Monthly Archives: April 2014
Publishing a book and claiming the title “Published Author” instantly boosts your credibility as an expert in your field. It helps you get new clients and attract attention of people who’ve never looked at you before.
And when you publish that book, you should be sure to explain why you were already an expert BEFORE you wrote the book. This is where your “About the Author” page really needs to highlight your knowledge, training, and degrees.
But what do you do if you’re just getting started and don’t have a lot of history, credibility, expertise to put on your “About the Author” page?
Then call in a third-party expert!
I’m working on a pet project eBook; it’s something completely outside my field and is pretty much just something I wanted to write about.
And here’s the problem: I have ZERO credibility about this subject. Nothing. Nada. Zip. It’s a new subject matter and I have no history of writing or publishing in this genre.
Before I go any further, it’s not a genre that really NEEDS a boatload of credibility. Plenty of people write successful, helpful titles with no more knowledge than I have. (I’m not writing about finance or romance or legal stuff.) But it is in the health industry and other than being healthy, I really don’t have any creds to offer.
(FYI: This book is NOT about weight loss, exercise, vitamin, or diet plan.)
What I do have is a friend.
Who’s a PhD.
In the health industry.
Now HE has credibility, right? Even without telling you exactly what his degree is in (pharmacy) just by telling you he’s got his doctorate you already view him in higher respect for this health-related-topic than me.
And you should!
I asked him to write the foreword to my book.
This means that of all the other books in this niche, mine will stand out because I have a forward written by a person who can start his name with “Dr.” and end it with “PharmD” (his actual degree).
How did I get him to write this foreword for me?
It was super hard and took a lot of work and effort and was scary and…
I sent him a message and asked him.
- He asked for a bit more details about the book. (I was prepared with a rough draft to send him.)
- He said he wasn’t much of a writer. (I explained I needed 3-5 paragraphs showing why doing X is good for your health.)
- He asked for clarification about what I wanted. (Deadline was the end of two weeks. Please include your official title and how you want me to list your name.)
And then he said okay.
Now, here’s something to remember: I happened to have a friend who is a practicing pharmacist with a PhD in pharmacy and had the time to help me out. For free.
But what if I didn’t have a friend who would be the PERFECT credible person to write my foreword?
Six Degrees, Kim!
My mom is always shouting (I mean that literally) “Six Degrees, Kim!”
What she means is that it’s really easy to find somebody who can help you out if you just ask one question:
“Who do you know who knows ______?”
And that blank can be a specific person: “Who do you know who knows Suzanne Evans?” or it can be a skill set “Who do you know who knows how to read & write Italian?”
All you need to do is reach out to your network and ask the question: “Who do you know who knows ______?” (It’s important to mention that the question isn’t “Do YOU, friend, know how to do ABC?” The answer is usually no. If it was yes, you’d have asked them for help already!)
So, now you know how to FIND the person who can write your forward, how do you go about asking them for their endorsement?
I’d prepare these items in advance of your conversation:
- Book draft or proposal. (I’m writing a book about how doing X helps your health.)
- Exactly what you need. (3-5 paragraphs showing why doing X is good for your health.)
- When you need it by. (Deadline: May 15.)
When you are contacting the person you need to:
- Explain how you got their name. (Although hopefully your friend will have offered and introduction!)
- Thank them for their time.
- Outline your project.
- Ask if they’d be willing to write a short foreword.
- Share exactly what you’re looking for and when you need it by.
Here’s the key: this is a busy professional you’re talking to. You want to be clear and succinct and respectful of their time. You don’t need to send them the book draft (or book proposal) if they don’t request it.
In my experience, most people are more than happy to help you out. And they’ll do it for free.
But don’t forget your manners! Even if they say no, send a thank you card (go for the big bucks and MAIL a real, handwritten card!) If they say yes, send them the thank you card AND a copy of the book when you get it done.
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- It gives something for social media to display. And people are more likely to click through to your article when there’s an image.
- Images catch attention and draw in the eye. A captivating image will help readers engage with the content.
- It’s a subtle reminder that you took the time to find the perfect image. This may be when you took the photo yourself or searched through stock images to purchase it.
