Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Every Action Has An Equal And Opposite Reaction

When a chef puts a frying pan onto a burning gas stove, it gets hot. When a chef puts some ingredients together, a culinary dish is created. When a chef drops and egg, he makes a mess on the floor!

The old laws of science still apply - for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

I was thinking about this the other day when a student commented that she wanted to get to the stage in her writing career where she could switch on her computer one morning and find an email from an editor offering her a commission.

I too like days like that! They do happen - but as Newton's law says, in order to get that reaction, first you need to undertake some action yourself. In order for an editor to email you with a commission, you need to tell the editor that you exist and offer him, or her, an idea that they can't resist.

Next month, an article I was commissioned to write will appear in an American magazine. It took two years to get that commission. First of all, I obtained a couple of sample issues of the magazine so that I could study it. Then I emailed the editor with three ideas. They were rejected. So, I emailed three more article ideas. They too were rejected. So, I emailed another three ideas, two of which were rejected, but one was accepted.

In order to get that 'reaction' of a commission - I had to take some action myself. In fact, I had to take quite a lot of action, in order to get the reaction that I wanted. (My first action - three ideas - were rejected, so the rejection was a reaction - just not the reaction I was looking for!)

It may seem obvious to some people, but as with so much in life, if you want something to happen, it is down to you to do make it happen. That is so true of writers. If you want to have a novel published, you have to write one first. If you want an editor to commission you, you have to pitch them first.

There is a saying in the world of fiction that Drama never comes knocking on your character's door - your character has to knock on Drama's door. In other words - your character needs to take some kind of action, that will generate the drama to unfold.

Next time you want something to happen in your writing life, think first about what sort of action you need to take to make it happen. Then do it!

Good luck.

New Markets Keep You Writing

Firstly, thanks to Susan Haniford for emailing me a copy of this picture taken on her camera at Caerleon. (and thanks to Les for taking it in the first place!) Moving from left to right, we have Jane, Lynne, some prat in the middle (that'll be me then), Chris and Susan.

One of the messages that came through loud and clear this year at Caerleon for me, is that writers should be constantly looking for new markets. Literary Agent Theresa Chris, (also known as The Fearsome One by Jane Wenham-Jones) gave a talk on the opening night about publishing today and she confirmed that during this recession, publishers are cutting back. Many midlist authors - those who regularly produce a book a year and make a small profit for the publisher, but aren't a risk to Dan Brown on the bestseller lists - have found themselves being dropped by their publishers. As an agent, Theresa dreaded having to ring these authors up and give them the bad news.

Yet she actually found the exercise quite revealing. Many who had been dropped simply turned around and said, "Oh well, never mind ... well I have been working on something completely different so perhaps I may interest a different publisher in that project."

The point Theresa wanted to make was that REAL WRITERS WRITE! If you are a writer, you will be writing SOMETHING. What struck me though was that many of these writers were already looking at writing for a different market anyway. They were experimenting and trying to broaden their markets. The more markets you try to write for, the less of a problem it is if one suddenly dries up.

For the first part of the week, I went along to Lynne Hackles excellent workshops called Writing for Money.

During those workshops she showed us how we can turn any of life's events into prose to sell to magazines. (She even told us how she sold spells to one magazine!). She made a valid point that writers should always buy one new magazine every week to analyse and then ask the question - what can I write for this? It could be an article, a short story, a reader's letter, a tip or even a funny photo. Just turn the pages and ask, "What can I write for this page?"

Over time, you begin to remember which magazines have which slots and so the job of slotting an idea to a particular magazine becomes easier. In the few days that I've been home from Caerleon, I've submitted a short piece and picture to one magazine, a joke to another and a reader's letter to a third - and that's on top of my existing workload of the correspondence course that I'm writing. (4,334 words on that today - phew!)

So go and expand your markets. Make a point of going out a buying a new magazine that you wouldn't normally buy and then analyse it. Ask yourself, "what can I write for this page?" And then write it!

Good luck.

Motivation Begins The Minute You Wake Up!

Last Saturday at my writers' circle meeting, we had a guest speaker, Liam O'Connell. Now Liam and I share a similar wavelength - we both like positivity. In fact, as I sat listening to him during his workshop, I spent most of my time doing a nodding dog impression!

Liam's attitude though, was one of 'can do'. Instead of saying 'I can't do that'. He told us to say 'I CAN do it' and 'I believe I CAN do it.'

Much of this is down to being focused on what it is that you want to achieve, and this is a core skill with writing. Being focused and determined to get a piece published will result in publication eventually.

Liam played a video of several students all running around one another, passing basketballs between them. He asked us to focus on the basketballs and count the number of passes made that didn't involve bouncing the ball on the floor. This played for about two minutes and required immense concentration - well it did for me anyway! At the end of it, some of the group said they'd seen 15 passes, other guesses ranged up to 23. I'd counted 19. The correct answer was 22. Then Liam asked, "Hands up those of you who saw the Gorilla?"

What? What flipping Gorilla?

About half the group stuck their hands up. (not me, I completely missed it!)

Liam then played the whole sequence again and this time he told us to look for the Gorilla. And there it was, bold as brass, someone dressed up in a Gorilla costume walking onto the set turning to face the camera, waving both arms about frantically before walking off the stage again!

I found that exercise really enlightening, because for me, it was a clear demonstration as to how focused I could be. When I looked around the room at the members of the group who like me had not seen the Gorilla, it was interesting to note that many of them were the members that I would classify as the more 'successful' members of the group too, with their writing.

He then discussed about having a positive attitude. He explained how we all have control over our actions. Yes, we can't control what life throws at us, but we can control how we deal with. Liam told us of a time when he'd filled up his car with diesel instead of petrol. When he realised what he'd done he flew into a rage, cursing and swearing at the hassle this was now going to cause him. His wife, then reminded him that he'd woken up and decided to have a positive day that day. And that's when he realised that all this anger wasn't solving his problem. Thinking positively, he realised that once he'd called his roadside recovery company, he would then be provided with a courtesy car. Within the hour, he and his wife were on their way again, and enjoyed the rest of the day. He made that decision not to let this event ruin the whole day.

