Being Proactive vs Reactive in Crafting and Sharing One’s Voice

What is VOICE in the life of a writer or creative professional?
This is a question that I considered in a workshop yesterday with 5th graders at PS 123 in Harlem, along with author Julie Sternberg.

Julie shared the stories behind crafting several of her books, explaining her obsession with the distinct voice of each character, and illustrating the differences.

She gave the students a writing prompt, asking them to share how they felt just before they walked into this room. What they read aloud and handed in let me into an unseen world of 25 students in a specific moment. And reading them in succession, you immediate hear each of their voices.

Here is some of what they shared…

The girl who was aggravated:
Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 7.40.56 AM

The student who loved Julie because she didn’t talk about math:
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The boy who is still reeling from the highs of playing basketball, to the lows of extreme thirst:
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Reading through these, I began considering the distinction between emotion, context (of time, place, and social dynamics), and voice in a larger sense – of how it can represent not only WHO you are, but HOW you choose to engage with the world.

And when is this voice drowned out? Drowned out by the context around you, by succumbing to overwhelming emotions, to the complex interplay of interpersonal interactions? For instance: the students were at recess playing in the schoolyard just before our session with Julie. The most common response to how the students felt prior to coming in the door was “tired.” It’s also the end of the school year, and many are overwhelmed with the transition of moving from 5th to 6th grade, which could mean moving schools, and saying farewell to friends.

So while each of these students so clearly have a distinct voice in what they shared, sometimes, we had to pull it out of them. There was one student who simply wrote something like: “I was tired when I walked into the classroom.” And I had to ask him to talk more about that, about the reasons for it. He then wrote more, even though he was satisfied to just stop at “I’m tired.”

What I am thinking about most is the concept of being proactive vs reactive in crafting and sharing one’s voice. That too often, our own voices can become hidden because we are too busy reacting to stimuli around us. The heat, the social interactions, the email, the big changes in your job or school, the news of the day, the way a stranger looked at your hair, causing you to be self-conscious.

“Voice” is so many things, especially for a writer. I mentioned the topic on Twitter, and author Thaisa Frank began exploring it’s many facets. She actually wrote the book on writer’s voice:

She obviously covers how multi-faceted voice is.

What is most interesting to me is how the idea of VOICE extends beyond what you see on the page. How VOICE becomes a way of interacting – a way of proactively creating one’s identity and the potential effect you have on the world.

This aligns to a lot of the work I do with writers – not the voice of a character, but how the author themselves engages with others. Inherently, I am encouraging writers to react less to stimuli, and be proactive to craft the messages, relationships, and an effect that they most desire.

And important distinction here is that their writing is not an “object” that needs to be sold, but rather, it represents an idea, a worldview, a story that resonates with others. As I have mentioned in the past, that the effect of a writer’s work is not the sale of a book, but the unseen nuanced ways that they help shape people’s lives, even years later.

For the students at PS 123, their mood affected their voice in the moment, the way that they see and interact with the world:

The student who fought off sleep, startled by the “weird noise” that was Julie Sternberg:
Screen-Shot-2014-06-19-at-7.47

The boy who had to make the quick mental shift:
writing

You can see their own awareness of the shift from one state of being to another:
writing2

And I suppose it was wonderful to see how Julie’s voice changed the day of a student:
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I can’t help but smile at the many visual ways that Julie is represented:
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You can read all of the writings from this class here via PDF. Also: here is a recap of my last visit to the school, where Rachel Fershleiser helped these students craft six-word memoirs.

Thank you so much to Julie, Sarah Chesson from PENCIL.org, the faculty of PS 123, and of course, the students.

Thanks!
-Dan

What Writers Can Learn From a Restaurateur About Establishing a Closer Connection to Your Audience

When working with a writer or creative professional to build momentum in engaging an audience, this is the stuff I obsess over:

  1. Focus on the basics. The blocking and tackling that most others skip past looking for the shortcuts. Not the sexy stuff of “what new marketing tool was just launched?!” but increasing the quality of one’s writing and the depth of engagement with their audience. Of doing the research that few others do, developing relationships that matter, and constantly optimizing the processes around these.
  2. Then looking to new ideas that move beyond “best practices” to truly engage your audience in a MEANINGFUL way. In other words not “I will just go on Twitter and share helpful links,” because Twitter is a firehose of helpful links that zoom past us. But instead: taking bold actions that gets people to TRULY stop and TRULY care. That is what I’m interest in.

