Category Archives: business

How I’m Creating A Book As I Blog

I’m gearing up for the StoryADay May challenge for 2014 and writing a new ebook as I go along. How? I’ll show you (cue: John Hammond whisper)

For the past few years, at the urging of challenge participants, I’ve provided writing prompts every day during StoryADay May. Every year I vow to be ahead of the game and write them all out before May starts. Usually I get a couple of weeks in and then spend the latter part of May scrambling to catch up.

Last year I did a thing where — again, prompted by participants — I put out a week’s worth of prompts ahead of time, so people could plan their writing week. That was a bit better than my usual scramble, but I still did a lot of the work during May.

This year I have resolved to not only have the full months’ worth of prompts available before May begins but to release them as an ebook that I can charge money for. (Money is a lovely carrot that I dangle in front of myself to make LazyMe follow through on some of my good intentions. I’m not hugely motivated by money, but since I’m planning on putting in all this work, it’d be nice if I could get a little summin-summin to help pay the for web-hosting costs, the domain registration or my upcoming photo session with Nathan Fillion at Comicon – swoon…)

The Process

Here’s what I’m doing.

Step 1: Mindmap

I have a mind map of all the topics for each week (OK, most of them). Doing this first helps me set themes for each week, see what I’m doing, what I’m missing and what I shouldn’t spend time writing about on Day 1 (because I know I’m going to cover it on Day 4).

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Step 2: Write The Post

I have a template in place for prompts, which I’m using as a framework for each post.

Writing Prompt screenshot

 

It goes: preamble (sometimes), The Prompt, Tips, “Go!” along with possibly a reminder to comment or post in the community.

Once I’ve written the meat of the post I’ll take some time to schedule the post for the appropriate day (posting just after midnight) and I’ll add it to the /inspiration/daily-prompt/may-2014 category so that my Mailchimp’s RSS-to-Campaign feature will pick it up and send it out to all the people who have signed up to receive prompts by email. Nifty!

If I’m really smart I’ll remember to add tags (‘writing prompt’ and something context driven) so I can find and link to them again in future when I am writing similar prompts but want to give my audience more options.

I might even find an appropriate Creative-Commons photo on Flickr to illustrate the post AND write an SEO-keyword-laden excerpt. In the interests of getting an ebook out, however, I’m not doing that on this pass. (None of that stuff will go in the ebook and it’s all stuff I can do in the last few days before the challenge when my brain is fried and we’re taking the inevitable roadtrip/having visitors/enjoying Easter/whatever-the-hell-else April/May can throw at me this year.)

What I really want to do is get to the next step.

Step 3 – Scrivener

After having finally watched some videos on how to use Scrivener properly, it seems to me the perfect vehicle for putting together a non-fiction book, even if I can’t make it work for fiction. So I’m using it for that, with the expectation that, at the end of the writing phase I’ll be able to quickly go through each file and make sure I’ve been consistent in format. Then I can add introductions to each week and maybe some introductory/conclusion material, and then use the built-in ‘compile’ feature to turn out a nicely-formatted ebook for quick upload to Amazon, Smashwords and my site.

Method: it’s pretty clunky, but I’m writing each prompt in the WordPress window, adding scheduling and tags and then  cutting and pasting each day’s text from the blog into Scrivener. It’s working for me, for now.

scrivener screenshot

I’m really only posting this here so that, if I try to do this again,  I’ll have some record of how I did it, but if you’re reading this and you’re not Future-Me, then I hope it helps you with your own “Blog To Book” project!

 

All-Edition Books One Step Closer?

Ever since I’ve had my Kindle—or perhaps more precisely, since they introduced the kind-of-crappy and disproportionately controversial text to speech feature— I’ve been longing for a day when I could be reading my book in the house and then get in the car and listen to the audio version, which would, like my Kindle, pick up from where I left off.

And now, Jeff Bezos has apparently been peeking inside my head again, because lo! What did I find on the Kindle edition page for “Happier at Home” by Gretchen Rubin, but this little tidbit?

VersaText from Amazon and Audible

OMG!