Likewise, we can't stop an editor from rejecting our work, but we have a choice what we do when we discover the news. We can either:
  • Moan and wail, and throw our arms about in pure misery that our talent and creative genius has not been recognised, or
  • review our work, rewrite if necessary and submit our talented creative muse to another editor, creating a new opportunity in which to get published.
Every morning, when we wake up, we have the opportunity to decide whether we're going to have a good day, or a bad day. So when I woke up yesterday, I said to myself, "Today I'm going to have a good day." And do you know what? At 11.45am the deputy editor of Country Walking magazine rang me up and asked me if I could provide an urgent piece of text for him. How positive was that?

So remember, when you wake up tomorrow, make a decision as to what sort of day you're going to have and stick to it. You don't know what might happen!

Liam O'Connell is an excellent guest speaker and I can thoroughly recommend him. For more information, visit his website at www.liamoconnell.co.uk, and you can buy his book direct from Amazon.

Good luck.

Making Time to Write

Do you 'find' time to write, or do you 'make' time to write?

Is there a difference? Yes. 'Finding' time is when you finish doing a job (mowing the lawn, doing the ironing, preparing a meal) and then realise that you have half an hour until you need to be doing something else or until the rest of the family will descend upon you. Deciding to use this time to write is a wise move. But in reality, 'finding' time should be seen as a 'bonus'. What you need to do is 'make' time - regular time.

'Making' time is all about setting a clear time frame during which you can write. I've just had an article accepted by Writing Magazine on this very topic, so I'm not going to go into too many details here - you'll have to wait and buy the magazine to read about it(!), but I interviewed three writers who have all made the effort to 'make' time for their writing. And of course, all three are benefiting from this decision.

One bought a laptop so she could write during her lunch hour for two lunch breaks a week. Two hours of writing a week doesn't sound much, but add it up and it is equivalent to doing a full time writing job for two weeks of the year. What could you achieve in two weeks? Another writer reduced her working hours, so she spends a few days a week on her writing now, whilst another took a career break.

Some ways of making time are easier than others - finding two hours a week is easier than taking a career break. But the point is, you need to find the writing time that is right for you.

In November, there are hundreds of thousands of writers who have 'made' time. November is 'NaNoWriMo' - National Novel Writing Month and the aim is for writers to start writing a novel on the 1st November, and by midnight on 30th November have completed at least 50,000 words of that novel. It's a tough challenge, but it is achievable. Many do succeed. The reason they succeed is because the 'NaNoWriMo' event gives them the excuse to tell family members that it is a special event just for November. It has a constrained time frame. The family may be annoyed that the writer isn't around much during November, but at least they know that the writer will be back to 'normal' in December!

So if any of you are tackling 'NaNoWriMo' I wish you all the success in the world. Congratulations on making the time to write 50,000 words. But when the 1st December arrives just look back on what you have achieved in November. This is what happens when you 'make' time to write. Just think what you could achieve if you 'made' time to write every month. Obviously making time to write 50,000 words every month isn't sensible, but now you know how to make time (because you did it in November), why not try to 'make' two or three hours of writing time a week in the future?

Talking of making time to write, I too am making some time to write. Yes, I know I'm full time, therefore I can write all day everyday (within reason), but when you're in this fortunate position, you spend a lot of time writing what other people (editors, publishers, other customers) want you to write and not necessarily what you want to write.

So this Saturday I'm off to the Lake District in the north of England for five weeks. I shall not be returning until the middle of December. The picture above is the view from the window of the self-catering apartment that I shall be staying in. Unlike many writers, I actually find a beautiful view inspiring, rather than distracting.

What shall I be doing? Well I have a novel of 130,000 words and basically, I need to delete 30,000 of them. So whilst there are thousands of writers in November creating words, I shall be deleting them. Perhaps I should establish NaNoDelMo - National Novel Deleting Month instead? Will the novel be of publishable quality once I've done that - who knows? Will it help me secure an agent? Who knows? The only way to find out though, is to 'make' the time to enable me to do it. (Yes, I've been busy working overtime in order to write all the articles that I needed to write during those five weeks that I shall be away.) Doing this though, has enabled me to 'make' the time.

I still intend to post to the blog whilst I'm away. I hope to have a mobile Internet connection, although I have been warned that the weather can interfere with this, and let's face it, the Lake District has a reputation for 'weather'!

I'll let you know how I get on with my writing time, whilst I'm away. Good luck to those doing NaNoWriMo, and for those who aren't why not 'make' some regular writing time for yourselves?

Good luck.

PS - Writers Bureau students may be interested to know that the latest Chapter & Verse online Ezine for enrolled students is now available. Use your login details to take a look.

What's the collective noun for a bunch of Writers Bureau Tutors?

Every couple of years, the Writers Bureau tutors get together at Head Office to discuss any queries or problems we may have. (Problems with students? Surely not! - Actually it's more to do with administrative processes.)

And after all our hard work during the afternoon, we then meet up in the evening for a relaxing meal. And it was whilst taking this photo, that I suddenly wondered what the collective noun is for a group of Writers Bureau tutors! An assignment? Keep your thoughts clean please - especially if you happen to be one of my students intending on sending in your latest assignment soon!

And here's a note for any Writers Bureau student - have you checked out the Writers Bureau revamped website recently? There's an online forum that enrolled students can join to ask for help from other students and to pass on news and information. One recent post states that The Lady's Viewpoint column has been dropped, which is a shame because this was a good freelance slot. The editor dropped it in the middle of October. (She's new and she's making a few changes - dropping the fiction slot, being another one of the changes.) So if you're a WB student, check out http://www.writersbureau.com/

Non-students can also find useful information on the website. Take a look at the 'resources' page. This has links to the Ezee Writer newsletter, which is free, and past issues can also be found here with their informative articles.

