Tag Archives: Writing

How I Write Blog Posts

Lately I’ve been seeing a rash of posts on blogs that are telling people how to write blogs. Of course, I have my own blogging tips, which I hope some folks have checked out here and there, but what I’m seeing are the same tips over and over from other people.

Let’s face this fact; just how many times do you want to read “first come up with a keyword rich topic, then write a keyword rich article on your niche?” No matter how many times you read that and how many ways someone tries to write it, nothing is different. How different is reading “write in your niche so that people will find you on search engines?”

I’m not saying it’s not true; I’m just saying it’s boring seeing the same thing over and over. And I’m not saying what I’m about to write is any better than what you’ve seen someone else say. But it will be different, and I’m thinking that’s my little niche. Let’s begin.

Believe it or not, the longest part of my blogging is trying to figure out what I want to write about. For someone like me, that doesn’t often take long. For this blog, since I pretty much write about what I feel like, it doesn’t usually take me longer than a couple of minutes. The same for my business blog, because I know my topic there. For my finance blog, it takes a little longer. I usually scour the news to see what feels like it might be interesting enough for me to expound upon, then I’m ready to go.

The next step, if needed, is the research. For instance, when I wrote my post the other day on my 13 favorite singers, that one took a long time to put together because I had to first list my singers, go find the videos for each of them, and then find the product links for each artist. For the last post, 34 questions, I had to actually answer the questions first. I could have answered them once I started writing, but I had some formatting I wanted to do so I answered them before I posted everything. For my finance blog, research is always essential, because I don’t want to use only one news source to write those articles from.

Next it’s time to either start writing or paste certain things into the writing area. When I’m writing, I go into my zone and just write, and I don’t usually stop until I’ve finished the article. That’s why it doesn’t take me all that long to write. If I have an opinion on something, my mind just puts things in the order I want to talk about them in and I go for it. Kind of my own Mozart thing going on. If I’m just pasting something, most of my work is already done.

Now it’s time for my internal linking. I don’t have full recall of every article I’ve written, but obviously I know my topics. So I go back through my topics to search for articles I’ve previously written on a topic. The internal linking serves two purposes One, it helps my site show off previous material that I’m hoping someone might be interested enough in to want to check it out. Two, at least on my finance blog, it helps with the SEO in reinforcing topics I write about there. This blog does okay in the search engines, but it probably will never get its PR back, which means probably only my affiliate advertising will ever be here, whereas that blog has a high PR, does okay on Alexa, and if I can increase the visits a bit more it’ll be prime property for financial advertisements.

Next is something I don’t always do, but I will check for it. Since everyone says text advertising is supposed to be so great, I go back through my words to see if there’s anything I said that can link to a product. Then I go looking for a product that I can link to and add that link, with the new blue lines.

The next to the last piece is trying to decide what I’m going to highlight at the bottom of each post. Will it be a product? Will it be just a banner ad of some sort? I certainly have plenty of stuff to choose from, so that usually doesn’t take much time either.

And now, the final pieces of the puzzle. I go to All-in-one-SEO and I write something in the description box on what the piece is about. I type in my keywords. Then I go up and type in my tags for the post, which is something I just started a few weeks ago. I select the overall category for the post. The last thing depends on if I’m posting the article immediately or on a delayed basis. If I’m delaying the post, I set the schedule for when I want it to post. Sometimes I write my posts a couple of weeks in advance, so that works great.

And there you go. Now, it takes me less than 5 minutes to write a post, but all the other stuff I add on is what builds up the time. It may eventually take me 10 to 20 minutes to fully complete a post, but that’s okay because the possible rewards for the extra stuff are worth it if you ask me.

Now, whether you fully agree or not, wasn’t that better than the cookie cutter posts you see all the time? 🙂
 

Book Writing Series Part Seven – Contacting Publishers

As many of you know, I started a series of articles that I called the book writing series, for which I also have a link at the top. I went through some issues on planning, writing, then publishing. Well, some people still want to try to get a real publisher for their books, which is a laudable goal, but may not have any real idea of how to go about it. That’s what this article is about. Of course, I hope you go through the other issues first before you get to this one if you’re a new visitor, but you don’t have to.


the Pen

To begin with, if you’re going to try for publisher’s, a must have book is Writer’s Market, because that’s where you’re going to start looking for the names and addresses of publishers you’re hoping will accept your book. However, the book doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, so stay tuned.

