Monday, December 26, 2011

Start Jotting for Christmas 2012.

Happy Boxing Day!

To paraphrase a line from a Christmas nursery rhyme, Christmas is over and we're all getting fat, so thinking about Christmas 2012 might not be at the top of your agenda today. However, the writer in you should be busy jotting down notes.

Many of you are aware that magazines start preparing their Christmas issues as early as June, however, it can be difficult sitting in a heatwave, trying to think about Christmas. The trick is to take out your notebook and make notes now. Go on! Shift your bottom from your comfy chair - you don't really need to be slumped in front of the television watching the repeat of yesterday's Eastenders or Coronation Street.  And you don't need to worry about the children, because they're still playing with the cardboard boxes yesterday's toys came in.

Grab your notebook and pen, and jot down all you see, smell, hear, taste and feel. All you need are bullet points, although if you want to write more, then go for it. Things to consider are:


  • Advent calendars
  • The Nativity
  • Christmas trees
  • The spicy aroma of Mulled wine
  • Christmas lights
  • Mince Pies
  • Mistletoe
  • Wrapping paper
  • Mess!
  • An elderly relative snoring ... in front of the Queen
  • Turkey
  • More Turkey
  • Eggnog
  • Children arguing
  • More Turkey
  • Chocolates
  • The Queen's Speech
  • Candles
  • The snap of Christmas crackers
  • The groan at the so-called joke inside it
  • Carols
  • Midnight Mass
  • Even More Turkey
  • and so on....
It's far easier to make these notes whilst everything is in front of your eyes, nose and ears. See how much you can jot down in ten minutes. Ten minutes of notes now will save you so much time next June!

Have your camera to hand too. If you have any top tips for stuffing a turkey, take a photo now, while you're stuffing it. It'll be much more difficult to take a photo in June! Likewise, if you're writing a travel article about visiting a destination at Christmas, get out now and take photos of that place with the Christmas lights and decorations all up. Take photos of the Christmas shop windows displays.

A little preparation now, will come in immensely useful later in 2012 when you begin thinking about articles and short story ideas for next Christmas. And if you suddenly find yourself drafting the first version of your article or short story, even better! Put the draft aside for a couple of months, and let the editing begin when the decorations have been taken down, and the New Year Resolutions long forgotten.

Now you can put your feet up and relax, smug in the knowledge that you're prepared. All that's left to do is start tackling that teetering pile of Turkey sandwiches.

Good luck!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick post to say Merry Christmas to you all, and thank you for your posts and comments on my blog this year. I hope you have a great time and that 2012 will be the year when many of you achieve your writing dreams.

Best wishes,

Simon

Monday, December 19, 2011

Google Apps highlights – 12/16/2011

(Cross posted from the Official Google Blog.)

This is part of a regular series of Google Apps updates that we post every couple of weeks. Look for the label “Google Apps highlights" and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

The elves got an early jump on the holidays this year by leaving us some surprises in Google Apps over the last few weeks. Sharing from Gmail got a whole lot easier, and Google Calendar can make better use of precious screen space. We also have 10 new Google Apps customer stories to share from the tens of thousands that have gone Google in recent weeks.

Gmail gets more social
Last week we sprinkled a touch of Google+ into Gmail, making it easier to connect and share with people from your inbox. You can add people to circles right from an email thread through Gmail’s people widget, share photo attachments with friends and family on Google+ without leaving Gmail, and view a filtered version of your inbox only showing messages from people in your circles. We also improved Gmail’s address book by incorporating contact information shared by your friends, family and colleagues in their Google+ profiles.


New features in the Gmail iOS app
Just yesterday we added several new improvements to the Gmail app for iOS 4+. Now you can set up a custom email signature for mobile messages, manage your vacation responder, and view nested labels from your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. We also added scribbles, a fun way to spice up messages by adding a quick hand-drawn sketch. You can create scribbles using a range of colors, brush sizes, lines, erasers and spray paints from your touchscreen device.


More free calls right from Gmail
Last year we introduced free domestic calling in Gmail within the U.S. and Canada, and we’re extending this free service for the whole year of 2012. We’re happy to help you keep in touch with those special people in your life, for free.

Hide morning and night hours in Calendar
If you don’t often have appointments early in the morning or late at night, a new trick in Google Calendar might be useful. Now you can hide morning and night hours, leaving more screen real estate for the times of day when most of your events take place. Give it a try in Calendar Labs.


Who’s gone Google?
Businesses and schools are switching to Google Apps in droves these days. From tiny startups to large enterprises and nonprofits to college campuses, we love hearing the inspiring stories that our customers share. Here’s a new batch of stories for your reading pleasure: TripIt, IPSEN, Ebby Halliday, Ticket River, VigLink, HeyZap, The Great Books Foundation, Utah K-12 schools, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and UC Santa Cruz. Welcome one and all!

