What I’m learning from writers and artists…

I’m wrapping up the current season of my podcast, The Creative Shift with Dan Blank, and today I want to reflect on what I’ve been learning from the writers and artists I have been talking to. Each conversation is a deep look into not only what it means to effectively share your writing and art, but to also feel a sense of personal fulfillment and purpose in the process.

Rebecca GreenIt is appropriate to end the season with an interview with artist and writer Rebecca Green. This is the third time I’ve interviewed her. With more than 270,000 Instagram followers, Rebecca has forged an amazing career writing and illustrating books, and with a wide array of other artistic projects.

In our first conversation back in 2018 we talked about creative burnout.

The next time we spoke in 2019, we discussed how her work was evolving and the creative process.

When we chatted recently, we discussed the risk involved in changing her creative direction. You see, she has done well as an illustrator of other people’s books, but what she has realized is that the book she wrote and illustrated herself delivered the kind of long-term value she wants more of. She says:

“It’s scary to say no to picture book projects because they are so big. On the flipside, I know how big they are, so it gets easier to say no to them. Because I’ve said yes to enough ‘no’ projects, to know that I shouldn’t have taken this on. I know what those projects entail. I know that I can put all of that energy that I would invest in those into something else that will take me farther.”

What would take her farther? She referenced the 2017 book she wrote and illustrated, How to Make Friends with a Ghost, and how being the illustrator of her own writing has lead to more overall creative and career growth. She mentioned that she just spent more than 1.5 years developing a proposal that she recently submitted to develop as a book. These things take time, they are more uncertain, yet… they could have more overall value than short-term work that has a clear start and end date, and a negotiated paycheck.

She also wants to focus on more 3-dimensional artwork, and mentioned doing window displays and menus for small businesses. This was fascinating to me, and I mentioned to her that this may be surprising to many artists who are just trying to get their foot in the door of a viable career in the arts. Why? Because many of them dream of illustrating books, or doing paid editorial illustration, or teaching workshops — all things Rebecca has done many times. These artists may say they feel “stuck” taking small projects to illustrate a menu, or do a local store window display, as if this work is what they will take just to pay the bills, but not really see it as their goal or even enjoyable.

As always, I loved Rebecca’s honesty in this conversation. She described it this way: “I love for my work to exist in the real world, the tactile world. I like for everyone to be able to react with that. It’s world building. It may not be the best career decision, but it allows me to create different projects.”

She also talked about giving herself permission to follow her creative inspiration and not feel too much pressure to always be “the artist.” She has enjoyed just feeling like a human being exploring her inspiration. My favorite quote from her during our conversation:

“I just want to go to a salvage yard, find an old doorknob, and clean it for 4 hours.”

What does the doorknob represent? Perhaps it is being immersed in the creative process without worrying about productivity. About being a person, not a brand. Of feeling you have the space to pursue your vision when you don’t know where it will lead.

Earlier this year she announced that she was taking a break from social media. I asked about this, and she said:

“I was scrolling mindlessly [on Instagram], and it felt awful every time I did it. I would feel jealous of everything I saw, even if it wasn’t something I wanted. My life is wonderful, so why am I scrolling through and feeling jealous of everyone else’s life, and like I’m not doing enough? It always feels like not enough. It’s very overwhelming. I just needed a break. I felt like a lot of my identity and work was wrapped up in it, an app and a community. Since taking a break, I feel quite light, and feel a lot better and can reassess how it fits into my life. I feel more human than machine – than artist.”

But, before you read into this that you can just give up on social media, she also talked about the value it brings to her life:

“There is no way I would have the career that I have without Instagram and social media. The way I have connected with people all over the globe, how when I move I am able to find and connect with local artists. When I have teaching opportunities, I know that a person wouldn’t have found me or trusted me to sell workshop spots if I wasn’t on social media. I know it is a huge part of selling a book that comes out, or getting future contract deals. Actually, now my contracts include social media requirements. I understand it sells books. I’ve always done that anyway, but it’s part of my job.”

She also talked about the value of being a part of an artistic community…

“In moving so much, I’ve realized that it’s really the people in your life that matter. Having an artistic community is important. Having those people is a really big part of your day to day. Every place has an artistic community for sure, but I wouldn’t say that every artistic community is the one that everyone needs.”

