Author Interview: Brenda Knight

Author Interview: Brenda Knight

 

I interview wellness authors to find out what makes them tick and why they write the books they do. 

I call Brenda Knight my “Fairy Godmother.” And I’m not really joking. After the years of rejection I experienced, when Brenda told me that Mango Publishing Group wanted to publish my first book, Depression Hates a Moving Target, it felt as if she had flown down from the sky, swooped me up, and made my wildest dreams come true.

As the Associate Publisher at Mango, Brenda is a gifted powerhouse, wrangling authors and juggling publishing details with a firm, but gentle touch.

Brenda also writes.

A prolific, successful author, she is published under her own name and several pseudonyms. Mango recently updated and released one of Brenda’s best-selling books, Random Acts of Kindness: 365 Days of Good Deeds, Inspired Ideas and Acts of Goodness.

Selfishly, I wanted an excuse to spend some time with her. I knew you would want to learn about her as well. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.

Nita Sweeney (NS): What prompted you to write Random Acts of Kindness?

Brenda Knight (BK): My inspiration for the book starts with childhood. I was raised in my mom’s religion, First Day Adventist, which is very different from Seventh Day Adventist. I remember being jealous of Catholic, Baptist, and Jewish people, and people of all other faiths because their beliefs seemed so much more interesting. They had angels in heaven. They had hell and all that. First day of Adventist is very plain. The bottom line is “Be a good person.” Then, when Jesus Christ comes back at the Advent, if you’ve been a good person you get to stay in Heaven which is actually here on Earth.

I remember thinking “That is so not exciting.” I wondered why all my friends’ religions were more interesting and had more bells and whistles. But those early teachings of “be patient,” “be generous, “be kind with no expectation,” “be a good person, and “that’s just what it is to be a human on Earth,” worked their way in there. They got on the hard drive.

Those early teachings worked their way in there. They got on the hard drive.

When I worked at Canari Press, and Random Acts of Kindness was first published back in 1996, it went on to become a two-million copy bestseller. That was quite thrilling. I especially loved it because I love book publishing. I love working with creative people, writers, and designers—every step of the process.

But when you combine publishing with a purpose where you’re helping people, to me that’s the ultimate. I wanted to return to that purposeful publishing feeling. I wanted to share acts of kindness that I recommend, but I’ve also included some new stories where I don’t necessarily come off that well. But in those, I’ve learned a lesson and I share those lessons.

When you combine publishing with a purpose, that’s the ultimate.

NS: What a wonderful backstory to that book!

NS: In one sentence, what do you hope the reader will take away from Random Acts of Kindness?

BK: Be mindfully kind. Have that as part of your being. I do think people are inherently good. You could argue the opposite, that the jails are full to bursting, and there’s all that bad news I see on cable news channels which might make me think we are not inherently good. But there are studies and documentaries about toddlers that show that as soon as they can crawl, their inclination is to give, to help. That’s been proven.

We start off kind. And all of us, including me, get beat up by the world.

Over the years, that innate kind helpfulness can get stripped away. You start to think I just need to get through my day. I just have to survive today. But if we just take a breath and reorient, open our eyes, there are still opportunities to be kind every day in ways big and small, even in pandemic America.

Maybe it’s something like adopting an elder cat which I recently did because it never occurred to me that no one wants to adopt really old cats so they get moved out for the kittens that are highly adoptable. And the old cats are herded into old cat homes which is quite sad. I don’t know why I didn’t know that before but when I discovered it, I thought “Oh! I’ll adopt an old cat.” I sort of feel like an old cat myself. We can keep each other company. And we do.

Be mindfully kind. Have that as part of your being.

Adopting an elder cat is one example of taking action. I learned something and immediately wondered “How can I help?” Then, I took direct action. Of course, not everyone can. Perhaps your landlord doesn’t allow pets. But there are just ways to be kind. Ask the barista at your coffee place how they are doing. Really stop to listen. Then you’ve created a relationship. As we go through our day, try not to let the spinning of this old world wear you down. Be mindfully kind. It really becomes effortless.

