5 Marketing Ingredients That Make You A Better Writer

vintage book and light bulb on wood table

 

 

 

You push the post button and you wait for it.

Wait for it.

Crickets.

Your audience isn’t growing; even your current audience is not very engaged with you.

But here’s the good news–in most cases, the problem is not your lack of writing talent.

The truth is you’re not just a writer. You’re also a marketer.

Most writers hate marketing and often view it as the younger brother of the aggressive sale (which is often done by a guy in an ugly plaid sport coat).

But that’s just one style of marketing.

You don’t have to do that.

Let’s say you sit down and watch Gigli, Glitter and Batman and Robin ( you know the one with Ah-nold as Mr. Freeze) all in a row.

First off, I’m sorry for you. Suddenly, you are talking about how much you hate movies, right?

You may even say, “I hate movies.”

But the real problem is you were watching bad movies.

You have a bad taste in your mouth from the negative experience, because, well, you’re human.

The same concept applies to marketing, but don’t let the bad examples discourage you.

Marketing is not optional. If you don’t like marketing, the problem is you have not found the right approach for you.

Whether you write books, blog posts, articles or social media updates you must be a good marketer to get the reader’s attention.

Marketing is the blood in your veins as a writer. It is that important.

So how can you apply this to your current writing?

Here are five essential elements of great marketing:

1. Be honest, authentic and sincere.

The world is full of highlight reels being presented as real life. Don’t add to that. Be human. Please allow me to give a shout out to my friend Sarah Mae. Both are just fantastic examples of this. In some ways, Sarah is my original marketing mentor. (See example here of how smart and real she is.)

2. Tell stories and invite people in. 

Good stories are extremely powerful. Do not ever overlook this. Good stories have a specific structure too. Don’t hesitate to get an editor to ensure your story is engaging. Outside perspective allows you to see things you normally don’t see on your own.

3. Focus on helping others.

Treat people like people. Don’t be afraid to ask for a sale–especially when you know what you have can help. Good marketing does not manipulate people. I’ll repeat that because it is so important: good marketing does not manipulate people. Instead, it serves people.

4. Clarity is absolutely essential. 

With the many choices out there, you have to make it very clear what it is you are about and what you stand for. Otherwise, people will get confused. So if you are writing a book, if it isn’t clear what the book is about, it will not sell. If you write a blog and it is all over the place topic wise, people won’t read it.

5. Be willing to be weird. 

Don’t think in terms of comparing yourself to others. Break all of the rules and do something others view as odd. Do something unique that no one else is doing. Being a copycat accomplishes nothing. In 2015, you must be willing to differentiate yourself from everyone else. You also must embrace failure as a part of the process. It will happen. But don’t view it as failure–you can call it the refining process. The more you fail, the more you win. A scientist doesn’t stop after one try–he keeps experimenting. Never stop innovating. You are much more creative than you think you are.

Lastly, write about something that is bigger than you or it will not spread. 

Marketing is NOT about self-promotion. Whatever you write about, it must connect with the reader. If you write fiction, it must keep the reader entertained and be enjoyable; take the reader on an adventure. Writing is not a selfish act. If you say you write only for yourself, that’s called journaling which is great, but very different than writing for an audience.

Write for a reason: to give hope, to inspire, to make others laugh or to entertain, etc. Figure out what your purpose for writing is and focus in on it. This will help make you a better writer and marketer too.

If you feel stuck with where you are as a writer or marketer, fire me an email or leave a comment below. Let’s chat about it so you can find clarity and form a plan.

You Probably Should Not Be Reading This.

Photo by Eugene Zemlyanskiy

Still reading huh? I see how it is.

Well, this is part of the problem. When you have a piece of interesting content nearby, you consume it.

You may even keep track of how many books you’re reading — you’ve got a certain goal you want to read this year.

You may even read a book (or more) a week. Or maybe you read countless blog posts.

It’s great that you love reading.

But if you are plowing through a lot of content at a rapid pace, you can’t really reflect on it or apply it to any part of your life can you?

In some cases, you may actually learn something.

