Monday, October 31, 2011

Things That Go Bump

by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor


From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us! –A Scottish Prayer

Yes, it is Halloween! The children are thinking of scary things that go bump in the night, just as we did at their age. But now when I hear the word bump, I think of one of my favorite books written by Ralph Parlette entitled The University of Hard Knocks, The School That Completes Our Education. Parlette wrote that life is the University of Hard Knocks and tuition is free. The books are the bumps we experience as we go along life’s journey. If we are wise we learn them and move forward. If we are “fools” we must experience them again and again until they are learned.

In his book Parlette wrote of buying some apples from a grocer. Looking into the barrel he saw some large beautiful apples but looking into the sack he was given by the grocery he saw only one large apple and the rest were smaller. He thought the grocer had placed the larger ones on top to help his sales. But in fact the grocer had nothing to do with the placement of the apples. The apples themselves had decided their placement on their own while being delivered by the farmer.         

Apples placed in a barrel then in the back of a wagon and carried over a rough country road to town would shake at each bump in the road. With each bump the larger ones shake toward the top and the smaller ones shake towards the bottom. This occurs with beans, nuts, balls fruit or anything you might try. Size determines placement. Parlette said, “Equality of position demands equality of size. Let the little one grow bigger and he will shake up. Let the big one grow smaller and he will shake down.”

That leads us to our bumps or adversity and what to do about them. Shakespeare said, “Sweet are the uses of adversity.” Revelation 21:7 tells us “He that overcometh shall inherit all things.” With each bump in the road and each shake of the barrel we all move. The same shake that sends the bigger ones up send the smaller ones down. When you feel the bump and experience the shake learn from the adversity and grow. Let the little one grow bigger and he will shake up.

We are all in that barrel of life. All around us everything is shaking; every community, work place, school and home. When things go bump I think “Shake That Barrel”, learn from it and look upward for my new placement in life. Things that go bump aren’t always a bad thing. “Shake That Barrel”.   

Friday, October 28, 2011

What Will You Get to Do Today?

by Shannon Milholland, Social Media Director

My kindergartner crept downstairs at precisely 5 am Wednesday morning. Wearing her pajamas and a Cheshire worthy grin, excitement danced on her face. "Mommy, today is the day. I get to do so many things I've never done before. I get to ride on a school bus for the first time. I get to go on my first field trip."

Like a grenade aimed at bullet proof glass, her energy infiltrated my groggy heart. My immediate reaction was to ponder how my efforts to build a platform would revolutionize if I eradicated "I have to" and adopted "I get to".

What if today's mantra was....

  • I get to write a new blog post
  • I get to schedule tweets
  • I get to connect with someone new on LinkedIn
By flipping the switch in my brain from "I have to" to "I get to" tasks that once seemed like drudgery become delight. Okay maybe delight is a stretch but would you settle for doable? I know I would.

Make a list of three things you want to do today to build your platform as an author. Powered by the "get to" you'll get to build a more effective platform.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NaNo NaNo...or National Novel Writing Month

by Karen Ware


In the world of writers November is known as National Novel Writing Month. Also called NaNoWriMo, this event has become the world’s largest writing challenge and nonprofit literary crusade (not to mention fantastic practice for those of us beginning our writing careers or needing a break from writer’s block). 

With the hopes of writing a 50,000 word novel in thirty days, thousands of writers sign up at the National Novel Writing website located at http://www.nanowrimo.org. For the month of November writers attempt to meet their word count and ‘let their words flow’, sacrificing quality for quantity, as they squeeze out an approximately 175 page novel. The NaNoWriMo staff even advises you lower your expectations during the month and have fun with your story.

“Why?” you ask.

According to their website: “By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.”

Founded in 1999 by Chris Baty, this funky and fun writers’ community has cool widgets, word count scoreboards and friendly competition to make you eager to cross that finish line by 11:59 pm on November 30 with the full 50,000 words. Who knows, after completing this novel-of-sorts...why not go back, hone your work and you may find a truly great book…ready to submit! It has happened! In fact, nearly 60 novels begun during NaNoWriMo have been published, including Water for Elephants, a New York Times #1 Bestseller by Sara Gruen. It also became a film in 2011 starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon!

Since its humble beginning in 1999 with 21 participants to well over 200,000 participants in 2010, you are encouraged to write a novel in this one month’s time. Word counts are posted daily. Friendships are forged with others with similar interests. And if you complete your 50,000 words by the end of the month you can even get a cool winner’s certificate and web badge!

