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Guy Kawasaki Talks About “Artisanal” Publishing

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We always feel lucky when Guy Kawasaki is able to speak at one of our events. This year, Guy sat down with Mark Fidelman at NMX 2013 in Las Vegas to discuss in a keynote entitled “Going Bananas with Guy Kawasaki,” which covered a wide variety of new media topics, including a discussion on publishing in the new media world. Here are some of the highlights from his talk:

“Let the people decide.”

The session began by discussing self publishing, or artisanal publishing as Guy refers to it. After publishing What the Plus himself, he decided to write his newest book, Ape, to discuss the process. Guy used social media for feedback and reviews by sending out the outline, and later his full manuscript draft, for his book to “4 million of my closest friends,” as he referred to his followers. He would never have been able to do so with traditional publishing.

“Traditional publishers would have an aneurism!”

Self-publishing allows you freedom to do things like sending your content to followers before it is published. With self publishing, the writer has complete control over the book from beginning to end, but that also comes with all the responsibility and risk. Remember, Guy has a huge audience, so he’s able to self-publish and try new things while still knowing that he will sell a healthy number of books. If you don’t have this massive following yet, self-publishing might not be as successful for you. However, don’t overlook this as an option, especially due to the freedoms self-publishing affords you.

“Guy’s provided me with such great content all year, the least I can do is buy his $10 book.”

What’s Guy’s personal social media strategy? He compared it to NPR. According to him, they provide “great content 365 days a year,” and once in a while slam you with a phone-a-thon. In Guy’s eyes, they’ve earned the privilege to promote once in a while because of their commitment to quality content throughout the entire year. He applies the same principle to his social media accounts. He provides his followers with quality content so consistently that when he does stop to promote his newest project every now and again, he hopes his followers think, “Guy’s provided me with such great content all year, the least I can do is buy his $10 book.”

Of course, during his keynote, Guy also spoke about a number of other topics as well. Did you know that all of our keynotes have been live-streamed and archived? Head over to NMX University to see our keynotes and additional bonus content live from the show.

About Guy: Guy Kawasaki is the author of APE, What the Plus!, Enchantment, and nine other books. He is also the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.

Three Design Trends to Watch for in 2013

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As we close out 2012, I can safely say that it has been a milestone year for designers.  New technologies are popping up every day that make our lives easier and allow us to stretch our talents further.  Over the course of the year, a few recurring trends have popped up among some of the major site redesigns.  The good news: most of these can be implemented by blog and website owners with very little effort or code knowledge.  Here are a few of my favorite trends to watch out for in the coming year:

By the way: this is in no means an exhaustive list, but merely meant to be a snapshot of things to come.

1. Dynamic Typography

Gone are the days when Helvetica, Arial, Times, and Georgia ruled the roost when it comes to fonts.  While not necessarily unique to 2012, the use of non-standard web fonts (fonts that are not included with an operating system) has increased dramatically as new and innovative ways of serving them have been created.  Here are a few of my favorite web-font sources:

Google Fonts

With a massive library of fonts, and a price tag that can’t be beat (free!), Google has become a go-to resource for web designers.  Their web font directory is completely searchable by style, weight, and thickness; you’re guaranteed to find a font that will suit your needs.  Implementation is even easier: simply drop a piece of JavaScript into your <head> section.  Once that’s done, call the font family in your stylesheet, and you’re done!

FontSquirrel

FontSquirrel has a great selection of off-beat fonts, separated for ease-of-discovery by grouping (grunge, retro, etc).  While the selection is good, the delivery method is a bit more complex: instead of hosting the font files on their server, you have to download them, store them on your server via FTP, and then link to where they are on the server.  Once that’s done, the rest is the same: call your font family in the stylesheet and you’re done.

TypeKit

Typekit was purchased by Adobe not too long ago, so one would argue that they’re the best.  They have a wide selection of professional font families available that other services don’t; classics like Gotham, for example.  They have a limited selection available for free, but to get to the majority of the collection you have to pay a fee.  Once you’ve selected your fonts, however, two lines of JavaScript will fix everything for you – you don’t have to call them manually from your stylesheet, call them inside of TypeKit instead.

