An Interview with Jane Friedman [Video]

In this brief, 12-minute video, I interview Jane Friedman, professor of e-media and writing at the University of Cincinnati. She also serves as a contributing editor at Writer’s Digest, where she once served as publisher and strategic leader. She is the author of The Future of Publishing: Enigma Variations, as well as the Beginning Writer’s Answer Book.

I first discovered Jane via her blog at Writer’s Digest, “There Are No Rules.” (Her main publishing and writing blog is now at JaneFriedman.com.) I immediately fell in love with her no-nonsense advice, practical wisdom, and insight into contemporary writing and publishing. If you are an author—or aspire to be—her blog is a must-read. You can also follow her on Twitter.

In this video, I asked Jane the following questions:

  • Do you see the demand for books going up or down in the future?
  • How important is an author’s “platform” to their success in the publishing world?
  • Do you think there is still a role for traditional publishers in the future?
  • What are the best practices of really successful writers?
  • What is the role of consistency in writing and publishing?
  • What was the inflection point for you as a blogger?
  • What do writers sometimes do to sabotage their careers?
  • What parting words of wisdom would you give to authors?

Again, if you want to get more of Jane’s wisdom, subscribe to her blog. Her content is always fresh, relevant, and useful.

Question: What questions do you have about publishing in the new world of publishing? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://joeandancy.com Joe Abraham

    Thanks for the informative interview. I like what Jane mentioned as one of the best practices of a successful writer – consistency. I know it’s not easy everyday. However it is an indispensable quality. Thanks for the reminder!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree with Jane on this. If you are consistent, you have a better chance of getting good!

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       I agree. That, for me, is the biggest nugget of helpful information to carry away from the interview. I also appreciated how she defined consistency. Daily isn’t necessary but regularly is. Even as I write those words, I recognize the whole interview is truly a wealth of good, sound writing advice.–Tom

      • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

        I agree also. Your writing is a commodity that is for sale and if the consumer does not get a consistent product, they will not return. Consistency is the number one factor in order to get repeat customers.

        Jim

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      And it’s so HARD to be consistent.  It takes a lot of discipline.  I’ve been blogging for less than a year, and getting several posts out a week is hard work.

      Also, it was good to hear Jane and Michael talking about how long they worked before they started actually being a good blogger.  Thanks for the encouragement.

      • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

        Robert, 

        you are correct, but you have to be disciplined and write with substance, not quantity. In today’s information age, people are looking for substance and difference, not quantity.

        jim

  • http://www.JanetOberholtzer.com Janet Oberholtzer

    Enjoyed this interview. 

    Thanks for the advice Jane … especially about not waiting until  you get it right to try something. I keep waiting for that day and then I wonder why it takes me so long to get anything done. 
    Also your marketing advice was good … about not putting on a different persona, but just to be yourself. I think subconsciously I assume I have to become someone I am not … thanks for that!

    • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

      Yes! When it comes to blogging, I truly believe it is only through practice that you get better. No amount of theory can make up for it.

      • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

        I agree (I seem to be in an agreeable mood, perhaps it’s the tasty salad for lunch). I’m reminded of learning Russian on the fly. My family and I arrived in our Russian city with a limited vocabulary. Da, nyet, and vodka pretty much covered my Russian vocabulary. Those who excelled at the language weren’t the ones who studied it out of a book They were the ones who practiced it (poor vocabulary, bumbling through sentence structure, etc.) as often as they could. My wife combined both study and practice as well as anyone while we lived there. It helps to be in the books, but it’s better to be at the neighborhood store or on the playground with kids.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      I am reminded of Michael’s earlier post about what to do when you don’t know what to do–the next right thing.

      Janet, I agree with you on how the importance of being yourself is very helpful advice.

  • Sherri

    I liked her suggestion at the end to follow your intuition and have fun along the way. What a relief! I think that is when the “real you” comes through and that is – I hope – what people want to see. I think it is also what makes it possible to cover the same topics as others but with a new voice that makes the topic fresh and new.
    Thank you for the post and for the link to her blog. 

