If you’re struggling to give voice to your most powerful story, you may have a glitch in your structure. Whether your story is 3 lines or 300 pages. You’ve got to have the right structure.
And it’s no small potato. If you’re selling a book proposal, structure is 60% of what publishers are looking for. I recently evaluated 3 minute start-up pitches for an interested venture capital firm. But no deal was done because the stories couldn’t engage. A business story is not an elevator pitch with a cherry on top.
Great story is a seduction. It moves people from one place to another. It creates passion, drives conversation and delivers results beyond what can be premeditated. Line by line, in steps and moments and rhythms.
You need to know before you start how and where you want to move me. From what beginning point to what conclusion? You can’t control it, but you can care about me enough to intend it.
Structuring is a real skill. Not so easy. So to make it more edible try thinking of it like you are planning to host a dinner party.
A dinner, like a story has got a beginning, middle and end. And all the stuff in between. Your story is in process from the moment you decide you’ve got one worth sharing. It begins before the doorbell rings.
You can’t just slop a steak in the middle of a table and expect guests you haven’t invited, ( readers or customers) to come to your door sizzling.
A steak is not a party.
In story, like in your house, you make us feel welcomed or not. We know it in a heartbeat and we don’t forget it.
You are the host and at the helm but without “us”, “them” there’s no story. It’s you with a lot of inventory and leftovers.
Ask yourself some questions: What’s the intent/the experience you’d like to create for people? What’s the occasion? A theme party perhaps?
Who are the characters you want to be there? How many will be the right number? Will they make a good mix? Is there someone better to omit from this time’s list?
What’s to eat? Personal chef tonight? Costco? Drinks? Appetizers? Paper plates? Cracking open the Waterford? Detail by detail. Step by step. That’s what carries us to dessert and beyond.
Your guests arrived. Do you give them a second to get settled? Can you stay calm enough to enjoy your guests? Are you putting us to work? Please take off your shoes? Can you help me set the table? What works for your story?
A beautiful seduction is not a manipulation. Manipulation is predictable. Same old story. Same old voice.
All of this is structure. All of this moves us. To an action or to the door.
If you are sense you are wasting time and the real genius of what you’ve got, maybe I can help you.
My door (or at least first my e-mail) is open to you.
You are cordially invited.
What should you bring? Just your real Self.
Thanks for reading and sharing if you feel so moved. I appreciate it.
There’s different kinds of nonsense. One kind can be a portal to genius. Another can spark chaos and frighten the bejesus out of you. All it takes for me to get there is to keep the news on for 90 seconds. I know I’m not alone.
And I keep thinking of what Dr. Seuss said about his work: “I like nonsense. It rewires the brain.”
There’s rewiring and there’s short circuiting. I’m for the kind of nonsense that opens loving, new worlds. And I’m privileged to help smart, already successful people who know they have something still greater to offer. Then we uncover it.
They aren’t well wired for short changing the so-called nonsense of their imaginations for what may be good enough results. You may suspect this about yourself, too.
How much nonsense did it first take for someone to come up with the IPhone or Spanx, or The Grinch? What impulse does it take to conceive and complete a bestseller? To get your fresh business idea generating purpose, profits, and enthusiasm from yourself and clients who are grateful to have found you and pay you what you’re worth?
Seuss’s brand of nonsense delights and makes us laugh because he got what young children have not yet completely forgotten – that the world as grown-ups know it is all made up. It’s okay and fun to see through its silliness.
Unless you can see through the silliness it’s really tough to see the genius and big ideas hidden just slightly in the corners. Ir takes looking through the telescope from the wrong end with the certain head of a grown-up who knows better.
Don’t be afraid of a little rewiring. It just begins with Story -the most powerful, least expensive misunderstood and underutilized tool in the kit of so many stuck businesses and authors.
And that’s what I’m here for.
Want to talk some good nonsense?
Please contact me and lets set that up.
Thank you for reading and if you feel moved, sharing this with others.
I appreciate it.
Several years ago, I wrote a memoir. Four days after my agent sent it out to sell, when it was still just a proposal, six New York publishers were in a bidding auction that started at over $100,000. Meanwhile, I sat cross-country in my pajamas stunned and stuck to the tube watching old Jerry Springer reruns and waiting for the next higher offer to come in. And the next. (And BTW, for all book writers reading this, the right authors still do get those deals today!)
I didn’t know Mary Tyler Moore personally before this and wasn’t aware my editor sent her the finished galley to read. She loved it and asked to write an endorsement for me. I was pajamas stunned, star struck, gobsmacked and probably as moved by the few sentences she wrote she was by my whole book. Something like I had never experienced seemed to seep out from the ink of this actress. It was her kindness. Sounds like such simple stuff, doesn’t it? Genius is simple. Her genius was the inherent hope of kindness. The same kindness I always felt when I watched her on TV. That ‘thing’ about her I had not identified before that kept a nation ‘turned on by her smile.’
Above the fact she was beautiful and had terrific comedic timing and great writers. Above and beyond the parts she played as Laura Petrie or Mary Richards, rising up for equal pay to Mr. Grant. Whether she was dancing free in her apartment or tossing her hat high into the air for generations to catch, we got it! “We’re going to make it after all.” Indeed.
We were inspired. We trusted her. We wanted to be like her. We were her tribe, her fans and pulled in by that thing that lay beneath every story line, word she spoke and every gesture unspoken. Great kindness. No other woman in television history could compete with her story. Goodness!! Even Oprah decided she wanted to have own show after seeing Mary’s. As Oprah said yesterday in tears, “I still can’t believe Mary Tyler Moore touched my face. I will love her forever.”
A brand as I see it is built first on the foundation of a great story. And the hallmark of the ones we love that last is an intangible human quality that somehow we all resonate with. The eternal verities. What’s true.
No script, brand line, tag tweet or ton of money thrown at showing your story can sell qualities that aren’t there for long.
Everyone has a story. In the past twenty- five plus years helping people, I have come to see that most authors and businesses, the biggest and the smallest at first don’t realize they are short changing theirs, it’s invisible power and accordingly their profits.
One of the lines Mary wrote in my endorsement was “vitality of mind and spirit is built on the bonds of love.”
Rest in Peace, Beautiful One.
Thank you for reading.
Want to talk?
Happy Holidays to All.
To wrap 2016, a client of mine got a 3 book deal with Random House.
Look! Man (and Woman) can’t live by Tweets alone.
I’m not an agent, but I know there have been between 40 and 61 reported new deals made each day so far in December in traditional publishing between the big gate keepers and smaller houses.
Including my client, who retells American history with her contemporary and one-of-a-kind vision we revealed together and positioned first as a brand before we looked to her writing. And she got a nice six figure deal.
She wasn’t famous but she has a brand in place and Random House is rolling with it. This is more than a platform.
But this isn’t a blog about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. Either way, you’re at the helm.
It’s about not giving up on your possibility to have a book to your name, your legacy and even a bestseller to brand.
I know for myself, an author of many books who has helped other writers build brands and New York Times bestsellers around theirs, that writing is easy!
But it’s not simple.
Yes, book sales (particularly fiction, except kids’ books) are down in 2016.
As is virtually every area of retail.
Yes, Amazon is opening new and more brick and mortar bookstores across the country.
True, few authors get 3 book deals and not many writers make the great big money as do competitors in many fields.
But then, many people remain true to their visions either. We all know this.
I’ve seen many incredibly talented people blast out of the starting gate impatient and okay with not knowing what their true vision is. Then they get tired, frustrated and lose heart. Their dream is weak and breaks so close to what for some has been ridiculously close to a victory. They don’t have the talent. They don’t have the support. All really understandable reasons that they themselves often don’t really understand.
That all begin with a false start.
The trick is, can you first do the not always comfortable part of identifying and being true to your story?
If you aren’t repeatedly and solely swayed by rumors of market preferences in what you think you can or should sell,you have your chance to get to the guts of your real idea. This stands equally true for your first book or those expecting to ride solely off the success of their last one. You have to keep looking off-center. It’s how you get to stand among the few who see above the rules long enough to recognize the rules you’re here to break. Seeing this you can create what is original and valuable.
