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September 2012

3 Lessons Every Blogger Needs to Learn about Pumpkin Lattes and Anticipation

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I absolutely love pumpkin lattes. Actually, I love anything pumpkin-flavored and always look forward to fall since it’s pretty much the only time pumpkin items are available.

During the fall, it’s not unusual for me to have four or five pumpkin lattes every week, unapologetically. My addiction defense is that I can’t get them during the rest of the year! And in the frothy goodness of my favorite fall beverage, there’s a lesson about anticipation and blogging. Three lessons, actually, which are all important to learn if you want to be successful as a blogger.

Lesson #1: Creating hype early makes people excited.

Every year, as summer comes to a close, I start seeing advertisements for pumpkin lattes at Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, and lots of other places. Now, they could wait until it’s really fall to start offering pumpkin options, but they don’t, and for good reason. Starting earlier really makes me excited for fall, and as soon as the pumpkin flavor become available, I’m ready to whip out my wallet thanks to all the advertising I’ve been seeing.

When you’re getting ready to launch a new blog or a product with your blog, start talking about it as soon as you can. Don’t have the details worked out? No problem! Well before I launched Blog Zombies, for example, I started a mailing list about my new “secret project” and I released more and more information as I solidified my idea. Hundreds of people signed up on my mailing list before I ever wrote a single post, just because I talked about it and got the hype going early.

Lesson #2: Deliver on the high-quality promises you make.

Don’t make the mistake of running with lesson #1 and then not delivering on the hype you’ve created. I go crazy for pumpkin lattes every year because they are so darn tasty. If I got one and it was disappointing, future hype wouldn’t matter.

You don’t want your readers to be “meh” about the experience. The phrase “it’s good enough” is a really, really dangerous one. Put forward your best work with every single thing you do and be prepared to deliver on everything you promise. The only way anticipation will build is when the product is amazing. Disappoint your audience once and it will be a fight to get them excited ever again.

Lesson #3: Limited quantities create a buying frenzy.

Lastly, consider limiting the reader experience in some way to get more people involved. Every year, by the time December comes around, I start to get a little sick of pumpkin. I might even start to cheat a little on pumpkin with gingerbread. Shhh…don’t tell.

But then I start to realize that the season is almost over, and while my little indiscretion with gingerbread lattes was fun, it was just a fling. Every year, I ultimately realize I won’t be able to get pumpkin again for like, nine months. So, I start buying pumpkin lattes again like crazy.

Think about how you can create limited quantities – or perceived limited quantities – for your readers. I see people do this all the time with webinars. By saying “seating is limited,” webinar hosts get people to sign up, even though when you sign up actually doesn’t matter (if the webinar truly is full, you have to show up early – it doesn’t matter when you register). You could make one of your products available for a limited time instead (or a discounted price) if you don’t want to limit quantities.

Basically, you want the anticipation to build so much that your reader is afraid of missing out if they don’t take action immediately.

In summary, here are the three take-away lessons I’ve learned about pumpkin lattes and anticipation:

  • Start hyping your project early. Get people excited so they feel like they just can’t wait.
  • Deliver high-quality products so that people always get excited for them.
  • Limit quantities so that people are afraid of missing out.

As for me? I think it’s time I go have another pumpkin latte before they’re gone for the season again. Will you be at NMX in Las Vegas this January? Let me know so we can have pumpkin lattes together!

Working with Sponsors for your Podcast [Video Series]

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If you’re a podcaster, one of the ways you can make money with your content is by working with sponsors. Yet, if you simply wait for the sponsors to come to you, you might be waiting a long time! In this three-part video series, we’ll cover what sponsors are looking for, how to evaluate and work with sponsors, and how to set your prices and treat your podcast like a business.

Part One: The Three Things Every Sponsor Wants (and where to find them) – Straight from the Mouth of a Sponsor! with Mark Fuccio

[youtube]http://youtu.be/J6y7dcjd46g[/youtube]

Part Two: Evaluating Sponsors: The Courtship and Marriage with David Sparks

[youtube]http://youtu.be/F-96L7BKcEY[/youtube]

Part Three: Treating Your Podcast Like a Business and Setting Your Sponsorship Prices with Lou Mongello

[youtube]http://youtu.be/LQNiX01zFXw[/youtube]

If you love this video series, you can find even more information about working with sponsors for your podcast (or blog) by picking up our FREE 130-page ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Blog and Podcast Sponsorship.

