TV and movie critic Jane Boursaw has written for an impressive array of publications including Parade, USA Weekend, and The New York Times, and has recently shifted her focus to syndicating her Reel Life With Jane column (which is now read by more than 20 million readers monthly) and building the Reel Life with Jane blog. Here she shares her tips on successful syndication, blogging, and more.
Why focus on building the Reel Life with Jane brand instead of writing for other websites or blogs?
Great question! Over the past decade, I’ve written for many Web sites and blogs, and after a while, I started to see a pattern. I’d pour my heart and soul into a site, and then it would end for assorted reasons. The site would go under. A new editorial regimen would come in and clean house. Or, as in the case with AOL, where I was an editor at TV Squad and a writer at Moviefone and PopEater, it would merge with another site (Huffington Post) and become a completely different site.
The bottom line is, I didn’t want to keep jumping from one site to another. Every time that happens, your world gets thrown into the air willy-nilly and you have to piece it back together as it floats down around you. I wanted to build my own brand and empire, something I could nurture and grow for a long time. Something that’s truly mine where I don’t have to compromise my ethics and can surround myself with positive, inspiring people.
I miss the camaraderie of working with a group of writers on a big site, but there are ways around that. I belong to several writers groups, including an entertainment writers group that I created. I’m also building my own little group of writers at Reel Life With Jane. There’s always a way to build the career you desire.
Writing about movies and TV shows seems like it would be fun, but I bet it’s hard work, too. What’s the most challenging part and how have you overcome it? Any recent successes to share?
I really love what I do. I love the whole creative process of watching a movie or TV show, forming ideas and opinions in my head, then writing up a review. One challenge is that I get dozens of screeners every week, and I don’t have time to watch them all, but that’s a high- class problem. Probably the most challenging parts of my business are the non-writing aspects – bookkeeping, marketing, publicity, and sales.
I’ve been working with a great business coach, Robin Blakely (who’s now my publicist), who’s helping me to develop those skills and take my business to the next level, including writing promotional materials, creating a press room, overhauling my invoicing system, and streamlining my real-life office space to reduce clutter and make it more functional.
We’re also packaging the Reel Life With Jane brand in a way that’s authentic and highlights my unique attributes. I don’t live in Los Angeles or New York. I’m a family entertainment writer, syndicated columnist, and mom of two teenagers who writes from a log home in northern Michigan. All of that is not only ok, it’s an asset that sets me apart from the pack.
You teach blogging and writing, so what are some of the most common mistakes you see students making?
Writing and blogging are just one aspect of running a successful business. You have to be a good marketer, publicist, customer service rep, bookkeeper, social media manager, and sales manager. And you have to be a good CEO. Don’t be afraid to truly own your unique brand and believe in your abilities to nurture it into a full-fledged success.
It’s also important to surround yourself with supportive, like-minded people who will help promote your work and have your back 24/7. If you can’t find a group like that, create one.
Do you have any advice for other writers who’d like to try syndication?
Make sure you’re writing about something you love. If you do that, you’ll wake up every day excited to go to work and not only grab every opportunity that comes your way, but go out and seek new opportunities. I see dozens of movies every month, and yet, I would happily see dozens more. The film industry has been in my soul since I was a youngster, and it always will be.
Also, think carefully about how you want to present yourself to editors and publishers, and get your tools and systems in place before you start pitching to publications. It’s much easier to have your press kit, invoicing system and everything else ready to go, rather than trying to make it up as you go along.
If Reel Life With Jane were turned into a sitcom or a movie, who would play you?
Oh, gosh. How about Julianne Moore? She’s got that girl-next-door quality and quirky sense of humor. And she wouldn’t have to change her hair color.
Photo by Scarlett Piedmonte