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Helpful Online Business Advisor or Just an Interfering Busybody?

  • By Cathy Goodwin
  • Published 06/30/2009
  • Writing

Recently “Beth” told me she’s writing a book. “It’s a combination of self-help, inspiration and memoir,” she said. “I want to add some media links to the web. I’m talking to an agent who wants me to put together a portfolio. We’re designing a logo and scheduling a photo session for me, with a make-up artist standing by.” “So your agent realizes you need a platform?” I asked. Frankly, something didn’t feel quite right. “Platform? I don’t know. We’re just finding a way to introduce my ideas to the world. Since I’ve never published anything, it’s challenging.” I asked Beth, “What’s your book about?” She wandered into a long explanation. “Well, it’s sort of about creativity. But it’s also about my struggle with illness and divorce. And I’ve got something about inspiration, too.” Now, I happen to know something about publishing and about how to create a platform on the Internet. A platform is your source of credibility. It’s what your reputation stands on. It’s the answer to the question, “Why are you the best person to write this book?” Blogs, articles and talk show appearances are far more important than logos and nice portrait photographs.

I also know it’s harder to sell a mixed-genre book than to sell space heaters in Houston in July. And Beth won’t go far till she’s figured out how to explain her concept in a sentence or two

. Most of all, I wanted to say, “Get a second opinion. Your agent isn’t the only one in the world.” Once upon a time, I would have said all these things. But I’ve been on the receiving end of some unwanted advice myself. I’ve always argued that unsolicited advice usually doesn’t work. It’s usually more about the other person than about you. For instance, early in my career, I was invited to chat informally with someone who, at the time, was a well-known life coach. We lived in the same area and a mutual acquaintance suggested we connect. She wasn’t coaching me. I hadn’t hired her. I wasn’t even considering the idea. We had a pleasant conversation until the end, when Big Coach said, “I don’t think you are going to succeed. You are trying to do too many things at once.” Fortunately, I ignored her. I still make money from the ebooks I wrote back then. More recently, I was invited to be a radio talk show guest. After a brief conversation, the host said he didn’t like any of my topics. “Let me leave you with one thing,” he said. “You could write a book about jobs for people over sixty.” How bizarre is that? I hadn’t asked for advice. I wasn’t looking for book ideas. And I don’t recommend that the over-60 set go job hunting. I tell them to start their own businesses.

So for now, when “Beth” talks about her book, I will change the subject. It may spell the end of our friendship, because that’s all she wants to talk about these days.



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