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Archive for May, 2012

Damn, that’s a lot of words!

Well, it was an amazing personal accomplishment, but I not only finished the 2012 WordCount Blogathon – I completed it back to back with the Ultimate Blog Challenge, for 58 straight days of blogging. And then we begin the Author Blog Challenge on June 2nd. Whew – take a breath.

And tomorrow, we rest.

In the interest of completion, here are the number breakdowns for my participation in the May 2012 WordCount Blogathon:

WORDS WRITTEN. OK, so they’re not NaNoWriMo
numbers, but it’s a pretty good figure for one month of blogging,
making for an average of 848 words per day.

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PAGE VIEWS. That’s our best month yet,
beating out the aberration that occurred with the record
892 hits for our International Women’s Day post.

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COMMENTS. Of course, that number includes
my responses, too. Some of our readers have great
ideas – so make sure to read the comments and add your own!

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IMAGES. We use at least one image with every post –
obviously some, like this one, get many more than that.

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STRAIGHT DAYS OF POSTING.

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LIKES. We love our fans!!

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GUEST POSTS. By Yael Grauer about watching your
Ps and Qs when pitching and Judith Cassis about
her experience working with an efficiency consultant.

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HAIKU. Yeppers. We wrote one. Here it is, in all its 17-syllable glory:

To sell books I work

Branding and marketing them

Won’t you buy one, please?

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The only stat unaccounted for is links – how many we included in our posts, how many of those were clicked, and how  many incoming links we received. But we don’t have all nigh to get this wrapped up, so you’ll have to just go with our best guess: plenty of links.

Thanks for playing with us. Thanks to Michelle and all her staff/volunteers for facilitating the Blogathon! Best of luck to all the participants. If you’re up for another one soon, come check out the Author Blog Challenge. It starts Saturday!

Cheers!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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All about the alliteration…

As I was musing over ideas for today’s post, I started doodling and making notes about the random thoughts that popped into my head. As it turns out, three of those thoughts began with the letter P: planning, polarizing, and paying. So it doesn’t take a cryptographer to figure out how the rest of the post unfolded.

The thing is, there is power in word play. As Simon Smith notes in a post for Right Spot Media:

To some, the connection between a strong brand and the repetition of sounds might seem farfetched. But researchers have studied the impact of alliteration and found that it may indeed aid memorability. In fact, studies have shown that alliteration is such a powerful mnemonic that providing students with alliterative sentences can help them more easily learn a new language.

Consider some very popular name brands:

Best Buy

Dunkin’ Donuts

Krispy Kreme

PayPal

Volvo

Weight Watchers

Phillip Davis of SmallBusinessDelivered.com notes the efficacy of alliteration in branding small companies, as well:

We made use of this technique with one of our clients: Park Place Garage. Not only did the name have alliteration with the two Ps, but it also contained a double entendre (Park Place is both a place to park a car and a name associated with high end real estate).

So here’s my stab at an alliterative alphabet of writing- and marketing-related phrases. Some are even whole sentences unto themselves! One thing to note: alliterative sounds needn’t all contain the same letters. Also, you can carry the alliteration through internal syllables.

Authentic authors aspire to achieve astute audiences.

Bountiful branding builds your business.

Conscious consistent connection creates continuing contacts.

Drip e-mail develops dedicated devotees.

Editing enhances your exposition.

Funky freelancers fulfill fantasy niches.

Good graphics generate great get-up-and-go.

Hot headlines hit hard.

Internet interest is increasing by the hour.

Journalists justify juggling jewels and junk.

Clever keywords capture knowledgeable niches.

LinkedIn allows a legitimate look at one’s work life.

Messaging makes media move.

No longer neophytes, Larsson fans await the next new novel, unaware there will be no more.

Once you overcome the obstacles, Outlook offers many opportunities to achieve your e-mail objectives.

A promising platform is the first step to prestige.

Quixotic quips … quick questions … quite the quandary.

Readers are ready to reel in this old writer’s ruminations.

Sentence structure will set your essay to sink or swim.

Trendy taglines transform text without trickery.

Once uniquely useful, Facebook has become ubiquitous and unoriginal.

Vocal variety creates vibrancy.

