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8 Questions to Answer Before You Start Writing Your First Book

Image Credit: Freepick

“Start writing, no matter what,” novelist Louis L’Amour once said. “The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” And while no one would argue with L’Amour, who wrote more than 100 well-known books, there’s nothing wrong with creating a little method to the madness. Or better yet, you should develop one.

Don’t worry. Pondering strategy won’t hamper your creativity. Here’s a few questions you can consider before getting started:

  1. Why is this book important to you?

Yes, you have a “why.” Every great author starts with the why. Really think about this question. Dig deep, without fear, to unveil your inspiration and drive. It’s equivalent to a company’s mission and values statement. How honestly you answer this question will roadmap and guide you through your writing journey. It will affect the type of book you will write, publishing plans, and even how’ll market and create buzz.

For example, it’s common for people to write books with the sole purpose of generating new prospects and leads for their business. Take Hubspot, for example. It is well-known for releasing comprehensive books on marketing best practices. However, their end goal is to eventually snag the reader as a new customer. If content marketing is your goal, you may even choose to go for a non-traditional form of publishing, such as releasing the book as a downloadable PDF.

Some aspiring authors want sustainable income through book advances and royalties. This goal also could heavily influence your publishing process. You’ll probably spend a great amount of time soliciting the assistance of an agent, and certainly aim to work with an established publisher.

And others are inspired by the story that’s burning inside of them.

Find out your why and clearly outline your motivations. Then, as you embark on this journey, you can refer to your underlying motivation to help you make decisions along the way.

  1. What is your book’s structure?

Many authors, especially first-timers, jump straight into the writing process, expecting their free-flow of ideas to float them to the finish line. But structuring and formatting will play a major role in your finished work, whether you like it or not. And if it’s not prioritized in your writing process, it certainly will be tackled by your editor in preparation for publishing.

Get in front of it. Think about your book’s structure and any major content you know up front will be included in it. You don’t need to try to outline the book’s flow, just broad parameters to give your writing process a bit of definition. Is it a collection of short pieces, such as recipes or essays? Are you the sole author or will you be collecting stories from others? What other forms of media do you want included, like photos or illustrations? Just think about it.

  1. Who is your ideal reader?

Keeping the reader’s experience in mind is also a debatable point among artists. Do you write for your audience, or do you write for your narrative’s sake? It truly depends on the goal of your book. However, it can’t hurt to know your reader so you can truly spark their interest, connect with them, meet their needs and provoke their emotions. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,” advised Robert Frost. “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Of course, your emotional connection to your story is unshakeable — especially if you’ve dreamt of writing your book for years. But your book is not about you. It’s about your story. It’s about your readers.

Tell a story they want to hear. Share facts and advice that they’re searching for. Make them feel or think what they want to feel and think. Unless you’re already Kardashian-level famous, no one will read your book because of you.

To do this well, create a profile for your reader. Imagine what their life looks like. What motivates them? How long will it take them to finish your book? What are their hobbies and interests? What challenges are your readers trying to solve?

Keep this profile in mind as you jot your outline. This will affect your voice and tone, your structure, and how you communicate your story.

  1. What’s your budget?

Your budget will depend on your answers to the previous three questions. For example, every author needs an editor and proofreader. However, depending on your motivation for writing and the book’s structure, you might also need an illustrator, a fact checker, even an attorney. Whether you have an agent or you’re going it alone, plan out your costs and begin building your budget so you don’t panic at the amount of money spent at the end of your writing process.

  1. Do you have competition?

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” says Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison. In the modern era of Amazon, savvy authors know they need to research their niche to confirm that the story they want to write hasn’t been written already.

Competitor research can be easy. Browse Amazon or head to a local bookstore. Check out the top titles in your genre or field. Look at what other best sellers are positioned near them. Check out the authors of these top books and scan their bio to see what else they’ve written. Scan Amazon reviews to see readers’ praise or criticism of these top books.

Be prepared. You might find that what you want to write has already been extensively covered. If so, pivot.  Think of a new approach to the topic. Often times, competitive research can be inspirational in and of itself, broadening your approach to a topic beyond the boundaries of your own ideas. And if that doesn’t work, think of a new topic.

  1. How will you prove your book’s value?

Never judge a book by its cover. But that’s literally what all of us do when deciding what book to buy from the store or borrow from a friend. The title could attract us, or the endorsements, or the quirky descriptions on the inside of the book jacket. Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes and come up with a plan to visually convey your book’s value.

  1. What’s your deadline (realistically)?

Even if this is simply a passion project, you need to have a clear timeline to hold yourself accountable. Don’t be that author who takes their manuscript to their grave. The world wants your story. The readers need your passion. So, set a timeline and stick with it.

  1. What tools will you need?

Every author is different, but writers have often identified several key tools that have helped them to be successful at the craft:

  • A physical notebook: Jot down quick ideas and inspiration on the go.
  • A smart word processing tool or app: Get one that’s specifically for writers. This saves you time, headache, and helps you write more efficiently. If you’re writing on a Mac, Mellel may be just what you need.
  • A printer: In this digital age, more and more people, opt out of buying a printer. But it’s one of the best ways to proofread your work.

