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Monday, August 24, 2009

Review: How to Write a Children's Book in 14 Days

How to Write a Children's Book in 14 Days is the latest in WCCL's range of products and courses for writers, which also includes my courses Essential English for Authors, Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and The Wealthy Writer.

How to Write a Children's Book in 14 Days is written by successful children's author Mel McIntyre. It's provided as an instant download in the universal PDF format, and is therefore suitable for all computing platforms: Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux. The main manual and bonuses are all password-protected (you'll find the password in the email you receive when ordering), but this is only a minor inconvenience.

Like all WCCL products, How to Write a Children's Book in 14 Days is beautifully produced, and it has obviously been professionally written and edited. The main manual weighs in at a substantial 178 pages.

The manual provides a practical, step-by-step guide to devising, planning and writing a children's book in the shortest possible time. It's divided into three main sections.

Section 1 (Day 1 to Day 5) takes you through planning your book. Its sub-title is The MAGIC Formula. Regular WCCL customers won't be surprised to discover that MAGIC here is an acronym. In this case it stands for Message, Audience, Genre, Imagination, Chapters & Verses.

Under each of these headings, Mel discusses the requirements for a successful modern children's book. The approach is hands-on throughout; for example, in the section about Message the student is required to complete a form summarizing the 'message' his or her book will communicate to readers.

Section 2 (Day 6 to Day 11) is where you get down to the nitty-gritty of writing your children's book. Its sub-title is Building BLOCKS, and yep, once again, BLOCKS is an acronym. B stands for Bang-On Beginnings - the rest I'll let you discover for yourself!

Section 3 (Day 11 to to Day 14) covers proofreading and editing your book. It's called Putting it to Bed (and no, for once bed isn't an acronym). There is also a short fourth section, which discusses getting feedback on your draft book and giving it a final polish.

Everything is clearly explained, with diagrams used where appropriate. There are also plenty of examples from successful, published children's books to illustrate the points made.

In addition to the main manual, there are also various bonuses. Perhaps the most useful is A Pocketful of Publishing. This discusses how to market your children's book (a topic not really touched on in the main manual). It includes details of publishers and agents who are currently looking for children's books. Self publishing is also covered, along with useful resources for those who want to try going down this route.

The other bonuses include a list of the author's top 50 recommended children's books that any aspiring children's author today should read. This is a mixture of acknowledged classics such as Alice in Wonderland, through to more modern books with which you may not be familiar unless you are a parent yourself!

Finally, the course includes an in-depth interview with the author himself, conducted by his wife.

Overall, I was very impressed with How to Write a Children's Book in 14 Days. If you want to write a saleable children's book, there is no doubt in my mind that this course will help you to achieve this.

Do I have any criticisms? Only perhaps that the recommended approach, with its heavy emphasis on planning and outlining, might not suit everybody. If you are the sort of writer who prefers to trust to inspiration and 'go with the flow', you might find it a little restrictive.

On the other hand, if you want a realistic, practical, step-by-step guide for creating your first children's book, How to Write a Children's Book in 14 Days would probably be ideal for you.

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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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Friday, July 03, 2009

VocabGrabber: A Free Tool for Improving Your Writing

I've reviewed a few paid-for writing products recently, so I thought today I'd feature a free service.

VocabGrabber is a web-based tool for writers and editors. It aims to help you identify words that are over-used in a piece of text and suggests possible alternatives for them.

VocabGrabber is free to use, although it also links to ThinkMap Visual Thesaurus, which is a paid-for service. Using it is simplicity itself. Just copy and paste your text for analysis (up to a hefty 200,000 characters) into the box and click on Grab Vocabulary.

Almost immediately, the text will be analysed and a 'tag cloud' will be displayed, with the words found most often displayed largest. Here's an example using my recent blog review of the PerfectIt proofreading software.


You can change the display to a list if you prefer by clicking on the 'List View' icon on the left of the VocabGrabber screen. This will produce a list of all 'Relevant' words found in the document, along with the number of times they are found. ('Relevant' words are words less commonly used in English that are likely to be of particular relevance to that document, excluding common words like 'and' or 'then'.)


The list shows the number of times each word is repeated. Highlighting any word ('software' in the example) will bring up a dictionary definition, a diagram showing words of similar meaning, and copies of usages from the text itself. If you click on any item in the list, it will take you to a more detailed page showing related words from the ThinkMap Visual Thesaurus. As mentioned, the latter service is not free, but you do get a few free trials to see how it works.

As the screengrab above shows, VocabGrabber found a lot of uses of the words 'document' (11) and 'software' (8). There isn't really much alternative to 'document' in the post concerned, but if I was editing it now, I might try to use another word in place of some of those 'software' usages ('program', for example).

Overall, VocabGrabber offers a handy service for writers and editors. It's useful for identifying any words that may be over-used in a document (making it read poorly and look amateurish). The alternate suggestions from the free service are a bit limited, so if you find the site helpful you might perhaps want to consider subscribing to the companion Visual Thesaurus service (which is reasonably priced at $19.95 a year for the online version).

Even if you don't want to part with any money, however, VocabGrabber is worth a place on your Favorites list as a quick tool for checking you're not over-using certain words and expressions without realising it.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Review: PerfectIt Proofreading Software

This week I've been checking out PerfectIt, a dedicated proofreading application produced by London-based Intelligent Editing Limited.

Like myWriterTools, which I reviewed in this recent post, PerfectIt operates as an add-in for Microsoft Word.

It works with Word 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007. In versions of Word prior to 2007, PerfectIt is listed in the Tools menu. In Word 2007 (which I use) you click on the Add-Ins tab at the end of the Ribbon, then click on PerfectIt to run the software.

So what exactly does PerfectIt do? Essentially, it checks that any Word document is internally consistent. For example, it ensures that if you have spelt a word in one way in a document, you haven't spelt it differently somewhere else. PerfectIt runs a series of tests on your document and highlights any possible errors it finds. You can then allow the software to 'fix' these errors, or ignore them and move on to the next.

The screenshot below shows an example of the software in action. In my test document, it has found the phrase 'after school' used without a hyphen once and with one twice.


In this case, my usage was actually correct. The hyphen was required where the phrase after-school was being used adjectivally in front of the noun (an after-school club), but not where it was used adverbially (bored after school). As you can see, PerfectIt appreciates that this could happen and has included a note at the bottom of the box about it.

If, however, I had wanted to make all my uses 'consistent', I could have chosen the preferred phrase from the list. All exceptions would then be shown below this, and I could correct one at a time by clicking on 'Fix', or change them all by clicking on 'Fix All'.

I found the software easy and intuitive to use, and very fast. On my test documents (mostly modules from courses I've written) it found a few inconsistencies, mainly in my punctuation/capitalization of lists. PerfectIt also revealed that I had spelt 'specialize' with both a 'z' and an 's' in the same document. I'll have to correct these errors the next time the courses concerned are updated!

The software highlights any instances where contractions such as can't or won't have been used, and suggests writing them out in full. I'd accept that this would be preferable with formal documents, but that doesn't really apply to most of my writing. Still, you can skip any tests you don't want the software to run, either temporarily or permanently, using the Change Test menu item.

One other small irritation I found is that if you've written a word such as WILL in all caps for added emphasis, the software assumes that this is an abbreviation and asks you to define it. Again, though, I suppose you wouldn't do this in a formal document.

PerfectIt does NOT (oops - done it again!) check the spelling in your document, except for inconsistencies, and neither does it check for grammatical errors. Of course, Word has its own built-in spelling and grammar checkers, or you can use something like myWriterTools or WhiteSmoke. As mentioned earlier, PerfectIt is really a consistency checker. As such, it will work equally well with UK or US English or any other flavour/flavor.

Overall, I was highly impressed with PerfectIt and will be using it regularly from now on. I think anyone who regularly writes long(ish) documents would benefit from it, and it would also be particularly good for ensuring consistency in documents with multiple authors. Incidentally, companies can also get their own customized version of the software, incorporating their own house-style specifications.

If you think you might benefit from using PerfectIt, you can download a one-month trial of the full program free of charge from the PerfectIt website.

  • Finally, just a quick note of caution. Programs like PerfectIt, myWriterTools and WhiteSmoke can save you time and help you spot mistakes/weaknesses in your writing, but they are NOT a substitute for learning the rules of grammar and punctuation. My downloadable guide Essential English for Authors covers all the common problem areas, and will bring your written English up to a publishable standard in the shortest possible time.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Follow Me on Facebook!

Just a quickie to let you know that I now have a public Facebook Page.

If you're a Facebook user yourself, you are very welcome to sign up as a 'Fan' of my Page.

You will then receive notification via Facebook of my latest blog posts and selected Twitter updates (e.g. those with links to websites of particular interest to writers). As with all Facebook Pages, you will be able to comment on any of these items, ask questions, start discussions, and so on.

I will also add extra material on my Page to supplement items from my blog and Twitter. And I will notify Fans directly if, for example, I hear of an interesting writing opportunity or vacancy.

I will be adding more features and content to my Facebook Page as time permits (and as I learn how it all works!). It is my intention to make it an essential resource for anyone interested in writing and - especially - students of my courses such as Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and The Wealthy Writer.

I hope to see you on the Nick Daws Facebook Page soon!

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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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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Free Stuff for Writers From WCCL!


Regular readers will know that this blog is sponsored by my publishers, The WCCL Network.

WCCL publish my courses such as Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and The Wealthy Writer, along with a wide range of other training courses, software, CDs, and so on.

You might not know, however, that WCCL also offers a number of free websites, resources and services for writers.

First among these is my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com. This is an open-access forum with nearly 9000 members all over the world. My role is to manage MWC, and I am particularly pleased by the reputation that it has built up as the Internet's friendliest writers' forum. Much of the credit for this must go to my dedicated team of volunteer moderators, of course.

If you want to get feedback on your writing, ask (and answer) questions, discover new writers' markets, or just shoot the breeze with your fellow authors, My Writers Circle should be high on your Favorites list. You can browse the forum without logging in, but to get the most from it you should really register (free) and become a member. It's easy and it's fun, although admittedly many of us do find it rather addictive!

Another free service sponsored by WCCL is WritersFM, the Internet's first online radio station by and for writers. WritersFM features a mixture of music, writing tips and in-depth interviews with successful authors, conducted by your irrepressible host, Karl Moore. There are some big names among them, including historial novelist Bernard Cornwell, British politician turned author Edwina Currie, world famous screenwriting guru Syd Field, top copywriter Joe Vitale, and many others (including yours truly).

WritersFM broadcasts continually on a regularly updated loop, or you can stream or download most of the interviews from their podcasts page. Note that you will need a broadband/DSL connection to listen to WritersFM, however.

Yet another WCCL giveaway is the bi-weekly Smart Writers newsletter. This has some great articles about writing, along with tips and advice, inspirational quotations, and much more. Yes, it also includes promotions for WCCL's writing-related products, but these are almost invariably offered at a discount - and, naturally, there is never any obligation to buy anything.

You can subscribe to Smart Writers via their Writers Giveaway site. Essentially, you get a huge selection of writing-related software, e-books, MP3s, and so on, just for signing up. You can unsubscribe any time you like, of course, so why not join the newsletter's existing 300,000+ subscribers and sign up today?

Finally, they're not aimed at writers, but WCCL also sponsors two other giveaway sites which operate in a similar way to the writers' site. The Self Growth Giveaway offers personal development guides, software, even free hypnosis downloads, just for signing up to a newsletter. And the Software Giveaway provides a vast range of free Windows software and utilities, including programs that will boost your creativity, protect your privacy online, and help you work more efficiently. I strongly recommend checking both of these excellent offers out!

Photo credit: Rileyroxx on Flickr.com

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

How to Get Twitter Search Results on Google

Here's an interesting technique you may like to try to broaden your Google searches. It works on the open source Firefox browser (not Internet Explorer).

With a couple of easy-to-install add-ons, you can get all your Google searches to display the results of the same search on the micro-blogging service Twitter as well. As an example, here's a screengrab of the results of a Google search for Lichfield (my nearest large town) with the relevant add-ons installed...


The screengrab shows the Twitter search results (with some interesting links to explore). These appear at the top of the results page. Below this in the search was the usual list of results from Google.

So how do you add this feature? It's actually a two-stage process. First, you have to add the Greasemonkey tool for Firefox. This is an add-on which enables you to customize how Firefox handles and displays web pages in a wide range of ways. Like all Firefox add-ons, it's very easy to install. Just visit this page and click on Add to Firefox.

With Greasemonkey installed, you will then need to install the Twitter Search Results on Google script. Just go to this page and click on Install. The Greasemonkey script installation panel will appear. This shows you what sites the script will run on (Google, in this case) and asks if you want to install it. Once you have done so, any time you perform a Google search in future, the Twitter search results will also appear.

I've been using this script for a while now and have found it surprisingly useful. In particular, it often throws up interesting, current links people are talking about that don't appear in the usual Google search results. You can easily switch it off if you don't want it, however, either by disabling Greasemonkey (click on the monkey icon at the foot of the screen and watch it turn from a smile to a frown), or just by disabling that particular script on the Greasemonkey configuration panel.

Happy Google Twitter searching!

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Friday, May 29, 2009

2009 Writer's Digest Best Websites List Published

As you may know, every year the top US writing magazine Writer's Digest publishes its list of the Top 101 Websites for Writers, as voted for by its readers.

The 2009 list has just been published, and I was delighted to see that my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com was included - the third successive year it has been on the list.

There are some changes in the 2009 list compared with previous years. For one thing, the websites have been divided into categories, as follows:
  • Agent Blogs
  • Writing Communities
  • Publishing Resources
  • Jobs and Markets
  • Creativity and Challenges
  • Genres/Niches
  • General Resources
  • Fun for Writers
As a side thought, I find it slightly surprising that there is a section for agent blogs, but not one for blogs by writers or editors (of which there are some excellent examples). I also wonder whether non-writing-specific sites such as Twitter should really be on the list, useful though this service undoubtedly is.

Nevertheless, I strongly recommend spending a little time exploring the Writer's Digest 101 Websites List for 2009, as there are lots of great resources listed there. If you're anything like me, some you will know already, but others will be new to you. I've already found several such sites to add to my Favorites list!

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Review: MyWriterTools

I was lucky enough recently to be sent a copy of myWriterTools, a new program designed to help writers create better documents.

In view of the name, I should perhaps start by clarifying that this is not a WCCL product (WCCL sponsor My Writing Blog and My Writers Circle, among other sites for writers).

myWriterTools operates as an add-in for Microsoft Word. It works with Word 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007. Once it's installed, you can access all the functions it offers via a special toolbar.

In versions of Word prior to 2007, the myWriterTools toolbar shows up directly above the document and is visible all the time. In 2007 (which I use) you have to click on the Add-Ins tab; the toolbar then appears under this and you can access all its functions there. I actually rather like this, as it means the toolbar is hidden until you need it. Here's a screengrab with the drop-down tools menu activated...


So what does myWriterTools actually do? It's designed to help writers in a variety of ways. For example, it will help you fix common formatting problems (e.g. replacing all double spaces with a single space), find and replace incorrectly used words, make documents gender neutral, convert US to UK English (or vice versa), and so on. There are also tools to help you improve the readability of your work, e.g. by finding and fixing long words and sentences, and built-in style guides. Other features include:
  • lyRemover - finds and changes unnecessary adverbs ending in -ly
  • JargonBuster - finds and fixes commonly misused words and jargon
  • ClicheCleaver - finds and changes overused cliches
  • GenderBender - finds and replaces sexist language to make documents gender neutral
There is also a built-in back-up tool, which time stamps back-up files with your comments.

myWriterTools does not include generic spelling or grammar checkers, presumably because Word has these already. The program is really designed to extend the range of tools provided within Word and make them more specific to the needs of writers.

Overall, I was impressed with myWriterTools. It is much cheaper than similar products such as WhiteSmoke, while still offering a wide range of features. In fairness to WhiteSmoke, I should point out that their software (which I do also recommend) operates rather differently. It has its own built-in spelling and grammar-checkers and can be used with other text-based applications, including word processors, email programs, web-based forms, and so on. myWriterTools, as I said earlier, can only be used with Microsoft Word.

Nonetheless, if you're looking for help bringing your writing up to the highest possible standard - and you use Word, of course - myWriterTools is well worth the modest price being asked. There is also a slightly more expensive version for proofreaders and editors, offering additional features such as format tags and style sheets.

Incidentally, the latest addition to the myWriterTools product range is myWordCount (scroll down the myWriterTools homepage to see this product). This is a standalone program that will analyze your Word document for word and phrase usage and sentence length. It then produces sortable tables of counts for all words and phrases, and graphs sentence lengths. It looks like a useful tool for polishing your writing, and I'm planning on buying a copy myself (it's on offer for just $9.95 right now). I'll review it here soon.

Finally, just a small note of caution. Programs like myWriterTools and WhiteSmoke can save you time and help you to identify mistakes and weaknesses in your writing, but they are NOT a substitute for learning the rules of grammar and punctuation. My downloadable guide Essential English for Authors covers all the common problem areas, and will bring your written English up to a publishable standard in the shortest possible time.

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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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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Wealthy Writer FAQ

My new downloadable course The Wealthy Writer - co-written with Ruth Barringham - has been out for a few weeks now.

I'm getting great feedback from buyers (see this review and this blog comment, for example), but I'm also receiving quite a few questions. So I thought I'd publish my answers to the most frequently asked here...

1. What's the difference between The Wealthy Writer and Quick Cash Writing?

Quick Cash Writing is my guide to making money writing short items for (mainly) traditional publishing media. It covers writing articles, fillers, short stories, greeting card ideas, jokes and comedy sketches, and so on.

The Wealthy Writer, on the other hand, is entirely about making money writing for online markets, including blogging, e-book writing, online article writing, bidding on job auction sites, and so forth.

2. How long will The Wealthy Writer be available at its current discount price?

I don't know the answer to this, I'm afraid. Pricing is entirely in the hands of my publishers, The WCCL Network, and they could in theory decide to raise the price at any time. I'm not aware of any immediate plans to do so, but even so I wouldn't leave it too long if you're thinking of buying.

3. Who is the Wealthy Writer aimed at? Is it suitable for anyone?

The Wealthy Writer has been written primarily for writers who have some knowledge of the Internet and are taking their first steps in making money online from their writing skills. It's also suitable for people with more experience who are looking to bring their online earnings up to the next level.

The course does not assume any special knowledge of website building, programming, HTML, and so forth. If you're brand new to the Internet, however, it might not be 100% suitable for you until have a bit more experience of the online world.

4. I have a query about the ordering process. Whom can I ask?

My publishers, The WCCL Network, have a 24-hour customer support website at www.myhelphub.com. If you have any queries about ordering, raise a ticket there and one of their trained technicians will get back to you with an answer, normally within 24 hours.

Myhelphub.com is also the place to go if you need technical support with the course, or encounter any problems downloading it.

5. Can you tell me who wrote which chapters?

The Wealthy Writer was a collaborative project between myself and Ruth Barringham. We both worked on every chapter.

I wrote the initial draft of some chapters where I had the greater knowledge or experience, e.g. blogging; and likewise for Ruth, who wrote the initial draft of the chapter on e-book publishing, for example. However, every chapter of the completed course contains input from both of us.

6. How do you recommend approaching the course - there's so much in it?!

It's true, The Wealthy Writer has a LOT of content. In retrospect, we could and perhaps should have produced a number of shorter guides and made more money out of them. However, we wanted to produce one comprehensive guide which covers all the main ways of making money as an online writer - and that is, I hope, what we ended up with.

As we say in the course, we recommend that you do NOT try to do everything covered in The Wealthy Writer at once. Rather, pick one or (at most) two areas and focus on them. Once these are up and running successfully, you can then think about applying some of the other methods described in the course.

7. How do I get the special bonuses you are offering?

The Wealthy Writer already includes a number of bonus items - see the main sales page for more info. However, as a special thank-you to people ordering via my web page, I'm offering two additional bonus items to people who order via my website only.

The bonuses concern the micro-blogging service Twitter, and together explain how writers can use Twitter to help boost their online earnings. Please see my web page for more details, including how to claim your extra bonuses from me. Basically, though, all you have to do is go to the sales site via my link, and send me an email to let me know once you have made your purchase. As soon as I have confirmed this, I will send you my bonus reports.

Finally, if you have any other queries about The Wealthy Writer, please post them below as Comments and I will do my very best to answer them. Alternatively, use the Contact Me form if you don't want your question (and my answer) to appear publicly.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!



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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Free Report: 10 Ways to Make $10K

If you're looking for extra ways to make income from the Internet, here's a free report you may like to check out.

It's written by successful author and Internet entrepreneur Jimmy D. Brown, who is also author of the popular guide Small Reports Fortune. The full title is Ten Proven Ways to Make at Least $10K Every Month.

The ten methods include several that will be of particular interest to writers. They include 'Type Your Way to $10K' and 'Tweak and Flip Info Products'. The latter is particularly popular at the moment, and is a field I'm just starting to get into myself.

There are no catches, and you don't have to give your email address or sign up to a newsletter to access it. I've posted it on the popular Scribd document-sharing site, from which you can read it, download it, share it, and so on. Just click here or on any of the links in this post to visit the relevant page.

The report also includes links to resources providing in-depth information about the opportunities described, and in some cases materials you can adapt or use. These are all very reasonably priced, and should tell you everything you need to know to get started.

Even if you're only mildly curious, however, I recommend downloading Ten Proven Ways to Make at Least $10K Every Month and reading through it. Who knows, it may provide just the inspiration you need to start your very own money-making sideline!

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Review: Pod Publicity

Today I'm reviewing a new e-book by Heather Wallace, the full title of which is POD Publicity: How to Take a Print-on-Demand Book From Obscurity to Profitability.

POD Publicity (as I'll call it from now on) is a well-written, downloadable manual in the universal PDF format. It's 67 pages long, so quite concise.

All the URLs are hyperlinked, and I was impressed to see good use of the left-hand Bookmarks panel to provide links to the chapter and section headings. This makes finding your way around much easier than is the case in some PDF manuals.

So far as the content of POD Publicity is concerned, to borrow a well-known advertising slogan, it does exactly what it says on the tin. If you've written a POD book, it will show you a wide range of ways you can promote it. These include blogging, social networking, guest posting on other people's blogs, article writing, forum marketing, and various others.

POD Publicity doesn't tell you how to create your book, though Heather does have some advice on the best services to use, choosing a good title, and so on. Basically, though, this manual is all about publicizing your POD book, and there are some real gems here, based on Heather's experience as the author of two self-published titles, two POD books and three ebooks.

One chapter I particularly enjoyed concerns promoting your book on Amazon, using tags, Listmania lists, Amapedia, and so on. In my view the tips in this chapter - titled 'Navigating the Amazon' (LOL!) - are worth the price of the guide alone.