Top Review Tips for Bloggers from Ken Pierce

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Ken Pierce

Photo Credit: Peter Parrella

Reviewing products can be great for any blogger, no matter what your niche, but being a good reviewer is about more than simply ranting or raving about items in a blog post. Today, I have a special treat for everyone out there who publishes reviews or is interested in reviewing products in the future. Ken Pierce from PiercingMetal, who has been reviewing music and concerts for several years, recently sat down with me to share some great tips about writing reviews.

Allison: For people who may not know you, could you tell us a little about you and your site?

Ken: Sure, well in a nutshell I run the PiercingMetal.com website and its companion blog “PiercingMetal Musings.” The site was launched back in early 2005 as a means to present my voice and views on a wide variety of Hard Rock and Metal music releases and concert events. I’m a former Metal musician that still supports the scene and I wanted to become a positive voice for the good things that were out there.

The decision to launch PiercingMetal stemmed from my being a contributor to several other sites of note at the time and eventually realizing that I could do more for the genre by starting my own presence and working closely with those who I had come in contact with. The name is an obvious play on my last name and the music that is focused on and the readers seemed to take to it.  With that and the support of many established press contacts in hand I was ready to run with the ball.

The site features more than just reviews of course and has a calendar that lists numerous “happenings” of interest, lots of live concert photos and as of 2007 a companion blog was introduced to our readership.  I also try to help the releases that I review by adding in an Amazon.com code to each and every article. In 2012 the website celebrated its seventh year of being online and I admit that no matter how much there is to do, it’s still a lot of fun and a never ending learning experience that reaches a lot of Metal fans.  I maintain numerous PiercingMetal focused social network accounts as well in order to broaden the reach of the brand name.

Allison: With music, personal taste definitely comes into play. It’s not like other items where you can judge a product based on whether or not it works. What are some of your tips for reviewing items like music when it’s so subjective? How do you make sure your review is fair?

Ken: As far as being fair, you just have to be honest about how the release hits you. Is it great?  Then say so. Does it stink?  Then say so but know that you MUST back up why this is the case in your eyes.  Compare it against another work that firms up the viewpoint, otherwise your “voice” can be considered untrustworthy.

You will also most likely need to deal with this publicist on other artists that they are working. And while they might realize that not everything is gold that they send to you, if you lambast everything that they pitch, there is a chance that you go to the bottom of their resource list because you are not an objective or truly honest reviewer that they can count on. Periodically I like to say how I might prefer an older album by an artist as opposed to something new and hope for a return to a more reliable sound.

Another tip is to mind your article length.  If something is out of this world you should be able to say it in no more than three decent paragraphs. Over the years I have seen three page thesis length reviews on things that the writer felt was crap and that makes my head spin.  Maybe it’s me, but I know that I don’t want to read three pages about something that I should be avoiding at all costs.

Allison: I love that you do live event/concert reviews along with album reviews! Can you talk about your decision to include these types reviews on your site and some of the challenges of reviewing an event?

Ken: If you are just a regular fan who wants to blog about concerts, then the best advice is to be as detailed as possible for your readers in order to bring them into the show with you. Take some photos with your phone or snappy camera from afar (since EVERYONE does that these days) and just make them feel like they were there with you. I say to see the opening bands as well because you never know who you will end up enjoying. I always love telling people how I first heard of both Into Eternity and Unexpect as openers on other shows and how since that time each how band have become favorites of mine. You truly get to watch a band develop their career and music with that premise. It’s so exciting. Bring your reader the level of excitement you had for the show and if it was a disappointment then warn them about it.

Allison: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to someone interesting in starting to review items on their blog?

Ken: Nowadays (if you are aiming at being considered a “professional reviewer”)  the geography of this has changed so much since I even launched the blog part of PiercingMetal.com, but I guess the best advice is to just do it and expect the unexpected.