These 8 steps are only the beginning, but they certainly set you in the right direction towards contributing your masterpiece to the world of ideas.

Amber Massey is a wordsmith and communications enthusiast with over 10 years of experience. Editing is her passion. New media is her medium. She is currently the CEO of Mellel, a powerful app redefining word processing for Mac.

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Be Very Careful How You Post Online

Image Credit: Pixabay

These days, with social media being a major part of our everyday lives, how you present yourself in writing is increasingly important. If you don’t pay careful attention to the quality of the posts you make online you could be hurting yourself in ways you haven’t even thought of, or can’t even imagine.

A Good Example of This on Facebook

A post appeared recently wherein the author had decided to go into some sort of rant about how they were very upset with people who used animal and cartoon images as their Facebook profile picture. This person wanted only photos of the actual person to be used, and they were therefore going to “unfriend” anyone on  who used an image other than their own photo. In this case that the person’s little rant also made numerous disparaging remarks about the characters and motives of the people who don’t use their own photo on Facebook.

The real kicker was that the individual’s rant was absolutely riddled with errors in basic English spelling and grammar.

What would your reaction to this post be? Exactly.

When a post seems to be bordering on illiterate, it loses all credibility. Whatever point they were trying to make about the FB profile photos suddenly became meaningless at best, and hypocritical at worst. And you wouldn’t be the only one to dismiss this person based on the poor quality of that post.

But here’s the most important part: whether you intend for it or not, your post may well be seen by thousands of people worldwide.

Yes, thousands. Even if you have your settings updated to maximum privacy. Anyone within your approved circle of friends can screenshot what you say and post it anywhere else.

Employers are Watching

Prospective employers routinely check out the Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin profiles of job applicants. If you have a habit of making posts with spelling and grammar errors (because it’s only social media, right?), chances are that this will be noticed and taken into account by hiring managers. Any job that requires at least high school graduation will require good writing skills.

College Admission Staff Are Watching

Admissions staff at universities and colleges also check out the online posts of applicants. Do you want to present yourself as semi-illiterate to a college or university? The worst thing about this is that if you get “screened out” by applications staff for your poor social media posts, you’ll never even know that this was the main reason you didn’t make the cut!

Prospective Dates Are Watching (Really!)

In Aziz Ansari’s book “Modern Romance” (Penguin Press, 2015), he states that poorly written text messages are a turn-off and sometimes a deal-breaker for many people during the initial phases of dating.

Why?

First, you would be surprised as to how many people claim to have college-level education and then post a profile that is rife with errors in spelling or grammar. So it makes the prospective date wonder: are you telling the truth about your education? If not, what else are you lying about?

 

Second, if you’re not willing to put your best foot forward when you’re actively trying to impress a date – whether it be for a short-term relationship or a spouse for life – it indicates you’re unlikely to put any effort into the relationship. And who wants to waste time on that?

Always, always have a grammar and spell checker program installed and running whenever you compose any type of social media post or text. Also, after drafting even the shortest of messages, STOP and read it over BEFORE you send it. Correct any errors and edit it for clarity if necessary.

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In Business Writing, Make Sure You Keep It Simple…

Something we notice on a regular basis when we read business letters, memos, reports, and other such documents is the use of unnecessary words to over-describe a situation or condition. These are known as redundant or superfluous words. It’s very easy to get into this bad habit when writing.

In fact, using two or three words when one will suffice can weaken your point rather than strengthen it. For effective written communication, we recommend that you make every effort to avoid using unnecessary words and phrases.

The following is a short sample list of some of the more common redundant words and phrases that we often see, alongside shorter alternatives:

absolutely essential ………………… essential
accounted for ………………………….. caused by
actual experience …………………… experience
attached please find ……………….. attached is
at your earliest convenience …… soon
consequent results …………………… results
despite the fact that ……………….. although
few in number …………………………. few
for the purpose of ………………….. for
free of charge …………………………. free
in advance of …………………………… before
in the process of being …………….. being
in the near future ……………………. soon
is suggestive of ………………………. suggests
make a decision to ………………….. decide
make the acquaintance of ……….. meet
mutual cooperation ………………….. cooperation
on behalf of ………………………………. for
on the grounds that …………………. since
perform an analysis of ……………… analyze
provided that ……………………………… if
take under advisement …………….. consider
under no circumstances ……………. never
until such time as ………………………. until
within the realm of possibility …… possible

We should mention that the words and phrases shown on the left-hand side above are not wrong. They are just a more cumbersome way of saying something that can be stated more simply. Nevertheless, for style reasons, there may be situations where the phrase shown on the left is more appropriate in a particular context. Or, there can be situations where one may choose to alternate between the two approaches, in order to avoid repetition.

 

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Authors: Build Your List with Facebook Lead Gen Ads

Create a Lead Gen Ad

Today, we have a guest post from Anne Felicitas, Editor at AdvertiseMint, a Facebook advertising agency.

