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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Joanne Harris Interview on WritersFM

As mentioned recently in this blog post, Joanne Harris is the latest big-name writer to be interviewed on WritersFM, WCCL's Internet radio station for writers.

Joanne Harris is the British author of around a dozen novels, the most famous of which is Chocolat, which was also made into a film starring Juliette Binoche. Her latest novel, Runemarks, published in August 2007, is her first book for children and young adults. Her official website is at www.joanne-harris.co.uk, or clicking on any of the links from her name in this post will take you to the Wikipedia article about her.

The WritersFM Interview with Joanne was conducted by the station manager, Karl Moore, as usual. The interview runs to about an hour and is entertaining as well as being informative. As you might expect of a former school-teacher, Joanne is a clear and articulate interviewee.

Fans of Joanne Harris will particularly enjoy listening as she talks about her various books, and Chocolat in particular. As mentioned previously, I've only read one Joanne Harris novel so far, Gentlemen and Players, but I definitely plan to read some of her other books now. Actually, though, I thought the last twenty minutes or so of the interview were the most interesting, where Joanne talks about her writing methods and offers some tips for aspiring novelists. I recommend having a pen and paper in hand when listening to this!

To hear the interview, you can either wait for it to come around on the station's normal rotation, download it as a podcast, or (probably the easiest option) stream it from the radio station's Podcasts page. As with all WritersFM broadcasts, you will need to have a broadband/DSL Internet connection.

Happy listening!

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Review: The Pro Publisher

The Pro Publisher is a brand new guide to writing, publishing and marketing a profitable e-book. As such it joins a crowded field, including How to Write and Publish Your Own eBook in as Little as 7 Days by Jim Edwards and Joe Vitale and The 24-Hour E-book Writing System by Melanie Mendelson, both of which I have reviewed in this blog.

The Pro Publisher is by the UK-based writer and e-book publisher Amin. It is sold as an instant download in the universal PDF format.

As is customary with this sort of publication, buyers get a main manual and a number of bonus items. The main manual is quite concise, weighing in at 43 single-spaced pages. Even so, it manages to pack a lot of information into those pages.

The Pro Publisher is aimed at people who want to write and sell information products (by far the best way of making money from e-books). Amin takes you through each stage of this process. He starts by showing how to research potentially profitable 'niches' for your e-books, using free keyword research tools. This is much the same method used by my own publishers, WCCL, when researching possible new titles, and I found it highly informative.

The section about writing your e-book is quite short - if you want a step-by-step method, a better choice might be Melanie Mendelson's guide, or perhaps my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days. Nevertheless, it covers the essentials, and also looks at the alternatives of outsourcing the actual writing or using free or low-cost PLR (private label right) content and adapting it. There are some good ideas here, based on Amin's own experience.

The largest chunk of The Pro Publisher is devoted to marketing your e-book. There is some excellent advice on writing a sales letter and publishing it on the web. Like Jim Edwards and Joe Vitale, Amin recommends the popular Clickbank publishing service, and he explains the benefits of using this service, and how to make the most of it by allowing others to sell your product for you as affiliates.

Amin also goes into detail about selling your book using PPC (pay-per-click) services such as Google Adwords. This is information not provided in the other guides mentioned, and it is impressively detailed. I learned some useful things here about easy ways of creating PPC advertisements that I will definitely be applying myself. The guide also has a section about how you can attract more search engine traffic to your site, using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques.

As previously mentioned, as well as the main guide, buyers of The Pro Publisher also get a range of free bonus items. These include lists of directories and article sites you can use to help promote your e-book sales site (this process is explained in the main guide), along with a free mini-site template you can use to create your sales page, and another free bonus I'm not allowed to reveal here. These are all potentially valuable, although a bit more explanation of how to go about customizing the mini-site template might have been helpful.

Overall, The Pro Publisher is an impressive product, and a good resource for anyone hoping to get into the lucrative world of writing and publishing information products. It might not tell you every single thing you want to know, but where necessary it has links to other sites which have extra information; that's a sensible approach, and it explains how the author has managed to keep the main manual so concise. Incidentally, I particularly like the way Amin is not afraid to say which products and services have worked for him and which he considers a waste of time!

