You have the power to share

Yesterday I taught a class titled “Marketing Books That Aren’t New,” which was hosted by Jane Friedman. Throughout the presentation, I shared many ideas and suggestions, and I have been considering what ties them all together. I think it is this: that today, authors have agency in a way they rarely did in the past.

Meaning: you have options to share your voice, share your writing, and connect with others.

Years ago, writers and creators had so many fewer options to share their work. They relied on the promotional value of a “book launch” because this was critical to get media and gatekeepers interested in talking about your writing. That could be a book signing, a book review, an article, etc. There was this brief window of the book launch (a few weeks to a few months) that you could vie for attention for your book, always relying on others to spread the word.

But now, you have more choices. More access. More channels. A greater ability to share your voice, connect with others, and over a longer timeline.

For the past couple of months, I have been listening to the 1974 book, “The Power Broker,” which outlines the life and impact that urban planner Robert Moses had on New York. The scope of his projects (parks, highways, bridges, buildings) is astounding. But the book paints a detailed picture of how he amassed and leveraged power to get what he wanted. It’s 1,300 pages, and takes 66 hours to listen to on audiobook, which is how I’m doing it.

I’m at a moment in the book where author Robert A. Caro is telling the story of how, after 30 years or protests to some of Robert Moses’ projects, one protest finally received attention. The author describes how so many protests in the past were never noticed by the broader population, so the protests to those projects always failed. Why? This line from the book:

“There was not a single reporter or photographer present.”

That line jumped out at me. These people who were protesting a project had a message. Often it was residents who were being displaced, and had nowhere else to go. They had organized. In some cases, they commissioned studies. They sometimes got prominent people involved. They raised funds. To no avail. Because they couldn’t get the attention of the media, who would have amplified their message to reach thousands, or even millions of others.

Their voices weren’t heard. They had no access, and no ability to share beyond small local events.

But today, we each have the ability to take photos, record video, write, publish, and share more broadly. Let me provide an example. This week I saw many people sharing the story of a daughter who posted a 17 second video to TikTok about her father’s novel, which read:

“My dad spent 14 years writing a book. He worked full time and his kids came first. But made time for his book. He’s so happy even though sales aren’t great. I’d love for him to get some sales. He doesn’t even know what TikTok is.”

The John Lennon song “Beautiful Boy” plays in the background. Was his daughter an influencer? I don’t think so, the video she shared was the first video on a brand new account for her dad on TikTok. Was the video super well produced? Well, here are some screenshots, it starts with a dusty typewriter case and empty cardboard box in the foreground, her father on the other side of the room facing away from the camera. :

The 17 second video went viral. At the time of writing this, his book is ranked #15 overall on Amazon. Not in his category, but for ALL BOOKS. I believe it was higher on the list earlier in the week. The book now has 851 ratings (most of them came in recently, all very positive.)

And if you look at the 40,000 comments on the video, they are gushing and supportive.

Your ability to share your voice and your writing, and to connect with others in a meaningful way is so much greater today than ever possible before. Are there problems with social media? Yep. Do you have to use it? Nope. But the channels at your disposal go beyond social media: to newsletters, online events, blogs, and so much else.

Of course, this too can be overwhelming, having so many options to share your message. But this is where I think back to the people from years ago, who couldn’t get a photographer or reporter to show up, frustrated that they had no means for their message to be heard. You get to choose if, when, and how you want to share. And you always have the option to choose not to share. But if you do, I encourage you to:

  • Focus your efforts so that you can do one thing really well, instead of being overwhelmed with 1,000 to-do’s.
  • Create a system to help plan and sustain this work of sharing.
  • Be consistent in sharing and connecting.
  • Whenever possible, don’t do this work alone. Develop colleagues who you can collaborate with, learn from, or just inspire you to keep going.


Doing stuff works

I’ve mentioned before that every week, Jennie Nash and I have a mini-mastermind call. On it, we discuss business challenges, creative goals, new ideas, and so much else. Today, I want to share two of the biggest and most consistent insights we have had, and how they relate to how you can approach sharing your work and developing your platform as a writer. Let’s dig in…

So the main phrase Jennie and I come back to again and again is this:

We don’t know what works, but doing stuff works.

