Use Your Words – How To Beat Blogging Fatigue

You’ve started a blog, built up a following, and it’s starting to drive traffic to your ‘buy’ pages.

Now, your fans have started to ask if they can guest post on your blog.

Wonderful! You can sit back and let other people do all the work while you get back to running your business and coining in the profits from your successful blog. Right?

Wrong!

Your Readers Want You!

There’s nothing more disappointing than a blog that loses its voice.

I’ve seen it happen so many times: a blog that I read religiously starts taking guest posts from up-and-coming bloggers. But I don’t know these bloggers.  I’ve come to trust the opinions and knowledge of the blog’s host, but who are these other people? Usually newbies with less deep knowledge or less experience. Reading their guest posts feels like a waste of my time. I miss the blog’s host.

Can you guess what happens?

I stop reading the blog.

Why Do Bloggers Risk Losing Readers?

Because accepting guest posts is easy. No more content to provide. No more blog deadlines.

But it also means no distinct voice. No more authority. No more rabid fans.

What’s The Solution?

It is tough to find ongoing blog topics, no doubt. But there are ways you can make it easier to write regular blog posts longterm, and keep it fresh.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Brainstorm batches of ideas ahead of time.
  • Keep your posts short
  • Break larger ideas into a series of blog posts
  • Schedule a day a month to binge-write blog posts
  • Use social media to discover what are the current hot-button topics in your niche
  • Use a ghost writer to interview you, capture your voice and produce the finished blog posts
  • Work with a writing coach who can keep you on track and focused

Need help keeping your blogging fresh and on schedule? Try JDWrite’s Writing Coach services.

 

 

 

0 comments

Blog Topics For A Month – in 30 Minutes

I just took 30 minutes and came up with 16 blog topics – some of which will become three or four posts as I begin to write – and they are all things that my target readership feels passionate about.

That’s 3-4 weeks’ worth of hot blog topics for half an hour of work – and it was fun, too.

Blog Topics For Your Niche – Free!

It’s a little sneaky, but I don’t mind admitting it: I eavesdropped.

I-Spy badge

Generating Ideas Through Social Media Snooping

I used my favorite social network  -Twitter – to find out what my potential readers are craving. And here’s how (it’s so simple that if you’re not already doing this, you’re going to kick yourself).

  • Go to Search.twitter.com and typed in a keyword (in this case “writing”).
  • Read 3-4 pages of complain-y and celebratory Tweets that contained your keyword.
  • Make lightning-fast notes about the teeny sub-topics each Tweet represented, and how you might address them.
  • Pop them into a mind-map document and add sub-topics to them as the ideas occurred to you (I use IThoughtsHD on my iPad. You could also use XMind or a simple spreadsheet or bullet list. I recommend Google Docs because you can access them from anywhere you have an internet connection, and you never know when you’ll have a spare half hour to compose a blog post.)
  • Whenever your typing slows, go back to the search results page and look for another topic. The point of this exercise is to capture only ideas that interest both your and your readers. If you’re bored so are they. Move on.

Why Snooping Is Better Than Surveying

Sure, I could have sent out a request asking my readers what they wanted to know.

The problem with asking people for their opinions is that they

  1. Think about it for too long
  2. Want to impress you because you were nice enough to ask for their opinion or
  3. Are too busy to answer and  you end up only getting responses from the people who aren’t your real customers.

By snooping on social media, you have access to the raw, knee-jerk, 140-character exclamations of your audience when they are delighted, outraged, pissed off, passionate. In other words, you are finding out what they really care about.

And doesn’t that sound like the perfect launch-point for your next blog post?

Beyond Twitter

If you are writing a business blog, you might be better off searching through Linked In status updates. If you are writing for an industry niche, check out the most active industry forum online (you know the one).

If you’re really stuck, really in a hurry, and don’t need topics targeted specifically to your customers, check out Chris Brogan’s Blog Topics Service: it’s not free but it’s not an outrageous amount to invest in your business, either.

If you exhaust this technique and are ready to be a little overwhelmed, take a look at Copyblogger’s 50 Can’t Fail Tecnhiques for Finding Great Blog Topics.

Keep Up The Good Work

Life moves quickly.

