Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Writing Wisdom–Mark Victor Hansen

I spend a great deal of time involved with writing. Sometimes as an author, others as a reader, occasionally as a teacher to adult writers, often as a teacher of student writers. You’d think I should already know everything there is about being a writer, but I still like to learn from others who have themselves had successful writing careers. Each year I attend writer’s conferences both as a speaker and as a student. Regularly I listen to conference calls or teleseminars about being a best-selling author. Because I know that one of the best ways to internalize the things we hear is to teach them to someone else, I thought I might use my Tuesday blogs to share some of the important lessons I’ve learned about writing and publishing with you, my readers. That way perhaps we can both benefit from thinking about the things I’ve heard. Hopefully, you’ll find something in these messages that sparks an idea that gets your career going, author or not, into a path of success you never dreamed about before. And as for me, I hope reviewing the things I’ve learned will add to my motivation to complete the hundreds of projects I have on my list of things to write. Here’s to a great start for all of us!

Today I’m going to write about the Wealthy Writer’s Seminar I listened to today by Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup). Mark has written 305 bestsellers, many of which are multi-authored books. His books have regularly made the New York Times lists, taken him around the world, and given him voice in a variety of venues. I’ve read books co-authored by Mark before, but even with that previous experience, I learned some new things from him during this teleseminar.

Mark describes himself as a book addict. He can’t go into a bookstore without leaving the store with several new purchases. (Boy, do I understand that idea.) His favorite types of books to read are biographies where he can learn about the lives of other successful people. Among those people he most admires is his long-time friend and mentor Buckminster Fuller who once said, “A book is your baby and will outlive you.” Look at your own bookshelf. How many books do you find there that were written by authors who are dead? I guess we’d have to say he is right.

Mark tells us that we should set 101 goals, making a list of book titles we intend to write. We should astonish ourselves by writing too many titles, pre-selling them, then get busy and write. Books do not have to be long to be books, and with today’s electronic age, we should rethink the way we look at writing, promoting, and learn to market to the world instead of just our own backyard.

George Lucas once told him, “Don’t write anything that you can’t sequel or prequel.” When you think about it, Lucas has followed his own advice to the tune of millions of dollars, sometimes without writing a word of it himself. Every time another author uses his Star Wars or Indiana Jones characters in a book, comic, TV series episode, or feature film, Lucas makes money. Branding is the key to marketing success.

Another superstar of branding that Mark quotes is Oprah Winfrey. He tells the story that Oprah writes in her journal every day, not only to record what she is doing, but to express her feelings and to find out more about herself. In addition, Oprah reads two books a week, which gives her even more to write and talk about. The things she writes in her journal often become the basis for the “What I Know” column in her own O Magazine.

A magazine that is targeted to women–who Mark Victor Hansen says comprise 88% of the book and magazine buying audience. If you want to sell lots of books, that’s the audience you need to also target, but he emphasizes you’ve got to be original. A book is a business, and your purpose is to bring the audience to yourself and your book. He adds, “It takes no more effort to think high, grand thoughts in life than it does to think poverty, so why not set your goals high?”

You have a story to tell, and you are the only one who can create it. A lot of money is sitting out there with your name on it that just needs to be released to flow to you. He tells about comedian, songwriter, musician, author, and television personality Steve Allen who, despite his battle with dyslexia, wrote over 50 books and 14,000 songs. He never experienced what many term writer’s block because he always had around 28 projects in the works at any given time. His philosophy? “How can you have writer’s block on twenty-eight things at the same time? It’s impossible!”

As an author, Hansen says, “You are the wealth of the world. Successful people decide fast and change their minds slow.” Will you decide today to become an author? What changes will you take to catch up to the ever-changing fast-paced publishing world? I know where I’m headed, and I plan to world hard to make it there.

Will I see you at the top?

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