But in most cases, you just get a slight variation on something you already know. Or maybe it goes in one ear and out the other.

This is especially the case with nonfiction.

Have you read ________ book? It’s great.

So you pick up the book.

Instead of doing your own work, you spend time consuming content.

The cycle continues.

Now I know my credibility is questionable at best and I am somewhat a hypocrite stating this as a nonfiction author myself. Heck, even writing this post makes me somewhat hypocritical. Just hear me out.

But not all content is created equal. Some books are absolutely filled with fluff. Some books are essentially blog post and then a hundred pages of padding. Some books are great. Some blog posts are great.

But don’t rationalize what you know is really procrastination as learning.

For the past three months, I’ve been on a nonfiction break.

This break has resulted in many great benefits:

  • I’m more creative.
  • I’m not remotely worried about what other people are doing.
  • My confidence has increased in shaping my own path.

And it feels very refreshing.

A friend of mine only reads books that are not popular. I love this approach, but even too much of that is a bad thing.

When you fill yourself with the same things everyone else is consuming, you will never reach your creative potential.

When you go to the buffet, you fill up your plate and probably even go back for seconds. Just keep filling the plate. Dessert? Sure, why not.

Afterwards you feel bloated and tired, right? You ate too much.

You can apply this concept toward the content you consume.

This is not to say stop reading altogether.

Or maybe you need to.

You have to be completely honest with yourself.

This means asking some really tough questions.

  • Are you really procrastinating?
  • Are you a content curator or a content creator?
  • Are you reading books about leadership instead of actually leading?

I don’t know about you, but it’s time to quit reading (or talking) about the work and start doing the work. It’s time to call out procrastination and not rationalize it away.

Don’t Worry About Platform. (Focus On THIS Instead.)

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Over the last few years, there has been an unhealthy obsession with platform building.

No matter if you are big or small, it seems like everyone assumes that “you need a platform” or that you need “to grow your platform.”

But the truth is you don’t.

Not at all.

You don’t need your own self-hosted website.

You don’t need to be on Twitter or Facebook or whatever other social media platform, either.

You just have to create work that is either remarkable or great. (Preferably both.)

Good work won’t cut it.

And let’s face it—this is where the REAL pressure lies.

Ever heard of Sturgeon’s Law? It applies here.

Author and critic Theodore Sturgeon stated “90 percent of everything is crap.”

Sounds harsh, I know.

Not saying it is completely (or always) true, but let’s face it–we are flooded with content and information.

And most of it isn’t worth your time, right?

Use Sturgeon’s Law to your advantage.

Here’s how you can apply this concept to your own work.

If you want to create something great, 90% of the time it won’t happen on a whim.

90% of the time, finishing something will take you much, much longer than you think it will.

Be picky. Develop your sense of taste and be really, really honest with yourself.

Platforms don’t really come into the equation here, do they.

If anything, most of the time, platform building is a serious distraction (if not the number one distraction) from doing REAL work.

Focusing on platform before creating great work is the same as putting the cart before the horse.

Seriously, what matters is that you create great, remarkable work.

People will take notice, I promise.

Create more great work. And then more. And more.

This isn’t about building a Wizard of Oz-like platform filled with slick website plugins, amazing popups that convert, and demonstrating your social media prowess.

The person with the slickest website and the most Twitter followers doesn’t win.

Rather, it’s about shipping your work. And failing. And experimenting. And building again. And tweaking. And shipping more work.

When you create great work, you can share it however you’d like.

Great, remarkable work opens many different doors.

There are over a BILLION websites out there. Do you really think that you only have ONE approach for how you share your work with others?

It’s time to get creative. It’s time to move forward instead of copying what everyone else is doing.

Marketing strategy for a product is not something you cut and paste. (And neither is creativity for that matter.)

There is no perfect formula for everyone, despite what some say.

Pay attention to who is actually creating great work and support it.

Ignore those who spend the majority of their time talking about work.

Anything you do online can likely be justified as “platform building” but it is really just procrastination.

Talk is cheap. Hustling like crazy costs you something.

