Archive for September, 2010

6 Ideas for Beginning Bloggers

Posted: September 25, 2010 in HIS Communications

What’s the very best way to improve your writing skills? Writing!

 What’s the very best tool to help you improve your writing skills? Blogging!

With the emergence of the internet and social media, more people are finding they have an almost uncontrollable urge to write.
For many who want to write about their passion, journal about their lives, or sell a product, the vehicle of choice has become a blog. Now before you “pooh-pooh” the blog, you should know that the greatest internet marketers and social media gurus started with blogs. And they continue to use their blog as the hub of their social media wheel to communicate with their audience.

Successful bogging requires a serious commitment. Many budding bloggers give up or lose their ability to attain a consistent frequency. If you’re a blogger now and if you’ve ever started your blog with, “I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while…” then you know what I’m talking about. Successful bloggers have two things in common… they are committed to a schedule and they have a passion for what they write about.

Blogging Requires Many Hats

Realize that when you start blogging, you are not just the writer, but also the editor and the publisher/distribution manager. If you’re going to engage your audience, you should strive for excellence. Throwing words on the screen without attention to detail is a poor effort. If you write the way I do and think that syntax is a tax on liquor and cigarettes, then you should find someone who will read and edit your work. Always remember that your entire audience is going to read and edit your work once you hit the “publish” button.

Determine Your Audience

It makes sense to write about what you know. No matter what your passion is, there are millions of people in social media who share your interests. That’s your audience. Don’t try to be all things to all people. The goal is to reach as many as possible, but realize that most of them will not stay interested in what you’ve written. If you want 1,000 loyal readers, you may have to reach 10,000 people.

Aim Small and Miss Small

 Write tight copy. One of the editors I used for my e- publishing company referred to her corrections to copy as removing the “nuisance factors.” There’s a reason why People Magazine makes their articles the length they do. They can hold a typical reader’s attention for 4 to 7 minutes. Blogs that are too long lose the reader’s focus.

Consistency is Imperative

How often will you publish? Everyday, every other day, every week? It truly doesn’t matter, as long as you stick to the schedule. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend not working every day. It takes about 4 to 5 days and even experienced writers begin to feel they’re tapped out of words and ideas.

Deliver Value Above All Other Options

If the reader leaves without a valuable thought, idea, link or gift, they won’t return. Only value-added blogs seem to survive. If you’re selling something, don’t bludgeon the reader with sales pitches. One famous blogger who sells through his blog says he only sells one time in four blogs… and he makes seven figures every year.

Bloggers are a Special Breed

When you sit down to write your blog, remember this. Your style, your ideas and your stage are just that… yours. Take pride in doing the best job you can. Review your work every five blogs to determine if you are improving. Search the internet for successful bloggers and learn from their example. <script type=”text/javascript” A good one to start with is Copyblogger).

Remember… the best thing for developing more skill as a writer is to write. And the best vehicle to publish your writing is a blog.

With the advent of Social Media and Social Media Marketing, the ability of writers to create and publish their own books has expanded the horizon of opportunity for all of us. Self-publishing is now a realistic way of seeing your book or novel in print without involving a publisher or publicist.

Amazon has seen the future and believes that electronic publishing (“e-books”) is right on the verge of becoming a huge market. Reader products like Kindle have paved the way for more technologically efficient readers like Apple’s iPad. Couple the convenience of the book’s availability electronically with the fact that e-books are “green” (which means they don’t require the death of trees for paper or for subsequent disposal problems down the road), and the market seems ready to burst.

If you have the desire to publish your own book, be it paperback or e-book, there are a ton of things to consider at the very beginning. But before you run out and start using companies like Lulu,  Xulon Press, or Book Surge,  clarify a few areas before diving into the self-publishing pool. 

Set a Realistic Goal for Your Book

What do you want to accomplish by publishing a book? Are you looking for a book to provide you with the tag of being an expert? Is your desire to teach, inform, or entertain your reader? Will your book lend itself to “re-purposing” (Workbook, MP3, video course, blogs, etc.)? How many books do you have to sell to break even? How much self-promotion can you do?

Self-publishing is more than simply writing a book and getting it printed or electronically published. Without a publisher doing the work for you, you will find that self-promotion requires time, patience and an understanding of many methods used to effectively reach an audience.

Be Prepared for Possible Disappointment

Great books often go unnoticed. Most books sell 100-200 copies, which typically represents about a third of our friends and relatives. Self-promotion (branding) is an art that mystifies and eludes many authors. As a result, many books with the potential to become best sellers actually become disappointments.

Print on demand (POD) allows you to print as few as one or two books at a time at a cost of $5 to $8 each, so the chances of going broke are minimal. Keep in mind, however, that the ego of a writer regarding their creation is fragile. Larger numbers can become an elusive trap.

With that said, there are great stories of authors who have been discovered through their self-published book(s). There is also a great deal of pleasure to be gained by seeing your thoughts and ideas in print. In publishing a book, perception is a big factor in weighing success.

Begin Branding Yourself Right Now

You cannot rely on facebook friends to assure the success of your book. Visibility and people who will accept an e-mail from you are critical; however, by constantly pushing your book to your facebook friends, you risk becoming a spammer. In the near future we will dedicate a blog to branding, which will explore this subject in greater depth.

Niche Books Sell Best  

If you are writing a devotional or novel, this doesn’t mean you should stop; however, books that target an identifiable audience with “how to” material typically outsell their counterparts. A niche book provides added value, as well, since it often lends itself to the art of “re-purposing”. 

Professional Editing is a Must  

Just because my friend has an advanced degree in English, I should not automatically assume that she can edit my book. Find a proven book editor who can tighten your text, review your English, and eliminate the “nuisance factors” in your writing. Do not assume that SpellCheck identifies no misspellings and/or bad grammar, so the book must read well. And never, never edit your own stuff!

The Book Cover Counts 

Whether it’s a paperback, hardcover or e-book, the appearance of the jacket or cover of the book is critical. Obviously, the potential reader sees it before reading word one. There is only one chance to make a good first impression and that is the cover. The goal is to entice the reader to “turn the page” and start reading. If you are not tremendously gifted as a graphic designer, find someone who specializes in book covers and pay them to design something great (and make certain that the finished product looks good as a small icon for Amazon and the internet).

Pricing is Important  

How will you price your book, particularly if it will be available through Amazon and other book stores? Often your royalty will be about 35% . If you sell your book for $16.99  then 35% of that is $5.95. From that you subtract the cost of printing the book, say $5.50 and you find you’ve made a whooping 45 cent profit. Not a great return on investment, particularly since pricing is so competitive. Check the online bookstores to see what other authors are charging for their books.

Finally

The self-publishing industry is very new and is constantly shifting and re-inventing itself. What I say today may not apply to what is true tomorrow. The seven thoughts above are presented simply to get you to weigh the costs of writing a book, not to discourage you from writing a best seller. It is typically not easy being discovered, but it does happen every day and the odds are probably equal to (if not better than) playing the lottery. Just remember that the rewards of participation are immeasurable.

Having a book published brings with it a new perception of the author/yourself and also provides a legacy of your abilities. Those two considerations, alone, make the effort of writing and publishing a book worthwhile.

 My goal is to provide easy-to-read and easy-to-follow suggestions to those of you who want to write and publish a book and are just getting started.

 I will appreciate your feedback, as well as your ideas for future blogs.

 In His service and yours,

I’ve been studiously learning as much as possible about social media and the technology that supports the concept. It’s taking this ole’ dog some time to grasp how to use the technology, but it didn’t take too long to understand and implement the branding concept into my business plan. Understanding social media’s concept was easy, because not too many years ago we called it “public relations.” So to me… in my opinion…I think social media began as repackaged PR and has grown from there using the great explosion of technological platforms to build a business.

Please understand, I love the concept of social media and the process of branding a person, business or concept. It is exciting to look at the gurus in this environment, the businesses using it to establish record growth and committed fans, and the rush to participate. I have a strong sense of anticipation about the opportunities that lie ahead for the individual or company that “gets it.” The successful ones will deal from a position of honesty and integrity and what could be better than that?

So is it social media marketing or is it, as I believe, simply repackaged public relations? It all goes back to “if it quacks like a duck…it must be a duck.” Corporate and personal branding has been with us for years. Its foundation was branding a product based on “creativity and repetition.” Companies repeated the visual logo and slogan until everyone recognized them immediately. Still do for that matter. Remember these slogans?

Unless you are really young, you probably recognized these illustrations. The Energizer Bunny, by the way, is one of America’s most recognizable animations, but they are number two in battery sales. Do you know who is number one?

The problem with branding is that it typically favored the big company. If you didn’t have the money to run a stream of ads on multiple media, you were left doing the best you could on a local/regional level. Then… along came cable television and the internet. By then, small business had learned that their number one requirement for expansion was to build trust. And the vehicle for building trust was to produce public relations pieces that touted the brand. “Top of the Mind” marketing became the mantra, and some companies showed astronomical growth. Companies using PR for their growth were:

So what did that mean? It meant that small companies using PR could grow to become big companies without the huge capital outlay of creative ideas and advertising dollars. These companies made a great contribution to small business… and this leveled the playing field!

I love getting video from Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary grew a liquor store from a $4 million-a-year business to a $60 million-a-year mega wine marketer. I personally think the guy is a genius in promoting himself, but the internet and video give him the opportunity to reach people he could have never reached prior to today’s technological platform. He kicked big competitors to the curb using technology to spread a public relations message.

Maybe you don’t agree with me regarding this “duck” thing. That’s okay. But if you’re a little guy wanting to become financially successful in today’s consumer market, go ahead and talk social media, but remember it’s the public relations aspect of social media that builds your base. Find your special community and build your reputation there. Have the patience to build your twitter followings, facebook friends, and business relationships the right way. I wish you the best. And always be open to the sound of a “Quack!”