To start off with, whether you submit your book by regular mail or email, you’ll need to supply an outline, or synopsis, of the book. My book was non fiction, so I supplied an outline of what each chapter’s topic was, along with its title, and an outline of what was covered in the chapter if I was touching upon more than one theme. Also, every publisher or agent either wants one of two things: a complete copy of the book, which, if you print it out, has to be on individual pages, double spaced (that’s kind of costly and wasteful, but if that’s what they want then you give it to them); most publishers only want a sample, maybe like the first 50 pages or so. If you’re sending something by email, you may need to contact the publisher first before sending an attached file. This is one place where having Writer’s Market helps, because it will tell you how the publisher wants you to contact them.

However, here’s the big part that no one ever tells you. Unless you’re already famous, you have to put in your greeting letter, and you must ALWAYS have a greeting letter, not only what the book is about and the characters and synopsis, but how YOU would sell and market the book if it were totally up to you. You have to tell them who the target audience is, and why that’s the target audience. And it needs to be a big audience, one that has the possibility of selling at least 100,000 books. That was one of my problems; my non fiction book might have had a big market, but books on management and leadership rarely sell that many books unless you’re a big name. The One Minute Millionaire really was a fluke (I met Ken Blanchard, by the way, and he actually read a copy of my book). Anyway, the marketing aspect has to include things like book signings, certain types of radio shows you’d try to get on, television interviews, how much travel you’d be willing to do, etc. The problem with that is that a lot of that stuff would come out of your own pocket; they’ll pay you something up front, but you then have to figure out how to fit everything else into place with that money.

The best thing to do then, obviously, is to try to get an agent, but they’re tough to get through to also. They don’t like signing what they consider as a “one trick pony”; in other words, they usually want to know that you’ve written more than one book, no matter how good they are, because they want to pitch the writer as being somewhat prolific so they can get multi-book deals. So, unless your first missive is just so fantastic that the agent knows you’re the next coming of J.K. Rowlings, it’s a difficult sell. She’s actually someone who’s a great example of how to do it. She got an agent not because of the first book, but because she had a full outline for the entire series of books, and the agent just loved that, even though she’d only written the first book at the time. Even then, he had a tough time getting it to someone initially, but that was then his concern, not hers, since agents still work on commission. I don’t think any of them are unhappy at this juncture.

If you’re looking for an agent, you pretty much have to go through the same process you do for a publisher. There are only so many agents, and because most of them are one person operations, they only have so much time to read only so many books. The reason you might shoot for an agent, though, is because some publishers will only work with agents, not directly with writers, and agents have access to many more publishers than you might on your own.

Now a little bit more on figuring out the categories for your book. Though I love the idea of a book falling into multiple categories, publishers won’t. In the Writer’s Market book, many publishers only market a few types of genres, so they’d need something specific. These days, more publishers are starting to get scared of “true story” books because of the ones that have been outed as fake recently, so if you reference anyone specific in the book they’re going to want to know who those people are, and of course want to obtain releases from those people, or most of those people, and that gets expensive. If it’s me, I’d probably want to market it as fiction based on your own experiences. In any case, deciding upon your genre will help you decide how to help market your book.

It can be a tough environment, but if you’re committed to trying, I hope those steps above help.

Samsill Sterling Writing Pad

Samsill Sterling Writing Pad

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  Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Mitch Mitchell

Book Writing Series Part Six – Publishing Your Book

This is the final part of the book writing series, and today we’re going to talk about the process of trying to get your book published by someone else, as well as self publishing your book. Before we get there, though, let’s do a quick recap of what I’ve talked about thus far.

