Nick Daw's Writing Blog - Inside the writing world of Nick Daws
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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Free Copywriting Guide

Copywriting is a fundamental skill for any online writer.

Even if you don't aspire to become a highly paid copywriter yourself, you will almost certainly need some copywriting skills to sell your books and e-books, your services, and, yes, yourself, via the web.

Many writers are unfamiliar with the art of Internet copywriting, and even perhaps a little suspicious of it. However, the good news is that there are certain basic skills anyone can quite easily learn and apply.

And the even better news is that a comprehensive introductory guide to this subject called Make Your Words Sell is currently being given away free of charge.

Make Your Words Sell is by Ken Evoy (the man behind the popular Site Build It website research and building tool) and professional copywriter Joe Robson (creator of the hugely popular Newbie Club).

Make Your Words Sell explains how to write Internet sales copy that first grabs readers' attention, and then persuades and motivates them into action. Here are just some of the things it reveals:
  • How to use the 'SWAT-it-to-death' technique to master the key skills that trouble most copywriters, amateur or pro.
  • How to create the perfect USP.
  • How to write headlines that pull without hyping.
  • How to generate huge numbers of benefits for your product or service
  • How to identify the benefits that are the most important to your customers.
  • And how to word those benefits perfectly in your copy to get the sale!
Make Your Words Sell formerly sold for $29.95 (and was great value at that price). It's currently available free, with no strings attached. I don't know how long this offer will last, however - so if you're at all interested in Internet copywriting, I highly recommend visiting the Make Your Words Sell website and picking up your free copy today.
  • And don't forget too - if reading Make Your Words Sell gives you a taste for copywriting, The Ultimate Copywriter from WCCL will give you the in-depth advice you need to set yourself up as a professional Internet copywriter.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Pseudotube Sideline Business Opportunity

In these uncertain economic times we all need a few extra strings to our bow. And recently I added another to mine by partnering with Pseudotube.

Pseudotube offers anyone the chance to set up their own free or low-cost video-based website, with no technical skills required.

Why would you want to do this? Well, in case you hadn't noticed, video is huge on the net right now. Sites such as YouTube get millions of hits every day. People are looking for an alternative to the dull, repetitive pap that passes for entertainment on mainstream TV. Online video sites give them something fresh and different.

Pseudotube gives anyone the chance to set up their own video site in the niche of their choice, and get a share of this online action. No technical skills are required - all the behind the-scenes programming has been done for you. Essentially, all you have to do is choose videos for your site from YouTube and other video-sharing sites, and promote your site to get visitors. You can then profit in various ways, e.g. with Google AdSense and affiliate ads for relevant products from ClickBank.

Anyway, if you're at all interested in learning more, I've set up a new Squidoo lens where I've tried to explain how Pseudotube works as clearly as possible. Just click on this link to find out more.

Even if you aren't interested in setting up your own Pseudotube site, however, it's still worth visiting my lens if you have a blog or website. The reason is that you can set up a free link exchange between your own site/s and one or all of the video sites in the growing Pseudotube network. Again, my Squidoo lens explains how to do this. Although it's straightforward once you understand what's required, in my view the instructions aren't as clear as they ought to be, so I've tried to explain them a bit better in my lens.

If nothing else, though, do check out my own Pseudotube website at www.cute-animal-videos.com! As you'll see, I picked a topic I thought would have world-wide appeal :)

I did think of setting up a site about writing, but I wasn't sure if video was the ideal medium for this. So, if you want to set up your own writing-related Pseudotube website, the field is currently wide open for you!

P.S. If you do decide to set up a Pseudotube site, drop me a line via my homepage and I'll send you a few hints and tips from my own experience.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Some Thoughts on Professional Jealousy Among Writers

I enjoyed reading this blog post recently by Mitzi Szereto. It's about 'precious' writers, and one in particular Mitzi has had dealings with recently. Judging from the number of comments the post has attracted, it's struck a chord with more than a few readers.

The post made me think of another unattractive characteristic displayed by a few writers. That's professional jealousy towards another writer or writers, which in turn can lead to backstabbing and worse.

I've experienced this a few times in my career, so I thought I'd share a couple of instances here...

The first happened a few years ago. It concerns another writer whom I'll call Mary. We originally met when I became a contributor to a newsletter she was then editing. Later she went freelance and we kept in touch. We were both able to put some work the other's way, which is something I always like to do.

Anyway, a client for whom I had written a correspondence course was looking for someone to act as a tutor on it. I didn't fancy doing this myself, so I recommended Mary for the job. At first all went well, and she was earning a steady if not spectacular monthly income from the work. I assumed she was quite happy with this.