Brenda Knight

NS: With practice it certainly does. And that leads me to the next question.

NS: Writing and life can be stressful. How you take care of yourself?

For me, writing is a kind of self-care, and I bet that is not too foreign an idea for a certain Nita Sweeney. This week, I don’t have anything that I’m writing personally, but I’m probably going to start a new project next month. I reserve writing time usually during the time the Rachel Maddow show is on. But I don’t watch Rachel Maddow when she comes on. I have it DVR’d. It could be 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. or 7:15 to 8 p.m. I reserve that time.

And it’s very meditative. My writing desk is by my garden window. I can look out right now and see the azaleas having their second bloom of the year. The beautiful fuchsia of those, the green of the newly rained upon lawn, the plantings and the apple tree are very peaceful. I look at that and drink in that peaceful, natural beauty.

Even if it’s raining, I will run out and do a little wedding. Wedding is my therapy. It brings me so much restoration and respite. It may come down to a little bit of Feng Shui, but I oriented my writing desk by something that I love to look upon, just gaze upon it. Because it’s in such a beloved peaceful spot that feels like a retreat, my heart feels writing is something I look forward to.

Weeding is my therapy.

Then I’ll light a scented candle and a stick of incense and then plop myself in front of my writing desk, and I usually know what I’m going to cover, so I have my section planned. I’ll also do some free writing. The way I’ve set up my writing area brings me a soulful sustenance. I hold onto that and don’t let anything get in the way of that.

There are two desks in the front of the house for my day job with Mango Publishing Group. I have a separation of church and state. This writing is just for creative self-care.

NS: That’s so helpful! I love the separation of church and state. Thank you.

NS: Let’s change gears a bit and talk about your business path. I once heard you say that when you were a little girl, if someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, you said “an international business woman.” Will you tell us more about that and how that led you into publishing?

BK: Oh yes. I grew up up a holler on a dirt road on a farm in West Virginia on a farm which was lovely and tranquil. I had awesome access to Nature 24/7 and took full advantage of that. But I was a voracious reader from the minute I could read. And I knew there was a big bustling world out there. I wanted to get out there and see as much of the world as possible. Especially as a teen, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could get a job where I can get paid to travel. I pondered that because those options weren’t exactly in my neck of the world, in southern Ohio and western West Virginia.

I was a voracious reader from the minute I could read.

When I moved to San Francisco, I actually got a job the first week with an import-export company. It thrilled me because I was surrounded by people from all over the world, people from Taiwan, mainland China, Brazil, Mexico, Malta, and the Philippines. The lunchroom was full of people speaking all these different languages. I would try to learn how to say “Good morning” and “How are you?” and “How’s your lunch?” in different languages. I can’t begin to tell you how exciting that was.

I did whatever it took: answered the phone, took orders, even drove a forklift in the warehouse.

But I knew in order to become a buyer which is that job where you go around the world stop on somebody else’s dime, I needed to take an executive path. So, I asked to be mentored by the executives. I was, and I did well. As I’m talking to you, I’m looking around my home. I see objects like from that time. Some of the nicest things I own, imported from Italy and India, are real treasures from that job. I hold onto that memory in that way.

I was super excited to finally be tapped to be a buyer by the founder of the company. He was a Merchant Marine who bootstrapped the company up from nothing. He said “Tomorrow we’re going to look at the factories. We’ll visit India, Mainland China, Taiwan, and, if we can, we’ll work in a trip to Italy.” I was on fire and couldn’t sleep, champing at the bit to get out there. I was in my early 20s and had not traveled at all, had never been outside of the United States. This was my dream job.

I was on fire and couldn’t sleep, champing at the bit to get out there.

Then he brought in photo albums of the factories in India and Mainland China. My chin dropped to the floor. The photos showed children making the products. That’s how I learned that, unbeknownst to me, I had been exploiting children for the five years I’d had that job. I was horrified. I said, “Those are children.” And he said “Uh huh” like it was no big deal. He’d visited those factories billions of times.