I recommend The Pro Publisher for any aspiring e-book writer/publisher, except perhaps for complete beginners.

EXTRA BONUS: As I'm a fan of The Pro Publisher, I'm going to make one of my occasional special offers on this guide. If you buy it via a link in this review, I will throw in not one but TWO extra bonus items of my own.

First of all, you'll get a copy of my exclusive 2,500-word report on how I self-published my e-book Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching on the top self-publishing site Lulu.com. Starting from a finished Microsoft Word manuscript, it took me just a morning to sign up at Lulu and complete the entire e-book publishing process. In my report I reveal exactly how I did it, with some important hints and tips for publishing your own e-book at Lulu along the way.

And not only that, I'll send you a free copy of Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching too. This e-book is intended for teachers and writers who work in schools, but the exercises it contains could equally be used by adult writers groups and individuals. More importantly, though, you will see the actual e-book I refer to in my report in its finished form. If you want to dip your toe into self-publishing, an e-book is the quickest and easiest way to do it. My free bonuses will show you EXACTLY how to do this on the popular Lulu.com self-publishing site!

To claim your bonuses, just forward a copy of your Clickbank receipt for The Pro Publisher to me at propub-at-nickdaws.co.uk (change the -at- to the usual @ sign). Please put BONUS CLAIM in the subject line. I will check your order details and send you your bonus items, normally within 24 hours (though please allow up to five days over the Easter period).

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Off the Wall - live in Lichfield!

I'm off-topic today, but I just wanted to mention a really good night out Jayne and I enjoyed last week.

We went to see a group called Off The Wall, a tribute band for the rock group Pink Floyd. I've been a life-long Floyd fan but never seen them live, and now the members are all over 60 and seldom play together any more, I doubt if I ever will. So seeing Off The Wall at the Garrick Theatre in Lichfield (my nearest town) seemed the next best thing.

Anyway, Off The Wall easily surpassed my expectations. They started on the dot at 7.30 and finished at half past ten. In between was a magical three hours.

Off The Wall are a very talented group of musicians - as you have to be if you're going to do justice to Pink Floyd's music - and the numbers they played went through pretty much the whole of Floyd's career, from early hits like Arnold Layne through to selected tracks from their last studio album, The Division Bell.

Cameras weren't allowed in the theatre, but on YouTube I found this video - posted by the band themselves - which shows them playing Time and a reprise of Breathe (from the classic Pink Floyd album The Dark Side of the Moon). Obviously the video wasn't shot in Lichfield, but they did perform this number at the concert we went to, so it was great to see it again here. Make sure you turn the volume on your computer up loud ;-)



If you are receiving this blog by email, you will need to visit my blog to see the video.

As you may notice, although Off The Wall are described as a tribute act, they don't dress up as or pretend to be members of Pink Floyd (that would be difficult, anyway, as one of Off The Wall's lead guitarists is Stella Fairhead, and the actual Pink Floyd don't have any female members!). Off The Wall simply perform the music of Pink Floyd extremely well, generally staying close to the originals, though occasionally adding their own individual slant. Hence, I assume, the subtitle on their website, 'The Spirit of Pink Floyd'.

As well as the music, the audience was treated to a suitably psychedelic light show and projections, the latter including some of the Gerald Scarfe cartoons used in the movie and video of The Wall. Overall, it was a polished and complete performance, including a note-perfect rendition of The Great Gig in the Sky (which all Pink Floyd fans will know is a very difficult number for anyone to sing live) performed by the multi-talented Stella, which left many in the audience - including me - open-mouthed.

Finally, it was great to see that the Garrick Theatre was a full house (even if this did mean long queues for the bar and toilets at the interval!). Off The Wall are touring Britain and Europe for much of this year, so if they come anywhere near you - and you enjoy intelligent, melodic rock music - I highly recommend going to see them!

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Monday, March 17, 2008

What would YOU ask Joanne Harris?