For more details and the latest news, check out the Google Apps Blog, and keep an eye out for this series here after the holidays. We launched more than 150 improvements go Google Apps in 2011, and we have a ton more in store for 2012!

Dear Santa

So, have you written your Christmas list yet?

I write two Christmas lists. One I give to my family listing what I would like from them (and I never know what to put on it, so it gets shorter every year, therefore I must be getting old) and the other one is for me. This second list is the one where I identify what I want to give to myself over the following year, through my writing. (This one seems to get longer every year.)

This year, I wanted to secure a publishing contract for a new non-fiction book. I can tick that off my list (more about which, next month). I also wanted to go to a new writing conference - and I did - which gave me access to a literary agent who offered me some good advice.

Another present I wanted to give to myself, was to learn more about the Amazon Kindle, and self-publish a second e-book - which I have also achieved this year, and seen sales too.

This is the time of year when many look back at what they've achieved over the last 12 months, before trying to gaze in to the future and identify what they hope to achieve in the coming year. But instead of creating a set of New Year Resolutions, why not write down an extra Christmas list for yourself, detailing the writing presents that you will give yourself over the next 12 months?

This does two things:
  • Writing it down helps you to focus on what you want to achieve.
  • It reminds you that you're the only one who can give yourself that present. (If you want to write an article every month, then only you can give yourself this present by sitting down and writing one ... every month!)
When we reach a certain age in childhood, we discover that Santa is not the well-fed chap with the bright red outfit and the facial hair problem. Christmas presents do not materialise down the chimney one night. They happen because real people make them happen. They go out and battle the crowds of shoppers to buy them, or they go to the effort of making a hand-made gift to give to you. So, if you create a Christmas list of what you want with your writing next year, just remember that Santa won't be the one to deliver it to you - only real people - you - can make that happen.

And this is where your first Christmas list comes in - the one you give to friends and family identifying the gifts you'd like to receive from them. Choose carefully, and those gifts could help you give yourself the present you want from your writing next year. If you're still stuck for things to put on your Christmas list of presents that others can buy for you, here are a couple of ideas:
  • A subscription to a writing magazine (Writing Magazine, The New Writer, Writers Forum.) When your creativity is flagging, the next issue will help reinvigorate your muse.
  • Notebooks, pens, and Post-It notes to help you to jot down those inspirational ideas.
  • Useful writing books (more of which, next month :-) but here's some ideas, in no particular order or preference).
  • Ask friends, or relatives, to buy you a ticket to a literary festival event.
  • Or perhaps, they don't have to give you anything of financial value - they can simply give you an IOU - I Owe You two hours of peace and quiet, so that you can write!
So, over the next few weeks, while everyone is busy watching the repeat of Mary Poppins or The Great Escape, why not take a bit of time to think about the writing gifts you'd like to give yourself over the next 12 months?

Good luck.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Don't Beware The Idea Snatcher!

In the latest issue of Writing Magazine there's a great article by Helen Yendall about ideas and the fear of someone 'snatching' your idea. Essentially, her advice is to 'get over it', and I have to agree. For some of my newer students, this may come as a shock.

Idea theft is something that many new writers fear. Indeed, I have had one writer say to me, "I'm not sending off my article in case the editor pinches my idea." Well that's fine, do what you want, but what was the point of writing the article in the first place if you're not going to send it off? If all writers kept their ideas to themselves, fearing the editor would steal their ideas, then nothing would be published!

There is no copyright in ideas. An idea isn't something that is 'tangible'. Not until you write it down. Then it becomes tangible and you own the copyright in the way you have expressed that idea.

It is rare for an exact idea to be copied. It is common for many writers to have similar ideas. The 7th February 2012 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. In the next few weeks we're going to be bombarded with articles, TV programmes, radio programmes, Internet articles about the writer. That's not to say that the writers of these TV and radio programmes, and articles, have stolen the idea from each other. They haven't. They'll have taken the theme of Charles Dickens and applied a different angle to create their idea.

We're all individuals. Our life experiences are unique to us. And it is those unique experiences that enable us to put our own individual twist on those ideas.

If you don't think this is possible, go to a writers' group, creative writing class, or workshop. There, you'll be given an idea. (In fact, you'll probably be given many!) You might have to take it away with you and write it up for the next meeting, or if it's a workshop, you may only have an hour to write something. But remember this: everyone is given the same basic idea. But when it comes to reading them out, every writer will have applied their own experiences and thoughts to the idea, and you'll hear that everyone's final written piece is completely different.

