No one knows what will work

How many times have you heard someone pitch you on a “can’t fail method to systematize your book sales.” Or your newsletter subscribers, social media followers, or something else. The components are always the same:

  1. “I’ve done it again and again.”
  2. “It’s a system that you follow step by step.”
  3. “The steps are surprisingly easy.”
  4. “Once you do it, you can set it and forget it. Success happens and keeps happening.”
  5. “Let me tell you a story of Becky who did this and how it changed her life…”

You are sold things like this again and again, and what I have found is that it leaves writers feeling discouraged. They try it but it doesn’t work for them. They hear these pitches again and again and begin to feel that it is they — the author — that is broken. Because it’s working for all these other people, “why not me?” The comparisonitis builds up making them feel bad about themselves.

So today I want to talk about the truth, and also offer you a clear path to success on your terms. We will cover this in two parts:

  1. No one knows what will work.
  2. Embark on a discovery process to identify what will work for you.

Okay, let’s dig in…

No One Knows What Will Work

There, I said it. No one knows which book will succeed and which won’t. No one can give you a step-by-step plan on how to get results for so many things in life. Even though this sounds jaded, I am a very positive person, I believe the glass is half-full, and I spend most of my time helping writers make progress.

So let’s talk about why I say this, because understanding this actually helps you get to the path that will work for you.

I want to share an example from another creative field. This is Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas:

They make music together. How successful have they been? A few highlights:

  • Her album debuted at number #1 on the Billboard charts.
  • She has eight gold and four platinum singles in the US.
  • Their music was streamed billions and billions of times on Spotify and Apple music in 2019.
  • Billie has 48.9 million followers on Instagram.

Oh, and it should be mentioned that Billie is 18 and Finneas is 22.

Recently, I began binge-watching interviews with them. Turns out, they were homeschooled, she still lives in her parents’ tiny house, and all of their biggest hits were recorded in the two bedrooms of the house. Growing up, their parents slept in the dining room so Billie and Finneas could have their own rooms.

With all of their success, listen to how Finneas describes knowing what works:

Interviewer: “Do you think there is one clear formula to a hit record?”
Finneas: “No. Absolutely not.”
Interviewer: “Do you feel you have an idea of what it takes?”
Finneas: “No. Less and and less now that we have had more and more success, because it just teaches me each time that I don’t know.”

Or how he described the path to the first huge hit that he and Billie had:

Question: “First song you ever wrote?”
Finneas: “Ocean Eyes. (Laughs) That’s not true. I wrote like 200-300 songs that no one will ever get to hear before I wrote that song. I thought they were all really good at the time, and subsequently think they were all really bad. That’s the deal. I loved writing them.”

In this interview they dissected the process for creating their biggest hit song, “Bad Guy.” She started working on it in her bedroom. Then it moved over to his as they got some parts to it worked out. As they tell it from here:
Finneas: “We had that. Then it sat around for like a year.”
Billie: “I’m shocked and happy people like it the way it is, because the thing we were most worried about was the chorus, and it having no hook.”

What she means is that this is a very unusual song. In interview after interview, each of them talked about how worried they were that no one would even like this song. Yet it became their biggest hit.

What Billie and Finneas share is the perspective I hear again and again from successful writers and artists. You see, all I do all day is study the creative process and creative success:

  1. I am in the trenches with writers who are clients, in my mastermind, or my other programs.
  2. I interview successful writers and artists in my weekly podcast.
  3. Most of my friends and colleagues are writers or artists.
  4. I do an incredible amount of research into this via books, podcasts, documentaries, interviews, etc.

This is the wall of my studio filled with photos of creators who inspire me, I stare at this all day:
Dan Blank

The path to success for each of these people was unique. As will your path be.

Each talent is unique.
Each success is unique.
Craft matters.
But so does luck.

So let’s discuss the path to success…

Embark on the Discovery Process

Success as a writers or artist is a process of discovery. What this means is that you are diligently doing strategic and smart work to move ahead, but constantly looking for signals for what direction to move in next, what works, and what doesn’t.

