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Tuesday
Dec092014

Style Your Writing For Your Target Market

You know you are a good writer. You write and edit and proof and edit again and then proudly post your words. But you aren't getting the response you expected. Why don't people see how brilliant you are? Why don't you get people flocking to your site/blog/products/services? Most likely it is because, despite how brilliant your words are, you are not talking in your target market's language so that they can understand.

We all talk a certain way and we all write a certain way. But if you are writing non-fiction for your business, unless you use words that your target market (the people you are trying to reach) will understand, your words are going to be wasted because the people you are writing for will not get it. Your words will not connect with them and so they won't see how you can help. It's not in their language.

Think of traveling. You are in a foreign country and you try to communicate with the population in your own language. They may get the sense of what you are saying, but they won't understand the underlying concepts. They won't take the time to figure out what it is that you are really tying to say. They won't really connect with you. Your target market is the same way.

Most of the time your target market will not be as smart as you in your area of expertise. That's why you are the expert and why they need you. But they don't want to hear all those big words/concepts that you throw around as the expert. They don't want perfect sentences. They want to know how you are going to help them. They want something that makes sense TO THEM!! So, you need to write in words that they will understand. You don't need to change your ideas. Keep the exact same content, but make it an easier read. This has absolutely nothing to do with content- just writing style.

Remember, you are inviting them to work with you or buy your services. You are not trying to get a passing grade on a thesis. If they don't understand what you want them to do because you are speaking a language that they don't understand, then they will never become your clients. Be very clear on who your target market is, then listen to their language. Find out who they are, how they 'talk'. Then talk to them so they can hear. You are likely to find you will get far more responses if you just listen and style your writing for your target market.

Candace Davenport is a Writing Mentor and Publishing Consultant for Our Little Books. For those of you who would like to work with her 1 on 1 on how to work with writing for your target market, or would like to explore how you can publish with Our Little Books, please contact her for a free consultation. For those interested in getting started writing, the next one-day Writer's Workshop will be on 1/24/15 in Alameda, CA.

Wednesday
Dec032014

How Can Copyright Protect Your Work?

We are very pleased to offer the second of a 2 part blog post from Barbara Ingrassia, Copyright Manager extraordinaire, for Our Little Books Guest Post Wednesday. The first part dealt with what you can do with other peoples' work and this second part is devoted to how you can protect your own work. Remember, knowledge is power!

In the previous post, I discussed how you can comply with copyright law as a consumer of 3rd party copyrighted works.  In this post, I’ll discuss how you as a CREATOR can protect your original creative work.

Imagine, you’ve put your time and energy into this new work. You’ve cleared the rights for 3rd party works, as appropriate, and provided attribution for quotations, ideas, etc. You CREATED a new work. Now, how do you protect your investment?

First of all, you have to understand that copyright does not protect ideas, but the expression of original, creative ideas. So, at the moment an original creative work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression (i.e., down on paper), it is protected by copyright (including print, audio, video, digital).

While it is not required that you include a copyright notice (© Year. Name. All Rights Reserved) in order to establish copyright, I highly recommend that you do. Place it on the title page, home page, at the end of a post, on the label, meaning in a conspicuous location. This is a very simple step, but very important. Why? It signals users that:

  1. the work is copyright-protected
  2. when it was copyrighted
  3. who is the copyright owner, and
  4. what rights are available to the user

Then there is no excuse for a user to claim that they didn’t know that the work was copyrighted. You might also include your contact information (typically email address) to make it easy for users to request permission to use the work.

Consider taking an additional step to increase the protection: register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Again, it’s not required, but there are advantages:

  1. Establishes a public record (searchable online)
  2. Allows the filing of an infringement suit
  3. Makes statutory damages and attorney’s fees available to the copyright owner, and
  4. Allows registration with the U.S. Customs Service to protect against the importation of unauthorized copies. 

It is not expensive to register and you can complete the forms online. There are very helpful tutorials and FAQs to help you complete the forms; in most cases you do not need an attorney to complete the submission process. To register a work go to: http://copyright.gov/ The date your file is complete will be the effective date of the copyright, if granted. Understand that the Copyright Office will not monitor use of your content; that is your responsibility. Search the Internet regularly for use of key, unique phrases from your work, as well as your name.