My Favorite Fonts

I’ve chosen a few fonts from each service to showcase as some of my favorites:

Serif Fonts

Museo (TypeKit)

Vollkorn (Google Fonts)

Josefin Slab (Google Fonts)

Sans-Serif Fonts

Open Sans (FontSquirrel)

Proxima Nova (TypeKit)

Ubuntu (Google Fonts)

Display / Script Fonts

Girl Next Door (Google Fonts)

Pacifico (Google Fonts)

Special Elite (Google Fonts)

2. Large Photo Backgrounds

As internet connections get better, photos are becoming more and more prevalent – not just as accents to content, but as part of the design itself.  Couple that with the semi-new CSS3 standards, and designers are taking photography to a whole new level.  It’s not uncommon to see designs and blogs with photos spanning the width of the site itself.

How to Set a Large Photo Background

This is fairly easy, but it does require a bit of thinking.  Specifically, you have to make sure that the background is high enough resolution to accomplish what you need, but not so large that even high-bandwidth devices take too long to download it.  I recommend no more than 500k-700k for your file size – any more will be too large, and any less will be too compressed (and will look terrible).

Upload your photo, and use this code in your stylesheet:

body{background: url(images/image-file.jpg) no-repeat center top;}

This sets the background image, tells it to not repeat (or tile), and aligns it at the top-center of your site. If you want to scale the image, you can add the “background-size” attribute:

body{
background: url(images/image-file.jpg) no-repeat center top;
background-size: 100% auto;
}

This will cause the background image to always be 100% wide (and the height will scale accordingly) – great for responsive designs (which we’ll talk about momentarily).

Examples of Photo Background Sites

Here are a few sites I’ve designed or seen online that utilize a large photo background:

 

thirdoptionmen.org

mellowmushroom.com

bentlyreserve.com

3. Responsive Design

I want to go on record saying that responsive design is the most important thing to happen to web design in the recent years.  So important, in fact, that the W3C has recommended that all sites strive to be “one web” accessible by all devices – something in which responsive design excels.

Responsive (or adaptive design, as it’s sometimes called) means that a design will adjust itself depending on the size of your browser or the device you are viewing it on.  Meaning, instead of having a mobile website, you have one website that adapts itself and responds to the “viewport” (the size of your viewing device from edge to edge).  Responsive design is made possible through the use of @media queries.

What are @media Queries

A @media query is nothing new to web designers; we’ve been using them to attach stylesheets for years.  However, recently, designers have been utilizing its parameters (specifically, “max-width” and “min-width”) to allow different styles for different screen sizes.

A media query looks like this:

/* Smaller than standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
@media only screen and (max-width: 959px) {}

This tells the browser to apply styles to only devices 959px wide and below.  Anything above that will ignore any styles put here.

Using @media Queries

This is a bit more complex than some of the other things we’ve talked about, since you have to have knowledge of CSS to implement, but here are the basics.  First, we include this in the <head> section of our site:

<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1, maximum-scale=1″>

This code tells our site to scale according to the width of the device – it’s an important step in making sure things are appropriately sized.  Next, we include the media queries we want to use.  This is my favorite set – you can set them however you want, but I’ve included common breakpoints in device sizes:

/* Smaller than standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 959px) {}
/* Tablet Portrait size to standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (min-width: 768px) and (max-width: 959px) {}
/* All Mobile Sizes (devices and browser) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {}
/* Mobile Landscape Size to Tablet Portrait (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (min-width: 480px) and (max-width: 767px) {}
/* Mobile Portrait Size to Mobile Landscape Size (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 479px) {}

This includes breakpoints for all mobile devices (under 959px – great for people who utilize a 960px grid system), tablets, all phones, landscape phones, and portrait phones.  Now, the hard part – apply the styles you want to get the site to look how you wish.

If it looks intimidating, that’s fine: there are a lot of pre-built themes and templates that have responsive elements built in.

Examples of Responsive Design

Here are a few examples of sites utilizing a responsive design

mickieandme.com

www.boogey.com

thirdoptionmen.org

Summary

2012 has been a fantastic year for web designers, by far.  And if these trends are anything to judge by, 2013 will be even better. These are but three of the emerging trends and resources we have at our disposal, and many of them can be implemented easily by site owners.  Between large photo backgrounds, dynamic typography, and responsive designs, we can create sites that function well and look amazing.

What other design trends do you see coming in your favorite websites and blogs?

 

Editor’s Note: Want to learn more about design from Mitch? Check out his session at NMX in January, entitled “Advanced Blog Design: The Latest Tools, Trends & Best Practices You Can Implement Today!

How to Turn ONE Piece of Content into an Online Marketing Marathon — Without Lifting a Finger!

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What if you could create one piece of content, and then turn it into four completely separate pieces of fresh, original content to use all over the internet to help market and promote your online brand?

