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How long should your blog be?

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How long is the ideal blog?

The CreatePaceBlogger says it should be from 250 and 600 words, but the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts says 250 words will get the highest ranking.

If you’ve been reading my blogs, some of them are about a million words long, or so they seem. Oh well…

They asked Abraham Lincoln how tall a person should be. He said they should be tall enough for their feet to reach the ground!

That’s how I feel about blogs: they have to say something, and if they need more words to get there, put them in.

If they are just a few sentences, unless they are consistently funny or overpoweringly pithy, I’d stop visiting. That you can send by Twitter.

But I know that long, endless blogs scare others (and me) away too, unless the writer starts with a lead that is compelling (a hook lead), and keeps the segues or links tight, like cliffhangers in the old serials (don’t ask). Even that won’t snag many readers for too long.

The point of all of this: there is no answer, but if you can quit at around 250 words and you’ve said something worth reading (and returning to read more again) that’s about the best you can do.

For me, if you want a bit more in depth visit my free newsletter that you can only read monthly.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. This blog is 250 words long, with this P.S. but no title. Bingo!

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If you write or publish in the educational world, things are upside down!

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If you are publishing in the educational field, what I heard today at the webinar “Educational Publishing at Work” (by Book Business) would have made your legs and wallet hollow. (At my firm we are niche publishers mostly selling print and digital books to K-12 administrators.)

The products that will be available to teachers, students, and staff will be as different as a blackboard and chalk is to an iPad. It’s technology, friends, and nothing’s up to date in Kansas City!

But it’s not as upside down for writers. One critical element will remain much the same: the content. However it is displayed and wherever it is found, the core information will still have to be accurate, instructive, and most likely composed by a human. Thus, for writers the process will be more of the same: find out what is needed, research it, find a couple of solid models in final format, write it, and send it to product-maker.

Publishers will probably have to change frocks. The tools are changing; print has lost its crown. Though print will still provide content to the 3.2 million K-12 public school teachers 60% of the time, 54% will also get content from the web, 40% from DVDs, 14% from interactive white boards, and 4% from handheld devices.

The critical trends, according to Charlene Gayner, CEO of the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP), are (1) it’s e-everything as the industry transforms itself digitally, (2) the “f” word is “free” (probably from the Internet), and (3) with teachers aging, ethnicity shifting, an election every four years, and the ESEA up for review, nothing will be the same. “The kids are digital natives, they grew up with it. We must adapt.”

“The #1 business strategy affecting publishers will be switching from print to digital.” Other advice: they should position for a quick response, hire for a digital future, leave all options open, become a platform agnostic, and partner with the enemy.

(I’ll continue this review at my newsletter on May 4, in part because I’m waiting for the visuals to be posted to doublecheck the facts. The newsletter is free and monthly. Non-subscribers are invited to see the archives on or after that date.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Want to find your book, DVD, AC, or article in a library?

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My local librarian pointed me to a resource you may not know, even though it’s the largest library listing in the world, with 1.5 billion items listed from 10,000 libraries worldwide.

It’s www.worldcat.org and there are lots of different ways it can be used.

You have to pick out a format: book, article, CD, DVD, or all.

Then you must write in a topic. (I wonder what percent start with their own name?)

Push “go” and up will pop as many of the items as you have published as, say, a book. You then pick one of those items, like book X, and you may have 50 or 100 (or a lot more) copies of that book listed in libraries worldwide. If you entered your ZIP, it will list them starting at the closest library to the farthest. You can then see that library’s use policy, and much more.

Your book may be rated too. Five stars is tops.

But you can also see other books in related topics too. It will give you the topics, and you can sort by that subject to see what’s also available nearby. From that you might build a bibliography for further research or to use in planning your own topic expansion.

Drawbacks? In my county, this book hides at five libraries but none of those were in this search, and I would have had to drive 30 miles to get the closest copy (instead of just going to my storeroom!) So obviously not every library was included.

Still, if you want to see where your book is readily available in, say, India or London, this might tell you. It’s kind of like Google.com for libraries.