Angela AbreuThis is something that came up with another recent guest I spoke with, Angela Abreu. When she launched her book, she turned it into a performance, and sold 100 tickets. How did she attract an audience? She said:

“I had the supportive community, because I had been supporting them for all these years.”

She talked about how active she had been in her local writing community, helping her local bookstore and other writers. She said, “The doors to my apartment were open to creatives in the community.” She also found new ways to help other writers create and share their work by founding the Dominican Writers Association.

It was amazing to hear how she took this personal passion of being involved in the literary community, and found bold new ways to organize to support the kind of writing and writers she wanted to help succeed.

Emma GannonFor so many writers finding the way in to their own community, and even their own voice, is a difficult path. Emma Gannon told me how she pursued becoming a writer, turning rejection into success:

“I would get rejected once a day pretty much, from all magazines. No one wanted to publish any of my writing. What I would do is publish the articles on my blog, all of those rejected articles. All this writing, that for most people, might have just sat on their desktop. And people started reading it. Then the numbers grew. Then I had like 100,000 page views. People wanted to read it. I thought, this is so weird that some of the magazines I pitched were closing down, and yet people were reading my work.”

Since then, she has not only published multple nonfiction books, but recently released her first novel. She is also the host of the successful podcast, Ctrl Alt Delete. So much of what we talked about was how to turn your creative vision into a viable career path. She said, “I had so much creativity waiting to come out.”

Donna HemansEvery writer has their own version of this. As author Donna Hemas put it, “I had to figure out how to make writing the central part of my life.”

Her first two books were published nearly 20 years apart, and in our interview, she describes the difference in launching each. She also shares the journey between them, where she began two manuscripts that are still unpublished, only to find that her next idea was the one ready to be finished and shared with the world.

Overall this year, I kept thinking back to these conversations and others I have had recently. The words of Julian Winters, Andrea J. Loney, Naomi Jackson, Skeme Richards, and so many others been in my head again and again. I’ve always been inspired by the creative journey, and each of these people shared stories that I kept going back to — big decisions and wise lessons along the way. Here are just some of the people I have interviewed recently:

Every conversation has changed me in some way, which is why I continue to do the podcast. It truly makes my life richer. I hope the podcast has helped you in some way. If so, please consider two actions:

  • Let the guest know. Even if one insight helped you, email them and let them know.
  • Leave a rating or review for the podcast on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Thanks!

-Dan

My mom and Muhammad Ali

Today I want to talk about a key skill that any author or artist needs if they want to share their work, develop a community of supporters, and establish their platform. No, it’s not some special button on Amazon, or the secret to social media ads.

It is how to ask.

Ask for what? For anything. For attention. For someone to buy your book. To attend an event. To review your book. To be there for you when you need them the most. This is work I do every day with writers.

In considering this, I realized I learned this skill from my mom and dad. So I would like to start with an example of asking, then dig into practical tips and advice for how you can do this for yourself.

In the 1980s, my family and I had a small baseball card business. On the weekends we would set up a table at card shows and buy and sell cards with collectors. One weekend we did a show in Manhattan and one of the people signing autographs was Muhammad Ali. My mother paid for the tickets for us to meet him and waited on line with my brother and I. I was maybe 9 years old, and my brother around 13.

When we got up to the table, Ali signed autographs for us and shook our hands. I was in total awe. He was gracious and fully present.

But then, my mom, did something unexpected. She asked, “Can I take a photo of you with my boys?”

This was more than two decades before selfies were a thing, and in an era where sports shows didn’t offer photos with the celebrity guests. Ali said that there was a long line of people he didn’t want to keep waiting, but he would see what he could do later on.

Sure enough, a couple hours later, we heard an announcement over the PA system, “Would the woman who wanted to have her kids’ photos taken with Muhammad Ali please come to the front, he has to leave now.”

