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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.)
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:
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.)
Tonight 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, butit 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).
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.”
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:
Guest blog posts
Micro-videos (ie, Vine)
Social media posts
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.
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….
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:
WHAT 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 andgood for entrepreneurs. It’s funny how that works. “Oh! The places you’ll go!”
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.
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.
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 WRITE: Write, Rapport, Interest,Trust, and Edit.
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.
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.
Remember those free AOL disks that used to be everywhere? They came unsolicited in the mail, and it seems like they were packaged with every magazine you bought (remember buying magazines?).
Things have changed a lot in this online world. Today I’m thinking about how ubiquitous blogs are these days, when they really haven’t even been around that long. Before blogs, there were digital online communities (now they seem kind of primitive to me) like the moderated discussion groups at Usenet, GEnie, the early CompuServe, email lists and bulletin boards.
I can remember getting on those boards and lists and thinking the whole thing was so cool, but also pretty limited. Back then, I would have loved knowing where we were headed with this Internet business. Those were the dial-up days. Before that, people drew their messages on cave walls.
I wonder what’s still to come.
Justin Hall is said to have been one of the first bloggers. He started writing online in 1994 while a student at Swarthmore College and he’s still going.
We didn’t even have the rather ungainly word “weblog” until 1997, when Jorn Barger coined the word for web + log.
In 1999, Peter Merholz jokingly turned the word “weblog” into the phrase “we blog” in the sidebar of his, well, blog, and gave us the word “blog.”
Shortly after that, Evan Williams started using “blog” as both a noun and a verb, and he concocted the term “blogger” (he was helping to create the blogging software Blogger at the time).
That’s about when blogging really took off as a result of blogging “tools” coming on the scene. Open Diary started in October 1998 and had thousands of online diaries. That was the first blog community where readers could comment on other writers’ entries.
Also in 1998, the Charlotte Observer live-blogged Hurricane Bonnie, and that’s thought to be the first known instance of a blog on a traditional news site.
LiveJournal started in March 1999. Blogger.com started in August 1999 and brought blogging to the mainstream (Google bought it in February 2003).
Popular American political blogs started appearing in 2001, how-to manuals started appearing for bloggers, and established journalism schools started researching blogging and noting the differences between it and journalism.
Movable Type, which spawned TypePad, started in September 2001.
Since 2002, blogs have gained increasing notice and coverage for their role in breaking, shaping and spinning news stories.
WordPress started in 2003.
In 2004, blogs have become increasingly mainstream. Political candidates were using them, the Columbia Journalism Review began covering them regularly, and Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary declared “blog” the word of the year.
In 2006, I set up a blog for Richard Ha, and I continue to help edit and write posts. We have blogged close to three times a week ever since – eight years now! – and we’re still going strong.
Since then I also spent a couple years with a business partner running the now-defunct blogs Honolulu On The Cheap and Big Island On The Cheap, blogged here at my own website, and blogged for clients at various sites including at Fodors.com and Ancestry.com (alas, no byline at Ancestry, but I write some of the posts at that link).
This month, I’m participating, along with a lot of other writers, in a 30-day blogathon. I really enjoy blogging. There’s a nice rhythm to posting to the same blog over time, and it’s a comfortable way to bring your message – one that resonates with and is important to you – to your readers. The writing is often a little less formal, while still being professional. Readers can respond to what you post, and sometimes there’s some back and forth. It’s a very satisfying style of communicating.