Some of the WB tutors (myself, Lorraine Mace, Stephanie Baudet and Alison Chisholm) were involved in a little bit of future publicity for the Bureau. I'll tell you more in the future (when you can have a right laugh at us), but suffice to say it involved the phrase, "Lights, Camera, Action" and a very annoying camera/sound man, whose pet phrase was "That was great, but let's do it one more time."

Finally, on a completely different topic, is anyone interested in moving to Pembrokeshire and buying a house? If so, you need to visit the website of writer, Lynne Hackles' who is trying to sell her house.

Until my next posting (when I shall tell you about a rather different men's magazine that I came across today), good luck!

Washing Away Words

Well, what a week it's been, since I last blogged. Anyone would think the Weather Gods had decided that Simon was not going to be distracted from working on his novel by nice weather tempting him onto the fells instead.

I'm sure many of you will have seen the devastating floods in the north Lakes at Cockermouth and Workington on the news, but the people in the South Lakes are suffering too.
The first picture here of the flooded road is my one and only road to civilisation. Just outside Hawkshead, Esthwaite Water had suddenly expanded over night in the early hours of last Friday morning. Nowhere was accessible by car. Luckily, I found a footpath, which enabled me to bypass the flooded road (passable only by tractors) and made it into Hawkshead. I needed bread and milk, and I wondered if the Co-op would be open, because it was currently undergoing a refurbishment.

I was therefore delighted to see that it was (although I think the refurbishment wasn't quite complete, but due to the flooding, the decision had been taken to open early.) The second picture is of the queue. It took over half an hour for me to reach the tills. In the meantime, people kept leaving their baskets in the queue and nipping to a shelf and picking up something else for their baskets. The locals kept joking with the manageress that this was all a cunning plan - just have one till open, keep the queues long, and the customers will keep topping their baskets up whilst they wait! Suffice to say that the Dunkirk spirit is alive and well. The third picture is of a house in Hawkshead that did not fair well during the downpour. Sadly, there are many other places in the south Lakes like this.

I don't know how many of you have been to the Lake District, but if you've ever seen the jetties at Bowness on Windermere, you may be surprised to know that yesterday evening (Wednesday), 6 days after the main weather event, those jetties still cannot be seen because they are under so much water. There are many businesses that will take years to recover from this.

More and more roads are becoming passable each day - I finally managed to get the car out on Monday, although, those roads that are not underwater are littered with branches and stones. At times it's like driving over gravel, so many rocks and stones have been washed onto roads. And many of the stone walls have been destroyed, simply by the force of the water washing them away.

The fourth picture here is of the current weather. If you listen to the weather forecast, Cumbria is having some respite from the rain. I suppose we are in a way - this is hail! Rumour has it though, that there may be some sunshine on Sunday. Wayhay!

So, what with the weather, literally, cutting me off from the rest of the world, how's it going with the novel, I hear you ask. Actually, not bad.

One of the reasons I'm doing this, is because I paid for a professional critique to be carried out on my text. Essentially, I was told two things - the novel was 30,000 words too long, and that the genre was not a particularly commercial one. (i.e. it isn't a crime novel!) but if I deleted those 30,000 words, I would have a novel of publishable quality. Another comment made was that there are no 'nice' female characters in my novel for female readers to empathise with.

I'd been thinking about this a lot, and decided that perhaps this was something I needed to rectify. So whilst I've been deleting words, I've also been adding more! I created a new female character and as I included her in more scenes, I really got to like her. I'd added her into about a third of the book and then I stopped and re-read what I'd rewritten.

I didn't like it. Whilst it wasn't 'padding' because I'd been able to slot her into the plot easily, and she'd enabled me to add some interesting twists to the plot, she had made an impact on the pace of the novel. It was much slower. I'd like to think that novel is a good old fashioned British farce, and therefore pace is important. I had a decision to make.

So, I put on my walking boots and went out (in the rain) and stretched my legs around the ever expanding Esthwaite Water. About an hour later, when I returned, I'd made my decision. My new female character had to go. I liked her, but she wasn't right for this book. (I'm sure she'll have an important role in my next one!)

I therefore spent the next few days deleting and rewriting everything I'd written and rewritten over the past few days. When I reread my text again, I was much happier. The pace was back. Doors are slamming once again, rather than being left ajar. (door slamming is important in British farce.)

What's this taught me? Actually, it's taught me to have more confidence in my text. In the professional critique, the main criticism was the length of the book. The female character for female readers to empathise with was more of a personal opinion of the professional reader, not a criticism of the novel's structure itself. Re-reading the critique reminded me that the plot works, it moves forward at a good pace, and my characters are appropriate for the genre.

In light of this, I'm back to simply cutting and honing my text. Sometimes, the errors I spot are embarrassing! For example, I had a character in a building on her own, and she mutters something under her breath. At the end of the sentence I'd used the phrase "she muttered to herself." Well, if she's in the building on her own, then who else is she going to be muttering to? The reader knows she's alone, therefore the reader knows she's talking to herself! Duh!

So, whilst a lot of the editing is the usual deleting of unnecessary adverbs, there's also a lot of 'common sense' deleting taking place too. It's surprising how often we writers repeat information.

Now, if you'll excuse me, the hail has stopped. It's raining once more. I'm going back to washing away some more of my words from my novel.

Good luck.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Simply Does It

So, were you able to catch a safe glimpse of the eclipse? Here in very sunny Shropshire we were a little dazzled by it all. I was hoping that I might be able to snap a photo of the event, but I don’t have the necessary special equipment for capturing it on my professional camera, and in some ways, the clear blue skies and brightness of the sun would have made this difficult. So, instead of going all hi-tech, I had to go low-tech instead.

It was time to make a pin-hole camera: cue white sheet of paper on a clipboard, a piece of card, and a drawing pin. As you can see from the photo, it worked really well! I also used the colander from the kitchen and got that to produce a multitude of eclipses! Sometimes, the old fashioned ways are the best ways of doing things.

