Tips for publishers as coronavirus hammers bookstores, libraries, and Amazon

It’s too early to tell the health impact of coronavirus/COVID-19, but the economic impact has already devastated countless small businesses and the people they employ. The book industry, already in decline, as been hammered by the closure of bookstores (including the venerable Powell’s in Portland) and libraries, as well as Amazon’s announcement to restrict shipments of non-essential items. The pain will get worse as layoffs spread throughout the economy and a recession takes hold. I own and operate a small publishing business, and here’s some advice I have for my fellow indie publishers.

Health and safety

One of the first things business owners need to do is make sure their own workers are safe, as well as the suppliers and contractors they interact with.

Review working arrangements and protocols to make sure that potential points of contact are reduced to reduce the chance of coronavirus infection and shipments can be safely handled. For instance, normally I deal face-to-face with one of my suppliers for payments and receiving shipments. Starting this week, we’ve switched to online payments and I have them leave boxes on the loading dock for me to pick up myself (see image, below). I use disinfectant to wipe down boxes and packages before bringing them inside.

loading dock books coronavirus

Also try to help with people’s emotional health. People are isolated and need more human contact, even if it’s just a voice on the phone. For colleagues and partners, give them a call instead of sending an email, text, or Slack message. Set up a pleasant home office — a small investment in a small desk, a comfortable office chair, an external monitor, and even a plant can make a difference.

Preparing for recession

PowerPoint Basics In 30 Minutes, second editionThe pandemic struck just as I was preparing to launch our latest book, the second edition of Angela Rose’s PowerPoint Basics In 30 Minutes. I normally have a press release, reviews, and a social media campaigns to accompany the launch, but for this book I didn’t bother. It’s hard to get excited about live presentation software when events have been cancelled and people are sheltering at home.

I’ve taken a number of steps in the past week to prepare for a prolonged recession. I started by reviewing last year’s P&L to get a better understanding of costs, expenses, and revenue this year. When I met with my accountant about a month ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought a 15% increase in revenue was likely. Now I am planning for at least a 30% decrease based on preliminary sales data from Amazon as well as news that libraries and bookstores are closing and won’t reopen for some time. I am assuming revenue related to events and consulting will drop by more than half in 2020.

There will need to be some cuts. Payroll is frozen for myself and my single employee, and I have told some of my suppliers that orders will be smaller or more spread out for the next 3-6 months. I have also taken steps to reduce advertising and promotional expenses. For instance, I went into Amazon Advertising and immediately cut the daily budgets and bid levels for several campaigns.

Advertising budgets during a coronavirus recession

However, I am not shutting down campaigns completely. There are still people out there searching for books, and advertising can help give my titles more visibility. Moreover, as other publishers including large New York publishing houses pull back their own marketing budgets, I predict bid levels on auction-based advertising platforms like Amazon Advertising, Google Ads, and Facebook Advertising will drop sharply. This will make certain types of campaigns more cost effective and better able to generate a return on investment.

There are other opportunities. I have several publishing brands, and one of them, IN 30 MINUTES guides, has lots of titles related to software, including Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes and cheat sheets for Microsoft Office. The crisis has made it clear that technology is needed more than ever to manage remote work, distance learning, and personal collaboration, and these guides and references help meet that need. I have launched several new online advertising campaigns targeting people who may find themselves working from home and need to quickly get up to speed with G Suite, Microsoft Office, and Dropbox.

Other people will be looking to escape the depressing news cycle about disease and layoffs. This could be an opportunity for fiction publishers.

These changes are not the final word on 2020 planning. But I hope these steps will help my business weather the storm over the next few months.

 

Updated my Excel Basics book for Excel 2019

Earlier this month I released a revised version of Excel Basics In 30 Minutes. This is the third edition of the book. The first, published in 2012 under a slightly different title, showed users how to use Excel 2010 (for PCs) and Excel for Mac (which was then a very different software product). The second edition, published in 2015, covered Excel 2013. A few years later, I updated the second edition for Excel 2016 as well as Excel Online and the mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Now it’s 2020. Besides refreshing the book for the latest desktop version of Excel (Excel 2019, part of the Office 365 suite), I also made a few other changes that were a bit more significant.