I was just surprised it existed, and wanted to share it with you.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. I have weird things in my free monthly newsletter too.

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Tell your town about your book (2)…

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A few blogs back (same title as above) we spoke about you sharing your book locally by radio, at bookstore signings, or through the library. I promised some additional information—this is it!

Before you call or e-mail your contacts at any of the above locations, figure out what people most need to hear from what you can say. What benefits will the information in your book bring them? Wealth? Fame? Relaxation? Vigor? Then frame what you have to share around those benefits, or the needs it will meet or the frustrations it will help resolve.

That’s the “why they should buy your book,” and it must be subtle. But you can say “in my book I explain a four-step approach to…” or something equivalent, and then briefly clarify each step. Don’t worry about sharing the solution. If it makes sense to the listener, they will want more details from your book. The few who don’t because you gave them the formula wouldn’t have bought it anyway!

If there’s time, inject examples they can picture as you speak. (The example must show improvement!) Folks love stories…

On the radio, you will only get to give the title once or twice, but a good idea is to also mention a link (or URL) they can go to for more details. Make it easy to remember. When I talk about How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days (that’s a mouthful of a title) I just send them to www.mybookpublishedinminutes.com. That link tells the benefits again and leads them to the order form.

But also write down every question that others ask you (or should) about your topic, put them in order of likelihood, and stop after the eighth. Type up the winners, make them as brief as possible, and share that with the radio producer or announcer. Just say “here’s a list of the questions most asked, but please ask anything you wish…” Then figure out an answer to the eight. Get to the point right away. All the better if you can inject some humor. Just don’t stray far from the problems you want the listener to solve from your printed words!

A last thought. Sometimes at bookstores you speak for 20-30 minutes about the book. Other times they stick a card table by the front door, a sign or two, and a tablecloth upon which you stack three or four copies of your book. All that’s missing is a grabber question you will ask the hapless souls who enter, to get them interested in buying your book.

With my book with the very long title I usually say “I bet there’s somebody in your family who wants to write a book…” If they look at me like I just uttered a string of blasphemies, I hold up my book and say “Here’s my book that will help them write it and publish it! What kind of book would they (or you) write?” If they walk away, I thank them. If they stay, we talk books…

The point is, an open-ended question that links them with your pages. And some courage, with a smile, by you.

That’s it. If you can’t sell your book locally, it will be hard to do to larger markets. So learn what works with your own people, hone your presentation, and have some fun with it. The worst that will happen is that others in your town who thought you were a useless slug will have to admit that now you are at least a literate slug with your own book in print.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. We talk more about this in my newsletter, which is free and is written by a literate slug.

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Build your own very profitable and much needed information empire

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We’ve been sharing 15 parts of a how-to process called “How to Sell 75% of Your Freelance Writing” at this blog. This is #16, the finale of the series, and, in my mind, for many it’s a logical, profitable, and life-changing conclusion.

Mind you, on these pages we have mostly focused on how you can create and sell articles for magazines and newspapers, with the linked elements of query and cover letters, photos, reprints, rewrites, and what I called, in #15 a few days back, both regular and multi-tiered topic spoking.

Some may have wanted just a piece of the writing/marketing procedure, and others didn’t want to go beyond the occasional article. But there are others too who want to take an idea or some area of information and expand it as deeply and as fully as possible—and they wouldn’t be adverse to cashing in, even royally, and becoming recognized as a legitimate expert about their topic. That’s what this segment is about, and I call it empire building. (Immodesty abounds: it is where I am an expert and have indeed written often about it, including a book called Empire-Building by Writing and Speaking which went out of print weeks ago! Great timing.)

It makes little sense to write at length about the process here and how you can make yourself an emperor or empress since I can send you to where, in addition to this blog, I focus specifically on that theme, and where three free reports are yours for the downloading. You see, I write a free monthly newsletter called “Writers, speakers, publishers, and product developers: Create Your Own Highly Profitable Empire!”