Sign up to begin your work before or on November 1. Browse the website and join forums, befriend other writers who will be there for support, join in friendly competition with other regions to see who will have the best word count at the end of the month.

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t reach the 50,000 word goal…not all writers do. Last year a little less than twenty percent of those participating completed their goals! But I’d be willing to bet most all had fun trying!

Take a few minutes to check out the website and see if it is something you would be interested in doing…I’ve tried it before (alas, I was not one of those with a completed book) and I enjoyed being able to just let the words flow without worrying about double-checking facts, making sure I was historically accurate or worrying about grammar. November is a month to just let loose and write; and I encourage you to try it!
_______________________

Karen Ware is a Mississippi Southern Belle, married with two college daughters. Proud of her daughters’ accomplishments but facing the empty nest syndrome, Ware is pursuing the writing career she always dreamed of having and loving it. She is a member of the Mississippi Writers Guild, RWA and HHRW Chapter. She is also an avid genealogy buff. You can find her online at www.karen-ware.com.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Snapshots for Chicken Soup for the Soul

Today, our Editor-in-Chief, Susan Reichert, is taking a much deserved break from blogging to bring you the sage advice of Tracy Crump of Write Life Workshops. Tracy is a multi-published Chicken Soup for the Soul author and offers us her tricks and tips to find our bylines in their books. Please give a warm Southern welcome to Tracy!


by Tracy Crump



We often think of our lives as one long autobiography when really they are made up of thousands of little stories woven together. Those “snapshot stories” are what Chicken Soup for the Soul looks for in submissions. But how can we present a picture from our lives that will appeal to this popular series?

Scope Out the Landscape

Years ago, Chicken Soup editors allowed writers to submit stories under a catchall title of “Other Stories.” No longer. Today Chicken Soup’s web site lists only their upcoming book topics, usually six to ten specific titles. Each listing includes a blurb about the proposed book. Right there in a nutshell, the editors are telling writers what they want. Write your story geared to their needs.

I always recommend reading Chicken Soup books or any other publication you wish to write for. You will find no better way to learn a publication’s tone, slant and preferences than reading what they’ve already published. I’m often surprised by the variety of stories I find in a Chicken Soup book, stories I never would have thought of submitting to that particular title. They spark memories of incidents I could write about and embolden me to take a chance on an unconventional idea.

Set Up Your Camera

Chicken Soup guidelines say they want stories about “ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” That sounds daunting, but it doesn’t mean they expect heroic deeds. Look for stories in everyday events and show how that event had an impact on your life, changed your perspective or touched you in some meaningful way. Tell a story that will make a connection with the reader.

Be sure to focus on a narrow topic—a moment, event or relationship that you can cover in 1200 words or fewer. Hone in on the important details. Remember, this is not your memoir. It’s a short story.

Snap the Picture

Tell your story in an engaging manner. Use strong nouns and verbs and let the reader “see” the action as it unfolds. Be sure to include all the elements of good storytelling: action, dialogue, conflict and resolution.

Chicken Soup says they want stories that will make the reader “cry, laugh or get goose bumps.” They want them filled with “emotion and drama.” Above all, they must have takeaway value, something the reader takes away from the story that touches his or her life. A good Chicken Soup story has to have a point.

Just like that shoebox of old pictures stored in the top of the closet, your life is full of interesting snapshot stories that you can pull out and show to readers. And that is just what Chicken Soup is waiting for.
_______________________________

Tracy Crump has published in a variety of magazines such as Focus on the Family, ParentLife, Light & Life, Journey and CBN.com. Ten of her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul. She is a frequent speaker at writers conferences and produces a free e-newsletter called The Write Life. Tracy’s latest venture is to join with Write Life Workshops partner Marylane Wade Koch to produce webinars. Their next webinar, “Stirring the Pot: Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul,” is scheduled for November 11, 2011. 

Connect with Tracy online at her website, on Facebook, Twitter and at Write Life Workshops.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Proving a Point

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director

Q: When is a question not a question?

A: When it ends with an interrobang!

Say what?! 

My point exactly.  Or, more specifically, an exclamation point.  With a question mark added.

The first time I ever saw an interrobang was while thumbing through one of my dad’s trade publications (he was an artist and a fan of fonts).  The magazine article introduced what was then thought to be an up-and-coming addition to the typography landscape, a symbol combining a question mark with an exclamation point, because there are times when just one or the other won’t do, and it would help to have both in one convenient punctuation. It could be used for rhetorical questions, or to exclaim disbelief.

Even as a youngster I thought this was rather ingenious, and it stuck with me.  I never knew its name, but for decades, whenever I had occasion to end a sentence with ?! I wondered what ever became of that funny mark.

Last week a friend reintroduced me to it, revealing its real name of “interrobang”, a cross between “interrogation mark” (the fancy name for question mark) and “bang” (a printer’s nickname for exclamation point), and I have to say, it was nice to see my old acquaintance after all these years.  I also discovered that it has gone by other names, like “rhet” – which is kinda catchy – and the somewhat clumsier “exclamaquest”.  (That one rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?!)

Despite actually making an appearance on some typewriters back in the day, alas, the interrobang never managed to enter the ranks of standard punctuation.  Yet, encouragingly, some font sets (certain versions of Calibri, Cambria, Lucinda and Palatino, among others) even today support it.  In fact, next time you’re playing around in Wingdings 2, hit the ] key (for right bracket) and you’ll see Mr Rhetoric.

No doubt we’ll see the introduction of many more wingdings and other typeable oddities in our lifetime.  But I’d love to see this particularly purposeful punctuation point prove popular before I die.  And when I go, let me go out with an interrobang.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Are You a Boat Potato?

by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor


We have all heard of the couch potato, one that sits on the couch and is unproductive by anyone’s standards. Have you heard of a boat potato? John Ortberg author of If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got to Get Out Of The Boat speaks of the gift we have been given. These gifts are our calling and in order to realize them, or in his words in order to walk on water, we must get out of the boat. Ortberg says there is something inside each of us that makes us want to do more than merely avoid failure. We have the desire to walk on water. But to do so we must get out of the boat.          

What is your boat? What is it that you find safety in? What affords you the comfort that entices you to remain in the boat and not seek your gift? Ortberg says there is a simple test to discover your boat. The test is FEAR.

Fear comes when we think of leaving the boat and stepping out on the water. Each time you think of taking the next step toward your gift, something in you will produce fear. That fear will tell you to stay where it is safe. Once our fears are identified, we must overcome them. Step over the side of the boat, get your feet wet. Discover getting out of the boat it is worth it. One step will lead to another and before you know it your life will change. You will no longer be a Boat Potato.

Take the FEAR test and get started…

Friday, October 21, 2011

Do I Know You?

by Shannon Milholland, Social Media Director

With the onslaught of social media, at times it feels like my relationships are reduced to clicks and bits. Conversation over coffee gives way to posts blurted out on the information highway. The need to connect cries from the deepest crevice of my soul.

This morning I couldn't sleep. I found myself huddled on the couch at 1:30 am watching Eat, Pray, Love. Minutes into the movie, the main character, Liz Gilbert is socializing at her closest friend's home. As her pal, Delia, hauls her newborn off for a diaper change, she entreats Liz to join her.

This scene profoundly depicts a truth I already know. It is the ordinary of life that forges deep relationship. A diaper change, an evening walk or a lazy afternoon of fishing is the planting which sprouts friendship. As writers, we are designed with perhaps an even greater need to connect at the deepest of levels. Is this possible in a world expressed in 150 characters or less?

Yes. If we are willing to step out from behind the curtain and allow our readers to see the fabric of our souls. Our authentic selves are weaved on a tapestry of everyday threads.

More Than Cornflakes


The conventional social media wisdom is to not share what one had for breakfast. I could not more enthusiastically agree. There is a vast difference in ordinary and boring. I recently read a list on a blog posted on the authors 33rd birthday or thirty-three things she'd never done. This list was littered with regular and was a fantastic peak into her heart. I saw a never-stamped passport gripped in the hand of a wife who's not slept away from her husband longer than four consecutive nights. She is no longer just a writer to me. She is a woman with whom I'd like to share coffee; a woman I'd be honored to call friend.

Writing From the Coffee House


I love to write in my second office whose in congruent corporate symbol is a green mermaid. Nothing inspires my fingers to prose more than a steaming hot, over-priced cup of java. I'm pretty sure I've seen you there next to me with hands flying over your keyboard as the next chapter of your novel tumbles onto the page.

