On the Creative Self-Publishing Podcast, ALLi Director Orna Ross discusses how to use your creative mission to discover your publishing purpose. Using reflective exercises and free writing, Orna will help you answer: What kind of difference do you want to make as a self-publishing author? What do you want to be known for? Together, we'll illuminate your creative mission. Grab your pen and paper, and let's begin this exciting journey of discovery.
The Creative Self-Publishing podcast stream is sponsored by Orna Ross’s guidebook: Creative Self-Publishing. You can purchase the book at selfpublishingAdvice.org/creative. ALLI members receive the ebook edition, and all ALLi guidebooks, free.
Find more author advice, tips, and tools at our self-publishing advice center. And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at allianceindependentauthors.org.
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- Creative Planning for Profit: A Facebook Group for Authors
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About the Hosts
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratizing, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Read the Transcripts: Creative Mission
Orna Ross: So, welcome to the Creative Self-Publishing stream of the podcast. Last time out we talked about how discovering your creative passion can actually help you to find your niche, and today I'd like to talk about your creative mission and how that can help you to discover your publishing purpose, which again, links into all sorts of things around your publishing choices, your book descriptions, your design aesthetic, your author brand, all of these arise out of the personal values and mission that you have as a writer, but also as a publisher.
Lots of writers want to make a difference, that's sort of a cliche that we talk about in publishing and in life generally, making a difference is, like most cliches, it's a bit fuzzy. Everyone who's ever lived, who's made a difference. But the question for writers, and especially for those of us who self-publish our own books, is what kind of difference do we want to make? Another way to think about this is, for what do we want to be known?
The answer to this is our creative mission, but just thinking about that question straight is often very difficult.
So, what I'd like to do in this episode of the podcast is invite you at this point in time to stop the recording and go and get some pen and paper, because I'm going to ask some questions and if you do them free writing, as we've discussed before, writing fast, raw, exact, and easy, if you do them as you hear them for the first time, you'll get nice, fresh, clean answers to these.
If you want to follow up, all of this is available in my book, Creative Self-Publishing, which is free to ALLi members in eBook edition. Just go to the free publications in the member zone and non-members can purchase online at selfpublishingadvice.org/shop.
Okay. So, with your pen and paper in hand, one of the best ways to connect with your mission as a writer, and you may be thinking at this point, I don't really have a mission; I just want to write, I just want to entertain, I just want to tell stories, I just want to write my poems, I just want to tell people what I know, or whatever.
Underneath that is what I am calling here, this idea of creative mission. So, even if you're feeling a bit sceptical, just follow through and see, do you get anything useful out of this series of exercises that we'll go through here?
So, the first question I'd like you to ask yourself is, what would you like to change in the world if you had power? You rule the world, you can do whatever you want. What makes you angry? What would you like to change? These questions are really connected. So, stop listening and just begin writing on that, and you can start the recording again when you have finished.
Angers are actually destructive when they're mindlessly unleashed, but anger mindfully observed and harnessed is actually very powerful creative fuel. So, I'm not sure what you have uncovered, obviously in your writing there, but whatever it is, it's key to you connecting with your mission. So, that's one side of the equation, if you like.
Then there is another question that I'd like you to consider in the same way, and again, writing fast, raw, exact, and easy. Are you motivated more by the idea of selling books to lots of appreciative readers, or by receiving a claim from your peers, other writers you respect or other respected people like rights buyers, critics, prize givers, people like that? Which is your primary motivation, in other words, selling or a claim, and just write a little bit about that.
Okay, and from those two exercises, it's going to be possible for you to put together a mission statement. So, companies and organizations often create mission statements to tell their team what it's all about, and also their customers, so that people understand what they do, why they do it, what their aims are, what their values are, what their mission is.
So, as authors, it can be really useful for us to do a similar sort of statement to remind ourselves, and our assistants, and the team that we work with, our readers as well, why we write, why we publish, and indeed, not least of all ourselves, because a mission statement can help us to stay clear and focused and motivated when things threaten to become overwhelming.
It's really useful when it comes to preparing your book descriptions or your author bios, and the other kinds of marketing materials that we all have to put together. It can also guide what we write, the order of our publication, because for most of us, as we begin to write more books, the more we write, the more we want to write, the more ideas we get, and so the mission statement can actually help us decide, no, I should publish this first, and what order and sequence in which we should do our writing and our publishing.
So, in considering your own personal mission statement as a writer and publisher, we begin with the writing. What kind of writer are you?
So, there are loads of ways you can think about this question, but I invite you to consider whether you are one of the five following types of writers, and these cover off most of us, and these arise out of your unique perspective, and your voice, and your style, and your worldview. All of these will make you fall into a particular category of writer, reporters, explorers, prophets, activists, and performers.
