Adding Yang to Your Yin: Transforming Yourself from a Writer into an Author

Time was when you could write a book, and if it was effective enough, and you were lucky because of the timing of its publication, what your publisher did to promote it, the reviews it garnered, and the word of mouth it generated, it would become a bestseller. Those days are long gone. Now there are more good books and authors, more competing media,
and more ways to spend one’s free time and discretionary income than ever.

Writing starts with yin: the feminine, creative part of your personality. You’re in your cave writing your book or proposal. However, when you’re ready to share your work, you have to summon your yang: the masculine warrior that’s willing to take on the world to get published and succeed. This requires

  • a different perspective: that of a merchant not an author–an author with something to
    sell, not a writer with something to say
  • a different set of skills. Writers have to be able to read, come up with ideas, research, write, and get feedback on their work. Authors have to

–build communities and communicate with them

–make themselves visible to book buyers by test-marketing their work

–nurture their babies through the birthing process of publication

–promote their books

  • a different mindset from that of a creative person fearful of failure and craving acceptance to that of a contentpreneur who takes responsibility for and has confidence in the book and its success

Novelists tend to be more yin than yang, happier at their desks than out in the world. Nonfiction writers deal with information, so they’re more comfortable charging ahead and enlisting
the help they need.

You’ve seen the image of yin and yang; it’s on the South Korean flag. We are all inextricably composed of both elements, each of us a unique blend of masculine and feminine, light and darkness, active and passive. You need to draw on both parts of yourself to succeed. Balancing your inclinations with the necessities of your calling will be one of the keys to your success.

In his brilliant book, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, Leonard Shlain envisioned the movement of culture from the word to the image, from print to screen, which is transforming culture from yang to yin, from patriarchal to matriarchal. Let’s hope that, with your help, it happens in time to save us from the follies of yang run amuck. Meanwhile, balancing your yin and yang will help ensure your personal and professional success.

I write the blog to help you and me understand what we need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. I hope you find it worth reading and sharing.

Rants, comments, questions, and corrections greatly appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109 / San
Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie  McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU

[Formatting anomalies not in draft.]

 

From Content to Contentpreneuring: 6 Cs for Becoming a Successful Writer in the Digital Age—Part 6

The first five C words in the new model for becoming a successful writer in the digital age are Content, Clarity, Communication, Contentpreneuring, and Commitment. The last word is Celebration.

6. Celebration

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.

–Oprah Winfrey

Speaker and author Roger Crawford says that every day he wakes up and there’s not a white chalk line around his body is a great day. Most of us have more reasons to celebrate than we take the time to do it.

  • Being alive
  • having a subject or story you’re passionate about
  • being able to write
  • finding the time to do it
  • reaching readers around the world with your fingertips
  • having more ways to get published, promote  your work, and profit from it than ever

These are all reasons to jump up and
down and shout hurrah. So celebrate achievements, large and small, with those
who help you on a scale with what you accomplish. The prospect of celebrating
will help keep you going. Add luck to the six Cs, and your books will be
fail-proof.

Two bonuses: you can adapt this model for other professions and your personal life.

Content, Clarity, Communication, Contentpreneuring, Commitment, and Celebration. Those are “The 6 Cs for Becoming a Successful Author in the Digital Age.” You’ll need all of them to succeed as an author and a human being.

After forty-four years as a publishing executive, reviewer, author, speaker, teacher, agent, and co-director of a conference, this is what I know that can help you. It’s been said that we teach
what we want to learn. I wish I had known and followed this advice when it could have made me the best writer I could have been.

Now this is not an excuse you can use. I hope you will find it worth referring to when you need encouragement. If it convinces you that writing is not your calling, it liberates you to find what is. But I hope writing is your passion. The world will never have too many good ideas or writers. Readers will welcome you the moment you’re ready to inform, enlighten, inspire, or entertain them.

Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand—and melting like a snowflake.

–Sir Francis Bacon

Onward!

This model draws on material from previous posts and my books How to Write a Book Proposal and How to Get a Literary Agent. The six Cs will continue to evolve, in part because of your response to them, for which I will be grateful.

I write the blog to help you and me understand what we need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. Rants, comments, and questions welcome.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109  / www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU

 

From Content to Contentpreneuring: 6 Cs for Becoming a Successful Author in the Digital Age–Part 5

The first four C words in the new model for becoming a successful writer in the digital age are Content, Clarity, Communication, and Contentpreneuring. The fifth word is Commitment. The eight aspects of Commitment are Discipline, Balance, Faith, Courage, Patience, Commitment, Simplicity, and Love.

5. Commitment

Discipline

William Faulkner once said: “I write when the spirit moves, and I make sure it moves every day.” Plan your workday and have the discipline to follow it. Even a page a day is a book a year. Time is more important than money. You don’t own time, yet it’s the most precious, irreplaceable thing you have.

The poet John Dryden once wrote: “Good habits are worth being fanatical about.” Stick to the most productive ways to spend your time. Use every day as wisely as you can, keeping your long-range goals in mind, and the weeks, months, and years will take care of themselves.

Balance

At a time of accelerating change plunging us unprepared into an unknowable but problematic future, you need to balance

  • writing, promotion, building your platform, and communicating with your communities
  • your time online and off
  • desire and necessity
  • the trade-offs in any decision you make
  • change and stability
  • making a living and making a life

Ignoring distractions and doing justice to all of the parts of your life while maintaining your focus on what’s most important to you will be a constant challenge.

Faith

You must have faith in yourself, your idea, your work, and your ability to succeed until the world validates your belief. Faith will give you the resilience, optimism, and sense of humor you
need to carry on.

Courage

When it keeps you from walking into traffic, fear is good. When fear prevents you from becoming who you were born to be, it’s bad. You can’t let fear of failure or success stop you from fulfilling your destiny as a writer. But you do have to expect to encounter failure. Someone once said: “If at first you don’t succeed, you’re about average.” The path to success leads through failure. Whether it’s walking or writing, you learn to do things right by making mistakes.

I once got a fortune in a Chinese fortune cookie that read: “When you’re not afraid to do it wrong the first time, you’ll eventually get it right.” Keep learning from your models,  mentors, and mistakes, and success is inevitable.

Being a writer takes courage. Winston Churchill wrote that courage is the first of human qualities because it guarantees all the others. You can’t have courage without fear, which is why we
have both.

  • Facing a blank screen and believing you have something worth writing
  • Persevering despite rejection, negative responses from readers, and perhaps poor sales
  • Overcoming obstacles

It takes courage to meet these challenges, but I promise you have what it takes, and the harder the struggle, the sweeter the success.

Patience

Do not fear going forward slowly, fear only to stand still.

–Chinese proverb

Books used to be the beginning of the information stream. Authors wrote books and then promoted them, one reason most books fail. Now if you want to be published by a New York house, you need patience. Marketing guru Seth Godin says: ”The best time to start promoting a book is three years before it comes out.” It may take that long to

  • write your manuscript
  • build a platform while test-marketing your book
  • create the strongest promotion plan and develop the ability to carry it out

So you have to take the long view. Look at your career not as one book but a lifetime of books—each new one better and more lucrative than the previous one. It doesn’t matter where you are now in your career, only that you’re headed in the right direction.

Commitment

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.

–Frederick Douglass, writer and abolitionist

In the making of ham and eggs, do you know what the difference is between the pig and the chicken? The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. You are the most important factor in your success. Your book is your baby. No one cares as much about it as you do. So you have to be committed to your book, your craft, and your career. Like people in other creative fields, you have to pay your dues. If you think being a writer is hard, try being an actor or dancer.

There’s a cartoon showing a man and a woman, sitting on a couch talking, and the man is saying: “Look, I’m not talking about a lifetime commitment. I’m talking about marriage.” Life is a
do-it-yourself job. Being a successful writer requires a lifetime commitment.

You can be a successful author, but success doesn’t come in cans, only wills, the will to write and to do what it takes for as long as it takes to reach your goals. I hope you will commit yourself to becoming the best writer you can be, not just for yourself, but for all of us.

Simplicity

The complex demands of creating harmony between

  • being a lifelong learner in a rapidly changing 24/7/365 global village
  • being an artist as well as a multimedia, multinational conglomerate of one
  • and having a satisfying personal life

force you to simplify your life as much as you can. Avoid media, people, pursuits, and possessions that don’t help you reach your goals.

Love

Gloria Steinem once said: “[Success is] doing what you love and having a positive impact on people’s lives without starving to death.” If you want to be the best writer and author you can be, you must love the process. You have to

  • love to read, write, and communicate about your work
  • write out of love for your readers
  • love the challenges of becoming a better writer and communicator

Write out of what is best in you for what is best in your readers. The love you send into the world through your work, your relationships, and your contributions to your communities will come back to you and provide a profoundly satisfying life, regardless of how much you earn.

This model draws on material from previous posts and my books How to Write a Book Proposal and How to Get a Literary Agent. It will continue to evolve, in part because of your
response to it, for which I will be grateful. I write the blog to help you and me understand what we need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents.

Rants, comments, questions, and corrections greatly appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / http://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109 /  www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / San Francisco Writers
University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU

 

 

From Content to Contentpreneuring: 6 Cs for Becoming a Successful Writer in the Digital Age—Part 4

The first three words in The 6 Cs for Becoming a Successful Writer in the Digital Age are Content, Clarity, and Communication. The fourth word is Contentpreneuring, and there are four aspects to it: Service, Knowledge, Technology, and Contentpreneuring.

Service

Unless we give what we have to others, what we know and value will be irrevocably and utterly gone.

–The editors of Conari Press in The Practice of Kindness

To get people to know, like, and trust you, online and off, you have to serve, not sell. The more effectively you devote your life to serving your communities, the better they’ll serve you. As author and speaker Zig Ziglar says: “You can have everything you want out of life, if you help enough other people get what they want out of life.”

As a writer, you are the most important person in the publishing process because you make it go. Readers are the second most important people, because they keep it going.

Knowledge

To take advantage of the opportunities waiting for you, you have to know more and do more than ever:

  • You have to be an expert on your subject or the kind of book you’re writing.
  • You have to have a positive but realistic perspective about publishing and its future that balances the challenges and opportunities.
  • If you want an agent, you have to understand what they do and how they work.

The more you learn, the more you can earn, and you have access to an astonishing array of free resources for learning what you need to know and making learning a life-long quest without leaving your desk.

Technology

There’s a famous New Yorker cartoon showing two dogs sitting in front of a computer, and one is saying to the other: “On the Internet, nobody knows if you’re a dog.” Unless you’re using Skype, but they will know quickly whether you know how to use the Web.

Technology is forcing writers to reinvent themselves as contentpreneurs. The Web is as important to writers as oxygen or electricity. You have to know how to make use of the greatest gift to writers since the printing press for writing, sharing, and promoting your work, and building and maintaining your communities. Use techies when you need to, but keep maximizing the amazing power of technology to help you with every aspect of your work.

Contentpreneuring

You have to be a contentpreneur

  • by making your content scalable from a tweet to a book and your promotion scalable from a one-line pitch to a one-hour radio interview
  • by making your laptop and your smartphone your office so you can work anywhere
  • by producing a steady stream of work for free and for fees that maximizes your pleasure, income, and visibility
  • by finding ideas you can re-purpose in as many forms, media, and countries as possible
  • by building communities of web-enabled, project-based teams of collaborators–interns, professionals, and virtual assistants–with whom you can develop and market transmedia products and services such as apps, videos, audios, video games, merchandise, classes, and information products
  • by learning how to run your small business. There’s a cartoon showing two guys sitting in a bar talking, and one of them is saying to the other: “Since I started freelancing full time, I’ve made quite a few sales…my house, my car, my furniture.” If you don’t want to be like him, you have to take entrepreneurial responsibility for the quality, promotion, and sales of your work.
  • by anticipating trends and being flexible and resourceful in figuring out how to solve problems and take advantage of new opportunities
  • by learning to kiss change on the lips. Embrace accelerating change as the chance to create ideas, publicity, sources of income, ways to improve how you work, and renew your sense of mission.

Next: the fifth c word in The C Model for Becoming a Successful Writer in the Digital Age–commitment.

The goal of the blog is to help you understand writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. Rants, comments, questions, and corrections are greatly appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109 /  www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU

 

 

 

From Content to Contentpreneuring: 6 Cs for Becoming a Successful Writer in the Digital Age—Part 3

The third of the six words in the new model for becoming a successful writer is communication.

3. Communication

Communities

There’s a New Yorker cartoon showing two disreputable guys sitting a bar talking, and one is saying: “I tried victimless crime, but I’m a people person.” If you want to be a successful author, you have to be a people person.

Writing is a solitary profession, but it’s the only part of the process you must do alone. Create communities of fans, writers, mentors, and other professionals to help you with your writing, promotion, technology, reviews, and cover quotes. Reciprocate as well as you can. Relationships are media. The more people you know, the farther you’ll go.

Platform

You have to have a platform, which is your continuing visibility with book buyers and  your communities, online and off, on your subject or the kind of novel you’re writing. Test-marketing your book enables you to build a platform and an ever-growing legion of fans who will buy whatever you create.

Test-Marketing

Publishers test-market their books with the first printing. But there are more ways to test-market your book than ever: a blog, other social media, podcasting, video, media interviews, articles, print-on-demand books, and speaking. Test-marketing your book in as many ways as you can enables you to

  • prove it works
  • get testimonials you can use to sell and promote your work
  • maximize the value of your book before you sell it, which for most  nonfiction, is the only way to get the best editor, publisher, and deal for it

Promotion

Two cannibals are having dinner and one says to the other: “You know, I don’t like your publisher.”

“OK,” the other cannibal says, “then just eat the noodles.”

The most common reason authors become disenchanted with their publishers is lack of promotion. If you’re writing a promotion-driven nonfiction book, the promotion plan you include in your proposal will determine the editor, publisher, and deal for your book. If editors have to choose between two publishable novels, and one includes a promotion plan, that writer has an edge. A plan is a list, in descending order of impressiveness, of the things you will do to promote your book, and when possible, how many of them. Exaggerate nothing, but submit the strongest plan you can.

Chicken Souperman Jack Canfield says: “A book is like an iceberg: writing is 10%, marketing is 90%. If this is true for the kind of book you’re writing, you will need to spend nine times more effort building your platform and promoting your book than you do writing it.

There are more ways than ever for you to promote books for free. Good books fail all the time. Promotion makes the difference. Editors also take the platforms and  promotion plans of novelists into consideration when acquiring.

Next: the fourth word in the model: contentpreneuring.

The goal of the blog  is to help you understand what you need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. Rants, comments, and questions most appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109 /  www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU

 

 

 

From Content to Contentpreneuring: 6 Cs for Becoming a Successful Writer in the Digital Age—Part 2

The second c word in the new model for becoming a successful author in the Digital Age is clarity.

2. Clarity

Models

There are more books and authors for you to base your books and career on than ever. You don’t have to figure out how to write a business book or a mystery or how to become a successful author. Use the books you love and the authors you admire as models. Telling agents, editors, and readers your models will enable them to understand your literary and financial goals instantly.

Goals

You need to be clear about your goals. Life, like art, should be the celebration of a vision. Sue Grafton believes that “Writing isn’t something you do, it’s something you are.” To be a successful writer, you must know who you are and what you want.

When a friend of Dorothy Parker’s had a baby, Parker sent her this telegram: “Dear Mary: Good work. We all knew you had it in you.” Well, what have you got in you?

You must have literary, publishing, and personal short- and long-term goals that are in harmony and motivate you to do whatever it takes to achieve them.

 You need to choose literary goals:

  • what you want to write
  • how you want the book to affect readers
  • the position in your field you want for your books

You need publishing goals:

  • how you want your book published
  • the size of your advance
  • how many copies you want it to sell
  • how much money you want to earn a year as a writer

You need to balance these goals with your personal goals of how and where you want to live and with whom, and the quality of life that will enable you to thrive.

One goal that clarifies your other goals is how much money you want to earn a year, because it determines what you write, and how you write and promote it. The smaller the number, the more freedom you have. So pick any number and write to that number. But if you want to be a successful author, make sure that your number strikes a realistic balance between writing for yourself and writing for the marketplace. I mean if you want to earn a million dollars a year writing haiku, you’ve got a problem.

Mission

Make writing and communicating about your work your calling. Imbue what you do with a sense of mission. As my mother used to say, “The world always steps aside for people who know where they’re going.”

A Plan

Create a plan for your future. Sue Grafton advises writers to have a five-year plan. Once you decide where you’d like to be in five years, figure how to get from where you are to where you want to go. Find out how authors of books like yours succeed. Ask them and other members of the publishing community for advice.

Next: the third c word in the model: communication.

I write the blog to help you understand what you need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. Rants, comments, and questions welcome.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109 /  www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU