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  • Branding: Know Thy Audience

    Posted on September 18th, 2012 jean 15 comments
    Gender Nonspecific Deodorant

    Tell me in the comment section–is this for men or women?


    The other day I bought men’s deodorant for myself. I’ve done it before. The difference was that this time it was accidental.

    You see, as a teen nobody took me to the deodorant section and said, “Jean, this is what the girls wear. And this is what the boys wear.” I guess that’s why all the guys said I had my own unique smell. It was a mix of female pheromones and men’s deodorant.

    The Part About the Shaggy Dog

    The other day, right at the line between men’s and women’s deodorant was a pink pitstick. Pink means girls. Even I know that. Price was right so I grabbed it. At the time (in my haste to get out of the store) I thought, it’s a bit wider than a girl’s stick, but whatever. This is going to be convenient as some of those tiny girl sticks are ridiculous.

    The next day I put it on.

    Sniff, sniff.

    Wait a second….

    I smell like my husband.

    Looked at the pitstick. It doesn’t say “men’s” on it anywhere.


    Looked at all the labels of the variety of pitsticks sitting in the bathroom. Nope, they don’t distinguish gender either.

    But this is PINK.


    Did I stumble upon a gender neutral pitstick for the gender confused/neutral/ambivalent? For folks who are bi? Is this pitstick the choice of lesbians and gays? Was I unknowingly making a statement about my sexuality?

    I don’t know. And I probably never will but I have a pitstick I will never wear. (Again.)

    My husband smelled the stick and said, yeah, it smells like something he’d buy. He looked at the label and said, “I wouldn’t buy pink pitstick. Are you sure it’s for guys?”

    Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.

    Branding: Know Your Audience!

    This Speed Stick says, “New Look” on it. Maybe Mennen knows their audience and this is a product for a niche. But maybe, just maybe they really messed up on the packaging on this one.

    Which brings it around to us–writers.

    It doesn’t matter if you think pink is pretty. If it isn’t going to help your audience identify with the right product for them you’ve FAILED. For example, a pink cover isn’t going to sell your action thriller. A heavy, black cover isn’t going to sell your chick lit.

    Same goes for your websites. A light and airy website evokes a light read. Dark colours evokes a more somber and serious feel.

    A goofy headshot implies that there will be interesting quirks and goofiness in the book.

    The list goes on.

    So if the only thing you learn today about me and my men’s deodorant (other than to THINK before you buy), I hope it is this: you  always need to keep your audience in mind any time you work with your product whether it is at the drafting out your plot stage or slapping a cover on your about-to-be-published story or deciding what sites you should approach for interviews.

    Good luck! And may your pits smell gender appropriate. I’m rooting for you.

    Share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section. Or simply laugh your head off at me. Your pick.

    Share the laughs:

  • Words That Increase Email Open Rates

    Posted on June 21st, 2012 jean 2 comments


    Words have different connotations, different meanings, and can lead people to act… or not.

    You are probably wondering why I am blogging about email open rates today. There is a very good reason. More and more publishers are looking to see writers and authors (in the nonfiction world in particular) who are building an email contact list (their audience).

    If a newsletter isn’t your thing (a typical email list is used for sending out newsletters–which are really a sales tool that hides under the guise of being something helpful to the reader), how about an email list you can use to send out a simple email letting your fans know when your new book is out–or that you are holding a contest? Really, it’s another touch point with your audience.

    How Do You Create an Email List?

    You can do it passively or actively. Passively would be adding a simple widget on your blog or website where people enter their email address. The text on that widget might say something like: “Liked my book? Don’t miss the next one–get on my list!” Voila. You are providing a valuable service for your reader without doing a “hard sell.”

    Actively building your email list may include creating Google Ads or Facebook ads, mentioning your email list/newsletter at the bottom of each blog pots, having a sign up form in multiple places, having an opt in form on Facebook, asking people to sign up when you do a public speaking event, or Tweeting it (Mail Chimp can be set up to auto tweet about each “campaign” or newsletter you send to help with promo).

    It's All Kid's Play "like" Facebook ad

    My It’s All Kid’s Play ad that will be going out this weekend. Thanks for the coupon, Facebook. Let’s see if it works! (It’s not specifically for the newsletter, but it is for the Facebook page which will hopefully lead to new likes and also newsletter sign ups. 🙂 )

    Using the Right Words to Increase Your Email Open Rates

    As writers we need to harness the power of the right words in order to get the actions we hope for with these lists. Or for that mater, even for simply getting reviewers and bloggers to open our emails containing requests.

