Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How the War of Words is Won

photo by DVIDSHUB on Flickr
by Mike Consol

Word combat is everywhere - especially in politics and business. Put the right words and phrases together and you control the story, or even win the election or turn your newest product into the next sensation. There is much at stake where wordplay is concerned.

Politically, republicans are better at this than democrats. (For the record, I'm a lifelong registered independent.) Democrats tend to be policy wonks offering professorial explanations of their policy positions. Republicans are more issue- and talking-point driven, more focused on word choice. Republicans also have a knack for boiling their positions down to simple principles.

A good example if the estate tax. The republicans hate it because it falls in a big way on the rich, a key component of their voter base. So they reframed the discussion by rebranding the levy the "death tax" - the implication being that the feds even tax you for dying. An appalling, if misleading, notion to everyday people. The strategy is working. The "death tax" was temporarily killed in 2009 and is currently not in effect, though it is scheduled to make a Lazarus-like comeback in 2011. The battle will rage on.

When democrats protested big tax cuts for the rich while the middle class got modest reductions, GOP members accused their rivals of promoting "class warfare," pitting Americans against one another. They made democrats look like troublemakers.

When assistance is extended to the poor republicans tag it "wealth redistribution," an allusion to socialism, which some claim is the democrats' secret agenda. Republicans have also got lots of mileage using the phrase "government takeover," particularly since President Obama was elected and went to work on health-care reform and new regulations for the financial industry.

Not that the democrats don't score their own points with word combat. Bob Dole's ill-fated run for president against Bill Clinton was sunk in part by the Clinton campaign's repetitive claims that the Dole platform included a "tax scheme" that would "blow a hole in the budget." People don't like schemes. It's a pejorative word that reminds them of Ponzi schemes and other fraudulent acts of financial betrayal. No one wants to be associated with that.

While running for president, Barack Obama made allusions to John McCain's age and potential for declining mental agility by constantly referring to McCain as "erratic," particularly after he had flip-flopped on a couple of his positions.

Democrats also scored big when they told voters that the "limousines are circling the White House" in an attempt by the rich to get the executive branch to veto legislation that would have made incursions into their bank accounts. That was a particularly visual reference, which always adds extra power.

All of those are examples of using the language in ways that increase the blow being delivered, to convey negativity. But even more often language is obfuscated or reframed to soften the impact of an organization's actions.

The military speaks of "collateral damage" rather than saying they accidentally "killed innocent people." It's simply too ugly, and too likely to turn the American populace against military action.

During the 1980s business quit using the word "fired" in favor of the more neutral "downsizing." Then they took it a step further by calling it "rightsizing," as if firing people was actually the right thing to do under the circumstances. The list goes on and on. No doubt you have a few of your favorites. The lesson is to choose your words carefully. They have power. They can spell victory or defeat.

Mike Consol is president of which provides corporate training seminars that teach verbal communication/presentation skills, business writing skills, and PowerPoint presentation skills. Consol spent 17 years with American City Business Journals, the nation's largest publisher of metropolitan business journals with 40 weekly newspapers across the United States.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Effective Media Interviews Generate Book Sales

Photo by A. Germain
Guest post by Michael Ray Dresser

Book marketing experts know that authors who get excited about landing an interview may lose sight of the goal, which is not to gain media interviews, but to sell their books, their products, their services or their point of view. And it’s sad, but true that an interview does not automatically generate sales. Effective interviews generate sales; ineffective interviews merely produce entertaining or idle talk.

The author who can generate sales from a television or radio interview is the author who knows how to communicate to any audience listening to that show. A book, a product or a point of view is sold when one listener “connects” with the guest because there is recognition of a common want, need or experience. Multiply those clicks of recognition and you multiply sales.

But, just the act of writing and publishing a book, a product, a service or a point of view does not successfully bring you to this point. There are steps to take.

The first step is Publicity; you need exposure; you need press releases, newspaper and magazine articles, book reviews and guest spots on Nationally Syndicated and local talk shows all over the country. Now you are out there. All dressed up and now what! Oops, now you have to be in front of an audience and talk and you now get your first interview!!!

And you prepare yourself. Of course you know that an interview is an acquired skill. It is a process with a strategy working toward a fixed finish line. You have to create your message in a way that is real for your audiences. They have to see and feel themselves in what you say. You now have to say it in a way that the audience can relate to, a way that allows your audience to experience themselves in your interview message. You now speak to your audience, “one person at a time” and to think of your interview as an intimate conversation with a friend and not a lecture to thousands. You speak to your audience…not at them and learn to always make sure that the effect or the result of your message will match the intent you have going in. You now go into an interview prepared for any question and be armed with the ability to bridge back to message no matter what is presented to you. Your audience is there to be informed. They are there to be persuaded and most of all to be entertained… if you don’t, you will be talking to an empty microphone. And always, always leave them “wanting more”.