My colleague Karl Moore of the online radio station WritersFM needs your help!

He has managed to line up an interview with the British author Joanne Harris this Thursday, 20 March. And he has asked me to put out a request to readers of my blog for any questions he can ask her.

For those who may not know, Joanne Harris is the author of around a dozen novels, perhaps the most famous of which is Chocolat, which was also made into a film starring Juliette Binoche. Her latest novel, Runemarks, published in 2007, is her first book for children and young adults. Her official website is at http://www.joanne-harris.co.uk/, or clicking on any of the links from her name in this post will take you to the Wikipedia article about her.

I must admit that I haven't read Chocolat or seen the film. I did, however, read her more recent novel Gentlemen and Players on holiday a couple of years ago. I enjoyed reading it, although I guessed the "surprise twist" about a quarter of the way through! If you haven't read it, though, I do recommend it as an enjoyable thriller with some memorable characters and a good evocation of life at a minor English public school. I've put a link to the relevant page at Amazon.co.uk below...


Anyway, if you have any questions you would like Karl to put to Joanne Harris, do drop him a line. Write to him at karl AT karlmoore.com (changing the AT for the usual @ sign). Put his name ("Karl Moore") in the subject line, to avoid your email being blocked by his spam filters.

If you want to listen to the interview, it will be online at WritersFM on Friday 21 March, or very soon afterwards. And if you'd like more info about WritersFM, please see my recent blog post about the radio station.

Happy listening!

UPDATE! - I've just heard from Karl that unfortunately he has the flu, so his interview with Joanne has had to be put back to next Friday (28 March). So you still have time to send him any questions you would like asked! I'll let you know on this blog when the interview is available on WritersFM.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Free Short Story Contest

I recently heard about a new short story contest which, unusually, is free to enter. It's being run by Claire C (sorry, I don't know her full name) of the Bebo Author blog. Full details of the contest can be found by clicking on Bebo Author Short Story Competition.

The contest is for stories of at least 1000 words. There is no maximum word count, although as it IS a short story contest, I'd guess you probably shouldn't go over 10,000 words.

The contest is open to anyone - you don't have to be a member of the social networking site Bebo - and stories can be in almost any genre. Claire says: 'I don't want to restrict you but I don't want literotica or gore with the sole intention of making me sick.'

A variety of prizes is on offer. They include $50, $30 and $20 Amazon vouchers (or the equivalent in cash paid via Paypal), plus a growing range of other prizes donated by sponsors.

The contest judges are professional writer Samantha Priestley and Catherine Sharp, a technical writer who runs her own blog, Sharp Words. The closing date is Friday 21 March 2008 (so you don't have loads of time!). Stories have to be sent to Claire in the body of an email (no attachments) at claire-at-beboauthor.com (change the -at- to the usual @ sign). For more info, as mentioned, click through to the contest information page.

Good luck!

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Writers at Large: Prisons

In this new series of articles, I'll be discussing some of the many opportunities that exist for writers to make a sideline income talking about writing and encouraging others to write. In this first article I'm looking at writer-in-prison work.

I should start by saying that all these articles are written primarily with reference to the UK, which is where I live. Most will apply to a greater or lesser extent in other countries as well, but you will need to do your own research here.

The UK Prison Service has a long tradition of inviting writers (and other artists) into prisons. The role involves encouraging prisoners with an interest in writing to explore and develop this. Writers in prisons typically run writing groups and classes, and also offer one-to-one advice and support. They may give readings of their own work, and also take on projects such as producing an anthology or display of prisoners' writing.

Another aspect can involve collaborating with other freelancers, such as musicians, actors and visual artists. A collaborative project might, for example, involve writing, producing and performing a play or even a musical. The ultimate aim, of course, is to enrich the day-to-day experience of the inmates, and hopefully make it less likely they will re-offend when they are released.

Many people (including me, I admit) find the thought of working in a prison rather daunting. However, most writers I know who have done this have found it a rewarding and enjoyable experience. As a writer in prison, you won't be expected to try to 'convert' the inmates to writing. Rather, in most cases you will work with a small group of prisoners who have expressed an interest in creative writing. With lots of time on their hands, writing can be a popular pastime, and one which can be therapeutic for the individuals concerned in coming to terms with the situation they find themselves in.

Writer-in-prison work in the UK is reasonably paid, though you won't get rich. Typically, you will be employed for three days a week, for a period of three to twelve months (which may be extended). The sort of fee I have seen offered is 20,000 UK pounds (around $38,000 US) a year, pro rata. So if you were employed for a year working three days a week, you would receive 12,000 pounds, plus travel and any other out-of-pocket expenses. This is just an example, and in practice you might get paid more or less than this.

In my experience, the best place to find ads for writer-in-prison jobs in the UK is the Guardian newspaper - check out the Creative & Media pages on Mondays, or you could do a search in their jobs section.

You don't need to be a 'household name' to get work as a writer in prison, though obviously you need some sort of track record as a writer. All types of writer are required, and this can be a good opportunity for poets, who can otherwise struggle to find paying outlets for their talents. Indeed, many of the people I know who have done this type of work - e.g. my old friend Gary Boswell - are primarily poets, though Gary is also a talented short-story and non-fiction writer.

Finally - and this is why I started this series with a look at prison work - there is currently a call for writers to work in prisons in Lancashire. The organisation concerned, Litfest, writes:

We are running six short-term residencies across Lancashire prisons during April and May 2008 for the Offenders Learning and Skills Council at Lancaster and Morecambe College. These residencies will work with offenders to produce new writing, audio recordings and artwork to be broadcast on BBC Radio Lancashire and exhibited across the county and online throughout 2008.

We want to recruit 6 writers to take part in an initial training and development programme to both equip them with the skills and understanding to work in prisons, and to develop a model for working collaboratively with visual and sound artists.

Writers will be selected from this initial programme to work on the residencies. There are bursaries and travel expenses available to attend the training and development sessions and writers fees for those working on the residencies.


For more information about this, and details of how to apply, please see this topic on my forum. Note that the closing date for applications is 14 March 2008, so you will need to move quite swiftly if you are interested.

In future 'Writers at Large' articles I will look at the opportunities that exist for writers in other fields, including schools, adult education, writers circles/conferences and in the community.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Advice on Becoming an About.com Subject Guide

I've written a few times in this blog (most recently here) about the opportunities for freelance writers and editors with the giant About.com website.

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. You can see a list of the current vacancies for Guides here.

Anyway, my main reason for writing about this again today is that, via the excellent TrafficJam website, I discovered this blog article on getting a job as an About.com guide, from someone who has actually been through the application process. It's quite short, but if you're thinking of applying for this opportunity (and at an earlier stage in my freelance career it's something I would have seriously considered) there's some very solid advice here.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Free Report for E-book Writers

I recently obtained the reproduction rights to a new report called 30 Writing Tips for eBook Authors, by the successful eBook author Jimmy D. Brown.

This is an informative little guide for any aspiring non-fiction writer, not only eBook authors (though it is particularly relevant to them). Here's a sample extract from the report which may give you some idea as to its quality:

25. Get More Information.

It's common for writers to get to a point where they think "what now?" You've just written everything you know about a particular subject and it still seems like something is missing. There aren't enough pages. The chapters don't fit together well. Something isn't explained quite the way it should be. Don't allow the lack of information to stop you from digging in and creating an outstanding eBook. The Internet is an open highway of information just waiting to be researched. Start out with some of the top search engines such as Google.com, Yahoo.com, or Lycos.com and in the search field, type in a half dozen or so different keywords and key phrases relating to your subject.

For example: If you are writing an eBook on weight loss, you might search for...

weight loss
lose weight
weight loss articles
nutrition
health and fitness
weight loss tips
nutrition tips
exercise
diets

Your search will result in tons of information for you to start with. You'll find content sites, free eBooks, articles, reports, eCourses, message boards --just a lot of free information you can study to find new ideas. Spend a few hours (or even a few days) gathering ideas by reading through the information available all over the web. One huge part of successful writing is strong research abilities...and just flat out investing your TIME in gathering ideas.

You'll find that as you research, a LIGHT BULB will go off in your head. When it does, WRITE IT DOWN. Gather a dozen or so ideas and then plug them into your own writing.

It's always good to get a fresh perspective and see things from other folks' viewpoints.

There are a few adverts for Jimmy's longer manuals in the report, but it's easy enough to read around these, or you can click through to find out more. This free report is a good advert (in my opinion) for his full-length products.

30 Writing Tips for eBook Authors is in the universal PDF format. If you click on any of the links in this post, assuming you have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed it should open in your browser window. You can also right-click on any link and save the report to the folder of your choice on your PC.

Happy eBook writing!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Review: The Ultimate Copywriter

The Ultimate Copywriter is the latest in WCCL's range of products and courses for writers, which also includes my courses Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing.

The Ultimate Copywriter is by professional copywriter Mel McIntyre, also known as Top Copy Guy. It is provided on CD-ROM in both PDF and audio (MP3) format. It is therefore suitable for all computing platforms, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux.

The first thing I noticed about The Ultimate Copywriter is that it is very well written. Some advertising copywriters I know seem unable to write in normal English, but that is evidently not the case with Mel McIntyre. The content is neatly set out, and (like all WCCL products) it has clearly been professionally designed and edited. The usual 24-hour customer support is available from WCCL's dedicated help site at www.myhelphub.com.

The main part of The Ultimate Copywriter is a substantial manual of over 180 pages. It is divided into eight sections, plus appendices. It begins by explaining what copywriting is, and how writers can break into this lucrative field. After that, it gets down to the nitty-gritty of how to write good advertising copy.

The manual covers various copywriting tasks. Three that are discussed in particular detail are writing copy for websites, writing a sales letter, and writing a press release. Other avenues such as article writing are also covered, though in less detail.

The advice in the guide is backed up with copious examples. Mel has written and/or edited advertising copy for WCCL, and I found it especially interesting to read his in-depth analysis of the website sales copy for their Write a Movie in a Month course. Mel shows how the '15-point sales letter formula' described in his guide was used to create and structure the web page in question. As this is one of WCCL's best-selling products, it certainly appears to have worked.

There are not one but two sections devoted to how to get work as a copywriter, and these will be of particular interest to new copywriters. I found Mel's advice - and the examples of how he got his first copywriting jobs - quite inspiring, and I will definitely be trying out some of these strategies myself. He also lists a number of websites that regularly advertise opportunities for copywriters, including several I was previously unaware of.

How does The Ultimate Copywriter compare with WCCL's other copywriting guide, Power Copywriting by Bob Serling, which I reviewed in this blog post a few months ago? The most obvious difference is that The Ultimate Copywriter is aimed four-square at writers who want to break into this field. Power Copywriting is good, but it has a different target readership. It is basically a tool for website owners and entrepreneurs who want to write their own copy. The Ultimate Copywriter also covers a wider range of copywriting tasks than Power Copywriting, which is basically all about creating website sales pages.

In fact, though, you don't have to choose between them, as if you buy The Ultimate Copywriter, for the launch period at least you will get Power Copywriting thrown in free, along with various other special bonuses. Considering that The Ultimate Copywriter is currently selling for almost the same price as Power Copywriting, this looks like a good deal to me.

Do I have any criticisms of The Ultimate Copywriter? To be honest, very few. It is a well written, comprehensive guide, and most aspects of freelance copywriting are covered. There is perhaps a slight bias towards online copywriting, but I guess this is understandable in a guide sold via the Internet! The online marketplace is of course huge and growing every day, but it might have been nice to see a bit more about the 'traditional' opportunities for copywriters that still exist, e.g. writing brochures, leaflets and newspaper ads.

Still, this is only a minor criticism. If you want a guide that will get you started in the exciting world of freelance copywriting, I highly recommend The Ultimate Copywriter, especially with the range of free bonus items currently on offer.

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