POD Publicity covers some similar ground to The Best-Seller Secret from my sponsors WCCL. The Best-Seller Secret is aimed at a broader market than POD Publicity, and it sets out a week-by-week pre-launch strategy. On the other hand, POD Publicity is particularly relevant to POD authors, and it offers some great additional tips, many of which are also relevant to non-POD authors.

In my view, if you're going down the POD route, POD Publicity should probably be your first buy, while with other forms of publishing and self-publishing The Best-Seller Secret might be the better choice initially. For the maximum benefit, however, I'd really recommend buying both.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Appear on my blog!

Just a quickie to point out that, if you're on the micro-blogging service Twitter, YOU can appear on my blog!

This is via the TwitterRemote widget, which appears in the right-hand column of the blog. I've put a screengrab of the widget below...

For your profile to show up, you do first have to sign in to TwitterRemote, although in future (once Twitter implements OAuth, which should be soon), this will not be necessary.

The good news is that you only have to sign in once, after which your profile will automatically appear on the TwitterRemote widget of any blog or website that uses it when you visit. This can be great for meeting like-minded Twitter users and boosting your follower numbers.

If you have a blog or website, you can get your own TwitterRemote widget free of charge. Just visit this site and follow the step-by-step instructions. You can then see who is visiting your site and maybe get in touch with them.

I'll hope to see your profile showing up on my blog soon!Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Co-operative Tagging Service for Amazon Authors

A few weeks ago in this post I wrote about tagging, an easy and legitimate way for authors to promote their books at the Amazon online bookstore.

Well, I recently heard from author Todd Fonseca about a blog he has set up called Tag My Book on Amazon.

This is basically a co-operative service for authors to help one another get more tags for their books. Essentially, you upload details of your book to Todd's blog, including its Amazon page and the tags you want added (up to three). Other users of the service then visit your book's page and add these tags for you, thus raising your book's profile and helping potential buyers find it more easily.

It's a free service, and depends on the goodwill of everyone involved to make it work. If you hope to benefit, then, you should also spend some time going through the list of requests from other authors and applying tags as requested.

Tag My Book on Amazon is aimed primarily at authors with books listed on Amazon.com, but Todd says he is happy for users whose books are only available on Amazon.co.uk (or other national sites) to use the service also. However, he points out that you can only apply tags if you have actually made a purchase at the Amazon store in question, so UK users are unlikely to get as many tags as those in the US.

Still, I think Tag My Book on Amazon is a brilliant concept, and if you have any books for sale on Amazon you should definitely check it out. Click here for more information about tagging, and click here to submit your book.

Finally, I also recommend reading the other articles on Todd's blog, especially Tag My Listmania, which reveals how to use Amazon's Listmania feature to help promote your books, and Shelf My Book, which is another co-operative scheme to help promote your title on the Goodreads website.

UPDATE! Todd has now added a dedicated page for authors who want to promote their books on Amazon.co.uk.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Wealthy Writer Just Launched!

I'm excited to reveal that my latest WCCL course The Wealthy Writer has just been launched!

The Wealthy Writer is a complete guide for authors on how they can make money writing for the Internet. I wrote it in collaboration with successful author/publisher Ruth Barringham.

In The Wealthy Writer, we aimed to cover all the main ways writers can make money writing for the Internet. They include:
  • blogging
  • writing website copy
  • short report writing
  • e-book writing
  • article writing
  • affiliate marketing
  • selling your writing services via job auction sites
  • setting up a writer's website
  • advertising online for writing work
  • and many more!
The Wealthy Writer represents the culmination of the project I began with Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, my top-selling guide to book writing, and Quick Cash Writing, which covers faster ways of making money from writing: articles, short stories, comedy writing, and so on.

I had been aware for a while that what was still needed was a dedicated guide to making money writing for online markets. The Wealthy Writer is the last piece of the jigsaw - and it was great to be working on it with Ruth, who has experience of some areas I don't know quite as well (and vice versa).

Anyway, I'm not going to go on too long here about The Wealthy Writer. I'd simply like to invite you to click through any of the links in this post to visit a page of my website where I've included an extract from the course and details of a unique special offer for anyone buying it via my site!

With the aid of the Internet and this guide, you really can become The Wealthy Writer of the title!

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ten Top Tips on Grammar and Punctuation

I have a particular interest in the 'nuts and bolts' of good writing. In the time I've been writing this blog I have discussed this subject on various occasions.

So in this post - written for Problogger's 31 Days To Build A Better Blog challenge - I thought I would list ten of my favorite such posts.

1. What Mr Sanders Taught Me

In one of my earliest posts, I reveal a valuable rule taught to me by my old English teacher, Mr Sanders (God rest his soul). If you're ever unsure where to place a possessive apostrophe, this rule will tell you.

2. Representing Thoughts in Fiction

This is a question that keeps arising on my writing forum. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are certain guidelines to bear in mind. In this post I set out my advice.

3. There's the Problem...

Who would have though an innocuous word like 'there' could create so many problems for writers? And yet, time and again, it trips up even professional authors and journalists.

4. Question Marks in Mid-Sentence

Question marks in mid-sentence - are they grammatical or not? It's a contentious area, but in this post I try to throw a little light on the issue.

5. Tense in Fiction

Should you use past tense or present tense for your novel or short story? In this post I examine the pros and cons.

6. Sean and the Vocative Comma

Many aspiring writers are unaware of the vocative comma and the rules governing its use - but if you omit or misuse it, you may end up inadvertently giving your readers entirely the wrong message!

7. Capitalizing Names

This old post gets a lot of search engine traffic, even today. In it I discuss the rules regarding whether you should write Dad or dad, Uncle or uncle.

8. Using Trademarked Terms in Fiction

This is another of those issues that many beginning writers agonize over - probably unnecessarily in many cases, as this post reveals.

9. What's a Worn?

In this post I discuss the importance of proofreading your work before submitting it, and offer a few tips about this. What's a worn? Read the post to find out!

10. Bad Grammar in a Holiday Brochure

In this post I talk about a grammatical mistake I spotted in a holiday brochure, and go on to discuss the correct use of a number of related prepositions.

Incidentally, if you would like a complete guide to bringing your English up to a publishable standard in the shortest possible time, you might like to check out my downloadable course Essential English for Authors, available from WCCL (see banner below).


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Thursday, April 02, 2009

What New Writing Product Would YOU Most Like to See?

My colleague Karl Moore of The WCCL Network - who publish several of my writing courses - wants to know what new writing course or product he should produce next. And he's looking for ideas and suggestions from readers of my blog.

For those who don't know, WCCL already produce a wide range of writers' resources, from my own Quick Cash Writing and Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, to Travel Writing Secrets and Movie in a Month. You can see the whole range on their WriteStreet portal.

So what new product or course would YOU most like to see next from WCCL? A few suggestions already made include:

* Freelance journalism course
* How to profit from writing/selling e-books
* Proofreading and editing course
* Comedy writing course
* Short story writing for fun and profit
* How to win writing competitions

If you particularly like (or dislike) any of these ideas, Karl would like to know. But ALL ideas and suggestions are very welcome. This is your chance to have a say in the future development of WCCL - and there may even be commissions on offer for suitably qualified writers!

So put your thinking cap on, and post your suggestions as comments below - or, if you prefer, write directly to Karl at karl @ karlmoore.com. He's waiting to hear from you!

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Review: Super Affiliate Insights

I was lucky enough this week to get my hands on a review copy of Super Affiliate Insights, the brand new downloadable guide from Internet marketing guru Codrut Turcanu.

As the name indicates, Super Affiliate Insights is all about affiliate marketing - a method of making money by advertising other people's products and services on the Internet and earning a commission on any sales you generate.

Although Super Affiliate Secrets is not directly related to writing, as I know that many of my readers are interested in affiliate marketing - and also because I was very impressed with the guide - I thought I would review it here.

I should start by saying that I'm not a complete beginner where affiliate marketing is concerned - I earn a sideline income of several thousand dollars a year by this method, notably from the WCCL affiliate program and Clickbank.

Nonetheless, I was surprised by how much I learned from this well written and attractively presented PDF manual. In fact, Codrut himself keeps a low profile in it. Instead, he has conducted in-depth interviews with five successful affiliate marketers, who reveal the secrets of their success and offer a generous range of tips and advice. The five are as follows:
  • Colleen Slater - An Aussie mother of three who spent over $10,000 on worthless products until she found the 'magic ingredient' that brought her from zero to $20,000+ per month in three years.
  • Stephen Carter - A former physicist (and published novelist) who stumbled upon the 'giveaway' secret that generates massive traffic, leads and affiliate income for him. Stephen is giving away via this manual a valuable tool for Clickbank marketers that sends notification every time you make a sale.
  • Rod Beckwith - A marketer who found a proven way to grow his lists into thousands and generate multiple streams of affiliate income without bidding on AdWords or spending a cent on advertising. Here's a clue: He's also known as Mr Joint Venture.
  • Ian del Carmen - A guy from the Philippines who discovered how to automate his entire business via outsourcing, to generate extra affiliate commissions for minimal time and effort.
  • Eric Holmlund - A programmer who found the key to unlocking ClickBank's full potential. He makes more money in a month than most people make in a full year in a salaried job.
Each of the interviews is presented in a Q & A format. The advice is wide ranging, and includes generating affiliate fees from niche marketing, blogging, website building, article writing, Squidoo, HubPages, pay-per-click advertising, and more.

At the end of each interview there is a page of questions for the reader to answer based on what they have just read, e.g. 'What is the most important piece of advice you got from this interview?' Space is provided for your answer. Although a simple idea, this is a really good device for making you think carefully about what you have learned.

All the interviews are very informative, though I particularly enjoyed the one with Colleen Slater, who talks in detail about niche marketing, blogging and article marketing. I picked up a lot of useful tips from Colleen that I will definitely be implementing myself in the months ahead.

As you might expect, there are lots of product recommendations throughout Super Affiliate Insights, with links to their sales pages; but, of course, you don't need to buy any of these items if you don't want to. The advice itself is still worth many times the modest asking price.

I have printed out my own copy of Super Affiliate Insights, and already it's covered in notes of things I intend to implement or investigate soon. If you are at all interested in affiliate marketing as a sideline or even a full-time business, I strongly recommend taking a closer look at this info-packed guide.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Five Things I Wish I'd Known as a New Freelance Writer...

I've been a full-time freelance for nearly twenty years now. I've made a few mistakes along the way, but I've learned a lot as well. So what advice would I give to anyone starting out on this path today? Here are five things I really wish I'd known all those years ago...

1. You Don't Have to Know Everything

When I was beginning my writing career, I worried a lot about what I didn't know.

Every time I came across a word I hadn't seen before, rather than view it as an opportunity to learn something new, I took it as a further sign that my vocabulary wasn't wide enough to succeed as a writer. (In fact, I now realise that while having a good vocabulary is definitely an asset, you could go through an entire writing career without ever knowing the meaning of palimpsest, clepsydra, ursine, and many more...)

It wasn't just vocabulary either. I worried that I didn't know whether I should use "toward" or "towards", "forever" or "for ever", "continuous" or "continual", and many more. And I could waste a whole morning agonizing over whether I should use a dash or a colon in my opening paragraph.

What I realise now is that most of these things matter little. Quite often, either choice will be acceptable. My advice to a new writer today would be to get a good dictionary and style guide, and refer to these whenever you're in doubt. But if you're still not sure, just make your best guess and move on. The chances are that whatever you choose, your editor will change it anyway!

The Americans have a very good expression for this: Don't sweat the small stuff.

2. It Pays to Specialize

There are lots of other would-be freelance writers out there, so you need to do whatever you can to make yourself stand out. For me, anyway, that has meant specializing.

Specializing has all sorts of advantages for a freelance writer. If you are regarded as an "expert" in your field, editors and publishers will turn to you when they need a writer on the subject in question. In addition, because of your perceived expertise, you may be able to charge a higher rate than an "ordinary" freelance.

Don't just stop at one specialism, though. Try to develop a number. My specialist subjects include self-employment, advertising and PR, careers, the Internet, gambling for profit, popular psychology, English grammar, writing for profit, and several more. At least then, if there is a fall in demand for one of your specialisms (as has happened for me in recent years with careers writing), you have other strings to your bow.

My advice to a new writer would be to start with an area you know a lot about, or have a particular interest in, and make it your business to become an "expert" in that field. Write a few articles about it, perhaps for low-paying markets when you're getting started. Once you have published some work on your specialism, people will start to regard you as an expert in it, and more work is likely to follow. By researching more articles and talking to "real" experts, you will build up your store of knowledge, until you really are something of an expert in your chosen field. It's worked for me, anyway ;-)

3. Don't Take Criticism Too Seriously

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you shouldn't listen to constructive feedback on your work. However, you should evaluate it carefully and be prepared to reject it if you don't agree with it.

Remember that judgements about quality (or otherwise) are often subjective. There's a story I tell in my CD course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days about a time when I regularly wrote careers information articles for a large UK publishing house. These were basically four-page articles about different jobs.

I submitted my articles to one particular editor at the publishing house. Invariably they came back to me covered in red ink, with insertions, deletions and transpositions all over the place. I tried to learn from her comments and improve, but still every time the articles came back changed almost beyond recognition. She still put the edited articles through, but I honestly felt like a schoolboy whose report card read, "Could do better".

Then I got a new editor - a man this time, as it happens. I submitted my latest article to him, and waited for it to come back to me covered in red ink as usual. And waited. And waited. So eventually I phoned him up and asked what had happened to my article. "Oh that," he said, sounding surprised I had even mentioned it. "It was fine, so I put it through for publication."

The truth is that in writing, as in life, everyone has different views of what is good and what is bad. So listen to criticism by all means, but try to evaluate it objectively, and always feel free to reject it if you think it's wrong. And never, ever, take criticism personally.

4. You've GOT to Put Yourself About!

However good a writer you are, no publisher or editor is going to beat a path to your door. Especially when you are starting out, you must be prepared to send off torrents of query letters, emails, book proposals, and so on. Look for publishers seeking writers - the Writers Wanted board of my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com is one good place to start - and if a vacancy looks interesting, fire off an application.

Put yourself about in the flesh too. Join your local writers' circle, go on writers' courses and conferences, volunteer to give talks, and run classes in adult education. In the online world, set up a writing homepage and/or a blog, and join at least one writers forum. And sign up at social networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and FaceBook. All of this will help raise your profile as a writer, and make it more likely that potential clients will get in touch with you.

And also under this heading I'd add, build up your network of useful contacts. These can come from all sorts of places: fellow writers you meet, proofreaders and editors you work with, folk you meet on courses, people you interview for articles, people you connect with via online services such as Twitter, and so on. Nowadays, at least half of all the new writing opportunities that come my way do so as a result of networking.

5. Enthusiasm isn't Everything - Maybe Just 90%...

OK, I'm being a bit tongue-in-cheek here, but one thing experience (mine and other people's) has taught me is that enthusiasm will carry you a long way as a writer. I'm sure it's true in other fields as well, but clients generally are more inclined to hire writers who are enthusiastic about their work rather than those who seem simply to be going through the motions.

Obviously, you DO need in addition the writing skills and other qualities to deliver a good job. Without enthusiasm, however, you will probably never get the chance to demonstrate that you have these skills and qualities.

Look at it this way. If an editor gets two applications, one from someone who is relatively inexperienced but brimming with enthusiasm, the other from someone with an impressive CV who sounds as though they could barely be bothered to get of bed this morning, nine times out of ten it's the writer with the enthusiasm who will get the gig, even if they may not have as much experience. It's human nature that we all respond better to people who have a positive attitude themselves.

So before sending off an application for any writing job, ask yourself honestly: Do I really sound as if I want this job? Do I appear excited by the prospect of working with this company? Can the client see that I am bursting with ideas and raring to do a good job for him? Or, conversely, does my application sound half-hearted? Does it sound as though I don't really expect to get the job, and don't much care one way or the other? If the latter is the case, hit "Delete" and start again. You MUST, MUST, MUST convey enthusiasm in all your applications and proposals!

If you have any other useful hints or tips for new writers, feel free to add them below as comments.

Happy writing!

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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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Friday, March 06, 2009

Review: How to Start and Run Your Own Home-based Business

How to Start and Run Your Own Home-based Business is a brand new, printed book by my colleague Matthew Thomas. I was fortunate enough to receive an early review copy.

How to Start and Run Your Own Home-based Business is an attractively produced 235-page trade paperback. It takes you step-by-step through setting up a home business, beginning from assessing whether you are suited to this and choosing a business idea. Plenty of self-assessment exercises are provided to help with these matters.

The book goes on to cover the practicalities of setting up and running your business. It covers most of the areas any aspiring home-based entrepreneur will need to know about, including market research, planning permission, raising finance, marketing, book-keeping, Income Tax and VAT, insurance, and so on. There is even a chapter on deciding whether to expand and the pros and cons of employing others.

I also enjoyed the long chapter near the end, where Matthew sets out 50 home-based business profiles, giving brief details of what each entails and resources for further information and/or training. If you're not sure what business to start, this chapter could be a good source of inspiration.

The profiles include such occupations as freelance writing, proofreading and indexing, but also non-office-based jobs such as gardening, house-sitting and car valeting. Matthew explains that by the term 'home-based business' in the title, he includes jobs where you are based at home but do some or all of the work on your customers' premises.

How to Start and Run Your Own Home-based Business is aimed primarily at people in the UK, so the resources and contacts given are nearly all British, and the information on tax, National Insurance and so on also refers to the UK system. I can't really recommend this book for non-UK residents, therefore; but if you are in Britain and thinking of going down this route, in my view it would be an ideal guide.

The ISBN of How to Start and Run Your Own Home-based Business is 978-0-9561091-0-1 and it is published by W & H Publishing. The cover price is 12.99 UKP, but you can order at a discount from Amazon.co.uk, either by clicking on this link or on the image link below. Note that you will need to visit my blog to see the image link.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Precision Matters!

This is National Words Matter Week, so I thought I would take up the challenge set down by the organisers to write a blog post inspired by this subject.

And yes, as a writer and writing teacher I know that words matter very much. That is why it is so important to choose them with care and precision.

Many beginning writers fail to understand this, and their work lacks punch as a result. A common mistake is to shore up a vague choice of words with adjectives or adverbs.

Thus, rather than scour his brain for the precise, correct noun such as cypresses, the novice writer settles for 'tall trees'. Rather than write 'She strode' or 'She marched', he writes the first, vaguely relevant line that comes to mind: 'She walked quickly.'

New writers are often inclined to over-use adjectives and adverbs, but the best writers use them sparingly; indeed, the author D.H. Lawrence once said, 'I would compel a young writer to put down 500 words without using a single adjective.' The reason for this is that, all too frequently, adjectives are used to shore up a weak, vague choice of nouns (and the same applies with adverbs and verbs).

Words matter. Vague words create blurry images in the minds of readers. By contrast, a precise choice of words brings a scene into sharp and vivid focus. Poets know this better than anyone, of course. Here is the poet Dylan Thomas, writing in prose on this occasion, describing A Child's Christmas in Wales...

It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero's garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared.

I defy you to find a single woolly word in that paragraph, or any of the rest of this charming piece.

Aim to emulate Dylan Thomas and find the right, precise words for every occasion, and I guarantee that your own writing will spring to life for your readers as well!

* National Words Matter Week is an annual, national observance sponsored by the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors to highlight the value of words in communication. This year it runs from March 2nd to 6th. Visit the National Words Matter Week website to download the free NWMW Yearbook and teleminars with top writers, plus find out how YOU can get involved.

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

WCCL Week: Self-Publishing Secrets


All this week I've been spotlighting a range of great products for writers from my sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network.

Today is the final day of WCCL Week, and for my last item I'm featuring a personal favorite from WCCL's range, Self-Publishing Secrets.

Self-Publishing Secrets is written by the prolific UK author Carol Ann Strange, who also happens to be a former colleague from my days as a freelance tutor for The Writers Bureau.

Self-Publishing Secrets is an instant download (no waiting for a CD to arrive in the post!). The main manual (there are also various bonuses) is arranged in nine chapters: Introduction, Welcome to Self Publishing, Preparing Your Book for Publication, Going Into Print, Handling Your Book's Sales and Distribution, How to Market Your Book Successfully, Using the Power of the Web to Promote Your Book, How to Increase Your Self Publishing Profits, and Resources.

Self-Publishing Secrets makes a persuasive case for self-publishing as an alternative to seeking out a conventional publisher. It is particularly strong in the advice it offers about promoting and marketing your book. The manual is packed with ideas for getting publicity and sales, and really does fire you up with enthusiasm for getting your book out there and embarking on your first publicity tour!

You can read my full review by clicking on Self-Publishing Secrets Review.

And if you scroll down the review, you will see that I am making my own very special offer on this product when you buy via my blog. You get my own mini-guide to publishing an e-book at the self-publishing site Lulu.com - and you also get a copy of my e-book Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching (co-written with Simon Pitt), as actually published on Lulu. Please read the instructions carefully to discover how to claim these extra free gifts from me personally.

I firmly believe that, in these recessionary times, self-publishing represents the best way forward for many authors today. Self-Publishing Secrets will show you everything you need to know to get started in this exciting field.

This post is the last of WCCL Week, but I would just like to remind you again that you can see all of WCCL's writing products, including some I haven't had room to feature this week, on their writing portal at WriteStreet.com.

Enjoy your writing, and watch out for some very special promotions on WCCL products on my blog and forum soon!

Photo credit: singsing_sky on Flickr

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

WCCL Week: The Best Seller Secret

All this week I'm spotlighting a range of great products for writers from my sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network. Today I'm featuring The Best-Seller Secret

The Best-Seller Secret is written by Dan Strauss, WCCL's senior editor, and successful author Mel McIntyre. It's provided as an instant download in the universal PDF format.

I should make one thing clear right away, however. Despite the title, The Best-Seller Secret will NOT show you how to write your book (for that, try Novel in a Month or my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days). Rather, The Best-Seller Secret is for anyone who has written a book, or is on the way to doing so, and wants to know how they can get it into the Amazon online bookstore's Top 100 Books list, with all the benefits that can flow from this.

You might think that only a major publishing house would have the resources (and budget) needed to propel a book into best-sellerdom. But, as this guide reveals, the Internet has changed all that. It sets out a ten-step strategy literally anyone can use to make their book an Amazon best-seller.

The Best-Seller Secret really does make this aim realistic and achievable. Yes, it will involve you in doing some work, but the returns (both direct and indirect) from having an Amazon best-seller should justify this many times over. It definitely can be done, and the guide includes several case studies of successful campaigns.

To see my full review, please click on Best-Seller Secret Review.

With The Best-Seller Secret, you really can become a best-selling author at the world's favorite online bookstore!

Watch for my next blog post tomorrow spotlighting another great WCCL product for writers. Alternatively, visit WriteStreet.com today to see the whole range!