Unbeknownst to me, I had been exploiting children for five years.

As I looked at the photos, I remembered my summer job in high-school. I worked for a car dealership. I was one of the only females who worked there and I drove cars and worked in the parts department. The mechanics who repaired the cars and worked in the body shop were my lunchtime buddies. They were like artists. They took great pride in how they painted the cars.

One of them, the oldest guy, closest to retiring, didn’t want to wear the masks and protective equipment they had to wear when spray painting the cars. I always checked to see if he had on his mask.

When I caught him spray painting a car without his mask, I scolded him in a caring way because I wanted him to live. But one day he started coughing and he coughed up blood.

Because of this, I knew firsthand what would happen if you were lacquering products without ventilation and masks. It would harm your lungs very severely. And I knew the kids in the plant in India lacquered the silver tea sets and all of the other things that was lacquered. I asked my boss, the owner of the company “Where are the fans? Where’s the ventilation? Where are the masks? They are lacquering those product.” He said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And I said, “Well I do. Without ventilation and masks, they’ll be coughing up their lungs before they’re twelve.”

It was like an out-of-body experience.

Some aspect of me was watching me engage with my boss, the founder of the company, in shock about like how he was exploiting children and harming them. And I said “So you’re telling me like there’s no masks, no fans, no ventilation system to protect these children?” And he said, “They’re happy to have a job, and you should be too.”

I said, “I will not exploit children and you shouldn’t either. I quit.”

All these years later, I still can hardly believe I did that. I didn’t have very much money. Every month when the rent came due it was a big stressful deal. I didn’t make much money. Maybe I was being exploited too. I went home and called my best friend Maria, and cried and cried and cried. She was a great shoulder to lean on. Then she said, “All you want to do is read and talk about the books you’re reading. Why don’t you get a job in publishing?”

Then she helped me research local publishers one of which was Harper Collins in San Francisco.

After two informational interviews, I talked my way into a job in publishing and I have never looked back!

Publishing was so exciting to me. I couldn’t believe I got free books!

But thanks for asking about that experience. It’s important. Even in the face of hunger or total impoverishment, I made a value choice. It was instantaneous. There was no question. I was not going to exploit children. And I brought that sensibility with me because once I got a job at the executive level at Harper Collins, I formed a committee where we made sure that no children were working on the books especially in China and India. And on the rare occasion where we’re having books manufactured overseas, I always make sure of that too. It’s important because it’s still happening.

NS: Thank you for standing up, and for that reminder.

NS: Today, do you have a motto or a slogan that you find helpful in your day-to-day life or business?

BK: The title of the writing journal you and I collaborated on “You Should Be Writing” is my motto. Even if you work in tech or you have an organic farm, you should be writing for many reasons. First, it’s a form of self-care, at least in my life and it is for many other people. Also, you can pass down things to your children and your children’s children.

Let’s say you run an organic farm. You could write in a journal about the experience, the pleasure, and the difficulties and how you face them. People hunger for those real stories. And that’s what we are. We are our stories. We’re like vessels filled with stories. No matter who you are or what kind of work you do, you should be writing. You should be should be telling your story. Record it whether by journaling or something more deliberate like memoir. Or perhaps poetry is how you express.

“You should be writing” is my motto.

I have had people come back and tell me, even relatives in my family say, “I didn’t believe you about the writing. I didn’t think I had any anything important to say, but I found the process very enjoyable.” And, almost invariably, something else happens. As people write their story and retell it, more details come through. They are helping themselves remember. They put together pieces of stories and aspects of life. That’s important too. Writing can help you actually land on a more complete picture, a more complete story of your life. And that’s important too.

NS: I love that advice as well. Thanks.

NS: So, what’s the worst wellness or mental health advice you’ve ever been given?

