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I'm A Writer

I’m A Writer

I’m a writer, but I’m also a business person. My writing is a creative process that results in a tangible product that can be bought and sold. I am the CEO of my career, if I want one. It doesn’t matter whether or not I have a publisher, editor, agent, or pr manager, the buck stops with me. As a consumer of books, I already know that readers hold me ultimately responsible for the product I put out there, and are judging my value as a writer with each and every book I write. That’s a lot of pressure!

 

One of the things writers learn very quickly is that we are also responsible for getting the word out about ourselves and our work. Readers want to know about us, and many like connecting with the writers whose work they’ve come to enjoy. That’s very cool. But as great as that is, we also need to connect with other writers and industry professionals on a regular basis. Writing is lonely work, so when we reach out and meet others who are as invested in this business as we are, we learn and grow as individuals and as professionals. That’s where social media is a tremendous boon. In fact, it is an important tool for anyone in business.

 

The ability to easily and cheaply connect with others who share our likes and concerns on a global platform is something entrepreneurs have never been able to dream of before. By forming meaningful relationships via social media, we enhance our ability to do more than sell a product or service. We enable relationships of various levels to grow. Consumers can easily connect with providers and build the necessary trust levels that help a business grow and develop over the long term. This is no different for writers who take their work seriously.

 

Over the course of the past several years I’ve been writing, I’ve made some terrific connections via social media venues such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Other industry professional’s blog posts have proven to be tremendous sources of information and resource for me. Each of these on-line resources provides its own unique brand of communication.

 

For example, LinkedIn is used primarily for businesses, but there are a ton of LinkedIn groups dedicated to writers and readers. No matter what your business industry is, you can share ideas, concerns, industry related news, etc. In fact, through LinkedIn I was connected by a podcast host, Adam Scull, of Eat, Sleep, Write, who invited me to participate in a podcast interview. Adam’s podcast is dedicated to writers and readers, and since its inception, has grown by leaps and bounds. Not only did I enjoy the experience of doing my first podcast interview with Adam, but it allowed me to experience an entirely new medium of communication I’d never heard of, let alone dreamed of contributing to.

 

I hear so many people denigrate Facebook, but if used correctly, it’s a fabulous tool for staying and keeping connected. It’s also a great medium for building relationships with others who share your interests in business, and reach new consumers. I’ve “met” some incredibly talented people on Facebook who are writers, publishers, readers, editors, playwrites, etc. Now, I’m very judicious when I accept people to Facebook. I don’t accept everyone who requests it. I make a point of visiting their own pages before deciding whether or not they are the kind of people I’d like to connect with. People like Jonathan Gunson, Christina Hamlett, Joanna Penn, and others who are avidly involved with my chosen career of writing bring so much depth and knowledge that I just don’t have yet. Their generosity in sharing their experiences, industry information, and ground-breaking industry news makes my life easier, and more interesting. On a personal level, these industry connections help me realize that we’re all in the same boat, battling the same issues, and learning from one another. The funny jokes, inspirational quotes, and personal touches help make writing feel less isolating. We are part of a community. And that’s the crux of the matter. In business, any business, you need to reach out beyond your product or service and become part of your immediate and global community. Human beings generally crave connectivity, and social networks enable this on a grand scale.

 

Beware of Pitfalls!

Beware of Pitfalls!

But there are pitfalls that many people fail to see before it’s too late, even with something as “harmless” as social media. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve seen a posting by someone, family, friend, or industry professional, that is just plain offensive, rude, or unprofessional. I remember reading something a while back that stated you should never post anything on social media that you, literally, wouldn’t mind the world reading about on the front page of your local newspaper. If you are in business, you don’t want your followers gaining a poor opinion of you because you posted a picture of yourself drunk and disorderly on Facebook. On LinkedIn, the expectation is that members will comport themselves in a business-like manner and not be offensive, confrontational, or rude. On Twitter, the same holds true. You are what you write and post.

 

As a business person, you want to be sure that the message you are putting out there on social media reflects the image you want others to have of you and your product or service. It’s so easy to screw it up with one or two really ill-advised posts, tweets, or comments. Remember, these venues all just provide brief snapshots of who you are, so you’re going to be judged, rightly or wrongly, by what you put out there. A good rule of thumb is to have two Facebook accounts, one for personal, meaning family and friends, and one for business. This keeps the two areas of your life a little tidier, and hopefully lessens the chances of a poor image of you.

 

Blogs are terrific for a number of reasons. I read other blogs because they share information I don’t have, or I resonate with the message they are putting out there. Through blogs I’ve discovered more blogs, other writers, and industry information websites that are really useful in helping me grow my knowledge base and craft. That’s important to me. I now follow a number of blogs regularly, and although I may not read every single blog daily, I do read at least one a day. I’ll comment on posts that I’ve enjoyed, and share my own opinions. Remember, writing is lonely, so it’s nice to have a virtual gathering place to express and share ideas and information.

