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6 eBook Tools That I Can’t Live Without

June 25th, 2012 . by Peggy

Part of my job is to try all sort of things that help Authors. Here, I’ll show you six things that I’ve personally tried, and that are really helping me with various things related to online marketing and eBooks.

1) Evernote is great for;

- web-based research, saving web pages

- take a pic of a white board, it saves it as searchable text

- recording audio notes to myself (using the associated FREE Android app)

- my to-do lists and perhaps even dictation on the go

2) Smashwords is great for;

- reviewing an excellent style guide when formatting your eBook for almost any platform

- uploading an eBook to multiple platforms at once, including Kindle and others

3) Audioboo.fm is great for;

- quick podcasts using only my Android phone

- interviewing Authors and Experts with no prep or notice

- immediate, no editing, low-tech

- finding other 5-minute podcasts to listen to, both at home and on-the-go

4) MailChimp is great for;

- growing and managing my email list

- designing and sending out really nice-looking newsletters

- pay only as I need to and my list grows

5) MindMeister is great for;

- outlining before I write eBooks, white papers, audio products, and blog posts

- setting goals and outlining the tasks I need to complete to achieve them

- org charts, planning websites, and even illustrating processes to clients

6) Visual Thesaurus is great for;

- the obvious (an interactive thesaurus like no other)

- brainstorming domain names, eBook titles, products, and keywords

- try changing the settings and watch things fly around!

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I’m Going To BlogWorld Expo 2010 #BWE10

October 10th, 2010 . by Peggy

I’m heading to BlogWorld Expo (#BWE10) this week, this year to focus on podcast and blog syndication. I’ll be live tweeting (@peggyrichardson) from the conference, including a mixed bag of speakers and conference sessions.

Last year, I had a similar mission, to learn about video blogging. But this year, having changed some of my podcasting approach to be more spontaneous and less edited, I’m now eager to learn more details about things like syndicating my podcasts, expanding my audio podcasting efforts, and learning more about the relationship between blog content and the various types of RSS syndication.

This year, BWE has slightly changed their approach as well. They are now the largest social media conference, and they’re actively promoting the social media aspect of the show. The speaker list reflects this, and @AngelaCrocker will also be livetweeting from the sessions. She and I often have different takes on these issues, so it may be of interest to compare her notes to mine. We may be in man of the same sessions, or we may not.

If you have any questions or things you’d like me to explore while I’m there, feel free to ask, and I’ll do my best to answer your queries.

If you’re also attending, please introduce yourself! I’ll be the tall geeky chick hanging around with the other tall and slightly-less-geeky chick, @AngelaCrocker, one of my fellow @TheBookBroads.

Tweet you later!

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BookCamp and Social Media Camp Weekend

October 4th, 2010 . by Peggy

This past weekend, I attended two events. Friday was #bcvan10, or BookCamp Vancouver, and Sunday was #smcv10, or Social Media Camp Victoria. Both events made quite an impression on me.

Here’s a bulleted list of what I learned at Social Media Camp and BookCamp. (I’m too tired to turn my notes into prose.)

  1. I need to leave the house more often. (So much for the glamorous benefits of being self-employed.)
  2. Book publishers are trying really hard to succeed in the area of eBooks. Some are fighting the ePub revolution tooth and nail, but many houses are working to convert entire back catalogues to ePub format. The problem is, they’re spending far, far too much money to do it. Their methodology for this needs serious re-examination.
  3. Social media ROI is measurable after all – it’s not just about karma. Correlating the relationship between tweets and visits to my blog is easy. Visits to my blog has a direct relationship to new client intake. (But don’t mess with karma, regardless.)
  4. I’m not the only one who wants to know the real people behind my social media connections. People can build a certain amount of trust online, and that’s accomplished best with video (I know that from personal experience – nobody said it this weekend) but meeting people in the real world is what closes the deal.
  5. My personal understanding of the way SEO and social media work together was not fantasy – it was bang on. (Blog post or white paper forthcoming.)
  6. I think I’m going to re-issue a number of the eBooks I’ve created under various pseudonyms with my real name slapped on the front. Re-brand, re-market.
  7. People trying to self-publish fiction need a whole new way of connecting and doing business. I hope that some of the people I met on Friday at BookCamp have a chance soon to attend Social Media Camp. Everyone in that business is either lost, frustrated, or slowly going broke. It’s crazy. Non-fiction has it much easier, but there’s a reason I don’t do fiction. It’s just sooooo hard.
  8. It was very encouraging on Friday to hear that so many people are on the eBook bandwagon. I had serious concerns about being the naughty eBook girl in a room full of hardcover lovers. (Which I still am, by the way.) But instead, I felt encouraged and optimistic about the relationship between eBooks and traditional publishing houses, for the very first time. Many companies might survive, including ones that only a year ago had self-prophesied their doom.
  9. I need to be much more consistent about my own application of social media. My Klout rating had dropped to *6* from 24. But, after today, it’s now up to 35. @meganberry was right – it’s not about the number of followers.
  10. This is going to be a crazy next three months.