But, though I didn't know it at the time, resentment towards me was obviously building up in her. This culminated when she wrote a letter to my client pointing out what she felt were a few shortcomings in my course, and suggesting he scrap it and hire her to write a new one. At the same time, she started putting snide comments in the feedback she was giving to students, causing several raised eyebrows.

Fortunately I had - and still have - a great working relationship with the client concerned. He copied all the relevant correspondence (both Mary's letter to him and some student complaints about her) to me. We agreed that in the circumstances there was no way either of us could go on working with her, so my client told Mary that her services were no longer required. We found someone else to take over as course tutor - actually someone who had taken the course herself - and she is still doing the job today. No prizes, then, for seeing who came out of this situation worst.

My other example is more recent. A fellow writer I have known for many years and recommended to others on various occasions took it upon himself to 'expose' me on someone else's blog. I can't remember all the details now, but among other things he criticized me for claiming to be a local celebrity and saying I had a lot of holidays (both, incidentally, things written about me by a publisher rather than me personally). Yes, it really was that petty!

This is, by the way, someone about whom I'd never previously written a bad word, and have even recommended in this blog (and still do in the relevant archived post - I wouldn't be so petty as to delete it). I can only assume his action was brought on by professional jealousy, arising from frustration that his own writing hasn't achieved the recognition he thinks it deserves. But clearly, I won't be recommending him or his websites in future.

On a brighter note, these are isolated incidents. Most of the other writers I have met during my career, for all their little foibles, would never dream of backstabbing a fellow writer in this way. This applies especially in regard to my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com. I am pleased to say that we have a growing core (corps?) of writers who will go out of their way to help other members, and genuinely rejoice in their successes. This in turn has resulted in many collaborations, joint ventures, publishing projects, and so on.

So while professional jealousy is a particularly unattractive quality in writers, I hope and believe that it is a rare one. But what do you think? I'd love to hear about YOUR experiences!

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Review: Novel in a Month

Novel in a Month 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.

Novel in a Month is written by Dan Strauss, Senior Editor of the WCCL Network and a successful author/novelist himself.

The course is provided on CD-ROM in the universal PDF format. It is therefore suitable for all computing platforms: Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux.

Like all WCCL products, Novel in a Month is beautifully produced, and it has clearly been professionally written and edited. The main manual (I'll get to the bonuses later) takes you step by step through everything you need to know to write a novel in the shortest possible time. Not surprisingly, I guess, the method set out in Novel in a Month bears a close resemblance to the one I set out in Write Any Book in Under 28 Days (though, of course, the latter is aimed primarily at people who want to write a non-fiction book).

I don't suppose I'm giving away too much if I reveal that the system described in Novel in a Month involves writing your first draft in three weeks, then editing it in the fourth. There is also a preliminary stage of planning and outlining, which takes up the first day or two.

Novel in a Month is packed with hints, tips and guidelines for novelists. Among the things I particularly liked were the 'population index' chart for developing characters, and Dan's P.L.O.T. plotting method, neither of which I had seen before.

Indeed, I thought Novel in a Month was particularly strong on plot and plotting methods. As well as the P.L.O.T. system, the course includes five top tips for plotting your novel, six universal plot archetypes, and so forth. My only slight reservation concerns the index card system that Dan advocates as an aid to plotting. Don't get me wrong, it's a great system, but personally I'd much prefer to work on my PC rather than start fiddling about with bits of cardboard. Still, it wouldn't be hard to adapt Dan's system to something a little more 21st century.

Other areas discussed in depth include dialogue, characterization, pacing, editing, viewpoint, writing in scenes ('show, don't tell'), and descriptive writing. Dan (correctly) emphasizes the importance of economy of style and resisting the temptation to overwrite. I can't help thinking, however, that he might have chosen a better example of this art than the late US science fiction author Isaac Asimov, entertaining though some of his short stories undoubtedly are (have you tried reading any of his 'Foundation' novels, though?). Perhaps I'm being a bit picky, however!

In addition to the main guide, you get five additional bonus items. These are as follows:

1. Getting Dialogue Down - a mini-guide to writing convincing (and correctly punctuated) dialogue.

2. How to Get Free Publicity for Your Novel - a 15-page guide showing how to get your book promoted on a shoe-string budget.

3. How to Get Celebrity Endorsements for Your Novel - if you've bought my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course you'll know this already - but if not, the advice in this report will tell you exactly how to put this powerful technique to good use.

4. The Hottest Agents in the US and UK - this bonus guide contains over 40 pages of agent contact details, e-mail addresses, websites, guidelines, requirements, and so on.

