Learn to Write from a Master

Learn to Write Like Ben Franklin

Guest Post By Wendy Woudstra

A writer, a publisher, and the founder of America's first circulating library, Benjamin Franklin was one of America's most brilliant influences on the printed word. Franklin's articles in his newspapers and almanacs are still read and quoted today.

But like everyone else, Benjamin Franklin had to take time and effort to learn his craft. He didn't go to Journalism school to learn how to write well. He taught himself to write for publication in a rigorous manner that any aspiring writer can emulate with success today.

Franklin would start by choosing an exceptionally well-written article by a respected writer, and studying its style and subject carefully.

After studying the article thoroughly, he would rewrite the original article, mixing up the order and arrangement of the material.  Then, without referencing the original article, he would reconstruct it, trying to make it as good or better than the original.

After he was done, he would compare the original article with the one he had just written to discover where he had failed. If he had omitted an important point, or if the words and phrases he had chosen weakened the meaning of the original, or if he had turned a witty exclamation into flat prose, he would make a note of his errors.

Then he would write the article over again, without reference to his notes or the original, and once again compare it to the original, making notes of any new errors or flaws.

He would continue to rewrite the same article, over and over, until his version was as good or better than the original by his own exacting standards.

If you are an aspiring writer who uses your lack of school credentials as an excuse for failure, use Ben Franklin's method. Pick an article from the magazine you'd most like to get your articles published in, and write, rewrite and rewrite it again until you can produce prose that meets or exceeds the standards of that publication.

Wendy  Woudstra has been writing about writing and publishing for more than a decade. 

Article Source:

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Simple Websites Work Better

Gee, I thought I had a post scheduled for today, but apparently not.

So, let me give you one quick tip:

Keep your websites simple. I've been saying this for a while, based on a number of marketers, but it's been reinforced by marketing studies. People get distracted very easily - the bells and whistles are distracting. Visitors need to know what your site is about in mere seconds and need a clear call-to-action.

I'll be writing an article about this soon.

Have a great day,


Five SEO Blog Tips to Increase Traffic to Your Site

If you’re new to the writing and marketing game, you may not be aware of some of the essential steps needed to actually get in the game - steps that will make your brand visible. And, visibility is a ‘biggie’ if you want to increase traffic to your site and move your business forward.

One very interesting fact about having content online is you never know who will end up finding it. It could be an a client, a potential JV partner, an agent, a publisher, someone who wants to connect.

Why is it important to become familiar with SEO blog tips?

Simply put, the answer is to generate visibility.

If you want to create and build visibility, along with readers to your site (traffic) and subscribers on your email list, you need to build a platform and promote it.

So, what are some tips to help you get started in the right direction?

Well, the very first and most obvious tip is to have a website or blogsite. Once you have one set up, it’s your job to post content to it on a regular basis, no less than once a week, two or three times a week is better though.

Side note: If you're in the market for a website hosting service, I use Bluehost and love them.

It’s that content that will establish you as an expert /authority in your industry or genre. If you're a writer, this will help you down the road, after you’ve traditionally published or self-published one, five, ten, or more books and/or e-books, and you want to expand your writing career.

But, before we go over five of the basics tips for new writers, let’s first go over what SEO actually stands for: Search Engine Optimization. This marketing strategy allows the search engines, such as Google, to find your site and content.

Being aware of these blog tips is essential to having the search engines not only find your site, but to also index your content, and make it available to online searchers.

The Five Tips:

1. Use a keyword in your article title.Things have changed over the past couple of years - it's difficult to find free keyword tools. But, you can always do a Google search and see how your keyword comes up in the search.

A keyword, according to, is “any word or phrase a searcher might use to describe or identify a desired resource on the Internet.”

2. Use that keyword in your article’s subheadings, and be sure to bold or italicize your subheadings.This gives the it more SEO juice.

3. Use that keyword within the content – just don’t overdo it. You don’t want to stuff your article with as many ‘visibility generating’ keywords you can fit in, search engines frown upon this practice. Your article needs to be an informative, engaging, and an understandable read.