It’s doable. And way easier than most think, and it’s the topic that I’ll be covering at my presentation in Vegas this coming January, entitled “45 Things Content Creators Can Outsource to Virtual Assistants to Help Grow Their Business.”

In the meantime, and to get you thinking about the topic and what it can mean to you, as an online content creator, here’s a rundown on how it works. You’ll see a bit of a pattern developing, which I’ll cover at the end of the post.

Step 1

Sit down in front of a video camera, with a like-minded person that you know your audience will love to hear from. If you can’t be with them in person, then get them on Skype and record a split-screen chat between the two of you. We’re talking 20-minutes of content, that’s all that’s needed.

Step 2

Send that video to an AV virtual assistant to have it converted into an audio podcast. They’ll clean it up and splice together a cool sounding intro and outro, too – to make it sound super professional.

You can also have that VA cut up the original video file into 5-minute clips, creating four original videos that can be uploaded to YouTube and used for keyword marketing, individually!

Step 3

Send the audio file to a transcriptionist virtual assistant (known universally nowadays as a “VA”) and have them convert it into a Word document. They will then draft and schedule the written content into your blogging software, which can be used as blog post content.

Step 4

Send that Word document to a graphic designer virtual assistant and have them layout it all out into a snazzy looking eBook, or PDF guide of some sort, which you can then use as a giveaway – such as an opt-in offer – or just a freebie for your community – they’ll love you for it, telling all their friends to go visit your blog!

Step 5

Have that same graphic designer VA convert certain quotes from the conversation into images that you can use on your social media channels. They’ll brand the image with your logo, a cool photo and a URL for people to remember to check out later on.

BOOM!

Five different pieces of original, branded content created out of just 20-minutes of work. Did you see the pattern? Yep – you got it. Utilize the power of virtual staff to build your content creation empire.

This is Just the Tip of the Content Marketing Iceberg!

There are so many more things you can get virtual assistants to do for you as a professional content creator. Membership sites, squeeze pages, full-blown online courses, Kindle books – you name it.

They can’t, however, do any babysitting, or pick up your dry cleaning!

The list goes on and on and I’ll be going into a LOT more detail on everything at New Media Expo in January. I’ll even touch base on the different tools you can use to work with VAs to have them become super productive, and for you to get the biggest bang for your buck as a virtual boss.

See you in Vegas, baby!

Self-Publishing Stumbling Blocks (and 27 Tools to Get You Back on Your Feet)

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Today, you don’t need to work with an agent or ebooks publishing house to get your book published. In 2011 alone, writers self-published 211,269 books according to Publishing Perspective, and this isn’t counting all of the free ebooks bloggers and marketers offer on their blogs. So if everybody’s doing it, why aren’t you?

Self-publishing might be easy, but doing it well is anything but. If you’ve never self-published a book or even an ebook, you aren’t alone. Despite the benefits, there are several stumbling blocks that can make a self-published book or ebook unsuccessful. The following tools can help you jump these hurdles and publish a book or ebook that you’re proud to offer to your audience, whether you’re doing it for free to promote your blog or you’re selling it to make some money.

Stumbling Block #1: “I don’t have time to write a book right now.”

Here’s a little secret: No one has time to write a book right now. We’re all super busy people, yet somehow thousands of people do manage to write books every year. So it’s not a matter of not having time. It’s about whether or not you want to make time by optimizing your schedule. Here are some great tools that give you the time to write a book:

How are you spending your time? Toggl will tell you. There are lots of time tracking tools out there, but Toggl is one of my favorites. You can track your time on Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, iPod, or Android with Toggl, as well as integrate into programs like Basecamp if you’re managing your writing project elsewhere. Toggl also allows you to budget time for different tasks so you can stay on track throughout the day.

Remember The Milk is an easy-to-use tool to help you manage your to-do list. You could use it to organize your life in general, but also consider making a book-specific list for the tasks you have to complete. “Write a book” sounds large and daunting, but if you chunk it out into smaller pieces, it doesn’t seem so bad after all. Ta-da Lists is a great alternative if you aren’t a fan of Remember The Milk.

Rescue Time is a handy little tool like Toggl that will help you track your time, but the premium version of this app is extremely useful if you want to take your time management a step farther. “Get focused mode” allows you to block distracting websites for a set period of time, you can set up alerts when you’ve spent too much time on a specific website (like Facebook), the tool will track your offline time, and more. All of this comes for a fee of $6 per month (or there is a free version as well).