So what are you going to do?

There are three words that are a good indicator if you are on the right track.

Three simple words that separate the wannabes from the veterans.

“Real artists ship.” Steve Jobs

How do you feel about platform building? Is it a distraction from doing real work or a valuable tool that helps you? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

5 Things To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

Frustration stress and writers block with old typewriter on desk

Let’s face it, there are some days where you simply would rather juggle rattlesnakes than put words on the page.

This is normal.

This is all part of the process.

Every single writer on the planet feels like this at times.

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So what can you do about it? (I highly recommend not throwing your computer, even if you want to.)

1. Talk it out.

There are many voice dictation software apps you can use. One of the best is Dragon Dictation (free for iOS and Android). Is it perfect? No, it’s not. But it can be really handy. I wrote a good portion of this book using this approach. It definitely works. So if you’ve got a commute, instead of listening to music, now you can just listen to the sound of your own sweet voice.

2. Hit the road. 

A change of scenery can do wonders. Instead of working at your desk, go to the coffee shop. Go to the library. If the weather is nice, write outdoors. Writers–myself included–often spend too much time alone. You have to interact with other people in REAL life, not just the ones in your head.

3. Write anyways.

This is what separates the real writers from the amateurs. Maybe you feel you have nothing to say. In most of those cases, it is really just fear and you need to get your thoughts down on paper. Have a “inspiration file” filled with prompts and ideas. Copy out a chapter or two of a book that you really admire. There are a million ways to get the creative ball rolling.

Even just a few words on the page is better than nothing. Morning pages by Julia Cameron is a great way to get into the “write anyways” habit. Writing only when you’re inspired is a fantastic way to never finish anything.

4. Watch a movie.

You have to be really careful with this one or you’ll find yourself spending hours on Netflix. Some writers are more visual, so watching a movie can be a good way to get the creative juices flowing. Here’s the catch: If you’re going to do this, you’ve GOT TO TAKE NOTES. No mindless vegging on the couch. You must stay engaged and keep your mind moving, okay?

5. Listen to music.

There’s something incredible about music that can move you in ways that even words can’t express. Since creativity often leads to more creativity, why not give your favorite record a spin? It’s a really simple way to find some inspiration.

But here’s the VERY BEST way…

In my experience, the BEST way to write when you don’t feel like it is to have some accountability.

Let’s face it, when you set a deadline and there is no consequence for breaking it, you are much more likely to let the deadline get pushed back.

This nasty habit completely destroys your confidence.

Soon you start to wonder if you can ever finish anything.

When you have rock-solid support and accountability, you suddenly have extra momentum around your writing.

To help with this, In the next week I’ll be starting the next 90-Day Writers Mastermind with my good friend Kent Sanders. Kent is one of the brightest and most creative people I know. He’s also the author of The Artist’s Suitcase and editor for The Good Men Project.

For just the cost of a cup of coffee you can have not one but TWO writing coaches cheering you on.

Pretty awesome, right?

Don’t you want to see how much you can grow over the next three months instead of staying stuck?

You’ll get a private coaching session with Kent and myself as well as group calls and we’ll even edit some of your writing too.

It’s time to step forward with confidence and say, “I’m a real writer. This is not a hobby.”

Hurry as we are limiting the group to a maximum of 6 people so you can get the personal attention you deserve.

Do you have any tips for what you do when you don’t feel like writing? Please share in the comments.

 

Write Something Scary Or Watch Your Creativity Die

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You have a ton of content in front of you: videos, books, blog posts, podcasts and more.

Digesting it all feels kinda like work, right?

You even know the routines of the top writers, and probably have even taken a course or two.

So much content.

When you sit down to write yourself, your writing is just…kind of…dull.

I get it.

And I know it happens to all writers at times.

But you’re killing your creativity by not being YOURSELF.

Being yourself can be really scary.

Fear kicks in, and you try to ignore it.

Follow the path of least resistance also known as the simple formula everyone else uses.

Fear tells you to go do something safe and familiar. 

You KNOW you want to do something else—but this comes with great uncertainty.

Failure is a distinct possibility, if not a certainty (at times).

Maybe you want to write a fantasy novel or a thriller.

Or write a book that you’ve been holding inside for a while.

Maybe it’s time to question some “expert” advice on your blog. (There are no real experts—we are all students.)

You know in your gut that you want to do something different, but you hold back.

To write something great, put something on the line.

You can’t hold back. There are a million (or even a billion) safe books and blog posts out there.

Creativity is all about pushing, stretching and even crushing boundaries.

In the words of Charles Bukowski, “don’t write something dull and boring and pretentious, the libraries of the world have yawned themselves to sleep over those books.”

The majority of blog posts on the web fall into this category too.

Why? They are so safe and interchangeable.

It’s better to be wrong for something you actually believe in than to just repeat what has already been said a billion times before.

You can TRY to build a platform based on safe writing (and having everyone like you) but it won’t work. 

Politicians worry about the masses liking them. Real artists don’t. There will always be critics.

Step up and embrace the scary writing you really want to do.

You won’t truly be satisfied as a writer until you do.

There will be consequences from this.

You’ll may offend someone.

You may have a bestseller.

You may grow as a writer and decide to go in a different direction with your writing altogether.

Fear and failure are always part of the creative process. 

The question is whether or not you admit this.

I know these are not popular or even fun topics, but to be truly satisfied with your creative output, you must constantly challenge yourself.

The one word that crushes fear is support.

Having support is the key to creative success.

When you surround yourself with others who cheer you on, and are fighting the same creative battles you are, you will find you can reach new heights.

I wouldn’t be here today if not for a group of great men and women who have supported me and encouraged me.

I’m starting a writer’s mastermind in November (the perfect compliment to NaNoWriMo) and I’d like to invite you to be a part of it.

The focus will be on ONE THING–writing the content that is burning your insides.

The writing that scares you and you know you need to write.

Is it right for everyone? No. I only want writers who are frustrated with safe writing and are ready to smash the status quo into pieces.

I am even including a Write Publish Share membership with this exclusive mastermind (over a $129.99 value!).

But hurry, I’m limiting the number to the first ten people.

For less than $2 per day, why not take your writing to the next level?

Get the support and help you need. Don’t try to do this alone. Let’s do this together.

Sign Up For The 90-Day Writer’s Mastermind By Clicking Here. 

 

What is some scary writing you know you should do? Share in the comments.

 

Helpful Tips For Creating Impressive Headlines

Young funny man in glasses writing on typewriter

Today’s guest post is by Chassie Lee. She is the Content Expert for eReflect – creator of Ultimate Vocabulary which is currently being used by tens of thousands of happy customers in over 110 countries.

 

There’s no doubt most bloggers struggle to create unique headlines. You must grab a reader’s attention and the headline is by far the best way to engage a reader.

What makes a reader skip over a headline? Remember that people consume content superficially. They scroll down their Facebook feed mechanically, only stopping when something shocks or impresses them. When all headlines look the same, and nothing piques their interest anymore.

Whatever the cause, you can find the solution by learning to create compelling headlines that get your content noticed.

Know Your Audience Really Well.

One reason that headlines are ignored is that they’re not tailored or optimized for the intended audience.

You must have a very clear idea of who it is you’re writing for. You need to know what they’re concerned with, what their problems are, and how you can present them with the solution they need.

See what you audience responds well to by looking at posts and other online media they have shared, liked, and commented on, both on your own website and on those you’re writing for.

Use Proven Headline Strategies.

Effective headlines tap into the science of human psychology. Headlines should evoke curiosity, include numbers, be specific, ask questions the audience cares about, and include the element of surprise.

People are drawn in when you surprise and challenge them, and even more attracted by the opportunity to express their membership or exclusivity in a community.

That’s why headline formulas like these really work:

“Little known ways to write better headlines”

“Create headlines like David Ogilvy”

“5 tips for writing headlines people will love”

“Who else wants better headlines for their blog posts?”

