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"Learn more. Earn more." Required reading for today's smart writer! As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati and other award-winning sites.

Monday, July 27, 2015

My Top 10 Blogging Tips for 2015!

Gone are the days when blogging exists simply as a forum for ranting about your "achey-breaky" heart, or an oppressive boss.
That's played out like 8-track tapes.
Fast forward. It's 2015, a new age and a new stage.

Blogging has evolved into a profitable medium that has launched major book deals, created income avenues for today's entrepreneur, and has even been integral in increasing awareness of important social causes. 

With millions of blogs launched into the blogosphere, it's become the new black!
Much like competitive sports, if you want to emerge a "winner" here, you'll need to have a strategic game plan in place.

With this being the goal, I'd like to share with you my Top 10 Blogging Tips for 2015.
The practices and principles outlined are based upon my six years of professional experience, trial and error, and a little savvy that has allowed me to be recognized with a few blogging awards along the way.

If you're on board, let's get busy.

HERE THEY ARE, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER...

1. Know your target audience.
Better yet, become intimately acquainted. What are their interests? Their challenges? Their habits?
As they say: "Knowledge is power."

2. Have concrete goals.
Is the objective of your blog to build a platform? Meet new people? Make money? Entertain? Educate? The clearer you are, the fewer detours you'll encounter on the road to success.

3. Provide take-away value.
Much like many of today's restaurants offer "value-added" menu selections to customers, today's readers are "hungry" for information and inspiration that can make a positive difference in their lives.
Show appreciation for their time and readership through quality content and valuable resources.

4. Don't forget the importance of humor.
When appropriate and applicable, tickle your readers' funny bone. That's right. Pastor Joel Osteen does each Sunday on his weekly TV sermons. I find it rather refreshing.

5. Keep your site updated regularly.
Blogging is hard work. You'll get no arguments here. Still, that doesn't mean you should "check out"  when things get busy or rough. Take breaks, as your situation dictates, but don't take an extended leave of absence without notification to your followers. You'll lose momentum, credibility, and likely lose loyal readers as well.

6. Add value to the blogging community.
Support others. Share links. Tweet to your peeps. Comment on other sites. Conduct interviews on successful authors.
Just like other areas in life, it creates good karma. And who couldn't use more of that?

7. Maintain a good "sharing" balance.
I hate to say it, but some folks share waaaayyyy too much with readers. Of course, it's definitely a personal decision. But keep in mind that you never know who might be reading your site. It could be a potential client, your in-laws, your boss, or members of your church congregation. For this reason, "full-disclosure" is not always wise ( or recommended). Don't get me wrong: you certainly should share some personal info on the individual behind the words. This might include your hobbies, talents, dreams, recipes and favorite things. It helps to personalize your blog and builds bonds based upon commonalities.

8. Brand your blog, baby.
Make it memorable. Make it personal. Branding is to bloggers what TV commercials are to businesses. Have a clever tag line. Create a logo that is associated with your spot and adds to the visual appeal. Write in your own style. Keep 'em coming back for more.

9. Guest post.
Not only does it help to establish your expertise and cultivate new readers, it's a way of "working smarter, not harder." And did I mention that it helps to foster relationships with editors and other bloggers? It's a real win/win.

10. Use quality images to enhance your writing.
This may seem elementary, but unfortunately it isn't. I can't count the number of times that I have come across sites that were fabulously written, with photos that were amateurish, or blurry, or cartoon-like in appearance. I'm no expert on this, but a picture is more than "worth a thousand words." It's part of your blog's online image. Act accordingly.


Well, there you have it folks, 10 tips to make the second half of the year better than the first.
I've shared. How about you?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

8 Regrets to Avoid in Self-publishing Your First Novel...


We all have regrets. They are inevitable in some form throughout life, but the ultimate goal is to restrict regret as much as possible, either through learning from our own mistakes or from the mistakes of others.

Are you with me here?

The process of self-publishing a novel is no exception. This task is a complicated one with a rather high learning curve. Unfortunately many authors become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work that goes into the management and promotion that follows the launch of their first self-published book. This can happen to the best of us. The skill set required to sell a lot of copies is different from the skill set needed to write a great novel.

Let’s go over some of the common regrets we in the publishing industry have heard from authors, so  you can circumvent the mistakes and save time, money and stress.

1. Don’t underestimate the importance of a great book cover. Perhaps no aspect of a book screams amateur more than a low quality book cover. Don’t even try to make your own cover. Research the vital components, hire a professional designer and provide your input. A good designer should work with you until you are satisfied with the outcome.

2. Learn the art of writing superb jacket copy. Those two paragraphs are so important to get right and because the jacket copy will also be used as a description in marketplaces, mastering this task can be a driving force to at least decent, if not great sales numbers.