If you need help staying accountable when it comes to large writing projects, 750 words is right for you. This makes the work into a sort-of game, where you try to accumulate as many points as possible every month. You get points for writing, points for writing more than 750 words (your target goal each day on this site), points for writing contiguous days, etc. It’s a great way to stay motivated. One Page Per Day is a similar tool to help you stay motivated to write every day.

Stumbling Block #2: “I don’t have the skills/talent to write a book.”

Do you have some kind of knowledge that other people might what to know? Or do you have an idea about something and the ability to do research and interviews? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you have the skills/talent it takes to write a book or ebook. Even if you aren’t a good writer, here are some tools to help you turn your thoughts into books:

Maybe your problem isn’t that you’re not a good writer, but rather that you’re trying to write using the wrong tool. If Microsoft Word just isn’t doing it for you, try Scrivener. This program is perfect for creating and editing longer documents, and while it isn’t free, there is a free trial that you can check out before purchasing. Features include a “cork board” for thoughts and reminders, an outlining tool, the ability to create document collections, and more. It even syncs with Dropbox.

If you want to find experts to interview for your stories, check out Help a Reporter Out (HARO). Founded by one of NMX’s speakers, Peter Shankman, this site allows you to put out a request in order to find people who are ready and willing to give you quotes and full interviews for your project. ProfNet is a similar tool.

If you truly don’t want to write your own book, you can use a site like Elance to hire someone to write it for you. You can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to several thousands of dollars to write a manuscript, depending on length and subject matter, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. I like Elance because people will bid on your project and you can read profiles and exchange messages to find the best person for the job. Once you have a writer, present them with your notes and ideas (the more, the better), set up some interview time so they can talk to you about your ideas, and let them do their magic. Freelancer.com and oDesk.com are two good Elance alternatives – or just ask for writer recommendations via social media.

Stumbling Block #3: “I can write a book, but I have no idea how to turn a manuscript into a book.”

The very first thing you should do after you finish writing a perfect, polished, ready-to-print ebook is hire an editor. Trust me on this one. I constantly find typos even in books published traditionally, so don’t be so arrogant as to think there’s not a single flaw in your manuscript. Even if your draft is typo-free, a fresh set of eyes belonging to someone who is not close to the project will help pick out weird wording, confusing passages and other potential places to tighten your text. Elance and the other sites listed previously can help you find a great editor.

From there, it’s time to design and get your book out there. Here are some tools to help:

Booktype is a tool that helps you collaborate with your editor (or other authors), and then export your book so it’s ready to sell or give away. If you plan on publishing on multiple platforms, Booktype is a great option, since you can correct problems once and have each version update automatically. Booktype makes it easy to format for web, mobile, print, tablets, and e-readers, all at once.

If you like using Word or another format rather than Booktype, don’t worry – you can easily design and convert your book as well. After your manuscript really is ready to go, Calibre is one of the best tools out there to help you format the book correctly for all e-readers. Calibre is free to download and makes the process pretty painless.

Want professional looking graphics in your ebook, all formatted correctly? Learn how to use Adobe InDesign. This program isn’t free, nor is this something you’ll learn to use well in an afternoon, but it’s definitely a great design option for self-publishers. Alternatively, you can hire a graphic designer who knows how to use InDesign well.

Stumbling Block #4: “I have no idea where to sell my book or how to handle sales.”

Okay, so now you really do have the perfect book just waiting for buyers (or downloaders, if you’re giving it away for free). How do you reach the masses? The three major tools for getting your book out there are:

  1. Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon)
  2. Barnes & Noble PubIt
  3. iTunes Connect

If you want to offer print versions of your book as well, I recommend checking out Lulu.com, which allows you to print on demand with no upfront costs. Alternatives to Lulu include Blurb and CreateSpace. There are tons of print-on-demand options for authors beyond these three options, but make sure you do your research so you know exactly what percentage of the profits you’ll see.

It’s also important to track your sales, even if you don’t have to do any work to ship your product. Here are some tools to help you with that task:

This tracking tool for self-published authors allows you to track sales on all major sites. You can compare your sales from month to month or from site to site. This tool is $49.95, but if you’re a blogger and do a review, you can get it for free.

The BookBaby team will actually help you with any number of self-publishing tasks, but the best and most useful, perhaps, is their tracking system. They’ll distribute your book (in ePub format) for you and then you can log in to see your sales across multiple sites and even download reports. Their one-time fee is $99, and then you’ll pay $19 per year after the first year for continued access.

Stumbling Block #5: “Why would anyone care about my book? I’m not a popular best-selling author.”

