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Does design matter in an ebook?

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Ebook DesignYesterday I announced the release of Blogging Tips 2nd ebook ‘Choosing A Web Host : Helping You Choose The Right Host For Your Blog‘. I thought I would share some of my thoughts on writing the book and give you a little inside look at one of the issues which was holding me back from releasing the book earlier.

Writing the book

I really enjoyed writing this latest ebook. The last ebook I released was the first one I had ever published so I had to spend a lot of time researching certain issues and familiarising myself with Word again (I hadn’t used it regularly for years).

Being more experienced with writing an ebook this time around, I was able to write it a little quicker and plan things out better. It also provided a welcome change from writing blog posts; normally I would have to try and condense a lot of information into the one article but with an ebook I can expand on the topic and make sure I cover everything.

I would like to say a huge thank you to regular Blogging Tips author Jonathan Bailey (Plagiarism Today) for proofreading this book. Not only did he pick up a few small errors, he also provided some much needed constructive criticism.

One of the issues that Jonathan brought up was the look and feel of the ebook. To put it simply, the ebook doesn’t live up to the nice clean look we have on the live blog. I wouldn’t say that the book format is lower in quality than many other ebooks available online, though I don’t think the design quality of the ebook does this site justice.

Look & feel of the ebook

I had thought about this a lot over the last few days (the book was actually finished last weekend). I believe that I could probably improve the formatting a little in the book and make it slightly more presentable but here’s the problem; I’m not a designer. It would literally take me hours to do something that a designer would do better in a few minutes.

I do normally outsource all of my design work though it is difficult to find a good ebook designer. Most of the ebook design services I have found focus on the ebook cover and not on the look and feel of the ebook content. I did come across one designer who specialises on ebook design though he charges a few thousand dollars. I could justify this cost to myself for a paid product but I don’t think that it would be worthwhile paying for something I am releasing for free.

I was in a state of limbo for a day or so thinking it over before I came to the conclusion that I need to just release it now and then, if necessary, retrospectively update all books at a later date. Not the ideal solution but considering the alternative, probably the most practical.

Between finishing the book and receiving feedback from Jonathan, I managed to write around 20 pages of my next free ebook (over the course of 2 days). However, when I was contemplating what to do with the design I couldn’t develop it any more. Well, I suppose I could have but I didn’t want to write it and then come back and have to reformat all the styles again.

Another concern was increasing the time it would take to release a book i.e. even if I did manage to find a good designer, it might have taken them up to a week to provide the finished article. Plus, if the design was unique to the book and could not be reused, I’d have to go through the whole process every time I release a book.

Does design matter in an ebook?

Over the last few days, I have been wondering about how much design matters with an ebook. I believe that a professional looking cover will help someone download or purchase an ebook, but what about the content? How much does the look and feel of the ebook content contribute to it’s success?

To get a better understanding of this, I checked the 40+ ebooks which I have saved on my computer (all web development related). A few of the books had top notch professional designs, which had obviously been worked on by a designer; the SitePoint books for example are very impressive.

However, the majority of the ebooks were of a similar standard to mine i.e. they did not have a lot of bells or whistles but the content could still be easily read. Many of these ebooks were released by top bloggers with tens of thousands of subscribers whilst some will set you back a few dollars, which doesn’t imply that a basic ebook design will hinder success too much. Though can I objectively compare my ebook to others?

I’d love to hear your opinion on this. I agree with Jonathan in that the design quality of the books I have released so far could be improved, though I’m interested in hearing how important bloggers think this aspect of the book is (particularly since I will be releasing more very soon). Perhaps we’re just being perfectionists 🙂

Some questions to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Is the size and type of font the most important factor in making an ebook readable?
  • Does a good ebook need image backgrounds, css style boxes etc?
  • Does a paid ebook need to be professional designed? Or would you be happy to purchase an ebook with a basic style if it had the content you desired?

Thanks for reading,
Kevin

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Kevin Muldoon is a professional blogger with a love of travel. He writes regularly about topics such as WordPress, Blogging, Productivity and Social Media on his personal blog and provides support to bloggers at Rise Forums. He can also be found on Twitter @KevinMuldoon and .

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3 Rewarding Benefits for Bloggers to Consider Joining An Honor Society

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Over approximately one million students are members of the National Honor Society (NHS). Many of which are likely bloggers, freelance writers, and/or have a passion for writing or pursuing their own path in life.

High school students with outstanding achievements are joining the organization every year. But you may not be familiar with the NHS and what it does, and also how it can benefit you as either a blogger, affiliate marketer, or an entrepreneur.

You may be asking, “should I join an honor society?” Is it really that important? Before you become an honor student yourself, you should weigh the benefits.

Here’s your guide to the benefits of the National Honor Society.

Should I Join an Honor Society?

In order to join the NHS, you’ll need to know what they do.

Established in 1921, the foundation recognizes students who have achieved excellence in several different ways. These include areas of service, leadership, character, and of course, scholarship.

Members need to meet certain criteria to join. Students who want to join should have at least a 3.0 on the GPA scale. They should also show great leadership and a commitment to volunteer work.

