blogging

I recently got asked to submit a guest article for a blog. My first thought was “Yay! Awesome! Of course!” Then when I actually WROTE it on my To Do list, I realized that just WRITING the article was only part of what I needed to do.

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Here are 4 steps when you’ve been asked to submit a guest post:

(This is when SHE is asking YOU – not you pitching an idea!)

1. Review their website and blog
Since you were invited to write, it’s probably a safe bet to say that HER audience is a good fit for you. But you still want to spend some time checking out her website and blog.

  • What’s the tone? Is it formal or conversational?
  • Is there anything there that doesn’t align with your business or personal vision? Your name will be forever associated with this other person so before you send them your article, be sure there’s nothing there that you’re uncomfortable with or regret.
  • How long are the articles?
  • Is the target audience beginning or advanced?
  • Have there been any guest experts in your field or industry? It’s okay if there are, you just want to make sure you’re saying something different.

2. Make sure you’re crystal clear on the requirements and deadline
Guest posting are only a win-win when BOTH of you are clear! That includes:

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I received some excellent questions last week about what types of ghostwriting I offer and how I work. This is a bit different from my normal article style but I wanted to highlight exactly how I work!

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1. I write in YOUR voice and style

Of course it’s not going to be 100% perfect but you’d be surprised at how much like you the writing sounds. This is a skill that I’ve been developing for years.

The writing will sound like you BUT it will also be written using proper grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. For one of my ghost blogging clients, we are making the transition from a prior ghostwriter who wrote in a choppy, uncomfortable manner. The writing sounded formal, stilted, and a bit like a non-native English-speaker was writing. We are making the transition to convey the “author’s” ideas and thoughts but in a writing style that is professional and conversational.

For me to write in your voice and style, I need to examine your writing. Which means I spend serious hours reading and examining your blog, book, and newsletter – stuff you’ve written in the past. The only time this falls apart is if you DON’T already have samples of your own writing; in that case, I have a great Plan B!

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Let me be really clear – there’s nothing wrong with deciding to hire a ghostwriter. You don’t do everything in your business, right? You are probably already outsourcing the tasks that you are either not good at, don’t like, or don’t have time for. Most people start out with outsourcing their bookkeeping, taxes, or sending out their newsletter.

A ghostwriter is just another person on your team who helps you get it all done!

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Here are some great reasons to hire a ghostwriter:

  • You don’t like writing or feel you’re not good at it. I’m a firm believer that everybody has a story to tell but I 100% get it that not everybody is in love with the written words.
  • Tasks like your blog, book, newsletter, or articles keep getting added to your to do list and then stay there, day after day, week after week.
  • There are other activities that only you can do. Instead of being a money-making activity, these writing activities are taking you away from other things that do make you money.

I want to say this clearly: it’s not a failure AT ALL to bring in a writer! You’re an expert at what you do and people pay you for your knowledge, skills, and passion. Writers are the same and we love to write!

Here’s what you need to do before hiring a ghostwriter:

1. Be realistic about your budget

You might be able to get a writer on the cheap but is the writing of any quality? This writing is representing your business – more than video, podcasts or interviews ever can. You don’t need to pay through the nose, but don’t expect a quality writer to be cheap either.

2. Look at their credentials

Your writer should be a native English speaker or have the writing skills of one. Ideally she should have a degree in writing (Creative Writing or Journalism) or English. If not, then years of experience will also do the trick!

3. Be clear about your expectations

Nobody is going to write EXACTLY like you do but a good ghostwriter should come close. However, understand that there will be a process while your writer gets to learn your voice so there might be more edits in the beginning. You’ve got to be okay with letting go and letting the writer do her job. That being said, if she isn’t matching your voice and style, you might need to look elsewhere.

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Have you ever thought of joining a writing group?

Hang on – do you know what a writing group is? There are several different types:

  • Writing groups – authors hanging out together and typing away
  • Critique groups – examine each other’s writing for tone, style, clunky passages and moments of brilliance
  • Commenting groups – for blogging, usually, where you read and comment on each other’s blogs
  • Review groups – swap reviews on Amazon.com or other online reviewing sites

So, back to my original question: Have you ever thought of joining a writing group?

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Here’s why you want to take a look at joining one or more groups:

Writing Groups

The Good:
Writing is a lonely business so it’s nice to get together with other people who are doing the same thing. It’s a lot like when I was in college and would head to a study room to work. I wasn’t studying the same subject in a group – like quizzing each other but rather working on my own stuff in a room of other people who were really focused. It always helped my concentration and focus.