They took us into an empty corridor, and there in a random corner of the hotel, we began to pose to take a photo facing the camera. But then Muhammad stopped and said, “wait a minute,” he turned to me, and pretended to be throwing a punch as a pose for the photo. Here it is:

 

Okay, that is a (slightly) edited version of the original, which had my brother in the background, see below left. Plus he got his own photo with Ali:

 

My mom did the unexpected in the moment. She took a risk and the results created one of the best moments of my life. Nowadays, this type of thing is more expected. When I met Brené Brown, I asked for a selfie and she was quick to agree:

 

So did Amy Tan:

 

So much of marketing is not about doing the expected — the same practices as everyone else – but about doing the unexpected. I’m not talking about shock and surprise tactics, but rather, efforts that are authentic and meaningful.

Where might the skill of outreach and simply asking come in handy for a writer? Some ideas:

  • Emailing another author who writers in your genre to just say ‘thank you’ and perhaps establish a connection.
  • Asking for a book blurb.
  • Asking an author to be a part of a virtual or in-person book event with you.
  • Asking readers to subscribe to your newsletter.
  • Querying an agent or publisher.
  • Pitching yourself as a guest on the podcast.
  • So so so so so many other aspects of what it means to be public, share your work, and develop a platform around your writing.

Too many authors wait to do these things. They wait until just before book launch. They wait for a “perfect” ask. A perfect credential. But by then, they have often waited too long to really develop the connections they need. It’s the difference between:

Opening a restaurant in a town you have lived in for years, where you have developed relationships with other business owners, town officials, and neighbors.

Vs

Flying into a town you have never even visited, and later that same day, you begin walking around town to promote a brand new restaurant you are opening.

The first way is not only more effective, but it simply feels better.

As I considered my mom and Muhammad Ali, I remembered the many ways that my parents taught me to focus on outreach, connection, and relationships as being the core of what it means to share one’s work and find success.

  • My mom sold Tupperware in the mid-1970s
  • My mom sold Avon in the late 1970s to early 1980s
  • My parents had a stamp business in the 1970s
  • My family had a baseball card business in the 1980s and 1990s
  • My mom was a realtor in the 1980s and 1990s

It’s funny to consider how much of my childhood was spent behind a table at a show, watching my parents prepare orders, and joining my mom and/or dad on visits with customers and colleagues. Infused in every part of this was how they established a sense of clear communication and trust with the other person. My parents pursued these activities because they truly enjoyed them. And that meant that everything was more fulfilling when you cared about the people you were engaging with. I was able to observe thousands of asks during this time. My parents making deals, and ensuring that both they and their customers felt it was a fair trade.

Here is my family behind our table at a show (I’m on the right):

 

My family developed friendships that lasted years and years with customers. I can still see their faces and hear their voices; the specific customers I would expect to see at different shows we went to year after year.

These were businesses built on connections between people, and their shared appreciations for the product they were there for. I’m actually getting emotional as I write this, which means there is a strong likelihood of you seeing an upcoming post of me titled, “What Authors Can Learn About Book Launches from Selling Avon in the 1970s.”

🙂

I would imagine that in your history, you have your own versions of this. Perhaps not in side businesses that your parents ran, but with someone you knew growing up who seemed to get stuff done because they knew about the value of how to engage with other people.

While that isn’t why a lot of people start writing, I do think it is a critical part of how writing gets shared: how readers engage. With the examples above, my parents weren’t selling random goods just to make a profit. They really liked what they sold and understood how these things helped people. They were businesses built on joy, appreciation, and connection.

How can you effectively ask other people for things that support your writing? Some tips:

  • Be clear. Too many people try to make the ask without ever actually asking. That usually leads to confusion and frustration.
  • Focus on one ask at a time, when possible.
  • Don’t hide the ask – put it up front. In other words, don’t write a 7 paragraph email, just hiding an ask in the middle of paragraph 6.
  • Understand if the ask is reasonable. Is it a small, but meaningful action? What steps would the person need to take and do they understand them?
  • Consider the objections the other person may have, and address them. This is not about “talking them into it,” but about empathy.
  • Consider how what you are asking could align to the goals/preferences of the person you are asking. How it would be something they truly want to do.

For instance, there is a difference between emailing a friend and asking:

“I was told I have to ask people to post reviews for my book on Amazon. I know it’s a pain, but I’m trying to get a hang of this author platform thing. Anything you could post would be great.”

Vs.

“You have been such a big supporter of my writing thank you. I want to ask if you could do something important: post a review of my book on Amazon? Doing so helps potential readers know if this book is for them. It means more people who will love this book may find it.”

The first one sounds like a chore, and the second is filled with purpose for both the person asking and the person being asked. Of course, asking works in both directions. You can also reach out to a writer you know and ask, “How can I help share your writing?”

Thanks!

-Dan

This isn’t easy, but…

In the past few weeks, I’ve been observing the book launches of Jessica Lahey, Laila Tarraf, Jasmin Darznik, as well as others. Jessica published nonfiction, Laila memoir, and Jasmin a novel.

I happen to know each of those authors, but even if you don’t know an author, you can watch their book launch in real-time, just by following the author on social media. It’s a great way to reverse engineer some aspects of the launch process. But there is a side that the public doesn’t always get to see. When I speak to writers via phone, or interview them in my podcast, they often share what you don’t see on social media: all of the ideas and efforts that didn’t pan out.

When I observe how successful authors share, I find that they show up again and again for their ideal audience. They try new things, and through these thousands of tiny efforts, comes a career.

This, of course, doesn’t just apply to book launches. I recently saw this series of Instagram Stories from author and podcaster Emma Gannon:

Here she is encouraging people to sign up for a newsletter that is about to go out. Then the next day she shares the newsletter itself, and then a reminder to subscribe if you want to see future issues. Why do this? So many reasons:

  • To communicate about what she is creating and sharing this week
  • To encourage you to join others in her readership and not miss out
  • To give you an opportunity to engage with her around her writing

I love the before/during/after of the three images above because they illustrate how the many opportunities we have to share our work.

Perhaps you look at authors I’ve mentioned here and think, “Sure Dan, but these people already have established audiences, that’s why they can do this. I’ll share like Emma does when I have an audience.”

But how do you think you get an audience?

You show up and find new ways to communicate about what you create and why. You experiment, you engage, you repeat as you learn what feels authentic to you, and what truly connects with readers. What I have found is that you have to learn these skills as early in your career as possible. For a writer, this means don’t wait until you are ready for a book launch, start years earlier if you can. What you want time to learn is:

  • How to talk about what you create and why
  • How to reach out to people you don’t know and ask them questions
  • How to find sharable moments in your creative process
  • How to not be shy about showing up even when you feel you have nothing to promote
  • Through experimentation and repetition, learn what gets attention with your ideal readers.

What I find again and again is that in order to find success, even the smartest and most talented people have to keep trying again and again to hit upon the ideas that truly work. I want to share two examples of creators doing this outside of the writing world.

I follow a lot of guitarists YouTube, and one of them, Steve Onotera, shared video talking about his path to becoming a full-time guitarist on YouTube. He is an amazing player, and it may be easy to look at his incredible skill and think, “Well of course he is successful, he’s got so much talent and skill. He would succeed regardless.” But of course, the reality is always much more complex. He joined YouTube in 2014, now has more than 750,000 subscribers, and this platform is how he earns a living. Along the way, these are the music industry job ideas that he tried and “failed” at (that’s the word he used):

  1. A session musician for live events. That didn’t offer sustainable opportunities or income.
  2. Anything inside the music industry — he applied for jobs at music stores, record labels, and teaching guitar. The only job he could get turned out to be an unpaid internship. So he moved back home to live with parents.
  3. Staff songwriting, with the goal of getting a publishing deal and writing music down in Nashville. He couldn’t get his foot in the door.
  4. He started a music/sound production company with a friend of his. They didn’t earn a penny from this, and the company folded.
  5. He tried becoming the co-leader of a mainstream country band with his friend, again with the goal of making a permanent move to Nashville. This too didn’t work out.

What did work? Well, as a part of trying to get attention for that band, he started a YouTube channel. It turns out those videos he created began to catch on. So this thing that was never the goal — YouTube — somehow because an enormous opportunity for him.

In my research, I come across versions of this again and again. This year I have been listening to a series of interviews with Leonard Nimoy. Whether or not you care about Star Trek, you likely know of Spock, the role that Nimoy played in the original 1960s TV series.

