Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to publish a book

APE CoverAuthor, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to publish a book, by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch

Although I would like to publish an ebook at some stage, it is not something that I am looking at doing right now, so the review copy on my Kindle sat there for quote a while before I got to browsing through it. When I eventually got to it, I read the entire book cover to cover in a single day.

This book is for anybody who has or is considering writing, publishing and distribution an ebook, and will save you hours of time and frustration. I have always thought the process of creating an ebook is pretty simple, but there is far more involved that I ever considered.

This book goes into a lot of detail describing the different publishing models, pitfalls to look out for (you will need more than 1 ISBN number), and plenty on the technical aspects of creating a functional and working ebook

There are plenty of links to online resources, including tons of free information on the book site itself (, such as Microsoft Word templates, sample contracts and external links (there are over 350 hyperlinks in the book).

At just under 400 pages it is easy to get through, but it has tons of useful information. If you are planning on wrinting an ebook, I highly recommend you buy it and skim through it before you write a single word, and then jump into the details as you work through the different stages of creating and publishing your book.

Highly recommended, and at less than $10 for the Kindle version, a steal.

10 steps to creating a really strong story

Guest post by Jim Harvey

It sounds like a presentation trainer’s cliche, but it’s not. In business presentations, the story is the thing. There’s a skill and a structure to creating interesting and compelling narratives. A craft started in the verbal tradition by prehistoric man, developed by the ancient Greeks, sharpened by the French, the Italians, Spanish and British over centuries, is now made into a global, multi billion dollar industry by the Americans. Telling stories with a message is what people have always sought to do. And those who are good at it have real value in the places they live and work.

Children are brought up on stories with a beginning, middle and end. Adults expect a point, a message, interesting characters, love, laughter, joy, tears and pity, and are disappointed if they don’t get them. Then we go to school, university, college and work and all of the joy seems to disappear. And we get talked at. Why? Because people don’t apply the simplest of the story-telling crafts to the most important parts of their life. Story structure? Ignore it at your peril or understand that when you’ve got a strong story, everything else will follow. How do we do it then? Here’s a few thoughts:

  1. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and ask ‘if I were them what would be interesting, useful and relevant to know and understand about this subject?’
  2. Brainstorm everything you could say on the subject onto a single piece of paper.
  3. Consult with key members of the audience about what it is they want to know, don’t want to know. Then decide what you absolutely have to tell them.
  4. Go back to your brainstorm and highlight those things that now will feature in your presentation and write your presentation objectives- In this presentation I will show X, Y and Z, and explain how we came to this decision. Then I will tell them exactly what I think they need to do and by when, to make the most of their investment.
  5. Build the storyboard- Act by act (See a classic 3-act structure) and keep on grinding until there’s a real rational, logical path through the presentation.
  6. Create a storyboard that tells the story with key scenes & content from each part.
  7. Create the visuals to support the storyboard.
  8. Add a high impact prologue (introduction) and epilogue (conclusion).
  9. Build your ‘script’ through rehearsal and repetition out loud rather than writing it out.
  10.  Write your script to the level you require (bullet points are best but in some very important or sensitive presentations you have to be scripted word for word).

Jim Harvey is the MD of Allcow Communications, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.

A lesson for speakers from Stephen King

I am busy reading Stephen King's "On Writing". This book is part autobiography, and part lessons for aspiring writers. Aside from giving an interesting perspective into Stephen King's life, it contains many practical skills in the art of writing.

If you speak to David Brooks, he will tell you that one of the key components of good speech writing is good speech editing, and that is where this book helps. Because, like writers of novels, speech writers need to learn the art of editing.

Here are two examples from Stephen King's school days. When he was about 16, he was employed by John Gould, writing for the sport section of the local paper. He was told by John"

  • "When you write a story, you?re telling yourself the story, when you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story."
  • "Gould said something else that was interesting on the day I turned in my first two pieces: write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open."

Doesn't that sound like what we need to be doing with our speeches; take out what is not the speech, and leave the rest?

ps: you don't need to be a Stephen King fan to appreciate and learn from this book.


Let’s get our ducks in a row

If you cut to the chase and get your ducks into a row, you will be able to focus on the bottom line. It is obvious that you need to put your nose to the grindstone, pull up your socks and focus on the critical success measures. Then when the dust settles, you will see the light at the end of the tunnel and start sailing with the wind beneath your wings…


Do you use clich?'s in your speeches? How often? The above example is rather extreme, but how much value do those extra phrases add to your communications? I see this happening a lot in corporate and business presentations (hence the term boardroom bingo – a simply game in which you complete a space in a bingo card whenever the speaker uses a jargon word).

Sometimes it is a long phrase, such as "get your ducks into a row", and sometimes just one or two words, such as "you know", or "kind of…". These words and phrases detract from the effectiveness of a presentation, adding unnecessary fluff that adds little or no value to your message.