- Text-only articles can be intimidating to some readers. Images help to break it up.
- If you only have time to skim the article, an image will give you an idea of the topic and help you decide if you want to read it in more depth.
Here’s what to stay away from:
- Don’t put in an image JUST for the sake of an image. If the image doesn’t fit the article, don’t use it. No image is better than a bad image.
- Make sure the image is easily recognizable as a thumb-nail. In social media, sometimes the image is shrunk to the size of a stamp so you need to make sure that it’s still clear.
- Don’t make your images too big! Because most of us have super high-speed internet we’ve become super impatient when an image takes “too long” to load. If I have to scroll to see the entire image, I’m outta there! And if you’re reader is enjoying your blog from a smartphone… and image that’s too big can be a pain to deal with.
- Make sure you have rights to the image. This means NOT using an image from Google Images. Spend the time and money to purchase your own stock photography or take your own photo. “Borrowing” images (even with citing the source) is really terrible business practice and opens you up for a lawsuit.
I’ll be really honest, I always try to include images but sometimes it just doesn’t work. Either the topic doesn’t lend itself to an image or I can’t find the perfect photo to convey the feeling I want to express.
Question: Do you use images in your blog posts? What are your go-to rules for choosing an image?
As part of what I do as a publisher, I also offer editing services. And while having an editor is completely invaluable there are things that the writer needs to do to get the most from an editor’s services.
1. Know your bad habits
If you read my writing, you’ll see that I have my own little habits. One of which is using a word all in caps to give it EMPHASIS. And while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s more common to either display the word in bold or italic. Another bad habit I have is the over-use of ellipses, especially where they aren’t needed. (Or parenthetical phrases!)
So recognize your bad habits and then keep an eye out for them. Are you using them properly? Is it the best way to convey emphasis?
I’m not saying that you have to stop using your idiosyncrasies in your writing but you do need to know when to drop them in favor of a more consistent form.
2. Buy a style manual and use it
When I was in college, a writing professor told me I had no clue how to use a comma. I whole-heartedly disagreed with her but agreed to get a grammar cheat sheet use to make life easier. Turns out, she was mostly right. There were a lot of times where I was using a comma that didn’t really call for it. But there were other times where I inserted a comma to break a thought or phrase into pieces. (I was studying poetry so I had much more leeway.)
But don’t just assume that you remember all the grammar rules from elementary school. To this day, I still double check usage when I’m not sure.
3. Read your work as if you were a total beginner (to your topic)
I write a lot of non-fiction. Specifically in the outdoor recreation genre. And I always thought I was pretty good at defining all the terms and not using too much jargon. Until a self-proclaimed city boy read over my manuscript about camping and asked me what pot-water was.
The word was potable. And I made the mistake of assuming that my audience already knew what I was talking about: drinking water.
Now, after I write something, especially if it’s highly technical but written for beginners, I go back to make sure that if I knew NOTHING I could still understand it.
4. Ask yourself “Does this [section, chapter, paragraph] move the story forward?”
By story I don’t necessarily mean fiction, although it could!
When I first started reading indie fiction, I quickly came to the realization that at LEAST 30% of every book I read could be cut out and the work would be stronger for it. There were too many scenes that did nothing to advance the plot but it was clear that the author was terrified of the DELETE key.
Don’t be that author! Review each section with a critical eye and ask yourself if it REALLY needs to be there. Are you being pedantic? Did you just explain that and now you’re going over it again? Does the reader really need to know this information? IF this were a fiction story, would your reader get bored?
5. Use strong verbs
Frankly, I didn’t really GET verbs until I was studying Spanish. And then a whole new world opened up with the power of action words!
Here’s a tricky verb in English: to be. Most people don’t really even understand it as a verb.
It’s the “is, was, am, are, were” verb. And it can be very dangerous. For example: “I would be interested in the job.” is the “weak” form of “I am interested in the job.” The first example is boring and the second is more interesting.
The passive voice sneaks up on us as writers! Watch for it and beware.
(I’m not going to get unto my Passive Voice Soapbox here. Just use strong verbs!)
6. Cut the “extra” words
I know I use the word “that” too much. It’s probably how I talk although I haven’t paid that much attention. Other “extra” words include:
And while you’re cutting, also chop out the adverbs. Most of them aren’t needed and the redundant ones make even unsophisticated readers wince. For example: shout loudly. When’s the last time you heard a not-loud shout? Your adverb should give us a quality that isn’t already implied by the verb itself.
7. Don’t expect perfection
Nobody can perfectly self-edit. End of story. But you need to know when it’s time to pass the work along to somebody else. My “rough” draft that goes to my editor has been through at least four or five revisions first.
a. Grammar, spelling, punctuation
b. Am I being clear (when writing for beginners)
c. Fact-checking anything I may have “assumed” when I was first writing
d. Read aloud for flow, missing words, choppy sentences
Once you’ve done everything you can do, it’s time to get a second set of eyes onto the page. But be sure you define what they’ll be doing for you. Back to my example of the camping book: I had one editor who ONLY looked for things that didn’t make sense to a beginner and for facts that might be wrong. I had a second editor take a look at grammar, spelling, and punctuation. A third editor looked at flow and to make sure all the chapters were in the section that made the most sense.
But NONE of those people saw the work before I had worked it over several times myself!
I was up WAAAAAY past my bedtime to watch the eclipse (and play with my new camera!)
It was 100% worth it!
Business Bloggers: This one’s for you!
When’s the last time something really exciting happened in your life? They type of event that you recounted to everybody who came near you, if they had a pulse and ears, you were sharing your story? People start to grimace when you’re coming close because they KNOW you’re going to tell them all about it, if they want to know or not!
Now when’s the last time you wrote something for your business blog that had you that excited?
BTW: I’m not talking about the excitement around the launch of product, book, service, etc. I’m talking about the excitement that comes from:
I can’t wait to sit down to write about ABC and share it with my readers!
Um, did you just hear the clock ticking loudly as you tried to figure it out?
Don’t worry! It’s okay and it happens the best of us. There are definitely times when I just have NO excitement, passion, or oomph for my blog. It happens.
But don’t let your blog become too much of a boring-facts-how-to-articles-not-really-FUN type of publication. Let your readers SEE your passion and excitement for your business, industry and topic shine through your writing!
Remember what you really LOVE about what you do and then begin sharing that passion and excitement with your readers! Remember that while you write is someone who is just finding you NOW, today, and that she needs to see your love of what you do coming through onto the page.
Here’s your assignment:
Find something you’re passionate about in your business (NOT a launch!) and then write a blog post about it. Bonus points if you then excitedly share the article on social media!
Anybody who knows me knows I don’t believe in writer’s block. It’s impossible to be SO blocked that you can’t write ANYTHING!
That being said, it is completely possible and common to become stuck on a project. For example, my book about beginning camping: “Pitch Your Tent: A Family’s Guide To Tent Camping” had me stuck several times. For some reason, the writing JUST wasn’t flowing.
And frankly, this week’s blog was a lot like that. It wasn’t that I didn’t have some GREAT ideas and that I was struggling to work on this month’s editorial calendar. Nope, it was that I wanted some ideas that would work inside of my time constraints THIS week. I don’t have an over-abundance of time right now to devote to researching and writing and planning and outlining some of my more complicated article ideas.
As you’re planning your weekly writing, keep this in mind! Some articles are FANTASTIC but take longer to put together than others.
I’m not blocked at all: I can write a LOT on several projects that have nothing to do with what I publish on this website. I’ve got great ideas (and even article starts) on really fabulous topics about writing and blogging and publishing.
But I was still “stuck” on a relevant, easy-to-write topic for this week. So I’m pretty much taking the copout and writing ABOUT being frustrated!
Here’s my plan for the rest of April until my time frees up a bit:
- Record all these article ideas (with some notes) in my business journal
- Brainstorm some articles that are less labor intensive to get me through
- Ask a trusted associate to write a guest article
- Keep writing!
Because here’s the thing about writing: it’s an exercise. And when you go too long without putting words on a page you lose “muscle tone”. So keep writing, my friend!