idea how it will be received, and what surprises are in store.

This is why I wanted to write about this now, because I think as writers, we always feel in-between. It is that moment of anticipation where your greatest hopes and fears all seem equally likely to happen. And that is when we do the work to share what matters to us, and connect what we create with others in a way that feels meaningful to you — and to them.

Please join me for my workshop on Friday, February 16th at 12:30pm ET: Build a Better Book Launch: Essential Steps to Take Way Before Publication Day. I will help you understand the nuances of how to be public as an author, develop your platform, and prepare for your book launch, even if that is far in the future. Find more information and registration here.


Do Less (to create more of what matters)

This year, I’m focusing on doing less. My days are spent talking with writers and creators, which is part of the work I do, but also a part of who I have always been. I grew up as an artist, and have had the pleasure of being surrounded by those who create my entire life.

Nowadays, so many writers express to me that they feel stretched too thin, frustrated at their lack of progress, and like time is running out. They work to resolve this, but the result is to pack even more expectations and obligations into their already busy lives. In the process, guilt and shame creeps in. They worry that they should be doing more, that they aren’t achieving what they hope, and that there must be something wrong with them.

As someone who writes and creates, and is surrounded by those who do as well, this is my hope:

  • To feel great about who you are. Not who you hope to be, or how you imagine others see you, but to feel great about who you are right now. A couple of years ago, my youngest son watched every episode of Mister Rogers — twice. That is around 1,800 episodes in a row. Echoing throughout our home during that time was the ceaselessly repeated words from Fred Rogers: “I like you exactly as you are.” Sometimes I think this is the most powerful phrase in the world, especially when said to oneself.
  • To devote yourself to a craft. Whether that is the craft of writing, art, connection with others, or however you define it. And in the process, to let go of feeling stretched too thin, out of sync with the world around you, and doing 1,000 things… poorly.
  • To feel a sense of connection with others. Especially with those who resonate with your craft. So often as adults, we lose the ability to form new relationships or deepen those we have. We tend to create bonds when society makes it easy: classmates at school, colleagues at work, parents in your kid’s classes, neighbors, and fellow members of a religious community. But we lose our ability to seek out and strengthen relationships with those around other themes that light you up inside, especially around your craft. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to feel you have a thriving network of people who you would love to talk with about ideas and inspiration?

I want you to pursue a life filled with creativity, celebrating who you are, and connecting with people in a meaningful way. That may require you to make some changes. While some people do that in big dramatic ways, I tend to take an opposite approach: to calmly and quietly focus more energy on a couple things that matter most, and less energy on that which doesn’t serve me or others anymore.

I will summarize my advice as:

Do less.

And for the things you are left doing, pursue them as a craft, embracing and exploring the nuances with a sense of wonder and respect.

Before we get started, I’m excited to announce my new workshop:

Join me February 16th for my next workshop: Build a Better Book Launch: Essential Steps to Take Way Before Publication Day. Register Here

Okay, let’s dig in to how you can do less, and create more of what matters…

Give Yourself Permission to Do Less

This is worth repeating: give yourself permission to do less. Inherently, this is about giving yourself permission to do what matters most to you. That isn’t always easy. So much of what we do is based on our own sense of responsibility, living up to the expectations of others, or based on perceptions of how others view us. Let me explain:

I’ll bet you are super busy, and you feel that everything you do is important to you or someone you love. Yet… you may feel stretched beyond your means. And you feel like you aren’t doing important things well.

Giving yourself permission is difficult because we don’t want to let others down. For instance, it’s easy to say, “I deserve a weekend writing retreat! That novel inside me needs to get out!” But it becomes difficult when we realize the effects: “That means I have to miss my daughter’s soccer game, I also can’t contribute my assistance at the bake sale, laundry is piling up, emailing is piling up, and I really should visit my sister.” Every single thing listed here is an important responsibility to you or others. To help out at the bake sale is to help with the cause it is raising money for, it is to be a contributing member to a community, it is to gain social capital of being the one who showed up when there was a need. Getting the laundry done is not some flippant thing, it is about clothing your family, establishing standards of personal care and cleanliness, and living with a sense of order. Don’t even get me started on my love of doing dishes.

In these situations, to do less can feel like you are letting others down. Or that you are being selfish. Or you are ignoring standards you set for yourself and your family.

So how do you do less when everything feels important? Get clarity on what responsibilities are not negotiable and which are. This is not easy, and it tends to go deep. We often build narratives in our heads to support our habits and perceived obligations. We avoid communicating our boundaries and preferences to others out of fear of social shame.

