Posts tagged ‘writing’

Book Review: Marketing Your Small Business For Big Profits By David Mason

I have no idea how many books are crammed onto bookshelves all about the subject of marketing, there must be many millions. It is a subject well understood, how do you make someone buy your Widget as opposed to the other guys Widget? Marketing is the answer, but, marketing comes at a price. How much can you afford?

I have a friend who is a retired BBDO exec, and in his mind, marketing that widget should cost the same as the national debt of a small country. Most small businesses can hardly manage to pay the rent and other expenses, never mind a TV spot on The Superbowl.

David Mason has done a very fine job of encapsulating the important aspects of marketing into a very short read. While I am not sure that he has introduced anything new, he has put it on paper that even the most book ‘resistant’ company owner could manage, at a scant 121 pages this should not scare even the skittish book reader.

Of course there is a downside with using such a short format, in a word ‘lists.’ My wife knows me very well, and she always has stuff for me to do. But she also knows that giving me a long ‘To Do’ list makes my eyes glaze over. If the list has less than than 5 items, the chances are good that I will at least attempt a few of them. David Mason prefers longer lists, I believe one was 16 items long! That I found a little of a turn-off, my wife knows better than to try a list that long on me!

On the plus side, he makes very convincing arguments. Arguments that make sense. It is important that every business has a ‘slogan,’ David Mason calls it the USP (Unique Selling Proposition), but slogan or banner is what we are talking about.

How do you attract customers? You have your slogan, but if it only exists on your computer or in your head, who is going to hear the message? Many people have small companies, some sell niche products, some sell niche services, how do you sell your idea? Newspaper Ads might work, but only for the day, a Magazine might work for a month, radio and TV spots last for seconds! How about the internet?

David Mason explores all of the potentials, all of the advertising mediums have their up’s and down’s, cost, effectiveness, even the number of eyeballs that you get your message in front of are important considerations.

The last part of the book I found really helpful, he has included some samples of headlines and opening lines that the small business owner could use in his advertising campaign, and some simple worksheets to assist in customizing the slogans to your own specific needs.

Marketing You Small Business For Big Profits is small enough to be a quick and easy read, but large enough to contain the vital elements important to run an effective advertising program. The author also takes a very down to earth approach in offering advice on implementing the strategies. ‘You don’t have to do them all, just start with one and see what happens.’ In other words you don’t have to do everything, just do something.

Book Review: Alex Webster And The Gods By David Dent

What’s a major deity to do when he finds himself washed up on Mt Olympus? Jupiter, once mighty Roman God has spent two millennia sulking about his defeat at the hands of Yahweh and the loss of the great Roman Empire. Jupiter and his motley assortment of gods have become complacent, even the eternal fountains have mildew on them and are in need of a good clean.

Shedding his robes in favor of an expensive Brooks Bros pin stripe three piece suit and Harvard Business School MBA in hand, the reinvented J. J. Jones is ready to reclaim his throne, the world is ripe for the picking, he rationalizes “…All the old religions are fighting each other, especially the Christians and Muslims. We can come up the middle and be everybody’s second choice.”

He does however realize that the path to glory is not an easy one, the world is a considerably different place in the 21st century than ancient Rome. Also his fellow Gods are going to need a makeover, not only in their appearances but in their attitudes as well, if they are going to fit in.

J. J. realizes that what he needs is a management consultant! Enter Alex Webster. Alex and his sometime girlfriend Victoria take on the daunting task of removing 2000 years of stagnation, of course there are some bumps along the road. Old habits die hard, and it is not long before Carmen Cupido (Cupid) gets the nickname of Dr. Love in a local night club where he has been practicing the art of matchmaking, and coming to the attention of the local police as the likely purveyor of date rape drugs.

J. J’s scheme for ‘world domination’ is to ease into it slowly by becoming the CEO of a global company. To facilitate this he engineers a scheme to merge two companies and become the head. What he doesn’t realize is how much resistance he is going to encounter from a mere mortal. Gerry Shilling CEO of Pharmaglobe has no intentions of stepping aside gently, and sees this merger as a stepping stone for himself!

