Thursday, 3 June 2010

Writing articles to increase your reputation: 3 reasons to invest the time

What can articles do to help you stand out?

In disciplines where there are many practitioners, people often struggle to gain space enough to tell people what they can do. You can shout louder than others which might work in the short term, but if you’re looking for a solid long-term career, you need to look at all the avenues open to you that get the word out to prospective clients.

Here are three reasons for writing to help you decide on the type of articles you can write.

Record your successes

Depending on your trade, profession or area of expertise, you can base an article on a successful piece of work.  Consider laying out a recent project in the form of a case study then extract the important general principles that you can pass on to others.

Where possible avoid bragging or trying to sell your services directly. Positioning yourself as the expert able to find solutions to challenging problems is a much better advertisement than any paid ad.

In your personal details at the end of the article, you can then point the reader towards your website, other resources and testimonials. All these can confirm the picture of your skills you’ve built up in the article.

Point the way to your book

The best business card you can have is a book. It conveys immediate authority on you. After all you have to be an expert to write a book don’t you?

Many people believe that writing books is time consuming and difficult. It can be like anything else if you don’t choose to prepare to do it.  If you feel sick at the thought of writing a whole book, then consider this.

Ten reasonable length articles say 1,500 words each can provide you with the bones of a substantial book.

For your work I expect you can find 10 questions that people ask about all the time. Answer those questions and that creates 10 basic chapters. Add on an introduction chapter, a conclusion and you’ve turned articles into the beginnings of a book.

Show them you're a person of influence

Everyone knows someone who knows so much about a topic they’ve considered influential. How about being that person in your field?

Writing articles is a great start to creating your sphere of influence. And if you’re happy to share your expertise, you can have articles turned into pdf documents which you can hand out at networking events, places where you speak and meetings with prospective clients.

It only takes a few of these articles to be passed around among other influential people and you have a ready made reputation.

Being prepared to invest time to write some articles is future money in the bank because of the return on investment it can bring you.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Writing your book; how many assumptions are you making?

Working with writers is endlessly fascinating. 

And challenging.  And frustrating.  And...

I guess you get the picture.  It's different every time which I love and even if there are similar topics to books, the unique perspective the author has, creates that difference.

But... there are some common threads when I work with them.  And it's to do with assumptions they make.

About themselves as writers.
About their prospective readers.
And most important about the connection between the two.

Assunptions about themselves as writers
  1. They can't write a book because it's different from anything else they've done.
  2. They have nothing to say because it's all been done before.
  3. They don't have the time.
All of these are practical issues not literary ones.Once we've worked through them and I've offered them some suggestions to consider that usually sorts them out.

Assumptions about their prospective readers
  1. That because it's written, the readers will oblige by buying, reading, recommending.
  2. That readers have the time to sit down and read at length.
  3. That readers don't know what's what.
Again these are practical issues; assumptions held because they either do relate or don't relate their own behaviour to that of prospective readers.

The first is the old better mouse trap situation.  Nobody has to be interested in our books.  We have to find compelling reasons for them to be interested.

If they don't have the time to write the book, why do they believe the reader has the time to read it.  The argument might run that it takes less time to read than to write, but that makes the fatal assumption that everyone reads at the same rate, with the same discipline and enjoyment as we do.

Pay attention to how you present your information

Imagine there is someone who could really use the advice your book offers.  But they don't like reading and they don't have the money to spend on one to one consulting.

Are you going to create a book that excludes someone who might change their life for the better having read your book?  It's not a case of dumbing down material.  It's a case of presenting it in a form that's easily digestible and simple to apply.  If you want to write an academic book that only 20 people in the world that's fine. 

That doesn't apply to most of us so we have to pay attention to not only the information we present, but how we present the information.

Assumptions about the connection between writers and readers
  1. That there is none.
  2. That what the writer wants to do is more important than what the reader needs.
  3. That there's only a one way connection.
I've met writers who don't care about their readers.  Period.

They want to tell their story and that's it.  Like it or lump it, the reader gets what they get. That's an okay place to be if you don't want any connection and the thought of readers make you feel slightly soiled.

Yes readers are irritating because they react in ways different from what you want or imagine.  But developing as a writer, especially if you write non-fiction means taking account of what's happening in the world beyond your computer.

Which involves being connected in some way to readers.  And which leads to the two, not one way connection.  Listening to what readers tell you about how your book met their needs or didn't, can give you feedback many companies would shell out large sums in market research to discover.

Recently I met a reader of my first book, Writers Little Book with Big Ideas.  What she took most from the book was to simply get on and write.  Now that might seem a straightforward statement but you wouldn't believe the number of people I meet who suffer from that very challenge.

Of putting pen to paper or fingers on keyboard and doing it.

You see much as we think we know what our readers need, how they'll react to our writing and what they gain from it, we don't.

Not really.  Because readers always surprise you by finding things in your books that you had no idea were in there, or intended to be in there.

So the fewer assumptions you have in your head about your readers, your ability as a writer  before you start to write the better. 

Not knowing is a good place to start and you'll write a more rewarding book for you and your readers working from there.