Don’t waste your time coming up with more than a month’s worth of post ideas at a time. For all we know, some kind of seismic shift might occur in two months that will change the way you and your readers look at the world. You’ll want to write about that instead of whatever matters to you today.

Commit to doing this idea-generating exercise once a month.

Store the information somewhere that is easy for you to access (Google Docs, or just email it to yourself)

Throw out old ideas that no longer excite you.

Oh, and write the damned articles and post them every day.

0 comments

The Continuing Importance of Email Marketing

Email Tips: Send messages others would like to receive

Email marketing isn’t what the cool Online Marketing kids are talking about these days.

With them, it’s all Vine-this and Instagram-that and Social-Media-the-next-thing.

And social media can be great for getting the word out about you, your product or your business. It can expand your reach, as people tell their friends and friends-of-friends about the cool stuff you’re doing.

But some things never change: to succeed, long-term, you must create a personal relationship with prospective and current customers. No amount of Re-Tweets is going to do that.

How Do You Form A Lasting Relationship?

As any marriage counsellor will tell you: it’s all about communication and trust.

Online, there is nothing like building your own email list for building communication and trust. And for marketing.

Posting on a social networking site is like turning up at someone else’s party. You can only talk to the people who choose to turn up that day. If someone drops off the network you’ve lost them forever.

Sending a message to an email list (your list. The one people have opted in to. The  one you control) is like being invited into someone’s house. You ring the doorbell. They invite you in. You know where they live and can leave a message if they are out.

Thinking of Building A List But Not Sure Where To Start?

Contact me for information about:

  • How to entice people to join your list
  • Which email list software to use
  • The best time to email your list
  • How to make money using email marketing

Why would you put all your best leads in Facebook’s ever-changing hands?!

Start your email list today!


Or why not subscribe to my mailing list for more tips on building an the most powerful marketing tool you’ll ever own?

Need someone to write and produce a consistently high-quality newsletter for your business?
Contact Julie today:

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Subject
[Business Newsletter]

Your Message

0 comments

Four Steps to Writing Success

Every year I run a creative writing challenge called StoryADay May, in which a bunch of writers sit down every day and write, well, a story a day.

It’s a challenge and each year it teaches me something new about writing, creativity and productivity.

Over the years, I’ve identified four building blocks for a stable and productive creative life.

Start Now

“Start before you’re ready.

Don’t prepare. Begin.”

-Steven Pressfield, Do The Work

It’s scary, right? Yes, yes it is. And there will come a time when you have to break off and research 12th century sanitation or how carbon nanofibers are created, but that day is not today. Today is all about the ideas and getting words on the page.

There were days when I had to literally put my pen on a piece of paper and start making shapes. Soon the shapes became words, and soon the words became a sentence, an idea, the germ of a story. By the end of the day, that doodle had become a story with  characters, movement and a world to live in. It was hard and messy at times, but I never regretted just starting.

“Babies are born in blood and chaos; stars and galaxies come into being amid the release of massive primordial cataclysms.”
-Steven Pressfield.

Finish

Finishing a piece of art requires a whole different level of courage. It is in finishing that we see the whole shape of the piece. It is in finishing that we put ourselves on the precipice, looking woozily down at the void that is  the wider world of readers/viewers/listeners.

But one of the best things about finishing is that once you’re out there on the precipice, you start to notice that there are a lot fewer people around than before.

Doesn’t it sometimes feel like everyone is writing, drawing, composing, creating? It’s wonderful and it is intimidating. But if you look closely, the number of people finishing and polishing and publishing (even trying to) is  a surprisingly small subset of all the creative artists you know. It is a far shorter distance from ‘finished’ to ‘successful’ than the distance between ‘working on it’ and ‘successful’.

“The day I start a book 200 other people start books. And they’re smarter, and funnier, and more talented than I am, and you would enjoy them much more than you’re enjoying me. But too bad for them and too bad for you, ’cause I’m the guy that finished the book. That’s the reality.”
-Stephen Hunter http://authorsontourlive.com/stephen-hunter-podcasts-i-sniper/

 

So these are two prongs of your creative life. But a two-legged stool is pretty unstable. We need a couple more legs to really brace this thing:

Quantity

Yup, not ‘quality’. To a certain extent you need quantity.