Try my Clarity Card process to get started here. It’s 100% free, simple, and incredibly powerful. Hundreds and hundreds of people have told me how much it has changed their lives.

Say “Yes” to What Deeply Matters

Giving yourself permission to do less is not about saying, “no” to those you love and admire. It is about emphatically saying “yes!” to things that deeply matter.

Again, this isn’t easy. You are a good person. You want to help others. I can’t even tell you how many times people have said to me, “Oh, I hate saying ‘no’ to people.” Why? Because they want to lean into being helpful, and avoid the perception that they aren’t.

But if you are always reacting to the perceived expectations and needs of others, how can you ever live your life with intention?

Saying “yes” to what matters deeply to you means letting go of some of the narratives, identities, and expectations others place on you. So much of this is about remembering:

  • You are a good person even when you say ‘no’ to something.
  • You are not responsible for how others feel.
  • Boundaries are incredibly healthy to have.
  • It is your job to communicate your boundaries to others.

Find things that are easy to say “no” to and be ridiculously honest about them when it comes up. Let me give you an example:

I’m afraid of flying. For years, I didn’t want to say that out loud. When I first started WeGrowMedia, I did quite a bit of speaking and worked with some publishers and organizations that help writers. I’ve spoken so many times in and around New York City and loved it. When I was asked to speak somewhere far away, I would demure. For awhile I would give excuses about my schedule, and of course, sometimes that was 100% true. Beyond my fear of flying, I also hate being away from my family. So even a one-day trip messes up my family routine for three days.

After awhile, I finally got honest: “Sorry, I can’t speak at your conference, I don’t fly. But I’m happy to do a virtual event for your community via Zoom during this event or separately.” That ended up leading to some amazing opportunities.

This affected my career in profound ways because it meant I couldn’t take larger consulting opportunities with companies headquartered away from New Jersey. I couldn’t build out a paid speaking career either.

Instead, I doubled down on what fully aligned with the experiences that mattered most to me. That limit of not flying meant that I had to do other things really well, notably newsletters (I’ve sent one every week for more than 18 years), online workshops (I’ve run hundreds of them), and working directly with writers all over the world via phone and Zoom (I’ve collaborated with thousands of writers.) 13 years later, I still do these things.

Is it silly to be afraid of flying. Sure. Is it silly to not want to be away from my family. Sure. Yet, this is who I am. And I’m fine with that. I’m the dope who is missing out on opportunities to travel, but so excited to do dishes after dinner with my family, and spend my days talking to writers.

Related: the time I said no to a free trip to Hawaii.

Doing Less is About Embracing Depth and Craft

Doing less is not about being lazy. To me, it opens up the opportunity to embrace craft and consider how to do even better in the things that matter most to me.

I think about this constantly and am inspired by creators who do things well. While I work primarily with writers, I spend so much time learning about artists, illustrators, filmmakers, musicians, performers, and others in creative fields. I love exploring these questions: How can I do the basics really well? How can I do this 1% better?

I remember reading the memoir by the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard. (I can’t find my copy of the book, so forgive me if the numbers here are slightly off.) Yvon shared how his company seeks to create products in a manner that is as ethical to the environment as possible. At one point in the book he says something like, “We are 92% efficient in this goal.” Then he addresses the obvious question, “Why aren’t we 100% efficient?” He explains how there is diminishing returns in how resources are used. To go from 92% efficient to 93% efficient could take DOUBLE the amount of resources. Yet, they still pursue new avenues to do this, especially as material and manufacturing technologies improve.

This is why I encourage you to devote yourself to your craft. And you get to define what that is. In my own work, I often say that sharing is a craft. I have developed nuanced models around Human-Centered Marketing and The Creative Success Pyramid to explore these details and empower writers.

I recently watched episodes of a video series on YouTube that are created by one of the last video stores in Paris. They have more than 50,000 movies on DVD in this tiny storefront. They invite in famous filmmakers to talk about the movies that inspired them. The other day, I watched Wes Anderson talk about films for 20 minutes, and Christopher Nolan for another 20 minutes. I was blown away by their depth of knowledge.

Christopher Nolan

They discussed films from the past 100 years, from all over the world, and made every single one sound interesting. It made me consider how even the act of watching movies can become a craft. While many people may say, “Oh, I’m a film aficionado,” they likely haven’t seen 1% of the films that Wes or Christopher have.

Why does it matter that Wes or Christopher watched more movies than others? It gives them a bigger palette to work from creatively. Wes is known for using imagery from older films in his own work. Even doing this interview, he held up an older movie and said that he basically lifted the entire credit scene — a moving train — for his latest film. His narrow focus helps him do his art even better.

