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Right Writing News, September 16, 2008, Issue #35
September 16, 2008
Welcome to the 35th issue to subscribers of Right Writing News. If you are reading this issue forwarded from someone, be sure and use the link below to get your own free subscription.
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Table of Contents1) The Connection Between Platform & Proposal
By W. Terry Whalin
2) Branding Or Waste of Time
By W. Terry Whalin
3)10 Blog Traffic Tips
By W. Terry Whalin
4) Principles To Help Any Writer
By W. Terry Whalin
5) A Unique Book Promotion
6) The Forgotten Path
By W. Terry Whalin
7) Writing Powerful Endings
By Laura Backes
The Connection Between Platform & Proposal
By W. Terry Whalin
On a regular basis, writers will ask me, "How can I build a platform to increase my visibility in the market?"
Throughout my over 20 years in publishing, I've learned one simple truth. Traditional publishers make powerful books. They have great distribution and attractive covers. Ready for the simple truth? Most of them are lacking in the ability to help their authors sell books. Authors can't delegate that responsibility to their publishers. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you still need to be building your platform. Fiction is based on a great story and nonfiction is based on a great idea, careful research and storytelling. Both types of writing need to have excellent storytelling--but my contention is that every author will be better positioned to actually reach customers and sell books if they have built an audience or platform which is hungry for their work.
Maybe you have questions about this process and where to start, then I've got a resource for you. Next Tuesday, September 16th, I will be talking with Rosey Dow about this matter and answering your questions. Follow this link to sign up and attend the live event. If you can't attend the event, then still sign up because the session will be recorded and you can listen to the replay.
But wait a minute because there is more. I've pulled together a number of my entries from The Writing Life into a free 31-page Ebook called Platform Building Ideas For Every Author. The links inside this book are active (clickable). I put it together so each reader can have a useful resource.
This week's teleseminar is a preview call before the Spread the Word conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I will be speaking on this topic of platform and book proposal creation.
I hope you can participate in next week's teleseminar but I also hope to see you at the conference in Atlanta. Click the banner to learn more:
Branding Or Waste of Time
By W. Terry Whalin
Each of us have one commodity that we can't renew called time. For each additional task we add to our lives, we have to remove or let go of something else. I understand that's not very profound but I have people ask me these questions about whether to launch a website or not. Or they wonder if they should blog or not. Some of them have tried a blog and given up after a short amount of time.
Into this sphere of thinking comes something called Twitter. You have 140 characters to answer the simple question, "What are you doing now?" And you may wonder, "Does anyone care?" The answer may surprise you.
I've been reading about Twitter for several months. Mike Hyatt at Thomas Nelson wrote an excellent post, The Beginner's Guide to Twitter. Earlier he wrote 12 reasons to Start Twittering. Also notice what he wrote in this post about experiencing a social media that almost a million people are using and it's free. Admittedly it is down from time to time but that's what happens when you are using these free tools (so be aware of it and while you can complain, it does little good).
In the last week, I've started to use Twitter and >here's my profile. I'm still learning how to use it (and I'm spending minimal amount of time on it).
Like blogging and other public forums, you have to use Twitter with an intention. For example, if you look at my profile, you will notice that I've changed the settings and template to highlight my Book Proposals That Sell. It was simple to change. I've been following several people and the people who are using it effectively have "branded" their appearance. These same people are using twitter as a way to inform people about something specific.
I do not have it figured out and it might be something to experiment with for a season then let go--like some people have let go of their blog. I do not have a large following on Twitter but I have a growing following and it's been fun to watch.
I was fascinated with the response of Internet Marketing Expert Joel Comm. When I started to "follow" Joel (something you do in Twitter), he wrote that because I was following him, he would follow me. His twitter posts have been interesting to read.
I've been following Michael Hyatt on Twitter and it was fascinating that he went through airport security this week with Vice President Al Gore. Mike introduced himself to the former Vice President. It was an exchange that I would not have been able to know about except through Mike's Twitters.
While many people think that I'm high tech, I do not read my email on my cell phone or have it connected to the Internet. It means if I'm going to Twitter, it will have to be when I am sitting at my computer--and no other time.
Here's a couple of other links to read about Twitter. David Hobson suggests that one of the ways you build a following on Twitter is to consistently deliver good content. That makes sense. Here's an analysis of the people on Twitter with large followings and they have built their following other places. Here's another good post about growing a Twitter following--and once again they are building value in their content.
