My E-Book Road - 11: E-junkie Shopping Cart for selling downloads & tangible goods

Maybe I'll just write my e-books in Word, turn them into PDFs, and then sell them via E-junkie. Self-Made Chick did this, and made around $3000 on an e-book she sold for $12 each (the e-book? How I Built A Profitable Freelance Business for Under $50 and How You Can Too).

But there's no ISBN number ... there's nothing on Amazon.Com .... So many decisions to make.

Writer Lawyer Tip: Considering Your Vocabulary When Writing for the Web

There's a lot of talk about Search Engine Optimization, and a lot of expertise on the web ... all of it focused upon how to get your content to that first page on Google (sure the other sites, too, but it's really all about Google these days) so people will actually read it.

You can spend a lot of money figuring this stuff out. Pay for keywords, pay for keyphrases, things like that.

Here's something that is free: think about your vocabulary as you write.

Remember that your reader will have to surf to reach your content, unless you're so popular with them that your site is already stored on their machine somehow (bookmarked, RSS feed, etc.).

1. Write for that surfer. Use "drunk driving" not "driving under the influence." Try "Univ." or "U." instead of University; car instead of auto; miles instead of distance.

2. Watch yourself as you surf. What are you asking from Google when you're surfing the web? Learn from your own searching ....

Writing for the web involves more than writing for print. Maybe there will be a day when search engines are so powerful and all-encompassing that this won't be true any longer. But we're not there now, so Cowboy Up.


Writing Law Firm Blogs -4: American Bar Association Releases Top 100 Blawg List

The American Bar Association has released its list of 2008's best law blogs, or blawgs ... and it's worth a surf through. Here's some examples:

Sweet Hot Justice
The Shark
Tex Parte
JDSnub Blog
The Pop Tort.

And that's nice to have - the editors have chosen entertaining, informative sites - but I'm waiting for the People's Choice Awards for Law Firm Blogs.

If you are blogging to reach the public, your clients, or your potential clients, then your readership is distinctly different than your professional peer group, i.e., fellow lawyers and members of the ABA.

One of the great opportunities with a law blog is to educate, inform, and build relationships with NON-lawyers. From my surfing of these award-winning blogs, they're writing lawyer-to-lawyer for the most part.


PC Magazine dropping print for online

PC Magazine just announced it's dropping print for online. It's getting to be a daily news item - the newest publication that's opting for web only.

Writing Law Firm Blogs -3: Content Marketing - Something Lawyers Need to Discover

Today, Writing on the Web was recognized as third in the top five content marketing blogs, and to quote from The Blog Squad's Press Release:

(San Diego, CA) November 19, 2008 – Advertising on the web is being replaced by a new style of marketing: Content marketing.

Businesses are using the Web to publish content that informs and entertains, instead of spending money on banner ads that get ignored.

As a result there are now marketing sites and blogs designed to help businesses master the new content marketing style. Joe Pulizzi is one such expert, and he recently published a list of the top 42 content marketing blogs on his site Junta42.

Writing on the Web, a blog written by Blog Squad co-founder Patsi Krakoff, Psy.D., placed 3rd on the list, which can be found at www.Junta42.com/top_42_content_marketing_blogs.

The top five content marketing blogs include:

1. Online Marketing Blog, from Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing
2. Copyblogger, from writer and entrepreneur Brian Clark
3. Writing on the Web, from writing and business blogging expert Patsi Krakoff
4. Influential Marketing Blog, from public relations guru Rohit Bhargava, author of Personality Not Included
5. Web Ink Now, from David Meerman Scott, author of the bestselling The New Rules of Marketing and PR

“This new style of marketing is becoming extremely popular on the Web because it focuses on the reader, either by informing them, entertaining them, or by creating community relationships,” states Dr. Krakoff.

“The key is authenticity. Readers aren’t interested in the hype you see in TV commercials. When a business or professional publishes on the web, they must connect with customers in a way best done through writing valuable content that rings true,” she adds.

For the complete list of Junta's 42 Top Content Marketing Blogs, click here.

Why Lawyers Should Care About Content Marketing

It's been my experience that attorneys and law firm managers remain interested in websites, and usually look to their competitors for inspiration. They shy away from blogs, usually.

