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LinkedIn.com: Social Networking in a New Box

September 1, 2008 Leave a comment

LinkedIn.com is a fast growing professional social networking site that allows members to create business contacts, search for jobs, and find potential clients.   Members can create a profile that can be viewed by others within their network.  LinkedIn is a free business social networking site that allows users who register to create a professional profile visible to others. 

With over 24 million linkedin users, it is an incredibly effective way to develop an extensive list of contacts rather quickly.  Your network consists of your own connections, your connections’ connections (2nd degree) and your 2nd degree connections’ connections (3rd degree).   From these contacts, you learn of job and business opportunities.  The LinkedIn Answers allows people to post business-related questions.  Responses come from LinkedIn members.

Like anything else, you will have to put some time into developing the information for your profile and inviting contacts to join your network.  I’m not sure how many people really work the network to its full potential, but it is always nice to know that in case your memory starts to slip (too many faces and names over time), you just have to browse your contacts to jog your memory.

LinkedIn also provides you with an instant way of connecting with everyone when you have an important announcement to make such as your fourth father-in-law’s brother is Lee Iacocca.

Be aware that competitors also view these profiles.  Headhunters can snatch up your best employees.  I have noticed that people feel obligated to respond to invitations and asking for recommendations might be akin to begging.  This can be a bit off putting to some.

For writers, start your network on www.linkedin.com and be in position to do viral marketing when your first book is published.

 

 

 

Discovering Yourself as a Writer (4)

April 30, 2008 Leave a comment

This is the fourth and final segment of SWOT  — threats. 

Threats can stem from anywhere.  Threats materialize from environmental conditions, competitors, friends and family, and self. If you can identify threats upfront, most times you will be able to develop strategies to mitigate the threat or turn it around to your advantage.  However, even being proactive, sometimes you cannot see the threat until it is upon you. 

In part I I identified my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and below is the content I considered threats to my writing efforts.

THREATS
Lack of focus. 
Energies too dispersed.
Self confidence
 

Obviously, my threats are my own habits.  Did you wonder where I was the last three days?  As much as I hate to admit it, II suffered from a lack of focus.  My energies were too dispersed.  I did, however, start my short story, but stalled out  because of a minor self-confidence issue. 

I could itinerate my excuses. They haven’t changed in 20 years. I decided not to pontificate about my excuses because they are just plain boring.  You, no doubt, know what I am referring to…the millions of little interruptions that steal away our time and skew our attention from the work we know we should be doing.  So, I wrote what I did during the day and asked the question: How does this task get me one step closer to achieving my goal?  Sadly, very little that I accomplished that day got me any closer to my goal. 

Okay, bottom line is that I am a self saboteur.  I should know better.  I’m on auto pilot. I just did it without thinking. I have to work on changing these behaviors, if I am ever going to write. 

And I look at next week’s busy calendar.  I see one writing activity compared to 10 other must do tasks.  This is a beginning, but I know that I have to step up my game, if I am going to move forward.

 

Discovering Who You Are as a Writer (3)

April 26, 2008 Leave a comment

In case you are just joining us, I’m in the midst of of a four part series in discovering who you are as a writer.  We are using SWOT to identify our strengths, weaknesses,opportunities, and threats.  While this exercise is ridiculously simple, it can be challenging because it forces you to look at yourself honestly.  After we compile all this information, it will help develp a game plan for any writing project.  Today we are discussing opportunities. I have been using my life to fill in the blanks, because I am transitioning into a writing career. 

I love opportunities…but one has to realize that most times opportunities don’t just come to you.  While it may seem like you are doing nothing to attract opportunities, you actually are.  However, when you want opportunities to show up in a particular area of your life — such as writing, you need to figure out how you are going to make it happen.

Most often, people can draw something from past experience, friends or skills to create writing opportunities.  A friend’s family runs a local magazine that features book and movie reviews.  While this isn’t directly in the ball park of novel writing, it may provide a stepping stone when the editor asks for clips.  You will also get a glimpse of the writing world.   Writing a couple of articles gives you credibility.  It looks good in the proposal.  It looks as if you are serious about writing…and of course, you are.

