Archive for the ‘On writing’ Category

Why Write a Book?

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

I got an email from a friend this morning and she was talking about the books she has inside her that she has thought about writing.  She’s wording about the process: writing, editing, revising, etc.  She didn’t mention PUBLISHING, which should be at the top of her list (although easy to resolve).

In my response to her I said:

“The bigger question is, why do you want to write a book?  Is it to sell the book, or get speaking engagements, or to be known as an expert?”

Let’s break that down:

To make money selling books: Everyone says you don’t make money selling books.  I’m here to tell you, that is not accurate. People make money selling books.  I’m one of them.  Over the last 4ish years my royalty checks have surpassed one year of what I used to make as the general manager of a software company. It’s not enough to live on, but it is a great supplement to my other revenue streams.  I’m expecting the book I’m working on now, 101 Alternatives to a Real Job, to sell a lot.  Each sale will be profitable. I will make money selling books.  And then I’ll get the benefits of the other things listed below.

To get speaking engagements: I told my publisher I had no interest in speaking (or consulting).  Then, a few weeks later, I was offered $5k plus expenses to sit on a panel interview at a conference.  In less than one second I decided that HECK YES I was a professional speaker! Since then I’ve been paid a number of times to speak at conferences, do training for companies, on webinars, etc.  I don’t know the exact figure right now, but since I started speaking I’ve made more than six figures as a professional speaker.

To be known as an expert: I had no idea that writing a book on LinkedIn would make me a “LinkedIn Expert.”  Sounds silly, I know, but that’s not why I did it.  I did it to get exposure for my company (JibberJobber.com).  That worked, but a major side-effect was that I was known, world-wide, as an expert and authority on LinkedIn.  Will being known as an expert help you, somehow, in your career, even if you don’t care about book sales or speaking or consulting?

To just get it out of her mind, and off her bucket list: This is more of a vanity play than anything else… not that that’s bad, but there’s no real reason to do it, other than to say you are an author?

If you have a book in you, and it is just nagging at you to get out, why do you want to do it?  Is it one of these four, or something else?

TOOL: After The Deadline – grammar and spelling

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Cleo Parker shot me a note about After the Deadline… looks like an awesome tool for writing better.  You can use it for free, and if you have a web service you can incorporate it there, for free.  I think we’ll need to add this into JibberJobber :)

Here’s what Cleo wrote:

While I was writing the summary, I used a cool tool I learned about in my local  WordPress Meetup, After the Deadline.  You may be familiar with it as it’s a grammar checker plugin available for WordPress and I see you’ve got a WP blog. But outside of a blog, you can use their online demo to check grammar and spelling in anything you cut and paste into the space.   It’s called After the Deadline, great resource for anyone who wants their writing to look as good as possible. http://www.afterthedeadline.com/

Thanks for the tip, Cleo!

Eight Lunches Feedback from a real Accountant

Monday, August 15th, 2011

When I started getting into finances and accounting in Eight Lunches, I got nervous.

I honestly don’t like this type of attention to detail.

I have a professional bookkeeper/accountant who I outsource it to.

I like to ignore the detail part of finances, but entrepreneurs really can’t.

I was anxious to hear what some real accountants had to say.  Luckily, I have someone in my network who is an accomplished accountant and bookkeeper, and someone I count as a good friend.

Valerie Gonyea is someone I was blessed to meet in person, and then share some meals and several conversations with over the years.

Here is part of her feedback on Eight Lunches:

OK, yes, I know I am right up against your requested deadline, but I wanted to be sure that I read – and absorbed – the whole thing.

I’ll just start out with my **only** negative comment, which is that this is not my favorite type of book format, the “ongoing conversation”. But because it was YOU talking, it was much easier for me to appreciate. If I didn’t know and respect you the way I do, I probably wouldn’t be drawn to this “conversation”. That’s just me, though.

That said, I am thrilled you did this project. Although very little of the content seemed new to me, I believe that is because I read your blog so there are many common themes, obviously. They are all very good themes and very, very relevant. I can only guess that many people try to pick your brain in this way and so this book will be a great way to short-circuit those precious time-suck conversations.

… I get the homework each chapter, is there more to them? I know you follow up with some email correspondence for clarifications, but it seems like you could add some more self-reflective questions at the end of each chapter, whether you relate them to your convo or not.

