Ep 38 Should writers use co-working spaces? Tom Hanks’ new book inspired by typewriters; double space or single space after a full stop, AWC graduate Lisa Chaplin scores a book deal; how to do your own publicity and Writer in Residence Toby Jenkins.

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In Episode 38 of So you want to be a writer, Tom Hanks’ book release, should you work from a co-working space?, Twitter etiquette, whether to double or single space after a full stop, DIY publicity, AWC graduate Lisa Chaplin scores a book deal, Writer in Residence Toby Jenkins, free Microsoft Word app hits the Apple charts, how to find the armpits, Storyology 2014, and should you only take stories that interest you?

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show Notes

Tom Hanks to release book of short stories inspired by typewriters

Is a Coworking Space Better for Freelancers Than Working from Home?

Sydney Writers’ Room

The Great Twitter Debate: Should You Follow Back?

Double Spacing After a Period Could Reveal Your Age

Writer in Residence

toby-de-red-eyed_400x400Toby Jenkins is Bluewire Media’s CEO and co-founder. His native genius is ‘helping others to be their best’ and he practices what he preaches: implementing innovative business and management skills and ethical standards, when directing and empowering the rest of the Bluewire team to learn new skills, embrace innovation and expand their personal horizons.

Toby is a popular keynote speaker and corporate MC, he’s genuinely passionate about web strategy and leading edge management and business practices, and he blogs about these topics regularly. Along with Adam Franklin, he was listed in Dynamic Business’ 2010 Young Guns list of young entrepreneurs and Smart Company’s 2009 Hot 30 Under 30.

Toby is an avid reader, and loves swimming and surfing and all sports generally.

Twitter
Blog
Wiley Business

Web Pick

Free Microsoft Word app a hit on iOS: Shoots to the top of Apple charts

Working Writer’s Tip

Should you only take stories that interest you? Answered in the podcast!

Tips for writing features #1: find the armpits

Graduate success story!

“I sold my historical mainstream The Tide Watchers to Morrow Books, a division of HarperCollins New York, in April.

Big thanks to Kate Forsyth for her History, Mystery and Magic course – I’d already sold by the time I did it, but I *know* it helped me complete the revisions with more depth and strength.”

Meet us in real life!

Sydney meet-up with Allison Tait (and Valerie Khoo, of course!)

Join us at Storyology 2014!

Storyology 2014: Innovate, Create & Inspire!

Sign up to the Australian Writers’ Centre Newsletter!

Just fill in your details over here.

The Mapmaker Chronicles is on sale!

Find out more here.

Your hosts

Allison Tait
Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait
@valeriekhoo

Email us
podcast at writerscentre.com.au

Transcript

Valerie

Thanks for joining us today, Toby.

Toby
No worries, Val. Thanks so much for having me.

Valerie
I am so excited to talk to you about this because I first spoke to you about even the concept of this book before it was even words on paper. It’s been so great to watch the journey and see the different paths that you’ve gone down, until finally I had the book in my hands. I think it’s a really great book. I’ve read it from cover to cover and I think it’s a really practical book about web marketing that would suit not only businesses, but anyone who wants to build their personal brand and build their profile online.

But, I am raving on way too much just because I’m so excited about this book. Do tell listeners first what is the book about?

Toby
Thanks, Val. The book is really is a summation of our ten years in web marketing, or close to, where we by trial and error, predominantly, have learned what has worked and what doesn’t work in terms of generating leads primarily for our business, Bluewire Media. I guess we started off in web design and then we realised that a website on its own wouldn’t work, so we grew that out into email marketing and then social media came along, there are so many things that have evolved over the last nine and a half years of our business that we felt that it was time to sort of share the best lessons that we had learned, and hopefully to help others shortcut their learn process so they don’t have to go through the trials and tribulations that we did in the experimentation.

Valerie
If people read this book it’s going to help them do what exactly? Particularly, how would it be helpful to writers?

Toby
Ultimately it’s about driving leads for a business, but I guess more broadly for writers it’s about growing a community around any organisation really or any individual. As a writer it’s about growing your social media community, your email databases I consider as part of your community and a really quite intimate relationship as a community member. Then attracting more people to that, whether it’s around a particular message or a particular story or particular topic or genre that you’re writing about. That’s what the book is about, growing a community that is interactive and will help you to achieve whatever it is that you’re setting out to achieve with your business or your book or the organisation that you’re representing.