In my SWOT analysis, here’s what’s in the Opportunity box.

OPPORTUNITIES
Opportunity to meet many people where I work
Member of a Writing Group
Contacts at colleges where I attended
Understanding how to use the Internet and viral marketing as a tool

What I need to do is keep up with the email lists, stay active and make sure I connect with people that I may share things in common. I also need to work on other avenues to develop activities because this is not going to be enough to establish a good contact base for marketing endeavors (meaning the novels yet to be written).

My immediate action plan? I need to get folders set up for each of these areas of opportunity. When I have an idea to expand and broaden the area, I make notes to remind me what stage I am on the development. Always put down what you did and what you are going to do with a date. When your life becomes overwhelming and/or old age besets your memory, this will help you not squander time looking for stuff or redoing tasks already done.

One last note: If you stay at your computer and write without mingling and establishing relationships, you are closing your door to potential opportunities. It sounds regimented, but if you are the passionate type that prefers to stick your nose to the grindstone until the project is over, you will probably need more balance to keep your sanity. It will also keep the low and high peaks of any career at a minimum. To do that means to change your behaviors slightly. If you do a daily calendar, you can map out when you should write, do admin work, network, and relax. You need to nourish your whole self, not just the creative part.

My plan for tomorrow is to not blog my threats (last segment of the series) until I start my short story.

Discovering Who You Are as a Writer (1)

April 22, 2008 Leave a comment

In my last post, I invited everyone to join me as I begin the journey of crafting my writing talent into a business.  I discussed the definition of SWOT in fleshing out my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  We are going to take this information now and see how this information is useful.

STRENGTHS:  Strengths are always easy to work with because they are what we do best.  It is easy to be enthused, proud of your talents.  When you list your strengths in regard to your writing, you will see the talent you have that you have not tapped into yet.  Use those abilities to augment your chances of achievement.  For example: For years I have known that these were my strengths, but I never looked at them as a whole and think…hmmm…if I were counseling someone, what do all these strengths add up to?  What career am I going to be successful based on the list below?

In my case, I see it as a slam dunk.  These traits scream some kind of technical or business writer.  And what does my blog gravitate toward?  The business, more formal side of writing.  

Yet my goal is fiction —to write a novel.  180 degrees opposite of my skill set.  In further analyzing this information, it is obvious that the technical, more formal writing is my sweet spot.  Like the comedian who wants to be a dramatic actor, or the basketball player who wants to play football, human beings want to be what they are not naturally.  I think it is the thrill of the challenge and the adrenalin rush of achievement that drives us. 

And so, tomorrow I will examine my weaknesses and figure out how I can take action to be more efficient and take back some of those squandered hours and write.

Please feel free to share or comment.  Or jump in with a question.

STRENGTHS
Writing ability
Good foundation in research
Computer literate
Good imagination
Marketing skills
Small business management knowledge
Analytical
WEAKNESSES
Need more fiction writing time
Easily distracted by family and responsibilities
Too eager to help others
To-Do List is overwhelming 
OPPORTUNITIES
Opportunity to meet many people where I work
Member of a Writing Group
Contacts at colleges where I attended
Understanding how to use the Internet and viral marketing as a tool
 
THREATS
Lack of focus. 
Energies too dispersed.
Self confidence
 

Five Step Process to Assess and Plan Your Writing Career

April 19, 2008 Leave a comment

You probably are wondering why I can’t get my act together and here I am giving advice.  Good question.

 

My career experience has been an integration of sales, marketing, writing, teaching, and observation.  For the past 15 years or so, I’ve listened to financial experts help launch small businesses; I’ve watched webinars on everything from self assessment and motivation to learning how to target the people you want as clients; and   I’ve read numerous books on management, record keeping, controls, tax help, etc.

 

Intellectually I know what has to be done to succeed.  Emotionally, I always put my family first and there’s the rub.  I’m like the carpenter whose home has lots of trim work left to do because the carpenter is too busy fixing other people’s houses.

