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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Two Opportunities to Nominate Your Favorite Writing Blogs

It seems to be the season for 'best writing blog' awards at the moment. There are at least two such high-profile contests running right now.

The first is the annual Top 10 Blogs for Writers contest on Michael Stelzner's Writing White Papers blog.

It's the fourth year this well-respected contest has been held. Anyone is welcome to nominate their favorite writing blog (one only) by commenting on the relevant post. Nominations close on 11 September 2009.

The other is the Editor Unleashed Top 25 Writing Blogs contest on Maria Schneider's Editor Unleashed blog. In this one you can nominate any number of blogs (including your own) in any of five categories: Fiction Writing, Freelance Writing, Creativity, Marketing and Social Media, and Publishing Trends.

Nominations for this contest close a little sooner, on 1 September 2009. The top nominations will then be posted on the blog, and readers will be invited to vote for seven days to determine the top five sites in each category.

Obviously, I'd be honored if anyone would like to nominate my own blog in either contest; but my main reason for mentioning them here is because of the great resources you can discover just by reading the nominations. I've added quite a few blogs from both these contests to my feed reader already. To me this is really more valuable than finding out what the 'winning' blogs are. Though clearly, winning either of these contests will be a considerable feather in the caps of the bloggers concerned!

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Call Yourself a Writer?" Meme

I was recently tagged on this meme by Linda Jones of Passionate Media on her You've Got Your Hands Full blog.

In her post, Linda asked and then answered a number of questions about her own writing. She then tagged several other writers, including me, to answer the questions as well. So, without further ado, here are my responses...

1. Which words do you use too much in your writing?

However, therefore, great

2. Which words do you consider overused in stuff you read?

Neat, suddenly, cool

3. What's your favourite piece of writing by you?

Possibly my novella The Festival on Lyris Five, recently published by my friends at Salvatore Publishing. This is a humorous (I hope) science fiction story I wrote a few years ago, when I had a bit more time for fiction. I had a blast writing it, and I hope readers will share some of that enjoyment now. The book also has some wonderful illustrations by Louise Tolentino. You can buy it in printed form or as an instant download.

4. What are your other favorite blogs?

There are some wonderful writing blogs out there. Here are just a few I keep coming back to:

The Creative Penn
Fuel Your Writing
Nail Your Novel
Copyblogger

There are also a number of non-writing-related blogs I'm a fan of. Two of the best are Mashable (for all the latest news about Web 2.0) and MakeUseOf (for an endless stream of software advice, free tutorials, website recommendations, and more).

And finally, if you're a blogger yourself, Darren Rowse's ProBlogger blog is a must-read, along with his TwiTip blog for Twitter users.

5. Regrets, do you have a few? Is there anything you wish you hadn't written?

There are a few things over the years I've written that I haven't been paid for, so clearly I regret those!

I also rather regret trying to correct some criticisms of me and my publishers, WCCL, that had been published a while ago on another writer's blog. I rather naively thought I could put the record straight, and that would be that. Instead, it proved to be the online equivalent of stirring up a hornets' nest. Nowadays I follow the wise precept, Don't Feed the Trolls!

6. How has your writing made a difference? What do you consider your most important piece of writing?

A lot of my writing consists of courses and other instructional materials. I like to think I've helped a lot of people to get started as writers, and in other small businesses too. Certainly, the huge number of messages I receive from students of my courses telling me about their successes is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work.

Possibly my most important/influential piece of writing has been Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, my original and best-selling course for WCCL. I've lost count of the number of buyers of this course who have written telling me about the books they have written as a result of following my advice, in some cases sending copies of the books as well. I am truly humbled by some of the stories they tell me (such as this one, for example).

7. Name three favourite words

Opportunity, commission, holiday

8. ...And three words you're not so keen on

Deadline, scam, refer to drawer

9. Do you have a writing mentor, role model or inspiration?

Two writers I admire hugely are Dean Koontz and Stephen King. Both are prolific to an extent I could never dream of, and both write consistently to an extremely high standard (I'm really enjoying King's Duma Key at the moment). Because they both write genre fiction they do not receive the critical recognition they deserve, but I'm quite sure in future they will be regarded as the Charles Dickens's of their time.

10. What's your writing ambition?

I'd like to have more time to write fiction, and especially to work on a novel I've had in the back of my mind for ages now.

I'd also love to be asked to write a novelization for a movie, stage show or TV series. If any producers out there are reading this, I'm your man!

11. Plug alert! List any work you would like to tell your readers about.

I've already mentioned The Festival on Lyris Five and Write Any Book in Under 28 Days.

In addition, I'd like to mention in particular The Wealthy Writer, my latest downloadable writing guide to be published by WCCL. The Wealthy Writer was co-written with Ruth Barringham, and it covers a huge range of ways writers can make money by applying their skills on the Internet. I've already had some amazing feedback on this course, and anyone buying it via my website can get some unique extra bonuses from me as well.

And, if I can mention a website as well, please do check out my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com. It's a free, open-access forum with around 8,000 members from all over the world. It's a great place for getting feedback and support from your fellow writers, asking (and answering) questions, finding market information, and so on.

So that's me, then. In accordance with Linda's rules (see below), here are the names of four other writer/bloggers I would like to tag:

Coffee With Kate
Kristin Callender
Karl Moore
Joanna Penn

Obviously, there is no obligation on anyone to do this, but I've found it a very interesting experience myself, and would love to see other people's responses too. And, of course, anyone with a blog is more than welcome to take part in the meme - you don't have to be tagged first!

The Rules

If you have time to do this meme, then please link to my post here, then link to three to five other bloggers and pass it on, asking them to answer your questions and link back to you. You can add, remove or change one question as you go (as I did with Question 4 - feel free to revert to Linda's original if you like). You absolutely do not have to be what you may think of as a "published" or "successful" writer to respond to this meme.

Have fun, and I look forward to reading more responses!

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Visit Nadine's Blog Party!

Former MWC moderator and successful author Nadine Laman is holding a Blog Party to celebrate the 100th post on her blog - and everybody is invited!

Nadine is running a series of contests and giving away signed copies of books donated by various authors (including yours truly). On her blog, she provides the following explanation of how the 'Blog Party' came to be...

...I thought I'd give away free books. Then I realized everyone might not want one of my books - they might already have all three. So I decided the winners could choose from one of my books or I would buy them an autographed book from a short list of authors I know. How's that sound?

I emailed these authors and ask if they were able to send an autographed book, if I bought one. (Meaning it did not come direct from a third party.) The amazing thing that followed was a sudden flood of emails from the authors not only saying, yes they could get a signed book out if I bought one, they have donated the book! I kid you not! Is that a fantastic group of writers/friends or what?

Above all, Nadine's Blog Party is intended to be fun for all involved - there's no money required, and nothing to sign up for. Just turn up each day and take part in the daily contest, then wait and see if you're a winner. Via Nadine's blog, you can also chat with other party-goers, including the featured authors.

I'll be giving away a copy of my new novella, The Festival on Lyris Five. I'm due to be featured on Monday 31 August, so make a note to visit on that day especially :-D

See you at Nadine's Blog Party!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review: Additional Streams of Income for Writers

Additional Streams of Income for Writers is a new downloadable guide for writers by Ireland-based Amanda Evans, the author of Ghostwriting Uncovered.

Amanda interviewed me as part of the research she undertook for her new guide, and she was kind enough to send a review copy once it was published.

Additional Streams of Income for Writers is an 87-page e-book in the customary PDF format. Amanda has written it from the perspective that in these uncertain times authors need a range of income sources in addition to money generated directly by their writing.

Additional Streams of Income for Writers covers four potential income streams, all Internet-based. They are Google AdSense, paid blogging, paid content websites, and paid advertising. As Amanda says, for most of these you will need your own blog or website. The exception is paid content sites (e.g. Helium), where you simply upload your work to the site in question and collect a share of any advertising revenues generated.

Amanda has enjoyed success with all of these, especially paid content sites (she claims to have made $400 a month from Helium alone). She shares her experience of what works and what doesn't in a style that is easy to understand and assimilate (the odd typo aside!). Screenshots are used where appropriate to clarify points, but not excessively.

Although as an experienced online writer I was familiar with much of the guide's content, Additional Streams of Income for Writers opened my eyes to several additional earning possibilities. I was particularly interested to read the section about paid advertising networks. Although I've sold some advertising space on my websites directly, I've never properly investigated the services that match up web publishers with would-be advertisers. Based on Amanda's advice, I definitely plan to look into this in more detail in future.

Additional Streams of Income for Writers concludes with the thoughts of nine freelance writers (myself included) about multiple streams of income. It's fascinating to compare their replies and discover their attitudes towards paid blogging, content sites, and so on. I've also discovered writers listed in this section whose blogs and Twitter streams I'll be following in future.

In summary, if you're a writer looking to diversify your income online, Additional Streams of Income for Writers is well worth the small investment (it's currently selling at a special launch price of just $12). None of the methods mentioned is likely to make you a fortune, but they could certainly generate a very handy sideline income.

Whether or not you decide to buy Additional Streams of Income for Writers, I also recommend checking out Amanda's blog and following her on Twitter.

* See also my course The Wealthy Writer for a broad range of methods for making money online from your writing skills!

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Review: The $365K Blog Traffic Formula

I recently received a review copy of The $365K Blog Traffic Formula by Pawan Agrawal.

The $365K Blog Traffic Formula is a PDF manual which aims to show you how to attract 365,000 visitors to your blog in the coming year. The $365,000 earnings figure is based on the average potential value of each visitor being $1 (this might perhaps be slightly optimistic in the case of a writing blog!).

The manual comprises in-depth interviews with seven highly successful bloggers (there is also a fast-action bonus report with two more). The bloggers revealing their secrets are Chris Garrett, Daniel Scocco, Darren Rowse, Jack Humphrey, Jason Katzenback, Matt Garrett, Yaro Starek, and in the bonus report J.D. Roth and Tom Kuhlmann. Chances are, if you know anything at all about blogging, you'll recognise at least some of these names.

All of the bloggers are asked pretty much the same questions. They include:

* If you have to bring instant visitors to your blog in the next 30 minutes, what steps will you follow?

* Most bloggers like to get passive traffic... What are the one time actions we can do which will keep on bringing traffic without any effort after that?

* What's your most effective traffic generating strategy which works every time for you and gives the best return in terms of traffic regarding to your time spent?

* What are your top 3 traffic sources and how exactly do you attract traffic from each of those sources?

* Let's say you lose your name, contacts and everything. You have to start from scratch as a "nobody". What will you do then for the next 30 days so that your blog will start getting 1000 unique visitors each and every day?

Perhaps inevitably, there is some overlap between the bloggers' replies, and some of the advice is a bit predictable, but there are plenty of top-notch ideas and insights as well. I thought the last of the questions listed above, about how to get a blog up to 1000 visitors in 30 days, produced some particularly interesting answers. Matt Garrett, for example, set out a 13-point plan for achieving this goal, with some very clever tactics I may well be adopting myself in future!

The $365K Blog Traffic Formula is well written (a few excusable quirks aside) and neatly presented. Some of the interviews also include good-sized screengrabs to illustrate the points made. (As a side thought, I think one of the best reasons for buying e-books rather than printed books is that screengrabs tend to be far more readable in e-books, and you can even magnify them if you need to.)

There are many hints, tips and strategies here any blogger could put to good use to build traffic to his or her blog, regardless of its subject matter. As most of the contributors point out, however, there is no 'magic bullet' for generating huge numbers of readers overnight. Doing this does require some time and effort, but if you're willing to put these in, The $365K Blog Traffic Formula will give you plenty of powerful traffic-building ideas and strategies to apply.