It reminded me of a time last year when I was called to help out Country Walking magazine. One of the staff writers had done a walk in the area and dictated the route description onto their smartphone. When they came to write it up, back at the office a few days later, they were horrified to discover that the recorded route description was all garbled and unusable. 

As a local contributor to where they’d walked, they asked me to tackle the route and produce a detailed route description. No problem. Of course I could help out. I was being paid, after all. The staff writer asked how I recorded my route descriptions. I use the low-tech method: pen and paper.

I have tried to use dictaphones in the past, but in my opinion they don’t work well. When you’ve said, “Cross the field and then a stile. Cross the next field and a stile. Cross over another field and a stile. Continue over the next field and a stile …” and then you find yourself in difficulty and need to retrace your steps, it’s not easy to work out when you’ve rewound the directions exactly which field and stile you’ve wound back to. Whereas with pen and paper, you simply cross out each stile and field as you retrace your steps.

Likewise, although I like my laptop and computer, when it comes to just jotting down thoughts and ideas, a notepad and pen work best for me. The slowness of forming the words as I write help me to formulate my ideas. I type too fast to be able to do that straight onto a computer. (Clearly, I’m a slow thinker!) 

So, next time you need to do a writing task, just pause for a moment and ask yourself the question: am I using the right tools for the job? Sometimes, the simplest tools work best.


Good luck.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Celebrating 30 years of .COM and the future of .DOMAINS

Cross-posted with the Official Google Blog

When you visited Google today, we’re pretty sure you didn’t type 173.194.113.18 into your browser. This string of numbers separated by periods—an IP address—isn’t nearly as easy or memorable as typing google.com. Domain names ending in things like .COM, .NET and .EDU make browsing the web and telling people where to find you online easier. Since this month marks the 30-year anniversary of .COM and several other domain endings, we’re taking a minute to celebrate these often-overlooked suffixes that have changed the way we use the web.



Though they were introduced in 1985, domain names didn’t gain much awareness and use amongst the public until the World Wide Web became available to all during the ‘90s and it became clear they were an important part in unlocking its power. Using these online addresses, people began to spread messages, start businesses and access information that otherwise would have been nearly impossible to find. Popularity and demand for these names grew so much that people were soon willing to pay millions of dollars for the perfect one.



Today there are 270+ million registered domain names; in fact, about 17 million were added just last year. To create more naming options for people online, hundreds of new top-level domains are being added, and many, like .TODAY, .NINJA and .BIKE are already available. We wrote about this back in 2012, and since then we’ve launched three of our own: .HOW, .SOY and .みんな.



As .COM turns 30, we’re looking back on the history of domain endings and all they’ve made possible. Today there are more choices than ever before for people to find the perfect name for their businesses, projects and ideas on the web. If you’re interested in learning more about this history, or you’d like to register your own piece of the web, head over to Google Domains to claim your .DOMAINS from a .COM to a .GURU. Here’s to .COM’s 30th, and all that’s yet to come in how we name destinations on the Internet.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Second Fluke Originality

Well, it seems that flukes can happen twice. What is a fluke? According to the OED it’s an unlikely chance occurrence, especially a surprising piece of luck.

I’ve just sold a second short story to Woman’s Weekly. It took me nine years to first crack this market (and that’s why I always bang on about being persistent), and it’s only taken me another year to crack the market again. How lucky is that? Cracking it the first time was a fluke so cracking it a second time just proves flukes can happen twice. Or does it?

I’d almost given up on this market, before I made my first sale to it last year. Nine years is a long time. And I know of writers who’ve spent longer than me trying to break into this market and have yet to succeed.

I was chatting to a group of writers as a workshop recently, and one said that, “You’ve obviously discovered the formula for this market.” I wish I had, because then every story I write for this market would be accepted! But there is no formula, as such. I do, however, think there is a mindset, though. It’s all about getting a feel for the type of material the publication uses, what their readers want, and then, being able to add a twist - and I’m not talking about tales with a twist, where the plot misleads the reader into thinking something else. By adding a twist, I mean a twist of originality.

Every writer, whether we’re writing fiction or non-fiction, has to present their thoughts in a way that comes across with a freshness, that might not be completely original, but is different enough to make it stand out.

The story that has just been accepted is written from a groom’s point of view in the run up to a wedding. It’s not a completely original idea, but having read the magazine for the last few years I couldn’t remember reading a story on this theme with a man as the main character. (Nor one where the groom keeps asking the vicar to lie!)

This was not the first submission I’d made since my last acceptance. It was actually my fourth. But, looking back now, those previous three submissions were all very similar, and perhaps too contrived to be a Woman’s Weekly story. While readers want the comfort of picking up a publication that has a similar feel to it each month, they still want the contents to be engaging, and different enough to be entertaining.

So, there are several lessons to be learned from this experience:

1. Never give up. As Thomas Edison once said: “Many of life's failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up."
2. Look for any different angle. With a short story this could mean a different point of view, a slightly unusual setting or a quirky character. With non-fiction it could be an obscure anniversary, a tenuous link (I’ve just sold an article about Portmeirion - in Wales - to a local county magazine in Surrey), or a different perspective on a well-known topic.
3. Be yourself. While it’s good to adapt your style of writing to fit that of your target publication, don’t let it adapt the way you think. We’re all unique, and it’s our uniqueness that can help us identify those original angles for our work.


Good luck.

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Detailed Brief

My two latest commissions have been a joy (Country Walking and Discover Britain). Why? Because the brief I was given from both was detailed. I knew exactly what was required and what was being offered.

The commission from Discover Britain came after a pitch I’d made several months ago (and had chased up a couple of times … so it pays to be persistent). The editor was lovely (and I’m not just saying that because she’d commissioned me!). Her email, formally commissioning me, stated exactly what she wanted:

- main article length, and what it was to cover,
- fact file length, and what it needed to cover,
- photographic requirements,
- rights required in the article,
- fee for the job, and when it would be paid,
- deadline.