    Lately, I have been learning a lot about newsletters and building an email list as I have started a newsletter for It’s All Kid’s Play–the e-newsletter is a fresh, fun take on kid’s play and includes all sorts of easy ways to get your kids moving and playing for better health.

    But what words do  I use to ensure people open my newsletter and don’t hit “delete” before they open it?

    Screenshot of the It's All Kid's Play e-newsletter

    A screenshot of the first It’s All Kid’s Play e-newsletter. Click on the image to find out more.

    I did some research of course! I also took a fabulous, free Webinar through HubSpot (more info on the webinar at the end of this post).

    How to Get People to Open Your Emails

    While these tips were directed at marketing emails (newsletters, etc.) you can use these tips for ALL emails whether it includes emails to book bloggers, book reviewers, magazines, literary agents, or even your mother-in-law.

    People are more likely to open an email a subject line with:

    • No question marks

    My thoughts on this are: If you are asking a question in your subject line the reader answers it in their head and moves on. Why do they need to open your email? They already have the answer (even if it is incorrect).

    • Helpful words

    Words like “tips,” “improve,” “great,” “awesome,” “skills,” “e-newsletter,” “information,” and “watch” are all words people like. Why? They are helpful words. Most of us want awesome tips that will improve our skills and watch great videos in an enewsletter to gain more information. (I’m not saying to use all those words together like I did, but bonus marks if you can use two of them in a meaningful way.)

    • “Secrets”

    We all want secrets that will give us an inside edge. I watched one of business maven Marie Forleo’s videos the other day because of… secrets. I can’t recall what the “big” secret was now. I think it may have been something I already knew like ensuring your have “great content” but I felt special watching that video and waited. Where’s the secret, where’s the secret?

    • No #

    This isn’t Twitter. This is an email.

    • &

    The ampersand (& sign) gives people the impression that you are squeezing so much great content into your email that you have to use an ampersand. Crazy, but true. The open rate is higher using “&” instead of “and.” No, really!

    • No thank you

    This feels very unCanadian to me, but it’s true. You read “Thanks” or “Thank you” in the subject line and you’re more likely to think, yeah okay. A thank you for that. Move on. Don’t have time. I see that they thanked me. Feel good. Lovely. Delete. 🙂 And… done. People don’t have time it seems to wade through a “thank you” via email. If you want to thank them send them a card by mail. Or better yet, offer them “Secret tips to email marketing.”

    Best Words for Newsletter Subject Line for Best Open Rate

    From HubSpot’s Webinar.

    Bonus Secret Content & Tips:

    (See how I did that? There, in the heading above.)

    People want:

    • Images. Lots of ’em.
    • HTML format for their emails.
    • On the weekend! Never send your newsletter on a Tuesday unless you run some sort of Tuesday club special and sending on another day just doesn’t make sense.
    • 43% of people subscribe to a newsletter because they believe they will be getting a special deal or some sort of exclusive insider goodies.


    Those are a few of the tips I found during the webinar by Dan Zarrella, social media scientist. You can ewatch the recording and view the slides here.

    How about you? Do you have a newsletter or email list? Share your insights as well as your sign up links below!

    (You can sign up for my It’s All Kid’s Play newsletter here. It’s great for parents and child caregivers and has tons of great content, tips, secrets, and of course, tons of free play.)


  • Public Speaking Writers: Do Not Be Afraid

    Posted on June 11th, 2012 jean 4 comments

    I like to talk. Sometimes I can be shy or quiet. But if I’m feeling confident and we’re on a top I am passionate about, well look out because I turn into that slightly precocious 6-year-old who simply won’t shut up and has something to share about everything. Yeah, I’m her. Sorry.

    Therefore, I am a great public speaker. Great in that I love to talk and I’m not afraid to get up in front of folks and chat for 90 minutes.

    That’s not to say that I am necessarily a GOOD public speaker or that my voice does not quaver and waver when I begin.

    I’m human.

    And a writer. A public speaking writer. And if I may be as bold to say that public speaking writers have a leg up on those who do not.

    Wait, wait, wait, you say. What? I have to go out there an talk to people?

    No, you don’t have to, but it’s not a bad idea. I solemnly promise you won’t die. And you can start small–even talking to a bookclub (even if by Skype) is public speaking in my books.

    Public speaking writers: Writers who seek the public speaking advantage sell more.

    See? Look at those happy faces. Public Speaking can't be that bad!