We write from the coffee house but at times without the heart of the coffee house. Pretend your best mate is perched next to you. What would you tell him? Would you high five over the Rangers trip to the Series or moan about your son who recently changed majors...for the fifth time. These snippets of your life invite your readers to take a seat with you on the couch.

I'm in between diaper changes at the moment. My kids are too old and I'm too young. This doesn't mean I can't invite my online friends into the ordinary of my life. Will you join me at the coffee house and tell me what you'd reveal there? I'd love to run with you on your first 5-K, read a novel together or laugh about how you're stuck in traffic same as me.

Do I know you? Not yet...but I want to.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Slice of Life Through the Camera Lens

by Suzette Mahoney


I have always been interested in taking photos. I was an avid scrapbooker back in the day. Fast forward to 2008. I found a blog and knew I must immediately jump on board. I love to tell a story. I believe an essential element to storytelling is the use of photos. It keeps your reader interested and gives them a glimpse into your world. 




Have you ever taken a walk through your neighborhood in the early evening and you see lamps on in a home and you think, “I wonder what that family is doing?” Well today, through blogging we get a peek, don’t we?




I do have a disclaimer...I am not nor will I ever be a professional photographer. I just snap the photos and hope for the best. I like to use my fancier, albeit non-professional camera, but I am certainly not above a cell phone photo. Whatever enhances the post and makes it come alive for the reader.




Here are a few of my tried and true tips. I always look for natural light. I am not a fan of flash photography.




I regularly have my photo set on the “P” or “Program” setting. This was simply trial and error and I would say some of my best shots have been when I set it to “P.”




Don’t be afraid to capture the action even if lighting isn’t the best case scenario and you have no idea what setting your camera is on. The secret is to capture what is happening. 




Don’t be afraid to get to close. I find some of my favorite shots are when I have gotten my camera as close as possible.




Don’t be afraid to back up. Sometimes you need all the details to really help tell the story. 


Take photos of yourself, even if you have to use a mirror or the self-timer. Having photos of yourself will be a treasure to your children and it really helps to establish a relationship with your readers.




Take a lot of photos. I mean A LOT! Then, delete most of them. Use your favorite ones to enhance your story. Don’t forget those “slice of life” photos. This will make your reader feel like they are peeking into your world and sharing your life. And really, that is exactly what you are doing. It is a wonderful excuse to take lots of photos and document all of those ordinary moments that really add up to the best moments of our life!




See more of my slice of life at The Frat Pack + Me
________________________________________________


Suzette Mahoney is a former teacher turned Mom of two teen boys. She began blogging in 2008 to keep track of the antics of her boys and to keep her family informed of their shenanigans. She is originally from Florida, but now resides in North Carolina by way of Texas. She is committed to her faith, family, photography and the consumption of cupcakes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

From Bumps to Best

by Susan Reichert


Sometimes we are going along on life’s road, it is smooth sailing, and then we hit a bump.
That bump may be our testing ground. How we handle it will determine where and how far we go in life.
The first thing some of us do when we hit that bump is start telling ourselves all the reasons we can’t overcome this bump. Some of those reasons we use we heard in childhood and some we allowed to be dumped on us in adulthood and some we have spoon-fed ourselves.
We give ourselves mental beatings. It’s a wonder some of us can still walk. We spend our time convincing ourselves why we can’t do something when we should spend our time telling ourselves why we can do it.
Instead of developing fear, let’s concentrate on developing courage. It’s our life, let’s make the best of it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Matter of Time

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director

Every once in a while, the subject comes up (usually after the latest Iron Man or X-Men movie), and someone will ask this question:

“If you were a superhero, what superpower would you have?”

Despite the many options one could envision, I’m kind of proud to say my answer has stayed the same over the years. The reason I’m proud is because I think it’s the most logical choice of all. My superpower would be the ability to stop time.

Imagine. If you could stop time in its tracks you’d have all the other superheroes beat by a mile. You wouldn’t need to leap tall buildings in a single bound (like Superman) because you could just walk. You wouldn’t need super strength (like, say, the Hulk on a bad day) since you could simply go get your car and push whatever’s in your way. Everything and everybody would simply wait until you were done.

Now, you may have come up with a superpower you think is better than mine, such as being able to go back in time and change the past. But come on, that could never happen. Let’s keep it real.

In my scenario, deadlines wouldn’t stress you out, since you’d have the power to stall them until tomorrow, or next month. Running late for a big event? Forget about it. Get there when you can, and stop for a sandwich on the way.

