We all have different strengths as writers, but sometimes we don’t know what they are. Or we get frustrated because we try to succeed at something that just won’t work for our personality.
In this interview, Becca Syme explains how our strengths can help us and how to ‘question the premise’ whenever we face different career choices and varied writing advice.
In the intro, 14 Reasons Agenting is Harder Now than 20 Years Ago [Kristin Nelson]; Salman Rushdie will release his novel on SubStack [The Guardian]; Tree of Life on special; Transience and Permanence on the Pilgrim’s Way [Sacred Steps]
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Becca Syme is an author, coach, and creator of the Better-Faster Academy. She is a USA Today bestselling author of small-town romance and cozy mystery and also writes the ‘Dear Writer’ series of non-fiction books.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.
- Lessons learned from burnout
- Why we need to be aware of how we spend energy
- Questioning the premise
- How knowing our individual strengths can help us as writers. Becca and her team specialize in the Clifton Strengths assessment and coaching. You can also just do the assessment at Gallup, but it’s not specifically for writers. [If you’re interested, my top 5 strengths are Learner, Intellection, Strategic, Input, and Futuristic.]
- How Becca uses video for content marketing and prefers word of mouth to ads for her business.
Transcript of Interview with Becca Syme
Joanna: Becca Syme is an author, coach, and creator of the Better-Faster Academy. She is a USA Today bestselling author of small-town romance and cozy mystery, and also writes the ‘Dear Writer’ series of non-fiction books. Welcome, Becca.
Becca: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.
Joanna: I’m looking forward to talking to you.
Tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing.
Becca: I’ve been one of those people who wanted to write my whole life. But I actually got into writing romance specifically because I was a reader. Because I loved reading and I loved the stories and the characters.
So I definitely came to writing from a love of reading and then realized just how much I actually love the process. Beginning to end, I just love the process of writing books. And so I started full time in 2012, 2013, and then just never looked back. I really love it.
Joanna: Did you have a previous career?
Becca: I did. What I’m doing now in terms of I write fiction and nonfiction. The nonfiction is really aligned with what I used to do. Which is a combination of strategic leadership development, consulting, or leadership in nonprofits.
My background is very much in what I’m currently doing with writers, which is success alignment and strengths coaching. We use the CliftonStrengths program. I’ve been a certified CliftonStrengths coach for almost 16 years now.
That’s definitely what I loved doing before I was writing, and then I fell into doing it with writers after I became a fiction writer because there was so much need for people to understand how and why they’re successful. It’s not something that’s innate for a lot of us and so I found that there was a big need for that, and fell into that second career after also having been a fiction writer.
Joanna: I’ve read a number of your books. And in Dear Writer, You Need to Quit. Which, it’s a very provocative title…
Joanna: …which I’m sure you designed on purpose! But I think it’s very interesting. And, of course, you go through a number of different things that writers should think about quitting. But you talk about how you burned out.
Can you talk about that experience of burnout and how you got through that process in order to change things?
Becca: The way that I burned out initially, I was an executive director at a nonprofit at a very young age and I didn’t understand that there was an end to energy. I didn’t understand that you couldn’t just keep overworking.
I think a lot of us are like that. We learn about burnout from having burned out. What I realized through that experience, the initial burnout that I went through which was very devastating. I was not able to, really, even get up off the floor out of bed. It was a very, very thorough burnout.
But what I learned was that there is an end to how much energy I can expend. And if I’m not cautious about how I expend energy over time, that I’m going to end up right back there. Because, of course, I burned out again in 2013.
There is absolutely a learning curve to burnout. But I feel like the key for me was the knowledge that if you can steward your energy, then burnout is not inevitable even for people who work hard, who ‘Phoenix’ like that. Who work really, really hard and then burn hot, and then need to recover a little bit. You can still not ‘burnout’ where you just can’t work if you’re cautious about how you stored your energy.
Joanna: I think I’m one of those people. I tend to work super, super, super, super hard and then I sleep a lot. Like, I’m a 9, 10-hour night girl. Which I’m very lucky to do and then I can go at quite a high pace when I do go.
But, just coming back, again, to, you said 2013 then, so that was when you had gone full time?
