Can you just rewrite your own published article and sell it again?

Sure. There are two ways to use that original piece. One, as a reprint. (I just blogged about selling reprints [second rights] of your article to another editor, or to many other editors. There is no exclusivity for reprints.)

The second way is to simply take the research from the first article, move the words around, query about the new piece, and sell it again.

Let’s focus on the second approach here. You can use the contents of the first article to create a different one, or many different articles. Each is the original article rewritten. Each must have its own identity, and each rewrite (since it is a new, different article) can be sold like any other article: all rights, first rights, simultaneous submissions, and so on. Even later as a reprint!

A rewrite will likely use some or all of the research material used for the original. (It almost always uses more, different information, quotes, or anecdotes too.) What’s mandatory is that the resulting article be unique. The best way to refocus a rewrite is to find a different angle or slant to the theme, put it in a different place or culture, or emphasize the history of the first article.

You first article might talk about the Chicago Cubs since 1876, when the National League began and the Cubs won the first pennant. A rewrite might talk about 1876 only, the Cubs, and that specific pennant. A different rewrite might focus on Anson, Spaulding, and the luminaries of that year; another might discuss the greatest Cubs from 1876 to the present.

When are rewrites most commonly done? When you have sold first rights to an article and you want to spin off more sales from the piece and its research. Even if an editor has bought all rights to the first item, he has only bought the copy, not the idea. You can reuse the idea and much of the original copy in different ways.

The key question is, how much must subsequent rewrites differ from the original, and other rewrites, to have its (or their) own legal identity. That’s hard to answer. Surely if you change the title, lead, conclusion, and quotes, that ought to be difference enough. Another approach is easier, though: change the angle. Come at the topic from a different tack. That will require a new title. The old lead won’t work, and since the conclusion is intimately linked to the lead, it too must change. You could even use some of the old quotes, since they refer to a different base.

The selling process is identical to selling an original article. But must you reveal that you have a similar article in print? It’s your choice. You don’t have to. But as long as both are clearly distinct, doing so might enhance the rewrite sale.

(There’s a lot more about the writing, selling, and reselling process in my Travel Writer’s Guide.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Selling the same article many times—legally and properly!

Once your article has been in print, why not sell it again and again? That’s a reprint. Or use the same research and rewrite it for other publications? That’s a rewrite (which you can also reprint!) Both are commonly done, perfectly legal, and can increase your income remarkably.

So let me talk about reprints in this blog, and rewrites and modified rewrites in the blogs to follow in a couple days.

If your article appeared in a magazine, say, you can use the same material in newspapers or a book. And if the original publication circulates only in North America, why should the rest of the world be deprived of your rapier wit and literary charm?

Reprints are second-rights sales. (The terms “reprint rights” and “second rights” are identical.)

Almost all editors buy first rights, and you can sell those rights again the minute a first-rights sale hits the stands. You needn’t ask the first editor for permission or a release. He used what he bought. First rights means “one-time (first) use,” with those rights automatically reverting to you when used.

There is no exclusivity to second or reprint rights. They are simply a reprinting by anyone at any time, with your approval and their payment, of an item that’s already been in print. (There are no third or fourth rights.) You needn’t change a word in the original and you can offer it simultaneously to any publication you think will buy it.

When you offer second or reprint rights you must tell the potential buyer(s) (1) where the piece first appeared in print, (2) the date of that appearance, and (3) that you are offering second or reprint rights.

We used to just cut and paste the published version of the article on a sheet of paper (or several) and make clear copies of it, then send a copy to each possible buyer with a cover letter or note. But now you can just send a computer copy of the first use, with a cover letter or note.

You can even offer the same piece to competing publications. But if both buy and use it, though they should have known that there was no exclusivity, they’ll probably both be mad at you, which could close one or both markets to future sales.

What does the cover letter look like? Begin it with two lively paragraphs telling what the manuscript attached is about. The letter is a tease to get the editor to read the actual piece, so do it up right—how many will read the copy of the article unless the letter makes it sound irresistible? Then include the information in (1)-(3) above. If you have additional material that would enhance the sale, such as photos or sidebars, mention that next. Finally, offer to send the original manuscript, if interested, so it’s easier for them to reproduce it.