You primary focus should be to write for your reader. Keywords should fit naturally into the conversation.

Note: It is advisable to have the keyword with the beginning of the first paragraph.

4. When searching for effective keywords, look for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are words that will move you away from highly competitive keywords.

As an example, if you write business articles, a generic and highly competitive keyword might be ‘incentives.’ This is a broad keyword and will have lots of competition, so it'd be a good idea to avoid it.

That’s where the long-tail keyword comes in.

If you used the keyword ‘business incentive,’ you’d reduce your competition, narrowing your target. Remember, you want to hit as close to your target market bulls-eye as possible.

5. The final bit of advice is to let the social networking sites know you have new content. Post the content link to Twitter, Facebook, GooglePlus, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc. You should also inform your groups. Get the word out. And, be sure to have a SHARE button so visitors can share the post also.

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Using Video for Promotion with Maggie Ball

Author and poet Maggie Ball is on a promotional book tour for her new novel Black Cow and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.

Using Video for Promotion
By Maggie Ball

Video is hot. It's official. In 2011, YouTube had more than 1 trillion views, or almost 140 views for every person on Earth. More video is uploaded to YouTube in one month than the 3 major US networks created in 60 years. Video is a very powerful promotional medium and a fantastic way to connect with readers around the globe. Creating a video can be as complex as making a movie (and indeed it can be a small movie), or as simple as opening your webcam and reading a little from your book. I've done both in the promotions for my new novel Black Cow.

The formal, fancy cinematic video is more of a showcase - it's stylised and designed to promote or focus on the key theme of your book. It's quite powerful but also detached somewhat from the author. This creates a very professional impact, especially, as in my case, you hire a professional to create the video with moving images and a voiceover. You can, of course, create your own cinematic video using products like Windows Movie Maker which usually comes with MS Office using your own recorded voiceover, royalty free stock photos or your own photos, and cinematic effects, but unless you've got a high quality mic and are reasonably tech savvy, the end result may not be of a quality that matches your book. If you do want to make your own, Joanna Penn has a very good primer here: Book Trailers - 11 Steps.

Here's my video, which was created for me, to my instructions, by Accent. The whole thing took less than a week to make and was under $80 including the voiceover. Even if you only take into account the time it takes to make your own (I'd say at least 6 hours work), and not the quality, I think it's a pretty good deal.

Of course book sales today are very much driven by human connection. You want to draw your readers in, not only through the book's theme and plot which you've presented in your professional cinematic video, but also through a sense of trust in you, the author, the brand they're purchasing. The best way to do that is to allow your readers to see you, hear you speak, get a sense of you as a person. To do that is relatively easy -- you just need to use your webcam and video yourself reading a portion of the book. Choose good lighting, take a little care over your appearance, speak clearly and smile often to what you imagine as your supportive audience, and you will almost certainly engage readers.

Personally, I think all books need both. And of course with the reading videos, you don't need to stop at one. You can read from different parts of the book, in different settings and contexts. I'm actually planning a visit to an area near one of the settings in Black Cow later this year and plan to do some more video work on location as it were, which lends context and depth to the fictional setting.

Humans are basically visual creatures. Over a quarter of our brain tissue is dedicated to analysing images. So presenting elements of your story in a visual well is a natural and compelling way to draw readers in, and should be part of any book campaign.

Black Cow is a story relevant to today's desire to become less dependent on all the pressures and materialistic 'things' we're all so burdened with. It's a story we can all relate to. Here's a brief description:

Freya and James Archer live the high life in a luxury home in Sydney’s poshest suburb, with money, matching Jags, two beautiful teenage kids … and they couldn’t be more despondent.
James wakes weeping each morning, dreading the pressures of a long and grueling work day ahead, and 

Freya is struggling with her foundering real estate career.
Global recession is biting in Australia, and the Archers are afraid.
In a desperate bid for happiness and security they shed the fragile trappings of success and cruise over into the slow lane to take an unmapped turn-off on a country road and live off the land in a remote old farmhouse on the peaceful southern island of Tasmania.
But is this an end to their old misery or the beginning of an even greater one?

