Category Archives: Writing

HOW WEB CONTENT WRITING WILL MAKE YOU A FAR BETTER WRITER

How Web Content Writing Will Make You A Far Better WriterWeb content writing is a different skillset than conventional writing. Most writers are taught to write linearly. We follow a rigid format flowing from basic idea through wordy and detailed exposition, then summarizing with forgone conclusion. I’m guilty of this. Likely you are, too. But it’s not how modern web writing goes.

The internet changed the game. The world wide web impacts every published piece you write. Fortunately, learning how to write effective website content makes you a more practical, productive and prosperous writer regardless of your niche or genre. And understanding why proper web content writing is different will make you a far better writer in today’s digital world.

How do I know this will improve your writing? Because for the past 9 months, you haven’t seen much of me around the DyingWords blog. I’ve been busy learning a new skillset. That’s writing content for commercial websites. Working with my daughter, Emily Rodgers and her HealthyContentAgency.com online business, I’ve written over 350,000 words for 279 web content pieces. 87 have been longform articles averaging 2850 words. 192 have been shortforms between 500 and 600 in word count. This experience made me a far better writer.

HealthyContentAgency.comI’m a far better writer because I’m forced to economize words and time while being internet friendly. I take foreign concepts (to me) and formulate them into understandable explanations with definite purpose. To get paid, my articles must inform, educate or entertain readers. Deadlines are strict. Pieces have to deliver value for paying clients. They also have to be found on the internet. That involves accurate research, drafting in a search engine recognition format and maximizing your proof/ship time. Although commercial web content writing is highly specialized, the techniques are also useful for writing novels and non-fiction.

Web Writing Techniques also Work for Novels and Non-Fiction

Learning web content writing is a large learning curve but definitely pays off. And I know it’ll pay off for you. If you let me show you how, I promise practical information on how to write professional webpage content and blog posts that’ll improve your overall writing skills. That includes purpose, clarity and—most importantly—your productivity. This translates to pay. It means making money from freelance internet business writing if that’s your interest. Or, you can apply these constructive tips to any of your writings.

Writing good website content is not the same as producing old-style material for print magazine articles, news pieces, marketing hype, technical documents or internal memos. Even if you’re already a successful novelist or have numerous publication credits in mainstream journalism, you’ll up your writing game by learning what’s required in producing today’s proper online content material. It’s especially relevant to bloggers and authors who host their own websites.

Here’s practical advice—not general theory—that’s guaranteed to improve your writing and make you a far better writer.

Understand What Makes Effective Web Content Writing

Web content writing is all about helping people easily understand and retain information on topics they’re actively seeking. It’s also about being found on the net. Good webpages for commercial application are carefully designed to give prospective buyers useful detail about products for sale or information offered. It’s not about direct selling, though.

The idea is to give readers sufficient reason to pursue actions without being pushy. It’s education. Not pure promotion. That might encourage a purchase directly online, visiting a physical retail site or contacting the vendor directly to acquire a product, service or information relevant to their needs. It’s also about giving readers a reason to stay on the site, return and recommend it to others.

Writing effective web content is hard work. It involves three separate sub-skillsets employed in three equal parts.

  • Research is the first part of developing content. You can expect research to take over one-third of your project time. This is unavoidable as you’ll be given topics you have limited or no personal knowledge about. Then you have to make your words portray intelligent thoughts.
  • Science is the second part. You need to know how basic technology applies to building an article designed for Search Engine Optimization or SEO. It’s a skill beyond understanding Word or surfing the net. You have to work within Google’s rules of computer science.
  • Creativity is the third ingredient. You need to put researched material into a clearly readable scientific application that meets client needs. It must be original. It cannot remotely resemble plagiarism as Google will spot that instantly and punish your sins. Besides, your client is paying for fresh content—not cut & paste.

This is as close to a magic formula for web content writing as there is. It’s the combination factors that resonate with Google, showing your work and letting time-pressed readers stay with your article from start to finish. It needs to be relevant, readable and retrievable. That takes some drilling down to pull off.

Website Content’s Goal is to be Found

There’s far more to effective content writing than setting a hook and reeling a fish. First, your bait has to be found. This is where Google comes in. Understanding how Google works is the key to knowing how to draft, formulate and execute a web page or post that does its job. That’s to be discovered and convert readers into taking action. Fortunately, there’s not a big mystery around how Google’s search engine works.

Before taking an in-depth look at Google’s operation, let’s review the main elements of properly written web content. “Content” is the term for your combination of words that deliver a message. It also goes further to include everything you do to make a piece internet friendly. Years of writing experience can be good or bad for content writers. I certainly had old habits to break and lots to learn when I branched into building web content. But it’s made me an all-around better writer.

Good content writing is clear and concise. It’s aimed at a specific audience. Content writing is not the same as “copywriting” or “market writing”. These specialties are hard-sell focused. They’re meant to quickly persuade a defined target market into buying.

Product descriptions and feature/benefit lists are good examples of copywriting. Content writing takes a softer, rounded approach to conversion. Content writers are good explainers. We take difficult, complex concepts or mundane information and make it digestible.

Think USB — Unique, Specific, Beneficial

The acronym USB in web content writing doesn’t mean your flash drive though it’s sage advice to back your work up. USB is a framework to formulate your content so it works for your audience. Once you know the intent of your piece, you need the information to provide solutions for whoever is reading it.

For instance, you’re likely looking for the solution to being a better writer.  That’s why you’re reading this. There’s nothing for sale here. The information’s free. Specifically, I just want to share my unique experience for your benefit.

The best approach in helping others is to make sure all content is:

  • Unique where it’s not ripping off other sites. It’s fine to convey the same ideas or general information but it has to dig into sources and be an original presentation.
  • Specific where it’s not just a general overview of the topic. Rather, it’s non-general and specifically includes relevant information the reader can use.
  • Beneficial where the content has some take-away value. It’s more than just telling the reader. It’s showing them something and allows them to take action.

Content writing is entirely strategic. Before anything is written, content writers develop a series of objectives that form critical goals. This includes a researched understanding of the target market and material specific to the topic. This can be time-consuming. However, it’s crucial to success. It’s specific to the audience and the goals of the client who commissioned your writing the piece.

Before Writing Web Content, You Need to Consider:

  • Who your target audience is including gender, age range, location and education.
  • What the website visitor’s mindset is when they enter the site.
  • What the audience can learn or achieve from the visit.
  • What the primary business goal is.
  • What the secondary business goals are.

The universal truth of all web users is they require something when they visit a website. They have a need. Your job as a content writer is to fill it. It’s vital—absolutely critical—that content not be written for content’s sake only.

It has to be clear, engaging, understandable and useful to them. Good webpage content has strategically placed keywords and key phrases but they can’t be so artificially stuffed that they won’t make sense or read smoothly. That’s a turn-off and a sure-fire recipe for click-aways.

Remember, people normally visit websites for one of three reasons:

  • Information
  • Education
  • Entertainment

What you’re doing with content writing is solving problems for people. Knowing your target audience lets you develop the style and breadth your content will take. This is where your personal voice makes a huge difference in setting the tone. It’s like the difference between talking to a bubbly teen and conversing with a pompous Ph.D. It depends on who you’re writing to.

The approach is to be yourself, yet be in tune and respectful with the audience you’re speaking with. It’s also extremely important to consider how internet users or online audiences prefer to read. Internet audiences scan content. They don’t really read.

Consider How Online Audiences Read

Capturing an online reader’s attention is challenging, to say the least. Chartbeat, an internet analytics service, reports that 55 percent of visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds on a webpage before they click away. And Internet Live Stats state there are more than 900 million active websites on the net with 3.5 billion Googles searches done per day.