 

Writing a regular blog takes me about 1- 2 hours every two weeks, depending on research etc. If you want to develop a blob for your business, great, but make sure the content continues to remain regular and consistent. I hate it when I visit a new website or blog, only to find the content is out of date or months old. You have to give people a reason to visit you again. If you’re a boring host, you won’t have many visitors. Of course this takes time, but it’s time well invested. More and more companies are realizing the benefits of building a community of followers who are interested in learning more about them, their industry, how-to’s, etc. When something new is happening within your company or industry, you can share it with your followers, and become a trusted ‘expert” in your field. Blogs also invite readers to participate by posting comments, which in turn invites others to likewise share and contribute. This sharing of ideas quickly builds a community of people who all share an interest in your topic. For businesses, it doesn’t get much better than this.

 

Twitter is great for sharing short blasts of information and ideas. It’s a fun way to keep in touch with others who share common interests, and allows business entrepreneurs to share new information or updates on their products and services. A tweet about a book launch goes around the world in seconds, and is completely free, as are all these other e-venues. The ability to attach a link, photo, or video makes sharing this type of information incredibly easy. What a great business tool! But again, be careful what you share. People are watching and judging you by the content you choose to share.

 

Goodreads is an amazing place to share information, book reviews, and participate in discussions on books with writers and readers. You can post and read reviews of books, and discover new writers in any genre. You can connect with writers directly, ask questions, participate in virtual book clubs, and indulge your love of the literary world to your heart’s content. I’ve discovered some incredibly talented new and seasoned writers through this site, and have been thrilled to receive some really wonderful, thoughtful reviews of my own work. For a writer, Goodreads is an invaluable tool not to be overlooked.

 

But do you have to spend copious amounts of time on social networks in order to connect and share your information? No. On average, you only need about ½ an hour to an hour total to dip into each of these areas daily, review what’s being said on each of them, share, comment, or like just a few, and move on. Be forewarned though, it’s easy to get drawn in and distracted, and writers are notoriously easy to distract. By setting scheduled time limits for each networking activity, it can be easily managed. If after your real work is done and you want to go back and “visit” again, go for it and have fun.

 

Never fear

Never fear

Rather than fear social networking, by embracing it in a professional, realistic way, I’ve discovered a whole new world of people whose work and opinions I’ve come to respect and enjoy. Hopefully, they feel the same about some of what I share as well. Being able to communicate on a global stage, instantaneously, is a lot of fun, but it comes with responsibility. I encourage people to join the on-line communities, but please, be respectful.

 

I always welcome comments and would love to hear your thoughts on social media for business and for pleasure. If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with your circles. Thank you.

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Sell! Sell! Sell!

Sell! Sell! Sell!

 

We are bombarded daily with ads wanting us to buy this product, or that service. The ads come on our televisions, tablets, phones, billboards, and in the venues we frequent for shopping. It seems everyone wants to sell us something, and this can be tiring. Sometimes, it’s even downright annoying.

 

Before I began writing novels, my background was in commissioned real estate and mortgage sales, so I understand the concepts and drills of selling. I was never the “hard sell” type though, which is perhaps why I got out of that business. I loved working with people, and putting pieces of the puzzles together, and although I met some wonderful, conscientious sales reps, I got tired of dealing with so many disreputable “professionals”.

 

I also wasn’t driven enough to succeed. I liked the work, but didn’t love it. So, I quit. I drifted around a bit, unsure of what really fit me, my personality, and my skill sets. I kept looking for something that excited me and drove me to want to succeed. There were plenty of things I could do, just not a lot I wanted to do. As a result, my finances suffered, as did my self-esteem. I just couldn’t seem to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life. I felt like a failure. I pretended it didn’t bother me, but it did.

 

I was asking for a lot; I wanted to do something meaningful to me, but couldn’t figure out what. I wasn’t making the logical connections. Then I discovered writing, and all the pieces finally fit. This is what I’m meant to do. More than that though, I began to realize that all those years in sales weren’t wasted. Before that, I worked as an office administrator, so I can type and organize an office pretty well. I’d need my experience in sales and office admin to help me write, market and promote my books. I already had the basics, and I made another connection; it’s all about building relationships.