I mean, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that. Why? Well, Jennie Nash and I have each been running our businesses for 13+ years. We both work with writers and focus on books. And you would think that with all of these years of running successful businesses, you would be able to say, “Oh let me tell you the secret to success!” Or “Here is the foolproof system to success.” But the reality is, we don’t always know what will provide clear results. But we know that doing stuff works. Jennie and I have spent countless hours on the phone, but we have only met in person once, years ago, for a few minutes on the streets of New York City as I was rushing off to catch a train:


What is “Stuff?”

Stuff is… actions. So often people delay creating and they delay sharing, because they are trying to find the perfect strategy, or the exact right thing to create. What Jennie and I keep coming back to is, sometimes you just don’t know what the right strategy is. You don’t know what will deliver the highest ROI. You don’t know what will be a waste of time. And what won’t.

So you have to try things. You have to do stuff.

And through the repetition of doing “stuff” (a wide variety of tasks), good things tend to happen.

I keep this in mind when working with writers. Let’s say a writer I’m working with has concluded that their audience is on TikTok. So we do research and identify 40 TikTokers that could possibly have access to that audience. Then we create a strategy for reaching out to them, and making a compelling offer. Which of those 40 people will be the exact right fit? Not sure. And a lot of people delay action because they want to know. They logically ask “Which 3 of these people will have the highest ROI for my efforts, and are most likely to say yes. Because I would hate to waste my time reaching out to 40 people.” I mean, we all want to know that, right? But sometimes you don’t. You have to do the work.

There is a danger not only in “not doing stuff,” but by also trying to do the bare minimum. To try to make the absolute smallest amount of effort, but hoping for the biggest possible payoff. In my book Be the Gateway, I talk about ignoring best practices. Because oftentimes a best practice is a copy of a copy of a copy of an action that worked for someone 5 years ago, but now everyone is copying, and it is producing minimal results. We do this to ensure we feel we are taking measured safe actions. Which is reasonable. But sometimes the “reasonable” strategy is not the one that will work. I shared this on Twitter this week, and it was by far my most popular recent post:

Don’t bother fitting in. As an author, define your own creative identity rather than worrying about how to fit in to the trends of the marketplace.

When I look at the things I’ve done in the past 13 years that have led to my biggest successes, sometimes they were not my “best” ideas. I’ve watched great ideas that I worked really hard on… flop. And I’ve watched seemingly random ideas just take off quickly.

Another phrase Jennie and I use a lot is this:

“You have to throw spaghetti at the wall.”

Meaning, you have to try new ideas and see what sticks. Awhile back, Jennie was sharing all this data that she and her team collected about a problem they were trying to solve in her business. There was ALL THIS DATA. At the end of our discussion, we were talking about whether this data really helped provide a clear path forward. It didn’t. So we concluded: “It feels like we are still just throwing spaghetti at the wall. But now it’s spaghetti with data!” And that made it feel — somehow — more strategic.

If you follow my work, you know that I have developed a system for how I help writers hone their messages, establish their platform, identify their readers, craft marketing campaigns, and launch their books. It’s called The Creative Success Pyramid, and I made this fancy graphic for it:


You can download it here. Along with this pyramid, I have a 20+ tab spreadsheet that I use with my clients, where we create a detailed plan. So I absolutely believe in strategic planning. That structure provides the foundation for approaching how you do this work. From that starting point, I believe that action is where the magic happens. Ideating new ideas. Testing these plans. Executing on them. Learning from them. Iterating them. Starting again.

I’ve written in the past about my goal of learning to play guitar. After dabbling with it for a quarter century, I got serious a few years back, practicing every day. Yet, I find myself feeling like I’m not making progress. This is not for lack of information: I have found amazing instructional videos on YouTube and elsewhere. So this week I hired a new guitar teacher. I was radically honest with him about where I feel stuck, and my own habits that seem to hold me back. To my delight, he had a clear plan, specific exercises, and was accessible for accountability. We set up a weekly schedule to move forward.