Michael Dresser’s Communication Training will give you, the authors or the experts, the skills to learn how to use the media, and how to effectively convey your message. You will learn how to leverage interviews to create book sales, how to feel more comfortable on the air and how to relieve the stress and anxiety that can come with interviews. The secrets behind creating effective presentations whether it is on radio, television or a live venue are available and learnable. The consultation is free…the knowledge is invaluable!

· Don’t bury your message in entertaining talk.
· Tie your message to an image (story)
· Speak to your audience one person at a time
· Always leave your audience wanting more!

If you need advice on where to get low cost book publicity support, email:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lost For Words? Tips For Overcoming Writer's Block

Photo by Cayusa on Flickr

By Rob Ashton

It's a common dilemma. You have a really important document to write and the deadline is looming. You sit down at your computer to write it and - guess what - you're completely at a loss where to begin.

It's not as if your manager has suddenly sprung this task upon you or that you haven't given it any thought at all. In fact, you've proactively allocated time to write it, but you're already struggling and you haven't written a word yet.

You have a common case of writer's block. We've all encountered it and it always seems to hit when you're under pressure. But fear not, there are ways you can tackle and overcome it:

Identify the cause

There are two main causes of writer's block: fear and lack of information.

Let's deal with the fear factor first. People often approach putting finger to keyboard with trepidation - as if somehow once your words are on the computer screen they are cast in stone. Far from it. If you approach a writing task with the idea that it's better to get something on screen than not to write a single word, then you're likely to make some progress. It doesn't matter if what you write isn't perfect first time. You can always play with it later (although of course it always pays to plan your work; see 'practical tips for kick-starting your writing' below).

It's far better to get an imperfect report written today than to delay for another six weeks to achieve what you consider to be perfection. By then you'll have infuriated your manager, spent more time than necessary writing (and rewriting) and potentially lost the business.

Forage for information

It may be that you simply don't know what to write, because you don't have all the information you need. So go out and find it.

Do you know what your audience expects from this document? Do you have a good view of your readers' requirements? If not, then completing a reader profile questionnaire might help. (Here's one to download.)
If this kind of formal approach isn't for you, then simply ask some of your readers - or those close to them - some targeted questions. Often the responses you get may help to cristallise the issue for you and get to the heart of your document.

Make sure you've thought through your subject matter thoroughly. Brainstorm all the ideas and information you know already and then highlight where you need to do some more research.

But don't forage for information unnecessarily. You may be over-complicating the issue and you could tie yourself up in knots.

Practical tips for kick-starting your writing

Once you've worked out what's preventing you from writing and have filled any information gaps, you're ready to get going. Here are a few pointers to get you started.

* Write a rough plan. This helps separate your thinking from your writing and creates a logical structure for your document. It's also a great way to ease yourself into the actual writing.

* Do something different. Sometimes if you sit in front of your computer scratching your head for too long, you'll simply confuse yourself more and increase your frustration. So make yourself a cup of tea, have a chat with a colleague, even pop out for ten minutes if you can. It's amazing how a change of scenery can refresh your thought process. Who knows, while you're away from your computer, you might even get a flash of inspiration about how to start your document. Time out also helps to get you into 'action mode' for once you return.

* Set a time to start writing and stick to it, whatever happens. As this time approaches, you should feel a sense of anticipation and be ready to get going.

* Think about your intro. Often it's the first paragraph of a document that's the most difficult to write. So if you can think of an engaging way to start your writing, for example, using a historical info that contrasts what used to happen last year or last decade with what's happening now, that will kick-start the rest of your document. It will also grab your reader's attention and encourage them to stick with you.

* Impose a time limit on your writing. This usually works if all the above have failed. Say to yourself, I'll write for five minutes - and five minutes only. How bad can five minutes be, after all?

This method is amazingly effective, because often people speed up their writing and get into the 'flow' just as their five-minute limit is approaching - which obviously stands you in good stead for writing the rest of the document.

You need to be honest with yourself, however, if this method is going to work. Stop writing after five minutes if you're not getting into it and set another time to write for another five minutes. It won't take many more five-minute sessions before your writing truly starts to flow. We promise.

Emphasis is the UK's leading organisation dedicated solely to business writing training and consultancy.

For more information visit: today.

Rob Ashton is Chief Executive of Emphasis. Emphasis is the UK's leading organisation dedicated solely to business writing training and consultancy. As the leading business writing company in the UK, their trainers and business writing consultants provide adept, in-company writing training and consultancy to a huge range of private and public-sector organisations.

Would you like the Publishing Guru to review your book?  Send me an eMail:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Start Your Book

Photo by iwouldstay on Flickr
Guest post by Daniel King
"Most everyone will agree that the getting started part is the most challenging stage in the writing process. First paragraphs, first thoughts, and first sentences are almost never the final ones that appear in your published manuscript. As you begin the writing process, it’s important to remain patient while maintaining vigilance and focus. Your dedication will pay off in the end.