With ideas, it's all about what you do with them. Don't sit on them. Don't hoard them. Do something with them. Get them written and get them out there. And if you find another writer has had a similar idea to you, don't get angry about it. Get over it. Be pleased with yourself, because you're clearly thinking along the right lines!

Good luck!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New TalkBin improvements make it easier to connect with customers

Businesses interact with customers all the time, but it can be challenging to get honest and useful feedback that can help improve your business. TalkBin makes this easy by giving your customers a direct and convenient way to reach you via text message. No more clumsy comment cards and surveys; instead, customers can simply use their mobile phones to text you comments and feedback the same way they’d text a friend.

Today, we’re excited to announce three improvements that make it even easier to manage customer feedback.

1) Getting started tutorial

When you log in to TalkBin, you’ll be welcomed with a handy educational tutorial that explains all the most important features. This makes learning how to use TalkBin a cinch for you and your employees.


2) Updated dashboard

Based on your feedback, we updated the user interface with a fresh new design that helps you to manage all of your settings in one convenient place. For example, now your Account Settings are just one click away from Location and Billing Settings.


3) Custom sign builder

In-store signs are key to getting quality feedback from your customers. The new sign building feature help you make and print custom signs in just a few minutes.


To learn more about how TalkBin can help your business, check out these firsthand perspectives from Fraiche Yogurt and P. Terry’s Burger Stand.

Also, for the rest of the month, Google Small Business Blog readers can get TalkBin for just $5/month per location (discounted from the regular $25/month per location). Just enter promotion code BLOGSMB when you sign up at talkbin.com/signup/user/. This offer expires December 31, 2011.

Posted by Qasar Younis, Product Manager, TalkBin

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pedal to find your dream home with Google Maps

(Cross-posted on the Lat Long Blog.)

The features available in Google Maps are equally functional and fun. You can tour distant cities with Street View or map out a trip with multiple destinations using Custom Maps. Not only is Google Maps a great tool for everyday personal use, but it’s can also be used as a practical business tool. Such is the case for Matt Kolb, owner of Pedal to Properties.

Matt is an avid cyclist and a realtor based in Boulder, Colorado. In 2006, Matt decided to blend his hobby and career by founding his own real estate agency called Pedal to Properties. His company is built on the idea that by touring homes via bicycle, one can get a better sense of the local community and determine if a particular property is the right fit.


When Matt meets with clients, he locates various properties on Google Maps and creates a biking route of the houses they’ll visit that day, using Bicycling Directions as a guide. Home buyers are encouraged to interact with the map, using Street View to check out a property and its surrounding neighborhood, and using nearby search to take a look at local schools and businesses. Through this process Matt is able to narrow down viable homes for a specific buyer, making the experience enjoyable and time-efficient.

If you have interesting stories about how you use biking directions, Street View, or other Google Maps features to enhance your business, comment on our Google+ Page with #mygmapstory

Back Up ... Back Up ... Back Up ...

Of the many nightmares a writer can have, losing all of our work must be one of the most frightening. Especially if it is a big project, like a novel, non-fiction book, or a series of articles.

But there are some online services which can prove useful to writers in several ways too. Dropbox (www.dropbox.com) offers registered users 2 gigabytes of storage, online, for free. It is possible to increase this to 8Gb for free, although further space is available for a fee. I find the free 2Gb is perfectly adequate for how I use it.

Dropbox installs a folder on your computer. (It works with all operating systems). Whatever you save in that folder is automatically saved and copied to an identical folder online. So, should your hard drive suddenly decide to go up in smoke (which has happened to me in the past) all is not lost. You simply switch on another computer and connect to your online Dropbox account, and you are up and running again.

Dropbox also allows you to work on the same project on different computers. When you have a Dropbox account, any computer you work on, can be linked to this. I have a desktop computer and a laptop, and so I have my Dropbox folder on both. If I'm working on a project on my desktop computer, when I save it, the updated copy is uploaded to my online Dropbox folder. Then, when I next switch on my laptop, one of the first things my laptop does is update the copy of the file from the online folder. This means that whichever computer I happen to be using, I can work with the current copy of the text. And should the worst happen, there's always a recent copy on my online folder.

I don't save everything to Dropbox. I save any current 'big' projects to my Dropbox folder, such as novels and non-fiction books. (They're the ones I would be most devastated about, if my computer were to suffer a catastrophe!)

