In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 4 topics from what I’m doing to index all of the knowledge in a niche I’m interested in to how I managed to write and edit a 27,000-word ebook in less than a week.
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DPP018: Indexing All Knowledge in Your Niche, How I Wrote 27,000 Words in 5 Days, and 2 More Ideas
Hey everyone, I’m Tristan Higbee, and this show is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, from blogging to ebooks to membership sites and more, plus things related to internet business and online marketing. At the end of the podcast I’ll mention my picks for this week’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. You can find a full transcript of each episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.
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Ok! I’ve got just 4 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.
1. Sorting all of the knowledge in your niche
In episode 15 of the DPP, I talked about selective automatic aggregation. I talked about Passportive, a travel-related site I’d created that automatically lists the most recent posts from about 50 of the top travel blogs. It was a great site for me because it meant that I didn’t have to subscribe to 50 different travel blogs. Whenever I wanted to read something about traveling, I’d go to the site and see what was new.
I liked it a lot and I got a lot of value from it, but then I realized that the site could be much more than just a list of recent articles.
I realized that there is a problem in the travel blogging world, and that’s that all of this information about different countries and places is spread out over so many different blogs. If I want to find what travel bloggers have written about Cambodia, there’s no one easy way to do it. I have to go from blog to blog and search individually.
That’s when I realized that I needed to step it up a notch. I’ve decided to use the name Passportive for another project and turned what used to be Passportive into the Travel Knowledge Database.
So if you go to TravelKnowledgeDatabase.com, you’ll see that the site is divided up into 3 columns. In the left column is a list of every country in the world. In the middle column is the most recent blog posts that the site has linked to (which is what my old Passportive site used to show), and in the right-hand column is a list of the travel blogs the site is drawing from.
So here’s an overview of how it works. I’ve plugged in the RSS feeds of 50 of the top travel blogs into ifttt. I talked about that in episode 15 so I won’t go into much depth here. Every time a new item is detected in one of those RSS feeds—that is, whenever a new post is published to those blogs—a link to that blog post and the title of that blog post are saved as a draft at Travel Knowledge Database. Once or twice a day, I go in to the drafts folder and tag each post with at least one appropriate tag. So if the post is about the top 5 temples in Bangkok, I’ll add the tag “Thailand” to that post. I do this for each draft and then publish the draft once I’ve added the tags.
So the result is that I’m taking all of these travel blog posts from all of these blogs and making them searchable in one place. As someone who travels a lot, this kind of resource is extremely valuable to me, and I think it will be valuable for the whole travel blogging community and anyone who travels or reads travel blogs.
As of recording this, the site has indexed and sorted about 70 articles in the few days it’s been in existence. About 30 new articles being indexed every day, and that number will increase as I add more blogs that the site can draw from.
I’m talking about this not so much to get the word out about the site (that’s something I’ll proactively do once the site has indexed more articles), but because this is something that is desperately needed in every niche I can think of. If you’re listening to this, you probably have at least some degree of interest in Internet marketing. How great would it be to have a site like Travel Knowledge Database for the Internet marketing niche? You could sort the posts into different topics like Twitter, Facebook, AdSense, AdWords, Blogging, Membership Sites, WordPress, Tumblr. The list can go on and on. But how valuable of a resource would that be? It would be awesome!
This could be done for literally every niche out there.
Maybe you’re wondering how a site like this can make money. I can’t speak for every niche out there, but I can talk about my plans for Travel Knowledge Database. First, I’m going to create lists of books and movies about each individual country. These will be Amazon affiliate links, so I’ll make money whenever someone clicks through and buys something from Amazon. Second, I’m in the process of writing several travel-related Kindle books (which I’ll talk about in a minute here), and I’ll advertise these on the site. And third, once the site gets traffic, I’ll eventually be able to get advertisers to sponsor certain pages. Like if you’re a safari tour operator in Kenya, you could advertise on the Kenya pages.
I think that just about covers what I wanted to say about this. I think it’s pretty darn clever, if I do say so myself. But more than that, I think it will eventually be seen as one of the more valuable travel-related sites online. That’s the goal, anyway, and I think that the model can be applied to other niches, too.