As you sit down with paper and pen in hand, think about your writing goals. Why are you writing, what are you writing about, and who is your audience? While you’re tapping out words on your laptop, write to document your persuasions, your discoveries, your beliefs, and your greatest ideas. Write to influence, to inform, and to persuade.
While you’re brainstorming your first book, I have a few suggestions to help get the creative juices flowing. Take a piece of paper and answer the questions listed below. Your answers will show what topics you should focus on as you write.
- What is important to you?
- What do you think about?
- What do you talk about the most?
- What challenges have you overcome in life?
- What problems you have solved? 
- What topics do you know well?
- What is God speaking to you about?
Are you excited about influencing children, restoration, faith, love, music, or marriage? What subject do you think about the most? Every author should write a book on his primary focus. 
If you could talk to anybody about one thing, what would it be about? If you have five minutes left on the earth and you could talk about one thing, what would it be? This subject that you are passionate about is what you should write about.  
Daniel King is a missionary evangelist who has traveled to more than 50 nations talking to people about Jesus. He has more than 100,000 books in print. On October 19, 2010 he is hosting "The Ultimate Minister's Tool Box Conference" for anyone who wants to do something big for God. Watch this video for more info: 

Friday, October 8, 2010

20 Formatting Essentials For Your Manuscript

Photo by Dave Heuts

Guest post by KJ Hutchings

When submitting manuscripts to literary agents and publishers, you will generally need to use what is known as the "standard manuscript format". For many writers, this term is often unclear and can jeopardise their work being taken seriously. So, let's look at the twenty essentials for formatting your manuscript correctly:

  1. Always type your document - handwritten work is not acceptable.
  2. Make sure you use a single, clear serif font such as Courier or Courier New rather than Arial.
  3. The font size should be 12 point - not smaller or larger.
  4. Use double spacing - size two.
  5. Use only black text on a white background. Any other colours will make your text harder to read and will also look unprofessional.
  6. Many people submit their work electronically via email, but if you are printing out your manuscript, ensure you use good quality paper and only print on one side of each sheet.
  7. Make sure your name and contact details are at the top of the first page on the left hand side. Include the word count also (make sure this is accurate) at the top right hand side and put the title of your work half-way down the page in the centre. You need to write your name underneath the title. Then commence the document.
  8. If you use a pseudonym, write it beneath the title but keep your real name in the top left hand side of the first page.
  9. Ensure that your name, the document's title and page number (in that order) are on each subsequent page as right-justified headers. If the title of your work is long, you can usually just use a key word or two from the title instead of repeating it in full.
  10. All paragraphs must be left-justified and all right margins must remain unjustified.
  11. There needs to be a least a two centimetre margin all the way around your text. This is so that annotations can be written on the printed out copy.
  12. Do not insert any extra lines between your paragraphs - you want your text to be clear and easy to read.
  13. Indent the first line of each paragraph by one centimetre.
  14. If you wish to indicate a blank line in your text, insert the blank line and then add a further line with the # (hash) character in the middle. Then follow this with another blank line.
  15. Do not use any bold or italic fonts. To emphasise a piece of text you should underline it instead. Do not use any other unusual formatting.
  16. Insert the word "End" after your text. Place it centred on a separate line.
  17. Do not staple your pages together if you are submitting your work on paper. Ensure you package your work sufficiently so that it doesn't arrive at the agents or publishers crumpled and damaged.
  18. Agents and publishers receive many manuscripts each week. Competition is high and can be made worse if you send your work to an agent or publisher that does not handle your niche of writing. For example, you would not send a science fiction or romance story to a publishing house well known for its historical publications. Make sure you research agents and publishers thoroughly.
  19. Once you have selected your potential agent or publisher, check whether there are any specific formatting requirements for manuscripts for their particular market. If they state "standard manuscript format", this guideline can be followed.
  20. Always, always, proofread your work before submitting it! Spelling errors and unnoticed word omissions or sloppy grammar could seriously hinder your literary ambitions.
KJ Hutchings is the founder of KJ Language Services, offering editing, writing and proofreading services and advice on how you can make your English language documents the very best they can be. For more information, visit

Need book reviews?  Email: thepublishingguru(at)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Incitement of a Repressed Honor Physics Student

 (spare-time book reviewer: thepublishingguru(at)

The suppressed, honor physics student within me stirred as I began to read Wondering About. Strumfels provided an engaging perspective regarding science, philosophy, and our involvement in this concoction known as life.I don’t agree with all of Strumfels’ conclusions.However, I enjoyed the stimulation of thought and found myself adjusting some personal beliefs.Questioning what you believe is a surefire method for solidifying one’s resolve.