For new bloggers who want to review I say that they should start with things that they are most passionate about and want to share with their readership. It cannot hurt for them to write reviews about music that they are purchasing and if they want to chance sending these reviews over to publicity for said artist then they should. Perhaps it will lead to their being added to a media service list and be included in the mailers about the latest batch of releases from a company  If they say “no” for whatever reason that does NOT stop you from posting a review about something and sharing a link across Twitter and Facebook. There are so many official band pages out there nowadays and fans are actually interacting more with the talent than ever before.

It’s your blog so the floor is yours to share your views about stuff.  Don’t be afraid of standing by your words if you are challenged about them, but in that regard you should be prepared for the consequences as well. I suggest leaving comments open but to not be afraid of trashing the ones that don’t speak to the topic and go on forever or get venomous for no reason. Try to be a positive and reliable resource to the best of your ability and don’t make promises that you cannot keep or walk around with a sense of entitlement about having the blog with a few reviews online. There are always bigger sites with more content it seems. Also, don’t start to do it and forget about it for three months as people will lose interest. As long as review content keeps flowing to your blog you will keep your readers educated and informed and your contacts happy.

Allison: Thanks for a great interview, Ken! Readers, check out PiercingMetal for examples of his work as a reviewer! You can also find Piercing Metal on both Facebook and Twitter.

How to Make a Video Using Video Scribing

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Video scribing (or videoscribing or just plain “scribing”) is a pretty cool technique that I’m seeing more and more often online. With this technique, you draw using a screen capturing program or white board and speed it up to match an audio presentation. It requires a little artistic skill, but it’s a great option if you don’t like to be on camera.

It’s also a great option to use as a pattern interrupt. If all of your videos are just you talking to the camera, things can start to get a little boring. Doing a video that’s a little different in terms of format can spice things up.

I always thought that you had to be some kind of video genius to make a video scribing video, but our friend Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income breaks down the process in the video tutorial below. It’s not easy, but it is manageable even for video newbies like me!

It you love Pat’s video tutorials as much as I do, make sure to pick up a ticket for NMX where he’ll be presenting Proven Methods to Use Free in Your Business to Get More Traffic, More Subscribers and More Customers. It’s a must see for all bloggers, podcasters, and video/web TV series producers!

Early bird pricing ends September 28th, so don’t delay! You can buy tickets here.

How Social Media Changed the Culture of My Dental Practice

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Let’s see a show of hands out there.  How many of you have dentists who have content rich websites and are active on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest?  That’s what I thought.  Not too many of you.  Well, as a dentist, I am on a mission to change that.

Dentists and Marketing

Marketing has not been an easy journey for the healthcare industry. For a very long time, professionals in healthcare were discouraged, if not reprimanded, for advertising. About all you could do to “market” yourself was to have your name appear in the local phone book. The early adopters in attempting healthcare marketing were not well received and were, in fact, lambasted for their efforts.

“Classless” and “cheap” were words used to describe healthcare professionals’ small attempts at marketing and advertising.  Slowly, very slowly, this limiting attitude has changed. The healthcare industry has finally, if not reluctantly, taken the full plunge into the ocean of marketing and social media.

The Extremes

As with most things in life, there is a modulating process that needs to accompany change. Before that modulation occurs, typically you are going to see extremes. In healthcare, the extremes have been pretty obvious. There are the pharmaceutical, hospital, weight loss and dental implant companies that barrage us with promises of the best, the only, and the right options for our healthcare needs on radio and TV. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the general dental practice that sits quietly on Main Street USA hoping that “word of mouth” will continue to bring in new patients. While, just down the street, new dental offices are popping up every day providing more and more options for these same new patients.

The Reality

As “experts” in our respective fields, no matter what our business, the reality is that as a rule, every day when we go to work, we do basically the same thing as our competitors. So, in the field of dentistry specifically, most of my colleagues that are vying for the same patients that I am vying for do the same kinds of fillings, cleanings, x-rays, crowns and bridges. Some of us offer slightly different options but, for the most part, our days are very similar.