Getting the right reader to find your content is tough. Having them stick around long enough to absorb your information and then take the desired action is even tougher. We’ll discuss getting them onto your webpage in a bit. Right now, let’s talk about how online audiences read.

The vast majority of internet users don’t actually read webpages. Not in the conventional word-by-word sense that novel or magazine article readers do. Internet readers are conditioned to scan material. Their eyes dart about the page searching for relevant words suggesting links to information they’re after.

This is the main factor that makes web content writing so different from composing and constructing content for printed publications. Google Analytics says that 79 percent of web readers scan instead of closely reading. They skip what they perceive as unnecessary as they’re literally hunting for what they regard as useful. Subconsciously, you’re doing this right now.

Studies repeatedly show scanners take in the first two or three words in a sentence. They ignore the center, then grab the final few words. Scanners do this with paragraphs, as well. But scanners are highly attracted by breaks in information blocks done by imbedded formatting.

Highly Effective Imbedded Formats Appealing to Scanners are:

  • Text formatting with bolds, italics and underlining
  • Short paragraphs and abrupt sentences
  • Word count applicable to subjects
  • Highlighted paragraph headers
  • H1, h2, h3, h4, heading tags
  • Bullet and numbered lists
  • Still and video images
  • Tables & graphics
  • Color variation
  • Block quotes
  • Whitespace
  • Visual flow
  • Hyperlinks

Effective content writing is formatted with Google in mind. Don’t think you can trick Google when you’re writing webpage content. This search engine has been around too long and is far too sophisticated for that. You need to understand how to work with Google through Search Engine Optimization or SEO.

The trick is to take SEO principles and work them into your format. You optimize content to get Google’s attention. That means everything you do. Format. Links. Images. Key material. Paragraphs. Sentences. Grammar infractions. Headers. Quotes. Colors. Lists. Bolds. Bullets. Italics. Underlines. Tags. Whitespace. And Words. It’s a holistic concept and it works.  All information must be relevant to your topic information. You need to draft it into engaging words that are attractive to Google. It’s the world’s largest search engine and you have to feed Google what it likes.

How Google Finds Attractive Content

They use Googlebots. Ever hear of them? Well, Googlebots have heard of you. Googlebots are probably the most important information invention since the big bang of the internet itself. They’re responsible for making Google a multi-billion dollar international conglomerate.

Think of the internet as a beach and the web content piece you’re writing as a grain of sand. You need to make your writing grain shine among billions of grains in the sand. You do that by understanding what the Googlebots are looking for and position yourself to be found.

Search engines like Google constantly look for good content to hit on. That’s the purpose of their existence. They want to help people find what they’re looking for on the web and report it on Search Engine Response Pages or SERPs.

Inserting Key Words and Key Phrases

Googlebots are incredibly sophisticated. They’re able to filter through trillions of information bits and sort what they feel a Googler truly wants. It’s all about determining relevancy to the end user. Google’s search engine does this partly by identifying keywords and key phrases the searcher inputs.

It could be something like writing web content, web writing, how to write effective website content, proper web content writing, writing content for commercial websites, web content pieces, web content writing, how to write professional webpage content and blog posts, improve your overall writing skills, making money from freelance internet business writing, tips on web content writing, writing good website content, proper online content material and practical advice.

Or, it could be any combination of these 27 different keywords that were carefully selected and strategically placed as key phrases in the first 7 paragraphs and 457 words of this article. That’s a total of 62 combined words for a ratio of 1 in 7 or 14% of the opening content being key material and I bet you didn’t recognize the technique on first read. And it’s not “keyword stuffing” because the written content is readable, informative, offers value and not obviously repetitive.

That’s the difference between artificially-stuffed material that Google passes over and properly written content that Google recommends. If Google senses you’re salting or stuffing key material just for the sake of tricking the search engine into giving your piece a higher SERP rating, it’ll send you to the back of the same bus plagiarism hitched a ride on. You might as well walk than mess up key material.

What are the Best Web Content Keyword and Key Phrase Practices?

  • Keys sound best when natural and not “stuffy”
  • Make sure keys read naturally for the human audience
  • Keys don’t have to be exactly as the best ratings indicate
  • Main keys should appear within the first two paragraphs
  • Imbed the best key in metadata description
  • Keys should appear twice if they don’t seem repetitive
  • Use keys in titles and subheadings
  • Use variations of keys throughout the content
  • Integrate short keywords and longtail key phrases
  • Question-based keys are effective but tricky to write
  • Question-based keys work best in headings
  • Web content keywords and key phrases work well as bullet points

Don’t make your keywords and key phrases too rigid. “Stop words” are just fine in planning your keys. They’re the filler and connector words like “what”, “are”, “the” & “and” in the preceding subheader question. Google will skip right by them and for good reason. They’re looking for good, readable content and the header “Best Web Content Keyword Phrase Practices” just seems a bit stiff and salted.

The trick to keywords is carefully researching what your target audience is looking for and what they’re likely going to plug into the search bar. In this case, I’m specifically targeting writers who want to improve their skills by applying techniques used in producing excellent online content. I’m betting that many readers host their own blogs/websites and want to up their traffic.

I’m also doing shameless promotion by adding links to Emily’s HealthyContentAgency.com business and my resources page at DyingWords.net. Don’t be afraid to page through our sites and get tips on writing website content writing. And feel free to follow the hyperlinks to other great web content.

Google Loves Hyperlinks as much as Keywords

Google also loves fresh, original content that has value. Google’s technology is approaching artificial intelligence and it can instantly recognize a good piece of content that will help the user. It also knows what’s shit, clickbait and plagiarized. Google’s primary mission is to search the net and be helpful. Hyperlinks from one good site to another are highly helpful as long as they’re staying on the same relative trail.

Hyperlinks or backlinks really unlock the power of the internet. Search engines recognize this information sharing device that you’ve helped them with and will reward you with higher rankings as long as your imbedded links are to other credible content. Links don’t have to be just to written content on websites. Google loves visuals so YouTube links, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook or whatever site you can work into being relevant is fair game.

An excellent example of relevant linking is to Google itself. Google AdSense has a thing called Keyword Planner. It a key phrase analyzing tool where you plug in and play with key material you suspect may be best for your content. It’ll give you advice and ratings on what works best according to Google’s search history. Here’s a trade secret. You can also do similar key material searches at Amazon who has the world’s second largest search engine. And a little known but super site is SERPS that works great in rating key words and phrases.

Relevant hyperlinks are a value-added feature in good web content that works to Google’s favor. You’ll increase your overall SERP performance by using valid hyperlinks just as you’ll increase SERP standings by taking a holistic approach to building the entire content in your piece using proper web content techniques. It’s the entire composition that Google assesses and a real case that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Googlebots Look at the Total Content Package

Primarily, they love to find information that many people will find useful. Google measures this with a complex algorithm that calculates many details—website visits, page views, lengths of stays, links to other similar content, social media likes and recommends and relevancy of content. It becomes a vicious circle where good content generates large traffic and this cycle grows with Google’s promotion.

Goggle recognizes the entire picture of how web content pieces are formatted. They see and rate formatting, graphics, headers, sentence and paragraph structures, bullets, graphs, whitespace, images and highlights. Google’s not just looking for a factual read. They’re looking for fun. Google knows how internet readers scan and they want to recommend the best overall reading experience.

And there’s speculation that Google’s becoming a Grammar-Nazi. They’re rating style and substance as well as spelling, grammar and proper punctuation just like Amazon is now doing when you upload a manuscript. That’s why it’s so important your writing be shipped at the highest standard—a modern internet standard—because Google is watching how you’re optimizing its search engine.

Search Engine Optimization for Google Content

Google’s trade secrets are seriously guarded. Its technology is ever-evolving but generally involves four separate areas that good web content writers need to know. All four should be addressed when drafting a web content page. That applies to all forms of content—short and long form pages, feature articles, static web pages and even your books.

