Archive for the 'General' Category

Self-publishing: the good, the bad, and the ugly

March 24th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Whenever I mention that I prefer traditional publishing to
self-publishing, two things happen.

First, I get a slew of e-mails from writers telling me
traditional publishing is awful — small advances, low royalties,
and publishers not promoting their books.

Second, I get another flood of e-mails from authors telling me
that they or other self-publishers are “crushing it,” making
money hand over fist.

They often cite Amanda Hocking, who has sales of over $2.5
million for her self-published Kindle e-book.

But according to a survey of 1,007 self-publishing authors by the
web site Taleist, conducted by Dave Cornford and Steven Lewis in
2011 (yes, it’s a bit dated), the truth is quite different.

“The majority of the information out there is about the outliers,
whose success is inspiring, but as we can now confirm bears scant
resemblance to the experience of most authors,” said Dave
Cornford and Steven Lewis.

According to their survey, half of self-published authors make
less than $500 a year.

That’s because, as reported in a 2015 article by Chris McMullen,
the average self-published book sells less than 250 copies.

Derek Murphy, an expert in independent publishing, says, “The
average self-published author spends $2,000 to $5,000 to publish
their books, and few earn any money.”

If you spend two grand and sell 250 copies, you are losing a lot
of money on your self-published book!

By comparison, in traditional publishing, the money flows from
publisher to author, even though advances are much smaller today
than when I started writing books 25 years ago.

The mainstream publishers not only give you money up front; they
also pay for everything, from printing and cover design to
editing and proofreading — saving you a considerable amount of
cash.

The bell curve for self-publishing is skewed, with less than 10%
of self-published authors earning about three-quarters of the
total revenues from sales of self-published books.

The average self-publisher from the group surveyed by Taleist
earns just $10,000 a year.

Notice also that many self-publishers with good sales, from El
James (“Fifty Shades of Grey”), Robert Ringer (“Looking Out for
#1”), and Roger von Oech (“A Whack on the Side of the Head”)
either immediately or eventually look for and get a deal with a
mainstream publishing house.

Take note: I am not saying mainstream publishing is great or the
better way to go.

My purpose here is to just present some cold, hard facts for all
those self-publishing cheerleaders I constantly hear from to
ponder — and to inform the rest of us about the good, the bad,
and the ugly of being your own publisher.

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Optimizing PDF content for search engines

March 17th, 2017 by Bob Bly

My esteemed colleague, white paper guru Gordon Graham, recently
told me and his many other readers that, just like a web page,
your white papers should be optimized for search engines.

As Gordon explained, “Web spiders can index PDFs on the web so
that they show up in search results.”

That’s why you should always include your chosen keywords as
“descriptive metadata” in any white paper you post online.

(Descriptive metadata can include elements such as title,
abstract, author, and keywords.)

So how do you insert the metadata with the keywords into your
white paper PDF?

To insert metadata using Adobe Acrobat:

1. Open the PDF with Acrobat and select File > Properties.

2. In the Document Properties dialog, on the Description panel,
enter your preferred title, author, subject, and keywords
(separated by commas) in the appropriate text boxes. Then click
OK.

3. Select File > Save.

To insert metadata using InDesign:

If you have InDesign, you can insert metadata in your white paper
file and then generate a fresh PDF.

If your designers don’t know how to do this, share the following
process with them:

1. Open the white paper file with InDesign and select File > File
Info.

2. In the File Info dialog box, enter your preferred document
title, author, description, and keywords (separated by commas) in
the appropriate text boxes. Then click OK.

3. Select File > Save to save your updated file.

4. Then select File > Export.

5. In the Export dialog, select Adobe PDF with your regular PDF
options. Then click OK.

To insert metadata using Word:

If you have a recent version of Word, you can insert metadata in
a more roundabout way. Here’s how:

1. Open the white paper file with Word, press Alt+F, and select
Prepare > Properties.

2. In the Document Information panel, enter your preferred title,
subject, and keywords (separated by commas) in the appropriate
text boxes.

3. Press Alt+F and select Save As and then select PDF or XPS.

4. In the Publish as PDF or XPS dialog, navigate to the folder
you want, enter a suitable file name, and click Publish.

To insert metadata using your Mac:

If you have a Mac, you can use Adobe Acrobat or InDesign as
described earlier.