BK: I have ups and downs with weight. I think it’s part of my DNA combined with having a job that requires me to be pretty sedentary where you’re locked at the laptop for zoom meetings and writing. The most recent horrific advice I got was “Don’t drink coffee. You’re poisoning yourself.”

I have to tell you, if I didn’t drink coffee, which I greatly enjoy—I’m enjoying an oat milk latte right now—I would not have a job. I’d be living in a homeless shelter. Coffee is enjoyable to me. And whether it’s just an idea in my head or if it really is caffeine power, it makes me feel like a “can do” person. Now that I have a latte, I can totally handle the five more hours of stuff I have to do. So, no. I cannot accept that advice. I have to have my coffee!

If I didn’t drink coffee, I would not have a job. I’d be living in a homeless shelter.

NS: Oh goodness. I couldn’t take that advice either.

NS: What is one wellness practice you wish you had learned earlier?

BK: Walking. From growing up on a farm, I associated walking with work. Of course, I took all kinds of little walks when I was a kid. I gathered pretty rocks I found in a creek. I had a rock tumbler and made some sad looking bits of jewelry for my sisters and mom. You’re allowed to do that for a certain number of years and then walking had to be purposeful.

My dad walked the fence line to make sure there were no holes. Walking always had to have a task attached to it. Walking didn’t have pleasure, fun, or relaxation associated with it. I had to rediscover it. And I think a lot of other people did too, especially during the pandemic. Just walking. Walking for no reason other than walking. To just blow the cobwebs out of your head. Or run a little errand. I reembraced walking and let go of the idea that it had to be chore-related. Now, I enjoy walking for no other reason than walking!

I had to rediscover walking just for walking.

NS: I can’t love that enough.

NS: How about a writing tip or a bit of advice for the writer types?

BK: I hope this isn’t too stale, but assign yourself a word count. It doesn’t have to be 2000 words a night. I’ve done that to myself and it can be stultifying. Maybe it is 250 words which is pretty doable. Then, if you go over, you’re ahead for the next day. Whether you’re writing your November novel, or a self-help book or memoir, have that very achievable daily word count and stick to it.

Brenda Knight reading in a pink room in pink light

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a writing project, especially if you’re a little bit of a newbie. Writing a 55,000-word personal growth book sounds unachievable. You think “Oh my goodness. I can’t do that.” But whatever you’re doing—I find this applicable to all kinds of projects—map it out into small doable chunks. When you meet your word count or exceed it every day, mentally reward yourself. Take a moment to feel proud of yourself. Acknowledge that, and that will give you momentum to keep going.

Assign yourself a very achievable daily word count and stick to it.

And here’s another thing. There’s a lot of bad advice out there. Don’t try everything you’re told. There’s more bad writing advice out there than there is good, especially at writers’ conferences. And I feel a little naughty saying that because I’m usually at writers conferences every year except for the pandemic time.

But I have heard some atrocities being hurtled out at writers. And they’re so earnestly like drinking it all in. Sometimes I think “Oh my God, No! Please don’t do that.” And I can’t scream out and say that, but I can tell you to listen to what resonates with you and then even double check that with somebody you really trust.

And just don’t listen to everything you’re told.

NS: Can you give us an example, maybe the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?

BK: Some writing conference presenters tell writers to just get a list of editors and send them all the same email. Well, we can tell! And you wasted your time. We can tell instantaneously. That time you spent cutting and pasting the names of fifty editors would have been better spent going to Publishers Lunch, and looking at the top five editors and publishers who publish in your category, and querying them, and doing a little research about them.

When you reach out, you say:
“Jane Doe, I noticed that you were the acquiring editor of the book Wild. I love that book and found it life-changing. Because you work with non-fiction women’s narratives and do it very well, I’m contacting you. I have one I think you might be interested in.”

Take time to research the people you want to query. It makes such a difference. Taking ten minutes to do that research will actually get your query looked at. We can all tell and we appreciate when you’ve done your due diligence. You will be seen if you just take the time to do that research.

That’s what you did, Nita Sweeney, when you knocked on the Mango door.