Seriously, marvel at this list of things you’d accomplish: you’d have time to read every book and watch every movie you ever wanted to catch up on. You could write endless novels, learn new languages, and become a master at any skill you desire. You wouldn’t even need a cape.

Unfortunately, the closest most of us will ever come to stopping time is hitting pause on the DVR. But there are, of course, ways we can take charge of the hours we have. 

Time management experts tell us to ask the “Lakein Question” (named after author Alan Lakein): “What is the best use of my time right now?” In other words, “Is this what I want or need to be doing right this minute?” If the answer to both of those questions is “no”, you’re probably wasting your time! 

Separating the urgent from the important is another staple of time management, and like most of us, I wish I was better at telling them apart. All day long our truly important tasks will be interrupted by some urgent thing that can’t wait or can wait but we don’t let it because it seems important such as an email or a phone call. Meanwhile, the important item is on the back burner again. 

If you have a goal, sticking with it is the way to see it through. Control your time instead of letting it take control of you.

Now that I think of it, there was an Adam Sandler movie about five years ago called Click, in which the hero was able to stop everything around him with a remote control. It was actually pretty amusing. In fact, I wouldn’t mind going and watching it right now. But I don’t have the time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Commission Free Sales

Today our managing editor, Doyne Phillips is hosting a special guest, Rob Eagar. As founder of Wildfire Marketing, Rob is an expert in spreading an author's message like wildfire.
by Rob Eagar

One of the keys to selling books like wildfire is to get other people to act as a salesperson for you. Instead of marketing all by yourself, imagine hundreds of people singing your praises to the public. A great way to make this happen is by utilizing the power of success stories.
For example, Dave Ramsey, radio host and New York Times bestselling author of The Total Money Makeover, uses the power of success stories better than any author I know. Every Friday, Dave invites listeners to call his radio show, declare how much personal debt they use to carry, explain how Dave helped them get out of debt, and then scream with glee, "I'm debt free!" Dave congratulates them, plays a funny inspirational soundtrack, and you can't help but feel happy.

However, these joyful moments aren't just for the benefit of the caller. These emotional success stories also create a powerful marketing dynamic for Dave's books. Listeners are moved by hearing Dave's readers revel in their newfound financial freedom. If you're someone who happens to be in debt, these stories create a natural attraction to check out The Total Money Makeover.
You may not have a nationwide radio program like Dave Ramsey. Regardless, any author (fiction and non-fiction) can use the power of success stories as effective marketing tools. As you gather positive feedback from readers, share them regularly through your newsletter, website, blog, and social media pages. You could even create a regular focus on them like Dave does. You may not have people shouting, "I'm debt free!" Instead, your success stories can help people see your books and think, "I want to read!"

*Used by permission. Originial source here.
_____________________________

Rob Eagar is the founder of WildFire Marketing who helps individuals and organizations spread their message like wildfire through innovative marketing strategies. He has consulted with numerous publishers, non-profits, business leaders, and worked with over 400 authors at all levels, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. Click here for a sample of Rob's clients.

Rob is passionate about helping authors and organizations spread their message like wildfire. Besides his own writng experience, he has a marketing degree from Auburn University, produced seven straight years of sales increases for the American Nonwovens Corporation, and developed a $6,000,000 marketing plan for Sellars Textiles as National Sales Manager. His past success and marketing expertise unite to form a powerful advocate for your message.                               

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Apple of My Eye

by Shannon Milholland, Social Media Director

The passing of Steve Jobs has made a profound mark on our country. Few individuals effect as much change in as few years as he. He revolutionized the way we interact and made our planet several sizes smaller through radical technological advances.

I wonder if we've contemplated our ability to go radical. Do we want to leave an indelible imprint like Steve Jobs? Or will we be a mere ripple in the waters that vanishes as quickly as it appears? As writers, we can take several cues from Steve Jobs which will catapult our impact from marginal to Apple.

Imagine

Steve saw the world from a different perspective. He contemplated things as they could be instead of how they are. We can read a book on platform growth and implement every strategy but if we don't know why we're doing the things we are, it's fruitless. 

Imagination is valuable for far more than characters and plot lines. We must envision our goal. Once we know where we are headed, our tweets, blog entries and Facebook posts take on purpose that reflects our passion. Imagine your writing career as you desire it to be and then plot a straightline path to it.