Craft is about showing up. It’s about putting the time and attention into the nuances that matter.

Embrace Your Limits

Doing less helps prevent burnout. To me, it is about respecting our limits and defining limits before we blow past them, which can result in a mental or physical health crisis. Instead of always maxing ourselves out, where a catastrophe is created at the slightest hiccup in life, doing less is inherently about sustainability.

I am reminded of this all the time. Multiple writers I know are having surgery this week, and others talk to me about burnout, or serious mental health struggles. Without leaving margin in your life, managing these things is even more complex.

Sometimes boundaries and limits lead to creating art and experiences that are truly transcendent. I’m from New Jersey, so let me give you a local example:

Years ago I bought this special edition of Bruce Springsteen’s album, Darkness on the Edge of Town. It includes a replica of the notebook he uses to write more than 60 songs for the album.

Bruce Springsteen

Page after page, you see the writing process of someone incredibly focused:

Bruce Springsteen

At the time, he couldn’t record because he was trapped in a legal battle with his former manager. There was a real risk that he would lose the rights to his music.

The album itself was a stark change from his previous work which was often uplifting and hopeful about possibility and escaping from that which holds us back. For the Darkness album, Bruce focused on the theme of limits. In previous albums, he would opine about the adventure that awaits on the horizon. But now, the darkness on the edge of town represents the limits that keep us tied to where we are — where we live, our jobs, our families, our obligations, etc.

As they whittle down the songs, the band votes on which songs should make the album:

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce explores the possible running order for each side of the record. It’s hard to express this to someone who didn’t grow up with records or tapes, but the running order of each side was pivotal. How a side began and ended, and the songs in between would create a transcendent experience, and were critical for the storytelling of the album. Flipping the record or tape was part of the experience, almost like an intermission in a movie:

Bruce Springsteen

This notebook is Bruce focusing on one thing. For sharing his art, he is well-known for having long concerts that overdeliver, sometimes 3-4 hours long. In other words, he does less, but does the art that matters really well.

This can apply to how you create and how you share. For instance, picking one way of sharing and really doubling-down on it. What if, instead of trying to be vaguely be present in three places online (Instagram, Substack, and Facebook), you put 100% of that energy into truly showing up in your Substack? That could look like many things: from engaging more with ideal readers, to more time writing newsletters, to growing your network with colleagues, etc.

Bruce easily could have written just 10 songs for that album, or gotten away with 45 minute concerts. Instead, he did less, but did it incredibly well.

This didn’t only help him create great art, but a dedicated following of fans. I have spent 10 hours waiting before a concert so that I could get right up front at his concerts. Here is a photo I took at one of them, with Bruce right in front of me, holding the mic out in my direction:

Bruce Springsteen

Celebrate Doing Less

Doing less is inherently about showing up fully for that which matters to you. This should be celebrated. In the work I do with writers, they are often hoping others will embrace what they create. This could be their book, newsletter, event, podcast, or so much else. When you do less — and do only what matters deeply — that encourages you to share about these efforts and celebrate them. This makes others aware of what you do and why, and join you in the process.

Let me know in the comments: what is one thing you can do less of? Or, to flip the question: what craft would you like to devote yourself to?

One more thing before we end, I’m so excited to announce my next workshop! Join me on Friday February 16th at 12:30pm ET for Build a Better Book Launch: Essential Steps to Take Way Before Publication Day. This workshop will help you understand how to be public as an writer, develop your platform, and prepare for your book launch, even if that is far in the future. You can find full information and registration here.


Share Consistently & Without Stress: The Ultimate Editorial Calendar Case Study

I am so excited to share this case study with you today! It dives into a tool that I use with writers all the time to help them:

  • Get clarity on what to share with readers.
  • Plan what to write.
  • Be consistent in how to share.
  • Find calm in how sharing (a simple process, instead of overwhelming expectations.)

An editorial calendar is in many ways a very simple tool. It is often just a basic spreadsheet, text document, calendar on your wall, or a planner on your desk. The key components tend to include days of the year, and what you may want to share and publish throughout the year. You may use an editorial calendar to manage your email newsletter, but it can apply to everything you share, including social media, in-person events you are a part of, and so much else.

Today’s case study will dive into the mechanics of it, but that isn’t the only reason I am sharing it. You share because you have a specific creative vision, and because sharing your ideas and stories with readers matters deeply. Today’s case study focuses on the passion and meaning that embodies what you write and why you share.