So then, how can we make ourselves appear “different” to potential patients?  What can we do to increase the traffic through our door instead of letting the dentist just down the street get the new patient?  That is the age old question!

The Answer

Think outside of the box. We already know what we’ve been trained to do as “experts” in our field. And we should always strive to do it better! But we can’t just rest on our laurels anymore. There are far too many other businesses like yours and mine out there and potential customers/clients/patients are getting more and more digitally-savvy all of the time. They are doing their homework and basing the decisions they make on their research. And to make ourselves show up in an enticing way, we need to think outside of the box. And one of those ways is social media.

Let’s Get Personal: My Story

Let me tell you how social media changed the culture of my dental practice. I’ve been a dentist for over 22 years and have owned my own practice for 16 of those years. I, like many of my colleagues (and other small businesses), tried many of the traditional forms of marketing including, but certainly not limited to the Yellow Pages, Dex Knows, church bulletin ads, local newspaper coupons and participation in local school events. In the early days, the only way of tracking my analytics was by keeping track of my results with a notebook and pen. And one by one, I eliminated ineffective and sometimes costly marketing efforts that had little to no ROI (return on investment).

I was conflicted because I still felt that there was value in the tried and true “word of mouth” method of growing a practice. But I knew that with new competition popping up at every corner, I was going to die as a business if I didn’t figure out how to create growth effectively and inexpensively. And then, one day, one of my awesome patients came up with the answer. The conversation began innocently enough. I was complimenting her on her oh-so-funny blog and asking her how she was able to promote her blog so successfully. She looked me straight in the eye and said “You can do it too. Just create a blog for your website and get a Twitter account and tweet about your practice”.

Say WHATTTT??

There is Value in Being Impetuous and Impressionable

That very day, I solicited the help of Heather Acton,  freelance WordPress developer extraordinaire and I started designing a new WordPress website that would allow me to blog directly from my business website. I also set up a Twitter account and created a Facebook page. I worked diligently on increasing my presence on social media. I played with many ideas and tossed out the ones that didn’t work and kept the ones that did. I began doing videos that were posted to both YouTube and my website that dealt with dental health issues. I started a regular feature called Ask the Dentist in which someone emails me a dental health related question that I post and answer on my website.

I began to post articles to local newspapers to increase awareness of my office’s presence. I attended functions, some with the clever name of “Tweet Ups,” in and around the city of Chicago so that the many people that I was communicating with in social media I could meet face to face IRL (in real life)!

The result was a measurable increase in my “new patient” numbers as a result of my presence on social media.

To be clear, I made many mistakes along the way and even allowed myself to get slightly addicted to social media. But, the lessons that I gleaned as I muddled through the myriad of information I was reading and experimenting with, grew my desire to share a best practices sort of approach with dentists wanting to use social media. The result was my site, Social Media DDS, which allows me to consult with and coach dental professionals in the art of social media strategy.

What I Have Learned

  1. Have an interactive website. By interactive, I mean, make sure that your site is content rich and content fresh. Create a space on your website modeled after traditional “blogs” from which you can provide information to your readers and they can communicate with you. Have a fully functional and user-friendly commenting platform integrated into your website and “blog” such as Livefyre that allows conversation-like communication to occur, encouraging readers to participate in dialogue with you and the community.
  2. Be regular and predictable in your posts.  As Marcus Sheridan, the awesome author of The Sales Lion, says in this video interview, blog with regularity. Let your audience know that you will be there for them. Listen to their needs and then…engage, engage, engage. Social media is, after all, social. Once you have established a solid “home base” with your website presence, consider expanding your social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and, yes, even Pinterest.

Don’t Have Time?

I happen to LOVE working the social media and marketing angle for my dental practice. But I understand and appreciate that not all owners of a business can find the time to put into growing their social media presence. One of my favorite go-to people in the dental, social media marketing world is Rita Zamora of Social Media & Relationship Marketing. She suggests finding a “champion” for your social media presence (regardless of the type of business you run).