I found Alex Webster And The Gods to be a thoroughly enjoyable romp. David Dent’s style of writing reminded me a lot of the late Douglas Adams, another master of putting characters in the most unlikely and bizarre situations. The humor is mostly dark and very well executed. Juno for example likens her marriage to Jupiter, to that of Bill and Hillary, and because Jupiter is off chasing every bit of skirt in the universe, “we only have sex every hundred years”.

Every chapter starts with a little quote, some words of wisdom, from Carl Sagen, to Yoda, everyone gets their say, but my personal favorite is from William S. Burroughs “Sometimes paranoia’s just having all the facts”.

If I have a criticism of the book, it is that it is too short. The ending is very cute, and certainly paves the way for a second book, and I’ll bet J.J.’s Brooks Bros suit that David Dent is typing away as you read this. All in all, I give this book very high marks, it is a fabulously crafted concept and one that would transition well into the big screen, or a TV series. The characters are larger than life, the plotlines outrageous, this is what I class as great entertainment.

Although it is officially classified as Science Fiction, it should appeal to everyone that enjoys a light and funny read.

Review by Simon Barrett
http://zzsimonb.blogspot.com

Book Review: Alex Webster And The Gods By David Dent

What’s a major deity to do when he finds himself washed up on Mt Olympus? Jupiter, once mighty Roman God has spent two millennia sulking about his defeat at the hands of Yahweh and the loss of the great Roman Empire. Jupiter and his motley assortment of gods have become complacent, even the eternal fountains have mildew on them and are in need of a good clean.

Shedding his robes in favor of an expensive Brooks Bros pin stripe three piece suit and Harvard Business School MBA in hand, the reinvented J. J. Jones is ready to reclaim his throne, the world is ripe for the picking, he rationalizes “…All the old religions are fighting each other, especially the Christians and Muslims. We can come up the middle and be everybody’s second choice.”

He does however realize that the path to glory is not an easy one, the world is a considerably different place in the 21st century than ancient Rome. Also his fellow Gods are going to need a makeover, not only in their appearances but in their attitudes as well, if they are going to fit in.

J. J. realizes that what he needs is a management consultant! Enter Alex Webster. Alex and his sometime girlfriend Victoria take on the daunting task of removing 2000 years of stagnation, of course there are some bumps along the road. Old habits die hard, and it is not long before Carmen Cupido (Cupid) gets the nickname of Dr. Love in a local night club where he has been practicing the art of matchmaking, and coming to the attention of the local police as the likely purveyor of date rape drugs.

J. J’s scheme for ‘world domination’ is to ease into it slowly by becoming the CEO of a global company. To facilitate this he engineers a scheme to merge two companies and become the head. What he doesn’t realize is how much resistance he is going to encounter from a mere mortal. Gerry Shilling CEO of Pharmaglobe has no intentions of stepping aside gently, and sees this merger as a stepping stone for himself!

I found Alex Webster And The Gods to be a thoroughly enjoyable romp. David Dent’s style of writing reminded me a lot of the late Douglas Adams, another master of putting characters in the most unlikely and bizarre situations. The humor is mostly dark and very well executed. Juno for example likens her marriage to Jupiter, to that of Bill and Hillary, and because Jupiter is off chasing every bit of skirt in the universe, “we only have sex every hundred years”.

Every chapter starts with a little quote, some words of wisdom, from Carl Sagen, to Yoda, everyone gets their say, but my personal favorite is from William S. Burroughs “Sometimes paranoia’s just having all the facts”.

If I have a criticism of the book, it is that it is too short. The ending is very cute, and certainly paves the way for a second book, and I’ll bet J.J.’s Brooks Bros suit that David Dent is typing away as you read this. All in all, I give this book very high marks, it is a fabulously crafted concept and one that would transition well into the big screen, or a TV series. The characters are larger than life, the plotlines outrageous, this is what I class as great entertainment.

Although it is officially classified as Science Fiction, it should appeal to everyone that enjoys a light and funny read.

Review by Simon Barrett
http://zzsimonb.blogspot.com

All You Need To Know About Agents–For Now

The agent issue is such an emotional one for writers. Having one is a huge validation. I was fortunate to sign with an agent while still writing my first novel and it was wonderful being able to work and know that someone was waiting for what I was writing.

