Monday, July 30, 2012

Our Latest Workshop: Making the Most of Your Online Profile

For our latest brown bag writer lunch last week, we were treated to a tip-tastic presentation on how to make the most of your online presence by two digital marketing gurus from Sonnet Media and Your Expert Nation: Sean Concannon and Rich Kelley.
Rich Kelley (left) and Sean Concannon (right)
We videotaped* the session for those of you who want to take a deep dive—watch below.

But if you’re pressed for time and just want to browse the highlights, here’s a quick summary of Sean and Rich’s top tips.

Have all your information lead to one place
  • The best way for potential clients to find you is to have one central online hub. That primary site, whether it’s a personal web page or your LinkedIn profile, should include:
  • Your brief biography
  • A photo of yourself
  • Your areas of expertise
  • All the places you’ve worked
  • All the places you’ve been published
  • Links to pieces you’ve written
  • A link to your blog (not essential, but very beneficial)
  • No pictures of cats (That one is from Dan, but we think it’s a very good rule.)
  • A way to contact you
All your other online profiles should link back to that hub. Use a tool like Sitemeter or Google Analytics to analyze and track the incoming traffic.

A personal website is the gold standard for your hub
If you make your own website, you’ll have full control over the content, the layout, the links, and the aesthetics. Plus, technically all the content you post on sites like Facebook and Twitter belongs to them; having your own site means you retain all rights to the things you post.

Getting your own site is simple—even for those who aren’t particularly tech-savvy. Buy a URL (something like, and then choose from the wide range of templates offered by WordPress, Tumblr, and similar sites to build yours. Of course, if you want something fancier, you can always hire a web developer. No matter what, make sure that all your information is clear and easy to find.

What other online profiles should you have?
Twitter: Twitter is great for conversations, promotions, and building your brand. Get followers by following people with similar interests, and interact with them by replying, retweeting, and thanking them if they do the same for you. See which users influential people follow and do the same, especially the first few people on their follow list. Tweet as much or as little as you want, but the gurus recommend at least 2–3 times per day. If you only have five minutes for social media, find two tweets to “favorite,” two to retweet, and two to respond to.

Sean and Rich also highlighted a handful of tools to help you manage your account:
  • HootSuite—A popular application that can integrate your Facebook and Twitter posts
  • Twellow—Lets you search for people to follow by category, complete with rankings.
  • Twit Cleaner—Identifies which of the people you follow you should consider unfollowing because they are inactive, uninteresting, or engage in dodgy behavior
  • Tweriod—Analyzes the behavior of your followers and recommends what time would be best for you to tweet
  • Friend or Follow—Shows which of the people you follow are following you (friends), and who is following you that you aren’t following back (fans)
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is terrific for connecting with people and expanding your professional network. Join groups in your areas of expertise to further broaden your reach and increase your credibility, or start your own group and moderate the conversations. New apps allow you to link to your blog and creative portfolio.

Facebook: Everyone and their dog is now on Facebook, but business pages are more discoverable than personal ones, so make yourself an author page. Facebook can also be used as your blogging platform.

Google+: Studies are beginning to show that Google+ users are much happier than Facebook users. Of course, far fewer people can be found on Google+, but having a presence there can improve your search results and your Google Knowledge Graph.

Amazon and Goodreads: These are for authors with published books. If that’s you, both sites offer great ways to be found by clients and to engage with readers. Published authors can set up a content-rich profile. These sites also allow you to syndicate your blog directly to your profile.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial
One of the most important things to remember is to optimize your profiles for search engines. Make sure to put keywords on your site that prospective clients would use to search for writers in your areas of expertise—for instance, if you specialize in writing cookbooks, optimal keywords would be “food writing,” “cookbook writer,” “writing about cooking,” etc. Remember: search engines read the title of pages and articles first, so jam-pack them full of keywords!

Keep content fresh and update your profiles often
Search engines “reward” you when your pages have frequently updated content, so blast away. Share your thoughts, engage your audience, and if you’ve written something new, don’t be afraid to tweet or post about it more than once—just make sure you post about other things between mentions. And don’t forget to interact with others as much as you can, so your profile doesn’t just read “me me me.”

Want more from Sean and Rich? Hop on over to Your Expert Nation or Sonnet Media, or check them out on Twitter at @seanconcannon and @rpmkel.

*Our apologies, we had some technical difficulties so there are a couple places where the video skips.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Around the (Inked) Word

Guest post by Liza Sokol, GG intern
Liza, image credit: Laura Murray Photography
For my eighteenth birthday, my father, who has two full-sleeve tattoos, took me to get my first, and I haven't stopped getting inked since. A few years later, we came up with the idea to get matching tattoos. We first thought hockey (Flyers forever!), and then maybe a sushi roll (our favorite food), but neither seemed quite right. Then it hit me: why not pay homage to the one and only Kurt Vonnegut, whose brute charm had won both me and my dad over with every book he published? We haven't gotten them yet, but soon Kurt's ever-present asterisk will be permanently inked on both our bodies.

Tattoos and literature are becoming increasingly complimentary art forms. So for this week's Around the Word, I decided to collect several pieces of tattoo-lit news.

Flesh, Blood, and Ink. A few years ago, writers Justin Taylor and Eva Talmadge started The Word Made Flesh, a blog dedicated to sharing pictures of people's literary tattoos. It was immediately successful, and in 2010 The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos From Bookworms Worldwide was published. The blog is still being updated all the time, with everything from Sylvia Plath quotes to tattoo portraits of writers and literary characters.

The Ultimate Tribute. Buzzfeed has a list of twenty of the best literary tats floating around the internet, including a beautiful Great Gatsby portrait and a Virginia Woolf chest piece. If Shakespeare is more your scene, there's some of that too.

Inked, Themselves. Flavorwire took a different tack and recently showcased the tattoos that famous authors themselves have, including Patti Smith's Crazy Horse–inspired lightning bolt and John Irving's maple leaf, which he got for his Canadian-born wife.

A Story on Many Canvases. Possibly the greatest collision of the literary and tattoo worlds, however, is Shelley Jackson's Skin Project. Participants each get one word (and possibly a punctuation mark) from Jackson's story tattooed on them, so that once the project is complete, the entire text will be perpetually floating around the world. The story will never be published anywhere else, and cannot be summarized, quoted, or adapted to any other medium.

So, GG readers, are there any books or authors you would pay permanent tribute to on your body? After all, it's just a different kind of ink.

Monday, July 23, 2012

You Are Your Website: Our Next Writer Seminar

Anyone hiring a writer needs a quick means of getting up to speed on your skill set, talent, and expertise. Online profiles can provide a perfect snapshot of what you have to offer—if they're properly done. The look and feel of your site speaks volumes about who who are as a writer and a professional, and can be the deciding factor in whether or not you get the job. 

That's why the next workshop in our brown-bag-lunch series will teach participants how to create a pitch-perfect (and worthy) site. Tomorrow, web and social-media-marketing experts Sean Concannon and Rich Kelley from Your Expert Nation will lead a talk on "Making the Most of Your Online Profile." They'll present strategies for getting your information online, the tools available to do this yourself, and how to work with a web developer for a more customized profile. They'll discuss ways to maximize the information you’re putting out on your personal website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Quora, and on and on. Expanding on the lessons from our previous seminar by Business Ghost Michael Levin, this one will be a deeper dive into self-promotion and ways of impressing clients before you even talk to them.

*Unfortunately, this event is full. But watch this space for a writeup and video of the seminar later this week!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Around the Word

Is Your E-Book a Fake? Knock-offs aren't just for fashion, and Amazon has become the Chinatown of e-book fakes. The online retailer's not just selling them—most of the offenders are products of Amazon's self-publishing imprint CreateSpace. If you're looking for Walter Issacson's bestselling bio of Steve jobs, make sure you don't get fooled by Steve Jobs by Issac Worthington. Beware of Fast and Slow Thinking by Karl Daniels, which strikes uncomfortably close to the real-deal Thinking Fast and Slow by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. When searching for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, one top result is I Am the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The solitary review for that book notes: "this is almost certainly copyright infringement. the author chose a popular book title, added 'i am' to the beginning, and calls it legitimate. of course, anyone who is looking for these things should know better." Technically speaking, titles of books aren't copyrighted, but the legal line here is definitely blurry.