I suggest you try Twitter and see what you can learn from it as another communication tool. Follow a few people and see how they use twitter and note what you can learn from it. Twitter can be one more tool in your marketing arsenal so you extend your brand or it could be a complete waste of time. The use and control is in your hands.
Get to Author 101 University on October 1 & 2nd. Click this link to learn more: www.AUTHOR101-UNIVERSITY.COM
10 Blog Traffic Tips
By Yaro Starak
In every bloggers life comes a special day - the day they first launch a new blog. Now unless you went out and purchased someone else's blog chances are your blog launched with only one very loyal reader - you. Maybe a few days later you received a few hits when you told your sister, father, girlfriend and best friend about your new blog but that's about as far you went when it comes to finding readers.
>Here are the top 10 techniques new bloggers can use to find readers. These are tips specifically for new bloggers, those people who have next-to-no audience at the moment and want to get the ball rolling.
It helps if you work on this list from top to bottom as each technique builds on the previous step to help you create momentum. Eventually once you establish enough momentum you gain what is called "traction", which is a large enough audience base (about 500 readers a day is good) that you no longer have to work too hard on finding new readers. Instead your current loyal readers do the work for you through word of mouth.
Top 10 Tips
10. Write at least five major "pillar" articles. A pillar article is a tutorial style article aimed to teach your audience something. Generally they are longer than 500 words and have lots of very practical tips or advice. This article you are currently reading could be considered a pillar article since it is very practical and a good "how-to" lesson. This style of article has long term appeal, stays current (it isn't news or time dependent) and offers real value and insight. The more pillars you have on your blog the better.
9. Write one new blog post per day minimum. Not every post has to be a pillar, but you should work on getting those five pillars done at the same time as you keep your blog fresh with a daily news or short article style post. The important thing here is to demonstrate to first time visitors that your blog is updated all the time so they feel that if they come back tomorrow they will likely find something new. This causes them to bookmark your site or subscribe to your blog feed.
You don't have to produce one post per day all the time but it is important you do when your blog is brand new. Once you get traction you still need to keep the fresh content coming but your loyal audience will be more forgiving if you slow down to a few per week instead. The first few months are critical so the more content you can produce at this time the better.
8. Use a proper domain name. If you are serious about blogging be serious about what you call your blog. In order for people to easily spread the word about your blog you need a easily rememberable domain name. People often talk about blogs they like when they are speaking to friends in the real world (that's the offline world, you remember that place right?) so you need to make it easy for them to spread the word and pass on your URL. Try and get a .com if you can and focus on small easy to remember domains rather than worry about having the correct keywords (of course if you can get great keywords and easy to remember then you’ve done a good job!).
7. Start commenting on other blogs. Once you have your pillar articles and your daily fresh smaller articles your blog is ready to be exposed to the world. One of the best ways to find the right type of reader for your blog is to comment on other people's blogs. You should aim to comment on blogs focused on a similar niche topic to yours since the readers there will be more likely to be interested in your blog.
Most blog commenting systems allow you to have your name/title linked to your blog when you leave a comment. This is how people find your blog. If you are a prolific commenter and always have something valuable to say then people will be interested to read more of your work and hence click through to visit your blog.
6. Trackback and link to other blogs in your blog posts. A trackback is sort of like a blog conversation. When you write a new article to your blog and it links or references another blogger's article you can do a trackback to their entry. What this does is leave a truncated summary of your blog post on their blog entry - it's sort of like your blog telling someone else’s blog that you wrote an article mentioning them. Trackbacks often appear like comments.
This is a good technique because like leaving comments a trackback leaves a link from another blog back to yours for readers to follow, but it also does something very important - it gets the attention of another blogger. The other blogger will likely come and read your post eager to see what you wrote about them. They may then become a loyal reader of yours or at least monitor you and if you are lucky some time down the road they may do a post linking to your blog bringing in more new readers.
5. Encourage comments on your own blog. One of the most powerful ways to convince someone to become a loyal reader is to show there are other loyal readers already following your work. If they see people commenting on your blog then they infer that your content must be good since you have readers so they should stick around and see what all the fuss is about. To encourage comments you can simply pose a question in a blog post. Be sure to always respond to comments as well so you can keep the conversation going.
