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Archive for July, 2018

8 ways for writers to overcome loneliness and isolation

July 31st, 2018 by Bob Bly

What do writers and scientists have in common?

This: for many years, the stereotype of each was a dedicated
individual working alone.

The full cliché had the writer banging away on his typewriter
sitting alone in a room, possibly in a cold garret furnished in
early poverty.

Novelist Philip Roth, for instance, has said many times: “Writing
in a room by myself is practically my whole life.”

For science geeks, the stereotype was the “mad scientist”
working along in his lab, surrounded by flasks and beakers filled
with bubbling fluids.

Some people find these stereotypes a bit romantic and appealing;
others see them as depressing.

But the fact of the matter is .. they aren’t true — for either
scientists or writers.

Or at least they don’t have to be. And probably shouldn’t be.

As far as scientists toiling away in solitude, Yale Professor
Priyamrada Natarajan writes:

“Although advances in science and technology are often portrayed
as the work of solitary men … science has always been a
collective enterprise, dependent on many individuals who work
behind the scenes.”

For writers, though we are more likely to work alone than on a
team, many of us either want or would benefit from more “people
time” and less alone time.

Why? Spending time with others helps overcome isolation and
loneliness, enables productive collaboration, and provides an
opportunity for support and feedback.

If you are a writer alone most of the time but want to increase
your “people time,” here are 8 ways to achieve that goal:

1–Join a writer’s group.

Many towns have writers’ groups, usually mostly amateurs, which
meet to read and critique each other’s work.

2–Attend writing conferences.

There are a ton of them all over the country, and they are
advertised in writer magazines such as Poets & Writers, The
Writer, and Writer’s Digest.

The advantage over #1 is that, unlike local groups consisting
almost solely of amateurs, at writing conferences the attendees
range the spectrum from rank amateur to working journeymen to
superstars — and often editors and literary agents as well.

Two I have attended and can recommend personally: ASJA for book
and article writers, and AWAI for copywriters.

3–Find a writing buddy.

Reach out to a writer you meet at #1 or #2, and pair up as
buddies, much like kids have a swim buddy at summer camp. You
can read each other’s work and give feedback, plus you can have
writerly chats and moral support.

4–Hire a coach.

We live in a coach-crazy world today. If you hire a coach, make
sure the coach is an active and successful writer in the niche
you are pursuing.

5–Join a Mastermind group.

According to an article in Forbes, Mastermind groups are
relatively new to most people, even though Napoleon Hill created
the concept around 75 years ago.

A mastermind group is designed to help you navigate through
challenges using the collective intelligence of others — some who
are your peers, others who may be ahead of you — and there is
often a large fee to belong.

6–Professional association memberships.

I am a chemical engineer and as such am also a member of the
American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Medical writers join the American Medical Writers Association.
You get the idea.

Benefits to association membership are many and varied — from
networking and self-promotional opportunities, to conferences and
education, to affordable health insurance and discounts on
products and services.

7–Build a team.

Hire a virtual assistant, proofreader, copy editor, website
designer, bookkeeper, CPA, and others to build a team that
supports you.

The obvious benefit: outsourcing everything but the writing makes
you more productive and increases your writing revenues.

Also, as you gradually build relationships with team members, you
are almost part of a virtual organization.

8–Take a class.

Many adult education programs at high schools and colleges offer
a variety of writing classes including creative writing,
copywriting, and journalism.

Bottom line: If you are a writer … and you feel too alone and cut
off from others, especially those in your line of work … these 8
ideas can fix that.

As Jor-El told Kal-El in the original “Superman” movie — you will
never be alone.

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Category: General, Writing | 17 Comments »

The absolute best thing about mainstream book publishing

July 20th, 2018 by Bob Bly

MM recently wrote on my Facebook wall:

“Bob, for the life of me I can’t understand why you knock indie
publishing, since you’ve published a ton of work independently.

“Last I heard you make several hundred thousand a year by selling
ebooks and courses through your own websites. Seems like you’re
being a hypocrite to me, by knocking indie publishing.”