Look to your staff and decide who would be a perfect fit for championing your business. Let them represent the business. Teach them how to be the “voice” of your company. Delegate wisely. And, always keep your “voice” consistent and authentic. Never succumb to the temptation of letting a third party company be your “voice.” Always understand that your “voice” is what makes digital “word of mouth” marketing work.

Wrapping It Up

I am passionate about the potential of social media as a powerful tool in a business’ marketing strategy. I am also passionate about my business. It seems pretty intuitive then that, when I combine the powerful forces of my business with social media, awesome goodness is going to be the result.

I can’t imagine a new business in any industry not wanting to make sure that their internet presence is felt and that the business consistently nurtures its online presence. There are countless examples of success using the power of social media to build a business. I love to tell people that if I, as an owner of a dental practice, can grow my business utilizing the power of social media, then anyone can grow a business using social media!

How have you used social media to grow your online presence?  Has it worked?  Do you have any tips that might help others as they take their first steps into social media?

5 Ways To Generate Content Topics

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As I coach talent, people often ask me, “Where do I find good topics?” It’s often a struggle of new talent and veterans alike.

Creating an entertaining podcast show after show, week after week, is a challenge (and the tips below can apply to blogs and video episodes, too!). You need to find a topic that holds your interest. Your topic must also be attractive to your audience. Finally, you need to present it in a way that is engaging. Every topic, every time. Even the most seasoned talent run into a sort of writer’s block from time to time.

When you hit a wall and have no topic readily at hand, where do you turn? How do you get past the block to create engaging entertainment? Where does the next captivating topic originate?

There are five primary methods I teach my clients to get past the topic block. These five questions will help you find quality topics for your show. If you take a few minutes before each episode to brainstorm these questions, you will have plenty of material for your show.

The key to each of these questions is awareness. Be aware when events, comments and ideas throughout your day capture your attention. If you are interested in something, you can usually deliver it in a way that will be interesting to your audience.

Keep these questions in your mind as you go through your day. I would also suggest you keep a little notebook in your pocket to jot down ideas. You never know when the next interesting topic might pop up.

1. What daily happenings capture my attention?

Things are happening all around you everyday. You may find yourself wondering why things happen like they do. Something might spark a laugh. You might learn something new. All of these things can lead to great topics. Be aware.

Jot down people you meet, things you see and ideas you learn that capture your attention. It is possible to turn it all into great topics.

2. What has happened in my past that created vivid memories?

You have tremendous experience in your field. That is why you create your podcast in the first place. Put it to work.

What are the things in your past that generate clear memories? Remember, many listeners that are learning from you are staring at the very beginning. They are in the same place you were when you began years ago. Help them learn.

Even if your listeners already know the information, your podcast will serve as a refresher course. Be confident in your material. Deliver it with passion, and your listeners will love you.

3. What articles have caputure your attention?

Read many articles from a variety of industries. Your topic ideas won’t always come from information within your field. Simply look for statements within the article that pique your interest.

Read with a highlighter. Whenever you come across a word, phrase or sentence that captures your attention, highlight it. When you’re done with the article, scan the highlighted parts for the most interesting one or two. Use that word, phrase or sentence to begin brainstorming. You never know where it may lead.

Let’s say you read an article about the correlation between the location of churches and bars. As you highlight the article, you highlight a phrase where a local councilman wants to pass an ordinance to keep bars at least 500 yards from any church. Your podcast is about hockey. How do we make the link to a great topic?

When you begin brainstorming, your thoughts will lead in many directions. Within your freeform writing as you are considering new laws, you write, “People are always looking to change the rules of the game. Are more rules really good for the growth of the sport?”

Suddenly, you’ve gone from church and liquor to the rules of hockey. You now have a great topic. Topics can come from anywhere.

4. What conversations have you had today that were truly engaging?

If a conversation engaged both you and your counterpart, there is a good chance it will also engage your audience.

Conversations tend to wander in many directions. You might start discussing the news of the day. That may lead the discussion into a movie you want to see. Suddenly, you’re discussing classic leading men. Any part of the discussion might lead to a good topic. You simply need to be aware of the parts of the discussion that are most interesting.