    How Public Speaking Writers Have an Advantage Over Those Who Stay Home

    • We get to meet our audience (assuming we are actually speaking to our audience, of course).
    • We get to see and hear their reactions to our ideas, thoughts, work, and beliefs.
    • We get to find out what our audiences already know.
    • We get to find out what surprises them.
    • We get to find out what they don’t like. (Don’t be afraid! Think of it as research or a fact-finding mission. It’s better to find out now than three books down the road when your sales slump to nothing.)
    • Publishers like the idea of a writer who goes out in public and spreads the world of their book(s). And in the nonfiction world it is almost a necessity in some ways. Do you think Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup for the Soul) got 47 bestsellers by chance? Nope, he worked his butt off and part of that was showing up and talking to people. In public. In larger and larger groups.
    • Writers who get out in public sell more–that’s why publishers like to see nonfictioners out there before they consider offering a contract. Jack Canfield used to sell 2000 copies of his book when talking to a 1000 person audience. Would he have made those sales and expanded his audience if he’d been at home working on book 2? Nope. That’s part of the whole over-extended thing I was talking about last week. Once that ball is rolling, keep giving it shoves.
    • We get to connect with our audience in person which is much more striking and memorable than hiding behind our computer monitor.
    • We get a chance to do a face-to-face sell. I don’t care if you are not yet published and don’t have a stack of books to sell on the spot. You have something to sell. Something very important: yourself. You are a brand. You are acquainting them with your brand so later down the road they are like, “Oh, yes. I met this person. Cool!” And buy your book. You get rich and go and eat layered cakes and caviar on the beach somewhere.

      If you don’t have a book, here’s what you need to do: Find a valuableway to connect with these people away from the speaking event. Don’t let them just leave. Close the deal. You might share a printed out newsletter that has your contact information on it. You might ask them to sign up for your newsletter or to get on your mailing list before they leave. (This is important: Give them a reason to do this. Make it about them and helping them. I.e. Sign up for my newsletter to find out more about what I talked about today–or whatever works for your set up.) You also might ask them to continue the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. (Make sure you provide some talk-related conversation starters on your networks that day and for the next few following days so if they do decide to connect with you, there is something to draw them in.)

      By making a network now, when you have a book to sell, you already have audience members primed and ready. It’s like a head start out of the gate.
    • You get your feet wet in talking with your audience and preparing for your talks when the stakes are lower. A week and a half ago I chatted with a moms group about play as part of my It’s All Kid’s Play (.ca) nonfiction platform. I learned a lot of things in that talk. Not just about my audience, but about what I can improve upon in future talks (Big ones: Don’t try to download everything you know on the topic and ask more thought-provoking questions). When I have a book to sell, I want to rock it every time–especially when the audience is larger and I want to make the best impression possible.

    So how about you? Have you done any public speaking as a writer or do you know any public speaking writers? What do you think? Any advice? Tips? Insights?

  • 14 Ways to Ask for a Favour

    Posted on June 8th, 2012 jean 14 comments

    Have you ever been asked a favour by another writer? Chances are (if you are online), you have. It might have been critiquing a query or chapter, or helping them with heir marketing and publicity. Lately it seems that writers and authors are flooding social media with lots of favour requests that are unintentionally turning folks off.

    I’m sure I’ve done it… how about you?

    There is an art in “the ask” and many of us get it wrong. Dreadfully, horribly wrong.

    But we can fix it! We writers are awesome at getting into the heads of others, being creative, and being general, all ’round nice people.

    Two key things to keep in mind so you don’t abuse other writers. First of all, writers are busy people. Heck, all people are. But writers usually have a lot going on all the time–especially when we are trying to get our career off the ground, or heck, even pushed away from the terminal! Second, we are a very generous sort and love to help out other writers because one day (hopefully soon) we will be in their shoes looking for some friend lovin’ as well. It’s super easy to abuse that unintentionally. (We say yes because we fear we may never be given an opportunity again if we don’t.

    A Good Ask

    I love this ask that I got via a direct message on Twitter from the lovely and talented author Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs). After a few tweets and mutual follow on Twitter she said in a DM: “Please like my FB author page if you have an extra minute. And let me know if I can like yours!….” That is a good ask. I believe I liked her page. I did not ask her to like my pages back even though they are in need of some “like” love. Why? I believed that it wouldn’t fit her brand and it didn’t feel right. But liking her did.

    By the way, I get a lot of DM’s asking for FB likes and her’s is the first that has received action. And, at first glance I thought her DM was unlike the others because it felt as though it was meant just for me. Later I realized that it could have been an autosend. But it didn’t feel like it. It felt personal.

    KaBOOM!, a playground action group, contacted me via my It’s All Kid’s Play (.ca) website as we had done some tweeting back and forth. They contacted me to ask if I could help spread the word about an upcoming summer challenge. They provided all the information I needed about their challenge as well as a fantastically easy to follow through upon ask that included this tidbit I could copy and paste into Twitter: “My friends at @Kaboom want you to take their #playgroundchallenge! Visit playgrounds for a chance to win a trip to DC.”

    Which I did. I also gave it a personal spin and off it went. Easy. Even though I believe 100% in their challenge, I may not have sent off this tweet if they hadn’t have made it so easy for me to do so. (In the end I also ended up being a beta tester for their Android app (it maps Playgrounds–is awesome and is available on the iPhone already) and next week will be posting an interview with them about their challenge on my It’s All Kid’s Play blog. Wow. They got a lot from a simple, well-done email, didn’t they?

    So, how do we get favours granted?

    Granting Favours: Hair Colouring Shouldn't be the only thing Nice 'n' Easy.

    Ask for a Favour? 14 Tips That Lead to a “Yes”:

    1. Be clear.
      What do you want me to do? Is it to buy your book? Share your coupon? Like your page? Follow you?
    2. Be specific and to the point.
      I don’t need the story of your life. Remember: You are taking up someone’s precious time.
    3. Why should I?
      What’s in it for me? Why should I help? If you make your ask about the giver, they are more likely to help out. Think of it this way. I tell you to buy my book because it is a bestseller and everyone thinks it’s funny. Uh, great? But what if I told you that this book will change the way you think about your neighbourhood, the way kids play, and give you more time to spend playing with your kids. Hmmm. Suddenly that feels a little more personal and intriguing. There might be some personal value in this.
    4. Be careful what you offer in return.
      Sometimes favour askers are so desperate that they offer something that is ridiculous. They can’t possibly follow through on their offer. Or, it wouldn’t fit. For example, I might be keen to like your page from my personal Facebook account but might not feel keen about having your horror blog feature my blog about kids play. It just doesn’t fit.
    5. Make it Easy.
      Give me the direct link to the action you want me to take. Otherwise I am likely to give up. A 30 second copy and paste for you that leads to results… or five minutes of me searching and eventually giving up? (And frustrated with you! Never again–it’s too much work to help you!)
    6. Save Time.
      Not yours, the giver’s time. Provide everything you think I might need in your first contact (or follow up if necessary) in order to provide the favour. That way I can take action while the iron is hot and I am still motivated. Make me wait… and my motivation goes down.
    7. Be gracious and thankful.
      Understand that you are asking a favour. By being kind and polite you are more likely to will win me over and create a word of mouth friend.
    8. Don’t harp, pester, or go overboard.
      If you ask once, that’s fine. Don’t come back at me again. Some say to approach three times, but I think once is more than enough if you do it right. Or even if you don’t.
    9. Don’t try black hat tactics.
      There’s a spammer that emails me from time to time and it looks legit from the outside. But it’s not. They even make it look like they are replying to an inquiry from me. Sorry, but I think I would recall asking you for product info. Especially since I have no idea what you are selling. Now I’m just mad. I want revenge for you trying to trick me. If I were a hacker, I would probably try to take down your site for kicks. But I’m not. Someone else might be though.
    10. Don’t give false compliments.
      Compliments are becoming disingenuous all over the online world these days. For example, check out this blog comment spam: “Wow, I’m really delighted that I landed on this page, great info here! Better than [provided a link which looked like it went to FB–I didn’t check it out because I don’t like viruses, spam, trickery, etc.]” Nice compliment though. And I’ve seen some of those get by the gates on some big social media sites. But eventually folks are going to wise up which means that you and I who are not spammers are going to need to be a lot more genuine and specific in our compliments. Another example, I got a vague compliment in my comments the other day and almost marked it as spam. But it wasn’t. Luckily I kept reading and realized it was legit before I clicked “mark as spam.”
    11. Is there another way?
      Before you ask for a like, tweet, comment, purchase, connection, or whatever, ask yourself if there is another way to attain your desired goal. Maybe you could gain likes by going ahead and liking others or commenting on their pages. (I got 3-4 likes this week by doing this. I’ve never tried asking for them though. That might be more effective–in the short haul.)
    12. Don’t wear us out.
      I was loving this one author’s newsletter… but then he released a new book, an ebook, some worksheets, and a challenge all within a month of each other. All of a sudden he was asking for too much. And yes, he only asked once for each thing with a reminder in a later newsletter… but it was like he was asking for something in every newsletter (because he was) and forgot to provide us with value that we could use without buying his products. Something he used to pride himself on doing. Sure, it was bad timing for him to suddenly have all these products in need of buyers… but there is a way around this if you take the time. Either way, I’m worn out from all his asks and am considering the “unsubscribe” button.
    13. Right person, right favour.
      Are you going to need a specific favour at a later date that only this person can provide? If so, maybe you shouldn’t ask them for a general favour–don’t use up your ask now; save it.
    14. Don’t disregard.
      This one might sound odd, but don’t ask someone to do something for you and then not show up for it. In other words, don’t ask someone to do something like critique your query and then immediately afterwards tell them that you changed your mind and are going to go with the first query. Or ask them to like your Facebook page and then close your account two hours later. Or have them put in the legwork for a blog feature and then not show up for it. Time wasters. Bridge burners. Bad.