Incidentally, it struck me that The $365K Blog Traffic Formula would make an ideal companion to Super Affiliate Insights by Codrut Turcanu, which I reviewed in this post recently. Both follow the same approach of interviewing leading figures in the field and publishing their replies. Once you've built up your blog's traffic following the advice in The $365K Blog Traffic Formula, Super Affiliate Insights will show you how to then use affiliate marketing to maximize your income from your visitors!

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Review: AutoBlogging Decoded

I was fortunate to receive a review copy of Autoblogging Decoded, the popular new guide from successful Internet entrepreneur and blogger Marian Krajcovic.

Autoblogging Decoded is a PDF manual which shows how you can automate the process of updating your blog by importing content via other websites' RSS feeds. There are certain legal and moral issues around this, which I'll discuss later, but if you can live with these, Autoblogging Decoded actually makes the process of setting up an 'autoblog' very quick and easy.

The main manual starts by looking at how you can set up autoblogging on Blogger blogs. As a Blogger user myself, I was pleased to see this free service from Google getting a mention. Blogger is still a very popular blogging platform, although these days many people prefer the greater flexibility of the open source WordPress.

In his manual, Marian starts by explaining how to set up a Blogger blog if you don't have one already. He then reveals how to configure your blog for autoblogging, how to find suitable RSS feeds, and how to set up Blogger to publish these feeds (using another free service that converts RSS feeds to email). It's all very clever, and every step is well illustrated with large, easy-to-read screengrabs. You really don't need any technical expertise to be able to do this. I tried it myself on an old Blogger blog I hadn't updated for over a year, and the method worked perfectly straight away.

The second section of the main manual explains how to adapt this technique using a WordPress blog. Again, this is very clearly set out. In addition, Marian explains how you can set up a WordPress blog to autopublish a series of posts from PLR (private label rights) articles you may have in your possession. This requires other software, not all of which is free, but again it's all very straightforward, and avoids any problems with copyright and so on.

Of course, the reason for doing this is to earn a sideline income, and Marian recommends using AdSense ads for this purpose, as they are very easy to set up (on Blogger blogs especially). I would just add a tip of my own here, which is that if you hope to earn decent sums from Adsense, choose a topic for your blog which is in demand among advertisers, e.g. insurance or credit cards. On no account create a blog about writing ;-)

You could also use other ways to monetize your blog, of course, including ads from relevant affiliate networks (e.g. my publishers, The WCCL Network), ClickBank, and so on.

Along with the main manual you also get a number of bonus manuals, some of them (surprisingly, in my view) unadvertised. These include advanced tips on how, for example, to autoblog YouTube videos or Yahoo Answers. There are also guides to driving more traffic to your blog, another very important requirement for making money from it. A regularly updated blog will automatically attract attention from the search engines, but you need to prime the pump as well, and these guides reveal how to do this.

Finally, with Autoblogging Decoded, you get Auto Blog Feeder, a tool for automatically drip-feeding content such as PLR articles into WordPress blogs. This is sold elsewhere for $47.

I mentioned earlier that there may be some legal or moral issues about using content from RSS feeds to populate your blog, and I need to say a word about this now. The republishing of website content from RSS feeds is a gray area in law, and some publishers take a dim view of it, arguing that their feeds are intended for use in personal feed readers only. This blog post has a useful discussion on the issue. In addition, a blog composed entirely of material taken from other people's sites could be regarded as a form of spamming. A Blogger site found to be doing this could be banned by Google.

My own view is that autoblogging is best used in combination with original posts. In addition, you can edit the autoblogged posts to include your own commentary on them; this is then likely to constitute Fair Use under copyright law. Of course, this will reduce the amount of time and effort you save by autoblogging.

Overall, I thought AutoBlogging Decoded provided very clear and detailed explanations for a range of techniques which I can see would have many possible uses - some more widely acceptable than others. If you are looking for ideas for a money-making sideline, or simply a method to update your blog/s more often, I recommend checking it out. If nothing else, it will open your eyes to what is possible.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

PayPerPost Version 4.0 Launched

I've mentioned PayPerPost a few times on this blog. It's a service that puts would-be advertisers in touch with bloggers who will write about them for a fee. Or, to look at it another way, it's a service that gives bloggers another option for earning money from their blog.

PayPerPost has just launched a brand new version 4.0, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to take a fresh look at it. For the moment version 4.0 is running alongside the old version 3.0, but presumably in due course (and if feedback is positive) version 4.0 will take over.

The first thing you notice about the new PayPerPost v4.0 is the simple, straightforward interface (see screengrab below). There are just two tabs, Opportunities and My Account. My Account is where you can check your earnings, change your email address, add blogs to your account, and so on.


It's also worth noting that in Version 4.0 bloggers can set the rate they are willing to accept for paid posts. This is done by clicking on the 'edit blog' icon under the My Account tab. Being able to set your own price gives more control and saves time, compared with the previous PayPerPost interface, where scrolling through pages of offers to find acceptable opportunities was the norm.

The Opportunities tab is where any paying opportunities that are available to you, and that meet your fee requirements, are displayed. If you see an opportunity you like, you can click on More Details and the full requirements will then appear.

Typically, a PayPerPost opportunity requires you to post a certain minimum number of words (e.g. 200) and include a specified link to the advertiser's website. All posts nowadays require disclosure that the post is sponsored, and how this should be done is also specified in the opportunity details (see example below).

Once you have made your post, you simply enter its permalink URL in the box provided. Once your post has been verified, payment by Paypal will follow, typically (in my experience of PayPerPost) a week or two later.

If you're looking for an additional way to monetize your blog, in my view PayPerPost is well worth considering. You can choose which opportunities to promote, and the disclosure requirement means that everything is transparent and above board. The new version 4.0 looks a marked improvement on the older one, so now should be a very good time to sign up if you haven't already. My one small criticism is that the minimum payout requirement has been raised to $50, so it's likely to take a few posts to achieve this.

Note: As you may have guessed, this post is sponsored by PayPerPost - you can even see how much I am being paid in the first screengrab! But that doesn't alter the fact that I am genuinely happy to recommend PayPerPost to any blogger who would like to add to their earnings in this way.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Win a Book Contest

It must be competitions season at the moment. Here's another one I heard about recently...

This contest is being run by fReado, the free promotional service for authors, in association with author Phyllis Zimbler Miller. The prizes are copies of Phyllis's book Mrs Lieutenant, which you can preview free on the fReado site. I've also posted an image link to the book's Amazon.com page below:

There are actually three separate contests. The first is for readers, and requires you to recommend BookBuzzr (fReado's promotional widget for authors) to two authors on Twitter, who must upload at least one book or excerpt each. Two winners will be drawn at random from all eligible entries. It strikes me that this category may not attract a lot of entries.

Two authors can also win a copy of Phyllis's book in a random drawing. To participate, you must upload at least one book or excerpt using BookBuzzr, and tweet a message about it. This is a good chance to try out the BookBuzzr widget for yourself, and if you have a book (or e-book) on sale, I'd recommend giving it serious consideration.

Finally, for the bloggers among you, the best blog review of BookBuzzr and fReado will win a copy of the book. The blog reviews will be judged by Vikram (CEO of fReado) and Phyllis. To participate, your review must be a minimum of 300 words published on the internet, and again you must tweet a link to it.

The contest is open until May 25, 2009. For full details, please visit this page of the fReado site.

Obviously, this contest is designed to promote fReado and BookBuzzr and bring them to a wider readership. That's no bad thing, however. The service offers a unique (and free) way to publicize your book across blogs and social networking sites. If you've written a book and want to promote it online, it's well worth checking out.

* I plan to use fReado to help promote a new book of my own soon, and I'll aim to publish a more detailed review of the service at that time.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Two Free Events in April to Sign up to Now

I wanted to give you a heads-up today about a couple of free events running next month you might like to sign up for.

The first is ScriptFrenzy. This is an annual event run along similar lines to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), though a bit less well-known.

As the name indicates, ScriptFrenzy is aimed at scriptwriters. Participants commit to writing 100 pages of scripted material for any dramatic medium in the month of April.

As with NaNoWriMo, there is no fee to participate, and no prizes are awarded for the 'best' scripts. Every writer who achieves the goal of completing 100 pages gets a ScriptFrenzy Winner's Certificate and web icon proclaiming this fact. But really, the main aim is to challenge yourself to get a substantial script-writing project completed in 30 days, and have fun while doing so.

You can visit the ScriptFrenzy website by clicking on any of the links in this blog post. Here you can register for this year's event and check out the wide range of writers' resources on offer. You can also join the ScriptFrenzy Forum and get help and advice from fellow ScriptFrenzy participants.

Incidentally, don't forget that my sponsors, WCCL, produce a CD called called Movie in a Month, which could be an ideal resource if you want to complete a movie-writing project for ScriptFrenzy.

The other event running in April is aimed squarely at bloggers. It's called 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, and is being run by Darren Rowse of the hugely popular Problogger blog.


Each day from 1 April to 1 May Darren will be posting an assignment for participants with two aspects to it:
  • a teaching component (theory)
  • a practical component (a task/homework)
Darren says the tasks are designed for beginner and newer bloggers, but many will be relevant to intermediate and more advanced bloggers also.

If you want to participate in this event, click on 31 Days to Build a Better Blog to go to the relevant post on Darren's blog, where you will be asked to register your email address. You will then receive one email per day over the 31 days from 1 April to 1 May, notifying you that a new post is up and giving you the link to it, as well as providing some extra information for registered participants.

You don't have to register to take part in 31 Days to Build a Better Blog - you could just read and follow the instructions in Darren's daily blog posts - but registering will give you access to more information and (apparently) a couple of special bonuses.

Good luck if you decide to sign up for either of these events. I've registered for 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, so hopefully you may see a few improvements around here in the weeks ahead!

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Review: Blog Carnival Submitter

Regular readers will know that recently I've become a fan of blog carnivals as a way of generating more traffic to a blog. I blogged about the subject earlier this year in this post.

So when I heard about a new piece of software called Blog Carnival Submitter that promised to automate the process of finding blog carnivals and submitting links to them, I had to get a copy to check it out.

Blog Carnival Submitter works in conjunction with the BlogCarnival website, which opens by default in the lower panel of the software (see screengrab below). The BlogCarnival site acts as a kind of central clearing house for blog carnivals, although there is of course no obligation for carnivals to register with them.


Most of the things you can do with Blog Carnival Submitter you can also do on the BlogCarnival website, but Blog Carnival Submitter makes the process quicker and simpler, especially for multiple submissions.

You start using Blog Carnival Submitter by clicking on Find Blogs in the upper left-hand panel. This enables you to search the BlogCarnival site by keywords. You can search for a number of different keywords to produce a longer list (using the keyword 'writing' produced fewer carnivals than I expected, so I added other terms such as 'author' and 'work from home').

Once you have a list of suitable blog carnivals, the software will check if they are valid or not. You can delete any that aren't, and save the list for future use if you want.

You can then choose any posts you want to submit to these carnivals from your own blog/s, using the panel at the top right. It takes only a moment to add the necessary details, and you can then set the software to automatically submit all your chosen posts to all your selected blog carnivals (or select what to submit where manually if you prefer).

Blog Carnival Submitter also has a range of additional features. In particular, as the BlogCarnival website for some reason blocks users from certain countries, Blog Carnival Submitter lets you submit your blog posts using an anonymous proxy server. This is a very useful feature if it applies to you, although thankfully for me in Britain it isn't an issue.