5. What questions are people in your industry asking?

You can find questions on a daily basis even if you aren’t regularly talking to people. The internet is your friend. Search the discussion boards to find the questions.

Help those in your industry solve their problems. You don’t need to answer the question verbatim. Let the question lead you to great topics.

If you find a question interesting, but not completely engaging, rephrase it. Mold the question a bit until it becomes an entertaining topic. It doesn’t matter that the question is not exact. It only matters that it is compelling.

When your listeners e-mail questions to you, answer the question as it is stated and give credit to the individual that asked. If you feel the need to change the question to make it more engaging, briefly answer the original question, then move on to the rephrased version. Say something such as, “Yes, it is possible to do that. However, the more important question is ‘should you do that?’”.

Brainstorm your notes

Great topics can originate in many places. The topic might not jump out at first. However, you can brainstorm the topic until it becomes engaging.

If you get curious about something, there is a good chance your audience might be just as curious. Jot down things that strike your interest as they happen in daily life. Then, brainstorm a bit to really flush out the idea.

As you write, let your thoughts flow. Don’t critique.  Simply write.  Let the ideas flow to the paper.

You may start writing about your experience at a restaurant and by the end of your brainstorm wonder why we learn calculus. That’s ok. You simply want to find the most interesting topic related to your podcast. It doesn’t necessarily need to have any relationship to your original observation. Your topic only needs to be interesting.

Be aware of all that happens around you. That next great topic could come from anywhere. You’ll miss it unless you are looking.

Keep a notepad in your pocket. Write down everything that captures your imagination. Take ten minutes before your podcast to brainstorm your topic. You will get past the podcast topic block and create engaging entertainment with your content.

What Farmers Can Teach You About Blogging

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In this post, we’ll go over some blogging tips and blogging lessons you can learn from farmers. Where we grow up shapes who we are and how we blog.

I grew up in an extremely rural community. We’re talking more cows than people, 45 minutes to the nearest mall, and no access to cable (my parents actually had dial-up Internet until about six months ago). It was a farming community, with corn being the major crop of choice for most. Although I hated some aspects of growing up in this area as a teen, I look back and really respect the lessons I learned there now, especially from the hard-working farmers. These lessons have absolutely made me a better blogger.

Here’s what they taught me:

Work Hard for Every Dollar

Blogging as a career is tough. Physically, it’s a cake walk, but you have to have a really strong work ethic to make money this way. Part of the reason I think I’m successful today is that I learned from an early age not to be a slacker or procrastinate.

If you don’t do your work on a farm, you don’t make money. In fact, if you slack for more than a day, you put your plants and animals in jeopardy of dying. Things might not be so dire with your blog, but the same principle applies: if you don’t do your work every day, you stop making money and your traffic will eventually die. Blogging isn’t a “write it and forget it” job, despite what some people say about making money in your sleep. This is the exception, not the rule. You have to have a crazy work ethic as a blogger in order to make it a successful career.

Don’t be Something You’re Not

While you won’t find any Applebees or even Dominos in the community where I grew up, there are some mom-and-pop diners where you can grab a meal. Farmers will stop in for a cup of coffee or a bite to eat, often after they’ve already put in a few hours of work in the fields or barn.

Shoes and shirts are required, but that’s about as far as the dress code stretches. It’s nothing to walk in and see farmers unashamedly covered in dirt from their morning tasks. They aren’t trying to be something they’re not.

It’s an important lesson for bloggers. Every day, I see people trying to “fake it ‘till they make it” or represent themselves in a certain light, but at the end of the day, your readers will respect you more if you just show up in your work boots. Plus, it’s a lot easier and less time-consuming to be authentic instead of trying to portray yourself a certain way.

Save Your Pennies

Farming is hard work for little money, and a lot is up to chance every year. If you don’t get enough rain, your crops could die and you won’t make much money that season. A single bout of illness can kill off your livestock, and again, your bottom line will suffer. Every farm family I know has gotten extremely good at saving money.