A way to practise is to listen to interviews on talk radio – take note of how often people being interviewed pad their speaking with filler words, wrapping their message in layers of unnecessary bubble-wrap.

This is another reason for recording your presentations, to become aware of the superfluous words that you add to our presentations. I keep finding myself guilty of doing so, you need to be constantly aware of your word usage when speaking.

So, when you speak, please cut to the chase, focus on the message,

and so on and so forth…


Differentiate yourself with a funky business card


In today?s competitive world, how do you differentiate yourself to a future client, and how do you get them to remember you over the rest of the competition?

Well, one of the ways is via your business card. When I meet a future client, wherever it may be (in his or her office, at a networking meeting, or even socially), one of the first things that I do is to hand over my business card, and this is probably what most people do. But what happens to that card afterwards? If I am really lucky, I get some business, but most likely it ends up on a pile of cards, to be referred to at a later stage, and if I am unlucky, it gets tossed in the trash!

One way to make a memorable impression is to have an unusual business card, and that is exactly what my friend Ana has done. She makes items from felt (bags, pencil cases etc), and here is a picture of her card. She makes them from off-cuts, so it cost almost nothing to make, and she swears that they are quick to make as well. What I like about her card is that it is

  • Unusual enough to be remembered
  • Representative of her business
  • Innovative

Cool, don’t you think? What does your card look like?

By the way, here is a list of interesting cards.

Typo’s in your blogs – do they matter?

Building_blockMichael Cortes wrote an interesting article about how important good spelling and grammar are in a technologically modern world, and here is my take on it with reference to blogging.

Yes, spelling and grammar are important! However, we need to remember that the beauty of the blogging platform is that it gives everybody an opportunity to have their say. The downside of this is that it brings all of our grammatical warts along with that.

Very few of us are professional journalists or copywriters, so most of us are going to make the occasional error in our writing. Now I am not using this as an excuse for poor quality grammar and spelling, we must still proof-read our work, get it as correct as possible, and correct errors when we find them.

But dear reader, please remember that I am writing this blog for the love of it (and so are most of my fellow bloggers), and to share what information I feel I can. I will make the occasional mistake, but please indulge me when I do.

BTW: I spell using UK english, so I hope I don’t put you off-colour!

(I just realised that I wrote this whole post using the word grammer instead of grammar, but at least I realised!).

39 Tips to Improve Your Writing

PencilHere is quite a good list (grin) that I found on improving your written communication (source unknown).

  1. Avoid alliteration. Always.
  2. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
  3. Employ the vernacular.
  4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  5. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  6. Remember to never split an infinitive.
  7. Contractions aren’t necessary.
  8. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  9. One should never generalise.
  10. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
  11. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  12. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  13. Be more or less specific.
  14. Understatement is always best.
  15. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  16. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  17. The passive voice is to be avoided.
  18. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  19. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  20. Who needs rhetorical questions?
  21. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  22. Don’t never use a double negation.
  23. Capitalise every sentence and remember always end it with point.
  24. Do not put statements in the negative form.
  25. Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
  26. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
  27. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
  28. A writer must not shift your point of view.
  29. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
  30. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
  31. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to the irantecedents.
  32. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
  33. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
  34. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
  35. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  36. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
  37. Always pick on the correct idiom.
  38. The adverb always follows the verb.
  39. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; They’re old hat; seek viable alternatives.

If I really examine the list, I don’t agree with everything (eg: nothing wrong with quotations), but there are some interesting ideas in here.

What do you think?

21 tips for email etiquette

Email_1Email has become a primary communications medium for many of us. It is (generally) reliable, allows for mass communication, and it lets you respond in your own time.

However, many of these messages are poorly composed, difficult to read, and unclear as to the purpose. Of course, this makes it very difficult to manage the volume of email.

So, here is my list of 21 tips for email etiquette. By following them you should make both your life and the recipient’s life easier, and make the volume of email a little easier to manage.

1.    Be concise and to the point.
Do not make an e-mail longer than it needs to be. Remember that reading an e-mail is harder than reading printed communications and a long e-mail can be very discouraging to read.

2.    Be clear as to the purpose of the email
Make sure that all recipients know exactly why they are receiving the message. Is it for their info, are they expected to respond, if so by when etc. It is very annoying to receive an email when you are unsure what you are supposed to about it.

Emailkid3.    If you are expected to respond to an email, please do
It is very annoying sending a message to people that need to respond, and none of them do. You don’t know if they received the message, or if they have received it, and have just not got around to replying. If you are asked to respond, please do so, even if it is just a "I am too busy to get you the info now – will do later…", or a "got it!" response. At least the sender then knows that you have received it.