My first instinct after finishing a piece, whether that’s a poem, an article, or a blog post, is to share it. After all, what’s the point of toiling for a work of art that no one else can see, that no one else can enjoy? You, a fellow writer, an author, likely share the same sentiment. After spending years on a book, writing your outlines, redrafting your manuscript two or three times, you want people other than your spouse, your editor, and your agent to read it—you want prospective fans to discover your work.

You can easily gather new readers for your book by creating a Facebook Lead Ad, an ad that functions as a digital sign-up form. Lead Ads, with their superior ad targeting options, will help you build an email list of prospective readers.

What Is a Facebook Lead Ad?

In 2015, Facebook witnessed three phenomena: more users were migrating from desktop to mobile phones, advertisers were demanding sign-up forms to collect leads, and users, accustomed to quick results, were often too impatient to fill out slow-loading, too inquisitive forms. Although Facebook wanted to appease advertisers by creating sign-up forms, it first needed to address the problem of impatient and mobile-centric customers. To resolve its problems, Facebook create a sign-up form that accommodates mobile phone users who often abandoned forms that took too much effort to fill, that took too long to load on a cellphone. Facebook created the Lead Ad.

Lead ads, which are accessible on Facebook and Instagram, are digital sign-up forms that allow you to collect customer’s information. With these forms, you can create a sign-up sheet for newsletters, price estimates, follow-up calls, or business information.

Optimized for mobile devices, although also accessible through desktop computers, lead ads are unlike any other form you’ve seen before. It expedites the sign-up process by automatically populating contact information customers provided in their profiles, such as first name, last name, and email address. Additionally, they load and open quickly within Facebook’s app. As soon as it opens, customers can fill in and submit the form without being redirected to a slow-loading web browser or to a different app.

How to Create a Facebook Lead Ad

You can create Facebook Lead Ads from two places: Business Manager or your Facebook page.

On Business Manager

Step 1: Choose the objective “Lead generation”

In order for you to enable the lead ad format, you must first choose “Lead generation” as your objective, the only objective eligible for Lead Ads. After you’ve chosen “Lead generation” as your objective, click “Continue” to proceed to the next section of the ad.

Step 2: Choose your Facebook page

If you have more than one Facebook page, choose the one you want to promote. The Facebook page account that you choose to promote will be the account that will advertise on your behalf. For example, after choosing AdvertiseMint as the Facebook page I want to promote, the ad that will appear on news feed will appear as posted by Advertisemint.

Step 3: Create your target audience

If you don’t already have an existing customer list you can upload to Facebook for targeting, then you must create a new audience by choosing the demographics, behavior, and lifestyle of the audience you want to target. Examine the sample target audience illustrated below.

Gender

Men and women aged 18-40

Location

United States

Language

English

Interests

Barnes and Noble, books, novels, Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, science fiction, dystopia

Connections

People who like your page

If you want accurate targeting, create the persona of your target audience. Ask yourself who your readers are. Are they men or women? What is their age? What genres do they like? What novels? Who are their favorite authors?

You can also upload an existing customer list to Facebook. You can either target the people on that list or you can create a Lookalike Audience, a highly recommended option, which allows you to target new people who are closely similar to your current readers from your customer list.

Step 4: Choose your placements

If you choose automatic placements, Facebook will deliver your Lead Ad to the three placements it’s eligible for: Facebook desktop news feed, Facebook mobile news feed, and Instagram. If you want to place your Lead Ad exclusively on Facebook or exclusively on Instagram, you can do so by clicking “Edit Placements” and checking off the placements you prefer.

Step 5: Set a budget and schedule

Here’s a helpful tip: when you set your budget, optimize for leads rather than for link clicks. Choosing the latter may result in a higher click-through rate. If you want to get the most out of your Facebook ad, always optimize for your goal, which, in this case, is leads.

Step 6: Choose your format

Your Lead Ad is eligible for the formats carousel, single image, single video, and slideshow. The single image format is commonly used because it’s the easiest to create. The carousel format, on the other hand, allows you to feature up to 10 images and videos in one ad unit. If none of the formats appeal to you, and you want a cheaper and easier alternative to the video format, use the slideshow format. If you’re new to Facebook advertising, and you don’t have time to create complex creatives, then use the single image format.

Step 7: Enter text

Write copies that give your readers a clear understanding about your offer. What exactly are they signing up for? Will you give them a free book? Will you give them email updates about your upcoming novels? Will you notify them about your book tours? Be honest, and try not to inadvertently deceive your potential fans.

Step 8: Create the form

When you create your form, keep your questions to a minimum. Lengthy forms may dissuade your potential fans from signing up as they may be reluctant to disclose too much personal information. Instead, request necessary information, which will likely be the person’s full name, email address, and phone number. If you must ask questions on your form, ask multiple choice questions rather than open-ended questions. A convenient process leads to more conversions.

Step 9: You’re done!

On Your Facebook Page

If you don’t have a Business Manager account, there’s no need to panic. You can still create a Lead Ad straight from your Facebook page.

