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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Squidoo Merger With HubPages and What It Means for Writers

If you've ever used the free website-building platform Squidoo, you are likely to have received an email from them today concerning the effective takeover of the company by HubPages. An excerpt from the email is reproduced below...

"Here’s some good news, big news, news that will open some new possibilities for you…

HubPages is acquiring key content from Squidoo, creating the largest site of its kind in the world.

For nearly a decade, both Squidoo and HubPages have provided a home for content creators online. We’ve made it easy for people to use our platforms to share content that they care about, to tell stories, write articles and link to places that matter to them. Over the years, more than four billion visits have been made to the two sites, which host content from more than five million people.

Today, we’re announcing that as a result of this acquisition, Squidoo is moving the best of its content to HubPages. They’re the industry leader, continually pushing the envelope in terms of their content, its presentation and the traffic and traction they get online. The best way we know to serve our users is to give them an even better place for their content, and when I talked with Paul Edmondson at HubPages, it became clear to both of us that combining these platforms leads to a stronger, more efficient, more generous way to share great stuff online.

Starting in a few weeks, all traffic to Squidoo will automatically be redirected to the relevant pages on HubPages instead. We’ve been busy building transfer tools that will make it easy (and mostly automatic) for content to move from the Squidoo site to HubPages. Together with some members of the Squidoo team, I’ll be working with HubPages to ensure that we make the best possible transition and impact going forward. Squidoo pages will cease to be visible in September or early October."

I've never been a huge Squidoo user, but it's a platform I've always been interested in, and over the years I've created a number of lenses (as Squidoo pages are officially called).

Currently I have just two, these being Greece Travel Tips and How to Write a Book. The former is really just a fun project to share my interest in Greece, while the latter is a promotional tool for my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course.

Over the years I've made a (very) small sideline income from Squidoo. I've never really had the time or inclination to pursue it more seriously, although I could certainly see the potential there.

If you're at all like me and have one or more Squidoo lenses - even if (again like me) you've done little with them for months or years - it's essential to take action in the next few weeks if you don't want to lose them altogether.

If you wish to have your lenses transferred to HubPages - which seems by far the best option to me - you should log in to your Squidoo dashboard now and check their status. If any lenses have been marked as works-in-progress (red cross) it's especially important to take action immediately to bring them up to featured lens status. Otherwise they are unlikely to be selected for migration to the HubPages platform, and will simply vanish from the internet.

Even if your site has featured lens status, however, it's still a good idea to check and update it and then republish it. You can also promote it via Twitter, Facebook, and so on.  All of these things will demonstrate that your lens is still active, and hopefully boost its ranking and get it out of WIP status (if required). Doing this should greatly improve the chances of your site being selected to make the transition to HubPages.
  • Please feel free to post the URL of any lenses you may own as comments below this post. I will then visit and 'like' them, which should help boost their rankings. Please take a moment to do the same for any other lenses that may be listed, and my own Greece Travel Tips and How to Write a Book lenses as well. Thank you!
The other thing you should do now is click on the 'Set Up Your Transfer' button on your Squidoo dashboard (see screen capture at the top of this post). You will then be able to set up your HubPages account (if you don't already have one) and add information such as your PayPal email and your Google AdSense account number.

Not only will this mean that you are ready to hit the ground running when the transfer is complete at the start of October, it appears that people who have done this will be prioritized when accounts are transferred over.

Finally, it's a sensible idea to download the content from your lenses now, just in case they don't get picked for the transition. You should find a link allowing you to do this quickly and easily on your Squidoo dashboard.

Overall, though, I am quite optimistic about this change. Squidoo and HubPages have always struck me as similar operations, so there is an obvious logic to their merging. Squidoo has, in my view, lost its way a bit in recent times, so this may be the perfect opportunity for users to rediscover their enthusiasm and start generating more money and clicks from their lenses (which will now be called hubs, of course).

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please feel free to post them below and I will do my best to answer them. And, as I said above, if you have any Squidoo lenses you would like to get extra traffic and 'likes' for in the weeks prior to the merger, please do post the URLs below.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Why I Switched My Browser Homepage to Protopage

What do you use as the default homepage in your browser? For me, for a number of years, it was iGoogle.

As you may recall, this service gave you a personalized start page with access to Google search and other Google services, along with various other apps you could choose and arrange around the page as you wished.

Then last year Google pulled the plug on iGoogle, leaving folk such as myself needing an alternative. After some research, I settled on igHome, a free service that provided something similar to iGoogle, though without as many apps and features.