I want to share the key things I believe you need in order to embark on your own discovery process to find success. When I work with a writer to help them create an author platform, develop their audience, and launch their book, we embark on a discovery process with these elements:

Have a Clarity of Intention
Too many people fail to make progress because their goals are vague. They don’t have clarity on what they create, why, or how they hope it effects the world. Without clarity, I find many writers bounce back and forth between competing intentions:

“I just want to be a published author.”
“I want to grow my newsletter list.”
“I want to be a bestseller.”
“I want 10,000 followers.”
“I want to find my tribe.”

None of these milestones are bad. But they are just that, milestones in a much larger process as a writer. Some people I speak to have clear intentions. For those who don’t that is often the first step… to whittle down your intention to something specific and meaningful. Sometimes writers simply don’t know. For them, we can ask a simple question, “What are you curious about?” Start there.

Have a Methodology
While I said earlier that “no one knows what will work,” that doesn’t mean that one can’t follow a methodology to find out. For the work I do, one of those methodologies is what I call The Creative Success Pyramid. This is it (click the image to download a full-sized PDF):

It’s comprised of five basic parts, you start at the bottom and work your way to the top:

  1. Get radical clarity on what you create and why.
  2. Build your platform.
  3. Hone your voice.
  4. Conduct audience research.
  5. Launch and market your book.

All of these are in service of the ultimate goals: to continually create, to improve at your craft, to ensure your writing reaches more people, and to connect with others in fulfilling and meaningful ways. Within it are 30 smaller boxes. Here is a 15+ minute video of me taking you through it:

Where a methodology differs from a step-by-step template is that your path is always custom. Working through it is a process of discovery.

Have a Guide or Collaborators.
Too many people fail to success with their creative vision because they go it alone. They struggle for years by themselves. Yet all the stories I hear of success are filled with collaborators.

Sometimes these are formal guides, mentors, or coaches. Other times, they are collaborators such as other writers who help keep you accountable.

I suggest that the collaborators you work with be active, not passive. Joining a collective or being part of a “writing community” can feel active, but sometimes be passive. You can lurk in the shadows. You can follow along with their program.

This is different than having a guide or collaborator who listens, suggests, pushes, holds you accountable. Where they feel if you don’t make progress, that they are letting you down.

This is the work I do each day, and I think that is why every service I offer includes direct feedback from me. From my free programs to the highest levels of consulting, it’s not just that it gives me joy, it’s that if you aren’t getting personalized feedback, then you are always at risk of being adrift. Collaborating is critical to creative success.

Turn Discoveries Into Action, Not Endless Research
I call this a discovery process because the goal is to learn new things along the way. For instance:

  • Learn the types of books you really want to write.
  • Identify exactly who your ideal reader is.
  • Where they show up.
  • The best way to reach them.
  • How you can share your work in a manner that feels authentic to who you are.
  • Develop a process for it all that fits into your already busy life.

For many of these things, you won’t know the answer until you begin with a clear intention, follow a methodology, have a collaborator to help you along the way, and keep pausing to take into account what you are learning.

Persistence is a key factor here, but so are check-ins and analysis. To not just assume “Oh, I have a plan, I know what works.” But to regularly analyze and adjust your path.

Forgive Yourself
This is a human process. It can be emotional. So much of what it means to create is to discover who you are, what you are capable of creating, how others can know you, and how you can effect the lives of others.

Too many writers worry that they missed the boat, it’s too late for them. Or they feel a deep sense of impostor’s syndrome. Or they feel filled with comparisonitis as they observe the success of others.

All of this is normal. The key is to feel it, but not let it stop you. To not berate yourself for it. To forgive yourself and move on.

No one knows what will work. But the discovery what will work for you is a process I highly encourage you to embark on.

I will end with a reminder of two free training programs next week:

  1. My own 5-day program to help you understand how writers can best use social media. It takes place January 20-24 in a Facebook group I run called “The Reader Connection Project.” Just join it to participate!
  2. My friend Jennie Nash is running The Business of Book Coaching Summit. I’m one of the speakers! You can register here.

