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Top Kindle Indie Authors Worth Following

July 31st, 2012 . by Peggy

As a followup to my blog post for VivMag.com, about why women over 30 write better eBooks, here’s a list of the top female indie Authors worth following on Twitter, and definitely worth reading.

I was fascinated with how each of these women market themselves. Some have many books, others have very few. Some are wild about Twitter, and some are not. They use tools like video and podcasting to help get their eBooks out there. Their pricing is all over the map. And if you follow each of them carefully, you’ll learn more about their writing style, their attitudes about their business, and how that plays into their success.

In no particular order…

EL James

( https://twitter.com/E_L_James/)

- Fifty Shades of Grey

- Fifty Shades Darker

- Fifty Shades Freed

Karen McQuestion

(https://twitter.com/KarenMcQuestion)

- The Long Way Home

- A Scattered Life

- Easily Amused

Click here to see all of Karen McQuestion’s Kindle eBooks

Ruth Cardello

 (https://twitter.com/ruthiecardello)

- Maid for the Billionaire

- For Love or Legacy

- Bedding the Billionaire

Jamie McGuire

(https://twitter.com/jamiemcguire_)

- Beautiful Disaster

- Providence

- Requiem

Click here to see all of Jamie McGuire’s Kindle eBooks.

 

Tammara Webber

(https://twitter.com/TammaraWebber)

- Easy

- Where You Are

- Good For You

 

Colleen Hoover

 (https://twitter.com/colleenhoover)

- Slammed

- Point of Retreat

 

Zoe Winters

 (https://twitter.com/zoewinters)

- Blood Lust

- Save My Soul

- The Catalyst

 

Erin Kern

 (https://twitter.com/erinkern04)

- Here Comes Trouble

- Looking For Trouble

 

CJ Lyons

 (https://twitter.com/cjlyonswriter)

- Nerves of Steel

- Sleight of Hand

- Face to Face

Click here to see all of CJ Lyons’ Kindle eBooks.

 

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5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Wrote My First eBook

July 2nd, 2012 . by Peggy

I’m about to complete my part in eBook number 170. Here’s what I wish I’d known before I started this journey.

1. You will need to write much more than you thought.

Alice might be in Wonderland - but she's not in over her head.

I knew that I’d probably want to write more than just one eBook, in fact, I could imagine dozens that I wanted to create, but deep in my heart, I didn’t really think I’d get to be part of this many. While I’ve certainly not created all 170 alone (about 1/3 of them I did alone – the rest were collaborative efforts with some incredible people) from that first one, I gave myself permission to not do it if I didn’t feel like it. That was not realistic. It was also not professional. I recently said to someone who had just gotten through number 1, “That’s great – now do 7-10 more by the end of the summer.” She was not enthused.

The reality is that eBook success is exponential. This is a volume business. While each item that you create might be a wonderful success, it might also be a horrible failure. Long-term success depends on producing timeless content with a long life span, and creating enough content that you’re known for a body of work rather than one or two products. Besides, a pattern is easy to replicate – only the first eBook is a learning experience.

2. You must be committed to your niche.

Over and freakingover again, I say, know your keywords.

The most expensive part of any business is customer acquisition. (Aka, sales.) Once you get a client under your wing, it’s much cheaper to sell more of the same sort of stuff to the same person, than it is to get new customers. That means that you really need to know your audience, and their needs, from day 1. This is most easily discovered through keyword research. Then your job becomes very simple: just create more of that which your niche desires. Otherwise, you find yourself constantly in a state of experimentation and newness. Your niche is your reader family. Take them unto your bosom. They are actually pretty easy to feed – if they want spaghetti every night, then for heaven’s sake, give it to them.

It took me a few years to get really good at doing keyword research. In the meantime, I did a lot of guessing, and wrote a lot of lovely content that didn’t sell. Spare thyself this agony. I’ve shared the basics here in this free eBook: Keyword Cheat Sheet, now in version 4.2. Costs you nothing to both download and use.

Don’t forget you can also serve multiple niches. I write under 11 different pseudonyms (some for clients, and confidential) and each of those serves a completely different niche. I’m sure there’s crossover, but a pseudonym is like a sign that says to readers, “Hey, remember that stuff you liked? There more of it right here.”