If you think you may be eligible, here are three rewarding reasons why you should join the NHS.

1. Making a Difference

One of the great aspects of the NHS is the opportunity to make a difference. Given the foundation’s emphasis on helping others, each student must meet a service hour requirement.

As a member, you’ll be a part of service projects whether individually or as a team.

This is not only an amazing way to get involved in your community but a way to meet new people. Volunteering opens up so many doors, personal and otherwise. It helps you find yourself and connect with people in the process.

The service you complete may also open other doors and interests for you along the way.

2. Building Your Resume

Every college and university knows what an NHS membership suggests about a student. This makes it a wonderful addition to your resume or college application. It makes you competitive and helps you stand out in a sea of students.

An NHS experience shows that you’re an outstanding citizen who’s engaged with the world. It shows that you have great academic standing and the potential to be a future leader. However, academics aren’t everything, and if you can compile all of your achievements and goals into an online resume website, you may win over some new audiences and personal opportunities as well.

Joining the NHS will help you turn your goals for the future into a reality and set your professional life into motion.

3. Developing Skills

To become an NHS student, you need to exhibit certain traits and character. But your experience as a member will also help you further develop your skills. The NHS is an excellent avenue for becoming even more well-rounded and capable.

The NHS helps students flex their skills as a leader and a part of a team. The volunteering component will help you develop great time management skills. It can also motivate you to maintain your good grades.

You’ll also learn a lot about networking and professionalism during the process. This will be indelibly valuable in the future.

Learn More

The answer to “should I join an honor society?” is a resounding yes. There are no downsides to becoming an honor student and so much to gain from the experience, and if you are thinking about launching a website or blog of your own, the experience and skills you will gain from such an environment and community will only help.

Not only does being in the NHS prepare you for what’s to come, but it’s also a nice way to celebrate what you’ve already worked so hard to accomplish.

To learn more about school and lifestyle tips, be sure to visit our blog.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Your Very First Blog Post

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The Dos and Donts of Writing Your Very First Blog Post

The Dos and Donts of Writing Your Very First Blog Post

Your very first blog post is a very big deal.

For businesses, it’s their way of attracting more clients by creating content that resonates with your target audience.

For hobbyists, it’s their chance to of sharing to the world your thoughts and ideas about their topics of choice.

Either way, nothing validates your online identity more than a well-written blog post.

Therefore, you need to make the most of this opportunity by writing the best possible blog post. Assuming that you don’t have much experience in writing, you can always keep things simple by following the basic do’s and don’ts of writing a blog post for the very first time.

Do: Come up with a topic that your audience would like

The success of bloggers stems from the ability to determine what their audience wants to read. To reach their primary goals, bloggers must appeal to the need of their target readers for useful and relevant information. Doing so allows them to attract lots of visitors with the content they publish, resulting in increased conversion rates.

Therefore, you need to approach blogging deliberately. You can’t just pull a topic out of thin air and expect your audience to come in droves. You must find out what makes your readers ticks and what their wants and needs are.

That means research, research, and more research!

First, you need to come up with a reader persona that you will target for your post and the succeeding ones. The persona you will develop will embody your demographic such as age, gender, hobbies, and others. Researching these factors will help you refine how you will write your post and what you will write about. From here, unearthing blog post ideas to write about will become much more convenient for you.

Don’t: Veer away from your branding and persona

Your brand is what defines you online. Your audience will associate all your online activity with the brand you’ve developed. Part of your brand is the persona you project from the blog posts you will write.

The best blogs exhibit unique voices that set them apart from the rest. The Onion is popular for its tongue-in-cheek humor veiled in satire. Lifehacker is famous for producing informative blog content geared towards readers who want to find ways to simplify their lives.

The brand and persona these sites exude help bloggers develop consistency in their writing. By observing their persona on all the posts they write at all times, they allow readers to create a level of expectation every time you publish a post. By meeting their expectations with every post you write, you can develop a sustainable stream of blog traffic over a period.

Therefore, it is crucial that you develop a writing voice that resonates with your readers and then sticking with it. You need to play your brand and persona across all your blog posts, starting with the very first post you’ll be writing.

Do: Edit before publishing

Before hitting the “Publish” button, you need to make sure that there are no grammar mistakes and errors in your writing. Your command of the language is crucial if you want to send the right message to your readers.

A post that’s filled with errors will cause readers to leave your blog and possibly not read another post from you. If you can’t write correctly, then why should your audience read your posts?

Double-checking your post and reading it again can do wonders for your edits. It’s best to take time between finishing the post and reading it for review. The time allows you to get your mind off from writing so you will have a fresh perspective on the post, which lets you spot errors easier.

If you’re not comfortable with your editing skills, then you could use tools like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor. Both will make recommendations on how to tighten your sentences and improve your blog post. Keep in mind, however, that these tools are meant to complement your editing process and not replace it entirely.

Don’t: Worry about word count

If you’re counting words when writing your post, then you’re blogging for the wrong reasons.

When writing, your focus should be communicating ideas as clearly as possible.

For SEO reasons, you want your post to be as long as possible. According to the latest studies, your post should be at least 1,890 words if you want to rank on top of Google Search.

However, if you can’t reach that many numbers of words, you don’t have to beat yourself up about it. Having lots of words doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a great post.

What’s more important is that you can share everything that your readers need to know about the topic. By focusing on the quality of the post and not the number of words, you can engage your audience and keep them longing for more.

Do: Promote your post

Promoting your post is not part of the writing process. However, part of your job as a full-fledged blogger is to be a marketer as well.

Sharing your first blog post is your step towards reaching out to your online audience. After all, your post won’t promote itself. You need to proactive share your blog post to the right channels, so you show it to as many people interested in your topic as possible.

One of the best ways to promote your post online is to hop on Facebook and Twitter.

“If you have created high-quality content on your blog then social media is a great way to your blog to go viral.” said Scott Chow of The Blog Starter.

You can also submit your post on platforms that allow you to reach out to your audience more effectively. I have detailed the best sites where you can send your post for promotion in this article.

Don’t: Set unrealistic goals

Starting at the bottom and working your way up to where thousands of blogs are also vying for the attention of your readers will be a tumultuous journey. Therefore, you have to curb your expectations as a blogger. It is ideal to set the bar with attainable goals in mind instead of aiming for the moon.

Don’t get me wrong – reaching thousands of visitors for your blog post in a day is not impossible. However, like catching lightning in a jar, it’s more improbable than anything else. In fact, this problem is what plagues most bloggers. They set high goals that are difficult to achieve. As a result, they get discouraged once they realize that they can’t fulfill them and stop blogging altogether.

Therefore, it’s always better to follow a tried-and-true template that you can sustain for a long period. You don’t want to be one of those flash-in-the-pan bloggers who fizzle out as fast as they started.

Did I miss any other tips for first-time bloggers in preparation for their very first post? Chime in with your advice by commenting below!

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4 Tips for Effectively Training New Hires and Freelance Writers

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You’ve been interviewing prospective job candidates for weeks. Whether this has been for adding talent to your existing company, or if you’ve been looking for some qualified blog writers, the process is quite overwhelming, yet one that needs to take place. You’ve narrowed down the field, compared resumes and extended an offer. Soon, you’ll have a bright-eyed new employee walking through your door, eager to get started. Are you prepared for the onboarding process?

Handing each new employee, a packet to read at their desk doesn’t cut it these days. In order to help new hires hit the ground running with their duties and acclimate to your work environment, you’ll need to utilize more dynamic methods for effectively training new hires. Here are four tips to help you get started.

Prioritize Need-to-Know Material

Training includes a veritable avalanche of information—like a general company overview, employer-specific policies, human resources information and specific job duties. It’s your job to equip your team members with everything they need to thrive. So, where do you start? This is also usually simple enough when looking to hire freelance writers or new blog team members, as there are many online job boards that allow you to fill in the needs and requirements you are looking for, while also having the ability to weed out any leads that don’t fit.

Create an outline that breaks down different training sessions into manageable chunks. This way, you’ll provide some foresight to the new hires and keep them from getting overwhelmed. For example, on their first day, you could start with job-specific information: frequently used programs and files, chain of command within their team and department and the location of hotspots like bathrooms, break rooms, conference rooms, HR, etc. The next day, the new hire can easily see that they’ll be learning about a broad company and departmental overview, project management and communication best practices within the office. After that, they’ll tackle short- and long-term goals and KPIs that show they’re doing well in their new job.

Take it one day at a time, based on order of importance.

Make It Interactive and Engaging

Passive presentations make it all too easy for new hires to forget material almost as soon as they learn it. Remember, they’re encountering new information left and right. To make it stick, you’ll have to make it extra engaging. Delivering an interactive presentation with crowdsourcing tools like Poll Everywhere will wake them up, collect their honest thoughts and make them feel like part of the team right off the bat. Instead of listening to a one-way stream of information, new hires can grab their mobile devices and get involved.

Create a Longer-Term Plan

Whew, you survived the first day of training. Your newest batch of hires are basically onboard, right? Not so fast. You need a long-term plan to ensure a smooth process over time. One HR manager uses an onboarding checklist complete with agendas for the first week and first month—including future training sessions, group lunches and manager check-ins. This way, the employee knows that they’re not suddenly on their own after the first round of introductions; they have resources, a plan and scheduled times to ask questions and provide feedback.

Assign a Concrete Task

Training often feels theoretical for new hires; they’re left wondering “but how does this connect to my job?” One way to drive the points made in training home is to assign a relevant task after a learning session. It should relate to their daily duties and allow them to learn (and make mistakes) as they go. They will be able to put the principles they learned in general training into actual use on an actual assignment! At the end, a manager can go over the results with them in a helpful way, pointing out things they did well and how they can improve in the future.

These four tips for effectively training new hires should help you with the onboarding process, but be sure to experiment and come up with a system that works for your company. After all, onboarding is the first impression new employees get and it factors heavily into company culture. If you want to build a success blog, brand or business on the internet today, you need to make sure you are building a quality and talented team around you.

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