After digging deep into story for more than 25 years, it’s the only way I know that works.
I have seen this consistently with entrepreneurs, authors and a few of the biggest brands in the world I have had the opportunity to work with. We overlook the easiest part, head straight into the struggle and miss out on the simple.
Which is where the great results are.
And the story only you can tell.
Maybe I can help you.
I’d love to hear from you.
And thank you for reading.
With Halloween, the World Series and the final countdown to this election who needs sugar?
Being hyped up higher and higher – half the time I can’t tell the difference between excitement and terror.
Either way, for an overnight camp or a President, sugar as a marketing and sales strategy is hopefully reaching its inevitable crash.
Here’s a sugar story:
I met a man with a l0 day overnight camp that was booked solid by the end of each session for the following year. How did he do it?
“Simple.” Three days before camp ended they shifted to their sugar strategy. First day sugar was added to the meal menus. Second day they bumped the white stuff even higher. The third day was basically an open bar of sugar with a late night party featuring chocolate cakes that kids were almost jumping out of at this point. And for the frosting -sleep deprivation.
By morning, when excited parents came for their kids, the kids were so strung out they were sobbing. “We don’t want to go home!”
Parents took that as sign their kids shouldn’t miss this opportunity again next year and to not miss a spot, they signed up on the spot.
That’s what this election cycle has felt like for me – A gigantic sleep away camp for adults who as citizens signed on for the history and got addicted to the hysterics and the sugar.
Now the final days before both political camps go home we’re in the spin cycle -a fireworks of sugar, exhaustion, terror and anger and we’re waiting for an adult to come to take us home. Here we all are.
But I don’t think we’ll be so fast to sign up again for this the next election. Ultimately, we will only take so much poison. (That summer camp, btw, I heard was sued and went bankrupt.)
And now a personal request please for prayer for a dearest friend of mine. While she didn’t get candy Halloween night, she did get an hour organ transplant. You can’t make this stuff up.
Miraculous to think that in one day, a young man who lost his life suddenly and had donated his organs. unknowingly left the one perfect right match to be flown on an ER flight plane across the country to hopefully save hers. While meanwhile, live inflight video of the organ was being seen simultaneously by my friend in the hospital room. That loving doctors dedicated their lives to trained to do this miraculous ll hour surgery on Halloween night while their kids were out looking for candy.
Because of this, I am very much aware of how extraordinary it is to be alive. I mean, what are even our odds? (Never mind the candidates.)
I am so grateful to be blown not so much away but awake to a remembrance of our real powers and possibilities for good beyond imagination. Nothing feels sweeter.
So whatever the outcome of this election, whatever the odds, I stand for our possibilities.
And thank you sincerely for your quick prayer for Molly. Who may be just an anonymous soul to you. But you will love her.
Thank you for reading!
And please e-mail me if your brand needs an expert to stand for your possibilities with you.
I finally caught up on my “Daily Shows” and watched Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, cheered on set for his interview like he’s a rock star. And he sure is to me even though I’ve never even liked coffee. Maybe they were handing out free Frappuccinos but I suspect the love for him has more to do with his Ubuntu and how that goes before him and leads his brand.
Schultz was excited to have found the word Ubuntu in South Africa where they opened the first Starbucks in Capetown.
You may know the software server, Ubuntu, but before they went into business, Ubuntu was first uttered 300 years ago in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela popularized it under his leadership to become a guiding principle of life meaning as Schultz quoted,“I am what I am because of who we all are.”
And it struck me, that is what a great brand knows and is.
Existing to reveal and share in our talents, products and services real, eternal human qualities and all the other gooey stuff you’ve heard over and over that may sound not valuable for your business or too simplistic for “reality.” It’s exciting for me to see Ubuntu is at its very core what defines loved brands that stick from Starbucks to Lady Gaga (a master of understanding her humanity and connection to audience)– to Valle Cleaners (down the street from me, where I wouldn’t go elsewhere.)
It’s what people want to have and buy and what you can’t fabricate. You’ve either got Ubuntu or you don’t. Most businesses don’t choose activate theirs. Fair enough.