Step 1: Go to your business page

You can access your business page from your news feed. It should appear under “Favorites” on the left column of your screen.

Step 2: Go to Publishing Tools

Click “Publishing Tools” located above your cover photo.

Step 3: Click “Lead Ads Forms”

Click “Lead Ads Forms” located on the left side of your screen.

Step 4: Click “Create”

If you haven’t made any Lead Ads, this page should be empty. Click “Create” on the upper right corner to create a Lead Ad.

Step 5: Create the form

Click “New Form” then click “Next.”

Step 6: Add a context card to your form

Context cards allow you to add more information about your product or service before they visit your form. In the context cards, explain what people are signing up for. Are they signing up for a newsletter, a raffle to win a prize, or a free book? As aforementioned, be honest and avoid inadvertently deceiving your fans.

Step 7: Fill in context card

Write a headline, add an image, write a description in either bullet or paragraph form, then add a call-to-action button.

Step 8: Add a link to your website

Provide the website link to where you want your form to direct users.

Step 9: Add your privacy policy

Link the text or URL to your privacy policy to avoid future disputes.

Step 10: Choose sign-up information

You can choose to ask for email, phone numbers, first and last names, addresses, etc. To view more options click “Show more options.” After checking all desired information, click “Next.”

Step 11: Enter URL in thank-you card

Your Lead Ad will end with a thank-you card that lets people know that their form was successfully submitted. The bottom of that card will contain a link that can direct them to your website. It’s important that you provide the link to the website you want them to visit after they’ve signed up.

Step 12: You’re done!

Your form should appear on this page. The form may take a minute or so to appear, so if you don’t see it, refresh until you do.

You’ve labored for that book. Don’t let your hard work go to waste by preventing others from reading it. Fortunately, gaining prospective readers is just a lead form away.

 

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Get That Application Letter Right

Application Letter

There are two main types of application letters; job application letters and college admission application letters. These letters are very important because they are the first thing about you that the addressee of the letter will see. That’s right; they will see your application cover letter before they have had a chance to review the detailed application support material that is normally attached or enclosed. So, if you mess up the covering application letter you already have one strike against you even before they look at your support material.

Also known as letters of application, or application cover letters, these letters should normally be short one-pagers that do three key things:

  1. Introduce the applicant by name and title.
  2. State clearly and specifically, the position or program for which the applicant is applying.
  3. Briefly summarize the primary reason(s) why the applicant should be accepted for the job or program for which they are applying.

Although one page is ideal, in some situations a second page may be needed to cover all of the relevant information. For example, some college and university programs may dictate a number of specific points they want covered in the application letter, making a slightly longer letter unavoidable. Nevertheless, except whenever impossible, an application cover letter should not exceed two pages.

Job-related application letters are usually accompanied by a resume or CV. In college admission situations, the application letter normally covers an overall application package, as per the requirements of the institution.

Important:
Over the years we have been asked to review/revise many different application letters for both employment and college program admission. The single biggest strategic mistake that we see in many of the letters  is that the writer has not made a point to find out the specific individual (and/or position) to whom the letter should be addressed. If it is a serious application letter, you need to take the time and trouble and find out exactly to whom you should be writing. Generally speaking, an application letter addressed “To Whom It May Concern” just won’t cut it. If you do that, you will be shooting yourself in the foot.

Image credit: Pixabay.

 

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Words Commonly Confused and/or Misused (1)

Confused?

A couple of years ago we posted a series of articles about words that are often used incorrectly. This is the beginning of another multi-part series on a similar subject but with even more confused and/or misused words than before. We’ll start the list of words in alphabetical order and expect to cover three or four letters per post.

So, here are some more frequently confused and/or misused words to add to your list.

accuracy, precision
“accuracy” is how close something is to the true value and to what degree it is free of error.
“precision” is the measure of the “fineness” of a value; usually measured in numeric terms.
Examples:
His shooting was very accurate in tonight’s game.
The laser-cut the diamond to a precision of .005.

affect, effect
“affect” is usually used as a verb, to mean “influence”.
“effect” as a verb means to “cause” or “bring about” something. As a noun it means “impact” or “result”.
Examples:
The cost of prescription drugs has seriously affected the cost of public healthcare.
His new strategy will certainly have an effect on the company’s bottom line.

allusion, illusion, delusion
“allusion” is an indirect reference to something.
“illusion” is when something appears to be real but isn’t.
“delusion” is a persistent belief in something that is contrary to fact or reality.
Examples:
Her allusion to the manager’s wife was completely unfounded.
The mist hanging over the river created an optical illusion.
The delusion that all doctors are infallible still persists in some quarters.

alternate(ly), alternative(ly)
To “alternate”, means to do something in turns, one after another.
“alternative” refers to one or more choices or options.
Examples:
When training, every two minutes we alternate between wind sprints and jogging.
Our only alternative at this point is to go back the way we came.
(“alternate” can sometimes be used as a noun; e.g. we took the alternate route).