In my opinion, this doesn't separate anyone from the pack -- and clients in this economy are going to be looking for representation that is professional as well as distinctive. Blogs, or "blawgs," go a long way towards personalizing a firm and its people, building a collective organizational reputation as well as cache for the individual attorneys who are identified within the postings.

However, many firms are still unwilling to invest the time into blogging that it requires to be successful - and they are also timid about venturing forth into the World Wide Web in a personification that is different from their blue suit bretheren.

Setting Yourself Apart in Today's Marketplace

In today's economy, setting yourself apart from the pack has never been more critical for members of the legal profession. It's a fight for clients now.

Web marketing is such an untapped resource for many attorneys -- and content marketing, while a perfect for the intricacies involved in practicing law, remains ignored and unknown by most firms.

IMHO, of course.


My EBook Road-10: Putting Ads Inside Your EBooks

Now, ebooks are not only being publicized as a method of producing a passive income stream, there's a second tier of revenue being created with the ability to insert advertisements into your ebooks. You know, like print magazines now.

For more information, like how you give potential advertisers concrete numbers when you don't have subscription counts like the magazines they're used to dealing with in budgeting ad expense, check out Stu McLaren's article and Eldon Sarte's suggestionsover at Wordpreneur.


Christian Science Monitor Going Web-Only

The Christian Science Monitor announced today that it's going to stop printing its newspaper on a daily basis, opting for an online format -- although it's transitioning by keeping a once-a-week paper version in circulation.

Good news for trees. Good news for webwriters, too. (Writing for the web is a different ballgame than writing for print, if you want your work to show up in the search engines and actually get found, and read, by folk.)


Writing Law Firm Blogs -2: Writing Legal Blawgs, Remember the Reader

Lawyers writing their own blog posts - or just contemplating starting a blog (or blawg) - need to think about who is really going to be reading their posts.

It's been my experience that lawyers tend to think about post topics, to choose vocabulary, and to direct the theme of their blogs, or blawgs, toward their peers -- however unintentional that might be.

When the Reader is Another Lawyer

It's fine to write for other lawyers if your blog is intended to be a lawyer-to-lawyer discussion, usually to show your firm's expertise in an area for referral business (common for appellate attorneys seeking to work with trial lawyers) or because it's a personal journal and you're seeking to share and discuss practice issues with your bretheren (like solos and small firms sharing experiences and advice).

When the Reader is Not Another Lawyer

However, if you want to blog for vertical marketing purposes, then you need to decide on who your targeted readers are - and write for them. Write for your potential client.

1. Use their words, not yours. "Driving drunk," not "driving while intoxicated." "Murder," not "homicide" - you get the idea.

2. Use their industry jargon, not your legalese. If you are dealing with bankers, use financial terms (ROI, etc.). If you are working with contractors, use construction terms (rain delays, change orders, etc.).

Clients want lawyers they perceive understand their situations and speak their language. Blogs, or "blawgs," are grand opportunities for lawyers and law firms to do just that.


Writing Law Firm Blogs -1: Writing Legal Blawgs, The Cost in Time and Money

I write posts (short articles of 200-400 words) for law firm blogs maintained by solo practioners as well as large law firms. Sometimes I do so for byline credit and sometimes, I'm a ghostwriter.

Over and over again, I run into the same issues in conversations with my lawyer clients regarding writing legal web blogs, aka legal "blogs" or "blawgs" -- so I've decided to write a series of posts here that cover some issues that routinely pop up. (This series will appear under the label "Law Firm Blogs" in the sidebar index.)

Today, let's talk about how legal blogs/blawgs are expensive in time and money because they are.

Sure, you can set up a blog on Blogger (hey, I love Blogger) for free and have it up and running within thirty minutes. Cheap and easy.

But that's just like buying a new pair of Nikes down at the Sports Warehouse and bringing them home. That's cheap and easy, too (maybe not so cheap, granted), but it doesn't make you a runner.

Blogs need investments of both time and money to be successful. You have to write the posts. You have to communicate with others - readers, etc.

Successful blogging for law firms involves a time commitment

1. Blogs need time to build an audience. You want your legal blog / blawg to have a steady readership. This takes time -- a minimum of six months, a year is better.

2. Blogs need time to build your online reputation. Your blawg will need a series of posts that provide something of value to the reader that speaks to who you are and what your law firm can provide.