This stuff is NOT natural for most people to think about when they are just getting started so maybe add some additional questions at the end of each chapter that really forces the reader to think beyond their comfort zone…or worse what they THINK they know! This is particularly relevant to lunch 3: Packages.

I, of course, really appreciate the chapter about finances. One thing that Paul says is that he’s missed entering some expenses and you make a comment about this being more of a chore part of a business rather than a key focus.

I don’t want this to sound self-serving but a good bookkeeper for 3 hours/week at $40-$70 per hour could really help with this. Paul could get some referrals and as long as he is able to give CLEAR direction as to how expenses should be categorized (and a GOOD BK can help him get clear on this) then he can get more focused on his main goals, sales and marketing. I mean I have one client who has very thin margins and he is very particular about how the expenses get categorized…we work well together because I am equally careful and I ask questions when I am unsure. I HELP him stay focused on the business and my cost is a true business benefit. Just my .02 on that.

I also think that you could clarify that this is really a 2 step process, the first step is the uncomfortable number crunching but the payoff is to get to the second step which is the conclusion drawing, as you call it.

random thought: somewhere in the passive revenue/packages convo maybe relate to ordering at a fast food restaurant….look I HATE that stuff and I really resist doing it if there is ever a better option, but in a pinch, I know I can drive up to a window and order a #3 and get a burger, fries and a drink, addressing all of my needs so I can focus on what I am actually trying to get done that day. Again, just a random thought.

Isn’t she amazing?  Thank you for taking the time to read and absorb it… !

Valerie had some other excellent suggestions, which I’m incorporating into the book.

It pays to know awesome people!

Want to write a book? Kill your darlings :)

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

I just saw a link to a Harvard Business Review article by Jerry Weissman titled In Presentations, Kill Your Darlings.

I’ve talked a lot about being “concise,” but I’m not sure people know what that means.

So, here’s another way of saying it: GIVE THE SAME MESSAGE, BUT MAKE IT SHORTER.

In the spirit of keeping short, I’ll end with this: go read the post.  This applies to anyone who communicates (written, oral, body language, etc. :p).

Eight Lunches, Second Draft, Instructions

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

I just finished the second draft of Eight Lunches.  Whew.

If you want to review it, leave a comment here and I’ll email it to you.

Here are the instructions for the review:

  1. I’m sending a word document in case you are dying to leave anything specific in the document (with Track Changes).  I do not want too much of this, though, because last time I was overwhelmed to the point of paralysis and didn’t know how to digest it.  So, do it if you must, otherwise, see #3.
  2. I’m sending it to my editor after I compile the feedback… so don’t worry about grammar, spelling, flow, etc.
  3. I’d love one or two paragraphs, or some bullet points, of your feedback. I’m specifically looking for feedback that will help me make this tighter, better, stronger.  Feel free to be critical and negative… so I can find out what bugs people about what I’ve done.
  4. IF YOU WANT TO ENDORSE THE BOOK I CAN PUT YOUR ENDORSEMENT IN THE BOOK… with a link to your company, etc.

I think that’s it… pretty simple… again, if you want to see it, please leave a comment on this other post.

I’d like to get this to the editor in the next 30 days… so I’d appreciate any thoughts in the next week or two. If you are a deadline person, consider July 31 your deadline :)

Starting a New Blog: Blog Post Critique

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Monday I gave feedback to Brad Merrill about HOW he let others know about his blog… today I want to write about a blog post (his second post).

Brad titled the post What is Ethical Behavior?  It’s a good question which really came out after the Enron thing… as an accountant Brad should have some good thoughts.

First Thought

It is toooooooooo loooooooooooooooong.

This post has 1,535 words and would print of on almost four full pages!

I couldn’t read it.  It’s simply too long.

Here’s an idea, though: take this four page post and break it up into three or four posts.

Call it a series and make it easier to read for ME.

The beauty of this idea is it is now easier to write for Brad.  Why?  If he takes one “post” and breaks it down, he now has one to two weeks of blog posts already written!

Let me say this another way – if he spent an hour on that post, and then thought about spending an hour on every post, and wrote two to three times a week, he’d spend quite a bit of time writing blog posts.  Okay sometimes, but sometimes that hour just isn’t available.