You don’t have to be a best-selling author to sell lots of copies of your next ebook. You just have to be smart about distribution and promotion. Remember, all best selling authors were once beginners too.

First, it helps if your book has been reviewed, especially on sites like Amazon. You can send your book to your friends to review, but even better is to put your book out there for others to review. Here are some places to find reviewers:

They receive a ton of books for review, and they don’t choose to read all of them. So, it’s the luck of the draw. But if your book is reviewed on this site, you receive a lot of exposure. You can also enter your book for consideration in their contest called Discovery Awards, but be warned that there is an entry fee.

On Ning, the group Book Blogs is home to over 19,000 members, and many of them are extremely active and looking for books to review on their blog. Often, you can work out a deal for them to also leave an honest review on Amazon, especially if you’re willing to send them an extra copy to give away.

You can also leverage others’ audiences, even if you’re not hugely popular yet. You can do this through affiliate programs. If your product is high quality and you offer a generous commission, others will do the selling for you. My favorite affiliate tool for ebooks is E-junkie, with ClickBank being a close second.

No Excuses!

Hopefully, all of these tools will help you resist the urge to make excuses and start writing your next book for self-publishing! If I didn’t cover your biggest self-publishing stumbling block, leave a comment below with your problem. I’ll do my best to recommend some great tools to help you get over that hurdle.

And don’t forget to check out Publishing 101 For Content Creators: From Decision To Market – an upcoming panel at NMX Las Vegas 2013 featuring publishing pros from Grand Central Publishing and Wiley who can answer all of your publishing questions!

Using Crowd-Funding To Make Your Next Project An Enormous Success

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Many times the main struggle for creative people such as writers, indie artist and social activists is to find the tools and resources to get their project properly created, packaged and promoted–whether its a book, an album or a charity event. Beyond that, it becomes even more difficult for a creative person to come up with enough money for proper promotion of their idea or project. Being able to afford a good promoter, marketing rep, publisher or manager depends on your cash flow.

There are many creative people with out-of-the-box ideas who need the funding for a project that they can’t afford within their current budget. Many creatives need an assistant to come along and help them to the next level. Crowd-funding can be that assistant for some. Some of you need to find someone who is going to be the wind beneath you wings to get your idea going.

If you haven’t broken into a stream of easy money yet then you are probably working paycheck to paycheck trying to gather enough money to get a decent video, a publisher for your book, an editor, raise awareness for your social cause, or craft some method to become the next social media star of the moment. Trying to figure out how to create a buzz can be time consuming.

We all know by now that by using blogs, Twitter and Facebook you can create a generally decent buzz for your content or project through friends, family and connections. However, to go beyond the group of people you know or who know about you, tools are necessary to create more ways to access your end goal. Taking your project from creation of the content, to syndication through other channels of promotion, bringing it back to creating revenue can be a costly endeavor.

Get a kick start with crowd-funding. It is a new and unique way to raise money and awareness for your crafty idea, band or project. Crowd-sourcing offers a way to build a buzz and offer perks to fans. Sites like KickStarter, CauseVox, CrowdSpring, IndieGoGo, ChipIn, FanNextDoor, MicroVentures, PeerBackers, RocketHub, ProFounder, of course there is CrowdSource, and a host of others give you opportunities to offer unique perks to fans that support your campaign based upon your project and needs.

This is a unique new way that you can turn casual fans and followers into partners of your enterprise. Everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon today. If you don’t have enough out-of-pocket money for a big tour, copy editor, social justice fundraiser or gigantic promotional campaign this is the way you can start raising money and awareness for your project, band or tour.

Crowd-funding takes you beyond just social media networking and enables people to get directly involved in the brand, project or artist they want to see perform, create or release a project. This involvement is showing a lot of potential. Some indie artists, writers and social activists have been able to raise thousands of dollars in weeks and months.

There are a few good sites that provide crowd-funding. Many creative people have begun signing up to start gathering a crowd to fund their projects. This method really brings things back to a grassroots-bottom up level. In this internet age, at times it seems digital media is making the world seem closer and smaller. We are gaining new avenues of accessing and being involved in the creation of content we enjoy and brands we want to see more of.

Here are some projects creative individuals have started using crowd-funding for:

  • Media Campaigns
  • Marketing
  • Web and Print Campaigns
  • Promoting
  • Manufacturing
  • Promotional Tours
  • Web-Design
  • Artwork
  • Merchandising
  • Article distribution

If you are looking to build a media campaign, start a social justice project or have your project promoted on a higher level than you can do with your own funds–then crowd-funding is for you.