Joanna: And I feel like in the indie community, there are some behaviors that can lead to this kind of burnout. What was it specifically for you?
Becca: It was definitely the thought that I had to keep up with what everyone else was doing. And I think the whole concept for me of watching what other people do and trying to copycat them is one of the things that I think gets us in the most trouble as an indie community.
There is a very small segment of personality-driven people who are personality wired to look at other people and copycat them but it’s like 12% of the entire population. Most of us should not be copycatting other people.
And I think there’s this mentality and a lot of success studying that says, ‘If I copy what people are doing, then I’m going to have their results.’ So if someone is writing, 8,000, 10,000, 12,000, 20,000 words a day or a week, that, that is how they are successful.
I didn’t realize that, that wasn’t the case. Because, of course, that’s not my pace. And I needed to learn how to own that, the fact that it wasn’t my pace. But I came into the industry looking at, ‘What are all these successful people doing and how do I copy their actions to get their results?’
That so rarely works for people. And we don’t ever question like, ‘Well, why doesn’t that work for me? Is it because I’m lazy or stupid?’ No, it’s because you’re different than them and you have a different success pattern. So I had to learn that the hard way.
Joanna: I think a lot of people are learning that. And, actually, in fact, just today on Twitter, a writer friend of mine put up a tweet saying, ‘Is anyone else just feeling…?’ I mean, people use the term burnout and I think that that means a certain thing. But at this point, I didn’t want to mention the virus but here I go!
Joanna: But in the pandemic, we’re 18 months, 20 months in, we feel this kind of exhaustion in our creativity. Now, last year in 2020, I did something like six books because I was driven. I was really driven. And this year I feel like I’m just not.
I feel like a lot of that is exhaustion. And I don’t think it’s necessarily burnout, but I feel, maybe, creatively, we haven’t been able to fill the creative well or anything like that.
Joanna: So I feel like we need to talk about, ‘It’s okay to feel like this.’
Joanna: Rather than, ‘You just have to muscle through’.
Becca: It’s not weird for us to feel this exhausted. Not just that it’s normal in the pandemic. In any pandemic, it’s normal to reach pandemic fatigue. That’s well documented.
Additionally, if you think about the concept of what it means to spend energy, we don’t often think about the fact that we also need to get energy from somewhere. Because we do make energy when we sleep, when we eat, when we have fun, when we research or learn, when we do all of these different things, but we’re not as aware of it as we are of how we spend energy.
So let’s say you had 1,000 pennies of energy over the last 20 months to write, and you had been spending all of them but never creating any more. Then at some point, and I’ll talk about this in a second, you’ve been spending them but not creating any, or you reach the end of the extra. The leftover that you had. Then it’s completely normal to feel like, ‘I am out. I’m tapped, I can’t.’
And then what we need to do is think, ‘That’s not weird, it’s not bad, it’s not abnormal.’ It’s that what used to cost us one penny to do now costs us five. So it used to cost me one penny to open Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram and now I have to spend more energy because I’m either seeing something that makes me frustrated or watching someone else’s success and getting, ‘Why can’t I have that?’
I’m fighting more against different things than I used to be, so even just one simple thing can cost me more energy than it used to.
Think about how we used to go to the grocery store. It was so easy to go to the grocery store we didn’t even think about it. Now, we think about it. It costs us more to do those things. So, of course, we’re more expended than we were. All we need to do is just think about, ‘Okay, how do I get more creative energy? Do I need to read books, do I need to watch Netflix, do I need to talk to other writers? What is it that’s going to fill those pennies in my bank so that I have them to spend because it’s going to cost more to do those things now?’
Joanna: That’s a good analogy. And for me, my fiction comes from my travels and I’m completely exhausted, as in, my pennies are exhausted.
Joanna: As this goes now, hopefully, I’ll be finished. But I was writing a novel. And, in fact, yesterday when I was sitting trying to figure out why the hell I couldn’t write? And then I was like:
‘Do you know what? I’m just tapped out of ideas so it’s going to be a novella.’ And that’s a good way to deal with it.
Becca: I love that. And also, is there a way to simulate the travel that you used to get? So not necessarily just watching a movie, but, could you experience something new of your high input or high individualization or something like that in the Clifton Strengths which is the personality assessment we use?