Will it work? Who knows. But I know that doing stuff works. Simply by taking the action of hiring a new teacher, it will increase the chances of me reaching my goals with guitar. I can tell you that already I have felt more enthused about my daily practice sessions.

I’m reminded of this all the time when I look at other creators. How odd things lead to huge opportunities. Years ago, my son began watching this guy on YouTube who talks about cars named Doug Demuro. He now has 4.5 million subscribers. How did it all begin? Well, when he was younger, he began taking photos of exotic cars he saw in his town. He called it “carspotting.” His hobby became an article in Automobile magazine, featuring this average college kid (Doug) who just took photos of cars on the street. He then tells the story of what happened next:

“That particular issue of that particular magazine was sitting in a newsstand at the Atlanta airport, and happened to get picked up by a guy named Scott. Scott was a car enthusiast who worked at Autotrader. He was building out a content division at Autotrader, instead of just selling cars with car listings, they wanted to start writing articles. So Scott got this magazine, saw the article about me, and thought, ‘this guy might make some good content.” He reached out and asked, “Do you want to have lunch.” Within a few months Scott had the content division up and running, and I was his first freelance writer.”


Which is the path that lead Doug to his current career. Doug’s company recently received $37 million from investors. From the share that Doug received personally, he bought a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT, which is the very first car he took a photo of in his carspotting all those years back. The price? They tend to go for around $1.5 – $2 million dollars. This is the culmination of a dream for Doug. All because he took photos of cars on the street when he was a college senior. Was it a quick path to success? No. But he took a lot of actions, threw a lot of spaghetti at the wall, and kept creating and sharing.

I want to end with a video I watched this week from an author and creator on YouTube named Caroline Winkler. A slightly edited version of the title of a recent video of hers is: “How I became confident.” At the start of the video she is clear: she does not feel confident. She lists out her flaws, and describes how much she worries and seeks people’s approval. She then provides advice on how take meaningful actions on your goals, even if you don’t feel confident at all. So much of what she shares is about the power of taking action. Her advice is accessible and oftentimes counterintuitive.


This very newsletter is an example of me throwing spaghetti at the wall, and not knowing if this “stuff” will work. Everything I am writing about is something that has been on my mind all week. But when I see it here, I wonder, “Will a writer who is looking to me for advice on marketing their books really appreciate a story about some car guy on YouTube, and this woman’s advice on YouTube?” I can think of 5 specific things I’m worried about in this email. Yet, in a few minutes, I will click ‘publish,’ another strand of spaghetti thrown against the wall. And “results” may not be apparent very quickly. Metrics like open rate won’t tell me much.

Maybe I will get zero responses from this newsletter, but in 14 months I may be talking to a writer, and they will say, “I really fell in love with your ethos around marketing awhile back when you sent a newsletter that had this woman talking about how to be confident.”

Doing stuff works.



What keeps you from sharing?

I believe that something special happens when our writing and creative work is shared with others. Of course, the creative act is complete in itself: you can create for the sake of creating. Then, you can put that work in a drawer (or hard drive), and feel a sense of total fulfillment and satisfaction in the process. I grew up as an artist, my wife is an artist, and my friends are creators of all sorts. The creative process can end there.


I also believe something special happens when you share what you create. That there is a kind of magic that a reader brings to your writing — in between that intersection of what you wrote and why, and the life experience and perspective of someone who reads it. In that reader’s brain, a sort of co-creation can happen. And in this moment, your writing can change lives.

It can inspire, educate, and bring a moment of relief to someone who needs it. It can sustain someone through their darkest times, and create the joy they seek most in life. It can help them understand others and themselves in new ways.

Do you need to share? Nope. Can something deeply meaningful happen when you do? I think so.

Of course, we tend to talk about the notion of sharing what we create with different phrases:

  • Plan your book launch!
  • Build your author platform!
  • Get newsletter subscribers!
  • Grow your social media presence!
  • Get followers! So many more follllloooooowwwwweeeerrrrrssss!!!
  • Create a marketing funnel!
  • Establish your career!
  • Have a side hustle!
  • Promote!