Valerie
One of the things that you just said before was it’s like your trials and tribulations, it’s showing the lessons that you’ve gone through so people can learn from it. One of the things I really do love about the book is that it’s not only full of practical strategies, you do actually reveal your mistakes, you actually show us the numbers. You actually say not only the things that worked, but the things that don’t work.

In this world of let’s all put our best face forward, was that an easy thing for you and your co-author, Adam, to do? To reveal your failures?

Toby
Not necessarily, but in part there’s a couple of reasons for doing it. One is, and it’s a reasonably amusing story, we certainly found amusing, that we had in terms of our failures, like me introducing myself as Adam in the early days when we were knocking on doors. I mean I guess it’s a bit more humanizing as opposed to sort of standing up on a high horse and saying, “This is what you must do, this is what you must do.” To us, the books that we’ve really enjoyed as well had shared their failings, business books particularly have shared the pitfalls and things that have gone wrong as much as they shared the things that had gone right. We set out to emulate those kinds of books and we also just felt as though it made for a story as opposed to just a to do list for someone who picked it up.

Valerie
That’s exactly right. It’s a great story.

Toby
Yeah. Well, it’s our story, some will like it, some won’t. It’s certainly a pretty true and fair representation of our last nine and a half years. It was a great opportunity to reflect on that as well, it was really fun.

Valerie
Now you’ve co-written this book with Adam Franklin, and you’ve obviously known Adam for a long time. Can you just give us an idea of how long you’ve known Adam? What’s it like to co-write a book together?

Toby
I mean Ad’s and I have been friends since year 1.

Valerie
Really?

Toby
Yeah, we were at primary in grade one together, so what’s that? Six — so, we did primary school, high school, university, post-uni Ad’s went off to travel, I was playing water polo at the time. A couple of years later we sort of joined back up. When my water polo sort of finished up as well we then decided we’d have a crack at this business. We’ve now been in business as well for 10 years.

Writing a book was something we dreamt about, when it came to the business side of things, also to us I guess it was an extension of a great friendship and a really long friendship, it was a stack of fun. We’ve had a huge amount of enjoyment and support working with a great mate, even though a lot of people have said over the years, “Oh, you’ve got to be careful going into business with a mate.” I guess we’ve taken appropriate measures to make sure that we put the friendship as high as we could over time.

Valerie
Yeah.

Toby
And that’s made a huge difference.

Valerie
You’re obviously very close, you’ve known each other since year one, but on a practical level when you co-write a book how do you actually, on a practical level, divide it up? Did you write one chapter each? Did you write chapters together? What did you actually do to make the book happen?

Toby
Yeah, will I mean I guess we weren’t too sure how it was going to roll out. That was a really important piece to take before we got to the writing stage. We had a friend of ours, Georgie Dent, who’s a journalist, and she really help us to sort of take an outsider’s perspective on all of our ideas that were jumbled up in our huge mess and take an outsider’s perspective on it and sort of talk us through what might appeal and what might make sense. She really helped us write the book proposal. I think the beauty of having Georgie onboard for that part of the project was that she really helped us frame a structure around what we were going to say, as well as obviously help us get the book deal in the first place, which was a huge help.

Then when it came time for the actual writing part, Valerie, doing your course and stuff really helped us to build the confidence. We had written a lot of blogs, so we weren’t unfamiliar with writing. When we decided it was really going to be our story that we were going to tell it made sense that we sort of manned up and wrote it ourselves. To be honest looking back on it, that’s exactly how I would do it again. It’s just been such a satisfying process.

Then when it came time for the actual writing of the content itself, I think one of the best things we did was that we both went away for a week down to Gerroa, down south, and it was book planning, it was hammering it out, it was trying to write a couple of chapters and give each other feedback and kind of iterate really quickly to see what was going to work in terms of a format and working together to get the book actually written and the chapters written and stuff. Ultimately we decided we’d divide it into chapters and then we would each write a chapter and then we’d come back and review that chapter, critique it and then go back and make alterations and what have you. So, it was sort of chapter by chapter.

Adam he used Scrivener as the tool, which I think was your recommendation from the writing course, again.