WordPress wizards write regularly.

eXcellent designers employ eXtreme devices.

Youthful yearning is a customary storyline in YA fiction.

Zippy zingers zap the readerz’ eyeballz.

OK, tell me what you really think. At least I had fun with it! If you decide to try it yourself and come up with anything really outstanding, please come back and share it with us in the comment section below!

Happy alliterating –

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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Comments from a Skype convert

It’s official – I’m no longer a Skype virgin. I suppose technically I wasn’t really a virgin anyway, as I’d seen Skype calls in action before and participated in a family call with my husband’s niece who lives in New York City. But there’s something very different about a business call and a “chat” with an uninterested 2-and-a-half-year-old.

I realize that like other things (MP3s and childbirth come to mind), I’m not the first to discover and marvel at something that’s new to me but which others have been doing for quite some time. (Note: There were 4 MILLION other users online when I was on my call.) However, all I can do is share from my limited personal lens.

I assume I’m also not the only one who watched those TV shows as a kid and one day imagined being able to see the person on the other end of the phone, rather than just listen to them. We all thought it would be so cool. Then the technology actually arrived, and I was no early adopter. I frankly didn’t get the appeal. Sure, I don’t necessarily have to leave my house to have that meeting, but I still have to pay attention that the shirt I’m wearing doesn’t have mustard stains on it and that I don’t have bed head.

So, I delayed becoming a Skyper. People would ask about it and I’d put them off. I had the camera and software installed on my computer, but we’d either do old-fashioned phone calls, the much more labor intensive online video conferencing, or meet in person. Until yesterday.

My client Maria, rather to my annoyance, was persistent in her desire for this Skype call. It was only once we connected and she said, “I prefer this way to just using the phone because it’s much more intimate and personal,” that I finally understood.

It’s also useful! Neither of had to scan and save and send – or drive 20+ miles to meet in the middle – for her to show me some images she’s considering for an upcoming presentation. She just held the pictures up to the camera and I got the full impact there and then.

My first foray into this free video conference service wasn’t without a hitch, however. Maria wasn’t able to hear me, so we used our phones while we connected visually via Skype. I found out later it was a simple setting issue on my end – now that it’s repaired, our next Skype adventure will likely be easier and even more fruitful.

Please don’t mistake me. I’m not a proselytizer or Skype missionary – just someone who’s had a change of heart and thought you might want to reconsider it if you’d been avoiding this new technology, as I did for so long.

Happy Skyping!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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Word clouds may be overused, but they still have their place

Word clouds are graphic word pictures you can use to map or emphasize a cluster of words for a variety of purposes. WordPress offers a word cloud widget that shows off your most frequently used tags/keywords, the most often used words appearing largest in the cloud.

Originating in the early 90s, there are three main types of word clouds, which are distinguished by their meanings, rather than appearance.In the first type, one tag appears for the frequency of each item. In the second type, global tag clouds indicate frequencies that are aggregated across all items and users. In the third type, the cloud contains categories, with the size of each tag indicating the number of subcategories.

Not everyone is a fan. Jacob Harris of the Neiman Journalism Lab writes in a post titled “Word Clouds Considered Harmful:

For starters, word clouds support only the crudest sorts of textual analysis, much like figuring out a protein by getting a count only of its amino acids. This can be wildly misleading; I created a word cloud of Tea Party feelings about Obama, and the two largest words were implausibly “like” and “policy,” mainly because the importuned word “don’t” was automatically excluded. (Fair enough: Such stopwords would otherwise dominate the word clouds.) A phrase or thematic analysis would reach more accurate conclusions. When looking at the word cloud of the War Logs, does the equal sizing of the words “car” and “blast” indicate a large number of reports about car bombs or just many reports about cars or explosions? How do I compare the relative frequency of lesser-used words? Also, doesn’t focusing on the occurrence of specific words instead of concepts or themes miss the fact that different reports about truck bombs might be use the words “truck,” “vehicle,” or even “bongo” (since the Kia Bongo is very popular in Iraq)?

I’m of a mixed mind on the whole word cloud idea. While I believe they have their place (classrooms being, perhaps, the most obvious), they are becoming ubiquitous and overused — much like the Comic Sans and Papyrus fonts.

Who am I to judge, though? Maybe you have an important use for the almighty word cloud. So here’s a quick primer in Wordle.net, a free online tool for crafting word clouds.

  • Visit the site and click on the CREATE link.
  • Insert your terms into the box or enter a link from which you’d like the program to pull words.
  • Note that the system is built for single words only. The only way to include a phrase is by making it AllOneWord.
  • Once you’ve got all your words in the box, click GO.
  • Stylize your word cloud by altering the FONTS, COLORS, or LAYOUT. You do have the option to customize your palette.

Here are a few sample layouts, all using the same words.

Today I was reminded that we often have the biggest challenges with the parent to whom we are most similar. Such was the case with my mom. Our relationship was often turbulent, but my dad was fond of telling me that I got all my creative talents from her. All of that came rushing back as I “touched up” my word cloud. Mom never bought an item of clothing, a picture frame, or a flower arrangement that she didn’t find a way to “improve” as soon as she got it home. For my part, I changed the color and placement of some of the words in my cloud. I also made the term “my book” larger, turned it a bright fuchsia color, and moved it to the very center of the word cloud.

If you think you may have a use for word clouds in your book marketing endeavors, by all means, give it a try.

Happy word clouding!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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4 books for the VETERANS in your life and the people who love them

Since the start of our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve met combat vets – but I have no one in my immediate circle who is a vet or has a vet in their family. Nevertheless, I am ever aware of their sacrifice and the devastating effects of these wars on them – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. In tribute to our vets and in honor of Memorial Day, I decided to compile a short book list. I didn’t start out with these books in mind (I was actually thinking more along the lines of Flags of Our Fathers), but this is where my research took me, and appropriately so.

Regardless of your position on US involvement in these – or any –wars, I’m thinking we all can agree about one thing: our vets deserve our honor, respect, and the best medical treatment they can get. Though I have not read the books below, they come highly recommended for vets themselves and the people who love them. Each segment contains an excerpt from the book, portion of a review, and shot of the book cover.

Fields of Combat: Understanding PTSD among Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan (The Culture and Politics of Health Care Work)

by Erin P. Finley

In Fields of Combat, Erin P. Finley deftly weaves the experiences of these young men and women who have participated in the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan into a larger fabric of the U.S. military enterprise, including the clinical responses to a health crisis in treatment and prevention of debilitating traumas of war. How Americans, civilian and military alike, respond to these veterans says as much about the mental health of U.S. society as about them.

— Matthew Gutmann, Brown University, coauthor, Breaking Ranks: Iraq Veterans Speak Out Against the War

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War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

by Edward Tick

I am a combat vet of the Viet Nam era. I purchased a copy of Dr. Tick’s book WAR AND THE SOUL last week. I can’t begin to express how deeply it affected me as a veteran, a father and as a man. Edward Tick has brought out into the open the essence of the problem with the aftereffects of war. We are of the “don’t talk about it and it will just go away,” generation. I’m referring to the loss or corruption of every mans’ soul as a result of the horrors of war, and the lack of a true warrior class in America as DR. tick describes it. Like no other terror on earth, war is so traumatic that indeed one’s soul may be lost forever. However, it does not have to be that way. We indeed may regain intimacy, trust and a purposeful life if treated as humans with souls, not like men having to be drugged with antidepressants to keep us away and out of public sight.

— Robert Cagle

 

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The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle against America’s Veterans

by Aaron Glantz

“A breathtaking rebuke to government hypocrisy and an overdue contribution to gaining critical public awareness of this official neglect.”

Publishers Weekly

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Once a Warrior, Always a Warrior: Navigating the Transition from Combat to Home — Including Combat Stress, PTSD, and mTBI

by Charles W. Hoge, MD

“John Denver’s lyrics about coming home to a place you’ve never been before sums up this book. A brilliant guide, and very much needed now.”

—Gordon R. Roberts, Medal of Honor recipient

In sincere thanks to all of our troops –

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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The onus of clear communication is on YOU, the one doing the communicating

More than a dozen years before its demise contributed to America’s recent financial meltdown, I was employed as a Facilities Coordinator at Lehman Brothers. I will make one editorial comment about that: the end result should have come as a surprise to no one who’d set foot within a mile of the Wall Street investment banking firm any time in those 12+ years.