This does mean good writing. Quality writing will bring people back, badly written content will not(yes, I'm hinting at the law student - or worse yet, the Outsourcing temptation).

However, more than just good writing, legal web logs need to provide valuable information to the blog reader that proves to be dependable over time.

Each blawg post is like a brick that is building your wall on the web, a solid structure that implicitly provides the reader with proof of your dedication and your expertise.

If your law blog demonstrates that you really know your topic (say, probate law or criminal defense) and you routinely publish posts three times a week, that blawg is letting them know that you know what you're talking about and that you're dependable, too. Spotty posts don't scream busy lawyer -- they hint at procrastination, if not worse, to a reader that has found your blawg and wants to know more about a topic.

Successful blogging for law firms involves a money commitment

1. Paying someone like me to write posts for your law firm blog is an obvious direct expense for a law firm blog. Another obvious expense is hiring a marketing or design firm to create the blog for you, instead of using a free service like Blogger.

Even if you delegate the writing and the design, you'll still have another money commitment here - and it will still be there even if you simplify things by writing the blawg internally and opting for the free Blogger template.

2. You have to dedicate time every week to answering comments made to the blog posts, as well as communicating on the web with other bloggers, blogging services, etc. in order to make your blog a success. This dedication should be one to two hours a week, spread out over the week - say 15-30 minutes a day. That's an opportunity cost which will add up. 4-5 billable hours a month means 60 billable hours a year. Golly.

... no one can attend the virtual cocktail party for you

And, yes - you (or your associate, or trusted paralegal) will have to do this job. As your blog post writer, I cannot do what I like to call "attending the virtual cocktail party" for you.

A. It's important that you take the time to respond to the comments left on your blog. They're waiting to see if you do, trust me.

B. It's also important that you send a couple of emails out on a routine basis, telling people about your blog. I think this is best done within your local community.

1. One suggestion I always make is to write a reporter in the local paper about one of their big stories, giving favorable feedback, and include your blog link. ("Great story. We need to know more about this in our community. Joe Lawyer (Please feel free to check out my blog, GreatestBlawgOnEarth.blogspot.com, I'd love to hear what you think. Thanks!) )

2. Another suggestion that I make is for blog owners to take the time to surf the web, creating a list of blogs and websites with which they would like to affiliate. Then, after collecting their addresses, send out a blanket email which not only informs the blogger that you'll be placing their blog on your blawg's link list but that you would be honored if they would reciprocate by putting your blawg's link on theirs.

Why do this? Because their readers will click on their link list, and check out your site. This is very important if you are trying to network in the local area. Crosslinking like this builds traffic, and repeat readership.

Is it worth all this expense?

I think it is, and I think we'll see more and more law firm blogs or blawgs appearing over time. Why?

1. Because blogging is still a very efficient method of distinguishing yourself from the pack, which is very important in today's marketplace.

2. Blogging builds personal relationships with readers in a wide spectrum (geographically, socio-economically, etc.) in a readily available format.

3. Blogger posts, written appropriately, can zoom you to the top 5 search results in a Google Search fast, and free (no need for paid SEO, etc. here).

4. Virtual networking is easier and cheaper than traditional networking. You can work on your blog during the soccer match, while you're waiting in line at the bank, or at home, in your pajamas at three in the morning. Hard to beat that.



How Cool is The New Search Engine Cuil? One Writer's Opinion

Cuil.com is up and running - and it's set itself up to challenge Google, claiming an even bigger index of websites than Google. In fact, Cuil is boasting to have indexed THREE times more websites than any other search engine (Google or otherwise). That's over 120 billion pages.

For those writing for the web, cuil.com should be interesting to watch because it's also claiming to be checking content and thereafter ranking sites in search engine results differently than Google does. Does cuil care about keywords and key phrases and site maps? I don't know that they do .... according to PC Mag's Chris Gampat, Cuil "... ranks pages based on relevance, rather than popularity based on link analysis, as Google does, and analyzes the context of the page and the concept behind queries."

How does it work? Well, I've done a couple of test searches on Cuil, Google, and Yahoo and if I were Google or Yahoo, I wouldn't be worried just yet. Cuil didn't give me what I wanted in the top 10 results by a longshot.

Not a quality result in any of my test runs. For example, when I searched for my own name, I got a lots of obits, along with real estate commercial listing info for a woman who shares my name and lives in a different state, and other skipping stone type of data.

Same thing when I did a couple of other searches, looking for topical stuff. Like "Caylee Anthony" - first page of search results is giving me stuff on Caylee Monique McCosker's obit, and something called "the ultimate KAYLEIGH eliminator." Right. NOTHING on the first page about the missing 3 year old the entire country is talking about today.

Not helpful, and not impressive. Maybe Cuil is new, and this will change.

I do like Cuil's result format. Three column, paragraphs, the occasional image. That's nice.

More on Cuil:

PCMag - Hands On with the New "Cuil" Search Engine
PCWorld - Cuil Stumbles Out of the Gate
Computer World - Ex-Googler's Search Engine Draws Fanfare, but testers prefer Google
The Motley Fool - Will Cuil Kill Google? Probably Not


My MozyPro Update - After the Crash

Last December, I was so happy with MozyPro. This month, not so much.

I'll still keep using MozyPro as my remote backup service but I've learned some things about MozyPro that I thought I'd share here (for all the gorey details on my July computer crashes - two computer crashes, back to back), check out my post over at Everyday Simplicity:

Bottom line:

1. MozyPro did save me - I did get all most of my files. I have my emails, I have my word processing documents, I have my publisher files. I may have lost my TurboTax and QuickBooks files (most of this was in hardcopy already, however) as well as some website designs made with a special webdesign software provided by GoDaddy.

2. MozyPro's tech support was helpful and human - when I finally tracked them down.


3. MozyPro doesn't always download even if that window tells you it does.

4. I will keep using MozyPro, but I won't be as trusting of the software. I'll double check the reality of those backups. And, I'll keep that tech support number handy.

5. In addition to MozyPro, I'll also keep hard copies of all my important, current workweek stuff - including emails, invoices, works in process - on a flash drive. I would have been in a mess if this had happened in the middle of the workweek, and I had to be down three days just to get myself up and running again. In a way, it was a blessing that this happened over a long holiday weekend (except for cancelling that picnic/BBQ ....).


Writer Lawyer Tip: Google's Keyword Tool Just Got Better

Google's Keyword Tool is better than before. Now, you can find the "approximate keyword search volume" ... which means Google will tell you the exact amount of monthly search for a particular keyword for the previous month as well as an average amount of monthly searches.

What's all the hoopla about?

First, it's Google. Their numbers are what you want to know ... with all due respect to the other search engines out there. Google is King.

Second, it's free. Yep, free.

Third, you can choose "exact match" from the menu (or surround the keyword with brackets) and get the actual number of times a keyword has been searched for last month. That's big.

For more info:

Google's Announcement

Google's AdWords Blog Post on the New Addition




My E-Book Road -8: Bob Jensen Is the EBook Guru

Bob Jensen of Trinity University (here in my hometown, what luck!) has studied e-books for years, and he's sharing his information over at his website, Electronic Book, e-Book, eBook, eJournals and Electronic Journals Watch.

Lots of info here, going back many years -- Prof. Jensen's attitude may seem slanted toward academic usage of the publications, but that's certainly understandable. He's very generous with his knowledge and he's kept his website current for several years. Good place to surf thru when pondering e-books vs print ....

Dell Saves the Day: You Can Still Buy XP

First, there was the nightmare: as of June 30, 2008, the last XP was being shipped out of Microsoft, and we'd all be faced with Vista in future computer buys. (For details on why this might be a horror, check out PCMag's "Vista's 11 Pillars of Failure" by John Dvorak.)

But wait!

Silicon Valley Insider reports that Dell has come to the rescue ... Dell is reporting a loophole in its licensing agreement with Microsoft that allows Dell to continue offering XP as an operating system.

For details, read the SVI reports of June 30 and July 3, with their links.

Thanks to Vodkapundit for the heads up.


My E-Book Road 7: Traditional Publishing

As you know if you've been following along My E-Book Road, I'm wanting to provide lots of info regarding several specific topics on which I get quizzed regularly by email and which involves much too much to thrown into my Everyday Simplicity blog. I've decided a small book, maybe even a couple of hundred pages, would help a lot of folk and now the hurdle for me is: how best to accomplish this goal, cheaply, efficiently, with a quality product, and maybe a bit of a profit for all my time, effort, and lost opportunity costs?

I'm not investigating where to publish my Great American Novel, or even a single poem. I did stumble across two opposing views this week -- the first, as I learned that Murderati is up for a major blogging award, and the second, as I read in Media Bistro that an author is choosing to write an ebook, available online as a pdf, and if his sales are strong enough, then his publishing house will take his book into a paperback version. So, I went surfing around to learn about Canterabooks (which has a blog but no separate website).

I learned a lot just from this limited surfing. Check out the perspectives being advanced online by Peri Noskin Taichert over at Murderati (such a great blog, by the way) in her post, "What is An Author?" and an interview by a blogger at Subtletea of Cantera Christopher:

You read them both and see what you think ... excerpts:

Peri: "I want something that more accurately reflects the difference in the two processes of publishing. I don't want the term to be loaded with judgment or arguments about quality; after all, there's a need for both opthalmologists and optometrists in this world. A person could make the same argument about self-publishing and traditional publishing. But they're not the same. I've never paid to have my work in print. I DO want potential readers to know that. ...."

Cantera: "As for our motto ["Beating Our Tiny Fists on the Big Hairy Chest of the Corporate Literary World"](which came to me one evening over drinks with my partner Michael upstairs at Sardi’s), it puts one in mind of a voluptuous but virtuous art maiden on the brink of being seduced/raped by the testosterone-driven commercial establishment. I like the eroticism of that fantasy. It gives me the juice to keep plugging away. Eros is the main component of my artistic makeup and philosophy, and by Eros I mean the creative, generative spirit at its primal."

I don't know about you, but wouldn't want to spend any time with Cantera but I'd like to have a conversation or two with Peri. I've even put Peri's name on my Barnes & Noble Buy list.


My E-Book Road: 6 - Amazon Looking Good

Well, well, well.

Amazon seems to have a method in its madness, and maybe self-publishing through Amazon makes more sense than ebooks ...
check out my post over on Rebecca Kennedy.

In a nutshell, Amazon is looking to cut out all the middlemen with a future where it's just Amazon and its authors. Means lots more money in the author's pocket.

And, Amazon purportedly will be targeting self-publishing authors first -- get them into the Amazon fold, and then Amazon is allegedly going to go head to head with the traditional publishing houses.

Now, all the BookSurge and CreateSpace and Kindle information is making much more sense ....


My E-Book Road: 5 - Amazon.Com's CreateSpace

Looky, looky. Amazon.com has its own self-publishing company, CreateSpace, where trade paperbacks are created from pdf files. They supply an ISBN, or you provide one.

Not the same as an e-book, but something to think about as I ponder my project (see My E-Book Road: Introduction).

I'm wondering how CreateSpace product is treated on Amazon.Com ... and is this a very simple, fast way to get your product onto Amazon?

Costs, quality questions and much more at the CreateSpace site.


My E-Book Road: 4 - Harper Collins Imprint Gives No Advances

Curiouser and curiouser.

Harper Collins has recently announced a new imprint that would not provide any advances to writers (stupid) although this doesn't seem to be set in stone just yet. (Writers would get paid through some type of profit-sharing plan - check out MediaBistro for the best scoop on this story.)

Meanwhile, Joseph Weisenthal of paidContent.org, over at WashingtonPost.com, opines that this Harper Collins step is in reality a spin on the usual POD setup which would allow untested writers the opportunity to be published by HarperCollins without that nasty inventory risk.

I'm just wondering if Amazon's BookSurge bit correlates with this HarperCollins spin in some way ....

My E-Book Road: 3 - Amazon's Booksurge for Print on Demand, The Only Choice Now?

Well, I'm learning.

Print on Demand ("POD") through Lightening Source was coming highly recommended (see My E-Book Road post no. 2), and POD sure seemed to make sense to me for my purposes (see My E-Book Road intro post).

Today, however, I learn that Amazon.com is demanding that its own Print On Demand service, BookSurge, be used for any books sold on the Amazon site.

MediaBistro is reporting on the public backlash that appears to be growing: apparently, the American Society of Journalists and Authors has issued a press release relaying its "disgust" with Amazon's move, and the Authors Guild is mentioning that big, scary word of "antitrust" (which wouldn't be the first time that someone used "monopoly" and "Amazon" in the same sentence).

In fact, this story is building by the minute - so much so, that Writers Weekly has devoted a specific page on its site to this issue, with continous updates. Go here to read the latest.

There's talk of boycotts. Lawsuits. Anti-Amazon blogs are popping up. It's a big deal today.

Post I like best so far? Angela Hoy's personal take on the story over at Media Mensch -- she's the co-owner of BookLocker.com (a POD company) and the publisher of WritersWeekly.com.


My E-Book Road: 2 - Online Advice from Others

Well, I've decided to buy a group of ISBNs from the official site, and I've got a pretty good idea on what software I want to use for my e-books (that's a separate post, later) so today, I went surfing around to see what I could find.

I have several questions: how do I get my books popping up on Amazon.Com? Do I need to have paperback versions of my e-books, or isn't that defeating the purpose? Can I get on Barnes & Noble too? Should I set up a DBA with a new website, just for the ebooks?

Here's some good articles I found:

1. Plug Your Book - May 2007, "How Can I Sell My E-Book on Amazon?"

Steve Weber says there's just 3 steps to getting your ebook on Amazon: (1) own your rights; (2) supply the ISBN; (3) open an account with MobiPocket which requires use of their proprietary format.

Weber also suggests that you offer a paperback version of your book, because people still prefer holding books in their hands rather than reading them on screen. (Touche - I know I do.) This, he suggests, isn't hard, either - he advises opening an account at Lightning Source, which prints on demand - no stocking of inventories here - and then supplies the copies to Amazon (and other online retail booksellers, too). In other words, someone buys a paperback version and LS prints one up and ships it over to the book retailer to ship out. Cool.

Finally, and this is real daydream fodder, Weber also advises that if your book becomes really popular out there, LS will keep on printing so you can sell the thing on shelves in actual walk-in stores, like Borders down in the mall. (Though he warns, at this point, you might want to get that inventory going because offset printing is cheaper at this point than LS's print-on-demand option.)

2. The Guardian, March 2008: "Penguin audiobooks to be free of copyright protection"

Penguin and other publishing houses just aren't sure what to do with e-books, and the best quote in the article is a comparison of Kindle to I-Pods. I-Pods make downloading music easy and fun for folk, but no one has developed an analogous machine for the book. Penguin's trying something here with getting rid of a hurdle to its offerings being available on a variety of readers by just throwing out the digital copyright protection technology.

Think this is stupid, and in doing so, are they waiving infringement claims here?

3. HappyAbout

An interesting "quick to market" book publisher -- offering books to a specific niche, in three formats: paperback, e-book, or podbook with a size range of 80-150 pages.

4. PelePublications

A site created by one of the writers shown over at HappyAbout, Catherine Kitcho. She's offering books, ghostwriting, at the site -- and other things as a publisher registered with the Library of Congress. Which is a nice thing to read for those that don't know you've got to register there when you buy that block of ISBNs over at Bowker (see earlier post on ISBNs and Bar Codes).

5. March 2008: Random House puts bestsellers and new releases in ebooks for public libraries

Overdrive is the top digital book distributor to libraries, and it's announced this month that it will be offering over 6500 Random House best sellers and new releases (we talking big books here) to public libraries in both the adobe PDF and the Mobipocket PRC formats.

Sounds like e-books are going to be more accepted as time goes on, and that's good news for me. I've already seen some books over at the San Antonio Public Library in my researching this past month that were available as e-books.


Writing and Thinking

A paperweight sits on my desk, I read it often: " 'Good writing is clear thinking made visible,' Bill Wheeler."

Perhaps the best example I've seen in a long while is the recent - and controversial - essay by playwright/poet/screenwriter David Mamet in the Village Voice, "Why I Am No Longer a Brain Dead Liberal."

Read it - not so much for political reasons, you may or may not agree with him, but for writing ones. It's worth your time.


Great Writing Online: 1 - Malcomb Gladwell

I stumbled upon Malcomb Gladwell last week, on a rerun of Charlie Jones: Live to Tape and realized that in my frenzy to go paperless a couple of years back, I had deprived myself of more than I'd realized when I cancelled my New Yorker subscription.