Part one talked about coming up with the concept for whatever it is you want to write about. Part two discussed how to plan the steps you want to take before writing your book. Part three talked about determining when you wanted to write and what method you were going to take. Part four talked about ways to tell your story, no matter if you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. And part five talked about the editing process.

Now we’re up to the publishing part of the story, which is the final piece of it all. This presumes that you’re looking to try to do something with what you’ve written; if not, you can skip this part.

You’ve now edited your book and it’s time to find a publisher, or an agent. There are a few things you need to know before you try. Publishers don’t have any idea how to promote your book; plain and simple. Sure, if you’re already a big time writer, or a famous person, they’ve got a clue. But don’t expect any publisher to even look at your book unless you can sell them on what your book is all about. Not only that, but you have to try to convince them why your book is worth their attention, who the market will be, and how they should market it. You’ll need to have a catchy title, which can be a major problem for some, and it has to make some kind of sense to the rest of the story. You’ll need to have an outline of what the book is all about. You may need to send either the first few chapters of the book or even the entire book. And you’ll need to have a killer cover letter that’s not too long, or not too short.

Yes, that’s confusing, but here’s how you end some of that confusion. There’s a book called the Writer’s Market, and it’s where you’re going to find the list of publishers of all types of books or magazines and the genre’s they cover. Each publisher lists their guidelines for how they want you to submit your book to them. Some of them are going to say they don’t take any original manuscripts directly from the writers. This always means they only work with agents; some publishers will tell you that directly. You can either buy this book, or go to the library, as every library in the country probably has this book in circulation.

Either way, you’re still going to have prep work to do, whether you’re trying to pitch to an agent or a publisher. There’s a debate as to whether you should send your book to only one publisher or agent at a time; some say yes, some say no. I tend to go with the side that says it’s okay to submit your book to more than one publisher at a time, for two reasons. One, if you’re a new writer, you’re probably going to have difficulties cracking through in the first place, so why not get as much early feedback as possible. Two, if you’re lucky enough to hear from more than one publisher, you get to pick which one to go to, and it will probably be the last time you get to make a decision for yourself for a long time.

My tale is that I sent my book out to ten publishers at a time. Some of them accepted email submissions, which made it easy. I started at the beginning of the alphabet, which made it easy to keep track of. Sometimes you might have to submit something more than once to a publisher after the time they say they’ll take in the book, but you get to make that decision for yourself. When I’d heard from at least five publishers, I’d try again. All in all, I sent my book to 67 publishers, and heard back from 47 of them. Of course, every one of them rejected my book, but not all of them rejected it without a reason. About half of them rejected it saying they weren’t publishing anything of that particular genre “this season”; this was back in 2002, and remember, the genre was leadership and management, which hadn’t quite grown at that point.

Just over half of the rest of them said they didn’t know how they’d market the book; that was purely my fault, because I didn’t know at the time how to tell them to market it. Truthfully, before I’d written my book, I had never read any other books on the topic, because I didn’t want to be influenced by anyone else’s process. If I’d done it properly, I should have checked out the market after I’d written my book so I’d have had a better understanding of how to promote my book. I also had a problem with the title; I didn’t have the title Embrace The Lead until over two years after I’d written it, so I really hadn’t given anyone much to go on. Some of these people must have actually read whatever I’d sent them, because they said some nice things about it while saying they didn’t know what to do with it. The last bunch just rejected it outright, with the standard “no thank you” letter, and left it at that.

At that point, I could have considered myself at a crossroads. Instead, I decided I would self publish my book. Now, there are four options one can decide upon when it comes to publishing one’s own book. The first option is to go the ebook route, which I started out with. I began by selling my book off my website in two forms. One could purchase the entire ebook, or one could purchase the book in three individual sections, since it’s broken out that way.

The second option is to go to a vanity publisher of some type. There are multiple types of vanity publishers, and you’re going to end up paying some kind of money for all of them. The one I know the best is Publish America, but I’ve also heard some fairly nice things about Lulu. Each of these offers the opportunity to pay someone to help edit the book, which you might want to take advantage of if you decided not to spend all the time I did in self editing mine. What they both offer are custom made covers, print on demand books (this means you pay them if you want more books to sell for whatever reason), assistance in obtaining an ISBN number (International Standard Book Number; this is the publisher number which allows you to sell your book on sites such as Amazon and Google Books), and so many “free” copies initially for however you choose to use them. This isn’t such a bad way to go, but I decided it wasn’t how I wanted to go.

The third option is to go to a copy center such as Kinko’s and have your book made by them. The problem I had there is that they’re not really book binders, so they would have created my book with a spiral binder, and that was unacceptable to me. It would have been very cost effective, but it would have looked more like a manual than a book.

I wanted it to look like a book, so I chose the fourth option, which was taking it to a printing company. The costs associated with doing this will vary based on what you ask for. In my case, I decided that the only color I wanted on the cover was having the title and my name printed in blue ink. Color gets very expensive, and had I wanted every page of my book in color, the cost would have jumped. If I’d chosen a color background it would have gone up a little bit, and if I’d chosen more than one color, the cost would have gone up drastically. That would apply if you decided to put any pictures in your book also; black and white images cost nothing extra. What surprised me is that they wanted the book in a .pdf format instead of a Word document; I gave it to them both ways, just in case.

I decided I wanted an initial run of 300 books. That cost me around $1,300, and I was happy with that price. That came to $4.33 a book, which was well worth doing it. At that rate, I would have to sell 52 books to make my money back if I sold it at $25, which is the price I sell it at now off my website. However, when I take it with me on speaking engagements, which was the reason I wanted so many books, I usually reduce the price to either $20 or, every once in awhile, $10 a book, depending on who I’m speaking in front of. I have easily made back my initial investment; thank goodness. I still have about 150 books left, though, in case anyone wishes to buy one, and I even autograph it if requested. The most important thing for me, though, is that it looks like a book. Sure, a pure white book with no frills, but still a book.

As for the ISBN number, I purchased my own at the link above, paying for 10 ISBN numbers, which means that I can write nine more books and already have a publisher number for them. I didn’t have the publisher number when I published the first book, but when I write my next books, I’m going to be sure that number is on the book. It adds extra credibility to your book to have that number on there, even if you don’t decide to sell it anywhere other than on your own website, or with the assistance from other places.

My book is listed on 10 other sites, none of them paid for, and only one of them asked for a reciprocal link, that being Published.com, and I’m happy to give them that link. Basically, it’s like any other internet marketing venture; the more you can get the word out, the better the opportunities you’ll have to sell your book.

I want to mention this one point, if I may. There are different benefits between getting your book published by someone else and doing it yourself. Big time publishers will give you an advance on your sales, but if your book doesn’t end up selling some request the difference back, though most will just cut your contract and move on with life. Most books that are published by new writers don’t make a lot of money, even some of those that gain nice publicity. There’s a lot of work involved, as publishers expect their writers to travel to support the publicity of the book, but if you’re not a big name, you’re going to pay for your own publicity tour. Therefore, though you got an advance on future sales, you could end up eating some of that while on some kind of tour. And, the amount a writer gets from each sale isn’t all that much; sometimes not even 5% of whatever the book is selling for. If you end up being popular, that’s not a bad deal because your next contract will be much better; if not, the publisher may never recoup their money, and you’ll never make another dime.

By self publishing, if you know how to market, you get full profits from your book sales. That’s how I made my money back. In today’s world, many musicians are finding that they’ll make more money from fewer sales than they did with bigger sales. Prince was the first big time musician to realize that when he sold 350,000 copies of one of his albums online at $15 a copy as compared to how much money he made when Purple Rain sold 18 million copies. When you self publish, you can cross genre’s, because at that point it’s all about the writing and however you decide to market, not the whim of some publisher who wants you to make a lot of changes so that it will fit into a category of their choosing.

And that’s the conclusion of this series on writing a book. Within a week or so it will appear as a headline topic in the header. I hope I’ve given some valuable information to most of you. As always, I encourage your comments and your questions.

Book Writing Series Part Five – Editing

Now you’ve written your book, or you’re almost done with it; congratulations! At this point, you’ve finished the second hardest part of your overall project, and you’ve done something that the overwhelming number of people in the world have never done. That warrants kudos on its own; but you’re not even close to being done.

The next step is the editing step, and it’s the hardest step of the entire process. It’s the hardest process because if you’re going to do it right, it’s going to take longer to edit your book than it took you to write it. First, you have to confront your own demons while editing it. This is when the gut check takes place, where your confidence is tested, because now you’re revisiting your own words, and some of them are going to look and sound alien to you. If you make it through the first edit, you’re going to be fine. But the first edit is crucial.

I know, you’re saying “first edit”? Yes, I’m saying first edit, because when you edit your book, you’re going to have to go through it more than once. I’m going to describe what I went through, so you can see what I’m talking about. I’m going to tell you my story; sound a little familiar?

After I wrote my book, Embrace The Lead, I knew I had to go through the entire thing again. Luckily, I had written it in Word, which checks your spelling as you go along, so I knew that all the regular words were going to be spelled properly. However, I had also used voice recognition software, so I knew there were going to be some alien-looking phrases that were going to stand out. And I knew one more thing; I was going to rewrite as I went along. Everyone rewrites, unless they can hammer something out in one piece and feel fairly comfortable with it. When it comes to something large, though, you’re probably going to rewrite something; it’s perfectly normal.

The first edit was painstakingly long. I’m a speed reader, so I had to change my own mode of reading and actually study my own text. I have to say that I did a pretty good job with the first edit. Word is a great program to use because it allows you to make some mass changes whenever you need to. For instance, there were many instances in the book when I used my wife’s first name by mistake. So, I was able to mass change the entire book from her name to “my wife” with one keystroke; that was great. I also noticed a consistent typo, where my fingers just wouldn’t let me spell this one word correctly, and I was able to make that change all at once.

The first edit of my book took me 5 days. I didn’t end up rewriting all that much, but I did end up adding more to many areas, trying to explain myself better. Still, after the first edit of my book, I felt fairly comfortable with it; but I knew I wasn’t done.

The next edit is something that couldn’t have been done in the past, but in 2002 it was something available to me, and it’s probably available now. I had downloaded a program where I could paste blocks of text into it and it would read them to me. As odd as this sounds, I felt it was important to hear what the book sounded like if it was being read aloud. This didn’t take as long as one might think, but I’m glad I did it because there were some parts where even I got confused, and I was able to fix those areas so that it would read smoother. I belong to a writer’s group that meets once a month, and whenever it’s my turn to present something, I always ask someone else to read it aloud so I can hear if it’s flowing properly. It’s also a rush to hear someone else reading your material, even if it is just a program on your computer.


Two Steps To Writing

Another thing Word can do for you, which became my third edit, is check your grammar. Although Word and I don’t always agree, I decided to change the settings and let it highlight what I’d written, just to make sure there were no major faux pas. It highlighted many areas, which I expected, but it also found some things that I decided to change, so I didn’t mind doing it.

The final part for me was asking some of my friends, those who I knew would read it and look for something critical, to read it for me and point out things they didn’t understand. I specifically told them I didn’t want them to critique the content, only the grammar, and whether they understood what I was saying or not. Debate can be for another time; what I needed was a critical eye only.

I have found that point to be one of the most important things I’ve ever had to do whenever I’ve asked someone for a critique. You have to tell people what you want from them. If you ask someone to read something and tell you what they think, you never know where they’re going to go, and you lose any value you might have been able to get out of it.

When I wrote my first business newsletter, I sent it to about 20 people and asked them what they thought. I didn’t get a single person who gave me anything that I could use. Instead, they wanted to talk about writing style, the layout, the word justification, the concepts I was talking about in the first article, and some just said “nice job”. That wasn’t helpful at all, but it taught me a valuable lesson; it’s one you should learn also.

Of course, at some point you’re going to want some people to actually read it and give you an honest appraisal, something you hope will come out sounding like a testimonial if they actually liked it, but not during the editing process. If you need to, tell the people you’ve asked to edit to write any other comments down and save them for when you’re ready for publication.

As I indicated, the editing process is where you grow up, where your book has its opportunity to mature, and where you’ll find out what you’re made of. If you’re actually lucky enough to get either an agent or a publisher to accept your book, they’re going to pick it apart even further, and you may not like it. But at that point, it means they’re serious about your book, and that may or may not be a good thing. I wouldn’t know, as you’ll learn in the next part of this series when I talk about trying to get published. See you next time.

Book Writing Series Part Four – Telling A Story

Proving that I’m good at internal linking, let’s quickly mention the first three parts of this series again. Part one talked about coming up with the concept for whatever it is you want to write about. Part two discussed how to plan the steps you want to take before writing your book. Part three talked about determining when you wanted to write and what method you were going to take.

Emily Ackerman at Mortified
92YTribeca via Compfight

Those were the steps to take before actually putting a word down on paper. This next part actually talks about putting something down on paper, and it’s the only part that will cover that.

Every person has to write about whatever it is they want to write about. However, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, the truth of the matter is that whatever you’re writing, you’re telling a story about something. If you’re writing a romance novel, you’re telling the story about love and intrigue and sex, and hopefully you’re telling your story in a flowing manner, something meant to draw the reader into the story. If you’re writing an article on how to make money online, you’re trying to tell the story about things you believe in, have tested or read about, and hoping to convey it to your reader in such a manner that it’s actually touching them and they’re understanding it, because we all know if people don’t understand us, they won’t come back.

Every person I’ve ever met knows how to tell a story. Even those people who say they have absolutely no idea how to tell a story can tell a good one if you ask them something about themselves and their lives. Storytelling is one of those things that’s come down through history, and even the quietest people have a story to tell, and when you give them a chance, they can usually tell good stories, whether you care about the subject matter or not.

Let’s think about it in a different way. I believe that you write for yourself. This means that the story you’re telling is initially for you, whether you’re going to share it or not.

If you’re going to tell yourself a story, how do you do it? If you’re imagining a story, how do you tell yourself what’s going on in your imagination? Do you see in your mind that you walked out of a door and got into a car? Or do you see yourself walking up to your front door, which is painted white and styled in a Victorian manner, turned the brass knob, stepped outside onto the porch of the front of the house, which faces a set of small ranch houses of differing colors, turned around to lock the door, then you proceeded to take a step down onto your sidewalk, which curved around on your lawn towards the driveway, where your red Mustang sits waiting for you to get in and drive to the store?

The second one may be a bit much, but it’s an indication that when one dreams and when one tells a story, there are elements in the telling of a story that helps to set the tone and the mood of the story being told. Yet, I’ve noticed that when many people start writing, they leave out things, and therefore may not quite capture their audience, even if the audience is themselves.

I used to write two business newsletters. Many times I tend to tell a story that helps me highlight the point I’m trying to make. I find it helps people relate to those articles and also helps them remember what I’m talking about at the time.

Obviously, the art of telling a story can be applied to more than just books, but when it comes to writing a book, even a serious one, it’s a very important step to think about. I mentioned detective stories in the first part of this series because I love those types of books. Some writers give you every single beat you’re expecting, every spoken nuance of each character, in vivid detail. Some writers will tell you more about what someone is thinking than what’s being said. Some writers will capture the surroundings in finite detail, hoping that you’ll be able to visualize the surroundings exactly as they have laid them out.

It doesn’t matter how detailed you want to get. Tom Clancy writes some very long, detailed books because he loves to establish every single detail of something, even if he’s only going to allude to it one more time, for only a couple of pages, later on in the book. Someone else, like Clive Cussler, likes to get right to the point, and doesn’t bother with too many extraneous points; action is his realm.

When you’re ready to write, and while you’re writing, think about the story you’re trying to tell. Think about entertaining yourself first, because if you can hold your own attention, you’ll be able to hold the attention of someone else. That’s all for this step; next time, your book is written. It’s time for editing.