“Little known ways to __________” speaks to the human need for becoming better and finding out things that other people don’t know. People compete with each other in many ways. Success is about going to places others don’t or can’t, and these “little known ways” imply an exclusivity, a promise of achieving that success.

The same applies for the second formula. “Create [something] like [top example you can think of]” is a phrase that piques our curiosity and ties into our aspirations to be as good as the best people in our chosen field, sport, niche, or neighborhood.

Six-Word Headlines Work Best

According to a KISSmetrics usability research reveals that the ultimate headline is six words long.

Readers tend to only read the first three and last three words when looking at a headline, so making it six words long allows you to hit the sweet spot. Users will read your headline, get hooked, and read further.

The Ultimate Headline Formula

Jeff Goins says there’s an ultimate headline formula for creating headlines that rock every single time.

That formula is as follows: Numbers + Adjective + Target Keyword + Rationale + Promise

Here’s an example:

5 research-backed ways to create attractive headlines people will love

Experiment with several formulas to find those that resonate best with your audience. Write shorter and longer headlines using different formats, and check the click rates. Most importantly, invest time in creating your headlines. You might have to write 50 headlines that don’t work before you come up with one that grabs your readers’ attention, but that’s time you won’t regret.

David Ogilvy said that on average only eight in ten readers will bother reading a headline. Of those eight, just two will read further.

Make sure you give your readers a reason to read on.

 

What is your biggest struggle with writing headlines? Share in the comments.

 

The 3 kinds of writers and why one DOMINATES the competition

 

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Ever feel like only a select group of writers are really crushing it?

Not just one time; it’s the same group that are consistently dominating the rest. They have the bestsellers, they get the most traffic, they get the social shares and have great products.

Who says you can’t do the same? YOU CAN.

You likely have the writing chops to THRIVE instead of barely survive.

“There are three different kinds of writers:

Those who write without thinking.

Those who think while they write.

The writers who think before they write.”

Very few writers fall into the last category.

That is a summary of something once said by Victor O. Schwab. (Who wrote this great book you really should buy.)

If you want to stand out, think before you write.

If you aren’t getting the response you want, many times problem often lies in your approach.

Many—if not most—writers sit in front of the computer, type out something and then just publish it.

This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

There’s no strategy, no vision, no reason for publishing other than some “expert” said to post everyday (or every other day.)

Very, very few work on a headline for a few hours.

Take any “rule” you read as a suggestion and then put your own personality into it.

Be opinionated. Be willing to be wrong. Be willing to stand out and even look a little foolish. The good news is, you have thought about what you are writing, so even if you are wrong, you have good reasoning behind it.

It’s better to be wrong for the right reasons than it is to just flat out get lucky for no reason.

You’re a writer. You aren’t playing the “I’m going to be famous for that one thing I wrote that one time” game.

Let’s chat about this more in the comments. What is your writing approach? How can you take your writing to a new level?

 

 

3 Things To Tell People Who Do Not Understand Your Dream

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So you’re hustling on your dream. Giving it everything you’ve got.

Then come the questions, uninvited feedback and snarky comments about what you’re doing.

I still remember the first time I told my family I’m pursuing writing seriously.

Most responses were very positive.

But one response? “Don’t quit your day job.” And that is all that was said.

Ouch. (Although that is TOTALLY what I did a couple years later–so there’s that. )

You’ll inevitably run into some friends, family and even acquaintances who do not understand or remotely support your dream.

They simply don’t get it.

They may even say things that sting or just ask a bunch of questions. How can you respond? What can you do?

To help you out, here are three responses you can use:

1. Yeah, I might be crazy…

But remember when I did fill in the blank? Then just give an example of how you realized being a writer, zookeeper, astronaut, balloon animal maker  or whatever else it is you want to do is your dream.

See how this is a great icebreaker and also a lead in for showing this isn’t really a “new” part of you?

Your dream is not actually something new–you just pushed this interest to the side for a while.

Now you know it is time to pursue what you enjoy again.

