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Writing and Publishing

The Power of Podcasting: Four Reasons to Have an Author Podcast

It seems people are jumping on the podcasting bandwagon. They want to grow their audience and build their platform in order to sell their books (or whatever other product or service they have to offer).

This makes sense. Look at the recent surge of interest in audiobooks, with people who “read” books by listening to a recording. They do this during their commute to and from work, as they exercise, or when they attend to projects around the house. They have become voracious “readers” without ever opening a book or turning on their e-reader.

Podcasting extends the audiobook mindset. A podcast simply becomes another audio expression for these folks to consume.

Here are some of the benefits of author podcasts:

Another Channel to Reach Readers

A natural communication channel for writers is the written word. Blogging connects nicely with that. Readers read books; readers read blogs. It makes sense, a lot of sense. However readers who listen to books won’t likely read a blog, but they will likely listen to a podcast. With podcasting, writers have two ways to reach their audience.

Another Means to Connect with Readers

When we read a book or blog post we use the sense of sight to see the words. When we listen to a book or a podcast we use the sense of sound. With audio, we use voice inflections, interject emphasis, and add timing to each sentence as we speak. These benefits of audio all allow us a better means to connect with our audience.

Another Creative Outlet For Authors

Writing is a creative art; so is speaking. Both communicate but in different ways. Both provide creative outlets, but which tap different aspects of our creativity.

A Fun Break From Writing

No matter how much we like to write, we all need to take a break. After all, once we spend a full day working on our book, do we really want to spend another hour writing a blog post? Not likely, but spending that hour on podcasting provides a nice alternative to writing. Then we can return to writing with a refreshed perspective.

Given these great benefits, you might be ready to jump on the podcasting bandwagon. Not so fast. First, you need to consider whether podcasting is right for you. Next week I’ll look at my experience with podcasting, which should provide some more insight into this intriguing communication option.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Put Our Writing Platform in It’s Place

At one time, I became preoccupied with my writing platform. This was a huge mistake.

It nearly ruined my career and almost destroyed me as a writer. I lost the joy of writing and was ready to give up. It wasn’t until I stopped fixating on growing my platform that my passion to write returned.

Having said that, I’m still working on growing my writing platform, but I’m not putting an unhealthy amount of pressure on myself. I do what I can and don’t fret (too much) about the results.

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Writing and Publishing

A Traditional Published Author Needs to Be an Entrepreneur

Just like their self-published counterparts, a traditionally published author has much to do besides writing

In the last post, I pointed out that self-published authors need to be entrepreneurs and listed what that entailed. The reality is that a traditionally published author needs to adopt this same mindset, being entrepreneurial as well.

A given requirement is writing a great book.

The next step is finding an agent, who will find a publisher. To get the attention of both, many writers first hire—and pay—a developmental editor, copyeditor, and proofreader to help them make their work the best it can be before the agent or publisher even sees it.

The author also needs to conduct market research to write a compelling proposal. For nonfiction authors, success in all this, however, largely hinges of them having a platform, from which they can sell their books. Fiction authors don’t face as much pressure to have a platform, but it still helps.

Landing an agent, who will hopefully land a publisher, doesn’t mean the author’s job is done, however. Once the book is published, which could take a year or more, the author must also promote, market, and sell their books. Yes, the publisher will do this, but they’ll expect the author to do most of the work.

No one will be more passionate and have more at stake than the author. This may involve hiring a publicist.

In addition to writing a great book, the traditionally published author needs to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, handling the following tasks:

  • Build a platform
  • Conduct market research
  • Hire a developmental editor, copyeditor, or proofreader
  • Find a publicist
  • Handle marketing and promotion
  • Develop and execute paid advertising

The days of sending your manuscript to your publisher and letting them take it from there are over. Even with a traditional publisher, the author still has a lot of extra work to do. Maybe self-publishing isn’t such a bad idea after all.

What if you don’t want to be an entrepreneur and just want to write? There’s another option: become a ghostwriter.