4. Submit your latest pillar article to a blog carnival. A blog carnival is a post in a blog that summarizes a collection of articles from many different blogs on a specific topic. The idea is to collect some of the best content on a topic in a given week. Often many other blogs link back to a carnival host and as such the people that have articles featured in the carnival often enjoy a spike in new readers.
To find the right blog carnival for your blog, do a search at blogcarnival.com.
3. Submit your blog to blogtopsites.com. To be honest this tip is not going to bring in a flood of new readers but it's so easy to do and only takes five minutes so it's worth the effort. Go to Blog Top Sites, find the appropriate category for your blog and submit it. You have to copy and paste a couple of lines of code on to your blog so you can rank and then sit back and watch the traffic come in. You will probably only get 1-10 incoming readers per day with this technique but over time it can build up as you climb the rankings. It all helps!
2. Submit your articles to EzineArticles.com. This is another tip that doesn’t bring in hundreds of new visitors immediately (although it can if you keep doing it) but it's worthwhile because you simply leverage what you already have - your pillar articles. Once a week or so take one of your pillar articles and submit it to Ezine Articles. Your article then becomes available to other people who can republish your article on their website or in their newsletter.
How you benefit is through what is called your "Resource Box". You create your own resource box which is like a signature file where you include one to two sentences and link back to your website (or blog in this case). Anyone who publishes your article has to include your resource box so you get incoming links. If someone with a large newsletter publishes your article you can get a lot of new readers at once.
1. Write more pillar articles. Everything you do above will help you to find blog readers however all of the techniques I've listed only work when you have strong pillars in place. Without them if you do everything above you may bring in readers but they won’t stay or bother to come back. Aim for one solid pillar article per week and by the end of the year you will have a database of over 50 fantastic feature articles that will work hard for you to bring in more and more readers.
I hope you enjoyed my list of traffic tips. Everything listed above are techniques I've put into place myself for my blogs and have worked for me, however it's certainly not a comprehensive list. There are many more things you can do. Finding readers is all about testing to see what works best for you and your audience and I have no doubt if you put your mind to it you will find a balance that works for you.
Yaro Starak, a professional blogger wrote this article. He is the leader of the Blog Mastermind mentoring program designed to teach bloggers how to earn a full time income blogging part time.
To get more information about Blog Mastermind click this link:
Principles To Help Any Writer
By W. Terry Whalin
In my blog on The Writing Life, I've been writing about the children's book market. While this portion of the marketplace continues to be highly competitive, there is opportunity for writers. Let me draw several principles to help you in your efforts.
1. Get acquainted with the various nuances of the children's market. The books are targeted for specific age categories and you should become familiar with these ranges. You need to have a specific target market for your book manuscript. The vocabulary and topics will be different for each age group and your manuscript will have a better reception if you understand these rules.
2. Be flexible in your goals and dreams. Show your writing talent by writing for the children's magazine market. If you don't have opportunity with books, then try in a different area such as magazines. Also be flexible and be willing to take any opportunity. For example, many writers are only looking for a royalty book deal arrangement or where they earn a percentage of the sales from each book. Many children's publishers only offer the writer a work made for hire agreement or a flat fee for the writing. Are you willing to write under these conditions? I have written a number of books with a work made for hire agreement.
3. Join children's organizations. One of the best for children's writers is the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. You don't have to be published to become a member and they have an extensive array of resources and helps to teach you more about the children's marketplace.
4. Take training such as courses from the Institute of Children's Literature. The ICL has been training writers for many years. I love their course materials and their style of instruction. For over two years, I taught at the ICL and had many students which I mentored through the process of writing children's books. As an instructor, I critiqued their lessons and returned them to the students encouraging them to move ahead with their dreams and plans for children's writing.
5. Continue to build your relationships with editors and explore their needs. Can you write to one of their needs? Many writers are only focused on writing what they want to write. In general these writers ignore the marketplace and the needs of an editor. In the process, they are missing many opportunities for their children's writing to be published and to hone their craft.
6. Be persistent and keep working at it. You never know where you will find the open door for your next opportunity to write a children's book.
Are you open to new possibilities?
A Unique Book Promotion
I am always on the look out for some unique book promotion techniques. Why? Because they stimulate ideas which I can possibly apply to my own books or the books of others where I have some involvement.
One of those promotions is starting today for a book called Click Here To Order by Joel Comm. It's just the type of book which I would read without the extra promotion because it profiles or tells the stories of successful Internet Marketers.
In fact, Joel Comm really ticks me off. “We’re living in the good old days,” he says. What the heck does that mean?