What if he took this one hour and had all the writing for one or two weeks done?

That is more sustainable, over the long haul.

Second Thought

Give me more personal stuff.  The first page (above the fold) has two references to dictionary definitions… I have to scroll down before I see if there’s some Brad Merrill personality.

Instead of starting off with a page of sources, I would have liked to see him launch into a story from his past rich work history:

  • I was consulting a client when _______
  • I remember being faced with an ethical dilemma when my boss _______
  • My first major ethical conundrum came when my client _______

Wouldn’t a line like that be more interesting?  I’d want to read what an accountant has faced … not the bean counting boring stuff, but some conflict, how it was handled, what he had to think through, etc.

My point is, make it personal.  I want to read about BRAD MERRILL, not what the dictionary says.

So these are my thoughts as Brad Merrill starts his blogging journey.  Really, he has a great start… I’m excited to see him mature and evolve as a blogger :)

Starting a New Blog: Letting Others Know

Monday, May 9th, 2011

My friend Brad Merrill took the plunge and started a blog.

It has the potential to be an awesome personal branding tool for himself, and I applaud what he’s doing.

This is the first of two posts where I’m going to give feedback (with his permission) on his nascent strategy.  Today I’ll talk about how he let me (and hundreds of others) know about the blog.

It’s important to let others know you have a blog… not just once but frequently.  Be careful how you do it, however, because no one wants an email each time you write a new blog post (unless they opt in to a newsletter, or something like that).

Here’s Brad’s message I got last night:

There are a few things I like about this email, and perhaps a line or two I don’t care for.  Instead of critiquing the entire thing, I want to focus on TWO things:

The Length.

The length of this message is PERFECT.  If it were any longer I’d get lost, or not read it, or save it for later, or something like that.  If it were shorter I might feel like he’s just spamming me and a million others with “read my blog!”  It is sincere, concise, and very focuses.

The Question in Yellow.

This jumped out at me the most.  At first I thought “COOL, a professional blog” (as opposed to a personal blog).

But then, when I read the question “if you have some things you would like to (to) see me write about,” tell me.

That’s when I thought “where’s the focus?”

Indeed, reading through the email again I realized I had no idea what the theme, or topics, of the blog are. Is it a personal blog? Is it a professional blog?  What exactly does Brad do, or think about?

If Brad could help me understand this, even if it’s just a reminder (some people know, but a reminder doesn’t hurt), he would have used this email as a branding tool, and helped reinforce his personal brand to his contacts (whether they clicked over to the blog or not).

At a minimum he could have said:

I am going to write about ______ and ______.  My last post talks about ethical behavior.

To take it up a notch he could have said something like:

As a professional accountant I see a lot of interesting things.  I’ll write posts about my expertise (sales and use tax and financial accounting) and keep it interesting with stories and examples. I will probably write about my passions, including watch collecting) and try to always tie the posts back to business ideas. Whether you are an accountant or just interested in business, I hope to have relevant content for you.  If you have any ideas or questions, please let me know, as I begin this journey.

In the first email he reinforces his brand.  In the second email he drills down a bit more so people understand more of his breadth and depth… even if they don’t become blog readers they will know what some of his specialties and passions are.

“Where’s the focus” was my first thought, the second thought was: missed branding opportunity.

Next post I’ll critique his second blog post.

Unmarketing, ebooks, ebook readers, book reports, WOW!

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

I just read a really cool post by author/speaker extraordinaire Scott Stratten THE AWESOMENESS OF BEING A 2.0 AUTHOR. The title didn’t grab me and at first I wasn’t going to read the post but I’m glad I took a few minutes to get hooked.

WOW! Read the post.

Lots of great stuff there, but here’s one thing I didn’t know about… the ability to track what Kindle users highlight (see Scott’s point #3).

I checked out the top books highlighted and here’s what I found… check out each of these links if you want to see what other people highlighted from various top/popular books:

Here are Scott Stratten’s highlights: UnMarketing.

Is this cool or what?  See the front page of this feature here.