Thanks!
-Dan

Social media doesn’t sell books, but…

Writers have felt an intense pressure over the past decade to jump into social media. I’ve worked with thousands of writers on this, so I understand why many are for it, many are against it, and most are stuck somewhere between the two. They are interested, but apprehensive of the time it will take, how to do it well, and they ask the question, “Um, what is the return on investment? Will it actually lead to book sales?”

The answer? Nope.

But social media does so much more for writers. Today I want to discuss the benefits of social media for writers. I am absolutely viewing this from the perspective of social media in 2020 — what works today. Also, I’m not blind to the potential downsides of social media.

Much like leaving the house in the morning, engaging in social media brings with it everyday “risks.” Like Pee Wee Herman had to decide, do you listen to the card:

Or do you go on a big adventure?
Pee Wee Herman

Let’s dig in…

Social Media is Not a Transaction

Social media is not a magic wand to ‘go viral.’ It is not a transaction where you game whether or not you can convince an “influencer” to Tweet about your book.

Just as your daily life is not a transaction where you only engage with friends, family and colleagues trying to convince them to do you favor after favor. Social media is a communication channel just as in-person meetings, email, phone, and any other way you connect with other human beings.

Too often I see writers say they will join social media, but they won’t show up there as who they are. They just want to use it to promote their books and get the attention of influencers. But isn’t that like walking into a party, walking directly up to the spread of food, shoveling it all into your bag, and then leaving.

Social media is not a transaction. It is an opportunity to connect with real people, who like books similar to yours, and appreciate reading about the same themes you do. Either show up to that as a full person, or don’t bother at all. Just as a party doesn’t need yet one more who came only for the free food, social media doesn’t need yet another hollow attempt to game it.

Relationships Create Writing Careers

Without question, your writing is the primary thing that matters. The craft. Your ability to engage readers with a story, or to help them with your advice.

But… time and time again I hear how relationships sparked and fueled someone’s writing career. That it was who they knew that lead to an agent, a publisher, an opportunity, an audience.

Just this week I published an interview on my podcast with illustrator & author Aura Lewis who described how she found her agent through her network. You hear stories like this again and again in my podcast interviews with writers and artists.

Having a professional network is a critical part of finding success as a writer. Who you know, and how well you stay connected with them.

Can you do it without social media? Yes! I wrote about that just a couple weeks back: “Growing a Readership Without an “Online Author Platform.” But it’s so much more difficult to stay in touch when it only relies on phone and in-person channels. This is why I do encourage writers to develop an author platform and engage online. To avoid scenarios like this: someone Google’s your name and nothing comes up. Or, when they seek you out on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and find 100 other people with your name, but not you.

With several clients this month, I have been helping them map out the existing network of people they already know, and identify others in their field who have the same interests they do. The goal is to strengthen connections to people they already admire, and to slowly allow them to connect with more like-minded people.

Just as most of us did when we were younger. We would meet new friends year to year in school. We would engage in hobbies outside of school that brought like-minded people into our lives. These people inspired us, fueled us, and made up whatever our ideal version of what a literary salon may be.

Sure, the more you engage with these people, the more likely that luck happens in your writing career. But that isn’t really the point. The purpose is to feel fulfilled by having a life filled with a thriving network of people who inspire you and love the same kind of writing that you do.

No one can control whether your book is a bestseller or not. But you can control if your life is filled with readers who love the same kinds of writing that you do.

Having Friends Before, Between, and After Your Book Launches

So often writers talk about social media in terms of book launches — that brief period a few months around the day your book is released. But honestly, to me the main benefit of social media is having friends and colleagues before that happens, after it happens, and in the time between book launches.

Ideally, social media allows you to avoid the promotion you hate. The kind where you are silent for years. Then you promote promote promote your book for a few months. Then you disappear for a few more years until the next book comes out.

From a practical standpoint, it’s better strategically to develop your ability talk about your writing and forge connections with like-minded people well ahead of a book launch. And to keep those connections in the months and years before launch, so that your next launch doesn’t have you starting from scratch, with no audience.

From a human standpoint, doesn’t that just feel better? Is your favorite friend the one who doesn’t talk to you for years, then sends you 20 texts in a single month inviting you to a “party” at their house where they try to sell you candles and aromatherapy products?

Social media is about real relationships with real people. It is not a magical 1-step marketing funnel where a single Tweet will someone lead to a book sale.

This is how we connect to people we admire. It’s how we stay connected. How we share and infuse our days with topics, stories, and themes that inspire us.

Social media is also where we share, celebrate, and discuss writing and books. Why not show up for that?

If you want to do this in your life, I invite you to a free weeklong training I’m doing on how writers can best use social media. Each day I will share advice via video and answer your questions. Just join my private Facebook group called “The Reader Connection Project” to be a part of it. This takes place January 20-24. Plus, there are 900 awesome writers already in the group that you can connect with!

Thanks!
-Dan

I’m making big changes this year

This year I am celebrating 10 years of running WeGrowMedia. Starting this company was a huge risk for me and my family. It was founded just as our first son was born, and I had left a corporate job that had a good salary and benefits. In many ways, it felt like a leap into the unknown.

In that decade, I have worked with thousands of writers and creators, filling my days with the people who inspire me most. It has just been amazing.

As I look to the next 10 years, I have been re-committing myself to the mission behind WeGrowMedia.On January 1, I made some major updates to my website, including a new About page which shares my vision and background with writing and the arts. It also includes this childhood photo of the time I met Muhammad Ali (I’m on the left, and that’s my brother in the back):

For 2020, I have been working with my team on a lot of plans. Here is what you can expect

  1. I want to be radically helpful to writers. This is the core of what I do, and I want to double-down on this. More training, workshops, advice, resources, and simply showing up where writers are.
  2. I’m planning on publishing my second book in June. For years, I’ve been developing two books, and in the past few months I mashed them together (“mashed” is an editorial term you may be unfamiliar with) so that the next book is as good as it can be. I’m not holding anything back. The revised outline is now super-solid, and the 75,000 words I’ve written are going to spend months (and months) going through revisions and edits.
  3. For the latter part of the year, I’m developing a big crazy project that scares me. Something brand new for WeGrowMedia that 100% aligns to my mission, but that I have never tried before. I’ll talk more about this later in the year.

I also made a big change to how I offer the programs where I work directly with writers on marketing, platform, and creative habits. Last year I developed a series of monthlong programs where I would provide personalized feedback to each writer every single week. They went well.

But… (and I’ve been thinking about this for quite awhile)

Maybe you have noticed that when people release online programs and courses, they tend to have these big launches with deadlines. You are inundated with emails telling you about the day the doors close. The emails offer bonus after bonus, reason after reason, that you don’t want to miss out.

Many of these launches rely on “the fear of missing out.” Basically, it is pressuring you to sign up before the opportunity goes away. In reality, this is a highly effective marketing tactic.

But in reviewing my mission for WeGrowMedia, I challenged myself to consider “If my mission is to help writers, wouldn’t I offer that help every single day?”

So I completely revised the way I offer my programs. You can sign up for nearly all of them anytime you want. Here is my brand new programs page, and what I offer:

In every one of these programs, I provide direct feedback to you at every step of the process. I answer all of your questions directly, offer direction and support. If you need help in any of these areas, please considering checking out the programs.

One final thing for today…

Earlier this week I shared my refections on what I have learned from 10 years of running a full-time creative business. You can watch a video of me talking through all of this here:

Or listen to on my podcast.

The truth is that creative work and entrepreneurship can be filled with confusion and doubt. The one thing I have learned is that you simply have to keep showing up. To keep creating. Keep honing your work. Keep bringing new ideas to the table. Keep connecting with like-minded people who are inspired by the same things you are.

Thank you for showing up for me in the last 10 years. I cannot possibly express how much it means to me and my family.

Have you set your intentions for 2020? I’d love to hear them, email me back and let me know. Thanks!
-Dan

Finding more time to write next year

Today I want to discuss how you can find more time to write and create next year. This is a topic I obsess about, so I want to dig right in…

Challenge Your Own Assumptions

I spend the last quarter of every “year going back to the well” — reconnecting with my creative vision and making strategic plans to make it a reality. (Here is a podcast I recorded talking about that process.)

