When the hurricane hit, we didn’t think much of it. But then my little sister mentioned the beach where my parents’ timeshare was had been hit pretty hard. Being eight hours away, we had assumed they would call and tell us if there was a problem, so when we called them and found out only a few rooms in the entire building were dry, that changed everyone’s plans.
My sister couldn’t get a refund on her dog-friendly hotel, but my family was able to get a room in that hotel, meaning I got to go too. Usually I have to work and take care of the puppies, but not this time. This time we all went, and my dogs got to experience the ocean for the first time. My dogs LOVE the water, so I knew it was going to be fun.
Well, they did in fact love the water, and my dog, Jayda, loved it so much I thought she’d never leave…until that last wave hit and took her under. She came up very concerned (read: she jumped up into my arms and I had to carry her out…half because she was scared and half because another giant wave was coming) and we ran up on the sand. I let her catch her breath and took her back in twice more to make sure she wouldn’t be scared of the waves. She trusted me and followed me out, and by the next day she was fine.
So why am I telling you this? Because I turned around and did a really great FB Live broadcast about it from out hotel balcony. You see, I equated Jayda’s encounter with the wave to an author’s encounter with “waves,” things like bad reviews, difficult publishers, flakey people they might be working with. And when I connected my puppy story to their author journey, I turned a personal cutesy story into valuable piece of content for my people watching the video or reading the article.
And you can do it too.
Here’s the short and sweet version:
Creating a blog post out of an everyday or personal story works on the same principals as creating an object lesson. The goal is to take an everyday object, like a pen, an eraser, a dog leash, an umbrella, a cup of coffee, etc and turn it into a lesson that people will remember.
For example, when I was teaching kids, I used a stapler to talk about how even though two people are different, they can be connected, just like a staple connects two pieces of paper. They are two entirely different pieces of paper, each with their own contents and important information that makes them unique, but they are connected by something, some common factor. For the book world, I would say, we’re all different, have our own tastes, but we’re still all connected by something, in our case, books. Books connect us like that staple. We don’t have to be alike, we just have to be connected. I dare you not to think of books next time you see a staple holding together papers.
Another good example for the book world might be stickers on books. We’ve all experienced that dreaded sticker on a book cover (really? WHY must they do that?) and we’ve had to either suffer through leaving the ugly thing on the precious cover, or attempt to peel it off and end up with a stick, gross mess on our cover (and hands, and clothes, and anything else it came in contact with) But here’s the thing. Those stickers, with their messiness remind me of the book world, specifically what it’s like when you sign a bad contract. Think about it: so often people are so thrilled to have any deal at all that they don’t have a lawyer look over the contract before signing and then they find themselves in bed with some very nasty people. I’ve had people end up in terrible deals where they’ve lost royalties, have no control over their work even after it should have been released back to them, stuck in legal battles for ages, and are downright miserable because they jumped in without making sure the people were legit first. Even once they remove these toxic people from their lives, that residue is still there on the book cover of their author brand. They were once connected to that publisher that went under or that book tour provider that cheated people, or that company that lied and stole. The residue is always there. It’s messy taking the toxic sticker off, and it will never full be gone…just like the sticker on a book cover. Every time you see a sticker on a cover from now on, I want you to remember why it’s so important not to just sign whatever contracts are held in front of you. Do you research and make sure they aren’t toxic first and avoid the clingy sticker residue on your beautiful author brand.
There you have it, an object lesson at it’s finest.
So what did I do there?
I took a common thing, told the story in a different way to make a point, connected it back to that first common thing and now whenever you see that common thing, you’ll think of this lesson.
So now your job is to take your everyday or personal story and make it into a lesson.
Think of it as a retelling (shout out to the authors of epic retellings-you rock!) You need to take what is already there and find a new way to tell it.
Puppy getting hit with a wave=authors getting hit with “waves” of icky things.
Puppy going back in the water=authors not letting the waves hold them down.
So let’s talk examples.
Pretend I am an author who goes out on a hike with my family. Well no one really cares that I went on a hike with my family, and while the pictures might be pretty with the pretty scenic leaves, that’s really more of something I should share on my personal facebook page for my family and friends to see, not my fans.
Oh, but wait…because there was a cliff and I walked out on the ledge and someone took a picture as I looked down over a very long drop off, deciding if I would jump into the lake below. And suddenly I have a story. I can equate that ledge to my author journey. I can compare it to my book being published, where the writing is walking out on the ledge, and the drop off is the part where I’m finding a home for my book: scary, thrilling, long, uncertain…and then the water is deep and dark and cool, but oh, so satisfying. When I talk about the process of getting a book deal in terms of jumping off that cliff it turns my everyday story into something valuable for my fans.. it gives them a visual, while still telling them about my personal life both in the activity I did and my author journey. If I had just told fans I jumped off a cliff it would be “okay, nice, whatever, moving on,” but when I tell them what they might experience if they decide to jump into the world of writing, that helps them AND entertains them. And every time they see a cliff and a lake, they’ll think of me.
Ready for something a little more common?
Let’s pretend this morning I was carrying an armful of books and papers through my house when suddenly something shifted and I dropped everything on my foot. Well chances are this is something your fans have done too, so they can related to this. But it’s kind of lame telling your fans you had a klutzy moment and that’s it. BUT I can make it relatable by connecting it to something valuable. For instance, maybe I want to connect it to my book and remind them that a certain character was klutzy too. Give them a hint about what the character would do in that situation, or maybe how their love interest would see it happen and what their response would be. Or talk about how it made you feel like that character in the moment you dropped the books on your foot and how moments like that help you indentify with your characters. Now every time they drop something, they’ll think of you and that character/scene you were describing.
Here’s a snarky one:
You walk into the store and buy a pack of gum. It’s a new flavor you wanted to try and it turns out to be pretty good. So you snap a cell phone picture of the pack of gum, minus one piece. Now you turn around and write a blog post about that piece of gum.
But what does it say? Well, first you start out by telling the story of walking into the store to buy the gum, returning to your car, and popping a piece in your mouth. Talk about how great the flavor was, and tell them you started to drive away. About three streets over something started flickering in your mind, some kind of connection you couldn’t quite put your finger on. And then it hit you as you were chewing: you were chewing A LOT. So much so that your jaw was getting a bit tired. And then you realized…this must be what my character feels like….he’s ALWAYS talking and never stop. His jaw must get SO tired.
Now that you’ve compared your tired jaw to Character-talks-a-lot you can bring up a few points about him, wrap up the post, and ta da, you’ve just given information about your book to your fans, made something as mundane as chewing gum into an interesting talking point, and now whenever your fans chew gum from now on, they will immediately think of Charter-talks-a-lot.
They key is to connect whatever it is you are doing to something in your fans’ lives. Something as boring as gum can be valuable. Something as exciting as jumping off a cliff can teach a lesson.
Pick a few objects around the room. Look on your desk…what’s there? Pens, pencils, keyboard, earbuds, confetti, your coffee? Now tell me how you can make that into something that will connect with your fans. Once you’ve worked on a few of those, it’s time to move it up to things you do like your fall walk, your trip to the grocery store, your vacation to the aquarium, the time your dog tripped you in the park Pongo-style, the concert you went to last week. Take things that don’t matter to your fans and make them matter by giving them something that means something to them (aka connect it to your books or your author journey)
Don’t worry, I never leave you on your own to do this. This week with our FREEBIE DOWNLOADABLE BONUS I’m giving you a list of topic ideas and how you can make them valuable to your fans.
Grab this at shownotes.readingtransforms.com
So let’s break this down:
Step 1.) Identify what everyday or personal story you’re going to be talking about.
Step 2.) Decide what your connection will be.
Step 3.) Talk about your everyday or personal story in colorful detail, as if you were writing about it for your story.
Step 4.) Relate it to your book/author journey-connection for your fans.
Step 5.) Talk about why it reminds you of that thing, or how it connects to your fans.
Step 6.) Finish it up with a strong push on what the connection is and remind them that every time they see that object or experience that event in their own life, that it should remind them of your connection.
Simple right? Or hard. It could be (and is) both. You just have to keep practicing. Start small and work your way up. Use the examples I’m giving you in the FREEBIE and change them up to fit you and your author brand. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
When I teach students, I can have them look around the room and hand my any object and I can turn it into a valuable lesson for them on life, on their social studies lesson, on morals, on whatever it is we’re discussing that day. That’s because I’ve had practice. Consider this your own personal practice for that next retelling you’re considering writing and make those unexpected connections.
Jump down in the comments and tell me your first valuable connection story OR ask for help connecting your everyday or personal story into something valuable for your fans.