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Entries in writing (10)

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.

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.

Saturday
Jul052014

Beans and Writing Overwhelm- Is There a Connection?

I just brought in a handful of beans for dinner tonight. I live in a smallish apartment, on the second floor, so all my ‘gardening’ is done on my small balcony. Instead of having rows of beans, I have to plant each plant in its own pot, starting with good organic dirt mixed with my worm castings which provides wonderful organic fertilizer.

I get the worm castings from my box of worms I have up on the balcony as well, which I feed with all my food scraps, cardboard, and various other organic material. Although gardening on a small scale, I am able to get my hands into dirt, plant either a seed or seedling, and the soul-enriching chance to watch what I started grow into a plant that provides me with food whose trimmings then go back to feeding my worms. A truly life satisfying cycle. 

Someone said to me that all that seemed to be a whole lot of work for such a little reward, picking just a handful of beans maybe only 3-4 times a season. While others are bringing bags of extra zucchini and tomatoes to share with their friends (a VERY good thing, I might add as I was one of those people when I owned my home with a huge organic garden!), I am happily content with what I produce given the space/time available. The difference is just size. I still get to play in the dirt. I still get to see my plants grow and I still get to produce wonderful food. I just do it on a smaller scale, and I don’t get overwhelmed as I used to keeping track of my previous large garden. 

The same can be said for writing. People look at writing as a huge task, expecting huge results. This can create what I call writing overwhelm, which then can result in just doing nothing! When I lived in my house with my huge garden, there were times when all the necessary digging, weeding, planting, watering and general tending created garden overwhelm where I ended up getting nothing done. But when I broke it down to weeding or watering one section, then doing another section the next day, it became completely manageable.

Think of writing as a small, balcony garden. Do a little at a time and keep at it. Slow and steady is what is going to bring big results. Set up a time to write, every day, even if only for 10 minutes. But keep at it. Plant your writing seed. If you can’t think of anything to write about, write about not being able to think of anything to write about. Or think of how beans and writing go together! Who would have thought that there was a connection. It is all there in your head. Just nurture it and allow it to come out in small, little bursts rather than getting into writing overwhelm. Keep at it and your ideas will grow into beautiful successes!

 

For those of you who would like more tips on how to deal with writing overwhelm, or how to work with me 1 on 1 to get your ideas down on paper, I am doing a free online webinar on August 5th, 2014, and I will discuss my four step process.

Tuesday
Oct152013

Writing is Meant to be Read!

Our Little Books recently participated in an East Bay Women’s Network day-long workshop entitled, Speak (and Write) to Sell. I co-taught the workshop with the amazing Warrior-Preneur, Ann Evanston. Ann started speaking in Toastmasters when she was in 7th grade and just happens to be an Our Little Books’ author, so she knows what she talks about! We had 35 people who wanted to improve their business ROI by connecting to their selves and becoming more authentic in the presentation of their story.

From the feedback, it was a very successful, interactive working day. Everyone confronted their fears about writing (“I can’t write anything!”) and speaking (“What? Stand up in front of a crowd and tell a story?”) by actually doing those things. No one walked out of there with bleeding wounds so everyone survived and connected to an inner core that will allow them to be more authentic in their businesses in the future.

One of the bottom lines of the program that I hope everyone heard is that: writing is meant to be read! Whether you write a book, blog, article, or just in your daily journal, everyone should be reading their writing out loud, even if only to yourself in a mirror. Otherwise, our brains/eyes can play tricks with us in our writing.

We know what we want to say, so that is what we read. However, it may not be what is actually on the paper! When we read our writing out loud, we add another sense to the mix. When we hear what we wrote, it often times is not what we wanted to say, even though our eyes are telling us it is right. Also, reading out loud can also confirm that you ‘nailed it!”, taking away that satisfied sense of, ‘yup, that’s what I meant!’.

So start reading your writing out loud. Read to your spouse, your kids, your friends, or anyone who will listen to you! It is great practice and the more you do it, the more comfortable you will become with reading out loud (which will lead to comfort when speaking). The side benefit will be that you will find that your writing will become more clear and exactly what you really wanted to say all along! So, I'm listening...