Overall, I think Blog Carnival Submitter is a neat, if not earth-shattering, piece of software. It will be most relevant if you regularly submit links to a range of blog carnivals, or you plan to. If you just want to test the water with a single post, you may as well use the BlogCarnival website itself. But if you get serious about this method of traffic generation, in my view it's well worth paying the modest fee for Blog Carnival Submitter. I shall definitely be using it myself from now on.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Get More Visitors to Your Blog from Blog Carnivals

Patras Carnival the float of the king of CarnivalImage via WikipediaIf you read this blog, there's a good chance you're a blogger as well.

And if that's the case, did you know that you can generate links and traffic to your site by contributing to - or even holding your own - blog carnival?

I only found out about blog carnivals towards the end of last year. The concept is that someone who owns a blog announces that they will be holding a carnival on a particular topic and date, and invites contributions.

Any blogger can then submit a recent post they have made that is relevant to this topic. If your post is accepted for the carnival, a link to your post is included when the carnival is published. Note that some blog carnivals accept all submissions, but others are quite selective.

Being included in a blog carnival creates an inward link to your blog post. This can help improve your blog's search engine ranking, and also generate extra traffic to it. Bloggers whose work is featured in a carnival are expected to help publicise it, so a busy carnival can attract a lot of traffic for all the participants.

The best way to get started in this field is to visit the website BlogCarnival.com and search for carnivals in your niche (e.g. writing). In many cases you can also submit your post to a carnival via the BlogCarnival.com website. The video below explains how to go about doing this:


If you are receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see the video.

If you would like to see a published blog carnival, click here to view a recent issue of the Write Anything Creative Carnival. The next issue of this wide-ranging carnival is due out on 14 February 2009 - so if you want to make a start with blog carnivals, it could be a good one to submit to now.

I would just add a couple of tips from my admittedly limited experience of blog carnivals. First, if you choose to provide any additional information about your post on the BlogCarnival.com entry form, bear in mind that it may be published word for word in the carnival, so think carefully how best to phrase it. And second, choose your post carefully. It should be something reasonably substantial and original, that visitors to the carnival will find genuinely worthwhile and interesting to read.

Good luck, and see you at the carnival!

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Monday, January 05, 2009

My Ten Most Popular Posts of 2008

I thought I'd start 2009 by looking back at my Top Ten (plus one) most popular posts on this blog last year.

If you missed any of these first time round - perhaps you're one of my many new readers - I hope you'll enjoy reading them now.

And if you've been following me for a while, I hope there are some posts here you'll enjoy revisiting. They are listed in no particular order...

The Benefits of Twitter for Writers. 2008 was the year I joined Twitter, and I've been hugely impressed by the many benefits of this micro-blogging and social networking service. In this post I set out the advantages to a writer of joining Twitter, and described a few Twitter applications I have found useful.

Best Firefox Add-Ons for Writers. I'm a big fan of the Firefox web browser, not least because of the huge range of add-ons that are available for it. Check out my top recommendations in this post - and read the comments section for some further suggestions.

Some Thoughts on Professional Jealousy Among Writers. In this post, which also generated a lot of interest, I set out my thoughts about professional jealousy, and described two personal experiences I have had of this particularly unpleasant phenomenon.

Finding a Publisher for Your Novel. I regularly get asked for advice on how to find a publisher - so in this post from August 2008 I set out my seven top tips.

Two Useful Websites for Online Writers. Several readers wrote to thank me for sharing details of these sites. They both offer free tools for preparing text for online publication, and have saved me personally many hours of tedious work.

How Can Writers Survive the Credit Crunch? It seems 2008 will go down in history as the year the global economy went into meltdown. In this post I looked at the implications of the downturn for writers, and set out two particular strategies I believe every writer needs to apply at this time.

Brain Evolution System Review. I reviewed various new products and courses during 2008, but I'd like to highlight this one in particular. The Brain Evolution System uses advanced scientific methods, including binaural beats and brainwave entrainment, to help improve creativity, beat stress, boost energy levels, and so on. Even if you're understandably skeptical, I'd urge you to check it out.

New Promotional Site for E-book Authors. In November I posted this article about Mark Gladding's new site for e-book readers and writers, and it has quickly gone from strength to strength. If you read e-books and - especially - if you publish or self-publish them, this site is an invaluable free resource.

Trouble With Paypal. I use the online payment system Paypal a lot in my online writing work, but I've had some 'issues' with them this year. See this post to learn about my experiences, and read my advice on how to minimize your own chances of problems.

Writing Tips Contest Results. In 2008 I held a contest for writing tips of 250 words or less. Some great entries were submitted, and you can read the winner and all the runner-up entries here.

How to Hire a Freelance Writer. In this 'poacher turned gamekeeper' article, I set out some advice to anyone wanting to hire a freelance writer. The article includes seven tips based on my own experience of 'good' and 'bad' clients. I hope anyone wanting to hire me this year reads this article first!

Do check out these posts, and feel free to add your own comments if you like. And watch out for more posts from me on all aspects of writing for profit in 2009!

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Setting Your Writing Goals for 2009

In just a couple of days - even less in some parts of the world - it will be 2009. It's the ideal time to plan ahead and set yourself writing goals and targets for the new year.

One thing about goals is that, to be of any practical use, they need to be specific. 'Make more money' from writing, while it sounds attractive, is too vague to be much help in motivating you.

A better goal might be 'to boost my writing income by 30 per cent this year'. Or, if you want something even more specific, 'complete my first book by the end of 2009'. Goals like these are much better because they give you a clear target to aim at and a yardstick to measure your progress.

I have a number of goals I want to achieve in 2009. Here are some of them...

* Create my first podcast.

* Start at least one new blog using the popular WordPress blogging system.

* Join HubPages and start creating my own Hubs.

* Join FaceBook (I can't put it off any longer!).

* Develop a new and radically different writing course idea I have been mulling over for some time now.

* Complete the writing course I am working on currently for a client.

* Write at least three more non-fiction books by the end of the year.

Those are just some of my writing goals for 2009. But I'd love to know, what are YOURS?

Please feel free to add them as comments to this blog post. Having your goals on display here permanently will give you an added incentive to achieve them. And naturally, at the end of the year I'll want to see evidence that you have done so!

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Friday, December 12, 2008

The Benefits of Twitter for Writers

I've been on Twitter for over seven months now, and have just reached 100 followers. So I thought this would be a good time to update you on my progress, and share my thoughts on the pros and cons of Twitter for writers.

For those still unfamiliar with Twitter, I should explain that it's a free social networking and micro-blogging service.

As a Twitter member, you can post short messages or 'tweets' of up to 140 characters. These are displayed on your Twitter homepage and instantly delivered to any other Twitter users who have signed up to receive them (your 'followers').

Looking at this blog post I wrote shortly after joining Twitter, I see that I originally anticipated using it as a method for notifying people when I made a post on this blog. I still use it for that, but actually I have found it useful in many other respects as well.

One is that being on Twitter has significantly boosted the readership of this blog. This typically happens due to the 'viral' qualities of Twitter. Here's how this can work. You post an interesting article on your blog and share it with your followers via Twitter. Some of them find it interesting enough to re-tweet to their followers as well, and some of these people in turn re-tweet it to others. In this way, word of a good post (or website) can reach hundreds or even thousands of other people in an ever-widening circle.

Through Twitter, also, I have got to hear about other useful resources, markets, opportunities, and so on. I've discovered some great websites and online tools that I wouldn't otherwise have heard about from other users. I also try to spread this information to my own followers, of course.

And Twitter also generates a surprising sense of community. Even though messages have a maximum of 140 characters, this is still enough to interact with other members, ask and answer questions, and so on. Through my circle of Twitter followers, I've obtained advice on buying a new netbook computer, feedback on my blog posts, invitations to write guest posts for other blogs, and offers to write guest posts for mine.

I know that other writers on Twitter have actually received job offers and joint-venture proposals as a direct result of their membership. This hasn't happened to me yet, but I can certainly see how it might.

Are there any downsides to Twitter? Only one as far as I can see, which is that it can start consuming large amounts of your time, especially if you follow a lot of people and want to read all their updates. I try to get around this in two ways.

One is to confine most of my Twittering to short bursts, when (for example) I'm going through my email and RSS feeds and find things I want to share. And second, I have been quite cautious about the number of people I follow. I know some people automatically follow anyone who follows them, but I don't feel able to do this for fear of being swamped - even though I know I would probably get more followers if I did. I'm still trying to work out the best way of dealing with this issue.

To any writer considering whether or not to join Twitter, I would strongly advise giving it a go, especially if you already have a website and/or blog. I would also highly recommend using a Twitter client to get the most from the service. You can just operate via your Twitter homepage, but then the only time you will see incoming messages is when you visit that page.

Personally I use Twitterfox, a Firefox add-on that sits at the bottom of the screen when I am online and flashes up any incoming messages as they arrive. Twitterfox lets me view all recent messages at any time, and also has other useful features, e.g. a facility to quickly add the URL of any page I am viewing to an update, so that I can share it with my followers.

You can also get dedicated desktop clients for Twitter like Twhirl and Tweetdeck. I can see myself graduating to one of these at some point, but for now Twitterfox meets my needs. I also use several other add-on services, including Twitterfeed, which automatically tweets my blog updates; Twitthat, which is handy for quickly recommending a web page on Twitter; and TwitWall, a service that lets you post longer messages, pictures and videos, and automatically tweets them to your followers.

To sum up, since joining I've become a big Twitter fan. I now see it not just as an 'announcement service', but as a means of sharing useful info and building a community of fellow writers. In addition, it provides a method for me to publicise my blog and broaden my base of (potential) readers, publishers, clients and collaborators. If I've persuaded you of the benefits of joining, please visit my Twitter homepage at www.twitter.com/nickdaws and, if you like what you see, do sign up to follow me.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bookmark Me!

In these posts recently I gave you the opportunity to Search Me and Contact Me.

Well, now I've added the opportunity to bookmark my blog or any particular post on it as well. If you look at the end of this - or any - post on the blog, you should see an Addthis widget similar to the one below.
If you're a regular web user, chances are you will have seen this before on blogs and websites. Basically, if you click on it, it will allow you to save the blog post (or blog/website) concerned to social bookmarking sites such as Delicious, Furl and StumbleUpon.

These sites allow you to save your favorite websites online, so you can access them from any computer. In most cases you can also review the sites concerned and share them with others. You do, of course, have to register at social bookmarking sites before you can use them.

I hope you will find this a useful extra feature. And obviously, from a personal point of view, I hope you will use it to bookmark your favorite posts on here, as this will help bring them to the attention of a wider public and boost their search engine ratings.

One small thing I've discovered, though. If you want to bookmark a particular post, it's best if you go first to the dedicated page for it (you can do this by clicking on the title of the post concerned). Otherwise, the address entered by the widget will be the 'bare' blog URL, i.e. www.mywritingblog.com. That will help boost my blog rankings, but may not be much good to you if rather than the whole blog it's a particular article you want to save/share.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Contact Me Form

I've been aware for a while that this blog lacked an easy way of contacting me, so with the aid of the free Contactify service, I've created the Contact Me form below. Please use this if you would like to send me a message, and it will automatically be forwarded to me.

If you are receiving this post by email, you may need to visit my blog to see the form.

There will be a permanent link to this form in the sidebar on the right.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Search Me!

Just a quickie to let you know that you can now search My Writing Blog using the dedicated Google search box in the right-hand column.

Simply scroll down the page to find it. Here's a screengrab to make locating it even easier...
You can use any of the normal Google search commands to narrow down your search. For example, if you put a search term in double quotation marks, only pages from my blog including that exact term will be listed.

If you want to find all the pages of my blog that refer to my course Quick Cash Writing, say, just enter "Quick Cash Writing" in the search box and click on Search.

