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Six Ways to Make Your Book A Reality This Year

By Gail Z. Martin

So you want to write a book?  Congratulations.  Now it’s up to you to bridge the gap between “wanting” and “doing.”

The hardest part of writing a book is making the commitment to set aside the time to do what needs to be done.  That’s not just the writing; it’s also making sure that it’s proof read and as well-edited as possible.  If you decide to go the traditional publishing route, you’ll need to research and pitch your proposal to agents, and once you sign on with an agent, he/she will then pitch your proposal to publishers.  It can be a lengthy process.

If you decide to self-publish, you’ll need to format the book properly, determine things like cover art, and decide whether you’re going to do a paper book print-on-demand or just create an e-book (and handle the conversion, either or both ways).  There will be plenty of research and decisions involved.  And once your book is complete, you’ll need to plan for promotion, even if you have a traditional publisher.  Writing the book is only the beginning!

Still want to do it?  Good.  Here are six things you’ll need to do to make your book a reality this year:

  • Set aside time each week to write, and set a weekly goal of how many pages you want to write.  You may not always reach your goal (or you may even exceed it sometimes), but the goal keeps you on track.  You can always do more, but try not to do less.
  • Start researching now.  Start learning about what agents and editors do, what types of ebook formats are out there, how print-on-demand works and who the major players are.
  • Think about how the book fits into your business, and whether you’re willing to change your business model to take full advantage of the book (for example, adding speaking engagements to your calendar, making time to create and send press releases, write articles, be a guest blogger or pitch yourself as a radio guest.
  • Make connections with other authors and ask plenty of questions to see how they got published, what they would do over, and what they’ve learned the hard way.
  • Consider using a “book shepherd”, someone knowledgeable about the publishing industry who can help you finalize your book, determine your publishing options, and even pitch it to agents if that’s the route you want to go.
  • Take a hard look at the time and effort you’re willing to put into this project, as well as the money you can invest.  The price of book publishing has come way down with print-on-demand and ebooks, but it still requires some investment to hire a book shepherd, get an editor (if you self-publish or need help with the fine points of grammar and punctuation), format your book and create a cover (if you self-publish), and promote your book.

Writing a book is a fantastic step toward achieving your dreams, promoting your business and exploring your creativity.  Make this the year that you make your dream come true!

“Like” my Thrifty Author page on Facebook and enter for a chance to win a prize package of author resources: The Thrifty Author – https://on.fb.me/srVa13

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First, Show Me the Money

By Gail Z. Martin

Before you commit to any shopping cart program, think about what you need from your cart. How will you accept payment?

First, determine whether your volume of transactions justifies having a merchant account. A merchant account enables you to take credit cards directly over the Web. Without a merchant account or an intermediary service, you won’t be able to do business over the Internet, since you can’t accept cash or checks.

You can create a merchant account through your bank or though one of the many services that specialize in credit card sales. Merchant accounts usually enable subscribers to rent/purchase a wireless credit card reader. This makes it possible for you to accept credit cards during in- person events as well as through your online shopping cart. On the down side, traditional merchant accounts are expensive, charging a monthly fee and a per-transaction surcharge that may exceed the sales of a beginning retailer.

Square is an alternative to the traditional merchant account. Square is free to join (www.Squareup.com). As of the writing of this book, the Square credit card reader is also free. Square provides a small card reader that’s the size of a postage stamp with a plug to connect to a smart phone through the headphones jack. The Square app can be downloaded for free from iTunes or from the Square Web site. Instead of a monthly fee, Square charges a low per-transaction fee. It also provides the ability to accept a credit card number without swiping the card through the card reader. Square charges a slightly higher per-transaction fee for cards that are keyed in instead of swiped through. Square provides a very viable alternative for companies that have a relatively low transaction volume or that may not use a card reader every month. It’s easy to use, secure, and at the time of this writing, works anywhere within the continental U.S. (Square says they are working to make Canadian and other international transactions available soon.) To use Square, the merchant have either a smart phone or a tablet PC (like an iPad) and have access to secure WiFi.

If you are new to online commerce, you may want to begin with PayPal. PayPal is an online service that allows you to accept credit card payments without requiring you to have a merchant account. Instead, PayPal creates a buffer between the merchant and the buyer, safeguarding the purchaser’s card information. The buyer creates an account that stores his/her card information. Using the PayPal interface, a buyer can purchase by using the email address linked to the account.

However, buyers can only pay with PayPal if the merchant is also signed up with the service. And, merchants can only get paid if their intended buyer is a PayPal user. It is also possible for a PayPal user to pay directly from a bank account, and payments can be direct deposited into the merchant’s bank account. PayPal is free to buyers but charges a transaction fee for sellers.

(Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin)

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The Wisdom of Crowds—WWW Style

By Gail Z. Martin

Foursquare is an intensely local social media application that makes going about your business or going out for the evening a shared experience treasure hunt. Foursquare users use the site and text messaging to share their current location as they patronize businesses, retailers, entertainment venues. They can become the “mayor” of frequently-visited sites, and can gather their friends to join them on a spur-of-the-moment basis. Foursquare rewards users who are out and about in their local area—and the local companies they frequent benefit as well.

Groupon subscribers can sign up to get special online deals from local businesses. Subscribers indicate their local area and their willingness to receive emails and social media alerts to short-lived discounts from local merchants. Companies sign up to provide limited-time special deals that are only available via Groupon. In some cases, deals are only available if a specified number of people show up to claim it. Groupon makes bargain hunting fun and social while retaining an intensely local flair.

LivingSocial is another site that offers a daily deal from local businesses with up to 90% off the regular price. Once a subscriber buys the daily deal, he/she has the opportunity to forward the deal to friends, and if one of those friends also buys, the original customer gets the deal item for free. It’s a fun way to publicize specials while encouraging customers to tell their friends about your company.

Yelp, Local.com and Citysearch are other sites that capitalize on the concept of “local.”  Not only can they help others to find your company more easily (both online and in person), many of these new locally-oriented sites also encourage customers to rate their recent experience.  Don’t let that scare you off.  If you provide good service and a good product, you have reason to expect most of your ratings to be positive.  Those that aren’t positive provide valuable feedback for you to make improvements, and a highly visible arena in which to demonstrate your great customer service to woo back a less-than-thrilled former customer.

Your neighbors, customers and prospects are online, and they respond to businesses that reach them where they spend their time. Customers also like getting relevant messages and discounts when they’re on the move. Create your own highly local online PR and marketing strategy and reap the benefits!

(Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin)

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Social Media Becomes a Local Resource

By Gail Z. Martin

Google AdWords offers specialized services to target customers within a 20-mile radius from your business. AdWords permits you to add or exclude areas, and can integrate your targeted AdWords campaign with text messaging.

Facebook can serve as a showcase for your community activity. When you host an event that benefits a local charity or sponsor a local sporting team, promote before, during and after the event with updates, photos, Web video and testimonials. Encourage attendees to become part of an ongoing conversation. Many companies successfully use their Facebook page as an instantly updateable second Web site to let their community know what’s going on and to share information and updates.

Twitter has been used by local charities to mobilize volunteers for projects or to alert donors to immediate needs. Animal rescue groups and humane societies have used Twitter to match shelter animals with new homes. Schools have demonstrated Twitter’s ability to alert parents to unplanned closings or to request badly needed supplies or last-minute parent volunteers. Businesses tweet about their upcoming live entertainment, dinner specials, or daily discounts.

Twitter can also help you promote upcoming local events, share photos and video via links, and give your online press releases a broader readership as you tweet news and provide links to coverage you’ve received in local online publications. Your blog can also be an effective part of your online marketing program by sharing the story behind your achievements or by providing deeper insight into what’s happening with your business, which deals and events are coming up, or the news of your industry as it impacts local customers.

(Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin)

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The World Wide Web is Also Local

By Gail Z. Martin

You can also use online PR and marketing to cultivate a local audience by making sure that the content you post has a very local focus. Make your blog, Web site and social media pages the go-to location for your friends, neighbors and customers to see local news first. Create contests that encourage your neighbors and local patrons to send in photos of themselves, their kids or their pets. You can bet that when their photo is posted they’ll shoot off an email to several hundred of their social media contacts and drive traffic to your site.

Capitalize on the local angle of your social media pages, blog and Web site by running your own online banner ads to highlight your company, products and services. Use Facebook ads that target readers within a geographic area or with locally-focused keywords. Don’t overlook paid advertising in online publications to reach local readers. Realize that you’re also reaching consumers at their laptops and on the go as they read the publication—and see your ad—via mobile devices.

Mobile advertising is a growing element of online marketing. Many local companies have gone from asking customers for their email address to asking for their mobile phone number—and permission to send coupons, event news and updates via text messages. This can work especially well for entertainment providers, such as nightclubs and theaters, that benefit from customers making a spur-of-the-moment decision on what to do and where to go based on mobile advertising. Likewise, letting your customers know about a special deal, an online-only coupon or a newly available hard-to-get product via text message can result in sales you’d otherwise miss. Sites like AdMob and MakeMeSocial specialize in helping companies add text messaging to their online marketing mix.

(Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin)

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The Local Side of the World Wide Web

By Gail Z. Martin

So much as been made of the opportunities opened up by the Internet for companies to deal globally (or at least, outside their local market) that many companies don’t realize that the Web has a local side as well.

Your neighbors and customers, as well as prospects in your geographic area, go online as part of their everyday routines. They read online newspapers and magazines, search for information with Google, shop from online retail and wholesale stores, and download books, music and software. If your business isn’t part of the range of information they see when they go online, you’re missing out on sales.

Some business owners feel that by having a Web site they’ve done what’s necessary to attract their online neighbors. But most Web sites are fairly static. Few businesses update their Web sites with the frequency with which social media sites, online newspapers and magazines or blogs add new information. Internet search engines favor recency and relevancy. That means that information bubbles to the top of search results when it is very closely related to the search term (thanks to keywords) and recently posted. The twin factors of recency and relevancy often work against Web sites because most sites don’t change frequently enough.

Here’s where online PR and marketing can play a huge role in assuring that your business gets it share of attention from local customers.

Online PR about the local activities your company sponsors can help your business connect better with local customers. Does your company host special events such as educational seminars, workshops, or grand openings? Do you participate in community programs, such as sponsoring Little League or holding a charity food drive? Do you offer daily or weekly specials or have live entertainment? If so, these are all very locally-focused reasons to post online PR.

Many companies send press releases to their local offline newspaper or to local paper magazines. True, some of these publications also have online related sites and some of those local press releases may find their way onto the Internet. But many companies forget to target their news to online-only local publications, which means they are missing out in two ways: they miss readers of the online publication and they fail to derive benefit from the search engine hits on their name/topic.

(Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin)

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Go Where Your Customers are Already Getting Their News

By Gail Z. Martin

If you haven’t already surveyed your best customers to see what they are reading, watching and listening to, now is the time!  Online survey tools are easy to use and inexpensive. If you use Constant Contact for your email newsletters, look into their survey tool to include a survey in your newsletter. Or, try out sites like SurveyMonkey.com that provide basic survey capabilities for free.

When you target your PR to the sites and publications your best customers are already reading, you create several important advantages for your PR campaign. First, you remove the clutter of sending releases to a huge mailing list of publications that are largely not interested in your news. You can invest your time better elsewhere. Next, by shrinking the number of media outlets you’re targeting, you can invest the time to get to know which reporters are covering subjects relevant to your news, so that your pitches can be pitch-perfect. Finally, and very importantly, these niche publications have already won the trust and loyalty of your best customers. They have become trusted advisors. When your news and announcements appear in these niche publications, readers are likely to accept it as a referral from a friend.

It’s useful to have an idea of the nationwide size of your total target audience. Do they number in the millions (for example, small business owners or participants in multi-level marketing programs), or in the thousands (yacht owners, shipwreck enthusiasts, etc.)? Don’t stop with a broad catch-all category like “small business owners.” In the U.S., a company is officially a “small business” up to 500 employees. Is your target audience a “big” small business or a “small” small business?

You’ll have the best results if you can get specific. For example, do you specialize in helping start-up companies, specifically those that have been in business less than three years and have sales under $1 million? Or do you only prefer to work with companies that have been in business for over 10 years and need to address issues with succession planning and mature markets? All “small business” is not alike. Don’t be afraid to start with a fairly tight definition of your ideal customer. Once you successfully reach that narrow audience, you’ll become attractive to broader audiences.

Having a fairly accurate idea of the size of your total target audience will help you target your online PR and marketing. If you know, for example, that there are 500,000 potential customers for your service, then a publication, Web site or blog that reaches 50,000 people is reaching ten percent of the total market, making it a potentially valuable outlet for your news. Without the knowledge of your total market, you might have been tempted to bypass a site that didn’t have a readership in the millions (that old mass market mindset again).

You can use sites like Alexa.com to gauge traffic on the Web sites, blogs, podcasts and other online sites that you are considering for your PR outreach. Tools like Alexa.com can help you find the sites with the most traffic, meaning that getting a news item picked up by those sites is likely to put you in front of a large number of people who are ideal prospects. It can also help you gauge how many people are seeing your release on the sites where it’s been posted online, and give you ideas of new sites to target with future releases that you might not have otherwise discovered.

Realize that even among sites that reach your ideal audience, size isn’t the only thing that matters. Some smaller publications are read by people who are “influencers”—trend setters, authors, reporters and others whose opinions carry a lot of weight. These sites may have a smaller audience, but the audience’s importance is larger than its size. Likewise, a new site might not yet have a big following, but you might be able to establish a relationship with the blogger or site owner very easily during the online publication’s early days, so that you’re a trusted news source when the site gains popularity. Realize that some small sites have a very dedicated following who are true insiders within your niche audience. When your news reaches them through a site they trust, these insiders are in a position to help you grow by inviting you to speak, purchasing your product in bulk or recommending them to their own membership. Smaller sites can be extremely influential, so don’t overlook them as you build your media list.

With the continual evolution of services available via mobile phone and the advent of “smart phones” with Web and data capabilities, a growing number of consumers are reading their email and surfing the Web through their phones. In the same way that permission-based email marketing revolutionized promotion in the 1990s and early 2000s, mobile phone text marketing is poised to reshape niche market promotion in the years to come.

If your message is timely and your target audience would consider it to be very important, text messaging may be a valuable tool for you. For example, restaurants and night spots can text a message to their loyal customers about dining or drink specials or nightly entertainment. Customers who make purchases on a predictable schedule might be happy to find a discount coupon in their text inbox timed for their normal purchasing habits. Sites like MakeMeSocial.net and other providers help businesses create and manage mobile phone text campaigns. Text message marketing is here to stay, so file it away as a “maybe” for your future promotional needs.

(Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin) . Coming in November from Career Press and available for pre-order now on Amazon!

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