But in the end, it’s all about you creating, and you sharing. The methods we use can include sending a newsletter, posting to social media, being on podcasts, hosting Zoom visits, and so much else. Last week I wrote about the tools we used to create and share years ago, such as a typewriter, tube radio, and film camera. If they broke, we simply took them to a repair shop, or replaced them. But today if your Facebook page stops working, you have to troubleshoot it. You have to dive deep into how-to articles and forum threads and support requests to figure out how to “fix it” yourself.

My days are spent with writers, so I’m very aware of how much pressure they feel to create, publish, and share their work. This can result in endless to-do lists. Some of that involves technology. I’m often helping with these tasks hands-on, so to speak, including:

  • Website development
  • Graphic design
  • Podcast pitch strategy
  • Social media management
  • Email newsletters
  • Blogging
  • Online course development
  • Webinars
  • Video recording
  • Social ad campaigns
  • Podcasting
  • Online events
  • Copywriting
  • Presentations
  • Lead magnets
  • And more…

In just the last couple days, I was troubleshooting an issue with one client’s Substack newsletter, getting access to the website dashboard for a client whose site is going through a major redesign, helping setup a brand new blog for another client, and in many other conversations around specific tech issues.

As writers embrace some of these things, I think of it as a literacy. There is so much that they are learning all at once. For instance, a writer who says: “Well, my book is 2 years away from publication, I finally want to establish my platform as an author by creating a website, having a weekly email newsletter, and getting active on two social media channels.”

Let’s consider all of the new things they are learning at once:

  • How to frame their identity publicly. For many, they have spent years known as other roles, and still feel apprehensive in how to talk about their life as a writer.
  • Signing up for accounts
  • Figuring out what to write about
  • How often to write it
  • How to take photos
  • How to shoot videos
  • Identifying the practices that feel authentic to them each social media account

At any step here, there could be a misunderstanding, a technology issue, or just plain overwhelm. That is just in the literacy phase — the learning phase — of understanding the process.

At any point, there could be further tech issues. I had a year of this myself recently, with two malware attacks on my website, and then a full migration of my website and email to new servers because the company I use was bought by another. Despite my 20+ years experience with online tech, this is the most difficult technology issue I’ve ever worked through. All was resolved in the end.

This is something I have taken from the experience: technology sometimes prevents us from wanting to share. One of the biggest skills you are developing is not to become an expert at one system or another, but rather, to have a positive mindset to work through an unexpected problems.

I experienced this recently with my home’s 100+ year old heating system. Even though it was well maintained, I had to call in three separate plumbers to try to fix it. It took months. One of them finally said, “You can call 10 plumbers, and one thing they will all disagree on, is how to approach a steam heat system.” It’s a funny thing when you are watching an expert with decades of experience try (again and again and again) to find the source of a problem, and still coming up empty handed.

These roadblocks don’t just happen in “digital tech,” they happen with “old tech” too.

What I have learned in this process is to find collaborators who are good at analyzing a situation and problem solving. When we renovated our home, our primary contractor was exactly like that. There wasn’t a problem you could present to him, that he didn’t look at with totally fresh eyes, and with a sense of curiosity that illustrated he was looking at the issue with an open mind. He found solutions to problems that others swore to me that no one could resolve.

All this to say: if you aren’t sharing what you create because you worry about the technology, you worry about the process, you worry if others really want to hear from you, you worry that you will do it wrong, or worry that you don’t know the exact right system to follow, I want to encourage you to share anyway. To approach the issue from a simple place to start. To establish a basic practice. And to focus on what matters most: the human connections between you, what you create, and those who may appreciate it.


How we share, and the tools we use to do so

Today I want to talk about pressure that writers face to share their work, and the tools we have at our disposal to do so. Are you being unfairly asked to do too much by sharing online? Or are these opportunities you should be taking advantage of to reach your readers? Let’s dig in…

Many writers bemoan that they are asked to not only create, but share their work. Even those published by big publishing houses realize that they are expected to do a sizable portion of marketing for their books. Again and again, I have heard writer pine for “the good old days,” back when they were simply expected to write, and others worried about sharing and marketing that writing.