One of the free reports is particularly slanted to your interests: “Lifelong Wealth by Being Indispensable.” Here is a description of this report: 

The ideal situation is to have you and your knowledge, experience, and products indispensable to a niche market. Where the buyers not only demand more, they tell their friends to buy too…

The cost is your time, money, and energy. In return, you’d like a reliable lifetime of significant and increasing wealth.

But you’d also like, in addition to lots of money, soon, (1) Very low or no risk; (2) If goods are involved, little or no leftover stock, quick turnover, and no heavy lifting; (3) If speaking or writing are the means, no cold calling and editors and bookers filling your schedule and doing your promotion; (4) Virtual employees and your own schedule; (5) Time to do what you want; (6) Your mark left forever, and (7) Your name immediately perceived as a font of expertise.

That’s doable, as this report outlines. Gordon Burgett’s free newsletter continues to discuss the topic and ways to make it happen. That is the  heart of what he shares free monthly to make your empire bloom!

To get the free reports, go to this newsletter link. Yes, it subscribes you to the newsletter, but if you don’t want to be subscribed, just unsubscribe and still download the reports you want.

In a nutshell, the empire-building concept is straightforward. You find a core of knowledge that others want to know and would benefit from having. You make yourself an expert about it, and from your expertise you create a principal book (or article, video, etc.) about it that draws others of like interest to you and establishes, by its excellence, your authority and expertise. You move out from the core or principal product to other, related products. And you move out from that means of information dissemination (say writing or print) to other means where the topic can also be explored (like audio or products or demonstrations).

Every time you create a new item, you tell those who bought or were interested in the earlier items, so that your sales and your recognition move apace. It demands that what you share is well written or presented, accurate, and bears your stamp of expertise.

This works easiest and best with niche products, and my book Niche Publishing: Publishing Profitably Every Time not only describes it well, it shows how this can be done quickly and inexpensively while it also reduces the time and investment risk to virtually nothing.

So we have come full circle, from an idea in #1 of the series to #16, another (maybe the same) idea. At the beginning we wanted to share it once, with an editor who would ask us to submit the article for buying consideration. Here we are hoping to build a lifetime of building our core idea into multiple products, many more sales, and all the good things that come from perceived expertise, like being invited to write books, columns, and key articles to being asked to keynote, give breakout sessions, or speak to large groups of like fans.

Download any of these 16 items and use them to your, and our, enrichment.

My best wishes to you,

Gordon Burgett

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How you really make money with articles and their information dissemination derivatives…

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This is called multi-tiered topic spoking and it is #15 of our 16-item series about “How to Sell 75% of Your Freelance Writing.” It will make a lot more sense if you’ll also read my April 8 blog, #14, too where I talk about multiple sales at the article-writing level. Why not now?

Recall, in #14 I drew a circle, wrote WHALES in the middle, and drew eight spokes from the center, past the circle, and each represented an article topic I wrote about and sold, using for each article a lot of the pool research (the 20 hours invested before I queried or wrote) from that center circle.

But let’s change the topic here (because whales sort of works but not nearly as well as 100 other topics, like the one I now suggest). Let’s say here you are writing about CLOSING THE SALE instead of WHALES, and you have also done #14 about writing articles to various publications about “closing the sale.” In the process you spent that starter time (the 20 hours above—the number of hours is flexible) and created the information pool, found many experts to quote, lots of examples to cite, and you have written down several dozen potential ideas for articles.

The biggest difference here is that each new circle has a different information dissemination means qualifier. The first, that we’ve discussed, will be for magazines or articles. In the middle that would say SALE CLOSING/ARTICLES.

But your others, each a circle with as many spokes as you can find ways to sell the concept, might say SALE CLOSING/AUDIO, SALE CLOSING/SPEAKING, …/VISUAL, …/E-BOOKS AND REPORTS, …/BOOKS, …/CONSULTING, …/PRODUCTS AND SERVICES, and more.

Let’s focus on one of these topic-spoking diagrams, then let your mind and pencil wander. (All of this is leading us to the last unit of the series next week, where you can become a well paid expert by empire building!)

Let’s say you also want to sell information about sales closing through live talks, speeches, workshops, breakout sessions, keynotes, training programs… so the center of the circle says SALES CLOSING/SPEAKING.