amount, number
“amount” refers to a quantity of something.
“number” is when something can be counted.
Examples:
A significant amount of snow fell last night.
A large number of snow plows are out on the road today.

anyone, any one
“anyone”, as one word, can only refer to people.
“any one”, as two words, is used when referring to things.
Examples:
Anyone here is eligible for the draw.
He couldn’t blame her illness on any one factor.

appraise, apprise
“appraise” means to “assign a value” to something.
“apprise” means to “make aware of” something.
Examples:
The mortgage broker appraised my house at well over $300,000.
You should apprise him of what happened last night at the embassy.

approve, approve of
“approve” means “to ratify” or “sanction” something.
“approve of” means “to accept something” or “to think well of” something.
Examples:
Once they add the paragraph I requested, I intend to approve the agreement.
The Mayor enthusiastically approved of the two new appointees.

assume, presume
“assume” means to believe something based on a theory or hypothesis, without actual evidence.
“presume” means to believe that something is true unless it is proven to the contrary.
Examples:
Let’s assume that he will do the right thing and appear at the preliminary hearing.
I presume this cutback will result in significant reductions to plant output.

assure, ensure, insure
“assure” means “to guarantee” or “be convinced” that something will happen.
“ensure” means “to make sure” that something will happen.
“insure” is used to describe covering something with insurance.
Examples:
I can assure you that the increase will be more than the rate of inflation.
Fill your tank now to ensure that you can make the trip without having to stop.
I plan to insure my new car for both collision and public liability.

attentiveness, attention
“attentiveness” refers to the state of being attentive or considerate.
“attention” refers to the act of focusing or concentrating the mind on something.
Examples:
The nurse’s exceptional attentiveness to her patients was noticed by her superiors.
We appreciate your attention to this pressing matter.

beside, besides
“beside” is a preposition that means “immediately adjacent” or “by the side of” something.
“besides” can mean “moreover” or “in addition to” something.
Examples:
The man sat beside his daughter while they waited.
He’s not eligible for coverage. Besides he’ll be changing jobs next month in any case.

biannual, biennial, semi-annual
“biannual” means for something to occur “twice a year”.
“biennial” means for something to occur “every two years”; or to last for two years.
“semi-annual” means for something to occur “twice a year” or once “every six months”.
Examples:
We conduct a mini-audit of the business on a biannual basis.
I believe that environmental conference is a biennial event.
We review our hardware inventory levels semi-annually.

characteristic, distinctive, typical
“characteristic” is a quality that distinguishes and identifies.
“distinctive” is a feature that sets a person or thing apart from others in its group.
“typical” is a characteristic specific to a group, type or species to which a person or thing belongs.
Examples:
Novak always made his characteristic fist pump and bow after winning a match.
That designer has a distinctive style when working with recycled wood.
That long-winded letter was typical of a government bureaucratic.

cite, quote
To “cite” something is to refer to it or repeat it as proof of what was said.
To “quote” something is to repeat it, verbatim. (enclosed in quotation marks).
Examples:
He cited numerous legal precedents while making his argument.
To quote John Lennon on that, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

common, mutual
“common” means belonging to many or to all.
“mutual” means “reciprocal”; feelings or actions felt or done by two or more parties with reference to the other parties in the group.
Examples:
Miscommunication is a common problem among online users.
Their feelings for each other were mutual.

compare, contrast
“compare” should be used when referring to likenesses or similarities.
“contrast” is correctly used when pointing out differences.
Examples:
Those numbers compare favorably with those of last quarter.
In contrast to my measured approach, his is to rush forward, full steam ahead.

compliment, complement
“compliment” is an expression of praise, admiration or flattery.
“complement” is when one person or thing is combined with another, they form a complete unit.
Examples:
Frank complimented Sharon on her new hair style.
The addition of the new pergola really complements the patio.

comprise, constitute, compose
“comprise” means “to consist of” or “to be made up of” something.
“constitute” and “compose” are equivalent; and mean “to make up” or “account for” something.
Examples:
A baseball game comprises nine innings.
The land mass of Canada constitutes more than 60% of North America.
Those ten provinces and three territories constitute the country of Canada.

continual, continuous
“continual” implies a close recurrence in time; a rapid succession of events or constant repetition.
“continuous” uninterrupted in time or sequence.
Examples:
His partner’s continual complaining eventually drove him away from the business.
The continuous barrage of heavy metal music eventually broke him down.

council, counsel
“council” is a decision-making governing body, advisory board, or board of directors.
“counsel” refers to the provision of advice or guidance.
Examples:
Last night, City Council rendered its decision on garbage pick-up days during the summer.
I sought him out in order to seek his counsel on these latest developments.

Okay, that’s enough for the first installment. As I mentioned above, I’ll be making additional posts like this one — three or four letters of the alphabet at a time — every few months over the next year or so.