NS: Thank you. And yes, I did my due diligence.

NS: We’ve covered a lot. Is there anything you would change about your journey?

BK: It was definitely important for me to have had that experience being an “international business woman” which took me down the road not taken and into publishing.

I’m even glad I worked for Rupert Murdoch, since News Corp owns Harper Collins. At the time I worked there, in the 90s, nobody knew who Rupert Murdoch was. He was just an Australian newspaper man, the mysterious global figure we didn’t have to pay any attention to. Then when he started Fox News, I began to wonder “Who is Rupert Murdoch?” so I left at exactly the right time. I joke that I went from working for the worst man in publishing to working with the kindest people in publishing with Canari Press, especially with them publishing Random Acts of Kindness.

At the time I worked at Canari, nobody knew who Rupert Murdoch was.

But there is one thing I might have changed. As that farm girl who as going to be an international business woman, I had the idea that I needed to have a high title. I thought I needed to be vice president and then president. I had this trajectory in my mind that I somehow developed while living on a farm!

Eventually, I did get a job where I was vice-president of an international publishing company. I don’t even have it on my resume because it was a nightmarish experience for me. I’m sure other people had a very different experience, and I wish them all the best. But it was very male-oriented. There was even a little bit of a “bro” mentality, and I do not mix well with the “bro” mentality. I don’t think most women in business do well with the “bro” mentality. It was miserable for me.

And once I achieved that vice president level, all I did was put out fires and deal with really boring paperwork. I didn’t get to do what I really like which is acquiring books, developing books and book programs, working with authors and creative people. I just shoveled paper from my desk to others’ desks.

While I wish I hadn’t had that job, at the same time, I learned an important lesson. Titles don’t matter, not in the least. When I left that job, I became publisher which is also a nice title, even though I had gotten over my obsession with needing a fancy title. On my business card, I had them put publisher and office composter. And I was more proud of “office composter.” I worked out a whole system, and got all the tenants in the building involved. I even got the Berkeley trash and compost people to come over and meet with us. I took it very seriously.

Titles don’t matter, not in the least.

NS: I can absolutely see you as the office composter. Brava!

NS: So, the last serious question. “What’s next?” You hinted at the next writing project. Do you want to tell us about that?

BK: All I will say is that it is Tolkien related. It goes right back to the farm.

When I was nine, someone gave me The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I started with The Hobbit and there was no turning back. My mom drove me all over, including many trips to Columbus, Ohio, for books. Once I got into it, I had to read every biography of him ever written, and stories he had written that weren’t nearly as popular. I was a Tolkien completist starting at the age of ten. My love for his writing and the world he created, Middle Earth, only grows. So, I’ve got something up my sleeve that’s a little Middle-Earthy.

NS: And finally:

NS: Mermaids or goddesses?

BK: Mermaids. Double Pisces.

NS: Of course!

NS: Toast or bagels?

BK: Toast.

NS: Ocean, mountains, or forests?

BK: Forests, preferably Middle-Earthy ones.

NS: Leggings or jeans?

BK: Leggings.

NS: Dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, or horses?

BK: And you can’t say all?

NS: You can say all.

BK: I’m going to say “all” because when I lived on a farm, we had all of those, and more!

About Brenda Knight:

Brenda Knight Random Acts of KindnessBrenda Knight began her career at HarperCollins, working with luminaries Paolo Coelho, Marianne Williamson, and Huston Smith. Knight was awarded IndieFab’s Publisher of the Year in 2014 at the American Library Association. She is the author of Wild Women and BooksThe Grateful TableBe a Good in the World, and Women of the Beat Generation, which won an American Book Award. Knight is a poet, writer, and editor. She also served as President of the Women’s National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter, and is an instructor at the annual San Francisco Writers Conference, Central Coast Writers Conference and wherever she can be with fellow writers. A scholar of medieval literature and modern poetry, she lives in San Francisco, California.

Follow Brenda’s blog, “Lower Haight Holler.”



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The #1 Way to Improve Your Odds When Submitting Your Work

The #1 Way to Improve Your Odds When Submitting Your Work

 

The #1 Way to Improve Your Odds When Submitting Your Work – Write Now Columbus – February 2020

“You don’t close a sale, you open a relationship if you want to build a long-term successful enterprise.”—Patricia Fripp

Long before Depression Hates a Moving Target was published, and especially after, writers have asked me how to find an agent or publisher. Having submitted books and shorter works for publication, I have experience to share. I tailor my suggestions to each individual, depending on where they are in their career, what genre they write, and their personal goals.

But one bit of advice never varies.

If you want to get published, you have to know how to follow directions.

During the submission process, this means finding and following submission guidelines. Most agents and editors (as well as contests, competitions, and publications) provide specific, detailed guidelines on their websites explaining exactly what, where, and how to send your work. They are usually hidden (in plain sight) under a link titled “Submissions” but you might also find them on a contact page or similar link.

There is no “standard” submission process. One agent wants a query first. Another wants the first ten pages. An editor might want nothing short of a full book proposal from the get go, while another wants only the synopsis. Your job is to do your homework, figure this out, and give them exactly what they want.

Why is this so important?

It’s about developing a relationship.

Let’s assume you can write well all day long, have an interesting and marketable story, an author platform, and are lovely to look at. If you’re difficult to deal with, no one as busy as folks in the publishing industry have time for you. Failing to follow instructions is a red flag.

If, like me, you’re not fabulous at logistics, get help. Ask a more detail-oriented friend to look over your shoulder before you hit “send.”

These are not just hoops you must jump through. Your job is to make it easy for the publishing folks to say “Yes”—not only to your lovely work—but to you as the author, as someone with whom they look forward to working. Developing a great relationship from the outset will serve you well.

Writing Contests and Competitions: Another Path to Publication – Write Now Columbus – December 2019

Writing Contests and Competitions: Another Path to Publication – Write Now Columbus – December 2019

 

Writing Contests and Competitions: Another Path to Publication – Write Now Columbus – December 2019

When trying to get a book published, most writers think about agents and publishers. This is an excellent strategy. But there’s another, sometimes overlooked path: contests and competitions.

Many writing contests offer publication as the prize. But even winning or placing in a contest that doesn’t offer publication can boost the book’s status in the eyes of agents and publishers. And, winning or placing in a contest with a different piece of writing lends the writer credibility. Agents and publishers pay attention.

Many years ago one of my poems won the “Poet’s Choice” award in the Dublin Arts Council poetry contest. When I was pitching manuscripts of first Memorial, and more recently, Depression Hates a Moving Target, to agents and publishers, I included this tidbit in my bio.

More recently, an early manuscript of Depression Hates a Moving Target (then titled Twenty-Six Point Freaking Two), was first a semi-finalist and then a finalist in the Faulkner Society Wisdom competition. Those credentials helped Mango decide to publish the book.

A few days ago, the now published Depression Hates a Moving Target was nominated as a finalist in the Dog Writers Association of America writing competition “Human Animal Bond” category. You can bet I will include that credit in the book proposal for the next book I pitch to Mango.

Were do you find these contests and competitions? A google search will bring up many, but here’s a few places to start:
  • Submittable – This service includes all manner of submission options including contests. It is free for writers, but expect to pay a fee to enter each contest.
  • Duotrope – This service charges a nominal fee to subscribe.
  • Poets & Writers Magazine – P&W offers a nice list of submission options in the back of each issue and online.
  • NewPages.com – This online index provides a wide variety of information about publishing including many calls for submissions including contests and competitions.
  • Writers Chronicle – Published by the Association of Writers and Writers Program, this magazine includes a list of grants, awards, and publications.
  • Local writing groups – Here in central Ohio, groups including Ohio Writers Association, Buckeye Crime Writers, Ohio Poetry Association, and Central Ohio Fiction Writers hold contests.
  • Other writing groups – Some “local” organizations host writing contests open to writers from any locale. For example, the San Francisco chapter of the Women’s National Book Association holds competitions from time to time.
  • Competitions for self-published books.

