Social Media: Content is King

“Have a website! Use social media! Write a blog!” That’s the message business owners are hearing these days. Blogging about your business and being active on different social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter are excellent ways to share valuable information and engage in a conversation with your clients and prospects. Here’s the catch: doing these things effectively takes some investment of thought and time on your part.

“Well,” you say, “I’m a busy business owner juggling a hundred things at once. How on earth am I supposed to come up with compelling content for my website, my blog or my social media outlets?”

Rest assured, there is a way to create dynamic, valuable content that keeps visitors coming back to your website and helps turn them into clients. I’ll tell you how in a three-hour workshop I’m offering on Monday, March 5, at 6 PM at North Shore Community College (Danvers Campus). The workshop, “Content Is King: Stand Out Using Social Media,” will focus on how to generate ideas for terrific content that helps your business stand out from the competition.

Here’s a quick look at what we’ll cover in the workshop:

  • Quick overview of why you want to use social media in the first place.
  • What’s your current process for generating content? What’s working and what is not?
  • Tips for generating a steady stream of topics for your social media channels, so you always have something to post.
  • How to set up an efficient, time-saving content-generation process that works for you and your business.
  • How to promote your social media channels in a way that also helps promote your business.

To register for this workshop, which is offered for just $49 through NSCC’s Community Education division, visit http://community.northshore.edu/registration/index.html and sign up for course CSA103.

Sit Down and Write! (or Plan Your Escape to Muse 2011)

Today a wonderful word landed in my email in-box, courtesy of the A.Word.A.Day newsletter from www.wordsmith.org. The word, so relevant to anyone who writes, is sitzfleisch, from the German Sitzfleisch — sitzen (to sit) + Fleisch (flesh).

As Wordsmith’s Anu Garg writes: “Sitzfleisch is a fancy term for what’s commonly known as chair glue: the ability to sit still and get through the task at hand. It’s often the difference between, for example, an aspiring writer and a writer. Sometimes the word is used in the sense of the ability to sit out a problem — ignore it long enough in the hope it will go away.” (If you love words, do yourself the favor of subscribing to Anu’s newsletter — I learn something new every day from it.)

Whether you’re wrestling with a book, a proposal, or a blog post, don’t think of your writing project as a problem that might go away if you ignore it. Take a deep breath, sit yourself back down in that chair, and write! (Of course, if you’re really stuck with a project, get some help – but always practice a little sitzfleisch first.)

If you’re looking for a good excuse to take a break from your writing chair, consider attending a conference that focuses on the type of writing you do. In the form of the annual “Muse and the Marketplace 2011” conference, the good people at Grub Street in Boston provide an excellent excuse for abandoning your writing chair for a weekend in early spring. Blue Pencil Consulting is proud to be a sponsor of this year’s “Muse,” which takes place April 30 – May 1 at the Park Plaza Hotel. This is a terrific event for writers of fiction and non-fiction alike, offering sessions on the craft of writing and the business of publishing, plus many opportunities to network with writers, agents, and editors. For those of you considering self-publishing, there’s a conference track devoted to that topic. See conference and registration details at www.grubstreet.org/.

Take a Course with Me on Media Releases, Book Proposals, or Blogging

Interested in learning how to write a media release that gets noticed? Need to write a book proposal to pitch your non-fiction book to publishers? Or do you want to improve the content of your business blog? Then come take a non-credit course with me during the Winter/Spring session at North Shore Community College, at the Danvers, MA campus. Register online at www.northshore.edu (search non-credit courses by keyword or instructor name).

