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Top Marketing Blogs Worth Reading

February 10th, 2011 . by Peggy

The Power 150 from AdAgeAd Age does a daily rank of the world’s 150 top marketing blogs. Here are my faves off that list, and why.

The daily list is at: http://adage.com/power150/. I read several of them regularly, although I don’t read any of them daily. My list of favourites – in the order they are found on the AdAge list – includes;

- Seth’s Blog: Seth Godin, the sexiest head in marketing, has daily blog posts that are short, to-the-point, and don’t waste time. Inspirational.

- Chris Brogan: Also sexy, but different. I’ve heard Brogan speak at various conferences, and he’s a real, down-to-earth guy with stuff that works. Simple.

- CopyBlogger: Brian Clark talks about words that sell, and why. He’s a WordPress advocate, and his posts are uncomplicated and explanatory. Interesting.

- JohnChow.com: I love him for so much more than being Canadian. John is a racehorse in the world of marketing; sleek and fast. Aggressive.

- ShoeMoney.com: Love this guy’s backstory. A real Basement Techie, all grown up. An eager and hardworking guy with great advice. Funny.

- ProBlogger.net: Darren Rowse has plenty of guest bloggers on his site, all about blogging for money. Specific and technical. Aussie.

- JoelComm.com: If you want to learn about how to use ClickBank or AdSense, this is the guy. Believable and trustworthy. Sensible.

- ChrisG.com: Garrett’s generous new media and WordPress blog fills a gap that others have missed. Smart, understandable, and practical. Clever.

I’m sure there are others just as worthy, but these are the guys on that list that I read regularly. I notice that Michelle MacPhearson’s blog and Frank Kern’s variety of crazy sites have missed the list entirely, which is a real shame. Both are also great folks worth following.

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I’m Speaking at Northern Voice This Weekend #nv10

May 5th, 2010 . by Peggy

I’ll be speaking at Northern Voice (#nv10) this weekend in Vancouver, Canada. This is the Canadian personal blogging and social media conference that’s now in its’ sixth year, and is being held at the Life Sciences Centre out at UBC.

I’m very proud to be co-presenting with Angela Crocker and Kim Plumley as The Book Broads. The title of our talk is “Flog Your Blog“, which is all about how to turn your blog into a book. The talk is scheduled for 1:45pm on Saturday May 8th, in room 1510. (That’s a bigger room than we were originally scheduled to use.)

Topics we’ll cover include;

- traditional publishing vs. self-publishing
- how to tell if your blog is a good candidate for publishing
- examples of bloggers who’ve successfully turned their blogs into books
- what *not* to do to turn your blog into a book
- how to use social media in conjunction with traditional publicity to help market your book
- how to choose the right options for various types of publishing
- eBooks vs. print books (and other options you may not have considered)
- how to market your book long before it’s published
- what the real job of a successful Author is
- your first, second and third steps to get it happening

I’ll be following up this session with my workshop on June 19th in Langley (near Vancouver, Canada), the eBook Jumpstart: http://ebookjumpstartlangley.eventbrite.com/.

Hope to see you all there!

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Free Books: A Viable Business Model?

December 14th, 2009 . by Peggy

The debate surrounding free content has become so heated it melts the keyboards of most Bloggers, Musicians, Visual Artists and other Creators. But does it work for Authors?

Anyone who’s published a book knows that you’re expected to give away a few things for free, including sample chapters, and of course review and publicity copies of your book. Most Authors have done free lectures in exchange for a table at the back of the room from which to sell their stuff.

But what if you gave away the entire book? All the time? To everybody?

Bloggers have been particularly frustrated by the issue of what to give away, and what to sell, at any of the conventions and gatherings I’ve been to in 2009. Most of them have written the equivalent of several books and not gained a penny from their efforts. Bloggers are getting a bit angry about this, because we’ve all seen so many promises of things like huge waves of blogging ad revenue that simply haven’t come true. In addition, people have become quite jaded by a proliferation of quality free content, and don’t seem willing to pay for information that helps them, entertains them, or even makes them money in turn.

But there are people making decent money – in fact, some making fantastic money – giving away content. How are they doing it?

According to Blogger and Podcaster Magazine, there are a few basic ways that people profit from free online content, including (for the most part) advertising, merchandise, and using the content to sell something more valuable: their consulting expertise. Like you, I was worried that this meant that if Authors wanted to learn from other industries and try giving away their books while making money in some other fashion, we might need to place completely unrelated and distracting ads alongside our books, which are now published as websites. This might work for some, but definitely not for all Authors and their creative works.

Seth Godin argues that  “…The book is a souvenir.” In the previous link, he discusses several cases where Authors – including himself, of course – who have released their books for free on the internet, are still selling paper or downloadable copies. Why? Because what people pay for is the instrument of delivery. Special leather-bound editions might only sell 250 copies, but they could sell for upwards of $250 per copy. CD’s containing eBooks, along with perhaps some bonus material, are still capable of significant digital cachet. Here’s an Author’s opportunity to partner with a graphic artist and create something elegant, beautiful, and distinctive – something irresistable.

Even 37Signals, the company who created the online project management system called Basecamp (that last one is an affiliate link), offered their ebook Getting Real for free if you read it off their website. They sell a downloadable version for $19, and a paper copy for $25. Despite offering it for free, they’ve sold over 30,000 copies of the downloadable version alone.

Examine this additional model from filmmaker Nina Paley, who created the film Sita Sings the Blues, based on the Ramayana of Valmiki. (Well, why the hell not?) Her very public accounting (see the link under her name) of the ways and how much money she’s made by not selling her film tells us something very important: this model does work, but you have to take a wholistic approach. Just one of those revenue streams is not enough – you need to present a well-rounded series of offerings.

As Paley says on her website, “There is the question of how I’ll get money from all this. My personal experience confirms audiences are generous and want to support artists. Surely there’s a way for this to happen without centrally controlling every transaction. The old business model of coercion and extortion is failing. New models are emerging, and I’m happy to be part of that. But we’re still making this up as we go along. You are free to make money with the free content of Sita Sings the Blues, and you are free to share money with me. People have been making money in Free Software for years; it’s time for Free Culture to follow. I look forward to your innovations.” (Links in previous paragraph are from Paley’s original website. I encourage you to give her money.)

Even with all the heat, I think I’m up for the challenge. Even if it melts this keyboard.

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Open Source Software for Writers

November 4th, 2009 . by Peggy

Writer’s tools are extremely expensive, especially in terms of software. Here’s a great list of free open-source software designed just for writers.

First, lets define exactly what open source software really means. The term “open-source” comes from the idea that the source code of the software is revealed to the public, unlike Microdaft where everything is super-duper secret. (Or at least, so they think.) When the source code of a piece of software is available to anyone, it means that anyone in the software community can use it – within certain very loose guidelines – to create new software, create add-ons, refine the program, and so on. The one major caveat: they cannot take this free source code and sell it for a direct profit.

Does that mean it’s free? Well, sort of. There’s a strong code of ethics in the open-source community, and almost nobody abuses the grass-roots system that has grown up around this concept. Most people who contribute to open-source projects make their living by consulting, designing, supporting, and doing other things alongside the product of the open-source project, not the project itself.

However, this same code suggests that if there’s a donation button, and you’re happy with the software, then by all means, buy the programmer a virtual coffee. Realize that programmers of open-source software make only marginally more than your average freelance writer. Yep – a couple of bucks wouldn’t hurt either of you.

The website osalt.com has a massive database of open-source software for almost any purpose. (Be aware that they also offer downloads of commercial software – scroll past that to get to the free stuff.) But here are some of my personal recommendations for writers;

- OpenOffice, an alternative to Microserf Office. I have not used any MSO products for several years – this does more than MSO ever will, and looks almost identical. Virtually no learning curve, except for some exceptionally cool new stuff. Imagine this: free, does more, and fewer crashes. I once used this to layout an entire book for print, which I’ll talk about in a future blog post.

- WordPress, the blogging platform that this blog you’re reading is based upon. (This is different from WordPress.com, which is when you use it on a public server, which I do not generally endorse for writers.) I’m talking about WordPress.org, which offers the version that you can download and install on almost any webhost. A zany array of plugins and graphical themes are also available at WordPress.org/extend/.

- XMind, a mind-mapping application that can be used not only to distill your writing ideas, but also to map out characters, plot lines, and even help you figure out who the murderer is.

- PDF995, which although not really an open-source project, it is still free and very reliable. Even though you’ve read in other posts what a fan I am of Adobe products, I still use this for creating most of my PDF documents from typed documents, because it’s lighter and faster than the real thing. This version displays ads each time you use it, but you could just slap down the $10 and not see the ads.

- Celtx (pronounced “Kel-tix”) offers an alternative to the writer’s plague of crazy pieces of paper in every room of your house. Designed as a pre-production and planning tool for screenwriting and similar story-based art forms, it’s very useful for writers. Think of this as a digital binder, collecting your ideas and storyboards, not to mention the actual script, all in one place. Great collaboration tools for more than one contributor.

And for Writers Who Podcast…

- My beloved Audacity, the program that I use to record and edit almost all my audio podcasts. Easy to use, with cool built-in effects and a very forgiving undo button. Even the kids will love this.

- I recently discovered The Levelator, a dandy yet tiny application with big benefits for any podcaster. Smooths out levels and jumpy volume levels. This saves me hours of work.

If you can find a way to give back to the open-source community, please do so by donation or by promotion. It will keep writers in software for a long time coming.

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