But the eagerness to have that feeling often pushes writers to make poor decisions when it comes to the hunt for an agent. With some thinking, solid preparation and research it is possible to hook up with an agent and have a satisfying relationship with him or her. Here are five crucial points to help you with the process.

1. Do You Need An Agent?
You’ve probably heard the oft-cited fact that most publishers these days don’t read unsolicited manuscripts. But that only means that the editor hasn’t been contacted beforehand. If you send a query letter and the editor asks to see your book or book proposal, you can send it without going through an agent.

However, if the editor does want to make an offer, they will suggest that you get an agent. An agent will help you get the best deal possible and, in the best of worlds, an agent will also be interested in helping you develop your career as a writer. If you can get an agent before the submission process, I think that’s even better because the agent can help you put your manuscript in the best shape possible before it gets submitted. As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression. With that in mind…

2. Be Ready.
You have to be writing at a top level to grab an agent’s attention. Unfortunately, a number of writers tend to skip that part. You may be eager to get an agent, but if you’re continually sending out subpar material, you’ll be seen as a writer with poor skills and poor judgment and someone not to be taken seriously.

Granted, I know you want to know that you’re not writing for nothing and an agent would provide that validation, but at some point you have to make the decision that you’re writing for the long haul and working on your craft. If you can do that, getting an agent will not be a problem.

3. Find the Right Agent.
When you’re ready to make the search, DO NOT get a bunch of names and do a mass mailing to anyone with the title “agent”. You’ll only get a bunch of rejections from agents who don’t handle your material or aren’t looking for new clients. If you do a little work, you can find out what kind of writers an agent represents and the type of material they favor. Writer’s Digest publishes the Guide to Literary Agents (see below) where you’ll find complete listings.

Here’s another great tip: if you join Publishers Marketplace, you can get a daily e-mail listing of what deals have taken place in the book industry. You’ll see what kind of book sold, what editor bought it and the agent who represented the author. This is good information because you’ll see immediately who is representing your type of writing and–more importantly–who is buying it!

4. No, You Don’t Have to Pay an Agent!
I get asked about this a lot, usually by writers who have already been taken advantage of by agents who charge expensive “reading fees”. A good agent makes money when you make money (usually a 15 percent commission). You’ll want to ask some questions. If an agent makes most of his money from writer fees and not from actual sales, you’ll want to move on. A good way to weed out this group is by checking out members of the Association of Author’s Representatives (AAR). Members of AAR are forbidden from charging fees.

5. Network!
An agent is much more likely to pay attention to a manuscript from someone they have met personally. I know networking and meeting agents can be hard if you live in the mountains of Arizona or on an island in Puget Sound. But consider it part of your work as a writer to get out to a conference at lease once or twice a year to meet agents, editors and, of course, other writers! I’ll let you know when good ones are coming up.

One last note
An agent is NOT a magic pill. Even the best agent can’t work miracles with mediocre material. It will ALWAYS be your job to do your best writing.

© 2005 Sophfronia Scott

5 Writing Myths Busted

One common element whenever human beings gather is the need to talk and share experiences. Often that need turns into something a little more fun, a little more dangerous — gossip. Gossip is often fun but it can also be dangerous because it spreads quickly (because it is fun) and often distorts or even completely avoids the truth. Gossip creates myths in many fields and professions, and the field of writing is especially prone.

The top five myths about writing are:

Myth 1: Writing is easy for some people. Let me tell you that is just about the biggest myth going. I have been a professional writer for going on three decades now. I also know many other professional writers of various ages, experience, and income. I don’t know a writer that will tell you that writing is easy. Writing is brutal, hard work and there are times when I think it would be easier to simply open a vein as Red Smith said. However experience and practice can make many writing tasks easier. There are some writing tasks that I can almost accomplish on autopilot because I have written that specific format and/or topic a lot.