Here’s a quick look at what each course covers:

Press Release Clinic: How to Write an Attention-Getting Media Release (CSA795)

This hands-on, 2-session workshop shows you how to craft a press release that gives editors and other media gatekeepers the information they want, so your business or organization can get the attention you want. We’ll cover the anatomy of a press release; what to include and what to leave out; and how to distribute the release to your target audience. Bring your draft press releases and learn how to improve them on the spot.
Meets two Wednesdays, February 2 and February 9, 6:30 to 8:30 PM

The Nitty Gritty of the Successful Book Proposal (CSA792)

If you’re trying to interest a traditional book publisher in your non-fiction manuscript, you (or your literary agent) will pitch it using a book proposal. In this three-session course, you’ll learn how to develop an attention-getting book proposal. We’ll cover the process of putting together a book proposal, including how to refine your book concept, assess the competition and the market for your book, and how to quickly develop chapter summaries and a sample chapter. If you want to self-publish, writing a book proposal is a valuable exercise because it forces you to crystallize your book idea.
Meets three Saturdays, March 5 through March 19, 9:30 to 11:30 AM

Be a Better Business Blogger (CSA793)

Customers, clients and the media are looking for you online – and they expect to find not just your website but also a blog. This workshop is for you if you already have a business blog and want to learn how to use it more effectively, how to generate an endless supply of topics for blog posts.
Meets Tuesday, April 5 from 6:30 to 9:30 PM

Workshop on Effective Business Writing

Though shiny new technologies have given us more ways to communicate, the basics remain the same: Be clear, get to the point, banish meaningless buzzwords, and provide key details that convey your expertise, credibility and professionalism to your target audience.

On Thursday, December 9, I’m teaching a workshop at the Enterprise Center at Salem State University (www.enterprisectr.org) called “Put It In Writing: Shaping Your Business Through Words.” This hands-on workshop runs from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and will provide you with techniques for creating effective proposals, reports, business plans, memos and investor pitches. Bring your company mission statement or description and learn a process for improving it on the spot.

This free workshop is co-sponsored by the Small Business Development Center. Register at http://businesswritingdec9.eventbrite.com/

Thankful

Thankful

Thankful…

For ideas…
For words…
For books…
For the many ways we can share ideas and words.

Thank you to all my clients, supporters, and friends who make it such a pleasure to work with words every day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Fight Writer’s Block With Talk

If you’re having trouble writing, maybe you should stop writing and start talking. Sometimes my clients tell me, “I’d do much better talking about my ideas than writing about them.” I’ll say, “Well, let’s talk it through.” Once we’ve done so, they feel like they have a better grip on their ideas. Then they’re either ready to start writing on their own, or I feed their cleaned-up notes back to them. Either way, we have something to start with, a scaffolding to hang the ideas on.

If you aren’t working with a writer or coach, you can get to the same place by talking to yourself. Or, more specifically, by talking to your computer. If you find that you talk more easily and freely than you write when you’re trying to rough out a first draft of your ideas, then you might to try using a speech recognition program to “take dictation” as a way to kick-start your writing process.

Using a simple voice recognition program lets you “talk your ideas out” so that you have a rough first draft in a word processing document. Then you have something to react to and to edit. (As I am constantly telling my clients, “We can’t edit what you haven’t yet written.”) If you tend to think out loud, you may find that working this way allows your ideas to flow more easily than they do when you struggle at the keyboard in front of a blank screen.

I experimented with the “Don’t Write It – Say It!” method to write this blog post. In the course of reading reviews online about voice recognition software, I found a comment someone had made about Windows having its own simple speech recognition program included. The Windows Speech Recognition program lives in the “Accessories” program folder, in a sub-folder called “Ease of Access.” So I decided to try that as a first step, just to see how I liked the experience of dictating a draft instead of typing or handwriting it.

I grabbed a headset with an attached microphone and went through the quick tutorial. Then I opened up a new Word document and started talking, essentially doing my writing without touching the keyboard. It takes a little time to train your voice recognition software to understand what you are saying, but it was a relatively painless process. (I let my 10-year-old try it, and she waded right in fearlessly – a model example for anyone with mild technophobia.)

If you find yourself at a loss for words when you sit down at the keyboard, sometimes talking your way through the block is the way to go. Let me know if this technique works for you.

