Eat The Meat, Spit Out The Bones

Information is like air - it's everywhere (literally!). Over the past few years, I have been on the hunt for the best tools and rules relating to business, speaking, entrepreneurship, productivity and how to make a livable income through writing. There is a ton of information out there addressing these topics. 

Last weekend my husband and I took a road trip to Austin, Texas to visit my best friend, her family, and to celebrate the birthday of her son who was turning two years old. I love road trips.

My husband had six unused Audible credits, which meant that I could use the trip as a chance to catch up on books that I have not had the opportunity to start reading. Our road trip playlist included: 

•    The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Jack Trout and Al Ries
•    Tools of the Titans: Summary and Analysis by Osmosis Jones
•    #AskGaryVee by Gary Vaynerchuck 

The first two audiobooks ranged between 45 minutes and 3 ½ hours. #AskGaryVee is about 11 hours (I’m still working through it). These audio books gave my husband and me the chance to listen, pause and discuss, and listen some more. It was a perfect way to spend six hours in the car. 

What I gathered from the first two audiobooks and an hour into Vaynerchuck’s book is that information is more readily available now than I believe it has ever been in my lifetime, which means that you and I must learn to eat the meat and spit out the bones. 

Eating the meat and spitting out the bones means that you listen, take what is relevant to you, and leave the rest.

  • You do this by first, narrowing your questions. 

“The quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask.”  – Tony Robbins 

Asking yourself and others very specific questions. Like how can I make $2000 this month through my writing, painting, etc? What applications or platforms will help me get there? 

  • Second, regarding the information I’ve gathered what can I leave behind. 

You will not remember everything. Decide what are the actionable and the executable things that you can put into practice today? 

For me, what that looks like is hearing a great piece of information on blogging or social media marketing and heading straight to my computer and onto my site to make those necessary adjustments. 

  • Third, evaluate results and go back for more. You and I have just heard something that could be useful to getting us one step closer to our monthly or yearly goals. We’ve taken action by putting it into practice. Now, we must learn more. We must ask a new and specific question. 

And then, go in search of the answer. 

What are your burning questions?  Have you narrowed them? 




5 Things I Learned From My Harper Collins Rejection Letter

The notorious michael jordan cry face 

The notorious michael jordan cry face 

I've been working on a memoir for the past year. This year, when asked, I finally got enough courage to submit it to a major player in the publishing industry. The result - a prime learning experience for what to do next. 

Below is the response I received last week form a senior acquisitions editor with Harper Collins. For continuity and discretion I have removed all names and association from this post. The editors response to my manuscript is listed in bold and italicized.  

1    Platform - Earlina who?

"It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself." - Eleanor Roosevelt  

I briefly covered the platform discussion in yesterdays post. You can read that here. Is a platform useful? Read below and decide for yourself. 

"First of all I must tell you that we will not be able to help you with a publishing contract. Our sales goals are so high that it’s nearly impossible to sign anyone unless they have a pretty large platform. It seems as though you have a start to that with your social media, so good for you, but you’ll need to keep working on it because with hundreds of thousands of books published each year, to have one stand above the fray and be purchased is a tough thing to make happen."

2   The Publishing Business

"A publisher puts out an advance, spends $$ to edit, produce, warehouse, and sell a book to retailers only to have those retailers send it back if there are no sales. So we have to be assured there is a market before we publish. A significant market that would sell 30-50,000 copies in the first year. There are for sure smaller publishing houses that don’t have those same hurdles but we’re just not one of them." 

3    The Craft

"So my recommendation to you is to keep writing and perfect your craft, then secure an agent who can help you shop the book to publishing houses. But keep one thing in mind. A consumer is never so self-focused as when they are buying something—like a book. It has to relate to them, speak to them, help them. In fact you need to consider who your audience is and keep them in mind—actually writing to them. Not just the traditional psychographic description but truly put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself why they would want to read your story? What’s in it for them? Because not only does it need to be compelling, it has to connect with them, and if not purely entertain them, then help them in some way. If you’re writing in the self-help category that’s a whole lot easier than a memoir which sometimes necessitates that they know you and want to know more of your story. This is again why a platform, even to include speaking engagements, is so important."

4    Perseverance – How bad do you want it?  

"I’m sorry it’s a “no” from us but as I heard just yesterday from one of our authors—he said when he was pitching his first book he took every “no” as a reminder that he was one step closer to his “yes.” 

Noooooo.....tear *rips clothing, run and hide* but ain't nobody got time for that! The only proper response to an email like this is: 

"Thank you for the amazing insight into the publishing industry. I will take your recommendations and begin again." 