2. Thanks for looking out for me. 

Most people are afraid of what they don’t know or understand. And in many cases others do not want you to do something stupid or extreme like quitting your job (although in some cases that may be what is needed. If you need some support, I’m glad to help).

A few may be a bit jealous that you are pursuing something you are really passionate and excited about. That’s alright. They are used to the “old you” not the “new you.” Put yourself in their shoes and give as much grace as possible. You can always mention that you are a working on the side, a term often called moonlighting or sidehustle.

Then along come the haters… (cue the dramatic music)

What should you say to them?

3. Say nothing at all.

Don’t try to “win them over.” If it is online, just don’t give a response.

If this is a friend or family member, just simply switch the topic. If they attack your dream, in some cases it could be constructive criticism honestly–because dreamers are hustlers, you are likely sleep deprived, right? So again, just take the high road.

Negative feedback and snarky comments are going to happen at some point. This just makes it more obvious that they are jealous or simply just do not understand what you are doing.

In some cases, this could also stem from the old school mindset of working at one job all your life that you hate. Not everyone will be your ally. That’s why it is really important to have support. Have a close group of friends you can talk with who understand how you feel and what you are going through.

 

How do you handle the questions from those who don’t understand your dream? Leave a comment below.

 

Do you need some additional help? Please know I’m here to help you–schedule a free 20 minute consult and I’ll be glad to talk with you so you can get some encouragement and practical advice.  

Dear writer with countless half-finished stories

Man dreaming over books

I know how you feel. It absolutely sucks to have a pile of half finished works laugh at your face. The scribbled sentences start to taunt you and the blank pages stare back with contempt.

Or maybe you are just starting out and you are paralyzed with indecision, afraid to start.

But the truth is, no writer on the planet has everything figured out, even if they act like they do (especially online).

Fear plays a very large role in the writing process.

Stories change as you write them. No writer writes the book they first envision in their head. It is common for your interests to change in a blink of an eye — especially if you spend too much time online. (Here are two ways to spend more time writing instead of spinning your wheels.)

The best writing advice in the world is really simple: just write.

But please allow me to elaborate — you have to be willing to suck. Even when every part of you wants to stop. Even when you start to hate every word you’ve written, you have to finish.

The perfectionist inside your head is your worst enemy. (Click to Tweet)

You do not really know until you finish something if a piece is good or not. But the inner critic acts as if you know how the puzzle looks before it is actually finished.

Ignore the inner critic and keep your head down. Put words on the page.

Don’t forget that 99.999% of all rough drafts absolutely suck. They do. Rewriting and editing is what makes your stories shine. But no editor can help you with a story that is not finished. Complete the rough draft. You will make it better.

Clarity only comes with hard work. You must put in the work. There is no substitute. This could mean spending 8 hours on a blog post that gets no traction. Spending a month on a short story that is mediocre.

Pull a page out of the pile and just finish the story. You’ve got this. Just keep writing. Whatever you do, keep writing.

Need more help? I can help you by offering you practical, useful ways to finish your work and grow as a writer.

Why Hating Your Job Is A Good Thing

 

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So let’s say you hate your job.

It’s okay, you can admit it.

Statistics say around 2/3 people feel this way.

Punch in. Punch out. The days blur together and turn into weeks and months.

Close your eyes to blink and years have flown by.

When Friday or Saturday comes along, you’re actually a little happy. A couple days of freedom.

But when Sunday evening comes, you are the ultimate Debbie Downer as Monday is just a few hours away.

You may even feel a little crazy–but you’re really not.

In this case, hating your job and feeling crazy is a gift.

Your frustration is a gift. It is much better than just being unhappy.

Most people choose being unhappy because it is familiar. 

Being unhappy is actually not even scary; you’ll try to distract yourself or even numb the pain.

Pick up a bottle, watch TV, surf the web. There are a million ways to drift along.

But when you hate your job, hiding how you really feel only works for so long.

When you settle for something, you know you are not really alive.

You know you are meant to do more.

Please don’t ignore what you know you are meant to do.

It’s time to do something about it!

Use your frustration as fuel to fire yourself up and start experimenting.

Can you relate to this?