Who are we writing for, and why are we reading?

Blah, blah, blah.

I'm in the middle of reading a very funny novel right now. I also have two other books on my nightstand, and I haven't managed to get past page 20 in either, though I hear they're very good – Mitch Joel's Six Pixels of Separation and John Jantsch's The Referral Engine. I've read Joel's blog (same title as his book) and I'm familiar with Jantsch via his previous book, Duct Tape Marketing.

In the past year, I've also read Gary Vaynerchuk's Crush It, Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, Journey to the Emerald City by Roger Connors and Tom Smith, Shama Kabani's Zen of Social Media Marketing, and Jeffrey Hayzlett's The Mirror Test.

On top of that, I wake up many mornings and read Brogan's blog as well as the blogs of Outspoken Media, Bruce Clay, and a half dozen other individuals and organizations with whom you're familiar if you've recognized most of the names here, or with whom you're not if you had to go read everybody's bio.

I walked by Scott Stratten's book in the bookshop today and it hit me: everybody's telling us more or less the same two things:

  1. If you want to run a business you must be willing to take some risks, work some long hours, and in general bust some ass.
  2. You need to be on social media, and you have to interact, giving away a lot for free and boosting other people.

Well, everybody except Connors and Smith, who just needed a way to extend their PowerPoint presentations into book form.

I'm becoming a bit jaded about it, I guess. It's not only the same information (albeit sometimes with slightly different action items), it's the same people going around in a circle. I picked up Joel's and Jantsch's books because Outspoken recommended them. Kabani's people told me I'd probably enjoy it after they saw I read Brogan's book – and it turns out he wrote the introduction for her. I still recommend Vaynerchuk's book to people seeking their passion and Trust Agents to people who just don't understand social media ROI. I just don't feel like reading anything this circle's putting out right now. It's not making me think about anything in a new way, and it's not leading me to any sort of creativity.

It leads me to wonder: Are we all (including the people I've mentioned here), writing for ourselves? For like-minded people? For famous people to write our introductions or to give us blurbs?

Where are you finding value today in words?

Photo Credit: JasonTromm

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6 Responses to “Who are we writing for, and why are we reading?”

  1. How many books on the same topic of anything can you read and not think that? I can’t speak for the other authors, but I didn’t write this book – specifically – for you (and I stated as much before publishing). I wrote Six Pixels of Separation, for those who aren’t deeply engaged in the channel – but rather for those who keep hearing about it in boradrooms and would be more comfortable reading about the topic in a media they’re used to (business book).

    For me, the most gratifying aspect of writing the book is the amount of people that are now readings Blogs and are thinking about how to use these new media channels to grow their business.

    I think the bigger question is this: if this is all the same information, what kind of book would you like to see?

    • Josh Shear says:

      Mitch,

      Thanks for the comment. What I’m looking for in a book is something new, refreshing and useful. As I mention here, everything’s starting to sound the same, and everything’s written for people who are new to both online and offline networking (in various venues we call it “marketing,” but when you’re in an interactive environment, they are often very much the same thing).

      To further the conversation, what are you reading that you’d recommend for people who are still on their way? There are so many books out there that fall into the “101″ or “201″ level; what about that “345″ level?

  2. The books that push my thinking have little to do with the marketing industry. It’s usually books about storytelling, anthropology, humanities, psychology and economics.

    In terms of content closest to Marketing, I like the thinking of people like Clay Shirky, Dan Ariely, Chris Anderson, Henry Jenkins, Tom Peters… but they are not, exactly, marketing specific books.

    Your Blog post struck me, because I never understood the “there’s nothing new here” argument (about anything). You recently had a Blog post titled, The White Board Resignation: Would You Hire ‘Jenny’?. Now, let’s face it – every single Blog and Twitter feed talked about this video, so why bother? Why did you post about it? After all, we can apply the exact same argument that you make above to your Blog – nothing new here, we’ve seen most of this content before – in many, many other places (take a look at the Ad Age Power 150).

    The truth is that your post was original and unique. Why? Because you brought your own perspective and your approach and what you think about it. That’s what makes it different. How many Social Media Strategists and SEO experts are there in the world? Most of them have close to the same copy on their website as you do (similar services, etc…). Why work with you? It’s all the same thing, isn’t it? We know that’s simply not true. You being your own skills – and they’re different.

    In the end, that’s why people write books. They’re not copies of one another. They are looking at a change and expressing them with their own unique stories and perspectives.

    • Josh Shear says:

      I suppose that’s why I used “we” in the headline, including myself in the raft of voices saying more or less the same thing.

      I’ve also never bought the “nothing is new” argument — I used to be a music reviewer, and you can imagine what a stack of 100 CDs full of 4-chorded folk singers looks like to someone in that position, but every now and then something caught my ear. It’s not that nothing is new, it’s that I’m not hearing the new stuff. Maybe what I’m really looking for is uniqueness of voice and perspective, and I’m not looking in the right places.

      I think I’m going to take my reading to other areas; thanks for that suggestion.

  3. The best inspiration and newest ideas don’t come from within our little worlds, they come from exploring what’s “out there” and beyond :)

  4. Mitch says:

    Interesting conversation between the two of you. In a weird way, I also go against the “it’s all the same” for the most part, though we all have to acknowledge that sometimes we come across something that’s just a total rehash of what someone else already wrote.

    In my case I’ve been on a quest to read books about and how to become a millionaire. I have about 10 books now with that as the subject. Each one offers both similar and dissimilar concepts for how they got there and how they hope to stay there, as well as how I can get there. The concepts that are similar obviously need to be reinforced, even though I know them already, since I’m still not a millionaire. The new concepts are intriguing and spark me to want to read more and to try harder. I think that’s why we find genre’s of books and information we like, because even if we know it, we like it being reinforced whenever possible.

    Josh, I recommended a book on Twitter that you might like. Another book you might find intriguing, and I put it that way for a reason, is called Pimpology; I wrote a review about it here: http://www.reviewsofeverything.info/Pimpology.html. Trust me, it’s something quite different about something we all know about, and was way more interesting than I’d thought it might be.

    And you know I haven’t led you astray on a book yet. :-)

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