    • http://twitter.com/CheapLoveCarrie Carrie Starr

      That was my favorite part of this interview as well.

       I appreciated Jane’s encouragement that it’s better to take an “easy, fun approach” and trust your intuition.  This is my personal writing philosophy as well.  People will either enjoy and benefit from what I have to say or they won’t. 

      If I try too hard to figure out what readers want and then try to be that, I’m not being true to my own voice and I’m exhausted along the way! 

      I believe that if I’m having fun and sharing what I find to be meaningful content, I will connect with the right people who will find my message beneficial and life-changing.

      • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

        Great observation. I think people are attracted to who we truly are—and are turned off when we’re trying to be who we THINK they want us to be.

    • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

      We always need to give ourselves permission to play. (I believe there’s a strong correlation between great work and the freedom of play!)

      Note that my blog has moved locations—but still offers the same great content! You can subscribe here: http://janefriedman.com

      • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

        Thank you for sharing your site.

        Jim

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    One of the big takeaways from Jane’s interview is to be yourself. To leave your marketers hat off and just be you. As a blogger, it is sometimes very hard to find the right voice for a particular post.  I especially struggle with posts about blogging, since I am talking about and to the same person. 

    I think if we embrace the new adventure, make some mistakes along the way, and actually have some fun doing it, we will find ourselves with a great future in writing and publishing, whatever form it might ultimately take.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree. I think the call to authenticity is liberating. I don’t have to be someone else; I can just be me. That is my strategic advantage.

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      I enjoyed that tidbit, too.  It’s liberating not to be writing just to SEO, etc.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      Great point John. Every reader today wants authenticity.

      Jim

  • http://hoop.la Rosemary ONeill

    “Don’t be so serious all the time.”  That’s my motto and it was nice to hear someone say it out loud!  Great interview…I’m going off to subscribe to her blog now.

  • Anonymous

    Jane, Michael – brilliant.

    Michael – I think your blog is turning into a ‘how to market yourself online successfully’ resource :-)

    As an example, I’m not interested so much in writing, but got these powerful points from the video:

    [1] The first place people start looking to satisfy their information/problem/need, is Google (online).
    [2] An entrepreneur’s platform is based on discoverability and visibility. You need to be findable and visible online.
    [3] Many entrepreneurs are looking for a partner, who will help them understand how to best package themselves and their value proposition.[4] Best practices for visibility:[i] Consistency – be predictable with your visibility – both frequency and content subject matter.[ii] Patience & persistence – keep at it. Expect it to take between 6 months and 2 years as you learn your niche. It’s about finding your voice through interaction and feedback from your users.[5] Many entrepreneurs sabotage their success by trying to fit themselves to a role, such as marketer or sales person (or web designer). Don’t wear many hats, wear your authentic hat – just be you, and show up as you. Delegate the other stuff through strategic partnerships.[6] Embrace the constant change, accept that we are all in this exciting confusing time, don’t worry about making mistakes. Use more intuition, have fun. Stay authentic.

    Very wise words..

    Thank you both.

    ok.. off to subscribe to Jane’s blog..

    • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

      Great summary, Paul!

      Related to #1, I have an article in the current issue of Writer’s Digest (October 2011) called “Nonfiction Book Proposals in the Digital Age.” It’s critical that today’s nonfiction author have material in their proposal that addresses why the BOOK format is needed if information is available freely online. Also needed is an exploration of how online media will either complement, extend, update (etc) the book’s offerings. 

      You can subscribe to my blog here: http://janefriedman.com

  • http://twitter.com/wizardofwords Doreen Pendgracs

    Thanks for the great interview, Michael.

    Good timing for me, as I’d just rec’d another rejection from an agent, telling me my platform STILL isn’t big enough after 2 full years of giving it my top priority.

    I am looking for inspiration and guidance from every source that can help me. Always enjoy your posts, and now video clips! 

    Doreen Pendgracs

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    Like this interview.
    What I take away from this is a great plan and preparation for building a platform.
    Must have:
    - patience
    - consistency
    - authenticity
    - a sense of humor.

    Thanks for sharing Michael & Jane.

    Blessings!
    Mark

  • http://www.authorcynthiaherron.com Cynthia Herron

    Thank you, Jane, for great insights and superb advice this morning! (I’ve been a WD subscriber for the past 20 or so years and have learned so much during that time.)

    The biggest thing I’ve learned from blogging is to just be myself. If we come across as an infomercial strictly as a marketing tool then we’ve immediately lost our audience. And like you suggested, we shouldn’t get so worried about all the bells and whistles of social media that the worry hampers us from what we’re trying to do, which is to write and do it well.

    I enjoy the videos, Michael!

    • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

      Thanks, Cynthia!

      Yes, the interesting thing about blogging (as well as social media) is that while it can turn into your No. 1 marketing weapon, if you start off using it that way, you’ll likely fail.

  • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

    The first point about the challenges of non-fiction books (long-form informational content) is a good one. I think we will see more and more short books in the non-fiction world that perform well as eBooks. The Domino Project is really experimenting with this and a number of self-published niche eBooks with low prices are beating the high priced eBooks from traditional publishers.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I am watching the Domino Project carefully. I am very intrigued by their publishing model.

    • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

      Jared, you might also be interested in these short-form digital projects:
      http://byliner.com
      http://atavist.net
      http://electricliterature.com

      • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

        Jane, how about a little warning about the content of your links? Not work-friendly.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Jared, I apologize. I just deleted that last link. Yikes.

  • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

    Such great advice! I really appreciated Jane’s permission and encouragement to be flexible, experimental, and open in this new world of publishing. I find myself getting anxious and overwhelmed by it all at times and she offered a great reminder to have fun and enjoy the processes!

    • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

      If I have any mission in life, it’s to help people feel less anxiety! I’m glad this could help.

      • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

        What a generous attitude, I appreciate that! I’m learning that generosity seems to be a healthy part of the online, writing community.

        I do have a question about publishing. How do you determine if a publishing company is credible or has a sketchy reputation?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          The best I can suggest is do your homework, especially via a Google.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-D-Boucher/610548197 Chris D Boucher

    Kuddos to you Mr Hyatt on your ability to conduct that interview while keeping your eyes focused on the camera…so hard to do!! She was looking at you, but your professionalism ruled the day (not that she wasn’t professional of course). I appreciate this extra touch!!

    • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

      Looks like I have more media training to do.  ;)

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-D-Boucher/610548197 Chris D Boucher

        I couldn’t do that!! We want to make eye contact naturally. You did great!!

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      Yes, I was impressed by that, too.  It made me think of an earlier MH post: http://michaelhyatt.com/how-to-record-a-video-interview-in-eight-steps.html

  • http://www.violetnesdoly.com Vi Nesdoly

    Great to see you two writing-mentor favorites om the same ‘page.’ Thanks, Michael and Jane!

  • http://twitter.com/CoachTheresaIF Theresa Ip Froehlich

    Thank you for bringing Jane’s expertise and wisdom to us.
    One benefit of blogging, besides meeting your readers’ expectation, is developing the discipline of writing regularly. This was extremely valuable to me when I first began writing.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Mike, thank you for your generous hand in sharing the publishing world with us. The interview helps fuel the passion to write and keep writing. Jane seems to share the same generous spirit as well.–Tom

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com Ed_Cyzewski

    Great advice. Thanks for putting this together. 

    If I could add something I’ve found that goes along with Jane’s advice about experimenting. I think authors should not only be willing to experiment with their content. They should also be willing to experiment as readers. I spent a bit of time playing with iPads and Kindles in the store before picking an e-reader up. Now that I own the new e-ink Nook I feel like I can better experiment when writing with E-books in mind. I can relate a bit more with the experiences of my readers.

    • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

      Great insight, Ed! Very much agree! As a reader, when you experience both the possibilities and the limitations of digital devices, it can inspire, expand, and inform your thinking about how to approach digital versions of your own work.