Your novels and non-fiction books that are published on Amazon are just as vulnerable to Googlebot sniffing as your own writer website and weekly blog posts. Think of the times you’ve entered a search phrase on Google and how it’s identified an Amazon publication. That’s no accident. The same thing’s going on with your blogs and guest posts and it’s a fact of life for your author site.

You can’t hide on the net so the best thing you can do is work with it. That’s the value in understanding how good web content will make you a far better writer. This isn’t new fad or a current trend. It’s a long-tern reality that the internet has changed the way we write to do business. Fortunately, it’s not a hard game to learn how to play.

Four Main SEO Parts for Content Writers to Know

There are 4 main parts in SEO for content writers to know—written, media, tags and authorship. Each one is a separate entity but vital to balance if you want to increase web content exposure and rank high in search results. Let’s look at what each part is.

  1. Written is the core of your internet content writing piece. It’s substance over style every time because Google can’t yet recognize what makes a writer great but it sure tells when writing is bad. A unique voice is desirable but for content it has to deliver information and substance that fits the topic and is helpful. Good content has solid sentence structure, grammar and sound reasoning. It’s not cutesy and requiring someone to “get it”.
  2. Media refers to visuals. That can be photo images, infographics, illustrations, tables, video or anything that Google can see. The old saying “A picture is worth 1,000 words” is so true in boosting your content recognition. Again, it has to be relevant and useful. There are technical tips to know about media insertion such as Alt Tags that briefly define what the picture is. That’s more for the webmaster to worry about but a content writer needs to be aware of the importance.
  3. Tags go with meta descriptions in getting identified on the web. They also relate to website layout as opposed to content writing. But tags and meta descriptions are hugely important in building an overall effective website or post. The difference between tags and description are tags are visual on the actual piece as it appears on the web and meta description is how it’s presented on SERPs.
  4. Authorship is the authority behind the content. The author’s credentials are attached to the article and give it street creds. The higher profile the content writer has, the better the SEO chance the piece has. An example is my HuffPost profile. I might not get paid for most of these pieces but my SEO ranking is far better because of my authorship on the Huff. Take advantage of every authorship exposure you can. Build a professional profile with a good headshot and link it to every content piece you write. Your SERPs will reward you.

Good Headlines are Highly Important

I’ve found writing effective headlines one of the trickiest parts of content writing—whether for a commissioned client or my own blog posts. There’s an art to this so I turn to my internet friend Jeff Goins who’s one of the best content writers on the market today. Jeff’s TribeWriters course is excellent value and he really puts headline writing into perspective.

“Headlines are the first thing people see,” Jeff says. “They need to be attractive, interesting and descriptive. Headlines should be objective and transform the reader from a browser to being engaged. You need a trigger word such as ‘how’ or ‘why’, a keyword like ‘ways’ or ‘techniques’, a promise like ‘will’ or ‘fix’ and an adjective such as ‘important or quickly’.”

Let’s analyze this blog post’s headline.

“How Web Content Writing Will Make You a Far Better Writer”

  • Trigger Word — “How”
  • Keywords — “Web, Content, Writing, Writer”
  • Promise — “Will Make You”
  • Adjective — “A Far Better”

Jeff Goins also says there are three basic types of headlines.

  1. World View — “Why Every —— Should ——”
  2. Establish Authority — “What I Know About ——”
  3. Achievement — “ How I ——”

Blogging king Jon Morrow of Smart Blogger has another take on effective headlines in his free pdf download Headline Hacks — A Cheat Sheet For Writing Blog Posts That Go Viral. Jon breaks down good headlines into three simple categories.

  1. The How-To — “How To —— A Million Dollars”
  2. The List — “17 —— To Make Money”
  3. The Bonus — “Get Rich While You ——“

There are excellent web-based headline analyzing tools available. When I was struggling with this blog post’s caption, I threw at least a dozen combinations into CoSchedule and it liked “Web Content Writing Will Make You A Far Better Writer” the best. Check the screenshot image and note how it fits into Jeff Goins’s concept.

If you’re handed commercial pieces like Emily administers in HealthyContentAgency.com, you’ll probably have the headlines pre-assigned. That’s good because you can burn up a lot of valuable research, writing and proofing time struggling for headlines that work. Speaking of researching, writing and proofing, I’ll show you my actual process that’s let me become proficient in putting out web content pieces at a commercial pace.

First, I’d like to share some general tips for web content writing.

General Tips for Writing Web Content

No doubt there’s a knack to web writing just as there is with every other form of written communication. Top fiction genre writers have their tricks. So do front-line journalists. While these high-profile pen monkeys get their share of glory, there’s not much in it for lowly web scribes. We just put out volume that works on the internet and we stay in the shadows. Most commercial content is ghost-written, anyway.

But there are a number of tips that can help you fine tune web content writing. You can take them over to your own particular brand of wordsmithing. Or, you can leave them as you wish. In no particular order, here are some content writing ideas I’ve picked up and found to work.

  • Use an active, informal voice. Ditch the passive, formal. Make it personal but not too slick. Find a balance but don’t kill yourself if you use the passive voice, We all speak that way. Being aware is the main thing.
  • Use a mix of short and long sentences. Try not to use more than one conjunction for independent clauses. Yes. There’s nothing wrong with one-word sentences.
  • Use 3-4 sentences per paragraph.
  • Make whitespace your friend. It makes scanning easier.
  • Use a subheading every 5-6 paragraphs.
  • Place keywords in headings and subheadings.
  • Don’t use fancy words. If you need a thesaurus or dictionary, you’re struggling with the wrong word.
  • Write toward a lower-grade audience. I ran the first four paragraphs of this post through the Readability Analyzer app and it rates this content at a Grade 6 reading level. That’s cool!
  • Careful with acronyms. Spell out the entire phrase first, then use the acronym or abbreviation.
  • Work with strong nouns and verbs. Minimize adverbs and adjectives. But not always.
  • Exclamation marks are for 11-year-olds!
  • Know grammar rules so when your break ‘em you do so intentionally.
  • You’ll never learn how to properly use commas so don’t sweat it.
  • Invest in The Elements of Style by Strunk & White.
  • Read lots of web articles and blog posts. Learn from the good. Chuck the bad.
  • Never ship work without proofreading. Never. And have someone proofread after shipping.
  • Use self-editing tools like Grammarly but there’s no replacing a human eye.
  • Shortform content pieces have their place but longforms are preferred by Google.
  • Shortforms are between 500-900 words. Longforms are 2300+.
  • Today, a rule of thumb is “the longer, the better”. This post is 5819 words.
  • Always use a Call To Action (CTA) at the end of your content. It’s a must.

Putting Web Content Researching, Writing and Proofing into Practice

Here’s where the ink hits the page or the images hit the screen in the web writing world. I mentioned that I’ve cranked out over a third of a million commercial web words in three-quarters of a year. That’s not counting all the personal blog posts I’ve written, books I’m working on and a pile of email messages.

I’ve worked out a system and recorded some stats that I’d like to share with you. I’m not saying it’s the best way to research, draft and proof/ship web content pieces. It just works for me and is the best use of time I can make. I also analyzed the last ten pieces and took an average of time spent in each category and how that displays as a time and effort percentage. I’ll show it to you but first here’s how I put content writing into practice.

Research

I probably spend too much time researching a topic. But in order to sensibly draft it, I have to understand it. Then the words flow and I can make my words per hour (WPH) cost effective. In other words, it has to return a decent dollar per hour (DPH) because all web content assignments are paid on a flat rate, not by the actual time they take to complete.