There's also another online service called SugarSync. (www.sugarsync.com) It, too, enables you to use free online storage space (about 5Gb for free - more storage space can be acquired for a fee) as a back up to your work. Unlike Dropbox where you have to put the files you want backed up into one specific folder on your computer, SugarSync works differently - you tell it which of your existing folders you want it to back up. So by using a combination of the two free services can provide you with a more than adequate amount of back up space for your text.

Don't just rely on these online services though. Always take extra back up precautions. I save a complete copy of my work once a week, on two different hard drives, which means that the important files on Dropbox are backed up every time I save them (several times a day) and then again, when everything else is backed up weekly.

So, don't have nightmares - back up frequently!

Good luck.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Spooky Way To Write?

Ghost writing has nothing to do clanking chains, wailing spirits hiding under dust sheets, or skeletons getting up and boogying about in churchyards. It's actually about offering your skills as a writer to somebody else. However, your name doesn't get credited with the writing - instead that goes to the person who you're doing the writing work for. So, what's in it for the writer? Well, money. (Hopefully.)

Ghost writing is more common than you probably think. Many a celebrity memoir has been ghost written by a 'jobbing' writer. Hunter Davies has written the 'autobiographies' of Wayne Rooney, Paul Gascoigne and John Prescott.

But, it's not just celebrities who need writers to write their words for them. If you think about it, everyone has a story to tell (just look at the true life magazines on the shelf every week). But not all of these people are good with words ... or writing them down and putting them into sentences that tell a compelling tale. Which is where the you, the ghost writer, come in.

Ghost writing is a business transaction. A writer offers their writing skills for payment. One of Lynne Hackles' first ghostwriting jobs was to write a love letter on behalf a friend. Her payment was a jam doughnut. Since then, Lynne's gone on to ghostwrite many other projects (this time for money), which she fits in around all of her other writing projects (short stories for magazines like Fiction Feast, columns for Writing Magazine, and many, many more).

It's possible to ghost write anything - a love letter, a best man's speech, an article, short story, autobiography, even a novel. If you would like to know more, I can recommend Lynne Hackles' book, Ghost writing. Here she tells how she began ghost writing, and demonstrates that many jobs are quite ordinary (just don't have your client hand over the cash in the window of a coffee shop, for all of your friends to see ... as Lynne once did. It gives a whole new meaning to 'services rendered'!). The book also has quotes from other ghost writers, each giving advice and tips for this line of work.

If you enjoy writing, and have never ghost written before, then Lynne's book will help lay down the groundwork, that many other ghosts have taken years to discover.

Good luck.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I'll Put That Bit There ... Part 6

For the final posting in this I'll Put That Bit There mini-series, I wanted to look at Headers and Footers. If you're submitting your text to an editor within the main body of an email, (by cutting and pasting it, for example) then you don't need to worry about headers and footers in your manuscript. However, for many fiction manuscripts, when you have to submit a hard copy of your text, headers and footers are important.

Some magazines that accept short stories prefer manuscripts to be paper clipped together, not stapled. If you're sending a book manuscript to an agent, or publisher, then most of them stipulate that printed pages should not be bound in any way. (They do this because it makes it easier for them to read the text, not to annoy you.) However, the drawback of this is that it's much easier to lose a page or to drop the entire manuscript and have to pick up the pages one by one. Heaven forbid the writer who hasn't numbered the pages in either the header or the footer, in that situation!

If you're using Microsoft Word, to view the Header section of your manuscript, go to View, then select Header and Footer from the drop down menu. Word will take you to the header, to begin with. (For other word processing packages, checkout the Help section for 'Headers and Footers'.)

What should you put in your header? Well, on the right hand side of the page I type my surname, the manuscript title (or an abbreviated version if it is quite long) and the page number. So, my header will look something like this:

Whaley / Manuscript Title / Page Number

Whatever text you enter into your headers and footers, it will appear like this on EVERY page. (It is possible to set this up so that it doesn't print headers and footers on the first page, if you give your manuscript a cover sheet, or title page.)

This means that if you manually type in 1, for page 1, then every page will have 1 on it. So, for automatic page numbering in Word, go to Insert and select Page Numbers from the drop down menu. This will automatically insert the correct page number on each page.

In the footer of the manuscript, I insert a method of contact, usually my email address. That's in case a cover sheet with all of your contact details goes astray. Does this happen? Yes! Read this post here. You can't expect every editor to go to the lengths this editor went to, to track down this writer, when her cover sheet was separated from the main manuscript. At least by putting some contact detail (email address or telephone number) in the footer, you know it will appear on every page of the document.

One final word of warning. Competitions. If you enter manuscripts into competitions, check your headers and footers. Most competitions judge entries blindly - so they do not want any marks on the manuscript that can be used to identify the writer - that means any names or contact details in headers and footers should be removed! Failure to do so, could result in your entry being disqualified, and that's a waste of your entry fee. Simply put the title in your header, along with the page number.

Using headers and footers means that should an agent decide to drop your manuscript across the floor of her homeward-bound train, or if a competition judge opens a window and lets the fresh air blow all the entries across to the other side of the room (both such situations have happened), then at least you know your manuscript can be brought back together again, without too much trouble.

Good luck!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Google Apps highlights – 11/18/2011

Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog

This is part of a regular series of Google Apps updates that we post every couple of weeks. Look for the label “Google Apps highlights" and subscribe to the series. - Ed.


The last few weeks have brought a fresh new look in Gmail, more mobile access options and simpler meeting scheduling tools. Millions of organizations using Google Apps can now use Google+ on their business and university accounts, and we launched a couple Apps-related Google+ Pages ourselves.

Gmail’s new look
Back in July we previewed Gmail’s new look, and a couple weeks ago we started letting people switch to the new design with one click. The refreshed interface makes it easier to follow conversations and spot the sender with profile pictures for each message. The new look also supports dynamic screen densities, so Gmail displays properly whether you’re viewing on a large desktop monitor or a smaller mobile screen. We also added a selection of beautiful HD themes to the existing gallery. Finally, we made it easier to perform advanced email searches using a panel of powerful search options that reveals with a single click.



Gmail app for iOS devices
This month we introduced the Gmail app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, complete with mobile alerts for new mail, a responsive touch screen interface and Gmail mainstays like fast search, conversation view and address auto-complete.




Suggested meeting times in Google Calendar
We’ve heard how frustrating it can be to spend 15 minutes finding a good time for people to convene for a 30 minute meeting, so we made it easier to find a good meeting time in Google Calendar. The suggested times feature automatically reviews the availability of meeting invitees, and proposes event times that work for the whole group.




Google+ for organizations using Google Apps
Businesses, schools and organizations with Google Apps can now use Google+. Employees and students can create profiles, +1 things they like on the web, share interesting content with their circles and have live multi-person video chats with classmates, colleagues and friends. Organizations can also create their Google+ Pages—an organization’s identity on Google+ for customers, students or fans. We’re using Google+ Pages ourselves, so take a look at the Gmail and Google Enterprise pages, and circle us if you’d like to stay in the loop.

24x7 telephone support and improved mobile device management
This week, we introduced a couple other new benefits for Google Apps customers. Organizations of all sizes around the world can now call our support hotline at any time for all core service issue. Also new this week, we improved our mobile device management capabilities with an interface for administrators to view and deny mobile devices connecting to Google Apps, granular mobile policy controls, and the ability to visualize mobile usage trends across the organization.




Who’s gone Google?
Organizations large and small continue to amass around Google Apps. We’re thrilled to welcome a whole host of new customers including the Trinity Mirror Group (Britain’s largest newspaper publisher), startups such as JobFlo and UserTesting, organizations including the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and colleges like the University of Michigan and UT Austin. Welcome to all!

Monday, November 14, 2011

I'll Put That Bit There ... Part 5

I often say to magazine and non-fiction book writers that offering photos with your submissions not only increases your chances of publication (because picture sourcing is immensely time consuming and therefore you're making the editor's job easier), but it can also increase your fee too.

Magazines are visual products these days (getting side tracked - did you buy last week's copy of Woman's Weekly magazine, which included a copy of its first issue over 100 years ago? Yes it had pictures, but there were an awful lot more words in it than today's magazine has!) so page layout is important. Photos and pictures help with this. But you are not the page layout designer, so you do not need to worry about where to put your photos in your script.

In fact, you do not 'insert' your photos anywhere into your word processing document. Magazines cannot take the photo from your word processing document and then use it successfully in their page layout software. When you import a photo into your word processor, there's a high chance that the word processor will process the image and throw away some of the data, so that your document does not become some humongous 56 gigabyte file! Magazines need high quality images and those inserted into documents are not as high quality as they could be.

When inserting images into a word processor, many then start moving the text around the image, which goes on to create other formatting problems within your document.

Giving a magazine the largest file size you can provide offers them flexibility. With a large file size, they may be able to use the image as a double-page spread Like so:



They can also use the image much smaller, if that's what they prefer. What they can't do, is take a smaller thumbnail image and use it as a double page spread. Once you start enlarging an image, the quality deteriorates quickly. And if the quality isn't in the image in the first place, because it has been placed into some word processing software, then it is practically unusable.