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Friday, February 27, 2009

WCCL Week: Movie in a Month

All this week I'm spotlighting a range of great products for writers from my sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network. Today I'm featuring Movie in a Month.

Movie in a Month is written by three successful screenwriters, two based in the US and one in the UK. It is provided on CD-ROM in the universal PDF format.

At the heart of Movie in a Month is a 156-page manual on screenwriting by Los Angeles-based James Lamberg, who has written (and ghost-written) over fifty screenplays.

James has a highly readable and motivational style. His system for writing a 'movie in a month' is based on his unique and powerful five-part W.R.I.T.E. formula.

Along with James's manual, you get a wide range of other items. These include a 30-page guide to movie plotting, a Little Black Book of movie industry contacts, a guide to screenplay formatting, and over 850 sample movie and TV screenplays and treatments. And more besides. Perhaps you can see now why it's supplied on CD-ROM rather than as an instant download!

To see my full review of Movie in a Month, please click on Movie in a Month Review. By the way, if you scroll down the review, you will see that I am (still) offering a very special deal for people buying via my blog. Not only can you get $20 off the usual price, you also get three extra free bonuses from me that are unavailable anywhere else. Read the instructions carefully to discover how to claim these.

With Movie in a Month, it really is possible to break into this exciting and lucrative field and become a successful movie or TV screenwriter!

Watch for my next blog post tomorrow spotlighting another great WCCL product for writers. Alternatively, visit WriteStreet.com today to see the whole range!
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

WCCL Week: Writer's Block CD

All this week I'm spotlighting a range of great products for writers from my sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network. Today I'm featuring The Writer's Block CD.

Writer's Block is a common affliction among writers. For whatever reason, the creative spring runs dry and words refuse to flow. Many popular and successful writers have been affected by writer's block, and for some it has ended their careers.

The Writer's Block CD is NOT a manual of hints and tips for beating writer's block - there is no shortage of those. Rather, it is an audio CD that uses an advanced technology called binaural beats to help 'entrain' the mind into a creative state.

You can read my full review of The Writer's Block CD by clicking on Writer's Block CD Review. Briefly, however, it works by playing sounds of slightly differing frequencies in each ear (so headphones are needed when using it). Studies have shown that when you do this, a resonance is created in the brain at a frequency that represents the difference between the two frequencies. On The Writer's Block CD this difference is set at 4.5 to 9 Hz. This corresponds with the theta and alpha frequencies in the brain. These are the brainwave frequencies most associated with daydreaming and creativity.

I've been using The Writer's Block CD for some time now, and find it really does help me to get into a creative groove. Other members of my writing forum have found it a valuable aid also. If writer's block is a problem for you - or you just want a method for enhancing your creativity - in my view it's well worth checking out.

Watch for my next blog post tomorrow spotlighting another great WCCL product for writers. Alternatively, visit WriteStreet.com today to see the whole range!
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

WCCL Week: Essential English for Authors

All this week I'm spotlighting a range of great products for writers from my sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network. Today I'm featuring one of my own guides, Essential English for Authors.

Essential English for Authors is a guide for anyone who hopes to write for publication, but is afraid their written English might let them down.

Essential English for Authors covers all the common problem areas for new writers: from the basics of grammatical sentence and paragraph construction, through principles of capitalization and punctuation, to 'minefield' topics such as subject/verb agreement and how to set out and punctuate dialogue. Everything is explained in simple, easy-to-grasp terms, with lots of examples to illustrate the points made.

It's not JUST the basics, however. A long module titled 'Putting on the Style' covers a range of matters that - while they may not all be essential to achieving publication - will help bring your written English up to the highest possible standards. There are also self-study tests you can complete to check your understanding of the material covered.

I'm sometimes asked why anyone should buy Essential English for Authors rather than, say, the famous Elements of Style book by Strunk & White. My answer is that Strunk & White offers good advice on writing American English, and I do recommend reading it. However, unlike my guide, it was not written specifically for writers seeking to achieve publication. The original version was published over 90 years ago, and although it has been revised since then, it does not always in my view reflect the realities of writing for publication today. Many people also find it rather dry and prescriptive. My guide aims to clarify which 'rules' are the ones you MUST follow for your work to be taken seriously, and which ones nowadays are regarded as less critical.

Finally, I should add that Essential English for Authors assumes no previous knowledge, and is suitable for beginners and people for whom English is not their first language. It is, however, equally relevant for established writers who want to brush up on their knowledge of these matters.

To sum up, if you want to bring your writing to a publishable standard in the shortest possible time, Essential English for Authors will help you to achieve this. It won't turn you into Shakespeare, but it will ensure that your writing is taken seriously by editors, agents and publishers, and not rejected out-of-hand due to errors of grammar and punctuation. The rest, as they say, is up to you!

Watch out for my next blog post tomorrow spotlighting another great WCCL product for writers. Alternatively, visit WriteStreet.com today to see the whole range!
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

WCCL Week: Novel in a Month

All this week I'm spotlighting a range of great products for writers from my sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network. Today I'm looking at their latest writing course, Novel in a Month.

Novel in a Month is written by Dan Strauss, Senior Editor at WCCL and a successful author/novelist himself. The course is provided on CD-ROM in the universal PDF format.

As you will gather, Novel in a Month is aimed at anyone who wants to write a complete novel in the shortest time possible. The system set out in Novel in a Month involves writing your first draft in three weeks, then editing it in the fourth. There is also a preliminary stage of planning and outlining, which takes up the first day or two.

Novel in a Month is far more than just an outlining system, though. It is packed with hints and tips for writing your novel as quickly and efficiently as possible. Among the things I particularly liked in it were the 'population index' chart for developing characters, and Dan Strauss's unique P.L.O.T. plotting method, neither of which I had seen before.

I know one or two people have gotten a bit confused between Novel in a Month and my own course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, so I am happy to try to clarify the difference here.

Write Any Book in Under 28 Days was WCCL's original writing course. My brief then was to create a course that would cover all types of full-length writing projects, fiction and non-fiction. The method of outlining and blueprinting set out in Write Any Book in Under 28 Days is therefore suitable for any type of book, and there is also a long section devoted to fiction writing. Nonetheless, it is fair to say that Write Any Book in Under 28 Days has a slight bias toward writing non-fiction (which is, of course, my speciality).

Novel in a Month was developed in response to requests for a course specifically devoted to novel writing. It is a completely different course by a different author. Novel in a Month goes into much more detail about novel-writing than I did in my original course, though my course does include some advice and ideas that aren't in it. Ideally, then, I think that if you want to write a novel you should really buy both (I would say that, wouldn't I!?). But if you just want one guide to writing a novel, I have to admit, Novel in a Month is probably the one you should go for.

You can read my full blog review of Novel in a Month by clicking on the following link: Novel in a Month Review. And, of course, you can click through to WCCL's sales and info page via any of the links in this post or my earlier review.

If writing a novel is one of your goals for 2009, Novel in a Month will provide you with all the tools and knowledge you need to see the project through to completion!

Watch out for my next blog post tomorrow spotlighting another great WCCL product for writers. Alternatively, visit WriteStreet.com today to see the whole range!
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Monday, February 23, 2009

WCCL Week: Travel Writing Secrets


As I mentioned in my last post, all this week I'll be spotlighting a range of great products for writers from my sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network.

Here in Britain, and most of the northern hemisphere, we're coming to the end of a miserable winter. It's a time when many of us start thinking about getting away from it all.

So I thought I'd start WCCL Week with a look at the company's definitive guide to travelling and making money from it: Travel Writing Secrets.

Travel Writing Secrets is written by my colleague Mel McIntyre, who has also written several other WCCL courses. It's supplied on CD-ROM, in the universal PDF format. It's a complete guide to travel writing, suitable for both new and experienced writers.

Like all WCCL products, Travel Writing Secrets is beautifully produced, and - as always with WCCL - it has been professionally written, edited and produced. The main manual (there are also various bonus items) is a full 220 pages long. It takes you through pretty much everything you need to know to get started as a travel writer. The content is well organized and crammed with useful, practical information. For example, in chapter two alone you will discover the three things travel articles MUST do, the seven types of travel article, five secrets for gathering information for your articles, and so on.

Travel Writing Secrets also covers interviewing techniques, outlining and writing skills, and how to pitch ideas to editors. And, of course, it has in-depth advice on selling your work, with details of large numbers of potential markets. There are also some clever (and little-known) ideas for turbo-charging your travel writing career, from applying the step-by-step T.R.A.V.E.L. writing model to setting up your own travel writers' network.

To see the full review on my blog, just click on Travel Writing Secrets Review. And don't forget to scroll down my review to see details of my unique special offer for people who buy Travel Writing Secrets via my link. As you'll discover, I'm giving away a downloadable half-hour instructional video plus resource file on great ways to make money online from digital photography. In my view it's the perfect accompaniment to Travel Writing Secrets, and should give you lots of ideas for ways of making money from your travel photos!

Watch out for my next post tomorrow spotlighting another great WCCL product for writers. Alternatively, you can visit WriteStreet.com today to see the whole range!

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Friday, February 20, 2009

WCCL Week: Preview

As you may be aware, this blog is sponsored by my publishers, the electronic publishing house WCCL.

WCCL also sponsors a wide range of other free services for writers, including the Mywriterscircle.com forum, the WritersFM online radio station, the Smart Writers newsletter, and so on.

Like many companies, WCCL has suffered a downturn in business due to the current world-wide recession. Although WCCL have said they are committed to continuing their support of the world-wide writing community, it is important that none of us take this for granted.

I have therefore set aside next week as WCCL Week on this blog. Each day from Monday through till Sunday, I will be highlighting one particular WCCL product that I particularly recommend for writers. I hope you may want to check out some of these products, and maybe invest a few dollars on any that are relevant to your writing interests.

For further ways of supporting WCCL during this challenging time (including one free method and another that can actually make you money!), check out this forum topic: Please Support Our Forum Sponsors.

Thank you very much on behalf of my sponsors!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Interview with Diana Nadin of The Writers Bureau

Today I'm pleased to welcome to my blog Mrs Diana Nadin, Director of Student Services for The Writers Bureau, the UK's leading distance-learning college for freelance writers.

As a former tutor and assessor for The Writers Bureau - and author of some sections of their comprehensive creative writing course - I have known Diana for many years, so I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed for this blog.

I know from the number of times the subject crops up on my forum that there is a lot of interest among members in The Writers Bureau, and plenty of questions people want to ask about it. Without further ado, then, let's start trying to answer some of those questions...

ND: Welcome to my blog, Diana. Could I start by asking whether The Writers Bureau is for UK students only, or can anyone in the world enrol? Do you accept students for whom English is not their first language?

DN: Thanks, Nick - it's good to be here. In answer to your question, at The Writers Bureau we have students from all over the world. Just take a look at our website and click on Student of the Year 2009 and our 20th Anniversary Awards winners. You'll see that, although many of them are from the UK, there are also a good number from overseas.

Many come from places like India, Africa and the Caribbean where English is widely spoken. They write for both English-speaking publications and also those in their own language. However, there are other students from around the world who use the course to learn the skills they need but then write only in their own language.

ND: Who do you think can benefit most by studying with The Writers Bureau? Are there any groups of people who might be better not enrolling, or perhaps taking another course instead?

DN: We have students of all ages and from all walks of life. They are people who want to fit the course around their other commitments, whether these are work, family or social. They are often people who want to earn a good second income from their writing but aren't quite ready to give up their day job! Our courses are very flexible and that is what appeals to most people.

And those who shouldn't consider enrolling? If someone can't cope with constructive criticism or the thought of rejections from publishers and editors then they should think twice before enrolling. In fact, they should think very carefully whether they've got what it takes to be a writer.

ND: How long does it take for a student typically to complete the course? Are there any limits to how long students are allowed to take?

DN: There's no such thing as a 'typical' student. We've had people complete the course in 12 months, but many take a lot longer. One of the best things about all our courses is that you can work at your own pace, rather than having to keep up with others

ND: Here's a question from Mywriterscircle.com member Linda Jones. She wants to know how the tutors who work for The Writers Bureau are recruited, and what are the criteria for them to be given the job?

DN: There are a number of ways that we recruit tutors. These include: recommendation from other tutors; writers who see our adverts or website and contact us to ask about vacancies; and, of course, successful students. The last category is great because they are familiar with the course and how our systems work. Plus, they know what it feels like to be a distance learning student so they can empathise with the writers they are helping. And, because they're successful, they're a great advert for our methods and students find that very reassuring.

One of the main things we look for in all our tutors is that they are being published regularly so that they have current working knowledge of the markets. They also need to understand that criticism which comes over as friendly and helpful in a face-to-face situation may sound harsher in black and white. So, they have to ensure that the advice they offer is constructive and if they point out that something is wrong, be able to show how to improve it. It's all about anticipating problems that a student might face and then providing reassurance.

ND: Speaking of tutors, what happens if you don't get on with the one you are allocated? Can you change to a different tutor?

DN: We do our best to place students with a suitable tutor by asking them to complete a Personal Profile Questionnaire at the start of the course. But if this doesn't work - for whatever reason - we're more than happy to move them to someone with whom they can build up a better rapport.

ND: The Writer's Bureau is well known for offering a money-back guarantee on its courses. As I understand it, this states that if a student hasn't earned back the cost of their course by the end of it, you will refund their money. Several people have asked if this guarantee can possibly be genuine. In particular, could you explain what evidence you require before authorising a refund, and what proportion of students actually claim under the guarantee?

DN: The guarantee certainly is genuine! When a student gets to the end of the course and has not earned the equivalent of their course fee we don't quibble. All we ask is that they provide us with a selection of rejection letters or emails (about half a dozen) to prove that they have actually been approaching editors or publishers with their work. Once we've seen these we usually arrange a refund straight away.

However, we do ask tutors to keep an eye on students as they work their way through the course to ensure that they are following advice and are not rushing through their studies. It's a two-way thing! And, as a number of our students know, it's not getting to the end of the course that's important, because many of them start earning from their writing before this point.

Only a very small percentage of students claim under the guarantee. There are a number of reasons for this. To be absolutely honest with your readers, some students join the course but don't work through all the assignments for whatever reason. Others reach the end and feel that they have had so much enjoyment from the course and support from their tutors that they decide not to take advantage of the guarantee. Those that work at the course generally start earning from their writing. Then it's the small number who are left that receive their refund under the terms of the guarantee!

ND: What one piece of advice would you give to new students to ensure that they get the most from their course with The Writers Bureau?

DN: I think probably the best piece of advice I can give is to be open minded and willing to take on board your tutor's comments. Talking of being open minded, if you want to succeed as a writer you need to be willing to tackle quite a range of different kinds of writing. Many people start with us wanting to concentrate on fiction. They have a go - somewhat reluctantly - at writing articles, and they're hooked!

And can I cheat and squeeze in another piece of advice? Make sure you do your market research thoroughly - and have a definite market in mind when you start writing.

ND: I'd be interested to know what are The Writer's Bureau's future plans. In particular, as we're conducting this interview online, do you have any plans to develop your website and/or to offer more courses online?

DN: We've actually got quite a lot of plans in the pipeline. We're currently having our website re-developed. When it's finished there will be a student area with a forum, a resource area with lots of links to useful writing sites, and students will be able to access their first modules online while waiting for their course material to arrive.

We're also starting up a new ezine edited by students and with content written by students. Calls have already gone out in our free monthly email magazine Ezeewriter for suggestions for a name. An editor has been appointed - but this is not a permanent position and other students will be given the opportunity to volunteer.

As regards courses, we have three new ones in the pipeline. The first is Writing Competitions - the Way to Win. This provides advice on poetry, short story and article writing competitions from Alison Chisholm and Iain Pattison - giving you the opportunity to have some of your competition entries critiqued. There is a Proof Reading Course, written for us by Simon Whaley, and the Complete Copywriter Course, written by you, Nick! So, as you can see, we've got plenty of plans for the next couple of months.

ND: Thanks, Diana. Finally, do you have any advice for current Writers Bureau students who may have any queries, or potential students who are still wondering whether to enrol?

DN: If you're already a student and you've got any queries about your course, then get in touch with one of our Student Advisors by email at studentservices-AT-writersbureau.com - they'll be happy to help you. [NOTE FROM ND: Please change the -AT- in the email address above to the usual @ symbol - I present email addresses this way on my blog to stop them being harvested by spammers.]

If you're still wondering whether to enrol, you can get advice by emailing us at the same address - or why not send for the course so that you can have a good look at it during the 15-day trial period? It's the best way we can think of to help you decide whether one of our courses is right for you!

ND: Many thanks for taking the trouble to answer my questions today in such detail, Diana.

DN: You're very welcome!

Finally, as Diana has let the cat out of the bag, I guess it's OK to reveal that I am currently half-way through writing a course on copywriting for The Writers Bureau. All being well, this will be out later this year. It will be a printed course aimed primarily at UK writers, with a series of assignments to be assessed by personal tutors (not me personally). I hope anyone wanting to learn more about copywriting (and, especially, freelancing in this field) will find it helpful.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Online Community for Independent Authors and Publishers

I wanted to alert you today to a brand new online community for independent authors and publishers.

Publetariat launched earlier this month. It describes itself as an online news hub and community. Although it's still early days, I can already see this site becoming an important and influential resource for anyone with an interest in writing or publishing.

Here are just some of the things you will find on Publetariat, in the site's own words...
  • News about independent authorship & publishing
  • Insightful and practical articles from experts in Print On Demand (POD), ebook publishing, book promotion, author services, social media, online video, podcasting, and more!
  • Words of wisdom from successful independent authors and publishers
  • Trip reports from relevant conferences and events
  • Reviews of relevant products and services
  • Member profile pages where you can promote yourself, your sites and your published works
  • Member blogs
  • A moderated community forum
I was fortunate to be invited to set up a contributor account for Publetariat in the pre-launch period. You can see my first article for Publetariat (based on an earlier blog post) by clicking here.

I have also set up my own profile page on Publetariat: you can view this by clicking on Nick Daws' Profile. I am finding that this page is already ranking high in Google for a range of searches including my name, and it is generating extra traffic to this blog as a result.

If you have any interest in writing or publishing, I highly recommend visiting Publetariat and registering (free) as a member. Not only is this going to be a resource of ever-increasing value to writers and publishers, it offers many potential opportunities for networking with others in the independent publishing field.

What's more, the site's already-high ranking in the search engines suggests that it should also be valuable for attracting extra traffic to your blog or website, if you have one. So, once you've registered as a member, don't neglect to start creating your profile.

See you on Publetariat!

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Get Your Free Issue of Freelance Market News!

Freelance Market News is a printed, monthly newsletter of market information for writers.

It's produced and published by The Writers Bureau, the UK's leading distance-learning college for freelance writers. Some of you will know that I used to be a tutor for The Writers Bureau, and also wrote some of their course material.

Anyway, I thought readers of this blog might like to know that the Freelance Market News website has just been updated - and as part of this they have uploaded a recent sample issue of the newsletter as a PDF.

The sample issue is January 2009, so it's almost bang up to date! If you click through to the Freelance Market News site and click on the image in the left-hand column, assuming you have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed, it should open in your browser. You can then see all 16 pages, and even print them out if you like. See what I mean about getting your own free issue?!

Freelance Market News lists dozens of market opportunities and competitions. It also has articles, letters, adverts, and so on. The listings are primarily UK-based, but there is also a page of 'overseas' markets. If you're a freelance writer looking for more outlets for your work, it's a very useful resource.

Subscribing to Freelance Market News cost 29 UKP a year (11 issues) or 17 UKP for six issues. Somewhat surprisingly, the price is the same whether you're in the UK or overseas. Subscribers also get a range of other benefits, including free and discounted competition entries, a free appraisal of their writing, and so on.

Whether or not you choose to subscribe to Freelance Market News - and as you'll gather I do recommend it - I hope you enjoy reading your free issue!

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Guest Post: The Business of Writing

Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post by my old friend and former Writers Bureau colleague Carol Anne Strange.

Carol Anne is the founder of writers' jobs and opportunities website Write This Moment, and a published author with over 20 years' experience. She also wrote the popular guide Self-Publishing Secrets, published by WCCL. In this article she provides a few insights on how to increase your chances of securing writing commissions...

Even at the best of times, writing can be a challenging profession, so it helps to marry your creativity with some good old-fashioned business sense to increase your chances of achieving a fruitful freelance writing life.

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction for commercial publication, here are a few important pointers to help you succeed in the business of writing:

1. Be Professional. Let your creativity forge your writing but develop a business outlook if you aim to profit from your words. Be the ultimate professional from start to completion. It will increase your chances of gaining commissions and contracts.

2. Follow Guidelines. In running Write This Moment, editors tell me that their biggest grumble is about writers failing to adhere to the guidelines or simple instructions provided. Lack of attention to detail can cost a writer a valuable commission, so take time to follow the editor's requests.

3. Write for Your Audience. Whether you're writing a novel, feature, script, filler or business copy, always write with your audience/readers in mind. That means researching your target media and writing to suit their requirements. When you deliver what your audience wants, then you are more likely to succeed.

4. Be Organized. Create a daily to-do list and establish priorities. What needs to be done? Tick off the items on your list as you go along. It's great for motivation. Also, keep your writing space reasonably tidy. A bit of chaos is fine providing that you're not wasting valuable writing hours looking for notes, pens or books you've mislaid.

5. Seize Opportunities. Sitting back won't bring writing jobs to your door. You have to look for the opportunities and seize them. If you're struggling to find work, think laterally. Consider how you can put your writing skills to other uses. For example, could you offer copywriting services to specific businesses using any particular expertise? Could you use your knowledge to write and run a course? How about offering a biography/ghostwriting service? How about speech or greetings card writing? Don't limit yourself. Look at all the options and focus on your strengths.

It has to be said that writing is highly competitive, especially in these difficult economic times, but there is a diverse range of opportunities available. With changes in publishing and the explosion in digital media, many more exciting possibilities are now open to writers than ever before. So, be business-like in your approach and focus on creating a positive impression. It will make a difference.

I wish you every success in your writing career.

Carol Anne Strange

SPECIAL OFFER

Carol has kindly offered readers of my blog a special bonus. Subscribe to her writers' jobs and opportunities website Write This Moment and you will receive a PDF copy of 75 Mini Motivators for Writers absolutely FREE.

To claim your bonus, you will need to email admin-AT-writethismoment.net after you have subscribed, with '75 Mini-Motivators Offer' in the email subject line. You can also use the Contact Us form on the Write This Moment website.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How One Writer Made $1246 in 24 Hours on Helium

A while ago in this post I wrote about Helium (then called Helium Knowledge), a website that pays writers a portion of the advertising revenue generated by the articles they post there.

In my article I wrote that Helium was open to any writer, though with payment by advertising revenue share only, you were unlikely to make a fortune from it. However, this article by Peter Johns suggests that I may have been wrong on the latter score.

As you will see from his article, Johns really did make $1246 in 24 hours, from an article about credit cards. This happened after the article 'went viral', with people urging their friends and colleagues to read it in an ever-widening circle.

It wasn't just luck, though. As he explains in his article, Johns spent some time crafting a title that he hoped would pique people's curiosity and impel them to read more. He also posted a link to the article on the social bookmarking website Reddit, where others viewed it, liked it, and voted it up to the front page.

Johns' experience is food for thought for anyone who thinks sites such as Helium are a waste of time. He admits that not all his articles have earned anything like the amount made by this one (and remember, that $1246 was just on the first day - it's still presumably making money for him now). However, he lists five other short articles that have made him from $10 to $30 to date, so he is obviously doing something right.

One thing Johns' article does indicate is the importance of promoting your articles on Helium and similar sites such as Qassia, rather than simply posting them and waiting for visitors to come. As well as Reddit, other social bookmarking sites such as Delicious and StumbleUpon are well worth trying for this purpose as well.

As far me, I'm planning to dust down my old Helium account I've never done much with, and start posting on it again!

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Monday, January 12, 2009

My January Sale!

January is traditionally the month for sales - and more so than ever in the current recession.

So I thought I'd do my bit and offer my best-selling course, Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, at a full $10 off the standard price for the rest of January.

The course normally sells for $49.95 - in fact, that's what it costs right now if you click through to the main sales site. If you follow the links at the end of this post, however, you can buy the CD for just $39.95 - a full 20% reduction!

In case you don't know, Write Any Book in Under 28 Days was my first course written for The WCCL Network. At its heart is my unique five-step outlining and blueprinting method, which thousands of buyers across the world have used to help create their first book (and in some cases many more...).

Quite apart from the five-step method, however, the course is also crammed with hints and tips on planning, researching, writing, editing and marketing your book, based on my own experience as the author of over 80 titles. Essentially, it's pretty much a 'brain dump' of everything I've ever learned about book writing...

The method set out in Write Any Book in Under 28 Days is suitable for writing both fiction and non-fiction books. Although the course as a whole has a slight bias towards non-fiction (which is what I mainly write), there is also a long section devoted specifically to fiction writing.

Anyway, if you'd like more information, just click through any of the links to Write Any Book in Under 28 Days in this article to visit the main sales page. Don't buy there, though! Instead, click on this link to pay at the discount price using your credit card, or click here to pay at a discount using Paypal. All prices include free world-wide shipping.

Good luck, and I hope you'll soon be joining the many other happy buyers of Write Any Book in Under 28 Days who are now enjoying all the satisfactions and benefits of being published authors. Don't forget, also, to check out the page of unsolicited testimonials the course has generated!

P.S. The discount links will be removed at the start of February, so please don't delay too long if you're thinking of buying!
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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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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

Just wanted to wish every reader of my blog a happy, creative and (Credit Crunch notwithstanding) prosperous 2009!

I hope this is the year when you fulfill, or at least start to fulfill, all of your writing ambitions.

I'm looking forward to sharing my writing tips, advice, online "discoveries" and more with you on my blog in 2009. So if you haven't already done so, be sure to subscribe via email or RSS to ensure you never miss a post!

Don't forget, also, to sign up to follow me on the micro-blogging service Twitter. I regularly use this to share details of resources, contests, writers' markets and more that I don't always have time to post on my blog.

Good luck to all of you, and I very much look forward to hearing about your writing successes in the months ahead.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

How to Hire a Freelance Writer

I've been a full-time freelance writer for nearly twenty years now, and during that time I've had a lot of would-be clients approach me about working for them. To some I've said yes, others no. Often, my decision is strongly influenced by the way they approach me.

So I thought in this post I would set out a few tips for anyone who wants to hire a freelance writer. If you're a writer yourself, maybe you'll identify with some of these points. If you're looking to hire a freelance writer, I hope my advice will make the process a little less stressful for all concerned!

1. First Find Your Writer

One of the best ways to find a freelance writer is by personal recommendation. So if you happen know anyone who hires freelance writers, find out whom they use and ask for their contact details. This will give you a good starting point in your search at least.

Otherwise, you will need to start looking around. You could simply enter "freelance writer" in Google and see who turns up (not forgetting to check the 'sponsored listings' as well). You can also narrow down your search by area or by specialism. Try searching on Google for "freelance writer UK" and see who comes up top, by the way!

In addition, there are lots of resource sites you can use to find a writer - the WritersNet Writers & Authors Directory is one example.

You can also post details of the job you have in mind on websites such as Guru and Elance and invite authors to bid for them. This does have some drawbacks, though. Apart from being time-consuming, the information available on those bidding for work is often minimal. You will still need to check very carefully whether any candidates have the skills and knowledge you require.

2. Give Them Enough Information

Once you've found a potential writer and checked them out, you'll want to contact them to see if they are interested in taking on your assignment. It's important to include enough information in your query for the writer to tell if the job would suit their skills and experience.

Personally, the type of enquiry I least enjoy receiving is along the lines, 'I have a writing job for you. Please phone me to discuss.' That means I am expected to call this individual at my expense - possibly at international rates - with no clue what he wants me to do, and the need to make an on-the-spot decision whether I am interested or not.

While I don't require a detailed brief with the initial enquiry, I much prefer a paragraph or two of explanation so that I can get some idea what the job will entail: length, subject matter, deadlines, and so on. If there is a set budget, it is helpful to know this also. Otherwise, especially if I am busy, I am quite inclined to say, 'Thanks, but no thanks'. Experience has taught me that vague enquiries seldom lead to worthwhile assignments.

3. Don't Assume You're Doing Them a Favour

Professional writers are busy people, and they can't take on every job that is offered to them. That applies especially with jobs that are offered out of the blue. You need to make some effort in your approach to demonstrate that you are a genuine prospective client and not, as they say in these parts, a tyre-kicker. As mentioned above, it helps a lot if you provide enough information in your initial approach to show the writer that you are business-like and professional, and have devoted some serious thought to what you want the writer to do.

4. Don't Expect Them to Work for Free

If you just want a quote or expression of interest, that's fine. But if you want your writer to produce sample articles, outlines, or whatever so that you can assess their suitability for the job, you should offer them a reasonable fee for this.

5. Don't Assume Any Writer Will Do

Writing covers a huge spectrum of activities, and all writers specialize to some extent. This is another reason you should tell your prospective writer what the job will involve in your initial approach. Even if it's not a type of writing he (or she) does, he may know someone who specializes in that field and be able to refer you. I routinely refer most ghost-writing queries to my colleague Hannah Renier, for example; whilst any approaches from people wanting to sell their story to a newspaper or magazine get referred to my near-neighbour Linda Jones, of the agency Passionate Media.

6. Be Honest and Up Front

Perhaps this is stating the obvious, but it's important not to get off on the wrong foot with your writer.

Here's an example from my own experience. I was asked by a potential client to help him write a book, and as a first step to produce an outline. This involved researching the topic concerned, and turned out to involve a bit more work than I anticipated. However, I agreed to do it, as I assumed that as long as the client was happy with my outline, I would get this well-paying assignment.

Then I found out, quite by chance, that a colleague had been approached by the same person and asked to do exactly the same thing. In fact, the client had approached at least two other writers as well, and we were effectively competing against one another. I felt I had been misled, and told the client I was no longer interested in working for him.

Of course, there is no objection to a potential client getting several quotes if he wants to, but where preliminary work is going to be involved for the unsuccessful writers as well, I believe the client should make this clear to all concerned. See also my comments above about not expecting writers to work for free.

7. Give Them All the Essential Info

If you don't tell your writer all the important facts, don't be surprised if they produce something unsuitable for you.

Here's another example from my experience. A few years ago I was approached by someone wanting me to write a short story for him, to give to his fiancee on their wedding day. He told me he wanted a medieval-style fairy tale, with himself as the hero and his fiancee as his princess.

I took the job (at below my usual rates, but I actually found the project quite touching and romantic) and produced a story where the hero went to Hispaniola with the king's forces and slayed a mechanical dragon that had been terrorizing the locals. He then came back as a hero to claim his bride.

My client wasn't impressed. He told me his fiancee's ex had been in the army, so could I come up with a story that had no military connections? Everything I'd written had to be scrapped. I told the client that if he still wanted me to do this job, he would have to come up with an outline plot himself. I would then flesh it out for him, but I couldn't go on writing stories then having them rejected for reasons I had hitherto heard nothing about. I never heard from him again.

In the last example, I do actually have some sympathy for the young man concerned, as he obviously had no experience working with freelance writers, and he did have the best of intentions. However, it turned out to be a waste of a week's work for me, purely because I wasn't given all the essential details.

To sum up, then, if you want to hire a professional writer, it's important to present a business-like image. Show the writer that you value their skills and understand that they may not want, or be able, to take the job on. Give them all the facts they require to assess your proposed project in an open and honest way. If you want them to produce a sample of work for you, offer them a fee. And once you've hired them, give them all the information they need to be able to do a good job for you.

Do all of these things, and you will be well on your way to becoming the ideal client for a freelance writer. And, more importantly, there is every chance you will find a suitably skilled individual for your project, and get the best possible results from them.

* And yes, as a full-time professional writer, I'm always delighted to hear from potential clients! Use the Contact Me link at the top right of the page to submit your query.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Site Build It! Two-For-One Offer

Some of you might be interested to know that the people behind Site Build It! are currently holding a Buy-One-Get-One-Free Christmas Sale.

That means you can buy a copy of Site Build It! (SBI! for short) and give one to a friend or relative as a gift. Or two of you could get together and split the cost. Or you could keep both copies for yourself, of course.

For those who don't know, SBI! (the exclamation mark is part of its name) is a complete website building course and hosting product rolled into one. It's a very well established product, but one that is constantly being refined and developed by SBI! supremo Ken Evoy and his team.

SBI! makes website building about as easy as it can be. There is no need to know anything about HTML, FTP or anything technical (though, of course, it never hurts to have a grasp of the basics).

SBI! takes you through every step of the website research, building and marketing process, providing in-depth advice and tools to help you at every stage. You can also get as much help as you need from the SBI! support team and a thriving community of fellow SBI! site-builders.

There is no way I can go through all the features of SBI! here, as there are just too many of them! Click on this link for all the relevant info. Alternatively, if you'd like to see a video tour of SBI!, which takes you through how the product works step by step, just click here.

The current offer closes at midnight on December 25th, and from past experience it's unlikely to be repeated until this time next year. So if you're at all interested in starting an SBI! site, I strongly recommend taking action now.

LATE NEWS! I've just heard that the SBI! Two-for-One offer has been extended till Monday 5 January.

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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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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Anonymeister Review

In this post I'm reviewing The Anonymeister, the latest software release from my publishers, The WCCL Network.

The Anonymeister is an anonymous web browser. In other words, it lets you browse the web anonymously, without leaving any trace behind you. It's part of WCCL's range of computer privacy software, of which you can read more on their Privacy Central website.

Why might a writer want to use an anonymous browser? I can think of a number of reasons...

* You are researching the website of a competitor, either on your own behalf or on behalf of a client, and don't want them to know you have visited.

* You are a well-known author or celebrity, and don't wish your web browsing history to become public knowledge.

* You are researching a sensitive subject, and don't wish to alert the authorities to your interest.

* You want to visit a website that is normally barred to people in your country.

The Anonymeister (and the very similar Best Anonymous Browser, also available from WCCL) provides a straightforward, non-techy method for anyone to browse the web anonymously, without the need for any programming or configuration.

You can read more about how The Anonymeister works on the website, but briefly it routes all of your web traffic through two servers in the Tor anonymity network. This ensures that your IP address is completely hidden from the outside world. According to WCCL, it can't even be traced by law enforcement agencies.

I found the software easy to install, and just like any other browser to use. The Anonymeister uses a customized version of the popular Firefox browser. If you currently use Firefox you can still use your normal version as well, but you can't have it running at the same time as The Anonymeister. You can, however, have Internet Explorer running simultaneously if you like.

As well as letting you surf anonymously via the Tor network, The Anonymeister also ensures that any trace of your browsing history is erased as soon as you close it. In this way, your privacy is preserved both on the web and on your own machine.

The Anonymeister also has some extra Firefox plug-ins preinstalled, e.g. AdBlock Plus, which automatically blocks most adverts from showing on the pages you browse. Of course, you can uninstall or deactivate these plug-ins if you wish.

I found that The Anonymeister appeared to work well at preserving my privacy. There are various sites you can visit (e.g. this one) which will show you the IP number and location of your computer. A good test is to visit one of these sites using The Anonymeister and see what location and IP number it shows for you, and then visit again via your normal browser for comparison purposes.

I did find The Anonymeister slower than my usual browser, so I wouldn't personally use it all the time. From time to time, too, it produces some unexpected results. For example, this morning I tried to visit www.google.com via The Anonymeister. I must have shown up to Google as being in Germany, because www.google.de opened instead! Still, this does illustrate the efficiency of the software.

Overall, I was impressed with how well The Anonymeister worked for me. If you need a quick, simple way of browsing the web anonymously, it's worth a look.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Announcing a Title on eBooks Just Published

In this recent post I mentioned eBooks Just Published. I thought I'd try out the service myself, so this is my report on how I got on.

To remind you, eBooks Just Published is a resource for authors who want to announce their ebooks free of charge. It's not a sales site; in your announcement you have to include links to somewhere people can buy and/or download your ebook.

eBooks Just Published allows you to promote your title to a growing group of enthusiastic ebook readers, some of whom subscribe via email or RSS. You are allowed to upload a 'cover image' and up to 400 words of promotional text, which can include up to three testimonials.

The site announces both fiction and non-fiction, the only major criterion being that the ebooks are DRM-free. The normal rule is that ebooks to be announced on the site should have been published within the last six months, but during the launch period they are extending this to 18 months.

I thought I'd try out the service using my latest WCCL title Essential English for Authors. This was actually published more than six months ago but less than 18, so it qualifies under the current rules.

To announce an ebook on eBooks Just Published, you first have to register. This is free and takes only a few minutes. You'll find a link allowing you to do this near the bottom of the left-hand menu.

Once you're a registered member, you'll want to upload details of your ebook. Instructions for doing this can be found by clicking on Authors near the top of the left-hand menu (read this before you log in). I recommend printing this page out, as the process can be a bit tricky at times, and it helps if you know a bit of HTML. However, the site owner Mark Gladding is on hand to provide help if required.

It took me a morning to get my entry uploaded and displaying to my satisfaction in preview mode. A fair proportion of that time was devoted to creating a cover image to the specifications required. Otherwise, though, it all went reasonably smoothly. Here are just a few tips from my experience...

* If you're not sure how to format text when creating your announcement, try using View Source to look at the HTML of another published item on the site. For example, by doing this I discovered that the HTML tag blockquote was used for testimonials.

* A good screengrab program can be invaluable for creating your cover image. I used CaptureIt, a neat little shareware program that lets you capture any image on your screen and resize and/or manipulate it in various ways.

* There are more instructions and a checklist in the template you use to create your announcement. Scroll down the template to view this. Again, I recommend printing out the instructions in the template, as they will help you to format and upload your cover image in particular.

* Don't forget to include links to your sales page from the image and the ebook title. I used a customized tracking link provided by my publishers, so that I can see how many clicks I get from this source. Mark says he has no objection to this.

* You can preview your announcement at any time by clicking on the Preview button to the right of the template. Don't worry, only you will be able to see this! Once you are happy with how your announcement is looking, click the other button to submit it for review.

Overall, I was pleased with how my announcement turned out - you can view it here for yourself. It took me a bit longer than I expected, but I know that next time I should be able to get the job done much faster.

If you've written an ebook (even a free one), in my view you have nothing to lose, and potentially a lot of extra readers to gain, by submitting an announcement about it to eBooks Just Published.
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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

LitMatch One-Year Anniversary Giveaway

I've mentioned the website LitMatch a few times on this blog, but for those who still haven't discovered it, it's a free online resource designed to help writers of all kinds connect with a suitable agent.

According to the statistics on their homepage, LitMatch currently have information on 1722 agents in 800 agencies. Although the site is US-based, agencies in the UK and other countries are also included.

As well as agency details in a searchable database, Litmatch also features a submission tracking system that allows users to record and manage their submissions online. You have to register, but this is free and takes only a few moments.

Other features of the site include targeted searches that let you quickly find agents by the authors they represent, the genres they're interested in, their professional history, and so on. A hotlist function allows you to bookmark agents and agencies for future reference. There is also a comment facility, which allows authors to share their experiences of specific agents.

Anyway, I thought I'd give LitMatch another mention now because they are currently running a one-year anniversary giveaway. Anyone who registers at the site before 31 December 2008 will be automatically entered into a free draw to win one of a number of writing-related prizes, including online classes from Gotham Writers' Workshop and one-year subscriptions to The Writer Magazine.

Even if you don't have a book for which you're seeking representation right now, it's worth registering (which is free, remember) to be eligible for the prize draw. Apart from that, however, LitMatch is a very useful resource for anyone seeking an agent, and in my view every serious writer should at least check it out.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Great Christmas Gifts for Writers

Speak it softly, but Christmas is just a month from today...

Assuming you celebrate the festival, or at any rate the gift-giving and receiving aspect, you may well have some writer friends or relatives you'll be buying for.

In this post, then, I thought I'd set out some suggested Christmas gifts for writers. These are all things I'd like myself, if I didn't in most cases have them already! Note that to save time, and avoid this post running on too long, where possible I've linked to earlier posts when I first mentioned the items in question.

Thinking of books first of all, one top recommendation for anyone who doesn't have it already is Stephen King's On Writing. It doesn't matter whether the potential recipient is or is not a horror fan. On Writing is an entertaining and informative read, written in King's usual highly accessible style (though without any corpses).

The book is a mixture of autobiographical material - some of it very amusing - and tips and advice for writers. The latter is useful if not earth-shattering. I would see this book as primarily an entertaining read rather than a writing manual, but none the worse for that. Image links to the book on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com can be found below. As usual, if you are receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see them.





A good introductory guide for new writers is The Greatest Freelance Writing Tips in the World by my near-neighbour Linda Jones. It is primarily written for UK authors, though much of Linda's advice would apply equally across the world. Linda comes from a journalistic background, and her advice on 'pitching' to newspaper editors especially is well worth reading. At its modest asking price, this beautifully produced book is a steal.

For any aspiring TV scriptwriters, especially if they happen to be science fiction fans as well, the newly published Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale by Russell T. Davies and Benjamin Cook would be an ideal present. In this fascinating (and beautifully illustrated) book you get to see how the popular BBC TV series is written and edited. It's also well worth visiting the book's dedicated website, where you can read more reviews and background info, and download six free scripts from the show.

And speaking of scriptwriting, if your friend or relative is an aspiring movie writer, don't forget that my sponsors, WCCL, produce a popular guide on CD-ROM called Write a Movie in a Month. If you order now it should arrive in plenty of time for Christmas. And if you order via my blog review, you can get a $20 discount AND my two extra bonus reports!

Another gift any writer would be delighted to receive is one of the annual market directories. For US publications, you can't beat Writer's Market, published by the all-conquering Writer's Digest organization. For UK markets, there are now three annual market guides battling it out: The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, The Writer's Handbook, and the latest arrival, Writer's Market UK. When I reviewed all three earlier this year, Writer's Market UK came out slightly ahead of the other two. But read my blog review of UK market guides and see what you think.

Leaving books aside now, an idea suggested to me by my colleague Suzie Harris is a digital pen. These clever devices let you take notes anywhere - in a meeting, watching TV, on vacation, in bed, and so on. Then, when you get to your office or study, you can plug the pen into your PC, and everything you wrote will be transferred into it.

A popular digital pen (and the one Suzie wants) is the Dane-Elec Zpen. This pen also has OCR software that will read your handwriting (assuming it's legible) and save it as text. For writers, I could see this modestly priced tool having a whole host of uses.

I've put links to the Zpen at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk below. As mentioned earlier, if you are receiving this post by email, you may need to visit my blog to see the image links.





A final possibility is an e-book reader. I believe that 2009 will be the year that e-books finally take off in the mass market, as the latest e-book readers really do make this a comfortable and enjoyable way of reading a book (the old argument about not being able to read them in bed definitely no longer applies).

In the US, Amazon's Kindle Reader has been sweeping all before it. For technical reasons the Kindle is not yet available in the UK and Europe, though it is expected to be launched in the new year. In the mean time, however, the Sony Reader has been getting good reviews.

Whichever reader you get, there are thousands of ebooks you can download free of charge, both classics and newly published books whose authors have chosen to distribute them in this way (see this one, for example). Other ebooks you will have to pay for, but they are cheaper than the equivalent printed volume and won't take up any space on your shelves after you have read them. Again, I've put links to both leading ebook readers below.

Happy Christmas shopping!



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Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Promotional Site for Ebook Authors

I recently heard from Australia-based Mark Gladding about his new website eBooks Just Published.

This site is a resource for authors who want to announce their ebooks for free. It also allows readers to subscribe (either via email or RSS), so that they can keep up to date with all the latest ebook releases.

The site announces both fiction and non-fiction, the only major criterion being that the ebooks are DRM-free. It's important to note, however, that eBooks Just Published is NOT a publishing or hosting site. Each ebook listed needs to include a link back to the publisher's or author's own sales site.

eBooks Just Published does not carry any advertising at the moment, so I asked Mark how he plans to make money from it. He told me that his company, Tumbywood Software, also produces the program Text2Go, which turns text to speech. He is therefore hoping that some visitors will purchase the software to listen to their ebooks on the go.

Apart from that, though, Mark says he doesn't have any other money-making plans for the site: "I really just want to make it a useful resource for authors and readers at this stage."

It's early days for eBooks Just Published, but already I'm impressed with it and plan to use it myself in the future.

One thing I've noticed as well is the number of free ebooks that are available. For example, you can download an electronic version of the excellent and thought-provoking Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (which I'm currently reading as an Amazon Vine selection) free of charge via the site.

My advice is to check out eBooks Just Published and sign up to receive the email or RSS updates. Even if you don't plan on releasing any ebooks yourself, there are some real gems already available via the site for free or modest cost. It's definitely a resource to keep a close eye on.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

100 Fun and Useful Search Engines for Writers

That's the title of another very useful article I came across online the other day.

100 Fun and Useful Search Engines for Writers lists search engines under a number of different category headings. They include image searches, blog searches, specialty searches, medical & technical searches, foreign-language searches, and meta-search engines (which aggregate results from several search engines).

As they say in the introduction to the article, 'Our list of 100 different search tools can help you manage your business, become a better biz tech or web writer, find primary sources, look up translations, and find the more authoritative information out there with minimal effort. Bookmark your favorites to take full advantage of everything they have to offer.'

I found some useful resources in this article that I hadn't known about before. They include the fast image search tool Picsearch and a range of non-traditional search engines such as Mooter, which presents your search results in mind-map-style clusters.

