My dear friend Dan Blank, founder of We Grow Media, has been helping authors learn how to market their work for many years. Dan and I first met a few years back after I interviewed him for a company I was working with, and over time it has become abundantly clear we share common ideas on how authors can market their work without being that sleazy salesman. So when Dan got in touch about his new book, Be the Gateway, and asked if I’d be interested in partnering up with him for an interview I jumped at the chance to get some nuggets of wisdom for you.
And since this year is the year of shaking things up we decided what better way to present to you this content than with the first ever video interview I’ve hosted!
Below you’ll find the video interview and a complete transcript of the interview after that.
Video Interview (37:32)
Kate: Hello I’m Kate Tilton, founder of Kate Tilton Author Services, LLC, where I help authors upscale their businesses. Today I’m so pleased to have Dan Blank, founder of We Grow Media, with us today to talk about his new book “Be The Gateway”, a practical guide to sharing your creative work and engaging an audience; a perfect tool for any author’s toolbox. Hi Dan, thanks for being here!
Dan: Thank you for having me. It’s always fun to catch up.
Kate: Yeah, I’m so excited to have you here. I’ve already preordered my copy of your debut book.
Dan: Thank you.
Kate: So, can you tell us a bit about the book and why you wrote it?
Dan: Yeah, this book, in some ways it feels like a long time coming. So I’ve had my little company for six years now and I work with authors and creative professionals. And with what I do, I’m in the trenches with them. These are people who are launching books; they’re early career, mid-career, late career. And what goes on here is this idea of “how do you frame your creative work in a way that is engaging to an audience?” So last year, I worked with this mastermind group and I do videos for them and offhand I did this video called “Be The Gateway” and it sort of outlined this whole process of, instead of viewing your work as a product that’s a marketplace, of really thinking about what you’re creating for people in a different way. The way I talk about it in the book is this idea that a lot of people frame their success around what I call objects, tokens, or metrics. So it’s about how many followers they have, or if they have hit somewhere on a best-seller list, or if they receive an award or a view. And what I find after working with so many authors who are mid-career and later is how hollow those things are. So this whole book is about ‘how do you engage an audience in a way that feels meaningful,’ where it feels fulfilling and it feels like you are actually affecting other people’s lives, not just putting a product out into the marketplace.
Kate: I love that concept. I think we both do similar work; we’re in the trenches working with authors. And it really is. I hear authors who are told so frequently “you need to be on all these social media sites,” and it’s numbers, numbers, numbers; but at the end of the day if you don’t have an engaged audience, then you’re not doing fulfilling work, then what does it matter? It’s one of those things, too, where it’s easy to get hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter, but if those people aren’t engaged and they’re not really your true audience, what’s the point?
Dan: Yeah, I often think about it in two ways. When you think about the actual work, the actual books, whether it’s a novel or a memoir, non-fiction book, really thinking about what do you want the impact of that to be on someone’s life? Really thinking about the idea that you want them to buy it and read it, but more than that you want them to think about that character four years later when they’re going through a difficult time in their life. You want, if it’s a nonfiction book or a memoir, you want them to have had an insight from you that they always think back on. And again, that’s I think the distinction between the idea of ‘just go for followers and kind of short term rush that doesn’t really have depth’ versus really thinking about “I’ve created this book, and this is how it can really shape someone’s life.” So, that’s a little bit of a different way of looking at it, but I agree; I love that you look at it that way as well.
Kate: Yeah, so one of the questions I had for you is “how does that book help accomplish this kind of mind-shift from thinking about just numbers and that kind of success into thinking about the real fulfillment of being an author and still hitting those marks of success?” A lot of authors, the running business is, they still need to have sales. Do how do we balance between just doing what you love to do and being successful?
Dan: So the way I broke up the book was in three sections. The first is the idea of building your gateway, and that’s you really looking at who you are and what you want to create and what your creative work is; how do you best represent that, how do you really zoom in on what you’re creating and why you’re creating and how you can share that. The second part of the idea is opening the gate, which is sort of really all about audience research. And I know you’re really big into this, but I always feel like people just simply skip the audience research piece; they have an idea and they jump right to marketing, right to social media and then they get frustrated because they’re all like “I don’t know who my audience is or I don’t know anything about them” and if there’s that big middle ground, the idea that you built this gateway, you know you’re so clear about what you want to create and why and kind of communicate that. And then really focusing on the people you want to reach and getting to know them one by one. And the last whole section is the idea of walking someone through the gate and to me it’s this idea: there’s a phrase in of “Don’t go viral.” And the idea there is not that I don’t want you to have massive success, it’s the idea that there’s so much to be gained when you understand what you’re about, understand your audience, and then you take the time one by one to really bring them through the gate; to really see how they experience your work and work like yours. And that’s the kind of thing that scales. I had a ton of step-by-steps in the book, a ton of examples, but I think that oftentimes you look at our creative heroes, you’ll see that example of how they went to that book-reading, that book-signing, and they stayed there for four hours and they were talking to people, and all I think is: that’s amazing. How come you can’t do that when you have fifteen followers or fifteen fans, why don’t you treat those fans like David Sedaris treats the 500 fans that show up to an event? Why is that so impossible? So that’s what we focus on, a lot of step-by-step.
Kate: Yeah, and you’re right, that’s really my jam. So a lot of authors that I work with consulting, right, we go into that kind of marketing. And sometimes the authors I meet, it’s not like they don’t understand the idea, but they’ve never been actually told. It’s not something we learn in school unless you go to a marketing course. So what is the target audience, what does that term even mean? Because I find a lot of gurus will throw those terms around with broad overall “hey yeah, you need to find your target audience and then go on social media and reach them,” but how do you do it? That’s one of the things I’m really excited to hear your book is about. That’s one of the things I’m working on with my course. Because it’s something that every time I talk to an author, that is what we talk about. They come to me like “I need help with social media.” We always go back to “well who is your audience, and who are you trying to reach?” Link decided he wants to be in the video, too. And then the second part of it is you’re right, why don’t we do things when we have smaller audiences? I’d rather have a hundred really passionate fans who are my target audience and who I’m writing for, who I’m creating content for, than to have thousands of people who are just there because they thought it was cool to follow me or something. It’s not a real connection and I think that’s why we get along so well, because we really believe in this idea of “let’s nurture the audience, let’s build real connections.” So are there any tips you have for authors about how they can build genuine connections that are about the connection, versus “what can I get out of it?”
Dan: Yeah, definitely, there’s so much I’m trying to think of where to start. So one thing I think would be the idea of becoming a student of your audience. If you understand your work, you have to understand your work how it fits in the marketplace. One example I’ll go through, one of the practices, the idea of finding comps, so finding comparable work to what you do. And these comps have to be current, they’ve got to be things that have been in the last couple years, and they’re not going to exact. I’ve seen so many authors go through this and they reject every other book in the world because their book is a special snowflake. And I don’t say that it isn’t; I know that is a truly unique work that is that from your heart, but it exists in a marketplace. You want to engage an audience. This audience has a worldview. The have a narrative that they tell in their head. So identifying what other books and movies and stories do they love? And when you do that really looking at the other authors who write those, are really studying those people looking at all the of social media not as a broadcast mechanism but more as a research tool. So if you can find five comparable authors to what you do, and you can observe how they engage in online and social media, and more importantly you can look at their audience. You can look at what people are saying to them, you can go on Youtube and look at book talks that they give in a bookstore or library and see, well what do people ask them? What do these people look like? You can go on Amazon and look at all the reviews and see the names of the people, and see how did they talk about this, but why did those books resonate with them? It’s almost like the reader is giving you a script about why do they love books like this, what is it that just jumped out at them, what hit them and what didn’t? And I find a lot of this process forces you to challenge your own assumptions. An example I give in the book, but I’ll talk about here a little bit, is I work with quite a few historical fiction authors; and it’s interesting in that sometimes, you know, they do all this research into real history and so much what they uncover is truly fascinating. One thing that you will sometimes find, depending on what kind of novel it is and what kind of audience, is that yes they want the history to be there. And it’s compelling but it’s not the main thing. And you can sometimes have an author say the “historical research I did is the main thing and I use that to create these interesting characters.” And the reader is like, “look at how interesting these characters are, oh it’s kinda cool this is based on real history.” When you look at the audience you start understanding it from their point of view, and I think that that’s one thing. I think baked into that process is the idea of developing colleagues. You should have colleagues, you should know other authors who write books that are maybe similar to yours. You should be talking to librarians and booksellers and people who are broadly, in this community, supporting that; people who organize conferences. You don’t call the because you want them to feature you; you call them, you email them, you connect with them because just like you said “Dan, you do similar work as me, we get along, we should probably be really good friends.” And it’s that same type of an ethos of you’re going to learn from them just by observing them, just by knowing them. And I think with that with both the idea of colleagues and of engaging with your audience, find some least crowded channels. I think the thing that always surprises me is how much people rely on social media and how they forget to use email, they forget to use the telephone, they forget to use Skype, like we’re talking on. They forget the fact that they can show up somewhere and have lunch with someone, or show up to someone’s meeting. These are such powerful tools and most adults I know will bemoan how quick everything moves, and social media “oh it’s all these tweets it’s so stupid.” And then you’ll say “why don’t you email that person, and why don’t you have a conversation with them?” And they’re like “Well, I don’t know about that!” Because there’s a lot of social fear involved which I have a lot of empathy for, but I talk a lot about that in the book as well. That’s a few ways I would talk about breaking into really identifying your audience, and thinking about ‘how does one engage with them?’
Kate: I love both of these things! So when you talk about engaging the authors and our audience and comparable authors, that is something that I teach authors. I do one-on-one consulting and we do the same thing. I’m like: “find books that are comparable.” And I have had authors who are like, “well, my book is that special snowflake, it doesn’t really fit in any genre.” And, look okay, maybe it doesn’t fit in any particular genre or category, but what’s the heart of your story? Like what are you trying to convey with your story? Is this a story about coming-of-age, is it about finding about who you are, your sexuality? Is it social justice, is it just for entertainment purposes? None of those are wrong, but what’s the heart of your story; because that will help you then find those comparable authors. Because you might say “well, this book isn’t technically this genre but it has that same kind of feel. Like I know someone who read that book is going to like reading my book as well.” And that is a huge start into the whole marketing thing, and we could literally talk about that forever. I wish I could because I love talking about that kind of stuff. But on the second side of also finding out people that you can, you know, build partnerships with and friendships with, I think are really important. One of the awesome things about this community, this industry, is that we’re not all really quite in competition with each other. It’s not like gasoline, that’s kind of the same no matter where you go, right? We as authors, or as people who provide services for authors, we all have our special thing to offer. You might write a thriller book, and this other person write a thriller book, but a reader’s going to read more than one book a year in most cases. Right? So it’s better to be partners with that other thriller author than to kind of fight against them. And I love that.
Dan: I always think about this as ‘what kind of lifestyle do you want to lead?’ And in the nineties I managed the cafe and I was very involved in the arts community, and what you saw back then before the bigness of the internet, certainly before the social internet, was you saw this; You saw that someone who was a performer or an artist or musician or a writer, they showed up places. They had colleagues, they had peers, they went somewhere they engaged with people because that was the only way to do it. And it wasn’t just ‘that’s how you market work,’ it was the idea of ‘this is how that person lives’; they’re a writer who engages with all these other thinkers and writers and they have conversations with people who love the kind of stories that they do. And again it goes back to what I said in the beginning about the idea of finding a fulfilling way to do this. I think that too often writers approach as “well, there’s the writing process, then you market,” and then you run away because marketing is horrible. And it’s like —
Dan: You know, why don’t we think about the lifestyle that you want to lead as it relates to this work and how it lives and then how you make that feel fulfilling. And that’s kind of the way I like to think about all of this.
Kate: I love that, too, because I feel like having colleagues, or partners, or just friends who are in the industry, it makes us better people and makes us better at writing or producing products or just helping people. I mean the core of my business has always been “I like helping people.” I also really liked books, so the fact that I can help authors was just perfect. But I find that by having conversations with people, having those relationships, having an editor; if I have a blog post that I really want to get perfect, I send it to an editor. It’s going to be a better blog post at the end of the day. I got a partner for my online courses because I decided, you know what, I could do it on my own, or partner with someone and make even better products in the end and help more people and reach more people. And so it’s mutually beneficial for both of us plus, for everyone we’re going to touch. So I love that kind of concept and I love the idea that you brought up of actually having phone calls, having skype conversation doing email, or just going in person. So, I cannot tell you how many people I have had as clients who I’ve met in person, or just relationships that I built from meeting people in person. And I’m sure you have stories like that; do you have any you want to share?
Dan: Yeah, I mean, I think that an interesting thing about going through the publishing process is that you really learn the value of what you just said, which is the value of partners. Whether you’re designing a book cover, or having it edited, or someone to format the book, or someone who is helping to promote the book, or even initiate with it, the idea of a developmental letter; someone is inspiring you. You realize that the creative process is inherently a partnership, inherently a group effort. One thing that I’ve been involved with for a while now is having a mastermind group, and to me a mastermind group is a way of having that kind of safe space with other creators. And I’ve been in all kinds of mastermind groups, from a one-on-one group, to four people, to 10 people, to 20 people, and it can be all different ways; and I find that it’s a very powerful thing when you truly have a support group of peers where you’re able to see other people do creative work – which can really help you out those tough weeks when your kids are sick, and something’s going weird at work, and life has just got you down! But it’s also that you’re not dangling out there by yourself, in the same way that you’re finding a partner for the course. It’s not that you can’t do it on your own, but I think that too often writers have this weird sentimental vision of going it alone because they’re dreaming of JK Rowling sitting at a cafe writing the book. And when you realize that the second that JK, you know Miss Rowling, had the chance to not be by herself in that cafe, she grabbed that chance to have partners and to this day she has a wide range of people she works with. I think that definitely there’s a lot of ways to do that. Masterminds are one way that I thought was really interesting.
Kate: Yeah, I love that kind of idea of a mastermind. So, I’ve never been a part of a mastermind before, which I feel like that needs to be corrected soon. I have talked to a strategist before and that was really interesting; it was someone that I met at a conference. So I went to Digital Commerce Summit and I just decided, you know what, because I love the guys at Rainmaker Digital, I’m going to go to this conference, I got the ticket for a good price, it’s great. I didn’t know the hotel was going to be that expensive but, you know, it’s already said and done, so I’m going anyway! So not only did I end up meeting a really big New York Times, USA Today bestselling author who decided to hire me because she was impressed that I was there, I also met the strategist who was like “hey, let’s talk about these kind of things and let’s barter our work”; which helped me decide, yes it’s time for me to make the course, it’s time to let go of some things that, as much as I love doing, are not helping people in the way that I need them to be helping. Huge, huge change this year: I think that’s kind of a big thing about 2017 is people who kind of struggled through 2016 and, like 2017, people are saying “we’re going to go for it, we’re going to shake things up, we’re going to do things that people tell us not to do and we’re just going to go for it and make those kind of relationships.” So I love that and I really like how you’re doing this: you’re going from being someone who’s been assisting authors and helping them through their paths to actually taking that journey yourself. Can you talk a little bit about how you decided first to actually make that jump and how it’s been to be on the other side of it?
Dan: It’s funny this has been, I think, a long time coming. Because I grew up as an artist and photographer and I did poetry and I was in band, and my whole life has been this creative stuff. I married an artist, so we have that in our house as well. When I first started doing the book it was a different book than this; it was a book that I wanted to traditionally publish. And what I found was the expectations of that, to get the great agent, to get the great publisher, to make it a book that would really matter, you know, everything about that! It became so big I ended up with this 85,000-word book, piles of research, and it just became too much to manage. And I just noticed it kept getting put on the back burner because it was such a big project. And I was talking with a close friend earlier this year and I really started thinking about, well what would be — because I have to do this, I want to be writing more and publishing — and I really thought about “how do I work well?” I work well when I have a little more control, I’m very regimented in my schedule, and if I have total control, not that there’s such a thing as control but that perception of control, I work really well. And, you know, when you start talking about ways to do that, I partner really well, so to say, “you know what? Instead of doing a big massive book, why don’t I do a little book and I’ll self-publish it, we’ll put it out there, I’ll get some collaborators on it, we’ll just do that.” And just bringing it down to that level, a million great things happen. For one, I’m on this great writing schedule; it became much easier to deal with a smaller concept and in the end, I think it became a much better book, became much bigger than I expected. And it’s been neat going through the process of writing, which was probably the easy part, but structuring it, writing it. Editing is so fascinating; I’ve had so many people work with me on editing this, from a very big way, to copy editing, to proofreaders, to beta readers, all of that. That process is fascinating and now we’re at the publishing process where you’re getting the digital files ready, deciding where you want to go. And what I’ve found is that every step of the way, having boundaries helps. The biggest boundary for me is that my wife and I are having our second child in April. So I always say there’s not a single decision about this book that has not been affected by that, because I had to decide this book’s coming out in March, has to come out before the baby’s born. It means I’ve decided that the book is only coming out first on Amazon, not because that’s my belief system or anything it’s because I don’t have the time to figure out the wider distribution right now. I can get it up on Amazon and later on, after the baby’s born, I can go to distribute more widely. Every step of the way, that boundary has helped me. And for me I think it’s just fun to, it’s sort of why, like you, I like working with authors who are really doing the work; it’s that it reminds you, in the most personal emotional way possible, of what it means to create. What it means to put yourself out there. What it means to have empathy with your audience. And to me it’s just good to feel that on such a visceral, emotional level and look at each of these little steps of the process, every little button on Amazon, and Createspace, and to not view it as something that’s scary, but to view it as: “this is a part of the process.” I did a ton of artwork in the nineties and back then, it was similar, this wasn’t the digital button. I would have to take a train ride to New York City and then take a subway down to Pearl Paint and go up to the fourth floor and then go to the pantone color marker aisle and then they have to test out all the colors because they were three dollars, fifty cents a pop. And then, you know, it’s like you have to get home and get the right kind of paper and all this stuff just to create one illustration. And it’s that same thing, except now it’s buttons on Amazon and Createspace. It’s fun to just be in that place, of that visceral, emotional place, of ‘this is why we create’.
Kate: I love that, and it’s funny because your journey actually, it seems to mirror my own with these courses: where I started out with this idea; a lot of people are doing courses, and I was like “oh, this sounds like something I could do. I mean, I’m doing consulting already, so why not put that in course form?” And it originally started out with “I’m going to do a social media course for authors,” and it was going to be really, really big. And [the course] completely changed over the years. One: as someone who’s taking courses, sometimes they’re just too large, there’s too much to do, and talking with authors, working with authors, they don’t have time to sit there and do a three-month course. But, could they put aside a weekend? Yes. So that’s kind of where the ideas started coming; like I should be doing smaller courses. They’ll cost less, they’ll be something that can be completed and an author could leave with something in hand. So I love that, kind of, you’re having those same shifts when you start out with this huge thing and then you found out that “you know what? Maybe smaller is better in this case.” And having that kind of boundary in mind, like I have a due date now because “baby” is coming. And you actually talked about this thing before, being able to set your work schedule and put boundaries. I know that you don’t do a lot of plane travel, that kind of thing. So I’d love to hear you talk about that. How do you decide what boundaries are good for you? Because I think that’s important.
Dan: So this is actually – I forgot I actually put this in the book – but it’s the idea that I’m very clear about my priorities. And to me, and this is for me alone, my priority is to be there with my family; my wife, and my son, and now our new son that we’re expecting. So everything about how my life is set up is to honor my family, be there with my family, to physically be there, and do right by my clients and writers. So for me, I don’t fly at all, I don’t fly period. I don’t fly for anything. So what that does is it means: great, I don’t have to feel pressure to speak in a writing conference in California, or to take a client who will need in-person in Texas. It’s off the table; and that means that it allows me to really think “okay, great, I’m going to work virtually with clients. How can I do that really well?” I do a mastermind; “how do I do that really well virtually?” I have a very regimented schedule because it works really well for me. We’re in my home office now, but I wake up every day around 5 a.m., I’m at my local Starbucks by 5:30, I work there for about three to four hours, and then I take a break. I take a two-hour break almost every single day because I believe in this aspect of your doing this very specific mental work; you’re on a screen, you’re engaging, and then of having time away from that. I’m a huge believer in the power of taking a nap every day, and I’m taking a nap every day for years and years and years and years and years, and I feel like there’s stigmas attached to some of these things that aren’t really necessary, that when you really think about what matters to you, about the people that I’m supporting, which are my clients, my family, and really caring about your work, you start opening yourself up to “look, how can I do this more effectively?” Even back when I had a day job at a big corporation I pushed to work from home, and by the time that job ended after ten years, I was working home full time. And again, it was just really thinking about what works for me and what my goals are. I do not pretend that that works well for anyone else. I find that when I’m doing heavy duty writing it works best if I do it first thing in the morning. And for me that really works; the first hour of the day is writing. But that might not work for you; you might work better at ten o’clock at night when everyone else is turned off. I think the key, though, is to really understand “how do you work really well? What are your goals?” And for a lot of writers this, this, is the underpinning of a lot of big decisions. Writers out there are saying “should I quit my job to double down my writing, or should I not?” And I’ve heard great stories and bad stories both ways, and I think the key there is to really understand what do you want, and then how do you work best? And how can you best attend to those things that you are really striving to love, too?
Kate: Yeah, and I would add to actually write that down. Some of the things that I see, so not just authors but also people who work with authors, it’s the idea of– I think it’s partly our culture, American culture that work work work work work is so important, we glorify being busy. When you really get down to it I know so many people who are in business, for themselves, who have gotten sick because they work themselves to that breaking point. And I’m like: you know, when it comes to me thinking about my clients, if I worked myself to being ill, then I cannot help my clients anymore. So how did that end up working out in the long run so I’ve made boundaries. Like I don’t work on the weekends. It’s one of those things where people look at me like, “what do you mean you don’t work on the weekends? Why don’t you just do this on the weekend?” And I’m like, “because I need that mental time.” I work Monday through Friday, I work eight hours, to 10 hours, to more depending on the day, but I don’t work on the weekends. That’s my thing. But it takes time and it’s kind of scary to take that step and say, you know, this is what I’m going to do. And fortunately for me I can say I’m not going to work on the weekends. We talk about authors who have day jobs, sometimes it’s not in the cards. So I do like that, we’re not saying that “just because this is how I work, or this is how Dan works, that this is how you have to work.” You have to figure out what works for you.
Dan: I do think that there’s a real inherent thing there, though: questioning assumptions you have. And I can think back of when I did have a day job, I worked in Manhattan. It was really good job, a really good company. And every day I took my lunch break, and I left the office, and I just went for walks and I got food every day; and I was one of the few people who did that. And it was one of those things where it felt like I was actually risking my job in the beginning. Because most people just ran downstairs, grabbed crappy sandwich, and they ate at the desk and it took 15 minutes. And I was thinking “we get an hour, right? Like, it’s in the bylaws, it’s there, we’re allowed to do that, right?” And we’re in Manhattan, you walk a half-hour in any direction and there’s something wildly different. There’s all this great food here! It was sort of like– and for a writer maybe it’s not taking the walk, but maybe it is. Maybe you take a walk to clear your head and because that inspires you. Maybe you go to a museum, maybe you go to a library and write for 15 minutes. Maybe sit in your car and do that, maybe listen to a podcast. There are these little moments, there’s so much of your day that I know are uncontrollable; you have family, you’ve got job, you have responsibilities, health issues a lot of people work through. Find those little moments where you can feel like you’re the author you want to be, because you find those moments.
Kate: Yeah, it’s important to find what works for you, what your schedule is. Dan you are definitely a morning person; you get up at five in the morning. If I got up five in the morning, I would be crying every day! You know? I’m like, it’s 8 o’clock, my alarm goes off, and some days I say, “no I’m not getting up. I’m going to stay here for another hour and then we’ll get started later,” and I’ll work a little bit later. And I love the fact that what I do allows me that flexibility. Not everyone gets that. I’m in that millennial generation, so I have my friends who are just like “yup, I’m here at work at this god-awful hour and I hate it.” I love that as creatives we can, if we are doing this full time, we can make our own schedules and do what works for us. I find that I don’t do well taking breaks. I like to get in and I like to work and I like to push my brain until it’s done, and then I like to be done. Whereas you, Dan, you’re like “nope, I need to take a break, I need a nap;” that’s so awesome that you know that about yourself, and I really encourage all authors, and just creatives who are listening to this, figure out what works for you. And don’t be afraid if that doesn’t you meet the regular standards or you’re not the author who likes to sit in a coffee shop and write. I was not the person who liked to go to a library to work, or sit in a coffee shop to write. To me, it was very distracting. I need to be home in my little office or the corner of my bedroom, wherever, but I need to be home to do my good, my best work. So I think that’s super important just to know who you are.
Dan: Love it.
Kate: So, one of the things that you did mention, though, was podcasts. So the last question I want to talk about is, are there any favorite resources that you have that you would like to kind of pick out there?
Dan: You know, it’s funny you said that [you] had a couple questions and this is the last one, and I really thought about what my honest answer was. And I knew you were going with it, but the thing I’ve been thinking about all day is probably different than you intend, but it’s my very honest answer. When I think of ‘how can you learn about what you should be doing differently, finding examples,” two things I think about are: watch what people do, not what they say. This has been a practice of mine for years now, especially around marketing where you’ll find a lot of people who will be selling you something. And usually that, if the person is selling it means that they are successful at that thing. You know, “I have been successful; buy my thing that shows you how to be successful!” And then they’ll tell you about the thing. What I often find if you just watch how they share their message, what they do, you often learn not what they were doing two or three years ago, you’ll learn what they’re doing right now. You learn what they’re trying, what they think is effective; and there’s so much to learn from that. I’ve gone through a lot of exercise myself where I will watch someone do that and I’ll create a deck. I’ll create a whole powerpoint saying they did this, they did this, here was their calendar, here’s the message I received, this is what happened after, this is what their car looked like. And you start really dissecting what people do instead of what they say. And I think that can be important in a lot of ways. Even very practical things, when someone says “I’m doing my first book reading, what should I do?” Go on youtube, find some authors you respect, watch when people have done their little iPhone thing where they recorded it, and watch what they do. You can read blog post about it, but you’ll drive yourself nuts with all the to-dos. Watch someone you respect and then map it out. “Oh, they told the joke and then they didn’t start with the reading, they start with a story, and it was a story about this,” and you start figuring out what it looks like. The other piece of advice here would be to look outside of your industry. And this is another one where there are amazing great podcasts and books for authors, and so many people I love in this industry. But I find some of the more interesting ways to think about your work, that feel fresh, is when you’re not the thousandth person who’s a romance author doing this thing that all the other romance authors are doing. It’s not there’s anything bad with that, but sometimes it can feel like you’re always a day late and a penny short because everyone else is doing it. And when you look a little more broadly, when you look at what musicians are doing, what artists are doing, what other marketers under other industries are doing, and you translate that into “yeah, wow, I was on this incredible-”, if we go back to podcasts, I just discovered recently Joe Rogan, he’s like a comic who has this very popular podcast, and we said “wow, like, I noticed this guy’s a stand-up comic and he does a podcast like this, or he does this funny weird thing on Twitter,” and you start thinking “what would that look like in the romance author area, like what would that be? If I used him as a model because people- it was so fresh.” For him, his podcasts are like three hours long, they’re so deep. Or just outside of your industry you realize that there’s so much to learn by so many creative people that are interested in this very narrow field. Some of the most interesting, again I’ll go back to the word, fulfilling ideas are going to come from that. See what inspires you and then deconstruct that and think, how can you bring that into your work?
Kate: I love that. I think that’s even better than just “here are some resources, go for it!” So one, kind of like watching other people, it almost reminds me of people watching. It’s one of those things that a lot of authors will do. You know, if you watch people and see what they do, you can write more authentic characters. So it’s kind of the same idea with looking at “okay, what are these people doing to promote their books, and is that something that I should try?” One of the things that I talk about a lot with authors, especially talk about the big book launch: you can try all kinds of different things, especially for self-publishing, you have that ability. So the book’s going to be there. Like you were saying, “I have the book on Amazon right now, eventually I could bring it wide,” but with the internet there is no shelf life to that book anymore. It’s there, it’s out, so I could try different things. This launch doesn’t go great? I can change the cover into a whole other cover if I want to, and just change. So I love that idea of just, you know, seeing what people are doing and seeing if that’s something that would work or would be worth trying. And I’m looking outside your industry. So one of my favorite podcasts was the new Rainmaker podcast by Rainmaker Digital, right? That is not a publishing-related podcast, it’s a marketing related podcast. But it was fascinating. I was like, “this is stuff that I’ve been trying to teach authors that is being taught here as general marketing information. So I love that we can learn from different industries. I would caution that we do want to make sure that we’re not making something completely different. For a romance author we want to have our cover be totally not in relation with other romance authors. You do want to kind of be aware of what’s expected, but don’t be afraid to try things new, I think that’s what Dan’s overall point is, and I really love that. So thank you so much for being here, Dan! I will be including all your information about the book and stuff below, and some information about the courses that are upcoming; I think they’re going to have to go hand in hand. And I’m super excited! I pre-ordered my ten copies and I want everyone to show up at my door, to pass them around.
Dan: Thank you so much!