It sometimes pays to keep a tight rein on things and control everything yourself and then there are the times when it is wiser to spread the load a little. In November I linked up via LinkedIn with Lorraine Cobcroft, who knows most of the things I don’t know and vice versa. We are looking at expanding the scope and value of the online writing courses I offer through a joint venture and I have to say her presentation skills have dazzled and delighted. She has a great deal of experience and expertise in taking a very dry document (my lecture notes) and making them into a visual feast. When you consider that people want value for money and will always choose the visually stunning over the drab, even when the content itself is identical, having a partner who can add that value to your written work is a huge PLUS! On top of the graphics bonus, Lorraine is also a gifted writer so I am confident we will be able to provide the market with a lot of value as we ramp things up. Check it out and give networking with other trusted professionals some thought. Sometimes the trick is knowing what you don’t know and where to find the person who does.
For those curious about the Online Writing Online course, I have uploaded the second lecture in the 8 module series, ‘The Freelance eWriter’. Please click on the link and have a read of the lecture. It comes with a tutorial and activity and all work is posted on a bulletin board by the participants so we can all have a read and discuss the points we raise. It is as effective a method of education as any other and far more efficient and worthwhile than time spent in some classrooms. No disruptive elements in the class, no teacher waffling on or student falling asleep after a big lunch, let alone having to buy expensive use once text books or worry about expensive and hard to find campus parking. I invite your comments.
I am looking closely at a new project, within The eWriter Project, of being able to provide training and recognition for eWriters in the form of a Diploma in eWriting, or Dip.eW. As far as I can see, so far there is no similar qualification available and while most writing jobs require good writing skills more than any tertiary award, many do give preference to those with degrees. If you are writing academic papers than of course it makes sense to expect a degree standard of education, but the fact is that many writers with degrees are rubbish.many without, can’t get the work because they don’t have the piece of paper.
For many years I held the view of many that pieces of paper aren’t worth anything. I was wrong. They are. Once you have one you realise what they are worth to you and your self esteem and confidence, even if your ability hasn’t improved one iota. More importantly you realise what they mean to those who have to make a hiring decision and need things to use to decide either you or someone else. Yet many writers can’t afford the expense and while it is easy to say they would if they really wanted it badly enough, the reality is that isn’t always the case.
I do believe in RPL, or recognition of prior learning. Some diploma mills make a big deal on how they give the diploma out based on your life’s work to date, but that is just an excuse to cover the fact they give it out to anyone who pays the money. Unless the award is accredited by the authorities then it is worth only what anyone wants it to be worth. Having said that, getting that tick is an expensive and exhaustive process and worthy of a PhD artefact and exegesis. In the meantime, I am looking at awarding a Dip.eW under the auspices of The eWriter Project that reflects the RPL of the candidate and their work to date. I might find an existing RTO to partner the process to accreditation with me, but meanwhile I will look at what I can do, legitimately as an individual. I have the relevant qualifications to produce and assess the applicants so let’s see where this idea takes us, if anywhere. If it isn’t going to be respected then there is no point doing it, especially as the objective is to do it as low cost as possible.
This weekend saw the last of the StreetWise Philippines eBooks converted to .mobi and .epub formats and offered for sale via the new Web 2.0 ‘Amazon Model’. The web sites for each title now have the new prices added, the old references to all the freebies removed and the links to the sales pages are now links to the place on Smashwords.com where each title is available for sale. Time will tell how this will fare however in the last month of the old ‘Membership Sales Model’ we sold just 12 books. This was the fourth month in a row when sales were so poor and down from the 35-50 a month we used to average.
I think Google’s Panda might have had a paw in that, as the sales pages are not that content rich, however there are links to them on dozens of other sites in our network and some of those are content rich, in fact over abundant in quality content. Sales via the main sites such as Amazon.com have increased, so far without any promotional activity on my part, so fingers are crossed as I type and that makes typing rather tricky.
With just twelve books a month being sold there was little to lose in changing to a more contemporary sales model, not to mention dropping the price and treating the books as books and not in formation products. Even though the information in each was well worth $29.99, the market is moving away from that perception. Even though the reader will save themselves far more than $29.99 simply by being aware of the things the book passes on, the reality is that few people realize this and are willing to part with thirty bucks to save thousands. Most of us would rather spend nothing then deal with any issue if and as it arises. If that ends up costing us an arm and a leg we tend to conveniently forget we could have avoided the heartache had we bought that online information product… I mean eBook.
