Monday, July 28, 2014

Maximising Opportunities

Last week I was tutoring at the Writers' Holiday event in Fishguard. It's always a good idea to maximise these opportunities, so prior to going I thought about how I could make the most of this trip. The old maxim - fail to plan and you plan to fail - is so true.

For me, such events are also an opportunity to sell some of my books. But after delivering my course I had some free time, and it's this that I wanted to make the most of. Travelling is an opportunity to build my photographic library, and after studying the maps and researching some image libraries I identified a couple of places I wanted to visit.

I also spent some time researching some of those places for potential article ideas, thus identifying specific subjects I needed to photograph. There were two article ideas that came to mind, with pitches submitted.

But, even when you've done all of this extra planning, there are times when you come across the unexpected, such as St Non's Well, (see picture). Although it is marked on the Ordnance Survey map, there's no indication as to whether the well is something substantial, or whether it is simply a hole in the ground! It turned out to be something a little more substantial, which means another article opportunity, at least, and several more photographic opportunities.

And I didn't neglect my journey to and from Fishguard, either. Having scrutinised the map, I found two places I wanted to stop off at and explore.

So I've returned from Fishguard completely shattered (but that's another story!) and with hundreds more photos to add to my library, at least four article ideas, and an idea for an eBook.

Next time a writing opportunity arises, take a few minutes to see how you can make the most of it.

Good luck.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Creating the Right Mood

Many writers go and write in the corner of a coffee shop. Not only is there good food and drink available, but the ambience and background noise can be productive. Having a general hubbub of background noise can soothe the soul into thinking you’re still part of the real world, without actually having to take part in it. But what if you can’t get to a coffee shop, or cafe? Easy. You just need to log into and you’ll soon have that cafe background humdrum echoing around your work station. And, just like a real cafe, the background noise changes. You can opt for a Morning Murmur, or a Lunchtime Lounge, or, if you prefer, a University Undertone.

My latest article in the Business of Writing series (which has just been extended, by the way!) in Writing magazine looks at workspaces, and  finding the right place to work can be important. But as writers we’re lucky to be able to work anywhere, and, as the old saying goes, a change is a good as a rest. So why not take your notebook, or laptop, and take yourself off somewhere different this week? Go and find somewhere else to work from: the library, a cafe, a park bench, the beach, or even a chair in the garden.

Changing our working environment can change our mood, and if the mood change is positive, then that can have a beneficial impact upon our creativity. I would even go as far as recommending an experiment. Create a project to find five different places from which to work, and then spend a day testing them out, to see what sort of impact they have on your productivity. Who knows? You may just stumble upon somewhere that unleashes a whole new vista of thoughts and new ideas!

Good luck!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

America's businesses are using the web to grow

Cross-posted with the Official Google Blog.

Over the past few months, we’ve had the chance to talk to businesses all over the country and hear stories of how they’ve become successful. For many, it’s pretty simple: the Internet. The web is helping businesses and communities across the U.S. to grow and succeed. In fact, last year Google’s search and advertising tools helped provide $111 billion of economic activity for more than 1.5 million businesses—advertisers, publishers and nonprofits—across the U.S.

Take Go2marine, a boat supply company located on Bainbridge Island, off the coast of Washington State. Because of their remote location, bringing traffic to their website using Google AdWords plays an important role in their ability to sell their 250,000+ boat supplies to customers in 176 countries. When it’s winter in the U.S., they rely on customers located in other parts of the world where it’s boating season, with the web bringing them business from any place, in any season.

Or meet Don Morton, who taught reading, writing and language in lower-income neighborhoods in my home town of Chicago for nine years. In 2005, he began creating his own materials to supplement what the school system provided. Realizing that his worksheets could be useful for students and teachers everywhere, he created to provide his worksheets for free. Don started using Google AdSense to offset his costs by placing ads next to his content, and today he’s able to work full-time on his website and make an impact on students around the world.

These are just two examples of enterprising people making the most of Google tools to find new customers, connect with existing ones and grow their businesses; you can find plenty more of them in our Economic Impact Report. Our tools help connect business owners to their customers, whether they’re around the corner or across the world from each other. And when businesses flourish, it’s good news for the rest of us. Recent data shows that businesses that are online are expected to grow 40 percent faster and hire twice as many workers as businesses that aren’t. Every year, it gets clearer that the web helps lead to more successful businesses, stronger economies, more vibrant towns, and more prosperous communities.

Learn more about our economic impact in all 50 U.S. states, and how businesses are finding success through the web. Whether it’s a part for a boat or a grammar worksheet, we’re proud to play a role in giving businesses the tools they need to do more--to grow and thrive and connect with customers and communities all over the world.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Advertising on your schedule with AdWords Express

Cross-posted with the Inside AdWords blog.

Small businesses know the importance of being online, but running that first ad can be overwhelming. Google introduced AdWords Express to help small businesses start advertising online easily, without the need for daily management. Fast-forward nearly three years to today, and businesses around the world are seeing success with AdWords Express.

Nick Valle, owner of Nick’s Towing and Roadside Assistance, uses AdWords Express to run his business from the road. After a decade of driving an 18-wheeler and working part-time for a towing company, Nick decided to start his own small business. He started using AdWords Express six months ago, and his business is doing better than ever. He gets enough calls to keep himself and a driver busy throughout the day, and can easily track calls back to his ad with the call reporting feature.