Or you can use a nifty piece of freeware that makes up for the
limitations of Preview, called Combine PDFs. You can download it
here:

http://monkeybreadsoftware.de/Freeware/CombinePDFs.shtml

When you have Combine PDFs running, do this:

1. Select File > Add Files.

2. In the Open dialog, select the white paper PDF and click Open,
then select Options > Add Metadata.

3. In the Add Metadata dialog, enter your preferred title,
author, subject, and keywords (separated by commas). Then click
OK.

4. Click Merge PDFs in the lower-right corner.

5. In the Save dialog, enter a file name and click Save.

Note that CombinePDFs is shareware, so after you process 1,000
pages with it, it asks you to pay for a license.

Gordon advises that if you use it that much, you should shell out
for it.

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Category: General, Online Marketing | No Comments »

When outbound telemarketing goes terribly wrong

March 15th, 2017 by Bob Bly

As a marketer, I am supposed to be open to using whatever
marketing channel will work for me and my clients.

But extreme distaste makes me avoid one — and only one —
marketing method: outbound telemarketing to cold lists.

There are three reasons why I believe I can always find a better
— read: more effective and less offensive — method than outbound
telemarketing to cold lists.

First, when predictive dialers are used, there is a time delay
between the prospect answering the phone and the start of the
conversation.

This wastes the prospect’s time and annoys her in a way that, to
me, is unacceptable.

Second, people are so much busier today, your call is almost
always an unwelcome interruption.

At work I have to inform the telemarketer that I am on a deadline
and therefore cannot talk with him.

At home, the telemarketer is interrupting a meal, family time,
chores, or leisure time — none of which is welcome.

Third, more than half of the telemarketers who call me today have
thick regional, ethnic, or nation-specific accents.

The accents are so strong that I literally cannot understand much
of what they are saying.

This forces me to ask them to repeat what they just said multiple
times if I want to continue the conversation — which I don’t.

And don’t even get me started on outright scams, like the guy who
called yesterday.

He said he was from Microsoft, had detected a problem with my PC
software, and I needed to immediately give him remote access to
my computer to fix it.

About once a week, someone says they are calling about my utility
bill from Jersey Central Power and Light.

And when I get them to admit they not with JCP&L, I tell them,
“Well, then we have no reason to discuss my bill.” That only gets
them talking faster, and I immediately hang up.

The day before, I got another common scam call: a young man who
said, when I answered the phone, “Grandpa, I need your help.”

I am amazed this works on some people, and how could it work on
me, given I do not have grandkids?

But then again, I know someone who actually sent a check for
$10,000 to get unclaimed funds from a scam artist in Nigeria.

Also, when you pick up the phone and a recorded voice says, “This
is an urgent public service announcement” — trust me, it isn’t.

I guess you can’t go broke underestimating the intelligence of
the American public.

And certain telemarketers and spammers seem to be leading the
movement to make as much fraudulent profit from us as possible.

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The power of the “double pipeline”

February 28th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber DC writes:

“I’ve been a full-time freelance copywriter for 21 years. It’s
been great — but maintaining a constant flow of good projects
has been harder work than I ever imagined.

“I know this is ‘feast or famine’, but it requires massive effort
to overcome. Many business books (certainly not yours) gloss over
this fact.

“Some books on freelancing show pictures of freelancers with
laptops on the beach. In my experience, nothing could be further
from the truth!

“There’s freelancing myth and hype — and freelancing reality.

“I love being a freelance copywriter; at 51 I’m a ‘veteran’ and I
can’t imagine doing anything else.

“But it requires constant marketing and effort — more now than
ever — which you rightly emphasize in your books.”

DC speculates the vast majority of freelance copywriters are not
as busy as they would like — even though 95% won’t admit it.

So, how do you escape the “feast or famine” cycle — and stay busy
and profitable all year long?

The answer is my “double pipeline” method. It works as follows:

First, figure out how much marketing you have to do to generate
enough work to meet your income goal.

As an example, assume Joe, a copywriter, generates his leads
primarily via direct mail.

His income goal is $100,000 gross revenue a year. His average job
pays $2,000 per assignment.

Joe works 50 weeks a year, so he needs one $2,000 job per week to
hit his $100,000 sales target,

Now, say his direct mail package generates a 3% response rate,
and he closes one out of every three leads on average.

If Joe sent out 100 mailers a week, this would yield 3 inquiries
and one paid assignment, meeting his income goal of $2,000 a
week.