I start research by Googling the meat of the topic and see what comes up. For instance, “How To Write Web Content” has 38,800,000 results. That’s a whack of stuff to pour through. Fortunately, Google ranks the best links on the top SERPs so I go from there. (Hmm… I wonder if these content writers intentionally wrote the pieces with SEO in mind to score high rankings…)

Once I find existing content that seems useful, I copy and paste it to a Word.doc and then format it to Ariel 10-point in black on white with 1.15 line spacing and 6-after paragraph spacing. This makes for easy reading and a minimal amount of paper and ink used when printed. I find around 10 articles and stop. Then I print them to hard copy and go over them with a green highlighter and a red pen. That’s my code system for identifying pertinent info and facts.

Drafting

Now it’s time to switch hats and start the creative process of drafting the piece. I also switch locations. I do research and reading at home where I have an internet connection but to be time effective, I leave the house and go to the nearby university where I’ve claimed a quiet place in the library. It’s my spot. This change of location changes my mindset. I’m far more productive than at home and not distracted by the phone, door or sneaking peeks at the net.

I’m nearly twice as efficient at the library. It gets me out and around young, vibrant people as well as being surrounded by thousands of books and millions upon millions of knowledgeable words produced over hundreds of years of researching and writing by some of the brightest minds the world has ever known. Plus, I like it there and it’s quiet.

I’m not a fast writer but I’m clean. I do a bare-bones outline with the introduction, the main points and the call to action.

Then I start writing. Again, I use Arial font but in 12-point. It’s easier to see on the screen for an old guy like me. The first 500 words are slow and then it takes off. I take a 10-15 minute break once per hour or so, get up and walk around. This is really important. I rarely go back and review during the draft stage. When the word count for the assignment is reached, I save and go home.

Proofing/Shipping

Now comes the proof/ship phase and it’s quick. I paste the Word.doc into Grammarly and go through it. Grammarly’s great but it can’t read your mind. Once I catch mistakes like typos, spacing and bad form, I take the amended Word.doc and change the font to Tahoma 10-point. This proofreading trick really helps to look through a different perspective. Then I scan the document rather than read it word by word. Over the years I’ve developed an ability to speed read. I can accurately cover a 3K word doc in about 10 minutes. And under my breath, I’m reading it out loud.

Once the Word.doc is as clean as I can get it, it’s time to ship. There’s no point beating this thing because it goes to another set of eyes before delivering to the client. I simply ship an email attachment and save it to a folder. Then it’s out of sight, out of mind and on to the next. I find one longform of around 3K words is enough for one day but it depends on what has to be done and by when.

Something I’ve really learned is how to work within deadlines.

Consistently researching, writing and shipping within a limited time frame really boosts productivity. It also boosts confidence. That applies to all other forms of writing including my own blog posts and novels. That’s the biggest takeaway I’ve gained from learning how to write web content. Overall, it’s made me a far better writer.

I record exact stats on how my research, drafting and proof/ship time efficiency work out. I carefully record my time into blocks rounded off to 5 minutes. When the piece is shipped, I divide the total time by 60 for an hourly calculation. Then I work it into the percentage of time it took for each phase as well as dividing the total word count (WC) by the actual writing time for the number of words per hour (WPH). I also divide the total project time by the flat fee for the return on overall dollars per hour (DPH).

Somedays production and pay are good. Somedays, not so good. That’s how the web content writing business goes. Here are the stats for the average of my last 10 longform assignments.

  • Total Project Time — 5.83 hr
  • Total Research Time — 2.0 hr
  • Average Research Percentage — 36.2%
  • Total Drafting Time — 3.28 hr
  • Average Drafting Percentage — 59.3%
  • Total Proof/Ship Time — 0.25 hr
  • Average Proof/Ship Percentage — 4.5%
  • Average Word Count (WC) — 2990
  • Average Words Per Hour (WPH) — 912

I also keep precise track of the dollar per hour return but I’m reluctant to share specifics to protect confidential pricing structure. It all depends on the amount charged to a client and how efficient my time is. You can make excellent money from content writing if you get good assignments and produce quality work fast. Generally, a flat rate will be a set for the article and you can break that down to a certain fraction of a cent per word.

I don’t think I can speed up my drafting time but I probably do too much researching. But to cut this down, I probably wouldn’t get sufficient knowledge to write an informative and valuable piece that’d be found on Google. That’s the whole point of the exercise. And it’s why I’m getting paid for web content writing.

I hope you’ve got some decent information and tips on how to write effective web content from this. I sincerely believe it’ll help make you an overall better writer. And here’s the call to action.

Please share this article on social media and email it to a friend who’ll benefit.

Comments are appreciated. So are suggestions for how we all can become better writers.

And if you have a background as a health and wellness writer, Emily’s actively seeking freelance assignment writers for HealthyContentAgency.com. You can contact her by completing this online form.

SUN DANCE — FATAL LAST WORDS FROM FAMOUS FOLKS

Ordinary people have a sun dance fascination with famous folks. They worship bright lights but rarely waltz with military heroes and historical figures. Same with movie stars like Sundance’s Robert Redford. Sports jocks are honored. Some politicians are revered. So are daredevils. Religious and spiritual leaders. Business successes. Inventors. Philanthropists. Chauvenistic cooks and reality TV show hosts. Even the odd crime writer has their day of fame and following. Some people are famous for being famous like the Kardashian Klan but most in the spotlight have earned it. Some are good folks. And some are disastrous. Like those in the fatal sun dance between Sitting Bull and Custer with his men of the United States 7th Cavalry. 

It’s not surprising when celebrities check-out and say goodbyes that the unwashed masses take notice. Some last words from dying demigods are inspirations from the departed. Some deathbed utters are foundations for lasting legacies. And some dying words are just plain stupid or hilariously funny.

In no particular order of importance — except for the last oneread to the end — here are a few fatal words from famous people checking-out.

Diana, Princess of Wales – “My God. What’s happened?”

John Lennon – “I’m shot.”

Bob Marley – “Money can’t buy life.”

Curt Cobain – “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”

Terry Katch (Rock musician) – “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded.”

Humphrey Bogart – “All you owe the public is a good performance.”

Joe DiMaggio – “I’m finally going to see Marilyn again.”

Elvis Presley – “Just a minute. I have to go to the bathroom.”

Leonard Nimoy (Spock’s last Tweet) –  “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.”

Bing Crosby – “That was a great game of golf, fellers.”

Oscar Wilde – “Either that wallpaper goes or I do.”

Hunter S. Thompson – “Relax – This won’t hurt.”

Adolph Hitler –  “I myself and my wife – in order to escape the disgrace of deposition or capitulation – choose death. It is our wish to be burnt immediately on the spot where I have carried out the greatest part of my daily work in the course of a twelve years’ service to my people.”

Robert Alton Harris (California Gas Chamber, 1922) – “You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the Grim Reaper.”

William Somerset Maugham – “Dying is a very dull and dreary affair. My advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.”

Surgeon Joseph Henry Green – “Stopped.” (Checking his own pulse as he lay dying.

Salvador Dali – “I do not believe in my death.”

Queen Elizabeth I – “All my possessions for a moment of time.”

Errol Flynn – “I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

John Quincy Adams – “This, is the last of earth. I am content.”

Buddha – “Work hard to gain your own salvation.”

George Bernard Shaw –  “Sister, you’re trying to keep me alive as an old curiosity, but I’m done, I’m finished, I’m going to die.”

Erskine Childers (Irish Nationalist facing firing squad) – “Take a step forward, lads. It will be easier that way.”

Che Guevara – “I know you have come to kill me. Shoot, Coward. You are only going to kill a man.”

Julius Caesar – “Et tu, Brute?”

Leonardo Da Vinci – “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”

Thomas Edison – “It is very beautiful over there.”

Karl Marx – “Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”

Sir Winston Churchill – “I’m bored with it all.”