And one more thing: #11. Affiliate marketing is still the big pothole that I see missing from both the book marketing picture and the social media picture. (Document of some sort forthcoming.)

Cool people I met, connected with, or otherwise admire from this weekend:

- http://twitter.com/unmarketing (Scott Stratten, Keynote at #SMCV10)
- http://twitter.com/julien (Julien Smith, Keynote at #SMCV10)
- http://twitter.com/jmaxsfu (John Maxwell, Professor at SFU, co-organizer of #bcvan10, eBook advocate)
- http://twitter.com/justyn (Justyn Howard, Speaker at #SMCV10)
- http://twitter.com/brendonjwilson (Speaker at #bcvan10)
- http://twitter.com/raincoaster (Lorraine Murphy, Speaker at #SMCV10)
-  http://twitter.com/Kathleen_Fraser (Speaker at #bcvan10 and Mpubber)
- http://twitter.com/stitchtowhere (Cynara Geissler, Speaker with Kathleen at #bcvan10)
- http://twitter.com/seancranbury (Host of Books on the Radio, guy with camera, co-organizer of #bcvan10, Mpubber)
- http://twitter.com/daveohoots (Marketing Dude for Hootsuite.com and Speaker at #smcv10)
http://twitter.com/tpholmes (co-organizer of #smcv10)
- http://twitter.com/meganberry (Marketing Manager for Klout.com and Speaker at #smcv10)
- http://twitter.com/somisguided (Monique Trottier, Social Media chick and consultant, co-organizer of #bcvan10)

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Video Marketing Tips For Small Biz

April 10th, 2010 . by Peggy

I’ve been saying for some time now that if you don’t start to take video seriously as a major marketing/educational medium, you and your book or other business are toast.

In this article on Biznik.com, Contributor Michael Shuett (who works with a video production company in Washington State) clearly states it yet again. “Being without a professional video will soon be equivalent to not having a website; it will be as necessary as it used to be to have a listing in the Yellow Pages.”

Shuett offers statistics from the Unica State of Marketing 2010 study, which clearly demonstrates that most organizations intend to use video (especially in mobile social media content) this year as part of their marketing strategies. We have known for some time that search results always favour video content over any other content, including text, blog updates, and even audio.

The big obstacle for most of us? We freak out when someone suggests that we should be on camera. I also have a face made for radio, but I still get up there and do video regularly. Consider these options for freaked-out video creators;

