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Friday, March 30, 2012

22 Great Ways to Create Compelling Content (Infographic)

Today I'm sharing another great infographic from Copyblogger.

This one aims to assist bloggers and other online content providers who may be struggling for inspiration!

The graphic is based on an article called 21 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don't Have a Clue by Danny Iny, a guest writer on the Copyblogger blog.

It actually includes 22 methods, for reasons that will become apparent at the end!

22 Ways to Create Compelling Content - Infographic

Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

If you are receiving this post by email or RSS, you may need to visit my blog to see the infographic.

Thank you to Brian Clark and his team for making this inspirational infographic available for distribution on other websites by supplying an embed code.

If you have any comments on these suggestions, or would like to add your own, please do post them below!

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Five Deadlines at the End of This Week!

A few writing-related deadlines are coming up at the end of this week (Saturday 31 March), so I thought today I'd do a quick round-up...

Some of these I've mentioned before on my blog, while others I've only had the chance to share via Twitter. I hope by listing everything here to save you cursing yourself for missing any of these.

1. Script Frenzy

Script Frenzy starts on 1 April, so to get the most from it you should register by 31 March at the latest.

For those who don't know, Script Frenzy is a challenge to produce 100 pages of scripted material in the month of April.

I wrote about Script Frenzy in this blog post. If you're a scriptwriter, or would like to be, it's a great opportunity to complete a script in any dramatic medium (film, TV, radio, stage). And - just like NaNoWriMo - there is bags of support to be had from your fellow Script Frenzy participants.

Here's a link to the Script Frenzy site for further info (and to register).

2. The Blogging A-Z Challenge

If you're a blogger, this is a different sort of challenge for April.

Each day of the month (except Sundays) participants are required to publish a post themed around that day's letter. So your first post will be themed around the letter 'A', the second the letter 'B', and so on.

Posts don't necessarily have to be about a word starting with the letter in question. To quote from the Blogging A-Z Challenge website, "It doesn't even have to be a word - it can be a proper noun, the letter used as a symbol, or the letter itself."

There's still time to sign up for the Blogging A-Z Challenge here. Note that because 1 April is a Sunday this year, your post themed on the letter 'A' should be posted that day. You do still get the other Sundays in the month off, though!

See the Blogging A-Z Challenge homepage for more information.

3. Living the Laptop Lifestyle Special Offer

Regular readers of this blog will know that Living the Laptop Lifestyle is a downloadable manual written by my colleague Ruth Barringham, following the advice in my course The 10-Day E-Book. I blogged about it in this post.

Living the Laptop Lifestyle is a guide to making money as a home-based writer/entrepreneur. In her comprehensive (and entertaining) 107-page e-book, Ruth reveals the secrets that have helped her to escape the rat race and "live the dream" as a successful online writer/publisher in her luxurious family home in Australia.

During the launch period, Ruth is selling Living the Laptop Style at half its usual price. This offer will end on 31 March 2012, however - so don't forget to buy your copy before then if following Ruth's example appeals!

4. Win The Complete Copywriter Course

My friends at The Writers Bureau (the UK's top distance-learning provider for writers) are giving away a copy of The Complete Copywriter Course - which I wrote for them - in this easy-to-enter contest.

The Complete Copywriter is a guide to setting up your own successful copywriting business. It covers every type of copywriting, including print advertising, PR writing, and online copywriting.

You also get one-to-one support from a personal tutor as you work through a series of copywriting assignments.

To enter this contest, all you have to do is write a print advertisement for The Complete Copywriter in no more than 50 words. The deadline is 31 March, but that should still be plenty of time to write your 50-word ad.

See this page of The Writers Bureau website for more info about the contest and how to enter. And for some "insider info" from the writer about the course in question, see this post on my blog.

Good luck!

5. Bristol Short Story Prize

31 March 2012 is also the deadline for entering the Bristol Short Story Prize, one of the most prestigious such contests in the UK.

This is a contest for short stories of up to 3000 words on any theme or subject. There are twenty cash prizes, the top prize being 1000 UK pounds (around 1600 USD) together with a 150 UKP Waterstones gift card. Plus your work is published in the contest anthology, of course.

The Bristol Short Story Prize is open world-wide and you can enter online if you wish. There is a 7 UKP entry fee.

Again, if you enter this contest, I wish you the very best of luck. Here is the website for further info and submission details.

I hope you have found this list helpful. If you know of any other opportunities closing soon, please feel free to post them below.

