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Archives for February 2012

How to Make Money Writing: Build a Tribe Using Downton Abbey as a Guide

Photo from fanpop.com

Before you can make money writing, you must build a tribe of followers who want, even crave, what you offer.

This is not a new concept.

Long before Seth Godin wrote “Tribes,” there was Phineas T. Barnum, the famous showman, who probably understood the importance of building a tribe for business success better than anyone before him or since. One example of his advertising genius took place in 1850 when he wanted to bring the international singer, Jenny Lind, dubbed the “Swedish Nightingale” to America. But he knew she was unknown in America.

Six months before her arrival Barnum began taking out newspaper ads and posting handbills to spark interest, curiosity and anticipation of this star. His campaign was so successful that upon her arrival 30,000 New Yorkers greeted her at the docks.

Our job of building a tribe is made far easier with the help of social media, but we must tap into our creativity and pursue it with vigor.

In her blog post, Tea Silvestre, the Word Chef, points to the marketing genius of the British TV drama sensation, Downton Abbey, to guide us in building our own tribe.

In case you’ve been napping,  Downton Abbey is the  PBS British TV series skillfully written by Julian Fellowes (of Gosford Park fame) that takes us into the lives of an early 20th century aristocratic family upstairs and those who serve them downstairs. Not one scone has been left unturned in feeding the hunger of fans to absorb all they can about this series, the characters, the costumes and the castle where it was filmed.

Using the power and pervasiveness of the Internet, Downtonites, like me, watch  every interview of the actors discussing their characters, tweet with them, enter the sweepstakes for a trip to Britain and a tour of the castle, and of course, a visit to the shop to buy the DVDs and consider other gift items including replicas of the jewelry worn in the drama. We are even hosting Downton Abbey social events in our homes to enjoy the series with our friends over tea and scones.

Silvestre points to five ways we can build our own tribe using Downton Abbey as a guide. [Give yourself a treat by reading her full article here.]

  • Stick by your customers, readers and prospects. Just as the characters in Downton Abbey help one another out of jams across the class lines, you must generously share your expertise with your clients and readers, and ask for their help when you need it.
  • Create a quality experience. Develop your site around a theme and brand, complete with logo, language and feel that is recognizably yours.
  • Don’t be afraid to break the rules. Even though Downton Abbey is set during a time period bound by rules and restrictions, they sometimes break the rules to help each other.  Risk speaking out and stepping up in your writing  even if it’s controversial. You may grow closer to your tribe as a result.
  • Encourage your tribe to create their own content. The executives behind Downton Abbey devised a number of ways to keep fans engaged between seasons such as giving them behind the scene looks, Tweeting during the Emmys and a Facebook page. As a result fans have spun out  activities, parodies and even a drinking game. Likewise you can create activities such as contests, games and encourage them to post photos and share tips.
  • Give your tribe choices.Put in place a variety of ways for your fans to engage with you. In addition to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, also consider hosting local Meetups, interactive webinars and teleconferences where you share valuable content.

    When your book is published, be sure it’s available in ebook and mobile device formats. Place QR codes on your business card, handouts and create an app where fans can access content, resources, play games  and learn about updates.

Once you’ve built an engaged tribe,  they will not only eagerly buy your work, but will also spread the word, continually expanding your tribe.









One Thing You Must Do Before Writing Your Book

Staring at a blank sheet of paper or Word document as you start your book is a scary thing. It stops the flow of creativity in even the most talented writer. As for newcomers to the process, it can kill the dream at the start.

Published writers, editors and publishers offer much advice about what you should do before you write your book. Most say you should create an outline or put pressure on yourself by announcing your plan to the world. Today I ran across a sound and easy-to-do piece of advice from a talented writer, coach and speaker, Ofili,  in his article 7 Things You Must Do Before Writing Your Book.

Steal a book.

Ofili doesn’t mean ease out of the bookstore with the unpaid-for-contraband tucked in your bag, of course. Nor does he suggest you should plagiarize.

What he means by “steal a book”  is called market research in some circles. (I require my private clients to study the top books in their genre and report to me what they discovered.)  Ofili suggests you study a writer whose style you admire and is similar to your own.

There are three good reasons for it.

1. Inspiration

The mere fact that a favorite author has successfully shared her ideas in print is encouraging, especially at the start when your first words seem out of reach. Observing the author use words you can understand to unfold concepts before your very eyes will give you encouragement and often call forth your ideas that until now were too shy to reveal themselves.

2. Guidance

It is very instructive to turn an analytical eye to the work of an admired author or even the top authors in your genre, whether you admire them or not. You can learn about writing, structuring and publishing all in one place.

First pay attention to how you approach to the book as a reader:  check out the title, author’s name, quick scan of front cover, flip over to back cover looking for proof that this book will keep the promise of its title and solve your problem or fill your need.

Second, go inside the book to see how the author delivers on his promise. How does he begin, develop and end the chapters? Is the book light-hearted, humorous or serious with lessons and activities? Are there quotes, stories, illustrations, and if so, do they add to the message? Are there examples to make key points clear or does the author pose questions and leave you to reflect?

3. Direction

After you have read, examined and analyzed the “stolen book,” you will begin to see gaps in what and how the author wrote his book and how you want to write yours.

You will notice omissions, ideas she didn’t cover or information glazed over that you’d like to explain in more depth in your book.

You will begin to see missing evidence you would set forth to support ideas in your book that somehow the author in question neglected.

In this phase you will begin to see your book emerge as distinctive. Even  though it may be on the same or similar topic or style and isn’t even written yet, you will begin to see the gap your book will fill in the literature.

You will be able to visualize the books currently on the bookstore shelf  moving closer together making just enough space on the shelf for your upcoming book to join them.

There are two very practical reasons to study another author or authors in your genre.

  • You will be able to return to them when your confidence wanes along the way (and it will.)
  • If you plan to approach a literary agent or submit directly to a traditional publisher, this will be a required part of your proposal, without which they won’t even consider your manuscript.

Are you now convinced to “steal a book?”

Can you see this working for you?

Speak up in the Comments.