If you write or draw or play every single day, and if you have any talent at all, you can’t help but get better.  It’s a simple as that.

Create daily and you will get better. You will find it easier to get into that creative zone quickly, and you’ll find it much, much easier to survive a bad day because you know you’ll be coming back tomorrow.

“Start early and work hard. A writer’s apprenticeship usually involves writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he’s almost ready to begin. That takes a while.”
David Eddings

Embrace Failure

There is a book that is taking the sales world by storm, called Go For No.

The authors contend that the route to success is not a journey away from failure and towards success,

failure  <<<<  you  >>>>  success

where you move towards either one end of the scale or the other.  Rather, they say, the route looks like this:

you  >>>> failure  >>>> success

where you traveling through failure in order to become a success.

Look around at the world (business, personal, creative, whatever) and this starts to make a lot of sense.

If you stop creating every time you have to face rejection or criticism, how much closer will you be to finishing? Now imagine if you plough on through the ‘‘failure’ and keep creating anyway. Where are you now?

 

So start today, work on your project everyday, recognize when it is finished and, if it’s not perfect? So what? That’s one less crappy story/picture/song you have in you. Now move on to the next one.

 

0 comments

Kindle Blog Statistics

Amazon offers subscriptions to blogs within their Kindle platform. Every day when your readers wake up, your new content is waiting on their Kindle. Since the Kindle home screen’s default setting is to show newest content first, you could be the first thing they see every time they look at that home screen. How’s that for visibility?

And there isn’t much competition in your niche yet.

Unlike on the web, blogs must be registered to show up in the Kindle blog listings. Whereas a Google search for “arts & entertainment blog” returns 438,000,000 results, on Kindle, there are just 3, 481 titles.

Top-Level Category Blog Statistics

This is your competition today (Feb 11, 2011)

All Blogs: 11,734 titles

Arts & Entertainment: 3,481 titles

Business & Investing: 2,151 titles

Humor & Satire: 1, 535 titles

Industry Focus: 1,753 titles

Internet & Technology: 2, 963 titles

Lifestyle & Culture: 5,592 titles

News, Politics & Opinion: 2,754 titles

Regional & Travel: 1, 107 titles

Science: 760 titles

Sports: 934 titles

Since Amazon lists these titles by largest subscriber numbers, it would be a very smart idea to register your blog and start promoting it now. This will ensure your place on the first page of results.

Do it now, while the competition is still scarce!

0 comments

Publish Your Blog for Kindle

Kindles aren’t just for books. People also subscribe to blogs on their Kindles. It usually costs around $1.99 a month (the price is set by Amazon) and is a great way to

  • offer your content to all those new Kindle owners
  • monetize your blog
  • increase the prestige of your blog (‘available through Amazon’ automatically makes you sound professional)

When readers subscribe, every new post you make is delivered to their Kindle (no need for them to remember to check your blog!). You are paid 30% of the fee Amazon charges.

How To Get A Kindle Blog

If this sounds like technobabble, let me help

Register With Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Program

It is cost-free and simple to register with Amazon’s Kindle Publishing program. If you do not already have one, you will need to create a vendor account, which is different from your regular Amazon account.  Read through the terms, because you are agreeing to obligations on pricing, content, timing and termination details. You will agree to terms for both the US and European markets.

At the end of the registration process you will be given a Vendor ID and Amazon will have all your payment details. You’re in business!

Add A Blog

Amazon Kindle Publishing Dashboard Screenshot

When you have finished registering you will be taken to you dashboard. Click the “Add A Blog” link on the top right hand corner. This is where you fill in all the information that will let both Amazon find the posts from your blog and send them to your readers’ Kindles.

Filling In The “Add Blog” Page

Find Your Feed

If you aren’t familiar with RSS and feeds, don’t worry. Most blogging platforms (not to mention Twitter and Facebook) use feeds to distribute your content. It’s usually easy to findGo to your blog and look for the RSS symbol (possibly in the address bar of your browser) and click on it. It will take you to a page that has an address something like “http://yourdoman.com/feed”. Copy that, and paste it into the first box on the Add A Blog page. Click ‘validate feed’ to make sure Amazon is looking in the right place for your blog.