 

Follow me, and we will work through the SWOT chart together.

 

Step #1:  Determine the weaknesses in your ability as a writer.

Step #2:  What part of the writing process do you like the best?  What are you particularly good at?

Step #3:  Check out the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) chart below.  This is not my invention.  Businesses have been using this for years. 

Step #4:  Copy this chart and fill in the boxes with your assessment.

Step #5:  Put an X  by those items that you do not like doing.  Okay, as a business person, a person who writes for compensation, your success lies in how much you know about yourself and what is your game plan in dealing with weaknesses and threats and exploiting your strengths and opportunities.  Are you planning to learn how to do the task?  Or is it worthwhile to pay a professional to manage that end for you? 

 Sample SWOT Analysis 

STRENGTHS

Dramatic storytelling

Bigger than life characters

Good determination

Great ideas and vision

  

WEAKNESSES

No marketing plan

Networking

Writing dialogue

No filing system

No writing support group

Need better computer and office space

 

OPPORTUNITIES

Great researcher

A people person

Know people in publishing industry

Website

  

THREATS

Lack of self-esteem

Lack of time

Unable to say NO to family requests

Lack of organization

 

Your next step is putting this information together.  This will help you get a handle on areas of needed improvement and the foundation for your marketing plan. 

 

The chart above is a sample.  In the next week, I will develop my SWOT analysis  See how this is eventually incorporated into a marketing plan. (This is the groundwork for your proposals to literary agents and publishing houses.)

What is Your Unique Value Position

April 10, 2008 Leave a comment

You are the reader.  You are in a book store with a $20 bill.  Of course, whatever book you select, you want it to be compelling.  You want the best novel, let’s say, in the horror genre.  You want the writer to carry you into his/her world and make chills go up your spine.  You don’t want to settle because the one thing you love is page turning stories. 

How does the position writer himself to the reader to communicate that his novel is the best, worthy of the reader’s $20 and time?

One way for the writer to make the connection is to create a unique value position or UVP.  Very simply, UVP is communicating what you do best —- communicating your value.

If you have ever watched a someone sell a product to a stranger, he will give the 30 second elevator pitch.  This is one sentence that tells who you are, what you are selling or what you are about.  The pithy sentence should hook the stranger into asking for more details, thus making a connection and the start of a relationship.  If a salesperson can’t say it in 30-seconds, he may lose the stranger’s interest.

Writing a good elevator pitch is similar to writing a UVP; both are harder than you think.  Before a writer starts writing his novel, he needs to think about the following elements and wrap it into a tight sentence or two. 

1. Identification your target market.
2.What the reader will get out of your novel
3. A brief description of your novel (s).
4.  Why your book is unique in the marketplace or what is the perceived value.

Here are a couple of examples:

Stephen King: Master writer whose dreams keep us up all night.

Amy Tan: Asian novelist swept up in the  generational differences in the Asian culture.

Benefits of writing a UVP

1.  It identifies your unique position as a writer and how you may be different from other writers.
2.  This helps readers understand what you are about and thereby establishing a fan base.
3.   It helps you craft a series of novels in a particular genre…
4.   It establishes your goal, your focal point, so whatever UVP you write, you must have  passion to sustain you.
5.  If you want to make writing your career, one that pays, all your writing efforts should be centered around your UVP.  This will jumpstart your career direction and you will be surprised that identifying who you are and what you intend to write will bring you amazing success much sooner than had you not finished a UVP.  This is creating your own brand (we’ll discuss this later).

If you are a professional, your readers will expect you to deliver the same genre and writing quality in every book you publish.  Writing a good UVP will make it happen.

Write a unique value position and send it here or email them to me.  With your permission we can review them.

Free Business Cards

March 27, 2008 Leave a comment

I am always wary of things that advertise FREE.  However, the business cards from www.vistaprint.com are totally FREE.  Vistaprint sends you 250 business cards and all you have to pay for is the shipping. 