You have a higher need for new and different than other people. And so if you have that higher need, that it’s good to try and find some places. ‘Where can I research, or watch a documentary, or talk to a person who lives in a place I’ve never been to? Look at pictures, experience something that I’ve never experienced before.’
Because if your energy for writing comes from that new and different energy, then you’ll absolutely run out of it when it runs out. And then, can we look for alternative sources of that?
Joanna: In the book Dear Writer, You Need to Quit, you have this key recommendation which is, ‘Quit accepting the premise.’ And you use that a lot in what you talk about and I really love it.
What can that be applied to and how can we use it to improve our experience as an author?
Becca: So accepting the premise is, well, first of all, when I hear something, I assume it’s true because I’ve heard it a lot. And, honestly, a lot of us believe things because either they rhyme or they’re symmetrical.
Think about something like, ‘A penny saved is a penny earned.’ How often have we heard that? But it’s not actually true. If you save a penny, yes, you have an extra penny but you didn’t earn that penny, you didn’t do anything to get it, right?
So that type of questioning the premise, like, ‘You should work eight hours a day.’ Do you actually know where the concept of the eight-hour workday comes from and why it’s applied? It actually doesn’t apply to fields at all like creativity.
In fact, there’s the colloquial joke about, ‘Where does the eight-hour workday come from?’ One of the industrial revolution fathers actually said that people should work eight hours a day, they should sleep eight hours a day, and they should shop eight hours a day.
Becca: So that’s where the eight-hour workday comes from. It’s an expectation that we’re contributing to an economy somehow. Otherwise, you would work 20 hours a day, right? The eight hours is meant to balance economy.
If you think about things like questioning the premise of, let’s say for instance, ‘writers write.’ Some writers think and some writers need to think to write. If I’m forcing myself to write just because somebody said writers write and it felt very resonant to me or they believed it a lot, they had a lot of certainty about it and I never think to question like, ‘Does that actually work for me?’
Or, ‘You can’t edit a blank page,’ is another one. People edit blank pages in their head all the time. It’s just, for about 50% of people, we found editing a blank page does not actually help them be more productive. But for about 50% of writers, it does help you be more productive if you allow yourself to edit before you write.
So there’s so much of this advice that we hear for writers that we just accept without thinking about it because the person who is telling us is either very certain and worth sensing their emotions of certainty or they sound smart or they’re successful. We assume if they’re successful, we should listen to what they say.
And, again, it’s not to say no one should give advice. That’s definitely not what I’m saying. It’s to say, when it doesn’t work for you as an individual, don’t assume you’re at fault and you’re stupid or unmotivated. Assume that that advice is not for you because no advice is for everyone.
Joanna: I almost think that by questioning the premise, you’re trying to boil down where people are coming from. So, for example, ‘You must have an agent and a traditional publisher,’ is a particular premise for a type of author career. Or, ‘You must write fast and use KU,’ is a different premise for a different author career.
By questioning all of these things, you can shape your own path. I feel like too often, it’s very hard, for new authors in particular, to know who to listen to and whose premise to accept. I guess, people are listening to us right now or they’ve turned off.
Joanna: How do people find the appropriate people to listen to in order to get to that premise?
Becca: I do think that there is some questioning that needs to happen of, ‘Why am I listening to this person?’
If the only reason I’m listening to them is because they’ve sold a lot of books, then I want to make sure to listen for my own internal alignment. If they’re talking about, ‘Don’t edit as you go,’ is the example I use a lot. If they’re saying, ‘Don’t edit as you go,’ the reasons they might be saying that have to do with how their personality aligns with that particular strategy.
If you’re feeling that and hearing, ‘But, wait a minute, I need to do that in order to write effectively,’ then you need to listen to your own intuition. And, again, I feel like it’s so weird to say this out loud. But all of what successful people have learned, they’ve learned by trial and error.
So it’s not like there’s some secret hidden code that they understand, they literally learned it by succeeding and failing themselves. And so some of it, and especially in younger or newer to a particular industry authors is, it’s actually really good to succeed and fail sometimes because it’s how you learn what works for you as well.