Luciana Pavarotti – “I believe that a life lived for music is an existence spent wonderfully, and this is what I have dedicated my life to.”

Crazy Horse – “Hokahey! Today is a good day to die.”

James W. Rodgers – “Bring me a bullet-proof vest.” (Asked for a last request when facing a Utah firing squad in Utah.

Dylan Thomas (Welsh poet) – “I’ve had 18 straight whiskies. I think that’s the record!”

Alfred Hitchcock – “One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.”

Charles Darwin – “I am not the least afraid to die.”

Thomas J. Grasso –  “I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s. I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.” (Convicted murderer using his last words to complain about his last meal.)

Amelia Earhart – “Please know that I am quite aware of the hazards. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.” (Last radio communiqué before her disappearance.)

George Washington – “It is well, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go.”

Prophet Mohammed – “Oh Allah. Pardon my sins. Yes, I come.”

Jesus Christ – “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Francis ‘Two-Gun’ Crowley (Texas Electric Chair, 1931) – “You sons of bitches. Give my love to mother.”

George Armstrong Custer (Lieutenant Colonel – Brevet General, U.S. 7th Cavalry) – “There aren’t enough Indians in the world to defeat the 7th Cavalry.”

General John Sedgwick – “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”

Crowfoot (American Blackfoot Indian Orator) – “What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”

General Philip Sheridan – “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

General Alfred Terry – “Now Custer, Don’t get greedy.”

Custer – “Holy cow! Look… at all… the fuckin’… Indians.

There’s an untold story about Custer and his death at the last stand. It’s about the American Indian Sun Dance and how the immense psychological impact on native warriors was the root cause of Why Custer Really Lost The Battle of the Little Bighorn.

What started as a blog post about forensic evidence found at archaeological excavations on the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in southern Montana turned into a book. For years, I’ve researched a subject that fascinates me. Why did a small, old-west American skirmish become a huge historical happening?

The answer is because the white society of the time simply couldn’t comprehend how a crack cavalry unit led by a fearless, military genius like “Boy-General” Custer being wiped out by a bunch of primitive savages. Well, Custer was no genius and the Sioux and Cheyenne were not primitive. Nor were they savages. That’s a myth. It’s bullshit. It’s part of 140 misleading years of Custermania.

While reading accounts of the Little Bighorn Battle, I came across a quote. “Custer’s troops instantly changed from offense to defense and were immediately overrun by an overwhelmingly aggressive force”. I stopped and said, “What instantly and immediately changed?

The fight changed because of a complex and universal mindset the Sioux and Cheyenne soldiers had. Their Cavalry opponents had no concept of it. That’s the mental clarity and collective consciousness a determined human force has when psychologically prepared and dedicated to a greater purpose. Sitting Bull’s leadership through Sun Dance ceremonies properly prepped his men. They broke their opponent’s will to fight and supercharged their own. That’s Why Custer Really Lost the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

In the late 1800’s, U.S. Government policy of genocide on indigenous citizens was a crime against humanity. Custer’s defeat solidified a Euro-American mentality that demanded revenge on native people. The Little Bighorn was a pivot point. It led to century-long injustice from white on red that’s slowly being repaired. Sun Dance Why Custer Really Lost the Battle of the Little Bighorn is a small step towards helping people understand the insightful and emotionally powerful impact the Sun Dance had on Custer’s foe. The Sun Dance caused Custer’s annihilation. It’s an incredibly powerful force and a universal lesson we need to learn.

If anyone would like an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of Sun DanceWhy Custer Really Lost the Battle of the Little Bighorn — I’d be happy to give you one when it’s ready. Just email me at garry.rodgers@shaw.ca.

 

THE TIPPING POINT FOR BEST SELLING AUTHORS

A14“The Tipping Point” is Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling book about how little things make a big difference. Most authors struggle to find what works—and what doesn’t—in creating and promoting their craft, as well as their careers. At what point do successful authors tip? What’s the tipping point where efforts converge to propel them to volumes of sales and recognition? What do best selling authors do which others need to know? And what little things would these writers do differently, looking back on their success, to make a big difference?

A1I’ve hosted the DyingWords blog for four years now and I’ve met some fascinating authors who’ve agreed to share their success with you. Four years ago, most of these talented and entrepreneurial writers were struggling to tip and they persevered to become some of the best sellers in internet book publishing today.

I’ve followed, watched, and befriended these authors. Partly curious. Partly learning. And partly from my vanity of association with successful people—people who I want to emulate.

A23I know many DyingWords followers are authors who have the same desires, ambitions, and curiosity as me. So I contacted nine of the most genuine, most talented, and most successful authors I’ve befriended and invited them to share their success stories by answering three basic questions. This is what I wrote:

I’m planning a blog post titled “The Tipping Point For Successful Authors” and I’d like to include you & your experience in the article. I have three straightforward questions that I know will inspire a large number of us who hope to follow your lead. If you’d take a few minutes to respond, I’d really appreciate it. So will others 🙂
1. How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?
2. What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?
3. Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?
And feel free to elaborate if you can and also to give one bonus gem of “Tipping Point” advice to upcoming authors.

Here’s what nine successful and impressive best selling authors have to say.

— — —

BIO  Rachel Abbott

A2Rachel Abbott was born just outside Manchester, England, and spent most of her working life as the Managing Director of an interactive media company. After her company was sold in 2000, she fulfilled a lifelong ambition of buying and restoring a property in Italy. She now splits her time between homes in Italy and Alderney, where she writes full time and has just completed her sixth novel.

Rachel launched her first novel Only the Innocent in November 2011. The book was self-published in the UK through the Kindle Direct Publishing program on Amazon and reached the number 1 spot in the Kindle store just over three months later. It held its position for four weeks and was the second highest selling self-published title in 2012.

Since then, Rachel has gone on to write a further four best selling novels – The Back Road, Sleep Tight, Stranger Child and Nowhere Child (a novella). Her fifth book, Kill Me Againis launched on 17th February 2016.

In August 2015, Amazon confirmed that Rachel is the UK’s best selling independent author over the last five years. She is also listed at number 14 on the list of bestselling authors – both traditionally and independently published – over the same five-year period.

Her fourth novel – Stranger Child – was the 11th bestselling novel in the first half of 2015 and the most borrowed book during that period.

A15

Hi, Garry — Great surname you have there 😉 I have answered your questions below — do you need any cover images or links etc for your post? Just let me know what else you need and I hope the answers are sufficient for you. Best wishes — Rachel

How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

I was extremely lucky that my very first novel made it to number one in the UK Amazon chart and it stayed there for four weeks! I think it’s a lot harder to achieve that now because this was in early 2012 and there are so many more books to compete against in the current ebook market. The thing that worked for me was creating a marketing plan. Until I did that, I was only selling books in single figures, but once I was focused on a structured plan of how to market my book to readers, it all came together.

 What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

Over the years the most effective form has changed. I think that chatting on forums worked really well in the early days, as did Twitter. I now find that the mailing list that I have built works well, and I do some advertising on Facebook. I could be doing so much more, but then the marketing becomes a full-time job and leaves no time for writing. So now I focus on building my reader database and finding ways of rewarding my fantastic readers for their support. I also find that Bookbub is a fantastic way of promoting any price deals that I am offering. It costs money, but it is more than repaid in sales.

Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

One thing that was missing with my first book was a thorough edit (although that has happened subsequently). I always thought that an editor just corrected mistakes. I had no idea that the edit was a time to review the plot, the pace, the characters, the settings – the list is endless. So if there is one piece of advice I would give to a new writer it would be to save up enough money to pay for a proper edit – not just a proofread (although, of course, that’s important too). I have read a number of self-published books that have clearly not been edited because character names change half way through, or the timeline doesn’t work, or there are huge passages of explanation at the end to try to make sense of it all. A good editor would help the writer to sort these issues out. Fortunately, the lack of an editor didn’t prevent me from being successful with my first book, Only the Innocent. But I can’t help wondering how much more successful it might have been with a decent edit.

