Monday, January 31, 2011

Getting Around Flickr

This is the seventh in a series on Social Media.

Flickr is the the largest of the online photo sharing communities. It boasts 11 million regular members, 30 million monthly visitors, and over 1 billion photos. There are also Flickr groups for almost anything you can imagine.

When you set up your account, uploading images requires only three steps.

  1. Choose the images you want to upload.
  2. Click the upload button.
  3. Give each image a title, a description, and popular tags.

Even easier than that is the "Flickr Uploader," which you can download to your desktop. To upload a photo, just drag and drop it into the icon. In addition to ease of uploading, Flickr gives you great exposure with search engines when you use keywords in your tags, file names, and image descriptions. If you click on an image you will see more information about it, such as tags and descriptions; when you click on a tag, you will see all of the other images on your site with the same tag. That's why it's a good idea to fill in this information as you upload each image. Just as you would develop a marketing strategy for LinkedIn or your Facebook page, you should establish one for Flickr.

Clients and viewers can find you through your images. You can share your photos with the public (who can post comments) or limit them to your friends; you can also keep them private. Fickr allows you to organize and link to your photos, separate them into galleries or sets (collections of related images), and export them into your blog and Website.

Flickr is a powerful tool and well worth the time it takes to explore its many tools.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Getting Around Twitter

This is the sixth in a series on Social Media.

Twitter—also called microblogging—allows you to send messages up to 140 characters in length. While that concept once sounded impossible, Twitter has become a worldwide phenomenon. For one thing, tweets are sent in real time making them a great way to broadcast news, events, products, services, and announcements. People tweet about conferences, uprisings around the w

All kind of apps have sprung up around Twitter, such as TweetDeck and HootSuite, which let you arrange tweets in columns by subject matter or favorites and import your blog posts as tweets.

Twitter has its own language, e.g., retweet is to copy and repost someone else’s tweet because you think it’s worth passing along. Follow means to keep track of another person’s tweets; a follower is someone who keeps track of yours. TweetChat is an application that permits multiple users to follow a Twitter conversation. A hashtag (#) in front of a word helps the Twitter search engine find a particular subject. DM is a direct message only the recipient can see.

Twitter isn't complicated. Across the top of the window is a black bar that contains these links:

  • Search for people on Twitter. The second column contains current trends.
  • Home has a place to write your message, as well see messages of those you are following.
  • Profile shows the messages you have sent to others, plus a section with information about you.
  • Messages contains recent messages to you and from you, plus a place to send a message to the last person who followed you on the "new Twitter."
  • Who to follow provides a list of people you might wish to follow.
  • A little pencil gives you another fast way to tweet.

Twitter is powerful, enlightening, and immediate. The site may have started out as a way to tell the world what you were having for breakfast or what movie you are going to see, but it didn’t take long for savvy social networkers to see its value. Using Twitter shorthand, you can squeeze a lot of information into those 140 characters.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Getting Around LinkedIn

This is the fifth in a series on Social Media.

LinkedIn is the social network for businesspeople and professionals. It works on the principle of six degrees of separation. The idea is that you can find and connect to your business contacts and then to their business contacts. You can post your resume, write recommendations for others, and keep your contacts informed of changes in your professional life by simply updating your profile.

When you log in to LinkedIn, you are taken to your Home Page. At the top is a bar with links to Home, Profile, Contacts, Groups, Jobs, Inbox, Companies, and More. Next to that is a search box to help you find People.

  • Home is the main page. This link also gives you an opportunity to advertise.
  • Profile is all about you. This is the most important page; so, it's a good idea to fill out your profile as completely as possible. You can also make your profile public and searchable. Under your profile is a new feature that allows you to describe your books if you are published or your patents if you have any. There is also a listing of all of your recent activities and blog posts, if you feed your blog(s) to LinkedIn.
  • Contacts shows your connections in alphabetical order, a search box, and a way to add and organize connections.
  • Groups has links to Groups you may like, a directory of Groups, a way to create a group, and Groups you have started. Groups are a great way to promote discussion and share information, as well as promote your business. The rest of the page is devoted to Groups you belong to.
  • Jobs is all about finding, posting, and managing jobs, as well as solutions to hiring problems. You can search for jobs and see those you may be interested in based on your profile
  • Inbox is for mail. You can accept invitations, view messages, compose messages to others, and keep track of messages you have sent or archived.
  • Companies allows you to find companies you're interested in and follow them. There is also a list of companies you may wish to follow. You can see how you are connected to a company, who recently joined the company, and where they may have worked in the past. There is even an application on where you could click an icon to see how you are connected to the company featured in an article.
  • More contains one of LinkedIn's most popular features—Answers a discussion where people can ask and answer questions. If you are a contributor, you will be ranked by the quantity and quality of your Answers. This is a great way to gain visibility by demonstrating your knowledge and expertise. More also provides links to a Learning Center, a way to Upgrade Your LinkedIn Account, and your personal Applications.