Here on this blog, I have been tracking the progress a book launch with my client (and friend) with Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. (note: she is now celebrating her THIRD week on the New York Times Best Seller list! Yay!) On Facebook, another writer asked what the most effective things that we did were. My response:

“It’s all the unsexy boring stuff: Miranda doing a gap analysis (she didn’t call it this) a year before launch to identify her needs. Refining all of her messaging, setting up channels and getting her READY to engage with people when the time came. Note: this is more about being nimble enough to RESPOND to serendipity, not pretending we are creating virality. Going ALL IN to that crazy giveaway that featured 23 other authors. That was an enormous project, and before/during/after, I love that we did the difficult thing. We didn’t rely on Goodreads ads alone, we tried to create something special by investing ourselves in it. On the publishing side, we met as early as we could with her team at Crown to identify what they wanted to handle, and what they didn’t. In other words: we wanted to find the blue ocean (the sandbox) in which we could play and not get in their way. That team did SO MANY AMAZING things and key was ensuring that there wasn’t overlap in resources. Clearly, I could go on and on in here, and the overall messages are that there wasn’t one simple thing.”

Today I want to talk about a blog post I read that seemed to embody these things in a deep way, and is from a COMPLETELY other industry. This post blew me away on so many levels, which is why I am devoting an entire post to it.

The background: the co-owner of three popular restaurants (named: Next, Alinea, and The Aviary) in Chicago , Nick Kokonas, developed a “ticketing” system whereby you don’t make reservations, but instead purchase a ticket for a specific day and time. You pay up front, usually $200+ per person. Nick shared a long post on the results of their system, and lots of lessons learned in the process. (Hat-tip to Jason Kottke on finding this)

So much of what Nick shares is about establishing a deeper, more meaningful connection with customers, and leveraging that to create a better experience at the restaurants. That means he is taking ownership of the connection between the restaurants and the customer, not relying on marketing tricks, shortcuts, or competing based on price. An example:

“What is critical is having a direct and AUTHENTIC connection with customers. This is better accomplished through social media as people can opt-in to following or ‘liking’ your restaurant – and then you exist passively in their social media stream. This is why for the past 3 years our content for Next has been posted to Facebook and Twitter rather than to our own website. It is a strategy that has resulted in nearly 100,000 aggregate unique followers who are engaged and passionate about what we do.”

The core problems that Nick was trying to solve were to increase efficiency (and thereby, profit), increase high touch customer engagement (that should drive any boutique business), and avoid the pitfalls of a high demand resource (e.g.: scalping.)

Some highlights of what he reported:

On the End Results:

  • “$57,293 in sales in the first hour of the system. $ 358,483 in the first 24-hours. Two days later $563,874 of revenue was in our bank.”
  • “Profits are up 38% from previous average years. No shows of full tables are almost non-existent and while partial no-shows still occur they are only a handful of people per week at most. That allows us to run at a far greater capacity with less food waste and more revenue.”
  • “We have almost zero no-shows every night. Basically, if people buy a ticket to a show they go see the show, even if the deposit is only $20 per person. This allows us to hold a table for them and eliminate any potential wait they may have had with a traditional reservation. Thus we can serve them better. We can also more confidently template the night of service delivering better experiences to every customer while maximizing the potential number of covers and revenue to the restaurant.”
  • “A week before they dine with us we call every customer to thank them for buying a ticket… ask if they have any dietary restrictions or special needs, and generally get a feel for their expectations and whether it is a special occasion. We can, in fact, spend more time (not less) with every single one of our customers because we are only speaking with the customers we know are coming to dine with us. Previously, we answered thousands of calls from people we had to say ‘no’ to. Now we can take far more time to say ‘yes’.”
  • In developing the ticketing system in-house, Nick has been sidestepping other popular third-party services. His reasoning: “As a customer I’d rather just deal directly with the restaurant – I’m then known to the restaurant personally, get better service, and the restaurant and not a third party app receives the benefit of my spending. As a restaurant I can better engage with customers, do not have to pay yet another third-party service, receive 100% of the proceeds, and can better control both my image and sales pricing. The restaurant also should not need to enter information on customers into multiple systems, resulting in increased labor costs for only marginal dollar gains. I mean, selling a table for $ 20 on an app doesn’t get me much but could incur bad will, extra labor, and an unknown customer.”