Valerie
Yes.

Toby
As the master copy, and I was writing chapters on Google Drive and Google Docs and stuff, so we could share each of the chapters of the book and also review them together, whether remote or physically together, it meant that we could go over them wherever we were. So, that really helped as well.

Valerie
That’s really interesting. Basically, you divided up, you divvied it up, “You write these chapters,” “You write these chapters,” and that’s an interesting process. You did it on Google Drive first and then you kind of left comments for each other, is that right? On Google Drive before the putting it on the master copy in Scrivener, is that how it worked?

Toby
Yeah, will Adam put his straight into Scrivener, it was just mine that I did on Google Drive. I’d just call him up and we’d just talk through it over the phone and I would make edits. Sometimes he’d jump in highlight and make comments and stuff, but we actually found sort of talking through each of the chapters was just a faster way to get to a conclusion around a particular point, whether the sentence structure was right or wrong, or whether it was the intent behind it was easier to communicate over the phone than it was through comments on the doc itself.

Valerie
It’s a book about web marketing and it has two authors, and yet it actually has a strong voice. You two must just live in each other’s pockets or something, because I don’t think — it unless it’s explicit that you’re writing some bit or whatever, it really kind of all gels together. Do you think that’s just because of your friendship or did you make a point to kind of go through and think, “That sounds a little bit jarring compared to the next bit.” What did you do on that front?

Toby
I think one of the things that was just invaluable was our editor was excellent. Again, to be brutally honest when we submitted what we submitted to the publisher the editor was the guy who pulled really quite different styles and different content, and we were sort of pretty worried about what we had submitted, confident in the core messages, but it felt like there were a heap of loose ends. The editor was phenomenal at pulling that back to something that we could then actually make progress on. Our raw material was too raw for us to actually get to the end result, whereas the editor got it to a point where we could then say, “Right, OK, now we can go through…” We spent Christmas going through every sentence and hammering it out and discussing it.

Valerie
Give me some timeframes then, approximately when did you get the book deal? When did you start on the book? How long did it take for you to write? When did you hand it in? Then when you got the edits back how long did it take for you to kind of revise it? Was there a lot of change?

Toby
We got the book deal either end of June or early July, maybe mid-July or something.

Valerie
2013?

Toby
2013, yes.

We started sort of having a crack separately at writing chapters and sort of putting some ideas down. We had the week in Jurella was — I think it was in early October. We both brought all of our ideas to the table, sat down, hammered it out, and that really gave us a framework to move forward on. So we submitted the rough copy at the first of December, I think it was. So we really punched it out in two months. Jurella may have even been the start of September, so it was either two months or three months to do all of the writing.

Then they started to drip feed the edits back to us. We did a little bit of interacting with the editor, but then the best solid block of time was immediately after Christmas. We had both gone up north to Brisbane for Christmas because that’s where our families are, we came back down the day after and spent the next two and a half weeks going through all of the editor’s edits and hammering it out and sentence by sentence as I say.

Valerie
Wow.

Toby
I think Jonathon Crossfield has a great explanation, “Trying to bash the words into submission,” and I couldn’t agree with him more.

Valerie
Did you enjoy the process of writing this book?

Toby
It was really challenging. We did a lot of research in terms of trying to find what might be the best way to write it. For instance, we went through all of the Amazon reviews of marketing books, we looked at the sort of three stars or less to go, “OK, what are the gaps in these marketing books that we could try to fill? What are the critiques of these books?” Great books whose work we love and authors and stuff that we really liked to see where we might be able to sort of try to make ours a little bit different.

The two and a half weeks were really brutal in that editing process, but ultimately I think it was an intense and really exhilarating sort of project. Even with more time I don’t think we would have — Ad’s and I were both really satisfied with the end result and don’t really feel as though we could have done it any better or much differently. Sorry, I’m sure it could have been better with a little bit more time, as anything can be, but given the time constraints we really felt as though we managed to convey the messages that we really wanted to convey get across the points that we were after. It was an enormously satisfying process.

Valerie
Apart from being satisfying, what other results have happened as a result of the book? Has it opened any doors or given you more opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t have had or would have been harder to come across? What are some of the outcomes?

