‘You’ve a strategy-free career’ says my friend ‘It’s most refreshing’… but probably not what you want to hear, when you’re billing yourself and writing as a business psychologist.
Maybe like me, you’ve not been especially pragmatic as a writer. I’ve written pop psychology, reference books, apps, for radio and tv, newspaper columns and fiction. I’ve reacted to opportunities and gone off in wild directions on a whim, as illustrated by the several thousand unsold ‘You Sound Gorgeous’ cds, which I wrote and produced when I ran a company called Voiceworks. They’re still at the back of the cowshed here – somewhere – in cardboard boxes.
Even though I can see that digital publishing offers opportunities to be much more self-directing as a writer, I’ve yet to fully exploit this. There are plans of course…always plans…
So just recently, I had an amazing treat when a commissioning editor sat me down and said ‘Now I am going to give you feedback. This is the sort of writer you are, these are your strengths and these are where some of these strengths are in short supply in my marketplace. This is how you fit with the gaps I am hoping to fill’.
Now I don’t about you, but if I want to get booed and shouted down by the family over supper, I just need to use the phrase ‘as a writer’. The slightest whiff of creative narcissism or self-reference is given short shrift around here. I’m not in the habit of over viewing myself ‘as a writer’ and in three decades of being one, no one had ever given me feedback like this. It feels very valuable.
Which makes me think that if you want to exploit your work cross platform these days, you need to be absolutely clear and to signal quickly and vividly what you’re about. All your duckies need to line up clearly, from the story you tell about yourself and your background, to how that background relates to your audience, to the titles and artwork you use and even the social media platforms you communicate through. There would be very little point, for instance, going on about that erotic sitcom you’re penning, if you had the friends that I have on Facebook… None intended.
And it strikes me too, that it is most important that you declare this distinctiveness online and depict it through different channels: if you’re not sure what it is ask a friend, or your agent if you have one, or a member of your family, if you can trust ’em. Identify how you are similar to writers you admire – and then sum up most succinctly how you are different. Is there a strapline in this difference, that you can sum up in three phrases or words?
Everyone goes on about ‘pitch to your niche’ these days – it can be hard to stick to your niche though, if you believe it impossible to earn a living there.
But all niches have markets, it’s just a question of finding where they are, and what it is that people are desiring there. This is of course much easier to write like this in one sentence, than do.