Country Walking magazine got in touch because they wanted me to help them with a new section they’d recently launched. Because it was new (there’d only been one published so far in the series), the deputy editor provided me with a detailed brief of the different sections the piece needed, what they were to cover and how many words were required for each section. Some sections could run to as many as 90 words, whereas with others I had a whole 30 words to play with! Although it could be seen as restrictive, this level of detail is quite comforting, because you know exactly what it is you need to provide.

Of course, not every commission is as detailed as this, and not every writer has editors commissioning them at this level of detail. But one way of improving the the detail is to be just as specific in your own pitches to a magazine. When you pitch an idea to an editor, tell them:

- the specific angle of your idea and why it will appeal to their readers,
- which section of the magazine you envisage it working best for,
- how many words you’re offering for each part of the article (main body, plus additional fact files)
- whether you can offer photos,
- what rights you’re offering,
- when you can deliver the piece, if they commission the idea.

By being this specific in your pitches, not only will the editor see that you’ve done your homework (because you wouldn’t dream of pitching a 1200-word piece for a slot that only uses 800-words, would you?), but if they want to change anything, they’ll let you know.

If we’d like editors to be more specific with us, perhaps we should start by being more specific with them.


Good luck!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

AdWords app launches on Android

Note: To use the AdWords app, you need to be an existing AdWords advertiser. Not using AdWords? See why you should consider it.

Staying on top of your campaigns just got easier

Today, we’re introducing the AdWords app, an easy way to view and manage your ads’ performance when you’re on the go. This new Android app is available globally for existing AdWords customers.

Businesses, large and small, are increasingly using smartphones to manage everything from customer support to product orders to marketing. Now, you can use your smartphone to keep your AdWords campaigns running smoothly—no matter where your business takes you.

As a companion to your desktop account, this app lets you:
  • View campaign stats
  • Update bids and budgets
  • Get real-time alerts and notifications
  • Act on suggestions to improve your campaigns
  • Call a Google expert

Download the AdWords app for Android

Tommy Sands, Senior Paid Search Manager from Philly Marketing Labs, tells us, “Having the ability to quickly review and take action in my AdWords accounts when I only have my mobile device enables me to be better and more efficient at managing my campaigns. It's nice to know that I'm only a few taps away from the information I need, no matter where I am.”

Review (and make changes) on the go

Whenever you open the app, you’ll see an overview of your clicks, costs, and conversions. For deeper insights, you can view metrics by ad group, day of week and device.

Changes in campaign performance can happen at any time—now you can address them quickly, even when you’re away from your desk. For example, if you see your best performing campaign is maxing out on budget, you can make adjustments so you don’t lose out on potential sales. You can even pause or enable a campaign for a time-sensitive promotion.

You’ll also receive customized suggestions that you can act on immediately. For example, if there’s an opportunity to get more impressions by adjusting your bids, we’ll let you know so you can make the change right from the app.


Get the app

The AdWords app is now available for devices that use Android 4.0 or later. To get started, download it today from the Google Play Store. And for more information, visit our Help Center. We look forward to hearing your feedback as you bring AdWords with you on your business adventures.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Through Someone Else's Eyes

Part of being a writer is being able to see things through someone else’s eyes. Viewpoint is important, and that doesn’t matter whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction.

On Saturday, while doing my daily walk, I bumped into a man in his eighties, who I often see out and about, no matter what the weather. Even when it’s pouring with rain he always declares what a wonderful day it is. As a blind man, he gets about with the aid of a white stick.

I bumped into him (not literally, he’s adept at using his stick) along the bridleway that gently slopes down to a National Trust cafe in the valley. For me, it’s a gradual slope, which only requires caution during snow and ice.

Not for my friend, though. He pointed out to me that we had stopped to chat just after drainage channel number 16. His white stick drops down into all 21 channels that cross this section of the path. Now, ask me if there are any drainage channels and I’d have said there were about three or four. But not 21. I counted them yesterday and he’s right. There are 21. I’ve just been blind to the other 17 or so.

It takes him ten steps to get from the concrete bridge to the flatter section of grass that avoids the ridge where the sheep like to lean against. And that concrete bridge was fourteen steps from the pot hole in the road … or it was, until someone decided to fill in the pot hole. My friend has had to recalibrate his walk since the road has been ‘improved’.

After chatting about the different birds we’d heard this morning, and how quiet it was compared to last weekend, when it was still the school half-term holidays, we parted company and continued on our own walks.

I found myself counting the rest of the way home. And looking for potholes. I was now looking at a route I’ve done regularly for several years in a completely new way. I was now looking at it through the eyes of a blind man.

So the next time you find yourself doing something complete routine, try looking at it through someone else’s eyes. You may find it inspirational, and you never know what you might see.


Good luck.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Better than 1,000 words: introducing new photo tools to help you show off your business on Google

When it comes to attracting new customers, photos can both entice customers to your business when they’re browsing online and give customers confidence that they’ve come to the right place.

Starting today, you can tell us which image you’d like to appear when customers search for your business on Google. Just log in to Google My Business on the web or in the Android or iOS apps, and visit the Photos section. While you’re there, you can also give your business a fresh look online by updating your profile, logo and cover photos.

Photos you add through Google My Business can be displayed on Google Search, Maps and Google+

We’ll also guide you through adding the best photos to show off what makes your business unique. For example, hotels will receive guidance for adding exterior, room and common space photos that show guests what to expect inside and out. Cafes and restaurants can get customers drooling over their latest food and drink and provide more details with a menu photo.

Log in to Google My Business today to see suggestions of photos to add for your business.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Charge up your phones with call-only campaigns

Cross-posted with Inside AdWords

People are living their lives online and engaging with your business in new ways. With smartphones in hand, consumers are increasingly looking for products or services while on the go and then placing a call right away. In fact, 70% of mobile searchers call a business directly from search results.*

Today we’re introducing call-only campaigns, a new and easy way for businesses to reach potential customers by prominently showing your phone number, business description and call button -- right when people are searching.