The Bad:
These types of groups can quickly become a social event. Which is totally fine (and fun) UNLESS you’re really just there to work and everybody wants to chat. There’s also the challenge of hauling your materials to a location and hoping you have all your resources, research, and tools.

The Business:
Writing groups usually accept any type of author. They might not be the best place to make connections for clients or referrals but you can also be inspired by sharing a table with a novelist, poet, or playwright! Remember that the purpose of the group is to write – not to network so be respectful of the rules of the group.

Critique Groups

The Good:
It’s always a great idea to have somebody read over your work! Critique groups might focus on the technical aspect of writing (spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.) but they usually are more of big-picture view looking at flow, rhythm, tone, plot, etc.

The Bad:
When you’re picking a critique group, it’s easy to fall into a group of writers who aren’t experienced. While I believe that everyone has something to offer, if you’re years down your writing training road, you might not get a lot out of a group filled with college students. Try to find a group with a mix of wanna-bes, trying to break ins, established authors, and career writers. Also look for a mix of ages – you’ll get a better perspective on your work. Also be wary of groups who ONLY tell you everything is wonderful – that doesn’t help you grow as an author.

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A headline is one of the most important pieces of writing – ever. And it’s also one of the most difficult to write!

A headline is designed to attract attention and create desire in a person to read the rest of the piece. Don’t fool yourself that headlines are only found on articles or sales pages. They’re not! For the purposes of this article, a ‘headline’ is anything that needs to attract a reader’s attention and get them to take a second action; usually to read the piece of writing.

Headlines can include:

  • Article or blog post titles
  • Book titles
  • Email subject lines
  • Headlines for sales copy

There are three main types of headlines:

Positive Attraction

These headlines focus on the pleasure words. They’re often benefit laden and overtly promise that the following copy will solve your pain.

Negative Attraction

These headlines don’t just unearth a reader’s pain, they POUNCE on it, sink in their claws and drag it kicking and screaming from under the bed. Negative Attraction headlines make you feel uncomfortable.

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For the past few weeks I’ve been hard at work on a new gift to give to people when they opt-in to my newsletter list. I’d say 90% of my subscribers join my list BECAUSE they wanted the gift; the *ahem* great content in the weekly newsletter is a bonus. The other 10% find my blog, read a great article and decide they want more articles delivered to their inbox every Tuesday. So an opt-in gift is CLEARLY a really important thing to create and create well!

When I first started with email marketing, back in 2003, it wasn’t really much of a requirement to offer a free gift to encourage people to sign up. Emailed newsletters were still a novelty. (And in some industries they still are!)

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When I sat down to create my new gift, here’s the thought process I went through:

1. Who do I want to attract to my list?

My original opt-in gift was targeted to ANYONE who was interested in self-publishing. But over the course of a year since that gift was new, my target subscriber has been refined to be a coach, speaker, or author.

So when I created a NEW gift, I targeted it directly to who I wanted on my list.

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Last week I participated in a comment exchange party – each participant posted a link to a blog post that she wanted additional comments on and then OTHERS in the party would leave comments on the post.

Makes total sense, right? You get more traffic on a blog post, they get more links to their website, you get to read new articles, your name is seen by more people… It’s a win-win, right?

Well, maybe. There are a LOT of factors involved when it comes to commenting on other people’s blogs.

  1. MOST blogs have a nofollow policy which means that the link to YOUR website is listed as nofollow. Now, I’m not an SEO expert but I think this boils down to the link isn’t as valuable as an incoming link with a nofollow tag as it is without.
  2. People don’t always reciprocate. In an event like this, it’s completely possible I would comment on more blogs than would comment on mine.
  3. Time. Even if you skim the articles, it still takes time to read them. But the biggest time-overhead is the commenting itself. And sometimes it’s tough to even figure out HOW to comment!
  4. Finding something to say. There have been times I’ve been involved in comment-swaps like this and I knew NOTHING about the blog’s topic and had zero interest. Makes it hard to say anything that “Thanks! Great post!”
  5. Not all blogs delete spam comments, moderate snarky or mean commenters, or engage with their readers. Personally, I reserve the right to delete ANY comment on my blog.

So how DO you write a good comment on somebody’s blog?

Decide WHY you’re doing it. I’m usually looking to get my name out there and expand my visibility in the blog-o-world. And with most blogs not offering a ‘follow’ link back to MY site, SEO reasons aren’t my main consideration.

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