Okay, this is where I introduce an unexpected twist: today’s case study focuses on the editorial calendar of a LEGO collector who has a YouTube channel called DuckBricks, with more than 139,000 subscribers. Meet Christopher Lee! You can see a small part of the 8,000 LEGO sets in his personal collection behind him:

Christopher Lee of DuckBricks

Earlier this month, Chris shared a video where he reviewed the editorial calendar for all of his upcoming videos. I was blown away by how specific it was, and how much passion was infused in it. I felt it was an amazing case study to help writers consider the value of an editorial calendar for how you share.

I recently talked about how to manage your complete editorial system on Substack in this workshop, and you can purchase replays of all of my workshops here. This is infused in the work I do everyday with writers, helping them develop their platforms, connect with readers, and launch their books. The editorial calendar is a key piece in the methodology I use with writers, which I call the Creative Success Pyramid. It’s there on the bottom row as “Editorial Management”:

Creative Success Pyramid

Okay, let’s dig in to this amazing editorial calendar case study! I break this up by specific tips to help you get started.

Write Things Down

When I work with writers, I have an editorial calendar template I use, along with several other templates that work up to this stage. For Chris, he keeps his editorial calendar as simple as can be, which is soooooo smart. He includes just enough information to plan effectively, but not so much that it overwhelms. This is it:

DuckBricks Editorial Calendar

It includes these columns:

  1. Date
  2. Description
  3. Recorded? (yes or no)
  4. Thumbnail Made (yes or no)
  5. Uploaded? (yes or no)
  6. Additional Content (any additional things to mention in the video, such as an anniversary, etc.)

He started using this spreadsheet in January 2021. Simple systems last! Note the color-coding he uses as well, making it even easier to see where to focus his efforts.

For later in the year, he has videos scheduled that are complete or partially done, and he just leaves gaps in the calendar for days in between:

DuckBricks Editorial Calendar

Do you need to use a spreadsheet? No! The point here is to begin writing down your ideas. Consider what it will take to complete ideas, and the possible order you want to publish them. It’s worth noting that Chris does seem to have others who assist him with some of the elements here, though I’m not exactly sure what that looks like.

Plan Ahead

On January 16th, Chris said that basically every video from then through the end of March is done and already scheduled in YouTube. What goes into that? So much!

  • Filming
  • Editing
  • Thumbnail creation
  • Title
  • Description (and metadata)
  • Upload/schedule

For each of these items, there may be multiple steps. For instance, perhaps he has to film in multiple locations. Or if he is creating a video about a trip, he may have recorded video from that trip, but then may need to record additional footage in his studio as an intro.

What is amazing is that he has many videos complete and planned well beyond March. Do you have to be this diligent? Of course not. But it encourages the question of, “What could next month look like for your newsletter?” This, as opposed to just waiting until the day before each issue, and having to write it all from scratch in a panic.

Frequency Matters

For a long time, Chris was uploading a new video every other day. Then in Nov 2022 he moved to a video every day. Is he doing this because he has determined that that YouTube algorithms demand it? No! This is how he described why daily works for him:

“What DuckBricks has been doing for the past few years and what I plan to do for the foreseeable future is upload one new LEGO related video every single day. This honestly isn’t to hit some sort of an arbitrary upload criteria. It is literally the only possible posting rate that I can maintain to get out all of the ideas that I have for videos as quickly as possible. I have so many ideas for DuckBrick’s videos every single day.”

Do you need to publish daily? Nope. But frequency is an important way to be present in the lives of your readers.

So many writers tell me “Oh, people don’t want to hear from me that often,” or ‘I don’t want to bug people by publishing that often.” So instead, they show up once a quarter, or at most, once a month. The result? They don’t show up in the lives of their readers. They don’t develop the ability to talk about their creative vision in an authentic way. They don’t find the growth and engagement that they desire.

Remove the Pressure to Share ‘In the Moment’

I talk to writers about this all the time who say they don’t want to constantly be distracted by sharing. I want to encourage you to detach yourself from the pressure you feel of sharing in the moment. the expectation of time. In other words: if you go to a beautiful bookstore and feel that you want to share with your followers on Instagram about it, you do not need to share it in that moment, on that day, or even during that week. You can take the photo to capture it, but then share about it another time. This could even be weeks or months later.

As Chris moved through his scheduled posts in the editorial calendar, he showed many upcoming videos that he has been working on for months. “This is from my trip back in October.” “This is one we filmed back in June.” That was months and months ago! He even showed an upcoming video that was filmed back in 2020, 4 years ago.

