Technical Details

*** This is my 100th post! Wanted to celebrate with you! ***

 

Ah, to be BORN a good writer. No matter how much raw talent you have, nobody is BORN a good writer. Writing is like anything else all the raw talent in the world doesn’t do any good if you don’t invest the time to learn what to do with it.

Trust me, I’ve had plenty of writing training:

  • Bachelors Degree in Creative Writing from University of Arizona
  • Attended writer’s conferences all over the world
  • I have SHELF of “How To Write ____” books

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There is value in all this knowledge. But at the end of the day, do taking classes make you a writer?

Does buying paint and an easel and canvas make you a painter? Hmm…

Here are seven questions to ask yourself before you invest in any writing class:

1. Will this class teach me something I don’t already know?

This is my Number One filter I use before I invest in another class (or book). There’s no right or wrong answer here! But I do apply this additional knowledge as well:

If yes: take the class.
If no: Is it because I am already familiar with the material or is it arrogance on my part?

 

2. Does this class advance my career?

Sometimes you need to take a class because while the material is familiar to you, the credential you get from completing the class is something that is really valuable.

Other times, the class itself has the knowledge you need.

Here’s an example from my experience: taking a class on how to create an index for a book. Did you know that you can get a certification as an indexer? I had no idea until I was researching how to create an index for my cookbook! So then the question was: Would this class (certification) set me apart from my book-publishing-competition in the markets that I work in?

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As I’ve been marketing my ghost blogging services, I’ve been told a few times, “I don’t need a ghost blogger, I have guest bloggers.” This comment made me realize that maybe business owners don’t necessarily realize the differences between the two AND know the advantages of each.

Guest Blogger

A guest blogger is someone who has been invited (or offered) to write a guest post on your blog. Usually, a guest blogger will be an expert in their industry and will work in the same industry or a complimentary industry.

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Pros:

  • Using a guest blogger from time to time can give you a much needed break in posting. Lining up a guest on your blog is a great idea when you know you’ll be too busy to write great content, like when you’re launching a new product or going on vacation.
  • You can offer your readers a perspective on something that is outside your area of expertise. For example, I have a guest blog post coming up that is written by a healthy lifestyle and success coach. It will be about healthy, computer friendly snacks. This relates to what I write about since I assume that most of my readers and clients spend large amounts of time at the computer.
  • You can feature a client, business associate, or vendor and build your relationship with them. It’s a great way to help somebody else build their credibility by getting in front of your people.

Cons:

  • You don’t know exactly what you’re going to get when you ask someone for a guest article. Everyone can tell a story; not everyone can write well. I invited someone to guest on one of my blogs with a great story about a run-in with the Secret Service. The story was great but I had to massage the writing a bit to make it clearer. This meant that I didn’t really save any time from writing the post myself. (It is a GREAT story, though. Read it here.)
  • You can’t control the content. While you can request a topic at the end of the day, it’s up to the guest blogger to write the piece. That means that you may have an article that doesn’t share your views on a topic. Most of the time, a guest blogger will not use your blog for THEIR personal platform, but it does happen.
  • You’re readers aren’t reading your voice. Make sure that you clearly show that the post is a guest post so when the tone, style, and flow are different your readers don’t think you’ve gone off the deep end.
  • Be ready for missed deadlines. 99.9% of guest bloggers are super respectful of the deadline you’ve set. But sometimes life gets in the way and they just can’t make the deadline, forget, or otherwise get busy. And if you’re really counting on that content… it can be a challenge.

Ghost Blogger

A ghost blogger may not be an expert in your industry but he or she will be an expert in the written word, researching, and extracting the essence of what your expertise is and then writing about it.

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Pros:

  • A ghost blogger can save you a ton of time in the week-to-week posting on your blog. Instead of spending an hour or more each week to research, writing, and post your blog’s content you’ll spend an hour (or so) per month meeting with the ghost to outline the month’s content.
  • You still get to control the content! While a guest blogger will write about what you request, she will write HER perspective on it. A ghost writer will write YOUR perspective.
  • The content a ghost blogger creates for you will be a very close match to your writing style. It should match in tone, style, idiosyncrasies, word choice, etc. When you’re readers read it, it should still SOUND like you.
  • You can still post your own content! Just because you hire a ghost blogger doesn’t mean that you are no longer allowed to write your own stuff.

Cons:

  • It’s not free. A guest blogger will provide you a post for free, in exchange for a link on your blog. But a ghost blogger will need to be paid for the work.
  • It won’t be exactly how you do it. I look at it like loading the dishwasher: I can show my honey how I do it. He will do it almost like I like; maybe the plates will face the other way or the forks will be down instead of up. But at the end of the day, the dishwasher is loaded and run and I didn’t have to do it. Close to my way was pretty a-okay.
  • You don’t have to DO the work, but you still need to manage it. You need to make sure that your ghost blogger is meeting your deadlines, understanding what you want in your copy, and matching your writing “voice” as clearly as possible.
  • You have to surrender some control. You won’t be the be-all, end-all of your blog. You have delegated it to someone else. For some people, that’s really difficult and may not be worth the freed up time that a ghost blogger offers.

At the end of the day, both a guest blogger and a ghost blogger can save you time. The question is which will save you the most time and cause the least headaches!

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In my “Publish Your eBook Blueprint: Home Study” course, I really get on a soap box about using the preview functions every time you publish an eBook.

You wouldn’t publish a book, or even an article, without proofreading it for grammar and spelling errors, right? The preview functions work the same way.

Now, here’s where I differ from just about every other how-to teacher out there. I tell my students they need to check every single link in their (clickable) Table of Contents. Don’t do the first few links, assume that since they work, all the links will work. But I take my instructions on previewing one step further:

Look at every single page.

Yep, every single page. Is that a huge PITA (pain in the a$$) for large manuscripts? Yep! Do I care? Nope!

Here’s why I teach this, and why I do it for every book I write or publish, because I always catch errors in the previewer that I’ve missed in every other version of the book. Occasionally, those errors are typographical, but more often than not, they have to do with formatting. In the previewer, “little” formatting errors like commas not attached to a word will stick out. Like this , comma that isn’t touching the s in this. I’m purposely hiding this typo in the middle of a paragraph. Maybe it’ll catch your eye and maybe it won’t. Stuff like this drives me crazy! Especially in a published eBook.

Will you catch every single formatting problem? Nope. One of my books, “Easy Camping Recipes from The Outdoor Princess: 33 Simple Camping Recipes” was first published with a formatting error. And a reviewer was “kind” enough to bring it to my attention:

Kim has done a decent job with the text layout and has thoughtfully included an interactive Table of Contents, though the interface does need some work and the Table of Contents includes a link to a blank page titled “Return to Table of Contents” and another called “Open Carefully and Enjoy”. (You can access is just fine from the TOC button, but the back arrow will take you to a page with a non-working link that says “back to the Table of Contents.) Kim might want to take a second look at that and issue an update.

Imagine my panic and embarrassment when I saw that review! I pulled open the eBook on my Kindle and the reviewer was correct. I fixed the problem and uploaded the changed file. Whew! Crisis averted. I then went back and triple checked all my other titles.

Lesson learned. While this was embarrassing, it wasn’t the end of the world. The entire book was still readable and usable. Why do I bring this up? Because a fellow independently self-published author shared a similar story but with more unpleasant results.

She published her book, set a free download day with Amazon.com, and paid for some advertising. She had an unheard of 22,000 downloads and hit the bestsellers list “free” in several categories. Then negative reviews started pouring in:

Due to a formatting issue, the book was unreadable: a margin had been set incorrectly and all the sentences were cut off. This began a third of the way through the book; beyond where she double checked using the previewer.

I really can’t imagine the stress of trying to deal with this! Fixing the formatting, begging Amazon to contact the people who downloaded the book to issue a corrected file, seeing one-star reviews, and having wasted advertising money. It gives me a stomach ache just thinking about it!

Moral of the story:

Preview each and every page on the previewer! For every eBook format you publish. Every time.