5 Years of Author Testimonials

Over five years ago (On April 9, 2011 to be exact), we started publishing author testimonials on our “Author Testimonials” blog at http://selfpublishingauthor.wordpress.com.

Jeff & Shirley Lawrence published their book, Hollywood Be Thy Name in 2006 with Outskirts Press, and, like most of our authors, enjoyed the experience so much they gave us a glowing review:

“We did a considerable amount of research before selecting Outskirts Press. We cannot tell you how pleased we are with the outcome. The book is beautiful. There is a big difference in on-line publishers. They are NOT all the same. We know other authors who made wrong choices and regretted it afterward.”

In the years between 2006 and 2011, we published thousands of additional books and received thousands of additional testimonials from happy authors. But it wasn’t until the launch of our Author’s Testimonials blog in 2011 that we could easily share those comments with other writers.

Now, the Author’s Testimonials blog offers published authors a platform to spotlight their book and their publishing experience, while also offering prospective new clients a chance to hear first-hand how publishing a book with Outskirts Press is a rewarding, and often life-changing, experience!

In the shadow of the imminent Outskirts Press Upgrade on August 1, the Author Testimonials Blog received an update this week, like my blog did a number of weeks ago. I think you’ll agree the new “blog theme” makes it extremely fast and easy to scroll through the thousands and thousands of satisfied Outskirts Press authors and see their amazing books and hear their amazing stories.

And isn’t that what a blog geared toward highlighting author success stories should do?



Book of the Year analysis

Here’s another blogging site graphic. This one graphs the number of unique visitors to our Outskirts Press blog since January 2010.  Since that blog is entirely different from this one, this graphic bears no resemblance to the previous graphs I showed.  But you can see a massive jump in April 2011. 

This was due to the Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year voting that took place April 15 – April 30th on the Outskirts Press Blog. More about this tomorrow…

Blogging Advice

Ahh.. and there’s the proper spelling, because even though “blogging advise” is the second Google Search Suggestion, “blogging advice” is the first.  And this further supports one of the pieces of advice I am sharing about blogging that I learned at a recent webinar: that multiple postings throughout the day allow you to title blog headlines differently, which thereby increases your chances of matching a common or popular keyword or phrase. 

Yes, it’s true that “content is king” but the jewel in the crown is the content in the headline of the blog. The “weight” Google or Yahoo gives keywords appearing in titles of blog postings far exceeds the value content receives in the body of postings.

And that’s not even the advice I was planning to share with this post. This is:  We’ve discussed posting multiple times per day, and we’ve discussed on what days it is best to post.  Now let’s talk about the best times to post.   According to statistics compiled by “social media scientists” the best time to post is in the morning.  Well, that’s okay if you’re only posting one a day, but what about the second and third postings?  This is my third posting of the day and it is going “live” in the afternoon (or evening, depending upon your point of view and what part of the world you are on).

So, ultimately, the “time” you schedule for your posts depends upon the time zone you want to target… and we’ll talk about that next time.

Scheduling social media blasts in advance

So if you’re not as famous as Ashton and Britney (and let’s face it, most of us aren’t), then automation and strategic scheduling are tactics you can employ to maximize your social networking strategy. I discussed automation previously. 

Scheduling it just what it sounds like — plotting the release schedule of blog postings, ping updates, and social comments, etc.  The idea behind scheduling is to spread out the content you are distributing so that something “new” is posted every couple of hours.  This is relatively easy if you’re the only one doing the posting. It becomes harder if you have to coordinate these efforts with other people or other departments.   

The automatic aggregation makes it even more difficult still. TweetDeck, Hoot Suite, Feed Burner, Ping.fm, and the like don’t all operate instantaneously.  They update in batches.  So for example,  Feed Burner distributes this blog via RSS to our Twitter feed, but there is a discrepancy between when this blog is posted “live” and when Feed Burner syndicates the feed to Twitter.   Normally, this discrepancy isn’t that big of a deal, but when you’re trying to schedule postings in advance, such a delay complicates matters even further.

While I realize strategically what would be optimal, actually accomplishing such a lofty goal as strategically scheduling social content is still mostly a pipe dream I have.  For example, if one watches our own Twitter feed, one often sees 3-4 tweets come in quick succession (within a matter of seconds or minutes) when it would be best to spread those out across several hours.  In fact the only true tactic I’ve successfully accomplished is by scheduling my own blog posts to go “live” in the afternoons.  This is because I know our other blogs and social activities often (though not always) take place in the morning.    In other words, it is important enough to me to play a role in what keeps me up at night, but not really important enough for me to mandate some schedule with other people/departments at Outskirts Press.

