Friday, July 31, 2009

Don't Write A Book - "Wisdom" from Tony Morgan

I was struck by the plain spoken, take no prisoners approach to writing that Tony Morgan shares in his recent blog post, "Don't Write a Book." There is so much to argue with and so much to agree with that the conversation simply takes off on its own and goes where ever you wind up.

Take his points with skepticism and enjoy the diversity of hard edge, rapier attitudes and see how it makes you react.

Tony makes an important point when he encourages us to write things that matter, as opposed to setting out to write a book.

Don’t Write a Book

Since I’ve been involved in several book projects, I’m frequently approached by aspiring writers who are interested in the process. I’m certainly not the expert on getting a book published, but I have learned some things over the last number of years that might be helpful for you.

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts for you to consider…

Don’t write a book. Begin by writing in your journal. Write blog posts. Get your article published in a magazine or on someone else’s website. If your idea and your writing aren’t strong enough to be published in a magazine or on a website, it’s not strong enough to be published in a book.

Don’t assume if you have a book, someone will publish it. People who get published rarely go looking for a publisher. Typically, the publishers go looking for the authors. Or, the authors have literary agents who handle those conversations. If a publisher isn’t approaching you about writing a book, that’s a pretty good sign that you probably don’t have a book to publish.

Don’t start out to write a book. Start out with something to say. For lots of people, the goal is to get a book published. That shouldn’t be your goal. Your goal should be to spread good stories or ideas. If you don’t have a good story or idea to spread, you need to start there.

Don’t write a book if you’re not a writer. At the end of the day, if you can’t write you can’t get published. And, just because you can get up in front of people and talk, doesn’t necessarily mean you can get behind a keyboard and write. There’s an art to writing. Some people have it. Most people don’t. (If you have a strong idea or a good story, you may need to find a writer to help you get it published.)

Don’t try to write a book if you’re not willing to get disciplined with your time. Manuscripts just don’t drop out of the sky. You have to outline. You have to draft. You have to rewrite. You have to edit. You have to promote. You have to sell. It takes time. If you’re unwilling to prioritize your time, you shouldn’t write a book.

Don’t plan on making money. Unless your name is Rick Warren or Joel Osteen, you’re not going to make money writing a book. At best, you may get a platform from writing a book. Of course, the challenge there is that you have to have a platform before a publisher will even consider your book.

I know. You’re skeptical. So, for those of you who write books or publish books, I’ll let you chime in and tell me where I’m wrong.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Twitter for Business

Twitter for business: Four breakthrough insights

Mark W. Schaefer from his blog of Practical Marketing Solutions, shares some practical uses for Twitter.

I’m privileged to introduce a week-long series of B2B social media insights with Dr. Ben Hanna, Vice President of Marketing for, where he oversees brand strategy, online marketing, public relations, social media, direct marketing and events.

Ben is a true online marketing pioneer. Prior to his current position, Ben led the eBay B2B trading platform, driving nearly $3 billion in annual sales. He was also a force behind IronPlanet, a leading online marketplace for construction equipment, and he co-founded a B2B strategic marketing agency specializing in high-tech product and company launches.

I was first introduced to Ben through his blog and was fascinated to read disclosures on his company's month-by-month progress on its first social media initiative. I highly recommend looking at these reports! They are chock-full of insights and data you will find nowhere else.

So let’s get into Part 1 of my interview!

Ben, I love the detailed statistics and correlations you're making through your analysis of Twitter successes and failures. I think the Tweet lifespan is a new one for me! It's still relatively early in the data collection process, but what "a-ha” morsels have you found?

We’re documenting some of these “a-ha” moments in our Twitter for business case studies but here are a couple new ones:

Tweet quality builds followers faster than tweet quantity – When we started using Twitter for business, we wondered about the relevant importance of tweeting only when we had something really interesting to pass along (quality focus) vs. tweeting more frequently to make sure our content was in front of our followers more often (quantity focus) for building a Twitter following. From what we’ve seen, tweet quality is MUCH more important than quantity: the higher the average number of clicks per tweet with a trackable link in a given week, the higher the follower growth (controlling for total number of followers). This said, you have to be in the game - our average tweets/day over this period ranged from 2.9 to 11.0.

The first 3-5 words are critical – At 140 characters max, tweets are like headlines and people scan through them quickly. If you want to catch someone’s eye, think like a headline writer and make sure the main topic keywords or a number/statistic are found in the first 3-5 words. I would also recommend against using the standard retweet style (e.g., “RT @markwschaefer: …” to start the tweet), instead shift attribution to the end of the tweet (e.g., “… via @markwschaefer”).
The average lifespan of a business tweet is four days -- If you measure the lifespan of a tweet by the number of days on which it receives at least one click from a Twitter user, then business tweets don’t live very long. On average, our tweets with a clickable link received at least one click on four separate days with a range of one day (not a very popular tweet) to 23 days (home run!).
The optimal time between business tweets -- Again looking at the clicks per tweet, the optimal space between business tweets to attract the most clicks is either 31-60 minutes or 2-3 hours. Tightly packed tweets just don’t appear to attract as much attention as tweets with more space between them. I’m not certain what causes the dip in click activity for tweets between 61 and 120 minutes but I suspect it has to do with missing prime Twitter activity time on the East and West coasts (we may look into this in a later post).
The more we find, the more I wonder how well what we find will apply to other business Twitter users and how stable the results will be as Twitter becomes a more mainstream channel for business information. We need a lot more B2B marketers to dig into their social media metrics and share what they’re finding to help move the overall field forward.

You took a very methodical business approach to your planning process. What did think "success" would look like? And after you've been in it awhile has your view changed?

"Success" depends on what phase the initiative is in. During this initial phase our focus has been learning about the opportunities for social media as part of our overall marketing mix including things like:

> Can we find certain factors that are consistently related to audience growth and engagement?
> How easy is it to codify and teach these factors to others so we can scale up our initiatives?
> What would it require to scale blogging/micro-blogging to the point where these would have a tangible impact on our business?

The task for us during this first phase isn’t to hit a home run with a particular social media campaign. Instead, its to figure out if and where we should invest additional resources in two social media tactics – blogging and micro-blogging – relative to our other marketing programs. Success will look different in later phases where we’ll set more specific performance goals using the data from our learning phase.

You can read more about our approach in our social media case study.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ideas for Writer's Blocked Bloggers

Idea-Starters for Stuck Bloggers – Part One

By Mike Hyatt

The dreaded “writer’s block” afflicts us all from time to time. I struggle with it almost weekly. Occasionally, I have an easy run of several days, when the ideas seem to flow effortlessly. But that is rare. Most weeks, I get stuck at least once or twice.
So what do I do? What can you do? Here are some idea-starters. I offer these up as possibilities for lighting a fire when your brain is damp:

Tell a personal story. This almost always works, because you harness the power of your own personal narrative. It is particularly good if it is dramatic, and you feel the freedom to be transparent. It is helpful if you can conclude with a lesson or two that you have learned. Example: “What Does This Make Possible?”

Describe a historical event. This is very similar to using a personal story. History is full of great stories. It’s one of the reasons why I am almost always reading a history book of some kind or a biography. Again, you can tell the story and distill the lessons. Example: “Two Things Great Leaders Must Do in Turbulent Times.”

Review a book, movie, or software program. This is a great way to share some of the resources you have found and why you liked them. It can also help your readers avoid products or experiences that were not so helpful. What are some of your favorite resources? Example: “Book Review: Same Kind of Different As Me.”

Comment on a powerful quote. I can’t read a book without underlining the passages that impress me. Occasionally, I go back and post the quotes that stand alone. Also, from time to time, I post the quote and that comment on why a particular quote was meaningful. Example: “Don’t Wake Up Dead.”

Let a great photograph inspire you. Behind every great photo is a story. You may know the story or you may not. Regardless, you can find one in the photo. Some of the best ones are posted on You can use these in accordance with a Creative Commons License. Example: “Learning to Recognize Wow.”

Comment on something in the news. This can be something global or something that is specific to your industry. If you are a thought-leader—or trying to establish yourself as a thought-leader—this is a great way to do that. Example: “Why the Authors Guild Is Off Base About the Kindle 2.”

Report on an interesting conversation. I meets lots of interesting people. Some of them I meet at work; some of them I meet in my social life. Regardless, rarely a week goes by that I am not deeply stimulated by a conversation I have had. Why not blog on that? Example: “Twitter as a Leadership Tool.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Seven Tips for Networking on Twitter

As authors it is imperative to develop a consistent marketing strategy and faithfully execute it, over a long period of time. A strong Reader Base is built through many contacts, that construct a relationship between a writer and a reader. These contacts vary in style, intensity and cement a bond that lasts for decades.

