Episode 58—Get 1% Better with Joe Ferraro

Joe Ferraro, Brendan O'Meara
Joe Ferraro is the host of The 1% Better Podcast.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Joe Ferraro (@FerraroOnAir):

“We need to be shipping more than worrying about the details.”

“Nothing upsets me more than when someone says, ‘I’m too busy.'”

“You’ll hear young learners say, ‘How did you get so good at that?’ And the answer almost always is practice and reps.”

“I’m still trying to get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

“I’m a person who learns an unbelievable amount by talking things out.”

“Who are the people in your damn neighborhood?”

“The art and science of conversation and interviewing is intoxicating.”

Hey, it’s The Creative Nonfiction Podcast (please leave a review!) where I speak with the world’s best writers, freelancers, interviewers, authors, and documentary filmmakers about why and how they go about creating works of nonfiction and how YOU can apply what they do to your work.

Today’s guest is Joe Ferraro (@FerraroOnAir on Twitter), the fourth Joe I’ve had on the podcast (Joe DePaulo, Joe Drape, Joe Donahue, and now Joe Ferraro). Need a Josephine…anyway…

So who’s Joe Ferraro? He’s a teacher and a learner, but above all he’s a leader. He just started a podcast: The 1% Better Podcast. His tagline is Conversations designed to help you get 1% Better. It’s aimed at gradual, continual, rigorous—though not overwhelming—personal improvement.

“If we’re talking about hard work, it’s about squeezing out more of the day,” says Joe. “Nothing upsets me more than when someone says ‘I’m too busy.’”

Joe talks about his allergy for negative people, finding ways to challenge himself, and how after teaching for 20 years, he feels like his best years are still ahead of him. He’s the type of guy that inspires you to take action. He also talks about how he met his good pal Kevin Wilson, who you may recall from Episode 32.

Be sure to reach out to Joe on Twitter and subscribe to his podcast right away. Whether it’s listening to world class leader Ryan Hawk or how to make the best cold brew coffee, the art of thinking and redefining a restaurant, The 1% Better Podcast will open your eyes to where you can add value to you life and those around you.

Godin’s ‘Dip’ for Writers

Written by Brendan O’Meara

I listen to Brian Koppelman’s podcast, The Moment, every week. I’ve read a bunch of books written by Seth Godin. So when Koppelman interviewed Godin on The Moment my iguana brain almost hemorrhaged.

Koppelman brought up Godin’s The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). It was a formative book for Koppelman. I bought it on my Kindle. I read it in an hour on a Tuesday. Then I read it again on Wednesday. In my extensive morning journaling, I wrote for a few days on the Dip as it applies to freelance writing.

Let’s first define the Dip as Godin writes early on:

If you learn about the systems that have been put in place that encourage quitting, you’ll be more likely to beat them. And once you understand the common sinkhole that trips up so many people (I call it the Dip), you’ll be one step closer to getting through it.

Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most.

Godin also writes, “The Dip is the set of artificial screens set up to keep people like you out.”

It’s only natural to read these things through your own subjectivity. It got me thinking what the “artificial screens” to being a freelance writer and author. Here’s what I know from living in the Dip.

  1. Low pay/No pay
  2.  Low pay that doesn’t arrive on time
  3. Low pay that doesn’t arrive at all
  4. Having to chase down payment
  5. Rejection
  6. Loneliness
  7. Lack of validation/appreciation
  8. Killed stories
  9. Constantly having to hustle

There’s probably more, but you get the gist. Another point to consider—and what Godin makes you ask—is: Am I in a dead end or am I in a Dip? Here’s my Dip:

My Dip. Pretty, isn't it?
My Dip from my morning pages. Pretty, isn’t it?

If it’s a dead end, you need to quit yesterday. I’d say most reporter jobs at newspapers are dead ends. You have to leave the newspaper to get a promotion or you need to be a hard core freelancer like my friend Brian Mockenhaupt. At least in that instance you can pick your spots. That’s how the great Michael Paterniti did his work.

In order to recognize if you’re in a Dip or not, you need some form of validation. You need to have talent. Work ethic is a given, but you need to have some talent and that talent needs validation while in the Dip. That validation gives you the strength to remain in the Dip and lean into it, to push through it to the relative bounty on the other side.

I’ve known countless writers and colleagues who gave up. The Dip killed them. The Dip filtered them out and now there’s less in the Dip for you and for me.

While in the Dip you need to publish something of merit at a higher profile magazine or literary journal. Or, if you pitch a high profile magazine (and get rejected) and the editor is nice enough to reply, he/she needs to say a positive thing or two about your pitch. When you get these micro victories, you know it’s a matter of time.

Blogging doesn’t count. Self-publishing doesn’t count. The former is good practice for connecting and for getting words down; the latter is a shortcut (however, if you somehow prove to sell tens of thousands of copies, then you can tell me to shove it. And God bless you!). There must be an external validation to justify remaining in the Dip. It’s ugly in the Dip. It’s dark down here. I mean, it’s dark. It’s grim. At least my Dip is grim. My Dip is the freakin’ Hunger Games. If yours is better, can we get coffee?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of quitting. In the last two weeks our Civic needed $691 worth of repairs. Our Accord needed $600. Our dogs needed semi-annual checkups for $430. I’ve thought about quitting today. I’m thinking about it right now.

