For the last several months, I’ve been working on a special project that’s taken me in a new direction.
It started with standup comedy. Doing open mic standup had been on my bucket list forever. I’d had lots of practice as a college professor, entertaining bored students with the intricacies of marketing.
But they were a captive audience and they’d laugh at anything…even my cat jokes.
Soon after I moved to Philly, I decided to take this goal off my bucket list and make it happen.
Once I got comfortable performing, I realized comedy could be a vehicle to send a message. People remember my jokes long after they’ve forgotten any of my thoughtful, serious insights. I made jokes about being single (“I define intimacy as sharing the same…zip code”). And then I made jokes about the stereotypes of aging.
My jokes started out G-rated but soon became sets that were more appropriate to late night open mics in comedy clubs.
These jokes eventually turned into a blog, Aging in Sneakers. And then it became a book I released in July — an irreverent, in-your-face book about getting older.
But in the rest of this G-rated message, I’ll show how I used what I’ve learned as a copywriter and strategist.
(1) Target one segment but expect to be surprised with a new audience.
The book originally was planned for forward-thinking women, 35 and up. They were worried about aging and didn’t want to turn out like their parents.
Sure enough, I got a great response from thirty-something women.
But I wasn’t expecting positive reactions from millennial males. One said, “I was always afraid I’d turn out like my aging parents. This book helps me understand why I won’t.”
What really surprised me were comments like, “I started to read the book and my mom took it away. She won’t give it back. Now she wants my dad to read it too.”
Or (from a 32-year-old male), “I bought your book. A[male] friend came over, picked it up, started reading…and won’t give it back.”
Of course, I can’t resist saying, “You can always buy yourself another copy…”
The most surprising comment was: “It doesn’t seem to be written to women.” Really? Oh well…
(2) Don’t be afraid to be edgy.
When I first announced the book, I timidly set up a page with trigger warnings. After all, in a comedy club, you know you’re not getting milk and cookies. You can be more squeamish when you choose a book.
I expected younger people to be comfortable with the language in the book…but older people were, too. If you think about it, your parents and grandparents may have grown up with swearing. They’re not going to turn prim and proper on their sixtieth birthday.
What gives your writing an edge won’t be the number of swear words or the mentions of …um, edgy topics. Your writing gets an edge when you’re reaching your readers where they live. In copy, that might mean a style like, “the girl next door” or “the cowboy wannabe from Texas.” In this book, it’s talking about topics that most people ignore. Some people will resonate; some will say, “This isn’t for me.”
Of course, I used a lot of stories to make my points and create an edge. I was surprised how many readers commented on the use of stories – they noticed! – saying, “It kept my interest.”
(3) In a non-business book, you can be as up close and personal as you like…but be mindful what you share.
An author plays a very different role compared to a business consultant. I told a lot of stories I’d never use in a business book or blog post.
Some people said, “The book is just like you. Very straight-talking and in-your-face.”
In your face? Me? Well, okay…
Even so, I removed some material that didn’t seem to work. I had a whole section on going to Small Claims Court and winning my case against my former condo…but it just didn’t feel right. It was part of a chapter on scammers. I ended up removing the chapter.
(4) At some point, you have to stop and write “The End.”
Nearly every day I find something I wish I’d been able to include in the book. At some point, you just have to stop. I continue adding new ideas through my blog, AginginSneakers.com, and my new monthly Aging in Sneakers newsletter that will expand on the thoughts in the book.
At some point, you have to fish or cut bait. That’s when you have to…
(5) Bite the bullet and get help…
This book wasn’t like the others I’ve written. It’s not just a passion project: it appeals to a wide variety of readers. It had to be printed up, copyrighted, and promoted. I wanted to release print and kindle editions simultaneously.
I hired Michele PW’s publishing company to make it happen. Otherwise I’d still be looking through Fiverr for people to set up the book for publishing.
…but don’t get too much help.
I came up with the cover concept. I was quoted prices as high as $1500 to turn it into a reality. That was way more than I needed.
I hired someone to touch up the photo (we added nail polish and tattoos, as well as the wording on the sweatshirt). And I hired a cover designer to put the whole thing together. They were both from Fiverr. To be sure, I went through a few designers before finding the perfect ones. You won’t get a direct hit from everyone.
I went ahead and paid those who worked on the design but just didn’t “get it.” It wasn’t their fault.
And that’s how I spent a good chunk of my summer and early fall. It was totally distracting, but also educational, transformational, and yes, extremely rewarding. Every time someone says, “This book changed the way I think about getting old,” I feel like it’s worthwhile…although the royalties are nice, too.
The secret to being edgy is to really, really know your clients and prospects. You’ve been working on your story. This course shows you how to uncover their story.
Go here to learn more. Use the coupon code LISTEN20 to take $20 off the listed price.
Buy me a coffee if you’d like to keep me inspired to keep creating more content!