I actually added this feature for my own convenience, as with nearly 400 posts on the blog now, it can get quite hard otherwise to remember when I posted a particular item. But I hope - and expect - it will prove useful for readers as well.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Welcoming Paul Kilduff

I'm pleased to reveal that Mywritingblog.com has been chosen as one of the venues on a virtual book tour by the Irish author Paul Kilduff to mark the launch of his new book Ruinair. Here's some info provided by the literary agency which is organizing the tour.

Paul Kilduff is excited to bring his first nonfiction work, entitled Ruinair, on a virtual book tour. Paul's book is a witty travelogue which sees him get his own back on the airline that overcharged him and significantly delayed him on a flight from Malaga to Dublin:

'Stung by a ten hour delay and a E300 fare to Spain on his native "low-fares" airline, Dubliner Paul Kilduff plots revenge - to fly to every country in Europe for the same total outlay, suffering every low-fares airline indignity. Armed with no more than 10kg of carry-on baggage, he endures 6.00am departures, Six Nations-style boarding scrums, lengthy bus excursions, terminal anxiety and cabin crew who deliver famed customer service.'

This book will have you laughing out loud at Kilduff's sharp wit and the hilarious accounts of his misadventures. Anyone who has ever flown with a low-budget airline and has lived to tell the tale will identify with Paul's experiences.

Ruinair has enjoyed the position of bestselling nonfiction title in Ireland during its first seven weeks of publication and has received wide critical acclaim. Paul is also the author of four fiction novels, the most recent of which is The Headhunter. He will be happy to discuss all aspects of his work, both past and present, on the day - in particular, the transition from fiction to nonfiction writing. He is also happy to talk about his travel writing or to lend writing tips and inspiration to any aspiring authors out there."

My blog will be hosting Paul on Friday 30 May 2008. Full details will be posted nearer the time - but in case you want to know more about the book before then, I've included links to the title at Amazon.co.uk below.



If you live elsewhere in the world, you may prefer to order the book from Paul's publishers Gill & Macmillan, which you can do by clicking on this link.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

I'm on Twitter!

Well, I've taken the plunge and joined Twitter. My Twitter ID is nickdaws and you can visit my Twitter profile page here.

For those who don't know, I should explain that Twitter is a mini-blogging/social networking service. Once you have joined - which is free - you can post short updates or 'Tweets' of up to 140 characters. Updates are displayed on your profile page and instantly delivered to any other Twitter users who have signed up to receive them (your 'followers').

I'm obviously very new to Twitter and still finding my way around. One thing I am clear on, though, is that I intend to use Twitter as an extension of this blog. So anyone who signs up to follow me will be automatically notified every time I make a new post here, by courtesy of the free Twitterfeed service.

In addition, I plan to use Twitter to publish short items that don't really justify a complete blog post, e.g. useful websites I've discovered or other people's blog posts that I think are worth a look. I might also use Twitter when I have some important news to pass on and don't have time to create a blog post.

In the spirit of Twitter - which is meant to answer the question 'What are you doing now?' - I will publish some personal updates as well, but I don't intend to overdo this. So don't expect to see many updates from me along the lines of, 'I'm going to the shops now'! Simply, I hope that people who find my blog of interest will get extra value by signing up to follow me on Twitter.

Finally, if you have a blog and are wondering whether to sign up with Twitter too, I highly recommend reading this post and this one on Darren Rowse's excellent Problogger blog. This is really what made me realise that it was time to jump on the Twitter bandwagon! But, of course, you don't need to be a blogger already to join Twitter.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Who wants to take over a writing blog?

No, not this one! My colleague and near-neighbour Linda Jones is looking for someone to take over her Freelance Writing Tips blog. In a post made yesterday, she writes:

Time is against me. As much as I would love to continue with this blog, and have plenty of information and ideas that I could upload, it's just not happening.

I think the small matter of having a family to spend time with, and a company to run has something to do with this. If you are interested in taking the baton (is that the expression? Oh you know what I mean!) then please get in touch.

Linda says she has made no attempt to monetize her blog, other than setting up an Amazon bookshop. However, this is certainly an area that could be developed in future.

If you are interested in taking over an attractive-looking blog which has already built up a solid readership, please contact Linda directly via her blog.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Free Short Story Contest

I recently heard about a new short story contest which, unusually, is free to enter. It's being run by Claire C (sorry, I don't know her full name) of the Bebo Author blog. Full details of the contest can be found by clicking on Bebo Author Short Story Competition.

The contest is for stories of at least 1000 words. There is no maximum word count, although as it IS a short story contest, I'd guess you probably shouldn't go over 10,000 words.

The contest is open to anyone - you don't have to be a member of the social networking site Bebo - and stories can be in almost any genre. Claire says: 'I don't want to restrict you but I don't want literotica or gore with the sole intention of making me sick.'

A variety of prizes is on offer. They include $50, $30 and $20 Amazon vouchers (or the equivalent in cash paid via Paypal), plus a growing range of other prizes donated by sponsors.

The contest judges are professional writer Samantha Priestley and Catherine Sharp, a technical writer who runs her own blog, Sharp Words. The closing date is Friday 21 March 2008 (so you don't have loads of time!). Stories have to be sent to Claire in the body of an email (no attachments) at claire-at-beboauthor.com (change the -at- to the usual @ sign). For more info, as mentioned, click through to the contest information page.

Good luck!

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

More Info for Bloggers

A little while ago in this post I mentioned a new service called BlogRush that aims to help bloggers attract more visitors. I know a number of you signed up with BlogRush as a result of that post, so I hope you are reasonably pleased with the results you are getting.

I thought you might like to know that the people behind BlogRush have just launched a new (and, again, free) website called TrafficJam. TrafficJam displays the most popular blog posts in the BlogRush network, both overall and in specific categories.

I was pleased to find that my recent post about the new Qassia revenue-sharing website was at number 18 in Traffic Jam's Writing & Literature category, so it appears on the first page for this category. The rankings are updated regularly, of course, so my post may have gone up or down by the time you read this!

For BlogRush members, TrafficJam provides an opportunity for your best posts to gain extra publicity. And it's also very useful for seeing the post titles that are attracting the greatest interest from readers (coming up with good titles for your posts is the key to getting more visitors from BlogRush)

But even if you're not a BlogRush member, you might still want to use TrafficJam to review the most popular posts in any category. If you're looking for ideas for topics for your own blog that will attract readers, TrafficJam should prove a useful research tool - and it's also a good tool for discovering blogs you may not have seen before covering your area/s of particular interest.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Qassia: A New Revenue-Sharing Website

I recently signed up with Qassia, a new revenue-sharing content site that also operates as a web directory.

Like certain other sites such as Helium Knowledge, Qassia lets anyone upload articles to its website. Unlike most other such sites, however, you then receive a full 100 per cent of the advertising revenue generated by the Google AdSense ads displayed beside your own content (most other services split the revenue from advertising 50:50 or less).

Content on Qassia is called 'intel' (short for intelligence). Intel can be anything from full-length articles to an interesting fact. One of the many innovative features of Qassia is that new intel is rated by other Qassia members. The average rating given to your intel determines how high it appears in search results in the Qassia web directory for the topic in question.

As well as giving you the advertising revenue generated by your intel, Qassia also allows you to include a link back to your own website (or any website of your choice) on the same page as each piece of intel you contribute. This could help drive extra traffic to your site, and should also help boost your site's ranking in the search engines. As you may know, most search engines rate a website's popularity according to the number of incoming links it has, especially when these links are non-reciprocal (as is the case with Qassia).

Qassia operates in its own internal currency called Qassia Dollars. These are earned by posting intel and by rating intel posted by other members. Qassia Dollars cannot currently be converted directly into cash, but you can allocate your Qassia Dollars to any number of websites you want to promote. The more Qassia Dollars you allocate to any particular site, the higher up the Qassia rankings it appears. I must admit I don't fully understand this yet, but no doubt all will become clear in due course!

I'm still getting the hang of Qassia, but I can already see it has the potential to become huge. In some ways it reminds me of Kwickee, the mobile phone content publishing company I was involved with a few years ago (see this link for historical information!). Kwickee was ultimately unsuccessful, but in my work as a group editor for them I saw hundreds of articles submitted, many of which I think would now be prime candidates for Qassia. Articles about local tourist attractions (as were many of the Kwickee articles I edited) are a case in point - so if you wrote any of these for Kwickee, this could be the perfect outlet for them. On the other hand, I'm not sure that Qassia is really a suitable place for posting fiction.

Qassia is still in pre-launch phase, and currently you can only join at the invitation of an existing member. However, I'm more than happy to invite any reader of this blog to join through me! Just click on any of the Qassia links in this post, and follow the on-screen instructions to sign up. It's free of charge, of course. I found it all reasonably intuitive, but if you have any problems, do feel free to run them past me and I'll help if I can.

Oh, and look out for my first bit of intel, my recipe for the Greek vegetarian speciality briam! And yes, this did start life as a Kwickee article!

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

BlogRush - A New Way to Get Visitors to Your Blog

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that for the last few weeks a small box has appeared in the right-hand column of my blog headed 'From the Blogosphere' (you may need to scroll down a bit to see this). The box is part of a new - and free - service for bloggers called BlogRush.

BlogRush aims to help bloggers attract more traffic. The way it works is that when you sign up (which as mentioned is free) you get some code to put on your blog. The code displays the BlogRush widget - the little box I've mentioned - which shows the titles of the latest posts on five other blogs in a related field (writing, in my case). If any of these piques your interest, you can click on the title to visit the blog concerned.

But what makes BlogRush particularly interesting for bloggers is that every time a visitor sees the widget on your blog, the title of your latest post is displayed on the widget of someone else's blog. So, in effect, the titles of your blog posts are being syndicated across the 'Blogosphere', and hopefully some of the people who see it will click through to visit your blog.

I've been evaluating BlogRush for a few weeks now, so here are my initial thoughts. First of all, the programme is NOT likely to generate hordes of visitors for you. I'm finding that I get about one visit per 400 impressions. I might be able to improve this a bit by creating more compelling titles for my posts, but realistically I think it's unlikely anyone will do better than around one in 300.

So is BlogRush a waste of time? Well, I don't think so. For one thing, even though most people may not be clicking on my blog title, they will still be seeing 'Nick Daws Writing Blog' on a wide range of writing-related blogs, and that can't hurt as far as getting me and my blog's name recognised.

A second feature of BlogRush I like is that, as well as impressions earned every time someone visits your blog, the system also allocates extra 'bonus' impressions. In my case, I am getting roughly one bonus impression for every one that I earn (so for every 100 visitors to my blog, the title of my latest blog post gets shown about 200 times on other people's blogs). I understand that new blogs with few visitors get a higher ratio of bonus impressions, on the basis that they need the extra traffic most!

A third 'plus' is that you can also introduce new BlogRush members, and you earn extra impressions every time someone views the blog of someone you introduced. This works down through eight levels. You don't need to do anything special to publicise BlogRush either. The widget has a tab on the bottom for people to click if they want more information, and anyone signing up via your blog will be credited to your downline. This is the first time I have mentioned BlogRush anywhere, but I have already recruited three other bloggers into my network from this source.

A final benefit of BlogRush has been unexpected. On various occasions I have noticed an interesting-sounding title on my blog's widget, and have clicked through to view the blog in question (there is no objection from BlogRush to members doing this, by the way). By this means I have discovered a number of other interesting blogs that I might otherwise never have known about.

Overall, if you're a blogger, I think BlogRush is well worth giving a spin. OK, it may not bring you thousands of extra visitors overnight, but it's a free - and in my experience hassle-free - way to help build up your readership. And any people who come to your blog via BlogRush are likely to have a genuine interest in your blog's subject area. They are more likely to stick around and become regular readers than those who simply arrive via a search engine listing.