Still it’s at the foundation of good story whether you’re a business or an author. It’s the place authenticity actually comes from.
So how can we get started activating this stuff so our business becomes and stays an actual brand?
Here’s a few essentials – maybe all you need to know:
(l) Your business starts with you.
(2) Your brand is all about them.
(3) You are the author of your story. And if You’re looking to be read, seen and told to others, know that They are the hero.
(4) Beyond anything we buy hoping for results, change or the onset of our world dominance, people are looking for a surprise experience of being more and never less than who they truly are. Now more than ever.
It is as Desmond Tutu wrote, what Ubuntu is, “our humanity inextricably connected.”
It is not simplistic and it is simple. That is once you get past the not so easy part.
Perhaps you won’t see world peace –but you can see some actual joy, real profits and purpose in doing what you are here to do day after day.
That’s your art.
When you get to simple, everything else gets easier.
Making it easier is what I help people do.
Are you ready for that?
Have a question?
Lets set up a time. E-mail me and I’ll get back to you quickly.
Thanks for reading
Have you seen this Bill Murray quote? “Every Olympic event should include one average person competing for reference.” When we met, my client had competed in five Olympics, medaled twice and was one of a handful in history to compete in both the Winter and Summer games. Basically, I walk. I was clearly “the one included for reference.”
But I was hired for branding; a reference to help shine a flashlight on her unique story and why others would care.
I was now looking into the face of the most focused person I have ever met.
And that’s the first thing I learned. It begins with the face.
- What’s Your Race Face?
Race face is code for what athletes call your look at the start line. It’s when the camera zooms in (should you be televised), we try to imagine what’s going on in their head and they’re laser focusing on staying out of it. It’s that face that’s ready to go no matter what happened the moment before or what may come after. You can’t make that face up. That face tells the story of your heart and intention in that moment before the gun goes off. Olympians know it most often predicts your outcome. Win or lose it’s that face that gets you up and back in the game.
- It’s Not About “Your Why” It’s Your “Why Not?”
Reason for doing this? Why not? She loves the way it makes her feel. After all your training and skill why not love your game enough to give each race, each client everything you’ve got? Why not give it like you’ve got nothing to lose?
Over a few years we worked to design a new corporate presentation, products and her give back cycling program and company. (www.conniecycling.com) And here are a few things she learned from me in getting there:
- What You Do And How That Makes Your Audience Feel Are Two Different Things.
We don’t care so much about what we see you do until we are moved by how you make us feel about ourselves.
- Let Us Have a Taste:
Tell us your real stories (like being at the start line worrying if your panty line is showing or filling the legs of a male team member’s suit with molasses before a race (not the Olympics) and watching him show with his race face on anyway because he was the master of that.
5. What’s The Big Picture You See and Offer?
What’s universal? What we want to let go of or aspire to have we haven’t recognized before?
For this client that big picture is “The Love of The Challenge.”
We learned your dedicated expertise makes you an Olympian in your field. Regardless of your game.The problem is most businesses don’t know the real story of theirs.
Thank you for reading and if you share I will appreciate it as well.
I’m here to help and (generally) pumped!
Way too late last night, I was surfing my 500 channels for something original and gratefully found the classic 1955 sitcom series “The Honeymooners.” If you’re not familiar, it stars the still iconic Ralph, a frustrated loud mouth bus driver always looking for the next get rich quick scheme ‘out there’ to make him wealthy even though pretty much every one of them turns out to be worthless.
61 years later, things changed but that American dream hasn’t. The show still resonates and makes money in syndication because Ralph’s originality remains transcendent.
So when a business asks how to stand out if there’s ‘nothing new under the sun,’ I say look under a different sun. New needed ideas, insights, approaches, products, personalities, services and promises pop up and profit in businesses all the time. Your business depends on it. But you can’t see what’s original ‘out there’ before you know what’s makes YOU original.
If you’re driven by the compulsion and courage to see and run to and not away from what makes you original, you have what’s likely your best if not only chance be a brand; one-of-a kind rather than one of a mass.
I like this story of my client who founded what became a legendary handbag business in just its first three years. The company is Isabella Fiore.