Want to see a sample (but fictitious) reprint cover letter?


(upper left)
Your snail mail address
Your email address
Your phone number
The date

(upper right, below the above info)
Mr. Sempre Compra
Editor, Reprint Magazine
3456 Pulaski Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

Dear Mr. Compra:

Not too many years ago nobody in their right mind, including the readers of Reprint Magazine, went to visit Paraguay with enjoyment, peace, or comfort in mind. Its dictators kept the fiefdom unfriendly, and newcomers under constant vigilance, a throwback to the days when they even killed the locals who tried to escape.

No more. The last of the tyrants fled some years back, the gates are open, and the California-sized home of the Guaraní Indians in South America is now ready to share its seldom-seen riches.

That’s where I just headed, to key in on the highlights of your readers’ possible coming visit, as the enclosed article shows. The article first appeared in Surprise Magazine last month, and is now available to you as a reprint. I can also provide the photos shown, plus 40 more .jpegs, for your selection for use on a one-time rights basis, if interested.

Why would they want to go? To see the second oldest city in the Americas (Asunción), trek through the desolate but intriguing Jesuit missions (subject of the movie The Mission), swim at the hemisphere’s largest hydroelectric dam, tramp through the forested interior providing most of the Americas’ exported wood, and gape at the magnificent Iguassu Falls where Paraguay joins Argentina and Brazil.

I can send the original manuscript as an attachment, with some (or all) of the best photos.

Me as the author? In addition to writing the Travel Writer’s Guide (published by Prima) and 40 other books, I’ve had 1,700 articles in print, most in travel. But the enclosed article tells all. If it would add to your pages, we’re in business!

Gordon Burgett


That’s it. (There’s a lot more about the writing and selling process in my Travel Writer’s Guide.) If the editor wants to use it, send the file and photos. They usually pay a half or a third as much as they do for first rights, but if you can get three or four buyers you are ahead of the game! They also are more likely to pay you on publication (when it appears in print), but they do pay: I’ve never been stiffed on a reprint sale.

You can find reprint buyers in the current Writer’s Market (usually in the reference section in the library, as well as online). Go to other publications in the same genre as the one that bought the first rights. It will usually say in the description if they buy second or reprint rights.

Good luck,

Gordon Burgett

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Interviewing for magazine articles and books

A couple of days ago I blogged here about interviewing for newspapers. The process is a bit different for magazines and books.

For magazines, almost all of the articles you will write will come from a “go-ahead” reply to a query letter that you sent to the editor. So you know what information you must gather, you have probably suggested two to four people you might interview for that information, and you know when the piece is due (often in three weeks or so unless it’s travel yet to take or tied to some future event). I outline this process fully in the Travel Writer’s Guide.

It’s an even more measured pace for books since the same conditions are similar to magazine writing, except deadlines may be a month or a year away. You probably suggested many more potential interviews for a book. If the book is about one of the interviewees, or they play a key role in putting the book together, you might re-interview that person many times.

So magazine articles and books have less urgency than gathering newspaper copy. More time to arrange the interviews, meld them into a bigger copy body before submission, and even time to return for clarification or ask an added question to the interviewee, to fill a gap that became apparent in the final writing. (Having said that, I don’t remember contacting interviewees later about a then current article more than perhaps a dozen times total, of many hundreds of interviews.)

You also know what kind of information, and about how much, you need to write copy that works. That, in turn, makes it easier to organize the interview. The only problem there is that the interviewee sometimes won’t talk to you, or won’t talk about what you need to know. Or will, and does, but really wants to talk at length about something else. If you get enough information for your article, then let them talk and talk. Sometimes you can gently work that talk into more information usable in your article. Often you can’t, but keep your mind and ears open for good commentary that can be used in other articles, after go-ahead queries, later on.

Do your homework before the interview, and follow up on leads or contacts the interviewee gives you, soon after the interview ends. If they wrote a book central to your theme, read it. Read articles or poetry they wrote. See their newest film. Know what position they take on the controversy you are covering—and why. Know who opposes them, and why. Find out what’s been proposed in the future about that topic, and what role and position do they see themselves taking.