Streamlined Excel examples

I built the first edition around the story of three colleagues in a sales department, and how Excel could be used to track their sales and earnings. Through these examples, I introduced basic Excel concepts, including:

  • Functions
  • Formulas
  • Formatting data
  • AutoFill
  • Charts
  • Filtering and sorting data
  • Static cell references

The problem: the chapter on projecting sales was simply too complicated, and describing how to hide and manipulate data for different people was distracting. In the new edition of my Excel book, I only project the earnings of one of the colleagues in that chapter and simplify the step-by-step instructions and screenshots:

Excel Basics in 30 Minutes sorting exampleExplaining the Excel mobile apps

Before starting the new edition of Excel Basics In 30 Minutes, I hoped to be able to expand the sections on the Excel mobile apps for iOS and Android.

I quickly discovered that the apps, while very full-featured, are really hard to use with a touch-screen interface. This is particularly true for phones, where a lot of taps are required just to change a single cell.

The reason, of course, is the fact that most Excel spreadsheets are complicated, with lots of cells and columns and buttons and commands. It was designed for the keyboard and mouse, often requires accessing files that aren’t stored or exported locally (such as .csv files and charts). Shoehorning the user interface and features into a touch-screen device is really hard to do.

Excel iOS autosum example

So, while the book does explain how to use certain Excel features on small-screen devices (the example above shows Excel AutoSum for iOS), for many of the examples I advise people to use the desktop versions of Excel 2019 for Windows and macOS.

Excel alternatives: Google Sheets and Excel Online

One very popular feature of Excel Basics In 30 Minutes since the first edition is the inclusion of instructions for Google Sheets, a free Excel alternative. Readers and reviewers constantly remark about how helpful it is to be able to use Sheets with the book, either because they can’t afford Excel or their office or school uses G Suite (the Google equivalent of Microsoft Office). I’ve updated the latest edition of the book for Google Sheets, which hasn’t changed much since the last book update.

Excel Online has changed quite a bit. In 2018, when the last update to the second edition of the book was published, Excel Online was pretty bare-boned — almost a grudging freebie made available to counter the threat of Google Sheets. As of 2020, the Excel Online interface has been really improved, and there are a bunch of new features that weren’t there before, including filtering.

If you’re interested in learning more about the third edition of the book, check out the official website, excel.in30minutes.com:

Excel Basics book website screenshot 02102020

A new Social Security guide gets an unexpected boost from YouTube

Last month, my company i30 Media released a two-volume guide to Social Security retirement and disability benefits: Social Security In 30 Minutes. This was a big project, but I was fortunate to work with a true pro, author Emily Pogue, who worked in human services for years and knew the ins and outs of various Social Security programs, including SSDI, SSI, and the gigantic retirement insurance system used by tens of millions of Americans.

Early reviews have been great. Here’s what Kirkus had to say about Volume 1 of the guide:

In this debut personal finance book, Pogue covers a wide range of topics, from who’s eligible to collect Social Security benefits to what useful information can be found on the Social Security Administration’s website—all in fewer than 100 pages, including a glossary.

The author walks readers through how Social Security benefits are calculated, the circumstances that can reduce them, and their long-term impact on total income. However, because many of these aspects are influenced by individual earnings and state regulations, the book offers explanations in general terms and encourages readers to consult experts regarding some of the more specific requirements.

Although the book’s primary target audience is readers planning for retirement, Pogue also explains how spouses and dependents may also qualify for benefits. Charts and examples make it relatively easy to understand how, for instance, one’s outside earnings affect benefit levels and tax rates, and readers will be able to easily use the provided calculation formulas.

The book also uses examples to encourage readers to make financially sound decisions, showing, for example, how collecting benefits as soon as one is eligible can substantially reduce one’s overall earnings.

The book is informative and easy to understand, which is no small achievement, given the many variables involved. There are several references to other books in the publisher’s series, such as the companion volume, which covers the disability portion of Social Security; there’s also an excerpt from a book by another author, Personal Finance for Beginners in 30 Minutes, Vol. 2. Despite these advertisements, however, the book is a solid account of how a complicated benefits system works, and it will be useful to readers looking for a concise introduction.

A Social Security explainer that packs a lot of information into a brief text.

NetGalley reviews were also very strong. I was particularly pleased to see this review of Vol. 1, which was also published on Goodreads:

I could not believe how much I learned. I have been reading the Social Security website and searching the web for info for almost a year straight and learned the answers to everything I was looking for and more in this short read. Thank you for making this book.