I can see myself using some of the sites listed in 100 Fun and Useful Search Engines for Writers quite regularly in future.

* Don't forget that readers of this blog can also obtain the premium research tool Research Wizard Pro for half price. See this blog post for more details.

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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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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Brain Evolution System Videos

My post about the launch of the new Brain Evolution System earlier this week has generated a lot of interest. In particular, several people have asked if I can explain how the system works in a bit more detail.

I'm clearly no expert on this, but by doing a little investigation using Research Wizard Pro I found two videos in which the main developer of the system, Michael Kelley, explains the science in more detail. Here's the first one...


And here's part 2...


As ever, if you are receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see the videos.

Another website that goes into the science behind the Brain Evolution System can be viewed by clicking on the link in this paragraph.

As previously mentioned, I am evaluating the system myself and will be posting a review here soon, but already I am excited by the results I have been getting. I am a regular user of WCCL's Writer's Block CD, which helps entrain your mind to a more creative state, but the Brain Evolution System takes this process much further and deeper.

NEW! My full review of the Brain Evolution System is now up. Click on the link in this paragraph to read it!

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Save Money on Your Christmas Shopping!

With Christmas (and Thanksgiving in the US and Canada), this can be an expensive time of the year - all the more so in these credit-crunched times.

So I thought I'd mention a new type of website that has become very popular recently. These are cashback shopping sites, and they give you back some of your money every time you shop through them. They may also pay you just for using a free online service or signing up for a free trial.

The way cashback shopping sites work is that they sign up as affiliates with a range of online merchants. As you may know, many merchants pay affiliates a fee for any business they drive their way. Rather than keep all these fees, cashback sites return some or all of this money to the actual buyer.

There are various cashback shopping sites, but I thought I'd draw your attention to a particularly good one Jayne (my partner) showed me recently, which I just joined myself. It's called TopCashBack, and you can visit it by clicking through any of the links in this post or on the banner at the end.

TopCashBack returns ALL of the affiliate commission it earns when you shop via the links on its website. They even top this up themselves for active users, meaning you can earn up to 110% cashback, paid to you by Paypal.

You can get rebates from lots of well-known and lesser-known online merchants, including eBay, Marks & Spencer, Comet, Argos and National Express (though not Amazon, unfortunately). I made myself an easy 6.50 UKP by signing up for a month's free trial with the credit reference service Experian and then cancelling my subscription before the month was up.

Joining TopCashBack is, of course, free. And yes, they do have a sort of affiliate program. If you introduce a friend and they then earn over 5 UKP in cashback, you get a payment of 2.50 UKP for introducing them. Obviously you won't get rich from this, but it's a nice extra bonus.

Unfortunately TopCashBack is only available in the UK, but there are similar services in other countries. If you live in the US or Canada, for example, try www.mrrebates.com.

* And don't forget, if you have a blog or a website yourself, you can sign up as an affiliate with my publishers WCCL and earn yourself a generous commission any time someone makes a purchase after visiting via your link. See this blog post for more info!

100% Cashback

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Brain Evolution System is Launched!


My colleague Karl Moore, in collaboration with brainwave pioneers Michael Kelley and Lee Benson, has recently launched a new personal development program called the Brain Evolution System (or BrainEv for short).

This is a massive six-CD program that has been almost a year in the making. I'll be reviewing it fully once I've had a chance to evaluate it properly myself, but briefly it uses advanced scientific methods for 'entraining' your brain, helping you to control stress, become more productive, sleep better, increase your creativity, and so on.

Just to emphasise, this is nothing to do with self-hypnosis, 'positive thinking', or anything like that. The Brain Evolution System uses sonic technology to help you control your brainwaves to achieve peak performance. It uses audio CDs, which you have to listen to via headphones to get the full benefit from.

The Brain Evolution System employs some of the same technologies as WCCL's popular Writer's Block CD, e.g. binaural beats. The new program is designed to be much more wide-ranging, however, and it's not only for writers. Users should experience benefits across almost every aspect of their lives.

The Brain Evolution System is currently on offer at a special launch discount price. In addition, you can test it out for free for 21 days, to assess exactly how it works and how it may be able to help you. There is also an unprecedented seven-months' money-back guarantee if you are in any way dissatisfied with the results you get.

For more information about The Brain Evolution System, click through any of the links in this blog post, or on the banner below. As mentioned above, I'm currently trying out the program myself, and will publish a full review here soon. See also this post: Brain Evolution System Videos.

NEW! My full review of the Brain Evolution System is now up. Click on the link in this paragraph to read it!


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review: Research Wizard Pro

I was lucky enough recently to be offered a free review copy of Research Wizard Pro, also known as Search Accelerator Pro. So, now I've been using it for a little while, here are my thoughts on this premium research tool.

The first thing to say is that Research Wizard Pro is NOT a search engine or search engine aggregator (a tool that combines the results of a number of search engines in a single list). Rather, it is a software tool that aims to help you use the wealth of research resources on the Internet as quickly and effectively as possible.

The first thing you notice when you launch RWP (as I'll call it from now on) is that it offers a wide array of icons, buttons and boxes. Here's a screen grab of just one set of controls, the search categories toolbar.


Fortunately, RWP comes with a highly professional, 73-page user's manual in PDF form. And for those who learn better visually, you also get a series of instructional videos, including a Quick Start Video to get you up and running as soon as possible.

You start searching on RWP by entering any keyword or words in the box at the top left of the screen. The results of this search in Google (or whatever default search engine you choose) will then appear in the results panel in the middle of the screen.

So far, so unexciting, but with RWP this is just the start. You can refine your search in all sorts of ways. For example, you will see a list of other suggested search terms in the panel down the left of the screen. The terms listed include tutorials, websites, articles, blogs, newsletters, reviews, top tens, and so on. Clicking on any of these then launches a new search for your original keyword/s plus the term in question, helping you to narrow down your search.

Of course, you could do this yourself without RWP, but using the software makes the process much quicker, and it also suggests other search terms you might not otherwise have thought of. You can also set it to show only PDFs or images if you prefer.

Even this, however, is only the beginning. Using the search categories toolbar pictured above, for example, you can access a huge range of search tools.

The way this works is that the top row represents a particular category of search, e.g. the camera represents image search and the film icon is video search, while the RSS icon represents RSS feeds, blogs, blog articles, and so on. The lower row changes according to which item in the top row you have selected, and includes links to specific search tools in the category concerned.

Finally - although this by no means exhausts the options offered by RWP - the Related Searches toolbar features a number of links that will suggest related searches you might also want to try. For example, there is a link to the Overture search term suggestion tool, which will suggest other search terms related to your original one, with stats showing how often these terms have been searched for recently. If you are researching a how-to guide or article, this could be useful for discovering what people most want to know about the subject concerned.

I have been using Research Wizard Pro for about a month now. Although initially I found the huge range of options a bit daunting, it didn't take me long to get the hang of it, and I wouldn't want to be without it now. Although RWP does save me time, even more important to me is the way it suggests search options and resources I would never have thought of myself. I'm sure the quality of my work has improved as a result.

Do I have any reservations about RWP? Well, only a couple of minor ones. One is that when I first downloaded it I got an 'Access Denied' message when I tried to launch it - no other explanation given! After some research, I found out that this was caused by the User Account Control in my Windows Vista operating system. Setting the program always to Run as Administrator solved the problem. I blame Microsoft for this rather than RWP, but it's something to be aware of if you use Vista.

Second, I was a bit surprised to discover that to access some of the bonus videos, I had to provide my name and email address over again. I couldn't see the point of this, since the publishers obviously had my contact details already. I hope they will scrap this requirement soon. You can watch the main instructional videos without having to do this, by the way.

Overall, I am happy to recommend Research Wizard Pro to anyone who does a lot of online research - it WILL save you time and it WILL improve the quality of your research. It's not the cheapest tool you'll ever find, but it is produced to a very high standard, and the instructional manual and videos are exemplary. I also found the company quick and helpful in responding to my queries.

LATE ADDITION: Good news for My Writing Blog readers! Because I like this software, I've managed to persuade the publishers of Research Wizard Pro to give a HUGE discount to readers of my blog. When ordering, just enter WRITER2008 in the coupon code box and click on 'Apply'. The cost will then be cut by a whole FIFTY PERCENT! I'm honestly not sure how long this offer will go on, however; so if you are interested in taking advantage of this discount, please don't delay too long.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Over 100 Free Open Courseware Links for Writers

That's the title of a very useful article on the MatchACollege website.

It actually lists 103 free learning resources in a range of areas. The topic headings include Essay Writing & Research, Technical Writing, Language & Grammar, Technology/Web Writing/Design, Legal Resources, Creative Writing, Literature, and so on.

There is also a list of writing-related videos and podcasts, in case you get tired of reading and want to listen and/or watch instead! Just a pity that WCCL's excellent online radio station WritersFM wasn't included, though.

There are lots of useful and interesting resources here, including many I hadn't seen before, so I expect to spend quite a bit of time exploring them. I recommend checking out this well-researched article, and maybe adding it to your Favorites list.

* Have you written a blog post or website article with great info for writers and aspiring writers like this one? If so, drop me a line with details. If I like it, I'll be happy to feature it on this blog!

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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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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Free Report for WAHMs

What's a WAHM, I hear you ask. It's an acronym for Work At Home Mother - a group whose numbers are growing rapidly at the present time.

And the free report I'm talking about is called WAHM-IT! - A Work-at-Home Mother's Guide to Successfully Building a Real Business on the Net.

WAHM-IT! is written by four work-at-home mothers, who have all built their own thriving online businesses. It's a highly professional 85-page PDF produced by the SiteSell organization, publishers of the popular Site Build It website research and building tool.

As you might expect, part of the purpose of WAHM-IT! is to promote Site Build It, but there is plenty of useful information here for anyone, work-at-home mom or not, who is considering setting up an online business. In particular, the four-step C-T-P-M System provides a good framework for setting up a website and making money from it.

The report also includes several case studies of successful, money-making sites created by WAHMs. They show how the women concerned got the ideas for their sites, how long it took them to achieve success, and how they manage to fit the work in among their other domestic responsibilities. Once you've read each case study, it's fascinating to visit the site in question.

Anyway, if you're at all interested in earning money online, in my view WAHM-IT! is well worth a read - and the best thing is, you don't even have to provide your email address to get it!

* One other point I should mention - there is currently a special deal at Site Build It, where you can get a second website for just $100 more than the basic single site licence. You can give the second SBI site to anyone you like, or keep it for yourself. This offer expires at midnight on 31 October. For more info, visit the main Site Build It site and click on the Halloween Special banner.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Two Useful Websites for Online Writers

As a working professional writer, I find that I am increasingly writing and editing content for publication on the web. And that often means adapting content originally written for another medium.

A common scenario involves converting material originally written in Microsoft Word, either by me or someone else, into a 'web-friendly' format. That typically involves stripping out the special characters inserted by Word that make written documents look good but often don't reproduce properly online.

The classic example is Word's 'smart quotes'. If you try to reproduce these in website text, you simply get a string of nonsense characters where the quotation marks should be. Other characters that typically fail to display correctly include dashes and ellipses (...).

Going through a long document stripping out the Word special characters can be a real pain. However, I recently found a useful (and free) online tool that does 90% of the job for you. It's the Replace Smart Quotes tool on the Hochman Consultants website. You simply copy and paste your word document into their online form and click on the 'Remove Funky Punctuation' button. A version of the text with smart quotes turned to straight ones and dashes turned to hyphens then appears, ready for you to copy and paste into your chosen application.

The Replace Smart Quotes tool doesn't replace all of Word's special characters - ellipses are removed, for example, but not replaced by a single full stop, which would be my preferred solution. But I still find this tool a big time-saver, and you can't beat the price, clearly.

Another free online tool I find useful is this HTML Stripper from Zubrag.com (which also offers a range of other free scripts/tools). It works in a similar way to the Replace Smart Quotes tool. You can paste any text with HTML into it, and the HTML characters will automatically be stripped out, leaving you with plain text.

I don't use the HTML Stripper as often as Replace Smart Quotes, but that's simply because stripping out HTML isn't a task I have to do so often. But when these occasions do come round, again, this application saves me an awful lot of time and effort.

Thanks very much to the developers of both of these free tools for making my working life a little easier. Both now have places of honour on my Favorites list!

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

How Can Writers Survive the Credit Crunch?

The world seems to be in a topsy-turvy state right now, with banks folding left, right and centre, or else being propped up uncomfortably by national governments.

The knock-on effects of the 'credit crunch' are hard to predict, but one thing that's certain is that sadly a lot more jobs are going to be lost in the coming months.

I'm no economist, but I'd like to offer my 2c worth here on how writers can best survive and even prosper in these tough times. In particular, I'd like to offer two pieces of practical advice...

The first is to diversify. In times of recession (which is where the world seems to be headed right now) no business is safe. And in the publishing world, many are already feeling the pinch as people cut back on 'luxuries' such as books.

So it must make sense to have a variety of sources of income. If books are your main writing interest, then, consider trying your hand at articles and short stories as well. Conversely, if you're mainly an article writer, why not look at other options as well, e.g. writing an e-book and selling it on the Internet?

In my view, every writer should have a broad portfolio of projects. This might, for example, include books, articles, short stories, Internet writing, comedy writing, TV scriptwriting, advertising copywriting, and so on. That way, if a particular market vanishes or a regular client goes to the wall, you still have plenty of other irons in the fire.

And, of course, there is no reason why you can't have some non-writing-related sidelines as well. When I started out as a full-time freelance writer, many moons ago, I also sold copyright-free artwork packs by mail order. That business eventually died as electronic clip-art became the norm, but in my early days I was very grateful for the extra income it provided. Nowadays, the Internet offers lots of potential sideline-earning opportunities - check out my Pseudotube site and my Squidoo Lens which explains about it, for example.

Moving on, my second piece of advice is to invest in the best and safest place you possibly can: yourself!

In uncertain times, you need to build up your palette of skills, to increase your employability (if you're seeking a job) or offer a wider range of services (if you work for yourself). Learning new skills can also provide a means for earning extra cash in its own right.

So it's important to invest some time - and, yes, money as well - in developing your skills. A writer seeking to diversify might want to build (or improve) their skills in other areas of writing, such as comedy writing, self-publishing, TV or movie scriptwriting, copywriting, travel writing, and so on. If you're interested in any of these, by the way, you could do a lot worse than check out WCCL's WriteStreet website.

It's also worth developing skills in related areas, e.g. HTML and website design. These days I do a lot of work writing content for company websites. While I'm never going to be an expert web designer, I know enough HTML to insert formatting codes, check hyperlinks, and so on. Allying this with my writing skills has helped to generate a lot of extra work for me. There are courses you can take at many local colleges, or by distance learning, or online. One free resource for learning HTML I highly recommend is PageTutor.

But whatever method you choose, the returns from investing in yourself can be far greater than any stock market investment, and with far less risk. I think that the twin methods of diversifying and investing in yourself should be at the heart of every writer's strategy for surviving the current economic crisis.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Review: The Best-Seller Secret

The Best-Seller Secret is the latest in WCCL's range of products and courses for writers, which also includes my courses Essential English for Authors, Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing.

The Best-Seller Secret is written by Dan Strauss, Senior Editor of the WCCL Network, and successful author Mel McIntyre. It's provided as an instant download in the universal PDF format, and is therefore suitable for all computing platforms: Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux.

Like all WCCL products, The Best-Seller Secret is beautifully produced, and it has obviously been professionally written and edited. I should make one point clear right away, however. Despite the title, The Best-Seller Secret will NOT show you how to write a best-seller (for that, try Novel in a Month or my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days).

Rather, The Best-Seller Secret is for anyone who has written a book, or is on the way to doing so, and wants to know how they can get it into the Amazon online bookstore's Top 100 Books list, with all the benefits that can flow from this.

You might perhaps think that only a major publishing house would have the resources (and budget) needed to propel a book into best-sellerdom. But, as this guide reveals, the Internet has changed all that.

The main manual - I'll get to the bonuses later - sets out a ten-step strategy to make your book an Amazon best-seller. It would be unfair to the publishers to reveal too many of its secrets, but they include getting celebrity endorsements, building up a pre-launch network of people who will help to promote your book, and using free bonuses to encourage people to buy.

The Best-Seller Secret really does make this whole process seem realistic and achievable. Yes, it will involve you in doing some work, but the returns (both direct and indirect) from having an Amazon best-seller should justify this many times over. It definitely can be done, and the guide includes several case studies of successful campaigns.

One thing I particularly liked about The Best-Seller Secret was the 'Campaign Flow Chart', which shows visually over several pages how to organize your publicity campaign. It's good to see WCCL using a few more diagrams and illustrations in its products these days. I was also impressed by the way the authors weren't afraid to discuss potential pitfalls and what to do if a particular aspect of your publicity campaign goes wrong.

In addition to the main guide, you get three additional bonus items. These are as follows:

Guide to Promoting Yourself & Your Book - This is a list of twenty 'quick-and-dirty' techniques for getting news of your book out to the world.

What's It Worth?- This mini-guide looks at pricing your book and, more importantly, easy techniques you can use to justify giving it a higher price tag.

Sample Letters & E-mail Templates - This is a set of templates you can use for e-mail messages to help market your book. It includes sample messages for endorsement requests, joint venture proposals, sales letters, and so on.

Really, my only reservation about The Best-Seller Secret is that it won't be suitable for every writer. As mentioned above, it's only likely to be relevant to you if you've written a book, or are well on the way to doing so. And it's likely to work best with non-fiction books, although many of the strategies would be effective with novels too.

I also think that the methods set out in The Best-Seller Secret would work best - or at least be easiest to apply - if you are self-publishing. It could undoubtedly work with conventionally published books too, but you would need to liaise closely with your publisher. Of course, it's hard to imagine that your publisher would have any objections if your efforts result in your book becoming a best-seller!

In summary, if you're writing a book or have written one, this guide to turning it into an Amazon best-seller could be one of the best investments you'll ever make. If you haven't yet written a book, a guide such as my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days might be more useful to you now, and then buy The Best-Seller Secret once your book is well on the way to completion!

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Free Contest for Writers Bureau Students

If you are, or ever have been, a student with The Writers Bureau (the UK's largest distance learning college for writers), here's an opportunity you should definitely check out.

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, The Writers Bureau are offering 2000 UK pounds' worth of prizes in their new article-writing contest.

The main condition is that entrants must have taken a course with The Writers Bureau at some point in the last 20 years.

Entry is free, and the prizes are 1000 UKP for the winner, 500 UKP for second place, 200 UKP for third place, and 50 UKP for six runners-up.

Article must be between 700 and 1400 words, and reveal how the author's Writers Bureau course has helped them develop as a writer and how it contributed to their writing career. No prizes for guessing that The Writers Bureau are hoping to get some good new testimonials out of this!

For more information, and to print out an entry form, click here to visit the competition website. The closing date is 31 December 2008, and the winners will be announced on 1 February 2009.

By the way, I used to be a tutor for The Writers Bureau, and also wrote some of their course material. If you want a writing course that includes one-to-one feedback from a personal tutor, in my view they are well worth considering. For more of my musings on this topic, see my blog post Some Thoughts About Writing Courses.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

New Products From WCCL

Many of you will know that this blog is sponsored by the electronic publishing house WCCL. They also sponsor my forum and the online radio station WritersFM.

Anyway, I thought you might be interested to hear about a couple of new products that have just been released by WCCL, even though neither is aimed directly at writers.

The first is called Internet History Cleaner. WCCL describe this as the world's most powerful privacy tool. With just a single keystroke, this software will automatically erase Internet history for Internet Explorer or Firefox, wipe clean all Windows history, and erase all popular program histories.

Internet History Cleaner is one of WCCL's growing range of Internet security and privacy products. Visit their Privacy Central website to see the whole set.

The other new product is of particular relevance to UK citizens. It's a new guide all about the British medical environment called NHS Secrets.

NHS Secrets is packed with tips on how to get healthcare from the NHS on a par with private health, including how to access shorter waiting lists, how to get free dentistry, and even how to get free cosmetic surgery. The author is an expert on how to get maximum value for money from the NHS - which, remember, YOU pay for via your taxes.

As with all WCCL products, 100% satisfaction guarantees apply, and 24/7 support is available from their customer support website at www.myhelphub.com.

If you've bought any WCCL products in the past, you'll know that the quality is uniformly excellent and the customer service first rate. If you could benefit from either of these products, in my view it's well worth checking them out now while the launch discounts still apply.

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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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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

FieldReport: A New Market for True-Life Stories

If you enjoy writing (and/or reading) true-life personal experience stories, FieldReport is a new website you should definitely plan on visiting soon.

FieldReport, which is run from San Francisco, is partly an ongoing writing contest, partly a growing community of writers.

As mentioned above, FieldReport publishes true-life stories, with a maximum length of 2000 words. Stories are rated by other members, and the top-rated story in each category every month receives a $1,000 prize. Winning category stories also become eligible for the annual grand prizes of up to $250,000. The categories are as follows:
  • Breaking News
  • 36 Hours
  • Teen Report
  • Animal Beings
  • Brush With Fame
  • Crisis Mode
  • Food & Drink
  • Friends & Family
  • Home & Garden & Auto
  • Love & Hate
  • Life & Me
  • Music & Arts
  • Oddball Events
  • On the Job
  • Parenting & Pregnancy
  • Spirituality & Religion
  • Sport & Challenge
  • Style & Beauty & Body
  • Travel & Nature
  • Witness to History
  • Adult Experience
Teen Report is restricted to teenagers, while the Adult Experience category is open only to those aged 18 and over.

Perhaps the best - and most surprising - thing about FieldReport is that no entry fees are required. You do, however, have to earn 'review credits' by reading and rating other members' work before you can submit a story of your own.

With its generous prizes and membership-based judging process, FieldReport is definitely well worth a look. I was also pleased to see that, although they only want original articles, you can still submit work if it has only previously been published on a personal blog or in a print publication with a circulation of under 1,000.

There is a lot to view on the FieldReport site, so a good place to get your bearings is their Quick Start Page. I also recommend reading the comprehensive list of frequently asked questions.

Finally, in accordance with my usual policy on this blog, I would like to disclose that I am receiving a small incentive (an Amazon voucher) for writing this post. This has not, however, influenced my review of FieldReport in any way. I do strongly recommend checking the site out.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Get More Traffic From Squidoo/Hubpages

Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm a fan of Squidoo. I wrote about it a while ago in this blog post.

Briefly, Squidoo is a free service that lets anyone create attractive-looking, single page websites, even if they have few if any skills in HTML.