5    Resources

"If you’d like some ideas on how to find an agent as well as other book publishing helps I would suggest two different blogs— (he used to be the CEO of Thomas Nelson) and Jane has also been in publishing many years. Their websites have lots of valuable information and lists for new writers."

If you are considering building your brand in any industry, have you considered your platform? What is your means for reaching and connecting with them? Have you considered rejection and what your response will be to it? 



10 Rules on How to Write and Get Paid for It: An Interview with Mary Karr

“Help me say the next true thing.” - Hemingway

I stumbled on the Beautiful Writers Podcast hosted by Linda Sivertsen and Danielle LaPorte
by chance. I was looking for a podcast focused on the business of writing. Mary Karr’s name in the podcast title gave me pause because I had heard interviews featuring her before - she is a riot.  

Mary Karr is the author of phenomenal works like Lit, The Liar's Club and The Art of Memoir. Karr is better known as the writer who reignited the memoir, and she has been teaching memoir for the past 30 years.

Here are Mary Karr’s tips on writing, life, getting paid for your work and her thoughts on building a platform.  

Write About People you Love
Karr: "I mostly write about people I love. Literature is not a place to settle a score. If you want revenge, you should buy a firearm or hire a lawyer." 
From my experience, when I attempt to only focus my writing on the latest news headline it becomes a hard task to complete. Writing about what you love is important because it will keep you at your desk working. It also makes the hardship of writing bearable.  

Keep Your Pages to Yourself Until You're Done. 
As mentioned in my book The Beginner’s Guide to Finding Your Brave, the opinions of others is deadly to creative work. What I believe Karr is suggesting here, is that if you are going to find your voice, you will need to be able to hear it, so don’t share your pages until you have completed the work you set out to do. Otherwise, you may be in for a longer rewriting process.  

Center Yourself Before you Begin
Karr centers herself by praying before she writes. She quoted Hemingway while discussing this point, “help me say the next true thing.” 

What is your truth you are trying to share with the world?

Does telling that truth come easy?

Before you begin your work how will you get to a place where telling the truth through your creative work comes naturally? 

I start my mornings with prayer and scripture, followed by a smoothie, my vitamins, jump and jacks and a full cup of water. There is no magic to it.

Never Feel Like you Have Arrived
Karr does not spend a lot of time hanging out in the company of writers. The key to her success and unique voice is that she has not allowed the success to change her at the core. Karr knows what works. But the greatest thing that has come out of her success she mentions, “I get to have conversations with people I admire - Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Don DeLillo. It is meeting people who are having a conversation that I have aspired to have since I was five years old.” 

Creative Secret Weapon: Work, Work, Work *Rihanna voice*
Karr: "Just work. Hours, and hours, and hours of work. I can out work most people who are seen as talented." 
Outworking your competition at whatever your job will put you in a league of your own. You may not be the best writer, painter, sculptor, today but tomorrow is a new day - that's how I look at it. 

Self Evaluation: Examine Conscious
Karr lists her nightly routine entails chatting with God and an examination of her conscious. She looks for examples of God in the day. 

Does your nightly routine involve reflecting back over the day?

If it does what are the constants? What do you find? 

I do this about four to five times a week, and usually what I  discover and address is time wasted on social media or the internet. I also find that I can become worked up by what's going on around the world so I stay as far as I can away from the news during the day. 

How To Get More Money For Your Writing: 
Karr: "The secret to getting the big money is learning how to write and If it is not selling well rewrite it and make it better."

Enough said. 

Is a Platform Necessary? Followers on social media? (Gary Vanerchuck may disagree) 
Karr: "I still think the time-honored way to sell a book is to learn how to write. Write a really, really good book and it will find its audience."

I struggle to accept this point because of a recent rejection letter (post coming soon) I received and its several mentions regarding platform. But you can look at it two ways: rewrite it and work hard on the content to make it as good as you possibly can or work on building your platform to attract publishers. I believe brave action demands both. 

Money & Writing - "Professional Writers Write for Money" 
Karr gives this advice, "focus on the writing, that is your job, but if you write well enough platform doesn't matter and you will make money." 

On writing memoir, Karr ask, "what is the size of your inner life? What is your willingness to tell the truth?

She ended this interview by telling the Beautiful Writers Podcast host, "give them hell ladies!" (she is a total rebel)

Book Mentions: 
Speak Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
N+1 essay titled, Money by Keith Gessen 

Discussion Question: What is the size of your inner life and are you taking the time to reflect each day? 