Interviewing in person is slower, there is more protocol setting it up and you usually have to arrange transportation. If cameras and a tape recorder are involved, they must be brought, and that’s often intrusive. It’s doubly irksome if the interview is delayed, rescheduled, or even cancelled once you arrive. On the other hand, you can see the person’s animation and enthusiasm (or rancor) as he speaks. You can see if the person is sober and more or less sane. And if they feel comfortable with you, they very often say more, speak longer, and suggest other people you might interview too. Some will talk to those recommended too, to vouch for you and help you get the interview.

Probably 75% of my interviews for magazines, and nearly as many for books, have been done by telephone. Which is at least a two-step process. One, you have to tell them what you want (a short interview), for which publication (even if you only have a spec[ulation] go-ahead it’s permissible to use the name of the publication), and why (what are you writing about and why them?) Sound enthusiastic and articulate (at least lucid), set a time to call, and thank them before they come to their senses! If they hesitate, tell them it should only take five minutes, at most 10, and you know they are busy. Then be quiet and let them think. If they say no, a last-ditch question is “Is there any other way to include you in this article [book] than the telephone?” They might relent or have you meet them elsewhere (like where the drink coffee in the morning), but get them to suggest it, or even for a few minutes where they live or work.

A final advisory: be ready to do the interview right then. Many times they’ll say, “Well, I’ve got five minutes right now. What do you want to know?”

One of the best things about magazine and book interviews, you get to meet (quickly, usually) lots of famous (or infamous) people. I met five presidents in South America, Gilberto Freyre, Jorge Amado, Adlai Stevenson often, ball players, movie stars, ambassadors, governors, generals, the head of the U.N. (and past President of Colombia), and the best two guides on the Amazon River, Gluck and Ivank. Plus hundreds of very interesting, often eloquent people, many with big notches on their belts: Channel swimmers, pro ball players, comics, three soccer-playing survivors in a Chilean plane crash who had to eat non-survivors, and a man who lifted a car off a kid pinned below it.

The interviewer is the decipherer between folks with something to say (even in almost impenetrable jargon) and the rest of us who are curious and want (and should) know. Just don’t get in the way of that flow, be accurate, spell every name correctly, and have fun doing it!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Interviewing for newspaper articles

Let me talk about newspaper interviewing here, and I’ll talk about interviewing for magazines and books in the next blog which should be out, here, in a couple of days.

When I was a new writer I mostly wrote articles for newspapers, and I ultimately had about 1700 of them published. The editors wanted many interviews in each article, usually two, three, or four people talked to and quoted (sometimes paraphrased, “____ thought that ____”). Features often used twice as many quotes, unless it was specifically about one person, when sometimes (rarely) that was enough.

Where do you find people to interview: on the scene, call them up (interview in person or on the phone), ask the person interviewed who else they suggest is knowledgeable about the topic, if it’s a controversy find out who is on both sides, ask the police or firemen who is doing the press on this, ask the coach…

So for newspapers there was no technique other than to look interested and keep eye contact with the person you were speaking to—that also made it easier to tell when they were lying, which was often. (You were expected to filter out the lies.) You approached the person, told them who you were and which newspaper you worked (or were writing for), smiled, and just asked questions. If they looked dubious or hostile, you handed them a card the newspaper gave you (if you were a staffer) that confirmed your lowly status and for whom. Charm helped, and I’m sure beauty made it easier for lasses, but mostly just getting to it and being clean and reasonably neat was enough–strike fast, keep going, thank them, and flee fast. Also have a notepad and a pen or pencil poised. Later it was a wee tape recorder (digital was best). But the further you went into the woods the less useful tape recorders were. The recorders so captured the person’s fancy in rural South America (how did you get a person inside it to make it turn?) that I stopped using one there to interview.

Mostly, you had to stay focused. Figure out what the story or piece was about and don’t stray very far in the questions you asked.