5. 33 Techniques for Fine-Tuning Your Fiction - personally I think this is the most important and valuable of the bonuses. It shows you how to fine-tune your novel so that it stands out from the competition. Applying these 'advanced' techniques could make all the difference between having your book rejected and getting it accepted for publication.

Overall, Novel in a Month gets my recommendation as the most comprehensive course I have seen on writing a novel in the shortest possible time. If you are thinking of joining in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November, it could be the ideal guide to have at your side and on your PC. But even if you don't intend to try writing a complete novel in a month, it would still be a very useful guide to plotting and writing your first best-seller!

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Writer Wanted for Rude Books

One of my regular clients, Lagoon Games, is looking for a writer with teaching experience for a new project. Here is the ad they asked me to publicize:

Publisher compiling funny translation book of rude words and phrases for kids. If there is anyone who has experience of teaching younger kids languages and what falls within the boundaries of acceptance for an age group under 13, please contact Nikole Bamford at nikole-at-lagoongames.com.

The languages will be French, Spanish, German and Chinese - you don't have to know all these but a knowledge of phonetics would also help. This is a paid project.


Good luck if you decide to apply for this. Lagoon are regular clients of mine, and nice people to work with. The company is UK-based but their biggest market is the US, so I would assume that as long as you have the skills they want for this job, you could be based anywhere in the world.

Update 28 August 2008: Nikole tells me this vacancy is still open. It's a good - and paying - opportunity for any writer with some language teaching experience. Even if you're not sure if you qualify, it's well worth emailing Nikole to enquire. I can confirm that she doesn't bite!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Finding a Publisher for Your Novel

I've had a few queries recently from writers frustrated by their inability to get a publisher to look at their novel. The one below is typical:

You know, I think the one biggest need for the writing community is a primer on how to actually get printed. I have written four novels now. I have submitted one to several companies (with no answer), one to an agent (with no discernible activity), and have two waiting in the wings. It seems I can get no one to look at any of them.

How do you find a publisher that is willing to work with you? I've most often heard that "it's all in having the right contacts" but how do you establish those? I resist vanity press and don't know the first thing about web publishing. I just want someone to publish my books. I am very frustrated. Writing the book is by far the easiest part of the whole thing...


I do have a lot of sympathy with the frustration expressed here. For a new writer today (who isn't already a 'celebrity') even getting a publisher to look at your work is a challenge. For what it's worth, here are a few suggestions that may help overcome this problem.

1. Try a Range of Agents and Publishers


The old days when you were told to avoid multiple submissions are long gone - life is simply too short to wait for some lowest-of-the-low junior editor to pluck your manuscript out of his/her in-tray and condescend to read it.

For checking out publishers and their requirements, I particularly recommend the annual Writer's Market and Writer's Market UK. These are comprehensive guides to the US and UK markets respectively, and both list a range of publishers in other countries as well.

There are nowadays some great interactive websites where you can search for agents who handle the type of book you are writing, and read comments by other authors about their experiences with them. LitMatch and QueryTracker are two such sites I highly recommend.

And by the way - don't just limit yourself to the country you're in. Publishing is nowadays very much a multi-national industry. If you're a UK writer specialising in hard-boiled detective fiction, you may find you get a better reception from some US publishers. Or if you're an American author specialising in historical novels set in 19th century London, you could most certainly try some British agents and publishers as well.

2. Enter Writing Contests and Competitions

I can speak from personal experience here - winning a high-profile contest really can open doors for you. A few years ago I won a short story contest run by a top UK women's magazine. As part of my prize I was invited to an awards ceremony at London's Dorchester Hotel. I was seated with (among others) a BBC producer, a literary agent and a book publisher, all of whom were keen to find out what other literary gems I had in my locker. In many ways the contacts I made through winning that competition were more valuable to me than the prize itself.

3. Get Testimonials in Advance

Anything you can do to help your book stand out from the rest will help. And one way of doing this is to get 'testimonials' for your book from published authors and/or celebrities, which you can submit to an agent or publisher along with your manuscript. My course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days goes into some detail about this, incidentally.

4. Make Your Novel as Good as It Can Be

You really do need to ensure that your novel is as good as it can possibly be before you submit it.

If you know that grammar and spelling aren't your strong points, therefore, ask someone you trust to go through it for you, or pay a professional editor. In any event, there is a lot to be said for getting your work checked over by someone seeing it with fresh eyes.

Be sure, especially, that the opening pages of your novel grab the reader. The days of long, rambling introductions are long past. You need to capture readers' interest and attention in the first few pages, either with the quality of the writing or an exciting scenario (preferably both).

Don't assume that publishers will overlook a few little mistakes either - they won't. You are entering a highly competitive arena, and only your very best work will do if you hope to succeed.

5. Don't Expect It to Be Easy

Perhaps I'm stating the obvious here, but getting a novel published is not - and never has been - easy. Even J.K. Rowling had her first Harry Potter book rejected by twelve publishing houses before a then-small independent publisher called Bloomsbury decided to take a chance on it.

Neither does it necessarily get easier once you've been published. I was talking recently to my friend Jeff Phelps, the award-winning novelist and short story writer. He told me that he had just sent his latest novel to his publishers and received a reply showing polite interest but asking him to rewrite the entire book and then re-submit it (still with no guarantee it will be accepted). And Jeff is a meticulous writer, so I'm sure there was nothing wrong with the book stylistically.

Looking at it from a publisher's point of view, publishing a first novel from an 'unknown' writer is a huge gamble. Publishers know that most first novels lose money, though there is always the hope that, like J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter novel, one will succeed spectacularly. As an author, your task is to demonstrate to a potential publisher that your book has that added 'X factor' that will make it stand out. And publishers also want to see that you have the ability to write more books, preferably lots of them. Even if your first book fails to make money for them, then, hopefully your second or third may be the 'breakthrough' novel that catapults you into the big time.

6. Consider Self-Publishing

Self-publishing is not the same as vanity publishing. It just means you take the financial risk of publishing your book yourself.

Print-on-demand services such as Lulu.com allow you to publish your book yourself and only pay when an order is actually received, so the risk is far less than the traditional method of getting hundreds or even thousands of books printed in advance.

As a self-publisher, you will have to handle everything from design to publicity yourself (or pay someone to do it on your behalf). However, all the profits will go to you as well. And a growing number of books that were initially self published are subsequently picked up by mainstream publishers.

7. Use the Internet to Promote Yourself and Your Work

This is a huge topic, and I can't go into great detail about it here. But there are lots of ways you can use the net to raise your profile and generate interest in your book, both from readers and potential publishers.

Here's just one example: You could publish extracts from your novel on a blog or website. Indeed, some writers have put their entire books online. If publishers can see that your work is attracting interest from readers, it may provide the encouragement they need to offer you a contract. At the very least, it means your work is being read and enjoyed by others rather than gathering dust in your desk drawer.

Finally, though, I would say: persevere. If you believe in your work and are sure it is worth publishing, keep sending it out. Eventually there is a real chance that someone else, an agent or a publisher, will read it and agree with you.

Good luck, and enjoy your writing.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Contributions wanted for The Forever Story

I've just heard about a new collaborative writing project called The Forever Story.

The project launches today and aims to create the world's longest collectively written story. There are no fees on offer for writers, however; instead the project aims to raise a large sum of money for children with autism.

The money will be donated by the telecoms company TalkTalk. For every contribution to the story via the website at www.theforeverstory.com, TalkTalk will donate 1 UK pound (around $2 US) to the British children's autism charity Treehouse. The project press release explains:

There are around 100,000 children with Autism in the UK, with around half a million family members directly affected by the condition. We want to raise awareness of the work Treehouse does to alleviate the often huge financial and emotional pressures associated with looking after a child with Autism and raise the much needed money so their work can continue.

TalkTalk's donation target is 50,000 UKP, and to achieve that they are giving people the opportunity to write alongside some very well-known writers. The first 35 words have been written by Nick Hornby (author of About A Boy and other popular books and novels) and are as follows:

For the first nineteen years of his life, Johnny Razor wasn't Johnny Razor at all. He was Malcolm Weatherly, and he was born in Mile End Underground station on the night of 17th September 1940.

Anyone is welcome to continue the story by adding another 35 words or so at the website www.theforeverstory.com. Do just be sure to read (and/or listen to) as many of the preceding contributions as possible, so that your contribution fits in and makes sense.


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Monday, August 04, 2008

Free Guide to E-book Writing

For a writer, creating and selling an e-book can be one of the best ways to make money from the Internet.

Many writers, however, are put off by the prospect of writing for this 'unfamiliar' medium, formatting their book, setting up a sales site, attracting buyers, and so on.

I recently discovered that a comprehensive guide to this subject called Make Your Knowledge Sell is currently being given away free of charge.

Make Your Knowledge Sell is by Ken Evoy (the man behind the popular Site Build It business opportunity) and successful e-book author Monique Harris. MYKS covers everything from choosing your subject and producing your e-book, through to marketing it and automating the sales process.

MYKS formerly sold for $49.95 (and was great value at that price). It's currently available free, with no strings attached. I don't know how long this offer will last, however; so if you're at all interested in e-book writing, I strongly recommend visiting the MYKS website and picking up your free copy today.

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