Luckily, Gladwell's got a website (gladwell.com) with a nice archive and (yea!) a blog. Sure, this is good news for readers everywhere - but I think it's great news for writers.

You see, one of my hobbies - in addition to searching for the Ultimate Crispy Taco (this is San Antonio, after all) - is studying great writing, not just reading it. I'm sure you do this, too, right? Like Nora Ephron's tremendous use of short sentences, for example. Love that.

Check out Gladwell's work in Dangerous Minds. He starts out giving us details about NYC's Mad Bomber of the 1950s, and right before the profiler comes into view, he writes:

In 1955, he struck six times. The city was in an uproar. The police were getting nowhere.

Uproar. Nowhere. My mind goes to black and white, men in hats, women in floral print housedresses shooing their children inside.

These aren't long sentences, there's no polysyllabic phrasing. He's used "the" to start two sentences right in a row. Hmmmmmm.

Well, you get the idea. I'm such a nerd.

But, I love the way Malcomb Gladwell writes, and I'm excited so much of his stuff is right there, on the screen, 24/7/365 and free, to boot. Thought I'd share it with you.


My E-Book Road: 1 - ISBNs & Barcodes

Sure, you don't have to have an ISBN when you are self-publishing -- but I think it's wise to have one, and I'm investigating how to do so for my E-Books.

What the heck am I talking about? Well, ISBN stands for "International Standard Book Number" and I suppose it's analogous in its own way to a Social Security Number these days for most folks. You can manuever through the world without one, but it's a ramble.


ISBNs are very official, and they are assigned by a very official organization: the US ISBN agency which is run by a private firm, RR Bowker -- the publishers of Books in Print. Nice, tidy market niche they've got there, huh?

Their website offers lots and lots of information, including this list of fees:

(15 business days turnaround)

ISBN price list (the categories below include the combined processing fees and registration fees):

10 ISBNs: $275.00
100 ISBNs: $995.00
1000 ISBNs: $1,750.00

They also offer a warning about "unauthorized resellers of ISBNs", which states in part:

"If you use one of these reassigned ISBNs, you will not be correctly identified as the publisher of record in Books in Print or many of the book industry databases. The result may be extensive costs to apply for a new ISBN and the application of stickers to books already printed and in circulation.

"If you are a new publisher, you should apply for your own ISBN publisher prefix from the US ISBN Agency. Assigning ISBNs from your own ISBN publisher prefix will identify you as the publisher of your titles, and link your contact information to the specific publisher identifier. This will ultimately aid in circulating your books properly in the industry supply chain."

Who are these scandalous resellers? I'm not sure.

Meanwhile, I found BarCode Graphics has a good deal -- $55 for an ISBN and a Bookland EAN barcode -- promoting itself as:

"Bar Code Graphics, Inc. is not related to R.R. Bowker, but does have an agreement by which the Publisher Services division can act as an agent for small publishers and facilitate single ISBN assignments through Bowker with the publisher's name listed as the registrant (Personalized Publisher Program)."

About Those Barcodes ...

The Agency offers the official Bookland EAN format while Bar Code Graphics offers something else:

"The Bookland EAN barcode is a standardized format which is accepted by trading partners worldwide. Our experience with bar codes enables us to provide our customers with symbols which comply to the GS1 guidelines and offer assistance with providing the appropriate format. Click here for an example.

"If you require only a Bookland EAN symbol, we encourage you to purchase ISBN Bookland barcodes files from www.createbarcodes.com for only $10 each."

(Go to www.createbarcodes.com, and you find this site owned and operated by Bar Code Graphics, as well.)

The Bottom Line

$55/1 ISBN is a lot better than $275/10 ISBNS (not including barcodes). On the other hand, I am intending on writing more than one e-book, and the idea of being a real, life publisher listed in Books in Print sounds so darn - well - cool.

So, is this a good deal? What does RR Bowker say about Bar Code Graphics? I don't know yet, but I've asked them.

My E-Book Road: Introduction

For all those snoots who look down their noses at self-publishing, hey - I understand. My first thought is visualizing the horrid yellow backwater paperback offered up by a proud "author" at a local writer's group: 340 pages of a rambling, rhyming epic detailing the life of his beloved, and very dead, cat. Nine lives and all that, you know.