3. Don’t fall for marketing scams. Once your email starts getting spread around amongst the business community you will undoubtedly begin receiving spam from unscrupulous individuals claiming to get your book on some bestseller list for only $3,000. Don’t buy it.

4. Proofread your book with redundant, OCD precision. After you proofread it, give it to someone you know, then an editor, then a professional proofreader, then a beta reader, then you check it two more times, etc. Simple mistakes have more impact on perceived quality than you might think and a couple mediocre reviews from people calling you out on this can certainly be a detriment to sales.

5. Diligently check references for any contractors you hire to work on any aspect of your book. I don’t know if there is an Angie’s List for author services but if not, there should be. Too many authors have been burned by shoddy services rendered.

6. Put a delay on launch advertising. It might be best to wait a few weeks after your book release before you splurge on advertising. This will give advance readers a chance to post their reviews and point out any mistakes your already "manic" proofreading overlooked.

7. Properly formatting an eBook is not as easy as it sounds. Let a pro handle it and be sure to preview the book on a variety of e-readers before posting the book for sale. Another great tip is to include a link at the end of the eBook where a reader can go to leave a review.

8. To print or not to print?  That is the question. Well, the answer is sort of both. Print, but don’t print too much up front. Print 25-100 copies to send out as advance reader copies or promotional giveaways. This is important because some reviewers will only read a print copy and fans will get more excited over receiving a print copy in the mail rather than a free eBook download. It also couldn’t hurt to have some copies to put in a few local bookstores. Just make sure the store has agreed to accept them before you have them printed. On the flip side you don’t want 1,000 copies getting moth eaten in a spare bedroom.

These timely tips are sure to help you avoid some costly setbacks and put your new book on the fast track to success, (if there is such a thing). Marketing a book is a skill that must be mastered just like any other. Don’t obsess too much over it and let it distract you from writing your next masterpiece.
Most authors don’t find REAL success until their second or third book anyway. Be content to let this first book be your crucible.

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?

James A. Rose is a writer for
InstantPublisher.com, a full-service self-publishing company with 100% of all work performed in-house. We have been helping authors realize their dreams for the past 14 years. Whether you're printing a novel, how-to book, manual, brochure or any type of book you can imagine, our step-by-step instructions make publishing your own book simple and easy.






Monday, July 20, 2015

Motivation Monday-Quotes to Sow and Grow By!

Jen's Rose Garden

 
Good morning, good people! It's Monday. And if I'm guessing correctly, I bet many of you could use a few words of encouragement and inspiration to get you through the week--especially with this oppressive heat.
 
I've got you covered.
Some of these quotes are sure to make you smile, nod, persevere, and reflect on your collective blessings.
 
Enjoy!
 
"Nothing is impossible to a willing heart."---John Heywood
 
"Whatever you think you can or think you can't, you are right."---Henry Ford
 
 
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."---Eleanor Roosevelt
 
 
"No legacy is so rich as honesty."---William Shakespeare
 
 
"The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way."---Dale Carnegie
"Once you have learned to love you will have learned to live."---Unknown
 
"Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig."---Paul Dickson
 
"Give the American people a good cause, and there's nothing they can't lick."---John Wayne
 
"Be still and know that I am God."---Psalm 46:10
 
"Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards."---Benjamin Franklin
 
"A relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies."---Woody Allen
 
"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."---Benjamin Franklin
 
"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."---Ernest Hemingway
 
 
Your turn.
Thoughts? Any you'd like to add?
Have a great week ahead!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Will Blogging on a Free Platform "COST" You? What You Should Know...


Sometimes there's a certain stigma attached to bloggers who choose to launch their sites on free platforms.
You know the ones. They typically have domain names that are punctuated by "Wordpress.com" or "Blogspot.com,"  or "Tumblr," etc.

In fact "experts" contend that doing so will cost bloggers their professional reputation, potential clients, credibility and serious "props" with their peers.

Here's what one popular blogger recently wrote on the subject: "You won't be taken as serious if you're using a free blog. That's just the simple fact of it."

Not true. Not always.
Though it's a common misconception.

Don't get me wrong. Whether it's "virtual real estate" or the brick and mortar kind, ownership almost always affords more benefits. That's a given.

But "free" platforms work for many bloggers for various reasons.

1. They allow writers to gradually be introduced to the world of blogging without great cost or commitment.
2. Many are easy to learn and maintain.
3. They have some of the same features, gadgets and applications as ones that are paid for.

My point here?
If you don't own your own domain name, don't hang your head in shame. Many successful authors have blogged on Blogger and other free spots. Take for example, Kelly James-Enger ( hugely popular ghost writer at Dollars and Deadlines) and C. Hope Clark (of Funds for Writers).

