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eBooks and Digital Publishing

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) 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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Editing the Landscape of Our Writing

August 4th, 2008 . by Peggy

I was awoken very early this morning by my neighbour’s new rooster. (Yes, she’s still my friend.) While trying to get back to sleep, I heard another sound – a gentle rustling and footsteps in my yard, outside my bedroom window.

I crept out of bed to see a young deer and her very brand-new fawn munching on Bracken Fern in my cedar grove. This was the smallest fawn I’ve ever seen. He was very darkly spotted, and his mother was gently licking him. He couldn’t have been more than a few days old. From my vantage point, he seemed only to be about the size of a cat. I must have made some sound, because he followed her as she quickly led him out of my view.

This morning is the last time that I may get to see such a scene, because today is the day that my yard will be excavated by heavy equipment. Our newly-built house will finally nest into the garden I imagined more than 2 years ago when I first walked onto this lot. The stumps of trees that we felled to build the house and deck will be scraped clean, like everything else here. And all of that Bracken will be gone by the end of today, pushed into a large pile of organic matter that will form a berm between the front of my property and the road. 12 hours from now, the food source on my property for these deer will be eliminated.

Building and construction are a lot like writing and editing. You plan, you imagine, but when it comes to actually doing it, you are forced to make compromise after compromise. Editing a large manuscript is arduous and sometimes full of agonizing decisions about what to keep and what not to. The “manuscript” of my construction project has been awful to edit because of outside forces like weather (the market), lack of available help (sub-contractors), and a huge distraction factor on my part. (Ironically, many of my days have been spent writing instead of finishing to build a house.) And once you’ve eliminated all the crap, you must be careful not to have robbed it of all character.

Living on a gulf island means that there are weeds in every garden – plenty of them – and I’m far, far from being the only food source for these deer. In fact, I rarely see them in my yard, and they are quite fat. (More than once has my husband suggested that he wished he still had his rusty .22 in the basement.) I’m not hurting them by pulling out stumps and putting up wire fencing. And so I believe a few weeds should be left in each piece of writing, especially in non-fiction, which often serves to keep the content light and more personable.

Today I’m ripping out thistle, scraping away long grasses and raking up piles of stones. But I’m going to leave a section of grasses and ferns at the end of my driveway still wild – just for the deer. They are so sweet and gentle, and I want to make sure that my garden is going to be welcoming to creatures like that. I don’t care about the weeds – they will flower and attractively greet visitors. Who wants to pretend to be perfect, anyway?

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Dealing with Post-It Note Addiction

March 12th, 2008 . by Peggy

Some might say that I have serious control issues. Not a bit of it – I just like all the forks to face west in the cutlery drawer. The blades of all the knives must face east, but the spoons can be any which way. I still stack my mixing bowls according to size and colour, but I’ve conquered my issues with the folding of fitted sheets in the linen closet.

Because of this monkey on my back, for many years, my drug of choice has been 3M Post-it notes. It’s not difficult to maintain this addiction, because I don’t have to buy them discreetly. But the cascade of storage problems for the variety of note styles I now have in my personal stock has forced me to add harder stuff to my repertoire, like Rubbermaid storage products. And when I need a fast fix, I rely on my handy box of Ziploc bags in my bottom desk drawer.

One of the key ways that Post-it notes have actually helped to further my career is through something called a card-sorting exercise. This is custom-made for writers with organizational issues and a parade of marketing issues and tasks to sort out. I can’t do an outline without them now.

To really make this work, you need a broad surface that holds the adhesive on a Post-it really well. A glass patio door is pretty much perfect, but a window or white board will also do nicely. You will also need an assortment of Sharpie pens in colours that you find attractive. I use different colour pens to differentiate different clients: Joe is blue, Rick is green, Sue is orange, etc.

A card-sort exercise can be used for a variety of things, but my favourite is for prioritizing information and processes. If you’re working on a project where you have to stop and ask yourself things like “What comes first?” or, “Have I covered all my bases?”, this trick is for you. It is especially helpful in creating steering documents for group projects, because it ensures that all members of the team share the same vision. I always use it for project planning, marketing sessions, etc., but I also use it for simple stuff like planning my vacations, and my daily to-do lists.

Essentially, anytime a concept, task, challenge, or don’t-forget item occurs to you about a project, you write it on a Post-it using about 4-5 words max. I try to write large enough that I can read the note from about 10 feet away. This means you can relax – it’s now documented, and you won’t accidentally forget it. You can now feel free to open yourself to the next concept.

Once you’ve put all those ideas that were spinning around in your head on their own notes, you stick them all on a wall or glass door. (They seem to stick better on glass than painted surfaces.) Then, simply re-arrange them in priority order, or in columns, or to assign particular tasks to certain people, or whatever categorization you choose. When you’ve got them arranged how you like, use a digital camera to take a snap of the wall, and then you can remove them if necessary. By studying the photo, you can make a lovely chart which can be turned into a PDF and emailed to all team members.

I’m actually quite fond of leaving them up on the wall when I have space. There’s nothing more satisfying than ripping a task note off the wall once completed, and crumpling it up to throw in the fireplace. Plus, all I need is a periodic glance at my wall to remind me of what my tasks are and keep me on track.

If you’d prefer a virtual version of this exercise, 3M has created a cool mini-app that only costs $20 bucks. This hip little program allows you to click on a virtual yellow pad of notes, and quickly type a note to yourself. You can then arrange them all over your desktop in the same manner that you would on the patio door. This is great for doing on a plane – no phone to distract you, nobody tapping on your door.

I just checked, and I have notes stuck on a wall in every single room of my house. That includes the bathroom. I even have them in my car. Try explaining that to the cop that stops you for speeding. He only needs to glance around the car to know what you’re high on.

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