Meanwhile, over at my simplicity blog (Everyday Simplicity), I get lots of traffic going to the same subject matter -- and lots of email asking questions -- on basically three or four topics. Over time, the requested information has delved into a lot more detail than a blog post can - or should - handle.

The answer, I've decided, is an E-Book. I'm expanding these high-traffic topics, compiling a lot more information into a hopefully helpful publication that meets the needs of these readers in a way that Everyday Simplicity cannot.

Little did I know that this decision, once made, isn't so simple to implement. I'm learning all sorts of things as I undertake this endeavor - and I thought this blog post series would be a good idea. I'll share what I learn, as well as keep track of my progress and what info I've accumulated.

My E-Book Road. Here goes.


Wal-Mart's Purge of 1000 Magazine Titles

When I first read about Wal-Mart's decision to discontinue sales of a huge number of magazines, I wrote about it and promised to update that post with the actual purge list once it was released.

Today, I updated that post with the latest info I could find on the actual magazines that have been culled from Wal-Mart shelves.

Meanwhile, I've been pondering the known titles on the list, such as:

The New Yorker
The Economist
The Robb Report
Town & Country

Here's my big question -- at the store that brings us the Four Dollar Prescription Program and the WalMart PrePaid Debit Card "...for the underbanked...," how many of its customers actually BOUGHT these titles anyway?

Thinking About This as a Reader

I admit to wandering into the nearby Wal-Mart occasionally (for one thing, it's the only place that sells bags that fit my garbage compacter). I also know that I would never buy The New Yorker at Wal-Mart, although it's a magazine I've read for years, and I might easily pick up a copy at Barnes & Noble on a Sunday afternoon.

No, I haven't dedicated much time to analyzing why that is ... but I have thought about it long enough to realize that maybe this purge list isn't the big hit to magazine publishers and writers that it's being made out to be.

And, yes, I do wander through the magazine and book section of the store. I have bought a magazine or two, as well -- I clearly remember Wal-Mart was where I first saw Rachael Ray's new magazine debut. Maybe my magazine purchases at Wal-Mart are tied somehow to the store's environment, or my reason for being there (organic foods, compacter bags, a space heater to put under my desk)? It may be telling that I am somewhat surprised that Better Homes & Gardens and Ladies Home Journal have been booted.

What Does the 20% Really Mean to Us?

I recognize that MediaBistro is reporting that Wal-Mart is responsible for more than 20% of retail magazine sales in the United States.

I sure would like to know what magazines make up that twenty percent. And, I'd like to know more about that sales figure -- is this reflecting sales made to Wal-Mart, or sales that Wal-Mart made to magazine readers?

It's as a writer, not as a reader, that this news concerns me

As a reader, and magazine buyer, this purge list isn't causing me concern -- it's only from a writer's perspective that I'm spending any time on this topic.

I'm thinking that maybe Wal-Mart is simply cutting out magazines that were gathering dust on its racks and if that is true, then it's an understandable move.

And, I'm still chuckling that the Robb Report and The Economist were being sold at Wal-Mart in the first place. I mean really.


Getting Paid As A Writer

Note to self: next year, remember the Christmas slump where no one wants to finalize content and everyone wants to delay paying their invoices until January.

Being a writer is very different from being a lawyer. As a lawyer, being pushy is simply assumed. Your client would probably worry about you if you weren't a tad demanding, on a continual basis. As a writer, it's a different story - pardon the pun.

I've had a last minute e-mail, just as I was starting the project, with the message "hey, can we go on hiatus this month, start up again next month?" Of course, I said yes. This is a good client, and it's very interesting work, and there was more to the story than I'm going to post here. Still, my budget took a hit that I had not foreseen.

I've had invoices ignored, and I've had to develop a level of diplomacy (it goes way past that general term of "tact") that no lawyer in their right mind would ponder.

And, I've had companies tell me to deal with their client directly, after a contractual commitment with them (and a corresponding rate) that has been in existence for years. They're supposed to pay me, not ask me to be their collecting agent.

No, no one has shafted me any money - I'm blessed that slow pay is not the same as no pay.

It's still a whole new ballgame, though: receivables in a writer's world are so very, very different from receivables in LawyerLand. And, I'm still learning all the rules....