Changing the name of your blog

At some point during my previous blog postings I was discussing the process of picking a template for this blog and placing some of the widgets along the side.  In doing so, I think I’ve arrived upon the WordPress blog template that I like the most, although the one element I don’t like so much about it is the “Leave a comment” link at the top. It wouldn’t be so bad if you could actually leave a comment, but as I referred to in a previous post, I’m not positive I have time to do comments justice, so they are turned “off.” My Board of Directors keeps telling me I don’t even have time to do a blog justice, and they’re probably right.

 As a result, the “Leave a comment” link that is so inviting up there at the top but doesn’t actually do anything is kind of annoying.  As George Castanza said on Seinfeld, “Why must there always be a problem?”

I also referred to the fact that, when “naming” my blog, WordPress advised me I could change it any time I wanted. Of course, I further detailed my inability to find the procedure by which one changes the name and came to the conclusion that I was simply stuck with my original blog name, which, when I registered this blog with WordPress was: CEO Self Publishing Start-Up OutskirtsPress.com

Lots of keywords? Yes. Grammatically correct? No.

Well, by browsing the “help” and forums of WordPress (hence my stumbling upon that “Write a Book” link” which I mentioned in a previous post), I was able to learn about the General>Settings page, although I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to find it on the screen even when I knew precisely what I was looking for.

But I digress. The short story is that I simply added the word “of” to the name and now the name of my blog, at least today as I’m writing this,  is a more grammatically-correct, and still keyword-filled: CEO of Self Publishing Start-Up OutskirtsPress.com.

What does “keyword-filled” mean? It means those are the keywords I envision the intended target audience of this blog typing into a search engine and then finding my blog as a result.

For instance: CEOs and executives may be interested in some of the things I write because I’ll touch upon things like social media confidentiality, trade secrets, M&As, recession-proofing your business, and the like.

And people searching for “self publishing” may be interested in some of the things I write because there is a lot of confusion and misunderstandings about the term; savvy authors exploring all their publishing options are wise to get as many different perspectives as possible to make an informed decision.

And people searching for the phrase “start-up” may be interested in some of the things I write about because I’ll talk about running a company with a 3-year growth percentages of 1000%+, balancing work and a personal life – what personal life? – and managing the obstacles that presents themselves – and the solutions that are required – when you outgrow your credit card processor and your website hosting company all in the same quarter, for example.  

Although, on one hand, Outskirts Press was never in “start-up” mode, per se, because that implies angel investors, securing VC rounds, losing control and board seats, etc – and none of that applied to us, which makes us relatively unique and is also something, perhaps, people searching for “CEO” and “start-up” might find interesting. On the other hand, EVERY company should always view themselves in “start-up” mode to some extent — because every day should be an agressive struggle to improve and thrive.  On the first hand again, it may be selling ourselves “short” to refer to Outskirts Press as a “start-up,” because… well, for all those reasons I mentioned above.   I think maybe I will replace it with a reference to our Inc. 500 placement, which has the potential to attract the same keyword searches– and therefore the same audience– as “start-up” anyway, and is more accurate. And cooler, too.

Now that I think of it, I may want to add “Best-selling author” to the name of my blog, too, but that presents a whole host of considerations, which I’ll get into later…

The trouble with blogging – part five

I think I already mentioned that as a writer, the disorganization of the “typical” blog bothers me, and that may be why, instinctively, I start doing things that “force” organization to blogs, like naming them “parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5,” for instance.  But that very philosophy is somewhat contrary to blogs in general.  The disorganziation and immedicacy is what appeals to many people… and then “twitter” took that one step even further…

For example, blogs appear in reverse-chronological order, so writing a “series” requires new readers who come upon the blog in the middle to either miss the beginning or “scroll down” to the start.  But do they scroll down?  I would, because I like organization.  But that very requirement of having to scroll down just to get to the “start” of something troubles me. Perhaps it’s the writer in me… I know that novels begin on page one.  But blogs begin on the date they started, and that first blog isn’t at the top of the blog; it’s at the bottom.

It’s even more problematic since I’m writing many of these blogs in advance, and usually writing multiple blogs on the same day, and then scheduling them to appear on different days in the future. For example, I started this “Trouble With Blogging” series on January 3, but am scheduling them to appear throughout January, with the last posting in the series scheduled for the end of the month.   But if I keep having to worry about writing a “series” in order to force a particular organization, I am probably missing the point of blogs…

Speaking of which, I just saw a link in the WordPress help section called “Write a book” and of course, being president of Outskirts Press, that phrase intrigued me, so I read the tip in which WordPress outlined a process for organizing a blog in a more traditional, book-like manner.  Judging from the amount of blogs I’ve seen that offer any sort of organization like that (namely, none), I’d say that doesn’t seem to be too popular of a topic on WordPress.

