Writing

112913-BlackFriday

Do you go shopping on Black Friday? I don’t like crowds so I’m not out shopping. But for YOU, here’s a $59 discount off my FANTASTIC “Publish Your eBook Blueprint Home Study Course”. In this course, you’ll learn everything you need to know to publish your book on Kindle and Nook.

Click the image or the course name to learn more about the program.

Just enter the coupon code FRIDAY at checkout.

Valid through 12/2/13.

111913-ProductFeedback

I think one of the best types of articles I can post to my blog is an honest product review. And I’m not talking about a review for a product or service that you’ve contacted and begged them to send you a sample so you could write about it! (Although that type of review can be a ton of fun!) Nope, I’m talking about writing an honest review for a product or service that you use every day in your business.

Why?

Because I get asked all the time for my opinion about a service I use or how I do something. And I ask others for feedback and suggestions all the time as well. For example, just yesterday, I asked one of the business groups I belong to on Facebook for a recommendation for a service I could use to record a phone call with a client. Several options were tossed out but what really stood out was the comment: “Try XYZ. I’ve had great success and they’re easy to use.” Hello! Personal validation.

This wasn’t a suggestion from somebody who typed into Google: “What’s the best way to record a phone call with a client” and then gave me an answer. I can do that myself! It was a recommendation from one client of XYZ company to me.

What’s the difference between a testimonial and a review?
First off, a testimonial is posted on the other person’s website. Secondly, while giving testimonials is a GREAT way to gain exposure, thank a company for their product, and extoll all it’s virtues, a testimonial is by nature one sided: only the positive. A review, on the other hand, will talk about all the things you love about the product or service but also what isn’t so great. Maybe you love everything about it EXCEPT that you can only reach the customer service on Monday mornings from 9-9:45 am. Or that the software loads slowly. Or it has great functionality but only comes in three colors.

All that being said, your blog is NOT the place to be complaining about a product or service up one side and down the other and going on and on about how it didn’t work. Not cool! You wouldn’t want somebody to go on a public rant about you, right? If your review is really nothing more than a laundry list of everything that is wrong with the product, take that straight to the source and send your grievances to the company directly.

Be upfront about why you’re writing the review.
This is a BIG one! Offer up a disclaimer that says that you are writing the review because you wanted to, you use the product, and you weren’t compensated in any way. Unless, of course, you were. Then be honest.

I’ve written quite a few product reviews for my outdoor recreation blog over the years. Some were products that I was given to test and review and others were products I had purchased, used, and reviewed. There’s nothing wrong with a paid review (either money or product) but readers need to know if you’re walking into the event unbiased or not. AND there are laws that state that you need to disclose this information.

How to write the review:

  1. Give a description of the product. Explain how you got it — either bought it and use it or you are being compensated to review it.
  2. Then talk about it. In detail. Give examples of how you tested the manufacture’s claims. Did it do what you thought it would do? How well did it do? Would you buy it again? What would you change? What didn’t it do?
  3. Offer up photos (or screenshots!) of the product in use. Everybody loves to see how YOU are using the widget and it gives instant credibility that you actually do use and abuse the product.
  4. And then give ways that your customer can buy the product or service. Here’s where you need to disclose if you will make any money from that deal! Like if you are reviewing a product and you’re putting in an affiliate link. Say (affiliate link) so the reader knows. Again, laws govern this!

But, don’t be afraid to make money from your recommendations! Every month I STILL make a few pennies from products I reviewed years ago. But I NEVER write a product review because I’m planning on cashing in on sales. I write product reviews because I want to share an experience with a product!

And here’s another bonus for writing a product review. It’s a pretty easy way to create copy for your blog! A review of a product that you’ve used, loved and can recommend is a great article to post when you’re deep in the throes of writer’s block. Or pre-write it when you’re going on vacation. Just be sure you don’t turn your blog into a Consumer Report where all you do is review products! When I was posting something new 5 days a week to TheOutdoorPrincess.com (my outdoor recreation blog) I would shoot for one to two product review posts per month. Any more than that, I and I felt I wasn’t offering enough how-to information to satisfy my readers. I was being given products to test and write reviews on so I needed time to conduct the tests, write the article, allow the company to review it, and then get it posted.

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.

111213-Guest

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.

111213-Ghost

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!

I look at a lot of blogs: friends’, business associates’, clients’, for-fun blogs. One of the items that I always check out is how often are the blogs being updated. Weekly? Monthly? Not in a while? Or, the kiss of death, the “I’m-Not-Sure-How-Long-Ago-This-Was-Updated”.