HERE ARE SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER:
  • The key factors in how your blog will be perceived are: the quality of your writing, the take-away value to your readers, and the appearance of your design. Are your posts typically free of spelling and grammatical errors? Is your site easy to navigate and free of excess clutter? Is your target audience clear? Your expertise apparent?  Are the images displayed professional and appropriate?
  • Having a free blog will not prevent you from guest posting at other more prominent award-winning sites, or getting hired for gigs, or winning awards for your work. As I can personally attest. You just have to work harder.
  • Use your blog as an opportunity to showcase your talents and add value to the blogging community; don't fill it with rants, crazy controversy and trivial pursuits.
  • Be consistent with your blog updates, for optimal results. It also shows respect for your readers' time.
  • Remember, you can always upgrade to a paid domain at a later date, if it proves to be in your best interest, and in your budget. 
After all, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." (Shakespeare)  :-)

Thoughts?
 As a reader, does it matter to you how a blog is hosted? 
As a writer, if you're blogging on a "free" platform, what has your experience been? 
Curious... 

Monday, July 6, 2015

What I'm Reading...And You Should Too!


Books are to writers what tools are to an architect.
They allow us to be effective in our "trade," construct a broader knowledge base, and when properly used, can design a bigger bottom line for our creative careers.

There is definitely a nexus between good writers and a love of reading.
Why?
Because good writers recognize that reading is crucial to understanding the needs of an audience, firing the imagination, and enhancing communication skills.

It also helps to identify the best language, tone, approach and techniques for various genres.

Which is why I am geeked to share with you a few engaging titles you'll want to add to your "summer reading list." These selections collectively address the psychological, emotional, professional and strategic aspects of being a writer today.

Feel free to add your recommendations as well, in the comments section.
I'd love to know what's on your night table.
Here's what's on mine, in no particular order:

1. SHARK TANK, JUMP START YOUR BUSINESS
Based upon the popular weekly show (that finances and fosters the dreams of entrepreneurs from different industries), this "jump start" is a great read, with solid take-away value to help you go the distance. It almost feels as if the reader is receiving personal coaching on business practices and principles that are applicable to any field--whether it's starting a brick and mortar store, or succeeding as a writer. Authored by Michael Parrish DuDell, it is full of expert advice from the show's rich investors, along with life stories, checklists and valuable resources.

2. PUBLISHING BASICS--By Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr.
Whether your goal is to produce a poetry book this year, or self-publish that novel you started during NANOWRIMO, (National novel writing month), you'll find needed answers here. This guide for small press and independent writers tackles topics such as: design, industry standards, copyrights, e-publishing, editing and more.

3. HOW TO MAKE MONEY WRITING CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS--By Marieclaire Collins
I'm proud to say that I scored this "gem" at a local used bookstore for less than a buck. Of all the different avenues for earning a living as a writer, corporate communications is one of the most profitable. It is what helped to make the hugely popular author, Peter Bowerman, a "well-fed" writer. And this book explains why, and more importantly, how you too can get in on the action. Chapters include: the art of working at home, the question of fees, and the necessity of networking.




4. DUMP DINNERS--By Cathy Mitchell
Hey, a writer has gotta' eat too, right?! Not to mention, as many of you may know from previous blog posts, I'm sweet on cooking. Anyhow.. the concept is clever. The idea here is to simplify the hassles often associated with cooking and clean-up, by using her "quick and easy" method of combining multiple ingredients in one pan or pot. It contains an array of recipes--from appetizers, to soups, to baked goods. The verdict is still out on this one, as I just got it a few weeks ago for my birthday, and am working through it. Still, it's worth a book look.

5. THE LITTLE BOOK OF INNER SPACE--By Stafford Whiteaker
A pocket book that gives new meaning to "Good things come in small packages."
This spiritual guide contains over 150 pages of motivational quotes, anecdotes, and reflections geared towards finding personal peace in a chaotic world. It's an insightful, inspiring read that is easy to "digest" with morning tea, a bubble bath, a commute to work, or something to unwind to just before retiring for bed.
Well worth the price.

Your turn.
What's on your bookshelf? Anything that's a real "page-turner?"
What's your favorite place to read?
Do tell.



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Work Less and Earn More in 2015! Here's How...



Thanks for joining me today at Pen and Prosper.
It's good to be back. So, let's get on track...

Whether you're new to the freelancing game, or you're a seasoned veteran, how you spend your time will greatly influence your quality of life and your bottom line as a writer.

Which is why working "smarter, not harder" should be your ultimate objective.

If your output exceeds your income, it's time for a a paradigm shift.
Instead of feeling "spent," you could be out spending. Hello?

With this is mind, here are some practices and principles for a bigger payday with less toil.  

1. Sell Reprints.
I've said it before, but it's worth repeating. Get more bang for your creative buck by selling your work to multiple markets. It's perfectly legal and ethical, as long as you retain the rights, and the publication allows for it. In my interview appearing in the 2014 and 2015 editions of Writer's Market, I share how I have actually earned more on reprints than on my original submissions. In fact, one market paid me $150.00 for an article that I was previously compensated $50.00 for. Not sure where to start? Google "Reprint markets" for a listing of potential places to submit.