 

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Introduction Letters Are Important Business Letters

Introduction letters

For years now, the most requested letter samples and templates have been different types of “introduction letters” or “letters of introduction.” As usual, there is a lot of confusion as to exactly how one defines “introduction letters,” and how best to write them. Many times, people have sent their draft letters for editing and/or revision, referring to them as introduction letters, when they were actually something else. Typically, these have included such letters as: job application letters, cover letters, recommendation letters, and reference letters, among others. These of course are all legitimate letter types, but they ARE NOT introduction letters.

Below is a quick review of what “introduction letters” are all about, and how best to approach writing one.

Introduction Letters Defined

In general, an “introduction letter” or “letter of introduction” is quite simply a letter that is used to introduce one party to a second party. There are three main types of business introduction letters: business-to business, business-to-customer, and personal introduction letters.

Business-to-Business Introductions Letters

These types of introduction letters are used to introduce a company, or one of its representatives, and/or its products or services to another company or organization. Examples: introduce new sales representative, new product, new branch manager, etc.

Business-to-Customer Introduction Letters

This type of introduction letter introduces a company or organization and/or one of its products or services to individual clients and/or consumers. Examples: introduce new product/service, new dealership, new location, etc.

Personal Introduction Letters

Personal introduction letters are used to self-introduce the author to the addressee, or the author can write one to introduce someone else who they know. Examples: introduce former colleague, introduce former employee, introduce a friend or neighbor, self-introduction of independent sales rep to new customers, etc.

Of the above, the most commonly written introduction letter is the business-to-business introduction letter for a wide variety of business types and situations.

How To Write An Introduction Letter

Regardless of which one of the above types of introduction letters you may need to write, the approach to writing one is essentially the same. To see real-life samples of more than 20 introduction letters click on the following link:

http://www.writinghelp-central.com/business-introduction-samples.html

 

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Do You Have What it Takes to Write from Home?

Write From Home

Write From Home

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post written by Sally Keys, a freelance writer in the fields of business and finance.


In my decade as first a writer and then a content manager, I have seen many people who think they can be writers. They love the idea of calling themselves a writer, bigging themselves up, and working from home. Many are stay-at-home parents, English literature students, and the long-term unemployed looking for a quick buck.

However, there are several aspects which mark out a good writer from a bad one, and it’s not all down to skill. A large part is actually down to attitude and mentality. If you have what it takes to survive as a freelance writer, then you need both of these.

The Writer’s Work Life

Most newbie writers underestimate the amount of work that goes into writing and the diversity of the writing jobs they must complete. They also fail to anticipate the time pressure put on many writers to get work done.

This is not just in terms of deadlines but also the amount of work necessary to make an decent living from writing. In some cases, this can mean pumping out multiple 400-word articles in an hour, including research and editing time.

The biggest challenge of for those who write from home is discipline. This means setting aside time and distractions, being well organized, and keeping to a strict schedule to bring the work in on time and on quality.

On the plus side, if you have that discipline, you will have the flexibility to work half days, to change from day-to-day when you work and how you work. As you write, you will gain more knowledge and more experience in each type of writing, and you will naturally speed up.

This brings in another con to consider: complacency. Shortcuts, cheats, copying, and accidentally writing the same thing again and again are common errors alongside not reading job briefs properly and being bland. These are all things Inklyo will teach you how to avoid.

The Work-From-Home Lifestyle

Most online writers today work from home. This can be in a designated office, a dining room, a bedroom, or, like Roald Dahl, a shed at the bottom of the garden. As noted above, working from home has its own distractions. Bosses will be on chat and email instead of in your face, as will colleagues, but you can tune them out more easily.

However, now you have a TV in the house, as well as a phone, Internet access, a fridge, and maybe a noisy family. Working from home can also be lonely, as it’s difficult to build new professional relationships and you won’t have colleagues to go out with.

Despite these drawbacks, the drawbacks of writing from home are offset by the many benefits: you can work in comfort, wear what you want, take the kids to school, and go out for lunch without a time limit.

Image source: Gabriel Beaudry/Unsplash.com

How to Write a Blog

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22 Tools and Blogs for the Savvy HR Professional

HR Professional

HR Professional

As an HR professional, you wear many different hats—especially when you are operating within a small business.

Your daily tasks probably include things like managing schedules, resolving disputes, sorting through mountains of resumes, and running interference between management and employees, all while ensuring that your company is a great place to work.

As more Baby Boomers retire and the skills gap increases, finding the right employees and talent is becoming harder and more competitive. HR is no longer a backend operation; it is central to the overall strategy and success of the business.

With so many responsibilities and so little time, we thought we would streamline the process by compiling a list of tools that will make your life as an HR professional easier.

Email Organization Software

First things first: organizing that overflowing inbox. There are tons of great tools to help you get your inbox under control.

  1. Google Inbox: If your business uses Gmail as its primary email system, this tool is a must. It is an email organization system that can be integrated on both your phone and computer so that everything is easily accessible. Watch this video to learn more about what it can do for you.

Price: Free

  1. SimplyFile: If your business uses Outlook as its primary email software, then SimplyFile is the tool for you. It acts as your own personal email filing assistant. Its advanced algorithm learns your filing habits and can file emails automatically after a training period.

