Friday, August 31, 2012

Life Lessons—Birds of a Feather

by Reba J Hoffman

I’ve always been very independent. In fact, when my Native American mom wouldn’t see me for hours on end, she finally named me “Winds of Autumn”. She said trying to pin me down was like trying to catch the wind and put it in a box.

So you can imagine how difficult it was for me to embrace the idea that I needed to be around other writers. Somehow, it just didn’t seem like a team sport to me. I was perfectly fine with going at it alone…or so I thought.

The truth is we have to surround ourselves with those who are like us. No, not those who all dress in white shirts with pocket protectors, black pants, white socks, and black patent leather shoes. That’d just be creepy. I’m referring to those with similar goals, journeys and dreams.

Here’s why: 
  • They understand you. If I say, “Shhhh, the voices in my head are talking,” to my therapist colleagues, they might want to do a psychiatric evaluation. But if I tell my fellow novelists, they totally understand. It’s completely normal.
  • It’s less lonely. Isn’t even a daunting task more fun when you have someone to do it with? Writers can meet regularly at Barnes and Noble or your favorite spot for coffee, computers and companionship.
  • They can relate. They’ve been there or they are walking the path right now. They can warn you about the hazardous curve ahead or the bumps in the road. And, you can do that for others.
  • It’s less tiring. Ever see migratory birds flying together? From a distance, it may appear they stay in the same position but no one fowl shoulders the load alone. Each of them takes a turn flying into the wind. The other birds draft behind, drafting off the bird in front of them. So it is with authors. Why invent the wing?
  • It broadens your horizons. You have never walked in someone else’s shoes. Being able to see life through their eyes deepens your knowledge and can give you more well-rounded plots and characters. 

I guess what I’m saying is don’t be like me. I really lived up to Winds of Autumn. Looking back I realize that was a hard, agonizing way to fly. So gather your flock and perch somewhere together. The eggs you lay will hatch into an awesome bird!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thursday Review—The Truth About Conference

Guest post by Susan May Warren

Are you ready to attend a writers conference?

The reality is, if you want to be published – and stay published – you need to attend Writer’s Conferences. But you shouldn’t attend unprepared. This is why the mulit-published, award-winning novelists and conference coordinators on the My Book Therapy staff wrote: The Truth about Conferences: the MBT guide to how to have a successful writers conference.

Writers conferences are overwhelming. But when you prepare yourself, they can also change your life.

To celebrate this book – and to give you some tips and tricks – we’re having a Truth about Conferences Webinar on Thursday night, 7pm CST on our MBT Open House channel. To join us, and to get a free excerpt, LIKE our Facebook page (the excerpt and registration link will appear!)

OR, if you want to skip the webinar, and still get a launch discount, sign up HERE. We’ll be announcing the discount code and sending out the link during the webinar and afterwards.

Here’s some things you’ll learn:
  • How to choose a conference
  • Budgeting for a conference
  • How to prepare professionally with business cards and pitch sheets
  • Choosing the right workshops
  • How to handle appointments
  • Organizing your time and information
  • Standing out in a positive way
  • Conference Etiquette
  • How to pack for success
  • And even how to network to after the conference is over!

Be prepared with the truth, the right expectations, and the tools for success. Because knowing the truth about conferences…just might get you published.

Blessings on the journey!
Susie May Warren
Founder, MBT

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What Will You Pay for An Ebook?

I'm reposting this from Novel Rocket because I'm curious about what you all think. Feel free to leave a comment and let us know your reasoning and thoughts.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Learn How to Earn a Living as a Freelance Writer, Part Three—Copywriting for Fun and Profit

Copywriting is a great way to earn money as a freelance writer. It may sound a little intimidating, but it’s great fun.

What is copywriting?
The dictionary defines a copywriter as one who “writes copy for advertising.” The field has gone on to include many aspects of business writing, especially those where the company interfaces with the client or consumer.

At first glance, this may seem like a very small niche for writers. Quite the contrary—it’s a huge opportunity. This area of writing continues to explode, particularly in the arena of the Internet.

Primary Goal for ALL Copywriters
Get the first sentence read.
So your choice of Headline, Graphics, Font, Format etc. should lead directly to this goal.
What is the goal of the first sentence? To get the next sentence read. This step by step road is the yellow brick road for everyone who wants to succeed as a copywriter.

KISS College English Goodbye
Think about famous lines.
            It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
            To be or not to be.
What do most have in common? They’re simple and straightforward. No overblown adjectives or prose. In other words—Keep ISimple Stupid!
Effective copy is written clearly and concisely. It’s vitally important to learn the lesson that to engage the audience you have to keep it conversational. Occasionally you’ll break a few grammar rules—but that’s okay—rules were meant to be broken.

Format with the Reader in Mind
Make your copy easy to scan. Use plenty of bullet points, headings and subheadings. Make it clear what you’re offering the audience.

Headlines are More than Words—They’re a Numbers Game!
  • 50/50 – Many copywriters say you should spend as much time on crafting your headline as on writing your copy.
  • 80/20 – The numbers don’t lie. It’s been proven 8 out of 10 people will read the headline and only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
With a compelling headline a browser becomes a reader. Without that headline the rest of your words might as well not be written. But what makes a great headline? The best contain your entire message in one memorable bite.