What's more, Squidoo makes it easy to generate money from your site (or Lens, as Squidoo sites are properly called). You automatically get a share of the Google AdSense income generated. In addition, you can add money-making modules from Amazon.com, eBay, and so on. If you like, you can check out three of my lenses by clicking on the links below:

How to Write a Book Lens
Greece Travel Tips Lens
Pseudotube Business Opportunity Lens

Anyway, I recently invested $5 in a new guide that shows you how to create more effective Squidoo Lenses and Hubpages (a similar service) Hubs. It's something I'd not thought of before. I'll quote from the sales page for the report:

Step One: Create a Hubpage or Squidoo Lens.
Step Two: Do this trick.
Step Three: Start Getting Traffic Instantly!


Unlike some cheap reports I've seen recently, this 10-pager is concise and fluff-free. It's well written and illustrated with screengrabs. The 'trick' looks like something anyone who uses these services can benefit greatly from. I'm definitely planning to apply it to my own Lenses - and Hubs if I get into that (and the report recommends I should) - in future.

You can pick up your own copy of the report by clicking here.

By the way, this is one of those '100% instant commission' offers. You can sell it yourself if you have a website, or blog, or Lens/Hub, and keep 100% of the fee. So all you have to do is sell a single copy and you'll have covered the (modest) cost of your report!

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Getting Customer Support for My Courses

I shan't be around a great deal over the next couple of weeks, so I thought it might be a good time to remind you of the best way to get customer support for my writing courses and manuals and other products published by WCCL.

If you have any queries, either before or after buying, by far the best thing to do is visit WCCL's customer support website at www.myhelphub.com and raise a ticket there.

This is very easy to do - just click on 'Contact Us For Support' and fill in the online form, then click the box at the bottom of the form to submit it. You will be allocated a unique ticket number, and can log in to Myhelphub at any time using this number to see if your query has been answered.

The kinds of question Myhelphub routinely answer include:

* I've lost - or never knew - my password.
* I can't access the contents of the CD.
* When was my CD sent out?
* What do I do if my CD doesnt arrive?
* Will [name of product] work on a Mac?
* Will you supply CDs to my country?
* How long will it take my CD to arrive?
* I have an idea for a new WCCL product.
* And so on...

Myhelphub is staffed 24/7, and they aim to reply to all queries within 24 hours (most are answered much sooner than that). If you need help with any WCCL product - and certainly if you need technical support - I strongly recommend that you contact them rather than me!

Just one other point I'd like to stress, though - you must use the ticket system to contact them. Myhelphub are not set up to receive emails. The reason for this is that nowadays email is simply not a reliable enough medium to use for this purpose.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Free Copywriting Guide

Copywriting is a fundamental skill for any online writer.

Even if you don't aspire to become a highly paid copywriter yourself, you will almost certainly need some copywriting skills to sell your books and e-books, your services, and, yes, yourself, via the web.

Many writers are unfamiliar with the art of Internet copywriting, and even perhaps a little suspicious of it. However, the good news is that there are certain basic skills anyone can quite easily learn and apply.

And the even better news is that a comprehensive introductory guide to this subject called Make Your Words Sell is currently being given away free of charge.

Make Your Words Sell is by Ken Evoy (the man behind the popular Site Build It website research and building tool) and professional copywriter Joe Robson (creator of the hugely popular Newbie Club).

Make Your Words Sell explains how to write Internet sales copy that first grabs readers' attention, and then persuades and motivates them into action. Here are just some of the things it reveals:
  • How to use the 'SWAT-it-to-death' technique to master the key skills that trouble most copywriters, amateur or pro.
  • How to create the perfect USP.
  • How to write headlines that pull without hyping.
  • How to generate huge numbers of benefits for your product or service
  • How to identify the benefits that are the most important to your customers.
  • And how to word those benefits perfectly in your copy to get the sale!
Make Your Words Sell formerly sold for $29.95 (and was great value at that price). It's currently available free, with no strings attached. I don't know how long this offer will last, however - so if you're at all interested in Internet copywriting, I highly recommend visiting the Make Your Words Sell website and picking up your free copy today.
  • And don't forget too - if reading Make Your Words Sell gives you a taste for copywriting, The Ultimate Copywriter from WCCL will give you the in-depth advice you need to set yourself up as a professional Internet copywriter.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Free Guide to E-book Writing

For a writer, creating and selling an e-book can be one of the best ways to make money from the Internet.

Many writers, however, are put off by the prospect of writing for this 'unfamiliar' medium, formatting their book, setting up a sales site, attracting buyers, and so on.

I recently discovered that a comprehensive guide to this subject called Make Your Knowledge Sell is currently being given away free of charge.

Make Your Knowledge Sell is by Ken Evoy (the man behind the popular Site Build It business opportunity) and successful e-book author Monique Harris. MYKS covers everything from choosing your subject and producing your e-book, through to marketing it and automating the sales process.

MYKS formerly sold for $49.95 (and was great value at that price). It's currently available free, with no strings attached. I don't know how long this offer will last, however; so if you're at all interested in e-book writing, I strongly recommend visiting the MYKS website and picking up your free copy today.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to Format a Manuscript for a Publisher

A question that probably arises more than any other on my forum is how to set out a manuscript for a publisher.

I was going to write a post about this myself, but then I discovered this excellent article by Moira Allen, the editor of WritingWorld.com, which says everything I would have said and more.

Helpfully, Moira's article covers submitting to both US and UK publishers. I also like the way she takes a sensible, straightforward approach to some issues that cause writers to agonize unnecessarily. Here she is talking about fonts and formats:
Amazingly, people get into heated discussions over what types of fonts editors prefer. Some folks claim that all editors want manuscripts in Courier (the font that looks like your typewriter font). Lately, some editors and writers have come to prefer Arial. So what do editors really want?

The truth is, most editors really don't care, as long as the font is readable. (I can state this with confidence, having done a survey of about 500 editors; 90% expressed "no preference" with regard to font.) Very few editors will reject your manuscript because it happens to be in New Century Schoolbook, Palatino, or Times Roman. Generally, it's best to use a 12-point font size, and to choose a font that doesn't "squinch" letters together too closely.

If you're thinking of submitting a book to a publisher, I strongly recommend giving Moira's article a read. She even covers electronic submissions as well!

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

More WCCL Sites on Writers Digest Top 101 List

As many of you will know, this blog is sponsored by the electronic public house WCCL, who also publish many of my writing courses.

In this recent post, I mentioned that another WCCL-sponsored site, my forum at Mywriterscircle.com, had just been voted into the Writers Digest Top 101 Websites for Writers list for 2008.

Well, I've just discovered that two other WCCL sites are also in the Writers Digest list. In case you've not seen them, I thought I'd mention them both here.

WritersFM is WCCL's free online radio station for writers. The station broadcasts 24/7 via the Internet, with a mixture of interviews with successful writers, laid-back music, and writing tips and advice (and, by the way, no advertisements).

Among the writers you can hear on WritersFM are historical novelist Bernard Cornwell, British politician-turned-writer Edwina Currie, US screenwriting guru Syd Field, and many more (including yours truly).

You can either just tune in to the station and listen to what is currently playing, or download most of the interviews from the podcasts page. Note that either way, you will need to have a broadband/DSL Internet connection. WritersFM doesn't work on dial-up, unfortunately.

The other WCCL site in the Writers Digest 101 list is WriteStreet, or Trent Steele's Write Street as it's described on the list. This is actually WCCL's writing portal. Here you can find details of all of the company's writing products and courses, along with other book and product recommendations, inspirational quotes, articles about writing, and so on.

Also from WriteStreet you can subscribe to WCCL's free Smart Writers email newsletter, and help yourself to a range of valuable free gifts just for signing up. Smart Writers includes articles about writing, along with reviews of the latest writing products. Of course, you can unsubscribe any time if you don't like it and still keep all the free gifts.

I hope you will try visiting both these sites, to see why they were voted on to the Writers Digest list by writers themselves.

And if you'd like to vote to keep any of them on the list for 2009, you can do so by sending an email nominating the site in question to writersdig@fwpubs.com with "101 Websites" as the subject line. The closing date for nominations for the 2009 list is 1 January 2009.

And yes, a vote for this blog would be very much appreciated too!

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Best Firefox Add-ons for Writers

In this recent post I talked about the new Firefox 3 web browser, and why I have been a Firefox fan for some time.

In that post I mentioned that one of the main reasons I like Firefox is the ability you have to customize it using add-ons (also known as plug-ins and extensions). In this post, then, I thought I'd share with you the add-ons I use myself, and then invite you to share yours via the blog's Comments facility.

As I mentioned before, one of my favourite add-ons is Morning Coffee. This creates a coffee cup icon on the main Navigation toolbar. When you click on this it opens your favourite websites (as entered by yourself) simultaneously in different tabs. I use this feature every day to quickly check my blog, forum and a few other sites I like to monitor regularly.

You can customize Morning Coffee to work in various ways, e.g. you can set some sites (perhaps work-related) not to appear at the weekend, or have some only open on certain days. Personally, though, I have all my sites open every day. Work and leisure tend to blend into one for us full-time freelances!

Another add-on I use a lot is Tinyurl Creator. As you may know, Tinyurl is a free service that converts long URLs into much shorter ones. I use it all the time when writing newsletters and articles that refer to specific web pages. The Tinyurl add-on gives you an icon you can click on any time; and it will then automatically create a Tiny URL for the page you are on and save it to your clipboard. It's a simple tool, but one that saves me constantly going back and forth to the Tiny URL website.

My next add-on is equally useful to me, though I don't use it quite as much. This is IE Tab, and what it does is allow you to convert any tab in Firefox into the equivalent in Internet Explorer. This is great with those (few) sites that don't work or display properly in Firefox.

In my case, I find that my Internet banking service doesn't work properly in a Firefox tab - I get error messages when I try to perform certain actions. So I just switch to Internet Explorer mode, and all runs smoothly. A small icon appears in the status bar at the foot of the page, and you click on this to toggle from one mode to the other.

Colorful Tabs is an indulgence, but I like it anyway. It gives all the tabs you are using in Firefox a pretty pastel background. All the colours are different, so it makes it a bit easier to distinguish one from another - but really, I just like it because it livens up my desktop!

TwitterFox is an add-on for users of the micro-blogging and social networking service Twitter. It allows me to see incoming 'tweets' any time I am browsing the web. It also lets me create my own updates, including (if I wish) the URL of the web page I am currently viewing. This makes it easy for me to fit 'Twittering' around my work. If I come across something I think would interest my followers, with Twitterfox it takes only a moment to circulate a quick note about it.

...Do feel free to follow me on Twitter, by the way!

My final add-on is the Text Formatting Toolbar. As the name indicates, this gives you an extra toolbar on your browser, but you can of course switch it off via the View menu when you don't need it. This toolbar lets you quickly format text in bulletin-board code, HTML or Wiki code. I use it mainly for formatting forum messages, but it's also useful for creating hyperlinks in blog comments, and in other cases where you need to create a quick bit of HTML on the fly.

So those are my favourite Firefox add-ons, but I'm sure there are many other good ones I haven't tried. If you're a keen Firefox user like me, why not post details of your favourite add-ons here? And if you're not yet a Firefox fan, perhaps I may have given you another reason to give it a try. Here's the download link for Firefox 3 once again.

Happy browsing!

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Firefox 3: First Impressions

I've been using the latest Firefox 3 web browser for a few weeks now, so I thought in this post I'd share my impressions so far...

There's a lot to like about the new Firefox 3, but one of the best things in my view is the 'intelligent' Location bar. This isn't just a bar to display the URL of the site you are visiting any more. It also serves as a search tool for finding bookmarks or pages stored in your browsing history.

What this means is that you only have to enter two or three letters in the Location bar and Firefox will display up to six sites including that sequence of letters in either the URL OR the page title. The sites listed come from your bookmarks and your recent browsing history, with the sites you visit most often shown at the top.

I must admit I now find this feature indispensable. If I want to visit my forum, for example, I simply type the letters 'my' into the Location bar, and Mywriterscircle.com pops up at the top of the list (along with Mywritingblog, of course). All I then have to do is click on the site I want in order to go there.

Another change is the addition of a neat, all-in-one page-back/page-forward icon. It's also now possible to search your browsing history in more ways than you ever believed possible, using tags, date and time of visit, fragments from the page title/URL, and so on. Other changes 'behind the scenes' make sites faster to load, and the whole program seems very stable (it's only crashed once since I installed it).

Are there any minuses? Well, I was a bit disappointed that a lot of my Firefox extensions didn't work any more when I first upgraded. I believe this is to do with the higher security standards applied in Firefox 3. By searching online I was able to find upgrades for most of my favorite extensions (e.g. Morning Coffee), however, and others have been found by Firefox itself and installed over the last few weeks. So it hasn't been as big a problem as I first thought.

The other thing I'm not sure about is the way Firefox 3 handles downloads. It works perfectly well, and the downloads window appears as before, but not as much information is provided as previously. I didn't know at first where Firefox 3 was saving my downloads - it changed this unliterally from my previous default folder - and I only found out how to check and change this by doing some research on the net. I'm getting used to it now, but I don't personally see this particular change as an improvement.

Overall, though, I'm a big fan of Firefox 3. If you're a Firefox user and you haven't yet upgraded, I recommend doing so now. And if you haven't yet discovered the joys of using this open-source browser instead of Microsoft Internet Explorer, now could be the ideal time to take it for a spin.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Read me on the WEbook blog!

I thought perhaps you might be interested in checking out this mini-article I wrote recently for Melissa Jones's WEbook blog.

As you'll see, it's a tip that's relevant mainly to fiction writers, though there's no reason why non-fiction authors can't use it as well. Not long ago I ran a workshop on this topic for the Lichfield & District Writers, and their members were impressed by the improvement that applying this one piece of advice made to their work.

The article also gives me the opportunity to highlight WEbook again. WEbook is a collaborative writing project that gives authors the chance to work together in a wide range of writing projects centred around the WEbook website. You can read all about it in this article by Melissa Jones which I published a few weeks ago on my blog. And yes, they are still very much open to new members.

I'd also like to give a quick plug for the book I used as an example in my piece for the WEbook blog. Painter Man is the first novel by my old friend and sometime collaborator Jeff Phelps. You can hear Jeff being interviewed about his book on WritersFM, and read my blog post about it here.

Painter Man, like What Was Lost which I raved about recently in this post, is published by Tindal Street Press, a small, Birmingham-based publishing house which regularly punches above its weight in literary awards. Painter Man is quite different from What Was Lost, but both books are well observed and beautifully written, and I'm disappointed that Painter Man has not (yet) received the recognition it deserves.

Anyway, I've included links to Painter Man on Amazon (com/uk) below, in case you're interested in finding out more about this excellent novel. As ever, if you're receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see the image links.




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Saturday, July 05, 2008

My "New" Book Out This Month

UK readers of this blog in particular might be interested to know that my 'new' book Starting Your Own Home-Based Business comes out later this month.

I put the word 'new' in quotes because this is actually a totally revised edition of my popular book 'Start Your Own Home-Based Business'. And no, I don't know why they changed 'Start' to 'Starting' in the title. Publishers move in mysterious ways sometimes!

As the name indicates, the book is aimed at anyone who hopes to join the growing ranks of people running a business from home. It covers everything from deciding whether you are suited to doing this, through generating and evaluating business ideas, to marketing, invoicing, financial record-keeping, making the most of the Internet, and so on. It's written for UK readers, so it refers to British laws, taxes, etc. - but, of course, much of the content would be equally relevant to people in other countries as well.

Apart from the title, there are quite a few changes in the new, 2008 edition. For starters, it's being published in full-colour magazine format, and will be sold via newsagents, kiosks and convenience stores rather than (primarily) through bookshops. This is something of a trend in publishing right now, as traditional bookstores struggle to bring in paying customers. I understand that my publishers hope to attract people who might see my book - or perhaps I should say magazine - on the newsagents' racks and buy it on impulse, rather than the (endangered) bookshop browser.

To get the book down to magazine proportions, some content has had to go. And with the new edition, this is the old Part B of the book, which listed 50 different home-based businesses, giving details of how to get started, useful resources, and so on. I'm sorry to have lost this section, but if you particularly want it, you can still buy the original version of the book at Amazon.co.uk (see below).


The new edition is fully up to date, however, and more attractively presented. Look out for it in the magazine rack of your local W.H. Smith (the UK's leading book and magazine retailer) or other newsagent very soon!

* You should also be able to order the new edition of my book from bookstores or via your local public library. Once again, the title is Starting Your Own Home-Based Business and it is published by Zone Publishing Group. The ISBN is 9781848470002. It isn't yet available from Amazon, but I'll let you know via this blog if (or when) that changes.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Mywriterscircle.com makes Writers Digest 101 Best Websites List!

I just found out that my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com has made the prestigious Writers Digest Magazine 101 Best Websites for Writers list for another year. Huge thanks to everybody who voted for us!

The list is actually a great resource for discovering the best and most popular sites for writers. Even if you've been online for a while, there's a good chance you'll find some writing sites here you haven't seen before. I'm certainly planning to check out some of the less familiar names myself.

We still need your votes for 2009, however! If you agree that Mywriterscircle.com is one of the top online resources for writers, please send an email nominating the site to writersdig@fwpubs.com with '101 Websites' as the subject line. January 1, 2009 is the deadline for the 2009 list.

Many thanks!

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Monday, June 16, 2008

The Top US Market Guide for Writers

In this post last week I reviewed the three top UK market guides for writers.

Well, as promised, in this post I'm doing the same thing for the US market. But this will be a much shorter post, because there is actually only one major annual guide to the US marketplace for writers. That's the blockbusting Writer's Market, from Writer's Digest Books.

Like the UK guides I mentioned last week, Writer's Market is published annually. The 2008 edition - the most recent currently available - weighs in at a massive 1176 pages, and claims to include over 4000 listings for book publishers, consumer magazines, trade journals, literary agents, and so on.

The current (2008) edition was published on 1 July 2007, so I would expect the 2009 edition to come out very soon. Till then, here are links to the book's pages at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. As ever, if you are receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see these.




Although I am UK-based I do a lot of work for US publishers, and until recently I bought Writer's Market every year. This year, however, I decided to subscribe to their online version at http://www.writersmarket.com/ instead. This is reasonably priced at $29.99 a year (around 16 UKP), for which you get everything in the printed version and more, plus the market listings are continuously updated. I might still buy the printed book occasionally in the future, but actually I find the online version meets my day-to-day needs very well, and it takes up less space on my bookshelf ;-)

Finally, I should mention that although it is primarily a guide to the US marketplace, Writer's Market also lists publishers and magazines in other countries, notably Canada, Australia and the UK. It also has an excellent selection of articles about all aspects of freelance writing. If you write for the huge US market, or hope to, either the printed or online version of Writer's Market is probably going to be an essential for you.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Writing Tuition Service

I thought some of you might be interested to know that Mywriterscircle.com stalwart John Craggs, aka Gyppo, has just launched his own online writing tuition service at http://thewritetuition.co.uk. As he says on the site:

Let me ask you three questions, so you can decide if you're interested in becoming one of my students.

Would you like to see the world differently?

To see it with a Writer's Eye?

Write copy which makes the reader sit up and take notice?

If so then you're already in the right place. My main aim in the early stages is to help you discover your abilities as a writer before getting too hung up on the finer details. To help find your own niche as a writer, your strengths and weaknesses. I'll help you develop the essential Writer's Eye, and Writer's Ears, a major boost for fiction writers. It will also help the writer of non-fiction.

Members of Mywriterscircle.com will already know John well in his Gyppo guise. He regularly provides feedback and constructive criticism to forum members, a number of whom have already signed up for his one-to-one tuition service.

Even if you're not looking for personal tuition, however, it's still well worth visiting John's new site, as he has a range of useful resources for writers on it, and is constantly adding more. One of his latest additions is an article on guns and how they are used, from a writer's perspective.

John has a varied and colourful history, having worked at various times as a baker/confectioner, writing and crafts tutor, postman, storyteller, and arena showman. He is an expert knife-thrower, axe-thrower and quarterstaff fighter. And he's also a prolific writer. You can read all about him in his own words in a fascinating article on Linda Jones's Freelance Writing Tips blog. Check it out!

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Best UK Market Directories for Writers

We may not even be half-way through 2008, but already the 2009 market directories are coming out.

So I thought in this post I would take a look at the three main UK directories. I'll save the US market guides for another post.

As a UK-based freelance, I buy at least one of these guides every year. The content varies between them, but they all include comprehensive lists of UK publishers, agents, magazines, newspapers, and so on. Nowadays, as well, they include a growing range of articles and ancillary information. If you're serious about making a living from your writing, and UK-based or want to write for UK markets, having a current edition of one of these guides on your bookshelf is, in my view, essential.

The best known, and longest-established, guide to the UK market is The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, published by A&C Black. I've posted a link to the 2009 book's page at Amazon.co.uk below. As ever, if you're receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see this.


The 2009 WAYB is published on 15 June 2008, and has a foreword by Kate Mosse. It weighs in at 832 pages and is available for 9.89 UK pounds from Amazon.

The WAYB is still the favourite UK market guide of many writers. It has a good range of publishers and markets, and unlike the other guides includes information specifically aimed at freelance artists and photographers as well. It has a website at http://www.writersandartists.co.uk/, which includes a free search facility (although the only info given for a magazine or publisher is its website and email address). You won't go far wrong with the WAYB, but its two main competitors are ahead in some respects.

The WAYB's longest-standing rival is The Writer's Handbook, published by Macmillan. You'll have a little longer to wait for this one - the 2009 edition is due out on 25 July 2008. Here's a link to its Amazon page...


The 2009 Writer's Handbook also has 832 pages and costs 9.89 UKP on Amazon (what a coincidence!). It is edited, as usual, by Barry Turner. The Writer's Handbook has been my favourite market guide for a few years now. There's more information on writing for newspapers and magazines, and more on radio, TV, small presses and theatre companies. The new 2009 edition also apparently includes free online access to The Writer's Handbook website, offering a directory of markets and some additional resources and advice for writers. I don't have a URL for this, however, and assume the site is not operational yet (unless you know otherwise?). The obvious URL at http://www.writershandbook.co.uk/ seems to be owned by someone else and is currently up for offers. I assume some frantic behind-the-scenes negotiation is going on!

The last of the three UK directories is the 'new kid on the block'. Writer's Market UK comes from David & Charles and is edited by Caroline Taggart. The 2009 edition was published back in April this year at a slightly cheaper price of 8.99 UKP on Amazon.co.uk. It weighs in at an impressive 976 pages.


I bought Writer's Market UK for the first time this year, and was impressed by what I found. The presentation is more attractive than either of the two rival guides, who will have to start looking to their laurels. There are nearly 100 pages of articles on most aspects of writing, as well as a particularly wide range of publishing houses. There is a also a good selection of writing websites.

One thing I found a little bit confusing was that some magazines were listed under Publishers - so having looked for, and failed to find, the details for Readers Digest under Magazines, I fortuitously discovered them later under Readers Digest Association in the Publishers section. To be fair, I could have looked up Readers Digest in the index at the back of the book and found it there, but at the time I assumed it just wasn't listed.