So, let's just look at those a little bit more closely. Reporter authors write books that aim for objectivity and detachment, reporting on “new facts”, in inverted commas, or more often old facts that are assembled in new ways. So, non-fiction writing, generally speaking though, sometimes reporter authors write a particular kind of, what I call, explanatory fiction; the story is just a vehicle to get across some facts. I don't know any reporter poets, though there are obviously some poets who report more than others, where the poetry is filled with facts about life, about the universe, about existence. That is a reporter poet, but that's a much more unusual animal than a reporter, non-fiction author, obviously.
Explorers, explorer writers, they go beyond the facts. They want to not only talk about what is there and what is, but also how something happened. So, they're very interested in the how, and here's where you get philosophers as well as more obvious sort of exploratory fiction, exploratory poetry, exploratory non-fiction.
Prophets, they go deeper again, if you like, into the unknown. So, prophets write about the spiritual and, as I said, the unknown, the invisible, those aspects of life that are not detectable by our logic and our reason, but that every single human generation has ever existed writes about and talks about, and it's our prophets who do that for us.
Activists are those who want to make social change. They write books, fiction, poetry, and non-fiction that aim to persuade, to bring about an actual change in social structure. That's our activist authors.
And finally, our performers, they write books that need to be read aloud, at least in audiobook form, but also to stage and screen. Performance writers.
So, which of those are you, reporter, explorer, prophet, activist, or performer?
When you understand that writing identity, you can actually exaggerate it a bit, can really tap into it, tap into your own personal experiences, and emotions, and perspectives to deepen or develop that aspect of yourself.
Knowing it can be really helpful in terms of understanding what it is you're trying to do at the level of mission, and this is where the publishing comes in. So, it's writing you that guides it, but then publisher you picks up on the things that a performer, activist, prophet explorer, or reporter will do differently. So, your publishing will be affected by the fact that you approach life and think about life in those ways.
When you understand your writing identity in this way, it really helps you to build trust with your readers, because they can sense that you are being true to yourself and that you are owning your own individuality, and all of this becomes more and more important in the age of AI, because these are the subtle ways in which we convey our humanity, our humanness, the fact that we are not a machine to our readers.
So yeah, owning your writing identity, it also helps you to set realistic goals for your writing business and to make informed decisions about the kind of projects that you do and don't want to undertake.
So, you let go of those things that you are more mildly interested in, and you move right into embracing that writing identity. When you've done that, when you've thought about that, and when you understand what that means for you, you are ready to actually write a mission statement, and it can be something really simple, and if you feel that you already have a handle on all of this, you may want to try and do that right now.
So, what you say is, I am a, ‘fill in the blank', kind of author. I'm an explorer, I'm a prophet, I'm an activist, I'm a performer, I'm a reporter. You fill in the blank.
Who wants to make a difference by, and then ‘fill in the other blank'. What is it that you are going to do as that type of writer in your books?
So, that is your actual mission statement written, if you don't need to think about that anymore. If you do need to do the thinking, then off you go and let the thinking be done.
The other thing to say is that, if you are writing in very different genres or niches, you are going to need to create separate statements across each niche.
So, then moving on from there, and just taking that mission statement, we move to thinking, because this is about publisher you finding your publishing purpose. So, we need to think about your readers, not just about you and what you want to do. So, it's absolutely fine up to here if all you want to do is write and make books, and you are not particularly concerned about who buys them, that's fine, you've got all you need, but if you are actually trying to reach into the marketplace and reach more readers and connect with them, then your mission statement, the second part of it, needs to be a reader statement.
So, the first part is your writer statement, and the second part is your reader statement, and the two together give you your publishing purpose.
So, with the work you've done looking at your own writing identity, and last week where we talked about your motivating passions, it's a good idea to turn and look at any book reviews that you might have, or any reader emails that you've received, any feedback you've ever had from readers, if you are at the point of having readers.
For those of you who are earlier in the cycle and are just starting out with your writing, you can look at comparable authors reviews and book blurbs and reader commentary, generally on their websites, or the things that people are saying about them, things you would like people to say about you, in other words, the kind of feedback that you would like to be getting from readers.
So, this is all about understanding more clearly, and this is an ever-developing sort of thing, you go to new layers and new levels with this all the time, it's never really finished, but it's about understanding what you want your readers to experience when they read your work, and that's what forms the basis of your reader statement.
And the reader statement takes the following sort of shape, my reader connects with my mission, just insert your mission, and particularly three of my top values, and just list what those top three values for you as a person, as a writer, as a publisher. List those values and then just say, I want my readers to experience, ‘fill in the blank', when they read my books. So, when your readers connect with you and read your work, what is it you want them to experience at the level of feeling, at the level of engagement?
