Monday, 16 April 2012

The brave new world of e-publishing

by Tottie Limejuice

"Why not publish it as an e-book?” a learned and techy friend asked me when I told her I'd just finished writing “Sell the Pig”, a book about my move to France.

I made a non-committal noise and immediately rushed off to that fount of all knowledge, Google, to find out what the heck one of those was. Because despite being a freelance copywriter working daily through the miracles of t'internet, I am also a confirmed Luddite who actually knows very little of the technical revolution.

I wrote “Sell the Pig”, or what happens when dementia, depressed dipsomania and downright dottiness decide to uproot from the UK and move to France together, because no-one to my knowledge has done the moving to France thing with a family like mine, including a 90-year-old mother with dementia and a manic-depressive alcoholic brother.

I hadn't really thought about what I was going to do with it once I had finished, except possibly hawk it around a few publishers. But thanks to said techy friend, I discovered Kindle Direct Publishing.

It seemed that, for absolutely no outlay and very little effort, I could publish my book and have it available for sale in this new-fangled electronic format on Amazon. And I would be entitled to 70% of each copy sold. It sounded marvellous, and certainly much more attractive than so-called vanity publishing which can cost aspiring authors a lot of money up front and bring them little in return.

I had a quick look at what was out there in self-published land. And had quite a surprise. Being a copy editor as well as copywriter, I rather imagined people would take a bit of time to proof their works before publishing. Some of it was so utterly awful, badly spelt, full of grammatical errors, that it was literally unreadable.

So I enlisted the help of two friends to check mine over for me, one a person who has known me well since the early 1980s, the other a new friend I'd met through Twitter then gone on to meet in the flesh, who knew me less well so would be able to spot any glaring gaps in the narrative.

With the help of their red pens, I eliminated most of the errors, then it was time to bite the bullet and publish. The good news was that it was really very easy to do and took no time at all, simply following the on-screen instructions and watching the accompanying video. My manuscript was in a standard Word format and I had even had a go at a cover illustration, using a photograph I'd taken, with text added using the very simple, user-friendly

I gave birth to my literary baby, mentioned it on Twitter and Facebook and sat back with bated breath to watch what would happen next.

If you're planning to use self-publishing via Kindle Direct Publishing to fund your lavish retirement plans, take a reality check. According to statistics I have read, the average self-publish sells about 100 copies in total. I was ludicrously pleased when Sell the Pig sold nearly 70 in the first month.

What came as the biggest and best surprise, however, was the warmth of the wonderful reviews it has received to date. And genuinely not all from people I know, although the one which has perhaps touched me the most came from Robin, someone I knew back in the 1960s, with the very flattering comparison to “My Family and Other Animals.”

I was also flattered by the way reviewers like little emma used phrases from the book in their reviews. And I was greatly encouraged by how many reviewers were asking eagerly for a sequel, like Serenaf66.

Will I make a fortune out of my self-publishing venture? Realistically? No. When you self-publish, you realise exactly how much main-stream publishers earn their percentage, with the amount of marketing that's necessary to make sales.

So is there any point in doing it? Yes, absolutely. First of all, it's great fun. You're in full control and you really engage on a personal level with everyone who reads and reviews your work. Plus it's so nice to keep peeking at your monthly sales reports to see how many have sold.

It's also a marvellous way to test the waters, to see if the work you've sweated over is any good, because you are exposing yourself not just to glowing praise but to the possibility of biting criticism too, and that's a valuable reality check.

A couple of very obvious Dos and Don'ts which are nonetheless worth stressing:

• Don't expect to make a fortune from your first foray into self-publishing to e-books. Even with 70% of the royalties, you've got to go some with your marketing to sell enough to make much.

• Don't expect mainstream publishers to be beating a path to your door the minute you publish.

• Don't forget there are a lot of people out there like me who know nothing of Kindle and will need a lot of hand-holding to download the free app and buy your masterpiece.

• Do decide on your motives before rushing to self-publish in electronic format. If they are entirely financial, this may not be the right medium for you.

• Do take time to read very carefully every little box you are asked to tick before uploading, as one mistake could lose you some of the rights to your own work.