Strumfels encourages us to return to the curiosity of our youth.Regardless of your preferred area of scientific study, you will find something to enjoy in this smorgasbord of analysis and rhetoric.The content includes imaginative prose covering organic chemistry, astrophysics, quantum mechanics, philosophy, and even forecasting what might be.While the material is dense, you will most certainly make discoveries that will rekindle fascination and wonder heretofore dormant within your mind.

Like Strumfels, my discovery of and interest in the sciences began at a young age.Strumfels’ curiosity continues.At one time I was going to pursue a career in electrical engineering.My life took a different path.Strumfels has renewed my passion for and curiosity with the plethora of paths to pursue that is science.It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and forget the magnificence surrounding us.

David reminds us. Only 100 years ago, mankind was ignorant of things we now take for granted. Very recent scientific discoveries have brought us computers, the internet, atomic power, jet travel, space travel, and the eradication of disease.We can’t help but wonder how the discovery of DNA alone will affect the next 100 years.What a privilege to wander with David through this tome of science, philosophy, and humanity sure to be enjoyed by student and professor alike.

The product description mentions David’s battle with Asperger Syndrome. While I don’t discount the reality of this condition, I choose to believe David has maintained an innocent awareness of the world around him others have abandoned for inanity. I challenge you to meander through the pages of Wondering About and the unusual mind of David Strumfels.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Writing is Occasional Writing Pauses

photo by Eran Finkle

Guest post by Katherine Ploeger

Occasionally, writers suffer from what I call "writing pauses," which can be both annoying and frustrating.  Note that I don't call them writing "breaks," which has a more permanent feeling to the term, as in a complete stop of writing efforts.  I call them pauses because they are temporary. The challenges that cause the pauses must be dealt with and will be eventually overcome, but understanding the pauses can help you, the writer, get through them more easily.


Writing pauses are the result of external forces in a writer's life, ones over which the writer has little or no control.  An otherwise productive writing time with great momentum can suddenly come to a crashing halt for any number of reasons.

Maybe you must suddenly move, requiring time to pack and move rather than write.  The energy focus has shifted, and writing is not included in that focus.  Or perhaps you must take care of an ill or injured loved one.  Or maybe the 9-5 job suddenly demands weekends and evenings to complete the work, eliminating your usually sacred writing time.

Or maybe your home or family is involved in some natural disaster.  Let's face it: when your house is under water or in rubble around your feet, you're probably not thinking about writing your next article or chapter for which you have a book contract although your writer's mind will send you ideas saying, "This could make a great article, if I survive it."  But then, you might sneak in a few hours of writing as a relief from the overwhelming events in your present reality, just to save your sanity.

A writing pause is NOT writer's block or any other internally generated work stoppage.  Nor are the pauses voluntary; they must be endured until the challenges can be overcome and writing resumed.


The first action you can take is to determine the percentage of time taken, the severity and estimated duration of the writing pause.  Does this challenge require a full time effort, or can you sandwich some writing time in among the required tasks?  Will the challenge take a few days at most to solve, or are you looking at weeks or months?  If it will be a short, tolerable pause, you can accept it and deal with the challenges at hand, knowing you'll return to your writing soon.

If, however, the pause may be a longer duration, you can take other actions.  First, ask yourself if you can eliminate or delegate any of the tasks required in dealing with the challenge.  See if you can free up even a few hours a week to write: these few hours may save your sanity.

Second, if you can't free up any time at all, which is understandable in some situations, especially if the challenge is emotionally exhausting, then you need to simply accept the idea that your writing will be on hold for a while.  Once you stop struggling against the writing pause and take care of the challenge you are facing, you will have one less frustration to cloud your mind.

In the meantime, set up a file folder, computer file, or shoebox for notes of ideas you receive during this down time.  Write out the idea and date the page, then slip it into your filing system, to be dealt with when you return to your writing.  You can then evaluate these stray ideas for their value and usefulness, and you won't have lost them forever.

One last idea - an important one - is that you should not beat yourself up about not writing during a writing pause.  The challenges faced are usually not of your making, but you must participate and overcome them to return your life to as near normal as possible, so you can return to your writing.

When (not if) you are confronted with one of these writing pauses, stop and evaluate the situation and give yourself permission to stop writing until the challenge is resolved.  Then return to your writing with new experiences to use in your work.  Remember, everything can be used in your writing.  Everything.

Katherine Ploeger, MA, MFA, is a writer, editor, writing coach & consultant, and publisher. She writes practical, process-oriented publications for writers of all types. She publishes at Quilliful Publications ( Her latest book is Write That Nonfiction Book: The Whole Process. She also writes workbooks for writers. Two recently published are Common Writing Errors Workbook and Time Travel Workbook for Fiction Writers. She also offers lots of free and helpful information at her blog, Katie's Writing Notes at
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