On the Problems They Were Solving:

  • Since there is such high demand for reservations, most of their incoming calls had to end with saying “no.” As Nick puts it: “Saying ‘no’ to a potential customer is never a good thing.”
  • “Customers felt like they were being lied to. How could you be booked 2 months out on a Thursday? There was no transparency to the system.”
  • “I don’t see the advantage of joining such a network [such as OpenTable and other reservation systems] or the disadvantage of not being included for one simple reason: Google owns search.”
  • “We spent roundly $140,000 per year on payroll simply to answer phones, enter customer information into a reservation system, and attempt to manage a wait list. We also lost over $260,000 per year, on average, on no shows alone… with most of those being partial no-shows – so called “Short-Sat Tables.”

    What is particularly intriguing to me is the human/emotional element of how Nick describes this problem: “A party of 4 that books not knowing who they’ll be bringing along… then brings no other couple is just as bad for a restaurant as a party of 2 that does not show up at all. That customer doesn’t feel ‘guilty’ because they showed up. But they don’t realize that we held a table of four instead of a table of 2… and that we can’t simply call one of the 100 people on the waitlist with 10 minutes notice and expect them to show up.”

  • On addressing that “the customer is not always right,” when you are talking about small business economics, Nick from the comments section: “The very core of doing non-refundable, full entry (meaning you pay for everything in advance) tickets is to prevent no shows and people who make reservations well in advance only to cancel them a few days or even weeks ahead. While a person cannot plan for every contingency nor can a restaurant or any business. If we were a sporting event, concert, or opera this would be a non-issue because the normative behavior of both parties is the knowledge that the show goes on regardless. Certainly I’ve had it happen that I owned tickets that went unused. It stinks, but it was my own issue (note: not fault) that caused the absence… It should be a two way street for any business, not just restaurants.”
  • On worrying about abuse of the system, Nick in the comments section: “I agree that I’d like to see a way, automatically, to swap tickets to a similarly priced date/time more than a month out. That’s something that makes sense and costs nothing to the restaurant or the patron. The only issue is if people continually do that (holding, as it were, a table). Concierges at hotels, scalpers, and such could abuse it — and we’re trying to figure out the best way to implement a simple system while limiting its abuse.”
  • On too many people wanting perks as “regulars,” Nick in the comments section: “We track the guest visits and details of their visit for every person eating at Alinea, Next and the Aviary. We get nightly manager reports as well. It becomes very easy to identify regulars for us… but very difficult to tell someone they are *not* a regular. We have patrons that have been to Alinea 50-60 times… Next 35-45… Aviary weekly. Then we have someone that’s been in to our places 3 times in 4 years and feel like they should be able to call ownership to get a table on 2 days notice. It’s a very tricky situation!”

On the Challenges of Developing a Ticketing System:

  • “When I said, “We should just sell tickets,” it was mostly laughed off completely. The attitude was – that’s not fine dining, that’s not hospitality, that’s not soigné.”
  • “The current batch of ‘tickets for restaurants’ apps attempt to solve only the customer-access-to-busy-venues issue. That’s important to keep in mind as it does little to nothing for the restaurants themselves and it feels ‘off’ to the customers. And the way to get tickets right for restaurants and patrons has as much to do with human psychology as it does with economic practice.”
  • “Paying for access alone is not because the discretionary dollar does nothing to improve the overall guest experience, and people know that intuitively.”
  • From the comments section on the post, addressing the issue lack of options for “solo diners” with the ticketing system: “We still take solo diners who email a request in and are flexible. But having a solo diner in at 7 PM costs the restaurant simply too much opportunity cost over the course of a year. We lose money serving a solo diner during peek times… an actual loss. But at 9 PM weeknights it’s usually not an issue. I realize that sounds harsh but it’s the truth that small restaurants do not want to admit.”