Book Promotion in Unusual Places

Once your book is published, traditionally or via self-publishing, you have to promote it. It makes perfect sense to plan readings and book signings at bookstores and libraries, since that’s where you’re likely to find an appreciative crowd of readers and book lovers. But less traditional venues for author appearances can offer a built-in audience of people already interested in your book’s topic.

By the way, this idea applies to you even if you aren’t ready for your book tour because you’re still in the process of writing your book proposal. Why? Because your book proposal includes a section that details your best promotional ideas for getting your book in buyers’ hands – including ideas for “non-traditional” places to promote your book. (And if you’re still writing your book, keep a file of any and all promotional ideas that come to you during the process – you’ll be glad you did!)

Take a cue from author Dyan deNapoli (also known as “The Penguin Lady”), who will promote her new book, The Great Penguin Rescue (Simon & Schuster, Free Press, 2010 http://books.simonandschuster.com/Great-Penguin-Rescue/Dyan-deNapoli/9781439154861), in a variety of venues, including the New England Aquarium in Boston. Home to three species of these engaging birds, the Aquarium provides a perfect backdrop for an author reading from her book about rescuing African penguins from an oil spill off the coast of South Africa in 2000. Part of the Aquarium’s Lowell Lecture Series, the event takes place on November 16, essentially bringing Dyan back to where her story began. She was working at the Aquarium as a senior penguin aquarist at the time of the spill, and was one of 100 experts called in from around the globe to direct the rescue efforts.

The Great Penguin RescueDyan is also promoting the book at an ocean literacy summit in Durham, New Hampshire, and making an appearance at Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut, in an event co-sponsored by the Mystic Aquarium.

For a complete look at Dyan’s book launch and promotion details, visit http://www.thepenguinlady.com/new_site/events.html. I just want to share how thrilled I was to see that Dyan’s book was given a comprehensive review in The New York Review of Books (October 28, 2010 issue). Read it here: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/oct/28/save-penguin-if-you-can/?page=1. Congratulations, Dyan!

So, whether you’re in the process of writing a book proposal or ready to launch your book, it pays to think creatively about where you’ll promote that book. Authors and book publicists, what are some of the more unusual venues where you’ve promoted your books?

Self-Publishing News: Publishers Weekly to Feature “Sleeping Indie Giants” As B&N Launches eBook Service

In the process of preparing to moderate a “getting published” panel this Friday for the North Shore Business Forum (www.nsbforum.org), two pieces of news stood out. My fellow panelists are two authors, Dyan deNapoli (http://www.thepenguinlady.com/new_site/dyans_book.html ) and Gloria Bakst (http://www.zoneperfectcookingmadeeasy.com ), whose books have been published the “traditional” way, through publishing houses like Simon & Schuster and McGraw-Hill. But these two announcements from Publishers Weekly and Barnes & Noble point to the continued growth and changing view of self-published books.

Publishers Weekly has announced that it will begin publishing a quarterly supplement that presents information about self-published books to its readership of agents, booksellers, publishers, distributors, librarians and media. PW President George Slowik said the idea is to find self-published “gems worthy of attention, the sleeping indie giants.” PW Select will feature announcements that include author, title, subtitle, price, pagination and format, ISBN, a brief description of content, and ordering information provided by the authors. To be listed, you’ll pay a $149 “processing fee” that also gets you a 6-month subscription to the digital version of PW.

PW expects to find at least 25 review-worthy works to highlight per quarterly issue. The first supplement will appear on December 21, bound into a regular issue of PW. In addition to a general overview of the self-published books received for review, the supplement will also include features about “the self-publishing world’s explosive growth and the important players,” and interviews with selected self-published authors of the listed titles. The deadline for submitting self-published books for a listing in the first supplement is October 31. For particulars, see www.publishersweekly.com/pw/diy/index.html.

Meanwhile, bookseller Barnes & Noble has announced the details of its PubIt! service, which allows authors to self-publish in digital format. Upload your eBook to PubIt! to sell your content through the Barnes & Noble eBookstore and have it available for sale on BN.com, NOOK eBook Readers, and B&N’s free NOOK eReading software for iPad, iPhone/iPod touch, Android, PC, etc. This add to the roster of ebook self-publishing options offered by companies like Smashwords (www.smashwords.com) and Lulu (www.lulu.com), among others. If you’re not wedded to the idea of selling physical copies of your self-published book, consider checking out these options.

By themselves, these developments aren’t necessarily publishing game-changers. But they are indicators of a rapidly changing publishing environment that offers authors an ever-increasing number of options for getting their work to market. What do you think of these latest developments?

Still Time to Register for Courses on Blogging, Press Releases, and Novel Writing

There’s still time to sign up for the non-credit, continuing education courses I’m offering this fall at North Shore Community College (Danvers, MA campus). Learn a new skill that can help you grow your business, or try something just for fun (drafting a novel in 30 days!).

Be a Better Business Blogger (CSA793)

Customers, clients and the media are looking for you online – and increasingly, they expect to find not just your website but also a blog. This half-day workshop is for you if you already have a business blog and want to learn how to use it more effectively, how to generate an endless supply of topics for blog posts, and how to keep the blogging process manageable. Please note, this is not a technical course on how to set up a blog; however, would-be bloggers are welcome.
Meets Saturday, September 25 from 1 PM to 4 PM
Offered again on Tuesday, November 9 from 6 PM to 9 PM

Press Release Clinic: How to Write an Attention-Getting Media Release (CSA795)

This hands-on workshop will show you how to craft a press release that gives editors and other media gatekeepers the information they want, so your business or organization can get the attention you want. You’ll learn the anatomy of a press release; what to include and what to leave out; and how to get the release out to your target audience. Bring your draft press releases and learn how to improve them on the spot.
Meets two Wednesdays, October 6 and October 13 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

Get Ready for National Novel Writing Month (CSA794)

As a three-time National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) participant and “winner,” I’ll share tips and tricks to prepare you for embarking on the journey of a lifetime… (Or at least, the amazing journey of writing a 50,000-word draft of a novel during the 30 days of November.) Here’s what we’ll cover in the workshop that just might motivate you to draft that novel you’ve always wanted to write:

  • How to sign up as an “official” participant (at www.nanowrimo.org).
  • How to prepare without blocking your creativity for the month of writing ahead.
  • What to expect during NaNoWriMo (the highs, the lows, the thrills, the chills!)
  • You’ve written the draft – what’s next?

Workshop meets on Saturday, October 2 from 1 PM to 4 PM

All classes meet at NSCC’s Danvers campus. Contact me for more information, and register online at www.northshore.edu.

Survey Finds Companies Can Build Trust Through Twitter, Facebook

Here’s something to think about if you’re wondering whether it’s worth your time and effort to do Twitter posts or keep up a Facebook fan page for your company. According to a new survey from Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive, PRNewser (http://www.mediabistro.com/prnewser/) reports that “75 percent of people surveyed said they view companies that microblog — sending short, frequent messages on sites like Twitter or status updates on social networks like Facebook — as more deserving of their trust than those that do not.” (The 2010 Digital Influence Index is a seven-country survey of 4,243 people, conducted between December 2009 and January 2010; for more on the survey, visit http://digitalinfluence.fleishmanhillard.com.)

“Microbloggers [Twitter or Facebook users, for example] trust companies that listen and respond in real time,” the surveyors wrote in a press release. “Users who have adopted microblogging tend to trust companies that monitor their online activity. They seem to view this online listening as a sign that organizations care about their needs and want their feedback.”

Further proof that marketing is no longer a one-way communication, but a two-way conversation. How are you using tools like Twitter and Facebook to have a conversation and build relationships with your customers and prospects? I’d love to hear about your challenges and your success stories.

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