In watching hours of interviews and profiles on Nimoy, it was astounding to hear about his path to success.

He arrived to work as an actor in Hollywood in 1950. Yet he says, “Prior to Star Trek, I never had a job that lasted more than two weeks.” Star Trek went into production in 1965. That means for 15 years, all of his acting work offered him little security or sustainability in a specific show or role.

Yet, in those years, he was in more than 60 different movies and TV shows, usually in a small non-recurring role. To support his family, he worked many odd jobs outside of film, such as working in a pet store.

When he got the role on Star Trek, he said it was the first role he landed in 15 years where the name on the door of his dressing room wasn’t written in chalk — meaning it would be easily wiped away the next day to be replaced with the name of another actor.

When Nimoy was filming an early episode of Star Trek a childhood friend who was an actor came to visit him on set. After watching him film a scene, his friend pulled Nimoy aside and said, “No matter what you do, you have to get out of this as soon as you possibly can. This is a treadmill to oblivion.”

That kind of story always sticks with me. We don’t know what will work. This is exactly the reason that I encourage writers to share early and often, to learn what feel authentic to them, who their readers may be, and what engages them.

This is why we show up to create.

I work with writers everyday on book launches, platform building, and integrating creativity and sharing into their daily lives. If this work seems difficult to you, that is because it is. Because it asks you to stand up for who you are. For the vision of what you want to create. And to connect it with the lives of others.

That isn’t easy. But it is worthwhile.

Thanks!

-Dan

Podcasts sell books

I have been helping writers develop their strategies to become guests on podcasts, which has proven to be a very effective way to sell books and grow their platforms. Today I want to talk about why this works, and how you can use the process yourself. Let’s dig in…

Why Podcasts?

Being a guest on some else’s podcast is a great way to make people aware of what you write, why you write it, and forge an authentic connection with your voice. These will often be interviews, where the host spends 20-60 minutes asking you questions and exploring topics together.

Podcasts have all of the ingredients that are necessary for what I call Human-Centered Marketing:

  • Effectively communicating to those you hope to reach. This is not just a quick sales pitch, but a meaningful conversation with another person that listeners get to be a part of.
  • Interviews, especially long-form interviews that podcasts specialize in, can cover a range of emotions, themes, and contexts. It gives you a greater chance to share, but also tap into something that will engage a reader. They are also good at building a sense of trust with your audience.
  • Regardless of the size of the podcast audience, one of the best parts of the podcast experience is the connection you make with the host. This is someone who would likely have spent some time researching your writing or your story, and is coming to the conversation with inspiration and curiosity.

This can happen at any point in your writing career. The most obvious time writers consider this is during a book launch, but you can be a podcast outside of that timeframe, even years before (or after) the launch of a book. Why do this? Because it is not only essential work to understand and connect with your ideal audience, but it allows you to develop your voice and the professional relationships you will need along the way.

If you are wondering, “Isn’t selling my book the entire point?! Why else do this?” I would just say that selling books isn’t like selling inner tubes to someone with a flat tire, a transaction that happens quickly and neatly. Marketing is about growing awareness of your writing, of who you are, and having people connecting with these themes in deeper ways. It is about communication and trust.

If you held a book launch party, would you walk in and yell, “Everyone, buy my book. Okay, goodbye.” and leave? No, you would engage in conversations, share stories, read from the book, do a signing, answer questions, serve food and beverages. You would engage in a range of human emotions. Yes, you want to sell books. But you also want it to be an enjoyable experience where people can find their connection to your writing. That takes time. Being a guest on podcasts is similar.

How to be a Good Podcast Guest

You may be thinking already, “Dan, I’m not an expert on anything, I have almost no platform, and I don’t have a book to promote, I can’t be a podcast guest.” But I disagree. If I consider some of the most engaging podcast episodes I have heard, they aren’t because that person had credentials or was famous. Instead, they are people who have an engaging message, share meaningful stories, or who help or provide inspiration.

I’ve hosted a podcast for years, interviewing dozens and dozens of guests. Some of the most memorable conversations I’ve had were not from the “famous” people I’ve interviewed. In fact, there are conversations that have stuck with me from interviews with people who had the absolute smallest platform. As I consider the guests I want to have in the future, I am focused so much more on who the person is, not what they have accomplished on their resume.

