Posts tagged learning
Writing an ebook can be hard work. Actually, let’s be honest here, writing an ebook is hard work. Nothing will change that. But there’s an old saying that the wise writer works smarter not harder. And how you start to write your ebook can make the whole job easier or harder. It can even make the marketing process successful or unsuccessful.
In this article, I’m going to give you four easy ways to start to write your ebook. I’m going to focus on techniques that will help you to make the whole job easy without being difficult themselves. Strictly speaking, some of these techniques may not be starting the process. However, they will all be prior to actually writing your ebook. Since I write how to ebooks, I’m going to focus on non-fiction books.
1. Start With A Keyword Analysis
Why do people buy and read your ebooks? The answer is that they are motivated to do so. Now you could start by guessing at what motivates enough people. Or you could simply, determine what they are already asking about. With the internet that translates as what they are asking the search engines for. The name for this is keyword analysis. Keyword analysis is, simply put, checking the Google
2. Know What You Are Writing Before You Write
Too often people will sit down to write without having a clear picture of what they will have when they finish. Of course, doing that tends to result in an ebook that meanders and is either too long or is too short. It also tends to provide unnecessary information while not providing information the reader wants. To overcome these terminal faults, always start knowing exactly what and why you are writing. You need to know how long the ebook will be. You need to know the style you will use for the ebook. You need to know who will buy the ebook. And you need to know why they will buy the ebook.
3. Write About What You Know
One of the biggest time wasters is research. I know you need to research. We all do. But you should limit your research to specific items when writing an ebook. Use research to fill in facts. For example, use it to identify quotes that help to emphasize your point. Use it to clarify or justify your opinions and ideas. However, using it to learn about a subject before you write an ebook, is a specialized skill. It’s not something you are going to learn quickly. So for your first ebooks, you would be wiser to focus on things you are already an expert in. Teach what you know.
4. Use a Content Map or Other Cognitive Tool
We’ve all been taught in school, to use an outline for our essays. However, an essay is not an ebook. An ebook is a much larger and more complex work. To make the whole job easier you need to use a tool that supports the task of writing. Your outlining tool needs to be very detailed. It needs to document your writing plan down to a paragraph level. Secondly, an outline is sequential. Unfortunately, our brains do not work sequentially. We make connections in what often looks to be a random method. Your outlining tool needs to support that form of idea development. Third, your tool should help you to stay focused on your reader and their needs for information. Our content map is designed based on a professional learning content system to do those exactly that.
I’m ticked …
Notice my site … changed a bit hasn’t it.
Used to look consistent. Now … not so much. Used to be a mix-mash of traditional html, WordPress blog and forum. But at least it looked consistent.
Now not so much.
That’s not the least of it. I use WordPress to drive a number of sites that are part of the TrainingNOW family and a number of other companies (e.g. VProz) that I’m either involved in or otherwise have a relationship with (i.e. maintain). The problem is that WordPress broke all my sites in the last update.
Yes, I said broke my sites.
As a “former” techie, this ticks me off. But then again, I come from a platform that doesn’t EVER have legacy code in the way PCs do. Upgrade? Cool. But it had better not break what went before or it’s back to the drawing board. Which means there’s always new stuff to learn without unlearning the old. But that’s a heck of a lot easier than rewriting a million dollars in application code. (For the techies in the group, any html in pages was lost, workarounds around the menu stopped working around, and plugin options suddenly stopped the plugin from working. And oh yes, the theme I was using is no longer maintained so I couldn’t even keep the look consistent.)
But, since we’re all internet marketers here, I’m going to ignore the details and focus on the business effects.
Yesterday, was supposed to be a day of writing a new course. This week is turning into a write-off as appointments get in the way of producing. What was supposed to be a day of squeezing production between the appointments ended up being a day of fixing webpages. Including one that allowed my customers to download a product they had paid for. (At least it didn’t affect LearningCreators!). What really hurt was that this download was actually hit three times by the “changes”. No sooner did I fix one problem but another further down the stream appeared.
So what can we learn from this?
