May 312013
 

Intro and disclaimer: This is a sample chapter from my new ebook, Will Work For Exposure. It’s up on Amazon now, and of course I’m trying to boost my book sales. But this sample chapter gives you a look at paid-by-the-click advertising and some ways around it. Hey, I might give you some ideas and encouragement. I don’t mind that at all; that’s why I’m here.

Enjoy this excerpt. By the way, if you stop by Amazon anytime between June 1 and June 5, you’ll find this ebook is free for that period. Grab it, because its regular price is $3.99.

* * *

Paid by the click, and other advertising schemes

We’re discussing the pay-per-view and pay-by-click scenarios, so let’s head down the online rabbit hole of clickable ads. Although you may have a different story to tell, in my experience they’re worthless.

When was the last time you clicked on an Adsense ad? Or worse, one of those that pop up when you roll your mouse over a certain underlined word in the text. Accidental clicks don’t count.

Thought so.

About the only clickers I see are in some blog communities, and it’s an I’ll-click-yours-if-you-click-mine deal.

Not long ago I removed all Google Adsense ads from my active blogs. I think I have some floating around on some long-dormant blogs, but that’s about it. I don’t miss the ads.

So why would I slaughter such a promising cash cow?

ad clicky thing

If people click on enough of these things, the owner of the blog might get money. Sometimes the revenue is shared with the writer and that’s called payment. By the way, don’t even bother to click on this thing. It’s from a screen dump and the links won’t work. That’s by design.

Adsense ads are unspeakably ugly. They’re page clutter. Although there’s no real investment except maybe some credibility points, there’s no real return on them either.

While I did have some say in what ads appear on my sites, it takes a bit of work and a lot of fiddling to get that done. Until then, my site had a lot of ads for online casinos, fat-burning pills and appliances that allegedly will increase the size of your … oh, just never mind.

* * *

Today, the only ads I carry on my active sites are from Amazon, and only for books I’ve read and would recommend even if there’s no money in it for me. Oh, yes, I also carry ads for my ebooks. I’ve no problem with that ‘cause, well, I know the author.

I like what Dan Miller of 48days.com says. Rather than making your art into a be-all end-all, you can build a business concept around it. He writes, but his real action is in community building and in coaching. His writing is just the thing that started it, the thing that gave him authority to do what he does today. Taking his principles, I could use my blog and ebooks as the trigger for coaching, mentoring, consulting or any number of ventures.

Look at a guy like Dave Ramsey. He put together a self-published book some years ago, and now he has classes that teach those same principles everywhere.

For the artist or musician, there are all sorts of ways to build on your passion. There’s teaching. There’s production — I can think of several musicians who created their own record labels and produced other people’s songs. What’s cool is that they find it helps others achieve what they want, plus it’s fun and sometimes even profitable.

OK, so that’s really ambitious stuff. It sounds like a lot of work and some great risks. Probably a little too much so for my tastes.

But something like that sure sounds better than littering your website with other people’s horrendously ugly ads, doesn’t it?

* * *

Anyway, that’s a preview. Grab the book. It’s free from June 1 through June 5, and $3.99 after that. Whatever it is, it’s worth it.

 

 

May 302013
 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this yourself, but a funny but disquieting thing is happening with me since I completed something of significance. I find my attitude has changed.

A lot.

After finishing my latest ebook, I find I’m really discontented. I’m not looking at things the same way I once did.

The work I do now to put beans on the table has less allure than it did. It’s not like I’m just going through the motions or anything; I’m not wired that way. I’m an all-out guy who takes ownership of every job I’ve ever had. It’s as if I’m working for a much higher audience than a boss, so that’s not it.

But after testing my capabilities a little bit, the daily work I’m doing seems more an ordeal than anything.

I have several income streams now, and most are not enough to carry me in and of themselves. The only real exception to this is my content writing, and that’s the one I’m having trouble with these days. It just holds less of my interest than it once did.

Here’s the thing. After completing this ebook I’m becoming more aware of my capabilities. Things like writing something with careful thought, actually finishing a major project (this alone is foreign territory for me), and the ability to explore a subject in depth. None of these have anything to do with the stuff I’m doing for my daily bread, and it’s bugging me.

This daily stuff doesn’t challenge me. It doesn’t push on the edges of my capabilities. It doesn’t stretch me. And I’m finding out how important that is. This stretching and pushing becomes a real need instead of just a want.

After doing something that stretches me, I find it’s hard for me to snap back to normal.

After an astronaut walks on the moon or flies in orbit at some ridiculous speed, does he have trouble readjusting when he comes back to Earth? If you climb Mt. Everest, does flat land look the same to you?

Basically I’m wondering, is this normal?

Maybe it means I’m on the verge of something here, but it’s crazy how a little success does this.

What to do, what to do?

My own best instincts tell me to hold my mud. Keep doing that daily-bread thing even if I have to hold my nose and/or carry a barf bag to do it. The fella who’s faithful in the little things is the one who makes real progress toward the bigger things, right?

Meanwhile, I’ll keep investing in intellectual capital. Keep building on these successes to see if maybe I can grow these to the point they’re on a paying basis at some point. Hey, I can only give it a shot even if part of me says it’s all an insane dream. This insane dream, though, may be the thing that keeps me sane during this season of discontent.

It’s tough being me.

How about you? When you have a little success doing something you love, does this color the way you look at your daily life? Let’s talk about it.

# # #

 

May 282013
 

As I write this, I’m getting the final detail work out on my ebook.

On Sunday I completed the final draft. Formatted, checked out the cover art and added the table of contents.

Uploaded it yesterday at my friendly neighborhood Starbucks. As soon as it goes live I’ll start the pre-launch blitz.

So what’s next?

And no, I’m not going to Disneyland.

Rest for a day or two, and as soon as it’s launched (June 1) it’s time to get busy.

Lots more stories to tell.

A way to tell those stories.

Back at my whiteboards, sketching out my next work.

Back at the clipboard, outlining some ideas.

Back at the terminal, hammering out my next 1,000 words.

It’s too easy to call it soup yet.

Too easy to say “that’s all there is; there ain’t no more.”

Too easy to hang out and grow a beard down to my belt buckle.

Wrong time for all that.

I’m tired. Definitely need about two days of rest. Fingers have turned into claws, and I’ll need to get rid of the brain fuzz.

But the synapses are still firing, and I’m on a hot streak. Might as well use that, right?

Since I can’t stop a wave, I might as well ride it.

# # #

 

 

 

May 272013
 
broken computer

Losing access to those tech toys can be traumatic …

I once gave up the Internet, and it was the longest 20 minutes of my life.

That’s the new spin on an old joke, and it really rings true for me.

It’s not so much the Internet, though. I don’t spend time gazing at cat pictures or whatever viral video is out this week. I go online with a mission in mind, and even then someone sure stole my watch. I mean time dissolves into a puddling mass. Kind of like dumping water on the Wicked Witch of the West.

I don’t even bother much with social media. OK, I’ll tweet a lot and catch some news trends on Twitter, but that’s about it. The others, particularly Facebook, are a waste of my time and brain cells.

Being mission-centric when I go online, I head for the news. This spills over from my journo years, when I read several newspapers a day. But now, instead of dead trees I’m manically checking my RSS feeds.

Yeah, RSS. That old-school thing that never really caught on except maybe with the geeky crowd. That RSS. You put all your online subscriptions in a feed reader and watch them pile up. Flip through your news from dozens of sources, scan the headlines, choose what to read.

Using that (allegedly dying) technology I keep up with local and national news, potential client leads, publishing and media news, material for this blog, and updates on how my L.A. Angels are doing. In a day at least 1,000 news items go through my reader, and I’m probably going to read at least a couple of hundred.

On July 1, Google Reader will shut down, leaving me looking for RSS alternatives. Like a true addict, I’m scrambling right now. But that’s just part of the picture.

On Friday I had some online time, so I spent that updating my laptop operating system while reading the news on my Android phone.

That’s bad.

I understand the idea of shutting off all digital toys for one day a week is gaining some real traction. Supposedly it’s good for one’s mental health. Especially mine, as I am probably crazier than most and have the certification to prove it.

Despite that, sometimes I’m successful at actually going one day a week without the computer or anything else. One drawback is that I keep a reminder to take that day off … on my Android phone.

Of course I spent Sunday (my scheduled time off) at the computer again, hammering away like a deranged beaver, but I was doing the final draft of my latest ebook. Between that and those consarned RSS feeds, you know that whole idea was shot this time.