3. The money is in affiliate marketing.

While it’s true that things like SEO and social media are extremely important, affiliate marketing allows me to leverage the networks of others. (I had heard that expression for years before I knew what they were talking about.) By making small payouts for each referral, and making it easily trackable, it means that if I just focus on creating really great stuff, I can make other people confident in recommending it.

Affiliate marketing is a fairly broad term that has a number of different meanings, but essentially, eBookers can use it to track payouts to others who help them sell more books. There is no limit to the number of affiliates you can have, or how creative you can get with it. Watch for more help with this topic from me in coming months, in things like classes and eBooks.

4. It can be extremely boring.

I admit there have been days when I feel like if I spend one more minute looking at a monitor, I’ll claw my own eyes out. To top it off, for a little over 5 years, I worked from home in a beautiful but isolated area, a small gulf island off the west coast of Canada. This meant that if it weren’t for the dog, there were days when I wouldn’t open my front door. If I were to do it again, I’d make sure that I worked in a shared office space of some kind, like I do now, and networked in the real world more, like I do now, and lived in a city or more populated area, like I do now, in Las Vegas.

Besides the lifestyle issues, I now know it wasn’t good for my writing. Isolation is often seen as a requirement of Authors, and while I’ve seen the benefits of that sometimes, I can now see that I lacked objectivity about my business in general, and certainly about writing. It definitely makes for better non-fiction writing to be part of a team, where I’m not working exclusively on my own agenda. Being able to think like a reader, instead of like a writer, is an important skill for writers of all types.

5. The ramp-up time took a lot longer than I thought it would.

Partly because I was a noob, and partly because I was unfocused, it took me a long time to learn what I really needed to get done in what period of time. The original audience that I assumed existed, it turned out, didn’t exist at all. At first, I ignored the ghost writing market. (Stupid.) I didn’t write any fiction because I assumed it wouldn’t have a market. (Also, incredibly stupid.) I chose prices that were both too high and too low. (Stupid, and unresearched.) I agonized over the little things, which it turned out was a waste of my time. I took forever to figure out that I needed to partner with others to create cool products and services.

While I still struggle with typical self-employment issues, like setting aside time for my own projects versus that of clients, I now realize that the instant success that I thought was coming was a joke. I ignored the concept of critical mass, and it took until my own product number four before many people noticed my product number one. This took over 2 years, and in the meantime, instead of recognizing that this was all part of a normal development cycle, I called myself a failure.

The lifespan of eBooks can be just as long, if not longer than printed books. They are subject to update and regular revision, as they’re not burdened by the overhead of a stock of books. This means that you can spend a lot longer ramping up an audience, building your list, your reader base, and your discoverability. It’s worth it, and it’s normal. Savour it as part of the journey.


So when I take my daughter into my lap, and explain to her what it takes to be a good eBook creator, (and those of you who know me know that I do this often…) I talk to her about technology, commitment, and taking the dog for a twice-daily walk. At six years old, she already has a plan to write a series of books about cats and Barbie. Next week, we’re doing the keyword research about that.

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How to Think Like a Successful eBook Author

June 5th, 2012 . by Peggy

 


Rodin's The ThinkerBecoming successful in any field often requires a shift in thinking. Here are some of the shifts that I myself experienced, and that I continue to witness in clients and other successful eBook creators.

1. Stop thinking of yourself as an Author.

Authors are amazing, creative, driven, and professional people. However, as the motivated creator of an eBook trying to crash into what might be a crowded niche, you need to shift yourself from almost all traditional thinking, and quickly.

My own fantasy of what it meant to be an Author was probably like that of many people: the Author as an introvert creative, working from behind a leather-topped desk in a quiet study, the oak-paneled walls lined with books, and a dog stretched out on a thick carpet at my feet. Occasionally, I would fetch myself a whisky from the mini-bar in the corner, or gaze out at my ocean view for inspiration. My publisher would take care of everything, and send me fat checks once a month, all because I was gifting the world with the gold that came out of my brain.

Yeah, that’s pretty far from my reality. Instead, after a rowdy morning of getting the kidlet off to school and taking something out of the freezer for dinner, I whip through Starbucks on my way to an office that I share with a crowd of marketing types. I then run down my whiteboards and address whomever is screaming the loudest. I eat lunch while typing or talking on the phone, scramble to meet deadlines, meet with new and existing clients about 3 times a week, test out new technologies or tools, write blog posts like this one, plan and execute official launch dates for ebooks or new information products, setup affiliate marketing data for the products of myself and clients, and then when that’s all done, dinner’s over and the kidlet asleep, I do a bit more market research to try to find the next niche that I can exploit to the max.

While I’m not in that luxury den, I must say that I find this much more rewarding. NO, this is NOT a life of luxury, but it is fulfilling. I love marketing. I love technology. And I especially love the freedom that I have to keep reinventing myself and my work over and over again. The reality is that successful fiction Authors (versus me as a product creator) do a lot of the same things I do, all day, every day. They might call themselves something other than an information marketer, but really, that’s what all of us are. Once our false expectations fade about the exotic life of an Author, we discover that this, being a marketer with a sort of literary bent, is actually way more fun.

2. Get into a tech groove.

Let’s face it: books mean technology. Even if you are writing for print in the most traditional sense, with a publisher and (perhaps) even an advance, you’re still in a technology-run business. There is simply no working around that. The time of Authors being lumped in with lawyers and real-estate agents for their lack of tech knowledge has passed. Content creators must now at least understand, and hopefully fully control, all aspects of their content distribution.

At the very least, all Authors must get used to the basics;

  • Writing on a computer, using appropriate word-processing software. 
  • Creating eBook content using a standard word-processor. 
  • Using social media. 
  • Blogging or creating other web content. 
  • Deploying and managing their content (and things like reviews) on popular eBook platforms like Kindle or Nook, etc.
  • Linking to places where people can buy the books, and making them easily accessible.
  • Managing a mailing list properly.

The more advanced techy types will take it to the next level;

  • Setting up a shopping cart on your website to sell books and eBooks. 
  • Formatting your own eBook uploads.
  •  Managing your own blog platform, on WordPress. 
  • Setting up things like feeds for your blog or website.
  • Tracking visitors to your blog or website, to see where your visitors are coming from.

And then there are the ones that really exploit the technology that makes money;

  • Conducting webinars or teleseminars. 
  • Using web video conferencing for lectures or virtual signings. 
  • Managing an ongoing affiliate marketing program.
  • Managing digital ad campaigns to sell books or eBooks.
  • Using podcasting to gain recognition and drive traffic.

If you know you’re stuck in the first paragraph, or less, at least know what you need to delegate to the techy types – and how to explain to them what you want.

3. Stop waiting.

The slowness of the literary industry is improving, but it is still its Achilles heel. Independent product creators must work faster in order to meet demand and build market share. In my observation over many years, the idea for a novel does not get better if it steeps for a few years. Instead, it gets neglected. It’s not just about writing every day, which is also essential, but about setting up a production schedule. This allows you to move from one completed project to the next, without losing your momentum or enthusiasm or joy for the content. In the case of non-fiction, there’s often a window of opportunity that is fleeting and small. You either grab it, or you miss it. Speed of production is the way to make money.

4. Keep producing.

If all you have in you is one novel a year, please be sure you have another job. (But don’t stop writing that one novel, either!) One product does not a company make. But, one product can a market open. What I mean by this is that you can do a lot of work to launch one product into the market, and once you open that door, you then capitalize on that by creating more products to fill the market space you have created. Once you have your spearhead product created, be sure to follow it up right away with a companion product, or a sequel, or a study guide, or a series of implementation exercises, or a new edition, or, or, etc. As the expression goes, the second eBook takes 1/10th of the work, and makes you 10 times the money.

5. Template what works.

If I were to consider selling my business, I know that the part that would be assessed for the greatest value would be my templates. I have systems up the ying/yang. Spreadsheets for processes, lists for checking off, template documents with fill-in-the-blanks, step-by-step guides for myself and for clients, pre-formatted documents for creating everything from class handouts to new eBooks, etc. etc. This is where your real value in a business lies: in its systems. This is true of almost every company. McDonald’s is nothing without its templated systems for everything from food processing and handling, to uniforms for employees, to how to scrub a toilet. Templates are what allow success to repeat. I rarely do anything more than once, because in everything I create or do, I look for a way to be able to do it again without any extra work. Yes, I have a lot of wall charts. Yes, I keep a pile of post-it notes in my bathroom magazine rack. Yes, that makes me look like a major geek. But I know that if I want to look professional, I need to save time, and templating is the only way I know to do that effectively.

The moment I let go of the unrealistic fantasy was the moment my company was born. I found real joy in offering something of value to a market that wanted it. I love sharing this with consulting clients, and watching them make the same shift and get real. No, I don’t have an ocean view (especially here in Las Vegas!) but I do have constant inspiration.

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Tim Ferriss Agrees With Me

August 29th, 2010 . by Peggy

Read this fantastic blog post by Tim Ferriss; book marketing guru, world traveler, and Author of The 4-Hour Workweek. Please pay special attention to the part where he mentions, “First off, writing books is a terrible revenue model for authors.”

His summary of the opportunities in eBook marketing are very clearly pointing to using affiliate marketing as the way to make that huge hit really happen. This is the important component that I see missing from almost every single plan that every Author has put in front of me, like, ever. If you want to make money from eBooks, learn every little thing you can about affiliate marketing, and then do it for a couple of years before you decide to get serious about the details.

I love this guy.

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If Seth Is Doing It, Why Can’t We All?

August 25th, 2010 . by Peggy

Seth Godin, AuthorThe adorable Seth Godin announced this week that he has created his last traditionally-published book. Here’s why his plan may or may not work for everyone.

(It’s a great post, by the way, and I strongly suggest you read it.)

Seth is brilliant – that’s not debatable. He’s a rebel, a visionary, and his writing has caused me to seriously question many things about the way I consume, and the way I conduct my own business. He has spent the last 12 years developing great books that (mostly) turned out to be bestsellers. He claims this latest book, Linchpin, is his “life’s work”. (Can’t wait to read it.) And he has decided that none of his future writings will be distributed through traditional publishing channels.

Why this works for Godin;

- He already has years of live market research under his belt, which is by his own admission, really because of his relationship with great publishers.

- He has a massive private following through his blog and social media connections.

- He really does know his stuff, and he practices what he preaches.

- He has plenty of capital, both monetary and intangible, to re-invest in his business.

- He has a staff.

Do you have all of those things? Possibly not. I know I don’t. So here are my suggested alternatives for those of us who don’t, in the same order.

- We can perform a surprising amount of market research on our own. Let’s start with keyword research.

- We can build a following by doing exactly what Seth does, such as using our own blog and social media connections, and building slowly. We don’t need it to be massive to be effective – we just need it to be loyal. Loyalty must be earned.

- Very simply, we need to do and be the same. This does not take money or even much time. Transparency sells.

- Does it really take a ton of money to make things happen? Can we adjust our expectations to take advantage of our existing resources? What is the value of sweat equity?

- Staff can be had easily and quickly using virtual assistants. Knowing what to delegate has been my big project for 2010. I think I’m finally getting the hang of it.

Does it work for everyone? Not if they don’t have the drive and imagination. But since all of us are writers, perhaps we have an advantage.

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The Most Interesting Person At Northern Voice (#NV10)

May 12th, 2010 . by Peggy

I had a great time this year at the Northern Voice conference. The conference was full of incredible people, including Cathy BrowneKimli, and Rob Cottingham, but there was one other presenter that really stood out for me.

Steffani Cameron’s (@smuttysteff on Twitter) talk about How To Screw Up Your Personal Blog was inspiring, and not just because the content was so personal. Her shoot-from-the hip style of presentation was refreshing and real. She had no overhead slides, and we were able to solely focus on her voice, her story, and her cautionary tale. I felt a familiarity so many times during that talk that it made me rack my brain for where I must have met her before, but of course I hadn’t. Her story is just one that many of us can relate to.

Steffani is a great example of what this conference is all about. Occasional Accountant by day, and sex blogger by night, she is a creator of great content, and her content is created mostly for the sheer joy of creating it.  How different from all the techy and marketing conferences that I’ve been to lately: somebody who actually lets the content drive the blog. That is what Northern Voice is all about, and the importance of Story in blogging was once again brought home to me in a way that was moving and meaningful. Steffani is a normal person who happens to also be a great writer, and that great writer happens to blog about sex. She identifies as a blogger first, and by her topic second, which I loved about her.

When I asked her about all of my writing under a pseudonym, she responded, “Peggy, look at your hair. Who do you think you’re kidding?” Her honesty about her topic has gotten her into hot water with conservative religious bosses and snarky co-workers, but as she so rightly said, “Bloggers have to stop worrying about who they’re going to offend…” and “It’s our job to create great content, and other people’s job to just get over it.” She brushed off the applause to these comments, but really, she was the only one that talked about her failures in such an unprogrammed, clear and unapologetic way.

Steffani, please come back next year. Organizers of Northern Voice, if she doesn’t volunteer, please make her come back.

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Work/Life Balance For Writers

March 31st, 2010 . by Peggy

(This article reprinted with permission from Joan Craven of InexpensiveKidsFun.com.)

One of my heroes is Joan Craven, of Craven Communications (JoanCraven.com) in Calgary, Canada. Joan is a Mom, Grandmum, Business Owner, Professional Speaker, and about a million other things to boot. She is what I hope I can learn to be like: happy, fulfilled, and most importantly, completely organized. (No kidding. You should take a look under her bathroom cupboards. Everything’s in neat little piles and rows.)

She’s written an article that I feel compelled to share with you as Writers. While she may not have had Writers in mind when she wrote this, it certainly applies to all of us obsessive writing types, who once an idea enters our brains, we cannot sleep/eat/do laundry until it has been purged by writing it out. Balance is not one of my fortes, to which Joan will attest. This simple article seems to set me right, and I’ve posted it on my office wall, to re-read it often.

Sometimes as we think back on our past work week we begin to beat ourselves up over what did not accomplish. That nasty little voice in our head says “why couldn’t you get it all done?” or “if you just used your time more wisely you would have been successful.”

Are you asking too much of yourself? Where is your time being spent?

The value of any work week is based on two things:

  1. what we accomplished
  2. what we have learned

The first question to ask yourself is “What goals did I accomplish and what ones need more time? Why didn’t specific goals get accomplished? Was I realistic in my goal setting? What have I learned?”

Once you have answered those questions plan out your next week, keeping in mind your professional and personal priorities. Devise a visual method that works for you.

Personally I use a “Things to do list” that has professional and personal goals for the day. When something isn’t accomplished one day I add it to the next day’s list. This has helped me in two ways:

  1. I set realistic expectations for myself because I try to jot down estimated time each item will take. I include some stress-reduction type activities. For me that is chatting with a friend, going for a walk, baking, preparing a meal or visiting a library or bookstore.
  2. As soon as I think of something to do, I jot it down so it doesn’t keep circling in my head. Once I see my list getting too long for one day I start a sheet for the next. Sometimes I have to juggles items from one day to the next.

Once I trained myself to check my email only twice a day and return phone calls once or twice a day, I had more time for other items. Two other strategies I consciously started were:

  1. To turn off my computer at 6 p.m. each night.
  2. To only watch 1 hour of TV a day.

All of a sudden I had much more time and I began to sleep better. When I travel to do workshops I now plan for the day-after to be a shortened day where I do ‘mindless tasks’ like filing or sorting or even just some professional reading because my energy is depleted from delivering the workshop. I try to set realistic expectations for myself.

By asking “what have I learned?” when I’m not successful in completing my goals make a huge difference to the way I talk to myself. Sometimes I fall off the wagon and am up completing a project until the wee hours of the next morning or I watch TV all night. Exceptions happen; they are just no longer my norm. What I consciously try to do is build high fences around personal time and strive to balance work and home.

What do you do to find balance in your life? What methods work for you?

Thanks, Saint Joan, for putting me back on track, once again.

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Next-Gen Storyteller: Felicia Day

February 12th, 2010 . by Peggy

If you haven’t heard of @FeliciaDay, you’re missing out on the next Carol Burnett. She’s what I call a next-generation storyteller – and here’s why.

Of course she’s beautiful, hysterically funny, and wickedly clever, but more importantly: she understands what technology will do for her. It’s not what you’ve got, but how you use it.