Anyway, if you'd like to know more about BlogRush, just click on any of the links in this post, or on the tab at the foot of the BlogRush widget on the right. There is a very professional five-minute video on the information page which explains exactly how the system works. If you decide to join, simply click on the button below this and follow the on-screen instructions to get your widget code.

Incidentally, if you do decide to join, you will find that there is a longer video you can watch that explains exactly how you can check your stats, change the colour and size of your widget, block certain posts from being syndicated, and much more. Again, I highly recommend watching this, as it explains some features of BlogRush you might otherwise remain unaware of.

Good luck, and see you on BlogRush!

Postscript: Just wanted to say it's great to see that so many of you have decided to take up this opportunity, and I've been delighted to see your blog posts and titles already popping up in the widget on my blog. If you're having any problems getting BlogRush set up, do feel free to ask me and I'll help if I can. You can put a comment on this blog post, or contact me via my homepage at www.nickdaws.co.uk.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Guest Blog: Specialize, Specialist and Specialism...

Today I'm pleased to publish a guest post by my friend and colleague Dr Suzanne Harris. A little while ago I wrote an article on Suzie's blog about five things I wish I'd known when I was starting out as a freelance writer. Suzie's article, below, is a good example of two of the things I mentioned in particular. One of these is the value to a freelance of specializing and becoming an 'expert' in your field. And the other is the importance of enthusiasm, a quality that Suzie has in abundance! I hope you enjoy reading her piece...

When I started out as a freelance writer, some seven years ago now, I had no idea what to actually write about. I had the passion and the drive, but I didn't think I knew enough to write a full length book. Frustrated, I sat down with a pen and paper and brainstormed. After around half an hour I had a pretty impressive list of things I knew something about, or could research. Top of my list was health. As a long-term sufferer of a debilitating illness, I knew more than most about coping with chronic pain, prescription medication, alternative therapies and other methods of fighting the ill effects of nature-gone-bad. A health writer was born.

Steadily, I created the persona I needed to sell articles and, ultimately, my book. I was so excited to be the author of a real how-to book on alternative health and I really felt as though I could make a difference. But as time passed I became restless in my niche. However, it was to be another four years before I finally found the courage to reinvent myself. I knew the importance of specialising; I already had a lucrative career as an alternative health writer, making it hard to decide to change direction. Then, quite by accident, I started to get work come to me in the form of finance writing. I almost turned it away thinking it was beyond my knowledge, but I didn't and I found I was comfortable working with the topic.

After doing a few paid jobs I decided I would like to be a finance writer alongside my health writing - after all, two specialties are better than one. It sounds easy, but specialising is actually a challenge. Before people accept you as a writer on a topic you need to be viewed as an 'expert' and to be an expert you need experience; the good old catch22 had reared its ugly head. Not to be put off, I asked a few colleagues, Nick being one of them, about how to go about establishing myself in another area. The advice I got from them proved to be sound and soon I had deleted all my old blogs, set up new ones to reflect my change of attitude, and approached some companies with ideas. Before long the work was pouring in. I secured a regular column with a B2B print magazine, creating content on Bankruptcy for pts.com and negotiating with a finance publisher on a number of book ideas. In a short space of time I managed to become an expert.

Achieving these new positions wasn't easy and a few times I had to rely on charm and a few exaggerations of the truth, but in the end it paid off. Most of them asked what experience I had. Luckily running my own writing consultancy gave me a heads-up, and I also dropped into emails that my book idea, The 30 Day Money Diet for Women: The Only Book That Helps You Gain Pounds!, was under consideration by a publisher (and still is). From there, as the odd job came in, I simply added it to the list I gave to prospective employers, so that by the time I approached some of the bigger companies my experience list was impressive. Now all I have to do is write it all!

To keep up with me and what I'm up to you can always check out my blog or find me on My Writers Circle.

Before I go there is one piece of advice I want to share that was given to me when I started out and that is to believe in yourself even when the rejection letters are flooding in because one day someone will say yes. And it's true. If someone had told me ten years ago I would end up as a published author and freelance writer I would have laughed, but through perseverance and hard work that's exactly what I am doing. And to prove anything is possible, I trained my husband, Mark, to be a freelance writer, and he is now successful in his own right. He now works for the New York Times company about.com as their MP3 guide !

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Another Day, Another Guest Blog...

I'm getting around at the moment, in a virtual sense anyway. In my post yesterday I told you about my article on Linda Jones's Freelance Writing Tips blog about my typical working day.

Well, I've now had another article published as a guest writer on someone else's blog. That "someone else" is Dr Suzanne ("Suzie") Harris, and you can see my article on her My Digital Desk blog (she also has a number of others, including a book reviews blog and one on business and finance).

The title of my article is Five Things I Wish I'd Known as a New Freelance Writer. As you may gather, it comprises five pieces of advice I wish I'd been given at the start of my writing career. I hope will be of interest to anyone seeking to make a living - or at least an income - from their writing today.

By the way, I originally met Suzie because she bought my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course and wanted to interview me about it for a book she was writing. She assumed I lived in the USA (all my publishers' sales websites are written in US English), and was quite surprised to discover that I lived only a few miles down the road from her in the English Midlands! She has now moved to Wales with her family, but we still keep in regular touch. And the best news is, she has promised to write a guest article for my blog very soon!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My Thoughts on the Simpleology Blogging Course

In my post yesterday I mentioned this new course on blogging for fun and profit. As I said in that post, the course is currently being given away free to anyone who has a blog, so long as they mention it in a blog post. I promised I'd let you know a bit more about the course after I'd evaluated it, so here's what I thought...

To start with, accessing the course proved more tricky than I expected. As you may know if you've taken up this offer, once you've placed the pre-written post on your blog, you then have to enter the URL on this web page. I assumed after doing this that I would 'simply' be taken to the course material, but not a bit of it. Instead I was taken through a series of steps that involved confirming that I wanted to sign up with Simpleology, setting a user-name and password, viewing a 'one-time offer' of something or the other, and being invited to download various items of free software.

Indeed, so laborious was the process that I was on the point of deleting my original post and apologising to anyone who had acted upon it. However, after jumping through all these hoops, I did eventually arrive at a page where I could access the free blogging course. And I have to say, it's very well done and informative.

The core of the course comprises 15 lessons. Each of these lessons is around five minutes and plays in a browser window (you DON'T need to download any special software to watch them). The lessons start with the absolute basics - i.e. what is a blog? - and move on through topics such as what to blog about, what blogging software to use, how to attract more readers, how to make money from your blog, and so on. Nowadays I'm quite an experienced blogger, but there were a number of suggestions that I hadn't thought of, and I definitely plan to act on these in the months ahead.

Alongside each lesson, there is an interactive quiz you can take to test your understanding of the points covered. You can also download the lessons in printable (PDF) format and as audio files (for listening to on your MP3 player). Some bonus materials are included as well, including interviews with a number of well-known bloggers in the Internet Marketing field.

Overall, it's a highly professional course, and if you have a blog I do recommend checking it out now while it's still free. But - as mentioned above - do be aware that accessing it will involve negotiating what seemed to me an excessive number of hurdles. It's worth noting that you don't have to accept ANY of the offers made to you or download any of Simpleology's proprietary software in order to view the course. Once you're logged in to the Simpleology 'WebCockpit' page, you'll see a heading 'Daily Targets' at the top left. The blogging course can be found in the right-hand column under Electives. Click on Blogging, and the course material will all be set out for you.

Finally, I should say that Simpleology appears to be a personal development system for organising your life, and in particular your business. Their logo has the strap-line 'The Simple Science of Getting What You Want'. By signing up to view the free course, you also become a member of Simpleology, and get access to a lot more course material as well. Personally I haven't looked into this - I'm not sure it's quite my thing really - but if you're interested in learning more, obviously the opportunity is there for you.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Free Multi-Media Course for Bloggers

I'm evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they're letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

  • The best blogging techniques.
  • How to get traffic to your blog.
  • How to turn your blog into money.

I'll let you know what I think once I've had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it's still free.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Blogging for Storytellers

...That's the title of a new downloadable report in PDF format by Mywriterscircle.com member Nelodra (real name Leah Witmond). And the good news is that it's completely free of charge. You can get your copy by clicking on this link to the download page at Lulu.com.

Leah enjoys creating short stories based on characters she creates in the computer game Sims 2. You can see a number of her stories - and tales by other Sims 2 aficionados - at Leah's Sim Tales website. In her new report, she provides a detailed, step-by-step guide for anyone who would like to follow in her footsteps.

Of course, not everyone will want to write fiction about Sims 2 characters. In her report, however, Leah has provided a handy guide to setting up a blog using the popular (and free) Blogger platform, and much of her advice would be just as relevant if you are thinking of starting a more conventional blog or ficblog using Blogger. I particularly appreciated the generous use of screengrabs illustrating what you should be seeing on your computer at each stage.

Congratulations to Leah on creating her report and making it available free to the online writing community. And, incidentally, I've also had lots of good feedback on my free 'Christmas Gift' report about devising and selling ideas for movies - click here to read my blog post about this - so I've decided to leave the link up a bit longer. By the end of next week I will definitely remove it, however, so if you're at all interested in this subject, please get your copy now!

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Another New Opportunity to Make Money From Your Website

My post a few weeks ago about Money4Banners generated a lot of interest, so I thought you might perhaps be interested to hear about another new opportunity to make a bit of painless extra income from your blog or website.

WidgetBucks works in a similar way to Google AdSense. You copy and paste some special code into your website HTML. A banner advert is then displayed on your site, and every time someone clicks on it, you get paid a fee. As with AdSense, you can choose from a range of different banner sizes and colour schemes. You can also choose the type of ad displayed (e.g. video games), or let WidgetBucks analyze your site and automatically display ads that are relevant to the site's content. The latter method is how Google AdSense works, of course.

So what advantages does WidgetBucks have over AdSense? Well, as mentioned, unlike AdSense you can choose the type of ads displayed. The ads themselves tend to be a bit jazzier than those generated by AdSense, and the WidgetBucks site is more user-friendly. And they are giving all new publishers a sign-up bonus of $25 (admittedly, you do have to earn another $25 before you can withdraw this, but I guess that's only fair). The ads themselves supposedly pay about twice what AdSense do. And finally, they have an affiliate program where you can introduce new members and get 10% of whatever they earn in the first year. So, to me anyway, it looks a pretty good deal all round!

If you'd like to see what a typical WidgetBucks ad looks like, I've put one on this page of my Stop Spam Email site - it's under the paragraph about E-Cloaker. Just a word of caution, however. I'm finding that the ads show up in Internet Explorer, but I don't see them in Firefox. Also, the main WidgetBucks site doesn't display correctly in Firefox on my PC, so again it's probably best to view it using Explorer. Hopefully WidgetBucks will address this issue soon.

Anyway, if you have a website or a blog - both are equally welcome - and you'd like to generate a bit of extra cash from banner advertising, it's well worth checking out WidgetBucks. Note that you will need to apply including details of your blog or website, and wait (about 12 hours in my case) for your application to be approved. As far as I can see, most mainstream sites will be accepted, but understandably there are some exclusions, notably sites with "adult" content.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Responding to Some Feedback...

I always welcome feedback on my writing courses and other projects for writers. Positive feedback is nice, of course, and thankfully I get plenty of that. However, in some ways negative feedback is more useful.

So I was actually pleased to see this less-than-flattering post on US author and writing teacher Tod Goldberg's blog and follow-up comments by some of his readers, as they give me the chance to try to answer the concerns raised and, hopefully, clear up a few misunderstandings.

Tod's post seems to have been inspired by an email he received from the marketing arm of my publishers, the WCCL Network, inviting him to join their affiliate program. The email referred specifically to my courses Quick Cash Writing and Write Any Book in Under 28 Days.