Uniquely built for businesses that value phone calls more than website clicks

Call-only campaigns are specially designed to only show on mobile devices that can make phone calls. This means every click you pay for can be a phone call to your business.

Bid just for phone calls

Since every click goes towards a phone call, you can design a bidding strategy based specifically on your CPA or ROAS goal for calls. This helps you maximize the value of every call to your business.

“Our customers are increasingly calling us on their mobile devices to get an insurance quote. The great part about call-only ads is that they give us the ability to bid based on the value of a call so we can meet the specific ROI goals that we have set up for sales that come through the phone."

Jason Johnson
Marketing Director, Clearlink Insurance

Customize ads focused on a single call to action - phone calls

Tailor your ads for phone calls with creatives like “speak to a specialist today" or “call to make an appointment" to let people know they can easily reach your business without needing to visit your site.

For BizLab, a national telecommunications retailer, most conversions happen offline over the phone. "The new call-only ads have improved lead volume and conversion rates by targeting mobile devices with ads, like “call now” that are simply focused on driving calls.”

Catherine Wilson
Senior PPC Analyst, BizLab

Another major internet provider uses call-only campaigns to connect customers quickly and easily with their sales team. “With a phone call as the only call to action, call-only ads improve the mobile shopping experience by eliminating the intermediary step of visiting our website. They provide an easy way for consumers to get the product they want by calling into our sales center directly. Better customer experience coupled with an increase in calls & sales provides a win-win for both consumers and advertisers.”

Josh Leibner
Director of Paid Search at Red Ventures, marketing partner for large businesses

Learn more

If you’re currently using the call extensions setting to create call-only ads, you can find details on how to upgrade to call-only campaigns in the AdWords Help Center.




*Google/Ipsos, The Role of Click to Call in the Path to Purchase, September, 2013.

And There's More ...

Ten days ago I received a phone call. Country Walking magazine enquired if I could undertake an urgent walk for them. Naturally, I said yes. Then I made the mistake of listening to the weather forecast and believing it when it said things would brighten up on the Sunday.

Anyway, I did the walk and spent Monday writing it up and processing the photos. Later on Monday afternoon Country Walking got back in touch. Could I do them some additional text for a new section they’re doing, linked to the walk I’d just done? (Naturally, I said yes again.) The deputy editor emailed the specific requirements, and when I say specific, I mean specific. I was given a breakdown of the number of words required for each heading. Some needed fewer than 50 words, others could be as long as 90 words.

Why am I saying this? Well, I recently marked a student’s assignment where he’d written an article that he thought could be suitable for two markets. But he hadn’t decided which one. When I reviewed them online I could see that although both markets used 1,000-word pieces (the length he’d written), they were both structured completely differently. My student had written one straightforward (no headings or other structure) 1,000-word piece. However, one of his target markets preferred three similar length sections (about 300 words each with a 50-word intro and conclusion), while the other had up to ten separate headings, with short paragraphs underneath.

My student’s article didn’t follow either of these, but at least it was relatively simple to adjust the text accordingly. However, before he does that he still has to make a decision: which one market is he going to go for first?

While it’s a simple exercise to alter your text for a different market, it makes sense to write it in the right structure to begin with. As my instructions from Country Walking show, some publications have detailed requirements for some sections of their publication. And if you’re targeting that section then you need to adhere to its structure.

So the next time you target a publication examine the structure the magazine uses in the slot you’re hoping your text will be bought for. Do you follow the same structure, right down to the number of words per heading? It could make the difference between a sale and a rejection.


Good luck.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Four Rejections With A Dose Of Realism

Last week there were four rejections at the writers’ group in Staffordshire I’ve been visiting on a monthly basis. Three were short stories and one was an article. Obviously, the mood was one of despondency, but then we started analysing the rejections.

The stories had all been given reasons for the rejections. Editors don’t have to do that. But now, as we went through the rejection letters, we realised we had something to work on … if we were going to try for that market again. It’s worth bearing in mind that rejections are just one person’s/market’s opinion. And any help an editor gives is for that specific market. This actually leaves the writer with two choices: to try another market by adapting their piece to fit that, or to take on board the editor’s suggestions and to rewrite to resolve those issues and then resubmit.

The article rejection was a shame, because the writer was so close to an acceptance. The writer had written an article and a magazine assistant had written back asking if the writer could rewrite it and make it a bit more personal. So the writer did and resubmitted. The magazine assistant got back in touch and said that the writer had now made this version too personal, and would they mind if the magazine assistant rewrote it merging the two versions into one? Well, the writer was happy for the magazine to do this. Then, when the editor saw the piece, they decided that the area of the UK this article covered had been covered too recently, and therefore the piece had to be rejected. This is just one of those things that happens. The writer was so close, and by doing what the magazine wanted was getting closer to acceptance.

Although this wasn’t the outcome that these writers wanted, I reminded them that to be rejected they’d had to write something and submit it in the first place. The three short story writers now had something tangible to work on to rewrite their stories, because the editor had given them a clue. And the article writer had got very close, and was therefore thinking of the right sort of material for the magazine and their target readership, so it would be worth having another go and sending something else in. Let’s face it - the magazine assistant is going to remember the writer’s name after all that previous correspondence.

So, despite all the rejection we decided it wasn’t the end of the world after all. There was some hope, and everyone had an idea about what step to take next.

Remember to add a dose of realism when you next get a rejection.


Good luck!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Introducing Google Small Business Community Office Hours



With a mission to help small businesses to get the help they need to succeed on the web, the Google Small Business Community team connects small business owners to experts and each other every day. In addition to our monthly Hangouts on Air, we’re now excited to bring you more ways to connect with experts to answer your most pressing questions. Each month, we will have experts spanning different fields pertaining to small businesses.

This month, our theme is productivity and we have three experts in to lend their advice. Ray Ramon is joining us from InfusionSoft, a company that helps small businesses streamline their marketing processes. We have Jamie Viggiano from TaskRabbit, a task-based service that helps small businesses find temporary help. We’ll also have some experts from the Google for Work team to talk about cloud-based tools that help you and your team work better, together.