  • Narrate A Slide Show: This is the least threatening and easiest way to start with video. If you do any sort of speaking or teaching, a good first video exercise might be to take one of your training sessions and simply narrate it while you flip through your slides. This way, only your voice is present, and people will see your presentation, not your face. You can use a variety of tools to create this, including Jing (free) and/or Camtasia (not so free).
  • Prioritize Audio Quality: Use a good quality microphone – sound quality is essential. You can get away with crappy lighting and bad photography if people can still hear your message, but if they can’t hear you, they stop watching. A headset is my preference, and seems to get the best results, partly because it’s maintained at a steady distance from my mouth at all times and doesn’t move around. However, I recognize that this can make you look like you’re trying to launch a space shuttle. If you’d prefer a handheld (and there are cases where I prefer a handheld – see a future post about that) you can get away with a surprisingly affordable one. I paid about $160 US for my headset a couple of years ago (here’s a link to something similar – very comfortable, as I wear these a lot) and about $35 for my handheld (including shipping) on eBay. Test everything before you start shooting. (Best tip: be sure the microphone switch is turned to the ‘on’ position. No joke – I’ve done it.)
  • Do It Yourself: Although Shuett suggests that video should be professionally-produced or nothing, I must say that I disagree. Video created on-the-fly with a gritty home-grown quality can provoke a better response than professional quality. I mean really, who trusts a script? (You can always tell when it’s a script and someone’s reading from a cue card.) It’s so easy to just sit in front of your webcam and make a fast recording. I’ve even created video while driving. (Safely and legally, I swear.) Homegrown is better than nothing.
  • Use YouTube’s Natural SEO Benefits: The overwhelming majority of video viewed on the web these days is still ultimately hosted on YouTube.com. When uploading a video there, you’ll be prompted with a variety of fields, including one specifically for keywords. (Be sure to do your keyword research up front.) Don’t neglect all these other fields – fill them out completely! People don’t necessarily have to find your very own website to discover you. Simply searching YouTube will help them find your video, and this will lead them back to your site, because of course, your URL is clearly present there for them to click on.
  • Don’t Edit: After the first few years dealing with editing video, I’m now really a one-take sort of girl. If I mess up seriously, I’ll re-take it, but I hate chopping in second cameras, voiceovers, etc. What a drag, and a delay to posting. I just shoot and post. I will vaguely outline what I want to say verbally before turning on the camera, but I rarely even write it down anymore. If you know your stuff, it comes easily anyway.
  • Be Funny: This is synonymous with being real, keeping it loose, etc. Boring = viewers who leave. Funny = believability. If you’re not naturally funny, don’t try to fake it, but keep it friendly at least.

Recently, for the first time, I was recognized in a crowd at a business event, because people had seen me on video. They already trusted me and my company, because they had seen me talk about their subject, and they knew my style. I’ve always said, if a fat chick in her late 30′s isn’t credible these days, who is? It’s the one thing I have going for me. (Along with good teeth.) Find out what you’ve got going for you, and use it on video.

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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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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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Journalists Vs. Bloggers: The Smackdown

October 16th, 2009 . by Peggy

Here’s a clip I took today during this morning’s keynote at BlogWorld, “The Death and Rebirth of Journalism”, with a panel consisting of (from left to right) Joanna Drake Earl (Current TV COO), Don Lemon (CNN News Host), Jay Rosen (Journalism Prof at NYU and Blogger), and Hugh Hewitt (Radio host and lawyer). The panel was moderated by  Brian Solis (Principal of FutureWorks).

In this video, Don Lemon is describing his feelings about social media vs. big media.

I should note that Mr. Lemon took a few major checks against the boards this morning at this panel discussion, and in my personal opinion, while some of them were rather tough, some of them were deserved. There were some heated moments when I turned my head to see if there were any security guards in the room. Being that I was sitting in the very front row, not 10 feet away from these panelists, I admit at times I felt rather uncomfortable, uncertain how far people might exercise their obviously strong feelings.

The essential points from the Blogger community amount to that they find traditional media to be slow, cumbersome, incomplete, and not without a certain amount of unjustified self-assurance that comes across as arrogance. The traditional media claims not to feel threatened by social media, and furthermore, they want to work with social media to form a more “horizontal” system of news gathering and distribution, rather than a “vertical” one. “Let us in the loop,..” they ask. (This particular comment inflamed the Bloggers in the audience, who felt that they were being asked to do the “dirty work” of data-gathering for journalists, rather than being treated like equals.)

Another heated point related to the issue of fact-checking. While it’s true that the gatekeepers of traditional media make judgements about what to report based on what they feel will be of greater interest to their viewers (read=have greated ad-selling potential), they also perform an essential task when reporting on events: fact-checking.

Lemon openly stated that of course the system could not be perfect, and it was simply not possible to fact-check every single bit of information before it makes the airwaves. Bloggers however, want it understood that while there are some “bad apples” who perpetuate misinformation, perhaps maliciously or more often simply out of ignorance, most bloggers consider themselves ethical enough to want only to report that which can be substantiated and which they know to be true and accurate.

The debate will doubtless rage on for decades more, but this was a very interesting event for me to witness. As I said, heated moments, which made for stimulating and thought-provoking conversation for the rest of the day.