There are a number of templates from which to choose.  Vistaprint has them arranged in categories.  You can change very little on the freebies, but you have some design latitude if you pay.

The card stock is sturdy.  The font size and choice are limited (unless you decide to upgrade).  Colors are strong and cards have a nice clean cut edge.

You must be aware that vistaprint leaves their contact information on the back of your card at the bottom in small print.  Vistaprint.com also offers free rubber stamps, free customized sticky notes,  free pens,  free logo design, and free caricature designs. 

If you want business cards, this is not a bad deal. 

Next time I will tackle time management as I promised.  I just felt that telling you about the business cards  was too hard to keep a secret. No more procrastination.

Plagiarism Sites

March 12, 2008 Leave a comment

This week has been tough. I’ve been on overdrive for the past few days, adjusting to changes at work, keeping up with whatever the family is doing, and packing for vacation. This is the first vacation that my husband and I have taken in years. I am so looking forward to it….Anyway, before I left for vacation, I wanted to share with you a few more thoughts on plagiarism. Sharon Stoerger gathered some great articles on plagiarism and the college environment. http://www.web-miner.com/plagiarism

You might also visit Jonathan Bailey’s blog dedicated to plagiarism issues. He found ten things you should know about copyright on the US Copyright Office website. http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2008/02/28/10-basics-about-
copyright-everyone-needs-to-know/

Ten Facts About Copyright

In order to speed up this process and make this information easier to digest, I’ve broken down the facts into ten short explanations with links to more information if desired.

  1. Copyright Is Immediate: Copyright in a work is created once it is fixed into a tangible medium of expression. Though added legal avenues can be opened by registering the work with the Copyright Office, there are no formalities needed to obtain copyright in a work, including placing the copyright symbol.
  2. Copyright Protects a Set of Rights: Copyright is not just about the exclusive right to copy, it also provides the copyright holder with a sole right to publicly display a work, to publicly perform the work and create derivative works. Doing any of these things without the permission of the rightsholder is likely to be an infringement.
  3. Copyright Lasts a Really Long Time: In the United States, copyright in a personal creation lasts the life of the author plus seventy years. In corporate works, the term is a flat 95 years. After that term expires, the work passes into the public domain.
  4. Copyright Does Not Protect Many Things: Copyright protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. It also, typically, does not protect titles of a work, systems, concepts and anything that has not been fixed into a permanent medium. Finally, all works that are in the public domain are not protected by copyright and can be used freely.
  5. Not All Copying is Prevented: Though copyright gives the author of a work the sole right to produce copies, not all copying is prohibited. Fair use allows limited copying of a work “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research.”
  6. Fair Use is a Defense, Not a Right: Legally speaking, fair use is not a right, it is a defense against a copyright infringement suit (see footnote 20). Fair use rights do not exist and a whether or not a use is fair or not can only be determined conclusively by a judge/jury after the case has gone to the courts.
  7. Work For Hire is Limited: Though, in most cases, copyright in the work transfers to the author, in some cases it can transfer to the employer. Those cases are called “works for hire” and are limited to employees of the company (as recognized by Federal guidelines) and contractors in a limited set of fields that sign a work for hire agreement before the work is created. Most contract work is not a work for hire.
  8. It is Possible to Remove Many Infringing Works on the Web: If you find that your work is being misused on the Web, you can have it removed by filing a DMCA notice with the host. Alternatively, you can file a notice with the search engines and have the the content removed from their indexes. This can be done without an attorney or registering a work.
  9. Benefits of Registration: Though registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office does not earn you any new rights to your work, it is a prerequisite to filing suit for infringement in a Federal court, it enables you to collect attorney fees and statutory damages, serves as a public record of the copyright and services as prima facie evidence of ownership.
  10. Poor Man’s Copyright is a Myth: Finally, many claim that you can protect a work by mailing it to yourself and using the postmark as proof of copyright. This does not work and no provision of the law exists to make it possible. So-called “Poor Man’s Copyright” is not a substitute for registration.

