Today I want to talk about how I have evolved how I work with writers. For more than 12 years, my full-time focus has been to help writers feel they can effectively share their work in a manner that is meaningful and strategic. For some, that is developing an author platform, or identifying how to reach their ideal readers, or launching a book. That means every day for me is spent in conversation with writers, and in the trenches doing this work with them. It’s my dream job, and what I share every week in this newsletter is based on that practice, not vague theory.
I believe that how we share is a craft. That is part of what I am helping writers hone, their own ability to effectively communicate what they create and why. My own systems for how to do this are a craft as well. In the past few years I’ve evolved how I work with writers. I want to talk about specifically what has changed and why. And how it is continuing to change. When we show up for our creative work and how it connects with the world, we are in practice, constantly improving the systems we use and the effect it has in the world.
When a writer publishes their work into a marketplace, they may also embrace the idea of developing a career around this work. that is multifaceted in terms of possibilities and responsibilities. Do they want to manage an email newsletter, or social media, or develop a network with other writers, or show up at events, or otherwise participate in the marketplace?
Sure, a writer can just write. I grew up as an artist and creator, and I very much value the creative process as valuable in and of itself. To create, simply to create. To not worry about the output or what happens with it. You do not need to share your work. The creative process itself has incredible intrinsic value.
But if you hope that your work is shared; that it reaches readers; if you want your life as a writer to be part of your daily identity, then I would encourage you to embrace sharing as a craft too.
When I started this work in 2010, I took a huge risk. My corporate job of a decade had just ended, my wife and I were about to have our first child, and she was leaving her tenured teaching job at the bottom of the recession. Instead of taking a “safe” job that had a steady salary, health insurance, and other benefits, I founded WeGrowMedia. I mean, that’s a fancy name for me sitting in a room all day working with writers. We had been saving up for a house for years, and this decision meant delaying that for years more because I knew starting this business meant I couldn’t get a mortgage until I had established the company for 24-36 months.
Day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, this has added up to working with thousands of writers. I’m getting emotional just writing that. It is a gift to be able to do this work with those who create. That my days are spent with those who feel compelled to share a story or information and who know that their message can brighten the lives of others. Thank you for being a part of this work.
Here are a few key areas that I have been evolving how I work with writers:
I have focused on in a big way in the past few years. “Deliverable” feels like a funny word, but I know it is important to writers working with me. To feel they are getting something tangible and meaningful that will help move them closer to their goals. When someone begins working with me, they are immediately given access to 15+ tab spreadsheet that acts as a strategic plan that we will personalize for them. Each of these goes deeper, with written material and videos as well, plus our collaboration. Now, I don’t love spreadsheets and I don’t think many writers do either, so my goal is not to mire anyone in a spreadsheet. Instead, we use this to develop a clear plan for us to work from, and that the writer can use for years to come. This is the opposite of simply leaving them with pages and pages of notes from our work together that may feel haphazard when they look back on it later.
These spreadsheets I use with my clients are the exact same ones I use for myself. They define:
- How to create a compelling message.
- How to make sharing our message easy and strategic.
- How to understand who our ideal audience is.
- How to expand our reach.
- How to launch a book.
- And so much else.
My system is always being stress tested and added to. I want them to be as concise as possible, yet inclusive of wherever we need to go for the writer’s platform. I do not want to add a single additional tab unless it adds meaningful value and doesn’t overwhelm the client. That is something I obsess about. If I wanted to, I could easily turn this into a “100 tab spreadsheet” with the hopes that it just sounds so impressive and complete. But I think the more valuable way to develop this is to focus on the essentials.I want to ensure that when I work with writers, they feel:
- A sense of total clarity that there is a progression we will move through that makes sense to them.
- The work we do is personalized to their goals and challenges.
- They are only asked to pay attention to things that are incredibly meaningful for their goals.
- They are supported at every step of the way.
- They develop a process that will serve them now, but also for years to come. It is a mindset shift, but also establishes powerful new habits.
Which leads us to…
Of course part of why people work with me is for the insights that our work can provide. To know who they should reach and how to do so. But to truly grow over time, often we need to establish new processes for how we share. This is where the idea of craft comes in. This is not easy because invariably we are dealing with a complex set of emotions and psychology. For instance, many people are hesitant to even take a photo of themselves, let alone share it. So me saying, “you should share a selfie once a week with a book, and then do a video once a week where you talk about _____,” is not going to help someone who has deeply rooted feelings about being seen, about not appearing self-involved, about a complex sense of self, etc. This work I do with writers can go deep, and it is critical that we map out a step-by-step process that doesn’t just strategically work, but feels meaningful and authentic to the writer.
Likewise, this process has to fit within their otherwise busy life. Every single writer I work with has a delicate balance of attending to family, significant others, their other work, mental health, physical health, community, home, and so much else. Vague maxims of “spend 80% of your time writing and 20% promoting” fall flat when you realize the reality of how overwhelmed people feel just in their everyday lives.