Buyers of Writers Market UK also get a one-month free trial of their online service at http://www.writersmarket.co.uk/. After that, I assume you have to pay, but despite my best efforts I haven't been able to find out what they charge.

These are all excellent guides, but my overall recommendation goes to Writer's Market UK at the moment. When The Writer's Handbook 2009 comes out, with its promised free website, that may also be worth considering. The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook is slightly behind the other two in my view, but if your interests also extend to photography and art, it may nevertheless be your best choice.

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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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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

50 Awesome Open Source Resources for Online Writers

That's the title of a very useful article I discovered recently on the massive Job Profiles website.

It lists 50 open source (i.e. free!) resources that may be relevant to writers, including word processors, grammar checkers, personal organizers, and many other handy tools.

For each resource, the author - Christina Laun - provides a paragraph of description and a link to the relevant website. Here's an example from the list:

wikidPad: This tool is a wiki-style notepad that allows users to to quickly and easily jot down their ideas and notes. Perhaps one of the best features of it is that it allows you to easily cross-reference information, helping you more easily draw plot points and facts together.

There are some great resources in this list, including a number I hadn't seen before and will be checking out in the coming weeks. And, of course, you can't beat the price!

Take a look at 50 Awesome Open Source Resources for Online Writers for yourself. I'll be surprised if there isn't something in it to interest you.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Book Proposal Secrets - $10 Discount

A while ago in this post I mentioned Book Proposal Secrets, the latest in WCCL's range of products and courses for writers.

Book Proposal Secrets takes you step by step through everything you need to know to create a book proposal that will knock the socks off a potential publisher.

I've had some good feedback from those of you who have bought Book Proposal Secrets, but one comment that came back to me was that some of you felt that at $47 it was a bit pricey. I'm not sure I agree with that actually, as if it enables you to get just one book contract from a publisher, it will have paid for itself many times over.

But even so, I appreciate that $47 isn't just small change. So I've found a 'back door' way to get readers of this blog an extra $10 discount.

Just click on any of the links to Book Proposal Secrets in this post and you will be taken to a special, unadvertised order page, where you can get Book Proposal Secrets for just $37 (that's just over 19 UK pounds for those of you on this side of the pond).

This is perfectly legal and legitimate, but I don't know how long the special price will be available - so if you're interested in buying Book Proposal Secrets, I strongly recommend you don't wait too long. If the link doesn't work, I'm sorry, but it means the offer will have been pulled by WCCL.

By the way, if you want to see the full sales page for Book Proposal Secrets you can do so by clicking here, but DON'T order via this page or you will be charged the full 47 bucks. Use the special links in this post.

And finally, the links in this post will take you to the standard credit/debit card order page, but if you'd prefer to pay by Paypal - and still get the $10 discount - please use this special Paypal link.

Happy proposal writing!

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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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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

10 Things You May Not Know About The WCCL Network

In this blog I quite often refer to my publishers, The WCCL Network. However, from the feedback I get I know that there are still quite a few misunderstandings about them. So I thought I would take this opportunity to cast a little more light on WCCL (as I'll call them for short from now on).

1. WCCL is the online arm of White Cliff Computing Limited, an international new media group. And despite what some people think, I am not employed by WCCL, and I certainly don't own them!

2. The Managing Director of WCCL is Karl Moore. Karl is an author of two published books on computer programming. He is also a self-development guru of international renown. As well as his homepage, he has a blog at www.karlblog.com and a self-development forum at www.karlforum.com.

3. WCCL is an online publishing company. As such it is quite different from Clickbank, which is simply a self-publishing platform. All WCCL courses, manuals and software products are commissioned from specialist authors and software designers. All WCCL courses and manuals are professionally edited, designed and produced.

4. WCCL currently offers nearly 100 different product lines, in categories including Writers & Artists, Self-Development, Internet Business Tools, Computer Privacy tools, Windows Utilities, and UK Driving Products. In total they sell nearly 2000 different products.

5. WCCL runs one of the best affiliate programs on the internet. If you have a blog or website, you can sign up with them to promote any (or all) of their products. You will then receive a generous commission any time someone makes a purchase via your link. See my blog post about this for more info.

6. WCCL also provides a range of free services for writers. These include the forum Mywriterscircle.com (which I run in partnership with them), the internet radio station WritersFM, the writers chat room at www.mywriterschat.com, and the free Smart Writers newsletter. In addition, this blog is sponsored by WCCL.

7. WCCL are always happy to consider proposals for new courses and manuals that will fit into their portfolio. If you have an idea for such a product (or, indeed, already have such a product) you are welcome to submit a proposal and outline to them in the normal way. If they like your idea, they will make you an offer. I shan't provide contact details here, as I wouldn't like them to be inundated; but if you are keen, I'm sure you can soon discover this information for yourself.

8. WCCL also have a number of free giveaways. These include the writers' giveaway site, the self-growth giveaway, the software giveaway, and their free Motivator software. Thousands of dollars of free software are available from these sites. You may have to sign up to receive a newsletter as a condition of obtaining it, but you can of course unsubscribe at any time.

9. WCCL provide a free online helpdesk service at www.myhelphub.com. This operates 24/7, and offers advice and assistance to buyers of all WCCL products (you won't find anything like this at Clickbank, by the way!).

10. Finally, WCCL have an active program of charitable giving. Among other things, in the last year they have donated sheep and beehives to help develop starving towns in Africa and the East, provided over 6,550 cups of food to feed thousands of starving children, given over 2,500 UK pounds in food to starving and abused cats and dogs in north-east England, organized free relaxation workshops for thousands of nurses in British Columbia, Canada, and provided food for rescued wild horses at the Black Beauty Ranch, Texas. So if you buy any product from WCCL (including any of my courses!), you can be confident that some of your money will be going to support these and other excellent causes!

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Friday, April 18, 2008

LitMatch Upgrade

I've mentioned LitMatch previously on this blog. The site offers a great free service for writers who are looking for an agent, and I know from feedback received that many of you have found it useful.

So I thought you might be interested to know that the site has recently had a complete makeover. Here's an email I received today from the founder of LitMatch, Christopher Hawkins:

LitMatch.net, the largest and most complete database of literary agents and agencies on the web, recently launched a major upgrade to their agent and agency listing pages. The new layout was designed with ease of use in mind, and brings key information to the forefront while organizing the rest in a simple, intuitive format.

The new layout features an at-a glance style, with large, friendly icons that indicate an agent or agency's submission status, if they accept email queries, and if they accept postal queries. Other important information; like response times, comments, and clients and projects; is arranged in a simple, tabbed format on the right side of the page. The tabs keep things organized and allow users to limit their view to only the information that's of most interest to them. Everything from layout to colors to fonts has been given an update for a fresh, clean look in order to make searching for a literary agent as easy and painless as possible.

"This upgrade represents a big step forward for us, and addresses some issues with the site that have been nagging me since the site launched back in September," said Christopher Hawkins, creator and lead developer of LitMatch. "We're excited about the change because it gives our listings a first-class presentation that matches the first-class quality of their content."

Other features of this upgrade include:


  • Clearer division between content areas for faster browsing and increased readability.
  • Contact information that's more prominent and easier to cut and paste into word processing programs.
  • A redesigned "Genre Information" section.
  • Flag icons that visually identify an agent's or agency's country.
  • A reformatted user summary area that keeps all queries to a given agent or agency close at hand.
  • More prominent hotlist links.
  • An updated look to the submission stats table.
  • Reformatted comments and comment entry form.

For more information, clarifications and interview requests, please contact us via email at admin-at-litmatch.net, or visit us online at www.litmatch.net.

Chris deserves to be commended for his efforts in creating a valuable - and 100% free - service for writers worldwide, and the latest changes (which have been introduced largely on the basis of feedback from members) make it even more user-friendly. If you haven't yet seen LitMatch - and you're seeking an agent, or may be in the future - I recommend checking it out today.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Review: Travel Writing Secrets

Travel Writing Secrets is the latest in WCCL's range of products and courses for writers, which also includes my courses Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing.

The author of Travel Writing Secrets is Mel McIntyre, who has also written several other WCCL courses. It is provided on CD-ROM in the universal PDF format. It is therefore suitable for all computing platforms, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux. Travel Writing Secrets is password-protected, but that's only a minor inconvenience. Once you have opened it, you can print out all or any of the pages as you wish.

Like all WCCL products, Travel Writing Secrets is beautifully produced, and it has clearly been professionally written and edited. The main manual (I'll get to the bonus items later) is a substantial 220 pages long. It takes you through pretty much everything you need to know to get started as a travel writer. The content is well organised and crammed with useful, practical information. For example, in chapter two alone you will discover the three things travel articles MUST do, the seven types of travel article, and five secrets for gathering information for your articles.

Travel Writing Secrets also covers interviewing techniques, outlining and writing skills, and how to pitch ideas to editors. And it has in-depth advice on marketing your work, with details of large numbers of potential markets, mainly in the US and the UK. The market info, which is largely in a separate 'bonus' guide, includes website details (with links to contributors' guidelines where available) and unpublicised email addresses to which you can submit your queries. This is invaluable information; and obviously as the guide has just been published, it is currently bang up to date.

If I was to make one very small criticism, it is that Travel Writing Secrets is strongly orientated towards selling travel articles to newspapers and magazines. Nothing wrong with that, but I might like to have seen a little more about selling your work to travel companies, for their brochures and so on. This is referred to as a possibility in the manual, but no more. I'd also like to have seen more details about how you can get yourself invited on free press trips to exotic destinations by travel companies and their PR agencies. Well, I can dream, can't I?!

As well as the main manual, you get a range of bonuses. These include the markets guide I have already mentioned, a guide to writing query letters (the best way to get commissions), and a set of 'templates' that take you step by step through writing three different types of travel article. The latter would be great for beginners who are still feeling their way, though later on you might prefer to dispense with them or adapt them to your personal style.

Another bonus is a guide to taking travel photographs that sell. Obviously, your chances of selling a travel article will be much better if you can offer photos as well, and this bonus manual is packed with hints and tips on how to do this. It's all good stuff, although rather surprisingly it doesn't include any actual photographs!

Overall, Travel Writing Secrets gets my recommendation as a comprehensive introduction to the exciting world of travel writing. Just about everything you need to know is here, written in a chatty, entertaining style, with real-life examples to back up the points made. If travel writing appeals to you, I'd recommend ordering a copy today. Your first commission should cover the modest sale price several times over.

BONUS! Readers of this blog seem to like my special bonuses, so I'm offering one for Travel Writing Secrets as well. I've been able to source a half-hour downloadable video that explains how you can make money from your digital photos, even if - like me - you're far from being an expert photographer. The video reveals a range of websites that will let you make money from ANY photo (with a few obvious exceptions), as well as setting out some ingenious strategies for putting your photographic skills to profitable use.

The video has been produced to a high standard by an Internet marketer called Dr. C, and I have had to pay a fee to get the rights to it. However, it seemed to me an excellent match with Travel Writing Secrets, as it sets out a range of extra ways you can profit from your travel photos (and any others you take).

I'm giving away the video to anyone buying Travel Writing Secrets via a link in this review. It will play on your computer in the free Windows Media Player, and also includes a text file with URLs for all the sites referred to in the video (and other useful links). To claim this extra bonus from me, just forward a copy of your email receipt showing the purchase of Travel Writing Secrets to travel-at-nickdaws.co.uk (change the -at- to the usual @ sign). I will then get back to you with instructions for downloading your extra bonuses. Of course, these are in addition to the usual bonuses being offered at the Travel Writing Secrets website.

Good luck, and happy travel writing!

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Hardline Online Magazine Open for Contributions

Hardline Magazine is a new monthly online publication created by and for writers. It features both fiction and non-fiction writing: short stories, poetry, reviews and articles.

Hardline Magazine is co-edited by two members of my forum, Steve Sweeney and Ken Preston. The poetry editor is Amie Saramelkonian (whom forum members may know better as our moderator Saturnine).

The magazine exists primarily to showcase the work of unpublished, and self published, writers. It's free to view, and they are not currently paying any fees to contributors. There are, however, plans to run a contest in each issue, with prizes for the winning authors.

Even though it is non-paying, the editors are adamant that quality will be key to the success of the magazine. They write: 'Hardline has to be a project that bears the hallmark of quality - it will benefit no-one if the quality of writing is negligible. So, if you are going to submit a piece of work to Hardline, be it fiction or nonfiction, it needs to be tight, well-written and compelling. Hardline needs to showcase good writing if it's to gain attention, and a reading audience - please help us to help you. We eagerly await your contributions.'

Hardline Magazine is already attracting interest from established authors and publishers, thanks partly to groups that have been set up at the major social networking sites such as Bebo, Facebook, Technorati, and (especially) MySpace. According to Steve Sweeney, even before its official launch the Hardline Magazine website was attracting around 100 'hits' a day, and this figure is sure to go on rising.

If you are interested in submitting work to Hardline Magazine - and Steve has just put out a call for short stories for issue two - take a look at the launch issue, then go to the Contact page to see where your submissions and enquiries should be directed. Note that Hardline Magazine will soon be moving to a new, permanent home at www.hardlinemagazine.com.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Two Writing Resource Websites to Check Out

I thought today I'd draw your attention to a couple of websites that include useful advice and resources for writers.

The first of these, Writing Resources, is actually run by my partner, Jayne. She's updated it in the last few days, adding a range of new resources to the large selection already included on the site. There are some great tools for writers listed here (including my own courses, naturally!). Do check it out if you have a moment.

The other site I wanted to mention is brand new. It's called Chapter 1 Page 1, and it's been created by Mike Dodds from my forum (where he calls himself Toxophilus). Chapter 1 Page 1 is obviously still a work in progress, but already there are some useful resources on the site. Check out this article called 20 Ways To Keep Your Writing Inspiration And Creativity High, for example.

By the way, Mike is keen to get feedback on his site, so that he can improve it. If you can spare a moment to send him your comments, he would be most grateful, therefore. You can email him at info-at-chapter1page1.com. Change the -at- to the usual @ sign, of course!

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

More Interviews on WritersFM

My colleague Karl Moore of the online radio station WritersFM has been extremely busy. As I mentioned in this post, he recently interviewed the British author Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and a dozen other published novels.

Well, now in short order he has added two more interviews. The first is with Jean Macleod, the 100-year old Mills & Boon romance author. Karl chats with her about her 130 novels, life during the war, and the secret to longevity!

And the other new interviewee is Francine Silverman, author of "Book Marketing from A-Z" and editor of the Book Promotion Newsletter. As you might expect, Francine offers some great advice on getting your book into the spotlight.

To hear any of these interviews, you can either wait for them to come round on the station's normal rotation, download them as podcasts, or (probably the easiest option) stream them from the radio station's Podcasts page. As with all WritersFM broadcasts, you will need to have a broadband/DSL Internet connection. WritersFM doesn't work on dial-up, I'm afraid!

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

My April Bonus Shower!

It's April. And in Britain anyway, it's that time when you get beautiful spring sunshine mixed with April showers. Unlike the rest of the year, when all you get here is constant rain ;-)

Joking aside, though, it's a bright, optimistic time, and I'm feeling in a generous mood. So I want to make a very special offer to readers of this blog. Buy any of my courses published by WCCL from the list below during April, and I'll shower you with not one, not two, but THREE extra bonus items.

My WCCL writing courses are as follows...

Write Any Book in Under 28 Days - This is my original, best-selling course, sold on CD-ROM. It is packed with hints and tips for writing any book in the shortest possible time.

Quick Cash Writing - This downloadable course is designed for people who want to start earning money from writing as soon as possible. It's a massive course and covers a huge range of writing outlets, from readers' letters and fillers to articles and greeting card slogans.

Essential English for Authors - This is my newest course. It is designed to help bring your written English up to a publishable standard in the shortest possible time.

How to Win Contests - This course, aimed primarily at people in the UK and Eire, reveals the secrets of winning consumer competitions, especially those that require completion of a 'tie-breaker' slogan.

Buy any of these courses by clicking on the relevant link above and I will send you ALL of the following bonuses...

1. My mini-report How to Make Big Bucks Selling Movie Ideas to Hollywood. OK, this is speculative, but it really is possible to devise and sell movie ideas in two or three sentences, and you can have a lot of fun trying to do so. My report explains all!

2. My mini-report on how to self-publish an e-book on Lulu.com. No technical skills required! It's possible for anyone to publish an e-book using the Lulu.com site and then get paid every time someone downloads a copy. This unique report reveals exactly how it's done!

3. My e-book (co-written with Simon Pitt) Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching. This is an actual e-book published on the Lulu.com site. It's aimed at teachers and writers who work in schools, but the exercises could just as well be adapted by writers' groups and individual writers.

And, what the heck, I'll throw in a fourth bonus item as well. That's a full, downloadable copy of my electronic tutorial Short Story Acumen. This is my complete guide to writing short stories for fun and profit. This is still being sold for 24.99 UKP (around $50 US) elsewhere on the web, but for April only I'll add it to my list of bonuses when you buy any of my courses.

I should just mention, though. Short Story Acumen was written a few years ago, so the market info is rather out of date now (though the writing advice is still cutting edge, of course!). Also, it was written for an earlier version of the Windows operating system, so I can't guarantee it will work with Vista in particular. But it's only one of my bonus items, after all!

To claim your bonuses - which I reckon are genuinely worth at least $100 in total - just send a copy of your email receipt showing the purchase of any of my courses listed above to AprilShower-at-nickdaws.co.uk (change the -at- to the usual @ sign) with BONUS CLAIM in the subject line. As soon as I have verified your order, I will get back to you with details of how you can receive your free bonuses.

Enjoy your writing, and watch out for those April showers!

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Review: The Pro Publisher

The Pro Publisher is a brand new guide to writing, publishing and marketing a profitable e-book. As such it joins a crowded field, including How to Write and Publish Your Own eBook in as Little as 7 Days by Jim Edwards and Joe Vitale and The 24-Hour E-book Writing System by Melanie Mendelson, both of which I have reviewed in this blog.

The Pro Publisher is by the UK-based writer and e-book publisher Amin. It is sold as an instant download in the universal PDF format.

As is customary with this sort of publication, buyers get a main manual and a number of bonus items. The main manual is quite concise, weighing in at 43 single-spaced pages. Even so, it manages to pack a lot of information into those pages.

The Pro Publisher is aimed at people who want to write and sell information products (by far the best way of making money from e-books). Amin takes you through each stage of this process. He starts by showing how to research potentially profitable 'niches' for your e-books, using free keyword research tools. This is much the same method used by my own publishers, WCCL, when researching possible new titles, and I found it highly informative.

The section about writing your e-book is quite short - if you want a step-by-step method, a better choice might be Melanie Mendelson's guide, or perhaps my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days. Nevertheless, it covers the essentials, and also looks at the alternatives of outsourcing the actual writing or using free or low-cost PLR (private label right) content and adapting it. There are some good ideas here, based on Amin's own experience.

The largest chunk of The Pro Publisher is devoted to marketing your e-book. There is some excellent advice on writing a sales letter and publishing it on the web. Like Jim Edwards and Joe Vitale, Amin recommends the popular Clickbank publishing service, and he explains the benefits of using this service, and how to make the most of it by allowing others to sell your product for you as affiliates.

Amin also goes into detail about selling your book using PPC (pay-per-click) services such as Google Adwords. This is information not provided in the other guides mentioned, and it is impressively detailed. I learned some useful things here about easy ways of creating PPC advertisements that I will definitely be applying myself. The guide also has a section about how you can attract more search engine traffic to your site, using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques.

As previously mentioned, as well as the main guide, buyers of The Pro Publisher also get a range of free bonus items. These include lists of directories and article sites you can use to help promote your e-book sales site (this process is explained in the main guide), along with a free mini-site template you can use to create your sales page, and another free bonus I'm not allowed to reveal here. These are all potentially valuable, although a bit more explanation of how to go about customizing the mini-site template might have been helpful.

Overall, The Pro Publisher is an impressive product, and a good resource for anyone hoping to get into the lucrative world of writing and publishing information products. It might not tell you every single thing you want to know, but where necessary it has links to other sites which have extra information; that's a sensible approach, and it explains how the author has managed to keep the main manual so concise. Incidentally, I particularly like the way Amin is not afraid to say which products and services have worked for him and which he considers a waste of time!

I recommend The Pro Publisher for any aspiring e-book writer/publisher, except perhaps for complete beginners.

EXTRA BONUS: As I'm a fan of The Pro Publisher, I'm going to make one of my occasional special offers on this guide. If you buy it via a link in this review, I will throw in not one but TWO extra bonus items of my own.

First of all, you'll get a copy of my exclusive 2,500-word report on how I self-published my e-book Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching on the top self-publishing site Lulu.com. Starting from a finished Microsoft Word manuscript, it took me just a morning to sign up at Lulu and complete the entire e-book publishing process. In my report I reveal exactly how I did it, with some important hints and tips for publishing your own e-book at Lulu along the way.

And not only that, I'll send you a free copy of Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching too. This e-book is intended for teachers and writers who work in schools, but the exercises it contains could equally be used by adult writers groups and individuals. More importantly, though, you will see the actual e-book I refer to in my report in its finished form. If you want to dip your toe into self-publishing, an e-book is the quickest and easiest way to do it. My free bonuses will show you EXACTLY how to do this on the popular Lulu.com self-publishing site!

To claim your bonuses, just forward a copy of your Clickbank receipt for The Pro Publisher to me at propub-at-nickdaws.co.uk (change the -at- to the usual @ sign). Please put BONUS CLAIM in the subject line. I will check your order details and send you your bonus items, normally within 24 hours (though please allow up to five days over the Easter period).

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Free Report for E-book Writers

I recently obtained the reproduction rights to a new report called 30 Writing Tips for eBook Authors, by the successful eBook author Jimmy D. Brown.

This is an informative little guide for any aspiring non-fiction writer, not only eBook authors (though it is particularly relevant to them). Here's a sample extract from the report which may give you some idea as to its quality:

25. Get More Information.

It's common for writers to get to a point where they think "what now?" You've just written everything you know about a particular subject and it still seems like something is missing. There aren't enough pages. The chapters don't fit together well. Something isn't explained quite the way it should be. Don't allow the lack of information to stop you from digging in and creating an outstanding eBook. The Internet is an open highway of information just waiting to be researched. Start out with some of the top search engines such as Google.com, Yahoo.com, or Lycos.com and in the search field, type in a half dozen or so different keywords and key phrases relating to your subject.

For example: If you are writing an eBook on weight loss, you might search for...

weight loss
lose weight
weight loss articles
nutrition
health and fitness
weight loss tips
nutrition tips
exercise
diets

Your search will result in tons of information for you to start with. You'll find content sites, free eBooks, articles, reports, eCourses, message boards --just a lot of free information you can study to find new ideas. Spend a few hours (or even a few days) gathering ideas by reading through the information available all over the web. One huge part of successful writing is strong research abilities...and just flat out investing your TIME in gathering ideas.