4.    Answer all questions, and pre-empt further questions.
An email reply should answer all questions, and pre-empt further questions – if you do not answer all the questions in the original email, you may well receive further e-mails regarding the unanswered questions, which will not only waste your and the other person’s time, but it will cause considerable frustration.

Moreover, if you are able to pre-empt relevant questions, your will save considerable time for you and the receptient.

Imagine for instance that a customer sends you an email asking which credit cards you accept. Instead of just listing the credit card types, you can guess that their next question will be about how they can order, so you also include some order information and a URL to your order page.

5.    Use proper spelling, grammar & punctuation.
Improper spelling, grammar and punctuation give a bad impression, and does not convey the message properly. E-mails with no full stops or commas are difficult to read and can sometimes even change the meaning of the text. Use the built-in spell checker in your email program.

6.    Make it personal.
Not only should the e-mail be personally addressed, it should also include personal content.

7.    Use proper structure & layout.
Since reading from a screen is more difficult than reading from paper, the structure and lay out is very important for e-mail messages. Use short paragraphs and blank lines between each paragraph. When making points, number them or mark each point as separate to keep the overview.

8.    Do not write in CAPITALS.
IF YOU WRITE IN CAPITALS IT SEEMS AS IF YOU ARE SHOUTING. This can be highly annoying and might trigger an unwanted response in the form of a flame mail. Therefore, try not to send any email text in capitals.

9.    Read the email before you send it.
A lot of people don’t bother to read an email before they send it out, as can be seen from the many spelling and grammar mistakes contained in emails. Apart from this, reading your email through the eyes of the recipient will help you send a more effective message and avoid misunderstandings and inappropriate comments.

01email10.    Use a meaningful subject.
Use a subject that is meaningful to the recipient as well as yourself. For instance, when you send an email to a company requesting information about a product, it is better to mention the actual name of the product, e.g. ‘Product A information’ than to just say ‘product information’ or the company’s name in the subject.

11.    Do not attach unnecessary (or large) files.
By sending large attachments you can annoy people and can even bring down their e-mail system. Wherever possible try to compress attachments and only send attachments when they are productive. Moreover, you need to have a good virus scanner in place since people will not be very happy if you send them documents full of viruses!

If you really do need to send a large attachment, check beforehand if that will be ok.

12.    Never have more than a few people in the to: field
When sending an email mailing, some people place all the email addresses in the To: field. There are two drawbacks to this practice: (1) many mail services block these messages as spam, and (2) you are publicizing someone else’s email address without their permission. One way to get round this is to place all addresses in the Bcc: field.

13.    Do not overuse Reply to All.
Only use Reply to All if you really need your message to be seen by each person who received the original message. Rather use the Reply button.

14.    Do not copy a message or attachment without permission.
Do not copy a message or attachment belonging to another user without permission of the originator. If you do not ask permission first, you might be infringing on copyright laws.

15.    Do not use email to discuss confidential information.
Sending an email is like sending a postcard. If you don’t want your email to be displayed on a bulletin board, don’t send it. Moreover, never make any libelous, sexist or racially discriminating comments in emails, even if they are meant to be a joke.

16.    Don’t open an attachment unless you know it and the sender.

17.    Don’t forward virus hoaxes and chain letters.
Do not forward chain letters. We can safely say that all of them are hoaxes. Just delete the letters as soon as you receive them.

If you receive an email message warning you of a new unstoppable virus that will immediately delete everything from your computer, this is most probably a hoax. By forwarding hoaxes you use valuable bandwidth and sometimes virus hoaxes contain viruses themselves, by attaching a so-called file that will stop the dangerous virus.

The same goes for chain letters that promise incredible riches or ask your help for a charitable cause. Even if the content seems to be bona fide, the senders are usually not. Since it is impossible to find out whether a chain letter is real or not, the best place for it is the recycle bin. If you are unsure – check the subject line on Google.

18.    Don’t reply to spam.
By replying to spam or by unsubscribing, you are confirming that your email address is ‘live’. Confirming this will only generate even more spam. Therefore, just hit the delete button or use email software to remove spam automatically.

19.    Sometimes a phone call is better.
If you have many points or a very complex point to discuss, it may be quicker to simply pick up the phone and speak to the person. One phone call is sometimes as effective as 20 email messages bouncing between two people. This is particularly relevant when you may be discussing a sensitive topic.

20.    Pause before sending a sensitive or aggressive email
Sometimes you receive an email that makes you angry, and the instinct is to react in an angry manner. When this happens, rather wait a few minutes before replying to the email, go and have a cup of coffee or something before sending the message. Often once you have calmed down, you may feel very differently about the response. If you are still angry, it may be better to respond via telephone as per the above point.

21.    Keep the subject relevant
When two people have replied to a single email message many times, sometimes the original subject is completely different to the new subject. Keep the subject relevant, and remember to remove unnecessary clutter at the bottom of the message. It is never read, and just makes the message longer.