But in terms of alignment, though, who should you listen to? Most people can tell pretty quickly when a particular piece of advice does not work for them. I’ve tried, and tried, and tried to dictate and literally just cannot. Because, and, again, for my personality, as an external processor, I don’t know how to speak out loud in the same voice that I write in. It’s not possible for me. So dictation will never work for me.
And it’s not a matter of me trying harder or me learning something. It’s that, that’s not a voice I can talk out loud in. So then I know that’s not a capacity issue for me. It’s not that I’m not good at something, it’s just dictation is not for me.
So I feel like I push trial and error as an intuition builder. But also, I do think listening to our own resonance is really important. When you hear someone who is not resonating with you but you feel like you have to listen to them for some reason, question that premise. Including me.
Joanna: Exactly. Including me too. So it seems people are listening to us.
I want to come back on the Clifton Strengths thing that you do. And it’s so funny because I’d heard of this before and then my friend, and fellow author, and podcaster Sacha Black recommended it.
She’s done your course and she was like, ‘It’s life-changing.’ We’d had a few drinks at the time so I took that with a pinch of salt. But then I came home, and I was like, ‘I’m going to do this.’ And I did it and it did truly, truly help me in terms of understanding aspects of my personality that I was getting frustrated with. Obviously, there were lots of these different personality tools.
Tell us a bit about the Clifton Strengths in particular and why it’s useful to people.
Becca: And also, because there are so many personality tools, I do think that they can all be useful on some level in terms of either placing myself on a continuum somewhere. Because that’s where a lot of my work and success alignment is about like, ‘Okay, so where do you fall on that continuum, how much of that trait do you have?’
The reason I like the Clifton Strengths so much is that it specifically is about success. So it’s not just like, ‘How am I wired or what are my preferences?’ It’s where can you expect the most success based on where millions of other successful people have indicated that their success also comes from? The top 10% of an industry because that’s who Dr. Clifton went after when he was interviewing people to figure this out.
A lot of personality tests that are out there are, one person has decided there’s four kinds of people. And those can be helpful because they do apply to, by standard deviation, 68%, roughly, of people will fit into some realm of that. But it’s not individual enough.
What I love about Clifton Strengths is that there are 34 different possibilities and it’s your areas of consistent near-perfect performance. But then also, you have five of them. And so it’s very, very individualized to how your success will happen.
One of my top strengths is input. I am the person who will google everything. If you have a question, I want to know the answer to it. I’m super curious. I have an interest level in so many different things.
And the way that that impacts my writing is, I like to put little pieces of information into my writing or little unique things into my writing that are like Easter eggs for people who love high input. And a number of letters I get from people who are like, ‘Oh, my gosh, that one shoe designer from 1906.’ From a book I wrote 12 years ago. Because it lights up input people, when they learn new pieces of information even from their fiction.
A lot of us who are high input can feel like that’s not a beneficial thing, but it’s actually a way that you can stand out. And many of us who love to do that don’t even realize that we do it.
For instance, when you travel, your input is taking in all this information of all the things around you, the smells, the sights, what things look like, how you would describe them, what it feels like to be immersed in that place. And then when you write, you can write a sense of place in such a realistic way because your input is pulling all of those little details and will remember them.
You’ll file them into your memory and so that becomes more immersive. And you don’t have to write very many words on the page for that to happen. It’s not like you have to fill up with description. It’s just when you write the detail, it’ll be real, it will be resonant. And that’s something not everyone can do.
Joanna: And in my top five is Input as well. And Learner is my number one. And it’s exactly what you say, my fiction is very detail-heavy about lots of things. It’s not an info dump, but if I describe a setting of a cathedral, every single detail is exactly right.
Joanna: I love all that, like you. And my readers appreciate the massive historical details and all of this type of stuff. And I love it, this is why I do what I do.
Becca: Even your non-fiction. You’re a learner input in your non-fiction as well. You gather information from reputable people and you learn. I remember reading your health book, and, writing with a doctor, and talking to the doctor about all of that.
That’s a very Input/Learner way of doing non-fiction which seems very commonsensical. And this is one of the things about strengths, it’s so fascinating. Is like you might say, ‘Well, of course, you would do that because that just makes sense to do it that way, it’s what you do.’
