I’m active in a few writer groups on Facebook. The other day a video by an author who had hit the NYT and USA Today bestseller list 33 times was making the rounds. This video was of her presentation entitled “Capturing the Golden Goose: How to Sell a Bazillion Books.” Great subject, right?
Only one problem. She spent 1.5 hrs meandering around the topic and obscuring the gold nuggets of wisdom within.
I couldn’t take it. I also didn’t want others to suffer like I had. This author was hardworking and smart, and I was afraid her message would get lost. So I wrote a summary. Then I shared it in hopes that I could save people 1.5 hours of their lives by reading my 2 minute summary.
I thought a dozen people might read it. My blog traffic is quite modest, with about 10 views of a new post on average. My summary post hit 100 views within 24 hours. This is not a heroic number compared other successful bloggers, but it is 10x my usual traffic so I’m paying attention.
My post was offered in the spirit of a gift, but this gift was accepted by 10x more recipients than usual. Why? Here was my conclusion:
- Time is precious. When I offered to save someone an hour plus of time, I gave them something precious.
- This is why people like Tim Ferriss are so successful. It’s not a coincidence his first 3 books sold like hotcakes.
Tim Ferriss started out in a miserable job on Wall Street spending his days cold calling prospects. That quickly made him realize that he wanted to optimize his life for experiences and he set out to make a living without spending time in the office. He then shared to people how he made the most of his time, enabling him to learn tango in Argentina or whatever caught his fancy.
Readers bought that 4-hour Workweek in hopes they could learn to do the same. Then they promptly bought the other two books. Now Tim Ferriss has a mega following on his podcast because he brings in guests who are doing amazing things.
This exercise in writing a summary gave me huge dividends.
- I got 2 lessons for the price of one. The first lesson was what the author was actually teaching, and the second lesson was in how sharing the first lesson could boost my own traffic.
- This is how we improve as writers. Whether delivering fiction or non-fiction (like blog content), we need to give readers a gift, the ability to save time or spend their time on something they want.
So was it worth it for me? Initially when I sunk 1.5 hours into the presentation to get 2 minutes of precious value, it seemed a dubious investment of time. (I am a working parent, have a night lecturing gig, and hoard my personal time for things like actually writing.) However, between ideation, creation and execution to draft a content-rich blog post, I usually average an hour. That day, I spent over 1.5 hours to listen, and 45 min. to write and finalize the post. So I had shaved 25% off of my production time because I didn’t need to spend time choosing a topic. Then, in seeing the traffic boost and writing today’s post in 30 minutes, I shaved yet another 50% on drafting time.
Verdict, I spent 1.5 hrs and saved 45 minutes on my next two hours of work. Also, I learned something about how to give my readers better content. Winning.
This exercise is one other successful writers use.
Chris Fox is a great example. He writes prolifically, he shares his progress on his video blog and he then publishes a book to summarize the nuggets of gold he unearthed while mining on his own. He did the infamous 21 Day Novel challenge and now he is sharing the 12 Weeks to a Trilogy series here.
Lesson – The next time you find yourself struggling for a topic to write on, I suggest asking yourself two things:
- Who is someone famous that you could learn from?
- Can you summarize for others the lesson you gained from studying this person?
If so, you will have put yourself in the position to save other readers time. This is precious content. Go for it.
Oh, btw. Tim Ferriss’s latest book also shows that he knows to stand on the shoulders of giants too: Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.
Some of my blog posts have affiliate links. These are not making me rich by any means. I have sold 2 copies of Chris Fox’s book Six Figure Author: Using Data to Sell Books: Write Faster, Write Smarter and 2 copies of Write to Market: Deliver a Book that Sells (Write Faster, Write Smarter 3) through my book reviews. Pretty soon, the links will earn enough for me to buy Chris Fox a cup of coffee. In the meantime, he is offering his newest science fiction novella, Planet Strider for free here.