Photo Credit: Jugando con las nubes by Olga Palma on Flickr. Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic licence.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Kindle Hot Niche by Rosa Suen - Review

Kindle Hot Niche
is the fourth of Rosa Suen’s reports on writing for the Amazon Kindle that I have reviewed here (I’ve listed the others at the end of this post).

In my opinion this one is the best yet, even though (as I’ll explain later) it may not be suitable for everyone.

In Kindle Hot Niche, Rosa reveals another non-fiction niche she has exploited successfully - and without giving too much away here, it is a particularly appropriate one for writers!

Unlike her previous reports, Rosa reveals the actual title of her e-book in this one. Like the niche described in her earlier report Kindle Killer Book Formula, it’s one I wouldn’t have dreamed of tackling before reading about it, but clearly (from Rosa’s sales figures and the Amazon screen captures) it has excellent sales potential. An additional attraction is that writing in this particular niche would require almost zero research!

In Kindle Hot Niche you get two reports (plus various bonus items I’ll come to later). The first explains the 12-step KKB Formula Rosa uses to develop ideas for Kindle e-books, with particular reference to the niche title in question.

As in her previous reports, Rosa’s method is based around analyzing the Kindle best-sellers lists to see what topics are selling well right now, then developing titles to capitalize on this.

Having revealed the process through which she developed the niche e-book of the first report, in her second report Rosa reveals exactly how anyone else can produce an e-book in the same niche. Rosa says she isn’t worried about saturating this market, as every such book will be different. Up to a point I’d agree, although if the Kindle Store is flooded with titles in this niche, it seems to me inevitable that there will be some falling off of sales. Still, from the starting point Rosa provides, it would not be difficult to branch out into other related, niches as well.

I should, by the way, emphasize that (as with all her reports) Rosa is NOT advocating the production of low-quality, spammy e-books based on so-called PLR content. There will be some work involved here, as is true of anything worthwhile. What I really like about Kindle Hot Niche, however, is the way Rosa provides practical tips and shortcuts to make the production of books in the niche concerned as straightforward and 'automated' as possible.

As well as the second report with its step-by-step instructions, Rosa also includes Microsoft Word and Powerpoint templates to help readers prepare content for the type of niche e-book she describes. There is nothing especially difficult about this, and the use of the templates is optional (though in my view it would be silly not to use them). There may be a bit of a learning curve getting to grips with the templates (Powerpoint especially, if you’re not so familiar with this program). Once you have done so, however, it strikes me you could produce series of books along these lines very quickly indeed. Creating series is, incidentally, another of Rosa’s recommendations for growing your income from Kindle quickly.

The guide doesn’t tell you about writing or formatting Kindle e-books, but there are of course many other guides covering this subject, including my own Kindle Kash. Neither does this particular report tell you much about marketing your e-book, for the good reason that the information in these reports is so recent, Rosa hasn’t even got round to marketing the e-books in question herself. However, even without any marketing, sales of over 100 copies in the first week are hard to argue with. Again, marketing is a subject I cover in depth in my Kindle Kash guide.

Actually, I think Rosa’s reports and Kindle Kash complement each other really well. Kindle Kash is a comprehensive guide to devising, writing, editing, publishing and marketing your Kindle e-book, professionally produced (by my publishers WCCL) to a very high standard. Rosa’s reports are more rough and ready, but they are bang up to date and show exactly what methods have been working well for her, literally over the last week or two.

To sum up, Kindle Hot Niche reveals an actual non-fiction niche you might not previously have considered writing in, which nevertheless has excellent sales potential. It also provides a step-by-step method for creating your own title in this same niche, using just ordinary software (Microsoft Office or equivalent).

I wouldn’t recommend Kindle Hot Niche if you’re completely new to writing for the Amazon Kindle (in that case, you need Kindle Kash!). If you have some knowledge/experience of writing for this medium and want to create a new income stream for yourself, however, it’s well worth the modest investment required. And Rosa’s methodology is something that could easily be adapted to other niches as well.

With this report, as with all its predecessors, there is a 30-day unconditional refund guarantee.

Finally, here are links to my other reviews of Rosa Suen’s Kindle publishing reports...

Kindle Publishing Secrets

KDP Select Report

Kindle Killer Book Formula

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Kindle Hot Niche. In addition, the links in this review include my affiliate code, so if you click through and make a purchase, a proportion of the fee will go to me. This has not influenced my review in any way, but you should of course complete your own due diligence and read the sales page (and this review) carefully to determine whether this product will be relevant to your needs.