Innovate

Steve didn't just see the world different, he made the world different. As I survey the blogosphere and the book market in general I see a lot of the same. Everyone wants to write in the hot new genre. Writers flock to the latest posting trend. What if we decided to innovate instead of imitate?

Could you create a new writing niche? Might you be the first to crown Sundays as Soze Sundays and start a trend of concocting an entire story line in 30 minutes or less from a single object of inspiration? (Side note: Reference here the 1995 movie hit The Usual Suspects, in which the main character creates an elaborate lie on the fly based on the name Soze printed on the china cup the detective is holding.) 

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. How would you like to be the one flattered for a change? Become an innovator.

Inspire

Steve Job's most significant impact might be his ability to inspire. Not only did he create and design the inconceivable, he influenced others to implement his dreams.

We wield the mightiest of weapons - the written word. It is powerful and effective but only when used to inspire others. Throughout history novels such as Uncle Tom's Cabin have shaped the course of history. It wasn't enough for Harriet Beecher Stowe to dream of a climate shift in America, she had to write the words that enacted change.

You may be like me and be tempted by the low-hanging fruit of a one-size-fits-all platform. When we choose to imagine, innovate and inspire we spring from bottom dweller to top picker. In other words, we become the apple of our eyes.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

5 Ways to Get on the Shelf and Get Noticed

by Amy Bayliss

As writers I think we can all agree on one thing: we desire to be read.

So what happens when you spend hours each week crafting an article for your website or blog only to find that very few people have read it? Discouragement can set in quickly but it is soon overclouded by confusion. You know the content is good. You know it is written well. Your writer's critique group raved over it so what could be the problem?

It's simple. In the vast network of the internet your website is lost. No one can find it. If it can't be found, it can't be read.

The internet is like a library. It stores and shares millions of written works in the hopes someone will want to check them out. Search engines are like the card catalog guiding people to what interests them. In this internet library, your website is still in a back room somewhere waiting for the librarian to tag it, categorize it, add it to the card catalog and put it on a shelf.

Five Ways to Get on the Shelf and Get Noticed

1. Choose an SEO (search engine optimization) friendly platform. Self-hosted WordPress sites are superior when it comes to SEO friendliness. This platform also delivers more options in the way of advertising, plug-ins, networking and monetizing. Perhaps the most appealing feature for writers is that you own your content with this platform. If you write on a free platform then you should check your terms. It is likely they can use your content at any time to benefit them and you can't do anything about it.

2. Use highly searched keywords. I use and recommend Google's keyword tool to find the terms that people are searching for but that have low competition. Strategically placing them in the title and post body in a way that reads naturally will contribute to an increase in search rank. Using those same keywords to name the photos within the post will also bring traffic.

3. Optimize internal links. Linking to your articles from within other articles is called internal linking. This practice is beneficial for several reasons but we'll discuss the two main ones. Internal linking causes others to stay on your blog longer. The longer people stay, the lower your bounce rate which increases your search ranking. It also serves as a way to get more hits from your RSS feed reader subscribers. Without links within a post they aren't likely to click over to your site but if there is an enticing link within an article then chances are good that they will click on it. NOTE: Always use search worthy anchor text when linking. That means you should not use "click here" as the link. Instead use a keyword phrase or the title of the post. No one searches for "Click here."

4. Network with other writers in your niche. You can reach more together than you can apart. When you link to each other Google pays close attention. That is what Google looks for. In addition to it being good for search rankings it is also great for readership. You expose each other to your readers. The internet is an unlimited audience. Here we can share readers instead of competing for them. Guest posting on sites is the most successful way of gaining other readers. Promoting each other on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter increases search rankings and exposes you to new readership.

5. Avoid duplicate content posting. In the past when a writer published on another site they would simply freshen up an old article or even use the same article on multiple sites. That is no longer advised. Google frowns upon sites that have duplicate content. It is also no longer recommended that you write excerpts to articles on your blog since that too can be seen as duplicate content. Instead, change out complete words and sentences or rearrange the format of articles before reusing them. Publish a synopsis on your site to direct traffic to the article you wrote and be sure to use searchable anchor text when doing so. This practice will benefit both sites.
We've only scratched the surface of ways to improve your web presence but this list will definitely get you out of the backroom and onto a shelf to be discovered.
_____________________