Join us on February 17 at 12 PM PT for a live text Q&A where our experts will answer your productivity questions, such as “What are some of the tasks a small business can automate to be more productive?” and “What are ways I can save time with Google apps?”

What are some topics you’d like us to cover in our monthly Office Hours? Join the Google Small Business Community and let us know.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Market Research the Library Way

Buying magazines to analyse can get a little pricey at times (although it is a tax deductible expense), and I’ve commented on this blog about the different ways you can cut your costs. Another way is to use your library - or rather - to use your library’s online digital magazine service (if it has one).

My library website has an e-Lending service where it hopes to offer eBooks for lending soon. However, one service it now offers is the ability to view the latest full digital issue of 25 popular magazines. This makes use of the Zinio digital magazine facility, but you have to access it through your library’s website. For me, this was quite straight forward. I simply clicked on the link from my library’s website and then had to register to create an account. This involved quoting my library card number and then setting up a password. Simples!

And now, I have full access to the latest issues of the following magazines:

  • 25 Beautiful Homes,
  • Amateur Photographer,
  • Artists & Illustrators,
  • Auto Express,
  • Computer Shopper,
  • Cosmopolitan,
  • Country Homes & Interiors,
  • Cycling Plus,
  • Digital Camera,
  • Digital SLR Photography,
  • The Economist,
  • GoodtoKnow Recipes,
  • Health & Fitness,
  • Hello!
  • Homes & Gardens,
  • Ideal Home,
  • Kitchen Gardener,
  • MacUser,
  • marie claire,
  • Men’s Fitness,
  • National Geographic,
  • National Geographic Traveller,
  • net,
  • NewScientist,
  • Newsweek,
  • Rolling Stone,
  • WebUser,
  • woman & home,
  • Woman’s Own,
  • Your Family Tree.

You can even set it up to notify you by email when a new issue is available.

As well as magazines, my library also offers access to the PressDisplay service - this gives access to over 3,000 newspapers and magazines from over 100 different countries. All I have to do it enter my library card number and I’m away.

So next time you want to moan about market research costing an arm and a leg, check out your local library service to see if they can help you out.


Good luck!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Introducing .HOW: a new space for learning

Since its inception, the Internet has been a powerful platform to share knowledge, connect with others, and search for information. We turn to the web to learn how to look great, make a killer banh mi, impress a French woman, speak, play, learn, and live -- the list goes on. Indeed, more people search for “how” than any of the five “W”s, finding their answers in blogs, videos, online books, interactive tutorials and other corners of the web.

That’s why we’re happy to introduce .HOW as the latest domain from Google Registry, and the most recent addition to our broader effort to bring new spaces online. We believe .HOW can become an intuitive way for creators and consumers to share, identify and discover some of the best learning content on the web. Now you can buy a simple, memorable and meaningful .HOW domain name of your own, sending a clear message that your content is there to teach people something great.

People are already getting started. From sustainable renovators to a cappella aces, champion skydivers to video game makers; small businesses, nonprofits and teachers of all kinds are using .HOW domain names to reach their audiences.

What will you teach on your .HOW? Check www.get.how for more information, or to get your .HOW domain name now.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Investigating Scrivener

Okay, so last week I mentioned my Star letter in Writer’s Forum magazine, which discussed the topic of Scrivener, and several of you got in touch to ask me more about this writing software. Now, clearly, I can’t go into a lot of detail in one blog post: indeed, there are entire blogs, books and training courses dedicated to the software. But hopefully I can give you some clues on how to go about finding out further information.

I’ve been using Scrivener for a little over three years now, and I’m no authority on the software. But I like how it works for me, which is what is important.

Scrivener has been created by a writer (who now spends a lot of his time developing the software!). It is not page layout software (like Word), but software designed to make it easy to create, edit and move text about, as well as being a receptacle for all of your research. For big projects, like non-fiction books and novels, having all of your research together in one place is great.

But Scrivener is so flexible, you can use it for any kind of writing. I have all of my articles in one file. All of my short stories are in another. All of my walking routes are in another. All these blog posting are in another file. 

However, Scrivener’s flexibility can work against it, because it can do sooooo much, so it can be overwhelming. The trick is to learn only what you need to know, when you need to know it. In other words - rather than change the way you work to make it fit with Scrivener, you should learn how to make Scrivener work the way you work. 

For example, last month, when I was creating the eBook version of The Complete Article Writer I learned how to get Scrivener to create a Table of Contents. (Five mouse clicks was all it took! Brilliant!) But I only learned how to do it when the need arose (and I’ve been using the software for over three years now).

You can find out more about the software by visiting www.literatureandlatte.com. Scrivener is available in Windows and Apple OSX formats.

Watch the ten minute overview video. (http://www.literatureandlatte.com/videos/ScrivIntroLarge.mov) This will give you an insight into some of what it can do. 

Download the free trial. http://www.literatureandlatte.com/trial.php This gives you 30 days free use of the full programme. And just to be clear on this, it is 30 separate days of use. So if you downloaded the software and open it for the first time today (2nd February), and then you open it again on 12th February that 2 day’s worth of use, not ten. 

Compared with other writing software (remember how much Microsoft Word cost you?) Scrivener costs $45 (approx £33). However, don’t think you can ditch Microsoft Word - you can’t. Scrivener is software that helps you to create your text. You do not email editors Scrivener files. Instead, you export them from Scrivener. Again, this is where Scrivener’s flexibility can become overwhelming. You can export Scrivener text in Word format, rich text format, pdf format and many other formats, including Amazon Kindle, ePub and even some movie software format. So last month, from the same file I exported The Complete Article Writer in Word format to send to Createspace to create my paperback book. Then I exported the same text from Scrivener in Amazon Kindle format to create the eBook version to upload. 