Well, let’s take a step back in time and consider the tools we had to create and share, and how people consumed this creative work. Below is a sampling of items from my personal collection of mostly vintage technology here in my studio. If you are of a certain age, you can perhaps even hear the sounds of these items in your head: the rotary dial of the phone, the gears of the 8mm camera, the clack of the typewriter, the static between stations on the radio. Or perhaps you smell the ink from the letterpress, and the shavings from the pencils. Yes, creating, sharing, and consuming art used to be a smelly and loud affair!


It was also expensive and not always easily accessible. For every song you wanted to hear, you had to seek it out and buy it. For an illustrator, you didn’t have the unlimited canvas of the screen to just sketch endlessly. Every sheet of paper cost money. I remember nursing the one pad of tracing paper I had when I was younger. Each sheet was an expensive commodity. When I earned $4.35 an hour in the food service industry, a $9 pad of tracing paper meant two hours of work to pay for:


For someone listening to music, they couldn’t follow their favorite artist on social media; instead they often invested in making a stereo system the centerpiece of their living room. Below is the stereo system my brother had back in the early 1990s. I counted 93 buttons and dials on this stack of equipment, which was common years ago. Is tech today complicated? Sometimes. Was it complicated back then too? I think so.


As I hold these tools in my hand, I consider:

  • It was expensive to create. This differs depending on your field of creativity. A photographer would need not only a camera and lenses (no iPhone!) but film, and money to have that film processed. To share a photo would require making expensive prints, and then mailing them to others (no Instagram, no email!)
  • It took time to share. Everything was slower than today because we often relied on physical mail or traveling to meet in-person.
  • Our options to share were much more limited. Years ago you needed a publisher, because the cost to publish and distribute yourself was exorbitantly prohibitive, even if you could figure out a way.
  • There was little distribution available to the writer or artist themselves. When I created my own fanzine in the early 1990s, I had to get on my bicycle and hand deliver issues to every store that I could talk into carrying them.
  • Publication in even the smallest way, was very expensive. Want to print a brochure? A flyer? A newsletter? Go down to the print shop, or the 24 hour Kinkos (as I often did at 1am), and be prepared to spend money. This was sometimes serious money, especially for anything in color. I spent thousands of dollars to print single color issues of my fanzine back then.
  • Access to others within your field was often expensive, difficult, and slow: It wasn’t easy to find someone’s phone number, long distance calls cost serious money, and letters or packages in the mail could take weeks to hear back about — if you heard back at all.
  • Plenty of writers and artists talk about how they have a fear of being seen. Yet years ago, to share your work at all often required you to physically show up somewhere. You had to get to the place where you could maybe talk to the person who was a gatekeeper in your industry to make a pitch to them. You couldn’t just send an email from the comfort of your home.

Do I have fond memories of these times as well? Of course. Were there some upsides to “how things used to be”? Sure. Many of us can go on and on about a certain cafe, or bookstore, or place that was a “scene,” was filled with inspiring people, and that this was something that social media can’t replicate in the same way.

I also consider the tools and process we have today in order to create and share our work. Nowadays, many of the tools are free, or there is a free version of them available. When I was learning Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator in the 1990s, they were very expensive. The Illustrator program alone would cost $700. At the time, I couldn’t afford it, so I bought “Illustrator 8 Bible,” an 800 page book that weighed nearly 4 pounds. I read it cover to cover before I even had the program itself, as I slowly saved up money. But today there are many other options for design software beyond the Adobe tools, many of them are free or inexpensive to help new designers get started.

These tools are often easier to use and more intuitive than they used to be. A lot has been learned about usability in the past 30 years, and the better technology in our computers and phones means it is easier to create and share than before. Is “easier” better? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. For the example of Adobe Photoshop, I used to wait 20 minutes for the program to apply a blur filter, because my computer was slow. Then if I didn’t like the amount of blur it applied, I would have to redo it, waiting another 20 minutes. Was it better to have to wait 3 days to have film developed, and then learn from my mistakes, and then wait another 3 days to see if I got it right? Honestly, I prefer to see that in the moment now, with my DSLR camera. The cycles of learning and experimentation are so much quicker, and it makes me a better photographer.

That said, I also still have a film camera that I use occasionally, because film is truly magical to me. I have a beautiful Mamiya medium format camera that takes amazing film photos. My iPhone weighs 6 ounces, but this camera weighs 7 pounds, so I think twice before deciding to carry it around. Here it is, I included a pen in the photo as a reference for size.


For professional level tools, they are now often cheaper and more available today than they were years ago. I can share countless examples. That $189 Fender Telecaster back in 1959 would cost nearly $2,000 in today’s dollars. You can get a brand new Telecaster nowadays starting at around $500-850. The same goes for tools like video editors, word processors, and so many other creative tools and those we use to share as well. Do I need to tell you about the wax paste-up machine I used in the 1990s at an ad agency that helped us physically glue together ads that would run in a newspaper? That thing probably cost thousands of dollars at the time. Now we can do the same thing (with much better quality) via free or inexpensive tools.

Of course for writers, typewriters were often the tool of choice, the epicenter of the creative process, weighing in at 15+ pounds. Here are some from my collection:


Our phones are creation and sharing machines. Are they also a distraction? Sure… I mean… wait… oh this cat video is sooo funny! Oh, where was I…

We have much greater mobility in how we create and share. Not only can we create and share from home (which is amazing), but we can do so on the go, and in the moment. Likewise, we have greater mobility in consuming writing and artwork. We can experience great art whenever and whenever. Is that always ideal? Maybe not. But I’d rather have the option than not.

Of course, all of this creates new challenges for you, the writer. I’ve heard many versions of these observations from writers:

  • “So many more people share now than ever before! I feel like my work is no longer special because of it!”
  • “The marketplace is soooooo crowded. Is it overcrowded? It would be silly to step into an overcrowded marketplace, right?”
  • “Every trend is already over. I’m too late. Too late for newsletters, Instagram, online courses, podcasts, getting essays published. Again and again, I missed the boat.”
  • “I absolutely want people to see my work, but definitely not see me. Can’t someone else share for me?”
  • “Nothing works! I went on #bookstagram, but didn’t get many likes, so I stopped.”
  • “I’m being a good literary citizen by scrolling on social media 9 hours a day. No, I haven’t written in weeks, why do you ask?”
  • “I can’t look at Instagram anymore. Everyone is more successful than me. Plus… they have better hair.”

Every week, I help writers work through resistance to sharing. I do so with total empathy, and for every individual I work with, we customize a plan for them. Is sharing today easier than it was years ago? I think so . But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

I’m not implying one is better than the other: old school vs modern times. I’m simply considering how the tools we have at our disposal to create, share, and truly connect with others are so much more accessible than they were years ago. This, like all things, is an opportunity for you the writer to make use of how you like.


Find your readers with intention

Join me for a free workshop today at 12:30pm ET: Author Platform and Book Launch Essentials. I will share three critical strategies for anyone who is trying to grow their audience as a writer, or prepare for a book launch. Plus: I will be happy to answer your questions in a live Q&A. If you can’t make the live event, please register anyway, you will receive a recording of the workshop. Register here.

Onto today’s message…

I was speaking with an author recently who was reflecting on her book launch plans, and she said, “It’s tough when the few contacts I have aren’t panning out.” I’ve heard so many versions of this over the years from writers. They often feel frustration that they don’t have the network they need in order to adequately reach potential readers. Maybe a writer hoped an influential colleague could help them go viral, or a friend will introduce them to a well-known author to write a blurb, or that an old friend will invite you as a guest onto their successful podcast. These disappointments can also happen in smaller ways: a writer assuming that a friend will definitely take a specific action to promote that author’s book, and then are shocked when this person doesn’t.

I’ve heard plenty of stories where a writer says, “My friend said she would post a review of my book to Amazon, but now she says she’s too busy.” Or “All my friends said they would buy my book, but now a week after launch and I found out none of them did.”

These are not “bad” people. Likely, they are busy, they are overwhelmed, they are not fully aware of how much a simple action can mean to you. Or sometimes they simply have stage fright from having to do what we all tend to get nervous about: sharing publicly or promoting something. A few months ago I wrote about “Why your book isn’t getting reviews,” and broke down how a simple question of “Can you post a review of my book to Amazon?” is actually a 10 step process. At each of these 10 steps, someone might feel overwhelmed, and bail on the entire process.

What I want to encourage you to do is be intentional about connecting with potential readers. No, I am not saying that you have to embrace networking. Instead, consider how you can regularly create moments and experiences around the kind of books or themes that inspire you. Joy should be infused in the process.

Sometimes, this connection can be expressed as gratitude. Simply send someone a thank you note. Other times, it can fueled by a sense of curiosity, inviting people into a conversation.

Eight years ago I interviewed designer Tina Roth Eisenberg on my podcast. At the time, she was running three organizations out of Brooklyn, and had a huge following. When I sent an email asking to interview her, I was surprised when she replied back and said yes. We conducted the interview in her office, and after the 40 minute conversation, I began packing up my equipment. I couldn’t resist, I had to ask: “Tina, you are clearly so busy. Why did you say yes to meeting with me and taking the time for this interview?”

She said, “Well, you were smart. A few days ago, you said something really nice about me on Twitter. When your email came in asking to be a guest on your podcast, I had a good feeling. I figured, why not?”

That Tweet I sent was me being very honest about my appreciation for her work. But it also seeded that connection. Would Tina have noticed me if I simply followed her silently? Likely not. Or if I occasionally clicked “like” on some of her Tweets? Likely not. But a complimentary Tweet? That got her attention.

I encourage you to be intentional about connecting with readers, writers, and those who inspire you (which may include librarians, teachers, booksellers, podcasters, etc.) Being intentional is not easy. I heard this interview with Jane Fonda recently that illustrates the point:

Jane Fonda: “My favorite ex-husband… said this to me, “You don’t make new friends after 60.” But I think that he’s really wrong. What you have to do is be intentional. I never used to be intentional. I would meet Sally Field for example, but not pursue her. Oh… but I did pursue her.”

Sally Field cuts in: “Oh for goodness sake, I couldn’t make you stop.”

Jane: “See, because she tends to be reclusive.”

Jane: “You have to pursue people you want to be friends with, and you have to say, “I’m intentionally wanting to be your friend.” And it works. People hear that, and then they stick around, and you develop new friendships.”

Lily Tomlin (with Sally Field agreeing): “I don’t really like people that much. I try to avoid them. But those who are intentional (pointing to Jane), you just can’t get rid of them.” (they all laugh, looking each other in the eye with a sense of deep connection.)


Is it easy to be intentional? Honestly, it often isn’t. It takes clarity and, dare I say, work. Recently someone I follow on social media was talking about how she is trying to make friends in her neighborhood. To do so, she hosted a backyard event for her neighbors to get to know them, and shared this: “I’m following the advice of ‘Be the friend you hope to have.'”

When I consider the “business of publishing,” and how one can get their book into the marketplace and reach readers, I sometimes think about how it works for other industries. How does a plumber get new business? How does a bakery sell more cakes? How does a travel agent get new customers? I saw a post recently from a realtor that said: “Prospecting every day for 30 days starts today! 17 agents getting proactive about their business.” It included a photo of people around a conference room table, basically making cold calls:


My mom was a realtor during the 1980s and 90s, and I can say this is not easy work. But can it lead to good things? Sure! It can help strengthen existing connections, make new ones, lead to new business, and for sellers to get a good deal on houses they want to move from, and buyers to find the home of their dreams.

What these people clearly have in place is a system. They have lists of prospects, they have scripts to work from, and then they set this progression of prospecting every day for 30 days. I read a lot of headlines about how challenging the housing market is right now. This is one way that professionals are trying to be intentional to find success in a changing market.

Of course, you are likely looking at this photo and thinking, “Dan, that is not how I want to exist as an author, sitting around a conference room table and cold calling people!” So let’s not do that. Instead, consider what a deeply meaningful version of this could possibly look like.