I encourage you to remove yourself from that pressure of sharing constantly, in the moment something happens. Instead, focus on clarity of your message and creative vision, and give each item you share the room it needs to develop. There is no reason you couldn’t visit a wonderful bookstore 6 months ago, and then this week share:

“Recently, I visited this amazing bookstore in…”
“Not long ago, I had the chance to visit…”
“Thinking about this amazing bookstore I visited recently…”
“Has anyone else been here! Look at this amazing bookstore I discovered!”

Can you mention your visit was months ago? Sure. Do you have to? Nope. Either way: it doesn’t matter! What matters is your creative vision, your passion, your connection with readers.

Here is a screenshot of videos that Chris filmed and edited back in 2021 and 2022, which are already scheduled to go live on YouTube in September and October of this year — months from now!


Chris took a trip to LEGO headquarters in Billund, Denmark, and has videos about it coming out for months and months. Perhaps you go on a writer’s retreat in March. You do not need to immediately post about the experience in your very next newsletter, or immediately on social media. You could slowly develop several posts about it that you share weeks — or months — later. To me, that releases so much pressure to have to do too much all at once.

Pre-Plan Series

Chris showed some series that he is planning, including one that will feature a monthly video for the next two years! In some ways, he is methodical in this. But in others, he is simply balancing all of his ideas, the time each needs, and even viewer interest.

For one series, he is reviewing every set from an older LEGO theme, which he is calling, “Exo-Force: The Ultimate Review Series.” This begins around March 22, 2024, and he will put out a new video every week on this theme through August 1, 2025. I mean, that is planning! Here it is in his calendar:


What I love about this is that he can have a big vision for what he can create and give himself the time he needs to complete it, without feeling so much pressure to do it all right now.

Creative Energy is Your Most Precious Resource

I often say that your most precious resource is not time or money, but your creative energy. What comes ooooozing out of Chris’s video here is his passion and focus. He spends quite a long time in the video reviewing upcoming videos that are already scheduled:

He is just so excited about each video, and that passion comes through. Does Chris clearly spend a lot of time and money on this? Of course. However, his creative energy allows him to do what others in his position aren’t doing.

Chris’ LEGO channel is not his full-time job. He works at Microsoft, and has also mentioned something about multiple startup projects he is developing with friends, or on his own. He recently mentioned that nearly every weekend through the end of summer will be spent at one LEGO-related event or another.

I work with writers because I am endlessly inspired by their belief in the stories they tell, and the ideas they share. Perhaps you worry that you could not sustain a weekly email newsletter? One thing I would as is this: is there one small thing you can share each week that talks about the themes you love writing about? Or one moment of inspiration, perhaps from a book you read, some research you did, or a reflection you had? If so, why not share that with your ideal readers? Why not open up the potential that it may inspire them as well?

Using a Schedule Doesn’t Have to Sap Your Passion

Chris’s videos range in length. Here are some upcoming videos (one is 36 minutes, and another is 1 hour and 22 minutes that focuses on how he brought home a ton of LEGO sets he bought in Denmark, back to the US):


What is fascinating about what Chris does is how his systems seem to be focused on passion, not obligation. I’ve heard many top creators on YouTube talk about how a regular upload schedule can stress them out. Some big channels have even experienced big issues because of the pressure to keep posting, or they have quit entirely. Can a rigid schedule be a negative, sapping your creative energy, and forcing you to take on too much of a workload? Of course. The key point here is: you get to choose. And as you develop this, I encourage you to find tools such as an editorial calendar to help support the process.

If you want to take a deep dive into how to use an editorial calendar to manage your email newsletter, consider checking out this workshop of mine.

Before I end, I wanted to give you a sneak peek at some of the behind-the-scenes videos I have been sharing with my paid subscribers.

I’d love to know, what has worked for you in managing how you share online, whether that is a newsletter, social media, or something else? Let me know in the comments.

Thank you for being here with me.

Moving beyond ‘Likes’ to real connections with readers

Today I want to share a case study on how to engage your readers by focusing on story and emotions. As a writer, you share in your newsletter or social media because you hope it connects with people in a meaningful way. What do we all feel before clicking “publish?” Crickets — no one engaging, no one seeming to care.

If you want people to feel connected with what you are sharing, focus on the emotions you hope they feel.

Let’s take a simple example: imagine you recently got a new computer. It is your primary interface for writing, the place where you sit for hours, crafting your ideas and stories. You are super excited because this new computer was expensive and you hemmed and hawed over it for months, struggling with an aging machine as you delayed making the big purchase. You felt fancy receiving the new box and replacing your old dusty machine with something shiny and new.

So perhaps in that moment of excitement, you want to go on social media and post:

“Yay! I got a new computer!” And you show a photo of the computer or the box.