So we work through this day by day, week by week, to not only find the right strategy but develop it in real time. To optimize, and ensure that it is integrated into their lives. No “cheat sheet” is going to do that for you. And it’s the reason why so many people attend to their physical health best when in a group class, with a friend, or a personal trainer. Sometimes, that social aspect helps focus, support, and motivate us in powerful new ways.
It’s common for me to share videos with a client where I answer their questions by showing them. So on one half of the screen they see me, and on the other half, they see my computer screen. Here I can showcase the nuances of how to focus on a specific aspect of the strategy we are developing.
And in the end, so much about honing processes is about determining what not to focus on. That frees up time and energy to do a few things really well. To me, how we share is a craft, not dissimilar to how we create. Which leads us to…
Actions and Outcomes
When I work with a writer, the goal is to take meaningful actions and focus on real outcomes. In other words, I don’t just want someone to have theory without practice, or to have a plan without execution. To ensure we build momentum quickly, I try to hone in on their goals, but also how they want to feel. It’s difficult to describe, but people can suffer when they feel there is a huge gap between their current reality and their goals. Bridging this gap is part of the work. Yes, to give them the skills and the strategy, but also to change their mindset. To go from, “I never thought this was possible,” to “It is really happening!”
That work begins before we start and in the first moments of our first official meeting. To identify the strategic path, but also what is emotionally or psychologically holding them back. We follow the model I have talked about here many times, The Creative Success Pyramid:
You can download the pyramid here and also watch a 1-hour workshop that explores The Creative Success Pyramid. Every call I have with a writer ends with specific homework — actions we will each take to make things happen right now.
Progress is measured in this manner: not on hours spent but on actions taken. On results achieved. Between calls, clients have unlimited access to me via email where we often work through specifics.
The results? Well, the writers I work with will say this better than I can:
“Working with Dan is a joy. He knows his stuff, but more importantly his approach to marketing is “human-centered” – that is, I don’t have to feel like a saleswoman. When we started working, I was all over the place with what I was trying to do. Dan helped me set up a system that I can carry forward, with relevant templates and detailed instructions. In other words, he is the best kind of teacher, helping me to understand the marketing system going forward. I’ll use his methods from now on with pleasure. Add to that – he’s incredibly kind!”
– Janet Fox
“Dan provides smart, creative, and meaningful marketing solutions. I appreciate his knowledge, authenticity and true desire to help. He kept me focused, moving forward and aligned to my message and goals. My websites, newsletter, Instagram, magazine column, book proposal and manuscript are leaps and bounds improved because of time spent working with Dan.”
– Allison Bruce
“Since completing a 90-day engagement with Dan and learning his system, I feel liberated from my own limiting beliefs about what marketing is and what it means to my freedom as a writer. I have a unified platform and know what I want to say. I feel safe in the social media world because I know what I share, what I don’t, and when. I have a path forward that gives me confidence for pitching my work. I have a foundation beneath me that no one else dictates. I have a path to identify and engage my target audience. Most importantly, my platform belongs to me because it’s a reflection of who I truly am and the relationships I’m creating. Thank you, Dan, for helping me build a system so that I can focus on what I love—writing and connecting with people who identify with and find value in what I share.”
– Naya Elle James
“I started working with Dan three months before the pub date of my first book. I knew nothing about marketing, including how it differed from publicity. And, then, social media was pretty much of a foreign country to me, as well. Dan was both a wonderful guide and a one-man support system. No question was too silly or far-fetched. He broke it all down to something I could get my mind around and helped me see what was worth doing and, most importantly, what was a good fit for my personality and aspirations. Best of all, he suggested goals that seemed way beyond my capacity–“Write on essay a week on the subject! You can do it!” when I’d previously struggled to write one every three months–but which I discovered I was able to meet. I can’t thank him enough — or recommend him more highly.”
– Elizabeth Marcus
“Working with Dan was a great way for me to gain clarity regarding my key messages. Previously, my messages and content were too diffuse to have enough impact. Our work together helped me focus on the most important information to convey to my audience. In addition, Dan helped me define my target market and perform a market analysis. I was left with a better understanding of my readers, an analysis of my role models, and informative marketplace research. Dan gave me clarity and direction where I lacked it previously. I appreciated Dan’s structured approach to the creative process and always felt like I knew what to expect. His communication was prompt, and his feedback was extremely helpful in taking my work to the next level. I’m proud of the work we did together and recommend him to anyone who needs help honing their creative work.”
– Melissa Lewis-Duarte, Ph.D
Of course, I can only work with a small number of writers, so I try to share my system and processes for free in my weekly newsletter, the 10+ years of archives on my blog, in my (mostly) weekly podcast, in free webinars and workshops, and in thousands of social media posts. Oh, and in my book! I saw this the other day on Instagram:
If you are curious about how I work with writers and seeing some case studies of writers I’ve worked with, click here. Thank you for your support and being here with me.