Could you:

  • Reach out to a writer you met years ago, but haven’t spoken to for awhile?
  • Support a local bookstore by buying a book, then posting about it in your town’s local Facebook group?
  • Email a podcaster telling them that you love their show, and the best piece of advice you heard on it?

All of this is intentional outreach, and can support your goal of reaching readers, but in a way that feels fulfilling.

Let me give you a clear example of how this can work in real life. I’m friends with Jennie Nash, who is an amazing book coach, and basically a genius. She and I speak every week to discuss our creative and business goals, and help each other navigate decisions and ideas. I once shared the story of how we met and became friends, and it is infused with examples of intention.

I went back through my calendar and email to see how my connection with her really started. To my surprise, the first thing I ever said to her was “No” to an idea she pitched me. The second thing I said to her was “No” to another idea she pitched me.


August 4, 2012: Jennie signed up for my email newsletter. At the time, when someone signed up I asked about their biggest creative challenge. She replied back and I then sent her a note in return. That was our first communication. Thank goodness for my newsletter!

July 5, 2013: It was nearly an entire year later before our next communication. She wrote to me pitching herself as a speaker for an online conference I was running. This is how the email started:

“Hi Dan, I’m a stealth fan of yours, and just read your newsletter about all the projects you have going on. It made me laugh, because it sounds so much like me — a thousand irons in the fire and loving it all. I was particularly intrigued by the online conference you are planning, and wanted to throw my hat in the ring as a speaker.”

This was huge. Like a lot of us, we “follow” people online quietly. But she took this action to tell me how much she appreciated my work, and then connect it to her own. She then shared two specific pitches for sessions she could run at my online conference. In doing so she said something that would be a staple of how Jennie operates:

“If these ideas are intriguing, I’d love to talk more about how I could hep make your first online conference a hit.”

In other words, she was helping immediately. She considered my goals, and what I hoped for when hearing from someone about the event. I mean, don’t we all dreams of hearing this from someone: “I can help make your creative idea a hit.”

What happened next? I turned her down. The reason was that the event was all about connecting with readers, and I think her ideas focused more on her specialty of actually writing books. I ended with: “But clearly – we should know each other regardless!” And she replied back: “Now we DO know each other. Keep up all the inspiring work. It’s fun to watch it unfold.”

A few months later, she signed up for the paid portion of the conference. Then I received this email from a writer: “Hi Dan- I am glad that I discovered you (through Jennie Nash)…”

I see so many people “pitch” someone in their field, and then if they are turned down, they shy away from that person. They stop supporting their work. Which, of course, is a mistake. Jennie did the opposite. She was supporting me and the conference anyway.

November 2013: A few speakers dropped out of my conference at the last minute, and I received another email from Jennie, with her offering to jump in and fill one of their slots. She shared two brand new ideas for presentations.

What did I say to Jennie? “No” a second time.

Sometimes we can’t see opportunity staring us in the face. I was too focused on the tasks at hand, and had decided that adding more speakers at the last minute added unneeded complexity to an already overwhelming event I was running. Her reply? Total support, and yet another supportive offer:

“Probably a smart decision. The event will be fantastic without any additional speakers. I’d like to ask you about contributing a piece (or Q&A) to Compose literary journal. I’m the features editor and I think our readers would love to hear from you.”

Luckily, this time I said “yes.” We hopped on the phone that day and it was the first time we spoke.

Jennie was being so intentional. I did end up writing that essay for her and in the process we spoke a few more times. We got along really well, and I noticed that our creative and business goals were very similar. I then proposed something via email: “Jennie, would you be open to talking every week, kind of like a mini creative mastermind?” She called, and in a skeptical voice said, “What are your intentions here?” It was a big commitment to have a weekly call with someone, and she wanted to understand why I was asking and what the commitment would be.

I was just honest, telling her how impressed I was with her work, how I appreciated how she thinks and approached problem solving, etc. Long story short, she and I have spoken nearly every week for nine years. All because of being intentional about reaching out and connecting with those who inspire us.

This is why I encourage writers to begin developing their platform and working on their book launch early. Years before you think you need to. If you want to explore this more, please join me today at 12:30pm ET for my workshop: Author Platform and Book Launch Essentials. Register here.