How to be in the top 10% of your industry

We are thrilled to welcome today’s guest, Ryan Decker!

In a world where there are literally thousands, if not millions of people competing to do exactly what you want to do, how will you stand out? How will you ever get noticed?

You may assume there are too many obstacles to overcome or not enough opportunities out there. You might feel like you’re not connected enough, skilled enough, or have what it takes. You may even feel like you have done everything you can already but nothing seems to work. Whatever you’re thinking, you’re right.

“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

So why not think you can? Why not you? Why not now?

Good news…

The world has a way of rewarding those who decide what they want and work to go get it.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Step one: start

Begin where you are with what you have. Start down the wrong path if you have to. Explore even your bad ideas. Be okay with failing and start creating. At this point, don’t let creating something perfect get in the way of creating something, period. Do this and you have already beat out 80% of the competition. Most people fail before they even begin. They get a bad case of paralysis by analysis and never begin working to make their dreams a reality. You too may have been stuck in this trap before. But not anymore.

Step two: keep going

The next 5% of your competition will burn out after a while and quit. By being consistent with you craft, you have already placed yourself in the top 15% of the world! Keep patiently and diligently working. One day, your chance will come. One day, you will be heard.

That’s the amazing truth behind consistency. There is a certain compound effect taking place. When you improve even less than 1% every day, before you know it, you’re where you want to be. Exponential growth only comes with time and commitment. This type of commitment isn’t easy. If it were, there would be more people doing it. That’s why by simply following step one and step two, you will already be in the top percentile of your industry.

Start. Keep going. If you want something bad enough. You will make it happen. There will be sacrifices, but when you love what you do they won’t seem like sacrifices anymore. You’ll sleep less, watch less tv, spend less time with friends and doing hobbies. You’ll replace some of those things with getting educated, connecting with like-minded people, testing your ideas, failing a lot and learning a lot. But that’s what you signed up for, isn’t it?

Step three: breaking into the top 10%

After showing your craft the level of commitment it requires, you can now take your performance to the next level. Here’s how:

  1. Find a mentor or hire a coach.

As the proverb says: “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” You will not get to where you want to go without the proper training. People who have been there before or are doing what you want to do can help you avoid certain roadblocks saving you both time and money. The right mentor will help you gain clarity around your unique message. They will help you connect with the right people to help spread your ideas. The wrong mentor or coach can have the opposite effect, so be sure never to take advice from someone you wouldn’t want to switch places with.

  1. Create something remarkable. 

Easier said than done. That is why testing and failing and learning about your target audience are so vital to your success. Your purpose is to gain trust and earn attention. The only way you can do that is to write something people will want to read, sell something people will want to buy, and serve people how they would like to be served.

  1. Be a marketer.

You are a marketer now. It doesn’t matter what your skills are or what you think you role is, if you are serious about being in the top 10% of your industry, you will need to learn marketing. Pay attention to how people respond to what you do and say. Observe what favors people are asking you to do for them. Ask more questions. Listen. Learn how to best fulfill the needs of your market. You have more to offer than you think. It’s time for your market to understand that.

  1. Think like a designer. 

Designers are taught to pay close attention to the details. Because details matter. Everything designers do, from eating to grocery shopping to driving down the street, influence their work. In order to make the most out of what you do, your work will always need to be top-of-mind. A commitment to your work requires a commitment to solve the interesting problems that come your way. They will demand your attention because you have promised your attention. So when inspiration comes your way, go to work. Organizing your thoughts for a later time is good, working on your craft as soon as inspiration comes to you is better.

  1. Do it because you love it.

If you love what you do, stick with it. It’s a marathon – almost everything meaningful you will do in life is. It’s supposed to be hard. Would you do it even if you wouldn’t get paid to? If the answer is yes, then keep going. Think of the many people you can and will touch by creating meaningful work. Think about what might happen if you don’t. Do what you do because you love it. Love what you do because of who it helps.


You are either getting better or getting worse. There is no middle ground, no state of stagnation. What got you where you are today will not be enough to get you where you need to go. Remember, you aren’t doing the world any favors by thinking small. Play big. And then, don’t settle for being in the top 10% of your industry. Instead, ask: what can I do to to get to the top 1%?


RyanRyan Decker is an entrepreneur and blogger who writes and coaches about personal growth, leadership, and marketing. When Ryan is not making lists or thinking about goals he is cooking, cycling, reading, or traveling with his wife, Hannah. Connect with Ryan at

Be Authentic: Build Your Brand

The job of an author goes beyond finding people to read the books; the job of the author is to create fans.

Connecting with that potential fan base has so many facets it can be overwhelming. As a writer you often forget it is your job to network and market your skills. This can be done well before you are published. Using social media to engage in authentic interactions, establish communities, build a brand, and present yourself as an expert can create fantastic opportunities. Though social media isn’t the only way to create fans, you will want to think about what will work best for you and how to utilize it before you are too busy with publishing deadlines and life emergencies.

