How To Get Attention: Focus On Me, Not You


Every single day of my life, someone asks me this question:

“How do I get people to pay attention to my writing? What’s your trick?”

They ask me because I’m an expert on getting attention for writing. Or they think I am, because I wrote three #1 best-selling books that sold millions of copies worldwide, and I just started a new type of book publishing company that helps people write their book (and gets their books attention).

So I’ll ask them who their writing is for, and this is what they say:

“EVERYONE LOOK AT ME!! Me, me, me, me, me, me! MEEEE!!”

OK, I’m exaggerating. They usually don’t scream, but the answer is always about themselves, never about their audience. They tell me what their book or blog post or writing means to them. Most people write only with themselves in mind, and not with an audience in mind.

And that is precisely the reason why no one cares about their writing.

If you’re trying to get attention for your writing—or actually, ANY product or idea at all–please listen to this fact:

No one cares about your writing. They only care about what your writing does for them.

This is the best advice you can get for trying to get anyone to do anything. My area of expertise is writing and books and publishing, but this applies to selling products, services, etc. See, watch it work:

No one cares about your product, they only care about what your product does for them.

And of course, services:

No one cares about your service, they only care about what your service does for them.

Watch it work in all sales:

No one cares about what you’re selling, they only care about what it does for them.

It even works in broad categories, like ideas:

No one cares about your idea, they only care about what your idea means to them.

I bet you understand this yourself. We’re all sophisticated buyers of products and services, and this is how we buy things for ourselves—by calculating if the product or service will provide a value to us.

Yet when the roles are reversed and people start trying to get attention for their product or service, they lose their minds, and somehow think that everyone has to pay attention to them just because they want them to. It’s like as a society we have decided to be perfectly rational buyers, and totally irrational sellers.

But at least with a product or a service, people ultimately understand that they’re making something for someone else. So unless they are blinded by the self-proclaimed brilliance of their idea/product, they eventually get that it has to appeal to the buyer. With books or blog posts or writing, people really lose their minds, because people think of their writing in a totally different way.

Most people see their writing as a piece of themselves, as a representation of their identity, or some sort of personal validation. They think that getting attention for their writing will confirm and validate their idea, and thus themselves. I have seen this over and over and over.

I would say less than 10% of the writing I see is actually about delivering value to an audience; the rest is ultimately about the writer, not the audience. You’re probably making this mistake too, without even realizing it.

This is literally what we deal with every day in our publishing company. When we started our company, we thought the most important service we provided to authors was saving them time (our process only takes authors about 12 hours). That time saving is great, but the real value we provide to authors comes from helping them see exactly what wisdom they have that’s interesting to other people—which is the only way to get attention for your book.

We charge a decent-sized fee for our services, but I’ll explain to you exactly what we do to get authors to understand this, because if you write anything for anyone–a book, blog, newsletter–this is process will make your writing better.

There’s the basic three-step process that will ensure you get attention for your book or blog post (and yes, this works almost the exact same way for anything):

  1. What is your goal for this book/blog post/piece of writing (or product or service or idea)?
  2. What audience do you need to reach in order to accomplish that goal?
  3. What wisdom, information or value can you deliver to that audience that will help them reach their goals?

Do you see what that process does? It centers the entire discussion on the audience, not on yourself. Why does this matter?

Because no one cares about your writing, they care about what your writing does for them.

I’ll give you a specific example of how we took an author through this process, how it turned his book from a dud into something that got a ton of attention, and it will show you how to do this with your writing (or product):

This entrepreneur wanted to write a book about how he built a large commercial plumbing contracting business, in order to drive clients to his business and raise his profile in the plumbing industry. He was very proud of his company and wanted more people to know about it (and I think he secretly had visions of this book elevating him to the ranks of famous business figures like Jack Welch and Sheryl Sandberg). There was a small problem:

No one on earth wants to read a self-congratulatory book about plumbing (I won’t make the obvious poop joke here).

We walked him through our exercise, and he realized that the audience he needed to hit in order to reach his goal (people who buy commercial plumbing services or care about the plumbing industry) were never going to read his book–unless he said something of interest to them.

So we asked him a bunch of questions about plumbing, the problems in the business, his experiences, and realized something: he had an incredible way of evaluating and speccing out commercial jobs that was genuinely revolutionary (at least as far as you can revolutionize plumbing). And guess what? That information would be incredibly valuable to the exact audience he needed to hit: people who buy commercial plumbing services.

So that’s what his book became—the definitive guide on how to evaluate and spec out commercial plumbing jobs. Which will NOT put him next to the titans of business, but it WILL get him in front of exactly the people he wants, in exactly the way he wants it.

And it’s happening only because he used his wisdom to help his audience reach their goals.

See how this works? This is the key to getting attention for any writing—books, blog posts, even tweets—first make your writing about the other person, help them reach their goals, and that will inspire them to both engage your writing and then share it with others. That’s the only writing that anyone cares about reading—the writing that helps them.

You decide what to read based on the same calculus, right–what is potentially useful to you? So why do you think anyone will read your writing based on what it means to you? They won’t. Write with your audience in mind, and then getting attention is easy. And if you do that, then they will engage with your writing (or product or idea), and that is how you reach your goal.

As my friend Justine Musk says, “The question isn’t how the world can cater to your passions, but how your passions can cater to the world.”