As a blogger, this is also a good move, since your paycheck is uncertain and somewhat out of your control. With every Google update, for example, there are people who panic because they lose all of their traffic and their earnings plummet. Or if your site goes down for some reason, you might not make as much money this month as you usually do.

Pad your bank account to prepare for the dry spells. Even if you make a seven-figure income this year, next year you might make a fraction of that amount. You don’t get a regular paycheck as a blogger, so prepare for the dry spells.

Where We Grow Up Shapes Us

I think whether you grow up in the city or the country (or somewhere in between), you learn certain lessons that stick with you for the rest of your life. I feel very fortunate to have an upbringing that taught me the above lessons (and others of course). What lessons did you learn growing up that have stuck with you and have helped you in your blogging career today?

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!

5 Reasons I Prefer Audio to Video

Author:

It has taken me a long, long time to jump into video production. Even now, I am not enthusiastic about it, and I much prefer audio. Video versions of my podcasts have been put up on YouTube, but not in the past many weeks…I just can’t seem to commit to it. I thought long and hard about this for about 15 minutes and came up with five reasons I prefer audio podcasting to video podcasting and web TV.

1. I have bad hair days

If you have seen me at various conferences or seen any of the videos that I’ve produced, you’ll recognize the hat that I always wear (it’s in my profile photo at the end of this very article as well). It’s become a bit of a running joke that nobody has ever seen me without it. Well, there’s a reason for that.

Bad Hair Day

Me, last Tuesday.

I’m not the most self-conscious person in the world about these things, but just enough that I am not often eager to jump in front of a camera—not without my trusty black Kangol, at least.

2. Video is more expensive to produce

Well, yes, you could do a video podcast with a camera built into a laptop and the internal microphone. You could do one using that camera and a cheap USB headset, certainly. It won’t look very good, but you can do it. If we’re talking high-quality audio podcasts vs. high-quality video podcasts though, video is more expensive. You’ll want to get a decent camera for a hundred dollars or more. Storage is going to be an issue, unless you want to use YouTube or a similar service. Video files run very, very large. Storing and serving them from a media host or from a service like Amazon S3 can add up. You may want to spend some money building or decorating a set, whether it’s just a room in your house or someplace else. Don’t forget lighting! Without proper lights, your video will look grainy, washed out or out-of-balance, and that can have strange effects on your appearance.

Bad Hair Day

This is also me in poor lighting.

Everything that will be seen on camera needs to be considered.

3. There’s more acting involved with video

You’ve seen it on television and in movies. A character is talking on the phone to someone he is not enjoying talking to, so he starts rolling his eyes, making gestures and generally expressing himself in ways he wouldn’t want the caller to see. No doubt you’ve done this yourself—who among us hasn’t silently mimed smashing the phone to bits when talking to a girlfriend or boyfriend? Nobody, that’s who.

Web TV or video podcasts make it impossible to express annoyance, irritation or “OMG WHY AM I TALKING TO THIS IDIOT?!” with a guest or co-host because that camera is always on. Even if you’re not doing the conversation via live video, your show will be seen by the other party later on. Every moment of your show now requires you to be an actor. You can’t look disinterested. Your gaze can’t wander the room, you need to look like you’re paying attention at all times because it’s not enough to pay attention in your headphones, now you have viewers judging your performance. I myself have considered acting lessons.

But Clooney won’t return my calls.

4. Video takes longer to produce…

Different audio setups will have different files to work with, but for my setup, I record a WAV file that turns out to be anywhere from 500-800 MB per show, depending on the length of the episode. I edit that WAV file in Adobe Audition, apply a filter or two, and export the show to MP3. The whole process takes maybe five minutes, and that’s if I stop to check Facebook while I’m working. Video, on the other hand…

The first time estimate. I’m not waiting for the update to get a more dramatic screenshot, sorry.

This is Adobe Premiere rendering an episode. The show was a bit over an hour long, and it took three days to finish. Each video file (mine and each of my two co-hosts) was over 2 GB. My computer isn’t state-of-the-art, it’s a 2009 Macbook Pro with 8 GB of RAM, but still…three days. Sure, I can make the video’s dimensions smaller, or I could just not do picture-in-picture with my co-hosts, or I could skip the intro and the graphics…but if you’re not doing a good-looking video, what’s the point?