Enter Blog Information

If your blog didn’t have a snappy title before, now’s the time to give it one. Your blog is going to be competing with thousands of others for Kindle readers’ attention. Just calling it “Julie’s musings on writing” isn’t going to cut it. In fact, you might want to add a tag line too. (for example, the blog I listed is my Story A Day blog, aimed at creative writers. I use a tagline there that addresses a  ‘pain point’ for my potential readers — aspiring writers who wish the could write more: “Write Every Day, Not “Some Day”.

Blog Description

Make your description snappy and to the point. Tell the readers what they are going to get out of paying for your blog every month. What concerns are you addressing?

Screenshots & Logo

Upload a couple of pictures, one a screenshot of your blog and the other your ‘masthead’ or logo. People are extremely visual, but remember that most people reading on an actual Kindle device are only going to see these things in black and white. Try to keep the contrast high and the images clean.

If your eyes are glazing over, let me help

Website Info

Very important: enter your website address! You want  your new fans to be able to find your website, don’t you? You’re not going to get rich selling Kindle blog subscriptions (unless you get insanely popular) so the whole point of publishing here is to expand your reach. Let people know where to find you!

Category & Keyword Information

Category and keywords are going to be very important in helping people find your blog.

If you don’t know what keywords to use: steal.

Go to a successful blog online that covers the same topics as you. From your browser’s toolbar select View / Page Source of View Source. A whole bunch of HTML will open up in a text window. Don’t worry too much about it. Just look for the line that says “meta name=”keywords” and then you’ll be able to see what that site is using. Take your inspiration from that (don’t actually steal. That was a joke.)

Language & Frequency

Select your language and tell Amazon how often you’re going to post. Be conservative (you can update it later). If you are new to blogging and/or the sole author on your site, don’t promise daily posts. Unless, of course, you have an airtight plan for how you are going to churn out seven awesome posts a week.

Almost Done

If you’re too busy to do this, let me help

At this point you can save your work and generate a preview of how your blog will look in the Kindle store. (This takes a few minutes, and is optional)

If you’re happy with how everything looks, press “Publish” and wait the 48-72 hrs they say it’ll take to get you set up in the store (in reality it took less than 24 for mine to appear).

Tell People About Your Blog

Kindle blogs are listed by category. Within each category the default view is “most popular” blogs at the top.

Your blog, on its first day, is not going to be there. You’re going to have to tell people it’s there, so they can subscribe and help you move up the charts.

To find your blog: Go to the Amazon store and search for “Your Blog Name” and the word “Blog”. This should bring you to your blog’s sales page.

StoryADay Blog in Amazon's Kindle Store screenshot

Copy the address (use an affiliate link if you like) and then go forth and promote.

Good luck!

And don’t forget, you don’t need to do this yourself. Let me help

0 comments

The Best Investment You’ll Make This Year


Watch me rave about Mike Stelzner and his awesome roster of guests at this year’s Social Media Success Summit

 

You have to invest in yourself. Never mind the new phone, the new computer. None of these things will pay you back like developing your own business skills by taking some awesome training from genuine experts.

I can’t speak highly enough about Michael Stelzner’s online conferences. This year’s is called the Social Media Success Summit 2011. No travel required, all online.

Sign up by Thursday, April 14, 2011 (that’s today!) to save 50% on the registration fee.

Even if you miss the discount though, the training will still be great value for money.

And to prove that I believe in it, while that link up there is an affiliate link (meaning I get a kick-back if you sign up), here’s one that isn’t.

Because I really am a fan and think you’ll get a lot out of the Social Media Success Summit.

0 comments

No End Of Year Round-Up, Please!

Everyone and his dog is writing an End Of Year Round Up.

If you feel like it’s time to start on yours: please, don’t!

Apart from the fact that everyone is doing it (so it’s boring), it is a waste of your blogging time. [1. Unless you are writing a family blog in which case you will have to ignore my advice or deal with irate grandparents. Go! Round up all the cute pictures from the past year, quickly!]

Why End Of Year Round-Ups Exist.

Fish and Chips Dish

End of year round-ups exist to sell newspapers and magazines. Newspapers are (were) ephemeral. Today’s morning edition was tonight’s fish & chip wrapper.

But blogs are not ephemeral. Your blog posts might outlast us all.