While this may get a couple of easy ‘Likes,’ I often worry that — to put it bluntly — no one cares. Why? Because computers are common. They are all around us, and we rarely notice them unless they are somehow unusual.

But for the person buying one, the experience feels deeper: the rush of the big expense, the sense of pride in how this new object somehow reflects on your identity or style, and it’s a moment of simply celebrating having something new in your life.

But for the reader, although they can be generally happy for you, their emotions don’t go anywhere deeper. Your announcement doesn’t engage readers at a level I think you could reach. I mean, how excited do you feel at reading these statements of expensive purchases, that are also common daily objects:

“I got a new MacBook!”
“I got a new iPhone 15!”
“I got a new Hyundai Santa Fe!
“I got a new Honda Civic!”

As a reader, what is my connection to this? At most it is, “I see you are happy, so I will say congratulations or click ‘Like.’ But the reality is that this purchase will seem mundane even to the person posting it within just a few weeks. I pass by 20 people driving Hyundai Santa Fe’s each day, and not once do I yell out the window: “Congrats on the car!” When I see someone in the grocery store typing into their iPhone 15, I don’t stop and say, “Hey — nice phone. Congrats on that!”

So how do you take a simple prompt like, “I got a new computer!” and use different emotions to encourage people to have deeper interactions? This is a skill you can use for anything you share online, whether that is in a newsletter, on social media, etc.

Consider how to share in a manner that:

  1. Connects with something deep for readers.
  2. Gives readers a clear reason to interact and engage.
  3. Focuses on a specific emotion you hope they feel.

When I am working with an author on a book launch, they are often faced with the prospect of sharing about their book dozens (or even hundreds) of times in a three-month window of time. How do they keep it interesting and engaging? Focus each post on a different emotion. Consider how the same message can change when you frame it around hope, fear, frustration, and concepts like being sentimental or a feeling of pride.

Okay, let’s explore different ways to do this. I will stick with the simple prompt of, “I got a new computer,” and here are different ways to share about it that could be more meaningful by being aligned to different emotions and stories:

“I’m crying right now. I just bought a new computer, and I’m remembering the me from 20 years ago who was stuck using a hand-me-down laptop with a broken “M” key. I wrote the first draft of my novel on that laptop, the one that I never finished. As I unpack this shiny new computer, the one with the working “M” key, I wonder: what words will this capture for me? What stories will unfold?”

Or how about this:

“Do I deserve this? That is what I’m wondering as I unbox my brand new computer. I’ve been a writer for 3 years now, and while there have been good moments, sometimes I look in the mirror and think, ‘Is this just a pipe dream?’ This computer represents a lot — an investment in my own potential, for one. But also, a possible gateway to the stories I can create. Do I deserve this? I honestly don’t know. But I’m going to give it my best shot.”

Or this:

“I don’t know who needs to hear this today, but: you are worth it. I just spent $2,000 on my new computer. This is the tool I use to write, to dream, to connect. A 20-year-old me would think I hit the lottery! Now, I had to save for this for months. I had to justify this over so many other essentials I need at home. Am I worth it? Heck yes! Are you? Absolutely. Invest in your dreams, because I’m here cheering you on!”

Or how about:

“Eeeee! It’s here! My new computer! I’m going to call her the “Fantabulous Writing Machine-ee Thingee.” First thing I do after unboxing? Stick this Margaret Atwood sticker to it (I bought it here on Etsy!) Okay, I’m buying a silicone cover for the keyboard, let me know: WHAT COLOR TO CHOOSE? I want them alllllllll!”

Each emotion can become a different kind of way of sharing and engaging. Each of these could easily be expanded into a longer story.

Akira Kurosawa

Recently I’ve been watching the films of director Akira Kurosawa. He is commonly cited as one of the greatest directors of all time, releasing films from the 1940s to the 1990s. I’ve watched 10 of them in the past two months, presented here in order with my favorites closer to the top:

  1. Ikiru
  2. Sanjuro
  3. Red Beard
  4. Seven Samurai
  5. High and Low
  6. Yojimbo
  7. Rashomon
  8. The Hidden Fortress
  9. The Bad Sleep Well
  10. Throne of Blood

I’m currently watching Stray Dog, from 1949. I have so many more to watch and love feeling immersed in the evolving vision of Kurosawa.

Akira Kurosawa films

There was a moment while watching his most celebrated film, Seven Samurai, where I was surprised and a bit confused. The storyline is straightforward: a group of 7 samurai need to defend a small village from attackers.