Hugh MacLeod, "Ignore Everbody"

Check out Hugh MacLeod, "Ignore Everybody" 


Your Dreams Will Not Market Themselves No Matter How Many Shareable Memes You Create

I learned this the hard way. But only after writing two books and producing countless memes, quotes, Facebook marketing images and IG videos.

The truth (or illusion) is this, if you or I make something, pour our hearts and soul into it, sacrifice time, sleep, and our first born, the universe will produce a reward, and the book, or maybe in your case, the product or your service will sell itself. Nope! 

It won’t, it can’t, how could it? You and I, in the grand scheme of things, are just little ol’ people, in a world of 7 billion people. Everyone is creating something, selling something. 

We must plan and execute smarter.

As a “degreed” marketing and communications professional, one would of thought I would have figured this to be true before putting out two books. You would be somewhat correct, but times have changed, especially in business. What we know versus what we put into practice are sometimes two different things. 

Today, I am reading Ryan Holiday's book, Growth Hacker MarketingI see some of the same strategies mentioned in his book that I used in the sports industry to put butts-in-seats.

It’s about connecting the dots.

Connect the dots by tying knowledge to experience; by not discrediting education and information but by finding ways to apply that information again and again - in real life. Then move to sharing what you know. Ask questions and continue the cycle again.

Join the journey. Re-educate, discover new information to launch your blog, start a business, or write a stellar book that millions of people read. Learn from my trial and error.

I call this stage putting my degree to work.

Below is what I am reading, rereading and implementing for my next book project.

If you decide to read one of these books – share. I would like to hear your thoughts. If not, no worries, my mom used to say, “you can take a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” I will be discussing these books in detail throughout the blog – I hope you stick around.

Growth Hacker Marketing – Ryan Holiday

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook – Gary Vaynerchuck

Ask! – Ryan Levesque

Writer’s Market 2017 – Robert Lee Brewe (for you writers out there) 


Review of “My President Was Black” Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates

A writer will write what is important to him or her – nothing more. Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates, author of Between the World and Me and A Case for Reparations strikes again in his new piece for the Atlantic, My President Was Black. Without pause or excuse, the essay is about race in America and how President Obama has handled the topic the past eight years. The weight of Coates career as a writer is truth minus solutionism (a term Coates uses frequently).

I first heard of Coates in the pages of the Atlantic. His piece, A Case for Reparationsgarnered so much online attention I had to check it out. The piece is honest, methodical, and tells a story of how redistricting, redlining and policies limited the upward mobility of African-Americans throughout the United States. After listening to all four of Coate’s interviews on the Longform Podcast, I have learned that nothing is more important to Coates then the story. His essays get to the heart of the matter by getting to the heart – his compositions are about the lives of real people who have experienced the things he is interested in discussing. Unlike me as a writer, he does not romanticize the idea of writing by trying to dress it up and send it on a first date. He sticks to the story, the parts that matter, only to tell the truth in a world that is slowly losing its grip on reality.

Between the World and Me is genius and heartfelt. A book for anyone that enjoys a good story told from a place of self-actualization and reflection. He writes to his son in such a way that you become envious of the insight. If you are not a person of color, you gain a front row seat to live an experience detached from your own. If you are a person of color, then you know all too well the story told in the book’s pages because you have lived it or know someone who has. If you are looking for solutions, you will not find them in Coates’s work. He argues this point obsessively. In life, there are not answers for every question we seek but seeking the fun part. It is the substance of the story.

 My President Was Black is Coate’s latest piece for the Atlantic. The 16,764-word piece is a look back at Obama’s presidency. Obama and Coates have an indescribable relationship. Coates has criticized Obama for his rhetoric to the black community on “taking responsibility” and “not blaming white people for all your problems.” The President, in my opinion, having appeared to read the Case For Reparations failed to mention laws and programs that have kept black people behind – but Coate’s described the President as an “innate optimist.” I believe Obama leans towards the Tony Robbins – T.D. Jakes philosophy, reminding us that we are not our circumstance, and all that mind over matter stuff. I cannot say I disagree. I tend to subscribe to this was of thinking.

The piece by Coates is another mind-bender, bringing together so much information on what President Obama has had to endure as the first black president of the United States of America. Coates refers to Whites in one section of the piece as ‘badge holders’ and goes on to state, “for eight long years, the badge-holders watched him” and that they “wanted their country back.” The writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates is poignant, explicit, and controversial. He offers an alternative dialogue that can be built on over the next four years.