Get results on the go with the AdWords Express app 
Nearly 74% of small business owners like Nick use mobile devices to help manage their business*, and earlier this year, we announced improvements to AdWords Express across all screen sizes. To make starting a new ad and managing an existing one even easier on mobile, we’ve now introduced a free app for Android and iOS users in the U.S. The app gives you access to all the features of AdWords Express while on the go:

Reach the right customers with new targeting options 
AdWords Express has added more control where it counts for defining your target audience. Now advertisers can choose exactly where to promote their business -- in their zip code, city, state or others around the country (currently in English-speaking countries). When customers search from their phone, they can get driving directions, call your business, or visit your website in one tap.

Let AdWords Express do the rest
When you select your business category, AdWords Express makes sure that customers searching for related topics see your ad. To improve the targeting of your ad, products and services that are mentioned on your website can now be added by AdWords Express as keywords if they are related to your ad. We’ve also added more negative keywords to exclude unwanted searches, which improves the click-through rates of ads and means a lower cost for advertisers.

Let us know how AdWords Express is working for your business, and stay tuned for additional improvements in the coming months.

*NSBA, page 4

Monday, July 14, 2014

Oh, The Romance Of It All!

Last Friday evening I snuck into the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference, which was being held at the Harper Adams University. For those of you thinking I must have been the only man there, think again. I counted four others, which meant there was a handful of us amongst about 220 women!

I don’t consider myself to be a writer of romance (and judging by the rejection slips I’ve had from many of the women’s magazines for some of my fiction, neither do they!). But it was great to see so many people there, all eager to learn more from the workshops and talks they’d be attending over the weekend, and share some of the news and successes that they’ve had. And some would have the opportunity to pitch their material to an agent and editor, and get feedback on their work.

Conferences like this are a brilliant way to grow as a writer. Not only do they give you an opportunity to escape from the family and immerse yourself in writing and writing-related activities for a few days, but they’re also an excellent way to network - with other writers and influential people within the industry. Chat to an agent over lunch or dinner and then, when the time comes, mentioning you met them at a conference in a covering letter accompanying your latest piece of work does two things: it creates a personal connection (the agent/editor will hopefully remember you), and it also demonstrates that you take your writing seriously enough to attend such events in the first place.

Belonging to an organisation can also offer access to mentoring schemes; the Romantic Novelists’ Association runs their own New Writer Scheme, from which many have gone on to achieve publishing success. Many run competitions, and these can provide useful stepping stones to success. Be awarded with a prize from your association and it’s a sign that your peers, and experts in the industry, recognise your skills - that’s something useful to add to the writing CV!

So, why not take a look around to see if there’s an association of writers for your genre of writing (there are many, including non-fiction subjects too) and investigate joining? You’ll learn a lot and make many new friends. And don't be put off thinking that you are not the 'typical' genre writer. There is no typical genre writer. Men can write romance, and there are some successful male romance writers. (If you read the RNA website you'll see that 22% of romance readers are men.) 

And, yes, and there’s also the opportunity of meeting up with all of these writers at conferences like this. (Top tip: you need two suitcases for these events. One for your clothes, and one for all the wine and chocolate you need to bring too!)

Good luck.

Romantic Novelists’ Association:
Crime Writers’ Association:
Historical Writers’ Association:
Society of Women Writers and Journalist:
Football Writers’ Association:
Association of Christian Writers:
Fitness Writers’ Association:
Horror Writers’ Association:
The Guild of Food Writers:
British Guild of Travel Writers:
Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild:
British Science Fiction Association:

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators:

Monday, July 7, 2014

Smile for the Camera!

I hate having my photo taken. I know I’m not the only one. But, these days, more and more magazines and publications want to have a photo of the writer, either to accompany the article itself, or to appear on a ‘This Month’s Contributors’ slot near the front of the magazine. (If you look in the August 2014 issue of Writing Magazine you’ll see there’s even a photo of me at my writing desk, to accompany the article I’ve written … and yes - the editor specifically asked for it!)

A simple head and shoulders photo may be enough, but do check your target publications. What do other writers do? Is there an expectation of a particular style of photo? For example, the photo in the August issue of Writing Magazine is of me sitting at my workspace (see below). What’s the article about? Creating a business-like workspace. A photo of me wandering across the hills wouldn’t be right here … but that might be fine in a walking magazine.

Be aware of what you’re wearing. Does it fit the magazine? If you write about cycling, then a photo of you sat on a bike really ought to have you wearing a cycle helmet too. (Whether you go for the lycra is entirely your decision, but often there’s a reason why editors prefer head and shoulder shots.)

To take such a photo, all you need is a simple compact camera. A mobile phone may even do. What I would suggest is you investigate the self-timer options. These allow you to set up the camera, press the button, and then it give you ten seconds to get yourself into position. Of course, if you have a willing friend to help, who won’t take the mickey out of you, or laugh as you decide which pose to use, then that’s great, but often these things work out best if you work alone and not have to worry about looking stupid in front of someone.

Take the photo of me above, for example. I’m standing on top of the toposcope on top of the Long Mynd. There was nobody about (and they missed a fantastic sunset), but it made things easier for me. Because climbing on top of that toposcope wasn’t easy. In fact, there were numerous shots of me with my bum in the air because I couldn’t hurl my body on top of it before the ten second countdown finished! But it didn’t matter. Because I was on my own. After several attempts I got the shot I wanted.

So think about your ‘writer photo’. Do you need one, or would a couple be required for the different markets you write for? Have a couple to draw upon and the next time an editor asks, you can pick and choose the one that seems most suitable for that publication.

Good luck!