Under the bar is your photo, a place to write what's on your mind, and a button to share what you have written. Under that are updates on what your connections are doing. In the smaller right-hand column are People You May Know, so that you can build your network. Under their pictures are paid Advertisements.

At the bottom of every page are Customer Service links. One of most interesting is Tools, where you can choose among LinkedIn's Productivity Tools. These include an Outlook and a Browser Toolbar, an E-mail Signature, a Mac Search Widget, and a Google Toolbar Assistant.

Take some time to get to know LinkedIn on your own. It is a powerful social networking site for professionals, authors, and people in the business world.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Getting Around Your Facebook (Business) Page

Facebook pages are the business side of Facebook. If you want to market your business, product, or book this way, the good news is it will be indexed by search engines. Here is how to create your page. Log in to Facebook under Account at the far right and click on Manage Pages. In the blue bar to the right of your picture are five links:
  • Get Started First, choose a name for your page keeping in mind how well it will attract search engines. Under your photo is a link to edit your page. This takes you to another menu of options.

  • Wall Just like the Wall on your Profile, here is your opportunity to talk about what's going on in your business or what is new with your book.
  • Info shows the information you filled in on you basic information page form about your business or product.
  • Photos are for new albums related to your business or product.
  • Discussions are opportunities to launch new discussion and invite comments from others.
In the left-hand column of your Facebook Page is all of your important information plus pictures of your friends who have indicated they "like" (endorse, recommend) your page. At the bottom is a Share link—another way to broadcast news or opinions.

The middle column is a guide to promoting your page. The right-hand column lets you invite more people to "like" your page.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Getting Around Your Facebook Account Settings

This is the fourth in a series on Social Media.

The top blue bar at the top of your screen is always the same. At the far-right side is the word Account with a little arrow next to it. Here is where you control everything in your Facebook account, from whom to “friend” to how much people know about your life.
When you click on the Account button, you will see a little box with your picture and name and a list of links. Each link takes you to another screen.

  • Edit Friends - In the far-left column are Requests to join your network (you can Confirm or click on Not Now); your Phonebook (phone numbers for friends who have made those numbers public); Find Friends (a search box for names); and Invite Friends (a place to type in e-mail addresses, draft a note, import address books, and let invitees see your profile).

  • Manage Pages is an understated heading for a very important aspect of Facebook. A Facebook Page differs from your Profile in that it is specifically intended to promote a business, product or personality. Here, you have an opportunity to describe your business or book and take advantage of all of the regular features of Facebook. There is no charge for this service.

    • Tell your fans, let your current customers and subscribers know about your new Page, and Import Contacts
    • Post status updates (what’s happening in your professional life) and Share your latest news.
    • Promote this Page on your Website by adding a Facebook "Like" Box to your site and giving people an easy way to discover and follow your Page.
In the far right column are Top Questions regarding how to permanently delete your account, retrieve your password, remove a friend, understand Chat, delete apps and accounts, change your name, and conduct common searches.

In the middle column, you can Create a List, find a list of friends with whom you have recently interacted, and Edit Your Friends List.

In the right-hand column, as on previous pages, are places to Create an Ad and see who has Sponsored ads on the page.

Under the large box are these links: About · Advertising · Developers · Careers · Privacy · Terms · Help

You are completely in charge of your Privacy and Security Settings, what you choose to reveal and to whom. Whether you want to keep your involvement strictly social or market your book or business. The important thing is to go to your Account Page and click on all of the links to familiarize yourself with what is in each one and what they mean. If you don’t understand the terminology, click on Help.

Finally, at the bottom of the page you will find friends who are available to Chat online in real time.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Getting Around Your Facebook Profile Page

This is the third in a series on Social Media.

Your Profile Page is personal. Across the top is a search bar that lets you look for people you know. To help you tour your new profile are little arrows that say 1 Bio, 2 Photos, 3 Navigation, 4 Education and Work, and 5 Interests. When you click on an arrow, a small box appears telling you what to do.

Below the arrows are two columns. The left-hand column is topped with your photo, followed by these links:
  • The Wall is where your all of your posts are stored. (Your friends' posts can be seen on their profiles.) When friends want to send you a message they write on your wall.
  • Info is your background—education, work history, philosophy, political leanings—anything you are willing to share.
  • Photos are links to all of your photo albums. When you post photos your friends can see them on your Profile Page.
  • Notes (on my page) are my forwarded blogs.
  • Friends are pictures of all of your Facebook "friends."
  • At the bottom of the column is a link to Add a Badge to your site. There are several categories of badges to choose from. Just click on the one(s) you want.

In the second column, after the word Share, are the following links:

  • Status is the place to bring friends up to date on your life.
  • Photo allows you to share a photo, add a photo, or create an album.
  • Link is a box in which you can direct viewers to another URL.
  • Video tells you to record or upload a video.

On my Profile Page are forwards from my blogs, as well as the most recent photos I have posted. At the bottom of the page are comments from friends who have looked at my profile page.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Guide to Creating and Publishing Your New Website

Welcome to guest blogger Bobette Kyle. Bobette draws upon 20+ years of Marketing/Executive and planning positions, business ownership, online marketing experience, and a marketing MBA as inspiration for her writing. She co-owns Lifestyle Inspirations LLC (MY LIFE MATTERS Womens Personal Planner) as well as publishes and

For the uninitiated, the process of starting a Website can be filled with new terminology. Here is a quick vocabulary lesson of some of the used here.

  • Domain Name ("register a domain name"): Sign up and pay for the URL to the homepage of your site.
  • Host/Hosting ("sign up with a host"): This is the company that will have your files on its server and provide the means for people to be able to see your Website. Make sure you pick a good host because you don't want to have to move this later.
  • Nameservers ("link them together using the nameservers"): This is information that tells the domain name services where to find your hosting service’s server.

Note that with some solutions you take care of all three of the above at once. Other solutions require you to handle each separately.

Steps To Getting Started – Overview

During the process of getting your Website started, there are many steps to complete. Many you will be completing simultaneously. Also, please note that if you do not have a Website developer, you would complete all steps on your own.

Initial Administrative Steps
  • Register your domain names.
  • Decide on a Website developer and choose designs or template.
  • Choose a hosting provider, with input from your Website designer, and open account.
  • Change the nameservers on your domain name to point to your host’s nameservers.

Initial Marketing Steps

  • Decide on the purpose of your Website; the way(s) it will help you with your business, book, or service(s); and what kinds of people you want to visit the site (target audience).
  • For better success with Website ranking, complete keyword research so – from the start – you can incorporate those words into the text on your Website.
  • Create Website launch strategies and a marketing plan while site is in development.
  • Begin marketing activities as soon as Website is functional.

Development Steps

  • Settle on site layout and navigational structure.
  • Create or choose images – Website header/logo, photo(s), book cover(s), etc. and send digitally to developer.
  • Write text for each page (incorporating phrases from keyword research) and send to developer.
  • If taking orders online, decide on e-commerce solution (Paypal recommended to start, then upgrade to merchant account after volume increases) and work with developer on details.
  • With developer, decide upon and secure any third party services or software needed to implement marketing programs (For example: newsletter hosting/list management service, blogging software, online audio/mp3 technology, etc.)

Site Finalization and Publication

  • Approve the final Website.
  • Upload the site to your hosting account.
  • Begin marketing activities.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Getting Around Your Facebook Home Page

This is the second in a series of blog posts about social media.

Facebook can be overwhelming without a map or step-by-step instructions on how to navigate the pages and links. When you log in to Facebook, you are on your Home Page, where you will see banners, columns, and links that provide information or lead you to other pages. This post is a map of your Home Page.

Across the top of your Home Page is a blue bar. Reading from left to right, you will see the word Facebook, three little icons, Search, Home, Profile, and Account. The icons are:

  1. Friend requests from people who want to be your friends (You will also find this elsewhere on the page).
  2. Messages are from people who are your friends and want to hear from you.
  3. Notifications alert you to people who have written on your Wall (more about that later).