Word cloud by courtesy of Wordle.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Colons and Semicolons: What Mr Sanders Taught Me

I've mentioned my old English teacher Mr Sanders on this blog a few times before (see this old post about possessive apostrophes, for example).

What I've not shared before, however, are his quick and simple guidelines regarding the use of semicolons and colons.

The guidelines perhaps (well, definitely) don't tell you everything you need to know, but as an aide memoire at least, they are still extremely useful.

According to Mr Sanders, a colon says, "here comes".

That's spot on, in my view, and could replace many more verbose explanations. A colon indicates that an explanation or expansion of the preceding content is about to follow. Often, a colon is used to introduce a list, as in the example below.

She had everything she needed to become a best-selling author: an idea, a word processor, and a stack of blank paper on which to print out her novel.

It doesn't have to precede a list, though...

There was just one other thing she needed: a month to create her masterpiece.

A colon can even precede a single word if it meets the requirement set out above...

He knew what that signal meant: success.

So if a colon says “here comes”, what does a semicolon say? It doesn't speak, according to Mr Sanders. What he taught us was that, “a semicolon is 99 percent of a full stop.”

Again, this is a great guideline to follow, but it does require a bit of explanation. Most of the time, a semicolon is used to separate two independent clauses. An independent clause is basically the same as a grammatical sentence – it has a subject and a finite verb, and is a complete unit of meaning in its own right.

When a semicolon is used to separate two independent clauses, it's essentially interchangeable with a full stop (or period, for my US readers). Here's an example...

The date was 7 April 2002; it was a date he would remember for many years to come.

Grammatically, the semicolon here could just as well be replaced by a full stop. It does, however, suggest a slightly closer relationship between the two clauses than a full stop would. For that reason, I might venture to suggest that “95% of a full stop” would be a more accurate definition – even though Mr Sanders would doubtless put me in detention for saying so!

There are two other ways semicolons can be used. One is to separate items in a list when some items already have commas within them...

Bring me two apples; three bananas, not too ripe; a nice, juicy, fresh orange; and a kiwi fruit.

Finally, a semicolon can be used before an independent clause introduced by a conjunctive adverb or a transitional phrase (e.g. as a result).

Playing tennis isn't an option because of the bad weather; however, we can always play table tennis instead.

We played table tennis rather than tennis today; as a result, I was soundly thrashed.

This is a more specialized (and less common) use of the semi-colon. In sentences such as the ones above, however, it may well be the best choice. Note that a comma in these examples would be ungrammatical. A full stop would be perfectly acceptable, though.

If you would like to know more about the latter use of semi-colons, Beth Hill has an excellent article about this subject on her blog.

Misuse of colons and semicolons is widespread, even in traditionally published work; it is even more common in self-published books.

A frequent mistake is to use a semicolon as a sort of punctuation maid-of-all-work, even when another punctuation mark – a colon or dash, perhaps – would be more appropriate. Even Joe Konrath – a top self-published author – is guilty of this mistake in his otherwise excellent thrillers such as Origin.

Many readers are unaware of these rules, of course, but others are. Both my partner (Jayne, an avid reader but non-writer) and I have been known to give up on books - and authors - when they don't use these marks correctly.

Colons and semicolons are subtle, even beautiful, punctuation marks that will enrich your writing if used correctly. So it really is worth making the effort to learn the rules governing their use. I can imagine Mr Sanders nodding approvingly now!

Photo Credit: Classroom people with teacher by Hagerty Ryan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Ruth's 10-Day E-Book: Living the Laptop Lifestyle!

In this recent post I told you about my colleague (and sometime co-writer) Ruth Barringham's self-appointed challenge to complete an e-book in ten days, following the advice in my 10-Day E-Book course.

Well, I'm delighted to reveal that Ruth achieved her goal and her e-book Living the Laptop Lifestyle is now available.

Admittedly, it took slightly longer than the ten days in the title, but that's only because - like most of us - she had other responsibilities (work and domestic) to fit in as well.

Basically, she devised, wrote, edited, published and even began marketing her e-book in ten working days - so many congratulations to her!

You can read Ruth's own account of the whole, hectic process in the 10-Day E-book Challenge section of her blog.

So what is Living the Laptop Lifestyle about? As the name suggests, it's a guide to making money as a home-based writer/entrepreneur, from someone who really has 'been there, done that, and got the tee-shirt.' As recommended in The 10-Day E-Book, Ruth has published Living the Laptop Lifestyle on the popular ClickBank self-publishing platform.