Another NetGalley review for Vol. 2:

In my work as co-director of an employability program for people with disabilities, one of the biggest concerns of those we support are questions around how working will impact their Social Security benefits. This short guide is informative, well written, and chock full of easy-to-understand details about the labyrinthine benefits world. I’ll be sharing much of this information with the families we support. A must-read for anyone who desires to know more about the process.

But some of the most interesting reaction to the guide has been on YouTube. When the books were launched, I created a few simple screencasts outlining some of the main points and posted them on the IN 30 MINUTES YouTube channel. Compare the number of views for the Social Security videos compared to the videos on other topics (i30 Media also publishes a book about Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel cheat sheets, a Twitter guide, etc.):

YouTube Social Security videos grid with numbersMore than 5,000 views in six days for Social Security: SSI and SSDI, side by side? It’s a seven-minute video outlining some of the points made in one of Emily’s charts in the Volume 2. It currently has 14 “likes” and 2 “dislikes.” By comparison, a new video about Twitter animated GIFs received just 12 views in the same time period, and no likes or dislikes.

The activity on the ongoing series of Social Security videos is not just helping to stroke my ego or fulfill my latent dream to become a YouTube influencer (with only 2,760 subscribers, the In 30 Minutes YouTube channel still has a long way to go). It has three direct benefits to my business:

  • Book awareness. About 10,000 people have become aware of the titles and the author via the short introduction at the beginning of each video.
  • Brand awareness. I mention that I am the publisher of the guides, which include more than 20 titles.
  • Sales. I have a very primitive tracking system which shows when visitors from YouTube go to the official book website for Social Security In 30 Minutes, and from there I can follow sales via my own website or Amazon.

Upon seeing the success of the first two or three videos, I set out to record some more videos on the topic. But I have to be careful that the channel doesn’t become all Social Security all the time. Many subscribers are there for other topics (mostly technology related) so it’s important to serve that audience, too.

 

A Gold Ben Franklin Award!

This was a surprise: One of the titles my company publishes, Acid Reflux & Heartburn In 30 Minutes, won a gold Ben Franklin award from the Independent Book Publishers Association for excellence in publishing.

The author is none other than my dad, who at 80 years of age still goes to work every day at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston to treat patients, teach students, and serve as mentor to younger doctors. This book was a way for his knowledge and expertise to reach a wider range of patients suffering from acid reflux, GERD, and heartburn.

Kirkus Reviews chose Acid Reflux & Heartburn In 30 Minutes to be featured in the June 2018 indies section of the journal, and had this to say about the book:

The author begins with patient cases that show the effects of either GERD or heartburn on four people of different genders and ages. Using these stories at the very beginning of the book enables readers to immediately identify with the patients and understand that these conditions are universal. Each case ends with helpful takeaways that extract key lessons.

Subsequent chapters explore the causes of heartburn and acid reflux, how these conditions are diagnosed (including lucid explanations of medical tests and procedures), typical treatments, and a final chapter on severe acid reflux.

“Basic treatment of acid reflux,” one of the most helpful chapters, discusses foods that can trigger GERD and heartburn. Also in this chapter is a thorough look at acid-blocking medications, differentiating between H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors. Here, Lamont indicates possible side effects and covers recent research that may indicate a relationship between taking acid blockers and contracting Alzheimer’s disease. “Coping with severe acid reflux” is an equally enlightening chapter because it candidly addresses medication versus surgery for more serious cases.

The author clearly describes various types of surgeries, including the recent LINX device, in simple language. He acknowledges that his intent is to provide general information rather than specific medical advice. 

Many thanks to the half-dozen publishing professionals who contributed to the success of the book, including TLC Book Design, Rick Soldin of Book-comp, Monica Hamilton, Kammy Wood, and ENMASSE. In previous years, other books in the series have won awards from IBPA and Foreword Reviews, but never the top honor, so I am very grateful for their expertise and insights.

 

Acid reflux and heartburn: Going beyond reflux diet books

An interesting thing happens if you go to Amazon and search for “acid reflux” in the books section. Twelve of the 13 titles on the first page of Amazon’s organic search results are about acid reflux diets. They include everything from Acid Reflux Diet and Cookbook For Dummies to Dropping Acid: The Reflux Diet Cookbook & Cure. The 13th title is not explicitly about acid reflux diets, but rather covers homeopathic treatments (“Natural Alternatives to Nexium, Maalox, Tagamet, Prilosec & Other Acid Blockers: What to Use to Relieve Acid Reflux, Heartburn, and Gastric Ailments“).