Stephen Covey's Legacy of Leadership Lit. Last week, author and father of the thought-leadership genre Stephen Covey passed away from injuries he suffered in a bike accident in April. Covey's seminal works—including 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, and First Things Firsthave sold millions of copies and influenced some of the biggest names in corporate America. It's arguable that 7 Habits was responsible for catapulting thought-leadership books from a niche market to a mainstream genre, as well as making a "book as badge" the new must-have for high-powered business gurus. So the next time you land a high-paying job editing (or ghostwriting) a "big idea" piece for the latest whiz-kid CEO, thank Covey for paving the way. 

Big Brother Is Reading You. Or, rather, he's reading your Kindle, according to the Wall Street Journal. E-books, which have officially outsold "analog" books this year, are the newest frontier of consumer data mining. Until now, publishers have been mostly in the dark about what happens after a book leaves the store, but no longer. Whether you download a book but don't read it, start a book and don't finish it, or tear through an entire series in a matter of days, that information is now available to those who most want to know. Some publishers are excited about the opportunity to hone their offerings according to market forces, like finding the perfect length for an e-book or coming up with a formula for ideal content, but others fear that a data-driven marketplace will have a homogenizing effect, not to mention potential privacy pitfalls. What do you think? Can boiling the book business down to an algorithm be good for the marketplace and the marketplace of ideas? Or does having the publishing industry reading over your shoulder give you a case of the digital willies?

Scalia Rules on Crimes Against Grammar. What do liberal lawyer Bryan Garner and conservative SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia have in common? According to this New Yorker piece, they're both SNOOTS set on righting the wrongs legal writing exacts on the English language. The two men, who bonded during a lunch meeting at which Scalia gushed over David Foster Wallace's essay "Tense Present," have collaborated on two books about the role of grammar and persuasion in legal writing. Although they disagree about politics—and the acceptability of contractions (which, according to Scalia, are “intellectually abominable, but commercially reasonable”)—they were able to withstand an exacting collaboration that produced 216 drafts before finalizing their second book, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts. While their partnership has begun to shine a light on the issue, Garner is well aware that it'll be an uphill battle to raise the, er, bar when it comes to legal writing. “Word for word," he said, "lawyers are the most highly paid professional writers in the world. But the literary tradition in the profession is probably the worst."

Monday, July 16, 2012

When It Comes to Speechwriting, "I'll Have What She's Having."

Nora Ephron, who, sadly, passed away June 26th, was not only a great writer of romantic dialogue; she was also terrific at penning her own lines. There have been many tributes to the "Queen of Quips" over the past few weeks most focusing on her screenplays (especially When Harry Met Sally, her most famous work) and books. But one of the greatest testaments to Ephron's skill as a writer and communicator was her 1996 commencement address at Wellesley College.

Many people erroneously assume that any good writer can write a good speech. But as those of us in the field intimately understand, putting together a pitch-perfect speech is a very specific art. Terrific speechwriting blog The Eloquent Woman posted a great piece analyzing what made Ephron's remarks so effective, reminding us that the best speeches are those that a) tell a story, b) use plenty of detail, and c) make the audience laugh.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Around the Word

I Can Haz English. Ah, the youth of today. Much has been made of the debate over the effect of the Internet on language and the "dumbing down" of America. This latest example from former college English professor James C. Courter bemoans how a seeming decline in literacy is effecting students' ability to translate common English phrases they hear, but aren't reading, into writing. The result are some pretty egregious (but hilarious) unintended puns, which Courter describes as a "stream of unconsciousness."  Some "gems": a "poultry excuse," experiencing "inclimate weather," observing "toilet tree" etiquette, and a lack of understanding "Taco Bell's Cannon."  Is there any hope for future, or should we just resign ourselves and rename these up-and-comers Gener8tion [sic]?

Reading Rainbow: There's an App for That. One proven way to get kids reading and avoid those embarrassing errors: start 'em young. For nearly twenty years, beloved PBS series Reading Rainbow was a great source of reading-list fodder for today's Gen X and Y-ers, and now the program, which left airways in 2006, is hoping to reach a new generation of readers with an iPad app. Like the show, the app will feature video field trips, as well as granting subscribers access to 150 books.

The Emotional Life of Freelancers. Freelancing may not be the easiest gig, but it turns out that by and large, freelancers are a pretty happy bunch. Check out this great infographic on Mashable, based on results from the 2012 Salary Survey & Job Market Report. According to the survey, freelancers report a high level of job satisfaction, expectations for salary increases in the coming year, and a disinclination to return to the permanent employment. Freelancing isn't all roses, though. Respondents reported that while work-life balance, flexibility, and salary are definite pluses, there are still issues that "keep them up at night," including meeting deadlines, staying relevant, and lack of a clear career path.

A Literary Exquisite Corpse Goes Live. For only $15, you too can be a published author.  In a new experiment that take the concepts of crowdsourcing and -funding to the next level, Canadian filmmaker and writier Dan Perlmutter is inviting patrons to literally buy into his new novel. Rates range from $15 for one sentence to $1000 for determining the ending. Almost every aspect of the book is up for sale, from choosing the genre ($750) to inventing a character (a mere $30). Perlmutter plans to include all paid contributions, and when it comes to attribution, the "author" claims this is just the ultimate use of Creative Commons “'Yeah, well, my name is going to be large on the cover still," he said. "[But] authors are always stealing ideas from all over the place. This is just going to be a little more explicitly done.'”  What do you think? Would you pay to play?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Around the Word

Oh, How the Mighty (Somewhat) Fall. Over at Publishers Weekly, Gabe Habash questions whether the New York Times Book Review still has the same affect on book sales that it once did. Using profit numbers and data from Nielsen BookScan, he found that the Review still has some push power, but not nearly as much as it once did—yet another result of the digital age affecting the publishing industry. Do you think the Review still has power? Let us know in the comments.

Cheaper Hotel = More Money to Spend at Overpriced Hotel Bar. Officials at BookExpo America announced that they’ve moved the 2013 conference up a week, which will decrease hotel prices for guests by about 15 percent. In addition to the lower lodging rate, the change allowed them to secure larger blocks in the most popular hotels in the surrounding area. Thanks for looking out, BEA!

Write Gnommish to Me, Baby. Flavorwire compiled a list of ten fictional alphabets that you can actually use, including the Elvish alphabet from The Lord of the Rings, the Alien alphabet from Futurama, the Gnommish alphabet from Artemis Fowl, and (of course) the Klingon alphabet from Star Trek. Sure, it might take some getting used to, but what better way to send secret notes or love letters, or better yet, record your deepest, darkest secrets? Decoder ring not included.

Years Late and Still on Time. The only full realized novel by Woody Guthrie, House of Earth, will soon be published, and it's being edited by none other than Johnny Depp. Written as a response to the Dust Bowl, the book is a perfect encapsulation of America’s collective viewpoint at the time, similar to Steinbeck’s epic Grapes of Wrath. Why it was never published is unknown, but the posthumous release  feels especially relevant right now, in the midst of another nationwide heatwave.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Around the Word

Freelancing, Contently. We all know the freelancing paradigm is shifting in a big way, leaving the field wide open for evolution, and our friends over at Contently are trying their hand at building a new model. Contently has positioned itself as an all-digital "project management platform" that provides a place for freelancers to brand and market their services, facilitates client-writer relationships, and provides easy access for clients to post projects, audition writers, and provide input. One of the features that separates Contently from the myriad other freelancing sites is the quality of its writers, who are required to apply and submit to a rigorous vetting process in order to get on the roster. Another great feature is Contently's blog "The Freelance Strategist"—which, in case you missed it, recently posted an article featuring thoughts from GG's fearless leader Dan Gerstein.