What are some key components to a compelling headline?
  • Provide the reader with the tools to evaluate the content.
  • Resonate with a reader’s urgency.
  • Show the reader why this offer/product/person is unique
  • And it must do all of this clearly and concisely.
Format Your Content
Formatting content revolves more around guidelines than rules. Depending on what your copy is to be used for the rules will change. But the following tips will always ring true.
  • Write to your audience. Remember who you are trying to reach and relate to them through your words, graphics, font, etc.
  • Keep focused. Every story you tell should be razor focused on the point of the copy. Now is NOT the time to ramble.
  • Be credible. Don’t make unsubstantiated claims. Use statistics, experts, even testimonials.
  • After showing your credibility restate your focus.
  • Give the reader something to do, i.e. buy the product.
  • Sum everything up, restate why your premise is fulfilled by taking this action.
Cut to the Benefits
So often we try to tell people the features of a product. But features aren’t what sell products—benefits are. Let me explain.
I was shopping for a new clothes dryer and saw one with an optional steam feature. My thought when the salesman mentioned it? So what.
Then he told me I could use it instead of ironing. That was a benefit and I was seriously interested!
See the difference—subtle, but vital—when you’re writing copy.
So how do you figure out the true benefit of something?
  • Make a list of all the features.
  • Beside each one ask why it’s helpful.
  • Now ask how that help is accomplished.
  • Tie that information to an emotional or felt need.
A word of warning here. High end business customers and technical customers are sometimes irritated by emotionalism. The business leader wants the bottom line and the techno geek wants to know the specs. They both will still want the benefits, but in those cases the features need to be highlighted as well.

Now it’s your turn. What experience have you had with copywriting? Next week's post will be devoted entirely to how to find clients and what to charge.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Social Media Monday—Social Media & the Law of Diminishing Returns

A hummingbird is hard to keep up with

At this time there are somewhere between 40 and 60 social media platforms and networks. I say approximately because counting them is about as hard as numbering a charm (flock) of humming birds. And they come and go almost as quickly.

Trying to chase down and join all the networks is not only impossible, it’s completely counterproductive. As writers, we need to remember the purpose of social networking, and it’s not to make a career as a marketer. It’s the means to an end—actually a couple of ends. We want to connect with our audience, and with other industry professionals.

Blogging, Facebook, & Twitter
To that end, there are three things I’ve found productive in almost one hundred percent of situations.
  • Blogging.
  • Facebook.
  • Twitter.
In my opinion, those are the only three mandatory things a writer needs to do to have a valuable presence on the Internet. As you’ve read, I have a couple of other networks I enjoy hanging out on and find valuable, Google Plus and Pinterest. This doesn’t mean those will be valuable for you. I have several friends who find LinkedIn valuable and it has never been so for me.

Another thing I’ve found to be true is the fact that social networking is governed by the law of diminishing returns. I’ve found that spending more than 30 minutes a day ((after you’ve come up to speed and are familiar with social networking tools and platforms) is less effective. And the longer you spend the worse the numbers get.

I spend approximately 30-45 every morning scheduling my main social media updates. Here are some of the things I post:

  • Links to blogs I think my followers will find helpful. 
  • Shout-outs about successes of others have.
  • Questions that start a conversation.
  • Quotes I find funny, poignant, or inspiring. 
Social Media is critical for a successful
online presence
During this time I post about 30-40 updates, scheduled throughout the day on various networks. I always allow at least 10 minutes between scheduled updates, that way if I see something during the day I want to post, I'm not hogging the social media stream.

I also follow my five to one rule. For every one update about me, I schedule five about someone or something else. With this, my social media presence never becomes all about self-promotion.

I do all this through Hootsuite. Here's a post on Why I Use Hootsuite. After I finish scheduling everything, I minimize my Hootsuite window and begin work. Throughout the day I'll pull up my Hootsuite account and take a quick peek. Here's what I'm looking for:

  • Mentions of my name or my blog (so I can thank the person who mentioned me).
  • Interesting articles or blog posts that I can repost to my followers.
  • Successes of friends and business associates so I can congratulate them and spread the good news.
  • Other things I find interesting.

I just take quick looks all day long, spending maybe five to ten minutes at a stretch.

This method of handling social media has proved successful beyond what I ever imagined. When I do this every day, I can count on adding 15-25 new followers every day. And, even more importantly, I'm not cutting into my valuable writing time.

Now I'd like to hear from you. How do you handle social media? Do you have a plan or is it just hit and miss?

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Weekend Worship—How Will I Finish?

photo copyright, Edie Melson
Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect. Romans 12:2

Tonight my husband and I were out, and I snapped some sunset pictures. As I watched the sun sink and the clouds reflect its glory, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own life. It’s been kind of a banner year.

This past January I turned 50. I know we tend to consider 50 middle age, but that’s only if I live to be 100. Kind of a sobering thought. This year too, our youngest graduated high school and began college. We are entering a new phase of life.

I am at a cross roads of sort. Society would tell me to look toward retirement. To spending my golden years traveling and indulging in the things I’ve never had time for. I should be working harder than ever so that I can build up the savings that will see me through to the end of my life.

But when I look at what God says, I see nothing in the Bible about retirement. I see great men and women of the Bible being an active and useful part of God’s purpose. As a matter of fact, many of the most useful were well past 80.

So I am looking forward to indulging in the things I’ve never had time for—but it’s not retirement. I’m looking forward to being more available to God’s call. I want to be able to be used, forgive the cliché—at the drop of a hat, unencumbered with the responsibilities of young children.

What are you looking forward to?