So 100 mailers a week keeps Joe’s lead pipeline full.

But my “double pipeline” method says you should calculate how
much marketing and self-promotion it would take to meet your
sales goal.

Then do DOUBLE that amount of marketing. If Joe’s calculations
shows he needs to send 100 sales letters a week to meet his
income goal, he should send 200 letters a week.

That way, his pipeline will not merely have enough leads to
generate the work he needs. It will have twice the volume of
inquiries required to generate the 100K in revenues he wants.

Of course, thanks to referrals, repeat business, and other
sources of leads — social media, blogging, and what have you —
Joe realistically won’t need to send 200 or maybe even 100
mailers weekly.

But the point of the “double pipeline” method is this: doing
more marketing and self-promotion than you need to gives you an
abundance of leads — more than you need.

Having the doubly full lead pipeline is your protection against
slow times and virtually assures that you are busy, productive,
and profitable all year long.

Try doubling up in your marketing, and fill your lead pipeline to
overflowing. It’s your insurance against an unwanted slowdown in
leads and work.

You can do it by following my “ABM” formula for self-promotion,
explained in this short free video:

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How many drafts do you need to do to get it right?

February 24th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber RL sent me this comment from the late suspense
novelist Robert B. Parker — one of my favorite commercial authors:

“I do first draft. I don’t revise. I don’t reread. I send it in.
They edit it. But they don’t make any significant changes.”

By comparison, Hemingway revised every morning. He claimed to
have written one of the pages of “A Farewell to Arms” 59 times.

George Plimpton asked him why. Was there some technical problem?
What was so hard?

Hemingway replied: “Getting the words right.”

Poet Donald Hall said he rewrote one of his poems 600 times.

And William Zinsser wrote, “The secret to good writing is
rewriting.”

Yes, but how MUCH rewriting?

The problem is this…..

For most of us, if we don’t revise and rewrite enough, our
writing is not as good as it could be.

On the other hand, if we do endless rewrites and edits, the piece
never gets finished — and if we are working on a flat project
fee, we end up making less than minimum wage.

To answer this question about the ideal number of rewrites, I
made a short video on the subject of “How many rewrites should
you do before you consider the piece finished.”

You can watch it free here:

I agree with actor Michael J. Fox, who said, “Strive for
excellence, not perfection.”

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Why I personally respond to your e-mails and questions

February 22nd, 2017 by Bob Bly

I get a lot of e-mail from subscribers.

And even though it’s time-consuming, I respond to as many as I
can — which is most.

Why?

I believe that when you make your e-mail marketing a two-way
communication, you build a stronger relationship with your
subscribers.

The result: greater engagement, more readership, and increased
sales when you offer your list a product they might like.

A week or so ago subscriber JI sent me this brief e-mail:

“I enjoyed your article today. I like the way you communicate
what you believe and how you respond to people.

“At the same time, I see that I can leave a conversation with you
while taking away my own view of life without hurting your
feelings.

“It’s nice getting to know you over these years and I do love you
as a person for what you are giving the world. Thank you.”

And subscriber RM writes:

“Wow! Thank you so much for your timely response. That was the
first time I had responded to a posting by someone as famous and
accomplished as you and I in no way expected to hear from you so
quickly.

“This speaks volumes to me about your quality and dedication to
helping others. A fairly rare quality in this day and age from
my experience in the business arena.”

I know from publishing The Direct Response Letter for more than a
dozen years that, like JI and RM, many of my subscribers
appreciate that I am accessible — both via e-mail, Facebook, and
phone.

Conversely, I have heard many say they dislike it when they write
to the publishers of their favorite e-newsletters, and all they
get in return is a canned auto-responder message — usually saying
the author is too busy to reply personally.

Maybe I am stupid to maintain a dialogue with my subscribers —
Lord knows I’m busy enough.

But I do it for three primary reasons:

>> First, I think if you have a question or comment, you deserve
a personal response from me.

>> Second, I enjoy hearing from and talking with my readers. Some
reach out to me only once in a blue moon. Others are regulars. I
like both.

>> Third, it lets me know what you are interested in, so I can
produce content that is useful and relevant to you.

I believe the give-and-take interaction between an editor and his
subscribers enhances the experience of getting the e-newsletter
for readers and adds value.

So I plan to continue it for both the immediate and long-term
future.

And thanks for reading my e-mail essays. It’s much appreciated.

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Category: General, Writing and the Internet | 2 Comments »

Are typos a big deal?

February 14th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber TW writes:

“Bob, here’s a question I’d love to see you address in one of
your e-mails: Have you noticed the constant misspellings and
incorrect homonyms on the web and in e-mails? People not knowing
the difference between ‘to,’ ‘two,’ and ‘too’ — or ‘there’ and
‘their’? Terrible grammar?

“Did you think that the ability to dictate on smartphones and
other devices and our reliance on spellcheck and text shorthand
(“r u home?”) is dumbing us down? Either that or is it
desensitizing us to these types of errors?”

Well, we have always lived with spelling and grammar mistakes —
but yes, they have definitely increased in e-mail and on web
sites. What’s the reason for the proliferation of typos online?

In e-mail, it’s two things.

First, people are crushingly busy today. So they dash off their
e-mails as fast as they can, without reading them over or even
using the e-mail proofing function.

Second, some people believe that e-mails don’t have to be as
flawless as a traditional letter. And so they are sloppy e-mail
writers.

Unfortunately, many of their e-mail recipients are aghast when they
see bad grammar and spelling errors. As a result, such mistakes
distract your readers, diverting attention to the typos and away
from the content of the message.

Some readers even lower their opinion of you and what you are
saying if there is even a single misspelling.

As for web content, there are also two reasons for the
proliferation of spelling and grammar mistakes in web pages,
white papers, blogs, and other online writing.

First, back in the day, before the Internet, when our writing was
all print, we proofread carefully, because if an error was found
after a magazine article, direct mail letter, or product brochure
was printed, it would cost a fortune to go back to press. So we
were much more careful.

Today, if you write and post a new web page, and someone spots
typos, they can quickly and easily be corrected at virtually zero
cost. Easy peasy, no biggie.

Second, with large web sites having dozens or hundreds of pages,
many of the pages come from different sources — product bulletins,
articles, blogs, press releases, newsletters — some of which were
created for other purposes and then repurposed on the site.

So many firms either just don’t have or are not willing to devote
the time to carefully proof each new page.

It’s not that they don’t think proofreading is important, but
rather it is not at the top of their priority list, and they do
not have the bandwidth or resources to get to it.

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Time: What Einstein and Hawking didn’t tell you

February 12th, 2017 by Bob Bly

A kindly subscriber sent me as generous gift: a hardcover copy of
Stephen Hawking’s best-selling book “A Brief History of Time.”

I am now reading it, though slowly, as I find many of the
concepts difficult to wrap my mind around.

But here’s one thing about time that Hawking missed in his book.
Einstein also missed it in his book “Relativity: the Special and
General Theory.”

Namely, the older we get, the faster time goes. That’s Bly’s
Theory of Relativity!

Conversely, the younger we are, the more slowly times passes.

When you are 5 and your 6th birthday is a month away, that month
feels like forever.

When you are 12, the 4 or 5 years you must wait to get your
driver’s license seems like an eternity.

And as much as I liked college — and I did, for the most part —
it seemed to me at times during my 4 years as an undergraduate
that I would be there forever.

But now, I will soon turn 60 — and yet, it seems to me I was just
21 … and starting my first corporate job at Westinghouse … only
yesterday.

My sons recently turned 27 and 24 — and they have reached that
age in the blink of an eye.

Life itself goes by so quickly — and the older you get, the faster it
moves.

Also as we age, our opportunities and options become fewer and
fewer — a statement I know some of you will dispute, but hey, I
calls them as I sees them!

When I was 21, for instance, I briefly considered going back to
school to become a pediatrician — and I believe I could have done
so.

For me now, at 60, medical school and a residency are clearly off
the table.

I don’t know if any of this is helpful, but I can tell you my 3
guidelines for making the most of each day while you are alive:

1- Every day, without fail, tell your spouse and your children
(and grandchildren, if you have them, which I do not) that you
love them. Every day. Even if they complain that you say it too
much.

2–Be kind and generous to others. Do not exert power or show
meanness or cruelty, especially to those weaker than you.
Remember, just because you can do something to someone doesn’t
mean you SHOULD do it to them.

3–Find work you enjoy. Get good at it and keep at it. A career,
job, or profession you love can give you happiness every day. As
Max Ehrmann wrote in Desiderata: “Keep interested in your own
career, however humble, it’s a real possession in the changing
fortunes of time.”

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Category: General | 3 Comments »