Under the blue bar, there are three columns. Working your way down the left-hand column are your picture, your name, Edit My Profile, News Feed, Messages, Events, Friends, Create a Group, App Requests, Ads and Pages, and Friends on Chat. It is easy to get lost in all of these links. Here is a quick rundown:

  • Edit my Profile takes you to your profile page, which contains as much information as you wish to include about yourself.
  • News Feed shows you what people in your network (friends) have posted. You can also view these posts in the middle column.
  • Events list friends' events, birthdays, and occasions that have already taken place (so you know what you missed).
  • Friends is a repeat of people who want to join your network, as well as recently updated profiles.
  • To Create a Group on Facebook, just click this link and fill in the blank.
  • App Requests are add-ons to Facebook that help you connect to other people. There are also lists of your own apps and those of your friends.
  • Ads and Page allows you to set up a page for your business or book. Your Page differs from your personal profile in that it is strictly for professional purposes.
  • Friends on Chat alerts you to who is available for instant messaging. If you send that friend a message, he or she will probably respond.

In the middle column there is an announcement about your New Profile and a link to Learn More about it. Under that, in a white bar, are News Feed, Top News, Most Recent, Share: Status, Photo Link, and Video. The rest of the column is devoted to what your friends are doing and saying in each of those catagories. If you have many friends, that can keep you reading all day.

  • News Feed, Top News, and Most Recent all take you to friends' posts and provide a place for you to post your comments.
  • Share: Status has a box for you to fill in your news, thoughts, or comments; Photo allows you to post a photograph or create an album; Link lets you insert a link to a URL; and Video is the place to record and upload a video.

The column on the right begins with Events and See All, which shows all events your friends are planning and a place for you to enter your own event. Under that is Find More Friends and pictures of people who have found many of their friends through Friend Finder. Finally, there are five headings: Sponsored, Create an Ad, Requests, Pokes, and Get Connected.

  1. Sponsored is for paid ads others have posted.
  2. Create an Ad is a fill-in form to place your own ad.
  3. Requests is another way to see friend and application requests.
  4. Pokes are short notes from friends who ask you to "poke back."
  5. Get Connected helps you find friends who are Facebook, are not on Facebook, or are here because of you. It also explains how to connect with others on your mobile device.

You can see how the many ways to connect and communicate might seem like a maze if you are new to Facebook. Just remember the purposes of this fastest-growing social media site. It's all about making connections, networking, and showcasing your business. and, you can do it all on your Home Page.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Your Life is a Story. Tell it in a Memoir

Whether you realize it or not, your life is a story, and it’s a story you should share, at least with those closest to you. If you decide to write a memoir, chances are it won’t be a best seller. You may or may not even choose to publish it. But I urge you to write it.

If you’ve never written before, you will be amazed at what an almost mystical experience it can be for you. If you have dabbled in writing, but kept your precious thoughts and words buried in a drawer or hidden on your hard drive, this is the best way I know to write, first, for yourself and, second, for your most appreciate audience, your family.

Merriam Webster defines a memoir as “a narrative composed from personal experience” or “an autobiography.”

Ten ways to structure a memoir

  1. A theme or a thread
  2. Chronological
  3. Flashbacks
  4. Function: how things work
  5. Journey: circular changes, from beginning to end
  6. Mosaic: pieces of a puzzle or little vignettes
  7. Organic: from physical qualities or layout
  8. Origins: how things came to be or are made
  9. People or characters
  10. The seasons

Ten ways to begin

You do not necessarily have to start at the beginning. Consider starting with:

  1. An important moment that reveals character — yours or someone else’s
  2. A memory or flashback
  3. A photograph or memento
  4. Beginnings, endings, first times, last times
  5. A significant event — illness, birth, death, funeral, wedding, divorce
  6. Sensory memories — sights, sounds, smells
  7. Secrets, epiphanies, encounters, accusations
  8. Successes or failures
  9. Worst and best moments
  10. Mentors, heroes, villains

