This is What “Thinking Different” {and Southern} About Business Looks Like: Southern Airways Express

Doing business different

Image by Ladyheart

Around these here parts, we love to preach doing things your own quirky way in business. (And by “we,” I mean me.)

And we love it when we read about a company that bucks the system, says a big ol’ F.U. to “business as usual,” and follows a decidedly different path entirely of its own idiosyncratic making.

And we especially love it when that company proves you don’t have to follow boring old canned ways of doing things to succeed in business.

Southern Airways Express is that company.

My cousins over at The Bitter Southerner recently featured Southern Airways in a story on their site called Fly Me to the Gulf: How a Gang of Tennessee and Mississippi Entrepreneurs Is Bringing a Little Southern Hospitality (and Some Dignity) Back to Air Travel, written by Richard Murff, with photos by Matthew Jones.

Now this sounds like an airline I want to fly:

So abnormal, sensible and human is the team behind the startup that they just might have saved air travel from the savage jaws of awfulness and made it fun again. Its model — short-haul flights of less than 10 passengers — avoids the Transportation Security Administration policies of treating all passengers like refugees; reduces check-in to a pleasant 20 minutes; makes actual airtime comfortable, even sociable; and has no baggage-claim system to send all your clothes to Anaheim for the weekend. It does this, generally, for less money than the major carriers.”

And while things are good now, the startup had to overcome naysayers and dream stealers and a small-minded consensus among the major airlines that their model was impossible.

But guess what? They made it work.

Here’s COO Keith Sisson:

“Look, we aren’t geniuses here,” Sisson said. “We just did it the way that we’d like to see it done. It doesn’t even cost anymore to do it right; it’s just a little more trouble. You actually have to care.”

And that’s what it boils down to, doesn’t it?

You actually have to care.

And by caring, they’ve carved out a competitive advantage.

They’ve done something I talk about ad nauseum around here: they’ve found a way to stand out in a saturated market — simply by caring, by doing things right.

Love that.

Find out more about how Southern Airways Express is doing business different over here:

Fly Me to the Gulf: How a Gang of Tennessee and Mississippi Entrepreneurs Is Bringing a Little Southern Hospitality (and Some Dignity) Back to Air Travel

 

(By the way, even if you’re not interested in this particular article, but looking for some damn good writing nevertheless, you should high-tail it over to The Bitter Southerner. You won’t find better writing anywhere. Their drool-worthy site is full of insightful essays, beautiful images and new ways to think about what it means to live in the South in this day and age. This is hands-down my favorite website on the whole dang Internet, period. I love it to the moon and back.)

The Friction of Being Visible for Creatives (inspired by Mark Nepo)

Mark Nepo, the friction of being visible

In his wonderful book The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, Mark Nepo talks about something he calls “the friction of being visible,” meaning, as he says, that “no matter what path we choose to honor, there will always be conflict to negotiate.”

He explains:

In effect, the cost of being who you are is that you can’t possibly meet everyone’s expectations, and so, there will, inevitably, be external conflict to deal with – the friction of being visible. Still, the cost of not being who you are is that while you’re busy pleasing everyone around you, a precious part of you is dying inside; in this case, there will be internal conflict to deal with – the friction of being invisible.

Though he’s talking about living more authentically in our day-to-day lives, those of us in creative fields will instantly recognize the friction he refers to as it relates to our creative work.

When we choose to make a living by sharing our creative output with the world, in whatever form that takes – graphic design, photography, fine art, interior design, illustration, writing, flower arranging, web design, architecture, underwater basket weaving, or whatever our gift happens to be – we commit to this friction over and over again.

Part of this friction comes from trying to live up to the expectations of well-meaning friends and loved ones who suggest that maybe we should take a more realistic approach to career and money-making. Or from those who judge or criticize our work, including, sometimes, our very own clients.

In other cases, we are own worst enemy. We’ve limited ourselves by buying into the notion that to be fully self-expressed in our creativity is enough, that if we’re able to practice our creative work and make a living from it, we should be happy to “settle” for barely scraping by. Or that doing our creative thing on the side while working a “real” job is all we’re allowed to ask for.

In my case, I’ve done this number on myself. I don’t recall any adult in my life ever saying to me, “be realistic, you can’t make a decent living writing, that’s something you do on the side,” or any variation thereof.

Even when I was actively practicing photography, shooting rolls and rolls of film (yes, it was actual film then), studying the masters, soaking up as much info as I could, taking photography classes, and applying to art school, no one ever said to me, “be practical, you can’t make a decent living as a photographer.”

So I can only assume that I was making the argument to myself, internally. That somewhere along the line, I had bought into the notion that choosing the path of the creative, at least in terms of career, would mean certain poverty. Or that putting my work “out there,” possibly to be scrutinized and criticized, would feel like being gutted, just too uncomfortable.

But once you understand that the friction of being visible is the price you pay for getting to make a living from your creative pursuits (or from practicing your creative thing with abandon if it’s not your primary source of income), and you make peace with that dynamic, you can go on about the business of your business with less internal conflict.

The friction of being visible, at least for creatives, seems less of a price to pay than the alternative, as Nepo describes it:

Still, the cost of not being who you are is that while you’re busy pleasing everyone around you, a precious part of you is dying inside; in this case, there will be internal conflict to deal with – the friction of being invisible.

While the friction of being visible may make us uncomfortable, the friction of being invisible is potentially much more destructive. It can be ruinous to our mental and emotional well-being, and even detrimental to our physical health.

Many of us go through our lives doing work we don’t love, participating in relationships that don’t light us up, keeping schedules that wear us down, and saying yes to people and obligations we’d rather say no to, all the while putting a happy face on the whole shebang, as if it was our most fervent wish to go around feeling deeply unfulfilled and perpetually dissatisfied.

Then life may throw us a curveball to get our attention. My curveball came in the form of a terrifying episode one fine day in June 2014 while driving to my onsite freelance writing gig at a medical center. Out of the blue my heart started racing wildly and my breathing became shallow and labored.

I pulled into the parking lot of the medical center’s marketing department and struggled to get just one deep breath into my lungs, just one. Then sat in my car gasping for air and crying. I felt like I was drowning. Not fun.

A few minutes later, still not able to breathe fully and deeply, I composed myself as best I could, went inside, and sat through the morning meeting in which we discussed the day’s priorities. I ducked out of the building afterwards to call my doctor to make an appointment for the next day.

Luckily, a chest x-ray and an EKG revealed no immediate cause for concern. But the heart racing and the shallowness of breath (which I now refer to as “SOB” for short, ha ha) continued, sometimes pronounced and nearly debilitating, other times mild and almost imperceptible.

Message received.

That was my call to change some things. And so I did. I left that gig, as wonderful as it was, eight months later. While I enjoyed the work, my colleagues, and a steady paycheck, I felt hamstrung by the 20 hour a week commitment and the requirement to work onsite, and I knew it was keeping me from fully embracing the work I really wanted to be doing – working with creative entrepreneurs, and writing.

My response to this internal conflict, “the friction of being invisible,” as Nepo calls it, was to high-tail it out of that situation and go towards the light. Ah yes, the light – the light of doing work that’s much more in line with my preferred mode and style of working, working with clients I love.

So while it’s true that, “no matter what path we choose to honor, there will always be conflict to negotiate,” I chose the friction of being visible. And I’m much happier for it.

Which reminds me of the Henry David Thoreau quote, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Don’t let’s do this.

Or you may find yourself, one day, gasping for air in a medical center parking lot, wondering what the heck is going on and ruining your mascara with your salty anxiety tears.

I don’t recommend it.

How to Write Headlines for Your Creative Business That Don’t Make You Cringe with Embarrassment (or, Why Great Headlines Beat Peanut Butter on Pancakes)

Formulas. Blueprints. Templates. Rules.

I tend to dislike most of these things. And so do most of the other creative business builders I’ve talked to.

But when it comes to writing headlines, templates and formulas can help if you’re experiencing a rough patch while trying to create magnetic headlines for your creative business, especially when you’re first starting out.

Besides, templates and formulas are just a starting point, a way to get the creative juices flowing. You use them to get something down on paper, then you tweak from there, depending on your personality and your business and service offerings.

So today I give you headline formulas, blueprints, templates and rules.

Because if you can train yourself to write attention-grabbing headlines (you can), then your content is much more likely to get read, shared and acted upon. Good news for you, right?

How Important Are Headlines?

Some well-known and uber-successful copywriters suggest that at least half the time you spend writing a piece should be spent on the headline; it’s that important. Agreed.

You may have heard the statistic that 8 out of 10 people will read the headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of the copy. The headline is there to get them to read the rest of that copy – that’s its sole purpose, in fact – so if it’s not compelling, you can bet the rest of the blog post or article or sales page you’ve just slaved over will, unfortunately, be ignored.

And we’re trying to run successful businesses that rely on writing and sharing content that moves people to act, so ain’t nobody got time to be ignored.

That said, the body content of the thing you’re writing, be it a blog post, a newsletter, a sales page or what-have-you also needs to be well-written and persuasive, and it must deliver on the headline. But you knew that.

Golden advice nugget: When writing headlines for your creative business, keep in mind what your audience is thinking, and that is, WIIFM: “What’s In It For Me?” 

Now then, let’s talk about a few headline formulas.

Promise a Benefit or Arouse Curiosity

Two of the most effective ways to approach writing headlines is to promise a benefit or arouse curiosity.

This is something I learned in my American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) copywriting training. According to the fine folks at AWAI, a powerful headline does these 4 things:

  • Begins to develop a relationship with your audience/potential clients
  • Delivers a complete message
  • Compels readers/potential clients to read more
  • Grabs the reader’s attention

Examples of benefit-driven headlines from my blog:

:: For Photographers: The Simple Yet Powerful Website Copy Tweak That Will Win You More Clients (& How to Implement It) {Benefit: win more clients}

:: The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it) {Benefit: how to fix a mistake that repels clients}

:: What a Personal Development Book from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells {Benefit: write web copy that sells}

Pretty straightforward, right?

Using Curiosity in Headlines

Google will return over 14 million results when you search on the phrase, “creating curiosity in copywriting,” which tells you what a powerful concept curiosity is in persuasive writing.

If you want to arouse curiosity, one way to do it is to ask a question your audience/readers/potential clients want the answer to. If you pose a question that’s aligned with your audience’s needs and desires, they’ll want to read on to find the answer.

Examples of headlines that evoke curiosity from my blog:

:: What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?

:: Can Copywriting Principles Work for Visual Artists?

:: Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?

A site called Upworthy does the curiosity headline very effectively, by essentially creating that really annoying “clickbait” I personally don’t jive with. At all. But hey, it works for them.

You can read more about Upworthy and some background on why “curiosity-gap headlines” work here:

Upworthy’s Headlines Are Insufferable. Here’s Why You Click Anyway 

Follow Copywriter, Brilliant Marketer and Expert Business Strategist Dan Kennedy’s Lead

As a copywriter and marketer, I follow Dan Kennedy’s work, read his blog, subscribe to his email newsletter, and read the occasional book he’s written. And while he’s not for everybody, his advice works, if you feel comfortable following it.

In Chapter 3 of his book, The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers, Boost Your Sales, Kennedy shares some fill-in-the-blank headline formulas you can use to get people to read your sales material. (He mentions the movie Gone in 60 Seconds and wisely says, “That’s what your recipients will be if you do not command their attention and literally drag them into reading.”)

Of course, the same formulas can be used to create headlines for your blog posts and subject lines for your emails as well.

(Caveat: If you spend any amount of time online you’ll recognize these formulas, because so many bloggers, copywriters and other business builders use them. For that reason I try to use them sparingly, because I don’t want my writing to sound like everyone else’s.)

Here are a few of Kennedy’s fill-in-the-blank headline formulas along with his examples of how to apply them:

Who Else Wants ___________?

Examples:

:: Who Else Wants a Hollywood Actress’ Figure?

:: Who Else Needs an Extra Hour Every Day?

How ___________ Made Me ___________

Examples:

:: How a “Fool Stunt” Made Me a Star Salesman

:: How Relocation to Tennessee Saved Our Company $1 Million a Year

___________ Ways to ___________

Examples:

:: 101 Ways to Increase New Patient Flow

:: 17 Ways to Slash Your Equipment Maintenance Costs

Two other formulas Kennedy mentions that I’ve personally used are the “Secrets of” and the “How To” headline.

Examples from my vault:

:: For Creatives: The Secret to Transforming Your Boring Lackluster About Page Into an Ideal Client Attracting Magnet

:: How to Create a Free Opt-in Offer Your Target Audience Will Love (and why you need to)

Check out three other effective headline formulas on Kennedy’s website here:

Three Killer Headline Formulas That Could Skyrocket Your Conversion Rates…

Use Specificity and Numbers

Let get real: we’re all crazy-busy trying to build our creative empires online, and the people we’re trying to attract are too. So you have to get their attention quickly.

One way to get straight to the benefit-driven point in your headlines and immediately hook your readers is to use specificity and numbers.

Why does this work so well?

Because specific details and numbers are more credible than general statements.

For example, which of these examples is more compelling and believable to you?

:: How to Make More Money Selling Digital Products

OR . . .

:: How I Made $6,557.68 Last Month Selling 2 Easy-to-Create Digital Guidebooks

And how about this . . .

:: Tips for Getting More Clients with Your Website

OR . . .

:: 7 Easy Website Tweaks You Can Implement Today That Will Double Your Client Enquiries

Here are two headline examples from my own vault that use specificity and numbers:

:: A Foolproof 6-Step System for Generating Dozens of Ideas for Blog Posts and Newsletters That Your Target Audience Wants to Read (in Under an Hour a Week)

:: How to Improve Your Small Business Website Content Today for Better Sales: A 7-Point Checklist

These kind of headlines reward the reader by letting them know the specific and compelling benefits of reading the article even before they’ve read a word of the body content. What a timesaver for your readers; they’re gonna love ya for it!

The Instant Clarity Headline Formula

The instant clarity headline looks like this:

End Result Customer Wants + Specific Period of Time + Address Objections

Obviously, to be able to make this formula work, you need to have a deep understanding of your customers and clients and their needs, wants and desires with respect to your offering.

I first learned this formula from a fellow called Dane Maxwell, and the example he uses to demonstrate the formula is this, from the real estate niche:

Recruit 2 Top Producing Agents Each Week Without Cold Calling Or Rejection

He goes on to share that using only the first item (end result) or the first and second together (end result + time frame) can also be effective, but using all three elements at once is the most powerful and persuasive.

The reason this formula works well is because it instantly telegraphs the benefits and results the reader (or client or customer) can achieve from reading the content or buying the product or service. It’s all about what important to the reader, client or customer.

So if you’re a wedding photographer for example, maybe your clients want candid, natural-looking shots in which they look relaxed and happy. And the time frame they want it in is their wedding day. As for objections, they may feel there’s no way you – someone they don’t know all that well – can capture their special moments without making them looking posed and stiff.

So using this formula, a wedding photographer could come up with something like this for a blog post headline:

:: The No-Fail Formula for Getting Candid, Natural-Looking Shots on Your Wedding Day Without Looking Posed, Uncomfortable or Stiff

Or let’s say an interior designer wants to write a blog post to help her ideal client – a busy young family on the go with a couple of small children and a dog – undertake a DIY design project to spruce up their home. The end result they want is a luxurious home that reflects their specific taste and design style, but it also has to be practical and easy to keep up. And they don’t want their lives to be disrupted in the process, so the DIY project can’t take more than a month.

So our interior designer could write a blog post with a headline like this:

:: From Chaos to Calm: 7 Simple Steps for Transforming Your Busy Young Family’s Home into an Oasis of Practical Luxury in 30 Days or Less

Now let’s talk about the “cringing with embarrassment” part. (or, How to Use Magazine Headlines and Book Chapter Titles to Craft Compelling Headlines Your Target Audience Will Love)

The headline formulas discussed above are time-tested and work well, which is why they’re used and shared so frequently. But sometimes the headlines that result can feel over the top for us sensitive creative types.

So one of the handy little tips I like to share with my clients when it comes to both getting ideas for content their target audience wants to read, AND brainstorming great headline ideas at the same time, is the magazine headline method and the book chapter title method.

Magazine Headlines

One of the best ways to practice writing headlines (and to spark ideas for blog posts your audience actually wants to read) is to grab a bunch of magazines in your niche and read through the headlines.

(I wrote more here about using the magazine method to find out what your target audience wants to read.)

Publishers do exhaustive research and spend thousands of dollars to figure out which stories will generate the strongest response among their readers, so why not piggyback on that research to gather headline ideas for your own blog or newsletter?

And to make it super-easy, you don’t even have to go to the bookstore, just sign onto Amazon online and go to the magazine section.

Once there, search for magazines in your industry or niche and read through headlines of 5-10 magazines there.

(Caveat: Don’t copy these headlines/ideas verbatim; instead, put your own creative spin on them, geared specifically to your business and your audience.)

For example, suppose I want to generate headline ideas for an interior design business. So I go through some magazines in the home design niche over on our good friend Amazon, and putting my own spin on what I find there, I come up with the following headline ideas:

:: How to Create the Perfect Beach House Décor on a Budget

:: How To Do Rustic Right

:: How to Create Big Style in a Small Space

:: Your Luxe Living Room: 12 Small Changes You Can Make Today for Big Impact

:: DIY Weekend Project: Create the Perfect Outdoor Retreat

From Magazine Headlines in the fashion industry, I came up with these headline ideas:

:: The Best _________ for Every Body Type (swimsuit, dress, etc.)

:: How to Look Like You Hired a Stylist (Even When You Didn’t)

:: Hot Trends and Amazing Accessories for Every Budget

:: 5 Minute Styling Tricks You Can Learn Today

:: The One Accessory Every Woman Needs Right Now

:: How to Dress for Your Body Type

Book Chapter Titles

You can use the same method to gather book chapter titles to use as headline templates. Here’s what you want to do here:

Search on your topic in the books category; choose a few books in your niche from the returned results.

Once you get to the list of books you want to check out, click on books with the “Look Inside!” option on the book cover image so you can get a look-see at what’s inside.

Once “inside” the book, cruise through the Table of Contents, specifically Chapter Titles of said book, and let the idea sparking begin!

(Again, you don’t want to copy these headlines/ideas verbatim; you want to use them to craft headlines that are geared specifically to your business and your audience.)

So let’s take our hypothetical interior design business and come up with some headline ideas from book chapter titles:

:: How to Decorate Like a Pro, Even If You’re Design-Challenged

:: 3 Investment Pieces Everyone Should Own: Which Pieces to Spend the Big Bucks On and Why

:: Home Design Basics: What You Need to Know Before You Get Started on Your Next DIY Project

:: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Decorating Resources Online

:: How to Build a Room Around a Signature Piece

Now let’s do the same for our fashion business:

:: How to Shop Like a Stylist

:: How to Go from Demure to Daring with a Signature Wow Piece

:: 3/5/7 or 2/4/6: Guide to Understanding Clothing Sizes

:: The One Must-Own Item That Complements Every Body Type

:: 10 Wardrobe Staples Every Woman Should Own

See, how easy was that? By spending just half an hour looking through Amazon, we came up with 21 headline ideas, not to mention, ideas for what to write about in the first place!

Now just for fun, if you’re completely stumped for a headline idea, head on over to Portent’s Content Idea Generator. Enter the subject you want to write about, and the generator will give you some headline ideas.

When I did this for the very article you’re reading right now, Portent suggested the following headlines:

:: Why Great Headlines Beat Peanut Butter on Pancakes

:: The 5 Best Resources for Magnetic Headlines

:: How Benefit Driven Headlines Are Making the World a Better Place

And my personal favorite:

:: Why Copywriting Will Change Your Life

Fun stuff, huh?

So there you have it. Tons of easy-to-implement headline templates you can start using today to get your content read, shared and acted upon. And for still more writing magnetic headlines goodness, check out the additional resources below.

Additional Resources

If you’re serious about learning to write great headlines, you can head over to Copyblogger at the link below and sign up to receive the free e-book, How to Write Magnetic Headlines. I’ve got it and it’s good. Seriously, you’ll find dozens of easy-to-implement headline templates in it, so go to town, my friend:

How to Write Magnetic Headlines

From Alexandra Franzen, here are 10 ways to write blog post titles, headlines & email subject lines that make people go, “whoa!”

And from Buffer, check out this in-depth post on how to write headlines for all the various kinds of content you’ll be writing as you build your online empire:

30+ Ultimate Headline Formulas for Tweets, Posts, Articles, and Emails

 

Comments? Questions? Other headline templates you’d like to share? Leave ‘em in the comments below!

[Sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

 

The Thing You Have to Understand Is That You Are Different

blog img_You are different

:: Not everybody wants to escape the 9-5 world. 

:: Not everybody who is deeply unhappy in the 9-5 world makes the leap to self-employment or any other kind of cubicle liberation. 

:: Not everybody wants to start a blog. Or launch a website. Or create an Etsy shop. Or write a newsletter for an audience of raving fans.  

:: Not everybody believes it’s possible to liberate themselves from unfulfilling work and build an online presence that sells their good and services, all while tapping into their innate talents and skills and abilities. 

:: Not everybody is comfortable sharing their art – whether that’s writing, graphic design, fine art, photography, business & marketing strategy, or any other kind of creative pursuit – in a public venue. 

:: Not everybody feels the fear and does it anyway. 

:: Not everybody chooses the friction of being visible over the much more palatable friction of being invisible. (Inspired by Mark Nepo

:: Not everybody chooses to feel utterly alive doing what they love to do, despite being terrified a crash and burn scenario could be imminent.  

:: Not everybody decides to take action on their dreams despite the naysayers who proclaim it’s not possible to do work you love and be well-paid for it.

:: Not everybody believes that creative sovereignty is a worthwhile and achievable goal.  

:: Not everybody keeps marching to the beat of their own quirky drummer when it would make much more sense to cave and get a job. 

:: Not everybody understands the liberating and undeniable joy of being unemployable. (I am full-time self-employed, but I consider myself unemployable.) 

:: Not everybody reads blogs like this one for marketing advice/how-tos/inspiration. (Thanks for that, by the way). 

:: Not everybody believes they have to ask permission from some kind of “gatekeeper” to do their thing, pursue their art, and sell it

The thing you have to understand is that you are different. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Revel in it. Fall in love with it. 

 

What would you add to this list? What do you believe/do/practice that goes against the accepted wisdom about how to earn a living or pursue your creative work? Please share in the comments!

Some Notes on What I Read This Week: March 1 Edition

What’s the good reading stuff round-up for this week? Here are a couple of things that made an impression on me this week.

What’s Your Lucky Number?

The best email I got all week was the 02/25/15 edition of Hugh McLeod’s Gaping Void newsletter, a daily missive of his quirky and smile-inducing cartoons, in which he shared this inspiring fact:

Five thousand one hundred and twenty-six failed vacuum cleaners.  

That’s how many prototypes it took for James Dyson to get it right.  

5, 127 was his lucky number. He’s now worth over $4 billion.  

It’s not about being brilliant, or about always being right.  

It’s about not giving up before you have the chance to succeed.

If you’re interested in getting a daily cartoon that will make you happy, make you think, and possibly make you question the status quo, you can sign up for McLeod’s newsletter here:

Gaping Void Newsletter

(By the way, in the video on that page, McLeod shares a great way to think about “marketing” that makes it feel genuine and natural; if you’re a creative trying to find a way to sell your products and services without feeling icky or uncomfortable, be sure to watch it.)

Stay Weird, Stay Different

Screenwriter Graham Moore’s Oscar acceptance speech for best adapted screenplay for the film The Imitation Game brought tears to my eyes, and I’m not alone. It was magical.

Here’s part of what he shared:

“When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And now I am standing here. So I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. You do. Stay weird, stay different. And when it’s your turn to stand on this stage, pass the message along.”

I’m getting all teary again reading it now. What can I say? Despite my hard-candy outer shell, I’m an emotional softie on the inside.

Editing is a “Wifely Trade,” Marketing Plans in Book Proposals Are “Nonsense,” and Other Retro Reflections

I finished a book this week called, Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction – Stories and advice from a lifetime of writing and editing, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder and his long-time editor, Richard Todd.

I loved reading about the years-long relationship between Todd and Kidder, as anything that delves into the realities of the writer’s life interests me, but there were a few passages in the book that left me scratching my head. And by “scratching my head,” I mean thinking, “you can’t be serious.”

Such as:

Editing is a wifely trade. This is a disquieting thought for editors, certainly for male editors, and in a different way for some female editors too, but editing does involve those skills that are stereotypically female: listening, supporting, intuiting. And, like wives, editors are given to irony and indirection. When male editors become bullies it may be because they resent their feminized role. (They shouldn’t take it out on writers. They need other avenues for their manly impulses, skydiving, Formula One racing, something.) However hesitant, timid, and self-doubting writers feel, they nonetheless remain the stereotypically male figures in the relationship, whatever their gender. Writers assert. Editors react.

And:

There are even book proposal consultants and book proposal formulas. Authors are advised to create ‘marketing plans’ to include in their proposals, and some dutifully spend weeks on the chore. Most of this is nonsense, and bad advice.

I am not making this up. And this book was published in 2013. 2013!!

And that’s a few notes on some things I read/saw this week. Feel free to leave a comment below about what you’ve been reading, or share reading suggestions. Thanks!

Some Notes on What I Read This Week: February 22 Edition

One of my favorite places to visit each week for outstanding writing on quirky, interesting topics is The Bitter Southerner. This week I loved a piece called, “The Art of Rebellion,” about a company that builds “the most beautiful motorcycles in the world, literally one at a time,” linked up below.

When I went back to the site today to grab the link to the essay to share in today’s blog post, I noticed this: A Postscript to This Story from the Editor Regarding “The Art of Rebellion.”

Apparently a small minority of readers objected to The Bitter Southerner publishing a story about a company in Birmingham, AL, called Confederate Motorcycles, saying things like, “For a site that tries to combat tired Southern stereotypes, this just felt off.”

Here’s part of the editor’s response (which you can read in its entirety here):

The South is a complex place. We do not all think alike. But The Bitter Southerner made a promise to focus on “the South we live in today and the one we hope to create in the future.” And we have made it plain more than once in the past that we have little respect — make that no respect — for those who revel in a vision of an “Old South” that existed only through the labor of enslaved people.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I do know great writing when I see it, and “The Art of Rebellion” embodies it. And I love the story of “an artisanal manufacturing romantic who quit his career as a lawyer to build dream motorcycles,” because that’s what we’re all about around here.

Read The Art of Rebellion here.

 

As an introvert myself, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be an introvert and a creative when it comes to marketing and selling one’s products and services. (I wrote a blog post this week about the topic, called, not too creatively, Authentic Marketing and Selling for Introverted Creatives.)

So when I saw this article on Huffington Post this week, I had to smile:

Finally, Emoji That Show What It Really Feels Like To Be An Introvert

 

This post on Danielle LaPorte’s site, in which she talks about “ALLLL the times that someone said to me (and there were MANY), ‘Now, Danielle, don’t get ahead of yourself,’” made me wildly happy.

As she says, “you gotta move the way your soul likes to move.” Which resonated with me deeply, because I was in a work situation that, while so perfect in so many ways, was not allowing me to “move the way [my] soul likes to move.” And that was creating a lot of self-doubt, angst, and second-guessing around my creative projects and my work life that felt untenable.

But after reading Danielle’s post earlier this week, I felt a huge sense of relief. Liberated. You know, that it really is ok to want what you want and be yourself wanting it.

Check out the post here:

“Don’t get ahead of yourself”…can suck it.

 

And that’s all I got this week. Hope you enjoy these fine reads from around the Interwebz.  

Feel free to share in the comments section your favorite reads this week, would love to hear!

Authentic Marketing & Selling for Introverted Creatives

{What’s this post about in a nutshell? How to market your work if you’re a creative and/or an introvert and don’t feel comfortable promoting yourself.}

Let me guess.

If you’re a photographer, writer, illustrator, web designer, crafter, fine artist, interior designer, musician, or virtually any other kind of creative person who earns a living (or would like to) from your creative pursuits, you don’t feel entirely comfortable promoting yourself or your work.

Sure, you get that marketing and selling is necessary to make the wheels on the business bus go round and round, but you really wish you could just hire someone to do all that marketing and selling stuff for you, so you could stay in your creative cave and make stuff.

I get it.

But at the end of the day, we are each responsible for our own success, and the “build it and they will come” approach usually only works in the land of unicorns and rainbows.

Back in the real world, we have to create our own opportunities.

That said, as an introverted creative myself, I’ve found that creating a robust presence online is the best way to build buzz around your work and “promote” yourself and your services without feeling lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut, as we say here in the dirty South.

So I’ve rounded up some of the very best advice on doing just that to share with you here.

Behold, dozens of great ideas for building buzz around your work in a way that feels authentic and doable:

49 Creative Geniuses Who Use Blogging to Promote Their Art

In which Leanne Regalla, in a guest post on Boost Blog Traffic, poses (and answers) the question, “For today’s artist, building a tribe is non-negotiable. But how?”

If you’ve ever doubted that blogging could help you sell your creative products or services, this read is for you.

You’ll find inspiring examples of musicians, visual artists, illustrators, writers, actors, music producers, filmmakers and other creatives who used blogging to create a platform from which they consistently and successfully sell their ideas and their work.

Go check it out here:

49 Creative Geniuses Who Use Blogging to Promote Their Art 

Why Artists and Creatives Have an Unfair Advantage at Internet Marketing

If you still have doubts that creating your own robust home online can help you make a good living from your creative pursuits, then do yourself a favor and be sure to read this piece, in which Mark McGuinness, poet, coach and creative entrepreneur lays out the built-in advantages creatives have when it comes to marketing online. (With examples! And we do love us some examples ’round here.)

Love his truth-telling here: “Probably the biggest hurdle for many creative people is the very idea of putting yourself out there and selling things. You might worry that it feels like ‘selling out’. Or that it’s just plain scary. I’m afraid I can’t sugarcoat this bit: if you want to earn a living from your creative work, you need to learn how to sell.”

And that’s the truth, folks. But selling doesn’t have to be scary when you do it the way McGuinness recommends.

Learn more about the “unfair advantage” your creativity gives you when it comes to marketing and selling and how to put it into practice here:

Why Artists and Creatives Have an Unfair Advantage at Internet Marketing

Want To Sell More Art? Sell Yourself First.

I particularly loved this article because of its focus on something I talk about a lot on this blog and in my weekly newsletter: the absolute necessity of differentiating yourself online (or offline, if that’s how you do business) if you want to find your ideal clients and customers and achieve success as a creative business builder.

As the authors (successful creative business builders themselves) point out, one very effective and easy-to-implement way to do this is to share your story, and they outline their 5 element formula for sharing a captivating story that engages likely buyers.

And best of all, they include real! live! examples! of how it’s done.

Check it out the article here:

Want To Sell More Art? Sell Yourself First.

Effective marketing for introverts

Here successful writer, web designer, and all-around fabulous creative Paul Jarvis aptly notes that a lot of the knowledge out there on marketing and promotion is not geared to introverts, and shares his own effective self-promotion process.

I love that his advice is about playing to your natural strengths when it comes to promoting your work; it’s not about trying to force the kind of marketing you’re often told you “should” or “must” do, you know, even if it makes your skin crawl.

As he says, “As long as you’re sharing your work with other people—the right people—then you’re marketing. Because really, all marketing is, is communication. And even introverts know how to do that, even if it’s in small doses.”

Find out more here:

Effective marketing for introverts

The Introvert’s Guide to Book Marketing

In which book marketing expert Tim Grahl shares how introverts can become good at marketing. While he’s talking specifically to authors, the tenets here are adaptable to marketing any kind of creative product or service.

I love that Grahl focuses on mindset first. After all, we are responsible for creating our own success, and if your thinking tends to be of the “marketing is icky and slimy” variety, you’ve simply got to rid yourself of that mindset if you want to earn a good living from your creative pursuits.

As Grahl says, “Once you change your perspective from ‘marketing is tricking people into buying something they don’t want’ to ‘marketing is helping people connect with my meaningful work,’ it takes on an entirely different tone.”

Hear, hear! And read all about it here:

The Introvert’s Guide to Book Marketing

And there you have it. A boatload of great advice on marketing and selling for introverted creatives from writers who know whereof they speak.

Which of the strategies these writers share are you most excited to pursue? Let me know in the comments!

Some Notes on What I Read This Week: February 15 Edition

Lots of good reading finds this week.  

Fools Do Art

Two contemporary men. Famous paintings from years gone by. Found props. That’s all I’m going to say.

I’m not quite sure how to describe this website, but as I sit here on this sunny, frigid Sunday afternoon hunkered down in my cozy, warm apartment skipping through the Internet, scrolling through this site makes me ever so happy. I’m laughing as much as when I read The Onion. Which is to say, a lot.

Check out Fools Do Art here to get your silliness fix.

Being Smothered by a Gospel Pillow

And speaking of side-splittingly funny, the best recap I read of the 2015 Grammys came, shockingly enough, from MSN Entertainment.

In a wrap-up called, “Best and Worst of the 2015 Grammys,” there’s this gem:

Worst: Beyonce takes us to sleep  

Let’s be clear: If that Beyonce cover of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” had come in the middle of the telecast, there’s a strong chance it would have been a “Best.” Queen Bey sounded great and she looked like an angel, but she looked like an angel who had lost nearly every award she was up for all night, was probably being kept up past her bedtime and had been delayed until 11:30 p.m. ET (only 8:30 in LA) by talk about copyright law and musicians we lost in the past year. Maybe it’s just that we’re used to Beyonce delivering show-stopping performances, full of energy and sometimes politics and this year she chose to cap a snoozy show with a spiritual performance? Dunno. Blame this one context. Watching the performance on youtube tomorrow, it’ll probably seem awesome. At the end of this show, it was just like being smothered with a gospel pillow. – Daniel Fienberg

Thought-provoking questions.

In Temporary discomfort. It’s worth it, Alexandra Franzen poses the question:

Are you willing to feel temporarily uncomfortable so that you can accomplish something that is permanently amazing?

Something that will always be part of your history? Something that will always be part of your body of work? Something that can never be taken away from you?

This resonates, because it reframes a decision I recently made to leave a solid, sure thing kind of gig to go out on my own completely as a freelance writer/copywriter/web marketing strategist. The reframe: from scary and uncertain to “best decision I’ve ever made.” Aaah, feels so right.

And reading Franzen’s post lead me to this site: A Life Less Bullshit, where I loved this post, called, “Close Your Escape Hatch.”

How Creative Geniuses Come Up with Great Ideas

And then there was this article by James Clear, in which he tells the story of Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief. Zusak rewrote the first part of the The Book Thief 150 to 200 times until it felt exactly right. 150 to 200 times. The book stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for over 230 weeks and sold eight million copies. It was translated into forty languages and made into a movie.

The lesson? “We all have some type of creative genius inside of us. The only way to release it is to work on it. No single act will uncover more creative powers than forcing yourself to create consistently.”

What else?

This week I bought Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, by Seth Godin. 40 more pages and I’ll be done with it.

Still reading: Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir, by Frances Mayes.

And that’s a few notes on some things I read this week. Feel free to leave a comment below about what you’ve been reading, or share reading suggestions!

Some Notes on What I Read This Week: February 8 Edition

Call me crazy, but I love it when the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer (full title: Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer: As Always, Free, and Worth Every Penny) lands in my mailbox each month. I read the thing from cover to cover, in fact. Yes, I shop at Trader Joe’s, and I’m happy to be informed about what’s on special, but mostly I love the Fearless Flyer for the copywriting.

It’s got personality and sass; it’s conversational and fun. I actually keep a few issues in my copywriting swipe file, studying them from time to time to remind myself what compelling, brand-appropriate copywriting looks like.

Here’s an excerpt from the February edition:

Keep That Perfect Beet. We Got the Beet! Just Beet It!: How many beet/beat puns can we make? Let’s just say it’s best that we stop now, before we spiral completely out of control. Much better that we speak of Trader Joe’s Organic Beets, which are both entirely edible (unlike our puns), and happen to utilize the correct spelling of the word.

Most inspirational thing I read about marketing, “remarkable ideas,” and doing things differently in business: An e-book by Seth Godin called 99 Cows, which highlights stories of businesses and people doing remarkable things.

From the introduction: “I wrote 99 Cows to help readers of Purple Cow see what I mean when I talk about ‘going to the edges.’ Every single story in this e-book is about the edges. These are companies (big and small) and individuals (successful and not-yet-successful) who made the scary choice to be remarkable. When I say remarkable, I mean just that. It’s worth talking about.” 

I would love to include a link here to where you can download your own copy, but a friend sent a copy of this e-book to me. You can, however, read an essay adapted from the book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Becoming Remarkable on Fast Company here: 

In Praise of the Purple Cow: Remarkably honest ideas (and remarkably useful case studies) about making and marketing remarkable products.

I plan to buy a copy of the book this week.

Funniest thing read all week, about writers to “watch out for,” which I heard about through Esme Wang’s newsletter:

Ten writers to watch for. No, seriously, watch the hell out for these writers.

New book bought this week: Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir, by Frances Mayes of Under the Tuscan Sun fame, on Tuesday 02.03.15. Reading this book makes me feel proud – and lucky – to be from the South, the dirty South, y’all. 

Books I finished this week: Just one this week, the novel This Dark Road to Mercy, by New York Times bestselling author Wiley Cash, who just happens to live in the same town I do, Wilmington, NC.

And finally, most ridiculous comment overheard (at the local IRS office. Story for another day.): “Why does she keep having young’uns?! I woulda thought at this point they’d tie her tubes!” I am not making this up.

And there you have it, some notes on what I read this week. Feel free to leave a comment below about what you read this week, or share your own reading suggestions!

Some Notes on What I Read This Week: February 1 Edition

Like most writers, I love to read. L-O-V-E, love. I love reading the way my favorite writer, the late Nora Ephron, loved it: 

Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit order medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.

 From the essay collection I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

And because I read – a lot – I’m forever finding phrases and lines and quotes and whole paragraphs I want to savor, to pin down and save for all eternity, like a collection of butterflies.  

Instead, I do this: I keep a Word doc on my computer desktop where I “collect” the most skillful, funny, inspiring or beautifully written prose I come across each week. Things that move me, or make me laugh. Things that make me feel sad or envious, because I know I’ll never have the writing chops of someone like Elizabeth Gilbert or Nora Ephron or Sloane Crosley. Things that make me feel blessed beyond all reason, because I get to soak in this work of great writers, writers far more proficient than I at rendering beauty on the page, each and every day. 

Anyhoo, I named this Word doc file “Lit Ephemera,” and when I looked at it recently, I thought, “Hey, I’m gonna make a series of blog posts outta this!” (I think in contractions.) 

These posts are mainly for me, an outlet to “do something” with my collection of favorite passages, quotes, sentences and phrases. I don’t necessarily expect the regular readers of this blog, all ten of you, to follow along, but if you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Or suggestions from your own reading list. 

And so here it is, the first “official” edition of Some Notes on What I Read This Week.  

Best quote: “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” ~Rudyard Kipling

Damn skippy, Rudy. 

Best headline or ad I saw this week:Lose 175 pounds, FAST!! – Divorce Attorneys for Women,” under a black-and-white image of women working out on old-fashioned exercise equipment from years gone by. 

Now see, there is a business taking a stand for the kind of clients they specialize in, and with a simple, concise and tongue-in-cheek headline, setting themselves apart from their competition instantaneously, with personality and wit.  

The most bizarre and beautiful thing I saw all week, featuring my favorite actor of all time, Jeff Bridges (scroll down past “Jeff Bridges Sleeping Tapes” and click on “See How Jeff Made It”):

Dreaming with Jeff 

 

Most inspiring passage from an interview with a writer I admire, wherein Elizabeth Gilbert talks creativity: 

What if you feel unqualified, or if you never had the opportunity to learn certain skills that seem essential to the personal creativity you crave? Is it too late to start?

Yes. If you’re not a professionally trained artist, it’s definitely too late to start now. KIDDING! I’m totally kidding! Let me say it once more: Creativity belongs to everyone. I myself do not have a degree in writing, for instance; I learned my craft by practicing my craft every day — which is how people have always learned their crafts. You have every right in the world to express your creativity however you want to, whenever you want to, regardless of whether you are officially certified or not. Start tomorrow. Better yet, start today.

Read more of the interview with Gilbert here:

Elizabeth Gilbert Has a New Book (and We’ve Got the First Look at the Cover!)

 

Book I searched high and low for this week, but couldn’t find in any of my town’s bookstores: Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir, by Gail Godwin 

Books I finished this week: Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for New York, edited by Sari Botton, and The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won’t Learn in College About How to Be Successful, by Michael Ellsberg. 

And there you have it, some notes on what I read this week. Feel free to share in the comments below some notes on what you read this week, or share your own reading suggestions. Many thanks!