To find more time to create amidst your otherwise busy life, I want to encourage you to challenge your own assumptions about the time, energy, and process of writing.

Why?

Because all I do every day is talk to writers. They are my clients, members of my mastermind, I interview them, I connect with them via phone, Skype, Zoom, email, text, in-person, and on social media. In these connections, I focus more on the deep conversations than I do on the retweet.

When I ask about their writing process, the answers are always inspiring. These are people who create amidst the cacophony of sounds in their kitchen as kids roam in and out, and 100 other responsibilities beckon. They write in their cars. On their phones. Very early and very late. They write on vacation, in small bouts, and often with interruption.

No one writer does all of those things. What I mean is that writers who actually write have challenged the assumptions of what they need to get it done.

Many writers insist that they need total silence. Unbroken hours. Solitude. A specific writing chair. A well-organized manuscript. Research material at the ready. And perhaps some other mental and physical rituals to properly orient themselves.

If you have that, I genuinely admire that you are able to do so.

But most writers I speak to rarely have that situation. So what they have done is challenge their assumptions about their own creative process.

This is one of the walls in my studio, it is filled with creators who inspire me:

In studying their stories what you find is that each and every one of them created in less-than-ideal scenarios. They created masterful work amidst intense pressure, unbelievable deadlines, with constant distraction, and without the proper resources.

How can you challenge your own assumptions to create 10% more in the new year?

Focus on Craft and Connection

So many writers I speak to are overwhelmed with all they are told they “have to do.” All the “best practices” of writing, publishing, and marketing.

What if you ignored it all. And instead you focused on two things:

  1. Craft: writing more.
  2. Connection: finding meaningful ways to connect your writing to real people.

Instead of looking at the new year and asking “what else can I add?” — you instead see what you can remove. What you do less of. What you ignore. What you get rid of. And you put all of those resources of time and energy into craft and connection.

You become a student of how to fit writing into your life. On how to explore the stories you want to tell. How you can get even better and writing and publishing them. And then… how you can insure that people actually read and connect with them. Change the idea of marketing from something you avoid until you absolutely have to, and instead replace it with a sense of shared purpose.

In the same way that I like to imagine a little village centuries ago… people in town simply know you as ‘the writer.’ The one who creates and shares. And you engage with them as someone who cares about connecting others with story or information.

Too many writers hide their craft, and in doing so, hide their voice.

What if next year, you did the opposite?

Double-Down on Your Creative Vision

Above I mentioned having the goal of writing and connecting 10% more. But what if you wanted to go bolder with your creative vision?

Could you double how much you create next year? Could you double how often you connect with readers next year?

I want to encourage you to really consider what this would look like. I’m sure your daily life is incredibly busy. You likely end the day feeling that you barely had a moment to just stop and breathe and think. But what would your week look like if you found a way to create and connect twice as often?

When could you do it? Where? For how long? What tools would you need?

Then consider, could you do a weeklong test of this process? One week where you create and connect twice as often as all other weeks? Could you try on that investment in your creative vision?

Then, if that isn’t enough, I would encourage you to consider, what would 10x look like? Meaning: creating and connecting 10 times as much as you do now. I totally understand that this isn’t feasible for you in reality, but I find the thought-process to be useful.

What would it take to write 10 times the number of words each week? Or to connect with readers, other authors, booksellers, librarians and the like 10 times more often?

Even if this scenario isn’t likely, it is not entirely impossible. I have friends who suddenly at mid-life decide that they are going to run their first marathon. Or train for their first Ironman. These people have busy day jobs, young kids, and all the responsibilities that come with it. Yet someone, I watch them find 10x more time and energy to train for these massive goals.

And it makes me wonder: what does that look like for a writer?

The Best Way to Ensure Success

The best way to ensure success with any of this? Don’t go it alone.

The writers and artists I speak to who seem to create more often, more consistently, and connect their work to real people in meaningful ways — they don’t struggle alone.