Part of the reason is the value and credibility the customer places on the product and not just that particular eBook but the genre in general. If eBooks are perceived by the customer as being some thing less than first rate, worth taking notice of then they are going to be ignored. At best they will be tolerated but hardly trusted. While fiction eBooks don’t need their contents to be trusted in quite the same way, the buyer does have to feel it is worth their money to pay for a download. eReaders have changed how people read books, especially fiction, and while they will soon be obsolete, the idea of reading for fun, something other than a book, will not go away. The problem for non-fiction books is that they now have to compete with ‘Apps’ and those are dirt cheap and interactive in many cases, not just something you read. Time to start rethinking how I present the information contained in those eBooks, methinks.
Writing content for mobile phones is easy, just write really, really tiny words and keep them short! Of course it is not that simple but the idea is there. Mobile phone apps are limited in size, as are most things. With many computer programs the limitations are rarely reached today when programmers have giga bytes at their disposal. I was telling my 12 year old daughter about how my first computer was a Commodore C64 and that used a cassette tape as storage. The next machine was an Amstrad 15 something or other with two 5.25inch floppy drives. I had a 20MB hard drive installed and felt all my problems were over! I think I had the RAM bumped up to a whopping 128MB at ridiculous cost but it was worth it! My MS Dos never ran faster!
If none of this makes sense then you are probably too young to remember how it was for us computer users back in the dawn of time. We emerged from that around 1991 or 92 with Windows and a 386SX processor (computer historians will correct me no doubt but I am working on my memories of two decades ago and I have died once since then so forgive me my trespasses) and shortly after, in 1995, the beginning of life as we know it today… The Information Superhighway arrived! The Internet was here for one and all! Who can forget not being able to take a phone call because you had your computer modem hooked up to the line! What about the day you decided to hang the expense and get a second phone line installed, just for the ‘Net? It all seems so long ago now but it wasn’t that far back.
I remember when I bought my first mobile phone, for the car. It cost $3,000 and was an improvement on the old white ’007′ car phones that had cost a lot more and were dear as poison to make a call on. I also remember carrying around a heavy cornflake box sized battery with a phone handset on top called the Telecom Walkabout. People were amazed! Then carphones went from ‘analog’ to digital and the price halved overnight and I was left with a huge ongoing bill and an obsolete phone. Soon after that my pager (remember them?) was left behind in the pages of history as the battery technology for mobile phones did away with the large box model and brought in the era of the brick. It was about the size of a house brick, too but it revolutionized the lives of some very self important people…. yuppies!
Jump ahead some twenty or more years and we have gone past the days of SMS text messaging being an amazing thing. Today we have ‘Apps’, or applications. Android was the first system introduced and was quickly gobbled up by the hungry beast Google, however they have kept it an open system for all to make use of and apps for. Apple have their own iOS they introduced in 2007 and probably have more applications written for it at this stage. As well as their iPhones, these apps work on their iPods and iPads.
So how does one write for these mobile phone apps? I am researching the ins and outs of that as you read this and when I have it all together I will pass on what I have learned. I think it is an area of eWriting that can not be neglected and it will not go away, it will only take on more and more importance in our daily lives. While my generation might not place as much importance in the mobile phone as the younger generations do (I am a baby Boomer with GenX traits) we have to keep up with the world. The reality is the generations following mine are using their technology more and more and demanding more ways to use it. If we, as eWriters are to service this demand we need to provide what they want, not what we are comfortable with.
While I research writing for apps, give this some serious thought. Think of ways you, as an eWriter can add value to the topic. How can you write something for a mobile app? What can you write? What do people want? What is already out there and shouldn’t be repeated or needs to be improved? Don’t forget to share your thoughts here, add a comment if you wish.
I wrote a blog entry on my other writing site about a mob called Real Writing Jobs dot Con (I made it con,not com, hahaha). These mongrels pretend they have real jobs for writers and pay great money but… they just sell some ‘materials’. It is $77 or so, plus the $4.95 trial and if you aren’t quick enough to cancel they automatically take their $77.
They have disclaimers that few bother to read saying how the system works, sort of.They also disclaim the earnings quoted as not being typical. So why not just use typical earnings? Because typically people earn sod all from these things. I have emiled them asking for an explanation but I doubt I will have to apologize if they turn out legit.
They are slippery eels that confuse and twist and have people think they are getting work when they will likely get an eBook telling them how to look for work as a freelance writer. There are several of these out there that do that and the difference is that their authors don;t pretend they are an employer looking for writers.
It is the sneaky, scammy way of sucking people in that upsets me. If they were up front they might not sell as many copies I guess, but I could never rip people off like this. I think you need to be able to sleep nights and if you ever come face to face with a customer, look them in the eye and not be forever looking over your shoulder.