Toby
Absolutely, I mean we’ve had opportunities that otherwise we wouldn’t have had for sure. People approached us immediately with requests to work with us, which is awesome. If someone has read it and enjoyed it and then makes contact then that’s a great introduction. It’s been really good for business that way.

It’s funny what writing a book — well, it’s not all that funny, I guess, but it still has that aura around it, people say, “You’ve written a book, wow. OK…” I’m sure as you’ve probably heard many times, Valerie. I was still a bit surprised by it even though I guess I still hold that same opinion too. There’s lots of authors who I admire too. The fact that it’s down in black and white makes a huge difference.

The full on benefit was just that I think it really helped — it forced discipline on our thinking that had never been there before.

Valerie
Interesting.

Toby
Yeah, without a doubt.

Valerie
Obviously you and Adam are both experts in web marketing, what I would love to share with listeners, especially the writers and aspiring writers, is some of your top tips on what you think they need to be doing when it comes to their own web marketing, because we hear a lot about building the author platform and making sure that people have that author platform. What can people do, from your expert point of view, apart from buy your book, which is fantastic, to build their author platform?

Toby
I mean I guess our view of a platform that we would be focusing is always going to be online. The fact that you can reach people who are passionate about a given topic and not necessary just non-fiction, given any topic you can find people who are passionate about and communities that are passionate about a topic. There’s no doubt about it Regardless what you’re writing about whether it’s a genre or a particular topic within that genre or what have you, the fact is that the internet enables us to tap into communities that already exist. Building relationships within those communities is really important.

The other thing for non-fiction books, I guess non-fiction — there’s so many great examples of people writing blogs for business books and what have you, certainly that was a huge reason why we were able to get a book deal in the first place was that we had a blog, we demonstrated writing ability and being able to build an audience through that blog and an email list.

But, in fiction as well, the example that springs to mind for me is a guy called Hugh Howey, the author of Wool, Shift, Dust series, which I have actually loved, because I’m a big science fiction fan, but he opted to share his content, ultimately, he shared the core elements of his book before the books were published, he then went on to self-publish. It’s a really interesting story of its own.

I think giving something away, and we say this in the book actually, whether it’s business and maybe it’s for fiction too in this respect, if you give something away that feels like you’re giving away a little bit too much, then you’re probably on the money in terms of if you feel like you’re giving away too much then it’s probably enough for someone to actually feel as though they’ve got value from the interaction with you and they would be more inclined to follow and grow your community that way, by giving your community enormous value that they then may share and refer onto others ultimately.

Valerie
You refer to your community, obviously writers are hoping that readers, people who are going to buy their books… I’ve heard some writers say, “Yes, I really love Facebook, that’s my community.” Or, “Yeah, I’ve got ‘X’ number of Twitter followers, that’s my community.” How important it is in your expert opinion, how important is it to build your email list?

Toby
I would say it’s your number one. The reality, sadly, if you share something on Facebook then ten percent of those who like your page, for instance, get to see your content, unless you pay to boost a particular post. That’s because Facebook is trying to make money, advertising is the way they’re going to do that. They’ve basically restricted that access to content, so then people will pay for it.

Your community on Facebook, you can automatically divide it by ten. Even for the ten percent it does actually get in front of, how many of those interact with it or read it or actually see it in the first place is well and truly up for debate, I believe, because it gets lost in amongst everything else, whereas an email list, to me, people still go through their email with a bit more diligence and actually opt not to read something versus — an email list to me is a deeper relationship than social media, where people can kind of skim over it.

Valerie
Or not see it at all.

Toby
Or not see it at all, absolutely. I mean if you follow a couple of hundred people on Twitter the chances of you seeing someone’s content are minuscule, unless you put them in a list or something like that on Twitter. To me, email is still the go to. I’ve actually seen particularly recently some really big names in social media opting to try to migrate their social media followings to email for that very reason, despite huge followings on social media.

Valerie
I’m glad you made that point about the email list because I always bang on about how important it is to grow your email list and not just rely on social media. I think that’s absolutely vital.

For somebody’s who’s listening, they might be on Twitter, they might be on Facebook, they might even collect an email — they’re kind of maybe doing some things, but they’re just not sure where to concentrate their efforts. People have limited time, if they just needed to start with step one, if they’re just not sure what to prioritise what would step one be?

