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


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.


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.


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


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 / / [email protected] / / @SFWC / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109 / / 415-673-0939 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / / [email protected] / @SFWritersU




Wribrid or Toast—Which are You?

There’s a New Yorker cartoon showing an editor sitting across a desk from a man who looks like Charles Dickens, and the editor is saying: “Make up your mind, Mr. Dickens. Was it the best of times or the worst? It could scarely have been both.”

As I wrote in my first post, now’s the best time ever to be a writer. But if you’re a new writer who wants a major commitment from a large publisher, it’s the most challenging time ever. One way to make yourself attractive to big houses is to reinvent yourself as a wribrid.

Wribrid rhymes with hybrid and sounds like it should be sliced and wrapped in cellophane. But it’s really the new model for writers. We live in the age of hybrids, the transition between gas and other forms of energy, between analog and digital, between the world and the Web.

Put writer and hybrid together and you have wribrid. Author Lee Foster rightly predicted that “This will be the golden age of the content creator.” But to succeed, you have to be a wribrid. You have to strike the right balance between

* Being online and off

* Writing for free and fees

* Writing short work and books

* Developing your ability to write for and promote in as many media as you can

* Writing, selling, test-marketing and promoting your work

* Doing work that generates income and building your visibility and communities to help you

* Receiving help and reciprocating

* Making a living and making a life

* Being a writer and, if you can get paid to speak, a speaker

I’m looking for someone to write a book about finding the best balance in life between form and content. Content is what you love to do; form is what you have to do. The goal: maximize content, minimize form.

If you love to write, your goal is to spend as great a percentage of your time writing as you can, and as small a percentage as possible doing everything else. There’s a tension between maximizing your writing time and all the other things you have to do to build your career. So you to keep fine-tuning the most productive ways to use your time to achieve your short- and long-term goals.

If this was easy, everyone would be doing it. You have what it takes but no time to waste. So if you don’t have comments or questions, resume your quest now.

Publishing at the Point of No Returns

In a conversation CSPAN taped at the Brooklyn bookstore of the publisher Melville House, Colin Robinson, co-founder of the new publisher OR Books, noted that publishing has come to a point of no returns. OR Books is eliminating returns of unsold books from booksellers by selling e-books and printing books on demand in response to orders. Of course, technology has led to a point of no return for writers and publishers.

Publishers started allowing booksellers to return unsold books during the Depression to encourage them to stock more books than they could otherwise afford. Now returns symbolize the dysfunctional state of the industry. Forty percent of new books are returned to be pulped and become new books.

Robinson was having a moderated discussion with Richard Nash, the founder of Cursor Books, another new house that does e-books and POD books, and relies on building online communities to reach readers.

Nash feels that the role of publishers is to connect writers and readers. He and Robinson believe that they can connnect with book buyers better than big houses by using the money they save by not giving more than half of the cover price to the chains in discounts and promotional allowances.

Robinson believes that it’s getting harder to read while it’s getting easier to write. He feels that the number of choices readers face confuses them and turns them off. Nash mentioned another aspect of the competition for books: the ways people can spend an hour besides reading: listening to 18 songs, watching two sitcoms or half a movie.

Nash lets his communities vote on cover designs. He finds that people feel valued by being asked, even if he doesn’t take their advice. Nash admitted that he caters to people’s passions. He wants to publish what people love to read.

What does all this mean to writers?

  • Write what people love to read because they help, inspire, enlighten, or entertain readers so well they’ll forsake the other ways they have to spend their discretionary time and income.
  • Start building communities as soon as you start writing your book.
  • Choose the right publishing model for you and your book.

Comments and questions welcome.