I thought the “good old days” are what people try to get back to… but can never quite get there.
How “good” is it, really, when:
- Half the country is in debt up to their eyeballs and just one missed paycheck away –or one mortgage rate reset away-- from being kicked out into the street.
- Gas is priced at over 4 bucks a gallon, forcing the average Joe to cut back on driving or use grocery money to fill the gas tank.
- And speaking of groceries, they cost more every time we go shopping; then there’s out of control health insurance costs, and all the rest.
When you think about it, there are always those who seem to do well despite the conditions in the overall economy.
No doubt about it, thousands or even millions of people are at the mercy of their employers or the government to keep them out of the poorhouse.
On the other hand, there are those who are seemingly able to rake in the cash despite the gloom and doom on the ten o-clock news.
Hmmm…maybe it is possible to stand apart from the crowd and imitate the “gurus” who have cracked the code and dialed in the system for generating serious money.
John Carlton – who learned copywriting after practically being *dared* to do it by a hostile co-worker. His copywriting education began by stealing the co-worker’s copy of John Caples’ Tested Advertising Methods. By the time she stole back the book, John had embarked on a self-education program that has resulted in him being one of the most sought after copywriters in the world.
Another John – John Reese – though smart as they come, college couldn’t hold his interest. After flunking out, he labored in a video rental store while building his business. He owed over $100,000 in credit card debt at his lowest point, and his friends and relatives may have thought he would fall through the cracks like so many other dreamers. Once he put all the pieces together… he became the cash generating machine that we know today.
Keith Wellman’s story is oh-so-familiar. Deep in debt and a family to support with his dead-end job, Keith was desperate. He even blasted Mike Filsaime publicly on Filsaime’s blog for taking advantage of his own desperation and hope. It wasn’t long before Wellman had to eat his words in a big way, as he is now a very successful entrepreneur with a lifestyle that others only dream about.
Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, why not join ‘em?
In his disarmingly illuminating style, Joel Comm profiles these individuals plus more than 30 others in his book Click Here to Order: Stories of the World’s Most Successful Internet Marketing Entrepreneurs.
With the same intensity that produced his New York Times Best Selling book The Adsense Code, Joel dissects the paths that dozens took to jump on the internet marketer’s bandwagon.
While Joel is no John Grisham (yet), his book reads like one of Grisham’s novels; Joel’s subject matter is just so darn fascinating.
If you’re one of the guys or ladies mentioned in the book, you may wish the Joel had kept his mouth shut.
You don’t want to miss getting your copy. Joel Comm’s new book is the first to put over forty internet marketing entrepreneurs under the microscope. All the cool kids will be getting their own copy.
After you order the book, Joel offers a series of bonus gifts for $1--including an extra chapter which is not in the book and a series of MP3 interviews with people who are profiled in the book.
The overall promotion strategy is well orchestrated--yet with a bit of energy and planning, it could be imitated.
The Forgotten Path
By W. Terry Whalin
The blonde-haired writer sat across from me at a small table during a writers' conference, leaned into the table and poured out her frustration. She had a journalism degree, spent her season working for newspapers and now had published a series of magazine articles. At first the publications had modest pay but now this writer was beginning to write for higher paying and more well-known publications.
Yet her book ideas were rejected and she understood the reasons. In the nonfiction areas, she had no "platform" or market visibility. While her standing was rising among magazine editors, she recognized that few readers knew her and her work.
This writer had dreams of writing a novel but had realistically looked at the market and understood the huge hurdles that she faced to get a novel published. While she could spin an excellent tale, she wondered how she could devote the time and energy to writing a 80,000 to 100,000 word novel with the speculation that some publisher "might" bring it into print. She had no interest in self-publishing and producing a garage filled with books which never reached readers.
Now during our brief session, this writer was searching for answers about how to break into book publishing. She wanted to write longer works than magazine articles and was unsure where to turn.
If the story sounds familiar to you, then keep reading because I'm going to show you a forgotten path for book publishing. This path has endless possibilities and can provide financial security and a lifetime of publishing.
If you don't have a platform, one of the quickest ways to gain a platform is to use the platform of someone else. Some of you are wondering how you get attached to another person's platform. It's called co-authoring or ghostwriting. If you don't personally lead a large organization, can you write for someone who already leads a large organization? I call it the forgotten path because many of these busy people have aspirations of writing a book but will never get it done because of their own schedule. Yet they could make time to meet with a writer on a regular basis, tell you the stories then you could write the book for them. The writer doesn't have to have the platform but the writer brings the skill of crafting words and storytelling to the project.
Many years ago I discovered that I have a finite number of books that I want to write during my lifetime yet there are an infinite number of books that I can co-author or ghostwrite for someone else.
If you have never tried co-authoring or ghostwriting, I suggest you try a shorter magazine article for your first experience. It is better to experiment with a shorter assignment than a longer book project. Can you capture another person's stories and voice? Are you willing to be a co-author or a ghostwriter as a long as you are fairly compensated for your work?
Often you can find these longer book projects when you write a shorter magazine article. I've started my relationship with someone through a magazine article then it has developed into a longer book project. Also I've seen many other writers have this experience where they get with someone who is high profile to write a magazine article and start their relationship. Then that relationship takes a leap to a new level and they are co-authors for a longer book project.
From my experience, it is rare for an agent or an editor to put a writer with an inexperienced co-author or ghostwriter. You can gain the necessary experience collaborating on some shorter magazine articles.
Through my collaboration and co-author experiences, I've been able to write about some remarkable people who are now my friends. It has enriched my life and provided work. I hope you will consider this forgotten path.
The Fine Art of Plotting
By Laura BackesIn an interview with of The Writer magazine, Madeleine L'Engle talks about her book The Arm of the Starfish and says, "I had the book pretty intricately plotted. This is essential, because if you do not have a plot there is nothing to change."
That comment stopped me in my tracks. I'd never thought about why you plot out a book that way before, but it made perfect sense. I always knew a story outline was a framework, a way to keep the action on course, but this turned that belief on its head. If you don't know where you want to go, how will you recognize a better destination when it comes along? How can you revise, polish, improve a story if you don't have a starting point?
The knowledge that the first idea is often not the best idea is something experienced writers have learned the hard way. But they accept this because they love the creative process. L'Engle went on to explain that her protagonist, Adam Eddington, went to sleep one night, and when he woke up a young man named Joshua was sitting in his room. "Now Adam was surprised to see Joshua. I was surprised to see Joshua. There had been no Joshua in my plot." She had a choice: either rewrite 150 pages to incorporate Joshua into the story, or kick him out of the book. He stayed.
It's important to understand how to plot out a story or organize an article. A certain structure--the way characters move from point A to point B, at what point a chapter should end, how to present information to make a compelling argument--is necessary if you want to engage the reader. But if you don't keep your mind open to the unexpected, you'll miss out on the fun of writing. If you insist upon controlling every detail of the first draft, or if you're afraid to start over, you'll shut the door to your imagination.
This also applies to writers who agonize over selling their books before they're even written. They worry so much about the potential market for a piece (Is the subject too controversial? Is the age of the main character correct for the readership? Will my favorite publisher like this book?) that they back their creativity into a corner. When writing the first draft of a manuscript, I think it's a bad idea to imagine anyone ever reading it. This is a journey you're traveling alone, and when an unexpected guest knocks at the door, only you will know if you're brave enough to let him in.
Of course, some writing requires a bit of advanced planning. There's a man in my town who creates a unique type of artwork, and I'd like to profile him for a children's magazine. Before I ask him for an interview, I'm spending a day deciding on possible markets for the article. This will help me determine the age group of the piece, the slant I'll take, and what photographs I'll need. I'll come up with three or four possible approaches to the profile, and pitch these angles to him when I call. This will not only prepare him for the interview, but also show him I'm serious about writing the article. However, since I've never met this man, if he turns out to be an eccentric crackpot I'm prepared to go with the flow.
All writing is a balancing act between fancy and framework, between taking an idea that exists only for you and making it real for thousands of readers. If you don't put restrictions on your inspiration, you'll have the luxury of being able to sort out the good from the bad, of choosing what remains in your book, and what goes. If, at the beginning of the process, your expectations are few, you'll have plenty to change. Whether or not my article ever gets published, it will still be fun to spend the day with someone whose art fascinates me and to try to bring this work alive for young readers. I'll challenge myself to give my writing what Madeleine L'Engle calls "free will," and, if I'm lucky, I'll be surprised by the result.
About the Author: Laura Backes is the publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers. For more information about writing children's books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more, visit Children's Book Insider's home on the web at http://write4kids.com
Reprinted with permission.
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