The best advice I can give to indie authors, in addition to getting your book edited as I mention above, is to really focus on how you are going to market your book. Choose one or two things that you could do well, and stick to them. If you are very new to this and don’t already have an audience for your books, the most important aspect of your marketing is going to be to raise awareness of your jacket. Marketers say that a product (in this case, a book) has to be seen seven times before people become really aware of it.

You want people to go to an online store and think “I’ve seen that book somewhere before” – with enough for them to take a look at what it’s about. So make sure you use your book cover everywhere you can – in your email signature (linked, of course, to where they can buy it), on Twitter, Facebook, or whatever forms of social media you use. Just get that cover recognized (and, of course, make sure it’s a good cover). The very first stage of marketing is AWARENESS.

— — —

BIO — Rachel Amphlett

A27Before moving to Australia in 2005, Rachel Amphlett lived in the UK and helped run a pub, played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

Her thrillers appeal to a worldwide audience and have been compared to Robert Ludlum, Michael Crichton and Clive Cussler.

With plotlines ripped straight out of today’s news, international settings and colorful characters bring the world of modern espionage to life, exploring complex technology while providing an adrenalin-fuelled reading experience.

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Hi, Garry — Great to hear from you, as always. Thanks for considering me for this blog post. Here are my thoughts. Hope this is of use — can’t wait to read about others’ experiences! Regards — Rachel

How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

Things really got going for me in June 2014 when my third novel, Before Nightfall was released – at the same time, I’d been approached by Italy’s TimeCrime imprint to sell the foreign rights to White Gold, and there seemed to be a lot of opportunities that happened out of the blue; suddenly people were sitting up and taking notice of what I was doing. When I realized I could make a serious go at being an indie author, I spent the back half of 2014 writing as much as possible – I knew I had to build up a quality back catalog of books to take advantage of those opportunities. I started 2015 with a whole new outlook on indie publishing: I’d overhauled the covers of my first two books, I had a full-blown business and marketing plan, a production schedule, an overhauled website, and three books planned for publication that year. I haven’t looked back.

 What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

I use a combination of tactics to ensure I get the best results from a promotion. For example, for a 99c promo I’ll pitch to BookBub first, and if accepted, then I’ll email the deal to my mailing list a few days before. That gets the book up in the top of the sub-genre charts so it’s already in the top 10 for those before the BookBub promotion kicks in. I’ll then pay to advertise with a couple of other (cheaper) newsletter-based promoters two days apart to keep the momentum going. That seems to be working really well for me at the moment. I’m still in a learning curve with regard to Facebook advertising – it does well for me in relation to mailing list subscribers, but not so well for sales.

Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

I would have published more regularly, and I would have started a mailing list a year earlier – my mailing list subscribers are the engine behind my success; they’re truly amazing. I think it’s a confidence thing, too. I didn’t believe in myself enough at the start, and that’s something that just takes time.

—  —   — 

 BIO — Adam Croft

A20With more than half a million books sold to date, Adam Croft is one of the most successful independently published authors in the world.

Following his 2015 worldwide bestseller Her Last Tomorrow, his psychological thrillers were bought by Thomas & Mercer, an imprint of Amazon Publishing. Prior to the Amazon deal, Her Last Tomorrow sold more than 100,000 copies across all platforms and became one of the bestselling books of the year, reaching the top 10 in the overall Amazon Kindle chart and peaking at number 12 in the combined paperback fiction and non-fiction chart.

His Knight & Culverhouse crime thriller series has sold more than 250,000 copies worldwide, with his Kempston Hardwick mystery books being adapted as audio plays starring some of the biggest names in British TV.

Before writing full time, Adam had previously worked as an internet marketing consultant, delivery driver and professional actor. Adam has been featured on BBC Radio, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and a number of other news and media outlets.

A18

Hi, Garry — Sorry for the late response and brevity. Thank you for thinking of me. I’m honoured to be in such esteemed company! To be honest, it’s a case of keep moving in the right direction. Keep building your mailing list and your audience. FB ads allowed me to accelerate that growth by finding tens of thousands of readers in a shorter space of time than usual. Let me know if you need anything else — always happy to help. Please do let me know if you need more — this is only as brief as it is purely because I’m trying to catch up on hundreds of emails after getting back from holiday 🙂 Here are my answers to your questions:

How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

Her Last Tomorrow was my 9th book. Although I’d been making a living before then, the enormous success of that book was something else entirely. It paid off my mortgage, allowed my wife to leave her job and changed our lives forever.

What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

Facebook Ads really tipped me over the edge and changed the way I promoted myself and my books, but it’s not the be-all-and-end-all. My mailing list is my biggest marketing tool by far.

 Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

I would have got my mailing list set up much earlier and realised the sheer power of it. I’d also have been more productive, taken more risks and thrown far more caution to the wind. This isn’t an industry you can pussyfoot around in.

—   —   —

BIO — John Gilstrap

A3John Gilstrap  — A little bit about my background… I’ve always been a closet-writer. As a kid, I lived for the opportunity to write short stories. I was the editor of my high school newspaper for a while (the Valor Dictus, Robinson High School, class of 1975), until I quit (“You can’t fire me! I quit!”) over a lofty First Amendment issue that seemed very important at the time. My goal, in fact, was to become a journalist in the vein of Woodward or Bernstein. Okay, I confess, I wanted to be Woodward; Robert Redford played him in the movie, and chicks really dug Robert Redford.

I graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1979, and armed with a degree in American history, I couldn’t find a job. I ended up settling for a position with a little-noticed trade journal serving the construction industry. They called me the managing editor and they paid me food stamp wages. I hated it. About this time, I joined the Burke Volunteer Fire Department in Fairfax County, Virginia, if only to find relief from the boredom of my job. Running about a thousand calls my first year with the department, I was hooked, and the volunteer fire service became an important part of my life for the next 15 years. In the early eighties, hating my job, I went the way of all frustrated liberal arts undergrads—back to graduate school. Earning a Master of Science degree in safety engineering from the University of Southern California, I started down a whole new road. For the next decade and a half, I became an expert (don’t you hate that word?) on explosives safety and hazardous waste. Meanwhile, I kept writing. I didn’t tell anyone, of course, because, well, you just don’t share artistic dreams with fellow engineers. They look at you funny.

My first novel, Nathan’s Run, was in fact my fourth novel, and when it sold, it sold big. At a time in my life when things were going well—I was president of my own consulting firm—things were suddenly going very well. Warner Bros. bought the movie rights to Nathan’s Run two days after the first book rights were sold, and as of this date, the novel has been translated and published in one form or another in over 20 countries. With Nathan’s Run in the can, as it were, I thought I might finally be on to something, but I didn’t quit my “day job” until after I sold the book and movie rights to my second novel, At All Costs. I figured that while one-in-a-row might be luck, two-in-a-row was a trend. So, I started writing full-time.

More novels followed, and then a few screenplays.  I was living the dream.

But I really didn’t like it much. I learned pretty quickly that when you’re born a Type-A personality, those extrovert tendencies don’t go away just because you’re practicing a craft you love. In fact, after just a couple of years of dream fulfillment, I was pretty friggin’ bored with the company of my imaginary friends, so I did something that I’ve never heard a full-time artist do before: I went back to a day job.  At first, it was just a matter of reactivating my consulting business, but then, in 2004, I was handed my ideal Big-Boy Job (that’s what my wife calls it) working as the director of safety for a trade association in Washington, DC.