Why This Matters To You, A Writer or Other Creative Professional

If you are a writer or creative professional, one way to look at your professional life is as a boutique business. No, this does not describe all authors, and does not even require that you have any desire to manage a business. I know, you want to WRITE, not be burdened with running a multi-faceted business operation.

But what I love about the ethos that Nick puts forth, and the problems that he is trying to solve for is to best serve his core audience. In other words: INCREASE THE QUALITY of the experience to those who he reaches.

For a writer or creative professional, the most direct connection that you have to readers and the people who connect you to them is likely the best route for you. This does not mean that ONE publishing path is better than another, it means that as you make thousands of decisions on the road to publication, that you want to always be judging what gives you that closer connection, and what simply puts clever stuff in the way.

I see so many writers obsessed with “spreading the word” about their books, and pursuing strategies that potentially reach more people, but in ways that aren’t particularly meaningful. And yet, we hear again and again that “the only marketing that works is word of mouth marketing.” While that is not a steadfast rule, it does encourage what I feel is more compelling: the value of serving your core audience better. Not only does it create a better experience for them, but it ENCOURAGES them to tell others.

Is the restaurant-to-author example perfect? Nope! But it did jump out to me as an intriguing and bold way to humanize a difficult problem, and create wonderful experiences and relationships int he process.

Thanks.
-Dan

Things I’m Learning While Hiring an Intern (or Three)

I set out to hire an intern this summer, and wanted to consider how this experience may be helpful to writers and other creative entrepreneurs. You know, the OVERWHELMED folks (perhaps this is you?) who are trying to do so much – writing, publishing, marketing, a day job, managing family, dishes, laundry – while still trying to not lose their minds.

Recently, I was reflecting on how “publishing is a team sport,” and have been considering the many ways that others assist in the publishing process. For an individual author, there is an increasing possibility of bringing on assistance by hiring a virtual assistant or an intern.

Well, for me and my work, I decided that creating a team was overdue. So I wanted to share what I have learned so far. As usual, I will obsess about the unexpected emotional side of this process, and how that affects decisions.

The end result of the process is that:

  • More than 60 people applied (WAY more than I expected.)
  • I interviewed around 20 of them.
  • I hired three paid interns for the summer. Each has a unique role (described below), and all are part-time.

Everyone Seems Like They Are Trying To “Get Their Foot in the Door” of Their Passions and Dreams

I was blown away by who applied. I am not fully sure what my initial expectation was, but it wasn’t 60+ passionate and skilled people of all ages and all walks of life. I suppose I had assumed an “intern” meant someone young just trying to “get their foot in the door,” and what I found was that everyone – REGARDLESS OF AGE AND EXPERIENCE – seemed to feel that way. They wanted their foot in the door not to “a job,” but to an experience that would help lead them down the path of what they TRULY wanted to do for a living.

Now, my tiny company and this internship do not represent “the door,” but rather, working with SOMEONE who cares about the same end goals. A lot of people said they wanted to see what it was like for me to run my own business, and learn from that. It reminded me of how many people are considering “making the leap” to their own venture, but are (rightfully) nervous about how to do that in a practical sense.

When reviewing applications, I considered questions such as: “Gee, shouldn’t I select someone young because this could be the start that they need in such a crowded market?” And then I immediately had the opposite thought: of how wonderful it would be to work with someone who is older and looking to finally realize their dreams by developing certain skills.

In the end, of course, the question of age was irrelevant, but it was intriguing for me to feel the exact same motivation from people regardless of age. “Internship” was not relegated to something someone does in college, it is representative of something bigger and more universal: an opportunity to learn and connect.

The Entire Process Made Me Nervous That I Would Let People Down

Everyone who applied seemed really interesting, and so many of them seemed like people who I couldn’t consider NOT hiring. So at every phase, I became nervous that I would be letting people down who had applied with such enthusiasm.

For instance, when asking for interviews, I almost begin to feel bad in emailing so many (1/3 of applicants) because I don’t want to get someone’s expectations up, talk to them, and then feel I am rejecting them. Like, I was interested enough to chat, but then didn’t like them enough to hire them.

The entire process was filled with fear that I was creating a negative situation – raising an expectaion, dashing a hope. I would receive lovely emails from candidates, they spoke about their enthusiasm, how the internship is perfect for them. And here, I was telling most of them, “Um, thanks, but no.” When in reality, I was basically just overwhelmed with their generosity and enthusiasm.

Even as I worked through the decision-making process, I felt a sense of loss. That there were so many people who seemed AMAZING, and I had to pass up an opportunity to work with all of them.

Selecting who to interview was not easy. In the end, I tried to identify folks who either:

  1. Seemed most qualified
  2. Seemed to stand out in some odd way
  3. Ensure I interviewed a wide range of different types of folks (race, gender, age, experience) and personality (enthusiastic, serious, extrovert/introvert, local/distant, big social media presence/zero social media presence)

Trying to “be fair” became an obsession, and one with no clear rules.

Selecting who to hire was even more difficult. I ended up with a list of ten people who I couldn’t reasonably NOT hire because they were so interesting to consider working with.

Resumes Were Not As Helpful As I Thought

Resumes seemed to be the least helpful thing someone could provide. This was pretty surprising to me. The language on resumes often had “best practice” garbage that told me nothing about the person. For instance, phrases such as: “Detail-oriented team player,” blah blah blah blah. This type of language gave me no sense of what REALLY mattered to this person.

I wanted to see a face and hear their enthusiasm. What I found is that, before an interview, nothing did this like social media profiles. Many people provided links to their’s, which was nice. NO, I was not trying to see if someone was “professional” enough, I didn’t use them to screen people out. What I loved seeing was who this person is as a HUMAN BEING who lives in this world in their own unique way.

So much about working with someone is about getting along, not about ticking off boxes of “requirements.” On social media, I can see who you are. to be clear, I am NOT JUDGING who you are, I am simply just getting a sense of the person – the tone, the passion, and take you from being “Candidate #21” to being a name and a face and a personality who represents a worldview and a wide range of skills.

Which is what I hire for. (more on that below)

For instance, there was one candidate that had so little in their cover letter to sink my teeth into , and their resume was super basic because they didn’t have a lot of professional experience yet. It all felt very blah, very thin. But when you clicked on their social media profiles – BOOM – a real person appeared. One with instagram photos, tweets, status updates, etc, that felt like someone worth talking to. Someone who had interests, passions, enthusiasm, and a wide range of effective communication skills. At the application stage, this added a lot of nice context.

For When Candidates Applied, Timing Did Seem to Matter

I remember reading a post by Seth Godin recently where he had folks applying for an opportunity to work with him. He overtly said that if you apply near the deadline, you likely don’t have a shot of being selected. At the time, this struck me as unfair. Having now gone through the process myself, I actually began to empathize with his reasoning.

The folks who applied for the internship earlier in the process seem to have a better shot of getting my time. The initial batch of folks who applied in the first few days got two reviews by me. The middle a bit less so. The folks who applied in the last couple of days got a single review. Yes, people who applied at the deadline absolutely got detailed reviews by me, but I was just overwhelmed with candidates at that point, I was working really hard to weed people out because I had 50+ applicants for 1 slot. Did I still offer interviews to folks who applied near the deadline? Yep. Did they get thoughtful and careful consideration TWICE? Likely not. They got a good review of what they sent, then a simple “yes/no” decision for an interview.

I didn’t expect this to be the case, and it made me consider a lot of things as to how we deal with things when overwhelmed with decisions.