I told MM that my preference for traditional publishing over
self-publishing can be summed up in two words:

“Quality control.”

The way I see it, traditional publishing is a quality control
system for producing books — one that self-publishers lack.

For instance, all of my publishers and editors, bless them,
absolutely put me through the wringer on every book I write.

The result: the final book is much better than it was when my
manuscript first crossed their desk.

And for that, my publishers and editors have my undying
gratitude.

By comparison, 97% of self-publishers don’t come close to this
level of quality control for their product.

In fact, many do not even have their books copy edited,
fact-checked, or proofread by anyone other than the author.

Result: a huge quality differential between mainstream and
self-publishing.

My FB friend KS agreed with me, saying, “Quality is one reason
why traditional publishing will keep a foothold in the book
world, no matter what happens.”

RH commented: “I expect there to be a rebound toward physical
books and quality books that have been vetted by a publisher.
Maybe consumers will realize the value of publishers….”

BTW, I corrected MM in that I am not critical of indie
publishers; several of my own publishers are small independent
presses.

What I think often produces inferior books is self-publishing —
that is, an author publishing his own books without an outside
publishing firm.

The reason in a nutshell?

When it comes to editing, reviewing, and rewriting their own
work, most self-publishers take it too easy on themselves.

Editors with mainstream publishers, on the other hand, are tough
as nails on me. As they should be.

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Category: Writing | 19 Comments »

Why you should NOT clean your elist

July 17th, 2018 by Bob Bly

The conventional wisdom has long been to zap people from your
email list if they have not responded to any of your offers
within the last 6 months — and especially if they have not opened
any of your emails within that time.

But now, a new study from MailChimp suggests you should not.

The reason?

MailChimp found that inactive subscribers, contrary to what many
believe, are far from worthless.

The MailChimp study shows that just because an online subscriber
is inactive does not mean he will remain so.

In fact, many inactive subscribers eventually buy again — even
after a year or several years of taking no action.

MailChimp says that, on average, about one-third of online
revenues from your elist will come from inactive subscribers — so
clearly they have real value.

Because keeping the inactives on your list is relatively cheap,
and inactives are 26% more likely to purchase than
non-subscribers, to me it makes good sense to leave people on
your list until they opt out.

Many of my readers have confirmed with me the value of inactive
names on their list.

BS says: “Yes, we just had one of our leads who ignored all of
our emails and phone calls for 7 months buy a product from us
today.”

JH comments: “Dean Jackson is as good as it gets with email. He
recently said the people who convert to some of his highest level
stuff have been on his list for 2 years.”

SB: “I convert customers who’ve been on my lists for 1,2,3,4
years later. This purge thing was partly started by the advice of
not sending to unopens.”

JL: “If someone raises their hand in terms of going to a workshop
or seeing me, we keep them on our newsletter until they cry uncle
or die. We get at least a few new clients a year that have been
on that list for years. There is gold in unconverted leads.”

KD: “I had one guy order a product, then two weeks later bought
another product. Week after that bought another. So I checked him
out. He’d been on my list for years but never bought before.”

AR: “I’ve had email subscribers who tune out for months at a
time… and then suddenly hire me or buy stuff I recommend.”

The major argument in favor of purging inactives is that having a
lot of them on your list hurts your email delivery rate.

Well, yes and no. There are two types of services providing email
delivery. The first includes vendors such as Constant Contact and
Bronto, where the bigger your list, the more they charge you.

These email service providers make more money from clients with
large lists. So they have no incentive to penalize you for having
a big list. And as far as I know, they do not.

The other category is services that give you an unlimited number
of email distributions for a fixed monthly cost, such as
1shoppingcart.

Since it costs them money to distribute … and earns them no extra
money to email to large lists … they have a motive for actively
encouraging you to drop inactive subscribers from your list, and
some of them do so.

That being said, I agree with JL: In my experience, there is gold
in unconverted leads. And I am really not into throwing gold in
the trash (or delete folder).

The other argument in favor of purging inactive subscriber names
is that their non-responsiveness brings down your key metrics
including click-through rate and open rate. JA comments, “If your
open rate is below benchmark despite having consistently good
content, there’s probably some dead weight in your list.”

However, low CTR and open rates are a problem mainly if you have
a boss or client judging you by those numbers.

But if you are an entrepreneur with your own internet marketing
business, the most important key metric to use is weekly gross
sales.

And as MailChimp and others quoted above note, continuing to
email to your inactives can boost what is arguably the most
important key performance indicator — revenue — substantially.

So what’s more important to you — good-looking analytics reports
… or money in your bank account?

It’s your call.

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Category: Online Marketing | 39 Comments »

Ideas without action: worthless or valuable?

July 13th, 2018 by Bob Bly

My fellow internet marketer, the brilliant Ben Settle, recently
wrote that he doesn’t like selling his information to
“opportunity-minded buyers,” more commonly known as “opportunity
seekers.”

The classic opportunity seeker is addicted to business success
and get-rich-quick books.

They love to read, attend conferences, go on webinars, listen to
podcasts, and take courses.

They are “information junkies.”

Unfortunately, they are, for the most part, armchair students.

They enjoy learning.

Only, they never take any action, never do what is taught in
their study materials, never start a business, and never make any
money.

Ben says, “I do everything I can to persuade them NOT to buy my
stuff.

“I don’t want ’em around.

“I don’t want their money.

“And, I don’t want them wasting my time.”

When I read this, I emailed Ben:

“I used to feel as you do, for many years.

“But some people, I found, simply enjoy, as a hobby, reading
business books and taking courses.

“They just are interested in the world of it and also like
learning, but don’t actually want to do the nitty gritty work and
details.”

Why deny them their reading pleasure?

I don’t.

Statistically, if a thousand people buy your money-making
program, only 10% will read it all the way through — 100 buyers.

Of those 100 buyers, only 10% will take action and actually do
the thing the course teaches — 10 students.

Of those 10 students, only 10% will persist until they succeed.

In other words, 1 out of 1,000 “make it.”

Your numbers may be better or worse … but they will likely fall
roughly in this range.

So 999 have just bought for reading and learning pleasure.

And what’s wrong with that?

People read about and study all sort of subjects, all the time,
just for the intellectual reward and to find something that
excites and engages with them, and entertains them in their
leisure time.

That’s why we have public libraries, bookstores, and Amazon.

After all, no one faults me for reading books on physics even
though I am not going to become a physicist.

Like Ben, my greatest reward is the student who succeeds and
tells me about it.

But I have no problem with people doing what they will with my
books, DVDs, audio CDs, and training programs.

It’s their money and their choice, right?

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Category: General | 14 Comments »

Is a hardcover worth more than an ebook?

July 10th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber AW writes:

“I read your recommendation on the sales book by author X. It
sounds interesting, but I am not sold on spending $40 on an ebook
— though I would for a hardcover copy of the book. Thanks for
sharing the recommendation, though.”

While I have great respect for AW and like her a lot, I believe
her thinking on this topic is wrong-headed.

The reason is simple: the value of specialized information
targeted at a narrow niche audience is enormous. And the value
is in the content, not the format of the book.

Louis L’Armour wrote, “Books are the building blocks of
civilization, for without the written word, a man knows nothing
beyond what occurs during his own brief years, and, perhaps, in a
few tales his parents tell him.”

My late friend, the great info marketer Jerry Buchanan, said, “A
book that instructs in some profitable field is a priceless
treasure. And if the bookseller offers it and you fail to assume
ownership, who will be the poorer, you or he?”

He also said that people who wanted to make money or start a
business and did not avail themselves of good books on the
subject were “starving to death with a loaf of bread under each
arm.”

The value of a how-to book is in the information between the
covers, not the covers themselves.

I am confident that the knowledge in the book I recommended to AW
could have increased her annual income by $10,000, which is a
250:1 return on investment — regardless of whether the book is a
PDF or paperbound book. Why would you pass up on an ROI like
that?

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Category: Writing | 12 Comments »

Should you give “influencer bloggers” free stuff?

July 6th, 2018 by Bob Bly

“Influencer bloggers” are bloggers who claim that, with all their
social media connections and activity, they can give a service
business, product, or brand significant “exposure” in the
marketplace.