Amy Bayliss is a professional writer whose preferred medium is the internet. Her skills and talent help hundreds as a consultant and the co-founder of DIYMinistry.org. Along with her business partner, Lisa Boyd, they have made the site a one-stop site for help for those looking to build a platform online. You can also find Amy blogging at her home on the web: AmyBayliss.com.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Something to Shout About

by Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief
Do you give yourself pep talks daily? We all need a cheerleader.Who better to cheer us on than ourselves? Yes, family can, but the first person should be us.
In order to feel good we need inspiration. We have all been to meetings where they inspire us to do greater things and when we come out of there we feel like we are walking on air. By the time we get home, someone has let the air out and we are back down on the ground…pecking around.
If only we could feel like we did in those meetings, we could jump tall buildings, move mountains and soar with the eagles.
Well I have news for you. You can. Just sit yourself down, and give yourself a pep talk. Tell yourself how good you are, how wonderful you are and that you can do anything. Just tell yourself that everyone you meet is going to have his or her hearts open to you and that everything you endeavor to do is going to be good.
You may not feel it the first few times you do it, but if you work at it, every day, eventually you will believe yourself. You will notice you walk straighter even with a skip almost in your step. People will be smiling back at you because you are smiling at them. Your heart will feel lighter because the baggage has been moved out and been replaced with wonderful accolades.
So start now, be your very own cheerleader and see for yourself, soon you will feel every day just like you did when you left that meeting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Running for Cover


by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine


You may have heard something in the past week about a new research study that made this stunning discovery:
 
Women who wear makeup appear more professional.
 
Really? Who would have guessed such a thing? That study seems about as necessary as one that determines whether men who wear ties look more authoritative. I’m seriously considering applying for a grant to see if being given a million dollars enhances your bank account.
 
Some things are just so obvious it’s hardly worth the thought.  And yet going back to the makeup thing it’s surprising how many authors overlook the importance of putting on a good face; that is, giving their book an attractive cover.
 
In a previous post, we talked about making a successful first impression with an intriguing title. The other essential key to wooing a potential reader is using the look of the book to hook.
 
Granted, if you’ve been lucky enough for a major publishing company to accept your manuscript, they’re going to commission the artwork and layout themselves. In this scenario, the publisher takes care of the creative post-production. A writer need only conjure up a great book and, after publication, look presentable at book signings (lipstick optional, although apparently highly recommended). 
 
Meanwhile, in this modern era of self-publishing, more and more writers assume complete control over the entire process, including designing the cover, with varying results. To their credit, some self-published books look breathtakingly professional, easily on a par with the bestsellers they share shelves with. Regrettably, others don’t do justice to the excellent words inside. Sometimes you can’t even read the title because of poor font or color choice.
 
A blurry photograph, even if the subject matter is appropriate, screams “amateur” and one will automatically assume that the book itself is equally out of focus. Likewise, a friend who does some painting on the side may not be the best choice to help you put your best foot forward. The price will be right, but you’ll pay a higher price when book sales disappoint. 
 
Those who’ve been there recommend searching out an artist or photography pro, ideally one near you, whose style resonates with you (they can easily be found online, where you’ll see examples of their work). Stock photo sites are also ideal for scouting out images. In conjunction with the artwork, an experienced graphic designer should be enlisted to put it all together in an attractive format.
 
Then, just as you’ve gotten trusted, literary-minded acquaintances to read your manuscript and give you practical feedback, don’t skimp on seeking qualified judgment on your proposed cover graphics. Artistic opinion is especially subjective, so get as many critiques as it takes to be sure you’ve got yourself a winner.
 
What if your book is already on the market and you realize your cover is not what it could be? Don’t kick yourself. Some of our favorite self-published authors have changed their covers in recent months, using their second-edition printing to upgrade. They report that the investment is paying off.
 
You’ve poured your heart into your book.  Why not get it in the hands of your audience by making it one they’ll be proud to be seen reading in public, and inspires others to ask, “What are you reading?”


Monday, October 10, 2011

Our Performance Equals Our Potential...Or Does It?

by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor

“Success and failure come with great interference.”  Winston Churchill

I received this drawing from one of my Facebook friends this week. I do not know it’s origin but was taken by its truth. So many times we expect a “B-line” to success without any detours or bumps in the road. But “what it really looks like” is much more accurate.
Interference has its way of creeping in. I have always felt there were two types of interference. One is the uninvited and unwelcome that can show up at any time in the form of a neighbor, family member, or personal problem that needs your attention. Then there are the sought after and sometimes even fabricated interferences used as an excuse to escape the task at hand. Either must be overcome in order for us to move forward to success.   