5. …because video is more complicated

Well, it’s like I said. Picture-in-picture, intros, graphics. In order to make a professional-looking video podcast, you need professional-level elements, and you need to be able to put them together. Editing video is a lot like editing audio; it’s all done in multitrack editors. The software is a lot more complicated when editing video, however. Audio and video tracks are often separated, insertion of elements is more complicated with video. Filters, transitions and effects abound in video editing, whereas audio filters and effects are less numerous.

Convince me.

So, here I am, audio podcasting guy totally dissing video (though totally not dissing people that do it because frankly, I’m jealous). What do you have to say to someone like me that isn’t really keen on video? Do you think you can convince me to double down and push video versions of my shows? I want to hear from you in the comments below. Let’s talk about video.

Introducing Our Brand New Free Ebook: The Ultimate Guide to Blog and Podcast Sponsorship

Author:

If you’re a blogger or podcaster wondering how in the world others in your field have caught the attention of major sponsors, you aren’t alone. Working with brands can take your content monetization to the next level, but sponsors don’t just materialize out of thin air and offer you cash for your blog or podcast – at least, not most of the time.

I get email questions about sponsorships at least once or twice a week: How do I find brands who want to sponsor me? Should I work with such-and-such a brand or will it make my fans angry? What can I do to make more money working with sponsors?

Our newest free ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Blog and Podcast Sponsorship, answers all of these questions and more.

I’m not going to sugar-coat things; working with brands can sometimes be a challenge. Many brands don’t fully understanding blogging and podcasting, so you often have to be an educator as much as a salesperson. Our ebook is all about helping you learn these skills so you can be successful when working with brands.

Let me give you a little sneak preview of the ebook with a quick FAQ about sponsorship!

What is blog/podcast sponsorship? Is it right for my blog/podcast?

Brands want to advertise their products and build their communities, and they can do so by working with influential bloggers and podcasters. This can be in the form of advertising, or you can work more in an ambassador type of relationship. Sponsorship is not right for every blogger or podcaster, but there are so many different options for sponsorship deals that you should definitely consider the options before writing it off completely.

What kind of sponsorship deals can I offer?

Depending on your type of content and niche, you can offer anything from banner ads on your sidebar to travel sponsorship deals where a company will pay to send you to a trade show. Other common sponsorship options include spoken ads (like commercials) , sponsored posts, sponsored social media messages, and wallpaper sponsorship.

How can I make myself attractive to sponsors?

The best case scenario is a sponsor emailing you with interest in working out a deal. This will never happen, however, if you’re unattractive to sponsors. You have to have quality content, decent traffic numbers, and a media kit. It can also help to create an advertising page and use language on your blog or in your show notes that will help sponsors find you when they’re searching for opportunities.

When will sponsors start contacting me?

You might be sitting around and waiting by the phone for a pretty long time. Instead, take matters into your own hands! Our ebook goes over five great techniques you can test out in order to find sponsorship deals instead of just waiting for them to happen. Be proactive!

Should I work with Brand XYZ?

In every niche, there are certain brands you want to avoid. It’s important to evaluate every potential sponsor, rather than just saying yes every time money is offered. There are several types of sponsorship deals you should avoid at all costs – and when you say no, you can definitely do so  in a way that doesn’t burn any bridges, so you can potentially work with the sponsor in the future on a different deal.

How much should I charge?

That’s a huge question, and the answer depends on several factors, including your traffic, the type of sponsorship, and your niche. Our free ebook covers this question in much more detail, along with some step-by-step options for setting prices.

How can I make even more money working with sponsors?

Are you offering package deals? Have you reminded brands already working with you about their sponsorship options? Have you created a relationship that will last long-term? Yes, you can make hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month with a single sponsor if you’re smart about it!

These FAQs are just a brief taste of what you’ll get in the full 130-page ebook we’ve created. So, if you’re ready to take your monetization strategy to the next level, download The Ultimate Guide to Blog and Podcast Sponsorship today!

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