What many of them want in return are freebies, and not always
inexpensive ones. These include free meals in five-star
restaurants, free stays in nice hotels, free products, and other
freebies.

Well, in a recent social media flap, the owner of an inn in
Dublin slapped an “influencer blogger” on Facebook for asking him
for a free stay for a couple of days in exchange for her
influencer services.

He stated: “The sense of entitlement is just too strong … and the
nastiness after a blogger was not granted her request for a
freebie is giving the whole (blogging) industry a bad name.”

As a result, this innkeeper now bans all bloggers from his hotel
and café.

The offending freeloader in question defended what she did,
stating that social media influencer is her “job.”

She also said that her business model — blasting out positive
reviews widely on social media in exchange for free goods and
services — is a “collaboration” between blogger and business
owner.

She complained that the hotel and café manager didn’t understand
the social media world or how it works.

Well guess what?

He doesn’t have to.

Whether she thinks he is making a mistake turning down her demand
for free stuff, it’s his right to do so. Do these blogging
mooches really not get that?

The café manager shot back at freebie-requesting bloggers:
“Perhaps if you went out and got real jobs, you’d be able to pay
for goods and services like everybody else.”

It’s true that some companies routinely offer free samples or
review copies of products to TV and radio producers, newspapers,
and magazines.

The difference is that the circulation of the print media and the
audience of the broadcast media are strictly audited and
therefore no secret, but rather published so that anyone can see.

Most bloggers, on the other hand, don’t have verified audit
statements to prove their audience. You have to take their word
for it.

Also, bloggers can get downright militant about getting denied
their freebies, and victimize the offending business with nasty
posts and negative reviews — as if the business owner is
obligated to give away what he sells to anyone and everyone who
asks.

Writer Harlan Ellison calls this the “slacker mentality” on the
internet.

He says it sickens him. And I don’t love it, either. A sense of
entitlement? Absolutely. Justified? Hardly.

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Category: General | 7 Comments »

When clients don’t follow your recommendations

July 3rd, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber KS writes:

“I’d like to be taken seriously for my experience and knowledge,
and yet I can’t seem to convince clients to do as I recommend.

“Bob, do you have any advice on convincing clients to listen to
your recommendations?”

KS may not like my answer, but the fact is clients will never do
everything you say.

HB, a famous consultant in the 20th century, once famously said:
“Only half my clients take my advice, and of those, they listen
to only half the advice.”

If you do the arithmetic, you see that only 25% of HB’s advice to
his clients — and he was a well-respected expert in his niche of
management — was followed.

Likewise, figure only 25% of your advice will be followed,
meaning 75% won’t be.

And in some cases, client reasons for ignoring or going against
your recommendations are legitimate and the correct decision.

What are those reasons? I’ll give them for freelance copywriters,
though many may apply to you, even if you are not a writer.

>> First, the client may have already tried what you suggest,
often multiple times — and it did not work.

Not being on staff, you didn’t know this when you presented your
idea. But they did, since clients have a knowledge of their
efforts and results superior to yours.

>> Second, the client virtually always knows their industry,
product, technology, talent, and market better than you do.

>> Third, as Tom Peters said in In Search of Excellence, people
don’t argue with their own data. They may trust you to a degree.
But they usually trust themselves more.

>> Fourth, you get your fee no matter what. You risk nothing on
the project. On the other hand, it is the client’s money, not
yours, on the table. There is a limit to what they will risk on a
new idea or plan, especially one they do not fully buy into.

>> Fifth, no one knows everything or is right all the time.
Including you and me.

Biggest mistake vendors make: Getting all huffy and puffy,
arguing with the client endlessly, and not listening when the
client says “thanks but no thanks” to your idea.

Solution: Defend your copy or idea reasonably and briefly; then,
if the client still does not agree, acquiesce pleasantly.

Also: If you think the client’s way will kill results, say so
politely in a brief email follow-up — and save a copy so you can
prove you advised against their plan if it should fail and they
blame you.

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Category: General | 10 Comments »