Price: Free

Employee Training Courses

Making sure employees are properly trained can be daunting. Standardize the process with some helpful courses that are applicable to professionals in every field.

  1. ProofreadingCamp: Whether your employees are communicating within the office or with suppliers and clients, they must be able to communicate clearly and accurately to avoid causing confusion or seeming unprofessional. The expert editors at Scribendi.com designed the course, so you know that what you are learning is correct and the best quality.

Price: $199

  1. Microsoft Office Training: Make sure everyone is working as efficiently as possible by utilizing the many features of Microsoft Office. This Ultimate Microsoft Office 2016 Training Bundle is a comprehensive guide to Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Access, sold through Udemy. Udemy also offers in-depth courses for specific software in the Microsoft Office Suite.

Price: $205

Scheduling Software

Depending on the size of your organization or the typical hours your employees work, Excel spreadsheets might not be cutting it. Luckily for you, there is some great scheduling software available.

  1. Setmore: This scheduling tool is great for scheduling employees within a small business. With widgets that you can integrate onto your Facebook page and website, it can also be used for booking appointments.

Price: Free

  1. Sling: Scheduling shift work is a challenge for HR professionals. Sling allows you to craft schedules faster, notifying you of double bookings and time-off requests and allowing you to communicate with employees through the app.

Price: Free

Payroll Software

Make payroll much simpler with a tool that tracks employee hours, benefits, time off, taxes, and more. Not only will a payroll software streamline your processes but it will also ensure your employees get paid on time.

  1. Wagepoint: This payroll software is great for small businesses that need to automate their payroll system. Employees get paid on time, every time.

Price: ($20 + $2/employee)/payroll

  1. Employee Based Systems (EBS) Payroll: This flexible and intuitive system makes payroll easier by helping you manage all the tasks associated with processing payroll.

Price: Custom

Communication

Depending on the structure of your organization, communicating through email might not be cutting it. Whether you are managing independent contractors or remote employees, a more advanced system may need to be put in place. Here are some great options.

  1. Slack: Slack is a communication tool that can be used on your phone or computer. It allows you to organize people into groups, message other users, and send entire files. Slack integrates disparate platforms—from phone to text message to email—into one streamlined tool.

Price: Free (with paid premium plans)

  1. Skype: Although it’s not new, Skype is a tried-and-true video conferencing platform that is especially useful when working with remote employees (think performance reviews, meetings, conferences, etc.). It is also a great tool for conducting long-distance interviews, as many people already have accounts (and if not, they can sign up for free).

Price: Free

Brainstorming and Note Taking

Ever have a great idea that you somehow manage to forget 10 minutes later? These tools help you to preserve your brilliant ideas as you think of them.

  1. Mindly: Trying to organize an event or project? It can be hard to set priorities, goals, and plans. Luckily, the people at Mindly created an easy-to-use mind-mapping tool that enables you to visually organize your thoughts by color and task.

Price: Free

  1. Google Keep: Google Keep is an app that you can also download onto your computer. Jot down notes, ideas, and to-do lists quickly and efficiently. It has several systems of organization and connects with Ask Google for Android users, letting you take notes verbally.

Price: Free

  1. MindMeister: This mind-mapping software helps you create stunning visuals, assign tasks, and collaborate with other employees to create beautiful presentations.

Price: $15/month (business version)

Recruitment

Recruitment can be a long process, especially if your industry has a high turnover rate. Recruitment software can increase your chances of finding the perfect candidate.

  1. iCIMS Recruitment Software: This software has “Hire Expectations” for your company, allowing you to share job openings and find the best candidates more easily.

Price: Custom

  1. Workable: Streamline the recruitment process with Workable. It utilizes job board advertising, social media, sourcing tools, and referrals to find job candidates. It also helps you to schedule interviews, rate interviewees, and share information with your team.

Price: $50/job/month

  1. Zoho Recruit: This tool is great for HR professionals who have to sift through a lot of applicants. It allows you to format resumes, send emails, make calls, manage groups, and post to multiple job boards. You can also customize the layout to your liking.

Price: $25/month

The All-in-One

If your HR department is a one-person operation, as is the case in many small businesses, then it may be worth investing in an all-in-one automated HR solution.

  1. BambooHR: This Human Resources Information System (HRIS) streamlines HR tasks so you can focus on other aspects of your business. It ditches traditional spreadsheets, makes hiring easier, reduces the amount of paperwork you need to do, and has built-in scheduling software.

Price: Custom

  1. SutiHR: This all-inclusive HRIS program manages recruitment, benefits, training, scheduling, payroll, and performance reviews.

Price: $2–$8.50/user/month

  1. EffortlessHR: This HR management system includes an employee portal, a time clock, an applicant tracking system, file storage, and more.

Price: $39/month

HR Blogs

Stay up to date with news, laws, and industry information with the help of these blogs.

  1. The HR Bartender: Need to find information quickly? The HR bartender’s resource list answers many hard questions HR professionals face every day.
  2. Workology: This blog offers HR advice based on your position in a company, from interns to executives.
  3. The HR Daily Advisor: Here, you can find HR news, technology, advice columns, and resources to answer pressing questions you might not have realized you had.

We hope these tools will help you navigate the day-to-day HR activities that are so vital to your organization. Which HR tools do you already use that you can’t live without? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Image source: Nosnibor137/BigStockPhoto.com

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How to Write Content That Actually Generates Leads

How to Write Content That Actually Generates Leads

It’s tough to be a businessperson in the digital age. While you might think that the Internet makes it a breeze to find loyal customers, the ease of communication between business and potential customer has made competition with other businesses tougher than ever.

Online lead generation is akin to fishing in the midst of thousands of other people hoping to catch the same fish as you are. To be effective, you must not only use the best bait, but you must also have the best tackle to reel in the catch.

In marketing terms, it’s  important to develop content for your website that draws people in and converts them into customers.

This, of course, is much easier said than done.

We developed this resource to give you some simple tips to instantly improve your site’s search engine optimization (SEO) and conversions.

Since many start-ups and small businesses are new to the wonderful world of SEO, here is a brief introduction to the term. For more veteran content creators, feel free to skip down to the tips list below.

SEO refers to increasing your website’s visibility in search engine results (primarily Google) and thereby increasing traffic and (hopefully) sales.

Optimizing your website can get quite nuanced, but much of it has to do with useful and clear web copy and the appropriate use of headings and tags, which allow search engines to index the site more easily.

SEO (bait) and conversion rate (tackle) exist in unison. Content on your site should draw traffic to your site, but it should also motivate visitors to action.

The following are the top five must-haves for web content that converts:

1. High-Quality Content

When asked whether writing matters in blog posts, author and digital marketing expert Guy Kawasaki replied, “This is like asking if the quality of food in a restaurant matters. Writing is the primary determinant of the success of the post. Everything else—timing, graphics, frequency—is secondary.”

High quality doesn’t just mean that your posts are grammatically correct and free of spelling errors. A good blog post will be grammatically correct, but it will first and foremost be of use to your audience.

The Internet is already so full of content that if you are posting for the sake of posting, you are just adding to the noise. Listen to your audience and learn what they want to read about.

In addition to great writing, don’t forget to include great-quality graphics that supplement the main points of your post. This is especially important to get viewers of your post to click the preview on social media or the front page of your website.

2. Keywords

High-quality content will help you move up in the ranking of Google’s search results because the most valuable currency in SEO is trust.

However, great content, while necessary, won’t get you very far in terms of driving traffic to your site. To make your content visible in searches, you need to understand the importance of keywords.

Google’s Keyword Planner (available for free online once you create a Google AdWords account) is a great tool to help you understand what words and phrases your clients are searching for and incorporate those terms into your content.

3. Post Length

Another very important factor in SEO is the length of your posts, titles, and meta descriptions.

A good rule of thumb is that title tags should be 55 characters or less, while meta descriptions should be 155 characters or less.

The length of a blog post itself is a bit more variable, as optimal post length has long been debated by content marketers and SEOs. Keep in mind that the length of a blog post is really more about usefulness and trust than actual word count, and longer posts tend to have more detailed and reliable information.

However, as Ann Handley, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide for Creating Ridiculously Good Content, explains, “Ideally, you want to worry less about blog post length and more about being useful to your audience. If you can be useful in 300 words, go for it!”

4. Design

Generate Leads

While many web content how-to articles focus on writing (which makes sense), they often overlook the very important aspect of visual appeal.

You’ve done all this work to bring visitors to your site by producing trustworthy writing that contains well-researched keywords and is of optimal length, but you still aren’t meeting your lead generation goals.

The problem might be your website’s design. Our first impressions of websites are often subconscious, but there is no doubt that design and aesthetics play a major role in gaining a visitor’s trust.

Evan Bailyn, author of SEO Made Easy, puts it this way: “Websites are like commercial buildings: If you walk into one and feel surrounded by symmetry, calm, and beauty, you feel comfortable transacting with the business.”

5. Call to Action

This is perhaps one of the most important, and often forgotten, aspects of content writing. You are writing a post not only to provide your audience with useful information but also to educate them about your organization, product, or service.

The majority of business owners started their company because they believe their product can make a difference in the lives of others, whether by saving time, providing entertainment, or solving a common problem. Don’t forget that many of the people who clicked the link to your site could benefit from the products or services your company provides.

Within each blog post, and on each page of your website, make sure to reserve a specific section where you can place a button, link, or clear direction for the customer to follow to learn more about your company or to make a purchase. With blog posts, this typically occurs at the very end. Be sure that, wherever you place the call to action, it is related to the content of the page it is on.

By approaching SEO from the perspective of generating leads and customers—not just increasing traffic—you’ll be even more effective at harnessing the power of your website and blog, resulting in a measurable impact on your bottom line.

Image sources: Markus Spiske/Stocksnap.io, Jay Mantri/Stocksnap.io

How to Write a Blog