So, if you have suitable images, save them as individual files on your computer in JPEG format. When you save them, give them a useful file name that includes the following:

  • A unique reference number
  • A suitable caption
  • Clarification as to who owns the copyright
The photo in the top of this posting is one page of a six-page feature I wrote for Discover Britain magazine. The image of the unusual AA phone box was saved as follows:

IMG_0001 - The 1920 AA Phone box in Eardisland- Herefordshire - by Simon Whaley

When I wrote the feature, at the end of my article text, I added a subheading, List of Illustrations, and then I listed the file name of every image I was supplying with my accompanying article.

This is sufficient for an editor to identify which images they want to use, whilst also giving them enough information to caption the image on the page. There is no need to insert any images within your document anywhere.

I usually burn the images onto a CD Rom, although this is mainly because my camera has 21 mega pixels, so the average size of each of my photos is about 18 megabytes (and I supplied the editor with nearly 30 photos for this feature) so emailing this many images would bring down my own email account along with the magazine's too!

If you're pitching an editor with an idea and you have photos available, it can be useful to attach low resolution images to your email pitch, to give the editor a flavour of the types of images you have available. I always ask how the editor prefers to receive large-sized files. Some stipulate CD Rom submission, some will say it's okay to email if there are not too many images, whilst some magazines operate a specific email address for photos only. (Another reason for not inserting the images into your text!).

So next time you want to include images with your article, all you need to do is list the unique reference number, the image caption, and who owns the copyright in the photo at the bottom of your article. You do not need to insert the photos into your text where you think they ought to go. Just ask the editor how they prefer to receive image files and then follow their instructions.

Good luck.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Get closer to your customers with Google+

(Cross-posted on the Inside AdWords blog.)

Editorial note: Many of you have already verified your Place page via Google Places for business. We encourage you to continue maintaining the information in your Google Places account to help ensure that potential customers can find accurate information about your business on Google Maps and local search. You may also want to supplement your Google Places account with a Google+ Page for your business, which provides you with additional ways to engage and directly interact with customers using Google+. Currently, however, Google Places accounts and Google+ Pages must be managed separately. 

Since the initial launch of Google+ just a few months ago, we’ve welcomed over 40 million people and introduced more than 100 new features. For all these people, one important part is still missing - your business.

We want to help you make the same kinds of lasting connections with your customers online the way you can in real life. That’s why we are introducing Google+ Your Business, a collection of tools and products to help you get closer to your customers. At the heart of this is Google+ Pages, your business’s identity on Google+.



Google+ Pages: Have real conversations with the right people

To get your business on Google+, you first need to create a Google+ Page. On your page, you can post updates and news about your business, engage in conversations with your customers, send tailored messages to specific groups of people, and see how many +1’s you have across the web. Here are a few features of Google+ Pages that we think will help you build relationships:


Google+ Pages are at the heart of Google+ for Business

Hangouts

Sometimes you might want to chat with your customers face-to-face. For example, if you run a bookstore, you may want to invite an author to talk about her latest novel, or if you market a cosmetics line, beauty specialists might want to hold how-to sessions for makeup tips. Hangouts make this easy, by letting you have high-quality video chats with nine customers, with a single click. You can use Hangouts to get product feedback, help solve problems or simply get to know people better, all in real time.

Hangouts let you meet your customers, face to face

Circles

Circles allow you to group followers of your Page into smaller audiences. You can then share specific messages with specific groups. For example, you could create a Circle containing people who are your most loyal customers and offer them a special discount.

+1 button and Google+ badge: Inspire current customers to recommend new ones

Google+ Pages also help you deliver your great content to users in a way that’s easy to share with their friends. We introduced the +1 button as a way for your customers to recommend your business across the web - on Google search, in your ads, on sites across the web and on mobile devices. Now, your customers can +1 your Page, recommending your actual brand -- not just an individual ad or a site -- directly to their friends.

To help your customers find your page and start sharing, we have two buttons you can add to your site by visiting our Google+ badge configuration tool:

The Google+ icon is a small icon that directly links to your Page.



In the coming days, we’re introducing the Google+ badge, which lets people add your page to their circles, without leaving your site, to start getting updates from your business via Google+.



Make your +1’s count, improving the performance of your ads


Coming soon, we will also make it possible to link your Page to your AdWords campaigns for your site, so that all your +1s -- from your Page, your website, ads and search results -- will get tallied together and appear as a single total.
Your +1’s will be shown with your brand wherever it appears, including search, ads, Google+ and your website

Consumers will be able to see all the recommendations your business has received, whether they are looking at an ad, a search result or your page, meaning your +1’s will reach not only the 40 million users of Google+, but all the people who come to Google every day. In the coming days. you'll be able to link your page to your AdWords campaigns by following the instructions in the AdWords Help Center.

Or, if you're using AdWords Express from your Google Places account, you can link your ads to your Google+ Page by simply selecting the option to direct viewers of your ad to your Google+ Page, and entering the Google+ Page URL in the appropriate field.



You can link your Google+ Page to your AdWords account with Social Extensions. Social Extensions are available in the ad extensions tab in your AdWords account.

Bringing Google+ to the rest of Google

Our ultimate vision for Google+ is to transform the overall Google experience-- weaving identity and sharing into all of our products. Beginning today, we’re rolling out a new experimental feature, Direct Connect -- an easy way for your customers to find your Google+ Page on Google search. For eligible pages, when someone searches for your business with the ‘+’ sign before it Direct Connect will send them directly to your page. For example, try searching for ‘+YouTube’ on Google. Users will also be prompted to automatically add Pages they find through Direct Connect to their circles. Direct Connect will not work for everyone.
Direct Connect suggestions start populating as you type on Google.com

Just the beginning

We wanted to help you get your business on Google+ as soon as possible, so we’re opening the field trial for Google+ Pages to everyone today. Creating a Google+ Page only takes a few minutes. To get started, you’ll need a personal Google+ profile. If you don’t have a Google account, it’s very quick and easy to join. And if you are looking for inspiration, check out some of the companies that are already starting to set up their Pages:
Partner LogosBurberryHMMacysPepsiABC NewsAmazonAssassins_CreedATTBreaking_NewsOrangeDC_ComicsDellNBC_NewsGol_Linhas_aerasKiaLOrealMarvelNYTimesPiagetShadyTmobileToyotaUniqloVirgin

To learn more about how Google+ works for your business, check out the Google+ Your Business site. We’re just getting started and have many more features in the coming weeks and months. To keep up to date on the latest news and tips, add the Google+ Your Business page to your circles. If you have ideas on how we can improve Google+ for your business, we’d love to hear them.

Posted by Dennis Troper, Product Management Director, Google+ Pages

I'll Put That Bit There ... Part 4

Editors love bonus material - text that can be used to break up the page with further information, fascinating facts or practical what-to-do-next steps. These are referred to by a variety of names such as further information panels, boxouts, sidebars, or fact file boxes.

When you analyse a target publication, look out for these sections. Travel magazines practically always have them. This is where readers can find out which airlines fly to that destination, what the website address is for the local tourist board, or the websites for the tourist attractions mentioned in the article. Boxouts and sidebars are also used to provide extra quirky information. Take a look at the picture here - it's fact file at the end of a long article about Scotland, and is headed up as Top 10 Uninhabited Islands. This is extra information that does not appear within the main article.

If you see a magazine regularly uses these fact files, or boxouts, then you need to consider including one, or more, with your proposed article. And if you're targeting a travel magazine that has a standard sidebar of practical information for potential travellers with headings like:


  • How To Get There
  • Where To Stay
  • Where To Eat
  • What To Do
  • What To Avoid
... then you need to provide this information, with those headings, too.

But, you don't need to put this information in a box. Don't insert a Text Box into your manuscript, with a border all the way around, and then enter your information. Just give the information. 

The safest way to do this is to put this information at the end of your article, after your concluding paragraph. Drop down a couple of lines and then give your Further Information Panel a heading. So, in the example in the photo here, the writer would simply have typed the heading:

Top 10 Uninhabited Islands.

You do not need to put in parentheses afterwards (boxout information) or (suitable for a side panel). Editors are quite clever and will be able to work it out, especially if you're following the format that the magazine uses for every article within its pages!

Then, underneath this heading, type the information that you're giving. In this Top 10 Uninhabited Islands example, you'll see that the text is bullet pointed. How the text is displayed in the magazine is down to the editor, or the page layout designer. You can use bullet points, although personally, if my headings have a number in them I number each point - the last thing I would want to do is offer ten top tips and only provide nine! What you don't need to do is use a different font size, or even a different font. Stick to the same font and size you have used throughout the rest of the article.

If you want to offer another boxout, then simply give that a new subheading and write the information underneath it.

So, remember. Further information panels, side bars, boxouts, or whatever you want to call them, come at the very end of your article, and the information they contain does not need to be inside a box, table, or grid.

Good luck.

Monday, October 31, 2011

I'll Put That Bit There ... Part 3

Double spacing. Why do we do it? And what exactly is it?

Well, first things first: double spacing is NOT two spaces between every word, or sentence.

Double spacing means having a blank line between each line of text.


The image here shows how to set it up in Microsoft Word, although many other word processors operate in a similar fashion. In Word, go up to Tools, select Paragraph and the following window will appear.