In fact, the best questions were starter questions that got the interviewee going, like, “Would you tell me what you saw when___ or what did so-and-so say when ___”? Then you just stood back and captured the heart of what they shared. If something didn’t make sense, you’d ask, “What you are saying is ___” and they would say yes and keep on going, or no, then give you another version. Usually I put the question I most needed answered second, so I could segue into it. After I got that answer the rest was gravy.

The biggest problem was getting people to talk at all. The second biggest problem was to get away before they fell over from talking!

If my presence (a real live reporter!) struck them mute. I’d just get out the card and show it like it was a detective’s shield and I’d remind them that we wanted to get the truth about ____ and I was hoping that they could help me out. It’ll just take five minutes, which was about right. Then I would ask a question, and not say anything more. The silence got so oppressive that they’d slowly start talking. I’d thank them regularly, and after I had written down about as much as they knew, I’d tell them to look in the paper tomorrow and they should be there!

If they talked too much, my job was to keep them on the topic, stay interested, and when I had what they knew, get going…

It’s true in newspaper work that the devil (other than you) was in the details. Any time they mentioned a person or place, I’d repeat it, and later double check the spelling of names and places (if they knew). I didn’t need their help with “Chicago” but if something like “Inhambupe” came up, I’d ask. The one thing you always had to get right, the correct spelling of the person’s name you were interviewing! I also got a phone number where I could contact them later if I had any follow-up questions.

The very first job I had for a newspaper was for the Des Plaines (Illinois) Suburban Times and Park Ridge Herald. The editor, Floyd Fulle, said when he hired me that the lad before me (writing high school sports) hand wrote everything and he seldom spelled a person’s name the same way twice. Fulle said he suspected that the high school, Maine Township, had 250 football players on the team because each had three or four different names. He told me, “one name per person, and get the list from the coach to see how it’s spelled.” (I have a funny article about that job in the Chicken Soup for Writers book, edited by Bud Gardner.)

Courage! If you do it wrong, the editor will promptly tell you. Ask how you can correct that, do it, and remember the next time. But you can reduce the trial and error by (1) first getting the facts right, (2) get the correct spellings, (3) let the person talk–new writers at first think it’s a conversation in which the person interviewed wants to hear about them, (4) turn it in on time, and (5) keep at it. (I go into the whole article-writing and -selling process in great detail in the Travel Writer’s Guide.)

Articles are made up of facts, quotes, and anecdotes. The first two are critical for newspapers. No interviews, usually no article, and no pay.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Build your empire from fiction too!

How blind are those who can see!

For at least 20 years I’ve been sharing ideas with you about how to at least triple the income from the theme of your core book while you continue to build a profitable empire from it for life.

I wrote Empire-Building by Writing and Speaking about the concept and process. (It’s just out of print; I’ll publish the much updated version in early 2012.)

I blog about the ways to empire build once or twice a week and it’s what my current (free) newsletter is about!

My vision of empire-building has always had at its core a non-fiction niche book that was impossible not to buy, and from it the author expanded (spread is the inside term) into other, related information dissemination means, like more books, articles, blogs, reports, booklets, speeches, seminars, classes, consulting, videos, podcasts, and so on…

I still think that for most of us that’s the quickest way to information heaven, displaying and selling our expertise, pre-testing before publishing, and growing by meeting the needs of others.

Yet as I research for the new book I see lots of emperors and empresses building from general non-fiction (rather than niche) roots.

My biggest surprise is how novelists (and comic book folk) are doing precisely the same thing. From fiction! From “stuff made up, not real,” as an old mentor described it.

Let me share a super example I read this morning from EmCraven, at the blog ebookrevolution called “A Writer’s Money Isn’t Just in the Books.”

Emily talks about how well the comic book companies have it figured out. “They not only mass produce paperback copies of their stories but they have television shows, movies, yearly conventions in every major city in the world, … lunch boxes. They have toy figurines of the hero, the side kick, the villain, the villain’s hairless cat, and … the villain’s landlady.” Craven adds that “this…is marketing genius, realizing that the money is not in the paper bound book, but in the other entertainment opportunities we can provide the audience based on the story.”