I would start by saying that I had no involvement in writing or sending the email in question. It was written by WCCL's marketing department, and obviously there is a certain amount of "marketing-speak" in it. I'm not going to criticise WCCL for this, or apologise on their behalf. I will just say that affiliate programs are commonplace on the Internet, and almost every big online retailer from Amazon downwards has one. I make no secret of the fact that anyone with their own website can join WCCL's affiliate program and earn a sideline income helping to sell my courses (and any other of the wide range of products sold by WCCL). You can read more about WCCL's affiliate program in this recent blog post if you like. But of course, if you think affiliate programs are the devil's work, you don't have to join!

Moving on, in the comments section "Lucy" writes: "DO NOT waste your money on the Nick Daws course. It is on a CD which is protected, meaning you cannot use it easily on different pcs, and now I run Windows XP it will not work at all. I emailed the company and they say I have to pay another 15USD for a new version which will work. Take my advice and spend the money on a good old-fashioned printed BOOK that you can use where and when you like."

I do have some sympathy with Lucy here. It is frustrating when you buy software and Microsoft then produce a new version of Windows and it no longer works. However, I tend to think that her ire should be directed more at Bill Gates and co. for producing operating systems that are not backwards-compatible.

Lucy evidently bought one of the earliest versions of my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course (the only one of my WCCL courses which is not sold as an instant download), in the days of Windows 2000. When - presumably years later - it wouldn't work on the new Windows XP operating system, WCCL asked her for $15 US (around 7.50 UK pounds) for a replacement, XP-compatible CD. When you take into account the cost of the CD-ROM, postage to anywhere in the world, packaging materials and the labour involved, I doubt if they are even breaking even at this price. So I don't think in the circumstances they are being unreasonable. After all, imagine demanding that Microsoft provide you with a free version of Windows Vista because two years ago you bought Windows XP. I can hear Mr Gates laughing now!

My other courses are all sold as instant downloads in the universal PDF format, so migrating to a new operating system is much less likely to cause problems. And, of course, anyone buying Write Any Book in Under 28 Days today gets the latest version of the CD-ROM, which is fully compatible with both Windows Vista and earlier versions of Windows (and you get 24/7 advice and support from WCCL's dedicated helpdesk site if required).

And finally, if you don't want to mess about with CD-ROMs at all, my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course is also available in an audio version!

Finally, "Gordon" has some interesting criticisms. He writes: "The whole tacky marketing tangle surrounding Nick Daws needs thorough exposure. He runs a number of schemes with identical pitches: Essential English for Authors, Quick Cash Writing, Write Any Book in Just 28 Days and How to Win Contests, as well as at least one non-site, Stop Spam Email, that gives trivial anti-spam advice probably as a vehicle to host advertising. It doesn't take a genius with Google to find these are part of a walled garden of sites on the WCCL Network affiliate marketing circuit..."

I suppose I should express my gratitude to "Gordon" for name-checking all of my WCCL writing courses! Contrary to what he seems to be implying, however, they are all quite different. Write Any Book in Under 28 Days is my course for anyone who wants to write a book in the shortest possible time. Quick Cash Writing is aimed at people who want to start earning from writing as soon as possible, and covers shorter writing projects such as articles, greeting card slogans, and so on. Essential English for Authors is my new course on grammar, spelling and punctuation. And How to Win Contests is my course on how to write winning slogans for consumer competitions (aimed primarily at a UK/Eire readership).

"Gordon" is right that there are cross-links between the sales sites for these courses and between the free writers' resources sponsored by the WCCL Network such as Mywriterscircle.com and WritersFM. It would be amazing if WCCL did otherwise, as all these sites belong to them, and presumably anyone interested in buying one of my writing courses might also be interested in joining my free forum, or vice versa. So, OK, consider me and my publishers exposed. It's a fair cop!

My Stop Spam Email site, incidentally, is not part of the WCCL Network. It's a private project I worked on some time ago, when I was trying to improve my website design skills. You won't find links to it from WCCL sites (apart from a couple of my blog posts such as this where the topic seemed relevant). OK, the site may not be cutting edge, but in my view it contains sensible advice on how to tackle the spam problem. Yes, it has some ads on it, but these barely cover the hosting costs. If Stop Spam Email was meant to be a money-making scam, I would definitely be starving in my garret by now!

Finally, "Gordon" writes: "As to the blurb - "He enjoys a life of holidaying with his beautiful wife, playing his part as a regional celebrity, and occasionally putting finger to keyboard to write another book" - I spluttered my tea out! I met the guy a while back. His long-time partner, Jayne (mentioned on his own website) would be surprised to hear that he's off holidaying with a wife. His local celebrity extends to being a member of Lichfield & District Writers, a small-city writers' circle. And he holidays no more than the rest of us. Those considering this course should ask themselves why, if he has such insider knowledge and is so successful, he needs to sex up his circumstances and why he needs this mess of marketing schemes."

OK, I hold my hands up. Jayne and I aren't actually married. We've been together for 20 years and most people assume we are married (apart from the nice lady at the local leisure centre who still insists on referring to Jayne as my "sister"!). I'm sure that's what WCCL's copywriter did too. However, to spare "Gordon" choking on his tea any more, I have asked WCCL to change "wife" to "partner" the next time they update the Write Any Book in Under 28 Days sales page.

And yes, I support my local writers circle, Lichfield & District Writers, even though I'm not a regular visitor any more. I really don't give two hoots about being a local or regional celebrity - I much prefer a quiet life - but I suppose you have to grant WCCL's copywriter a bit of artistic licence. As regards holidays, Jayne and I do actually go away more often than most people I know. In the last year we've been to Lanzarote, North Wales, Greece, Venice and Cyprus, as well as a few places around England. It's not something I want to boast about, but we both enjoy travelling and don't have any other expensive hobbies, so it's our one luxury really.

Anyway, there you go. I've gone on a bit longer than I intended in this post, but I don't like to leave criticisms of me and my courses unanswered. I hope that at least if anyone sees the blog post in question now, reading this as well will help them to form a balanced view.

Please note: As previously stated, comments on this post are now closed. Thanks to everyone who replied, supportive or otherwise. Please do not post any further comments here, as they will be automatically deleted.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Karl's Christmas Screensaver

It's the start of December, and time to get into the Christmas spirit! So why not make your computer a little more festive by downloading the free Christmas screensaver just produced by my colleague and publisher Karl Moore and available from his blog at www.karlblog.com?

Karl's Christmas screensaver displays 100 beautiful festive scenes from across the globe, smoothly shifting from one image to the next. It's free of charge, and naturally it is also spyware-free, adware-free, and so on.


I should mention that Karl's Christmas screensaver is quite a large file. It's 35MB in total, and took around ten minutes to download on my broadband (cable) connection. I don't think I would recommend trying to get it this way if you're still on dial-up, therefore!

To download Karl's Christmas screensaver, just click on any of the links in this post, which will take you to the relevant post on Karl's blog, and click on the Download link (under 'Want to Download your Copy?'). It's a .exe file, so I recommend that you save it to anywhere on your PC (e.g. the desktop), then double-click in the usual way to launch it. The Christmas screensaver will then be installed on your PC. Of course, you can remove it permanently or temporarily at any time via your computer's Control Panel.

Finally, as I've mentioned Karl's blog here, I'd just like to recommend it to anyone who is interested in personal growth and self-development. It's a fascinating and inspiring blog, with an addictive mixture of odd facts, inspirational quotes and stories, random acts of kindness, and much more.

The same, incidentally, applies to Karl's forum at www.karlforum.com, which is great place for chatting with like-minded individuals and discussing some of the matters Karl posts about in his blog. Neither of these sites is commercially-oriented, but if you'd like to know more about the growing range of self-help products and publications sold by Karl's company, the place to look is Self Help Street. Do check them all out!

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Stephen King's Top Seven Tips for Writers

...That's the title of an article I saw the other day on The Positivity Blog by Henrik Edberg, a 26 year old student from Sweden.

In his article, Henrik has set out seven pieces of advice for writers gleaned from horror writer Stephen King's book
On Writing - which I highly recommend, by the way. Here's the first (and shortest) of the seven items:

1. Get to the point.

Don't waste your reader's time with too much back-story, long intros or longer anecdotes about your life. Reduce the noise. Reduce the babbling. In On Writing King gets to his points quickly. Get to your point quickly too before your reader loses patience and moves on.

The other tips in this article on The Positivity Blog are all well worth reading too. OK, none are Earth-shattering, but it's all solid stuff, and relevant to all types of writing, not just novels and short stories. Check it out!

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Have You Seen Yuwie?

Yuwie is the latest social networking website, following on from others such as MySpace and Facebook. However, it's unusual in that it shares the revenues it generates with its members, on the basis that the more you use it, the more money you make.

The Yuwie site is rapidly climbing the Alexa ratings (Alexa gives you one opinion about the popularity of a site). It's already made it into Alexa's top 3,000 sites on the Web, despite only just having been launched.

The way Yuwie works is that you join for free and get credited with one page view every time you visit a page on the site (even just to update your profile). They pay you for referral page views too, down 10 levels, so if you introduce just one or two people and they do the same, you can end up getting thousands of page views every day. Each month they announce their payout per thousand page views, and you get paid accordingly.

It's early days with Yuwie, and too early yet to say how successful it will prove. But if you're interested in earning a pain-free sideline income and the other benefits of joining a social networking site (e.g. your own free blog), Yuwie is well worth a look. And it won't cost you one red cent either!

Incidentally, if you're interested in earning a sideline income, check out also my recent posts about The Marketing Pond and AGLOCO (both also free of charge).

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Feed Your Imagination!

Just wanted to direct your attention to a great post made by my colleague Karl Moore on his blog yesterday.

The title is Today, Feed Your Imagination. As Karl says, "When you're inspired, and are free to let your imagination soar, you are capable of great achievements." And he goes on to offer ten random ideas to fuel your imagination and set your creative mind free. My favourite idea is probably number seven:

Get lost -- literally! Take any random train journey and see where you end up.

...Although I'd love to know what sort of ticket you should buy before embarking on this strategy ;-)

Karl's post is aimed at anyone, but I think it's particularly relevant for writers. If you're feeling in a rut, or even suffering from writer's block, why not try out one of the ideas in Karl's article? It could provide just the tonic your imagination needs to start firing on all cylinders again!

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Google Documents and Spreadsheets

In a couple of posts recently I've mentioned the free Google Documents and Spreadsheets service. I thought perhaps I should say a bit more about it.

Google Documents and Spreadsheets is one of the ever-growing range of free services from the search engine giant. In recent months I've been using Google Documents quite a lot.

Google Documents is the new name for what used to be called Writely, Google's free online word processor. Essentially, it lets you create documents using your web browser instead of a word processor such as Microsoft Word. The documents are then saved online for as long as you want them. There are several advantages to this.

1. It means that you can work on your document using any computer with an Internet connection. No need to keep switching disks or USB drives if you want to do some writing at home and some at the office.

2. Your work is automatically backed up on Google's own servers. Even if your own computer is damaged or stolen, the documents won't be lost.

3. Google Documents auto-saves your work regularly. If your computer is prone to occasional random crashes (as mine is), this can be a life-saver!

4. You can also allow one or more other people to access and edit documents using the 'Share' facility. I have used this for working collaboratively with my friend Simon, my co-author on 50 Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching.

5. In addition, you can publish your documents on the web for anyone to read. I did that very thing in my post about AGLOCO yesterday. There is no need to have your own website or know anything about HTML or FTP.

6. Finally, with Google Documents you can save easily to and from Microsoft Word, HTML, Rich Text Format (.rtf), and plain text (.txt).

