What It’s Really Like to be a Total Book Geek

book geek
Photo by Ed Robertson on UnsplashHarr

Are you a book geek like me? All I want to do is read books, and I’ve always been that way.

When I think about the books I read as a child I can remember, almost physically, how some of them made me feel.

Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh, for example. Eleven-year-old Harriet, who lives in New York City, keeps brown notebooks where she writes down everything that’s going on around her. At least I think they were brown; the ones she inspired me to keep were. I wanted to be just like Harriet. I even ate tomato sandwiches like she did.

She and her friend Sport played a game called “Town,” where you make up a town and what’s in it and where. I can remember lying in bed and using the creases of the bedcovers to create my own Harriet the Spy-inspired town. It’s because of Harriet, I think, that I grew up to become a writer.

After I went to bed as a kid, I’d stand on my bed and rest the book on my high windowsill. If there was a moon there was usually enough light to read by.

I would quickly sink back into the bed if I heard my parents coming down the hall.

My grandmother told me I used to set my alarm clock for an hour before I needed to get up for school so I could read. I don’t remember that, and it surprises me now because it turns out I’m not such a morning person.

But I believe it because I do love my books.

What people remember

Decades after moved away from my hometown, I reconnected on Facebook with someone I’d gone to school with. He said, “You always sat against the building at recess and read a book. Now my daughter is exactly like that, and I love it.” I didn’t remember that I used to do that at recess, either, but it doesn’t surprise me. It was fun to hear. Also, I bet I’d like his book geek daughter.

One day a few years back, waiting in line at the bank, I had earbuds in and was listening to an audiobook. When it was my turn, I walked up to the teller while taking out the earbuds. She asked me if I was listening to something good.

“Yes,” I said. I told her I was listening to an audiobook.

“Gone With the Wind,” I said.

She looked confused. “What’s that?” It threw me because I could tell her question was sincere.

“You know, the book. Gone With the Wind.” She looked blank.

“Scarlett O’Hara?” I added. Nothing.

The teller was perhaps 30 years old, and she had never heard of Gone With the Wind.

Wow

I still have trouble wrapping my mind around how different our lives must be. Where would I be without books?

I was 13 the first time I read Gone With the Wind. Our neighbors across the street had a huge wall of bookshelves (maybe it wasn’t as big as I remember, but anyway it was great). When Mrs. Huber saw me eyeing them one day, she told me to borrow books anytime I wanted. I did, and I can remember how wonderful it was to take my time reading through the titles. Gone With the Wind was one of the books I borrowed and I spent the summer reading it. I loved it.

So when my daughter was born, I was excited to introduce her to books, too. Books have been a huge part of her life, too.

I’m going to write regularly about my past and present experiences with reading and books here. Here’s a recent post I wrote about books I’ve read lately. If you are a fellow book geek, are looking for something to read, have a child who interested in books (or need ideas for getting them excited about reading), or have any other interest in books, stay tuned.

(Post may contain affiliate links.)

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Photo of a Ghost (Writer)

In my freelance writing business I frequently work as a ghostwriter, and HawaiiBusiness magazine recently featured me in an article about ghostwriting. Megan Spelman, the photographer, told me she wanted to do something a little different with the photo.

She photographed me through a window, while I stood in front of a plumeria tree with hundreds of orchids growing from it.

Leslie Lang Ghostwriter

I think it’s fun how the picture turned out. A bit ghostly indeed!

Speaking of ghostwriting, Ilima Loomis recently interviewed me for a short article that appeared in the regular Hawaii Business magazine column called “My Job.” It was about being a ghostwriter. I love reading those columns, and it was fun to be featured in one of them.

Other recent “My Job” columns featured:

Fun to read.

About Being a Ghostwriter

There are different kinds of ghostwriting. Did you know that ghostwriters wrote many of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books?

A Guardian.com article about English ghostwriter Andrew Crofts, who has written 80 books that sold 10 million copies, talks about his own book on being a ghostwriter.

I’ve ghostwritten books in the past, but these days I mostly do content marketing ghostwriting. What this often means is writing content in collaboration with a business leader whose name will appear on the article, blog post, op-ed or other piece.

I love doing this kind of work. I really like helping someone corral his or her thoughts and present their message so it’s just right. Very satisfying!

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NYT on Content Marketing: ‘Single Fiberglass Pool Article Made Over $2.5 Million in Sales’

Did you see this recent and interesting New York Times article on content marketing? It talks about an appliance store in St. Louis, Goedeker’s, which wasn’t doing so well. So the owner had his son and daughter build a website during their summer vacation, and he started taking online courses and reading up on online marketing and search engine optimization.

And it worked. From 2009 to 2013 their sales grew from $6 to $48 million and they went from 18 to 90 employees. Most of their sales now are online.

And that was even before they discovered content marketing in 2013.

From the New York Times article Retailers Try Offering Expertise Online Along With Products by Ian Mount, December 24, 2014:

For its content marketing push, Goedeker’s hired two full-time writers and began publishing daily blog posts about home renovation and appliances, which were then shared on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and Pinterest.