Create that circle and tentatively add in six spokes. Say that’s on one sheet of paper and the articles circle with spokes is on another. And you also create a separate sheet for the other six information means above (like books and consulting).

Then imagine each of these sheets all flat but 3” apart, tiered one over the other, with the centers lined up. That’s a 3-D (multi-tiered) topic spoking diagram. And envision all the information you gathered in the center circle for the article sheet also being accessible on all of the other sheets, plus all of the information you gather in the future about any phase of sales closing also being available for any other sheet!

Then go to the SALES CLOSING/SPEAKING sheet and write down ways that you could sell that information orally (much of it the same information you shared in print). For example, the spokes may say: (1) national convention breakout session for the ABC industry in Chicago, (2) keynote at the regional ABC industry in Dayton, (3) radio interview on KXXK on the business show Tuesday nights, (4) talk to the round table of sales honchos about YYY, (5) presentations to the employees of three of the round table sales honchos, (6) workshop through the local community college extended ed program about closing sales (check my link here), and so on… Put down the doable ones at first, then keep adding in more spokes as you get comfortable with the means and the marketing needed to make each work.

You can do the same to any other means that is appropriate to your idea and for which you have the needed information and ability—the last can be developed!

Is it clear that much of the information you share at your speeches or seminars is the same information you gathered for the articles, and will be similar to the audio CDs you create and the radio show on which you appear? And that lots of the listeners at every spoke will be buying the book you create from your book tier?

That’s a quick look at the concept. I know it works because that’s precisely how I and dozens (over time maybe 100) of my friends and acquaintances earn their living. It usually starts with one article or a wee talk to anybody who will read or listen to it.

It’s a lot more than selling 75% of your freelance writing, but that’s how it starts and how it evolves.

I’ll wrap this up next week. Just go back and pluck out the other 14 sections, print them out, try them, and share what you find useful with others.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. Take a peek at my newsletter too, free and monthly. A lot of the topic-spoking process and all of the 75% steps are also in my Travel Writer’s Guide. Somebody is going to get paid to write those articles and give those speeches, and all the rest. Why not you?

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Why not sell five articles at once?

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Why not sell five articles at once that mostly use the same core material?

If you’ve been following the “How to Sell 75% of Your Freelance Writing” blog series here, this is #14 (of 16 segments)—and my favorite. I call the process “Topic Spoking.”

Let’s say you are averaging $400 a magazine sale. It’s great to get in print, but why not use that article topic as the core, modify it some, sell each modification, and, say, earn $2,000 for five sales? Then add another three or four sales for $250 each, as reprint or rewrites. That could easily bring in $4,000, and lots of new sales notches, all door-openers for more articles and topic spokes to those editors in the future.

Does it work? That’s mostly how I sold 1,700+ articles and lived on the income while helping two daughters through master’s degrees.

In summary, here’s the thinking.

Find a topic you enjoy and that readers want to read about. My standard example, because it’s so big, is whales. (I grew up in Illinois and the whales we had there were suspect. I thought they were fish.) Then I moved to California.

Gray whales were nearly extinct, and that particularly caught my attention, in part because one day driving along the Pacific Ocean near Ventura I saw a pod of them swimming in the sea. So I got out a sheet of paper, drew a circle, and on it I wrote WHALES. Then I drew eight spikes from that core center.

I also started a 20-hour clock to gather as much key information as I could about whales, noting the source of each fact and the names of all the experts quoted. I listed every spin-off whale-related idea I thought that readers of other magazines or newspapers would want to know about.

During the 20 hours I mostly read and note-took (now I’d add in video watching). But I also drove my family to San Pedro (near Long Beach) and we went on a “whale-watching” cruise to see grays in the ocean. We then visited the Maritime Museum nearby and I spoke to an expert on grays there.

By the end of that time I had solid copy for a newspaper travel piece called “Whale Watching in Southern California” and enough support photos (which I sold to six newspapers, five with a $50 sidebar). I earned about $1,200 total.

I also posted seven other ideas, one at the end of each spoke: “Gray Whales,” “Grays in Baja California,” “Whale watching in the mainland U.S. (mostly New England),” “Whale watching in Hawaii (all done by phone!),” “The Endangered Species List,” “Echolocation: underwater orientation (mostly by whales),” “and “Gigi and Sea World” (the only gray in captivity). Each one of those yielded at least one good sale, many three or four, and some, additional pieces that overlapped, like “Whale Watching in the Californias.”

Since the migration passes California twice a year, this topic lasted about a year. (I used to do three or four topic-spoking themes at a time.) It brought in $14,000+.

Mostly I used it to sell magazine and newspaper travel pieces but a few other topics became books or book contracts, and that would multiply the income about four times higher, with more royalties later. The trick was to also work the reprint market hard as well, so some topics, exhausted, would still bring in small additional sales years later.

The most important thing is the huge economy in time and effort. I suppose the first article earned about $10 an hour, dividing the payment check by that research starter 20 hours. But by the sixth article, I was earning an easy $200 an hour because I already knew 80% of what I needed to write about, and usually just had to make a couple of phone calls to get the needed expert quotes that most editors wanted.

We spoke earlier in this series about a feasibility study. Topic spoking is just a series of sort-of-overlapping feasibility studies, where you identify the topic, who wants to read about it, and what they read. You then make a market list of those publications, prioritize the market list, and either query the magazine editor or simultaneously submit to the newspaper editors.

Don’t forget that the photos are usable for a lot of sales. Here, if I had a killer shot (alas, not of a killer whale!) I’d shoot it from lots of angles so I could use it more than once (or twice). And if I spoke to an expert about one aspect of whaling, say, I’d look at the related articles with similar themes and I’d ask specific questions about them too. I’d also ask that expert, at the end, if he/she knew of another expert about “x” and “y” (other articles I was doing then or in the near future).

The big-pot reward? If you really enjoyed the topic, why not write a book about it after you already had so much research, so many expert leads, solid photos, and enough in print to get a “go-ahead” from a publisher?

I discuss a lot of this process in my Travel Writer’s Guide book.

I’ll talk about “multi-tiered topic spoking in section #15 next week.

Give it a try!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. Glad to have you as a free subscriber to my monthly newsletter, where I talk more about writing and selling—plus book publishing. (You get some free reports too.)

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Tell your town about your book…

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If you have a published book, why not share it locally by radio, at the local author book gatherings, or through the library?

Let me simply propose the prospect right now (I’m swamped with manuscript review work this week), and I will give examples and details in later April.

Here’s the thought. If you have something that others would enjoy or benefit from hearing, it can be explained in 20-30 minutes, and summarized in five minutes in an applicable way, then it may be just the thing for the talk radio shows, the bookstore signings, and a library presentation or short class.

Here are some quick steps to do until I get back with more guidelines.

(1) Create a tip sheet about your book. Link to this example for a design format, and just put yours together with Word using tables to create columns and a .pdf book cover set in place using Insert/Pictures/From File. You will have different contents, of course. Just make sure it’s accurate and true. (I talk about tip sheets in my March 2011 free newsletter.)

(2) Then go to Google and find the libraries nearby (town+library) and the local or regional talk shows (town+radio+talk show) or (county+radio+talk show). Print out the results, and circle those where you have a chance or appearing.

(3) Create a list of the contact people at each library or radio station: name, phone, and e-mail.

(4) Write down eight questions the radio interviewer might ask you that will get quickest to what you want to share.

(5) Write down several ideas of how you could talk at the library: a meet-the-author talk, an hour presentation of the book and its theme, a class of one or three sessions…

Then just wait until I get back before you make those contacts.

A last thought: this is for fun, exposure, and to show your expertise. You will tell them how they can order your book in both cases, but you probably won’t sell any (or at least many). Nor will you be paid. Worse yet, each person who books you will surely expect a free copy of your book!

Still, the rewards can be huge and long-lasting. And it can be lots of fun imagining that English teacher hearing you talking in public about your having pubished a book! Vengance alone may be worth the hassle…

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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