Instead, they have collaborators, colleagues, and a support system of other people.

A lot of writers have this romantic vision of the lone creator, alone in their writing studio. I will admit, I kind of like that vision too, because it is a reminder that one person — one writer — conjures an entire universe. An entire story. An entire book. It’s just so inspiring to consider what one writer can create.

But…

I have spoken with too many writers who struggle alone. If you want to create and connect more in 2020, I strongly encourage you to not go it alone. Find ways of engaging with others who can guide you, help you stay accountable to your creative vision, and inspire you when you need it most.

In our non-writing lives, this is common. For instance, this week I began working with a new trainer for my workouts. Why? Because without a trainer, it’s been like 2 years since I’ve properly worked out.

In the past week that has changed. My trainer has assessed my goals, my schedule, and my health.

He’s written up a clear set of workouts and nutrition plan.

He’s answered my questions, sent me custom instructional videos, and has made himself available anytime to help. He was even texting me on Dec 24 and 25th to check-in.

I mean, imagine that kind of support with your creative goals.

This week I recorded another podcast exploring why you should join a mastermind group. There are so many benefits, all aligned with creating and connecting more.

If you want immediate assistance with all of this, please check out the Creative Shift Mastermind group that I run. We begin January 1, you will spend three months with me directly helping you find more time and energy to write and create.

I share my best advice, answer all of your questions, and provide a support system for your creative process.

Full details are here.

Thanks!
-Dan

Growing a Readership Without an “Online Author Platform”

A couple months back, I took this photo of myself here in the studio:

Dan Blank

I collect vintage things, and it was fun to setup my desk without a computer at the center of it. Present in the photo are many of the communication tools that someone would use to before the internet.

It reminds me of this visualization of “The Evolution of the Desk” from the 1980s to today. This was created by the Harvard Innovation Lab:
Evolution Of The Desk

Day in and day out, I help writers share their work with readers, and ensure that it truly connects to other human-beings. Of course, many of the tools that we can use to do this involve the internet and social media. While the screens of our phones and laptops represent one way to connect other people with your creative work, they are not the only way.

I hear from many writers who are apprehensive about social media. Who don’t want to start a newsletter. Or a blog. Or a podcast. In fact, they are concerned about being seen at all.

Today, I want to discuss methods for a writer to connect with readers that don’t rely on today’s “standard” methods of doing so: posting to social media, blogs, newsletters, podcasts, videos, and the like.

A few questions I will explore as we dig into this:

  • What would you do to reach readers?
  • How can you identify “influencers” who have access to your potential readers?
  • What are meaningful ways to connect with your ideal audience?
  • How would you keep in touch with those who support your creative work?

In other words: how can you use offline means to replace what social media does? And do so in a manner that feels authentic to who you are. I want to be clear: the goal isn’t to hire a publicist or marketing firm to “pitch” you to the media. A core part of what I am exploring here is how do you have a fulfilling and meaningful connection to other people as a writer? How do you grow a readership and stay connected to them? How do you have colleagues with other writers who love the kind of work you create?

Let’s look at some realistic options of what you may need to do so without social media and digital tools:

  • A System to Organize Your Contacts
    Buy a Rolodex! Okay, even I was surprised to learn that they still make these! There are many varieties on Amazon (and other retailers), and vintage versions are plentiful on eBay. If you want to stay connected with those who already support you and your work, and if you want to reach out to potential readers and those who reach them, you should organize this process. Nowadays we use contacts in our phones, the contact list in your email, friends on Facebook, subscribers for your email newsletter, and the like. Without those things, a physical Rolodex is one good option.

  • Set Up In-Person Meetings
    Human beings are hard-wired to develop trust in a variety of ways, and an in-person conversation is an amazing way to do so. Why not fill your life with coffee with readers, with conversations with other writers, with visiting organizations who support the connection between writers and readers? This would be in place of digital means of doing so: Tweets that may not be as deep, but likely more frequent than an in-person meeting. Or texts you send to those you know, or virtual meetings on Skype, Facetime, or Zoom.