You'll find that as you research, a LIGHT BULB will go off in your head. When it does, WRITE IT DOWN. Gather a dozen or so ideas and then plug them into your own writing.

It's always good to get a fresh perspective and see things from other folks' viewpoints.

There are a few adverts for Jimmy's longer manuals in the report, but it's easy enough to read around these, or you can click through to find out more. This free report is a good advert (in my opinion) for his full-length products.

30 Writing Tips for eBook Authors is in the universal PDF format. If you click on any of the links in this post, assuming you have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed it should open in your browser window. You can also right-click on any link and save the report to the folder of your choice on your PC.

Happy eBook writing!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Review: The Ultimate Copywriter

The Ultimate Copywriter is the latest in WCCL's range of products and courses for writers, which also includes my courses Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing.

The Ultimate Copywriter is by professional copywriter Mel McIntyre, also known as Top Copy Guy. It is provided on CD-ROM in both PDF and audio (MP3) format. It is therefore suitable for all computing platforms, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux.

The first thing I noticed about The Ultimate Copywriter is that it is very well written. Some advertising copywriters I know seem unable to write in normal English, but that is evidently not the case with Mel McIntyre. The content is neatly set out, and (like all WCCL products) it has clearly been professionally designed and edited. The usual 24-hour customer support is available from WCCL's dedicated help site at www.myhelphub.com.

The main part of The Ultimate Copywriter is a substantial manual of over 180 pages. It is divided into eight sections, plus appendices. It begins by explaining what copywriting is, and how writers can break into this lucrative field. After that, it gets down to the nitty-gritty of how to write good advertising copy.

The manual covers various copywriting tasks. Three that are discussed in particular detail are writing copy for websites, writing a sales letter, and writing a press release. Other avenues such as article writing are also covered, though in less detail.

The advice in the guide is backed up with copious examples. Mel has written and/or edited advertising copy for WCCL, and I found it especially interesting to read his in-depth analysis of the website sales copy for their Write a Movie in a Month course. Mel shows how the '15-point sales letter formula' described in his guide was used to create and structure the web page in question. As this is one of WCCL's best-selling products, it certainly appears to have worked.

There are not one but two sections devoted to how to get work as a copywriter, and these will be of particular interest to new copywriters. I found Mel's advice - and the examples of how he got his first copywriting jobs - quite inspiring, and I will definitely be trying out some of these strategies myself. He also lists a number of websites that regularly advertise opportunities for copywriters, including several I was previously unaware of.

How does The Ultimate Copywriter compare with WCCL's other copywriting guide, Power Copywriting by Bob Serling, which I reviewed in this blog post a few months ago? The most obvious difference is that The Ultimate Copywriter is aimed four-square at writers who want to break into this field. Power Copywriting is good, but it has a different target readership. It is basically a tool for website owners and entrepreneurs who want to write their own copy. The Ultimate Copywriter also covers a wider range of copywriting tasks than Power Copywriting, which is basically all about creating website sales pages.

In fact, though, you don't have to choose between them, as if you buy The Ultimate Copywriter, for the launch period at least you will get Power Copywriting thrown in free, along with various other special bonuses. Considering that The Ultimate Copywriter is currently selling for almost the same price as Power Copywriting, this looks like a good deal to me.

Do I have any criticisms of The Ultimate Copywriter? To be honest, very few. It is a well written, comprehensive guide, and most aspects of freelance copywriting are covered. There is perhaps a slight bias towards online copywriting, but I guess this is understandable in a guide sold via the Internet! The online marketplace is of course huge and growing every day, but it might have been nice to see a bit more about the 'traditional' opportunities for copywriters that still exist, e.g. writing brochures, leaflets and newspaper ads.

Still, this is only a minor criticism. If you want a guide that will get you started in the exciting world of freelance copywriting, I highly recommend The Ultimate Copywriter, especially with the range of free bonus items currently on offer.

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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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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New Products From WCCL

As you may know, this blog and my forum are both sponsored by The WCCL Network. WCCL also publish several writing courses of mine, including Quick Cash Writing and Write Any Book in Under 28 Days.

WCCL publish high-quality courses, manuals and software in a range of fields. I thought you might perhaps be interested to hear about some new products they have released recently, even though none of these is directly writing related.

As the name indicates, Watch TV on Your PC lets you watch TV from around the world via the Internet. You can also use it to tune in to thousands of Internet radio stations, as well as web cams, videos, and more.

Watch TV on Your PC works on any Windows computer (including Vista). No TV tuner card or any other hardware is required - all you have to do is install the software on your PC and decide what you want to watch first. Of course, as with all WCCL products, there is free, unlimited customer support available 24/7, and with Watch TV on Your PC you also get free lifetime updates.

I must admit, however, what surprised me most about this software was the price. WCCL are currently selling it for just $14.95 US or 7.95 UK pounds. This is a lifetime fee - unlike most similar services, no monthly subscriptions are required.

If you like the idea of watching TV from around the world - including sporting events that in your own country may only be available on pay-to-view - Watch TV on Your PC has to be worth a look.

Moving on, WCCL have always specialised in privacy and security software, and they've recently introduced a new and improved undelete tool called Undelete File Recovery.

As you may know, even when you delete a file from your PC and empty the Recycle Bin, the file remains on your computer's hard drive until eventually it is over-writen. In this 'deleted' form it is normally invisible, but with the correct software it can still be viewed and - if you wish - recovered.

Enter Undelete File Recovery. This powerful program will instantly display hundreds of deleted files from any drive on your computer. Full details of the files are shown, and you can even preview them to see what they contain. Then all you have to do is choose which files to restore with the aid of the Recovery Wizard.

Undelete File Recovery is currently available for just $24.95 (around 13 UKP). What's more, right now buyers also get a completely free copy of WCCL's powerful Backup Magic software, which makes backing up all your important files a piece of cake. This one looks like another no-brainer to me ;-)

Moving on again, my colleague Karl Moore has been raving on his blog recently about The Quantum Cookbook, WCCL's brand new guide to the hot topic of manifesting (it was even mentioned recently on the UK soap opera Coronation Street!). The term manifesting is used to describe the process of reordering your personal reality to obtain the things you want. It's also sometimes referred to as The Law of Attraction.

The concept of manifesting has been around for many years, but The Quantum Cookbook brings it firmly into the 21st century. Written by self-development expert Bradley Thompson, it includes a 140-page manual crammed with little-known tricks and techniques for manifesting anything - from a new house to a soulmate, from a new car to more money. Buyers also get bonus CDs, interviews with celebrities who have successfully used the manifesting technique, and more.

I'll be honest, I'm normally more than a little sceptical when I see these sort of claims being made. But I've always thought that people do, to a large extent, make their own luck. It seems to me that what this guide does is try to explain how this process operates and set out strategies you can use to make it work for you.

Anyway, if you're interested, it's all explained on The Quantum Cookbook website - and, of course, WCCL's usual money-back guarantee applies.

Lastly, I appreciate that most readers of this blog are primarily interested in writing. That being the case, you might just like to check out WCCL's WriteStreet website, which lists all their writing-related products and services (including my courses), and Smart Writers, their free email newsletter for writers.

Happy writing!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Guest Article: Imagination and Inspiration

Today I have a guest article for you from Mywriterscircle.com member John Craggs, also known (and not only on the forum) as Gyppo. John/Gyppo describes himself as a writer, adult tutor, storyteller and all-round rogue!

Be that as it may, he is a highly experienced freelance writer, and gives his advice and support generously to other members of the forum. I particularly liked this article - which he posted last week - and thought it deserved a wider readership.

IMAGINATION & INSPIRATION

"I've just got no imagination."

Every creative writing class has one student who issues this challenge, daring the tutor to prove him wrong.

Which they obviously are. If they couldn't imagine themselves as a writer - whatever their image of a writer may be - they wouldn't be in your class.

The more timid ones hesitantly admit to a 'lack of inspiration'.

The following addresses both problems, and although it may not work for everyone I've known it produce excellent results.

If you rely on inspiration as the driving force behind your writing then you'd better learn to make yourself inspired!

Did I hear you say no-one can be inspired to order?

This isn't strictly true.

OBSERVATION STARTS AT HOME

Become your own study object. Observe yourself throughout the day as you would observe someone else if you were planning to write about them.

Take note, mentally or on paper, of the things that trigger your imagination. The things that catch at your curiosity like a ragged fingernail on cloth.

Scraps of overheard conversation on a bus perhaps.

Music. I personally find music a great source of inspiration. Though the mental images rarely seem to have any direct connection with the tune.

Pictures. Some people will find great inspiration in a handful of photographs, or an art gallery.

People. Real people - despite all disclaimers to the contrary - are the raw material of so much writing. A stranger seen in a crowd can provide the basis for a character who then spawns a whole novel of supporting characters.

For example, I once saw a three year old girl, with an unearthly blonde beauty, and the blackest coldest eyes I have ever seen in my life.

The question that sprung into my subconscious was 'what will she grow up like'?

I saw an assassin, sunbathing on a rooftop until it was time to do her grisly job. A horror oriented writer may have seen her as a child of the devil.

Another writer may have seen her as the victim of some childhood trauma. Possibly leading to a psychological thriller about child abuse and its possible consequences.

Actively look for inspiration. Once you get into the habit of seeing everything about you in terms of possibilities, rather than a simple fact, you will never be short of ideas again.

Another example? You see a man leaning on a wall. So far this is just a simple recordable fact. But why is he leaning?

Is he just tired, ill, or lazy? Or perhaps clawing himself back upright after a mugging?

On a more gentle note, is he waiting for someone, or something? His wife, mistress, old flame, or a terribly mundane bus. And if the latter, where is the bus going? Is it taking him to somewhere/someone, or away from an untenable situation?.

How about an offbeat surreal view? Maybe he really is holding up the wall, instead of vice versa. (Reversing your perception of everyday events like this can be quite productive at times.)

WRITERS SHOULD ALWAYS ASK 'WHAT IF'

What if he misses the bus? Will he go back and resolve his problem, or just stand there indecisively? Will his failure to arrive on time lead to further misunderstandings and more twists in the emerging plot? (If not, you're not trying hard enough!)

On the surreal note, if he really was supporting the wall (and by now you should have asked yourself why), will it fall down if he catches the bus, and if so, what will it reveal? Was that wall the empty facade of a previous life, now exposed as the sham it truly was?

Turning those ideas into stories/articles may be another set of problems, but without those initial building blocks you will not even get started.

NO SUCH THING

I accept the existence of people with no sense of humour - I've worked with a few - but I sincerely believe that there is no such thing as a complete lack of imagination. It may have atrophied since childhood, but it's there in everyone.

Imagination can be compared to a motorcycle. If well maintained and regularly used it bursts into life at the first kick. But if neglected and abused half an hour's vigorous kicking will get you nowhere until you do a little repair work.

So give your imagination a service. It'll work a lot better afterwards.

*

If you enjoyed this article, you might like to subscribe to Gyppo's free fortnightly humour newsletter by e-mailing gyppo1-at-ntlworld.com with 'MSD SUB' as subject (in the e-mail address, of course, change the -at- to the usual @ sign). You could also check out his three e-books, 'A Hamper of Havoc', 'British Bike Bodgers Booklet', and his latest, 'The Flying Ferret', available for sale at http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=1175168. Gyppo says he will even pop them onto a CD for anyone who doesn't like downloads. Contact the 'gyppo1' e-mail address if you would prefer this.

Thanks again to Gyppo for allowing me to reprint his article here.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Grab This Free Report on Publicising Your Book!

If you've written a book, or are in the process of writing one, here's a free report you won't want to miss.

Beyond the Press Release: 10 Exciting Book Buzz Ideas That Will Take You to the Top is written by Sandra Beckwith, an award-winning US book publicist, author of two publicity books, and online course instructor for Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz. You can download the report free of charge by clicking on this link.

The report comes in the form of a highly professional-looking PDF. It's much more than just the 10-point list I half-expected to receive. There are 13 pages of excellent advice on promoting your book, including some ideas I'd certainly never thought of myself. For example, here's an extract from Idea 9, Start Your Own Holiday:
Whether its serious or lighthearted, your holiday can be the launch pad for an annual publicity campaign.

Every year, humor writer Jen Singer generates national publicity for her collection of laugh-out-loud parenting essays, 14 Hours 'Til Bedtime, through the holiday she created, 'Please Take My Children to Work Day.'

How can you not smile when you see that title? Whether you're a humorist, a science fiction writer, or a biographer, you can use this technique to generate buzz for your book every year, too.

Start by brainstorming ideas for a holiday that is appropriate and relevant to your book but attention-getting, too. A funny holiday will get more attention than a serious one, but a lighthearted concept isn't required. Here are a few examples using books written by a few students in my book publicity course to get you thinking:

'Visit a Cemetery Day' for Grave Matters: A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial
'Call a Sick Friend Day' for How to Say it When You Don't Know What to Say: The Right Words for Difficult Times
And Sandra goes on to explain how you can make your holiday 'official' by registering it at a certain website.

As well as the free report, you also get a free subscription to Sandra's monthly newsletter. This is also very informative, and includes interviews with successful authors and publicists, tips on publicising your work, and much more. Obviously, though, you can unsubscribe to the newsletter any time you like.

I'm sure Sandra hopes that as a reader of her report and newsletter, you might like to buy her book publicity guides and workbooks, attend one of her courses, or even hire her professional services. However, there is no hard sell involved. I've also corresponded with Sandra recently, and found her friendly and helpful.

As I said above, if you're writing a book or have written one, I do recommend going to Sandra's website and grabbing a copy of her free report while it's still available.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

WritersFM: Internet Radio by Writers, for Writers

I haven't mentioned WritersFM on this blog for a while now, so for the benefit of new readers especially I thought it was time I said a few words about it.

WritersFM is the online radio station for writers run by my publishers, The WCCL Network. It is one of the range of free services for writers provided by WCCL, which also includes my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com and the Smart Writers e-mail newsletter.

WritersFM broadcasts a mixture of interviews with successful writers and laid-back music. The chief interviewer and station manager is my colleague Karl Moore, the author of several non-fiction books himself.

Authors interviewed on the station so far include US writer and writing teacher Randy Ingermanson, former British health minister turned author and broadcaster Edwina Currie, historical novelist Bernard Cornwell, copywriting guru Joe Vitale, biographer Lucinda Hawksley, first-time novelist Jeff Phelps, children's author and illustrator Stephen Jackson, and many others (including yours truly!).

You can either just tune in to WritersFM and listen to whatever happens to be playing at the time, or download individual interviews as podcasts (though note that these are BIG files!). In addition, you can stream the most recent interviews directly from the WritersFM website without having to download them. You do need to have a broadband (DSL) Internet connection in order to listen to WritersFM.

I have one other reason for mentioning WritersFM just now. Karl is currently looking for more writers to interview on the station about their work. If you're a reasonably well-known author (i.e. if you stopped ten people at random on the street, there's a chance that at least one might have heard of you!) do drop Karl a line if you'd like to be interviewed. Or alternatively, if you happen to know a well-known writer and are able to put Karl in touch with him/her, again he would be delighted to hear from you. Please write to karl AT karlmoore.com, and put his name ("Karl Moore") in the subject line to avoid your email being blocked by the spam filters.

P.S. Karl is also looking for potential new guests for his other Internet radio station Self Dev Radio - so if you know any self-help gurus (or are one!), please get in touch with him also.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Try Your Hand at Hypertext Fiction

Fiction writers have long (in Internet terms) been fascinated by the potential of the Internet as a medium for publishing fiction.

In particular, the ease by which it is possible to move from web page to web page via hyperlinks has led some writers to experiment in creating hypertext fiction, where readers can actively explore a story - and find different ways through it - using hyperlinks.

Programming your own hypertext fiction website isn't a task for the faint-hearted. But recently I heard from Jeremy Ashkenas about his Hypertextopia website, which provides a platform that anyone is free to use to try creating their own hypertext fiction (and, indeed, non-fiction).


Writing in Hypertextopia consists of creating so-called fragments and shards, moving them around on the screen, and drawing links between them (see picture above). It's a little like working with mind maps. Once you've written a Hypertextopia work, it can be presented via the site's Grand Library.

It's easier to try Hypertextopia for yourself than it is to explain it, so if you're interested in this concept, click on Hypertextopia and start by exploring some of the works that have already been published. In the case of at least one of them - Playground - you can log in anonymously and try editing the story yourself. This really does blur the distinction between reading and writing!

Hypertextopia is an intriguing project that can open your eyes to the potential of hypertext fiction, even though the quality of work published on the site so far is variable. At times I found the terminology used a little baffling, but the longer you explore and experiment in Hypertextopia, the better you come to understand it. If you're a fiction writer and fascinated by the potential of hypertext fiction, it's definitely worth a look.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hidden Profits in "Spare Change" Time

Today I'm reprinting (with permission) an article by author and newspaper columnist Jim Edwards that struck an immediate chord with me. My computer is prone to random crashes that leave me sitting fuming as my PC goes through the whole reboot process again. But having read Jim's article, I'm determined to start using this "spare change" time provided by courtesy of my computer more productively!

Discover Hidden Profits in "Spare Change" Time - by Jim Edwards

(c) Jim Edwards - All Rights reserved
http://www.thenetreporter.com

Fact: Take the spare change out of your pocket every night and put it in a child's piggy bank. At the end of a year you will have at least a hundred dollars to spend as you wish. Now take this same principle and discover the huge payoff in the "spare change" time you've been wasting all these years.

How often do you sit in front of your computer and wait?

Everyone waits for the computer to reboot, restart, unlock, "scandisk", "defrag", finish printing, download a file from the Internet or generally accomplish tasks that have you sitting twiddling your thumbs for at least 60 to 90 seconds or more.

The shocking truth is that those one, two and three minute nuggets of time contain the seeds for accomplishing all the tasks you never seem to have enough minutes in the day to finish.

Computers represent a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they are supposed to save us time by efficiently helping us with big tasks such as balancing our checkbooks, running our businesses, and doing our taxes.

In reality, it seems the time computers save you gets sucked right back up in time-consuming tasks such as installing software, scanning for viruses and waiting for the computer to restart!

Think about the spare change in the piggy bank example. Now use that same principle to your advantage by developing an awareness of how you spend your "pocket change" time in front of the computer every day.

Small bits of wasted time add up quickly over the course of a day, week, year - all of it in 2 to 3 minute increments. Fifteen wasted minutes a day equals well over 11 working days wasted per year!

Take this "one-day challenge".

Today, try these alternatives to sitting and watching the "hourglass" on your monitor while waiting for your computer to finish a task!

~ Organize your desk
~ Sharpen your pencils
~ Make a quick phone call
~ Check your "to-do" list; if you don't have a "to-do" list
make one
~ Write a fast note to a friend
~ Put in a load of laundry
~ Go to the bathroom
~ Get another cup of coffee
~ Pay a bill
~ Catch up your checkbook entries
~ Pick up your office
~ Brainstorm an idea
~ Stand up and stretch
~ Day-dream for about a happy thought for 90 seconds!

Carefully watch how much time you spend in front of the computer waiting for it to do something and then see how many things you can accomplish with that time.

Nothing could reward you more than developing a consciousness about how you spend those spare moments that add up to enough time to write a book, take a trip with your family or take positive actions that will change your life forever.

Use your "spare change" time to accomplish the things you claim you never find time to finish!

----

Jim Edwards is a syndicated newspaper columnist (http://www.TheNetReporter.com) and the co-author of an amazing new ebook that will teach you how to work less, get paid more... and have tons more fun! - "The Lazy Man's Guide to Online Business"

==============================
Are YOU a "Lazy Achiever"? "The Lazy Man's Guide to Online Business" How to Work Less, get Paid More and have tons more Fun! Proven tips, tricks, techniques and strategies of Superstar "Lazy Achievers"!
Click=> http://tinyurl.com/2v8etn
==============================

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Your Writing Support Team

For the most part I enjoy being a freelance writer. However, it's a solitary occupation, and sometimes I do miss the camaraderie of working in an office (as I did in my earlier existence). In particular, there are times when I wish had colleagues to bounce ideas around with, or to give a second opinion on some point or other.

Well, I may not have colleagues any more, but I do have the next best thing. And that is, my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com. I know quite a few readers of this blog belong to the forum, but many still don't. So I thought in this post I'd mention some of the benefits that I, and other members, derive from belonging to the forum.

To start with, the forum is great when you want a second (or third) opinion from a fellow writer. In my recent Day in the Life article for Linda Jones's Freelance Writing Tips blog I mentioned an occasion recently when I used the forum this way. You can read the whole story in the article if you like, but briefly I was writing a profile for a client, and wasn't happy with my closing sentence. So I decided to post it on the forum and see if anyone could improve on it. Three forum members rose to the challenge, and one came up with the perfect solution. I was pleased, and so was my client!

The forum is also used regularly by members needing help with research. For example, a new member, Collegeguy, wanted some advice on creating a convincing bank robbery scene. On the topic in question several members offered comments and ideas. At the end Collegeguy wrote: 'Thanks a ton for all your help, everyone...it's coming along well, and I'm positive it would be totally different (and a lot worse) if it wasn't for your suggestions!'

Plotting is another area where the forum can be a life-saver. Written your hero or heroine into a corner where you can't see any way out? Describe the situation on the forum, and see if the ingenuity of MWC members can deliver a solution for you. Long-standing member (and forum moderator) Cathy C had this problem and sought help from our members. In the topic in question, she wrote:

I've managed to leave my character without money (the result of a house fire which destroyed everything - credit cards, cheque book, bank card etc.). Even worse, it's a Sunday and all the banks are closed. (Man, when I mess up I REALLY mess up). Anyone got any ideas as to how she can lay her hands on some money fast? (And no, robbing a bank/shop/house is not an option...)

Take a look on the forum to see the range of answers members came up with!

And, of course, if you have any questions about grammar and punctuation, correct manuscript format, how to write a query letter, or any other writing-related topic, our (nearly) 6000 members are ready and waiting to help. Check out the All the Write Questions board for a range of questions that have been asked - and answered - recently.

And finally, it's not just writing-related matters you can raise at MWC. On our Coffee Shop board, members have asked questions about or simply debated a huge range of topics, some serious, others less so. If you need advice, support or information on almost any subject, our members are ready to help if they possibly can.

So there you are. I hope in this post to have convinced you that Mywriterscircle.com is an invaluable resource for any writer, especially if (like me) you work on your own. If you're not yet a member, it's quick and easy to join, and of course it's free. And if you are already a member, ask yourself whether you are making the most of the forum? Remember - to harness the power of the friendliest writing community on the net, you only have to ask.

Happy writing, and see you on the forum!

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