Yes, I've been on my travels again. Last week Jayne and I spent a few days in the beautiful Italian city of Venice. If you click on the link below, it will take you to an album of photos I took while I was there.
We stayed at the Hotel Scandinavia, which for those of you who know Venice is about half-way between St Mark's and the Rialto Bridge. It proved to be a great location for exploring the city, about as central as you could wish. It was quiet and peaceful, however, helped considerably by the fact that no cars are allowed in the main part of the city.
We had a great few days exploring the narrow lanes and (of course) the many canals. According to Wikipedia, Venice consists of 118 islands formed by about 150 canals in a shallow lagoon. The islands are connected by about 400 bridges, and by the end of our break it felt as though we had crossed most of them!
I recommend Venice as a beautiful and fascinating place to visit. I would offer two pieces of advice to anyone thinking of going, however. First, get yourself a good, large-scale map: with the narrow streets and tall buildings, it's very easy to get lost. And second, pack some warm clothes. At the advice of a friend who had been before at this time of year I packed two woolly jumpers, and was very glad I had done so!
Incidentally, my online photo album was created using Picasa, the free photo organising (and editing) service from Google. Picasa automatically finds all the photos on your PC and lets you organise them into albums. And - as you can see - it also allows you to publish your albums to the Web for others to enjoy, again free of charge. If you'd like more info about Picasa, just click here and click on the banner that appears.
Congratulations to Cathy C, who is the latest winner of WhiteSmoke's writing software on my forum. Cathy posted message number 102,000, which was actually a contribution to our Limericks topic! Here's a link to her prize-winning post.
Cathy is, as you may know, a moderator on Mywriterscircle.com. As such she generously gives her time unpaid to helping ensure that the forum runs smoothly and remains a safe, welcoming place for all its members. So I am naturally delighted that she has won the prize this time.
We have one more copy of WhiteSmoke to give away, and this will go to whoever creates post number 105,000 on my forum. As with the last contest, the version being given away this time will also include a translation feature to 18 languages and an enhanced dictionary.
As mentioned before, WhiteSmoke is a program that aims to help users produce better-written documents. It does this by analyzing the spelling, punctuation and grammar in any document, then suggesting corrections and possible "enrichments". You can read my full review of WhiteSmoke's software here, though note that this does not mention some of the new features added recently. See also this topic on my forum, where I announced this latest contest.
Just a quickie to let you know that, if you missed out in our recent competition, you now have a second chance!
Our friends at WhiteSmoke have donated another copy of their popular writing software, which we're going to give away to whoever creates post number 102,000 on my forum. In fact, this is an even better prize than last time, as this version will also include a translation feature to 18 languages and an enhanced dictionary.
As mentioned before, WhiteSmoke is a program that aims to help users produce better-written documents. It does this by analyzing the spelling, punctuation and grammar in any document, then suggesting corrections and possible "enrichments". You can read my full review of WhiteSmoke's software here, though note that this does not mention some of the new features added recently. See also this topic on my forum, where I first announced this contest.
Of course, you do have to be a member of my forum before you can take part, but joining is quick and easy, and naturally it's free. So why not join today, if you haven't already?
If you have received this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see the video. Incidentally, if you click on 'How to Use Apostrophes' directly under the video player, it will take you to the relevant Videojug web page, where there is a complete transcript of the script as well.
Yes, the contest to post message number 101,000 on my forum has been won.
The lucky (skilful?) winner is Bonsibabe (real name Di), who was convinced she had no chance at all. On the forum last night she wrote, "I'm not generally a lucky person with these kind of things, I always just miss out! So I'm not really on to win..."
Well, guess what, Di, your luck has changed! For those who like to know these things, here's a link to the winning post (no pun intended).
Thanks to everyone who took part in the posting frenzy last night, which meant we reached post 101,000 much sooner than I anticipated. Indeed, it happened while I was having my tea (I do have to leave my computer occasionally!), so I had to do some frantic counting back to work out the winner.
Many thanks, also, to our friends at WhiteSmoke, who kindly donated the software prize. If you would like more information about their popular program, which not only checks your writing for mistakes but suggests ways of "enriching" it, please click on the banner below.
And watch out for more prize contests on my blog and forum soon!
If you know how to do this already, you can skip to the last paragraph if you wish. But I know for a fact that lots of people never change the homepage of their browser from the one set by default, and it's actually very easy to do.
If you're using Microsoft Internet Explorer, click on Tools in the main menu (normally at the top of the screen), then on Internet Options in the pop-up menu. In the new window that appears, click on the General tab if this isn't already at the front.