Perhaps what people are expecting to see when they click on a “Write a book” link is a procedure by which they can take the content of their blog and publish a book out of it, and to that, all I have to say is… “We can help you with that.”

The trouble with blogging – part four

Another trouble I have with blogging is that most of them just aren’t very interesting.

In one of my previous “trouble with blogging” postings, I referred to the dilemma I have about what sort of confidential information I should share because that would be directly proportional to the “interest” factor. It all seems like much ado about nothing. While publicly I say that blogging and “tweeting” is the next best thing to sliced bread, for the everyday Joe I’m just not so sure anyone cares. I would think that most people are too busy writing their own blogs to read anyone else’s. But then, ironically, when I’m reading some of the blogs out there and seeing the number of comments some of them generate, I’m proving myself wrong in multiple ways simultaneously, and that’s always good for the ol’ ego.

By the way, that same belief I have that “no one has time to care” extends to twitter, Facebook, myspace, and linked-in, too, all of which I publicly recommend and almost none of which I personally have time for.  Since “New Year’s Resolutions” are a big marketing push in my industry, I should touch upon one of my resolutions before January ends, and that is this: Making more time for the social media sites that I recommend. Time to practice what I preach, so to speak.

That reminds me: one of the reviews I received on Amazon for my book Sell Your Book on Amazon mentioned that very aspect —  that I didn’t appear to do many of the very Amazon tactics I was recommending.  That reviewer was right; a lot of the marketing tactics I suggest in my book are time-consuming, and I didn’t — or don’t — have time to do a lot of them.  So my only response to that is, don’t let my personal short-comings prevent YOU from being successful. Or, as a parent might say to a child, “Do what I say, not what I do.”  But, ultimately, every leader — and every parent for that matter — knows that you should lead by example.

And I’ve discovered that just because I don’t have time for that stuff doesn’t mean nobody does. In fact, internet stats seem to indicate quite the opposite. Most people seem to have nothing but time for social networking sites, so as an author, entrepreneur, etc, etc, you owe it to yourself to be out there on all those platforms in as consistent and professional a manner as you can muster. And… in spite of all my troubles with blogging, here I am.

The trouble with blogging – part three

Another trouble I have, personally, with blogging (and with social media in general) is that I simply don’t have the time to invest in many of the elements that are required for any such endeavor in this arena to be successful — and that is the “social interaction” part. 

For blogging, that involves reader comments.  I think many blogs are popular because readers have the opportunity to voice their own thoughts and participate in the discussion.   And that, in turn, breeds more readers because the blog becomes more three-dimensional in nature as readers get a chance to a) read the original post and then b) participate by adding their own two-cents worth.

Currently, I have the comments disabled because, honestly, I’m still deciding what to do.  Am I deciding whether I think comments are good or bad? No; of course they are “good.”  But I’m trying to determine if I can “do them justice.”   I don’t want to allow comments and then come across as a “jerk” when I don’t have the time to respond to them. It all comes down to time and resources.  I’m writing this particular posting on December 17 at 2:01 in the morning.  By the time it appears on my blog a month later, my mind will be well onto other things.  Part of the advantage of WordPress (and one of the reasons I didn’t stick with my blog on blogger) is because this platform allows one to schedule blogs in advance. 

But if I then have to “revisit” this blog on January 18th, 19th, and 20th, to read and respond to comments that have been posted, that kind of defeats the efficiency I’m going for.

One could argue that means I’m not a good candidate for blogging at all, and there’s a lot of validity in that argument.  All three of my “the trouble with blogging” posts support that very argument.

But, here I am doing it… nonetheless… for as long as I can… Will my lack of comments “kill” the blog? Or will I turn comments on at some point and either bite that time-bullet myself or delegate the process of comment-moderation to someone else? Only time with tell. Speaking of time, it is in short supply.  And now it’s 2:04 am.

The trouble with blogging – part one

Even though, officially, I’m a “fan” of blogging and I suggest that all entrepreneurs, professionals, and writers partake in the exercise of blogging on a consistent basis, for a variety of reasons, I have some basic difficulties with the whole thing. I can appreciate the philosophy behind blogging, the concept, but when the logistics, the reality, start to unfold, it just really isn’t all that it is supposed to be cracked up to be.