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Writing and Publishing

Do You Need a Blog to Build Your Author Platform?

Too many experts say writers must blog, but that may not be good advice

As writers, we’re told that if we want to be successful at publishing our work, then we need an author platform. Yes, this is true. Publishers expect writers to have a platform. In fact, it seems, the platform may supersede writing quality. After all, a publisher can fix our writing much easier than they can build up our author platform.

A common example of building an author platform is blogging. At one time blogging was held up as an essential requirement if a writer wanted to land a publishing deal. I think this has moderated somewhat in the past couple of years, but there are still many voices saying that writers need a blog if they hope to find success.

So, do you need to blog to build your author platform?

Since I am a blogger, it may surprise you to hear me say the answer is no. As a writer, you do not need a blog.

  • If logging will distract you from writing, then don’t blog.
  • If blogging is something you dread, then you shouldn’t do it.
  • If blogging will rob you of joy or suck the life out of you, then you shouldn’t do it.

Don’t let someone guilt you into blogging if you don’t want to do it. Readers will know your heart’s not in it, and they won’t follow you. When this happens your blogging accomplishes nothing. However…

  • If you like to blog, then maybe you should.
  • If blogging serves as a creative outlet, then go ahead and pursue it.
  • If you enjoy connecting with readers through your blog, then blog away.

A couple of years ago, I gave a presentation about blogging at a writer’s conference. A few months later I ran into someone who heard my presentation, and she was quick to thank me.

She said because of my talk she decided not to blog. I was devastated and felt I had failed her. But she was quick to clarify. She said that in listening to me, she realized she didn’t want to blog but felt she was supposed to. My words gave her the freedom to say, “No,” and she was grateful for it.

If blogging is a burden, you shouldn’t do it. Focus on writing first, and worry about the platform later.


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Writing and Publishing

RIP Google+

Google+ Shuts Down April 2, 2019

Google+ launched in June 2011, among much fanfare, to challenge other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Specifically, it was Google’s attempt to go head to head with Facebook.

Over the years, Google+ has gone through some changes and endured much criticism, while gaining a few loyal users.

I was on Google+, but I wondered why. I never did get it.

In 2018 Google announced it would shut down Google+ in 2019. No one seemed to care, and many said, “It’s about time.”

April 2, 2019, marks the end of Google+.

As for social media, I’m on enough other platforms to keep me busy: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Goodreads.

See you there, but not on Google+.


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Writing and Publishing

UR Turn: Other Social Media Platforms for Writers

With no shortage of social media platforms to consider, several may warrant attention

So far we’ve talked about Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

But there are hundreds of other social media platforms to consider. While some platforms are obscure, others garner much more attention.

Though some of these social media outposts are worthy of consideration, my varying degrees of involvement on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest already takes up too much of my time. So, I’ll not add a fifth to the mix.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Perhaps another social media platform works for you better or more effectively connects with your audience. Then maybe you should be there in place of one of the above options.

What other social media platforms do you use? What do you like about them?

Please include a link to your pages so others can find you there.


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Writing and Publishing

What to Do When You Can’t Do It All

The list of advice for writers is long, seemingly more than is humanly possible to accomplish

Advice for writers is never is a short supply. Just when we regularly carve out time to write, another requirement piles on our plate and then a third and a fourth. Before long we grow overwhelmed and want to give up.

I struggled for years to find time to write on a regular basis. Just as that skill began to solidify, someone dropped a bomb on my writing world. That missive said, “You need to read as much as you write.”

Yeah, right.

Now I have to take not enough time and cut it in two.

The next bomb, the most devastating of them all, demanded I build a platform. More requirements soon piled high on my list of impossible tasks.

Here are the main ones:

Write

As a writer, we need to write every day. Or at least we must write on a regular basis. For some people that means only a few minutes a day or maybe a couple of times a week.

If we claim the title of the writer and aren’t writing, something’s wrong. Writing is the first requirement of being a writer.

Read

To write well, we need to be informed. This means we must-read. We need to read in our genre and outside our genre. Through reading, we see what works and what doesn’t. We discover the techniques we like and the ones we don’t.