If you are still wondering what on earth you would talk about, consider this:

  1. Get clear on the themes you write about. Identify what do people who write in this same topic or genre love talking about? What readers mention in book reviews? What sessions would they attend at a conference on this theme? What do they talk to authors about at book signings?
  2. Identify stories you have on these themes, and how they may align to who you think your ideal audience is.
  3. Brainstorm everything you could talk about, even if it is way outside of what you write about. For instance, I’ve been a guest on parenting podcasts, and entrepreneurship podcasts, neither of which is a topic I otherwise write about.

When I do this work with writers, we make prioritized lists of ideas, and identify how this expands their possible reach to more podcasts, and of course, potential listeners/readers. It is not uncommon early in the marketing strategy process for a writer to tell me that there are just a handful of places who would possibly talk about their book or interview them. In our work together, we open this up to find dozens and dozens more places where they can possibly reach their ideal readers.

This is why I encourage you to start early in this process. That aligns to my advice in general on when to build your author platform: start now, before you need it. Do it when you aren’t desperate to pitch a book, when every connection you make isn’t overshadowed by the fact that you need for this person to promote something you are selling.

Platform takes time. Build your competence and find your public voice before you need it as part of a launch.

How to Conduct Podcast Research

Once we brainstorm all of the themes and topics a writer can talk about, we begin researching podcasts that may be a good fit. I create and manage a spreadsheet so that we can prioritize and track this process, as well as the pitches themselves.

If you have no idea where to start, then you can go to a search engine, type in the name of a topic, add the word “podcast” and then see what comes up. You can also go to a podcast player and do searches there, such as Apple Podcasts, overcast.fm, listennotes.com, player.fm, castro.fm, podchaser.com, stitcher.com, or many others.

If you already know of at least one podcast or podcaster on a certain topic, you can start there. Look up that podcast in a podcast player, and then see if they recommend similar podcasts, categories this podcast is categorized within, or related podcasts that subscribers also enjoyed.

When you do find potential podcasts that you think may be a fit, read the podcast titles and descriptions to see how they promote each episode. Likewise, listen to an episode or more to get a sense of the focus and style. If you worry you don’t have time for listening, consider using headphones while doing some other task, such as walking or folding laundry (this is when I listen to podcasts!)

Note whether you enjoy the podcast and if the host is someone you would enjoy chatting with. Don’t think of this as a transaction, where you are only drawn to shows that feel popular to you. Focus on the conversation, the kinds of stories, and not only what they would ask you, but what you would ask them. Focus on the experience you want to create for the two of you, and the listeners.

How to Write a Podcast Pitch Email

If you find a podcast that you feel you would be a good fit for, go to their website and see if they have instructions on how to request to be a guest. Often, you can email the host.

Keep the email short and to the point. Make sure that your “ask” is clear — that you would like to be a guest on their podcast, and why you think this would be a good fit. If you are concerned that you somehow don’t have some kind of credential they may be looking for, instead focus on the stories you can share and why they would enjoy a conversation with you. Only ask one thing in the email, don’t make it a menu such as “I could be a guest on your podcast, or we could do a giveaway on social media, or I could write a blog for you, or…”

And of course, share a bit about who you are, and any applicable links.

If you want my help in pursuing this or any other strategy to reach your readers, you can read more about how I work with writers here.

Thanks!

-Dan

Improving your author website

I have been helping quite a few authors with their websites recently, and have been making updates to my own. Today I would like to share some lessons and advice that I’ve been thinking about in this process. If you are a writer or creator who wants to establish or improve your website, this may be helpful.

Let’s dig in…

Focus Your Reader

Don’t make your website a mile wide and an inch deep. Too many websites offer a too many links, a crowded website navigation, and unclear direction. Yet when you do arrive on a specific page, they are all really short.

Do the opposite.

Have a clear sense of who your ideal readers is, consider why the are there, and how you can lead them. Whenever possible, have the fewest links you can in your navigation bar. Every time you ask your reader to choose, you are giving them a problem.