It is my job as a business owner and your job as an author to establish ourselves as experts. There are many things for which you can and should be known for. In 2012 I bought a full service bookstore in my community. It was my job to prove to the loyal customers that I was an authority on the books held within the walls and get each and every one of them to believe and invest in my ability to find and recommend quality titles for them. It is up to every person and every author to establish what it is that they can do to build a brand and create a feeling of expertise. I needed these loyal customers to become my fans and talk about me beyond the bookstore and let others in the community know the books had been left in good hands.


Over the years my expertise has shifted. When I was first blogging, before The Hunger Games came out, people on Twitter turned to me to define dystopian fiction and give recommendations. Next I worked in a school, my expertise was focused on connecting students with books that would interest them and fell within their reading level.

Now I connect my customers with titles they are looking for and ones they didn’t know they wanted on a daily basis. As I reconnect with my academic pursuits, I see new avenues to connect with unique aspects of myself and opportunities to become an expert in new topics.

Building a brand is about identifying the knowledge you already have and combining it with the things you already do and then sharing those experiences with the world. Does your brand have to do with your writing life, your day job, your previous life, or your academic pursuits? For many writers, being an author isn’t the first iteration of their life . Before I was a bookstore owner I was a book blogger, mother, homemaker, and an avid reader, each of these aspects of my life provide a rich resource from which I can draw my expertise.

Take some time and think about what makes you uniquely you. Is there a way that can be cultivated into your personal brand. How can you use this aspect to establish yourself as an expert? Being authentic is about showing all sides of yourself, maybe even some of your flaws. It can be difficult to talk about yourself when you really want to talk about your book or events you are attending, but that can end up just feeling like a sales pitch. How do you relay your authentic self in person and online?

Every time you use the internet you are building your brand, whether you intend to or not, now it is time for you to cultivate that image rather than hide behind it. Don’t be afraid to expose yourself, your flaws, your emotions. It doesn’t mean you have to put every aspect of yourself online, but be aware of what you are sharing and why you are sharing it. How does how you are using social media, or a blog, or even just talking to colleague help build a brand and establish you as an expert? Do you know how to grow the perfect tomato? Prune roses to perfection? Bake flawless banana bread? It doesn’t have to be something big, but how can you authentically own it? I am really good at untangling things (especially necklaces) and though it takes time, I am usually successful. Maybe there is a way to cultivate that skill into my brand. I am not sure I want people mailing me their necklaces to untangle for them, but it is good to be known for something.

Identify what you are good at, talk about it online and in person. Show all aspects of yourself, not just the best aspects. Build your brand. Be an expert. Ready. Set. Go.


Eastern 100%Megan O’Sullivan has owned Main Street Books in Cedar City, UT since May 2012. This year marks the 24th year the bookstore has been in business. She considers herself a bibliophile of the most extreme case. She has been obsessed with dystopian literature, Chris Pratt, and noodles, but is currently pursuing an interest in culinary history and the social conception of food.

15 Pinterest Board Ideas for Writers

Are you a writer and a Pinterest junkie user? Are you addicted to Pinterest like you’re addicted to chocolate? Or do you fear you’ll get sucked into the vortex and therefore shy away from Pinterest like you do from decaffeinated coffee? I’m a Pinterest user that stands somewhere in the middle ground. I love it for inspiration and find it very useful as a resource, but I admit that I use the mobile app to skim and quickly post things so I don’t get sucked into it for hours and hours (because the potential of that happening is real).

Bottom line: Pinterest is a great way to find and share writing inspiration and useful information, connect with other writers and readers, and make your brand (i.e., YOU) more visible to others.

Here is a sample list of boards that you might find useful as a writer. I’ve included examples of boards for each of these categories (some of which I follow and others that are mine). If you’re not on Pinterest yet, this comprehensive list might appear overwhelming, but I suggest that you start with one or two boards that you find most helpful to you and slowly build up your boards with time. The key to successfully using Pinterest is to pin things that are useful, interesting, and aesthetically inspiring to you.

1. Character inspiration board

Models, fashion, hair, style, other pins to capture your characters’ personalities and voices (for each project or character)

2. World-building/scene inspiration board 
Scenery, locations, historical settings (for each project)

3. Writing resources & tips board
Favorite writing tips, how to’s, advice on writing craft

4. Favorite quotes board
Writing inspiration, general inspiration, writing prompts

5. Favorite reads board
Books you’ve loved, books on your TBR list, book teasers, book reviews

6. Favorite writing songs/bands board
YouTube videos, playlists, song quotes, lyrics that inspire you

7. Writing-inspired accessories/must haves board
Shirts, scarves, mugs, bookshelves, furniture, other decor for your writing space

8. Blogging board
Links to posts from your blog (include a custom graphic with a watermark from your website or with your name if possible; see tips at the end of this post)

9. Writing conferences/author events board
Links to events you’re attending, on your wish list to attend, and/or meet-up places that you recommend to other writers and readers

10. Writing opportunities/contests/competitions board
Writing contests, writing competitions, writing and publishing opportunities

11. Writing retreat locations board
Locations, destinations, settings for your dream writing retreat (also serving as inspiration)

12. Your books/WIPs & press board
Your own books, works-in-progress, book trailers, and any press-related items

13. Writing snacks board
Recipes to satisfy your writing munchies

14. Quick-prep meal board
Shopping lists and easy recipes for when you need more time to write and are sick of take-out

15. Easy kid crafts
If you have kids, easy crafts for them to do, possibly even while you’re writing

A few additional thoughts for pinning:

You can designate any of your boards as “secret” if you don’t want to share the content of your boards.

Like all social media, everything you post publicly will reflect upon you as a writer and will influence the types of followers you attract.

For your original pins/images, it’s always a good idea to create a watermark of your name or website on the pin. Re-pinned pins often lose original captions, and a watermark will maintain your name/brand’s visibility.

Do you use Pinterest to help you with your writing-related activities? Do you have any other suggestions for boards? If so, we would love it if you would share them with us!

Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL, and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. She is also one of the authors of the YA/NA crossover anthology LOSING IT. She is mostly on Pinterest when she needs to do book research or needs to find recipes.

30 Pictures to Post on Instagram as a Writer

Last week while out to dinner with my brilliant writing group (minus Helen, who we missed terribly. She was off gallivanting on a grand adventure of her own) we got to chatting about social media platforms. Exciting things are happening in our group. Books coming out! Contracts being signed! Books getting finished! Deals being made! The need for promoting is here!

Oh, and by the way, if you’d like to follow us on Instagram look for @helenbozz, @tashaseegmiller, @elainevickers, and @erinshakespear. (How’s that for shameless promoting? Please share your username in the comments so we find you!)

As we talked and munched on chips and salsa, Instagram came up.

Some of us love it, some have only dipped their toes into this instaworld and some are a wee bit clueless about it. “What pictures would I post?” someone asked who was talking about setting up an author account.

So, today I’m sharing 30 ideas for pictures to take as a writer or author. These should keep your Instagram account busy for some time. And, hopefully, you have loads of fun taking and posting these photos!    

1.     Your office.

2.     Your favorite snack to munch on while writing.

3.     Your favorite drink.

4.     The view out your window while writing.

5.     Your To Be Read stack of books.

6.     Your favorite indie bookstore.

7.     Your writing companions. (These could be furry friends, tiny troublemakers who demand popsicles and cozy hugs or simply cute little Rainbow Dash sitting on your monitor)

8.     The book you’re currently reading.

9.     New notebooks.

10.   Your favorite spot in the library.

11.   Your bookshelves.

12.   Your favorite café/restaurant/burger joint to write in.

13.   Your writing group.

14.   Favorite quotes using apps like Rhonna Designs or InstaQuote.

15.   A picture from your blog post with the link.

16.   Book signings.

17.   You meeting a favorite author.

18.   Writing conference speakers.

19.   Your favorite writing day outfit. (aka comfy jim jams)

20.   You signing a contract.

21.   The first copies of your book when they arrive in the mail.

22.   You and your agent.

23.   You and your editor.

24.   A celebratory dinner with your writing group.

25.   You deep in thought. (Call this a self-reflecting selfie)

26.   What you do when procrastinating the writing.

27.   Shots from a writing retreat.

28.   You jumping/shouting/squealing/throwing confetti/bungee jumping, inhaling pickles after you sell a book/snag an agent/finish writing a book/get invited to a  sleepover with J.K. Rowling.

29.   Celebrities you imagine playing the parts of your characters.

 30.   Your biggest fans. (kids, spouse, parents, friends, etc.)

Easy peasy, right? Now for a few more Instagram tips (It’s a bonus *list!)….

6 Instagram Tips and Tricks

#1     Keep your bio punchy! But make sure it also shows off your personality. And  include the link to your blog.

#2     Engage with other users! If you want to have a presence on Instagram then you can’t post content and leave. Don’t be a drive by poster! Take time to like others’ photos, comment, strengthen ties and make new friends.

#3     Post great photos! Use clear, well lit, engaging photographs.

#4     Don’t be boring! Take interesting shots. Try taking pictures from different angles or with a new perspective.

#5     Link up! Make sure you link your account to other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr and share your photos across these platforms.

#6     Use hashtags! You want people to find you, right? This is a great way for them to do it. Some of my favorites are #amwriting, #books, #bookworm, #writer, and #booklove.   For more great ideas check out 100 Twitter Hashtags Every Writer Should Know.

What kind of pictures do you like to post on Instagram? Do you know any other tips for using this social media platform?

*Yep, I have a thing for lists. As illustrated here, here, and here.
Erin Shakespear writes middle grade fantasy full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures. With six kids, her days are full of quirky creatures, magic, strange adventures, and…loads of diapers. She also likes to dabble at photography, sewing, jewelry-making, and pretending she’s a grand artist. She is the southern Utah coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.