The founder, Jennifer went to gemology school, loved handbags had a world of new ideas in her head and some understandable terror about her chances because she said, she was too “unpredictable” for a business that historically produced the same beautiful, slightly tweaked conservative bags each season. We discovered it was her “unpredictability” she had to go for.
And when she walked into her first buyer’s show with her first line designed with different bright colors, gorgeous Italian “predictably unpredictable” bags nobody predicted she’d be the one CNN would be rushing to first. And the big stores started buying. Each season customers waited for and bought a totally different collection with predictable luxury quality, unparalleled attention to fun detail and prints with everything jewels from fur fringes to monkey prints. The reason to carry a handbag became more than just to lug your stuff around.
When she brought in a partner and they didn’t see eye to she painfully walked away, the business ended up disappearing until another company bought for the brand name but the products and business are not at all the same. My client and I worked together again when she started her second successful handbag business. An original.
We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel and you probably won’t be the next unicorn. It’s more than settling on a tagline. You’re producing a sincere manifestation of your originality. And when you know what that is – the path to the next steps becomes more illuminated. And so can you.
You won’t have blinders on but you won’t be focusing on your competition either because you’ll know you don’t have any. And that there’s no express bus elevator to your success.
Take the steps.
Thank you for reading.
by Leah Komaiko
I got a call from a young, growing but frustrated company today with a big problem as they saw it – really nice content not getting the response they hoped for. After all they asked, “Isn’t Content still King?”
Hard to declare with all Content’s current competitors who is still King. But I do know this: None of them matter without Context. If Content is King then Context is surely Queen. And she’s underneath it all – holding it up and together.
Context for our businesses and books starts with what do you know about them? What background do you need to fill them in on? Context sets the stage for what you’re interrupting their moment for and asking them to step into next. So did they feel like you just sat them down in the middle of the play thinking they’d somehow still get or care about the plot – or you?
Context sounds like something so obvious. But getting it right is not always so simple. Because on top of everything else you keep in your head about your product or service, context requires your dedicated thoughtfulness. About them. That’s who it’s all about.
So here’s my story I shared with my callers today:
Enter Maurice Sendak, a little boy named James and a lovely day several years back when I had the privilege of being with both of them at a Sendak book signing.
To put this in context, if you don’t know the children’s book author, Maurice Sendak, ” (“Where the Wild Things Are”) an autograph from Sendak is like getting a nod from the Pope.
James had been prepared to meet a famous author but not prepared for what that author would do. All he knew was what he was taught to not do before at home with his own books. And that the line he was in now was really, really long.
Until finally his turn. And here comes young, quiet James. .
“What’s your name?” Sendak asked him.
“James.” he answered softly.
Sendak began to write in the book until a horrified James yelled, , “Don’t! You’re ruining it!”
And then the moment of understanding masterful context was revealed.
Sendak didn’t laugh or smirk or explain or give the embarrassed mother a look. He didn’t just rip out the page or scratch it out and hand it back to James to save his own book sale.
He listened to James, tossed the ruined book in the garbage, took a fresh book from the pile, placed it in James’ open hands and said like he was speaking to any other adult, “James, please accept my apology.”
Sendak actually had an unwavering genuine respect for his audience. He knew them. That respect was always his context.
And that is the always the context of what makes a business rule.
My thanks to you for reading and sharing with others you think might get value.
For the first time in three years, I have an opening to privately coach and full out dedicate my energy to the victory of one new non-fiction author looking to position him or herself as a bestseller and a brand – even before they have written a word.
I am presently completing my work on Book 3 of a three-book deal seen through from inception with a wonderful client and New York publishers that so far has produced two bestsellers and a burgeoning brand.
For those of you who have asked me to let you know when I have the time to take on a new author in this capacity, the time is now.
If this could be for you please send me a quick e-mail and lets set up a call over the next few days.
I am best for someone who knows their book is born to also be a brand, has a story that won’t let them go, a fervent ambition to go the distance (whatever that might be), and the willingness to “think off center” when needed.
I am grateful to you for reading and also sharing if you think someone you know might be interested.