Day’s Wikipedia entry reads like someone much older than her youthful 30 years. (Like, turned down acceptance to Julliard? Whoa.) A master of a number of art forms, she is an accomplished violinist, opera singer, dancer, screenwriter, actor and scholar. Her real new media fame came in 2007 when she embraced web video for her project “The Guild”, which is a web comedy available for viewing and download on a variety of web video sites, including iTunes.

But, what makes her a “next-gen storyteller”?

Two things: extension and technology. It’s not just that she has a trendy web show based on computer gaming – it’s waaaaay beyond that.

Day makes high quality and often personal connections with her audience, both real and virtual. She regularly mingles with fans at various conferences (such as ComicCon in San Deigo each year) and many live screenings and non-profit events. She understands that the story extends off the screen, however small it may be. Then, she uses all technology mediums available to her to extend this story, including a wide variety of social media outlets, and even a music video (“Do You Wanna Date My Avatar”) in which she sings and dances to a song of her own composition. (To-die-for-funny: $1.99 on iTunes.)

Check out this timeline:
- 2007: releases first season of “The Guild” loosely based on her own experiences as an avid player of online games. The primary outlet is YouTube, and it’s free. Halfway through this year, she grabs a Twitter ID and starts posting.

- 2008: At least partly thanks to exposure from The Guild, Day is cast in a variety of other parts, including the genre-defining “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” (another web comedy).* She even has a guest spot on the TV series House. She also releases Season II of The Guild, and works on another web project with her Guild co-star Sandeep Parikh, Legend of Neil. MSN makes a deal with The Guild to expand releases to XBox Live, MSN video, and Zune, and suddenly, Day is earning money from this venture.

- 2009: The third season of The Guild is released to its’ now rabid fans, and Day herself achieves one of the most coveted social media trophies: the #3 most-followed person on Twitter. (As of now, she’s somewhere around #50.) She also continues to guest star on a variety of mainstream TV shows like Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse.

Just three crappy years, and it appears that she’s so busy doing web video that she no longer has time to pursue work in film, which is much more risky and far less fun.

Day uses all that the web has to offer: iTunes is just the tip of the iceberg, even though for most this would be considered killer bread-and-butter distribution. The deal with MSN is freakin’ brilliant, allowing her to penetrate even deeper into the community that has supported her from the beginning: online gaming. She’s every Gamer’s dream girl.

Like Madeline Kahn and Mae West before her, she plays down her obvious beauty, and writes, directs, acts, and allows her comedic nature to help her story. She is one of those multi-talented women that has been allowed to explore her creativity – and we love her for it. She is still warmly received by her community, and often pokes fun at the roles she’s played, and any possible criticisms of ‘selling out’ (Parikh: “Where’d you get all this money? We make a web series..??!!??”) by making even more content with that community.

I have to admit, my favourite part of this story is the music video. Again, quality rules: the crossover only works because it’s actually a good song. It offers the other cast Members a chance to really strut their stuff along with Day. (Wow – check out Parikh’s backflip, and it turns out Okuda is a fantastic dancer.) Her people love her, and she loves them right back.

Can anyone replicate this recipe? Of course. If you can’t cook, ally yourself with people who can: Felicia allies herself with technology experts (even though, importantly, she has a strong grasp of the technology herself) and with other actors and creatives.

The NG Storyteller never goes it alone, but they boldly blaze the trail for those that support them.

*DHSAB is a creation of the brilliant Joss Whedon, inventor of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (where she has previously guest-starred), Firefly, and a string of other mainstream and web hits.

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Blog World Expo Video Wrap-Up

November 3rd, 2009 . by Peggy

Here’s my short video spilling some of the great items I found on the show floor (figuratively, not literally…) at Blog World Expo 2009.

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Should I Auction Off Guy Kawasaki’s Badge?

October 17th, 2009 . by Peggy

During this evening’s closing keynote speech, there was a running gag about Kevin Pollock selling his badge to people in the crowd. I think in the end he got a nickel for it. So, after the session, I went up to Mr. Kawasaki and offered him $1 for his speaker badge, which he turned around and handed to me with his trademark big smile.

Guy was a fantastic host this evening to an incredible panel. He’s a brilliant business strategist and Author. I think this badge is worth a few bucks to contribute to the #beatcancer Twitter campaign that’s been going on this week at Blog World Expo here in Las Vegas.

What do you think? What should I do with it? Comment or tweet me.

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