In the past, many authors have (sometimes unknowingly) transferred all of their rights to another party—usually a publisher. If you are working with a publisher, think about what uses you would like to make of your work, and negotiate to retain those rights. A signed license/transfer agreement trumps copyright law. In your excitement to be published, don’t simply sign the form presented to you. Today, thanks in part to the rise of self-publishing on the Internet, many authors are able to retain their copyrights. (Note from Our Little Books: we support our authors and never take their copyright. Listen to Barbara's advice...check your agreements before signing!)

One last point: when you are planning a joint project, create and sign a written agreement clarifying who will own the copyright. This is particularly important if volunteers, interns, contractors (illustrators, photographers, graphic artists, etc.), or employers may be involved. Don’t just assume that you will own the original creative work of others who contribute to the project. Yes, copyright in the digital age can seem complicated and murky, but you can learn to manage copyright so it doesn’t manage you.

Barbara Ingrassia is a Certified Copyright Manager who provides one-on-one consultations, workshops, and seminars on all issues copyright. To engage Barbara for an audit of your website for copyright issues or for more information about copyright, request the free 16 Page report 10 Biggest Copyright Mistakes Small Business Owners Make AND How to Avoid Them! by sending an email to barb@managecopyright.com with the subject line CREPORT. Manage copyright. Don’t let it manage You!℠

(Information provided here should not be construed as legal advice.)

The content of this post is © 2014 Barbara C. Ingrassia All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday
Nov262014

Why Do I Have to be Concerned with Copyright?

We are very pleased to offer a 2 part blog post from Barbara Ingrassia, Copyright Manager extraordinaire, for Our Little Books Guest Post Wednesday. You may think Copyright is a boring subject, but it is a subject that can be VERY expensive for you in today's copy and paste digital world and one where ignorance will be no excuse. This first part will deal with what you can do with other peoples' work and the second part will be devoted to how you can protect your own work. You need to be aware!

One aspect of writing that can be confusing or overlooked is the role of copyright in all that material floating around in the cyberworld. The Internet has opened access to so many wonderful resources that it becomes so easy to search/copy/paste/send without considering that someone probably owns the rights to that content. However, using 3rd party content without permission from its rightful owner can result in expensive litigation, huge monetary damage awards, and a compromised reputation. Unfortunately, copyright law (the right to make a copy) is complex and often confusing; there are no easy answers. Every proposed use is “unique” and dependent on the facts and details of the situation. “IT DEPENDS” is the safest fast answer when you use someone's work. Here are some guidelines for wading through the gray murky ooze that is copyright in the digital age.

The easiest thought for you to have when you want to repost or use someone else's work is to assume that content is copyright-protected until you can determine otherwise. Copyright protection applies to “original creative content at the moment it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” including documents, articles, books, white papers, letters, websites, blogposts, email messages, inter-office memos, social media posts, photos, charts, illustrations, cartoons, musical and dramatic compositions, recorded audio, video and even notes scrawled on a paper napkin. Once something is created onto something (i.e., not verbal), it becomes the author's copyright.

We are taught to look for a notice of copyright, typically a © with a date, name, and All Rights Reserved after something written. However, since 1989 in the U.S., a notice of copyright (that © you see) is not required to establish copyright, so its absence is not a reliable indication of a work’s status. So, if you don't see that ©, it does not automatically mean you can use content without permission. In fact, the rules of copyright in the U.S. have varied so much over the past 200 years that a chart has been developed to try to sort it all out: http://librarycopyright.net/resources/digitalslider or http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/docs/copyright2014.pdf

How about on the internet, out there in cyberspace? Content is so easily accessible, therefore it must be free to use, and how would anyone know if you used something anyway? Unfortunately, that mindset is the easiest way to get yourself in trouble. Being on the internet does not change the copyright rules. If you see something written, recorded, or played whether or not it is on the internet or printed in a book, if the content would be copyrighted in the print/analog world, it is copyrighted in the online/digital world. Just because you CAN copy and paste, doesn’t mean you should.

Plagiarism and copyright infringement are easily confused—and not mutually exclusive. Providing attribution (listing where the quote came from) to the source of 3rd party content is essential, but it is not the same as “permission to use.” IT DEPENDS…on the Who, What, When, Where, Why of a proposed use. Providing attribution protects you from charges of plagiarism (theft), but the specifics of the use can still be copyright infringement. Regardless of the copyright status, lack of attribution is plagiarism. You want to guard against both.

There are some exceptions. For example, content created by employees of the U.S. government in the course of their employment responsibilities are in the public domain—not protected by copyright. These can be great sources of content. While content on a .gov website is in the public domain, some content may have been licensed by the government for inclusion on a .gov site. Once again, don’t assume; look for “terms and conditions of use.” These days, .gov sites are pretty good about indicating if some content on a site is not in the public domain. (Note: this applies only to works of the U.S. government; it does not include all works of state and municipal governments. Once again, IT DEPENDS!)

There is also a third copyright area. Between being © and being in the Public Domain, are works that have been licensed by the copyright owner under a Creative Commons license. The copyright owner (frequently the author of the work) designates that under specific conditions, a prospective user does not have to seek permission to use the content. Types of content available may include images, music, video, or media. However, in all cases, proper attribution must be given. SEE: http://Search.creativecommons.org

But there is good news. You CAN manage copyright so it doesn’t manage you. To learn more about what is and is not protected by copyright, see Copyright Basics—a circular from the U. S. Copyright Office http://copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf. However, the best rule of thumb: if in doubt - check it out, link to it, carefully summarize it in your own words, use bullets, seek permission from the copyright owner, or use something else.

Stay tuned for next week's post where I will discuss how you can protect your own content!

Barbara Ingrassia is a Certified Copyright Manager who provides one-on-one consultations, workshops, and seminars on all issues copyright. To engage Barbara for an audit of your website for copyright issues or for more information about copyright, request the free 16 Page report 10 Biggest Copyright Mistakes Small Business Owners Make AND How to Avoid Them! by sending an email to barb@managecopyright.com with the subject line CREPORT. Manage copyright. Don’t let it manage You!℠

The content of this post is © 2014 Barbara C. Ingrassia All Rights Reserved.

Saturday
Nov222014

Why Your First Draft Does Not Have To Be Perfect

So many of the authors I work with tell me how hard it is to get their words down on paper; that their first draft is never how they imagine it in their heads; that they spend an inordinate amount of time on just one paragraph; that it is just not good enough! They work in fits and starts, never getting to where they think they should be. Sound familiar?

I almost always respond to these complaints with one of my most favorite quotes:

FIRST DRAFTS DON'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT. THEY JUST HAVE TO BE WRITTEN!

As far as I'm concerned, perfectionism and self-doubt is deadly for writers. It doesn't mean that you can't go back and change a word here and there, or when you've gotten down a chapter or section going back and working on that. But if that changing or seeking that absolute perfect word gets in your way of plowing through your first draft, then you may have a problem as you will over-think and never be happy with your words on the paper and so nothing will ever move forward to a completed draft. Unfortunately, for some, they spend as much time fighting against perfectionism and self-doubt as they spend in actual writing time.

Why do people believe that what they put down the first time needs to be perfect? I think it is probably a combination of several things- usually all stemming from the self-doubt rattling around in their head. The inner head critic starts telling you that “your plot is stupid or doesn't make sense” or “everyone already knows all the stuff you are writing so why bother as no one will want to read what you write” or “people are going to laugh at your writing” or “ that you are stupid or can't write”. What happens as these thoughts rattle around is that they will impede the flow of your writing. “But if I just can spend time fixing that word, or changing that, then people will think I'm brilliant...” Unfortunately, the result is that you will be brilliant, but only in your own head because you will never get anything out there for others to read so no one can tell you you aren't brilliant!

Remember, you will probably revise something smaller like a blog post 3-4 times before posting it. For larger pieces such as short stories or books, you may revise many more times before you even hand it off to an editor. Writing through your perfectionism and overthinking is not easy but it is something you need to do on your first draft. I will tell my authors to turn off the computer screen when they are writing until they have finished writing for the session. This will focus them on just getting it down and they won't get hung up on going back and re-reading and second guessing while they are getting words down on paper. Okay, reality check here... how many of you just said, “I couldn't do that and not see what I've written!” Well, try it. It will help in breaking the habit of constantly second guessing yourself on your writing.

When you stop spending so much time on your word choice or imperfections of your writing in your first draft, you will leave yourself much more time to actually write. Remember and focus on the end result of sharing your story/truth with others and trust that it will get there at its own time. (That's why you're writing, remember?) But you can't move forward until that first draft is written. It doesn't have to be perfect. That's why God made editors! You need to just get it down on paper.

For those interested in getting started writing, my next one-day Writer's Workshop will be on 1/24/15 in Alameda, CA. In the alternative, for those of you who would like to work with me 1 on 1 on getting down your first draft or your story out of your head onto paper, or would like to explore how you can publish with Our Little Books, please contact me for a free consultation.

Wednesday
Nov052014

Worry. A Waste of Time or Will Things Always Work Out?

As a small child, usually because most of our needs are being cared for, we tend not to worry about anything or even understand the concept of worrying. However, eventually as we reach a certain age, we see those around us worrying so we learn the concept of worrying and begin to worry ourselves. The age that worry enters our life will differ depending on our environment, but luckily, worrying is not hereditary (there is no worry gene), but rather a learned behavior. As a learned behavior, we have control over it and can unlearn it!

When I was very young, I came to the conclusion that the time I spent on worrying was essentially a waste of time because it seemed 99.999999% of the time, what I was worrying about never came into being. So, I essentially stopped worrying. I know I am in a very small percentage of people who don't worry (and I know, it can't be helped sometimes and I will occasionally worry), but I think not worrying has been a positive in my life rather than a detriment. As a result, I believe I have more time than most people to reflect on and enjoy the present as it is happening.

For me, the past is the past. You can't do anything about the past. You can certainly learn lessons and use those lessons, but you can't change it, no matter how much you may want to. The future is the future. It is something that may happen. You can have fun planning and enjoying the anticipation of what may happen, but there are things that can happen beyond your control that can and will change the future. Since the future is not set in stone, it is something to look forward to, but not necessarily count on. So worrying what MAY happen is really just a waste of time.

Worrying can take many forms - from totally locking up your life and shutting you in a box controlled by the worrying, to just being prepared and bringing an umbrella because the forecast is for rain. It can include worrying about what others think about us to worrying about the impending Zombie Apocalypse. But in all cases, we actually have control over our worries. When we are not careful, the worries can lead to anxiety and numerous physical and psychological issues.

Writers tend to worry a lot! They worry about if they are good enough to write their book. They worry about nobody liking what they write; judging them on their content; making a fool of themselves; or not being perfect. What I stress with my authors and writers I work with as a writing coach is that all those worries are totally out of their control. What is in their control is their book. They need to focus on their writing and their book rather than worrying about others' uncontrollable reactions to it.

There is no way writers can guarantee that people will like their book. The ones that like it will be the ones that the authors would want to work with in any case. Those that don't like a book are probably not their target market anyway. How many times have you picked up a book that your best friend tells you is the best book in the world, and after 25 pages you can't read any more because it just doesn't resonate with you. So worrying about whether or not someone likes it is really just a waste of time. I'd rather have my writers focus on writing well, getting down their message and telling their story.

Writers need to write because of the journey, not what others think. Of course the journey should produce a great product which an author can be really proud of, but worry will definitely get in the way of the writing process. Yes, not worrying is easier said than done, but take it a step at a time. Every time you start worrying if you are good enough to be a writer, STOP and recognize the worry. Then put it aside and say, "who cares what others think about my writing!!" You will probably find yourself stopping a whole lot to begin with, but once you get into the 'who cares' mode and realize you are writing for yourself and your journey, the worries will tend to dissipate and your writing life will be easier. Most importantly, have fun on the the journey as things will always work out... not necessarily in the way we worry about, but as they should!

For those of you who would like to work with me 1 on 1 on how to get over your writer's worry, or would like to explore how you can publish with Our Little Books, please contact me for a free consultation. Free yourself from worry!