Cynthia Webb (great name because she is obviously a web reporter for the Washington Post) writes about the blogging ethics debate. Citing a flagarant abuse of copy and pasting, Webb gives a global view how people look at the incident. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A63407-2003Apr9.html

Lastly a blog on foxsports.com from socalsportsfan. He or she defines plagiarism rules for bloggers. http://community.foxsports.com/blogs/socalsportsfan/2006/07/16/Plagiarism   _Rules_What_Every_Blogger_Needs_To_Know

I think I’ve exhausted the plagiarism topic. Bottom line is that if you plagiarize, especially when it is out there for a gazillion people to see, you won’t be the only one that knows that it isn’t your work.

Since I am so challenged by my time management issues, I am going to explore this topic with you next time. I am learning the hard way. Your thoughts on plagiarism or time management are welcome.

I may get an entry in before I leave, but that is wishful thinking. I certainly will be back in ten days.

Is the Interconnectivity of Blogging a Legal Tightrope?

March 6, 2008 Leave a comment

Blogging is fun.  It seems innocuous enough…that is, until one day you find a seething comment about your competitor on your blog.  At first glance, you might read the contribution as a gift, because you didn’t have the guts to be so brutally honest.  Maybe the information revealed feels like a relief because you realize others share your thoughts.

Or maybe someone posted on your blog — material lifted from elsewhere ?  Eeeks.  What does that say about you?  Common sense dictates that these are not your words, so accountability lies with the person who posted.  According to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, you are protected somewhat if you didn’t knowingly allow it.  But once you recognize the infringement, you are responsible for taking it down.

Okay, so if someone slams someone you know or reveals some dirt on your competitor on your blog, is that your fault?   Under the federal Communications Decency Act, you aren’t considered the publisher of the comment, therefore, technically you shouldn’t be liable as long as you don’t add to the defamatory remarks.  However, ethically you are responsible for your blog, so to let inflammatory material sit on your blog for any amount of time past discovery is a questionable decision.  Though, if you are into drama, then don’t bother reading comments and see where life takes you.

The whole idea is to keep your risk of liability to a minimum.  Concentrate on your writing.  You don’t have to live with this kind of conflict.  You can create it in your fiction.

What is your take on blogging ethics?  Do you review comments for defamatory or obscene remarks?

How Legal is Your Blog?

March 4, 2008 1 comment

Before I started this blog I was concerned about the legal aspects of the written word. Unlike journalism where the reporters’ code is to cross check the fact against at least two sources, this relatively new medium has no checks and balances and only loosely restricted. 

Many years ago, my mom wrote what I consider the first “blog.”  She called it “The Dear Ellen Letters.”

My mother — a visionary in her own right — wrote letters to Ellen, a distant relative, and sent it not only to Ellen, but to all her nearest and dearest relatives and friends.  The letter was a potpourri of life’s events and some reflections..  The difference was that my mom’s Dear Ellen letters were sent to a contained target audience.  No one was g0ing to sue her if she misreported, misunderstood, or miss quoted.

Today’s blogs are ubiquitous.  They have morphed into webettes (my word for mini websites) that carry links, comments, and images.  For most, bloggers are clueless about their vulnerablity to the legal system.  Their liabilities include copyright infringement, obscenity and indecency both in language and images, and defamation. 

You probably know about the blog wars waged in cyberspace and the impact of internet bullying  (The suicide of a depressed Missouri teen last year caused by internet bullying generated cries for new legislation ).  These underscore the point about just how dangerous thoughtless and callous words can be.

To keep your blog within the legal limits, here’s a definition of infringement:

If you copy or publish written work without the consent of the author, this is copyright infringement.  Cutting and pasting text, an image, or a comment that seems like an everyday object is still considered infringement.  Remember cutting and pasting material from another’s website and putting it in yours is robbery.  It prevents the orignator from pulling his full share of the traffic to his site.  To avoid this, get written permission or an emailed permission (and print a hard copy) .

If anyone can share knowledge or ideas about the legal aspects of blogging, please feel free to contribute. 

Tomorrow I will share my thoughts about linking and allowing others to post on your blog.