And I would say, right. But most people wouldn’t think to do that and that’s what makes your work stand out. And this is the core, I think, of the Clifton Strengths, especially for writers is that what you do the most instinctively is often something that you would toss away.
As a high Intellection, I think all the time. Well, of course, you do because that’s just what you do, right? But did you know 58% of writers have intellection. So if you think deeply about something, if you iterate that over and over in your mind, you come to such clarity and certainty about that character plot concept setting detail, Strategy that you have a depth that other people are not able to reach because they don’t have that strength.
But it seems so commonsensical to those of us who are high Intellection because, ‘Well, of course, I would do that.’ So part of Clifton Strengths is understanding just how unique and different you are from everyone else. And then, how to utilize those traits to be that successful, to be more successful than you are. To be that standout person.
Joanna: It’s funny because I mainly did it because I was feeling like, ‘Why don’t I want a writer’s group?’ Some said, ‘Why don’t I do a mastermind, or why don’t I do coaching, or why don’t I want to be in groups of people?’
And I also was questioning whether I should be doing these futurist episodes for the podcast, because, frankly, they’re not as popular as the main show. And I was like, ‘Should I do this?’
Then I did this Clifton Strengths and Strategic and Futurist were in my top five. And, pretty much, all my bottom things were in relationship building. And I felt, and really, it was hilarious. And I was like, ‘This has helped me in knowing my strengths which are strategic and futuristic, but also my weaknesses which are around relationships.’
Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on relationships, but it just made me feel better about what I was feeling in terms of my career.
Joanna: Anything else on that? How should we treat those things that are at the bottom?
Becca: We usually say ignore the bottom because it’s just not where you’re going to be strong. It doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do those things. Like you’re an incredibly warm person relationally, on a person-to-person level. And you’re utilizing that effectively in your career. So it’s not like you can’t relate to people, that’s just not where you lead, right?
Becca: So we always tell people to ignore the bottom because that’s just not where your strong traits are going to be.
But also to talk about the strategic and futuristic. Whether those episodes are popular today or not, and whether they’re going to be popular a year from now. Most futuristic people are way ahead of where everyone is.
What’s so fascinating, we have a number one futuristic writer because paranormal women’s fiction is really big right now, in 2021. And she was writing paranormal women’s fiction about two years before anyone else was and it wasn’t selling. And she was extremely frustrated by it.
All of a sudden, the PWF big boom started. And we all pointed at that and we’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you wrote paranormal women’s fiction two years before anyone else did.’ So as a futuristic, it’s really common to be ahead of everybody else.
Knowing that about yourself and knowing, ‘Hey, it’s okay for me to be like that, I could potentially be on the leading edge of something.’ Instead of feeling, ‘Not everybody’s around me yet.’ That might be a good thing. It might be how you stand out in your career.
But I would bet those episodes will be popular once the middle adopters really start to listen to you, right?
Joanna: Yes, once the world catches up.
Joanna: It is frustrating when you feel like, ‘Oh, this is going to happen.’ And people just ignore you for years. But the same happened with self-publishing and podcasting.
Becca: Yes, exactly.
Joanna: I feel like I’ve got a bit of history now. But coming back to what you do.
Tell us a bit more about what your business looks like now and how you help writers particularly with this Clifton Strengths stuff and what you do.
Becca: All of our Clifton Strengths stuff is coaching one-on-one. Because, as much as it’s interesting to learn about strengths, it really isn’t helpful to just learn the information.
It can be helpful like with Joanna, because now Gallup has so many resources that are very individualized. So if you end up reading your full 34 report, it’s now individualized completely to you based on all where your 34 rank. Which is something that they’re able to do because they’ve been, now I think 50 years, into this research which is amazing.
But, specifically, what we do is, we do a lot of coaching. One-on-one coaching. We do have some classes but they’re more like here are the six parts of your writing life and how do we align you for success in each part of your life based on where you fall in different continuum metrics? That’s our Write Better Faster.
Specifically with the strengths, our goal is to customize success for everybody. Because I think that’s where we see, I want to see 100% success. I want everybody who comes in to be able to figure out, ‘How am I going to be at my most successful?’ And that’s our business model, I guess, is very, very individualized.