She says that Indie publisher Richard Nash talks most eloquently on writers needing to expand their scope from the novel to further interactive opportunities like workshops, Q&A sessions, memorabilia, exclusive dinner parties, your own board game, etc.

The blog includes other examples of “creat(ing) a fever around … work by allowing it to move outside the written word.”

When I began publishing I was straight from academia, an instructor and a dean, and it never dawned on me that many of my readers would write fiction. Nor did I link the fact that Disney, who grew up in my old haunts in Illinois, is making zillions converting fiction into castles, crash-em cars, and t-shirts.

I guess I deserve to be bowled over by my blindness!

The process starts the same way: you need to pay attention to that first writing, why others will read and buy the words, and the vision, whether its non-fiction or fiction. But the “other world,” fiction to me, seems a whole lot brighter now that I see how cleverly its writers are building empires of their own! Who knew? The make-believers.

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Converting idle copy into ebooks, booklets, blogs, and articles

Some empire-building mind rambling.

I hate to write something and not use it several times, usually in different ways. The question is how to do it so you don’t bore the same readers—or violate some obscure restriction. (I presume the restrictors will warn me once. I’m good at apologizing for stupid acts.)

Let’s say I’m writing a booklet, a 12-page offering about niche publishing. In fact, I just finished such a specimen this morning, having found a booklet skeleton that I started I think in 2008 (who knows why). I felt compelled to update and complete it.

But what do I do with it now?

I could expand it into a very specific case study, filling in and expanding each of the 12 pages with an old example (like one of the dental SOPs books we published some years back or hold on to it for my next niche book, and do a spin-off showing its step-by-step process, with actual numbers and costs). Maybe a 30-page process wee-book I could sell in-house as a report, plus make a digital book out of it and send it to Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and LSI to sell for 99 cents. That would take a day total. (I just posted a blog about publishing four books a day. It was a similar situation.)

Or in fact I could produce a booklet with the how-to process as it is, and add a sales page of niche-related products, and send it to potential consulting clients or distribute it as a useful guide when I speak to a writing/publishing group.

It’s really about five segments stitched together, and I already have a full book that sells pretty well called Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time. It makes no sense to do another full book.

But I am inclined to take the 3,200-word item and break into the five key components of niche publishing.

Then I could extract five usable blogs that would help others to whom niche publishing is either unknown or too odd to do. I would mention my book in each, and slip in that I consult about this too. I’m also about to appear in IBPA ‘s super magazine, the Independent, about this topic so when that happens I can plug them as well.

Then why not repackage each of those five or so units send them to and a couple more digital feeder publications, where other bloggers might pick it up and use it. It would require a bit of reworking but shouldn’t take more than an hour total, or two if I sent it out to several.

And I have some favorite blogs where I could send it as a gift item. Probably reworked even more in the opening paragraph(s) to explain niche publishing even more fully.

It’s also a good example of how to create an empire-building spin-off. A many-dissemination sprinkling of expertise. So if I’m writing about empire building it could appear there too.

It’s solid core, workbook material from which talks to writers or seminars through extended ed can be built. Plug in actual examples with the points made and it’s nearly ready to go, if you factor in the questions and answers from the listeners. And from that often comes consulting: it starts with some soul asking during the break, quietly, “Do you do any consulting about (niche publishing)?”

When I blog about it I’ll tell Twitter (where I hide as GLeeBurgett) that it’s in my blog, retweet the other blogs, and let it (or the blog) get picked up by Facebook and Linkedin, which in turn lets others know that this is the kind of thing that I publish and write about.

There may be a few more ways to share this copy, but I’m so hungry that if I don’t go get lunch I might put mustard on my keyboard and eat it.

A lass asked me at BAIPA this past Saturday how many times and ways one can respin the same core copy, which is what got me thinking here. I see four or five small digital ebooks (the same one with different publishers), a blog (or several), two different booklets, some speaking, and some social networking outlets.

I like to put extra feet on idle words if their sharing makes sense for the readers and me.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Now is the time to get writing, speaking, and publishing

In October I had several opportunities to converse at length with folks like us: writers, publishers, speakers, empire-building types. This was mostly before and after seminars I gave, and at professional gatherings of published writers.