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What I Learned from Chad Vader

October 16th, 2009 . by Peggy

Peggy with Aaron Yonda and Matt SloanHere I am posing in a very fuzzy picture with Aaron Yonda (left) and Matt Sloan, the creators of Chad Vader, the viral YouTube sensation. Sloan and Yonda’s creation is housed through their company and website, BlameSociety.net.

I was eager to hear these two speak for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I was extremely curious about what sort of brain could imagine a world where Darth Vader’s doppelganger is the night manager at a small grocery store in the middle of suburban America. But more importantly, I wanted to know how they did it – the real nuts and bolts.

The answer is surprisingly simple: they had an idea, found some friends to help them create it, put it up on YouTube, and then did plenty of unsophisticated marketing to get traffic to the video. It has now grown to the point where both of them can make a living at this, and although they are very frank about the fact that they’re not yet millionaires, they are also clearly excited by the attention from the film and television industries. Their next project will be one of many they currently have on the go, all of which will be bigger, but still retain the wacky edginess that is their trademark grass-roots approach loved by millions. (Yes, millions.)

Just like many internet video geeks, I have a bottom drawer full of screenplays, idea files, magazine and newspaper clippings, sketches and outlines. Coming up with the ideas is not hard for most of us, but figuring out a way to make money from the ideas is often difficult, and what Sloan and Yonda clearly demonstrated for me today is that it does not need to be difficult. We only imagine it must be.

Like most internet content, the way to make money by giving stuff away is through affiliate marketing, which is driven by traffic. Most of BlameSociety’s revenue still comes from the ads that overlay their YouTube videos. They increased their traffic by approaching other video creators and offering to partner, trade services, trade traffic, and so on. They identified key players and then wrote them personal emails asking to do things like add trailers for their videos to the backend of the other producer’s videos. They used every trick on YouTube’s cheat sheet. They created parodies of current YouTube “hits”, and then capitalized on sideways traffic. They maxed out all the basic avenues – they didn’t invent crazy systems, use cutting-edge new video distribution services, or even host their videos on any other service except YouTube. They committed to a single path, and worked it baby, worked it.

I reflect that much of what I’ve witnessed on this trip relates to taking a single brilliant idea to the max. What happens when a great idea is really given the full chance it deserves? Is given resources? Is given freedom?

I mean seriously, if someone pitched an idea to you about dressing up as Darth Vader in a rented costume and making videos at night in the local grocery store, would you really be ready to leap at that at first soundbite?

And yet, break it down: it was almost risk-free, in the sense that they made the videos themselves on a shoestring budget. There was no corporate boss or overhead to please, so by doing what they themselves thought was funny, they at least had fun making it. They learned lessons as they went. I see that as a no-possible-loss situation.

P.S. Sloan and Yonda treated us to the world premiere of episode 9 of Season 2 this afternoon. It’s the second-to-last episode planned, and trust me, you’re going to love it!

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Going to BlogWorldExpo.com

October 10th, 2009 . by Peggy

I’m heading to Blog World Expo again this year for some educational fun. Speakers this year include Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan, and Chad Vader.

OK, I admit I’m most excited about seeing Chad, the internet video sensation created by Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda. Everyone’s favourite grocery store night manager, Chad has captured more than my own heart. (Even George Lucas gave it his thumbs up.) My main mission at the Expo this year is to go to sessions about podcasting, and the brains behind Chad Vader’s viral video success are two that I wish to pick, if only from a safe distance, down there, in the audience. Perhaps I can sit next to Chad’s girlfriend Clarissa.

What’s your own podcasting mission for your enterprise? Lately, I’ve become more bipolar in my own approach, as I created a more polished set of videos for TheBookBroads.com’s YouTube channel, and yet streamlining my “joie de le moment” approach for certain cell-phone generated video content. (Soon to be released.) There are advantages to each approach, and I enjoy doing both.

I will be interviewed and interviewing all weekend at the show, October 15th through the 17th, from the show floor and various locations around Las Vegas. You’ll find any new videos at the Wizard of eBooks’ new YouTube channel at YouTube.com/wizardofebooks.

I’ll be happy to do my best to honour any special requests for specific blog or podcasting-related info from the show made via email, Twitter, or comments on this blog.

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