Amazingly, there are no books on that first page of search results that talk about modern medical treatments that tens or even hundreds of millions of people across the globe seek out every year. With the release of Acid Reflux & Heartburn In 30 Minutes: A guide to acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD for patients and families earlier this month, my publishing company hopes to change this state of affairs, by giving readers an authoritative yet easy-to-understand source of information about reflux, heartburn, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

The author is none other than my father, J. Thomas Lamont, M.D., a gastroenterologist and Harvard Medical School professor who wrote a similar book about Clostridium difficile (an infectuous disease commonly known as C. diff) five years ago. That book has since helped thousands of people, and currently has an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with dozens of reviews describing how the book helped inform and reassure (Examples: “It gave me a lot of information to better enable me to ask the right questions to my doctor” or “nice to find by an experienced MD amid all the gut health hype on the Internet”). Reflux is even more widespread than C. diff, and is another area that he specializes in.

After I noticed that most acid reflux books in the books marketplace deal with diets as opposed to causes and treatments, I agreed that an IN 30 MINUTES book about acid reflux made sense. He submitted a first draft last April, and less than one year later, Acid Reflux & Heartburn In 30 Minutes was ready.

Early reviews have been positive. One reader said:

I wish this had been published years ago. Dr. Lamont has done an outstanding job of refining the tedious medical terminology down to a layman’s level. This is one of the primary advantages of this publication – plain English discussions about GERD and heartburn (HB) in general.

One area that we really tried to get right were illustrations that show the stomach and esophagus, what happens when GERD strikes, and how certain treatments (including surgeries to treat severe reflux) can be applied. I worked closely with the author and an experienced graphic designer, who made some really helpful diagrams, such as this one, showing how reflux occurs:

How reflux occurs, excerpted from Acid Reflux & Heartburn In 30 Minutes. See also our acid reflux FAQ

One thing that’s important to stress: This acid reflux book is not a DIY medical guide. Certain tests and treatments require professional evaluation and medicines available only by prescription, so the information in the book is provided to help patients understand what their doctors are recommending and why.

To learn more about the book, check out the companion website, which also includes an acid reflux FAQ as well as a glossary of acid reflux terms.

 

 

 

 

Pros and cons of traditional book distributors

Getting books onto bookshelves with traditional book distributors

Amazon has been disrupting the book industry for more than two decades. Sometimes the public hears the complaints as disputes boil into the open, but much of the restructuring of the industry is taking place quietly, without much public angst. In the post, I will discuss one of the casualties of the new world order for publishing, book distributors.

Distributors are an unseen force in many industries. They are responsible for bringing products to retailers. In the grocery and liquor industries, distributors are the companies whose trucks pull up to the loading dock in the back early in the morning to drop off a wide variety of goods that shop managers have ordered. In the book industry, distributors are the companies that arrange for certain titles to be available in Barnes & Noble, airport bookstores, and independent bookstores. Other services are available, too – there’s a good overview from the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) titled “Working with Distributors.”

It’s important to note that distributors don’t represent everybody. They choose which producers they want to include in their catalogs, and take a cut from any sales that occur. They also demand exclusivity – if you sign a deal with a distributor, that’s the only outlet for your product in a particular geographic area. Obviously, if you have a distributor, you can get onto shelves in retail outlets, which increases your chance for retail sales. If you don’t have traditional distribution, you’re probably out of luck, unless you can work out a deal on your own with a shop or chain of stores.

In the book industry, distributors used to wield a great amount of power. Nearly every publisher had a book traditional distribution deal, or had a sales force to sell directly to the big book retailers. Amazon pulled the rug out from under that model, allowing publishers to offer books for sale directly to consumers. Retailers were hurt, and distributors were decimated. The book distributors who are left are now far more picky about the publishers they work with.

Do you need a distributor for your books?

At one time, I thought I needed a traditional book distribution deal for my company. This was not only to get access to new retail markets, it also seemed like a mark of industry respectability, which is important to growing companies. I did the dance with several distributors, but they didn’t work out. One bailed when it decided it didn’t like the way I managed ebook ISBNs. I pulled out of another offer when I realized the terms wouldn’t work out unless each title sold thousands of copies (many do, but some don’t). A third company completely ignored some of my requests for information, and just shoved a contract in front of my face to sign.