There – that previous sentence is a perfect example of one of my troubles with blogging. The writing can be … sloppy. Let’s face it, the majority of blogs out there are hard to read because they contain spelling and grammatical errors. If you can filter through the majority of blogs and arrive upon the minority that are professionally written, you are still, more often than not, presented with a level of writing that is redundant and messy, not fully fleshed-out, or not organized in any manner.

For example, I run each of my blog posts through a spell checker before I hit the “publish” button, but there are those out there who are cutting their teeth on the instant-gratification-world of blogs, twitter, and youtube, who would argue that “spell checking” a blog misses the whole point!  And then after I spell check it, I paste it back into the WordPress box, and then re-read it for grammar and, for lack of a better term, “user-friendliness.”  

But, in many cases, I may want to add a sentence or two of clarification to my previously spell-checked work and no matter how careful I believe I am, a typo may sometimes slip through. Do I have time to spell-check it again? Or do I have time to drastically re-write sentences or even paragraphs in an attempt to make the writing “better” or more organized?  Personally, I don’t and judging from the blogs in existence, few bloggers do. Now as the president of a self-publishing company, I’m hardly in a position to say “Blogging is fundamentally evil because it makes it easy to be a sloppy writer.”

No, I wouldn’t say it’s evil. But blogging does make it easier to be a sloppy writer, at least for me. And as a writer, I need things to motivate me to be a stronger writer, not things that allow me to be a weaker one.

Of course, the other side of the argument is that blogging, and self-publishing for that matter, at least encourages, and in many cases rewards, the act of writing itself — and in this day and age of movies, video games, and Iphones, that’s a small miracle that perhaps grants it some slack.

Back to the blog theme drawing board

This isn’t rocket science! But choosing an appropriate blog “theme” for the look and feel of my blog is proving more time-consuming than I would have anticipated.  I stopped liking the “Journalist” theme when I began adding other widgets to the right-hand column, beginning with our twitter feed.

Note: Whenever you mention your twitter feed, you should link that twitter feed link to your twitter feed.

Sidebar: Did you know twitter isn’t profitable?  They haven’t figured out a way to monetize their traffic and all that bandwidth is costing someone something…. so, twitter-people, listen-up:  The same thing happened when the Internet first launched. No one could figure out how to “make money” with it.  Then, this company called Google came along and figured that it would make money with the Internet the same way companies have been making money for decades — through advertising.  Twitter,  add contextual advertising tweets through applicable accounts and posts and you’ll have figured out a way to monetize your business.

Anyway, back to the story.  The twitter feed widget for the “Journalist” theme is horrible. The CSS doesn’t highlight the linkable words.  Translation: “CSS” stands for Cascading Style Sheet — the aesthetic architecture for dynamic webpages.

So, now I’m trying INove — I think that is the name of it — and it already has a few more advantages over Journalist. For one, it’s not QUITE as black/white stark, but still keeps that as the basic color scheme. Hey, WordPress, what’s with all the pink-colored font choices in your theme selection?

Another advantage is that the widgets “look” a little better.  And the right-hand column width is wider, which allows me to use the actual width settings for the graphics.  With “Journalist” I had to force a width of 160 to my photo and the book covers, which required HTML to ‘shrink’ the image dynamically from 200 pixels wide to 160.  It still looked okay, but sometimes when you do that, the image looks horrible, so why not keep the native width settings if I can?

Well, one reason is that now my photograph along the right is enormous… it’s a little TOO big, I think… but I’ll stick with it for now and see how I feel about it in the future.  I like having the cover images 200 pixels wide, and I’m afraid if they stayed at the same size and my photograph was smaller than the overall aesthetic of the page might suffer.

I also realized another criteria I’ve had in the selection of my themes since the beginning that I may have failed to recognize.  The “main content” section/column needs to be white.  I realized this fully today as I was looking for a substitute to “Journalist” and selected a number of possibilities that had alternate colors other than white in this big “text space.”    In my opinion, that’s a no-no, for two reasons.

1)  It’s “easiest” to read black type on white spaces, so why mess with people’s eyes?

2) When/if I ever get around to adding graphics to these postings, I don’t want a big ugly “box” around the image AND I don’t want to have to worry about background color matching  the color.  White just makes everything easier in this regard.  Life is hard enough; take the gimmees.

Another advantage to this new theme is that the RSS Subscription button and the Search functionality is included in the actual theme, rather than my having to add those features as widgets.  This was one thing I liked about the “Blix” theme, which is what we are currently using for SelfPublishingNews.com – so I’m happy I found another blog that shares those advantages.