That Big Boy Job lasted ten and a half years, and after that much time in the trenches of the association world, I was ready to take a step back into full-time writing. Over the decade-plus that I was with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, I figure that I spent close to 2,000 nights in hotel rooms. I have platinum status out the wazoo, and I met hundreds of very nice people, but my wick burned down to the nub and I retired from there in January 2015. You know, it’s funny. When you ask people who choose to leave a job that they liked how they made the decision to leave, the clichéd answer is, “When the time comes, you’ll know.” That’s exactly how it was for me. I just knew.

I’ll keep my hat in the safety consulting ring for a while, mostly as a speaker or a columnist, but I think it’s safe to say that I have filled out my last leave request form.

And I continue to write. In 2006, Six Minutes to Freedom was published to considerable acclaim.  My first (and probably last) foray into book-length non-fiction, SixMin tells the story of Kurt Muse, the only civilian of record ever rescued by the super-secret Delta Force. Thanks to Kurt’s cooperation (he is co-author), I gained access to people and places that lifelong civilians like me should never see.  The heroic warriors I met during that research turned out to be nothing like their movie stereotypes.  These were not only gentlemen, but gentle men, who remained free of the kind of boasting and self-aggrandizement that I was expecting.  They were supreme professionals, and very nice guys.

And through them, I got the idea for my new series character, Jonathan Grave. He’s former Delta, released from the Army under circumstances that will be revealed over time, and now he’s a freelance hostage rescue specialist. He’s the finest friend you could ever have, and the worst enemy.  No Mercy, the first entry in the series, hit the shelves in June of 2009, with Hostage Zero following in 2010, Threat Warning in 2011, Damage Control in 2012, High Treason in 2013, End Game in 2014, Against All Enemies in 2015 and Friendly Fire in 2016.  If fans like him, and if they enjoy his adventures, there’ll be many more to come.

A4

So that’s it, Garry. My history in a few hundred words.  I’m happy to participate. I hope these answers are what you were looking for. — Best, John Gilstrap

How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

My “first” novel, NATHAN’S RUN, was actually the 4th novel I wrote. I never tried to sell the first three because I didn’t think they were very good. When NATHAN’S RUN did sell, it sold big. I got a headline-making advance from my U.S. publisher, and then stunning advances 23 other publishers around the world. Then there was the sale of movie rights. My second book, AT ALL COSTS, sold to similar numbers before NATHAN’S RUN was even published.

I hit the book biz out of the park at my first two swings at-bat. Then the nightmare happened: Neither of those books sold in great enough numbers to earn out any of the advances. I was able to sell my next two books for a tiny fraction of the 1st two deals, but the editor who bought them left for another publisher shortly thereafter, and the replacement editor likewise left. The books tanked and my career was presumed dead.

The climb back to the top started with a nonfiction book called SIX MINUTES TO FREEDOM, my first book with Kensington. It did better than anyone dreamed it would, and it gave me access to the community of people and toys that Jonathan Grave utilizes in the current series.

That’s a long answer to a short question, but I don’t know how else to approach it.

What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

I don’t think anything beats word-of-mouth. The trick is getting people to talk, and I think the only way to do that is to keep writing books. Conferences always help as a form of networking and meeting fans and fellow writers, and social media helps if you look at it as a way of helping others as opposed to a way to hard-sell your books. When all is said and done, though, it all comes back to writing good stories that are well-told. And that’s the single element over which we writers have total control.

Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

Truthfully, I never play the woulda-coulda-shoulda game. Yesterday is done; tomorrow’s where the action is.  My years in the fire and rescue service shaped my philosophy on problem solving.  When my job was was to bring order to chaos, “how did that happen” was a far less relevant question than “how are we going make it better”. You learn from your mistakes, sure, but its fundamentally self-destructive to dwell on them. In a very real way, whatever mistakes I may have made in the past shaped the person I am. Without those mistakes, I believe I wouldn’t be enjoying my current success.

—   —  — 

BIO — Bob Mayer

A5Bob Mayer is a NY Times Bestselling author, graduate of West Point, former Green Beret and the feeder of two Yellow Labs, most famously Cool Gus. He’s had over 70 books published including the #1 series Time Patrol, Area 51, Atlantis and The Green Berets. Born in the Bronx, having traveled the world (usually not tourist spots), he now lives peacefully with his wife, and said labs, at an undisclosed location.

A6

Hi Garry — Thanks for getting in touch. I’ll be in Vancouver later this year for the Surrey Writers Conference. Hope to see you there.  As Terry Gilliam says in the attached image: Mule-like stupidity works. Let me know if you need anything else and thanks! — Bob

How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

It took me three years to get an agent and get my first book published. I’ve been making a living for 25 years since then, although what “making a living” entails varies from living in a one-room unheated apartment above a garage to Write on the River. When I went indie, it didn’t take off until I committed to it 100%. I really believe focus and commitment can’t be measured but are key. Nothing happens fast in this business so I believe the #1 rule for success is: Choosing a specific long-term goal and doing whatever it takes to achieve it.

What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

I don’t think there is one most effective form. The biggest, and hardest, thing is to get engagement. We just rebuilt my web site at www.bobmayer.com to focus on my current series Time Patrol. We made it more of an experience rather than just full of info. Every Wednesday we have a new briefing on a specific event in history. We’ll also be adding in briefings on current world situations by looking back at historical examples. A writer can’t do everything well. What works for one person doesn’t for another. I think being niche is key. Focus is key. Integrate all your efforts as much as possible. One of the hardest things is to be consistent, even if you’re not seeing immediate results. It takes time.

Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

The things I would have done differently? Networked more. It’s a people business. I’m traveling out to Seattle in a month or so to sit down with Amazon. I go to Thrillerfest to meet people in the business. I sat back too much and just thought I had to write the books. I’d also focus more. I wrote a lot of single titles just because I wanted to. Now I’m focusing one series, but in doing so am pulling together a number of my other series. Networking is engagement with the industry, while marketing is engagement with readers. So I go back to that key word: Engagement.

Feel free to elaborate if you can and also to give one bonus gem of “Tipping Point” advice to upcoming indie authors.

A bonus tipping point? Every tough training course I went through from Beast Barracks, Special Forces Qualification, Danish Combat Swim School, International Mountain Climbing, etc they say “Look to your left, look to your right. One of you isn’t going to make it.” It never even crossed my mind that I would be the one who wouldn’t make it.

—   —   —

BIO — Caroline Mitchell

A7A former police detective, Caroline Mitchell has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims, high risk victims of domestic abuse, and serious sexual offences. She now writes full time.

Published by Bookouture, her DC Knight crime thriller series reached the number one position in the Amazon crime charts. The first in her new series featuring DS Ruby Preston is due for publication Autumn 2016.

Her new psychological thriller, published with Thomas & Mercer is due for publication late 2016.

Originally from Ireland, Caroline lives with her family in a pretty village on the coast of Essex. Sign up to join her Reader’s club for access to news, updates and exclusive newsletter only competitions and giveaways.

A8

Hi Garry! Lovely to hear from you. I’d love to be included in the blog post, thanks so much! I’ll answer your questions tomorrow if that’s OK. I’m coming to the tail end of some edits that I’ll be glad to see the back of. I think your blog is great, and I’m always happy for an opportunity to tweet it. Please find my responses below, let me know when it goes on, if you need anything else do give me a shout! All I ever wanted to do was to leave my job and write full time, I consider myself extremely lucky to have done so, but I also think the law of attraction helped me get there. Thanks for having me, It will be interesting to read your other responses. Speak soon, Caroline

How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

I self published my first book and was very pleased with the results, but it wasn’t until I published my DC Knight series with Bookouture that things really took off. I was very fortunate, as they were building their list at that time, and actively seeking crime fiction.