Which, similarly to what you were saying about, ‘Why am I not doing this, why am I not doing that?’ I have a crisis of strategy every once in a while, when I realized, we don’t have any evergreen classes. We don’t have any short-form paid content.
There are a lot of things that we just don’t do because it doesn’t align with who I am as a person. I want to individualize and customize everything. And so that’s, very much, what my business model looks like. Is that the closest you’ll get to evergreen is the ‘Quit Books,’ the ‘Dear Writer’ books. And even those are customized almost chapter by chapter to different people because they’re about an individual person, they’re almost like case studies.
So that’s, very much, my business model. I’m a number four individualization in the Clifton Strengths so I want everything to be for one person.
Joanna: I’m just looking at mine now. I’m 17 for individualization so it’s way down. I do find this so interesting and your books are excellent.
I want to encourage people that they cannot come to your website and say, ‘Becca, teach me about ads.’
Becca: Yes. That’s definitely not something we do. Although, we did just start an intuitive ads program. But that’s more because I feel like that’s a missing personality trait.
We’re not actually teaching ad strategy, we’re teaching intuitive personality decision-making. Because it’s very different from non-intuitive or from concrete objective decision-making. We do have ads discussions. You will definitely not learn best practice strategy from Becca. I don’t do that.
Joanna: So, your business model, even though I don’t do coaching and things. I’m the same as you in that I have non-fiction and I have fiction. Who does speaking anymore?! But at some point, that might come back in person post-pandemic.
I still feel that’s a bit like my podcast, it’s individual to group as opposed to one-on-one like what you’re doing. You’ve talked a bit about the business.
In terms of encouraging people who might want to have these more multiple streams of income. I love that you decided not to be a full-time fiction author.
How has your business model grown, and how can you encourage people who want to build a more holistic business model?
Becca: I do think that, for most of us, I would say from a personality perspective, more than 60% of people will not function in a very linear business model. Just in terms of only doing one thing. Most of us have some form of one of the Clifton Strengths and I’ll just name them, learner, individualization, input, context, strategic, adaptability, activator.
If you have any of those strengths that are dominant in you, especially learner and input, you’re not going to be satisfied long-term with only one thing. Let’s say only one series, or only one genre even, or potentially only one business.
So many of us have that, ‘I need that new and different, or I need something challenging, or I get bored quickly.’ We feel like that’s a weakness and it’s not. It’s actually a strength.
And so I do think that the multiple streams of income concept is going to work for most people in terms of, it’ll keep you engaged in something so that you can come back to.
On a daily basis, I don’t do only one business. Every single day, I do fiction, non-fiction, I still am working at a nonprofit. So I do some form every single day of those because I need the difference in order to stay engaged in all of the different projects.
There’s this idea that if you don’t narrow down for every single person, that, somehow, you’re not going to be long-term successful. But, actually, that’s not true for everybody.
And to a point where you may want to narrow down on a day-by-day basis. But many of us will actually be more engaged long term if we don’t silo quite as much in terms of completely not doing anything else. There are many of us who are just made for that.
I found, for myself especially, the multiple streams of income was less of a business strategy in terms of, it was not a money-making strategy; it was a sanity strategy. I wanted to do this, all of this as long as I could. I knew that I would burn out on it if I only did one thing. And I really did.
The fiction, I definitely burned out on because it was just too much in one direction. Once I allowed myself to widen, I actually got a lot more focused in all of those different areas because of my particular personality. Again, roughly 60% of people will be dominant in some strength that requires them to have multiple focuses.
Joanna: I hope that’s making lots of people feel better.
Becca: I hope so.
Joanna: And I think that book ‘The ONE Thing’ by Gary Keller caused so many people, so many issues.
Becca: There are so many books like that, ‘Be Obsessed or Be Average.’ There’s a ton of these books that are all about, ‘You have to do only one thing.’ And I would say, ‘Oh, right, some people do definitely.’ There are people in the world. And it’s not 60/40. It’s more like 60% absolutely need to have multiple things, and about another 20% would be okay with one thing but probably not forever.
And then there’s about 20% of people who are just like, ‘You need to do only one thing and that will be your most successful.’ Some of those people can do it forever because that’s just how their personality is wired. But what we don’t take into account so often is the lens through which people see things when they’re giving advice.