• Do accord your readers the courtesy of presenting them with a manuscript which is as free from errors as it is within your power to make it – if you're asking them to pay to read it, you should at least make it worth the purchase price.

I'll now sit back and await a flood of feedback from anyone who reads this article, then reads Sell the Pig, and delights in pointing out all the typos that slipped through the net!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Writing Technical Copy with Credibility

What technical retailers value above all else in marketing copy is credibility. Waffly copy without substance is fine for non-technical customers, but the goal-driven, pursuit-following technically minded will expect sound knowledge. And the more often buyers visit a site, the more technically clued up they become. It’s all out there, how are you going to present it to consumers to make them want to purchase, and convince them to buy from you?

Writing for techies involves providing the information they're seeking in bite-size format. You need to filter information for the key features that will help customers select and drive those important sales. Benefits, to a certain extent, take second place to the main characteristics.

Think in terms of marketing property. Most house-buyers want to know things like the number of bedrooms, location, whether there's a garden etc. A breakfast bar or hot-tub may well be lifestyle benefits but are more bonus features than essentials.

The savvy techy customer wants to read a genuine representation of the product, presented with integrity, or you will lose credibility. That doesn't mean you have to be negative with something you see as an inferior product. Every product has something positive about it, with which you can lead in to your review.

It can be hard finding the balance in writing for true techies and the less clued-up customer, who may need a little hand-holding. You may need to include a jargon-busting hyperlink for those who need it, without putting off the true techie with too much basic detail in your copy.

For both types of customers, a winning format is to lead in with a concise nut-shell description, then a run-down of the product's main USPs in clear feature-benefit format, which should help your copy to remain concise.

For most technical products, there will be a lot of facts and figures to support the undoubted benefits. Although you may have covered some of them in the main text, a table or bullet points to summarise provides easily digestible information to the prospective customer and can act as a powerful call to action in its own right.

What are your top tips for writing technical copy and establishing yourself as a trustworthy authority?

Our very own Bear Grylls, Danny Kendall is an excellent technical copywriter, with a sound grasp of SEO and a passion for outdoor pursuits. Mostly he's out there climbing, cycling, mountain biking or having operations to put right all the bits his action man lifestyle have put wrong. And very occasionally he can be found creating content for some of the UK's biggest outdoor retailers. If you need the technical mustard cutting, he's your man.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Vanessa Knox - A Fashion Style Icon

Every now and then one of our clients undertakes an exciting new venture and completely blows us away. Not only is Vanessa Knox a truly incredible talent in the world of fashion (I loved working with her at Isabella Oliver) but she’s amazingly wonderful with it. A true inspiration and so I was thrilled when she asked me to write for her exciting label, just launched for Spring 2011.

Being a woman in this age means being so many different things. A million things to as many people with hundreds of hats to wear and a thousand looks to carry off. Vanessa Knox has created a stunning new label to tick every box and cover every angle. From iconic Macs, luxurious floaty tunic tops, sleek trousers, tanks and slouchy jersey, her style is inimitable, luxurious, sensuous and uber stylish.

Vanessa co founded Isabella Oliver when she was pregnant with her first child. This is her first Maternity and Ready to Wear Collection under her own name. She’s a working mum just like so many of us and understands that women need a wardrobe that works from the boardroom to school run pick up.

Her new collections are designed for women who want their wardrobe to multi task in as many ways as they do. A look that’s just perfect before, during and after children plus all that’s in between - you know, life! So why not spend it in comfort and style with inspiring prints and catwalk worthy designs. Her RTW collection has so many gorgeous pieces, we just want them all.

Vanessa has enjoyed quite a celebrity following in the past and we predict you’ll be seeing the A-list sporting VK style icons in from London to her native New York very soon.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

3D Graphics & CGI for Online Content Marketing

Creative Content for your Blog or Website
By Ashley Taylor

I’ve been creating commercial 3D graphics for about 10 years now. I started out just as Woody and Buzz Lightyear burst on the scene with the first Toy Story.

photo realistic product images in 3D
And things have changed. A lot. Back in the mid 90s it would take me days to render a still image that looked pretty plastic. Now it takes a few hours to create something you could easily mistake for a photograph.