2. Increase your existing rates.
This may seem simple to some, yet it's often overlooked by many. If I were to venture a guess, I'd say most of you are probably still charging the same rates for blog posts, articles, press releases, etc. that you were in 2012, 2013, 2014. True? Other "professionals" get a cost of living increase, why not writers?
Here's an interesting take on the topic provided by Men With Pens.

3. Contract out.
Remember that "Time is money."  Depending upon your skill set, hourly fee, and time constraints, sometimes it just makes more sense to have someone else to do  market research, administrative tasks, or search for images to accompany blog posts. Don't always try to do the "heavy lifting" alone.

4. Publish a book once. Earn royalties many times over (depending upon the contract and the method of publishing).

5. Consider adding "coaching" or phone consulting to your creative services.
Some seasoned scribes and successful authors charge $50.00-100.00 and up, just to provide answers to budding writers' questions, and to provide their expertise on the publishing industry. This type of offering is typically less time consuming and requires less mental wear and tear.  You can list this service on your site, or place an Ad on Craigslist.

6. Market less by taking out Ads on prominent sites.
It's all about strategy. One common practice for many authors, is to guest post in order to build their brand and sell their products. Which is effective, in some instances. But, it's important to recognize that not all blogs are created equally. In other words, unless the site is one that is well-regarded with an active community of supporters and buyers, your R.O.I. (return on investment) might not be worth it.
(Interested in an Ad here at Pen & Prosper?
Email me at: Gemsjen@yahoo.com to learn more.)

7. Establish a reputation for excellence.
The more you can make this happen, the more likely you're able to garner referrals, as opposed to pitching feverishly for new business. Word of mouth is still one of the best forms of advertising.

8. Choose the right clients.
Take it from me. When you are able to partner with the right people, it truly makes a big difference. The "right" client values your contributions, pays accordingly, and generally produces less stress.
Less stress leads to greater productivity and enhanced peace of mind.
And who couldn't use more of that? :-)


Follow these eight timely tips for a more profitable, progressive 2015.

Thoughts?
Any strategy that resonates with you in particular?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wading Through the Storms of Life, to Write!


It's a mess in the Midwest.
And frankly, it's messing with my muse.
Over the last few weeks here, we've had to contend with floods, violent storms, tornado watches and rain as relentless as a telemarketer on commission.

Don't get me wrong; other areas have had it worse. And I thank God that my basement hasn't flooded and that my life hasn't been dismantled.

Still, stormy weather is a buzz-kill that saps my concentration and creativity. I'm not talking about the occasional rain, but the heavy stuff, day after day.
Or to put it another way, it "grounds" my get-up and-go!
Instead of being my typical energetic self, I feel like crawling under the covers and waiting it out.

And did I mention that I'm just days away from throwing my annual backyard barbeque and birthday party?
Unfortunately, it looks like down pour might be on the "menu."

But, recently, I had an epiphany. And I am in a better place, as a result of it. It dawned on me that the weather is like a metaphor for life. For our creative careers, even.
We must muddle through. Persevere. Learn to weather the storms.
Why?
Because rain often fosters growth--figuratively and literally. And there's no escaping it.
Wouldn't you agree?

So, here's what I've learned as I look forward to brighter days ahead...

1. Storms come in many forms.
We lose a major client. A computer with our important files gets infected with a virus. A loved one gets sick. Someone you love stops loving you. An editor sends a stinging rejection.  Have a pity party. Pray. Eat some chocolate. Have a glass of Vino. Then get back in the game. Write in your journal. Write a letter to a far-away friend. Do a little at a time. Take baby steps. In the words of Annie, "The sun will come out tomorrow."

2. Look on the bright side.
Things could almost always be worse. Are you healthy? Have a roof over your head? Food on the table? Clothes on your back? Then you're batting a thousand, my friend.

3. Bask in the "warmth" of cherished friends and nurturing relationships.
Good ones are like Vitamin C, bringing sunshine in our lives and contributing to our enhanced health.

4. Shift happens!
Recognize that there are some things of which we simply have no control. Whenever possible, go with the flow. It's better for your health.

5. Have a Plan "B".
Back up those important files. Create blog posts a few weeks in advance. Complete clients' assignments before deadline. Smart planning can sometimes minimize the "storm's" saturation.


Ill leave you with these thoughts, as I leave to take a brief break from Pen and Prosper, for some needed rest and rejuvenation.
Let's reconnect on or around July 1st. Shall we?
Feel free to leave comments and questions in the interim.
You know I love to hear from you. :-)

Wishing you love, laughter, and sunshine!

Warmly,

Jen