You Hire the Person

I have heard this from the likes of Paul Graham, and many others: you hire the PERSON, not a list of skills or accomplishments. There has to be something about who they are that you are investing in, and hoping to be a part of. For Paul, the context was how he invested in tech startups. It was never the clever idea he invested in, but the people who he would be working with. Ideas change will change, he has indicated, but the people don’t. (At least, not much in the short-term of 3-month internships or the tech startup incubator that Paul founded.)

For me, what I looked for most was “enthusiasm.” Why? Because that is something you can’t teach. I can teach processes or skills, but I can’t teach you to care. What is interesting about this is that enthusiasm can be expressed in different ways. Each of the three people I brought on board expressed it very differently, and it is not all about being blindly happy about everything. Mostly, enthusiasm is about caring and communication.

When I think about the most frustrating experiences I had in the corporate world, it is always when I was in situations with people who just didn’t seem to care. They were doing a “job,” and didn’t want to be bothered with the process of “caring.” So the concept of qualitative differences in improving something were shirked off by these people in favor of quantity – how much crap we can move down the pipeline.

Again: checking off boxes vs the qualitative value of the experience. The former is not what I’m looking for.

When Faced With Too Many Great Options, I Went With My Gut Instinct

In the end, I moved forward with people who just felt right. To be clear, LOADS of people I spoke with “felt right” in one way or another. But when I consider why I selected one person over another, it rarely came down to one line item on their resume or something very specific. One person is just someone I felt I could envision working together with them next week more easily. It was a gut decision.

Is this RIGHT? I have no idea. But so much about this is about relationships – about working together, and about serving their needs as well as my own. And while this is all framed as a “3-month internship,” this is really a commitment to each other during that time.

What I am Investing In

The obvious expectation for the business value of bringing on interns should be the return on investment to my business, right? Actually, I have come to believe that ranks third in the list. These two take a greater priority:

  • My own ability to integrate others into the processes at WeGrowMedia and in working as a TEAM not a lone person. I have a lot to learn in this regard.
  • Developing the skills, and relationships with, these interns. I have to judge “success” by what they take away from the process, not just what the company receives.

If these three people deliver ZERO quantifiable financial value to my business this summer, that is 100% fine by me. I’m excited to grow my own skills, and to be able to spend the summer working on projects with these fine folks.

(Oh, and if you are one of the interns I hired for the summer, please ignore the above 3 paragraphs!)
🙂

Who I Hired and Why

As I mentioned above, I ended up hiring three interns, not just one. In terms of pure financial investment, I played with the number of work hours and start times for each intern, and doubled-down on how much I money I would devote to this project for the summer.

When I began considering hiring 2-3 people, it also allowed me think about things differently. Who I hired began to become a group activity, perhaps how you pick who is on a sports team. Each of the three interns were hired for different skillets and projects:

  • One for organizing and optimizing my processes of working with clients and running courses.
  • One for research for new projects.
  • One for social media and audience engagement.

I felt I could learn a lot from each intern, and would learn how to best serve each in a different way. After all, a big part of this is to help the intern learn and grow in ways that they want.

Did I make all the right choices here? Who knows. Many of you likely have LOADS of experience with hiring, and may point out how I did things wrong. All I can say is that I tried to consider as much as I could, and that I am LEARNING in this process. I will be better at this in three years than I am today. And all I can do in the meantime is be honest.

THANK YOU to everyone who applied for the internship and everyone who helped spread the word! I’m excited to be working with Diane, Rachel, and Kathi this summer!

I would be curious to hear about your experiences and insights in hiring people. Please considering sharing below. Thanks!
-Dan

Taking Control of Your Creative Resources

In my most recent guest post for Writer Unboxed, I explore the value of “willful ignorance,” and the potential to find the time to focus on increasing the QUALITY of your work and relationships, not just muddling up your life with an endless list of to-do’s. From the post:

Making a decision – taking an action – to NOT just follow along with all the standard obligations, the “best practices,” is something many people never do.

Doing so – taking control of your creative resources – immediately differentiates you from others, in a way that gives your books and your stories a unique chance to grow and find readers.