And it’s given creative people so much freedom. Not just the Hollywood directors, but the marketing people too.

Want to see a car transform into an ice skating robot? No problem. How about one celebrity’s head talking on top of another’s body?

And then there’s the 3D you don’t know about. Health and beauty creatives, I’m looking at you.

But that’s the big brands with the big budgets, isn’t it? What about 3D graphics for the rest of us?

Well, that’s my territory. 3D graphics can and is being used by smart marketers and graphic designers, without the Hollywood price tag.

So let me show you where 3D rocks. Where it knocks traditional photography and illustration into a tin hat.

Bring Products to Life

studio photography, or 3D?
Everyone loves those pristine studio shots of their products floating in white space. Nowadays, a whole lot of them are not photos but 3D graphics. Why? A 3D artist like me can create photo-realistic product images for the same kind of price as studio photography. And with 3D, if you want to change a few dimensions, add a new label, alter the lighting, the angle, go from pink to lilac, you don’t have to pay for a whole new photo shoot. For me, it’s simple tweak and re-render. And once I’ve created a product in 3D it’s very easy to animate it as eye-catching web content on your own site or social media sites like You Tube. And you don't get any reflections of the camera in your shiny surfaces.

Buildings for Print or Online Brochures

Architectural visualisation – or arch-viz as we 3D geeks like to call it – includes creating 3D buildings before they are built, or re-creating buildings that have been lost or ruined.

It’s perhaps 3Ds most traditional application, but it’s also an amazing area in the future.

Arch-viz 3D is very handy when you need glossy brochures for a prestigious housing development, but the ‘houses’ are in reality a muddy field. But it’s not just stills. I’ve also done animations of house extensions for clients to help them get planning permission.

And then there’s the cut-away diagram and the exploded diagram, showing what’s going on under the roof or under the ground – literally.

3D arch viz created to sell houses not yet built
3D can also come into its own with exhibition space, tried and tested with a 3D walkthrough. If you’re the agency pitching to win the work, or you’re on the board deciding what design to spend your funding on, a walkthrough animation really helps test an idea before you lift a hammer.

But my favourite arch-viz is the historical stuff. Turning a ruined abbey back into a living building.

To create a detailed Cistercian abbey in 3D, have children download it as an app on an iPad which detects their exact location, then watch them walking round the site holding up the iPad as a moving window to the past. Now that’s a commission I want!

Reveal Your Brand’s Hidden Processes

3D process animations for web and exhibitions
A lot of marketing effort goes into explaining a process. The trouble is, processes can be complex and hidden. They can happen inside machines, in toxic environments, at molecular levels, at global levels. A camera cannot capture these things, but 3D can. My animations can pass through metal, zoom in or out at speed, slow things down or speed them up. It’s really the best way to ensure your customer ‘gets’ a concept – and “getting” it is 95% of the way towards “wanting” it.

But it’s not just sales. There’s also education. A recent fire safety animation of mine highlighted the key fire hazards in the home; this is not shifting product but saving lives.

We’ve all seen the obviously fake room set alight with the locked-off camera recording events. With a 3D animation the viewer is not tucked in a distant corner. They can be taken right to the heart of the fire and come away thinking about their home and how to make it safer.

Explanations for You Tube and Squidoo Lens

Text and still images are notoriously poor at explaining how to do things. Just try explaining how to tie a bow with only words! Video is better, but 3D graphics can give insights that are just not possible with a camera.

Have a look at this animation I did that explains how to install an edge protection system on a building site. Not only does it explain how the product works, it also gets across its USP – speed – in a sexy and convincing way.

So that’s my take the main marketing challenges where 3D graphics are the tool to use.

Did anything surprise you? Did I miss anything? Please leave a comment. It would be great to know what you think.

To watch Ashley’s latest 3D graphic work, click this link to see his 3D graphics at Push Creativity's website.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A Passion for Podcasting

by Katie Anderson 

Ever since I could talk, I loved an audience. I didn’t speak for a rather long time when I was small but once I started there was no stopping me. 

I used to host radio shows from my bedroom with a tape recorder and BT telephone and invite listeners to participate in my programmes. I don’t remember much about this now of course but some old school friends I was recently reunited with on Facebook reminded me how coming to my house to play after school inevitably involved an appearance on my radio show before tea. 

I love narration and am fascinated by the use of storytelling in history as a means of sharing and teaching the next generation. Just as you or I will remember priceless information about things we have learned aurally since we were young, there’s a place in business for this too. What better way of spreading the word and sharing information? A professional podcast is a fantastic way of engaging your customers and putting yourself out there in the big pool of podcasters on the web. It’s only natural we should teach in this way after all. Think about it, it’s the way we’ve always learned about new things; from listening to Granny showing you how to make a most fabulous apple pie, reading aloud at bedtime or tuning in to your favourite radio show. The key is finding a performance that holds your attention long enough to teach you about things, people, culture and places we have yet to understand in our everyday lives. Our attention span isn’t long either, a good broadcaster has only a few seconds before their listener starts fiddling with the dial. 

The fantastic thing about modern broadcasting is that you don’t have to have a job within a large broadcasting corporation to write, produce and air your programmes. Podcasting is fast becoming a respected means of broadcasting factual and fictional information by drawing in listeners over the web from a far wider reach than a local radio station can. In fact, businesses are using podcasting to bring customers to their websites for an entertaining experience, offering them more than just shopping. Think about all the added benefits of SEO content a podcast can bring to your website. It is a great way to show off your expertise, specialist skills, interact and keep clients coming back time and time again. Make your business an interesting place to be and watch and see how your relationship with your customer grows. From a journalistic point of view it’s a much more challenging way of shouting about what you do than churning out press releases and adds fun and value to your ever growing business.

So, in essence, think of podcasting like a game of tag. Social media like facebook and twitter give us an instant online presence and you can even track your followers and statistics on the number of people driven back to your homepage. Take blogs, where like here , you can read and learn about what a business or organisation is planning or doing right now, or a podcast that you can listen to again and again and the possibilities are endless. With a podcast you can instantly stream your broadcast via specialist websites to reach potential new clients all over the world. 

From complicated marketing campaigns, charts, spreadsheets and pointless information overload, we’ve come full circle and are using aural communication like never before to get our message across. Marketing your business today is about humanising what you do, making yourself accessible and speaking in plain English. As is true in everyday life, the simplest way to spread the word is by telling someone face to face, or ear to ear as it were, about what you know and inviting them to listen and pass the information on.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Hold the Front Page!

Creating newsletters that get your brand noticed
by Jill Tomlinson

News is wall to wall. 24/7. Non-stop. When you’re trying to connect with customers, it’s not easy to make your voice heard above the din. No wonder the humble newsletter has stepped forward as one of the most powerful marketing opportunities for brand builders.

Online or offline, the newsletter is an astonishingly valuable marketing tool. Unlike many other promotional formats, it speaks for itself as well as supporting your brand’s core mission. It brings the weight of editorial-style credibility.

Subscribers are pure gold

Opt-in lists double this power. Subscribers are pure gold for marketers. They tell you in positive terms they want to join your inner circle and find out more about your brand. They want to know about you regularly. If you do the right thing by these valuable people and reward them with brilliant content, they’ll reward you with strong, profitable connections over the long term.

Be anything but dull

Given the benefits, why on earth are so many newsletters dull, long-winded and self-promoting? Get your content right and you’ll stand head and shoulders above this kind of lazy mediocrity. Give your readers what they want and deserve: fresh, relevant content that informs, excites and interests.

DO make your newsletter:

• newsy
• exciting
• informative
• helpful
• funny
• involving
• full of real people, stories and opinions

DON’T make your newsletter:

• selly
• dull
• corporate
• long-winded
• self-congratulatory

Keep it fresh

Genuinely interesting content does much more than promote short-term sales. It builds loyalty, forms brand advocates, creates inclusion and encourages feedback. As your brand expresses its personality, so readers deepen their emotional connection with it. They enjoy the sense of participation that comes from being part of this exclusive group.