I used this to the start of August this year, but was getting increasingly frustrated with it. For one thing, various applications simply stopped working and displayed error messages. The final straw, though, came when I was searching for "how to write erotic fiction for Kindle" in connection with an article I had been asked to write for a client (honest!).

When I searched Google via igHome, I found that the results displayed simply ignored the word "erotic" - so the search results displayed were for "how to write fiction for Kindle", which was obviously not what I wanted to know!

A bit more research revealed that by default searches on igHome use Google's "Safe Search" feature, and there appeared to be no way to bypass this. In the end I went over to Bing and used that instead - although I did subsequently discover I could have gone direct to Google (rather than using the search box on igHome) and that would have worked too.

I checked out some alternative start pages and discovered Protopage, also a free service, which is what I am using now. You can see a screen capture of my new personalized start page at the top of this post. This is still a work in progress, but in general I am very happy with it.

Incidentally, you can see a larger version of the image by clicking on it. Use the Back button on your browser to return here.

As you may gather, Protopage is partly a browser start page, partly an RSS feed reader. It is very easy to add any feed you choose using the "Add Widget" button. As you can see, I have added a number of UK (and international) news sources.

You can also add other applications if you wish, e.g. weather forecast and currency converter (both of which I have). Other options include bookmarks, To Do lists, clocks, calendars, games, and more.

Protopage doesn't have nearly as many apps available as iGoogle or even igHome, but it still makes a good at-a-glance homepage for me. And yes, if you use Google search, it doesn't automatically censor it!

I know that in these days of tablets and smartphones, personalized browser start pages may be seen as a bit old hat - but as I work on a PC with a wide screen monitor I prefer to make good use of the space available.

But I'd still be intrigued to know what sites readers of this blog use as their browser homepages. Do you use a search engine, your own blog/website, another RSS reader, or something else? Or do you use another service like Protopage, but maybe better? Let me know in the comments below!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Review: KD Blueprint: Healthy Diet Edition
KD Blueprint: Healthy Diet Edition is the latest product to be launched by the prolific duo of Amy Harrop and Deborah Drum.

I've mentioned some of Amy and Debbie's other quality products such as Publisher's Review Accelerator, Book Trailer Treasure Map and Description Detective on this blog before. I also recommended their report on "underground" promotional methods, which you can still pick up via this blog post for free if you haven't already.

KD Blueprint: Healthy Diet Edition is what I assume to be the first in a series of blueprints for people looking to create Kindle e-books in promising nonfiction niches. It's just been launched at a low offer price, and will be available at this price for a limited time only.

Amy and Debbie were kind enough to allow me pre-launch reviewer access to KD Blueprint: Healthy Diet Edition so here's what I found...

As is the way with most of Amy and Debbie's products, the content is accessed via a WordPress membership site. This has the advantage that it can be easily updated/expanded with content of various kinds, though don't forget to keep your log-in details somewhere you can easily find them again!

Once you are in the members area, you will be able to access the content. There are three main sections, these being Part 1 - Niche Overview, Part 2 - Creating Your Book, and Part 3 - Promoting Your Book. Each section contains a PDF manual and also a checklist of the key points in Microsoft Word format.

Part 1 discusses the subject area you will be targeting, which is actually the "clean eating" niche. I must admit I hadn't come across this concept before, but essentially it involves paying close attention to every ingredient in the food you consume, and ensuring they are all of the highest possible quality.

Clean eating is not a diet plan as such. Rather, it is a movement or philosophy which is (apparently) getting a lot of publicity and celebrity endorsements right now. In the PDF Debbie and Amy reveal the results of their in-depth research on this niche and the type of reader it is likely to attract.

Part 2 is where they get down to the nitty-gritty of creating your book. It takes you through researching and outlining the book, editing and proofreading it, and publishing it for Kindle and other platforms including CreateSpace.

It's only fair to say that this is a lot of ground to cover, so to save space the authors provide links to other free resources they recommend. These include other websites and also specific documents, e.g. three sample MS Word outlines for clean eating books, which you can use and adapt as you wish.

Part 3 is where they discuss promoting your book. Some of this is likely to be familiar to experienced Kindle authors (and buyers of Amy and Debbie's other courses), but I found a lot of useful tips I hadn't seen before as well.

One thing I particularly liked was where they discuss how to generate back-end sales from your books, including the correct way to use affiliate links and some specific "clean eating" affiliate programs you can promote through your book for added profits. Applying this advice should boost your profits from book sales several times over, I'd have thought.

There is also a section containing training videos on cover design, Facebook research, and how to use keyword-sortable spreadsheets. These are all useful, though one criticism is that the sound quality on the Facebook video is poor at times. It's still watchable, but does make it more of an effort.

Finally, there is a comprehensive resources page. This includes links to PLR (private label right) content in the clean eating niche, research and keyword data, free image sites, blogs and websites related to clean eating, and much more. This is invaluable information, and should save you a lot of time compared with researching all these resources yourself.

Overall, I thought KD Blueprint: Healthy Diet Edition was another high-quality offering from Amy and Debbie, and especially good value at the launch-offer price. If you are interested in targeting the promising clean eating niche, it's well worth a look. And, of course, much of the advice given would be relevant when targeting other nonfiction niches as well.

If you have any comments or questions about KD Blueprint: Healthy Diet Edition, as ever, please do leave them below.

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

More Free Writing Courses From FutureLearn

Earlier this year I mentioned in this post a free fiction writing course on offer via FutureLearn (a UK-based educational initiative that advertises short online courses from British and international universities).

I happened to revisit the site the other day, and noticed that the course concerned is running again in October. The course title is Start Writing Fiction. It comes from The Open University (a well-respected UK distance learning institution).

Start Writing Fiction is intended for anyone with an interest in starting to write fiction or improving their fiction writing. There is a particular focus on creating interesting, believable characters. The course does not require any previous experience of studying the subject.

On the website, it says:

This practical, hands-on course aims to help you to get started with your own fiction writing, focusing on the central skill of creating characters.You will listen to established writers talk about how they started writing and consider the rituals of writing and the importance of keeping a journal. 

You’ll learn how to develop your ideas and the importance of reflecting on writing and editing, and you’ll hear other writers talking about their approaches to research and consider ways of turning events into a plot.

You’ll also have the opportunity to review and comment on the work of fellow writers, and receive peer feedback on your own story, learning the importance of reading as a writer and how to receive and respond to feedback. 

The Start Writing Fiction course will be run by Dr Derek Neale (as last time) and starts on 27 October 2014. It will run for eight weeks, and require a commitment of around three hours a week.

The course is free of charge and open to anyone anywhere in the world. For more information (including a video trailer) and to register, visit the Start Writing Fiction information page of the FutureLearn website.

Another course I noticed that may be of interest to some readers is Introduction to Journalism, a six-week course run by the University of Strathclyde for anyone with an interest in learning how professional journalists work. I understand participants will also get plenty of chances to apply their journalistic talents themselves!

This course starts on 29 September 2014 and involves a commitment of around four hours a week. You can see more information and sign up here.

FutureLearn have lots of other interesting free courses, incidentally. I am quite tempted by the one promising to teach you to develop a mobile phone game in seven weeks, although Discover Dentistry also possesses a certain weird fascination!
  • Don't forget to leave a message below if you sign up for a FutureLearn course, so that other readers of this blog who are also enrolled can look out for you!

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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Beat Stress With This Free MP3 From Hypnosis Live

I'm a bit off-topic today, but I wanted to let you know about a special promotion currently being held by my friends at the self-development and brainwave-entrainment company Inspire3.

Among other things, Inspire3 produce the popular Brain Evolution System and Brain Salon products (both of which I use myself and recommend).

Right now they are giving away a free "Eliminate Stress" MP3, a free copy of the (excellent) e-book The 18 Rules to Happiness by my old friend (and former publisher) Karl Moore, and a 10 percent discount voucher for any purchases you may like to make. Just click through this link to claim this free offer.

There is no obligation to buy anything. The aim of the promo is simply to raise awareness of the Hypnosis Live online store. Through this site you can buy self-hypnosis MP3s designed to assist with a huge range of issues, from boosting intuition to stopping smoking, improving your self-esteem to overcoming stage fright.
  • There is even a session titled Be a Better Writer, which uses the power of hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming (NLP) to boost your writing skills and "unleash your inner Shakespeare".
There are almost 200 different sessions on offer in the Hypnosis Online store, in the following categories:
  • Mental Skills
  • Mindset
  • Emotions
  • Fear, Worry, Anxiety
  • Health
  • Self Growth
  • Personal Improvement
  • Body Improvement
  • Adult
All sessions are professionally recorded by qualified hypnotherapist and master NLP practitioner Julie-Ann Amos. They are available as instant downloads as soon as you’ve purchased. Most last 40 minutes, and you can listen to them as many times as you like (or need).

Naturally, as the sessions take the form of audio MP3 files, you can play them on any computer, tablet or smartphone, or on a dedicated MP3 player. The use of headphones or earphones is recommended. There is an FAQs page here if there is anything else you need to know.
As always, comments or questions are very welcome - please do post them below.
  • Check out as well the Writer's Block CD from my blog sponsors The WCCL Network. This uses the power of brainwave entrainment to help you get into a creative frame of mind as quickly as possible. Also highly recommended!

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Precision Target Book and E-Book Buyers With GeoRiot "Genius" Links

Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post from Cole Lakes, Director of Operations of the link management platform GeoRiot, which I talked about in this blog post a little while ago. Regular readers will know I'm a big fan of this service.

GeoRiot lets you create "universal" links that will take anyone clicking them to the relevant page of their own national Amazon store (it also works with iTunes/iBooks).

The links can include your affiliate code if you wish, so you will be credited with commission for any sales in stores where you are signed up as an affiliate.

GeoRiot has now taken this service one step further by creating "Genius" links, which aim to direct every prospect to the ideal website for buying your book, wherever they live and however they are accessing the web. But I'll let Cole explain this in detail below...

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Thanks to worldwide stores like Amazon and iTunes, you can promote physical and digital books to anyone, anywhere, at any time. This gives you a truly massive audience, which is great when trying to get the word out about your books for sale.

However, selling books and e-books to a global audience across multiple stores does produce some challenges:
  • Your traffic can use any combination of devices and operating systems across any country to buy your books. However, sending a reader to the wrong device or country specific store means a loss of sale. Example: sending readers using a Kindle to buy items from iBooks, or sending a US based reader to
  • The Amazon and iBooks/ iTunes stores are actually separate, country or region-specific stores, each with their own accounts, language, and currency. Sending users to a foreign storefront, instead of their local storefront, often means it's unlikely they'll purchase and might even see an error message instead.
  • If you're utilizing the Amazon Associates Program, you only make commissions off of the single storefront you're sending traffic to, and not from any international sales. So, if you have your US affiliate tag set, but one of your German users purchases an item from your referral link at, you won't earn a commission.
All of these issues add up to create something we've coined "The Purchasing Gap," which is the rift between the product you're promoting and the storefront where each person is most likely to purchase.

So how do you manage to take care of every user, regardless of the device and country they are clicking from? The current standard is just to paste multiple links for each promotion to cover the different stores and devices that you support. The problem with this approach is that your pages get cluttered, users don't know where to click (so they don't), and you lose out on a sale.

To alleviate this issue, and to maximize your commissions across geographic locations and devices, GeoRiot has devised a new feature we've dubbed "Genius Links." With a single link you can create "scenarios" where you associate a link to specific devices, operating systems, and even dates (on top of the automatic geo-targeting we do) to seamlessly target your traffic to the best possible place for them to purchase.

For example, if you're marketing a book that is available across iBooks, Amazon, and Kobo, you can create a scenario that sends iPads and iPhones to iBooks, Kindles to Amazon, and Nooks to Barnes and Noble. Your users get the best experience possible, and you have a higher chance of converting that person to a sale. Everyone wins!

If you'd like to learn more about Genius Links, or about GeoRiot in general, please drop us a line. Or, if you'd like to give our service a try, you can sign up for free and start earning commissions across stores and countries today. Happy Linking.

* * *

Thank you to Cole for an interesting article that sets out the benefits, to independent authors especially, of using the GeoRiot link management platform, and in particular its new Genius links.

I have been using GeoRiot for almost a year now and highly recommend it. Not only does it make life much simpler to have a single link you can use for any Amazon product, it has also boosted my book sales and my income from Amazon's affiliate program considerably.

One point I should probably address is the cost. The good news is that you don't have to pay anything to join or use GeoRiot. Rather, they take payment in clicks. A certain proportion of these (up to 15 percent) will have their affiliate code embedded rather than your own.

The system is explained in detail on this page of the GeoRiot site. Overall, though, it is designed to have as little impact on your own affiliate commissions as possible.

If you would like to see what a GeoRiot Genius link looks like, here is one for my Kindle e-book Three Great Techniques for Plotting Your Novel or Screenplay: Feel free to click through and it should take you to the relevant page of your own national Amazon store. And yes, if I'm an affiliate there, my affiliate link will be automatically embedded.

One final point is that (as I discovered recently) if you use the popular AdBlock Plus add-on in your browser, it can conflict with GeoRiot. You may get error messages, and the detailed reporting may not work correctly. All you have to do is add an exception to AdBlock Plus for GeoRiot and it will work fine, though.

If you have any comments or questions about GeoRiot for Cole or for me, as always, please feel free to post them below.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Guest Post: How to Write a Novel in Just 3 Days

Writing. by Caitlinator, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Caitlinator 

Today I have a syndicated guest post for you from writer and novelist Laura N. Roberts.

If you thought writing a novel in a month was difficult, how about doing it in just three days? Laura has done just that, and in her article she sets out her top tips for anyone who aspires to do likewise...

* * *

My name is Laura Roberts, and I wrote an entire novel in just three days. No, I'm not crazy. Yes, it was for a contest (the 3-Day Novel Contest, held annually by a bunch of crazy Canucks over Labor Day weekend). And yes, you can do it too.

Writing a novel in three days is a pastime for people who think NaNoWriMo is for slackers. It's not for the faint of heart, or for the newbie novelist. If you don't know what the hell you're doing, it'll just be a painful exercise in futility. But for those of you who love to write, who've done NaNoWriMo and felt pretty good about your efforts, and who need something a little more amped, the three-day novel is just the ticket.

Okay, so let's say you've picked up the gauntlet I've just thrown down. How does a mild-mannered writer go from scratching about for words to a full-fledged, hardcore novelist in just three days? Genre fiction, my friend. Love it or hate it, you'll need to embrace a few particular forms in order to get this cake baked.


Let's talk action/adventure. Let's talk quests. Let's talk heroes and heroines overcoming impossible odds, obstacles and villains with absurdly over-the-top weapons or criminal minds. This is no time for realism or painting with words; this is a time for a flat-out freak show of ideas thrown together and hoping that with enough gum and varnish and spit it'll all hold together.

The supposed inventor of the three-day novel-writing "formula," as it were, is a cat by the name of Michael Moorcock. If you're into science fiction, you've undoubtedly heard of him. If you're not, look him up. You'll find he's ridiculously prolific, and he has genre writing down colder than an ice floe in Antarctica.


To create a novel in three days you should always be asking yourself "What would Michael Moorcock do?" The answer is invariably: heap more trouble upon your main character, and see how she deals with it.

To break it down further, have an event (that is, an actual action) happening every four pages to keep the story moving forward. Think about the time frame of your story. If you've only got three days to save the world, how will you do it? What about three hours? Keep on ticking the clock forward until D-Day is here and you've got your plot.


Always include a sidekick. This guy or gal will be the yin to your hero's yang, the cut-up when the mood is tense, or the one to scream when things get scary. He can ask the obvious questions any smart reader will be asking, and the hero can heroically answer with properly heroic answers. The sidekick is your foil, and this person will help you whenever you're stuck by prodding the hero for details, whining about how hard it is trying to save the world, or making an idiot of him or herself.

Additionally, feel free to use stock characters! You don't have to re-invent the wheel here; you're just trying to get 'er done. Grab a pirate, a ninja, a harlequin or a hag-whatever floats your boat. Give them something to say or do that throws everybody off and makes them take notice. Keep the action moving. Moorcock recommends using Commedia Dell'Arte character types, which include lovers, rogues, dwarves, thieves and freaks of all kinds. Look them up, pick a few you like and use them as necessary.


Compose your work in four acts. Each act ups the ante, introducing more and more insurmountable odds and obstacles, until the final act where your hero comes through in a pinch to save the day. Clear up the mystery, settle the score, give the reader a final twist to surprise them, and end on a punchline that can parlay into your sequel.

There's always a sequel.

How do you write a novel in just three days? Easy. Now all you've got to do is fire up the typing machine and get to it.

Byline: Laura Roberts (right) is the author of Ninjas of the 512, a novel written in just three days using this very method. You can find her book online at Amazon and Smashwords, or read more of her work at

Article Source:

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Thank you to Laura for an interesting and inspiring article. Even if you don't want to limit yourself to writing your novel in three days, many of the tips she sets out above could just as easily be applied over a longer period.

As ever, if you have any comments or questions about this article, please feel free to post them below.

  • Don't Forget! My blog sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network produce an excellent guide called Novel in a Month by Dan Strauss, which is packed with tips and information for aspiring novelists. Click on the banner below to find out more!

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