Myth 2: Writing requires talent. I won’t lie. Talent can certainly help and talent is what separates the great writers from the good writers. But the truth is that talent is not enough to make a writer great or even good and talent is not a necessary requirement to be a good writer. Writing is a skill that can be learned, developed and honed. If you practice your craft, if you read the writing of others to learn more about your craft, and if you seek and accept guidance and suggestions about your writing then you will improve and grow as a writer. Dedication harnessed with talent can create amazing results but if I had to pick just one then I would go with dedication. You can always increase your skill level through dedication.

Myth 3: Writing isn’t an useful skill. I have made my living as a writer for my entire professional life but even if you don’t intend to make your living with words you will need this crucial skill. There simply isn’t a profession that does not involve writing. Perhaps the form will vary, but written communication is the cornerstone in every professional field. Your writing ability will often impact landing a job as well as advancing in your career. Today written communication is even more crucial in professional and personal relationships.

Myth 4: You can’t make a living as a writer. I can remember when I told my father that I wanted to be an English major in college. He was very worried that I wouldn’t be able to support myself. The truth is that I have never had trouble finding a job and today I own my own business because of this flexible and important skill. Not only can you make a living as a writer but writing is an essential tool for many other careers and professions.

Myth 5: Writers block is alive and torturing writers as you read this. I’m not dismissing the difficulties inherent in dealing with writers block but whenever I talk with writers purportedly suffering from it they fall within two general groups. The first group actually creates their own block by insisting on the perfect place, mood, or alignment of planets in order to write. This is beyond ridiculous. One of the many benefits I gained from years of newsroom experience is the ability to write in almost any condition or mood. Deadlines will teach anyone how to give writers block short shrift. The second group I have more sympathy for as their problem really is internal in nature. Usually the problem is that the particular story (whether fiction or nonfiction) they want to tell is not yet finished cooking in their brain. In this case, while the writing may be stalled I don’t agree that it is blocked. The writer must listen to that inner voice and respond appropriately. Sometimes the idea needs more time to percolate and sometimes more research and/or planning is necessary. Once the proper adjustments are made the writing will begin to flow again.

Don’t let your writing fall victim to these five myths about writing.

5 Ways A Reader Can Respond To Your Article.

When reading your article a reader can get warmed up and react on your article in several ways. A responsive reader will want to:

1) Visit your website link in the resource box

This is probably the most common response people seem to go to, even if it is the wrong one. People are so fixated with wanting their readers to go to their websites and buy straight away.

Tell me something, how many strangers on the Internet have you brought something from because they just told you a great story? None right?

You have to preheat (or presell your readers) the oven before you can ask for their credit card details.

Sending your readers to your website will usually result in a lower sales percentage straight off the bat. That is of course if you are selling them anything at all.

If you were selling them something, the best bet would be to send them straight to your newsletter signup link in your resource box.

But if you are sure you want to send them to your website, the best way to do that is to tell your readers (in your article) that if you go to your website (in your resource box), there is a free gift (of value) they can get, just by visiting your site.

Make sure if you do this, it’s not a blatant plug for a product and the gift is of real value, or very few publishers will publish your article, and fewer readers will respond to you in the future. No one likes being sold straight off the bat, and by giving them a free gift, or getting them to give you their email address some way is the best way to go.

2) Visit your affiliate link

This one is quite tricky.

For starters, some publishers don’t allow you to put affiliate program links in your article at all, and if you do, they have to be completely in context and it must be one brilliant article, but that’s not a problem.

You can of course put an affiliate link in your resource box, which would be allowed straight away.

3) Subscribe to your mailing list.

This is one of the better options. Why, because when they sign up for your mailing list, they are giving you permission to contact them via email on a regular basis.

It would be very hard in your article to announce your mailing list in context of the article, as it would come off as a blatant plug, so the best bet would be to include your subscribe email address in your resource box.

Send them to a splash page where you can capture their email address. Or let your readers to send a blank email to your autoresponder/mailing list email address and subscribe from there. Give them a free gift, something of value.

4) Refer your article to others

If you want your readers to refer your articles to other people, here is what you do.

(This is a good idea if you have affiliate links in your article)

You send them to a website, with a refer a friend script. This website also has your previous articles on there as well in an easy to use site.