Magdalena Ball is the author of the newly released Black Cow. 

Be sure to order your copy today.



The Elevator Pitch

Today's guest post is courtesy of The Book Marketing Expert newsletter.

Craft an Exceptional Elevator Pitch
Penny Sanseviere

What is an elevator pitch and why do you need one? An elevator pitch is a short one- to two-sentence description about the book. It's the briefest of the briefest descriptions you can develop. The reason elevator pitches are important is that we have an ever-shrinking attention span, so you need to capture someone's attention in a very short, succinct pitch.

How do you begin crafting an elevator pitch? The first step is to look at the core of your book. What is your book about, really? Looking at the core of your book will help you determine the primary message. The next step is to look at the real benefits to the reader. Not what you think the reader wants to know but what they actually need: What's in it for the reader?

When I worked with people on elevator pitches, I found that they often kept the best sentence for last. This comes from being an author and saving the crescendo of the story until the final chapter. You don't want to do that in an elevator pitch. You want to lead with the tease that will pull the reader in.

When would you use an elevator pitch? You might use it to promote yourself to the media, to book a speaking event, or to pitch a blogger. Elevator pitches can be used for a number of reasons and in a variety of ways. Once you create a great elevator pitch, you may find yourself using it over and over again. That's a good thing!

Components of a great elevator pitch

All elevator pitches have particular relevance to them, but for the most part, every elevator pitch must:

• Have emotional appeal

• Be helpful

• Be insightful

• Be timely

• Matter to your reader!

Essential Elements of a Powerful Elevator Pitch

1. Concise: Your pitch needs to be short, sweet, and to the point.

2. Clear: Save your five-dollar words for another time. For your elevator pitch to be effective, you must use simple language any layperson can understand. If you make someone think about a word, you'll lose them and the effectiveness of your elevator pitch will go right out the window as well.

3. Passion: If you're not passionate about your topic, how can you expect anyone else to be?

4. Visual: Use words that bring visual elements to your reader's mind. It helps to make your message more memorable and brings the reader into your story.

5. Stories: People love stories. It's the biggest element of the elevator pitch: tell the story. I also find that when the pitch is woven into the story, it often helps to create a smoother presentation.
How to Craft Your Killer Elevator Pitch

• Write it down: Start by writing a very short story so you can tell the story of your book in two paragraphs. This will get the juices flowing. As you start to edit your story down from 200,000 words to two paragraphs, you'll start to see why it's important to pull only the most essential elements from your story to craft your elevator pitch.
• Make a list: Write down 10 to 20 things that your book does for the reader. These can be action statements, benefits, or book objectives.
• Record yourself: Next, record yourself and see how you sound. I can almost guarantee that you will not like the first few drafts you try. That actually is a really good thing. If you like the first thing that you write, it probably won't be that effective. Recording yourself will help you listen to what you're saying and figure out how to fine-tune it.
• Rest: I highly recommend that you give yourself enough time to do your elevator pitch. Ideally you want to let it rest overnight, if not longer. Remember the elevator pitch is perhaps the most important thing that you've created in your marketing package. You want to make sure it's right.

Having a prepared "pitch" for your book will help you enormously, whether you are pitching the media, an agent, a publisher, or even a bookstore. Having a short, concise pitch will get and keep someone's attention much faster and also increase your chances for a positive desired outcome. Keep in mind that if your elevator pitch is tied to current events, it might change as events change. A good elevator pitch can be fluid, but it should always be an attention-grabber. In a world cluttered with information and filled with noise, the shorter and more focused you can be, the more exposure you will get for your message!

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.

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Know Your Writing Rights

Today, I have a guest post by publisher Beth Erickson that I know you'll find useful.


Know Your Rights
By Beth Erickson

We traveled all the way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to see him. As we
stood outside the 2,000-seat Riverside Theater, my heart pounded,
knowing I would soon hear him sing; hear him strum his guitar; hear
this man whose lyrics absolutely makes my knees weak.

As my husband and I filed into the theater, I grasped my purse in
anticipation of hearing him sing my favorite song. (By the way, my
beautiful Liz Claiborne clutch bag still has the fingernail marks
to prove my story correct.)

After he came on stage, he began to sing. I waited and waited to
hear my favorites. Finally, another audience member called out the
name of one of the songs. My favorite singer in the world paused
and said the words I'll never forget. He said, "I can't sing that.
I don't own it."

How could he not own it? He wrote it. He recorded it. I listen
to on a regular basis. How could he not be able to sing it today?

Easy. He signed all his rights away.

There are a lot of rights in the publishing community. Here are
some nutshell definitions of some of them:

First serial rights - You've given the publication (or web site)
the rights to be the first to publish your article.

One time rights - The publication may run your article once,
whether they're the first to publish it or if you're selling a

Second serial rights - You've given the publication the right to be
the second publication to publish your article.

Electronic rights - The right to publish your writing

All Rights - This is the bad one. You sell all the rights and walk
away from the piece forever. Unless you buy the rights back.

I'm sure that when this particular singer signed his contracts, he
had a capable agent helping him.

That goes to show that no matter what your agent may say, it's
important (read VERY important) that you personally read every
contract you sign. If you don't understand something, take it to
someone who does.

And it wouldn't hurt to purchase a good writing reference book that
explains the various rights in more detail.

There's nothing worse than hearing about an author who sells their
work outright for a pittance, then is responsible for the bulk of
the promotion for a book they don't even own. In other words, if
you sell all your rights, make sure you get a BIG advance.

Today, my favorite singer has re-purchased his songs (for a lot
more than he sold them for) and is able to sing them again. I hope
you don't find yourself in his situation....

This article is courtesy of Filbert Publishing. Make your writing
sparkle, write killer queries, get published. Subscribe to Writing
Etc., the free e-mag for freelancers and receive the e-book "Power

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Editing the eBook Revolution by Hetty May

Editing the eBook Revolution
by  Hetty May

Writers using the traditional method of seeking a publisher for their book have many people to go through before their book reaches the shelves of the book store (remember them)? Even after the manuscript and a contract signed, the book must still go though editing, revising and proofreading. Alas, one of the complaints about the number of 99 cent eBooks arriving in the market is the lack of professionals services used to make the book marketable and, in some cases, even readable.

Many eBook authors take the simple route and handle the whole process by themselves. Unfortunately, it is becoming easier to spot the self publishers that have used professional services and those who have eliminated the extra costs.

Self publishers will find that literary agents don’t appear to be open to new clients because publishers have limited their client lists to the top successful authors and are not offering advances to new authors following the eBook revolution of the past two years. Why should new authors stress over spending 2-3 years trying to find an agent who will take 15% of their royalties which might only be 10-15% of the book sale price anyway when Kindle and friends offer 70% and you can be in print inside 24 hours?

Services the self publisher might miss

But if you're going the self-publishing route, you may miss out on the following services offered by the big publishing houses.


The proofreader is the fine tuner. She proofs the latest edition of the manuscript. It is so easy to become almost blind to seeing mistakes in a manuscript because you have read it so many times; you fill in the gaps your eyes don’t see. Only a fresh pair of eyes can be truly successful at this task.

The proofreader is the very last person who sees the text before it goes to print. After the proofreader, no-one else gets a chance to change anything.

Copy editor

There are many freelancers who operate this type of business over the internet, but their prices vary considerably. Their role is to seek out mistakes with spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Authors will decide which is their main market because the way, for example, the British and the Americans speak is quite different. The writing must match the market or watch sales fail. Conveniently, movies (or films) have started to amalgamate the two sets of English usage and more British and Americans are used to more of the other’s language conventions.

Copy editors will also fact check to see that Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12th 1809, if that piece of information is quoted. They will also check that words are used with their right meaning. Catching the use of 'there' when 'their' was right, may save later embarrassment.

Copy editors have one of the most difficult tasks as they need to look over the manuscript both line by line and sentence by sentence, without taking any more of the manuscript into account when going piece by piece. Just eliminating one misplaced comma will save grumbles later on from the reader. Mistakes like that give the whole of the eBook self publishing industry a bad name.

Developmental editor

Working through consecutive drafts with the writer, the developmental editor might suggest changing the structure of a manuscript to ensure the readability and accuracy of the document.

Substantive editor

This is the editor the writer may loathe, but in the long term, love after successful sales. This editor helps to improve the writing by looking at the story elements, the plot, the characters, the way in which the characters speak. This editor might also make suggestions – giving notes – that may suggest a change of the order of the scenes, the settings and the overall pace of the author’s work.

Essentially the substantive editor is looking to help make the book a better read and therefore, better to sell after many Amazon five star reviews.

Most writers will know that the real writing only begins after the first draft is complete. Some writers will edit as they go along, chapter by chapter, but essentially you can only look over an entire project and decide how to improve it after it is complete.

It’s worth thinking what you can afford to spend to improve your book, but using the services of at least a copy editor will go a long way to improving your masterpiece.
When Hetty May first started her writing career, the notion of eBooks and Amazon was just a glimmer on the horizon. These days, she is an amateur interior designer and professional freelancer.



The Rhythm of Freelance Writing

In a recent newsletter (sign-up at the right sidebar), I mentioned about the rhythm of freelance writing.

You have some work, you don't have any work. You have so much work you need to subcontract some of it out.

 This can be the nature of freelancing.

Preparing for a recent project, I cleared my calendar for the month and learned a valuable lesson. When you focus on a project, task, article, or whatever, you can accomplish more than if you dabble here and there in your social networks, emails, and so on.

I actually felt free, not having to touch base with my groups, not having to  promote on the social networks, not having to read all my emails. It was liberating and a time freeing sensation, even though I was hard at work on a ghosting job.

I did though, in preparation for clearing my calendar, write a two articles, prepost my Twitter posts for the month, preposted my blog post for here and my guest posts, and preposted my newsletter emails, all at the very beginning of the month. I think it took me two days to do all this, but the rest of the month I was relatively free, aside from my work.

But, now that I'm not so pressed for time, I'm not sure I'd do all that preposting again unless it's absolutely needed.

It's always a good idea to keep specific days for specific projects. This seems to be the best strategy. Pick one day a week for preposting your blogposts, guest posts, tweets, and so on. And, for time spent on social networks and reading informative emails and posts, set a timer for at most one hour a day. Use the rest of your day to be productive.

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Content Marketing - Blog Posts, Keywords, Anchor Text, Tags, and Website Statistics Part2

Last week I posted Part1 on this topic. It talked about website traffic statistics in regard to two of my sites. Today, we go into the rest of the 'blog posting' promotional elements: anchor text, tags, and promotion.

Blog Posting, Keywords, Anchor Text, Tags, and Website Statistics Part2

Anchor Text

Another interesting fact in regard to the statistics’ referring sites is that the KCWM site itself is listed as a source. This is accomplished by creating anchor text within the post content and/or at the bottom of the post as “Additional articles to read.” The anchor text leads the reader to another page/post within your site.

According to Wikipedia, “anchor text is weighted (ranked) highly in the search engine algorithms, because the linked text is usually relevant to the landing page.”

Is there a difference between an anchor text leading to another post and simply putting the url itself? YES.

Anchor text allows search engines to easily find and index your content and they value this strategy, the url address doesn’t have the same ‘word power.’ Wikipedia says, “The objective of search engines is to provide highly relevant search results; this is where anchor text helps.” This is part of SEO.

Blog Tags

Next on my ‘to do’ list when posting an article on my site is to put relevant tags.

In the article “Using Categories and Tags Effectively on Your Blog” on, it explains that tags should be thought of “as the colorful little page markers you might use to flick back to your favorite pages in a book. The tags don’t describe the book as a whole, instead they describe individual sections of the book.”

Two important 'tags' factors to consider:

•    Tags complement categories. If you use Wordpress you’ll be able to and should use categories. Blogger does not offer this feature, so it’s even more important to use tags.

•    Tags should be focused and use the same ones for each specific topic. This means if you are writing about book marketing, use one specific tag: book marketing. Don’t switch it up with ‘book promotion’ or ‘marketing.’ Be consistent because it is this consistency that search engines will use to index your site and establish you as an authority on that keyword. This means a higher ranking in the search engines.

Going into this a bit further, when writing on the topic of writing, whether it’s on characterization, setting, or plot, you should always include the keyword ‘writing’ or ‘writing advice,’ or other relevant writing keyword you use consistently. You can also include the more specific keywords, like ‘setting’, ‘writing goals,’ or whatever the content warrants to give more indexing information, but it’s important to use your main ‘writing’ tag for all your posts on writing.

Promote your Blog Posts

If you want to enhance your visibility, you need to SHARE each article/post. Wordpress and Blogger both have plugins or gadgets to provide easy ‘sharing’  to Facebook, GooglePlus, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, and Linkedin. Make use of the ‘sharing’ feature.

Then of course there are your other social networks, your groups. Don’t forget to post a message in your groups letting them know you have a new post up.

Use these three blog posting elements for each of your posts and your traffic/views are sure to increase.

If you haven't read Part 1 yet click here:
Blog Posting, Keywords, Anchor Text, Tags, and Website Statistics Part1


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P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please share it!


6 Tips to Make the Most Out of Writing Workshops Part3

Today is Part 3 of Suzanne Lieurance's article explaining simple ways to get the most out of writing workshops, classes, and the same techniques hold true for webinars also. She sure knows her writing stuff.

This final part of the article gives you some insights into how some other successful children's writers prepare for and take advantage of writing workshops, and other writing instruction events.

Six Simple Ways to Make the Most of Any Writing Workshop or Writing Class Part3
By Suzanne Lieurance

These successful children’s writers offer additional tips:

Cynthia Leitich Smith, award-winning author of JINGLE DANCER (Morrow, 2000)(ages 4-up), RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (Harper, 2001)(Listening Library, 2001)(ages 10-up), and INDIAN SHOES (Harper, 2002)(ages 7-up), and other works, says:

“Be brave. Participate. Put yourself out there. Don’t defend or explain away your work. Don’t think of the other students as competition. And don’t worry if you’re not ‘the star.’ Your focus should be on improving your craft–period.”

Pat McCarthy, an Instructor with the Institute of Children’s Literature, and author of 5 YA biographies and 5 nonfiction books for children suggests:

“Don’t write something different from what is assigned because you like to do it your way. Do use the manuscript format – double spaced, etc.”

Susan Wright, another instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature, and author of the DEAD END ROAD MYSTERIES (for ages 10 & up) advises:

“Pay attention when others’ work is being read and critiqued–it’s not just common courtesy, but we can often learn a lot from it. Resist the temptation to go off on personal conversational tangents until after the session. Workshop or class time is limited and valuable.”

L.D. Harkrader, author of 9 nonfiction books for children, and the middle grade novel, AIRBALL: MY LIFE IN BRIEFS (published by Roaring Book Press) says:

“When your instructor makes suggestions on how to improve your stories, don’t be afraid to revise, and don’t trick yourself into thinking revision is merely cosmetic work–a word or comma changed here or there. Consider what your instructor has suggested, give your stories a hard, honest look, then dig into your revision, ruthlessly cutting or changing anything that doesn’t work. Your stories deserve to be as strong and as publishable as possible, and the only way you can achieve that is to be brave and do the work.”

Okay. So now that you know how to make the most of that writing workshop or writing class you just signed up for – go get ready for it. And have a great time!

See you in print!

Suzanne Lieurance is an award-winning author and an experienced writing coach. Her club, The Working Writers Club, helps writers go from writing for a hobby or part time to writing as a career. Whether you are writing books or freelance writing, she has the know-how and motivational skills to help you move forward. Check it out at: