Marketing in Technology Companies: Watch out for Rigidity

One of the smartest marketing people I ever met told us the essence of marketing one day at a meeting: “You try something. If it works, you do it again; if it doesn’t, you try something else.” At the time I was a writer at a small technology company where marketing executives lasted an average of six months (and it took up to two years of searching to hire another one). Why? Continue reading

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What Can Writers Learn from Cuckoo’s Calling?

I just finished reading Cuckoo’s Calling and thoroughly enjoyed it. For anyone who doesn’t know yet, this is the newest novel by J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame who had an unhappy experience with her first after-Potter novel A Casual Vacancy. She wrote Cuckoo’s Calling under a male pseudonym, and the book was essentially a failure until the true author was revealed. What I find depressing is that a fun, beautifully written “first” book, as good as the best-selling Gone Girl, cannot find an audience until something sensational happens.

Why Did I Not Hear about Cuckoo’s Calling?

I read the New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, and the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) every week. I belong to Good Reads. I read Mystery Scene. The Times Book Review has a regular “Mystery” column (granted, it is not very good) and the TLS occasionally reviews popular fiction (although not much recently, but certainly they could have made an exception for something this well written). Why did a book this good fall through the cracks? Does “word of mouth” only work for lurid books like Fifty Shades of Gray?

Why Do I Find This Situation Depressing?

What I find truly depressing about this situation is that if I or someone else wrote a “first” book as good as this one, it would not stand a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding. Of course, we could say that all this was a brilliant publishing strategy, but anyone who sees the dreadful American cover of the novel would wonder what kind of marketing amateurs run the publishing houses these days.

Thank God for E-Books!

When I finally heard about Cuckoo’s Calling, I bought the book immediately for my Nook. I bought it not because of J.K. Rowling (I have never read any Potter books nor Casual Vacancy), but because it got excellent reviews. I enjoyed the charming hero Cormoran Strike, who looks like Beethoven, and the wonderful cast of colorful characters who turn up during the investigation. I thought it was brilliant of JKR to make Strike an amputee since it not only allows her to make him sympathetic, but also lets her make him more cerebral like Sherlock Holmes. She also doesn’t have to have him run around like a conventional action hero (e.g., Lee Childs’ Jack Reacher). What JKR excels at is character and a brilliant use of detail. What a gift she has for setting a scene and creating believable characters that move a story along.

No, I am not going to read Harry Potter now or A Casual Vacancy, but I can’t wait for the next Strike novel.

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Three Warning Signs That Your Company May Be in Trouble

Years ago, I worked with a young writer who told me a chilling story. She had been blithely working for a private company and became pregnant, only to learn that the company had stopped paying health insurance premiums because of its poor cash flow. Needless to say, this was a personal financial disaster for herself and her family. Continue reading

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Three Types of Hell Telecommuting Helps Writers Avoid

A few months ago, Yahoo put an end to all telecommuting (at least temporarily) and set off a firestorm in the press. The New York Times published an article about working life at Google, which made me laugh since Google is about as far from the realities of the American workplace as you can get. Continue reading

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Four Top Ways for Writers to Stay Employed in Business

I had a very hard time finding my first job, and I swore afterwards that I would never let myself get into the same situation again. I am not talking about ambition here, but rather how to stay employed happily and be in a position to move if you choose to. Many writers simply want to write and not become company president. Continue reading

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Three Rules for Writing Q&A Style Interviews

Don’t think the writer/interviewer has less work in a Q&A style interview than in an interview that is written in the traditional, feature-style format. (See my previous post for a definition of these two styles and some examples.) Research, structure, and editing are just as critical as in the traditional style, even though a Q&A style interview seems faster and easier to write, and more fun to read because it inherently has more spontaneity and immediacy. See the three rules below for a dose of reality.  Continue reading

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Have Interview Styles Changed?

A few months ago, a client gave me a hard time because I wrote up an interview in one style, and she presumed I would write it in another. This started me thinking about how the style of written interviews seems to have changed, whether they appear online or in hard copy.  I personally resist reading traditional all-prose interviews and almost always opt for the Q&A style – where the interviewer is less dominant, but is equally important.  Continue reading

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Writers and Privacy: Knowing the Unknowable

Writers, like other artists, seek an audience, and sometimes the audience responds. A successful author gives interviews and biographies are written, but what in the end can we really know, even in the age of social media? I have had two run-ins with biography by accident, and they have only deepened the mystery for me. Continue reading

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Fear of Writing White Papers: Is It Justified?

In talking to technical writing friends and colleagues over the years, I was struck by an admission that always amazed me. I kept meeting competent tech writers who confided to me that they would never attempt to write a white paper. Why, I wondered, since they have probably been writing pieces that are very much like white papers their entire lives. Continue reading

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Detail and the Writer

While working for a client the other day, I was struck by how manipulating detail is often critical to writing (and client relations) success. A related question is whether the ability to deal with detail is innate or learned, and how a copywriter’s manipulation of detail often leads down the rabbit hole. Continue reading

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