2. Writing a blog post quickly
Someone asked me last week how to write blog posts faster. He said that he had ideas for posts, but it took him a long time to write them. He said, “I’ve heard people bullet list everything and then work off of that but I’m not sure about that.” And this is what I said in reply.
I guess I fall into that bullet list camp, but for something shorter like a blog post, my bullet list is mental. When I have an idea for a blog post, I usually write the title of it first. I think that the more specific a title is, the easier it will be to write the blog post because you know what you have to write about in that post. If I had an idea to write about diving spots in the Caribbean, I’d title the post something like “6 Amazing Budget Diving Destinations in the Caribbean.” With that, you know exactly what you need to write: an introductory paragraph, a paragraph about each of the six places, and maybe a couple lines to wrap up at the end. There’s really nothing else to think about. Just start writing.
It’s really hard for me to explain how the writing part works for me because writing comes very naturally to me, unlike speaking. I’m not great at conveying information verbally, but I’m great at doing it in writing. But I think that bullet points are a great way to go if you’re stuck. Take your blog post idea and write it at the top of a blank document. Tweak the idea and turn it into a headline that someone would want to click on and read (and you do that by teasing information you have that a potential reader needs or wants to know).
Then make a bullet point list of the 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 or however many things you want to talk about in the article. Then write a handful of sentences that expound on each one of those bullet points.
In the case of the 6 amazing budget dive sites in the Caribbean article, I’d start out by writing an intro like this:
Scuba diving pioneer Jacque Cousteau named the diving in the Caribbean the best in the world, and celebrities from Richard Branson to Lenny Kravitz have purchased island getaways in order to be closer to what these amazing waters have to offer. You don’t have to be a billionaire or platinum-certified recording artist to enjoy the Caribbean’s warm waters and abundant sea life, however. Here are 6 amazing diving destinations in the Caribbean that won’t break the bank.
(And by the way, I just made that stuff up. I don’t know if the Caribbean was Jacque Cousteau’s favorite dive site.)
So in the intro, you want to say in a few sentences why people should care about what you’re going to write about. In this case, you want them to realize that they don’t have to be rich to go to the Caribbean, and you want to do it in an interesting way. That’s why I brought in Richard Branson and Lenny Kravitz.
Then I’d write the content for each of those 6 points. Even just 100 words about each point will make for a hefty blog post.
Then I’d write a closing. I’d say something like
So the next time you crave a taste of life under the sea but don’t want to take out a second mortgage on your house, remember these affordable, world-class diving destinations.
It’s a forumla, really. Write the title. Write the intro. Write the main points. Expound on each point. Write the conclusion. Bam, you’re done. And you can, of course, switch these around if you want.
Even if your blog post isn’t a numbered list, outlining will help. Just make a list of each point you want to cover and then expound on each one.
All of this comes with practice. The more you write, the easier it will be to get the thoughts out of your head and into a computer.
3. How I wrote a 27,000-word ebook in 5 days
Let’s stick with the subject of writing for a bit longer. I wrote and then edited 27,000 words last week. That actually doesn’t include emails or blog posts or the transcript of last week’s episode of this podcast; those 27,000 words are an ebook I wrote. The writing took 4 or 5 days (I can’t remember since it’s all kind of a blur) and the editing took a day. The ebook is about travel (travel tips, to be more exact), and it should be live in the Kindle store next week, after I edit it again, create the cover, format it, write the sales copy, and record an audio version (and yes, I think I’ll be including an MP3 version of the book for free to those who buy the Kindle version, and that’s something I’ll probably talk about more next week too).
It’s been a while since I’ve just sat down and pounded out an ebook like that. I could tell that I was rusty, but on the third day I wrote 6,541 words, which I’m pretty sure is a personal best for me.