      I also like to think of all new tools/technologies as creativity prompts—or invitations to play in new ways with how we tell a story or spread a message.

  • Nike Chillemi

    Wow, one of the best interviews I heard (and/or seen) in a long time. Very valuable stuff here. I came to listen, wanting to learn and I did.

    • http://www.janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

      Awesome! Thank you.

  • Joanna Marple

    Enjoyed this, especially the encouragement that finding one’s blogging voice can take time. I’ve been blogging six months and it’s coming, SLOWLY! Do check out Jane’s blog a thttp://janefriedman.com/  I’ve been following her around 4 months and am constantly educated and inspired by her posts! Thanks Michael and Jane. 

  • Jim Hamlett

    As always, Jane delivers great advice. For those sitting the fence, I strongly recommend her blog. Thanks, Michael for the great questions.

  • Lloyd Lemons

    Thanks for a great interview! I always enjoy Jane’s perspective on the industry. I have to agree that effective blogging takes practice. I’ve been blogging for years, and I’m only recently getting the hang of it. Good thing for me I don’t give up easily! — Lloyd Lemons

  • http://www.joeyo.org Joey O’Connor

    Excellent interview. I’m inspired and motivated to keep building a viable and visible platform. Thanks Michael!

  • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

    A very good and informational interview. I thought she shared some very good perspectives on publishing and the changes that are coming in the future.

    Jim

  • Rosemariejamesjr

    Thank you Michael and Jane for your interview. I find your advice helpful even for me as an aspiring concert pianist. The role of the agent and record label has transformed like that of the literary agent & publisher.

  • FemmeFuel

    What a great interview, Jane and Michael! I needed this reminder that this is an ongoing process that takes time to build and grow.  It’s so easy to get discouraged sometimes!

    –JM
    http://femmefuel.com/

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    I would love to ask the question — Is creating online platform (like blogging, tweeting,etc ) compulsory for success of a writer?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      No, but almost.

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  • Catherine Verrilli

    I have a blog that has received some excellent reviews, but none professional. How can I get my blog more noticed? I believe the content, and my writing style, are worthy of some attention.  I know that sounds arrogant, perhaps, but I believe I have something to contribute on a larger scale. 

    Thank you for posting this interview. I liked all of Jane’s advice, but especially that about consistency and being yourself. I feel like I’ve found my voice by starting my blog. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Catherine, this is a big question. I would subscribe to ProBlogger.com, CopyBlogger.com, and TentBlogger.com. All three discuss getting visibility for your blog. Thanks.

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  • Liz Smalley

    I really appreciated this interview.  I have felt fearful and overwhelmed and forced to move to platform world, and live in blogland and twitterville.  I haven’t been to these places before.  I have a number of fears that have been my motivation.
    1. If I don’t learn this, then I’ll be left behind with future modes of communication.
    2. I’m going to have become obsessed, and I’m not sure I want to.
    3. Will I be able to maintain real life relationships, if I spend the amount of time I perceive to be required, reading and commenting on other people’s blogs.
    4. I’ve been fearful I haven’t figured out my message yet, so what will I say.
    5.  There has been enough stuff written already. 

    I’m really glad these concerns of mine were addressed and I feel like I can have a go.
    Jane and Michael said
    1. Yes I’ll make mistakes but it’s OK.  Mistakes and feedback is how we grow.
    2.  It will take time to find my voice, but that’s OK.
    3. If I keep trying and don’t quit, I will eventually succeed.
    4. Be myself, because I am unique and I may have something unique to say that will help someone else.
    5.  Try to have fun.
    6. Fear is not a satisfying motivation.

    I realise thinking there is enough stuff written is similar to thinking there have been enough songs written.  Just sing the old ones.  There’s aways room for more songs and more writing.

    I feel really relieved after listening to this interview.  Thanks.

  • Mpopovits

    Michael – off topic here, but what software did you use to record this?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      In this post I describe the whole process, including the software I use. Thanks.

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  • http://logicandimagination.wordpress.com/ Melody Harrison Hanson

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