Editor and Writer: The Special Relationship. The writing process can be highly personal, and the ideal relationship between editor and writer is like a sacred bond. Last week's New Yorker featured an illuminating piece by John McPhee, which gave a glimpse into his relationships with the the three very different personalities that shape the magazine during his tenure: William Shawn, Robert Gottlieb, and Roger W. Straus. McPhee describes Gotlleib's ability to digest entire manuscripts in a single sitting and steadfast unwillingness to allow the f-word to grace the magazine's pages, Shawn's careful deliberation and insistence that "the subject shall not be the title," and Straus' effusive commentary and loyalty as a publisher who kept authors' works in print.

Food Puns Gone Stale. Here's a cautionary tale about the fine line between pun use and abuse. Someone in Mayor Bloomberg's communications office is in hot water for a speech written for his appearance at the 2012 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hotdog Eating Contest, which featured no less than a dozen hotdog-related puns. One cringe-worthy example: "This is one of my favorite traditions; I relish it so much." The mayor had a hard time, er, digesting the remarks, and in classic Bloomberg fashion asked an aide "Who writes this sh-t?" Remember, "too much of a good thing" not only applies to our favorite foods, but to puns about them as well.

Farewell to Arms: 39 Flavors (And Then Some). One of the greatest legends in literary lore is that of the myriad alternate endings to Hemingway's classic Farewell to Arms, which the author rewrote "thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.” It turns out that there are actually forty-seven endings, which have been locked away—until now. A recent agreement between Hemingway's estate and Scribner has paved the way for the publisher to release a new edition of the beloved novel that includes all the alternate endings as well as early drafts of the work. One of the most notable alternates, excerpted in the Times, is "No. 34, the 'Fitzgerald ending,' suggested by Hemingway’s friend F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hemingway wrote that the world 'breaks everyone,' and those 'it does not break it kills.'"

Friday, July 6, 2012

Around the Word

Ready, Set, Read. Only have five minutes while you wait for the next train to come? Ten minutes as you wait for your significant other to finish getting ready? A trio of Dutch publishers have released the Delay App, which lets readers enter how much time they have and then spits out a selection of stories and novel excerpts that can be read in said timeframe. The selections are a mix between classic and modern, and the app has become extremely popular, introducing readers to a variety of writing they might not have seen otherwise.

To My Speechwriter, With Love. Over at Vital Speeches of the Day, David Murray has a moving piece about JFK's speechwriter Ted Sorenson, and the incredibly strong bond he had with the president. The same love is being shown for “Chelsea punk” turned political speechwriter Joe Resnek, who went from stealing candy to writing speeches for White House chiefs of staff, thanks to his dedication and headstrong attitude. He’s even become a regular at the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue basketball court.

The eBible. Starting July 16, the Hotel Indigo in Newcastle, England, will replace all 148 nightstand copies of the Bible with a Kindle—one that has the good book already downloaded. Any other religious book can be downloaded on the house, but commercial novels will be charged to the guest’s bill. You’ll have to read fast, because the books you download will stay with the Kindle when you check out.

A Desk With a View. Janet Groth, who worked as a receptionist on the eighteenth floor of The New Yorker for twenty-one years, has published a memoirThe Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker. The tell-all details all her years spent with a bird’s-eye view of the office, a few sordid affairs with some of the magazine’s contributors, and why she never made the jump from secretary to writer. Although at times she certainly felt mistreated, the perks definitely made up for it. As Groth says, “It is not clear to me who was exploiting whom.”

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Gotham Featured on Contently's "Freelance Strategist"

Gotham was recently featured on publishing and media site Contently, in an article entitled "Diversify and Increase Your Income with Ghostwriting." Reinforcing a point we often like to make, the article, which was written for their "Freelance Strategist" blog, illuminates the idea that ghostwriting is no longer the domain of celebrity vanity, but has evolved into an increasingly key piece of many corporate communications and thought-leadership strategies—making it a great opportunity for freelancer writers. From speechwriting to white papers, from big-think pieces to smart blog posts, many businesses are realizing that hiring freelancers is a time-saving and cost-effective way to improve brand positioning and awareness. Says GG President Dan Gerstein in the piece, "On one hand, there are shrinking opportunities in the journalism field, but the flip side is that there are growing opportunities to get paid for what are increasingly in-demand skills... Ghostwriting collectives are a way to diversify your business and get access to opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise."