As an old editor, with many years of watching frustrated writers struggle to make a name, I am thrilled by the marvelous opportunities today. In many ways, the playing field has been leveled so that individual writers can compete in the same arenas as the big New York publishing houses.
This is so to a significant degree. One of the things I enjoy investigating and writing about is opportunity – in the form of establishing the individual platform. The old days of buying expensive advertising, mailing out 100 copies of a book for reviews … whew, it was laborious and not always very productive.
Now, however, we have so many opportunities: blogging, website development, webinars. The list goes on.
I just finished an extraordinary book, “Content Rules,” by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman. The lengthy subtitle is worth repeating: “How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business.”
Wow. For writers, let me say this: I can’t emphasize enough just how much you need this book. They aren’t relatives or even acquaintances. I’ve never met them. So my recommendation is pure as Snow White. Plus, I gave up a killer sci-fi marathon to devour this book. It was worth it.
Establishing yourself is a writer is hard work – we know that. I’m not sure, though, many people realize just how hard. For example, you have some writing gift that the world needs to meet. You also have family responsibilities. A career. Hobbies. Paying bills. In fact, I think the American life now is so frenetic, it’s a wonder our bodies and minds hold together as long as they do.
However, when one tosses “writer” onto the list, well, it can be overwhelming. Yet if you want to achieve your writing goals – whatever they are – it is vital that you draw yourself up and commit to do the hard work. Buying and reading a book like “Content Rules” is part of the job; but in this case, boy, do the authors make that part of the job fun and exciting.
The first thing that jumped out at me was a statement made early on (I rarely find lines that I want to lift and post over my desk, but this is one of those times): “Everyone is the media. Everyone is a publisher.”
The authors also say: “Today, however, every company has become a de facto publisher, creating content that’s valued by those they want to reach. We’re hesitating as we write that word ‘publisher,’ by the way, because to many of you it implies the production of books, magazines and the like. Most businesses don’t have a lot of experience with publishing, nor do they see themselves as publishers. Rather, they are in the business of whatever they are in the business of (making things, or selling services, or what have you).”
Man, I love it when an author(s) break out of the box and give us some meaty wisdom! This is the advice of sages – I don’t think that is hyperbole. It helps writers immensely to understand that a big part of “Content Rules” centers on writing. If you can write, then you have a leg up on promoting whatever it is you are promoting.
And let’s be upfront: This book is not just for pure writers. It is for anyone who wants to make the world aware of his or her services. Like my friend Virg Otto in Ohio. Virg makes vintage gunstocks – and other wood products – and his craftsmanship hearkens back to our nation’s heritage. Virg has a website, gunstocksplus.com, and “Content Rules” is perfect for guys like him.
Think about this for a minute, keeping in mind Handley’s and Chapman’s subtitle. Let’s say you are an “older” writer, perhaps coming to this noble calling in later years. You are from a different era, when men wore their pants high and women wore their hats proudly.
Yet, you have found something to write about. It could be anything: your memories of that bygone era; computers; quilting; gluten-free recipes; sports … gunstocks. Your grandchildren text at lightning speed and iPads seem foreign to you.
I want to encourage you to do something: Please stretch yourself. Expand your mind, your horizons. See the possibilities. For Handley and Chapman show you the path to being all you can be.
For example, let’s say you are 71, and have become an expert on antiques – it’s been your hobby through your working career. Now, you have time on your hands. In “Content Rules” (Chapter 17), you can learn how to put together a podcast (definition: “An audio program in a compressed digital format, delivered over the Internet to a subscriber and designed for playback on computers or portable digital audio players such as the iPod”). And, here’s a bonus: this chapter is only eight pages long! You can read that between brushing your teeth and the first cup of coffee.
This is amazing, my friends. You might find yourself as a concerned American who has the time to read. You pull info from a variety of sources (hint: www.wnd.com). You could use the tools from “Content Rules” and create your own informational website; a newsletter; podcast; video for posting on YouTube – whatever it might be.
I am now in middle age and remember beginning in an old newspaper room, complete with manual typewriters. I’m not staying there. My son recently bought the new Fujifilm x100 – a very expensive camera – and he’s willing to let old Dad use it to shoot some video, which I’ll use to advance my agenda at www.prophecymatters.com.
This is the type of thing Handley and Chapman encourage readers/writers to do.
In Chapter 11, the authors tell you how to pivot everything off your blog, creating this personal message as a “hub of your online content.”
Although there is plenty of practical information, there is also the personal in “Content Rules.” Chapter 4, “Who Are You?” – If you’re like me, you will hear Roger Daltrey belt out that tune as you scan this chapter, which helps you understand just what your unique message is:
“Voice is about how you write, certainly. But in a larger sense, it’s also about how you express your brand. It’s about the tone you take in all of your communications and publishing. It’s about figuring out what’s unique about you and your perspective.”
Well, look, I could write and talk about this book, “Content Rules,” all day. But that would keep you eventually from diving into it yourself. Let me hear from those of you who get it and internalize its message and, more importantly, act on the advice and tips.
Because you have a message to get out, and I leave you with my personal feeling on this subject: The economy is in the tank, there’s plenty to be depressed about. I hear plenty of people advocate just hunkering down and waiting for the end. Not me. I have certain things I want to accomplish and a message I want to deliver. That’s why a book like “Content Rules,” written for writers, helps motivate me to lean in and meet the future with passion and excitement and joy in my heart.
You can accomplish your goals as a writer, wherever you are. All of us budget our time and resources to advance our message. “Content Rules” is a welcome, warm inn on that old highway. Avail yourself of its fantastic theme and information, and then get on your way with renewed vision and vigor.