Editor’s note: To learn more about crowdsourcing, be sure to check out Jeramiah’s session at NMX entitled, Three Very Unique Ways to Build a Massive Community.

How to Make Your Free Ebook More Valuable

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The problem with free ebooks is that everybody has one. Even when you create high-quality content that you could easily sell, it can be hard to entice readers to download it if they already have ten other recently downloaded ebooks just waiting to be read. So, while it’s important to write an ebook that people want to read, you can also go one step further and make your ebook even more valuable with supplemental content and special features.

I’ve written several ebooks, including The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Your Blog, Podcast, and Videos with Pinterest and The Ultimate Guide to Blog and Podcast Sponsorship for NMX and numerous other ebooks for my own websites and for clients. Let’s take a look at what I’ve learned about making free ebooks more valuable.

Video is Hot

Not everyone has the time (or makes the time) to read a 100-page ebook, even if the information is extremely valuable. Some people instead prefer video (or audio), and since fewer people are creating video resources, you can really stand out from the crowd by creating them. A good example is this video series about podcast sponsorship we created in conjunction with our ebook about sponsorship.

If you aren’t comfortable being on camera, consider creating a video using this scribing technique or even a simple voice over. You can also make use of video others have put online by finding videos related to your topic and compiling them into one playlist. You have less content control this way, but it’s an option that allows you to present video without actually creating video yourself.

Check It Off Your List

People like to be able to take action after reading an ebook or guide, so giving your readers a way to easily do that is a great added resource to your ebook. This can be in the form of a checklist or workbook. You’ll want to make them easily printable, leaving space for your readers to write if they’d like to do so.

The point is to give your readers guidance with really actionable steps that they can check off their lists so they’re implementing what you talked about in your ebook. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of a printable. Another example is this five-part Pinterest series that outlines specific steps to take over the course of five days.

Follow Up with GOOD Paid Products

The point of any free product for your readers is to follow it up with something that benefits you, like a paid product. However, if you’re going to follow up the gift with a hard sell, make sure your paid product makes sense. I don’t want to download your ebook about email marketing and then have you try to sell me an ebook about editing podcasts. Those two things aren’t really related. Instead, if you get me to download your ebook about email marketing, follow it up with a paid e-course that goes into further detail about the topic. That’s something that I’ll be more willing to buy if I enjoyed your free ebook.

Could You Write with the World Looking Over Your Shoulder? One Novelist is Giving It a Try

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Fantasy author Silvia Hartmann is writing a novel via Google docs. Read about her public novel writing project and why this might be a very good—or very bad—idea.

Writing is a pretty personal endeavor for most people. More and more, however, authors are using social media and other online tools not only to connect with fans and drive sales, but also to create their actual content and allow readers to interact with characters.

One author is taking it to the extreme, though. Silvia Hartmann (aka Nick StarFields) isn’t just crowdsourcing for her next novel. She’s allowing fans to read her content every step of the way, giving feedback and suggestions as she goes. Silvia is writing her novel in a public Google doc, so you can see the entire process from first draft to finished product. She’s calling it “The Naked Writing Project” and announcing writing sessions via her social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter. (Read more at The Guardian.)

The Advantages of Crowdsourcing

Although she says that she’ll ultimate go with her gut, even if readers don’t agree, Silvia will ultimately get tons of suggestions and opinions from her fans and curious bystanders. With readers involved in every step of the writing process, she’s creating a brand new crowdsourcing experience with readers watching her write in real time. While the prospect might be a scary one for most writers, this type of crowdsourcing also has its advantages:

  • Fans feel like they helped write the novel, which may make them more likely to purchase the book after it is published.
  • Allowing fans open access to this novel helps promote anything else she’s written or will write in the future. If people like this one, they’ll probably check out her other work too.
  • Fans can be extremely creative and intuitive. They aren’t as close to the work as the writer, so they can more easily spot plot holes and come up with ideas the author herself may have never imagined.
  • This kind of project, to my knowledge at least, has not been done before. So she’s going to get people checking it out just because they’re curious and people (like me) writing about her because it’s a unique way to write a novel. It’s a great way to find new readers.
  • It holds her accountable. Raise your hand if you have a half-finished novel or book somewhere on your computer. You can’t see it, but both of my hands and a foot are raised right now and I bet most of you out there are “someday novelists” too. By writing in such a public way, the author is committing herself to this novel. If she doesn’t log online and write, fans will get cranky.

Potential Public Writing Problems

Of course, any writing process is not without its problems. Putting your first draft online for the public to watch you write has several issues:

  • Silvia already said that she’s not going to listen to fans when her instincts don’t agree. This could potentially lead to angry readers who stop participating or refuse to purchase the book because she didn’t listen.
  • Whenever you put your writing online, you’re going to have to deal with trolls, not just valid comments. Along with trolls, she’ll also have to deal with negative criticism and even if it is constructive, some people are pretty rude online. All of this negativity can really weigh on a person trying to do something creative online.
  • If fans are reading the novel every step of the way, they may have no motivation to actually purchase the book when it is finished.
  • Most writers jump around during the writing process. If Silvia writes scenes out of order, readers won’t be surprised by plot twists. Even if there are no big reveals in this novel, it can really affect a plot to read it out of order. You see the complete picture, but you don’t have the experience of reading the story as it is meant to be read.
  • Having drafts of your book online can affect the publishing deal you get in the future. Publishers typically want certain rights, and having your novel online in draft form, even if it is later removed, can affect this contract, potentially scaring some companies away.

Would You Ever Write a Book Publicly?

Despite the disadvantages, I think this is a really cool experiment and I’ll be watching it to see her progress and how it affects her writing progress. It’s a brave new media world we’re living in, and it’s interesting to see people using online tools in innovative ways.

Would you ever consider such a public writing project? Leave a comment to tell us what you think about Silvia’s project!

18 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Writing eBooks

Author:

Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at NMX where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature three of the most brilliant bloggers out there, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Ebooks

It seems like every big-name blogger has written at least one ebook, and many bloggers are offering them for free. The first NMX ebook is about Pinterest available for free here, but ebooks can be sold as well. If you’ve been thinking about producing your own ebook, today’s Brilliant Bloggers is for you! In edition to all of the resources available in our publishing category, check out the links below to find more about ebook writing.

Brilliant Blogger of the Week:

You Already Know How to Write an Ebook … So What’s Stopping You? by Ali Luke

Ali is the author of The Blogger’s Guide to Irresistible Ebooks, and she’s written quite a few successful ebooks herself, so she know what’s up when it comes to writing ebooks. In this post for Copyblogger, Ali talks about how writing an ebook isn’t different from the content writing you probably already do on  your blog. To call her a brilliant blogger on the topic of ebooks is an understatement!

After checking out the post, I also recommend checking out her own blog, Aliventures, and following her on Twitter at @aliventures for more great tips.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

  1. 5 Tips For Writing An Ebook They Can’t Put Down by Jesse Schmitt
  2. 10 Tips on Writing an E-Book by Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra)
  3. 14 Successful Ebook Authors Reveal How to Write Ebooks that Sell by HectorCuevas (@HectorCuevas)
  4. Boost Your Business By Writing an eBook by Chris Robley (@chrisrobley)
  5. The Charles Darwin Guide to Writing and Selling an Effective Ebook by Pamela Wilson (@pamelaiwilson)
  6. eBook Writing Tips – How you Can Avoid Writers Block! by the eBook Author Academy
  7. Ebooks Store – Ebook Writing Tips by Mary Kitt-Neel (@MaryKittNeel)
  8. The Essential Guide to Writing an eBook & Sharing It with the World by Jeff Goins (@jeffgoins)
  9. How to Write an Ebook by Amy Lynn Andrews (@AmyLynnAndrews)
  10. How to Write an Ebook that Doesn’t Suck by Michael Martine (@remarkablogger)
  11. How to Write Ebooks that Sell by Brian Clark (@copyblogger)
  12. How to Write an eBook that People Will Actually Read by Ryan Taft (@ryantaft)
  13. Introduction to writing eBooks: How is it different than traditional book publishing? by Chris-Rachael Oseland (@ChrisRachael)
  14. So you want to write an ebook? 30 tips for success by David Meerman Scott (@dmscott)
  15. Tips for Writing a Great Ebook by Blog Oh Blog
  16. Top 5 Tips to Write a Successful EBook by Arjun Singh (@arjunchauhan24)
  17. Writing an eBook: How to Get Started (and Finish!) by Cara Stein (@cara_stein)

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about ebooks? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link.

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Controversial Posts

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

Why the Virtual Ticket Will Feel “Even Closer to Being There Live” This Year

Author:

As the guy in charge of BlogWorld’s Virtual Ticket program (which allows people who can’t make it to the live event to “attend” on their own timetable from their home or office), I’ve been given a very interesting puzzle to solve.

Here are the two questions I keep asking myself:

  1. How can we most effectively bring the content and experience of BlogWorld to people who want to go to New York to attend…but can’t?
  2. How can we make an online conference as much like being there in person as possible?

See, BlogWorld is HUGE. There are over 140 speakers, and at the live event, ten sessions will be happening at once…pretty much all the time. Even if it were feasible to live-stream the entire conference to our virtual attendees, we wouldn’t want to.

Why?

Because if we did, then virtual attendees would face the same problem that live attendees face: They’d have to choose one session to watch at a time and would, hence, be physically unable to view 90% of the conference due to most people’s pesky inability to be in ten places at once.

The content in the Virtual Ticket isn’t live. You wouldn’t want it to be live. In fact, a huge number of people who sign up for the Virtual Ticket are people who will be there at the actual event. They get the Virtual Ticket to fill the gaps in their live conference experience, so that after they come home from BlogWorld, they can watch that 90+% of the content that they missed.

(NOTE: If you already signed up to attend BlogWorld in New York and would like to add the Virtual Ticket to your registration, you can do so for only $97. Just email us and ask us to add the VT to your registration. If you haven’t yet signed up for the live event, you can add the VT during the registration process.)

But because the Virtual Ticket’s main content is 100+ hours of non-live video recordings (and the accompanying MP3 downloads), that dilemma comes right back at us. How can we best convey the BlogWorld experience? How can we make it “almost like being there live” for people who can’t be there live if most of our Virtual Ticket content is not live?

And the answer, of course, is that we can’t. But we can come close.

See, there’s nothing like attending a conference. If you’re actually there in person, you’ll get the networking and handshaking and hanging out and the strange “inspiration osmosis” that comes from being in the live atmosphere. We can’t replace that, and it’d be insulting to suggest that we could.

But I asked myself…what would be close? What would help simulate an in-person experience as much as possible?

And the solution came back loud and clear: Provide daily content.

The recordings — which you can play, pause, and replay at will for a full six months on the website (or forever if you download them) — will show up about a week after BlogWorld ends. For the Los Angeles 2011 Virtual Ticket, we did a bunch of video interviews — behind the scenes stuff, intended to give that “at the conference feel” — and we provided those about a week after the event, too. And that was cool.

But this year, in addition to all of that (and with an upgrade in video and audio quality for the bonus interviews), we’re going to give Virtual Ticketholders content every day.

There’s something different about daily updates. If you get daily updates, then you can learn about Day 1 stuff while it’s still Day 1. And if you learn about something on Day 1, then you can see what happens with it on Day 2 and follow along.

In other words, daily content gets you immersed in the experience so you don’t feel like you’re just watching from the sidelines.

So, in addition to the 100+ recorded sessions, in addition to the bonus video interviews that are exclusive to the Virtual Ticket, and in addition to our prolific social media activity and picture-sharing from the conference floor, we’re adding two things to this year’s Virtual Ticket:

  1. Every day, we’re going to record a handful of audio interviews and behind-the-scenes segments. And every evening, we’re going to post those files on the Virtual Ticket site for attendees to listen to.
  2. Every evening, we’re going to write up a daily recap. We’ll tell VT attendees who we captured on video that they’ll be able to watch later, we’ll tell them about big happenings, and we’ll tell them if we spot The Bloggess eating a burrito for lunch. (Or if she brought her giant metal chicken “Beyonce” with her.)

Will this content make the Virtual Ticket “just like being in New York”? Of course not. But will it bring Virtual Ticketholders into the fold, finally making them a PART of BlogWorld as it unfolds instead of sitting on the sidelines, waiting patiently for the event to end and for the session content to be delivered to the private Virtual Ticket website.

If you can’t make it to New York this year, check out this year’s BlogWorld Virtual Ticket if you haven’t done so already. The price is only $347, and you won’t have to book a flight or a hotel room. Good luck finding this insane amount of content for that price anywhere else.

And if you’re attending live in New York, definitely consider adding the Virtual Ticket when you register for BlogWorld so that you can go back after the event and review the huge amount of content you missed while you were there live. It’s only $97, and will be the best conference bang-for-your-buck you ever spend. (NOTE: If you’ve already registered and want to add the VT now, you can’t do that through the website. Please email us and let us know you want to add the VT and we’ll add it for you.)

What’s New on the NMX Blog:

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We are very proud to announce that as part of the 10th annual People’s Choice Podcast Awards Cerem...

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