Read the full post here.
Thanks.
-Dan

“New York Times Bestselling Author” (and other things you would like to have permanently attached to your name)

For a year now, I have been working with Miranda Beverly-Whittemore on the launch of her novel, Bittersweet. It came out two weeks ago, and we are gobsmacked to find out that it debuted at number 20 on the New York Times Best Seller list!

nyt

When Miranda and I began working on the Bittersweet launch, we spent hours walking around Book Expo in New York last May discussing it. Here we are in 2013:

This week, we are wandering around Book Expo together again. Here we are yesterday:

In the first photo, she is “my friend (and client) Miranda, who is a writer.” But in the second photo, she is “New York Times Bestselling Author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore.”

Some people I speak to believe that THIS is the point of publishing a book, the idealized end goal; to have that phrase attached to your name. It is a pretty incredible phrase, isn’t it? A reflection of the validation of readers, booksellers, and everyone else who has come in contact with the book and/or Miranda.

To a wider audience of those outside the publishing realm, the phrase “New York Times bestselling author” seems to take what can be perceived as a lonely and tenuous pursuit (“Hi, I’m a writer.”), and put it into a framework that our culture understands and values: “I am popular and money is being created in this process.”

Walking around Book Expo, you of course, cannot help but be reminded that publishing is indeed a BUSINESS:

bookexpo 004

And that there are measures of success that matter in so many ways. Is “New York Times Bestselling Author” a wondeful validation, an amazing addition to someone’s name? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt, it is. I am so unbelievably happy for Miranda!

Last week, I wrote a post about how pubishing is a team effort, with a singular black hole (the author and the story she created) in the middle. It speaks to the dual nature of this process, whereby so many people have put their passion and expertise into this book to help ensure it reached readers; But at the center of it all is a single person telling a single story.

For my work with Miranda, she and I spent hours and hours walking the floor of BookExpo yesterday talking about the last year, and what comes next. A term came up: “grace,” which I think encapsulates a desire and a fear that many authors can waffle between. That they absolutely seek to achieve and celebrate success, but that they are fearful of “crossing a line,” whereby they do not want to seem overly promotional or constantly gloating at every milestone.

Yes, there is a time in a book launch process where you just “be,” and let things happen. In other words: don’t be running around like a nut trying to spread the word and promote the book. Instead, just simply enjoy that the story is out there, people are reading it, and that this is a time to celebrate and let these things happen.

In approaching the topic of “what else should we be doing? “Miranda & I will be chatting about three things later today:

  1. New ways to connect with readers. Note: this is not really about promoting the novel to new readers, but instead about engaging with folks who have already read Bittersweet. In other words: to create new ways to talk with readers, instead of just having them be represented as some sales figure. Oh, and I’ll be honest here, these types of activities do tend to encourage the best type of marketing: WORD OF MOUTH marketing.
  2. Thinking mid-term as to how she can keep connections going with readers and those who supported Bittersweet once the “launch period” has run its course. We have no idea when that will be, but we know we need to setup the channels and practices now.
  3. Talk about her NEXT book, and the long-term preparation for that.

THE NEXT BOOK?! Yes. Of course. A writer writes. Miranda just announced that:

“I’m so pleased to announce that my favorite editor Christine Kopprasch has acquired my next novel, JUNE. Here’s the official announcement, if you go for that kind of thing: ‘NYT bestselling author of Bittersweet Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s JUNE, in which an unexpected inheritance from a movie star pulls a young woman into a world of wealth, celebrity, and long-buried secrets.'”

It has been amazing during the past few weeks that, even as Bittersweet is JUST launching, there were so many behind the scenes discussions about the next novel. And to me, this is the center of it all, remembering that Miranda is a writer, and that her crafting these stories is THE center, and the thing that matters most for her to do.

Is she doing some book readings for Bittersweet? Sure. But she is also travelling to Ohio next week to do research on her next novel. That kind of forward-thinking – to create and respect the NEXT story even as the current one is being shared – is the center of it all.

-Dan

Also: you can read more than 130 blog post about the Bittersweet launch here.