The people on the other side of the Dip? Talk to them they tell you the same thing: Write every story like it’s for a Pulitzer and query like hell. Turn work in ahead of time. Make editors’ jobs easier so they come to you in the future.

I’d add another thing: Have fun. Have fun while writing. We could be shoveling coal or pumping septic tanks. When you have fun with this crazy craft, it shows on the page. Don’t be self loathing (I’ve been guilty of that. That’s bad, bad practice.). Don’t complain. Have fun. The more fun you have, the better equipped you’ll be to get through the Dip.

A great sister book to The Dip is The War of Art. I’ll write about that another time.


The Purple Cow: On Being Remarkable in an Unremarkable Market

Written by Brendan O’Meara

As many of you know I’m big into marketing for writers. Authors need to be savvy at creating buzz around their work. Nobody else will.

Author Seth Godin is a marketing guru, and in the canon of his books, I’ve read “The Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable.” [Also reading “Meatball Sundae”, and I’ll have insights from that book as well.]

You’re driving down a nice country road in south Jersey and you look at all the pretty cows. Soon those pretty cows look homogenous, boring. Then you see a purple cow. Holy sh*T! Did you see that purple cow!? It stands out. It’s remarkable.

Sure, much of it revolves around businesses that provide a particular service or product, but many of the principles apply to writers. What’s key is NOT appealing to the masses. There is so much static and distraction: Internet, TV, iPad, iPhone, movies, kids, dogs, elections, the Tunguska Event. You name it. You need to get nichey with it.

Wait for it: here’s the question writers love to hear … Who’s your audience? Who’s going to buy your book? And once you figure that out, how will you stand out? How will you be remarkable?

There are four groups of people Godin describes and they fall into the typical bell-shaped curve. On the far left are the Innovators and Early Adopters (leaders looking to get a jump). The belly of the curve is the Early and Late Majority (followers). Laggards fill out the far right (slackers, people buying their first digital camera today.).

The key is to appeal to the far left: the innovators and early adopters. They are passionate consumers looking for the “in” thing. They like to be ahead of the masses so they can recommend cool products to their friends. These people somehow have the iPhone7, the one with the inter-planetary time warp. Essentially, these people are bloggers eager to review and share their insights. As writers in a tenuous publishing climate, we need to seek out these people. They will review your work and talk about it to their 500, 1,000, 2,000, 10,000 followers.

If you can reach several dozen bloggers and their collective readership is 100,000 people and 10% of those people buy your book, that’s 10,000 books. Not New York Times Best Seller stuff, but that’s a lot of books from a modest reach. What if you reached 1,000,000 people from 100 bloggers?

Of course you still need to write a great book. But let’s assume you already knew that. All of this is moot if your book isn’t fit to line bird cages.

What do a lot of [wannabe] writers do? Trust me, I’ve spoken to a lot. Many love this idea of holing up in a cabin and being the solitary writer. Steaming coffee. A fire. Snow in the mountains. This is unremarkable in terms of building a brand. Stephen King can do this. Suzanne Collins can do this. You can’t.


Things I do?

No. 1, and this might seem stupid, but I feel it’s gotten me this far, however far that is. I suit up. I always wear a suit when reporting and when I appear in public. I feel it’s how I got the access I got to the executive characters in Six Weeks. Especially as a sports writer, dressing nicely makes you remarkable, you stand out from the sheep. Plus it makes me feel good. First impressions, when you see a guy in a nicely tailored suit standing next to a guy in tattered khaki shorts, flip-flops, and a ball cap, who will garner a better first impression? Exactly.

No. 2 What I’m working on are videos and book trailers. Goofy mini-movies that sometimes touch upon writing and books. Sometimes they might just be a funny skit. What’s the point? Well, I don’t want to be “spammy” for one, but I also just want to entertain in a different form. If people are drawn to those videos, they’ll be more likely to sample my work. To quote Godin, “Don’t Be Boring,” and “Safe is Risky.”

Another idea that I’m going to employ? Giveaways. This isn’t completely novel, but I have a theory if you give away something, it will snowball into better publicity if the people signing up for the giveaway 1.) Like it. And 2.) Review it on Amazon and Goodreads and spread the news.

Again, Innovators and Early Adapters.

Which is why, if you’ve made it this far in this post, I will give away—for free!—a personalized copy of my book “Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year.” All you have to do is subscribe to my blog using the email form at the end of this post. Or you can click on that “Follow” tab in the lower right-hand corner. Once you’re confirmed, I’ll contact you for your address and see how you want your book signed and I’ll mail it away Media Rate (7-10 days delivery time).

Books go to the first 30 subscribers, so I’d love to hear from you in the comments and I’d love for you to subscribe.

Go! Be Remarkable!