Online newletters:

• drive traffic to landing pages and web pages
• are economical to create and distribute
• bring feedback
• provide useful analytics

Online, the benefits of plentiful new content are vast. E newsletters give linking opportunities that drive traffic to landing pages and web pages. They also boost your brand’s SEO efforts by supplying the generous new content search engines love.

Observing online content rules is vital to ensure the best results. Keep e-news copy concise. It’s tiring to read a lot of words on-screen so keep it quick and scannable. Encourage opens with irresistible email headers and tempt readers to linger with content that’s fresh, lively and easy to digest.

Offline newsletters:

• are easy to read (people like paper!)
• look and feel great
• have ‘hang around’ value with longer life
• are read by other people as well as subscribers

Offline, the newsletter gives a little more scope in terms of time and space.
Draw people in with real life tales, people and places, useful advice, ‘how to’ lists, top tips and insider details that take the reader behind the scenes of your brand.

Give your newsletter the time and attention it deserves and so will your readers. Who could resist?

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Who's afraid of big, bad article marketing?

By Lesley Tither

Years ago, I used to be a journalist. Feel free to boo and hiss. I did the pre-entry college training, worked as an apprentice with a newspaper group in Greater Manchester and have a certificate to wave to prove it all. 

For a while I flirted with other roles. Then as the new millennium dawned with a flurry of fireworks, it was time to take up the mighty pen once more to earn a crust as a freelance copywrter. 

Except that in the intervening years, quite a few things had changed. I'd thought I was pretty up to the mark being able to bash an electric typewriter at top speed. Suddenly it was all computers, and I'd never even switched one on. And there was this new phenomenon – electronic mail. I felt a bit like Catweazle, being suddenly catapulted into the future. 

It seemed that every day brought now challenges. Learning curve? It sometimes felt like trying to cycle up Everest with a flat tyre. Luckily I had good friends, and colleagues who became great friends, who held my hand, calmed me down, and translated my computer's hissy fits into manageable setbacks for me. 

Never dull, always exciting, usually pressurised, I found the work fascinating. One day I might be writing about nature and the environment, my main interests. Another day I would be flirting with fashion, only glad clients couldn't see my normal grunge army attire as I wrote about their glamorous glad-rags. 

A year or so ago Sarah asked me to do some Article Marketing for her. I nonchalantly agreed, and once I'd scoured Google to find out what the Dickens it was, I made an uplifting discovery. I already knew exactly how to do it. It's just another name for journalism. Just another way of saying write a piece that reads well and informs the reader without preaching or talking down to them. 

Getting the keywords right 

There are a couple of 21st century extras to bear in mind. Like keywords. Everyone writing online content these days knows what they are, and knows all the tools to help you pick the best. But the trick is not to come up with keywords you'd search on yourself to find your article. 

You have to put yourself into the shoes of Joe Public, or, if you've ever studied law, the man on the Clapham omnibus. And the words they'll pick may often be much simpler and more basic than you might think. 

The rest of it is just a carbon copy of what we were taught at college by a bearded lecturer whom we nick-named Captain Bird's Eye. Pick an intro or teaser that will grab the reader's attention immediately. Lead into an article that delivers on the promise. Finish with something that will stick in their mind, amusing, poignant, pithy, according to the article. 

Always check your speling 

Keep sentences short for easy reading. Don't rely on a spell checker to correct your mistakes and make sure the grammar's correct. Don't try to be clever, and certainly don't be patronising. 

Pick a headline that's concise and goes with the article. If you promise Ten Top Tips, give them ten, not nine. Read the rules of the site you're submitting to carefully, to see if they want, for example, two spaces after a full stop, unusual for those used to writing advertising copy. 

Don't feel compelled to write to the upper word count limit. If you've said all you have to say in 300 words, it's pointless and will irritate the reader if you're determined to stretch your word count into four figures. 

Remember that it's a lot more subtle than direct mail. You can't hammer your reader on the head with “buy now – stocks are limited” messages. You have to woo them softly and make them want to click on those tantalising links at the end of your honeyed words. 

So there you have it. The mysteries of Article Marketing unravelled. It's just good old fashioned, but never out of fashion, journalism. 

Now you too can become an Expert Author like I am – apparently!


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