You see how many possibilities there are.

By giving them something in return with value, like a free 5-day course, you get them to refer your article/website to their friends.

5) Contact you personally

If you want people to contact you personally, don’t make them dig through a website to find your contact details. At the very least, put your email address in your resource box, if not your business phone number.

5 Tips To Start Selling Your Self-Published Book

You’ve spent hours researching, writing and self-publishing your book. Now, you want to reap the benefits of selling it yourself, but where do you begin?

Here are five simple tips to help you get started.

1. Figure out your market.

“Bookstores are lousy places to sell books,” says self-publishing guru Dan Poynter in USA Weekend . “Find the places where your audience gathers and sell directly to them. If your book is about cats, go to pet stores.”

To start selling your book, take the time to research your target audience. Who will be interested in purchasing your book and sharing it with their friends?

Once you know your target market, look at the places they shop and spend their leisure time. What media venues do they watch, read and listen to on a regular basis?

Create a list of all potential organizations, business and groups. This will give you a good understanding of the online sites and brick-and-mortar locations where you need to focus your marketing efforts.

2. Spread the word.

When you are ready to start selling, don’t be shy. Talk about your book, carry a copy around with you and look for every opportunity to mention it. Also be ready to give copies away to influential people who will build buzz about your business.

If you are a good speaker, try to give presentations to groups catering to your target audience. You can partner with various organizations to promote your appearance and build word-of-mouth. This may include issuing a press release, giving books away during radio or television interviews or getting involved with charitable activities.

“Speaking to local, target audiences is a great way to start building buzz about your products and services,” says Melanie Rembrandt, small business PR expert and owner of Rembrandt Communications, http://www.rembrandtwrites.com. “But in order to build credibility, you need to offer valuable information pertinent to your book’s subject without being sales-oriented. You can always have a book-signing after your presentation to sell your books and meet potential customers.”

Another trick is to leave a copy of your book at your local bookstore or library. If visitors pick up the book and read it, they will ask for a copy of it. Then, the person at the counter may contact you to purchase additional copies.

3. Venture outside your target market.

After you’ve pursued all venues focusing on your specific audience, start marketing your book to other groups outside your target market.

Look for secondary sources that may be interested in purchasing your book as a gift for a friend, co-worker or family member. Perhaps you can partner with a business, charitable organization or hobby-group related to your book-topic?

Think “outside of the box” and try to let as many people know about your book as possible. You can issue a press release, offer special discounts and create newsworthy events to draw attention to your book. And these activities don’t need to cost a lot of money. You just need to think of some ways to stress the unique benefits of your book and take the extra time and effort to plan, coordinate and follow-through with your ideas.

4. Take advantage of business relationships.

If you used an online publisher in developing your book, advertise on their site. If you used a local printer, ask if you can leave a couple copies at their front desk.

Visit all of your local establishments and leave some kind of information about your book. If you are a regular customer, most of these businesses will be happy to help you and the local economy.

And when preparing these “leave-behinds,” think about the benefits for the business and customers. Perhaps you can print up small calendars, checklists, quick tips, bookmarks and other items that advertise your book while offering something of value to potential readers.

You may even be able to partner with various businesses to offer special joint coupons and discounts. Use your imagination, but always keep the benefits for the customer in mind.

5. List your book online.

This may be obvious, but you really need to list your book online to reach the broadest possible market and increase “buzz.” Review your target audience and try to get information about your book posted on all of the pertinent sites they visit.

Also create a simple website. And don’t worry. Today, there are many services that offer cost-effective or free websites to self-published authors. You don’t need to be a technical genius or have a lot of money to take advantage of these services and create an online presence.

However, in your online copy, be sure to stress the unique benefits of your book and provide customer testimonials (for credibility). Also include some information about your background to help you stand apart from others in your genre.

Once your site is up and running, research free, press-release posting sites. Also look for online organizations that may be willing to post reciprocal links to your site to help build search-engine optimization.

These are just a few, simple tips. There are many ways to sell your self-published books. But you can start by focusing on your target audience, work the business relationships you already have and be creative. And soon, you’ll be well on your way to being a top-selling author!