 

Making it all fit

Making it all fit

When I’d been in sales before, I loved building relationships with my clients and other industry professionals. I’m good at it, and it comes naturally to me. I don’t have to force it at all. Writing is just another way of building even more relationships. I’ve been able to do this not only through readers, which is fantastic, but with other writers and publishing industry professionals all over the world. Sure, I want book sales, who doesn’t, but I love connecting with others on various levels. I’ve discovered so many people out there who are like me; they’re connectors. They love to share the knowledge they’ve gained, and enjoy the connections they’ve built over time. Seth Godin posted on his blog recently about this very subject, which is what got me thinking. He’s absolutely right; it isn’t about the short term gain, it’s about the long term goal.

 

People like Jonathan Gunson, of Bestseller Labs, Molly Greene, Jane Friedman, and Joanna Penn all share the wealth of their knowledge and experience with others freely and openly on their blogs and websites. Well known writers like Hugh Howey, Sylvia Day, and many others are breaking down the walls and sharing industry insights and hard won know-how with other writers climbing the ladder behind them. They’re actively changing the face of publishing in very real, tangible ways, and are encouraging others to re-examine the options. They’re building relationships by sharing what they know. They provide real value in their writing, and in their websites and blogs.

Believe me when I say that when I see one of these remarkable individuals share something on social networks, I forward and share their words, reviews, comments, and upcoming books and events. It doesn’t matter if I personally read every book they write, although I’ll definitely purchase their work too, because I’ll share with my connections and many of them will.

 

Trust must be earned

Trust must be earned

That’s the power of relationship building. It really goes back to sales 101. We don’t buy things or services because we’re told to, but because we trust that what the vendor has to offer will fill a need we have, or solve a problem we’re dealing with. Books are no different. They educate and entertain readers the world over, and writers work hard to bring them to light. That’s why it frustrates me when I hear writers say they hate marketing and promotion. They haven’t made the connection between the product, which is the book, and the message they are trying to convey, or the story they’re trying to tell.

 

I look at sales from the stand point of making connections and building relationships. That way, book marketing, promotion, and learning about the industry I’ve become avidly interested in, becomes much more fun. Social networks have taken on a new meaning for me. Not only do I keep up with family and close friends there, but I also connect with others interested in the same things I am. I learn and grow from other writers, publishers, editors, and agents. Public speaking has given me a forum to talk about my writing, publishing, and my books, but it’s also opened doors to other topics I’m keenly interested in, such as overcoming the fear of failure, and women’s issues.

 

Again, it’s all about making the connections. First, to figure out what I was looking for in my work career, then how to use what I already know to advance that career and connect with others, and finally, to learn more about writing, publishing, and book marketing. I’m not selling anything; I’m simply sharing my work and my words with anyone who’s interested. I don’t have to do the hard-sell. I just have to be me, and that’s easy, flaws and all.

 

I welcome comments, so please do share your thoughts on this issue. If you enjoyed this blog post, please consider sharing it with your social circles. Thank you.

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Support breeds success

Support breeds success

Over the years, I’ve had to face many personal and business obstacles. Writing has proven to be my most challenging, and rewarding endeavour to date, but it comes with many obstacles and a host of naysayers. For instance, at a family event recently, a well-to-do family member made a comment to my husband about my writing, saying that although he understood my “passion” for writing, cautioned my husband against really believing it would ever be a financially viable venture. When I heard this, I was furious, both because this family member was unwittingly trying to undermine my husband’s faith in me, and because he was demonstrating what I’d encountered several times before with close friends and family; disbelief that what I was doing would ever amount to much of anything financially.

I’ve worked in commissioned sales for over ten years, and I know from experience that this kind of thinking is detrimental to the success of those who work in this type of career. Writing works very similarly; the writer works his/her buns off to get a project published, endures a great deal of rejection and trials, and only gets paid if the book becomes a commercial success. To be a writer, you have to develop pretty thick skin. You have to believe that what you are writing matters and has value to others. You have to believe in yourself as well as in your dreams. This is no easy task.

Snoopy writingThose who are close to writers don’t always understand what we do. They think we’re playing at an intriguing “hobby”, or worse, wasting our time. They don’t understand that toiling for hours upon hours, days, weeks, months, or even years, and seeing little financial profit is really laying stepping stones to success. Writing is like every new business; you have to be willing to invest the time, blood, sweat, and tears to build a brand and fineness the business model. Many writers work full time jobs and write every spare moment they can in order to create the platform they’ll use. The learning curve is tremendous, and in today’s constantly shifting landscape of book publishing, it’s even more difficult.

This doesn’t stop the true writer, or entrepreneur though. What family members, friends, and others who share the sentiments, don’t understand is that true failure comes when we becomes so downtrodden and unsupported, or disillusioned, that we cease trying. The other thing that often happens to writers, is that they fail to understand that writing and book publishing are also a business. If writers fail to understand how the business operates, learn the tools, and utilize them effectively, they’ll become disillusioned and fail to succeed.

In truth, this goes for everything in life. So what can you do when faced with naysayers and obstacles to your goals for the future? First, stop and take stock of where you are in the process. Make a list of all the things you’ve done to get to that point, and where you want to be. If you’re way off the mark, you may have to adjust your trajectory. That’s okay. No road to success is ever without misjudgements, hills and valleys. Your job is to find ways to continue moving ahead in a direction that leads you closer to the goal.

Pushing a boulder up a hill

Pushing a boulder up a hill

When starting any new venture, it’s very easy to underestimate what’s involved. That’s because human beings don’t come equipped with a GPS map to the future. It’s also why most financiers advocate creating a business plan that would address any potential obstacles and force the entrepreneur to pre-think of ways of seeing and dealing with those obstacles.

In life, we tend to move merrily along on our path, until faced with opposition. Only then do we stop and realize that the path we’ve been walking has veered too far to the left or right. The smart person takes stock of the opposition, learns everything he/she can about it, and adjusts the path accordingly by going through it, over it, under it, or around it. Some might also enlist the help of others to remove it from the path altogether, to allow them to continue forward. There are always solutions, but first you have to understand the problem. Same goes for writing. I keep hearing from writers that they’re “artists” and don’t want to do any of the work associated with marketing and promoting their work. They want to let others do it for them, or worse, do nothing at all, believing that if their work has merit, like cream, it’ll rise to the top. This is a fallacy. You have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone and risk taking on new challenges. You have to be willing to accept that others aren’t going to understand you or why you’re doing what you do. You have to take responsibility for ensuring your work gets noticed and demonstrate why consumers want to purchase the product or service. You have to be willing to forge your own path, irregardless of the obstacles.

I recently met a fellow London, Ontario writer, Sunil Godse, who contacted me via the social media, LinkedIn. As a business mentor, he often counsels managers, CEO’s and struggling entrepreneurs about the benefits of learning from their failures, and how to turn those failures into successes. Because of the many stories he’s heard from his clients over the years, he decided to write a book about it, entitled, Fail Fast, Succeed Faster. As a savvy businessman, he knew writing was a whole other animal to his usual work, and so he enlisted, and solicited, as much help as he could get.

A few weeks before his book launch, he contacted me via LinkedIn and asked if I had a few moments to talk to him about writing and publishing. At the time, I had no idea what his subject matter was, but in the spirit of paying it forward, I agreed immediately. When we finally set up the date and time for a telephone call, I was surprised and impressed with what he’d accomplished so far, and intrigued with his subject material. In fact, I had just penned a blog post earlier that week on the subject of benefiting from failure and achieving success. A coincidence? Perhaps, but in talking to Sunil, I began to realize that he’d approached his book project like a business. He’d researched every aspect of the book publishing industry, worked with a qualified co-writer, hired a professional editor, cover artist, web designer, and after careful consideration, decided to self-publish his book. Honestly, I was impressed and wasn’t sure what I could offer him in the way of advice. In speaking with Sunil, it became quickly apparent that this was a man willing to listen and learn from others. He’d talked to heads of national corporations, new entrepreneurs, and everyone else he thought might have an interesting story or ideas to share. He initiated the contact to perhaps learn something from me about the writing and publishing business, and in doing so, taught me something in return; ask the questions, learn the processes, be invested in doing the task right by hiring qualified people, and ask for assistance when needed.

Bruce Croxon and me

Bruce Croxon and me

When we finally met at his book launch two weeks later, I was again impressed. He used his contacts and financial backing to create a great launch, and invited a truly impressive keynote speaker, Bruce Croxon, of tv’s Dragon’s Den. Both men were ready and willing to talk to attendees as much as needed, and I was pleased to have about 5-10 minutes with each. Again, I learned something from each of them, and enjoyed the event tremendously.

Another on-line friend, Jonathan Gunson, of Bestseller Labs, also wrote an interesting blog post earlier this week that really resonated with me, entitled “The Key to Growing Readership: Your “Writer’s” Voice”. This week Jonathan tapped into the subject of overcoming naysayers, keeping your eye on the goal, adjusting the path where needed, and having faith in yourself, your own abilities and “voice”, and believing in the path you’ve set for yourself.

One other thought; when we support others in their goals, we can strengthen our determination to succeed in our own, and sometimes, learn new ways around the obstacles we face in our own lives. Oh, and when I heard what that family member had said, I understood that they in no way thought they were being unsupportive (not consciously anyway), but boy, did it strengthen my resolve to prove to everyone who doubted my writing future that they were WRONG!

If you’d like to leave a comment, please take a few moments to share some of the obstacles in your life, or business, that you’ve successfully overcome.

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