What’s your mental image of a writer’s life? Mine comes from watching too many episodes of “Murder She Wrote”, which are still broadcast at 7:00 p.m. every weekday evening in the Toronto market. In the familiar opening sequence, Jessica Fletcher is pounding away on what I am told is a Royal Magic Margin Vintage typewriter. Every once in a while she gets to type “THE END” with a great flourish. That final page gets added to a few hundred others and stuffed into a big manila envelope and mailed off to her publisher. Unlike Jessica, Andy Farmer, played by Chevy Chase in the movie “Funny Farm”, is not an established author. Andy sends a manuscript off to the publisher and watches the mailbox for a response. Each day a maniacal mailman drives by or near the mailbox. For poor Andy, those letters from the big city bring only bad news. If that wasn’t enough humiliation, his wife Elizabeth who isn’t supposed to be a writer at all, has her manuscript for a children’s book accepted for publication on the first attempt!
A modern version of Andy doesn’t use a typewriter, but technology isn’t the only thing that has changed for writers. The marketplace for authors has also been revolutionized. Big publishers don’t often look at unsolicited manuscripts. They aren’t interested in talking to new authors who can’t prove to them that there is a waiting market for the book. How do you do that? One way is to exploit social media to engage readers. As you build a following, you prove that a sufficiently large number of loyal readers can be expected to buy your next book when it is published. If you would like to know more about how one author uses podcasts and other approaches to promote her work, check out the excellent resources provided by Joanna Penn at the Creative Penn website.
Just as some jobseekers hope to find a job by emailing resumes, some would-be published authors would prefer the traditional passive approach. Others, including Joanna Penn, are now embracing the degree of control that direct engagement with one’s readers provides. Until very recently she self-published her fiction. Initially, entire novels are available without charge. She then offered subsequent volumes at nominal prices on amazon.com.
For authors and others who want to get some attention, Michael Hyatt‘s new book “PLATFORM: Get Noticed in a Busy World” is a great place to start. Check out his blog and learn more about the book here.
As short-term contracts become more common in the workplace, the differences between traditional employment and self-employment decrease. The entrepreneur can ill afford to look for new clients only when the last assignment has been completed and the employee in many markets needs to continually market. For some of us, a platform can be an important part of our career strategy. In future posts, I will explore further the lessons for career management that we can be gain by from the strategies of authors like Joanna Penn.
I don’t receive any compensation of any kind for recommending these authors and their materials.