My Reading Nirvana

When Audible came along and offered audio books at an accessible price in digital format I jumped, LEAPED, on that bandwagon. (Seriously, the Audible booth at the New York Book Fair in 1999 was down the same neglected side alley as that of my then-company Xlibris. Two guys huddled in the Audible booth looking lonely, and I dashed up to them to tell them I was a fan and a subscriber and to thank them for the service. They looked a little non-plussed, but I was happy!). The only flaw I ever saw with audio books (beyond the cost, which had made them a library-only possibility for me until this point) was that sometimes I didn’t want to listen, I wanted to read. But at least picking up a $6 paperback duplicate was a realistic options, so hey.

Long before ebooks were a reality I was frustrated with paper books’ inability to remind me where I left off or help me find the first instance of when “Piotr” turned up in a book I hadn’t picked up for a while and how he fitted into the story. Then along came the PDF and the Palm Pilot and the Jornada with their proto-ebooks, complete with search function.

Then came my long-term love, the Kindle, to make ebooks (and the process of buying them) work properly.  Much as I fell deeply, passionately in love with my precious Kindle, I almost immediately hated it for making me want to read ALL THE TIME. I started to fantasize about the day when I’d be able to put down my Kindle and hop into the car, or stand at the sink washing dishes, or fold laundry, and have my story read to me while I couldn’t be staring at the page. The crude Text-To-Speech function hinted at a better world, but scared the pants off the people who look after authors’ rights (since selling the audio book rights to your work is such a lucrative side deal for authors and publishers, and deservedly so. There’s a lot of work in a good audio edition).

I always suspected Amazon would come up with a better (and fairer) solution. I even said the fateful words, “I’d be willing to pay a bit more for access to all the different editions. Seems reasonable.”

The Price Of Wishful Thinking

In this case, the price is, well, double the price of the Kindle edition of the ebook. But that’s bound to change as the idea catches on. I think a ‘bundled edition’ price, closer to the traditional trade-paperback price might be where titles from big publishers settle. But even now, the Kindle and Audible editions together (which, by the way, sync up with each other, so you can keep going from where you left off in either device, just like I wanted!!!!!) is slightly less than the list price for the hardback.

I’m bouncing in my chair a little.

I’m such a fangirl of Amazon. I know the Author’s Guild is deeply wary of them, publishers barely tolerate them and other booksellers see them as evil incarnate, and I understand all these things. But as a reader and a lover of books and someone who is interested in the progress of literature over tradition, and yes even as a writer, I am THRILLED that Amazon keeps coming up with ideas that are designed to delight the reader. It’s not a common concern within the book industry as a whole. I’m sad to say that, but I’ve been inside and I’ve never seen anything that has lead me to believe I’m wrong in saying it. Apart from Amazon.

So thank you, Mr Bezos. We are obviously book-brain-twins and I’m glad you’re in business.

Writing Buzz

I woke early this morning, sure I had heard my doorbell.

Of course, it wasn’t.

But, since I was up, I decided I might as well finish off a bit of work that was looming over me, tapping me on the shoulder at inconvenient times and whispering “what about me? You know I’m due soon, right?”

So I wrote it.

Then I did a bit more.

And now I’m happy.

All before my first cup of coffee.

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Shiny

Just cancelled the host I’ve had forEVER, fo my jdwrite.com domain.

I feel a little wistful, but on the other hand it’s exciting to have a shiny new website on a shiny new host.

So, here’s my business site, all updated ‘n’ stuff.

There is still some content to add, but it is much more up to date, and I’m happy.

And, of course, if you have any trouble emailing the jdwrite address, do let me know. Ta.

On The Other Hand…

I’ve spend the morning reaching out to old colleagues and clients to ask for testimonials about my work. It’s fun and I’ve already had one nibble about new work from a contact.

I’ve been westling with what kind of writing I should be spending my new-found free time pursuing. Part of me really wants to give creative writing a try, because that is so well regarded and I admire the talent of the storyteller so much. Part of me understands that I’m good at (and more practiced in) writing non-fiction.

I’ve been taking a course of teleclasses about business copywriting, which I has earned me some money in the past and which I’m leaning towards. But part of me is accusing myself of selling out, abandoning my creative writing dreams.

Then again, I also know that when I’m busy I’m happy, and when I’m happy I’m more productive in all aspects of my life. I know how much I enjoy learning about business, and talking to business people who are good at what they do. I find it fascinating and energizing (if that’s a word). And I enjoy crafting the words that help someone understand a thing, a concept, a product, a service.

And where am I going to find characters and scenarios and realistic voices if not out in the real world? That can only help my creative writing more than sitting alone in my room, surely?

So I’ve decided to both have my cake and eat it. Pursue business writing and keep plugging away at my stories for my own amusement* on the side.

*Because I’ve also noticed that when I write to amuse myself, all of my writing gets better.

TechHead Revisited

Quite proud of myself today.

I’ve been playing with WordPress for this blog, in the interests of using it to power my business website, in anticipation of doing some business writing now that I have (a-hem) all this spare time.

So between yesterday and today I have dusted off the techy part of my brain and:

  • Found a new webhost (old one has the same documentation and ‘help’ files they had in 2001)
  • Figured out whether or not it would adversely affect my email (I don’t think so, but if you have any problems with the jdwrite.com address, let me know)
  • Changed my domain’s DNS info so that the site will, eventually, point to the new host
  • Changed my registrar to be my new host, because I can’t be bothered with the extra admin of having registration and hosting in separate places
  • Downloaded/uploaded and installed WordPress on the new host’s server (OK, I used their auto-install thingy, but I feel like I have a clue what it did due to the next point)
  • Troubleshooting (I troubleshot? I troubleshooted?) a problem with temporary access
  • Downloaded and applied a new WordPress theme
  • Customised the theme (a little)
  • Started transferring content from my old website to the new WordPress powered version.
  • Created some new content, more focused on what I actually want to do, rather than my old assumptions about what work is out there. (Thanks Copywriting Success Summit!)

I decided to go with a blog platform because I am NOT hand-coding things any more, and Frontpage made things too complicated, and anyway I don’t have a current version of Frontpage, if it still exists, with which to modify my content.

I like the flexibility of having everything based on the web, where I can just go and enter my  text and the clever programmers have made it all fit together and update.

It looks so much more modern. Once the new information has propogated on the web, I’ll provide a link here.

It feels nice to have a new, shiny home, and a freshly-dusted brain.

I love being  a mother, but I’m not really that good at being a housewife. Sometimes it’s nice to remind yourself that you are actually good at some thing.

Working Mother

Well, that went well.

I’ve been shaking the virtual network to see if I could dislodge any writing work now that the boys are both out at school at least part of the time.

This morning I had my first business call in several years, all scheduled and ready to go.

Then G woke up looking pale.

I took him to school along with A, and hesitated outside the door before deciding he was probably just tired (even though my instinct said “no, he’s sick”), and shoved him in the door.

As I was explaining to the teacher that he was pale and she should call me if she needed me, she said,

“Actually, one of my parent-helpers for the trip to the library just dropped out. Can you come?”

Almost any other morning I could have done it (let’s face it, the Monday morning Pilates is nice, but I could skip it). Cursing the timing I excused myself and jogged home (well, speed-walked).

So my call came; we did the preliminary catching up and had just started on the business at hand when my cell phone started bleating. I knew, of course, straight away. I didn’t even have to check the number to know it was the school.

I had to cut off the business call and go and fetch my retching wretch.

We’ve reschedule for Friday morning and luckily for me my business friend is a father to young kids and probably understands.

Getting actual work done is fine. If G had waited another three quarters of an hour to hurl I could have used this time, while he’s sleeping it off) to do actual work. It’s just the phone calls and meetings that are the tricky part.

Somewhere a hardline conservative is shaking their head and saying, that’s what she gets for trying to divide her attention.

‘Scuse me while I pop my shoes off and get back into the kitchen.

Sigh.

(Happily, I think G is going to recover.)