Toby
Step one, to me, would be start a blog and make sure people can subscribe. Step one, plus one point farther.

Valerie
OK, good, I like it.

You’ve released the book now this year, in 2014. It was an effort for both of you to get it out there. Are you thinking of book two at all?

Toby
Not yet. I mean I guess it certainly hasn’t been written off as something that we’ll never ever do again. There’s been so much that we got from the writing process and learning the process. No, I mean… but, to us, what we were hoping to do with the book was that it would be a book that people could use for years, that it wouldn’t be something that is just going to date in 10 days, which is such a problem with the internet. I guess the fact that we’ve written a book about the internet, I guess, is potentially a bit ambitious. I mean we really were hoping that the core messages and in fact the core how-to points as well in there are stuff that will last for the next five or ten years and be valuable to people looking to market their businesses for a whole lot longer than that.

Valerie
I think also it introduces people to your blog. I’ve said this before on social media and I know I sound like I’m a big fan here, but I don’t endorse things unless I truly believe they’re good. I think one of the great things that you and Adam do are your templates. I think that you share some really useful templates that even though I’m pretty savvy with social media I print them out and I go, “You know what? That’s damn good.” 

Toby
Thanks, Val.

Valerie
It’s the sort of thing you can update, it doesn’t have to be in your book. If you then go to your blog you can at least update those templates if things do change and communicate with people that way.

Finally then what’s your advice, if people are listening to this and kind of thinking, “I just don’t know where to start. I just really don’t know where to start.” What’s your advice for them to finally get into a position where you’re in now? In terms of writing and publishing their book.

Toby
I once heard someone say the key to writing is writing, writing, writing. I think one of the things to me that the blog has really enabled us to do is that it allowed us to — we spent years blogging before we wrote the book, but it allowed us to sort of figure out what style we wanted to write with, and to practice the writing process as much as anything. I mean, to me, it’s a pretty low-risk, low-cost way of getting started writing is to start your own blog.

Just jump in. We really loved your course, Val, when we did it. The Business Writing course was just crucial to our sort of clarifying what the process might be and getting to understand the process too. I guess it would be different for fiction and there’s the whole self-published versus going with a publisher debate as well. Hugh Howey had some really interesting ideas around self-publishing too. I can post some links through to you, Val, perhaps for the notes here.

For me, the core to writing is to get started writing so you feel more comfortable with it, then you can try to sell it as either a fiction book or a non-fiction book. You’ll feel more confident either way.

Valerie
So get started writing, and yeah, you’re right, blogging is a great way to start. But, for some people who are really not familiar with writing they may even find blogging a little bit intimidating. I’m sure bloggers out there aren’t going to relate to that, successful bloggers out there aren’t going to relate, but there are some people, I do meet them all the time, that just think, “I don’t know what to blog about.” You’ve got a background as an athlete. You were at the Olympics playing water polo — that’s a far cry from writing and blogging. How did you overcome that initial, “Oh my god, what am I going to write about?”

Toby
Good question. For us, as a business, we started writing about the questions that our customers were asking us. That was a really easy source, I guess, for us, of inspiration. One of the questions that I kept answering or having to answer on the phone, “Why don’t I just write something about it and I can just refer them to that.” I mean that’s just sort of business, non-fiction standpoint. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how that would relate from a fiction standpoint. But, yeah, I suppose if blogging is too hard, then sitting down to write even — I’ve heard other people say too, “All I need to do is write one sentence each day.” Some people go as little as that as their writing process to say, “I’m going to write one sentence each day and then that’s the goal that I set.” Then they find once they write that one sentence the second one appears.

Valerie
Yeah, I think that’s right. I think also write to no one, do you know what I mean? I think people get intimidated when they think, “What are people going to think?” Whereas if you don’t currently have any followers it doesn’t really matter, just write to no one to start off with.

Toby
Yeah.

Valerie
Well, thank you so much for your time today, Toby. It’s been great to have a chat with you. I think that there’s a lot of stuff that people can learn from your book, Web Marketing that Works by Toby Jenkins and Adam Franklin. I really appreciate you sharing your insights with us.

Toby
Thanks so much, Val. It’s been a heap of fun. Thanks, as always, to you for running the course and everything, you’ve supported with us along the way too. Thank you enormously.


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