Today, the company spends $100,000 to $150,000 a year on its content marketing efforts, according to Mr. Goedeker. He says the goal is for the company to get 80 percent of its online traffic and half of its online sales with its content marketing efforts. So far, sales generated this way have risen from 8 percent to 14 percent of the online total.

“It’s been slow so far,” Mr. Goedeker said. “It takes some patience and persistence. With a paid ad, you get a return on investment immediately. With content marketing, it takes a while for the search engines to recognize your value.”

The number of links back to the company’s website increased from 3,000 in late 2013 to 40,000 today; one blog post, about painting walls with watercolors, got 30,000 visits.

Leslie Lang, Content Marketing WriterThe article also discusses a pool and spa company in Virginia that writes blog posts about questions they hear most from their customers.

In 2009, Mr. Sheridan, an owner of River Pools and Spas in Warsaw, Va., published a post about how much it cost to install a fiberglass pool, a useful piece of data but one most pool companies aren’t eager to publish. Using a web-tracking tool, Mr. Sheridan then followed how many customers came through that post.

“That one single article has made us over $2.5 million in sales,” he said. “For a $5 million-a-year company, that’s a ton of business.”

What an interesting article. It really shows the power of writing compelling narrative copy that resonates with your customers. Sales pitches aren’t what captures people’s attention. You have to engage them. Answer their questions. Make an emotional connection. Compel them to remember your brand and think of you as a resource.

Read the full New York Times article here.

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Thanks For All the Fish!

We made it to the end of the month, you and me! I blogged every day in June and successfully completed the Freelance Success 2014 30-Day Blogathon. Thank you for reading, or at least hanging in there. (I only got one “unsubscribe” during the month.)Leslie Lang, Writer, Memoir, Biography, Content Marketing, Hawaii

My goal was to take some of the things out of my head and get them onto my website. I wrote some articles about how much I love the genre of memoir and biography, and a little about some of my work in this area:

And about my other specialization, content marketing, including what that is and some examples of work I’ve done:

And I wrote about books and the power of words:

and a little about Hawai‘i, too:

I will now give you a bit of a break and will stop pelting daily emails at you — though this did get my blogging muscles back in order, I must say, and I will probably be blogging here more often than I had been.

Therefore: “So long!” but only for now, and Thanks for all the fish! (If you don’t know the reference, you should probably read the book.)

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Hitting ‘Send’ on Book Manuscript

Leslie Lang, Writer, Talk Story Press, Publishing, Memoir, Family History, BookTonight I am uploading a family history/memoir manuscript I just completed for a client. We’re publishing it at Amazon’s CreateSpace, which is such a wonderful option for a book like this. He and his wife wanted to put together his mother’s ancestors’ story, an interesting one of a young couple leaving their familiar Hiroshima, Japan to come and work on the former sugar plantations of Hawai‘i.

The back cover explains that this family’s journey “took them from harsh conditions on a small farm in 19th-century Hiroshima to what became a modest but comfortable long-time family home in Hawai‘i. In earlier years, it’s a story of hard work and sacrifice, and in more recent ones, of appreciation and family connection. Always, it’s a story of perseverance in order to build a better future for the ones to come.”

As always (it almost sounds trite, how often I say this, but it isn’t), I loved getting to know this family a bit and learning what makes them tick. This young couple who left Japan in their 20s came to Hawai‘i, worked very hard and sacrificed some more, and built a good foundation for a lot of descendants who are very nice people. The power of family is strong.

These descendants are now, more than 100 years later, about to have a huge family reunion, and will have this book for those who want to know more about how their family came to be. There’s information in this book that I’d wager most of them – or maybe even all of them – don’t know. We dug pretty deep to find some of it.

Family members who want one or more copies of the book will be able to order it directly from Amazon.com. And this means my clients won’t have to buy boxes of books, keep them in their garage and hope they sell. Instead the books will be printed on demand and distributed by Amazon.com, which doesn’t charge you upfront for the service but merely keeps a small portion of each purchase (and it’s very reasonable).

Such satisfying work!

 

 

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Content Marketing Writing, ‘Whatever That Is’

The phrase “content marketing,” and content marketing writing, are rather new buzz phrases, but creating the stuff isn’t new. “Whether you realize it or not,” writes Forbes.com contributor Jayson DeMers, “chances are your business is already using content marketing as part of your overall marketing strategy.” 
Leslie Lang, Writer, Content Marketing

He wrote a good article about content marketing, what it is, and what types of content typically form a content marketing strategy. He says this includes:

  • Blog posts
  • Guest blog posts
  • E-books
  • Email newsletters
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Podcasts
  • Standard videos
  • Micro-videos (ie, Vine)
  • Social media posts
  • Live presentations
  • Webinars
  • White papers

As DeMers writes, the primary focus of content marketing is building the relationship, not making a hard sell. It’s the sort of stuff I do over here at my desk.

Read all about it at The Top 7 Content Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2014.

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Driving to a Hawaiian Volcano

Here’s an article I wrote about the volcanoes here on the Big Island awhile back. It also hints at a little bit of my own family’s history.

We really live in a remarkable place.

Leslie Lang, Writer, Ghostwriter, Content Marketing, HawaiiOn Hawaii’s Big Island: Powerful Pele’s Playground

By Leslie Lang on 08/30/13

My grandmother used to tell me about her Hawaiian great-grandfather, who drove long-ago tourists up to the Volcano in a horse-drawn carriage.

Back in the late 1800s, the journey from Hilo took two days, with an overnight stop to rest the horses and travelers. But once they arrived, the landscape undoubtedly looked very much as it does now.

Still an otherworldly land worth visiting, the unique Volcano area is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes. Sprawling, huffing and erupting within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea and Mauna Loa exhibit nature’s drama in action. But while change and creation, and birth and destruction, are part of the park’s inherent nature, I can still see what my ancestors very likely saw: a moonscape in places, where ghostlike trees hold their ground as ethereal steam swirls from a landscape pocked with vents….

Read the rest here

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Dr. Seuss on Being an Entrepreneur

This is a fun article about being an entrepreneur. Which can be rephrased as “being a self-employed writer.” It’s from Jackie Steinmetz’s blog:

book.jpgWHAT DR. SEUSS TEACHES US ABOUT BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR

Last night, I sat down in my son’s room to read books and start winding down for bed. He’s 3, so typically he chooses a handful of titles that he’d like to read and then we end up reading the same book over and over (and over) again.

This was no different.

We started reading “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” somewhat to my dismay, because 1. Dr. Seuss uses some strange words (seriously, who names their child Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea?), and 2. This is not a short book.

Twenty minutes later, as I opened the book for the third time, my mind began to wander. Drawing parallels between the book and my own life. Being a business owner is amazing – but it’s a rollercoaster, with its own bumps, a lot of working hours and a high level of stress. Dr. Seuss sums up this rollercoaster in 45 pages.
“And you may not find any (streets) you’ll want to go down. In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town.”

If streets are jobs, starting a business is going out of town. This seems to be a common entrepreneurial path – we put in some time and find we’re just not fit to work for someone else. It might be that you’re bad at taking direction, you’re bad at company politics, you’re overly ambitious, or something else. These traits are often seen as bad in the corporate world and good for entrepreneurs. It’s funny how that works. “Oh! The places you’ll go!”

Read the rest here.

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I’ve Got ‘Em! or, Five Things to Look for When Hiring a Content Marketing Writer

Good news, people! This article (by someone who’s run a corporate writing agency for 15 years) lists the five things he looks for when hiring content marketing writers and editors – and I’ve got all five covered. Were I to move to Australia, I bet he would hire me.https://www.leslielang.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Screen-Shot-2014-06-20-at-9.55.28-AM.png

It’s all about these five things, he says, which spell WRITE:  Write, Rapport, Interest, Trust and Edit. Click the link to read the whole story, which is from the Content Marketing Institute.

By GRANT BUTLER published JANUARY 8, 2014

How To Hire Effective Content Marketing Writers and Editors

We’ve all heard the theory: It’s easy to hire good content writers because so many are being fired from traditional media, such as newspapers and magazines. Unfortunately, this just doesn’t seem to be the case.

I’ve run a corporate writing agency for 15 years, and hired many writers and editors. During this time, the media industry in Australia (where my firm is based) has been imploding. Australia’s largest newspaper publisher alone has cut hundreds of journalism jobs in recent years. Despite many of those people being among the finest writers in the country, few have become content marketing writers. And there’s good reason why.

How do you evaluate an effective content marketing writer/editor for content “newsroom” positions? How can you determine whether a journalist with a strong portfolio can generate material that’s engaging to customers, appropriate for your organization, and unlikely to create legal or other headaches? I use a methodology I call WRITEWrite, Rapport, Interest,Trust, and Edit. 

Write 

First, be sure your candidates can write. That may sound trite, but you’d be amazed how many people present well and have appropriate resumes, but lack a real aptitude for writing. And be warned, journalists can be published for years and even rise high despite having mediocre writing skills. Their saviors are the bosses and copy editors who fix their spelling, grammar, and even facts.

To avoid getting caught out, ask candidates where they believe their strengths lie; give them short writing, editing and proofreading tests; and ask their references what the person’s first draft copy is like. And be sure to verify they can write quickly enough to meet your needs.

Read the rest.

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Content Marketing & Amazing People

Recently I wrote some articles for Full Life Hawaii, and I thought I’d share them here as an example of one type of content marketing. Full Life is a Hawai‘i Island non-profit agency dedicated to helping people with developmental disabilities lead happy, productive and self-directed lives, and I wrote about some of their clients and their Full Life support workers (with authorizations all around, of course).

It’s a wonderful organization and I loved working with them. Amazing support workers there are doing work that really makes a different for the individuals who are getting helped, or being able to live independently, because of them. Every one of the Full Life clients I interviewed, too, made a lasting impression on me.

Read the online feature articles here:

Kauila Haumea: Healing the World a Little at a Time

Next Chapter Book Club: Friends, Food and Fun

Louie Perry: Hitting His Stride

Kamakoa Dela Cruz: A ‘Brave Warrior’

Daylan Toribio: ‘The Person I Am Now’

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