My 5 Favorite Words

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

I was chatting with my buddy Thom Allen and wrote “sustainable.”  I really do like that word… and it made me think about what my other favorite words are.  Here are mine:

Sustainable: Got this from my MBA classes.  In business sustainability is so critical.  Profit, revenue, cash flow, etc. can all be irrelevant if none of it is sustainable.  I love this word and strive for it in many areas of my life – health/fitness, relationships, projects I take on, etc.  (close second from the MBA program: “significant.”  This is a word that statisticians use to relay if something matters or not.  I know you knew that but in stats is really gave me a new way to use it (with more force, maybe)).

Flexible: Got this from developing software.  You want to create something that can be used elsewhere, in different modules, applications, etc.  Create something that isn’t flexible and you’ll have to do it again, from the ground up.  Create something that IS flexible and you can use it in other places.  Think “widgets” or other things that use APIs.

Scalable: Got this from software development but I think about it with business all the time. In software you want to create something that a gazillion people could use, not just 4 people.  Make software scalable, like Facebook, and if the sun/moon/stars align you could have gobs of people on your system.  In business, make something that can scale and you can have “unlimited” income.  Anything that is hourly billing IS NOT scalable.  Product sales, generally, are scalable.

Creative: I never, ever, ever thought I was creative.  I had zero creativity.  When I hired interns I looked for signs of creativity.  I loved to be around creative.  Once I started my own business I learned I was, indeed, creative.  Creative = clever?

Curious: Another C word that I looked for in my hiring.  I wanted you to think about other ways to do things.  If you aren’t curious you won’t work well in my environment because I don’t provide much training/info for you (sorry).  I want you to figure it out on your own, which means you have to poke around and learn and ask the right questions.  I’m happy to HELP but I don’t want to hold your hand (if you are one of my employees).

What are your favorite words (and why)?

Influence: Art, Religion, Government, You

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

I had an idea to start a blog called “you are what you read,” and perhaps do book reviews and stuff like that.  I’m an avid reader and I have a few writing projects, and the idea of the content you consume (food or the written word or music, etc.) influencing who you are, what you think, how you act, what you believe, etc. is really interesting to me.

I did a quick google search to see if the domain was taking (it is) and who was using this brilliant phrase that I thought I came up with :p  I found a post on the rt:21 blog titled You Are What You Read that intrigued me.

It starts off with the question: “what are the ethical implications of using live animals in art?”

The post focuses on an artist in Nicaragua who supposedly tied a dog up and left it to starve… the “art” was watching the dog starve. Why?

According to hundreds of blogs and news articles circulating on the Internet, the artist intended for the dog to starve to death during the course of the exhibition. Vargas intended to raise awareness of the public’s hypocrisy by comparing what happened to this dog to a burglar named Natividad Canda Mayrena, who was mauled to death by two rottweilers in Costa Rica while the police and onlookers watched.

Interesting… and of course, beyond contraversial.

Apparently the dog didn’t starve… they fed it regularly.  This is where it gets really interesting.  The stories online, in news, etc. were all very critical and decried the outrage… without knowing or reporting the dog was not starving.

It seems the art was less about a dog and more about YOU and ME.

Exposición No 1 (the name of that work of art) is one component of a larger work of art called Eres lo que lees, which employs misinformation and manipulates mass media via the Internet.

I remember reading something from Chris Knudsen (I think) about Twitter, in the very early days… his concern was that something could get picked up and BELIEVED in a mob mentality manner, without any facts, basis, etc.  I tried to find it on his blog but I couldn’t… anyway, the point is, misinformation has the ability to manipulate what we think…. read on:

One of the aims of this project was to demonstrate the hypocrisy in real world and art world ethics. Take a dog off the streets and put it into a gallery and it becomes an ethical phenomenon, while stray dogs and most real human suffering are ignored or given minimal attention.

There are plenty of headlines TODAY that are getting front page news while real, bigger issues are getting minimal attention… :(  Read on:

This illustrates how easily we can be manipulated into believing what news outlets want us to. The title, “You Are What You Read,” illustrates this point very well. If one artist can manipulate over four million people around the world, imagine the ability that governments, corporations, and religious entities have to do the same.

That last sentence has stuck with me over the last week.  PR and marketing and information and misinformation… how powerful!  And many times, we’re just tools…. right?

You can read the original post that inspired this one right here.