In her comprehensive (107-page) PDF guide, Ruth reveals the secrets that have helped her to escape the rat race and 'live the dream' as a successful online writer/publisher in her luxurious family home in Australia.

Living the Laptop Lifestyle covers a range of business models, including e-book writing and publishing, website creation, affiliate marketing, selling physical and digital products online, and more.

Much of this was familiar territory for me, of course, but what lights it up is the honest and personal way Ruth shares her experiences - both good and bad! It’s one of the most entertaining 'make money online' books I’ve read, yet also one of the most informative.

If you want to learn to be a successful online entrepreneur - and especially if you want to do this by applying your writing skills - this guide will inspire you. It also includes lots of practical advice and resources, all based on Ruth’s own experiences.

I'm therefore very happy to recommend it - and not just because Ruth followed the advice in my course to create it!

Living the Laptop Lifestyle will normally retail for $35, but as a special launch offer, Ruth is selling it for just $17.50 until 31 March 2012. At that price, in my view, it's a steal - and you would only need to pick up one or two actionable tips from it to put yourself well in profit.

In addition, if you're a ClickBank affiliate, Ruth is looking for additional affiliates to help promote LLS and receive a generous commission for every copy sold. Please see her affiliates page for more information. I am, of course, also promoting this guide as an affiliate myself.

Good luck to Ruth with the launch of Living the Laptop Lifestyle, and thanks very much to her for providing this tangible testimonial to the benefits of my 10-Day E-Book course!

If you have any comments or questions for Ruth (or me) please do leave them below.

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Friday, March 09, 2012

Review: Kindle Killer Book Formula

This is the third of Rosa Suen’s reports on writing for the Amazon Kindle released on the Warrior Forum. You can read my reviews of the two previous reports in the posts below...

Kindle Killer Book Formula is the longest so far, at 67 pages. Like the others, it's supplied as an instant download in PDF form.

Whereas the two previous reports talked about various different Kindle e-books Rosa has published, in this report she spotlights one title in particular, taking us from the initial research through to publication and (very importantly) promotion.

Rosa doesn’t reveal the actual title of the book concerned, for understandable reasons, but she does divulge the niche it is in. I hope I’m not giving away too much if I say that this is food-related, but the actual method she uses could just as well be applied in any niche market.

Rosa’s approach is based around analyzing the Kindle best-sellers lists to see what topics are selling well right now, then developing titles to capitalize on this. This report explains exactly how she developed a Kindle e-book which generated $439 in royalty income in the first week, and also achieved number one position in two different category listings. It reveals the methods Rosa used to achieve these impressive results, including her promotional strategy (incorporating KDP Select). There is also a step-by-step guide to publishing a book using the KDP website.

The guide doesn’t discuss formatting Kindle e-books, but there are of course many other guides covering this subject (including my own Kindle Kash). Information is also available free of charge on the KDP help pages.

In a nutshell, Kindle Killer Book Formula reveals how to make money from Kindle publishing by analyzing what is currently selling well, producing your own niche e-book based on this, and promoting it effectively using KDP Select. It’s clear, comprehensive, and bang up to date. If you're looking for a step-by-step system to create a non-fiction Kindle e-book that will make real money for you, in my view it's well worth the modest investment required.

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Kindle Killer Book Formula by Rosa Suen. In addition, the links in this review include my affiliate code, so if you click through and make a purchase, a proportion of the fee will go to me. This has not influenced my review, but you should of course complete your own due diligence and read the sales page (and this review) carefully to determine whether this product will be relevant to your needs.

Photo of Amazon Kindle by velkr0 on Flickr. Reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly

I thought I'd share this infographic from the good folks at Copyblogger today (since they were kind enough to provide an embed code).

Some of these mistakes are pretty basic and I'd hope none of my readers would be guilty of them. But it never hurts to double-check, right?

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
Like this infographic? Get more copywriting tips from Copyblogger.

If you're receiving this blog via email or RSS and can't see the infographic, you may need to visit my blog to do so.

Thank you to Brian Clark and his team for sharing this useful resource. Even if you're not a copywriter, I highly recommend following the Copyblogger blog for all manner of useful tips, advice and resources on writing and marketing.

If you have any comments on the advice above, or any other goofs you think should have been included as well, please feel free to leave them below.

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Sunday, March 04, 2012

Time to Register for Script Frenzy!

Script Frenzy is an annual writing challenge run along similar lines to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), though a bit less well-known.

As the name indicates, Script Frenzy is aimed at scriptwriters. Participants commit to writing 100 pages of scripted material for any dramatic medium in the month of April.

As with NaNoWriMo, there is no fee to participate, and no prizes are awarded for the 'best' scripts. Every writer who achieves the goal of completing 100 pages gets a Script Frenzy Winner's Certificate and web icon proclaiming this fact. But really, the main aim is to challenge yourself to get a substantial script-writing project completed in 30 days, and have fun while doing so.

You can visit the Script Frenzy website by clicking on any of the links in this blog post. Here you can register for this year's event and check out the wide range of writers' resources on offer. You can also join the Script Frenzy Forum and get help and advice from fellow Script Frenzy participants.

If you're a member of my forum at you might also like to register your interest in this topic. This could be a good way of meeting fellow ScriptFrenzy participants.

Finally, don't forget that my sponsors, WCCL, produce a CD-based guide called Movie in a Month (see banner below), which could be an ideal resource if you want to complete a movie-writing project for Script Frenzy.

Happy scriptwriting!

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Thursday, March 01, 2012

Grammar Rules You Don't Really Need to Follow, but Shouldn't Break Too Often

Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post on grammar, a subject close to my heart. It's by blogger and business consultant Susie Brown.

* * *

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of grammar rules, let's consider the purpose of language.

Correct me (in the comments section) if I'm wrong, but it would be difficult to define the purpose of language as just one thing, because language serves so many different purposes.

Language is used to communicate ideas and information, and to clarify the unclear. It can also be used to elicit an emotional response. It can be used to help others to understand you and feel what you feel. It can inspire, it can bring back memories, it can lock you down, or it can set you free.

So what is the purpose of grammar? It is to keep order in language, so the communicator is able to convey their intended message to the receiver as accurately and effectively as possible.

Usually, following the rules of grammar is the best way to achieve this goal, but not always. When grammatical rules inhibit writers from communicating their message accurately and effectively, what is a grammar-law-abiding writer to do?

Here is the rule of grammar rules I personally follow: don't break a rule unless you have to, but then break it ruthlessly.

Here are a few grammar rules that in my view you should feel free to break when necessary...

Don't split infinitives

Most linguists agree that there is nothing wrong with splitting an infinitive. The basis for the origin of the prohibition on split infinitives rests on shaky ground anyway.

The reason that infinitive splitting was looked down upon by some grammar Nazis was because of a logical fallacy, which goes something like this: Since it is impossible to split an infinitive in Latin (because the infinitive forms of Latin words are always just one word, and can therefore never be split), and because Latin is the basis for English, so it should not be possible to split an infinitive in English.

English is a different language from Latin, however, and it is not bound by the same rules. If you have never split an infinitive before, feel free to boldly go there.

Never start a sentence with a conjunction

Ignore what your fourth-grade English teacher told you. Feel free to start sentences with 'And' or 'But'.

Although I felt naughty when I first began using 'Ands' and 'Buts' at the beginnings of sentences, it was also invigorating, and it set my writing free. If you haven't already broken free of the conjunction shackles, try this, and you will never look back. But just don't do it too often!

Don't end a sentence with a preposition

For what should you continue writing like an 18th century orangutan? If the situation calls for it, end the sentence with a preposition. What are you waiting for?

Avoid very short paragraphs

If you can say what you've gotta say in one or two sentences, why waste the reader's time with more?

Don't use sentence fragments

Sometimes the best way to convey an idea is without a subject or verb. Got that?

Avoid double negatives

Double negatives should usually be avoided, mainly because they sound ridiculous. But if you have a good reason for not being too positive, the double negative can get just the right message across.

For instance, if you want to emphasize the preparedness of a subject you might say that 'he came prepared.' But, on the other hand, if you want to playfully allude to the fact that the subject could have come unprepared but didn't, be bold and use the doubly negative statement, 'he did not come unprepared.'

Proper grammar beautiful thing is, and I am of it a big fan.

Byline: Susie Brown is a FastUpFront Blog contributor and business consultant. Fastupfront specializes in business lending based on future sales.

* * *

Thank you to Susie for an interesting article.

In general I agree with the points she makes, although I do think sentence fragments need to be used very sparingly, for dramatic effect only. I've seen a few novels where the writer has used sentence fragments liberally. The impression given is that either (a) they don't know how to write a proper grammatical sentence, or (b) what you are reading is 'notes' rather than the finished story!

As Susie says at the start of her article, if you have any comments or questions for her (or me), please do post them below.

Word cloud by courtesy of Wordle.

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