Please research each contest before entering. Unfortunately, scams abound. Check their website for prior winners and don’t hesitate to ask other writers if they have ever heard of the contest.

Send only your best work, but do send! And if you win or place, be sure to let me know. I love spreading the word when writers succeed.

Six Reasons NOT to Submit Your NaNoWriMo Novel in December

“Even the greats don’t nail it on the first try.” ~ Emily Temple

Each year in November, hundreds of thousands of ordinary, everyday people across the world take a challenge to write 50,000 words of fiction in thirty days. It’s called National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I’ve done this challenge many times. Since I know how effective it is in helping writers complete a very rough first draft, I often suggest NaNoWriMo in my classes and newsletter.

Each year in December, a fraction of those same people send their unedited or barely revised 50,000 words, the same words they just wrote in November, to agents and editors.

Here are six reasons why you do not want to do that:

1. They will hate you forever.

2. They will hate you forever.

3. They will hate you forever.

4. They will hate you forever.

5. They will hate you forever.

6. They will hate you forever.

Last month my husband and I attended a Veterans Day luncheon at the local senior center. A friend of Ed’s who happens to be a retired editor, greeted me by saying, “I hate your newsletter!”

Um. Thanks.

He didn’t hate my newsletter. What he hated was receiving submissions that weren’t ready for an editor’s eyes. I had to agree with him. I don’t know if any of those submissions were written during NaNoWriMo, but the point remains – YOUR WORK MUST BE REVISED.

Please. I beg you. If you participated in NaNoWriMo this year, don’t let the excitement (mania?) of November (or any writing spree for that matter) lull you into believing your work is ready to go out right away. Let your manuscript rest. Then, in January (or August), bring it out again. Revise, revise, revise. Have other people read it. Then revise again before submitting it anywhere.

You get one shot with an agent or editor. Don’t waste it.

The Number One Rule of Social Media (and life)

“Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.” ~ Richard Dawkins

As I mentioned in a previous post, agents and editors want writers to have an established platform when pitching a book. I’ve spent the past month consulting experts and reading books and blog articles on the topic while I try a few techniques. For example, I tackled Twitter with some success even though I’m a major introvert. I’m growing my social media following, blogging more often, and gathering additional subscribers to my email list for Write Now Columbus.

No matter which book I pick up, which expert I talk to, which blog I read, the bottom line comes back to one thing: Generosity. If I’m not offering my followers and readers valuable information, I’m doing both of us a disservice.

Learning this reminded me of a saying I heard years ago. “You have to give it away to keep it.” Seems like a paradox, eh? But in yet another area of my life, it’s proving true.

The books and blogs and experts talk about “noise to signal ratio.” If there’s too much “noise” (Buy! Buy! Buy!) and not enough “signal” (Here’s a helpful thing.) people will turn and run. If I follow someone or subscribe to their blog and all they do is pitch their wares, I won’t hang around.

Why would I expect this to be any different when the tables are turned?

To address this, my current experiment is to share 99% useful or humorous (laughter is also a gift) information. I offer techniques I’ve found helpful, answer questions, and (of course) share cute animal photos. Cue #Scarlet the #ninetyninepercentgooddog. Use her hashtag on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts!

The remaining 1% of my platform is sales pitch material. This might be a link to my newsletter, a request to follow this blog, or an announcement of a class I’m teaching. It’s just a fraction because, when people think of me, I want them to see me as helpful and entertaining rather than as someone chasing after their wallets.

The unintended consequence of trying to be “of service,” is that I no longer dread “marketing.” More than once, when I’ve been sad or in crisis, a mentor has advised me to reach out to help someone else (unless I’m in a deep deep depression for which I need medical intervention). Invariably, just as in the rest of my life, if I can be useful when promoting my business, I feel better too.

What is your experience with being generous in business? I’d love to hear about it!