When you buy Scrivener it comes complete with a manual in PDF format. Although the manual is a readable document, don’t sit down and read it like a book. Instead, a better book to buy is Gwen Hernandez’s Scrivener for Dummies.

If you enjoy writing novels, David Hewson, author of the Nic Costa crime books, has written a guide to using Scrivener for writing your novel. Or rather, he’s written a guide as to how he uses Scrivener for writing novels. There is no right and wrong way to do this! His book is called Writing A Novel with Scrivener

Gwen Hernandez also offers useful tips and tricks for Scrivener on her website at: http://gwenhernandez.com/scrivener-corner/

Scrivener won’t improve the quality of your writing - but it may help with your productivity. Don’t expect to master Scrivener in a week. I’m still learning several years on! There’s also a fantastic forum where many devotees will try to answer any queries you have. (I’ve used them a couple of times and have always had problems solved.)

So, if you want to know more about the software click on the links, and make the most of the tutorial videos. The software won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it might just help you feel more in control of your writing.


Good luck! 

PS - no I'm not being paid by Scrivener to say any of this. I just like using the software!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Letter Stepping Stones

I know I’ve said it many times before, but I’m going to say it again here … because it’s happened again. Letters can be useful stepping stones.

My reader’s letter is the star letter in the latest issue of Writer’s Forum magazine. I’d written in response to an article in the January issue of the publication, about the Scrivener writing software (of which I use and am a fan of). The article mentioned that the learning curve for Scrivener is quite steep.

Drawing upon my many years of using the software, I wanted to pass on some extra information, and this is where a reader’s letter can be useful. I explained that I agreed with the writer’s comments, but then gave readers some further pointers, which included making the most of the video tutorials, and only learning to use the bits of the software that you actually need to use. I also recommended a couple of books.

Now, I can’t be certain, but I think my letter was published because I was giving reader’s additional information. My letter augmented the article, so readers were benefitting from my suggestions. But as the star letter I’ve now won a year’s free subscription (worth nearly £40, so not to be sniffed at!).

My letter has also generated another article idea, which I’m in the process of developing.

I’ve also recently submitted another letter to a journal, and the editor replied last week saying that he couldn’t agree more with the comments I was making. As a result, he’ll be using my letter in the next issue. Brilliant. Even better was the way he ended his email: by the way, I’m open to article pitches if you have any ideas.

Well, what do you think I did next? Yep. A pitch has been submitted.

So they may only be short and relatively easy to write (it’s still worth spending time editing letters and making sure they’re succinct and to the point), but they can lead to other projects.


Good luck.

Monday, January 19, 2015

It All Started With Some Snow

Winter arrived in many parts of the UK last week, and when I say winter, what I mean is snow. Here in Shropshire, on the Welsh Borders, we copped a good dollopful, to use a technical weather term! Wednesday morning dawned bright, cold, but sunny, so I wasn’t going to hang about. I slipped on my walking shoes and set off with my camera to do my daily walk. And it was the right thing to do, because a couple of hours after getting back the blue skies disappeared and the grey cloud rolled in.

I’m used to taking photos specifically to illustrate magazine articles, but on days like this, it’s nice to simply go out and make the most of what the world has to offer. But that doesn’t mean to say that these photos are wasted. There’s an opportunity in everything.

Later on that afternoon I had an email from an editor thanking me for some work I’d sent through. He ended his email by commenting on the weather - that where he was he had loads of snow, and did I have any? So naturally, I responded, but just before I hit ‘Send’ I thought I’d send him a copy of one of my photos taken earlier in the day. I sent the photo shown here.

About five minutes later the editor came back - saying how lucky I was to have blue skies - all he had was a dark grey one.Then he asked if I had any winter-themed travel articles planned, because his magazine was always looking for good winter front covers. I’m sure you’ll have realised by now that one should never look a gift horse in the mouth!

Admittedly, I was challenged slightly in that the snow was melting, and the blue skies had already disappeared. This wasn’t something I could sort out now. And this is where my own photographic library that I’ve built up over the years comes in useful. Browsing my own library for snowy images I quickly spotted a theme, and one I should have thought of much earlier. I often say to students to write about their home town as a travel destination, because they live there, so that makes them an expert. And which place in the world do I have the most snowy pictured of? My own doorstep. 

I selected a small collection of images, created a pitch for a travel piece about my home town and sent it to the editor to see if he was interested. Twenty four hours later I had the commission, and the article will be used in an issue in December this year. 

So, whatever you do has the potential to become a commission. This one simply started with some snow falling last Tuesday night.


Good luck!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Making it easier to get your business online with Google Domains



A domain name says a lot about who you are and what you do. For businesses especially, picking out the right domain name is often the starting point to building a successful online presence. With new domain endings like .recipes and .clothing, there are now more options to choose from than ever before.

Last year, we shared news that we were beginning to test a new service called Google Domains to help people get online starting with a domain and website. We partnered with some of the most reliable and easy-to-use website building providers on the web: Shopify, Squarespace, Weebly and Wix. Together, we’ve helped businesses like Scott Pincus Design and Hidden Springs Soap get a domain, build a website and find new customers online. It’s really that easy.

Today, we’re excited to make Google Domains more widely available by lifting the invitation restriction for those in the U.S. For those in other countries, you can sign up here to be notified when it is available in your country. And thanks in large part to the feedback we received from our early beta testers, we’re opening the doors with a new batch of features. Some of the enhancements include:
  • Improved search and suggestion experience to help you find the perfect domain name
  • Over 60 new domain endings like .company, .florist and .coffee (view the full list here)
  • A simple dashboard to manage your domain, website and email settings
  • The integration of Blogger so you can create a blog and easily connect it to your domain
  • The ability to quickly browse website template themes and compare the plans and features of our website building providers
  • Dynamic DNS so you can setup your domain and keep it pointing to the same computer even when the IP address changes. Read more about it here.
We’re excited to share the open beta with you today and still welcome your input, questions and feedback. Don’t be shy!

Get started today at www.google.com/domains.

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