- Being able to download product is critical. (That means test it in full and fix it immediately).
- Don’t upgrade WordPress (or its plugins and theme’s) unless you have time to verify it hasn’t broken anything.
- If the pages need to appear consistent, then use WordPress for the whole site (not just the blog). Replacing a theme is easy. Replacing a theme and customizing it to look like your brand is not that hard. Replacing a theme and then customizing it to look identical to the html version is a major pain. (Technically, you can use a common CSS. But since WordPress has added improved Page handling, it isn’t necessary).
- Identify your critical processes (such as product delivery). Always have a backup ready to go at a moment’s notice. The backup should appear as transparent to the user as possible.
- Be flexible with release dates for product. Build in lots of time between completion and release. Then hope and work toward not needing that time.
- Watch the upgrade sequence. All themes and plugins should be upgraded shortly after a major WordPress release. If not, you need to check that they aren’t obsolete. If they are then you need to start the process of replacing them.
- Be flexible. Stuff happens. And always at the worst possible time.
- Don’t overcommit. You’re running a business (and have a life). That means you need to make appointments. But don’t let the number of appointments overload your ability to work on the business.
- Balance is needed in your business. Too much production and not enough marketing and you won’t sell. Too much marketing and not enough production and you won’t have enough product to sell. Too much production and/or marketing, at the expense of not enough administration and you could find yourself not being able to deliver what you sell. Or know what has sold and what you should produce. (Okay, I’m cheating here. This is actually something I’ve learned over the last six months. I just had it reinforced.)
- Project management rules are really business rules. The good habits that I’ve learned as a project manager are the same habits I need to remember as a business manager and entrepreneur. (Or vice versa)
Good luck with your business!
Welcome to the third and last of the series of free videos on “Finding the Time to Write”.
If you want more information on this topic, check out http://www.learningcreators.com/buyvideoa.htm. There you’ll find a 2 DVD home study course on this topic.
Now so far, we’ve covered the three areas that you need to focus on in order to “Find the Time to Write”. They form what I’ve called the Work Equation. Unless you balance them, you’ll never find the time to write your book. You’ll just go from one problem to another. You fix one problem and you find another reason not to write. Just because it’s a series of excuses doesn’t mean it’s your fault. It just means you haven’t solved the whole problem.
Next, we covered the solutions to the whole issue. This is what we need to do in those three areas in order to ensure that we solve the whole problem.
We need to:
- Motivate ourselves – and keep our motivation up
- Find 4 hours of time per week as a minimum
- Make it as quick and easy as we can to write
Motivate, Find the Time, Use a System. Do one and the problem will reoccur. Do all three and you’ll succeed.
Now today, I’m going to give you three tips — one in each area — to help you create your own system. By the way, these are different tips from those in the DVD workshop.
So let’s get started.
First off, you need to build your desire to write your book. To do that you need to motivate yourself just like you would for any other employee. And then, you need to sustain that motivation.
Picking the best motivation involves a number of models that I frankly don’t have time to show you in 5 minutes. In our two DVD course, we can go through the most important but in 5 minutes, there’s just not enough time. Sorry.
So my tip, instead, is going to focus on how to sustain your motivation. How to actually motivate you after you’ve chosen your motivations.
All of the windows operating systems – XP, Vista, and 7 can replace the picture you use behind your desktop. With Vista and 7, you can use a slide show. With XP, you need a tool you can download from Microsoft. If you use a Mac, you can also do a slide show.
Find yourself pictures that illustrate why you are writing your book. Find pictures that illustrate what is motivating you. Pictures that will inspire you. Then use a picture manipulation tool — Paint will even do the job — and add a phrase or sentence to drive the point home.
Then all you need to do is add the pictures as a rotating slideshow desktop.
Whenever you aren’t taking up the whole desktop with a program, you’ll see the reasons for writing. Even if you only see a part of the picture, it’ll help to focus your mind on your motivations to write a book.
Now the second part of the solution is that you need to find the time to write.
So how much time are you going to need?
At your most efficient, you can expect to write about 5,000 words in one morning. Now for most people, that’s also the most you can reasonably expect to write in a day. That means that for a 100-page book you’re going to need about five writing days or five four-hour blocks of time to write. Plus you’ll need a little bit for research and planning. But that you can squeeze in anywhere. We’re talking an hour here, an hour there.
Once you’ve eliminated all the time you waste, you may find that you still can’t get enough time to write a book. So try hiring a temporary worker to take on one of your tasks. Writing your book is presumably worth more than the ten or twenty bucks you’ll spend on getting your lawn cut. Or on babysitting or on cleaning the living room. Check out your local high school. They sometimes have students who are looking for spending money. Or even work-terms. Having a research assistant for free, may help you finish your book sooner.
The third part of the solution is a little more complex. It’s the system you use to write. It’s more complex because it includes the writing processes but also your environment and your work habits.
Your environment has a major effect on how fast you can write. But sometimes it’s good to slow things down – slightly. This preparation time can help you to focus yourself on your writing. That’s part of the reason you should always edit your previous day’s writing before you begin today’s writing.
Creating a ritual — any ritual — will also help. It doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, simple and fast is better. But it says to your brain — “It’s time to write now.” For example, checking my backpack to be sure my computer, my notebook and my pens are in the backpack is part of my ritual. Even though it’s done about fifteen minutes (or more) before I write. It helps me to prepare.
To create a ritual you need to do something the same way, every time. That causes your brain to link the steps. And that means that one of those steps needs to be writing. So when building the ritual you absolutely MUST produce some writing. The second sub-tip is that it takes roughly 28 repetitions to create a ritual or habit.
Okay that’s the end of the video course. I hope you found it interesting and useful. Thank you for your time and attention.
If you want more information, you can always check out the blog. However, we also have a 2 DVD home workshop that covers the information in these three videos in much greater detail. Now this home video workshop is essentially the same information we had in our full day live workshop. We’ve even included the same exercises that we used. We’ve just called them homework. So this is over two and half hours of pure information. Plus guidance developing your own responses — your own customized solution. We walk you through the entire process. From identifying where you are weak to choosing where you are going to write. And everything in between.
You can find out more information by going to http://www.learningcreators.com/buyvideoa.htm
One of the biggest problems that writers face is having to sell their book after they’ve written it.
In fact, selling your book afterward is probably one of the worst things you can try to do.
What? Am I crazy … what in heaven’s name am I trying to spout here. After all, the whole point of writing is to be read and without selling your book you won’t be read!
No I’m not crazy. In fact, you do need to sell your book. But you need to start the process before you even begin to write. In fact the first thing you should be doing is to identify who is going to read your book and why.
Once you’ve written your book (and incorporated your reader’s hot buttons), edited and refomatted your book it’s time to actually get out there and sell it.
Selling on the internet is actually pretty simple in theory. You drive traffic, give them something in return for their email, use emails to build a relationship and then along the way sell your book (or other product including audio, video, CD, DVD, webinars etc.).
In practice, however, building that initial list is a lot more difficult than it seems.
Now I’m the last person to claim that I’m an expert marketer. And while I can speak to it and teach people about it — I think you can do much better than myself (even if you can at least trust what I have to say). Unfortunately, to build my own business I’m sort of forced to become an expert marketer.
So how did I become an expert (internet) marketer?
Well, I started out by taking a number of courses. But eventually I reached a point where I realized I needed a coach. Someone who could help me get ahead using this distribution channel. After a fair amount of research I settled on a chap by the name of Sean Mize. Sean came with three key ingredients … he actually was able to build a business on the internet from scratch (most started from web design companies), he produced his own training materials (most outsource both coaching and course development) and he told the truth (press a button and get tons of traffic isn’t his style). And to boot he was the number 1 author on EzineArticles.com.
So why am I telling you all this?
I’ve arranged with Sean to make his courses on internet marketing available to you my loyal subscriber. The first of these is his List Building MP3 Series. This is a 10 MP3 training course that will turn you into a list building machine. Plus there are bonuses!
If this sounds like something you might need check it out here!
I’m writing this around midnight. In fact, I even had to reschedule some posts to squeeze this post in. But it was such a day that I just had to write about it.
Up here in the frozen north we’re supposed be cold and living in igloos year round.
Well, it just ain’t so folks!
It’s midnight and the temperature is still at 28°C (that’s 83°F for you southern folks)! 66% Humidity makes the temp feel 10° higher (meaning it feels like it’s 38°C/100°F). That’s at midnight! This afternoon it hit 38°C/100°F officially (hottest spot in the area was 40°C/104°F and it felt like 50°C/122°F). It’s been like this all week and in fact it’s supposed to get worse!
So much for it being cold up here!
My poor son has been in summer school this month … and the school administration in its wisdom has decided to turn off the air conditioning. As a result he ended up home today with heat stroke (amongst other issues).
Now theoretically, I’ve got the perfect solution to the heat. I’ve got air conditioning in the house. I’ve got air conditioning in the car. And I’ve got a pool! You’d think I’d be all set.
But noooooo …
Fortunately, A/C in the house is still working — touch wood and whistle. But the A/C in the car has died … (actually I think it’s overloaded and can’t handle the heat. It was working last week).
And the dang-blasted, pain in the butt, pool has turned green from the heat! The scary thing is that I’ve been feeding it double the usual amount of chlorine. And it’s been shocked to the point where it’s shooting off electricity!
So since I really would like to get some use out of this money sink, I decided to shock it once again.
I’m now down one more pair of pants and a nice shirt. Damn chlorine! And it wasn’t even done when I was adding it … I got chlorine on them when I was carrying the empty containers!
Okay, so what’s the point to all this ? I mean other than the fact I wanted to bitch about the fact that I’m running out of clothes! And yes, I did want to blow off steam! (I’m so ticked I can’t even type!)
There is this tendency for the “gurus” in internet marketing to blow smoke. You know what I’m talking about. The promises of easy wealth and fast returns. All promised of course, in front of their multi-million dollar homes and $500,000 dollar cars! Just send them $5.097 and they’ll show you how in three easy lessons!
Okay, folks let’s get a couple of things straight here. I’m going to throw my credit counselor’s hat on here (I have an insolvency councilor’s diploma on my wall — along with a bunch of other sheepskins) and try to give you some straight talk.
First, creating an internet business is no different than creating any business. It’s a lot of hard work and it takes time. It also takes knowledge! It doesn’t happen with the snap of your fingers. And it involves a heck of a lot more than 1 hour a day. As for the knowledge, I’ve made arrangements with my own coach to make available a number of courses that will give you all the knowledge you need to sell over the internet. And over the next few months, we’ll be releasing a number of our own courses that will teach you everything you need to know about producing your own products (audio, video, live and book). And along the way we’ll even talk about administration and running your business.
Second. spending your income on big houses and big cars is just plain dumb. Okay, yes, I know many of you have convinced yourself that’s what you want. You’ve used that dream to motivate yourself. But the reality is a little different.
The truth is the big advantage of a successful, advice/learning business is freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from threat. Freedom from the worry about your next paycheck or where the money is going to be to pay the next bill.
Warren Buffett is one of the five richest people in the world (actually he and Bill Gates trade the top 2 spots). Yet he lives in a modest two story home and drives a Cadillac DTS. Why? ‘Cause that’s all he needs.
And that should be your own philosophy. Cars and homes are money sinks — they cost, they don’t earn. So don’t spend any more on them than you have to. Certainly, you should buy what you need. But conspicuous consumption for the sake of consumption is not a path you really want to go down. Trust me … ask the people I refer and the trustrees that I refer them to! Not a good habit to get into. You don’t have to be poor to be bankrupt. And you don’t have to have money to put on a show.
The point I’m making here is that when an internet guru goes “Look, here’s my multi-million dollar mansion. Look, here’s my $400,000 Ferrari.” then you should be putting on your hip waders.
After all, just because there’s a luxury car rental down the street from him, doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to buy that Koenigsegg Trevita you’ve had your eye on.
Me, I’ve got five kids, my wife and I to squeeze into my Caravan tomorrow! And the blasted air conditioner is still going to be broken, ’cause I ain’t got the time to get it fixed. Try that with a Bugatti Veyron.
Creating a good speech is like creating any other learning content. You need to start from the audience.
In most cases, people can’t judge your content based on its intrinsic quality. Instead what they do is judge your content based on its relevance to themselves.
The only way to make your content truly relevant to your audience is to start from their point of view.
Why are they interested in this content? Yes, it’s important to me but why would they care?
What do they expect to get out of this content? What should they expect to get out of this content? How will I reconcile the two? How should I present the content so they get what they expect as well as what they should expect?
How will they use this content? How will they apply it? What am I expecting them to do with it? What are they expecting to be able to do?
The only way to answer these questions is to know who you are creating your content for. You need to know their likes, their dislikes and their motivators.
In short, you need to start with a target audience and then develop your speech for your target audience.
In any learning event there are always four types of skills involved. Unfortunately, the terms change from scholar to scholar so you’ll have to settle for mine in the following discussion.
The four types of skills are:
- Direct Core
- Background Core
When creating a learning content product you need to consider all four skills.
Since I’m selling basic learning content creation let’s use that as our example.
1. Enhanced skills
These are the skills that you don’t have to teach right now. For example, most of my customers haven’t reached the level of needing to prepare curriculums. At most they’re more focused on a single course.
2. Direct core
These are the skills that are the focus of your teaching. For example, I include how to design a course in my courses.
3. Background core
These are called prerequisites when you are referring to a specific course. However, your entire offering has a list of these skills which you may or may not choose to teach. For example, TrainingNOW used to teach Public Speaking which forms the base for audio & video training. At this point, we’ve chosen not to include it in the LearningCreators curriculum. However, we’ve also decided to include some blog entries on it over the next few weeks. Writing English Grammar is another example. As much as it is a requirement for a course on Writing EBooks, it’s something we leave to the public school system.
4. Background skills
These are skills that you definitely aren’t going to teach even though they are related. For example, being able to think a problem through is a requirement for creating learning content. But it’s not something that we are going to teach. Having empathy is another skill that anyone creating learning content has to have. But again, LearningCreators isn’t in the business of teaching soft skills (TrainingNOW is but that’s another issue entirely).
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to try to expand on this concept and how it can be applied to creating learning products.
It’s also a complicated way to announce that we’re going to create a category focused on Public Speaking!
I forget what the other terms were so until I remember I’m going to take off and discuss a related topic … so there! If you won’t suggest topics you get to put up with my eccentricities. ;-)
One of the ways that learning content (or more correctly the tactics of delivery) can be classified is by the direction and nature of the communications.
For example, an event’s communications can be either:
- one way (facilitator to student)
- both ways (facilitator to student to facilitator)
- Exploratory (facilitator starts discussion and keeps discussion going)
- Practice (facilitator starts, students discuss in small teams, students report to all, discussion with all)
One typical terminology for this is:
A lecture is what we traditionally think of when we think of teaching. One person stands at the front of a group and spouts their knowledge.
A seminar is closer to the Socratic ideal of mutual exploration. It is characterized by feedback and development of the information by the “student”. However, it is still very much a case of the facilitator dispensing information out to the student. In fact, there is a saying that until someone asks a question, a seminar is just a lecture.
A tutorial on the other hand is the Socratic method. By this point the information should have already been disseminated. Although the facilitator may spark discussion by repeating the information the focus is on the group expanding and questioning the information.
A workshop is a practice session. The facilitator may start the process but the process occurs primarily inside the student. Break out sessions are a great example of this tactic. In this tactic, students break apart for the practice then return to discuss and explore the results. The individual versions of this may include homework or software practice which may be discussed, may be self-evident or may be self-evaluated.