Ask yourself: Is anyone searching for an end-of year round-up of my topic? More importantly, will they be searching for it in two weeks’ time?

Do you really want to spend your time writing a me-too seasonal survey no-one will ever search for?

Or would it be a better use of your time to write what Copyblogger calls Cornerstone Content — that is, content that will keep drawing people to your blog weeks, months, even years from now?

Write for the long-term

I have Cornerstone posts that I wrote years ago. They still pull in new readers because they are full of keywords people are searching for. The readers stay because the posts contain information that helps them solve their problems.

Sometimes, after reading one of my old articles, a reader browses the blog, subscribes, trusts me with their email address. We start to create a relationship.

Why Are You Blogging?

Do you want to be able to check a box that says “Wrote a blog post today” or do you want to write something that will help you build a relationship with potential customers?

If it’s the latter, trash the End of Year Round-Up and write some Cornerstone Content instead.


0 comments

Who Needs Publishers? Amazon’s 70 Percent Royalties For Kindle Books

Amazon’s Digital Text Platform (DTP) program allows you to compete on a level playing field in the ebook space, even if you have never spoken to a traditional publisher about your title. If you have a business book, a recipe collection, a memoir, a romance about vampires and wolverines, Amazon says, simply upload your title and get it out there.

(Don’t know how? Read my guide to creating Kindle-ready files. Not sure what all the fuss is about? Read my guide to the Kindle. Not sure if you want a Nook or a Kindle? Read a comparison here.)

New Pricing

Recently Amazon announced that content providers (publishers, authors, who ever holds the rights to a title) can opt in to their new pricing scheme that returns 70% of the purchase price to the content provider.

This is way better than the 50% which has been standard fare for ebooks until now.

Of course, this being the book business, all is not as simple as that. There are a few wrinkles:

  1. Your book must not be priced over $9.99.
  2. That 70% is off the price the book actually sells for. Amazon could discount it and your 70% would be of that discounted price.
  3. You, the content provider, pay $0.15 per megabyte as a delivery charge (which saves Amazon or the reader from footing the bill).

Now, before you allow publishing industry professionals to get your peeny in a panic [1. That’s Scottish for “get upset” – your ‘peeny’ being your pinafore. I opted for this rather than the more risque ‘knickers in a twist’. What do you think?] let’s stop and think about what this means from the perspective of the reader and the independent content provider (AKA self, or small-publisher).

The $9.99 Price Point

I have a Kindle, and let me tell you, it rankles when publishers price ebooks at or above the price they charge for a large-format, beautifully typeset trade paperback book.

The Kindle early-adopters let Amazon know, loud and clear, that they were not  happy when publishers started insisting Amazon price the books above $10. In fact, there was an impromptu boycott a few months back.

Amazon listened.

[2. I have a problem paying $16 for a paperback book, too, but at least I can see that there are hard costs, distribution costs and bookstore employees to pay, not to mention the author, editor, marketing department and cover designer. With an ebook I know that the editor and author and even the marketing department are still in there, but I also know that you can train a chimp (or at least a bunch of recent graduates) to clean up a text and export it into a file suitable for ereaders such as the Kindle. I know. I myself was that chimp eleven years ago when software was even more primitive, but systems were still systems and the only pre-requisite for the task was an ability to use a mouse, and your brain. Having full vision helped, but honestly I think even my sight-challenged friends could handle the task. It’s that straightforward.]

Traditional publishers were appalled. Some of them took their balls and ran away home, or over the fence to where Apple, playing with its shiny new iBooks store and promised to yes, price books at $14.99 if that was what the publishers wanted. Who cares what iPad readers wanted? If they want the books badly enough, they’ll pay, said Mr Jobs and the publishers from their plinth on high.

Amazon, however, responded to YOUR READERS’ CONCERNS by keeping the price of the books low. knowing full-well that few people want any particular title badly enough that they are willing to pay more than they consider ‘normal’ for it.

If you think you need to charge more than $10 for your book, then consider Amazon a place where you offer a deeply-discounted preview and go sell the higher priced version somewhere else. It’s not an exclusive program. (You can check out the terms and conditions here).

70% Of What?