    What do you think? What turns you off or onto a favour?

  • Writing into a Global Microbrand

    Posted on June 1st, 2012 jean 4 comments

    Right now I’m reading Hugh McLeod’s book, “Evil Plans: How to Have Fun on the Road to World Domination*.” (BTW, My husband saw the title and added it to his Amazon cart for me. That is true love, folks. And the power of a great title.) Anyway, I am intrigued by an idea. While this happens frequently for me, I think it may sum up this whole platform, branding, carved out niche, stand out business I’ve been yammering on about lately.

    What is this idea?

    “Global Microbrand.”Evil Plans Book Cover

    What is a Global Microbrand?

    Hugh MacLeod calls it: A small, tiny brand that “sells” all over the world.

    For example (his), an author who sells their work all over the world. Or… that amazing chocolate place that makes them the old-fashioned way over in BC… otherwise known as Roger’s Chocolates. People know about these chocolates all over the world.

    A global microbrand is easier these days he says due to blogs, social media, etc.


    Question is…

    So what are you good at? Who are you? What is your niche? Your wheelhouse? What are you awesome at? Are you the best model train engine rebuilder in the world? Do you write the western novels that always involve a great steam train and horse race to catch the bad guy? Hone in on what makes you, you.

    Next step–use it.

    This is Your Potential Global Microbrand

    This is your microbrand. Your microbrand is what makes you, you. And yeah, if you write romance there may be others who have that same microbrand in some ways. But how can you stand out? Are your romances always set on a space ship? Bingo! Microbrand alert!

    Me? In nonfiction, my microbrand is free play ideas for kids and families. Over at It’s All Kid’s, that is who I am. I try to have everything feed back into that. Because I am such a focused niche or microbrand, it is starting to pay off. I have chatted and been in contact with folks who are interested in that brand over in England, the US, as well as Australia. (I’m in Canada, by the way.) People are starting to know who I am across the world. My microbrand is going global.

    So, how about you? Before you trundle off for the weekend, ask yourself how you can focus in on your microbrand (it’s there–you just might have to dig a bit to get to it). Then, ask yourself–how can I make this a global microbrand?

    You can do it. I’ve done it in five months. And yeah, I have a HUGE way to go, but in less than half a year, with around 10-20 hours a month, I’ve managed to recreate this brand and get it going global. I’m not intending to sound boastful, because I know I still have a long way to go and there are still a ton of things I need to do, but with baby steps every week, they are starting to add up to something. If I can do this, I am positive you can too.

    What’s your microbrand? Have you gone global? How do you know if you have? If you need help, let me know in the comment section. I love working with other writers.


    *This link will take you to my thoughts about the book over on Goodreads.

    P.S. Want more? Check out my post on From the Write Angle today. 8 writers and I are sharing what we love about other writers. It’s warm, fuzzy, and inspiring!!

    P.P.S. I just discovered Publetariat today. Why? Because they are featuring a snippet of one of my posts on their blog. It looks like a great place to read writing articles. (They share a tidbit and direct you to the main blog to read the rest of the post.) An interesting idea.

    P.P.P.S. I blogged about my Favourite Childhood Memory as part of WOW!: Women on Writing’s mass blogging event on Wednesday over on It’s All Kid’s Play. I share what I learned from my junk fort and how a dead mouse saved the fort from some nasty, mean boys! Check it out.