 What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

That’s a good question! I would urge new writers to focus on getting their books written over anything, don’t be sucked into spending half the day on social media, because when you are discovered, readers will want a follow up to your novel pretty quickly. I’m lucky that my publishers have effectively promoted my books, but I’m also hugely grateful to the bloggers who have reviewed my work. Having said that, I would advise getting to know book bloggers before bombarding them with requests, and only submit your work for review to people who enjoy reading that genre. You can’t beat chatting to people face to face, and I find that attending social events such as writing festivals really does go a long way into finding an audience for your work. If you can’t physically attend events then join an online book club. There are lots of them on Facebook, but again, spend some time making friends and getting to know people – but limit your time so you still get lots of writing done too.

Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve been very lucky because it all happened very quickly for me. Timing can be everything in this business, as well as writing the kind of books that people want to read.

Feel free to elaborate if you can and also to give one bonus gem of “Tipping Point” advice to upcoming indie authors.

I would advise indie authors to produce the most polished piece of work they can. If you are self publishing then invest in a good cover, as well as editors and proof readers for your book. If you’re submitting to agents or publishers, then conduct your research beforehand. Send a polished draft of your work and query people actively seeking your genre. Above all, don’t give up! You need a strong sense of self belief. I’m a firm believer in the law of attraction.

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BIO — Joanna (JF) Penn

A10I’m Joanna Frances Penn, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author. My books blend my love of traveling and learning new things with psychology and the supernatural in a fast-paced style. I’m also an international professional speaker and award-winning entrepreneur, voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013.

I love reading and always dreamed of writing my own books, but I spent many years thinking about it before I actually took the plunge. However, I did write a lot of journals during my many years as a corporate business consultant!

I have a Masters degree in Theology from the University of Oxford, Mansfield College and also a Graduate Diploma in Psychology – both interests are entwined into my writing.

There are now 8 books in the ARKANE action adventure thriller series, described by readers as ‘Dan Brown meets Lara Croft.’

In early 2013, I wrote a series of short stories based on Dante’s Inferno for Kobo’s Descent contest, a promo for the launch of Dan Brown’sInferno. It’s now available as A Thousand Fiendish Angels.

In Nov 2013, I launched Desecration, the first in the London Crime Thriller trilogy, which debuted in the Amazon US Bestseller Crime list alongside Michael Connelly. Delirium and Deviance complete the trilogy. Readers have described the books as ‘the love child of Stephen King and PD James.’

In March 2014, I became a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author as part of ‘Deadly Dozen,’ a box-set with The Twelve thriller and mystery authors.

In 2015, I co-wrote Risen Gods, a dark fantasy thriller based in New Zealand, with horror author J.Thorn.

On a more personal note, I love reading in diverse genres on my Kindle and I put my book reviews on Goodreads. You can connect with me here. My favorite genre authors include John Connolly, Stephen King, Lisa Gardner, Lee Child and James Rollins. Here’s a list of books I love. I also read a lot of non-fiction, mostly travel, entrepreneurship, psychology, and religion.

I’m married and live with my husband in Bath, England. I’m a cat lover and I enjoy a glass of pinot noir along with consuming a ton of ebooks as my main vice. I walk a lot and traveling is my addiction. I definitely have itchy foot syndrome and I love to move on!

A9

Hi Garry — Sorry, I’ve been away on hols and just getting through email backlog! Just let me know when that piece is up and I’ll share it. I hope all’s well with you. Thanks, Joanna

How many publications did it take you to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

It depends what you mean by ‘take off’? I’ve never had a break out success, just steady growth as I have written more books and built my audience. I need to do a breakdown of my sales over the last 6 years but I’d say it was 5-7 books before I started to make a low 4 figure income per month i.e. over US$1000 per month – still not enough to live on, but a start!

What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

For fiction – paid email blasts like BookBub, followed by building your own email list and having enough books that readers get to know your name and want more.

For non-fiction – my podcast (which has been running since 2009).

Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

I’m very happy with where I am 🙂 but perhaps I would have written more fiction earlier and embraced the 99c Kindle rush in 2009-2011, which I missed because I only had one fiction book then. My lesson learned from this is that (a) things change very fast and what works now will change later (b) jump on new things quickly as they will lose efficacy.

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BIO — Scott Silverii / Liliana Hart (SilverHart Writers)

A12Scott Silverii has served as a Chief of Police since January 2011 and recently retired. Scott previously spent twenty-one years with a nationally accredited Sheriff’s Office. His career is mixed with special operations and academic achievement. Chief Silverii spent nearly two decades in high-risk assignments such as undercover work, Task Force investigations, and SWAT command. His commitment to continuing education includes a Master of Public Administration and a Ph.D. from the University of New Orleans.

Scott blends over 24 years of heart-stopping police experiences with an action packed writing style seasoned by the Mardi Gras, hurricanes, humidity and crawfish étouffée. Don’t let the easy Creole smile fool you. The Chief served most of his highly decorated career buying dope, banging down doors, and busting bad guys. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

A13Liliana Hart is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of more than 40 titles. After starting her first novel her freshman year of college, she immediately became addicted to writing and knew she’d found what she was meant to do with her life. She has no idea why she majored in music.

Since self-publishing in June of 2011, Liliana has sold more than 3 million ebooks. Her books have been translated into eight languages. Liliana appeared at #1 on lists all over the world and all three of her series have appeared on the New York Times list. Liliana is a sought after speaker and she’s given keynote speeches and self-publishing workshops to standing-room-only crowds from California to New York to London.

Liliana can almost always be found at her computer writing or on the road giving workshops for SilverHart International, a company she founded with her husband, Scott Silverii, where they provide law enforcement, military, and fire resources for writers so they can write it right.

Liliana is a recent transplant to Southern Louisiana, where she’s getting used to the humidity and hurricane season, and plotting her next murder (for her books, of course). Visit her website at www.lilianahart.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

A11

Hi Brother, We’ll be glad to do it. I’ll send it this evening. Hope this helps. Take care, Scott

How many publications did it take to reach the “Tipping Point” where your commercial writing began to take off?

Liliana’s career began to take a significant upward turn at about her 10th book. She had five different series out. Of those 5 series, the MacKenzie Family had 4 titles up. The other 4 series each had first titles released at that point (all self-published.) She’d established a readership at that point and lots of crossover readers from her main three series – MacKenzie family, J.J. Graves Mystery and Addison Holmes Mystery series.

What have you found to be the most effective form of promotion?

By and large, the best form of promotion is your next book. For self-published authors who publish one book and then promote it by every means other than a follow up book, will find it difficult to experience success.

Looking back, what would you have done differently earlier in your game to achieve your current success?

Liliana would have written multiple books in one series instead of books in multiple series. For example, she would have written only in the MacKenzie Family series until she’d released 4 full length books. Next she would have written until the first 4 full novels in the Addison Holmes series and so on for the next series.

Feel free to elaborate if you can and also to give one bonus gem of “Tipping Point” advice to upcoming authors.

Your time and energy is best spent writing books. If facebook posts satisfied novel word counts, each author would have a backlist of thousands of titles. Write your book – promote it, launch it, promote it some more and then focus on writing your next book – repeat this process. Spending thousands of dollars on ads for the one title just published, while facebooking about it and the difficulties, joys, challenges of that book and the next one you are considering writing is a major expenditure of effort. If you want to be an author, then write.

“But I have to build a platform – a fan base.”

If someone reads your book and becomes a fan, they will ask one question – “What’s next?” If you have nothing else, then they move to the next author who can answer that one question with, “Here’s my series of books.”

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My sincere thanks and appreciation to Rachel Abbott, Rachel Amphlett, Adam Croft, John Gilstrap, Bob Mayer, Caroline Mitchell, Joanna Penn, Liliana Hart, and Scott Silverii for sharing their time and advice. They’re truly shining examples of author success.