I have found Google Documents especially handy for creating blog posts, and for the last few months all my posts (including this one) have been written on it. One reason I like using it for this is that Google Documents makes it very easy to create hyperlinks to other websites. You simply highlight the text you want linked and click on the 'Link' icon in the Google Docs toolbar. A pop-up box then appears for you to enter the URL of the site you want to link to, whether you want it to open on a new page, and so on. Once I have written my post, I simply copy and paste it into my Blogger account.

Are there any drawbacks to Google Documents and Spreadsheets? Well, obviously it doesn't have nearly as many formatting features as a word processor like Word. Also, as it's web-based, if you lose your Internet connection, you won't be able to access any documents stored on it. For this reason, I highly recommend that if working on your great novel, you save a copy on your own PC as well. Personally I tend to use Google Docs mainly for short documents such as blog posts, articles, outlines, notes, email newsletters, and so on. It has largely replaced the text editor I previously used for many of these purposes.

I don't know much about Google Spreadsheets, as I haven't yet had occasion to use this facility. If you regularly use spreadsheets, however, most of the above advantages will also apply.

To get a Google Documents and Spreadsheets account, click on any of the links in this post (or click here) to go to the homepage. If you click on Take a Tour of Google Docs and Spreadsheets, this will give you an overview of all the features on offer, including some I haven't mentioned. If you already have a Google Account, you can sign in from the homepage and get started straight away. If not, it is easy (and free) to apply for one - just click on Create a New Google Account on the far right of the screen. You can use your Google Account to access other free services such as Google Calendar as well.

You should find Google Documents and Spreadsheets quite easy and intuitive to use, but if you get stuck at any point, click on Help at the top right of the screen to access the extensive Help files.

Happy (Google) writing!

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ten Quite Interesting Things About This Blog

Here are a few things about My Writing Blog you might be interested to know...

1. The blog was started in November 2005, since when it has been visited around 22,000 times. This will be the 194th post I have made on it.

2. The largest number of visitors (38%) come from the United States. After that comes the UK with 34%. The country with the next highest visitor numbers is Australia, with 4%.

3. You can subscribe to My Writing Blog by entering your email address in the box near the top of the screen. All my posts will then be sent to you by email as soon as I make them. As of today, 242 people subscribe by this means.

4. If you use an RSS feed reader such as Google Reader, you can also subscribe to my blog using the links in the right-hand column. Using a feed reader removes the risk of emails being blocked by an over-zealous spam filter.

5. Comments are welcome on any of my posts. Just click on the 'comments' link at the foot of each post and enter whatever you wish to say in the pop-up box that appears. You can log in with your Blogger/Google account if you wish, but anonymous comments are also allowed.

6. You are also welcome to include a link to your own website in your comments. If you want the link to be clickable, it will need to be written in HTML. Note that all comments, especially those with active links in them, must be relevant in some way to the post concerned.

7. There is now a large amount of content on my blog. If you wish to search for a particular keyword or phrase, one method is to go to http://www.google.com/ and enter your chosen search term followed by the phrase site:www.mywritingblog.com. Any posts from my blog (and only my blog) that meet your search requirements will then be displayed.

8. If you have a Squidoo site, as discussed a little while ago in this post, you can enter the RSS or Atom Feed URL in Squidoo's RSS module, to have the most recent posts from my blog displayed on your site. This is very cool ;-)

9. Since the start of 2007, all posts on this blog have had labels. You will see these at the foot of each post. Click on any label (e.g. blogging ) and all the posts which have that label attached to them will be displayed.

10. Finally, if you think a certain post would be of interest to a friend or relative who isn't already a subscriber, you can email it to them by clicking on the 'email post' icon at the foot of the post concerned. A new window will open allowing you to enter your friend's email address and a covering note, e.g. 'Thought you might be interested to see this'. Click on Send Email, and away it will go. This is another very cool feature!

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Another Interview!

Yes, I've been interviewed again. This time it was by the American journalist A. Brewster Smythe (April) for the Associated Content website. You can read the interview by clicking here.

April asked me a number of interesting questions, including how the Internet is influencing writing and publishing, how the 'new media' are affecting print media, and whether I saw any future for printed newspapers. I had to think quite hard before answering these questions in particular. Check out my replies and see if you agree with me.

Incidentally, A. Brewster Smythe is the creator of the Blog Writers and Artists Network, a social networking site for writers and artists who blog. New members are always welcome, so if you fit the above description, do visit the site and sign up!

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Monday, May 28, 2007

The Blog Route to Publication

I've said it before here, but blogs are HOT in the publishing world right now!

An ever-growing roster of books have been commissioned from blogs. They include Blood, Sweat and Tea by London ambulanceman Tom Reynolds, Abandoned: The true story of a girl who didn't belong by Anya Peters (which is about homelessness), and the explicit Girl With a One-Track Mind by Abby Lee (real name Zoe Margolis).

I was reminded of this again a few days ago, when my colleague (and purchaser of my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course) Dr Suzanne Harris told me that she has a publisher interested in her new blog at http://dresstokillonebay.blogspot.com. The blog is described as 'A woman's guide to buying clothes on a budget'. It's a great-looking blog - do check it out - but perhaps the most impressive thing is that it has only been going for a few weeks.

So if you have a blog, it's worth thinking about approaching a few publishers to see if they are interested in turning it into a book. And even if you don't have a blog, there's nothing to stop you starting one. Use the free Blogger service, for example, and you could have a blog up and running in ten minutes - no programming skills required.

Finally, if you're wondering where to start in the quest to find a publisher for your blog, one company you could consider is the UK-based Friday Project. They are actively looking for books based on blogs or websites, and say they will consider both fiction and non-fiction.

Happy blogging!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Karl's New Forum

I've mentioned my colleague and publisher Karl Moore a few times in this blog. In particular, I'm a fan of his self-development blog at www.karlblog.com, from which I freely admit stealing a few ideas!

Well, the good news is that Karl has recently started a forum at www.karlforum.com (what else?) for readers of his blog. The new forum is a place where members can discuss discuss self-development issues generally, as well as popular features from the blog, including Random Acts of Kindness and the Friday Factoid.

Joining Karl Forum is free of charge. It's also quick and easy - just click on Register near the top right of the page, and follow the on-screen instructions. Members of Mywriterscircle.com should feel at home, as Karl Forum uses exactly the same message board software (albeit with a different design and colour scheme).

There are already some interesting discussions in progress, so do drop by and see what's going on. I've just registered myself, so maybe I'll see you there!

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Two Essential Blogs for Screenwriters

If you're interested in screenwriting for TV or film, here are two blogs you really ought to have on your Favorites list...

As you might guess, JohnAugust.com is the blog of Hollywood scriptwriter John August. In it John answers questions about working as a movie scriptwriter (and occasionally covers other topics as well). In a recent post, he talked about how to introduce a character. Here's a brief extract to illustrate the quality of advice on offer:

Just how early can you tell a script isn't going to work? To me, it's as the first few characters are introduced. If character introductions are not done artfully, the odds of anything else in the script being great are slim.


The visitor sits beside the bed and Ripley finally notices him. He is thirtyish and handsome, in a suit that looks executive or legal, the tie loosened with studied casualness. A smile referred to as 'winning.'

MAN

Nice room. I'm Burke. Carter Burke.
I work for the company, but other
than that I'm an okay guy.
Glad to see you're feeling better.

That's James Cameron's terrific script for Aliens, page 3, the introduction of Paul Reiser's character. Even before Burke speaks, let's look at what Mr. Cameron told us:

Burke's rough age.
That he's decent-looking.
He's a "suit," but trying not to look like a suit.
He seems friendly - but there's something possibly false about it.

Burke's first lines of dialogue reinforce our expectation from the character description. "Yes, I work for the company, but I want you to think I'm on your side."


Apologies that the script sample I've reproduced above isn't as neatly formatted as on Mr August's blog, but I'm sure you get the idea. Please see the post in question for the full, properly set out version!

If TV scriptwriting is more your thing, Jane Espenson's blog should be high on your list. Jane has written episodes for many top-rated US TV series, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Gilmore Girls, Ellen, The O.C., Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Dinosaurs, Andy Barker PI, and so on.

Jane says that her blog is intended 'to help new writers tackle the job of writing those all-important spec scripts - from picking the right show to spec, to developing an idea, to getting that dialogue exactly right, to giving the script that professional look.'

Here she is talking about writing specimen scripts:

Your spec script, even if it is for a show that is predominately arc-driven, will need to have at least some stand-alone elements. In fact, it should probably have as many stand-alone elements as you can get away with. So when you're looking at produced scripts, using them to try to put together a template for the structure of your spec, try to use stand-alone episodes as your examples as much as possible. If you're purchasing your scripts and can only afford a few, make them the most highly regarded episodes plus the stand-alone episodes.
As with John August's blog, Jane Espenson's is packed with helpful advice for aspiring screenwriters. Not only that, you even get to find out what she had for lunch each day!

Finally, just a quick reminder that if you're interested in screenwriting, my special offer on WCCL's Write a Movie in a Month course is still open. Not only do you get 20 dollars off the normal price, you also get three unique bonus items from me that are unavailable elsewhere. Just click on this link for full details.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Do You Squidoo?

In the last few weeks I've been exploring a new - and free - service called Squidoo. I say new, but it's actually been around since March 2006. I've only just discovered it myself!

Squidoo makes it easy for anyone to set up a single page website on any topic they wish. These one-page sites are referred to as lenses. Lenses can be about anything, including people and places, hobbies and sports, jobs and activities, and so on. As single page sites, lenses aren't intended to hold huge amounts of content; more emphasis is placed on recommending and then pointing to content on the web.

Users who create lenses are called 'lensmasters'. Lensmasters build up their lenses from a range of modules provided by Squidoo. There is a biography module, an introduction module, a 'Write' module for text, a poll module for incorporating opinion polls, a guestbook module, a links module, and so on. You simply choose the modules you want, fill in the necessary content, and click to publish.

There are two aspects of Squidoo that make it of particular interest to writers. First, no technical expertise is needed to build your lens. You don't need to know any HTML (although if you know a little, it will help you add some extra bells and whistles). You simply build up your lens by adding modules and arranging them as required.

The other attraction of Squidoo is that it gives writers the opportunity to earn from their expertise. All lenses have Google AdSense ads on their pages, and lensmasters get a share of the income generated from this. Of course, that's similar to Suite101, which I discussed here recently.

In addition, however, it is possible to incorporate a range of other money-making modules into your lenses. For example, the Amazon.com module will display books and other products relevant to your chosen topic. If anyone buys a book from Amazon via your link, the commission is split between you and Squidoo. There are also money-making modules for eBay, CafePress and other online stores.

I'm a beginner at Squidoo (and not particularly technical), but in a very short time I was able to build my first two lenses. Greece Travel Tips is a lens containing tips for anyone planning on going to Greece for the first time. This was done mainly for fun, to see how easy (or otherwise) it would be. My other lens is called How to Write a Book, and as you might guess is promoting my course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days. I'd estimate that each lens took me no more than two hours to create.

Based on my experience so far, I'd definitely recommend Squidoo as worthy of your attention if you're looking for ways to make money writing for the web. If you decide to give it a go, click on this referral link to get started and you will receive an extra $5 bonus from Squidoo once you have earned your first $15 (and so will I!).

If you'd like more info about Squidoo, there are a couple of guides I'd recommend. First of all, those of you who took my recommendation and joined The Marketing Pond can download a free guide called 'How to Use Squidoo' from the Products section. A more comprehensive guide called SquidooBlueprint is available for just $9.97 (around 5 UK pounds) from this website. SquidooBlueprint goes into much more detail about making money from Squidoo, and I recommend buying it if you hope to earn an income from the site. You can even sell the guide yourself once you've bought it and get 100% commission on every sale.