About half way down the window are the options for spacing. In the middle of this section is the drop-down menu for line spacing. Select the arrow, and then choose Double from the drop down list.

THAT'S IT! Yes, that is all there is to it. (Okay, I lie, you also have to press OK at the bottom, too.)

DO NOT select anything in the boxes to the left, labelled Before or After. These need to be left at 0pt. (I've explained why in last week's post - I'll Put That Bit There ... Part 2)

So, why do we use double-spacing? Basically, because it's tradition. It's what writers always have done, since the days when anything printed, be it newspaper, magazine, or book, was published using hot metal presses. An editor would take a double-spaced typescript, use the extra space between each sentence to annotate to the typesetter any changes that needed making, or inserting any special instructions to the typesetter about headings, or inserting images, and then send the document to the typesetter for setting out on the metal presses.

Proofreaders and copy-editors needed double-spaced text to give them the space they required to annotate any corrections.

But since the advent of computers, hot metal presses have not been used to publish material. So why do we still do it? Double-spaced text is easier to read. (Try it. Print out one of your typescripts in double-spaced format and then print out the same text in single spaced format. Which is easier on the eye?) This is why writing competitions ask for double-spaced text. It is far easier for the judge to read. I once had to judge a pile of 166 short stories (of up to 4,500 words each) and it's surprising how quickly the eyes tire.

Editors know how much text there is on a double-spaced page. And yes, the gaps still give the editor space to write notes or comments for other staff to action.

When should you not double-space your text? When the editor tells you there's no need to. Yes, that's right. If an editor tells you there's no need to double-space, then you don't have to do it. But don't do this until you have permission from the editor.  (Let's be honest, if an editor says he wants your manuscript on pink paper, in Comic Sans font, at size 8, then that's what you bloody well give him!) But until you are told otherwise, you give an editor double-spaced text.

So, when you set up your article, short story or book template, make sure you include double-spaced text. Whilst double-spaced text is no longer required for the publication process, it's what writers have been doing for years and what many publishers continue to ask for today.

Good luck.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Introducing the Google AdWords Premier SMB Partner Program: Connecting you with partners to help maximize your AdWords campaigns

As a small business, we know you spend a lot of valuable time trying to reach more customers. Many of our advertisers build and create successful AdWords campaigns on their own, and others prefer to work with partners to get their Google advertising up and running. We think it’s important to provide you with the options that work best for your business, which is why we’re excited to announce a partnership program dedicated to helping small- and medium-sized businesses reach new customers with Google AdWords.

The Google AdWords Premier SMB Partner Program (PSP) connects Google’s trusted and experienced partners with businesses to create, manage, and optimize AdWords campaigns that help you reach more customers and make the most of your advertising budget.

Premier SMB Partners bring to the table years of industry knowledge and meet Google’s highest standards for qualification, training, and customer service. Teaming up with a PSP gives you a marketing and search engine advisor who can take the guesswork out of online advertising, to save you time and resources so you can focus on running and growing your business.

Check out the video below to see how a Google AdWords customer named A&D Automatic Gate & Access has worked with a Premier SMB Partner to find new customers with their Google AdWords campaigns.

To learn more about working with a Premier SMB Partner, visit our website, www.google.com/ads/premiersmbpartner/.

Posted by Todd Rowe, Director of Global Channel Sales

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Small business and the power of video, announcing “My Business Story” by Google and American Express

(Cross-posted on the Inside AdWords Blog)

Let’s say you’re a custom sneaker maker. Or you run a yoga retreat center. Or maybe you even sell vegan Vietnamese out of a gourmet food truck. Your business has its own unique story to tell. If you had the chance to show the world what your business is all about - from its founding roots to the ways it changes your customers’ lives, would you take it?

Today you have that chance. We’re pleased to be presenting “My Business Story®” alongside American Express. “My Business Story” is a program for small businesses to tell their stories through video, leading up to the second annual “Small Business Saturday”, a day set aside to encourage communities to spend and support local businesses by shopping small.

And since Google research has shown that companies who use video can expect better customer engagement and retention, we are launching a new video tool so that small business owners can create personalized, professional-quality videos about their business.

Once you’ve got your video crafted, business owners are invited to submit it to the contest for an opportunity to appear in the YouTube homepage ad on Friday, November 25th, which is viewed by an estimated 22 million people in the United States every day. Thirty-six small businesses will be featured in the ad and will receive an online ad campaign worth $5,000 from Google and American Express. All submissions will be viewed and judged by an independent panel of experts. The deadline for contest entry is Tuesday, November 15, but entry is not required to use the My Business Story editing tool.

Happy editing! We’re eager to see what you come up with.

Posted by Marisa Currie, Product Marketing Manager

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