For instance, if your “Books” link in the navigation goes to a dropdown listing 4 book titles; well, now the reader has to try to figure out which book to choose. Is the first one in the list the most recent? Are they all in the same genre? Then, they have to click back and forth to go into one page, then back out of it and into the next.

Instead, give them one link — Books — and a page that lead them into what you write and information on each book.

Why do writers create too many links in their website? Their intentions are good. Often, they are hoping to appeal to the widest possible audience, and worry that someone will come looking for something that is hidden. So they crowd the website navigation and give all of the options.

For years, I have been trying to reduce the number of links on my own website at wegrowmedia.com. I recently removed a huge section of my website in order to get the navigation down to four links:

  • About
  • Work with Me
  • Blog & Podcast
  • Contact

To get to this point has required me to make tough choices about who my reader is likely to be, and how I can best help them.I could easily feel justified in expanding the navigation:

  • About
  • Work with Me
  • Book
  • Programs
  • Blog
  • Podcast
  • Newsletter
  • Testimonials
  • Resources
  • Start here
  • Contact

Every single one of those options would be filled with meaningful things I have created over the years. But I’m guessing that when people arrive on my site, they don’t want a table of contents of my entire life. It is my job in building the website to lead them to the best resources I have, and to make it easier for them to see who I am and what I do.

For your website, consider what are the three things you would most like a new reader to know about you. Can you focus only on that?

Go Deep With What You Share

For what you do choose to share, go deep. Don’t just share the bare minimum about what you write or why. If someone has come to your website, they want to know more.

Make your About page long. Yes, you can have a short third person bio at the top, because that is what some people want. But then, say “If you would like to know more, keep reading…” and share a deeper look at your writing, your inspiration, your background — all written in first person.

For your Book page, don’t just share a short description if you also have a wonderful backstory about the book too. If you want an example of an amazing Book page, check out Jasmin Darznik’s website and the page for her new book, The Bohemians. She and I worked together recently, and it was amazing to see how she kept making this page better and better.

Your website is how you present your writing to the world. Don’t hide it. This is the place to go deep and open people up to your creative vision.

Review Every Word, Every Link, Once a Year

Several months ago I shared how I have been going through a creative reset. I do this the last quarter of every year, but sometimes the work that comes out of it takes months to complete. I am still working through a long list of changes that are the result of that work. One of those is to update my website.

I’ve had a website for 15 years, and my company site is now 10 years old. Yet, I’m always having to update it, going through it again with a fine-tooth comb. I’m surprised at how I missed some obvious updates that need to happen. If you have a website, regularly go through it and reread every word, check every link, go to every page. Consider what is outdated, what need to be updated, and what is missing entirely.

For my own site, I realized that my homepage was promoting a program I no longer offer. That my newsletter sign up box barely mentioned the newsletter itself. That there were dated photos that I could easily update.

I’m also looking at the site with fresh eyes. At the top of the homepage, I mention Human-Centered Marketing, yet I never fully explain it. So now I’m building out a new section to give people a proper introduction to it. I’ve also been creating new sections for core aspects of my work that were previously hidden, such as my Clarity Cards process, the Creative Success Pyramid, and more.

On an author website, you may be surprised how often links to buy an author’s books books are missing, or the homepage has language such as “Pre-order my new book now — coming in September 2017!” But there are likely smaller updates you can make about what you write, why, and how the reader can engage with you.

This is a work in progress, which is why I recommend you review your website once a year.

And I need to follow my own advice! The page on my website for my book has to be updated. It is way too ‘thin’ given how much has happened with the book in the past three years. So I’m adding that to the list of things to update.

Show Up as a Person

On so many websites, I can’t see the person behind html. They don’t really share much on what they write, why, or what drives them as a creator. Consider the lessons social media has taught us. Instead of worrying about your website being “professional,” which sometimes translates to something cold and distant, instead focus on making a meaningful connection with the reader. You can do this by showing up as who you are.

Write in first person, address the reader directly. If you are comfortable with it, share photos of yourself on your About page. On your contact page, provide an actual email address, don’t use a contact form.

Here are three other recent posts I’ve shared that may be useful:

Thanks!

-Dan