See you on Squidoo!

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Friday, May 11, 2007

My latest interview...

If listening to my recent interview on WritersFM wasn't enough for you, you might like to know that I was recently interviewed by Mauritius-based Alfa King for his blog. If you click on the following link, it will take you straight to the interview page.

Alfa asked me some interesting questions. In particular, he wanted to know if I had to give advice to a new writer/beginner, what would I tell them?

I had to think quite hard about this, as there is obviously so much that I could say. In the end I offered three pieces of advice that I hoped would be useful and not too obvious. Take a look at the interview and see what you think.

Alfa promises that he will be running a series of interviews with writers on his blog, so it's worth checking back soon to see whom he talks to next!

And if you're not sure where Mauritius is, clicking on this link should enlighten you. It's an island nation off the coast of Africa in the southwest Indian Ocean, about 900 kilometers east of Madagascar. It's somewhere I'd definitely like to visit one day!

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Win a Codd Bottle!

As a bit of Easter fun - and to help promote my new course on how to win competitions - my publisher Karl Moore has just launched a new contest on his blog.

It's a chance to win a codd bottle - and if you don't know what that is, you need to watch his recent video blog on the origin of the term "codswallop" at the URL below:

http://www.karlblog.com/blog/2007/04/friday-factoid-video-codswallop.html

Full details of the contest are in Karl's next blog post, or here is a direct link:

http://www.karlblog.com/blog/2007/04/my-happy-easter-competition.html

To win the contest, you have to complete a slogan provided by Karl. Naturally, people who have bought my new course will be at a considerable advantage here!

The closing date is Monday April 9.

Good luck!

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Still More Writing Blogs!

After my post last week several people got in touch to tell me about their own writing blogs and websites, so here are a few more to add to your Favorites list...

Canadian author Melody Rhodes (who also writes under the names Melody Marsden and Athlyn Green) wrote to tell me about her blog at http://writeandearnaliving.blogspot.com/.

This is essential reading for anyone interested in the business side of freelance writing. Melody has posted some fascinating articles, including 'Reprints and why you should sell them' and 'More ways to earn writing income'. In a recent post she takes a look at 'Article writing schemes and scams'. Here's what she has to say about certain job sites where authors are invited to bid for work:

If you've visited job boards for freelancers, you will have no doubt noticed postings that seek article writers. These often will offer ridiculously low pay rates and, in return, will demand flawless grammar and spelling. Often, you'll read: "spelling mistakes won't be tolerated." You'll be required to insert keywords and will need to research and produce articles that usually run around 500-700 words.

The real insult is that pay rates may be $3.50 per article, $2.00, or, in the worst nightmare of a scenario, $1.00 per. I recently saw an advertisement where the poster stated that he was only willing to pay $1.00 per 500 words or $1.00 per page and that only those who were serious needed to apply. To top off the lunacy, he wanted 10-20 articles produced daily! What an article mill!

I have to say I've seen even lower rates than this on offer at some freelance job sites. Clearly this is not the way to build a decent income as a freelance writer!

Another blogger I heard from after my previous post was the India-based Noel Gama. I've already mentioned Noel in this blog, as he took up the opportunity with Survival Books I mentioned a few months ago and is currently writing books for them about living and working in India.

Anyway, Noel has a blog devoted to business-to-business copywriting at http://b2blogging.blogspot.com/. Again, this is informative and highly readable. Here's a short recent post which showcases Noel's writing skills very well:
The Internet's fastest growing graveyard has an estimated 200 tombstones - dead blogs, called "Ghost Blogs!"

Blogging, having peaked in October 2006, when 100,000 new blogs were being created each day, is now on a precipitous slide, predicted by Gartner research to level out at 100 million. Other analysts predict a low of 30 million.

What started as perhaps the best tool for self-expression and publishing on the Internet, may be dying for the simple reason that their authors have run out of things to say. Others may neither have the time nor the inclination to write anymore. And as usual, the trendy crowd may have moved on to posting home videos on YouTube or to social networking on sites like MySpace where the response from other users is way faster.

But here lies the opportunity for serious bloggers who can post good content. It will be easier to be 'heard' over the now diminishing 'noise.'

Remember the hit song, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going?"

Long live the blog!

Couldn't agree with you more, Noel!

Incidentally, Noel also has a website at http://www.noelgama.com/.

Finally, my partner, Jayne, wouldn't forgive me if I didn't mention her writing website at http://www.writing-resources.info/. This site is packed with valuable resources for writers (including my courses, naturally!). It's also currently sporting a dazzling array of Easter decorations!

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More Writing Blogs to Check Out

I thought I'd take this opportunity to spotlight a few other writing blogs you might like to visit in addition to this one!

First up, my colleague Dr Suzanne (Suzie) Harris has just launched a blog specifically devoted to non-fiction writing. It's at http://nonfictionmuse.blogspot.com/. Suzie was one of the first people to buy my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course, and since then her writing career has gone from strength to strength. This particular blog has only just been launched so there isn't much on it yet, but if you're interested in writing non-fiction books and articles, it's definitely one to keep an eye on.

The second blog I wanted to mention is goodcopybadcopy, by professional writer and editor Clare Lynch. I actually discovered this when I noticed that I was getting a number of visitors to my own blog from this site, so many thanks for putting me on your "blogroll", Clare!

On her "About Me" page, Clare writes:
I'm a professional writer and editor with many years' experience in journalism and corporate communications. My clients include global banks, commercial and residential real estate firms, direct marketing companies and magazines. I also have a PhD in Old English poetry from the University of Cambridge.

My passion for the English language is almost matched by the splenetic pleasure I take in spotting its increasingly frequent abuses. Primarily for those in business, this blog aims to help readers avoid the common pitfalls that befall many writers - non-professional and otherwise.
Clare's blog includes lots of interesting observations about the good and bad use of English. If, like me, you are fascinated by grammar and punctuation and don't like to see them abused, it's a "must read".

And finally, I'd like to give a quick plug to my near-neighbour Linda Jones of Passionate Media Relations, who actually has three blogs. There's her journalism and PR blog at http://passionatemedia.typepad.com/, her freelance writing blog at http://www.freelancewritingtips.com/, and her blog devoted to news and features about having twins, triplets and more at http://www.gotyourhandsfull.com/ (great URL, by the way!). They are all well worth reading, though obviously the latter one may or may not be relevant to you!

Finally, just a quick invitation. If you have a blog or a website relevant to writers, would you be interested in swapping links with me? If so, drop me a line at e-writer-at-nickdaws.co.uk (change the -at- to the usual @ sign). I'll be happy to mention your site here (as long as I like it!), in exchange for a link to my blog from yours.

Happy blogging!

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Monday, March 19, 2007

New EU Directive Could Affect Writers

I was concerned to read this post by Dr Suzanne (Suzie) Harris in her S Files blog about the new Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which is due to come into force across Europe in December 2007. I've copied Suzie's first paragraph below:

When I received my copy of the Writers' News Magazine today I was shocked to read about a new law that prevents us as authors reviewing our own books online. If you are an author or publisher that reviews your own work on the 'net you could run into some serious trouble. On the 31st December (in some reports it's the 12th of December) 'The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive' comes into force.
Having read Suzie's post, I wanted to find out more about this myself. A little online research unearthed a useful article on the Media Entertainment Lawyer website. One quote from this seemed to sum up the situation to me:

The UK is still drafting its version of the legislation but amongst the activities that will certainly be prohibited is a business falsely representing itself as a consumer. Flogs or fake postings to newsgroups will certainly fall foul of this prohibition.
As I read it then, there will be no bar on authors reviewing their own books as long as they make it clear in the review that they are the author. It will, however, outlaw the (allegedly common) practice on Amazon and similar sites of authors giving their books a glowing review under a false name - representing themselves as ordinary consumers, in other words.

Banning this practice does not seem unreasonable to me, though there is an argument that it should be left to the sites themseves to police (as Amazon.com has done) rather than bringing in the lawyers. Unfortunately, also, there will still be no redress for authors who have been given deliberately poor reviews by rival authors or publishers.

In her blog, Suzie also expresses concern that the Directive may impact on sites such as PayPerPost, which pay bloggers to review other websites, products and so on. It will certainly stop bloggers doing this covertly, but if the blogger makes clear that the post is sponsored, I can't see there will be any problem. It is significant that PayPerPost and similar sites have all now moved to a policy of full disclosure, possibly in anticipation of the new law.

The article in Writers News Magazine referred to by Suzie in her blog post also hints that in future there may be moves to prevent friends giving one another's books glowing reviews. Truthfully I can't see this happening, though. The process of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" has being going on among authors and publishers almost since books were invented. And how could you "prove" that one person is a friend of another, and that this has influenced their review? I'm sure Trading Standards Officers, who are responsible for implementing the present laws in the UK, would feel that they have many more important things to do with their time.

Overall, then, I'm not going to lose any sleep over the new Directive. The practices being barred are not ones that would be used by any ethical writer anyway, and if the "cheats" on sites such as Amazon are barred, it can only be good news for the rest of us who would not stoop to such deceptions.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

One Way You Can Get Paid to Blog

From my forum I know that there is a lot of interest among writers right now in how they can make money from blogging. So I thought in this post I'd reveal just one of the many possible methods.

First, of course, you'll need a blog. Setting one up with a provider such as Blogger is actually very easy (and free). It takes just a few minutes, and requires no programming skills. You could nip over there right now and set one up if you wanted.

But just having a blog doesn't mean anyone will pay you for posting to it, does it? Well, actually, it does! A number of networks will indeed pay bloggers to mention specific companies and services on their blogs. As long as you do this as specified (e.g. there may be minimum word limits, and you may have to include a particular link code in your post), you will be paid a set fee (up to $40 or so) a few weeks later.

The network I have most experience with is PayPerPost. This is also the best-known network, and the one with the most advertisers. You can see one of my PayPerPost articles on this blog by clicking here. In fact, this was a great one to do, as the website in question is an excellent online dictionary I think all writers should know about anyway. So I knew I was giving useful info for my readers, and I also picked up a nice little fee for my trouble a few weeks later!

Unfortunately you can't just start a blog today and start earning tomorrow. PayPerPost require that any blog must be at least 90 days old, and it must have at least 20 entries in the past 90 days. Other networks have similar rules. However, that does of course mean that the sooner you set up your blog, the sooner you can start earning.

If you'd like more info about paid-to-blog opportunities with PayPerPost, just click here to go straight to their main info page, then click on any of the 'Bloggers' links.

Happy blogging!

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ficblogs

Have you heard of ficblogs? I must admit I hadn't, till I read an article about them by Addy Farmer in the UK magazine Writers News.

It transpires that a ficblog is a fiction blog, or fiction presented in blog form. Addy's own ficblog is called Wilf's World and describes the thoughts and adventures of a nine-year-old boy (Addy is a children's writer and teacher). It uses the popular Blogger platform, and is illustrated with many colourful photos.

One obvious drawback of using a blog to publish your fiction is that the most recent post always appears at the top. Addy's ficblog gets round this by using a diary format. You can go back to read earlier instalments by clicking on the navigational links in the right-hand column, but in general you can read the chapters in any order.

There are some advantages to the blog format too. If you enable it, your readers can leave comments and suggestions on any of your posts. And, of course, a blog is a quick and easy site to set up and run. Setting up a Blogger blog, for example, takes literally five minutes, and no technical skills are required.

And finally, publishers are increasingly turning to blogs as a source of new books and writers (see, for example, this post I made last year). Obviously there is no guarantee that you will be "discovered" this way, but if nothing else writing a ficblog could be a great way of practising your fiction-writing skills and getting feedback from readers across the world.

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