What to do

  • Use impressionistic description through metaphorical language: metaphor – direct comparison; simile – metaphor, using like or as or as though. Paint a picture with details, active, descriptive verbs. Orient yourself with the landscape. The external landscape reflects the inner landscape of your life (turbulent, stormy).
  • Personalize your writing, using “I” words and a subjective approach to subject matter. Use present tense; it gives energy to the writing. Use dialogue; direct conversation is powerful.
  • Break your memoir into moments or scenes; include conversation. Capture interesting conversation that reveals something about the character; leave out what’s not important. Boil events down to the basics. What is important to convey? What about you is different because of this incident or time in your life?
  • Make your story complex, unpredictable, powerful. Loop together a series of scenes like moments of conflict; conflict makes writing interesting. Do your best to tell the truth, as you know it; but even when you’re writing about the truth, it’s OK to combine several people into a composite character.
  • What not to do
  • Don’t just write down facts; create images for the reader. Don’t tell; show. Show with visual description, metaphoric language, dialogue (either conversation you remember verbatim or close to what could have been said based on the situation). Don’t use clichés and expected language; use powerful verbs. Don’t weaken your writing with adverbs; get rid of all “ly” words. Don’t ramble; compress language.

Why it’s personal

A memoir is about you. It is creative nonfiction. The greatest strength about creative nonfiction is that you stick to the essence of the truth, but you can exercise some creative license by including factual information and physical details to make a scene come to life. Creative nonfiction teaches something, even if the lesson is subtle.

A memoir challenges you to do more than recall and record facts about you life. It asks you to engage in courageous writing — to reveal yourself, your humanity, and the range of human experience, both joy and pain.

There is something in your story that every reader can relate to even if you don’t know what that will be. So, even though it is your story, as you write it, seek universal themes so that it relates not just to you but also to humanity in general. Above all, remember that your life is a story. Write it!

Two Sides of a Coin: Attention Span & Focus

Some types of writing can be achieved in a relatively short time span. In advertising, for example, the bulk of a writer's effort goes on before the writing begins. Like an iceberg, hidden from view, the brainstorming and creative processes are unseen and can take more time than the actual act of putting words on paper ... or, more accurately, on computer screen. That part often seems to come in a flash of inspiration. "Eureka, I've got it," and The Pepsi Generation is born.

Such instances are the exception rather than the rule. The rule is that most writing takes time--lots of time. An article, a brochure, an annual report, a speech, a training program, a Web site, and, certainly, a book is not conceived in a single brainstorming session or written in a matter of hours. Any of them, as well as many other assignments a writer is likely to encounter, may consume weeks, at least, and many months at most.

Of the myriad strengths a writer needs, two of the most important are focus and a long attention span. Focus means total concentration or fixed attention on the project at hand. This definition suggests that you are also very interested in this activity. You are immersed in the subject, to the point that you are almost one with it. It helps if you are one of those people who are incapable of boredom, because you will be asked to write about many things that would put the average person to sleep. If you're focused, you are, by definition, not bored. The trick is to stay focused; that is what is meant by having a long attention span.

The ability to get excited about a subject and stay excited is a rare gift. If you weren't born with this talent, I would strongly advise you to cultivate it. The question is how do you do that? The answer is, with the right attitude. Let's use an article as an example.

There are a number of prescribed steps to putting together a good feature article, no matter what kind of publication it will appear in. They begin with the initial assignment and end with a final, approved manuscript. In between, there is the need to track down sources, conduct interviews and all other varieties of research; sort, absorb, and process the information you have gathered; write a first draft; spell check, revise, proofread, refine, do a final edit, rewrite; and, at last, send it off to the editor.

That's the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is when the editor or client wants it shorter, longer, more detailed, or completely different than the way you wrote it. At that point, you may find yourself back at square one, virtually starting from scratch. In either case, it can be a real challenge to keep your interest and enthusiasm from waning or just plain dying. The secret lies in your attitude - the one element over which you have complete control.

Attitude is a conscious choice. You create it, you nurture it, you keep it alive through every step of the process, no matter how long it takes or how frustrated you may become. Here are the attitudes I have cultivated over time about each of the steps in the process.

• Initial assignment - a way to add to my store of knowledge or to learn something completely new

• Tracking down sources - a timed scavenger hunt

• Interviews & research - assembling a complicated puzzle

• Sort, absorb, and process - cramming for an exam (believe it or not, I enjoyed that)

• First draft - a state of "flow," to borrow the words of psychologist and author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

• Revising, refining, rewriting - going for the gold

• Sending it off - satisfaction, confidence, and relief

• Great reviews - sometimes, even better than money

• Not-so-great reviews - gratitude (honest!) for an opportunity to improve the product

• Back to square one - another chance to perfect the process (this is the tough one)

Does it really work? Most of the time, it does. Choosing the most productive attitude at each step of the process keeps me focused for as long as necessary. In a project like an annual report, that could be several months; for a book, it could be well over a year. As I said, it helps to be incapable of boredom.

What Every Author Should Know About Saving Book Files

It’s easy to get confused and lose files when you’re writing a book, but there is a way to keep track of every thought you have, every draft you write, and every improvement you make.

  1. The first step is to create a file folder called BOOK FILES or the title of your book.
  2. Step two is to create folders (within the BOOK FILES folder) for each chapter and give it a simple name, such as CHAPTER 1 and perhaps a keyword to remind you of the subject.
  3. Finally, inside the chapter folders you will keep your drafts, as you write them.
Imagine you are writing a book on communicating within an organization, and one of the chapters is on meetings. Within your folder called BOOK FILES or COMMUNICATING is a folder called CHAPTER 1: MEETINGS. Within that file folder is a document titled “Meetings,” draft #1, and the date you wrote it. This is how you write and save the document:
  • Meetings_1_041108.

Now, let’s say you are going to make changes to that document, but you don’t want to lose your original version. Before you write a single word, save it as Meetings_2_051109. Then, make your changes to the new draft. When you are finished, save the latest version. Within your MEETINGS folder your now have two files:

  • Meetings_1_041108
  • Meetings_2_051109

If you are doing a lot of rewriting, you may accumulate numerous drafts of each chapter. In the case of ten drafts, for example, your MEETINGS file folder would look like this:

  • Meetings 1_041108
  • Meetings 2_051109
  • Meetings 3_052008
  • Meetings 4_052508
  • Meetings 5_062508
  • Meetings 6_070208
  • Meetings 7_071108
  • Meetings 8_071208
  • Meetings 9_071608
  • Meetings10_072008

Why bother going to all this trouble? The answer is that you never know when you are going to want to refer to or use something you’ve written weeks or even months ago. If you had simply typed right over your words, they would be gone forever. Don’t imagine you will be able to remember what you wrote because, after 10 drafts of one chapter, believe me, you won’t. When the book is finished and in print, you can throw away your old drafts if you want to. I tend to keep them, however. I simply burn a CD and file the whole book away. “Better safe than sorry” may be a cliché, but it is one to live by when you are an author.

The Two Traits Every Writer Needs

Curiosity and imagination are two sides of the same coin: One is the unquenchable thirst for knowledge; the other is the process by which we create something entirely new out of that knowledge. It has been said that there is no such thing as a new idea, that everything that exists is already known. If that is true, then curiosity impels us to search for what is known, and imagination sees it in a new and unique form.

It's hard to imagine how or why one might choose to be a writer, especially a freelance writer, without this trait. What would be the incentive, if not to absorb information and reconfigure it in a way that others can enjoy and absorb as well? Without it, this chosen way of life becomes merely a job - a way to earn a living - and for most of us, that's not what it's about.

Curiosity cannot be created or taught when it doesn't exist, but it can be nurtured even when only a tiny spark of it exists. If you've ever begun a sentence with the words, "I wonder ..." or followed the thread of a thought around in your head to see where it would take you, or become lost in a subject other people consider boring, or found yourself asking a million questions of someone you've just met, you've got the spark. Now, all that's necessary is to let it catch fire. Here are some ways to fan the flames:

Don't be satisfied with just enough research or just enough information to complete the assignment. Keep digging, keep analyzing, keep seeking a deeper understanding of the material. Eventually, you'll run out of time, you'll run out of sources, or your sixth sense will tell you that one more fact will be one fact too many. That's when you know you've done all you can do, and it's time to write.

Get involved with your topic. Care about it, make it personal, invest yourself. Believe it or not, this will not compromise your integrity as a writer; it will enhance it. If you care, the message will ring true and the words will come alive; if you don't, the reader will sense - often without knowing why - that something is missing.

Think of everything you learn as a thread in a tapestry. If you stick with it long enough, no matter what kind of writing you do, patterns begin to emerge. You'll find that no idea exists in isolation and that every piece of knowledge is inexplicably linked to every other piece. The more you learn, the more obvious those links will become. New ideas combined with long-forgotten snippets of information give birth to deeper insights, which, in turn, become new threads in the pattern.

Tapping into the imagination is not something only novelists, poets, and promotional writers do. It is something every good writer does, consciously or instinctively. Imagination is our secret weapon, our special ability to put an original spin on virtually anything, no matter how tired or hackneyed it may seem. A good writer looks at the assignment, the raw data, the blank page, and sees something no one else sees - a unique perspective, a hidden pattern, the very heart of the matter. Like combining chemical elements, in go bits and pieces of information, impressions, and interpretations; out comes something completely new, a one of a kind.

If curiosity can be nourished, like a tiny plant, is that also true of imagination? Why do some people view the world through a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes, while others see it in black-and-white, straight lines that go from here to there? Can imagination be created out of the raw material of our minds, or is it something one has or doesn't have, like blue eyes?

If we are to believe many of the great writers, imagination is part of our human birthright. If the spark exists, the hidden light is just waiting to shine. What turns an analytical thinker into an imaginative one? Try these suggestions.

Open your mind to other ways of looking at things. If someone else suggests a different perspective, don't dismiss it out of hand. Delve, explore, examine. Turn it over in your mind. Add to it. Add it to the mix of ideas on the table.

Don't be satisfied with your first take on anything. Don't be in a hurry to get on with it and hit the computer. Unless you're on a killer deadline, step back and give it some air. See what else comes up. Walk around it (figuratively), and chances are you'll see it from a different angle.

Don't settle for the way you've always done it. If you usually surf the Web or use the business library, find an expert to interview. If you plunge into writing the minute you finish your research, try giving yourself a day to read and absorb your notes and sleep on it before you sit down to write. If you polish every sentence as you go, try stream-of-consciousness writing. Just changing your habits will stretch the limits of your imagination.

Take time to do nothing. Call it meditation, daydreaming, or kickback time. Carve out some time at least once a week for you. Go to the park, the zoo, the country. Take a walk, a bike ride, or a drive. Let your mind roam wherever it chooses to go. The idea is to slow down the compulsive thinking/doing mind and give it a break. Just imagine what could come out of such an afternoon!

Between the Covers of Your Nonfiction Book

There is more to a nonfiction book than a catchy cover and table of contents … much more. Wherever you are in the process of writing your book, if the chapters contain your message, everything else you write must attract, inform, clarify, or sell.


Front cover: If the book is a hardback, it will have a book jacket; if it is a soft cover, the cover will contain the same information as a jacket. The front cover contains the title, your name, an illustration, and perhaps an endorsement or quote from a favorable review.

Back cover: The back cover is your billboard. It should include a description of the main features of the book, a category, your photo and a brief bio, the publisher, an ISBN number, a Library of Congress number, a bar code, and the price. Much of this will already exist in your book proposal and can easily be converted to the appropriate language.


Copyright page: This page is usually provided by the publisher, whether that publisher is a conventional one, a print-on-demand, or you, if you self- publish. It contains certain basic information, such as the title, the author’s name, the copyright date, a paragraph explaining copyright rules, the country in which the book is printed, the ISBN number, a Library of Congress number, the publisher and its location, and contact information.

Preface: This is written by the author and explains why and how you wrote the book. It can tell your story in a very personal way, if you wish.

Foreword: This should be written by someone other than the author and is particularly powerful when an expert in the field writes it. If the writer is a person with a recognized name or title, you might want to mention “Foreword by name” on the cover. Sometimes, it is helpful to write the foreword yourself to demonstrate to the expert what you would like to see.

Introduction: Think of the introduction as a practical guide to using the book. It should explain what the book is about, why it was written, and how it should be read, if there is more than one way. If you are expressing a point of view that will enhance the reader’s understanding, include it in the introduction. If the story behind the story is interesting, by all means include that, as well. This is your chance to editorialize and explain your rationale, so take advantage of it.

Acknowledgments: Few of us write our books without help, no matter how well versed we are on the subject matter. There are hundreds of ways in which assistance is given, from people willing to share their expertise and knowledge to editors who turn our rough prose into pearls. Friends or professionals transcribe interview tapes, proofread manuscripts, listen to us read aloud, and encourage us when we feel we have become brain dead. Those who help deserve to be acknowledged, and some of these sections are wonderful to read. That’s how you want yours to be.


Of course, the bulk of the writing takes place between the front and back matter. By now, you should have mapped out your main headings, which will become your Table of Contents, the key points under each heading, and one-paragraph chapter summaries. The question is how do you get from a paragraph to a chapter? Each key point becomes a subhead of your chapter. A summary is the big picture; the subheads are the way you will organize the material. This is the time to fill in the meat — your research, narrative, quotes from interviewees, resource materials, and graphics. The important thing is to get all of the pertinent information under each subhead. Then, you can refine the writing and build your transitions.


Index: When a book is filled with facts or topics a reader might want to find quickly, an index is the fastest way to find them. There are two types of indexes — subject matter and detailed. You can create your indexes in Microsoft Word or hire an indexer to do it for you. The published authors I know strongly recommend that you use an experienced indexer.

Bibliography: If you have read other books and quoted other authors, a bibliography acknowledges these sources. Of course, you should attribute quotes in the copy or with footnotes. In some cases, you will have to secure written permission to use other people’s work and may even be charged a fee. A bibliography also gives readers a list of references to read if they wish to dig more deeply into the subject.

Appendices: Sometimes, you have so much background information or detail that, if you included all of it in the main body of work, you might overwhelm your reader. That’s what appendices are for. They are a good place to put scientific data, charts, reports, and detailed explanations without ruining the flow of your text.

Glossary: This is an optional, alphabetically arranged dictionary of terms peculiar to the subject of the book. Try to define such words in the text.

Epilogue: If you have “one last thought,” this is the place to express it.

Building a book is like building anything else: You begin with the basics, and you add one element at a time. The most important content is in the middle — the chapters. Logically, you should write those first. What goes in the introduction, for example, depends on how the book is organized, as well as several other factors. You can’t write the index until you have finished the book. If this looks overwhelming at the beginning, remember, you don’t have to write the whole book in one sitting, nor should you.

Remember this: Nothing becomes published that hasn’t been written first!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Getting to Know the Giants of Social Media

By 2012 more than 1 billion people are expected to be online through blogs, social networks or photo/video sharing services. Social media is a great equalizer. Ordinary people are talking to each other and the businesses they patronize about what is important to them. Every day new sites are launched to enable people to broaden their conversations. Still, many stick with the sites they know—the giants of the social networking scene.

MySpace started out as the exclusive domain of young people, and after tying to become a mainstream site, went back to its roots. MySpace was the first social network to make the word “friends” (meaning contacts) part of our everyday language. While MySpace members aren’t as old or sophisticated as Facebook users, they function seamlessly in their own piece of cyber space. If you are an adult who insists on being on MySpace, ask your teenager to help you.

Facebook is big—the biggest—social networking site. Forty percent of its members are over thirty-five. Facebook offers personal profiles, calendars, movie reviews, photos, groups for every conceivable interest, targeted advertising, demographic profiling, and multiple ways to keep in touch. Members use Facebook to keep up with friends and friends of friends. It now also provides “fan pages” for setting up professional and businesses profiles.

LinkedIn is the number one social network for businesspeople and professionals. The site works on the principle of six degrees of separation. Members find and connect to their existing business contacts and then to their contacts’ contacts. Members post resumes, form networks, write recommendations, and keep their contacts updated on changes in their professional lives. When members update their profiles their new information becomes immediately available to everyone in their networks.

Twitter is an innovative, free social network that restricts messages to 140 characters. “Tweets” range from “what I’m doing right this minute” to trends and important issues. More than 100 services have sprung up that mimic Twitter, and there are many sites that augment its services. Followers can tune in to messages from other members and send targeted messages to people they follow by simply putting @ in front of the other person’s Twitter name.

YouTube is the best-known and most popular video-sharing site. It was acquired by Google in 2006 and went mainstream in 2007, appealing to both individuals and businesses. Members upload more than 65,000 videos a day. Most social networks and Websites support video. As a social networking site, YouTube features personal spaces, playlists, friends, favorites, and conversations. To assess its value, think quality over quantity; positive comments mean more than the number of views.

Flickr is right up with Facebook in terms of size. It has 11 million regular members, 30 million monthly unique visitors, and more than 1 billion photos. There are Flickr groups for almost anything you can imagine ... anything. In addition to making it easy to upload photos and other images—with carefully chosen keywords, tags, file names, and image descriptions—Flickr has no trouble attracting search engines. Tags are descriptive labels photographers and viewers can apply to photographs.

These are the big kids on the block, but in each category, there are many other sites that are attracting members and offering an increasing number of features. Biggest is not always best. It pays to explore the less-well-known social media sites to find the right fit.