Jack-of-all-writing-trades Sean Platt is a prolific blogger, ghostwriter, and author. He has several fiction and nonfiction titles available on Amazon and pens the popular Ghostwriter Dad blog (which we recommend even if you’re not a ghostwriter or a parent). Perhaps most astonishing, though, is the fact that Platt has accomplished all this and built a impressive platform in just a few years. Ebyline asked him about genre-jumping, monetizing content, and more.
Your writing takes many different forms: corporate websites, horror novels, children’s books, etc. How do you genre-jump so effortlessly? Or maybe it only seems effortless?
Thanks for saying that!
One of the things I enjoy most about being a writer is the genre hopping itself. And yes, I realize not everyone can do this. It isn’t exactly effortless, but it does feel reasonably natural.
Part of it comes from spending the last few years as a ghostwriter. Because I had to write everything from search engine optimized copy and wedding vows, to blog posts and page turning fiction, I learned variety at the speed of broadband.
Like a lot of ghostwriters I had to quickly learn to absorb anyone’s voice, swallow my own, and surface the best out of whatever kind of copy I was trying to create. Honestly, though, I think the real key is that I never studied.
I’ve only been writing for a few years now, four total. I never planned to become a writer and never had a writing class in school, except a single semester in Long Beach City College that I went to maybe half a dozen times.
I think if I had had a lot of writing classes I wouldn’t be the natural writer I am. I’m not saying this is true for other writers, nor am I discounting the collegiate path. But for me personally, it worked because I never had to unlearn any of the structure and mechanics that fences in a lot of learned writing and strips it of its conversational tone.
My secret, which isn’t much of a secret at all, is that I write like I speak. And I believe I write like I speak because I never learned how not to.
I’ve noticed that in promoting Ghostwriter Dad, you give away a ton of awesome content. Not just blog posts but also ebooks, too. Do you find that you get a good enough ROI to make it worthwhile? What’s the monetization strategy?
I created a lot of content that I ended up making free, including an exhaustive eCourse with nearly 100,000 words worth of copy, and hours of sales letter training videos. In the long run, I do think it will be worth it. But, I’d also caution other writers against jumping into the “FREE first” model too quickly.
If I couldn’t write with speed and quality, I wouldn’t be able to lay so many of my chips at Amazon’s table. Because I can, I wanted to leave the information marketing business behind. Not because it isn’t lucrative, it is, but because I see it as a slightly hostile environment for authors.
My ROI is much lower doing it this way. And by much lower, I mean virtually nonexistent. But I’m okay with that. I will make my money from fiction. Ghostwriter Dad is my pro-bono pet project where I can help struggling writers who are right now where I once was.
What do you find are the biggest challenges facing freelancers today and how have you overcome them?
Competition, definitely. There are millions of blogs and millions of content writers, all vying for the same thin slices of online attention. Freelancers who want to step out from the crowd have a difficult time. Not only are they competing with other freelancers and bloggers they are competing with overseas writers willing to work for pennies on the dollar.
It’s easy to say that the overseas writers can’t match the quality. And while that’s mostly true, there are overseas companies with college educated, highly qualified writers who can create content on the cheap simply because they live in a totally different economic environment. There are also plenty of American writers who simply aren’t very good.
While I’ve never seen remarkable copywriting coming from overseas – sales letters, auto responders, and eCourses for example – keyword copy, which is a commodity and nothing more, can be bought for a few dollars per piece. That’s a difficult to compete with.
The key to conquering this conflict is to build as many assets as you can. Writers should spend as little time as they can writing for other people, and as much time as they can afford to spend writing for themselves.
The more assets you build, the more money you can make. Create assets intelligently, and every asset can serve as a revenue stream for ever. You may not get rich on a single title, or product, but the aggregate effect of multiple assets over time will act like a mutual fund in your career.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Every writer should be taking advantage of the Kindle, even if you don’t plan on making a full living through publishing.
Many writers think self-publishing isn’t worth it since the dollars are low unless your sales rank is high. And while that’s true, front end dollars aren’t the only reason to publish.
Using Amazon to publish your eBooks is one of the best sources of lead gen in the world, and smart writers should take advantage of the opportunity.