The Proper Order of Things for Writers

by Dane Zeller

Wanna buy my book? For writers, that really is the reason we blog, post on facebook, tweet. We build our “platforms,” so people will like us…and then…buy our book. We’ve got this all wrong.

In an earlier blog, I talked about Austin Kleon, a poet who creates his poetry by taking a New York Times article and marking out all the words that are not part of the poem. What’s left is his poem. He calls that “stealing like an artist.” I don’t care for his poetry, but I will follow his lead by stealing from Simon Sinek, a person who appeared on Ted.com with an idea worth stealing. You can see his entire speech here, but for the impatient among you, I’m going to provide the short summary below.

Simon Sinek

Sinek asks the question, “Why are some people good leaders?” Another version: “Why do some companies dominate their industries?” Simon cites the Wright brothers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Apple Computer as examples. Bear with me, I’ll get to this book publishing/selling thing real soon.

He says those three leaders all follow the same strategy, and it is a strategy that is directly opposite of everyone else’s. Everyone else, according to Sinek, talks about what they do, how they do it, and then why.

Here is an example:

1. What: Dane Zeller self-publishes a book.
2. How: Zeller builds a platform using social media to build relationships with people who read.
3. Why: He does this to sell his books without having to go through traditional publishing channels.

According to Sinek, there is one major difference (well, maybe more) between Dane Zeller and Apple. Here it is: Apple starts with the “Why”, not the “What”.

3. Why: “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.”
2. How: “The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly.”
3. What: “We just happen to make great computers. Wanna buy one?”

This simple change in the order of things makes a world of difference. Sinek’s simple point is: “people don’t buy what you make; they buy what you believe.”

I challenge all of my writer friends to change your order. Here is mine:

Why: I want to make people laugh, cry, and discover. In other words, I want to entertain.
How: I want to help strangers find my entertainment in any way I can.
What: Novels, stories, blogs, readings, power points and anything else I can think of that will prove that I entertain.

The lesson: if you focus on the “Why”, it changes how you think of the “How” and the “What”.

Writers, what is your “Why”?

What is your purpose? Your vision? Your “Why”? Those are first, and your blogging, tweeting, facebook posts all should follow upon that discovery.

Dane Zeller entertains here.

  • Jessica Conoley

    Because if I don’t do it I’ll go crazy. Is that a good why?

    • danezeller

      Yes, Jessica. Your approach is that of writing as therapy. Good choice!

  • T Vratil, Mayor of Crazie Town

    I remember when I had 40 followers and begging to have 100. A writer said “Just write your best work for those 40 followers.”

    • danezeller

      And now you have 100? Or, 25.
      Thanks for your advice, Mayor.

  • Mike

    So get your ass busy with the next book to entertain us and stop with these blogsssss.

    • danezeller

      Hey, Mike. I’m busy building my fan base. All two of them. Fans, not bases.