The biggest reason I was able to write this much is that I had an outline already made. It’s just like with the blog post—having an outline or just points you want to talk about makes everything go so much faster. The book I wrote contains 101 travel tips, and I had beforehand made a complete list of more than 101 things I wanted to include as tips. I didn’t have to any brainstorming or hard thinking when I sat down to write. I just wrote about each tip until I didn’t have anything else to say about it and then moved on to the next one.
I could have sworn that I’d mentioned Freedom in a previous episode of this podcast, but I just went back and couldn’t find it. But Freedom is a $10 program for both Macs and Windows PCs that lets you block all Internet access on your computer for a specified amount of time. You can buy it at MacFreedom.com. I usually set it to run for 60 minutes and then write like crazy for those 60 minutes. After my time is up, I spend 10 or 15 minutes checking Google Reader or email or Facebook, and then I set it for another 60 minutes and write again. If I need to look something up for my writing, I just look it up on my phone. I’m really bad at staying focused, but this app helps me a TON and is so worth the $10.
Apart from all of that, it was just a matter of sitting my butt down and writing. If your butt is in a chair for 5 or 6 hours, your internet is off, and you have an outline of what you want to write, you’re going to emerge with a whole lot of stuff written. It’s impossible not to.
It’s been my experience that you can charge $2.99 for a good, 10,000-word nonfiction Kindle book. 10,000 words is not difficult to write. If you’re in the flow of things and have a good outline, you could write that in two days. With a complete outline and a reason to do it fast, you could probably even do it in one day, though you’d be a vegetable by the end of it. And then spend a few more days editing, revising, making the cover, and doing all of that other stuff and you could easily complete an ebook, from start to finish, in a week. That was my plan for my travel tips book, but I had more to say than I thought I did, so it will take me two weeks to do it all. You could easily write one a week and have more than 50 Kindle books after a year, and it would be impossible to not make money from that many books. Just something to think about.
4. Crowdsourcing with a small crowd
I talked in episode 5 of the Digital Publishing Podcast about how Guy Kawasaki crowdsources the editing of his books. He sends book sections and outlines to his followers and they edit everything and give him feedback.
This is all well and good if you’re Guy Kawasaki and are in 4 million people’s circles on Google+, but what about the rest of us?
Well, the good news is that you don’t have to have much of a following at all. When I was creating a book cover for my 138 Best Chrome Extensions ebook, I posted a few different versions to Facebook and asked my friends to say which ones they liked best and why. I had probably 10 or 12 people chime in, and it was enough to show me that there was a clear preference.
I’ve done this for a book’s subtitle, too. I kept trying to figure out what the subtitle of my 101 Blogging Tips book should be, and had a couple ideas in mind. I posted the ideas to my blog, along with a survey that people could fill out. I asked people which of the two options they liked best and gave them an option to write something else in. I found out that no one liked either of the two subtitles, so I came up with a different one.
Even if you only have 40 blog subscribers, 75 Twitter followers, and a couple hundred Facebook friends, you’ll still be able to get some opinions on what you’re doing, so definitely take advantage of that.
Featured podcast and tool
And now it’s time for this episode’s featured podcast and featured tool for digital publishers. My pick for featured podcast is The Truth [link]. The tagline for The Truth is “Movies for your ears.” Each episode is a fictionalized short story acted out by professionals. A new episode comes out once or twice a month, and they cover a nice variety of genres.
My pick for this week’s tool for digital publishers is called Audacity. There’s a good chance you’ve heard of it before. It’s a free audio recording program for Macs and PCs. I use Audacity to record this podcast every week. I have Garage Band on my computer, too, but I really like the simplicity of Audacity. It works really well for me. If you’ve never used it before and want to learn how, there are a ton of video tutorials on YouTube that you can check out. If you want to download it, go to audacity.sourceforge.net, or just Google it and it’s the first result that comes up.
And that’ll do it for episode 18 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for show notes and links and transcriptions. You can also sign up there for a weekly newsletter where I send out a roundup of the best digital publishing-related articles that I’ve read over the previous week. Usually it’s about 4 or 5 articles—nothing too crazy or overwhelming.
Please don’t hesitate to email me any question you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. And again and as always, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed this podcast, and thanks for listening.