The film is 3 hours and 23 minutes. For more than 2 hours, the story is told of the village, assembling the seven Samurai, and then preparing the villagers for the attack. When we get to the final battle scene, I looked at the running time and noted there was still an HOUR left in the film. I was in shock. This is a tiny village, how are they going to stretch out the final battle for an entire hour?

While this seemed straightforward to me, in the hands of a great film director, it is of course so much more. He used every emotion and storytelling technique in the final battle, including:

  • Every flank was its own story: north, south, east, west.
  • Every character (each samurai, and some of the villagers) received their own emotional storytelling moment, completing a series of narrative arcs.
  • There were many different styles of attack — a big rush of many attackers charging in, a few sneaking in, etc.
  • Every context was explored: in the rain, in the sun, at night, in water, through trees, along a path, across a field, on horseback, etc.
  • Every style of defense was shown: clever, bold, disciplined, unhinged, methodical, solo, small group, the entire community working together, etc.

This was a powerful reminder of the many ways to tell a story. And how something that may seem simple can have a multifaceted collection of emotions that pull us in via different means.

When you consider what you share and how you engage your readers, I encourage you to focus on the emotional cues that will help readers feel personally connected. I have always felt that how we share is a craft, not dissimilar to how we write. Attending to this craft is something we can do slowly, one small update at a time.

And yes, I did get a new computer recently and this post is the result of me considering if/how I could share that.


Thank you for being here with me.

Don’t settle for minimum attention

There is a scene in the movie The Social Network, where Mark Zuckerberg is being sued and is attending a deposition. The opposing attorney notices that Mark seems distracted, and this is the interaction:

Attorney: “Mr. Zuckerberg, do I have your full attention?”
Mark (with a tone of exasperation): “No.”
The attorney: “Do you think I deserve your full attention?”
Mark: “You have part of my attention. You have the minimum amount.”

If you are a writer or creator sharing online, I am going to bet that you have felt this way before. That here you are sharing something important and…. if people notice it at all, they seem to give it the minimum amount of attention. It may look something like this on social media:

  • You have followers, but no one engages. No likes, comments, reshares.
  • Someone does see your post while scrolling, and clicks ‘like’ after a millisecond, then keeps scrolling.
  • You have followers, but when you look at the metrics, you feel that the algorithm of the social network isn’t actually showing your posts to these followers.

This can also play itself out in other ways. For me, I spent 15 years sharing 31,000 posts on Twitter, amassing lots of followers and engagement. But then someone new bought it, the network changed, and my core audience left.

Another way this can happen is what happened to a writer I work with: after years of developing a following on Facebook, one day her account disappeared. Somehow it got flagged for doing something that went against their terms of service (which she never did), and they deleted it with no possible recourse to bring it back. Thousands of followers and interactions gone in an instant.

I often write about what I call Human-Centered Marketing, and how you as a writer can feel good about sharing what you create and engaging with your audience in meaningful ways. But too often, we get sidetracked by metrics that don’t matter, such as the number of followers, or likes, or views.

Why could these numbers not matter? I mean, isn’t 10,000 followers better than 100 followers? Better because it means more people may see what you share, like what you share, and fuel word-of-mouth marketing for your work? Sure, that is definitely possible. What is also possible though is that a writer spends energy in these places, only to realize:“My books aren’t selling, people aren’t showing up to my events, I’m not getting reviews, and no one seems to care.”

Reminder: Join me for my new workshop: Find the Readers Who Will Love Your Substack!Understand who your ideal readers are, where to find them, and how to convert them into subscribers on your Substack. The live event is Friday January 19, 2024, at 12:30pm ET. A full recording is provided to all who register. Register Here!

I have spoken to so many writers over the years who tell me that even though they have thousands of subscribers — or in some cases tens or hundreds of thousands of subscribers — they have no idea who their audience really is. Or in some cases, they feel like they have the “wrong audience,” one that expects something from them that they no longer want to create. And they are paralyzed in this place where they are afraid to change for fear of disappointing this audience they don’t really know.

Suddenly, 10,000 followers doesn’t indicate the validation and connection we hope it does, but rather, a faceless mass of confusing expectations.

When someone subscribes to your email newsletter, they aren’t just a number on a list. They are someone who is showing up to embrace what you share each week. I want you to feel empowered to understand the process of encouraging people to truly engage with what you write and why.

What is the opposite of getting minimum attention? Something like this:

  1. When you have a group — even a small group — of people who truly love what you create. An easy way to think of this is the top 10% of your supporters. So, if you have 100 subscribers or followers, maybe 10 who really show up for all that you do. Having 10 people who support you that manner can truly change your life in profoundly good ways.
  2. Having consistent access to your biggest supporters. This is part of why I have always appreciated email newsletters, because I have permission to email them, as well as a consistent way to do so via their email address. This is something I didn’t have when my audience left Twitter. I could encourage them to follow me elsewhere, but no persistent way to connect with each of them unless they took an action to sign up for my list or engage with me elsewhere.
  3. When these people take actions to support you in the ways that mean the most to you. Perhaps that is buying your book, or posting a review for it when it releases, recommending your book to a local book club, subscribing to your paid newsletter, taking a course from you, recommending you as a guest on a podcast, or something else that you truly value.

In sales, there is this term: “conversion.” Often, it is meant to represent when someone goes from potentially buying what you offer, to actually purchasing it. They “converted” from a prospect to a customer, in sales lingo.

Conversion isn’t just a number. It can also be a meaningful experience between people. Let me show you an example of full attention and deep engagement. This is Teri Case and Cathey Nickell:

Teri Case and Cathey Nickell

Teri published a new novel this week, Finding Imogene, and Cathey is a children’s book author. They met around 2016 in a mastermind group I ran for writers. They stayed in touch, becoming friends. The photo above is their first in-person meeting last year! Teri said that the Acknowledgments section of her novel is “packed with six-degrees-of-Dan-Blank creatives,” meaning a range of people she met somehow through me. To be clear: Teri is one of the most generous people I’ve ever met and did so much to connect with others and stay connected. These are people who support her work, are colleagues, and even friends. They are the people who make up her life as a writer. And of course, Teri and I have spoken and collaborated many times over the years.

As you consider how you share, focus on the people, not the numbers.

If we consider a traditional marketing funnel, the first step is awareness. This is where someone first learns about your writing. What we hope is that they then move down the funnel, becoming interested in your work, considering if they want to spend more time with it, converting to a reader, reading it consistently, and then advocating for it with others.

But so many writers remain stuck at the top of the marketing funnel.

They are focused on making people vaguely aware of their work and stall out there. They are unable to move them through the deeper stages of the funnel, encouraging interest, consideration, conversation, loyalty, and advocacy.

Being stuck at the top of the marketing funnel is when a writer has a lot of followers, but no book sales. When they look out into an empty audience of chairs who clicked “like” on the social media post about an event, but who didn’t bother to show up.

In the past year, I have seen a lot of writers and influencers leave social media. Many of them are focusing more on places that encourage the full attention of their biggest fans. A smaller, but more engaged audience.

This could be quitting Instagram, and focusing only on one’s paid Substack newsletter, as Emma Gannon is. Or how Jenny Nicholson stopped posting videos to her YouTube channel with 1 million followers in order to focus all of her attention on the 23,914 paying members of her Patreon.

They are focusing on doing less, and in doing so, spending their resources more effectively. They are giving their full attention to their biggest supporters and getting maximum attention back. What is created in the process? Hopefully more meaning, more moments, and more connections.

Recently Farrah Storr reflected on why she is focusing on Substack and not Instagram, saying:

“Like everyone else, I was naive when I joined Instagram. I signed up for no other reason than everyone I knew had signed up…. A thousand people followed me; then three thousand; then ten thousand, then twenty thousand. The pressure to perform to a crowd I knew nothing about, nor really cared about was both intense and nonsensical… Over the last decade I have shared more with my followers than I have with my own family. I have spent hours replying to DMs from nameless strangers who I never hear from again.”

For a lot of people in creative fields, they may have a fear of converting. They are nervous to be seen as trying too hard to get people to buy from them. In my book, Be the Gateway, I wrote about how normal social fear can often prevent us from taking actions to share what we create.

This is something I feel Substack has truly changed the game with: normalizing that it is okay for writers to suggest, “If you want to pay me for my writing, that would actually be nice.”

For the past 13 years, my full-time work has been helping writers share their work, launch their books, create marketing plans, and find their readers. I love that I get to work with writers on this every day. This week I shared a 15 minute video for my paid subscribers, giving an in-depth tour of my studio, along with some tips of what I feel are essential elements for any creative space:

Dan Blank

It felt nice to share this with the people who are my biggest supporters, those who I want to bring into this trusted place.

As you consider sharing what you write with the world, I want to encourage you to not settle for minimum attention. Consider how you can deeply engage with your biggest supporters in ways that honor your limited resources, and maximizes the moments that matter in your life as a write.

And speaking of which, I’ve been hard at work finishing my next workshop: Find the Readers Who Will Love Your Substack! The live event is Friday January 19, 2024, at 12:30pm ET, and a full recording is provided to all who register. More info and registration can be found here!

Thank you for being here with me.