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Don't be fooled: publishers ain't publishers

Don't be fooled: publishers ain't publishers

I feel the need for a note on the publishing industry. In particular I feel the need to set things straight about what it shouldmean to get your book published. Unfortunately it is not as straightforward as it seems, as more than one of my ghostwriting clients has discovered.

What every author needs to understand is that there are essentially two types of publisher out there: mainstream ‘trade’ publishers and ‘vanity’ publishers. Put simply: one is good, and one isn’t. Here’s how they compare:

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5 reasons to self-publish your book

For as long as I can remember there has been a stigma associated with ‘self-publishing’, or independent publishing. It is assumed that a ‘published’ book, meaning published by a mainstream commercial – or trade – publisher (Penguin, Random House, etc.) will be a better book, will be easier to promote and will sell more copies.

These don’t necessarily follow. In today’s digital world there is no reason why a self-published book shouldn’t ‘look’ published. With the right emphasis placed on writingrewriting and editing, there is no reason why a self-published book shouldn’t be of a very high standard. And of course the marketing potential for a book or anything else – if done well – is limitless in the social media age.

Yes, there are undoubtedly benefits to having your book ‘properly’ published – most notably the fact that a genuine publisher* will take on most or all of the financial risk – but there can be advantages to self-publishing too, especially in non-fiction.

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When writing for the web, ‘age old’ lessons still apply

When writing for the web, ‘age old’ lessons still apply

Way back in 1997 the World Wide Web was just moving out of its Jurassic period. It was in that year that the domain google.com was first registered. It was also the year Titanic, the most overrated movie of the 20th century, was released. (Did I say that out loud?) Yet even in these early days there was recognition that if we wanted to convey written information using the internet, we were going to have to follow new rules.

All these years later, those rules haven’t changed. But they are regularly overlooked or ignored. Let’s recap some of the advice of Jakob Neilsen, a prominent usability guru since dinosaurs roamed the WWW, from a 1997 article entitled ‘Be succinct! (Writing for the Web)’.

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The power of outlining in Microsoft Word

The power of outlining in Microsoft Word

Regular readers will know that I am not a big fan of Microsoft Word. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have some handy features – it’s just that too often those features are hidden underneath layers of complexity.

The ‘outline’ view is a case in point*. Outline view has been around since the earliest versions of Word, yet many people still don’t know about it or use it.

Depending on your version of Word, the outline view can be accessed via the ‘View > Outline’ menu item, the ‘Outline’ tab (some Windows versions) or the ‘Outline’ button at the bottom of the screen (left side for Mac, right side for Windows).

Here are three powerful things you can do with an MS Word outline:

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Write your book in 2014 – Step 7: Copyedit

Write your book in 2014 – Step 7: Copyedit

By the time you’ve drafted your book, rewritten it once or twice and then given it a good polish, it would seem reasonable to think that you are just about done with it. And you are … sort of.

The good news is that once your manuscript has reached this point you are getting very close to the end. However, there is a very important step to undertake: the copyedit. This means going over of your text with a fine-toothed comb to correct ‘typos’ – like spelling mistakes and grammatical errors – and to ensure consistency of presentation.

Without exception I recommend that this task is given to a professional editor who has the skills, knowledge and experience, including an incredible eye for detail, needed for the job. Don’t give it to a well-meaning friend (unless they have that qualification) and never, ever try to copyedit your own work.

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5 reasons you should still publish a paper book

5 reasons you should still publish a paper book

With the rise and rise of ebook publishing, it would be easy to think that producing a paper version of your business book is an outdated idea. Why bother, when producing an ebook is quick and cheap, and an increasing number of people prefer the portability of the ebook?

Well, the paper book is not dead yet. Here are five reasons why you should still consider a printed version of your business book (and most other genres too):

Credibility

On one level the printed book may seem old-hat, but there is no doubt that a paper book still holds considerable weight in the credibility stakes. Being able to present a prospect or client with a professionally produced copy of your book will give your credibility an enormous boost. A book makes you an author – an authority on your topic. You are immediately positioned as an expert in your field.

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3 types of language to avoid in business writing

3 types of language to avoid in business writing

Whether you are composing an email to a customer, writing a blog post or copywriting fresh content for your website, it’s easy to fall into the trap of forgetting who you are writing for. It’s important to remember that your audience don’t necessarily speak the same language – or dialect – as you. This can be difficult. The language we use within our own business or industry often becomes so second nature that we use it without thought.

As I browse the web and read various email newsletters, I see examples of ‘inward-looking’ writing that fall into three broad (and overlapping) categories. Avoiding all of these will make your writing more engaging and accessible.

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At last! Email nirvana in two easy steps

At last! Email nirvana in two easy steps

Email has been with us for a long time now – it’s approaching 20 years since it became widely used – yet it is still the bane of many people’s working lives.

Yes, email is a handy tool. But it’s also an enormous time waster. It’s bad enough for those of us working in small businesses; it can be a complete nightmare for anyone working in a large corporate-style environment.

There are, of course, a million things you can do to get more efficient at dealing with email. I’ve tried many of them. Unfortunately most of them are hampered by the need for strict – and, for most of us, unsustainable – discipline either on your own behalf or that of the people you communicate with. Or they only work with certain email clients.

Recently, however, that has all changed for me. Thanks to the discovery of two tools – one for my desktop computer and one for my portable devices – I have now reached the fabled state of ‘inbox zero’ (aka #inboxzero) consistently for 14 days in a row.

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Write your book in 2014 – Step 6: Polish

Write your book in 2014 – Step 6: Polish

In the context of this monthly series, this post is less of a ‘how to’ and more of a call to arms.
In season five of the brilliant television drama The Wire much of the action is set inside the newsroom of a fictional version of The Baltimore Sun. On a number of occasions we see journalists and editors debating nuances of argument, word choice and grammatical accuracy. It’s a nod to the seemingly old-fashioned idea that getting the words right actually matters.

Sadly, if many of today’s newspapers are anything to go by, the pace and pressure associated with survival in the modern media environment have put paid to this dedication to accuracy. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t find at least one blatant typo in our paper – usually more – along with a missing or duplicated line or an obvious hole in an argument.

However, there is one area of writing in which ‘getting it right’ still matters: the book.

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Distributing your ebooks has never been easier

Distributing your ebooks has never been easier

In my spare time I’m a keen photographer, so my ears pricked up when I heard during the week that photo book service Blurb has linked up with Amazon. Blurb books (photography or otherwise) can now be sold ‘print on demand’ via the world’s biggest bookstore. While this news relates to physical products, it is another example of the rapid rate of innovation occuring in the world of online bookselling.

In the last couple of years it has become much easier to distribute EPUB and Kindle ebooks globally and get paid locally. Using just two distributors, you can make your ebooks available via all the major online sources such as Amazon’s Kindle store, Apple’s iBooks store, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and others.

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