I shared most of what I’m saying here in my (free) empire-building newsletter that month, with a slightly different title. Now it’s early December and the economy seems to be easing up a fraction, and I feel even more strongly that it’s an ideal time to get empire building.

Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions (or the others feel it is none of my business, a feeling we newspaper folk know well), but it seems to me that the present economic malaise has otherwise productive people stopped dead, or at least tiptoeing much more cautiously. Like they are waiting to see (what?) before digging into new projects or expanding their visibility.

Granted, these are fretful times in which to sell nonfiction books, even those published digitally (despite the rosy ebook news). On the other hand, it’s an ideal time to get long-term, major projects going; to strategize, and to put information-dissemination plans in motion.

Books are the core of empire-building, with speaking the logical next step (to share the book)—or, occasionally, the reverse. Then from both, the spin-offs emerge as related needs pop to the surface, like workbooks, guides, CDs, videos, podcasts, blogs, newsletters, booklets, articles, and much more…

The hardest thing about books is the time they require. The printing and publishing are much quicker and less expensive in 2011, but to make the book worth an empire still requires at least many months to give it substance and to arrange it properly. That’s where faith, vision, and a strategic plan fuel the research, writing, and editing during times of distress. Like now.

Yet I’m not seeing much of that happening. Too many people with good ideas, skill, and a clearly defined purpose are whining and shuffling and waiting for a sign or for money to flow down the street or something. I want to shake them lovingly and shout “COURAGE” in their ear.

This is where my bias toward niche markets shouts loudest—or for general themes that could easily be nichified. Niche publishing is faster, safer, and promises far more profits sooner. I just presented a 12-step way to pre-test a niche book at this blog (see earlier blogs beginning with “Blog Bundle…” or related products). The pre-test quantifies the risk before one invests their effort and tightly-marketed brilliance. That way you know that when the financial structure improves (as it always does) you are ready to step up with tested products in hand—or you can market them now, to niche buyers far less resistant to buy.

If all of that still draws a blank, then find a need that others will pay right now to get met, or a frustration so aggravating they will run to buy the cure, and create and share (or sell) the solution.

Maybe I’m too impatient. I may over-presume that many people want to empire build, or at least publish something (especially since it’s very fast and almost free now).

If some of this describes your frame of mind (and inaction), let me lovingly and anonymously byte-whisper: “COURAGE!”

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Lifelong Wealth by Being Indispensable

The ideal situation is to have you and your knowledge, experience, and products indispensable to a niche market. Where buyers seek them, demand more, and urge their friends to buy too…

The indispensability really happens when those in your niche field—fellow accountants, scrapbookers, Giants fans, real estate agents, fast-food managers—say your name and someone says, “isn’t that the person who writes (or talks about) X?”

Or when the topic gets to X, one of the group says, “Oh yeh, that’s what (insert your name) talks (or writes) about.”

The best thing is that anybody literate or articulate and courageous can get there!

But it does take time, some money, and a lot of energy and focus. In return, you could reap a lifetime of increasingly dependable wealth and recognition. It’s the reverse of a “get-rich-quick scheme.” It’s you singularly and purposefully placing yourself and what you know (or can) where others, who want your knowledge, hurry to buy it.

Indispensability is the root of empire building, with you the emperor or empress. Done right, besides the money and deserved fame, there are other perks to niche publishing and speaking which are usually its core: (1) very low or no risk; (2) if goods are involved, little or no leftover stock, quick turnover, and no heavy lifting; (3) 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 an important font of expertise.

I just updated a wee how-to ebook (about 30 pages) and posted it for 99 cents at Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords) called “Lifelong Wealth by Being Indispensable. Just look under Burgett. (We sell it too.)

It’s also free to subscribers to my also free monthly newsletter, with two other ebooks (that are also available at the outlets above for 99 cents): 101 Niche Marketing Topics (see my recent blog) and Finding Indispensable Article Topics. Here’s a link to the free copies.

Being indispensable isn’t for everyone, nor is writing and/or speaking for money. But it would be cruel not to let those who do want their knowledge to be indispensable not to have a framework for how to get there.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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