It was Maya Angelou who put it best here, she said, “people won't remember what you say, and they may not even remember what you've done, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
And when we are in the writing business, we're in the business of feeling as much as we're in the business of intellect. So, what is it you want your readers to experience when they read your work?
And a final bit to just think about before we wrap up on this whole idea of publishing purpose, what makes you, do you have a special interest or skill, a particular life experience, a unique upbringing, a non-conformist outlook on life, a weird sense of humour. It doesn't matter what it is, but is there some aspect of you that is already turning up in your writing that should be emphasized in your publishing?
Or hasn't yet turned up in your writing, but when you think about it, you go, oh gosh, why haven't I brought that into my writing? This is a really core part of who I am, and that might be at the level of your passion, as we discussed last week, or your personal values, which we will go into in more depth in another episode, your definition of success, what success looks like to you, and then the kinds of things that we're talking about here today; the things that make you angry, the things that move and motivate you, things you want to change in the world. Are there particular aspects of you in your life, your relationship with your family, your relationship with your parents, your ancestors, anything there that you may have overlooked that should be coming into this mission statement and to this idea of your publishing purpose?
So, your sense of purpose, what I'm trying to emphasize here is how individual your sense of purpose actually is, and each of us needs to determine it for ourselves, and it's really good for you, as a publisher, for you to really connect with this idea and with this sense of purpose.
So, when you've done this work you actually see how it all comes together for you; how your creative purpose brings together your values as a person, your mission, and your passion.
They all come together in this concept of publishing purpose, and when you get this, it integrates you as writer and publisher in a really deep and important sort of way, and you find that you get a burst of creative energy from that integration and that you feel much more ready to face down any fears or inner critics and you'll be much happier.
Your risk tolerance will go up, you'll be happier to take some risks, and you'll be able to work with more intent and more focus without feeling drained.
Everything kind of points here to your purpose. It helps you to know exactly where you want to go. So, if you need to do a bit more free-writing here about the links between your mission, what makes you angry, and your passion, what you most love and enjoy as a writer and as a publisher, then do dig in, explore that some more. How are they the same? How do they connect? Where do they part? How are they different?
There will be similarities and there will be differences. Writer you is not the same as Publisher you, but they're both equally important for you as an indie author.
You may well get some surprises here. I know I did, when I did this work back in the day, but I find that once you've done this work, you don't waste creative energy anymore. It's much easier for you to say no to things, because you know what you should be saying yes to.
Also, you stop trying to project an image that doesn't really feel quite right. The authenticity of what you pull together here saves a lot of time and it saves a lot of thought. It clears a lot of creative space for you, and you also find yourself more easily attracting other people who think like you.
This includes readers, but also other people that you work with in your writing and publishing. You find people who think like you do, they care about what you care about, they consume what you want to create, and that's where your readers and fans and followers come in. But as I say, it's also about any team players you might be working with, any influencers who might be interested in you, and it will really hone that work.
If you did the work arising out of the episode last week, where we spoke about creative passion, that whole work about, what is my genre, what is my niche, what is my micro niche? Understanding your purpose really plays into that, and it really helps you to find out what you're good at, which is often what you're already thinking about, but maybe not consciously and what you're possibly already doing, but not really focusing it and bringing it in that way.
So, channelling that uniquely you aspect that's already in your writing, maybe, but not in your marketing yet, not in your book selling, not on your website, not in your author bio, getting it together across everything means that wherever your readers meet you online, that they're getting a really consistent message and feel a really consistent vibe, vibration, from everything that you're doing.
So, your marketing and your business then become optimized for your creative pleasure and your commercial profit. You come to understand that creative success isn't somewhere out there, something that you're chasing, it's actually embedded in that mix of passion and mission expressed in your writing craft and in your publishing craft.
This allows you to create an integrated and harmonious publishing business that feeds the writing, supports the writing, and everything begins to feel easier, which is what this Creative Self-Publishing series is all about.
So, I hope that you found some value in that talk about your publishing purpose. I'm going to be taking a production break on the Creative Self-Publishing stream of the podcast for the next month or so. I have few personal issues that need to be sorted that are taking a lot of my time at the moment, but back again, we'll let you know when the stream is coming back online, probably mid-summer, mid-July, sometime around then is when I would expect to come back with it.
Meantime, there will be of course the monthly workshops, if any of you would like to join the Patron program. There are a couple, I think three or four, places open at the moment, and it's first come, first served for those, if you want to go more deeply into all these different aspects of creative self-publishing.
So, thanks for listening and talk to you soon. Happy writing and happy publishing. Bye-bye.