Book people are rarely numbers-people, I think we can all agree on that [3. unless we’re talking about those freaky business-book people or the math-text book people in Texas. I’m talking regular book people]. Nobody goes into the book publishing, editing, agenting or selling business because they love accounts and the concept of percentages.

But even at that it is amazing how convoluted they manage to make the numbers in the publishing and bookselling industry.

Traditionally, publishers offer authors something like “10%”. That sounds pretty poor compensation for someone who put all the actual creative work into a book, but then you realise that what the author is actually offered is 10% of the net proceeds (that’s the money that publishers get after everything is paid — all the promotion and costs to produce the book — and all the discounts applied. With big-box retailers demanding 55% discounts, that 10% royalty comes out to pennies a copy. [4. In reality, most authors these days never get any royalties. They get an advance on projected earnings and then, if they’re lucky, they’re allowed to churn out another book.]

Amazon is offering  70% of the net proceeds

Yes, they may offer your title at a discount and yes you may make less on each copy. Are these numbers you can live with?

100% of list price: 70% of $9.99 = $6.99

25% discount: 70% of  $7.49 =  $5.24

50% discount: 70% of $5 = $3.50

That $0.15/MB Delivery Charge

This is new.

One of the things that confounds non-Kindle readers, when I whip out my Kindle and attempt to convert them, is the idea of how the books get to me. Do I have to attach it to my computer? (No, it’s wireless). Do I have to sign up for a wireless plan (No, Amazon covers the cost of their Whispernet wireless transfers for me)

Well, now the content providers are going to shoulder some of that cost.

If you chose the 70% plan, you will also pay $0.15/MB out of your profit every time someone downloads your book.

For the numerically challenged, Amazon uses this example:

If your book has a file size of 0.400 megabytes and a List Price of $8.99, the Delivery Cost will be $0.06 (0.400 MB x $0.15 = $0.06), and your Royalty will be $6.25 (($8.99 – $0.06) x 70% = $6.25).

Richard Curtis at eReads says they had a look at their books and had:

determined that a typical book is about 2 megabytes: a large one might be 3 MB.

Something to consider.

The Original Amazon Plan, Still An Option

You can still opt for Amazon’s 35% of list price program too, if you can stomach that 35% number.

In this program you get 35% of the list price, no matter whether or not Amazon offers your book at a discount. It’s a lower percentage, but it never varies.

Depending on your circumstances, that might work for you. [5. if you are publishing public domain works you MUST use this program, according to Amazon’s terms.]

Not The End of The World. The Start Of Something New.

Most people who get worked up about this stuff in media old and new, are people in the publishing business – either publishers, authors or booksellers.

You rarely hear regular readers getting their proverbial peenies all knotted up over distribution deals and rights issues.

Readers simply want to spend a few hours reading a good book, and still be able to afford another book when they’re finished.

To me, as a reader, and a content provider and someone who has been invited into publishing’s gated community for a few cocktail parties but no more, I think Amazon has done a good thing here and I’ll certainly be opting for the their 70% model.

How about you?


0 comments

How MailChimp Gets It Right By Doing Everything Wrong

By rights, I really ought to hate mailing list service MailChimp.

Their corporate tone is jokey (their mascot is a talking chimp who has something silly to say every time you log in), they admit it when they make mistakes, they put a ‘loading’ page in front of the site after the latest upgrade which slows things down for a minute and stops me getting to my mailing list.

Today, when I logged in, Mailchimp paused the “loading” page and played a really, really silly animation WITH AUDIO.

Normally any one of these things would drive me, their customer, away from any site.

But Mailchimp makes me laugh.

I’ve signed up for their service not only because I like their service (free! Until you get big and start putting a drain on their server. Then they, quite reasonably, ask you to pick a payment plan). I also picked their service because I like their tone. So now I kind of expect a big silly something to leap out of their site at me from time to time. They are consistently silly.

Have Your Customers Bought In?

This is a crucial point.

I agreed to let Mailchimp be my mailing list provider AND continue to be silly. I agreed to put up with (even enjoy) their hijinks, because I liked their service and I liked them.

The first time a customer looks at your site, are you bombarding them with annoyances they didn’t sign up for?

Is your tone consistent?

Does your tone reflect you, even if it does break traditional business rules?

Will you attract the kind of people you want to work with, based on your marketing message?

0 comments