 

How prevalent is this addiction?

I’m not the only junkie around, though. I read that the average American consumes 100,500 words per day, a goodish amount. Considering a novel normally runs about 70,000 to 90,000 words, we’re approaching doorstop territory here. Now, you can bet most of these words are read from a computer screen and you know there’s an online connection involved somewhere.

But that’s the average American. With me, you can take that number and double it. Shoot, at that rate I can knock off Stephen King’s The Stand in less than a day.

A lot of random drugs

Drugs have nothing on the grip technology gets on you.

So when I read a piece suggesting a digital detox of a week or two, my eyeballs slid back into my skull.

Sam Hailes, who wrote the article, cites an article from the Observer about a guy who did a two-week digital detox. His wife said he was more fun to be around. He cooked more, read more, walked more. I assume he even went outside.

Hailes wrote the article (for ReadWriteWeb, a tech blog from my RSS feeds) but admitted he’s no expert on digital detox.

“It’s no use asking me,” he wrote. “There’s only one way to find out. Are you brave enough to try it?”

Uhh, no. Definitely chicken. Clucka clucka cluck.

If one digital-free day is that tough for me, how could I handle a week or two? Don’t ask. Don’t. Even. Ask.

 

Enforced sabbatical, or going into detox

The closest I ever really came to digital detox was four days on the Appalachian Trail last year. That was because a) the backpack was already heavily loaded — sleeping bag and food weigh a lot when you’re toting it up a mountain, b) there’s no place to plug it in on the trail, and c) there’s not even enough signal to check my email. My hiking buddy is as much a phone freak as I am an online junkie, and we had to wait until we were on top of some mountain before he could make calls.

Can you imagine? I couldn’t check my news while drinking my morning campfire coffee. How Philistine is that?

So how was I after the hike? Besides tired, sore and smelly, that is.

Again, don’t ask. Itching to crank up the Android to see what I missed. Not a lot, it turned out. The news was still there whether I was or not.

The only reason I didn’t notice any separation anxiety or withdrawal symptoms was because I was busy climbing Mt. Sassafrass.

 

Maybe there’s something to this …

But really, I felt refreshed. Mind clear. Don’t know if it was the hike or being away from all that tech stuff.

I spent more time on the hike talking to real live people, getting their stories, enjoying the view, eating tuna for lunch and prepackaged rations for dinner, hanging our chow from a tree limb so the bears couldn’t get at it. The Android sat in a waterproof box, buried deep in my backpack, shut down the whole time.

But a real eye-opener was that I came back with a headful of ideas. I already scratched out some ideas for a future ebook in my notebook by firelight, and had another brewing in the cranium. It’s that second one that I attacked as soon as I got home. I outlined it and wrote much of the first draft in one sitting.

Maybe I’m still riding that creative wave. Hope so.

But I wasn’t taking chances on the hike. I mean, when you’re addicted to something, there’s always the chance of relapse. To that end, I kept spare batteries in the backpack. So call me a wuss.

A two-week digital detox?

Don’t bet the ranch on that, pal.

Sounds wonderful. Liberating. It might even drive me sane.

But don’t expect me to try it anytime soon unless it’s a long hike.

H’mm. Maybe I should take that digital day off next Sunday. But write the reminder down in longhand instead of keeping it on the phone.

# # #

May 242013
 

We’ve been talking about those 168 hours everybody has per week, and this came up in my morning reading. This came from the Time Management Ninja:

http://timemanagementninja.com/2013/05/10-tips-to-help-you-carve-more-time-out-of-your-day/

A couple things I do from that list:

• Doing things the night before: Not as much as I used to, but still a good one. When I worked a clock-punching job I made my lunch the night before, set up the coffee maker, and set things up for the morning. Left more time to locate my brain. I’ll still set my to-do lists, goals and editorial calendar before I go to bed.

• Using those between times: Stuck in a line? Good time to break out the index cards and start writing. I’m riding the bus more, and using transit time for more actual work. I used to keep my work on my phone so I can edit anywhere, but that’s a little rough on the SD card.

Check it out. It’s good stuff.

# # #

May 232013
 

(This is another one of those 3 Graffs pieces that, well, expanded. Kind of like work expanding, only different. No matter. Here’s where I come across some findings to this week’s brain teaser, so I’m letting it run a little long.)

After this week’s audit of how I spend my weekly 168 hours, a couple of things did stand out. Besides the fact I’m a hot mess, that is. There’s always that.

But how hard I work seems to have nothing to do with how I use my time, which is something I found comforting. However, I see that things really do expand to fill all available time, and this gets ugly when it’s a multi-step process. I also figured out (or maybe Captain Obvious told me) how easily distracted I am.

When my phone beeps or rings, it’s probably for me and it’s probably important. All email — including those subscription lists I get — scream how important they are, and every text message a life-or-death matter.

Bosh. Let’s reframe everything here. Urgent, si. Important, no mucho.

Usually it’s the person sending the message who determines its urgency. However, it’s my job to determine how important it is. Importance trumps urgency every time, so I shouldn’t feel bad about shutting that phone off every so oftCLICK>>.

For me anyway, a key is to lay down boundaries for my time and protect them with a rusty chain saw. It’s what they call working smart, something of a foreign concept for me. That’s the concept that says when I’m working, I’m working. If I’m not, then maybe I’ll turn the phone on and address those urgent things. Maybe.

###

May 222013
 

I’ve reverse-engineered my weekly 168 hours, and I really can’t find many holes. I mean, no one touches my sleep time, and I need my me-time, my navel-studying tome. Everybody does. But everything else has been squeezed out of it. I think.

Want to know what’s wild? Even though my time allocation is pretty well fixed, my productivity isn’t. I mean my client-work time stays the same 24 hours a week whether I get a little or a lot done. If I need to jam out 3,000 words in three hours, it’ll get done. But if I only need 300 words, it’ll still take … three hours. And it’ll be just as difficult as the 3,000 words.

Maybe there really is something to this theory of expanding work after all. What do you think?

# # #

May 212013
 

I’m going to cheat here. This is a little more than 3 paragraphs this time. But it’ll be useful stuff anyway. Bear with me …

My biggest juggling act involves those 168 hours I’m given per week. Yeah, that same number you and everyone else gets; this is one of the few aspects of life that’s actually fair. But it’s still on me to decide how to use that:

• Sleeping: 49 hours — seven per night.
• Part-time job: 18 hours.
• Other, part-time work in landscaping: 8-10 hours.
• Client work: 20-25 hours.
• Time with friends: 12 hours. These people are like family, so that’s important.

OK, that’s about 114 hours, and it’s probably similar to how your own week looks. That leaves 54 hours, a little more than what most people spend at work.

Then crank in the usual chunks of time every day (eating, eliminating, hunting for my brain in the morning). That nibbles into the 54 hours, and probably more than I like to think. That could even be as much as 14 hours, leaving me 40.

I try to dedicate 20 hours for project writing; ebooks, fiction, blogs. But that varies depending on whatever time sucks and rabbit holes look attractive along the way. Screwing off on the Internet. Reading (though that’s educational). Contemplating my navel (is that educational?). You get the idea.

Hey, this is important stuff. Reverse-engineering your week is a great way to determine whether you really have enough time for this creative stuff.

How’d you do? Let’s talk about it.

# # # 

May 202013
 

(This is really two posts in one. How cool is that?)

One of the reasons people give about why they don’t pursue their creativity is that there’s never enough time to do it.

Which makes sense. But we’re all allotted the same 168 hours per week. Unless I croak in mid-stream, I get the same amount as everyone else. But I find my own normal activities fill it up very quickly.

I’ve heard it said that work — or non-work — expands to fill the time we have. But is it true? Let’s get personal and explore that thought this week. I’ll go first …

# # #

(Add, @ work)

Been wicked busy all week, doing mostly physical things. Still stiff from that, which precludes my usual standing-up writing.

Despite that, managed to finish some client work (though not as much as I’d like) and edited my older brother’s essay. This was all done in my recliner, feet up, with a semiconscious cat curled up next to me.

The main thing for me is completing the second draft of my ebook. Finished it last night, as planned. That’s huge. Now it’s a matter of fine tuning and formatting. The whole thing checks in at a tick more than 30,000 words; a nice size for an ebook.

Supposedly my writing software, Scrivener, does all my formatting. Maybe, but I haven’t learned how to do that yet and am never patient enough to read all the instructions before starting. Anyway, I’m using LibreOffice for the final draft.

Onward …

# # #