By reading widely, we cultivate our voice, develop our style, and feed our muse. Reading fuels our writing. But while the goal of spending as much time reading as writing makes for a compelling quip, it makes for better rhetoric than reality.

Still, as writers, we must-read.

Build a Platform

I’ll never forget the day an agent turned me down, not because of my writing or my ideas or my ability, but over the lack of a platform. Ouch. That hurt.

It seems writing and reading was not enough. I needed to build and then grow a platform, too. How much time should I invest in platform building? One piece of advice was as much time as I spend writing.

If you’re good at math, you’re seeing the rub: 50 percent of my time writing, 50 percent reading, and 50 percent on the platform. If that seems impossible, it is.

The next question is when should we start building our platform. Unfortunately, if we’re asking that question, we’re already behind.

Study

While writing is a good practice to help us improve, we improve faster if we study about writing. That doesn’t mean going back to college or enrolling in an MFA program, but it does mean taking intentional steps to improve. For me, that includes reading books and magazines about writing, listening to podcasts, and taking relevant online classes. These things take time.

Network

Next we must network. We need to know other writers. We need to meet agents, editors, and publishers. It’s good to have these contacts before we need them.

Market

Last is marketing. While this mostly takes place as our book nears publication, we must also market ourselves beforehand. We need a professional writer website, an active presence on some social media platforms, and the accouterments of being a writer, such as a headshot, business cards, an author bio, and so forth.

Does all this seem overwhelming? It is? Does it seem impossible to give everything its due? It is.

Somehow as writers, we need to juggle these expectations. We need to prioritize and squeeze things in and make sacrifices.

A few weeks ago, I ended the day with the irrational assessment that I can actually balance all these things. My satisfaction lasted for all but one day. I usually reach this place a couple of times a year, which means for the other 364 days of the year, I’m pulling my hair, screaming, and crying that I just can’t do it.

And you know what. I can’t, no one can.

But as we try to negotiate this list of impossible requirements, there’s one thing we must never forget.

We must write. Everything else is secondary.


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Writing and Publishing

A Salute to Carrie Fisher and a Lesson for Writers

What writers can learn from the life and career of Carrie Fisher

On December 26, 2016, my wife and I went to see the movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The next morning I learned that Carrie Fisher had died. Like most people, I knew her for her iconic performance as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise. Her obituary revealed so much more:

  • Worked steadily as an actress from 1975 through to her death
  • Author of several semi-autobiographical novels, including Postcards from the Edge
  • Wrote the screenplay for the film of the book
  • Starred in an autobiographical one-woman play
  • Author of the non-fiction book, Wishful Drinking, based on her play
  • Spoke about her experiences with bipolar disorder and drug addiction
  • Mental health advocate
  • Script doctor

All these items are impressive, but the last one caught my attention: script doctor. As the title suggests, a script doctor is someone who comes in to fix the screenplays of other writers. In short, when a screenplay is good but not working as well as it should, a script doctor reworks it to make it shine.

Carrie Fisher’s Wikipedia page says she was “one of the top script doctors in Hollywood.” Who would have thought? According to her Wikipedia page and her IMDB bio, here are some of the movies she worked on as a script doctor:

  • Hook
  • Sister Act
  • Lethal Weapon 3
  • Last Action Hero
  • The River Wild
  • The Wedding Singer
  • Coyote Ugly
  • My Girl 2
  • Outbreak
  • Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
  • Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
  • Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
  • Milk Money
  • Love Affair
  • Made in America

I’ve seen all but one of these flicks. In a lot of them she worked on dialogue or to develop a specific character. She worked as a script doctor for about fifteen years and said that at that time it was lucrative work (but apparently not so much anymore).

Carrie Fisher was known primarily as an actress, but she was also an author of books—both fiction and nonfiction—and screenplays, a script doctor, and an advocate. From her example, I have four takeaways for authors:

  1. Diversify our income stream. (She earned money as an actress, author, and script doctor.)
  2. Write in multiple genres. (She wrote fiction, nonfiction, and scripts.)
  3. Capitalize on our strengths. (She had a knack for dialogue and character development.)
  4. Use whatever platform we have to be a voice for what we’re passionate about. (She was able to use her popularity to talk about mental health issues and substance abuse.)

Thank you, Carrie Fisher. You entertained me and taught me about writing.

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Writing and Publishing

Should You Use Video to Grow Your Platform?

Video may be the next step in connecting and engaging with an audience

With advances in technology, and the power residing on every smartphone, it has never been easier to record a video and start a vlog. A vlog is a video blog. I’m a huge proponent of blogging and in the past tried the audio version of that: podcasting. (See The Power of Podcasting and My Experience With Podcasting.)

Moving a blog to video is the next evolution in communicating with our audience. Some people, such as Michael Hyatt, videotape their podcast sessions so they end up with a two for one deal: a podcast and a video.

Though a growing number of people consume information in video format this is mostly for short-form video: content lasting only a few minutes. Video increasingly pops up in social media, and starting a YouTube channel is a great tool to share and disseminate video content.

Longer form video, however, has one key disadvantage. It requires viewers to sit in front of a screen in order to consume the content. While video can be most engaging it requires a commitment on the part of the viewer to dedicate the time to watch it. With our short attention spans, few people are sufficiently patient.

As one adverse to being on camera, I know that vlogging is not for me. Yet for those who are comfortable being videotaped and enjoy the experience, vlogging may be the way to go.

A second consideration is our audience. Does our audience consume content via video? If so, this is another reason to pursue it. But if they prefer other forms of communication, then vlogging is a waste of our time.

While producing a video to grow our platform and connect with our audience may be an ideal opportunity for us, don’t jump in without considering the ramifications. First, are we ready for it? The second will our audience watch it?

What is your experience with video? How could a vlog grow your platform? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Writing and Publishing

How Building a Platform Almost Ruined My Writing Career

The more I focused on platform building, the less I enjoyed writing. I almost quit.

A few years ago, when I was still looking for an agent, I received some unexpected feedback. The agent liked me and my writing. He thought my book had merit. But despite all that he chose not to represent me. His reason was direct: “You have no platform.” Ouch!

He didn’t say, “Your platform isn’t big enough,” “We want to see a bigger following,” or even “Your platform is too small.” Each would have been a true statement, and I could have accepted that. But no. He said, “You have no platform.” His words smacked at the core of my being. It’s as if he stuck a knife in my heart and twisted it.

I doubt he meant to cause me pain, but he did. Words have an impact. I know. I write for a living.

So with renewed focus, I dove into growing my platform. I studied books, took online classes, and listened to podcasts about platform and branding. I followed blogs and copied what the big-platform people did. I put greater effort into blogging, looked at each social media platform I used to make it better and developed a consistent message across them all. I sought to engage with people online and build community.

I followed the steps of the gurus, the holders of grand, successful, platform-building outcomes. Eventually, I realized the truth of the oft-spoken disclaimer: “Individual results may vary.” Indeed few of their followers ever achieved their if-I-can-do-it-anyone-can-do-it results. That included me.

With so much emphasis on the platform, I had little time to write. I wrote infrequently and enjoyed it less. My fixation on the platform drained me of my passion for words. The size of my following became a burden, one harder to bear as time moved on.

Then one day I’d had enough. “If this is what it means to be a writer, I quit!” I gave up. But instead of relief, I grew even more miserable.

That was when I realized I could not write.

I scaled back my mostly unsuccessful platform efforts to what was doable without being overwhelming. I cleansed the evil of platform fixation from my soul and reclaimed my joy of writing.

I suspect I will always consider platform building and self-promotion as the dark side of writing, but as long as I keep the former in check, I can continue with the latter—and thoroughly enjoy it.

Frustration with my platform almost caused me to stop writing. But it didn’t. I’m still here, and I’m still writing—regardless of the size of my platform.

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