Seven Tips for Networking on Twitter
June 17th, 2009 Author: TwitterWatchDog

By Skeeter Hansen and Al Ferretti
We’ve been using Twitter for six months now and have met so many terrific, interesting and business savvy people.

On Twitter, you’re allowed 140 characters when sending a tweet. It may seem short, but you can get in quite a mouthful. No one ever said networking had to be a long drawn out novel, sometimes shorter is better. Don’t underestimate the power of short and quick replies because with the right words they can be very effective.

We have observed over the months that everyone uses Twitter for different reasons, but the majority of people who use it for networking don’t always know how to network effectively.

These 7 tips will show exactly how you can get the most out of your networking efforts on Twitter.

1. Start by using your real name on your profile, upload a real photo of yourself and fill out your bio. Your bio is about you and not your business. People want to know they are talking to a person. Your website link will take care of your business.

2. Follow people that interest you and who can help grow your business.
Follow quality people. People you can connect with is more important than the quantity of people you follow.

3. People want knowledge, information and resources. It’s always better to give first and then receive. I’m not saying you shouldn’t self-promote, but if the whole time you’re on Twitter and you’re just self-promoting, people aren’t going to care and will most likely un-follow you.

Note: Networking is about engaging, building relationships and
providing value. A person who only has self-promotion on their
mind is looked upon and labeled a spammer.

4. People like freebies and tips. Offer your best tips on working from home, on direct sales, web design, marketing and even Twitter tips. There are tips for everything so find something in your niche that you think would be valuable information. Throw in a few freebies as everyone loves something for free.

5. It’s important to engage in conversations with your new found “friends”. Don’t ignore their tweets. Use it to strike up conversations by asking a question or giving a compliment, as you will never know where these will lead.

6. If you read an interesting or newsworthy tweet, retweet it. This is a great way to say something if you can’t find anything to say. Retweeting a quote is a great way to help promote others, others will help to promote you.

7. Expect to spend some quality time and be consistent in your networking. Try to visit daily and the relationships will start to take shape. Enjoy and be yourself on Twitter and be respectful. Your reputation should always be guarded as you brand yourself.

A number of people don’t take networking seriously because they don’t know how to effectively network. There are many people who do know how and can show you the ropes or better yet take the time to learn and observe what others are doing.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Six Marketing Lessons From A Great Campaign

Six Lessons From a Great Marketing Campaign

BY Rohit BhargavaMon

Last month an unlikely underdog stunned the marketing world at the International Cannes Advertising Festival. At the show, a single marketing campaign took home a Grand Prix award in three categories simultaneously--direct, cyber and PR-- something that had never happened before in the 50+ year history of the show. Contrary to what you might expect, the unanimous winner of this unprecedented victory was not a Fortune50 brand with an advertising budget of millions, but a small Tourism board promoting a little known island off the Great Barrier Reef.

The winning campaign was called the "Best Job in the World" and was essentially a big online job search conducted through social media for a new "caretaker" for Hamilton Island in Queensland, Australia. Done on a comparatively paltry marketing budget of just $1.7 million dollars and reliant on fortuitous PR and word of mouth, the campaign achieved stunning results, including over 34,000 video entries from applicants in 200 countries, and more than 7 million visitors to the site who generated nearly 500,000 votes.
Just two weeks ago on July 1, the winner of the competition--a 34-year-old British man named Ben Southall started blogging and touring around Queensland, finally bringing the competition to a close. For the next six months, he will be touring around Queensland, sharing his adventures through a video blog, writing, Twitter account and Flickr photos-- generating even more interest in Hamilton Island and all of Queensland in the process. The tangible results for the island are rolling in as well: Amway Australia chose it as the site of their upcoming annual conference, and domestic Aussie airline Virgin Blue just started flying a direct flight between Sydney and Hamilton Island, due to the rise in demand from travelers wanting to get to the island.
I realize that tourism and the travel industry may seem far removed from your business. Unfortunately, we don't all have the natural beauty of Hamilton Island to fall back on when starting our marketing campaigns. Still, a big part of the reason for the amazing success of this campaign was not what they were marketing, but how they used social media to do it. In that, there are some lessons anyone trying to promote a product or service could use:
1. Make it believable. Many marketing groups would never make a claim if they can't provide substantial evidence. How might Tourism Queensland prove that their job is the best in the world? They can't. But it is believable because it is a beautiful place and fits what many people's definition of a dream job might be.
2. It's not about how much you spend. One of the major benefits of smart public relations and social media is that it scales in a way that advertising typically doesn't. In other words, you don't have to pay more to get more. The real trick is to have something worthwhile to say that people can't help talking about. You need a good story.
3. Focus on content, not traffic. The typical marketing campaign focuses on traffic to some kind of site. For Tourism Queensland, the biggest payoff of this campaign was having over 34,000 videos on YouTube from people around the world talking about how much they love Queensland. Aggregate the views of all those videos, and multiply them over the long term and you'll start to understand the true impact of their campaign.
4. Create an inherent reason for people to share. Another element of this campaign that worked extremely well was the fact that there was voting enabled on the videos. What this meant was that after someone submitted their video, they had an incentive to share it with everyone in their social network online to try and get more votes.
5. Don't underestimate the power of content creators Most recent statistics point to some number between 1% and 10% of the user base of any social network are the active content creators. Though these percentages may seem small, the potential impact of some of these individuals are vast online. It could easily become the secret weapon for your next marketing campaign.
6. Give your promotion a shelf life. The best thing about this campaign may just be the content yet to come. Ben, the winner, just started blogging and sharing videos and photos, but the content is already engaging, high quality and inspires you to dream of making it to Queensland yourself. Over the next six months, his itinerary will take him across the state of Queensland and unlock many other unique opportunities. Best of all, this content will live on far beyond the time span of the campaign.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why Agents Turn Down Good Projects - Part Three

Why do Agents Turn Down Good Books?

We live in a time of publishing turmoil. One of the unusual bits of news that drifted back from the ICRS, (CBA) show is that some publishers are rolling back advances, dramatically. On top of reduced lists of new books, a one thousand dollar advance is rumored to be the new "standard."

Agents have to be careful. With new titles becoming more rare and more agents than ever before, the availability of income producing clients is restricted and money spent developing new titles, new authors, or new concepts is having to be restricted with it.

As with all market corrections, this one chock full of opportunity for an imaginative, creative and determined author. Mine this and every other source of advice for what pertains to you and your project. Develop a constancy of purpose, single minded and indefatigable about marketing your work and keep good records.

It all counts.

Anne Hawkins, Literary Agent
John Hawkins & Associates, Inc.

CREDENTIALS AND/OR PLATFORM: For certain types of non-fiction, an author needs relevant professional or academic credentials. For example, to write a credible diet book, it’s best that the author (or co-author) be a physician or a nutritionist with demonstrated knowledge and experience in the field. Agents know that publishers aren’t likely to go out on a limb with a book that can’t speak with some kind of authority.

“Platform” is a different animal. It’s usually defined as the existing audience that an author can bring to his book. Authors often develop their platforms through such vehicles as speaking engagements, syndicated columns in magazines or newspapers, media exposure, or a very strong internet presence. Platform is essential to selling some kinds of nonfiction. Without it, an agent will surely turn down the project, no matter how good it may be.

: Weirdly enough, this situation comes up much more frequently than anyone would suppose. If a new author approaches an agent with a project that is uncannily similar to one she’s currently representing, the agent has to turn it down. There’s simply too great a chance for misunderstanding or possible legal action if one author suspects that his agent has discussed his ideas with a competitor. This is the kind of situation that can ruin an agent’s reputation, and no book is worth that.

SUITABILITY FOR AGENT/AGENCY: This is somewhat of an odd-ball issue, but it does happen. Once in a great while, an agent will have to turn down a project simply because representing it could cause hard feelings among her established clients or publishing contacts. To use an extreme and fictitious example, let’s say that an agent does a lot of business in the Christian publishing market. She’d be hard pressed to take on a book with raunchy or irreverent content that would be deeply offensive to the authors and editors with whom she works every day. Most of the time, agents are pretty eclectic in the projects that they choose -- and authors and editors accept that -- but there are some lines that just can’t be crossed.

Good books draw rejections for a variety of reasons, and many of these reasons have nothing to do with the quality of the work. I know for a fact that I have has turned down books that other agents subsequently took on and sold. Then again, I’ve had some major successes with books that quite a number of my colleagues had previously rejected. If a book is truly outstanding, it’s only a matter of time until the right agent steps up to the plate and offers to represent it. Don’t give up too soon!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In Just a Moment

"In just a moment this wedding will be over and your marriage will begin..."

Officiating at weddings is one of the most fulfilling parts of being a pastor. Being there to help get a new family started is kind of like delivering a baby, (which I did one night back when I was a police officer in NY). You are honored enough by the couple to be invited to share in their intimate moment with God when they turn their backs on the past, slip on those rings and create something new and beautiful.

One of the best things about performing weddings is standing at the front and seeing a father walking a daughter down the aisle. For those brides who have no father, or have one who won't or can't walk them down, it is fun to see how they adapt. One had her mother and sisters walk with her. One had her favorite aunt as her escort. Some walk alone, smiling, crying, laughing, or simply so proud to meet their intended at the altar, that nothing else mattered.

There were those couples who smile as if every light in the hall exploded into brilliance. Especially when they slip their rings on the finger of their forever loved one. That is the moment when I think the purpose of the wedding is fully accomplished.

There are those who are so devoted to each other that they barely know the rest of us are present. Then there are those weddings when a learning disabled child participates, even though participating takes them to the uttermost limits of their ability.

A father with a 15 year old special needs child asked me if his son could stand with him at the wedding. His special need often caused him to act out and the groom feared that might cause me to decline.

During the wedding, the young man started to pace in a circle around the wedding party. He made no noise and it didn't detract from the celebration. In fact, I thought it was quite charming and when this little man circle past me again, I reached out and collected him under my free arm, pointing to my place in the ritual of marriage book and asked him to help me stay on the right line.

He pointed to the page but no where near our place and kept his finger there until we were finished. After the new couple had processed out, his aunt walked up and took him along to the reception.

It was a moment when ordinary becomes eternally beautiful.

This little man, wanting to be with his daddy, tried all he could to behave but didn't quite make it and no one noticed. He was part of a beautiful and loving celebration with his daddy and all was good in his world and mine.

May your life be filled with beauty and joy, celebrations of love and memories that make you laugh and cry, today and forevermore...

Peace be the Journey...

Why do Agents Turn Down Good Books? Part II

Why Do Agents Turn Down Good Books? Part II

Anne Hawkins, Literary Agent
John Hawkins & Associates, Inc.

Anne Hawkins is an agent with John Hawkins & Associates, which was founded as Paul Reynolds Literary Agency in 1893, and makes it the first literary agency founded in America.

Anne is not only a highly respected, and beloved agent with a list of best-selling authors in her stable. She is a consummate professional with impeccable instincts, a devoted advocate for her authors, but she’s also a blind hoot. It is with great pleasure that I welcome Anne here as my guest on The Kill Zone.

EDITORIAL CONTACTS: To put it bluntly, if an agent doesn’t know the right editors for a book, she has no business representing it. From time to time, every agent reads a wonderful project that she has no clue how to place. Believe me, she’s doing the author a favor by declining.

Here’s why. As a general rule, an agent can submit a project to a particular publishing imprint once -- and only once. If the original editor declines, it’s very difficult to get another editor at that house to reconsider the book. Obviously, the key is to get the submission into the hands of the right editor the first time around, since you usually don’t get second chances.

SUITABILITY TO GENRE: Some kinds of books have specific conventions as to format, word count, style, content, etc. If a book strays too far, it may be unsalable – no matter how good it is. Of course, authors can cheat this unhappy fate by doing some homework on the particular requirements of their chosen genres.

Mixed genre books are another dicey situation, since an agent or publisher needs to feel that there is a definable market for a particular book. When an agent reads a book that is “kinda mystery, sorta horror, with strong romance and science fiction elements,” she’s going to wonder just who the audience might be. Projects like this have a history of falling through the cracks in the marketplace, so an agent will have to think long and hard about her chances of placing it.

LENGTH: A related subject is the matter of length, or word count. For adult fiction, most books range from around 70,000 to 130,000 words in length. There are exceptions of course, but very short or very long novels can be problematic to sell because of pricing, production, and distribution issues. In the case of books for children and young adults, the length must be appropriate for the targeted age group. There’s a bit more leeway for certain kinds of non-fiction, but even there inappropriate length can be a deal-breaker.

AUTHOR: Generally speaking, an agent takes on an author and his project because she is interested helping him build a long-term career. This is almost invariably true for fiction, where the name of the game is to increase readership over the course of many books. Agents may shy away from a novelist whom they believe to be a “one book wonder” because of the enormous investment of time and energy for only a single book. (This is not necessarily true in non-fiction, where one-off books, such as celebrity biographies, are more common and can be quite profitable.)

It goes without saying that if an agent has reason to suspect that an author might be the “client from hell,” she’ll have to carefully consider whether representation is worth the hassle. Then again, everybody’s different, and what’s poison to one agent may be ambrosia to another.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why Do Agents Turn Down Good Books? Part One

Why do Agents Turn Down Good Books?

With so many of our members concerned with the issues relating to Agents, I thought it would be a good thing to remind ourselves of the way Agents see these things from the other side of the table. I regularly read several Agent Blogs, to try and keep current with their ever changing thinking.

I'll blog this in several parts to cut down on size and hope that we get a good conversation going about it.

By Anne Hawkins, Literary Agent
John Hawkins & Associates, Inc.

Anne Hawkins is an agent with John Hawkins & Associates, which was founded as Paul Reynolds Literary Agency in 1893, and makes it the first literary agency founded in America.

Anne is not only a highly respected, and beloved agent with a list of best-selling authors in her stable. She is a consummate professional with impeccable instincts, a devoted advocate for her authors, but she’s also a blind hoot. It is with great pleasure that I welcome Anne here as my guest on The Kill Zone.

Rejecting authors’ projects is one of the least pleasant aspects of my job. It’s no fun to feel that I’ve ruined someone’s day, even though I always try to be gentle and courteous. How much nicer it is to call or e-mail and say, “I love what I’ve read. Please send more.”

Of course, the most common reason for rejection is a perceived lack of quality, a natural reaction to a misbegotten query letter or sloppy sample pages. Sometimes, however, I have to turn down projects that are actually quite good. Subjective judgment plays a large role in that sort of decision, but so do other business considerations. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that influence an agent’s choice of books for representation.

PERSONAL TASTE: A literary agent sinks or swims professionally because of her taste in books. This taste impacts the kinds of books she represents (her list), her contacts among editors and publishers, and ultimately her success in the business. Good agents learn to trust their taste and only represent projects that inspire them, because those are the books they’re likely to sell.

Most of us concentrate on the areas we enjoy and where we consequently have the greatest knowledge and expertise. If we don’t “get” it, we don’t handle it. You may be the next Dr. Seuss, but if the agent you query doesn’t fancy children’s books, she’ll almost certainly turn you down.

Authors can minimize this kind of turn-down by researching the kinds of books each agent does represent. Jeff Herman’s GUIDE TO EDITORS, PUBLISHERS, AND LITERARY AGENTS (most recent edition) is the premier print resource, since each listed agent states specifically the sorts of books she does and does not handle. Some of the best on-line resources are the searchable databases on, Publishers, and the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) website. Sad to say, certain other writer-friendly sites perpetuate information is that is either out of date or downright wrong. (One has me listed as a top agent for horror fiction, even though I have never represented a single book in the genre.) There is good information on the internet, but do yourself a favor and cross-reference. Don’t rely on any single source.

PASSION: For me to take on a new book by a new author, especially a novel, I simply have to love it. It’s not enough to “like” it or “admire” it or consider it “salable”. We’re talking about real passion here. Even at the very beginning of the submission process, editors can sense when the agent is on fire about a book -- and the feeling is contagious. Chances are, that’s the book the editor will choose to read first. Later on after the sale, down the long, bumpy road to publication, an agent needs this kind of wild enthusiasm to continue to be a strong and persuasive advocate for the author and his work. “Lukewarm” just won’t go the distance.

KNOWLEDGE OF MARKET: An agent needs to keep track of the markets for the kinds of books she represents. This knowledge may be as general as the track record of an entire genre or as specific as one publisher’s immediate needs. In short, agents need to know what’s hot -- what’s not -- and who’s looking for what. Market factors are a huge topic, so here are just a few examples:

Publishing is in the business of selling books, lots of books. If an agent wants to place a book with a major publisher, she has to believe that book has the potential to attract a substantial number of readers. If she judges that its market is too small or too specific, she’ll most likely decline.

The existence of a recent, successfully published book (or books) can make a similar project extremely hard to sell. Even if your book is better, somebody has beaten you to the punch. The concept is no longer “new news.” This is particularly true for non- fiction, but it applies to novels as well. If the market appears saturated with a certain kind of book, an agent will be reluctant to take on a new project in that category, knowing that her chances of placing it are slim.

Sometimes, an agent will know that the market for an entire genre is on the decline, so she’ll be hesitant to take on any book of that sort. At other times, a market will be on an upswing, so she’ll be champing at the bit to land an author in that genre. Historical fiction, for example, was a tough sell for many years. Recently, however, its popularity has surged to the point that agents who wouldn’t have touched the genre five years ago are now actively looking for it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Facebook Tips

Four Facebook Tips – See What Others are Doing

Non-profits have discovered how to use facebook to promote their cause, by promoting a community. Much of what applies to getting the message out for non-profit organizations can be applicable to our cause. As in every form of advice. Use what you can and learn from the rest.

Courtesy of Frank Barry, Moderator of NetWits Think Tank

Facebook is an ever growing force in the internet space and it looks like it will be for a while. With 200 Million users (and growing) it’s hard to ague otherwise.
Facebook is also a great tool for nonprofits. It’s free, it gives you an immediate way to build a tribe and engage people in online community. Facebook also gives others the ability to share their affinity to you with their friends, family and co-workers. That said, you can’t just throw up a page and expect to be successful. You have to be thoughtful, strategic and knowledgeable. Four tips to help you get started.

1. Create a Page not a Group or Cause

Facebook pages give you a ton of great features that Groups and Causes do not. There is a place for each of the Facebook page types, but the generic “Facebook page” is the place to start. Here are a few reasons why:

• You get a friendly URL like

• People can find you via Google. More people can find out about your Nonprofit because your Facebook Page gets indexed and is searchable inside and outside (i.e. Google) of Facebook. Which also means you can boost your search engine rankings (SEO).

• No limit on the number of people who can express their support for your nonprofit by becoming your fan

• Pages Have Access to Users’ Feeds - When Facebook users become a “fan” of your nonprofit page, they will be notified of your status updates every time you make one! Then they can comment, share and/or like your wall posts which then shares it with all their friends – now that’s viral.

• Communicate with your fans regularly just to stay in touch or with special news, offers and information.

• All the great features of Facebook are available - writing on the Wall, uploading photos, and joining discussion groups.

• Add applications to your Page and engage your users with videos (YouTube Box), photos (Flickr Box) reviews, flash content, and more.

• Integrate your blog/web site content via Blog RSS Feed Reader
Examples of Great Nonprofit Facebook Pages:

• Lance Armstrong Foundation

• Stand up 2 Cancer

• Prostate Cancer Foundation – Athletes for a Cure

• Red Cross Fan Page

• One Campaign

• Stanford University

• Athletes for a Cure (read about their social media strategy)

Excited to get started ... Create a page here

2. Participate and be a community like the Lance Armstrong Foundation
Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) is doing a great job participating and building community with their Facebook page. If you take a look at their page you’ll notice that there are hundreds if not thousands of people interacting there (I’ve added an image to the right – notice the red box towards the bottom). It’s not just LAF “shouting out” or broadcasting to their fans. As a matter of fact you’ll notice that the LIVESTRONG representative is talking with the people, sharing things, commenting, liking wall posts and more. They are fully interacting.

So what’s that mean for you?

• Be active daily. Share news, video, photos, stories and what ever else makes sense for your organization.

• Engage with your fans. Comment on their wall posts. Like things they share.

Help people connect with others.

3. Get folks to engage with you in more than one way like the ONE Campaign

Check out the ONE Campaign Facebook page. Did you see that? They set up their page
to go to a custom tab where they show people how to engage with them beyond Facebook. They do this with compelling imagery, a simple form and the ability to get to their main web site. Very nice!

Why is this important? Because we know that email is still a HUGE way people like to be communicated with. According to the “eNonprofit Benchmarks Study” done by NTEN (shout out to Holly Ross) email is still the “killer app” that reaches the most people. Open rates and click-throughs are holding steady.

We also know that having a ‘home base’ is vital to internet longevity. Facebook is an outpost, but your main web site should provide people with added value and ways to connect with your organization.

4. Stats, stats, stats …

Facebook Pages give you stats!! Awesome, I know. Administrators have the ability to see how well their wall posts and content are engaging people through the recently updated “Insight Portal”. You may be thinking “why do stats matter?”
As I discussed in a recent post (see 4 Keys to Building a Successful Nonprofit Web Site) stats are key to helping you improve your web site or in this case your Facebook page. By understanding your activity and performance, fan response, trends and comparisons, you are better equipped to improve your presence on Facebook.

Actually, this data will likely help you improve your overall web efforts! Use the stats to gain valuable insight into what your constituents like, what type of content they interact with the most, what they tend to share with their friends and, maybe most importantly, what they don’t like.

See a sample of what the stats look like here

What is measured you ask?

• User exposure- Actions and overall behavior relating to your Facebook Page.
• Total Interactions - The total interactions metric captures all of the feedback Pages receive from Facebook users. Including media consumption and interactions per post, as well as the number of fans who have hidden you from their stream.

• This number measures the aggregate count of Wall posts, Likes, Discussion posts and comments on any content such as photos, videos, notes or links in the past 7 days.

• The goal of the metric is to provide an updated snapshot into how fans are engaging with your Page’s content.

• Demographic Information - The locale breakdown and demographic information offers you access to detailed data about your fan base in an effective way that isn’t available on any other site.

• Post Quality Score - One of the most important new metrics to pay attention to is your post quality score. That score measures how engaging your posts have been to users in the last 7 days. Posts that generate a high number of interactions (such as comments or Likes) per fan will improve the post quality score. Posts that do not draw interactions from fans will lower the post quality score.

Facebook offers many more great features, but I believe these are critical for nonprofit success on Facebook. If you don’t get these things right chances are you will have less of an impact on the community of people you are trying to engage and impact.

More Facebook Resources can be found here:{EA4438F2-2529-4379-8A32-16EBD5D5BF90}¬oc=1

Monday, July 20, 2009

Eight Ideas to Improve Your Blog

Blog Tips from Tim Ferris

Mike Hyatt, on his blog, featured Tim Ferris with blogging tips. Since so many of us are searching for the right mix of communication, education, humor and personal touch, I thought it was a good time to enjoy Tim’s ideas.

One of my favorite bloggers is Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek. His book has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for almost two years. His blog is one of the most-read on the Internet. Tim has become famous for challenging the status quo.
Recently, he posted a video of his presentation at WordCamp San Francisco, a conference for WordPress bloggers. Though I don’t endorse everything he recommends—and am still mulling some of it over—I found his blog tips compelling and stimulating.
As I listened to him, I jotted down eight key insights. (These are my words not his.)
Write about what you are passionate about. Don’t pay too much attention to what your readers say they want. As it turns out, people are quite bad at predicting what they like. Typically, what works best—and generates the most traffic—is the stuff that is written out of deeply-felt convictions or emotion. If you can’t seem to get the creative juices flowing, start with anger. What makes you mad?

Be careful about how you allocate digital real estate. Obviously, people will eventually leave your site. However, you don’t want them to become distracted and leave prematurely. This is particularly true for first-time visitors. Instead, you want to pull them deeper into your site to explore your other content. Because of this, you probably don’t want to include your Twitter feed above the fold.

Don’t display the post date at the top of the post. Why? Because people place a higher value on newer posts and tend to discount the older ones. This is unfortunate—for them and for you. Unless you are running a news blog, most of your posts are still relevant and valuable. Move the date from the top of the post to the bottom. (If you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, you can modify this in your theme’s single.php file.) You can leave the date above the title on your home page, just not the single post pages.

Test everything and listen to the numbers. There is no shortage of blogging advice on the Internet. But beware of conventional wisdom. Just when you think you have it figured out, you don’t. The web is dynamic and things are constantly changing. What works last year—or last month—may not work now. The only way to know is to test and keep testing. Tim recommends a site called that enables you to see, for example, where your users are clicking on your home page.

Optimize your posts for SEO. Forget about this when writing the first draft. It will make your writing seem forced and artificial. However, once you are satisfied with your post, run some of your key phrases through Google Keyword Tool to see which have the highest Global Monthly Search Volume. If you can use more highly-ranked synonyms without compromising your meaning, do so. That way, more people will be able to discover your post via Google.

Practice zero tolerance for negative comments. There is already too much negativity in the world. You have no obligation to provide an audience for snarky people with too much time on their hands. Your blog is like your living room. You are inviting people to come in and have a civil conversation. If they are rude are abusive, show them the door. Make your blog comments policy prominent, so people know the rules before they comment.

Keep it fun so that you stay engaged. If it is not fun for you as a blogger, you will post less frequently—or not at all. If you stop posting, that’s the end of your blog. So it’s better to write something, even if it is off-topic or silly, than to write nothing at all. Tim gave an example of a post he did called, “How to Peel Hard-boiled Eggs Without Peeling.”

Break the rules. Don’t listen to people who are not paying you to blog. Nothing is sacred. Experiment. If it sounds like a good idea, try it—then measure the results. If it works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, try something else.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Encouraging and Equipping Children Who Love to Write

Write Like Crazy has a bit about encouraging and directing your children who like to write. It’s full of good advice.

Maybe we should try to add to it. Kids who write are going to take publishing to heights we haven’t even begun to imagine. As a group, wouldn’t it be fun to add methods, ideas, suggestions about how we can help our youth become better writers?

Does your character seem flat?

Think of your favorite books. What makes those books so memorable to you? I’ll bet it’s the characters.
Select the main character from one of your favorite books and answer the following. Even if the author doesn’t mention these specifics in the book, if the character is well-written, you should be able to guess at the answers:
1. If the character had free time on their hands, what would they most likely be doing?
2. If confronted by a bully, how would this character react?
3. What is this character’s favorite subject in school? Favorite band? Favorite TV show? Best friend?
How did you find the information listed above? Was it written into the story? Or maybe, the character’s traits, personality and unique quirks were so specific, you could make your own conclusions. This is a well-written character.
So, when you’re writing your own short stories or novels, how do you create memorable, realistic characters? In a first draft, your characters may seem lifeless and flat. Not sure? Test it out:
First, give your story to someone else to read. Then, give them the list of questions above and see if they can come up with the correct answers. If they’re stuck, so are you. Your character needs more life, more details to flesh him out.
Come back all this week to get tips on “fleshing out” your characters. Already have tips that would help others? Share them here!
Since we’re discussing characters, let’s write wacky characteristics and discuss how you can “show” not “tell” through writing.
Example #1: Minor Character has a nervous twitch when he walks.
Don’t say:
Billy has this weird twitch when he walks.
Instead, say:
Billy lagged behind the others. He was careful to pretend he had stumbled if anyone noticed that his left leg swung out at an awkward angle when he walked.
Example #2: Main character has a unique fashion sense.
Don’t say:
Melody liked to dress in mismatching clothes to get attention.
Instead, try:
All eyes turned when Melody entered the cafeteria in her purple leopard printed leggings, orange turtleneck and red gingham jacket.
Your turn! Write a before and after of a character describing a wacky characteristic or trait. And don’t be selfish with your creations – share them here!
Advice for Developing a Character:
• Start with what matters to you about your character: Is he or she like you? Like someone you know?
• Put together a character so that all the parts fit together: Do these different things make sense within one person? Do they fit together in a believable way? Are these traits here for a reason?
• Explain any general descriptions of your character: What exactly does this description mean for this particular character?
• If a character seems too good to be true, make it more human: What is the downside of this trait? (too nice, too giving, etc.) How does this characteristic help and hurt the character?
• Know your character’s motivations (longings) and struggles.

Friday, July 17, 2009

In Regards to Online Posting

Writers write. It's what we do. Jane at Writer's Digest talks about the balance between careful and careless in regards to online content.

Are You Needlessly Worrying About Your Work Getting TOO MUCH Exposure?
Posted by Jane at Writer's Digest,category,MarketingSelfPromotion.aspx

As writers become more and more comfortable with online media, I receive more and more questions like this:
• If I post my work on my own site, will anyone be willing to consider it for print publication?
• How much of my novel can I post online before a publisher won't take it any more?
• Do I lose rights to my work if it's posted on XYZ site?
Here are key points to remember.

1. First things first: You own the copyright and all rights to your work when you post it online, unless you specifically agree otherwise. It may be easier to steal when it's online, but you still own it.

2. Always check the terms of service when regularly posting content to any site. If you're posting your work on major sites like Authonomy, WeBook, etc., you really have nothing to worry about. In such cases, you're not relinquishing any exclusive or vital rights to your work by posting it. (If someone knows of exceptions, please note in the comments.)

However, there may be an implicit agreement—by very fact of you using a website—that the site owner has nonexclusive right to use the content in a limited (or expansive) way. Such use is usually justified or reasonable, and sometimes it might profit the site owner. You need to decide what you're comfortable with and if the trade-offs are worth it. I have yet to see an agreement that is unethical or not upfront.

For example, here is Amazon's language governing book review content, which you agree to when using their site:

If you do post content or submit material, and unless we indicate otherwise, you grant Amazon a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, and display such content throughout the world in any media. You grant Amazon and sublicensees the right to use the name that you submit in connection with such content, if they choose. You represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content that you post; that the content is accurate; that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity; and that you will indemnify Amazon for all claims resulting from content you supply. Amazon has the right but not the obligation to monitor and edit or remove any activity or content. Amazon takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content posted by you or any third party.

This basically means that while you retain rights to your work, Amazon has the right do whatever it pleases as well. The key is the word "nonexclusive." If Amazon decided to publish a collection of the most elegant book reviews ever written, and used your material, they would not owe you any money or need to ask your permission, though of course it would be considered good practice and common courtesy to notify you.

3. If your work doesn't have a lot of commercial value, who cares? Here is where I have to be completely insensitive and say bluntly: Writers are overly worried about work that is not commercially valuable. Many things that people post online, whether on their own sites or elsewhere, are online precisely because there isn't a commercial value attached. So, when you post your work without compensation, there is an essential value statement made that, right now, you're valuing exposure (or service or community) more than payment. Or that you're marketing and promoting yourself, your brand, or a work that does have commercial value.

4. That said, the value of your work CAN change or be discovered later—which only opens up the commercial value and potential of your work. Remember that online exposure and online media are not the same as print exposure and print media. They are usually written and edited differently, presented differently, marketed differently, and read differently. The online audience is not 100% the same as the print audience (and sometimes not even 10% the same!).

Think of it this way: If you participated in a poetry slam and became wildly successful as a poet-entertainer, with thousands of followers, would that detract from your ability to publish books of your poetry? No, in fact, it would help make the case for print publication. Would a presentation of your poems online, in a way that gathered 10,000 unique visitors every day, detract from the sales of a beautiful physical chapbook? Of course not. It would help.

For the most part, online and print are complimentary—they are not competitive. Any book publisher who refuses to consider a work that has been successfully published digitally or online or in a multimedia format has not caught up with the times. Magazine and newspapers are a little different, but if they become a fan of your online work, most likely they will ask you to produce an original work for print publication.

5. You're always producing more work, right? Don't hold on so tightly to each piece of work that you're not focusing on new production.

Yes, even I hang onto my creative writing from senior year in high school, and have a catalog of all the places my work has appeared over the years (online and in print, often without pay), but even if a third party is profiting off my work online, that work has no commercial value to me anymore. I'm producing better stuff now. Plus the old work serves to offer additional exposure, little guideposts leading people to the more recent work.

Key takeaway: Just because your work is "published" when it appears online doesn't mean you've destroyed its market value. That's a very old-school way of viewing the value of content—a viewpoint that's based on decades of print publication tradition, when whoever had the "first" rights to print publication had the "best" rights, and paid the most.

If you haven't noticed, things have changed.

P.S. ... and a final word on theft: Stop worrying. When writing becomes a lucrative profession and when demand for writing far outstrips supply, then maybe we can discuss. In the meantime, feel flattered that someone thought your work was good enough they wanted to bother taking the time and effort to market, promote, pitch, and/or publish it themselves.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Who Are You... and So What? Developing Your Platform, Your Brand and Your Identity

When you finish writing a sermon you are taught to ask yourself, "So What?"

Jesus is Alive and Coming Back! So What? What difference does that make to those who heard that sermon? You must have a "so what" or writing is an empty exercise.

The same is true when discovering, building and nurturing your brand. Your writing is a part of your identity. A big part. Just like any part of your brand, it needs careful development and grooming.

Writer's Digest posted a great article on that subject, recently and I find it carries some important branding information about Who You Are, and So What.

The Hardest Part About Developing Platform - Who Are You Anyway?
by Jane... from Writer’s Digest,category,MarketingSelfPromotion.aspx

The hardest part about developing a platform is deciding what you're all about. In business terms, it would be considered your unique selling proposition (USP).

Identifying this USP—or your reason for being!—involves deep self-knowledge, an understanding of what you want out of life, and how that interrelates with what other people need and enjoy.

It boils down to 3 questions:
• What are you passionate about?
• Who's your audience?
• What are your strengths?

What are you passionate about?
What's the unique content, authentic experience, or remarkable work you would undertake even if you weren't paid for it? What motivates you to get up in the morning?

Who's your audience?
What are the needs of your audience? How do they want to be approached? What kinds of appeals are they most receptive to? Where can they be found?

What are your strengths?
When are you strongest in interacting and reaching and serving? What formats or mediums are a good fit for you—and match your passion? When is your content/service/product at its best? (Example of bad fit: Your passion for the cave dwelling Luddite movement combined with your Twitter marketing strength.)

What you're looking for is that moment of peak experience, when who you are and what you're passionate about and how it is expressed or manifested all comes together to create a compelling experience that your audience needs and loves.

Think about times when you've experienced peak performance, the times when you felt you were in your absolute element, better than anyone else in the world at what you were doing in that moment. You felt happy, fulfilled, relaxed, joyful. Some people call it "flow."

That's the seed of your platform.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

ICRS Attendance Down 20% Over 2008

CBA is coming into the final day of it's premier event with disappointing attendance and ever shrinking sales.

The International Christian Retail Show 2009 Attracts Retailers and Suppliers From 56 Countries.

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (July 15, 2009) CBA, the Association for Christian Retail, wrapped up its 60th annual convention in Denver, Colorado, Wednesday. Final attendance figures have Professional Attendees (non-exhibitor personnel) at 1,903, down 20% from 2008. International attendees numbered 534, down 28% from last year, with 56 countries represented at the Show.

The 60th Show opened with a strong spiritual tone set at the beginning with the Worship Now event and continued throughout the duration of the Show. Evidence of a growing desire within the industry to be more intentionally focused on Christ, reliant on prayer, and united together to do the work He’s called us to do was seen and commented on throughout the event.

“In light of the economy and its effects over the past 10 months, we approached this Show with conservative expectations,” said CBA President-CEO Bill Anderson. “We’ve observed in this economic downturn most trade shows are down 30-40% in attendance. We rallied the exhibitors and we’re pleased that a total of 79 responded in providing retailer attendees with clear benefits available only at the Show, cumulatively amassing more than $11,000 in potential savings – offering a tipping point for some retailers. I’m very pleased with the attendance results. While we knew attendance would be down some, I’m satisfied with a strong turnout and the enthusiasm and positive tone throughout the event by both retailers and suppliers.”

Next year’s International Christian Retail Show will be held in St. Louis, Missouri, June 27-30, 2010.

Why Thomas Nelson Doesn't Attend ICRS

Why Thomas Nelson Doesn’t Attend Trade Shows

Mike Hyatt, Publisher at Thomas Nelson Publishing, the premier Christian publisher in the world, shares some of the rationale behind Nelson’s Decision to stop exhibiting at the Christian Booksellers Convention, which was renamed, ICRC: International Christian Retailers Convention.

The organization has stood guard while the industry dwindled, for the last 25 years, finally having to admit things needed a change, and all they could come up with was a non-event, name / initials swap.

The CBA International Convention was the penultimate event, for decades. You simply HAD to be there. Then the organization began to cater to the very people who would put it virtually out of business and continued to follow that agonizingly painful trail, to the bitter end. Now the marquee publisher simply skips it and the industry wonders why.

Mike share a little about his decision, here:

In the last two weeks, several people have asked to meet with me at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) being held in Denver, July 12–15, 2009. I have had to tell them that Thomas Nelson is not exhibiting this year. We also didn’t exhibit last year. Some have asked why.

Historically, trade shows have played an important role in publishing and bookselling. I have attended scores of them and have very fond memories of connecting with customers, authors, and the media. But the market has changed. Dramatically. We simply cannot justify the enormous costs associated with these trade shows—especially in this tough economy.

I originally wrote about this when we decided not to exhibit last year at either BookExpo America or ICRS. Last week, someone in the media asked me if I had any regrets about this decision. Without hesitation, I said, “None.” Why?

I believe there are better ways to connect with our key customers in a way that is more meaningful to them and to us. Trade shows made sense when the industry was more fragmented. It was one of the few ways to connect face-to-face with retailers. But things have changed. The industry is largely consolidated.

Because of this, we meet face-to-face with our top 600 or so customers in Christian retail channel at least four times a year. These customers account for 95% of our revenue in this channel. Our telephone reps call on another 600 customers. These account for an additional 3% of our business. So that only leaves the stores that account for 2% of our total volume in this channel. We simply cannot justify the enormous expense of a trade show to reach these 2%. It’s not cost-effective for us. The same could be said of the general market as well.

We will continue to send a handful of our staff members to ICRS. (We are members of CBA, the association for Christian retail and the sponsor.) There is still value in networking on foreign rights, international, and remainders accounts. We just won’t exhibit.

I am not suggesting that this strategy is right for every publisher. For some, it may make great sense. It just doesn’t work for us.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Christian Fiction Sales booming - So to Speak

The International Christian Retail Show, which for many years was called CBA International, is going on in Denver as we speak, or read, as the case may be. The industry news is often predictable and sometimes manufactured, bu this little tidbit jumped out at me, this AM.

Christian Fiction Sales Booming- Sort Of
Posted by admin on Jul 14, 2009

to subscibe:

This week many from the Christian publishing industry are gathered in Denver, Colorado for the International Christian Retail Show. The convention includes great networking opportunities and educational opportunities through seminars. A recent seminar looked at Christian fiction sales which have exploded over the last three decades.

Christian fiction was born as a genre in 1979 with Janette Oke’s book Love Comes Softly. From 1980 to 2000 fiction sales quadrupled to $4 billion in Christian bookstores. Pretty soon mainstream retailers like Wal-mart and Barnes and Noble realized they needed to start carrying Christian fiction. So who’s buying all of these Christian fiction books?

* 72% of Christian fiction is purchased by women

* 41% of those buying Christian fiction make less than 35,000 a year

* Active Christians purchase 53% of the titles

While the Christian fiction marketplace is booming it still only makes up 5% of the overall fiction market. And while online sales are growing, in-store buying is still the preferred method with 61% buying in stores and 27% buying online.

Personal recommendations are a big factor when buyers are deciding which books to buy Seventeen percent of people buy books based on online sources including book reviews, online advertisements, email from the retailer or based on the author’s website.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Importance of Your Name in Personal Branding

The Most Important Piece In Personal Branding

It came up quite by accident. In a discussion on a web board, I commented on how vital it is to display your name in the title of your blog. If people have to search, or guess who your are, 75% won't bother.

An author is their name, more than their work. Putting it out there to become top of mind, is your objective, as you build the brand and separate yourself from the field.

Jacob Share talks about it more:

Your Name
By: Jacob Share
In People, Personal Branding

The largest words on any resume should be your name. As the text that will be seen and repeated the most throughout life, what can you do to make your name leave a positive impression?

First, some terminology.

There are 2 kinds of names:

Anthroponyms - literally meaning ‘human name’, an anthroponym is any real name that can be given to a human being such as given names, surnames, nicknames, etc.

Pseudonyms - The opposite of “anthroponym”, it means ‘false name’ in Latin. There are many good reasons for people to use false names without being a James Bond-esque spy as you’ll see.

Both anthroponyms and pseudonyms can be used as personal brand names.

What is a personal brand name?

If a brand name is a word or group of words that communicate ideas about a subject, then a personal brand name is a word or group of words that communicate ideas about a person.

For most people, that group of words is simply their birth name. If your birth name is Barack Hussein Obama Jr. that might be good enough, but there are some cases where an improvement is desperately needed.

Personal brand name nightmares

Having the same name as someone famous - Albert Brooks was actually born Albert Lawrence Einstein. Now a famous Hollywood actor, he changed his last name to avoid confusion with the Albert Einstein that the whole world already knows about.

Having the same name as someone who’s infamous - As Steven Moody wrote to Penelope Trunk, “I am trying to get to the top of Google searches for my name, but competing with a Death Row inmate in TX and a con artist in Utah is proving difficult.”

Having the same name as someone not famous, but still being found ahead of you online - even with his own blog and solid web presence, Ryan Healy is still finding it a challenge to be found first in search results on his name.

Having a name that’s also used regularly as a pseudonym - In the US, John Doe and Jane Doe are names that police officers use for unidentified bodies but if you search Facebook, there are many live Jane Does.

If you’re living a personal brand name nightmare or just looking for ideas to improve your personal brand name, there are more options than you might think. To fully understand those options, let’s take a look at how names convey meaning.

Ways that personal names share meaning
Names that are words or sound like them - the most obvious case, when part of a name seems to have literal meaning or actually does. Examples: George Bush, Danielle Steele.

Single names - this only works when someone is so famous that the context makes it clear who’s being referred to. Examples: Madonna, Elvis.

Titles - used to indicate special status. Examples: Sir, Doctor, Prince of Wales.

Historical names - the classic example would be biblical names; aside from having a meaning in Hebrew, these usually indicate a Christian/Jewish background.
Examples: Sarah, David.

Ethnic names - names like Fernandez, Goldberg or Wu can give an idea of a person’s origins.

Patronyms & matronyms - many cultures used to express names through who the parents were. Examples: Wilson, Carlson.

Hyphenated family names - these typically mean that a woman in the family decided not to take her husband’s name at marriage time. Example: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Maddox Jolie-Pitt.

Senior/Junior - a way of distinguishing a son from a father with the same name, the ‘Jr.’ often gets dropped later in life or when there’s no longer a risk of confusing father and son. Example: Martin Luther King.

Roman numerals - typically associated with royalty, aristocracy or wealth, roman numerals can make someone appear aloof or even silly if the person doesn’t fits the association.

But how can you use these possibilities for your own personal brand name?

4 ways to improve your personal brand with your name

1. Capitalize on existing meanings - use an etymology dictionary to fully understand what your name means and then harmonize that definition with the personal brand you’ve chosen for yourself. This works best when your name’s meaning is easy to grasp i.e. no etymology dictionary is needed, but don’t let that limit you if your name has a story to tell.

2. Use a nickname - everyone knows who Joe the Plumber is now. If my last name was different, I could go by ‘Jacob the Job Search Expert’ on my blog, in discussion forums, even on my resume. Give yourself a nickname that meshes with your personal brand.

3. Take on a pseudonym - probably the most typical usage of pseudonyms are as entertainment (stage/screen/pen) names. Many Jews have used less ethnic-sounding stage names - Jon Stewart is actually Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, Natalie Portman is really Natalie Hershlag - because they thought it would improve their chances of success. On the other hand, Caryn Elaine Johnson chose the more ethnic-sounding screen name of Whoopi Goldberg for the same reason. The advantage of a pseudonym is that using the list above for inspiration, you can literally design a name that conveys the meaning you want.

4. Change your legal name - this is the brute force scenario, the kind of thing to do when you feel you have no choice such as when Talula Does the Hula, age 9, was granted a court-ordered name change that will save her from a life of embarrassment and increase her chances of eventually getting a job when she’s older.

How far would you be willing to go?

The sweetest words to your ears, you will make your name appear in many places over your lifetime. Take advantage of that reality and use your name to convey the branding message of your choosing.

How far would you be willing to go in using your name to improve your chances of success?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

How To Build Better Traffic on Your Blog

How To Build Traffic on Your Blog

by Jennifer Fulwiler

A lot of writers have mixed feelings when they hear about the importance of using blogs to build platforms. On the one hand it sounds nice to have a popular blog, but on the other hand it's daunting: How do you go about getting traffic? Isn't it mostly just luck anyway? I have good news: Attracting a loyal readership to a blog is not just blind luck. After more than a decade working as a web developer, I've learned from some exciting successes (and a few spectacular failures) that there are concrete steps you can take to grow traffic to your site.

When I give advice on this topic I usually spend most of my time talking about how to write well; after all, if a blog is not well-written there are no tips or tricks that will make people want to read it. But since most of you probably have that part covered, here are some practical steps you can take to make sure your blog effectively highlights your writing and draws in a loyal audience:

It's all about generosity
If you only remember one thing from this post, make it this: It is a spirit of generosity that brings traffic to a website. As I know from personal experience, having a blog can tempt you to become a black hole of attention. However, the more inwardly-focused you become, the fewer readers you will have. Ironically, it is when you stop asking questions like "How can I get people to link to me?" or "Why don't more people comment on my posts?" and start asking questions like "Who are some other great bloggers I can link to?" and "How can I better serve readers through my blog?" that your traffic will begin to grow.

Write scannable posts.
Internet readers have notoriously short attention spans, and they tend to briefly scan a post first to assess whether it's worth their time to read the whole thing. Use things like pictures, bolded section headers, varied paragraph sizes, bulleted lists and indented quotes to make your posts appealing from the first glance.

Make your blog easy to read and follow
I believe that a lot of blogs don't have the readership that they could simply because of design problems. You don't have to hire a professional designer to do anything fancy, just make sure that you keep an eye on these things:

- Value prime real estate: The part of your blog that is "above the fold," i.e. what first appears in a reader's browser without him having to scroll down, is precious space. Avoid mastheads that are so tall that a reader has to scroll down to see your content and put the most important sidebar elements at the very top.

- Use a readable font: Use one of the standard, easy-to-read fonts; make sure it's big enough (a good rule of thumb is to look at the size of online newspapers' text); and watch out for harsh color combinations like white font against a black background.

- Check your blog in different browsers: Your site will show up differently in different browsers. You don't have to go crazy checking all possible options, but just take a glance at your blog on friends' computers to make sure it doesn't look strange.

- One of the best ways to build a loyal readership is to encourage people to subscribe to your RSS feed. Check your blogging platform's support documents to find out how to add a "Subscribe to my RSS feed" link in your sidebar.

Decide on a theme
- but don't stick to it rigidly.
It's important to identify a loose theme for the subject matter of your blog. If you write a description of a family picnic one day, an analysis of the stock market the next day, and a lesson on Chinese history the day after that, readers are going to get whiplash from so much jumping around. A good litmus test for how well you've clarified your theme is if you could summarize your blog within the 140-character limit on Twitter.

That said, don't forget that what draws readers to blogs is not just the information itself, but the unique personality behind the great content. Don't be afraid to throw in some posts about topics near and dear to your heart, even if they're off-topic from your usual subject matter.

Help people get to know you quickly

- Introduce yourself: New readers immediately want to know who is behind the blog they're reading. Put a two- to three-sentence bio in a prominent place on the front page of your blog.

- Remember that every post you write will be the first post someone reads: The other day I stumbled across a blog with a stirring post about how life was different after Sara left. You're probably wondering the same things I did: Who's Sara? Where did she go? I spent a few minutes looking for the answers but eventually lost interest. Make sure that in every post you either explain necessary backstory or link to where it's explained elsewhere.

- Include a "best of" list: I can't recommend strongly enough that you list a few of your best posts as permanent links in the sidebar. (If you're uncomfortable self-identifying which posts are great, just do a "most popular" list.)

Don't give up.
Website traffic grows geometrically; it's much easier to go from 1,200 to 1,400 visits per day than it is to go from 200 to 400. There will be periods where it seems like it's taking forever for your traffic to increase, but don't give up. Just keep having fun and pouring genuine love and passion into each post; before long, you'll find that you've been too busy engaging with readers and practicing the craft of writing to notice that you finally have a platform.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Helpful Writer's Links

Helpful links from this week:

* What’s a book club hustler? An author who markets her work to book clubs by showing up in person. Sounds fun, albeit a lot of work. On that same note, author Galen Kindley offers practical advice about how to find book clubs open to author visits and prepare for the meetings.

* Quips and Tips brings you Tips for developing your writer’s voice. How-tos like this on literary voice are hard to come by, probably because voice is difficult to explain and teach.

* Penelope Trunk on staying disciplined. More reasons why it’s important to stay focused and on track with my writing every day.

* While documenting her path to publication, writer Jody Hedlund explains the slew of committees her book has to go through before (hopefully) publisher acceptance.

* From Writer’s Digest, a post on the power of networking: That Unquantifiable Factor that Helps You Get Published and Succeed.

* A blog worth checking out: 1st Books: Stories of How Writers Get Started. It’s both inspiring and informative.

* Lastly, a post from author Janice Hardy about why you should kill your prologue. This spoke to me because I killed my prologue months ago, after realizing that I fell into her category #3, thinking that it had more oomph to grab readers than the first chapter. But that was taking the easy way out. As she writes, instead “make your first chapter sing.”

Twitter as a Leadership Tool

Mike Hyatt has something interesting and important to say about using Twitter to maintain your lead.

The concept: Maintaining Your Lead, was a big topic in divinity school. As pastors, we were taught to stay out front, acting, instead of reacting and lead by example.

Many people are searching for leadership. You can lead through your writing, just as a pastor leads by preaching and living out the lessons in God's Word.

Twitter as a Leadership Tool

I was talking to a good friend the other day about Twitter. He knows that I believe it is important. Really important. Some of his clients are also beginning to ask questions about it. But he just didn’t get it.

He finally blurted out, “It just seems like a huge waste of time. I don’t need one more inbox to check. I can barely keep up with what I have now.”

I said, “Buddy, you’re completely missing it.”

“Missing what?” he said, defensively.

“The potential.”

“What potential?” he asked emphatically.

“It’s not about what you get out of it,” I said. “It’s about the opportunity it affords you to give to others and make an impact.”

“Excuse me,” he muttered.

“Twitter is an opportunity for you to lead in a way that was not possible until now.” I explained.

“As you and I both teach, when you boil it down, leadership is influence. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” he acknowledged.

“Leadership is not about position, a title, or status. It is about influence. Plain and simple. I know you believe that, too, right?”


I continued, “If that’s true, then Twitter provides an unprecedented opportunity for people like us to extend and amplify our influence. You don’t have to buy time on television or radio. You don’t have to write a book or magazine column. You don’t even have to blog,” I went on.

“All you have to do is write short 140 character micro-posts about what you are doing or—more importantly—what has your attention right now.”

I could almost hear his brain shift into a different gear. “You and I both know that [B]people today crave leadership[/B]. They are dying for role models. They want to see what good leadership looks like—as it is lived out in the challenges of everyday life.”

I continued, “If you are living your life on-purpose, like I know you are, then by Twittering, you are modeling something worth emulating. This is unquestionably the most powerful way to lead.”

“Hmm.” I could hear the flicker of possibility in his voice. I knew this was resonating with him. But then he countered, “But you just can’t lead by Twittering.”

“I agree. I am not suggesting that you can. It is simply one tool in your leadership toolbox—but a very powerful one. Twitter is like an influence amplifier. It enables extend your influence in ways never before possible.”

We continued to chat about this for several more minutes. He finally said, “Wow! Maybe there’s more to Twitter than I thought. How do I get started.”

The Profitable World of Self Publishing

The publishing world is continuing to change and the reinvention is just starting, not finishing as some believe. Those who have an important and appropriate message will find innumerable opportunities for success, but their success will be creatively driven.

To win during a time of change, one must be willing to be ahead of the curve, not desperately trying to catch up. Mike Moore teaches us more;

The Profitable World of Self Publishing
By: Mike Moore

Five years ago I was a professional speaker desperately in need of my own book. After each presentation members of my audience would approach me and ask if had a book or a tape for sale. The need was obvious. The market existed. All I needed to do was write a book and bring it to my audiences. This is how my first book was born.

I wrote nonstop for two months and finally had it written and illustrated with my own original cartoons. The question facing me now was who would be chosen from among thousands of publishers to bring my masterpiece to the waiting, eager multitudes. After many submissions to numerous publishing houses and many rejection slips, I finally found one who agreed to publish my book. The problem was that they couldn't get around to it for about a year and a half. I would receive 20% of the retail cost of each copy sold and would have to do most of the promotion myself.

This arrangement just wasn't satisfactory. I needed the book as soon as possible and I wanted to receive more than 20% of each copy sold. It was then that I decided to enter the world of self publishing and started Lifeline Publications.

Five hundred copies of were printed as a test run and I sold them all within the year as " back of the room" items at my speeches and seminars. Since I wasn't on the road speaking 365 days of the year I wanted to have my book available for purchase seven days a week whether I was speaking or not. I had my webmaster create a store for me and connect it to my speaking website. I was in business.

With well chosen and well directed advertising online and off I began to receive orders in my mailbox and by email. As sales increased so did the number of published items in my store. At present I have a total of nine information products, manuals, books, tapes, and special reports available for purchase.

In my first year as a publishing tycoon I sold 300 copies of my products online alone and another 100 offline. Add these sales to those at my talks and you can see that I was off and running as a self publisher. The orders seem to increase in number each month.

Writers are no longer dependent on the acceptance and approval of editors and publishers. Using the internet as well as offline classified ads in popular magazines you can bring your writing directly to a wide and eager market. People are always seeking " how to" information. In fact the most sought after items on the internet are information products. So if you research peoples' needs, wants and interests then write to satisfy them you are going to sell effectively..

Self publishing is simple and cost effective especially if you print on demand. You don't print a copy of your product until you get an order for that product. By doing this you avoid the cost of having 500 copies printed plus having to find storage space in your already cluttered basement.

If you have the writing bug and have received enough rejection slips to wallpaper a bedroom, try self publishing. When that first order comes in you will feel great satisfaction and a surge of self confidence which will, inevitably, result in more sales. You will be on your way to conquering the world of self publishing. GOOD LUCK!

Mike Moore is an international speaker and writer on humor and human potential. You can take a look at Mike's books, manuals, tapes and reports at

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Somebody is Watching You

Five Things the World Dislikes About Christians

Do we ever pay close enough attention to the things the world has to teach that we need to hear? While we are busy ignoring the sex, drugs, depraved lifestyles, hateful behavior and more, are we missing the "good" lessons that we need to heed?

From Thom Rainer President of Lifeway Bookstores...
Somebody is watching you.

I’m still amazed at the stories I hear from my three grown sons. They remind me of things I did and said when they were children. Some good. Some not so good.

Yes, I’m really amazed how closely they watched their dad.

Somebody else is watching us Christians. The unchurched. Non-Christians.

And you might be surprised how closely they are watching us.

Listening to the Formerly Unchurched

In a previous blog I wrote about research my team had conducted on the formerly unchurched. These were men and women who had been Christians less than a year. They were able to give us some keen insights about their lives as unchurched, non-Christians, especially since those days were in the recent past.

One of the more fascinating times in our interviews took place when we asked them what they didn’t like about Christians. We asked them to specify issues, attitudes, actions, and words that turned them away from the church and the gospel.

They gave us an ear full.

Five Negatives

Though the responses varied in their specific wording, we were able to group the negatives into five major categories. So what it is that the unchurched don’t like about Christians? Some of the responses hit too close to home for my comfort.

I don’t like Christians who treat other Christians poorly. The unchurched don’t expect us Christians to be perfect, but they can’t understand why we treat each other without dignity and respect. “I thought Christians were supposed to love one another,” Sandy from Pennsylvania told us. “But the more I observed Christians, the more I thought they really didn’t like each other.”

I don’t like “holier-than-thou” attitudes. The unchurched know that Christians will make mistakes, and they often have a forgiving attitude when we mess up. But they are repulsed when Christians act in superior ways to them “It would help,” said Bailey of Tampa, “if Christians showed just a little humility.”

I don’t like Christians who talk more than they listen. Many of the unchurched, at some point, have a perception that a Christian is a person who can offer a sympathetic and compassionate ear. Unfortunately, many of the unchurched thought Christians were too busy talking to listen to them.

I don’t like Christians who won’t get involved in my life. One of the many surprises of our study was discovering how much many unchurched persons would like to have a Christian as a friend. Yet very few Christians are willing to invest their lives in the messy world that evangelism requires.

I don’t like Christians who don’t go to church. The unchurched saw the disconnect between belief and practice in the lives of Christians who did not or who rarely attended church. “You would think that Christians would want to have the time together to worship and study,” noted Frances. “But I am amazed how many Christians just are not committed to any church.”

The Takeaway

The unchurched really are not too bothered by some hypocrisy with us Christians. They are well aware that any human will stumble at times. But these lost men and women want to know that Christians will treat each other well. They want to see humility in our lives. They want to know that we will take the time to listen, and even take more time to really be involved in their lives. And they want to know that we love our churches.

The unchurched really want to see a Christian live incarnationally. Most of them will gladly listen to us if we show love toward them and toward other Christians. Most of them desire to see a Christian live his or her faith as well as speak about it.

I have learned much from the world of the unchurched.

And I know I have still have much yet to learn.

It’s a Good Time to be a Writer

During times of Economic Distress creative people find clever ways to make their way. This time is no exception. With publishers reducing the number of titles, while cutting their financial commitment to those books they are printing, your book may be the one topic overlooked and therefore, forging ahead on your own could be the best possible strategy.

Here are 3 reasons it’s a good time to be a writer
By Lisa Abeyta

Online Ventures Offer New Opportunities

When Matt Drudge was an employee at a CBS gift shop, he started emailing insider gossip to friends. The list grew (exponentially) and eventually changed to political content. And when The Drudge Report, which created an entirely new way of reporting and compiling news, broke several major stories, mainstream media was no longer able to dismiss him as an insignificant upstart. By 2006, he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
Matt Drudge was one of the first in a long line of writers using the internet as their business base. Today new writers have far more opportunities to land a published article than ever before. No longer are opportunities controlled by those who own the presses. In communities with only one newspaper, now a dozen websites exist which provide content to that same demographic.

It’s Easier Than Ever To Create A Platform

With the proliferation of affordable website publishing tools and domain options, free blogs, and social networking sites, almost anyone has the opportunity to build a platform. A platform is not just about establishing yourself as an expert in some particular field—although that is part of it. It is in large part about building up readership, loyalty, and name recognition. With effective use of the internet, that particular task is within reach of just about anyone.

The Corporate World Is Moving Into Social Media

When I was hired to do some marketing and public relations work for a local museum, the first thing I did was to launch a blog and create Facebook and Twitter accounts. The museum had a website, but the constraints and paperwork made updates slow and often clunky. With social networking, I could get the word got out immediately, upload event photos in real time, and begin to change public perception and loyalty. Despite a lack of advertising dollars, the museum has enjoyed an increase in attendance, facility rentals and local press within the past few months.

The museum I contract with is not alone. Businesses across America are beginning to see the advantage of using social networking sites as an effective tool not only for advertising but also for viral content and customer loyalty. And most of those business are at a complete loss of how to accomplish this task. Writers who hone their skills in social media marketing will have no problem keeping busy - even in a tight market.

OK, there are my three reasons. If you’re still not convinced that it’s a good time to pursue your writing, here is one more:

Print Is Not Dead

In April, 2009, PW’s Matthew Thornton, divulged a round-up of recent book deals which included a six-figure offer for Rules for My Unborn Son. Why should you care? The book began as a blog. If you have a blog, treat it as a portal to a six-figure book deal. Agents are still accepting new clients, and publishers are still buying new manuscripts. Yes, there may be less on the market, but the market is still there and still buying. Someone is getting noticed, and that someone could be you.

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