Now I have no idea why all this is important … but it seems to be and I’m short of something to talk about. So Friday, I’ll continue the discussion by looking at training media and it’s relationship to these tactics.
Okay, so Friday I promised a short series on how to select the type of information products … or more correctly the format. On Monday I was bad and posted a video from Will Smith that I thought you might find interesting. My bad! Me Busy! Me Lazy! But I really did think it was interesting. And given its subject that’s saying something.
So what’s the point of this — besides a backhanded apology.
The point is that that blog entry was as much an information product as the book I spent 2 weeks working on (24 hours writing, the rest publishing). It just cost a LOT less to get out.
So how do you decide what form your information product should take? I mean besides “I need this in fifteen minutes and I have no clue what to write. I guess I better rip something off YouTube!”.
Now before I start lets get something straight. The boundaries. Information products is really a large group of products formats. “How to”s, which we call Learning Content, alone can take seven (or more) physical formats. And Learning Content is only one type of information product. Software is also an information product. Web services (e.g. article posting tools, web design tools) are also information products. So are databases.
However, software, services, and databases are – for most of us – beyond our skills and capability. Most of us produce information products in the form of learning content.
There are 6 questions you need to answer when deciding what form your information product needs to take:
- What forms am I capable of doing?
- What forms am I most comfortable with?
- How much will this content cost (in time or money)?
- Can I create multiple forms from one?
- How important is this to my reputation?
- How much will customers pay for (value) this form
Those questions basically bring out three characteristics of each of the formats:
- The cost of the format (Questions 1 through 4).
- The reputation value
- The dollar value
Over the next few posts in this series we’ll address these questions and characteristics.
In the next post we’ll look at the various formats of information product that are possible.
It was James M Barrie through his character Peter Pan that said “I’ll never grow up”. (Well, actually I believe it was Disney that first paraphrased him).
But there comes a time when everyone needs to grow up. And a time when everyone needs to not grow up!
From an entrepreneur’s viewpoint growing up is a two edged sword. Well, make that a triple-edged sword!
An entrepreneur must grow up enough to recognize and accept his own mistakes. After all, risk is the name of the game being played. And sometimes the other half of the risk game (impact) is in the negative when the risk bill needs to be paid.
There are two parts to the risk equation. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand the equation. An entrepreneur must understand the equation because he’s going to be playing the risk game.
What’s the equation? Risk times impact equals exposure. In every day English, risk is this bad, bad thing. We expose ourselves to risk. We’re caught by risk. He risked everything!
But risk really only means a probability not equal to one. In short, if it isn’t certain, it’s a risk. Good, bad, doesn’t matter. (Webster’s defines it wrong btw it has a very precise mathematical/probabilistic meaning). The good or bad is part of the risk impact (which can be good or bad). So winning the lottery has a risk associated with it (about the same as being hit by lightning) plus a good impact. So it has a net good exposure … if nearing zero can be called good! Until you buy the ticket … then it has a bad net exposure. Why? The cost of the ticket is usually higher than the exposure.
The point is that if you are going to play the game, you better grow up quick and realize you aren’t going to win all the time! That’s the other half of the game, you see. Sometimes when the impact is good (or even great) the risk just doesn’t come through. And sometimes, when the impact is bad it does. The key is to learn how to manipulate the risk so that it happens more often when the impact is good and less often when the impact is bad.
And that just because you’ve failed doesn’t mean that you did it wrong, or you’re wrong or anything else. It just means you weren’t lucky this time.
Of course, you also need to learn from what you’ve done. Which takes maturity.
The other cutting edge is emotional maturity. Learning to accept others’ failings. Learning to accept your own failings. In short, growing up emotionally.
The final cutting edge is the back edge.
Learning to NOT grow up.
Keeping that sense of wonder that opens your mind to new experiences.
Keeping that sense of exploration that what happens if … that opens your mind to constant learning.
Keeping that sense of fun, that is its own reward.
It’s this last blade that is the true cutting edge of entrepreneurial thought. The edge that cuts through the calcification that seeks to stratify those who do not understand the true entrepreneurial spirit.