My job was arranging the internal moves of staff, from senior bankers to receptionists. As a rule, if someone gets promoted in investment banking, they get a bigger office. If a new hire comes in, prior people may need to shuffle, depending on the new hire’s position. Suffice to say, we did a LOT of moving.

On a weekly basis, we updated the floorplans so that everyone who needed the information could see where each banker and associated support staff were located. In order to fit the 11 x 17 flooplans into letter-size in boxes with the floor number showing, we folded them as indicated on Diagram A to the right.

One time, I had a temp assisting me with the seemingly simple job of folding said floorplans in said manner. I showed her how to do it, gave her a sample to take back to her desk with her. Imagine my surprise – and frustration – when my temp brought them back to me folded like Diagram B: quartered and with no portion of the printed side showing, making it impossible to see the floor number. Twenty-five sheets wasted because this gal could not follow instructions.

It’s obviously been a long time since that happened, but I’ve never forgotten that incident. I was reminded of it yet again today when I supervised a recruiting event in which volunteers were asked to collect information from passersby. Depending on the circumstances of the person being questioned, they were asked to complete one of three forms. As I was doing data entry to report our results, it became apparent that either my instructions to my volunteers had been faulty, or we were back in that Lehman Brothers scenario all those years ago. Out of the 21 forms I collected at the end of the event, 4 people had completed the wrong forms.

The book marketing – and life – lesson from this: the burden of communicating is on the one delivering the message, not the person receiving it. What does this mean? Better safe than sorry – so confirm EVERYTHING. All those years ago with the temp, I should have asked her to perform the task in front of me, so I knew she understood. Today with my volunteers, I should have asked them to explain back to me what I was asking of them to make sure they fully comprehended my instructions.

YOU must do the same, regarding:

  • When your editor or graphic designer expects to finish their portion of your project
  • How many copies of your book you’ve ordered
  • When you can expect delivery
  • How much the delivery fee will be
  • The date and location of that speaking event
  • The expected duration of your prepared speech
  • Whether vendor tables are provided for the speakers
  • How many and what form of social media connections you can expect your VA to deliver

Never assume. Always double check. Make sure you understand the questions asked of you – and even more importantly, make sure the people with whom you are communicating fully understand what you want and expect of them.

Happy communicating –

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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Consistency: The key to LUCK in the book business

Today I was invited to contribute a tip for Mike Michalowicz, the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, on this topic:

How do you improve your luck (the odds) in business?  Do you have a single rule or tip that serves you the best in having things go in your favor?

My response:

There’s no better key to achieve success in business than consistency in all things. When you meet new people, follow up immediately EVERY time. When you’re building your social media presence, be there on a REGULAR basis. Using a blog to make a name for yourself? Post frequently and CONSISTENTLY. Be careful not to spread yourself too thin in terms of trying to do it all. Then, increase your luck by creating a pattern or plan and being consistent about it.

Let’s expand just a bit.

When you meet new people, follow up immediately EVERY time. One of the places more business people miss out on opportunities (i.e., sabotage their own luck) is by failing to follow up promptly. Whether it’s a new person at a networking event or the opportunity to speak, an amazing number of people let those opportunities fly right out the window by hesitating or taking too long to respond. Be the early bird and nab that client, speaking gig, or other opportunity!

When you’re building your social media presence, be there on a REGULAR basis. This means that instead of making a sporadic showing on all your various social media sites, you create a plan and contribute consistently. A participant in the Author Blog Challenge Facebook group shared this post from Search Engine Watch about how to create a social media calendar. Most useful if you want to be as effective as possible with your social media presence.

Using a blog to make a name for yourself? Post frequently and CONSISTENTLY. OK, if you’ve been reading the Marcie Brock blog for a while, I’m preaching to the choir on this one. If you’re new here, expect to hear it again and again. It’s frequent, regular posting, combined with the use of good keywords, that will help you make a significant impression on the search engines.

Be careful not to spread yourself too thin in terms of trying to do it all. If you’re a one-woman show, you’ve got to be sensible about your time and efforts. Increase your “luck” by creating a pattern or plan and being consistent about it.

Happy luck-making!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

Read Full Post »

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