You know the date stamp I’m talking about, right? It appears somewhere on a post and gives the date (and sometimes time) the post was published. Here are some examples:

110513-Dates

I think there is a school of thought out there that says, “If I can’t update on a regular schedule, I’ll take off the date stamp so people can’t tell I don’t post weekly.”

Not posting the date of your post is a kiss of death. Not because it makes the reader think, “Oh this is a recent post” but because it makes the reader think: “IS this a recent article? Is it still relevant?” Or, the even scarier thought: “Is this business still in business?”

Sure, no date stamp on a post means your reader doesn’t know for certain it’s been three months since your last blog update. But it also means that your reader figures out quickly that you don’t post regularly on the blog. If you did post regularly, you’d want to make sure the reader was aware so you’d have a time stamp!

Circular logic? You betcha!

But it doesn’t change the fact that your blog needs a date on each post. If you only post once a month then your reader will clearly see from your post’s dates that you update once a month. If you post weekly then she’ll clearly see that it’s important to you to offer her new contact every week.

Take a look at this blog. Go ahead, I’ll set myself up as an example. You’ll see weekly posts going back from now (first week in November) through July with the occasional “extra” update thrown in as well. (If you’re really looking closely, you’ll notice that the August posts weren’t actually one per week!) Before July, you’ll see that the blog was updated occasionally.

What does that mean?

It means that in July, I got serious about updating my blog regularly. I know that the bare minimum I was willing to accept was a weekly update. If I was able to squeeze in an extra picture, post, or bit of breaking news, great. If not, you can count on it being updated weekly. (On Tuesdays, FYI).

To the reader, it means that she can tell at a glance that I am still in business. She can see that I post weekly. She can guess that if I post weekly, I probably check my email, answer messages, and am around.

Does she notice all of this with her conscious brain? Probably not. But a blog that’s not updated regularly has the same feeling as a house that’s only lived in one weekend a month. It’s not neglected, exactly, but you can just feel that it isn’t lived in.

How Often Should I Update My Blog?

Weekly.

I know, I know, there are folks out there that say you should update your blog daily or several times a week. And it’s a lot of fun to check in with the daily updated blogs or the blogs that update several times a week. There’s exciting, fresh content! You can glimpse into their lives, businesses, hobbies, passions, etc. But really, do you check those blogs every day? Do you read it or just skim it? Do you have time to really read it every day? And is their content fresh and engaging and well-written EVERY SINGLE DAY? Or is it really just fantastic once or twice a week and the rest feels like filler.

Weekly posting is okay. Pick a day of the week you’ll post your new article and then stick to it. You have a schedule, a goal, and a deadline. Your readers know that your new article will appear on the same day of the week every week. And weekly is manageable for most business owners.

What If I Just Can’t Keep My Blog Updated?

I get it; you’re busy running your business, marketing, serving your clients, and enjoying your life. Sometimes, nothing will kill your passion for your main thing like having to sit down and write about it.

Here’s my solution: Hire a ghost blogger.

A (good) ghost blogger will be able to translate your passion into a well-written post or article. (What’s the difference?) And a ghost blogger will be able to write something that still sounds like you so your blog will still feel authentic to your readers and clients.

Plus, a ghost blogger will help you generate lots of ideas for content for your blog. Then, you’ll work together to come up with an editorial calendar. And you get weekly posts for your blog!

If the idea of a ghost blogger is resonating with you, this is one of the services offered through On The Beach Publishing. You can sign up for a complimentary “Blog Content Clarity Call” that will help you solidify your goals for your blog, generate ideas for future posts, and let you know if ghost blogging services are right for you.

Just visit OnTheBeachPublishing.com/BlogContentClarity to sign up.

102913-Typing

 

Have you heard of NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month and every November 1, participants from around the world begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. The “rules” state that you can plan, outline, think, and research as much as you want in October, but on November 1, you start a brand-new novel with no words already written.

102913-NoNoWriMo

Writing a book is a great exercise in discipline, refining your thought processes, and creativity. Even if you have no desire to write a novel, November is a great month to do the writing you are interested in. Or the writing that you know you’ve been needing to do for your business but just haven’t had time for.

Here are five steps  to get you going:

1. Have a “plan”

You most likely have an idea about what book you want to write for your business. Start there! Unlike a novel which needs characters, plot, setting, mood, theme, etc. the book you need for your business has basic sections that are unique to the information you specialize in.

As you create this plan, jot down all your ideas for chapters, topics, and sub-topics. After you have a page of ideas, you’ll organize them into sections. Don’t think too much! Just get all your ideas down. This will become the “plan” for your book.

(This isn’t an outline! It’s a writing plan. I’ll explain more in step 4.)

2. Get it all out

My writing instructors used to call this writing to silence the critic. It’s when you just keep writing even if you know that you’re not making sense, contradicting yourself, missing steps, and most importantly, writing like crap!

Write anyway.

NaNoWriMo isn’t a slow and steady marathon, remember! It’s a sprint to write an insane amount of words in just thirty days.

So get it all out of your head and onto the page. Don’t worry about grammar, flow, or false starts. Keep writing. You do, however, want to write clearly enough that when you look at it later that you can follow along. So it’s not jotting down notes; it is sentences and paragraphs and *gasp* chapters. But don’t worry if you don’t know how to bridge from one topic to the next.

3. Write every day

The strategy is to break 50,000 words down into daily writing goals. This isn’t a marathon, it’s a sprint. But, unlike writing your term paper the night before it is due (or your blog article the day before you post it!) you can’t just catch up in the days before November 30th!

102913-Pencils
You may be able to catch up from a day (or two) off, but if you wait too long, the goal of 50,000 words will slip away. (Speaking from experience here!)

Daily Writing Goals

  • If you write 5 days a week (including Friday, November 1) you’ll need to write 2,381 words per day. (21 total writing days)
  • If you write 6 days a week (including Friday, November 1 AND Saturday, November 2) you’ll need to write 1,923 words per day. (26 total writing days)
  • If you write 7 days a week you’ll need to write 1,667 words per day. (30 total writing days)

And let’s face it, with your busy life and schedule (and the Thanksgiving holiday!) you’re unlikely to write every single day. Go ahead and plan some days off! And in that plan, make sure that you plan other days where you write more words to catch up.

Not every person who starts NaNoWriMo makes it to the 50,000 word finish. And since you’ll most likely not be writing a novel, it will be tempting to let it slide and not work to complete the challenge. But think about this: if you write every week day in the month of November, that’s 21 days. Let’s say you ONLY write 1,000 words a day (about two pages). That’s 21,000 words that you didn’t have before!

4. Don’t publish it!

Yep, you heard me right. Whatever you come up with at the end of November DON’T PUBLISH IT.

At least, don’t publish it as is!

Too many writers, especially non-fiction writers, have the nasty habit of publishing too soon before the project is fully edited. And here, I don’t mean edited for grammar or consistency. I mean edited for THIS should be in the book; THIS shouldn’t.

I recently read a very interested non-fiction “business” book. The author had a wealth to say on a variety of different topics. But that was the problem. There were at least four different main topics and each one shouldn’t get a section. It should get its own book! The topics were loosely tied together under the umbrella of the author’s personal life story but each lost its impact because it wasn’t given enough depth and breadth.

Here’s a personal example:
I just published my “camping book” Pitch Your Tent: A Family’s Guide To Tent Camping (Affiliate link)

This project took me nearly two years from conception to publishing. Why? Because I just couldn’t focus. In my initial “plan” (Step 1) I had everything from tent camping to RVs to how to hook up your trailer to what type of porta pottie to buy to how to pick a tent to why you should go fishing while you were camping. I wrote a ton! After I started backpacking, I wrote sections for the book about that too!

After writing pages and pages and pages (over 200) I realized that the book I really needed to write was just a beginning guide to tent camping.

If I had tried to make my camping book everything to everyone, it would lose the focus and impact. And I’d lose credibility!

Once you have a “draft,” go over it to see what sections naturally go together, what has to be there, and what can be cut.

5. Decide what to do next

From this one big book where you have packed in every bit of your knowledge, expertise, love, and passion, decide what you’ll do with all the content you’ve created. You’ll probably find that at least one book is in there. A book with a tight focus on one aspect of your knowledge that doesn’t give away the farm!

You’ll also probably see 2-3 smaller books that might be ready to stand on their own or be expanded into larger books.

And I know you’ll have dozens of articles for blog posts, newsletters, or to submit to publications.

Then do it!
This is a bonus step: DO something with what you’ve created. It’s not enough to just realize that your 50,000 word business book exists, you need to do something with it!

What are your writing goals for November? Will you participate in a business book 50,000 word sprint?

If you would like to learn more about NaNoWriMo or to sign up to participate, here is the official website as well as the social media links:

http://nanowrimo.org/
https://www.facebook.com/nanowrimo
https://twitter.com/NaNoWriMo