Ultimately, as I thought things through, it became clear to me that I didn’t need book distributors as much as I thought. It wasn’t just the cut they demanded, or the less-than-ideal business relationship. Other factors included:

  1. Once I went with a distributor, I would no longer consider readers to be my customers — it would be the distributor and their clients, the bookstore managers and buying teams.
  2. Distributors demanded a cut of ebook sales, even though they added no value to working with Amazon or other channels.
  3. There were also changes I would be forced to make to accommodate book distributors. My IBPA board colleague Leslie Browning outlines some of them here, including the necessity to have ARCs (advance review copies) ready at least six months before the publication date.

I don’t have a distributor now, and I don’t see it as holding back my business. In fact, I had the best year ever for my company last year, thanks to strong sales via Amazon and other online channels.

It would certainly be great to have my company’s books show up in big-box retailers or airport gift shops or B&N, but the sacrifices I would have to make dealing with book distributors — not to mention dealing with retailers returns — lessen the attraction of traditional book distribution.

 

 

 

 

A brief history of iPhone apps

iPhone appsIn prehistoric times, before Steve Jobs revealed the iPhone, primitive mobile phones and Palm Pilots ruled the earth. These devices came with simple games, utilities, and other small computer programs called applications (or “apps” for short). It was also possible to buy additional apps, which were usually sold by the wireless carrier or offered by the device manufacturer.

But after the iPhone was launched in 2007, followed by the iPod touch in 2008, the iPad in 2010, and the Apple Watch in 2015, Apple took apps to a whole new level. The company made it possible for independent computer programmers to create powerful apps for use with the touch screen interface and sell them for any price (or give them away for free). Consumers could quickly download the apps from Apple’s App Store.

The result was an explosion of apps. Besides the obvious (games, expense trackers, mobile newspapers, Facebook, etc.) a torrent of niche apps that anyone can download is available. They include:

  • Shopping apps for retail stores and e-commerce companies.
  • Social apps such as Facebook, and dating apps such as Tinder.
  • Games, from arcade classics to puzzle apps.
  • News apps that show articles and videos from local and international news organizations.
  • Banking apps that let users scan checks and make deposits, without ever visiting the bank or mailing a check to a processing office.
  • Streaming music and video.
  • Sports apps for professional teams and fantasy leagues.
  • Workout apps for custom routines and tracking.
  • Calculators, scanners, expense trackers, and other utilities.

There are now hundreds of thousands of apps that are actively maintained by the programmers or companies that created them.

Pre-installed Apple apps

A new iPhone comes with more than 20 preinstalled apps that were developed by Apple. They include:

  • App Store. Download paid and free apps.
  • Calculator. In landscape mode, it switches to a scientific calculator.
  • A simple calendar app that lets you set appointments and alerts. This can be synced with your Google, Yahoo, and Outlook calendars in the Settings app.
  • Camera. This app takes photos and videos, and allows simple editing of videos.
  • Clock.  This app shows the time zones of your choosing. Alarm and stopwatch functions can be activated in the app or via Siri.
  • Contacts. This app organizes your contacts, including phone numbers and email addresses. It can be synced with Microsoft Exchange/Outlook accounts and Gmail.
  • FaceTime. Live video chat with other iPhone/iPad/iPod touch users.
  • Health. The app gathers health-related data from the iPhone, connected apps, and connected devices including the Apple Watch and various third-party fitness trackers.
  • Mail. This powerful email program can handle personal and corporate email.
  • Apple’s Maps app looks great, and is integrated with Siri. An alternative is the Google Maps app.
  • Messages. A texting app that is integrated with your phone number and contact list.
  • News. This app lets you select favorite news sources and topics, which are then presented to you in a clean list of headlines and photos.
  • Notes. Take simple text notes with this app, using the virtual keyboard or Dictation.
  • Photos. View photographs, videos, and screen captures taken with your iPhone.
  • Safari, Apple’s mobile Web browser. An alternative is the Chrome app.
  • Settings. Manage hardware and software settings.
  • Apple Wallet. This app works with apps from airlines, hotels, retailers, and other companies to display and process coupons, boarding passes, and vouchers. Wallet is also used to change Apple Pay settings.
  • A no-frills Weather app that automatically shows the local weather if you are connected to a Wi-Fi or carrier network.

Superior alternatives to many of these apps (including Calculator and Weather) can be found in the Apple App Store.

(This post was excerpted from an IN 30 MINUTES guide that I wrote.)