Marketing is no different. We will be distracted along the way but will need to correct and get back on track. I once heard the example of the guided missile used. We are all similar to a guided missile. We are constantly going off track and must be guided back on track. Unlike the guided missile we do not have the convenience of technology constantly monitoring us and guiding us back. This we must do ourselves.

David L. Cook, PhD is a renowned performance and sports psychologist. I found one of Dr. Cook’s points in Mindset of a Champion: Performing Your Best When it Means the Most to be particular to writers and their performance. We assume our Performance equals our Potential. But Dr. Cook says Performance equals Potential minus Interference. Dr. Cook told of Magic Johnson speaking to the Washington Wizards. They had their best year in over ten years and were headed to the playoffs.  Magic told them as the playoff begins interference mounts. Managing interference at this stage of the game is vital. Dr. Cook said he was there to prepare them for the interference that was about to come in their life. All the hype had to be overcome in order to win the playoffs. I recommend writers seek his help with interference by getting a copy of Mindset of a Champion: Performing Your Best When it Means the Most.

Watch for an interview with Dr. David L. Cook author of Golf’s Sacred Journey, Seven Days at the Links of Utopia and its movie adaptation Seven Days in Utopia, in the November issue of Southern Writers Magazine.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I am a Poet?

by Kendal Privette

My first book, Pinky Poo, Here to Save the Day, never reached beyond its target audience – my family and Mrs. Perkins, my first grade teacher. After all, what kind of platform does a seven-year-old have? Fast forward thirty-four years, and I have a closet full of notebooks and a flash drive twenty-three percent full of documents that I have never shared with anyone. How, then, do I consider myself a writer? And a poet?

I began writing in earnest in 2006 when a friend gave me a medium-sized red, spiral notebook for my birthday. Her card read, Write it. She meant my journey. Write it. I was in the midst of battling anorexia and felt utterly hopeless. I scrawled out hateful messages to myself, notes for the doctors, grocery lists, and questions for God. And a story was born. It’s first shape? A novel. A fairly heinous attempt, I have to admit. I stalled out in the narrative and struggled to shape realistic dialogue. But I finished it. A novel. Enter the Western Carolina Literary Festival of 2007. Enter Thomas Lux and Gloria Vando, and my poet’s heart was born. Finally a form that fit my need for brevity and weightiness.

I began publishing poetry pieces on my Facebook page under Notes, and met with mild success (success being defined in quantity of comments). I covered what was on my heart – anecdotes about the children, family memories, thoughts on faith. In the background, I began writing my story, Full, in the same format. I relied on journal entries and memories to compile sixty-one poems that captured the three-year battle.  I entered the blog world in 2010, writing mostly poetry about my daily life – struggles with ED, mentoring, faith, church, family. I publicize on my Facebook account and link up with several memes on a regular basis.

I always tell my middle school students that neither writing nor reading poetry has to be scary, and then we read Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout and song lyrics just in case they don’t believe me. Do you believe it? Go ahead. Give it a try. Pull out that spiral or open a new document and write your heart.

·         Think about your goal. Mine is to write a brief piece, packed with meaning that captures the reader and moves her to think, laugh or recognize a truth.

·       Write about something real from your life. It should be authentic.

·       Word placement is important when writing poetry. If I want a particular one to have emphasis, I usually put it alone on a line or at the end of line.

·       Don’t let the number of words trip you up. I write until my thoughts are complete, whether I end up with seven words or seven pages. And then I pare it down!

·       Throw away preconceived notions about rhyming and meter. Not necessary. Of course, if it’s sonnets you enjoy, go for it!!!

·       Throw away preconceived notions about capital letters and punctuation.  At this season in my life, they have a crowding effect on my pieces, so I don’t generally use them. (And I’m a language arts teacher!!!)

·       Don’t stress over a title. At least not in the beginning. Mine come to me last, after the piece has taken shape. Since poems have a lot of meaning packed into a few words, make the title essential to your meaning.

·       Finally, and this is a hard one for me, if readers don’t interpret your piece the way you interpret it, get over it.

And as you write. And as you read. Remember the words of Paul Valery, A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” Write with passion. Read with grace!
________________________________

Kendal lives in northwestern North Carolina where she teaches middle school and is raising two boys. She and her husband have a heart for missions and travel when they can. She loves reading and running in her spare time. She has published one book, Full, and blogs {mostly poetry} at a spacious place.