So this whole, ‘You should write every day or you should only do one thing.’ All of those are lenses through which those experts see the world and it helps them to function better, but it doesn’t necessarily help everyone to function better to do that thing. And so the, ‘Only do one thing,’ is a perfect example. Just by personality alone, that’s not true for everyone.
Joanna: Super helpful. And then, I just wanted to ask you one thing about marketing.
Given that we have a similar business model and we attract people to our businesses, but we’re not necessarily doing paid ads for it. And, in fact, you have a chapter on ‘Quit thinking Facebook is your friend,’ which is great. And even question the premise that social media is even necessary anymore.
What have you found works for you in terms of attraction marketing for your business?
Becca: Content is definitely king in our business just in terms of whenever we find that something is really helpful, we share it. I do both either in non-fiction form like written form or in verbal form, podcasts or YouTube videos.
Because I do find that when you can provide the right kind of content for people, that’s what they need and it’s what they want. And so I feel like if the content is not helpful… Like, every single time I do any kind of public thing anywhere, I always say, ‘Go watch my YouTube channel. If you don’t like it, like, you’re not obligated to do anything else. Don’t buy a book, or buy a class, or whatever. First watch the YouTube channel because you will be able to tell if we are a place for you or not by listening me talk.’
As opposed to hooking people in with an ad or something. Not that that’s bad, it’s just, it really doesn’t work for me. Because, for me, I would rather see the right people at the right time. And that always has to be about, ‘Is my content right for you or not?’
I’m, very much, a person who, I would prefer word-of-mouth marketing to anything else, so I only want people to come to us if we have helped them or if they think that we will help them because of something they’ve read, or seen, or heard. Because, otherwise, having people just come to me if I’m not aligned with them, it’s like, ‘Well, I’m not going to be able to help you if this doesn’t resonate.’ So, content is definitely our primary strategy.
Joanna: That’s awesome. And as someone who doesn’t watch YouTube videos, I would also encourage people to read your books because I got Dear Writer, You Need to Quit. And the funny thing is, I’ve seen that book in, probably even in my also-boughts for years. And I hadn’t read it until recently because, of course, in my head, I was like, ‘I don’t need to quit anything.’
But I had got it wrong. And, clearly, by reading your books and then several of the others, I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s quite a few things.’
Becca: The pushback that I got when I first released it, of course, was I don’t actually want any writers to quit writing unless that’s really what they need to do for their sanity. But, in general, I think, the reason that I titled the books the way that I do… Like, I was just having a conversation with somebody this morning where they were asking me, ‘Why don’t you have more strategic brandable titles? Why don’t you say, ‘Here is how to be successful as an author?’
And I’m like, ‘Well, because that’s way too open loop for me. And it promises something that I don’t know that I can deliver on.’ One of my coaches says, ‘Here’s what you do, Becca. You take this piece of gold, you put it in a box, you sink it to the bottom of the ocean, you cover it in cement, and then you expect people to be able to find it by the way that I title stuff.’
And I’m like, ‘Well, yeah. That’s okay because if somebody tells you, ‘Hey, there’s this really cool piece of gold down there, you’ll go look for it and then I don’t get anybody who doesn’t belong in the content.’ I’m not just casting a wide net, but that’s definitely a strategy on my personalities part.
That is, I want to make sure that it’s significant, that it makes a significant impact when people read it. So I definitely titled the book the way that I did so that you would only read it when it was the right time for you to find it.
Joanna: I hope today we’ve brought up some gold from the depths and the people will go check out your stuff.
Where can people find you and everything you do online?
Becca: The easiest place is to go to is YouTube and to search for the Quit Cast, Q-U-I-T C-A-S-T. And, of course, if you’re not a video person, which it’s totally okay, not everybody is, definitely check out the ‘QuitBooks for Writers’ on Amazon, or Kobo, or Barnes & Noble, or Apple. Wherever you like to buy books, because I’m an aggressively wide author. Please check out the content. And thanks so much for having me, this was a blast.
Joanna: It’s been so good to talk to you. Thank you so much, Becca. That was great.
The post Author Mindset: Strengths For Writers With Becca Syme first appeared on The Creative Penn.
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Author: Joanna Penn