Lo and behold, at the top of the window you should see a box with the URL of your current homepage in it. Just type into this box http://www.mywritingblog.com or http://www.mywriterscircle.com (for my forum) and click on OK at the bottom of the window. The site in question will now become your homepage. Any time you start up Internet Explorer it will load, and likewise if you click on the 'Home' icon in the navigation toolbar.
If you use Firefox (which personally I prefer) as your browser, it's just as easy. In this case, click on Tools in the main menu as before, then on Options. In the new window that launches, click on the Main tab. Again, near the top you will see a Homepage box, in which you can enter the URL of your choice. All you need to do then is click on OK as before.
But what if you have another site that you want as your homepage? Or several? With Firefox, anyway, there's a great little add-on you can get (for free, of course) which effectively gives you any number of homepages. It's called Morning Coffee, and if you click here in Firefox you can download and install it. Morning Coffee lets you set two or more of your favourite pages, and any time you click on the Morning Coffee icon in Firefox (I'm sure you can guess what the icon looks like) all of your chosen sites will load, each on a separate tab. At a single click, therefore, you can launch my blog, my forum, and any of your other favourite sites, then visit them all in turn.
Here's a special contest for members of my forum only! As you'll know from my last post, we just clocked up 100,000 posts. Well, we've now arranged with our friends at WhiteSmoke to give away a copy of their popular writing software to whoever creates post number 101,000!
For those who don't know, WhiteSmoke is a program that aims to help users produce better-written documents. It does this by analyzing the spelling, punctuation and grammar in any document, then suggesting corrections and possible improvements. If you missed it, you can read my full review of WhiteSmoke's software here (though note that this does not mention some of the new features added recently, such as the built-in dictionary).
This contest is already generating lots of interest on the forum, and there are now only a few hundred posts to go until the magic 101,000 is reached. See this topic where the contest is being discussed!
Finally, I should mention that WhiteSmoke currently have a special 'Birthday Offer' running. As it's the company's birthday, they are offering everyone who buys their standard software the opportunity to buy any two of the 'pro' versions as well for just $1 each. The pro versions are designed to apply a particular style, and among the choices you can get a creative writing version and a business version. This offer represents a saving of over $100 on the full price. For more info, see my review or click on the banner below to go straight to the WhiteSmoke site.
Just wanted to share with you that today my forum at http://www.mywriterscircle.com/ passed yet another landmark. The 100,000th message was posted by long-standing member Thatollie. If you want to know what it was, I've revealed all in this topic on the forum.
Considering the forum hasn't even been running for two years yet, I think that's an incredible achievement. So I'd like to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who has joined Mywriterscircle.com and taken part in the discussions there, to our wonderful volunteer moderators who keep everything running smoothly, and - last, but by no means least - to the forum's administrator, sponsor and friend, the inimitable Karl Moore.
Perhaps I could take this opportunity, also, to mention a couple of other landmarks we have passed in the last few weeks. First, we now have over 5,000 members from all over the world. And second, we have made it to number one in Google for the search term "Writers Circle". Try it yourself and see!
If by chance you're reading this blog and you haven't yet joined Mywriterscircle.com, why not make this the day you do? It's free, it's easy, it's fun, and you'll get feedback and support for your writing from some of the nicest people you could hope to meet on the Internet. Just click on Register near the top of the page to get started.
This is one of the top-selling guides for would-be e-book authors, so I thought it was high time I got round to reviewing it. It is aimed mainly at people who want to make money by selling "how-to" type e-books on the Internet. As I can testify from my own experience, this is probably the biggest market for e-books right now, though the sales of fiction e-books (e-novels, if you like) are gradually increasing as well.
I had no problems ordering and downloading How to Write and Publish Your Own eBook in as Little as 7 Days from the sales site. Indeed, Jim and Joe have gone to great lengths to make this process painless, even for people who haven't bought this type of product before. I was impressed to receive an e-mail containing frequently asked questions about the downloading process as soon as I ordered. Of course, this probably helps reduce anguished emails to their helpdesk as well!
The manual itself is in the universal PDF format, and it is well written and attractively set out. I was also pleased to see that all the hyperlinks had been made active (not always the case in PDF e-books). It's an impressive 202 pages long, though this does include some of the advertised "bonus items".
What impressed me more was the section where Jim and Joe analyze the ten reasons why people buy e-books. This makes fascinating reading, and as I went through, it started to give me ideas for new e-books I could write in the future.
At the heart of the guide is where the authors reveal their "7 Day" method for actually writing an e-book. It would be unfair to give away too much about this, but one thing I particularly like is the advice to write the sales page for your e-book first! That's a great idea, and will help you focus your mind on what your e-book needs to include to appeal to its target readership.
Day 7 of the "7 Day" method is when you publish your e-book. There is some excellent advice here, though if you are new to e-commerce, it may not be enough on its own to get your sales site up and running. But the basic advice on writing sales copy and structuring your website is sound, and links are included to other sites and resources that can help you with the practical aspects.
The bonus items include interviews with a number of successful e-book entrepreneurs, and these are all well worth reading - not only for the nuggets of advice they impart, but also to inspire you to try to emulate their success. There are also several short reports, including one which reveals how you can set yourself up to handle credit card payments with a single $50 payment. I don't suppose I'm giving away too much if I reveal that this is by selling your e-book via the popular Clickbank service.
As regular readers will know, if possible I like to throw in a bonus for purchasers of items I review on this blog (and like). With How to Write and Publish Your Own eBook in as Little as 7 Days, therefore, I'm giving away a copy of another manual titled "Getting Started With Clickbank". I didn't write this myself - it's by someone with a much greater knowledge of Clickbank publishing than I possess - but I liked it so much I bought the reproduction rights to it. If you're thinking of publishing your e-book with Clickbank - and you could do a lot worse - this guide will get you off to the best possible start.
To get this free gift from me, just order How to Write and Publish Your Own eBook in as Little as 7 Days via one of the links in this review, then forward your email receipt to me at bonus-at-nickdaws.co.uk (change the -at- to the usual @ sign). Put the words BONUS CLAIM in the subject line. Once I have verified your order, I will email details of how you can download your free bonus report.
In this post a few days again I mentioned the new Litmatch website, which includes lots of useful tools and information for anyone seeking an agent to represent them.
Well, I've just found out about another very good website which does a similar job to Litmatch. Query Tracker is run by Patrick McDonald, who also happens to be a member of my forum.
There are actually many similarities between Litmatch and Query Tracker. Both have large databases of literary agents which can be searched in various ways. LitMatch claims to list 1669 agents in 765 agencies, whilst Query Tracker claims to list 1110 agents in total. In addition, both sites offer a range of tools you can use to record your submissions to agents and the replies (if any) you get from them. And both sites also publish statistics showing response times to queries, and so on.
One thing Query Tracker offers that Litmatch doesn't at present is free "Showcase" pages, where registered members can post samples of their work in the hope that it will be browsed by agents.
Unlike Litmatch, Query Tracker has two levels of membership, free and premium. Free members still get a good range of search and tracking tools, but premium members (who pay $25 a year) get a variety of extra benefits, including enhanced search tools and the ability to view the site without any advertising.
Overall, it is probably a matter of personal taste which of these two excellent sites you prefer. If you're looking for a literary agent to represent you, I highly recommend checking out both Litmatch and Query Tracker and seeing which suits your needs and preferences best. Or you could use both, of course!
As you'll know if you read this blog carefully, last month I enjoyed a fortnight's holiday on the beautiful Greek island of Kefalonia. It's one of my and Jayne's favourite holiday destinations, as demonstrated by the fact that this was actually our seventh visit there.
We stayed in the coastal village of Lourdas (named after the English lords who frequented it at one time), and would recommend this to anyone seeking a relaxing, get-away-from-it-all sort of holiday. If you click on the image below, you can see some of the photos I took while I was there...
If you are receiving this post by email, depending on your settings, you may need to visit my blog to see this.
As I've noted on the photo page, we stayed at a place called the Ionian Sun complex, which is a collection of around two dozen self-catering studios and apartments at three linked locations in Lourdas. You can see some pictures of their swimming pool and bar area on my photos page. In my view Ionian Sun offers the best accommodation in Lourdas - for example, you actually get a bath as well as a shower (almost unheard of in Greece!). You can book a holiday at Ionian Sun via their sole agents Manos.
Incidentally, this display was created using Picasa, the free photo organising (and editing) service from Google. Picasa automatically finds all the photographs on your PC and organises them into albums for you. And - as you can see - it also allows you to publish your albums to the Web for others to enjoy, again totally free of charge. If you'd like more info about Picasa, just click here and click on the banner that appears.
The giant About.com website is actively looking for new Subject Guides right now. I noticed they had even placed an advertisement for UK Guides in my Sunday newspaper last week.
For those who don't know, About.com Guides are home-based freelances who take responsibility for a particular content area on the About.com site. Guides are expected to build up 'their' sites by sourcing (and writing) articles, adding links, hosting web-based discussions, and so on.
Payment is based on the advertising revenue generated by your site, but as long as you fulfil the company's requirements they guarantee you will earn a minimum of $725 a month. Maximum earnings are unlimited, based on a percentage of advertising turnover - according to the About.com website, they have some Guides who earn in excess of $100,000 a year. Good writing skills are required, along with knowledge of your chosen subject area, but training in the necessary technical skills is provided. Although for most Guides the work is part-time, it is a serious commitment, and you must expect to devote at least 10 to 20 hours a week to it.
Here is a selection of topics for which About.com is currently looking for Guides:
19th Century History ADD/ADHD All-Terrain Vehicles Alzheimer's Disease American Food Animal Rights Anthropology Arabic Language Arrhythmia
And I haven't even got past the A's!
For the benefit of my UK readers, here are a few topics specifically for this country:
Birmingham, England Brighton, England UK Cars UK Cricket UK Dance Music UK Football UK Gossip UK Home Business UK Reality TV
Usefully, for each available topic, the information page now displays a panel showing the candidate profile the company is looking for.
Anyone can apply to be a Guide. Qualified applicants with proven expertise in a topic are accepted into Prep, which is a 17 day-long self-guided online training program. During Prep, prospective Guides become familiar with About.com's tools and demonstrate their knowledge by building sample sites. Experienced editors evaluate these sample sites and choose the most qualified applicant for the topic concerned.
If I was just starting out as a freelance writer, I would definitely want to look into the About.com opportunity. It's a good chance to earn a steady income from researching and writing about a subject that interests you. In addition, you'll immediately get a high profile in that subject on the web, and you'll learn some useful technical skills too. For full details, visit http://beaguide.about.com.
One of the nice things about working in this business is the stream of messages I get from buyers of my courses such as Quick Cash Writing and Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, who have fulfilled their writing ambitions by putting my advice to good effect.
Most of these messages I simply acknowledge and pass on to my publishers, WCCL, in case they wish to use them as testimonials. But in the case of the following message that arrived last week, I thought (with the author's permission) I would reproduce it in full on my blog...
My name is Dustin Hsiao and I am a disabled 17 year-old high school student. I just wanted to write and thank you for your fabulous "Write ANY Book in 28 Days... Or Less!" course.
With your help, I managed to write and e-publish my book, "Stupid Kid: Learn from Matt and Luke; how you can get better grades without effort" within 15 days of my summer holiday."
Stupid Kid" started as a simple attempt to help struggling students. I teamed up with renowned educational analyst Fredrick Grimmer (Mr. G) to provide new high school students a "crash course" on how to succeed in school.
That was two months ago...
Since then, "Stupid Kid" has been warmly received by both educators and students. Using the tactics outlined in your course, I wrote to a few celebrities. Not only did I collect many kind words and endorsements, I was invited to meet international pop artist Jesse McCartney for a personal publicity photo and endorsement.
Essentially, using your course, I went from being a nobody to a rising educational expert within 5 months; it only goes up from here! Thank you Mr. Daws, you've literally changed my life.
Most sincerely, Dustin Hsiao Author of "Stupid Kid: Learn from Matt and Luke; how you can get better grades without effort" http://www.BetterMarksNow.com
1. It proves yet again that almost ANYONE can write a book if they want to. Look again at the first line of that message: it comes from a 17-year-old disabled high school student from an ethnic minority background. By no stretch of the imagination is this someone for whom starting a writing career was an easy or obvious career path. Meaning no disrespect at all to Dustin, if he could do it with all his disadvantages, almost anybody can.
2. It makes the point that simply buying any course - even one of mine! - isn't enough on its own. You have to apply the advice it contains, and that means (shock! horror!) you actually have to sit down and do some work. But with good advice and a suitable system - such as that set out in Write Any Book in Under 28 Days - it really is possible to produce a complete book in a short period of time. Notice that Dustin wrote his book in just 15 days - 13 days fewer than the 28 days of the title!
3. And finally, it demonstrates a point that often gets overlooked about my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course. It is NOT just a system for outlining and writing your book. Important though that is, the course covers many other areas as well, from coming up with ideas and titles, through researching and editing your book, all the way to promoting your finished book with the help of celebrity endorsements (as Dustin has done so successfully).
Anyway, I'd like once again to thank Dustin for his kind words, and congratulate him on his initiative in completing his first book at such an early age. I hope it marks the start of a long and successful writing career for him. Do check out his sales site at http://www.bettermarksnow.com/, and consider ordering a copy of his e-book if you know anyone for whom it might be relevant.
And, of course, if you're thinking of writing a book yourself but need a suitable method to get you started, do check out this page of my website for more info about, and an extract from, my top-selling course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days. It worked for Dustin, and it can work for you also!