  • Organize Your Time and Attention
    Get a big wall calendar, or a physical planner. There has been a renaissance in the planner market, so you have lots of options here. This is physical workbook where you can organize your time and attention, help set clear goals for each year/month/week/day in terms of how you will create and connect your work to others. This would be instead of using a digital calendar, or the many online tools such as spreadsheets or services such as Airtable which help you organize complex projects.

  • Pitch Articles or Speaking Events
    One way for people to become aware of you and what you create is to be featured in media that other people own. You can pitch articles to magazines and newspapers, and reach out to conferences, organizations, and bookstores to do in-person speaking or workshops. I have worked with plenty of writers who do this. It is a different way to connect beyond posting your own blogs, running your own podcast, sharing videos on your own website, or sharing longer social media updates to Twitter (via series of Tweets), Facebook, or Instagram.

  • Build Rapport With Communities That Support Writers and Readers
    Spend time building a network of people that you know at bookstores, writing programs, reading groups, and other places that support readers and writers. This will likely involve frequent travel, whether it is local, regional, national, or even beyond. This takes the place of following a bookstore on social media and engaging with them that way, or via email an online event of some sort. Likewise, it would mean sidestepping any online communication channels that these organizations have setup, such as a Facebook page or online events.

  • Stay Informed: Read Industry News With Intention
    Many writers I speak to are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information coming at them. An endless stream of blogs, articles, forums, podcasts, newsletters, social media updates, videos, webinars and the like which is all pitched as “must-know” information! Alternatives to this are the journals, magazines, newspapers, nonfiction books, and other media that do still exist which shares useful information. These resources may be (at times) more limited in frequency, timeliness, or even even depth than online tools. And they may provide less of direct access to others who are engaging in the content. But it is possible to stay informed without feeling like you are drinking from a firehose.

  • Buy Books Similar to What You Write, and Read!
    This is a great way to get to know the market for your books! Read lots of books in the same genre/topic you write in to get a sense of the marketplace. Of course, if we are keeping this mostly offline, that means you may do this by going to physical bookstores or libraries, and relying on the recommendations of the person behind the counter. So you wouldn’t be reading Goodreads and Amazon reviews, or getting book recommendations from friends and colleagues on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or YouTube.

  • Be Remarkably Generous
    If you use the means above, don’t just barely show up in other people’s lives. Make an impression. If you want to build a network of people who are aware of your writing, it matters that people remember you. It’s easy to say “be generous!” or “be authentic,” but in our busy every day lives, what truly makes an impression on other people? Well, here is one example I saw this week. You see, I follow a lot of different channels on YouTube including an electrician in Scotland, a carpet cleaning repair service in Georgia, a mason in California, and this guy Steve in Virginia who repairs shoes. Well, Steve’s channel has more than 50,000 subscribers. Amazing, right? This week he received a package from a fan who painted two portraits of Steve, and sent a card and t-shirt. If you watch the video, you can see how moved he is by this. Then there are 300 comments below the video of celebrating with him, saying “You deserve it Steve, it just shows how many people you’ve impacted in a positive way.” My point is: to make an impression, you have to show up to truly connect with someone in a meaningful manner. You will find other examples of this in my podcast interviews, where authors like Jessica Lahey send out hundreds of books as gifts, one-by-one, to individual people who they feel may like it.

As I consider each of these tactics, they feel very grounded in real human connections. But there is a downside as well. They feel resources intensive. Doing them well will take a lot of your time, energy, and money.

It’s hard to not conclude that the tools which sometimes overwhelm us (social media, newsletters, email, etc) begin to feel very powerful and accessible in comparison with offline options. In truth, I think a mix of online and offline tools can be very powerful for any writer. And of course, each writer gets to decide this path for themselves.

One thing I think a lot about in this process are the resources that a writer needs regardless of how they connect with their audience and develop their platform.

They need total clarity on their goals as a writer. They need habits to create and connect amidst an otherwise busy life. They need accountability and support to make this all sustainable. These are things that I work with writers on in my Creative Shift Mastermind every single day.

Thanks!
-Dan