Lean Media: Out next month!

Five years ago on this blog, I wrote a post titled A proposal for a Lean Media Framework: Input and iteration required. Having heard Eric Ries’ talk about Lean Startup, I wondered whether some of these ideas could be applied to media works, such as a film, video game, website, or music. Little did I know that this conceptual nugget would grow to something much larger. I wrote:

I believe there is an opportunity to build a new Lean framework that is specific to media ventures — a Lean “mod” for media, if you will. The goal of building a Lean Media Framework is to help startups and established companies build innovative products, platforms, and business models that have a higher chance of success and can contribute to new models of creation, distribution, and consumption.

I saw the opportunity, looked for examples from across the world of media, and listened to you, my audience. I then developed a framework, and tested it out on some of the media projects I am engaged in.

Lean Media frameworkBut it needed to be more than a series of blog posts. The result is Lean Media: How to focus creativity, streamline production, and create media that audiences love. The book comes out September 12, and I’m hoping that it can serve as a model for creators and media ventures which are interested in streamlining their operations and making media that truly resonates with audiences.

The book itself was developed using Lean Media principles. In addition to feedback to blog posts here and elsewhere, I had a test pod of readers who read the entire manuscript and offered generalized and specific feedback. I also sought feedback on the cover design from people on Facebook and the Kboards discussion forum — this input steered me away from what I personally thought was best, to concepts that had a broader appeal to people who create media.

The book has already received an endorsement from Automattic’s John Maeda, but over the coming months what I will really be looking for is reactions from readers — not only to validate the ideas and spread the word about Lean Media, but also to provide input to evolve the Lean Media framework further.

If you are a creator of media destined for public audiences, consider how the Lean Media framework might help. It’s easy to try on a couple of pilot projects (for instance, designing an album cover or for an online article) and then if it works, to scale it higher.

Thanks for your support!

 

Using paper forms for family genealogy

Last month, my company launched Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes: The quick guide to creating a family tree, building connections with relatives, and discovering the stories of your ancestors. Professional genealogist Shannon Combs-Bennett wrote the book, which explains basic concepts of interest to anyone researching family origins. As you might expect, the book has sections about family trees, interviewing tips, genetic genealogy, and different type of source records. As an amateur genealogist myself, I expected Shannon to delve into these issues when I read the manuscript. However, I did not expect the topic of using genealogy forms to track research to come up, except perhaps in passing. Instead, it took up the better part of Chapter 4, “Tracking and sharing your research.” Here is how she introduced the topic:

“Tracking includes everything from creating good source citations to outputting data to a chart or tree. Along with preserving research (which we will cover in Chapter 5), it’s one of my least favorite tasks. After the initial excitement of making easy discoveries, it’s so frustrating to deal with tracking and filing and storing all of the information and papers you have found.

On the other hand, charts and other summary documents are a great way to share findings to family members. When you bring a complete pedigree chart to a family reunion, it will attract attention and prompt lots of questions. Be sure to bring copies to give away!”

Part of the reason I was not expecting to see such a deep examination of tracking research using genealogy forms relates to the fact that I use genealogy software to track my own research. The software lets me generate family group sheets, pedigree charts, and other pre-filled forms from my computer.

Not everyone uses family tree software for research, though. They prefer paper, and use blank genealogy forms to enter names, dates, and other information. In addition, as Shannon noted in the book, computers have drawbacks, including the risk of a crash or some other disaster that wipes out the data. Paper genealogy forms provide some reassurance on this front. They also do not require a power outlet!

Shannon and I discussed providing some free resources on the companion website to Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes. Besides blog posts and tips, I have created a free genealogy forms starter kit that contains a free five-generation pedigree chart:

The pedigree chart contains fields for recording birth, death, and marriage information, and goes back to great-great-grandparents (all 16 of them!). Names are numbered for easy cross-referencing.

UPDATE July 2018: Since this post was written in October 2016, my company has created other genealogy forms, including a kit that brings genealogy for kids!

Strategies for frequent posting to business & tech blogs

Readers of the Ipso Facto blog may not be aware that my writing appears in many other blog locations. In addition to two active personal blogs (one of which has been running since 2004), my old Harvard Extension blog (2005-2008), various employer and school-related blogs from 2005-2012 (Computerworld, The Industry Standard, MIT, and my first startup), and a 2007 guest-blogging gig on a site dedicated to virtual worlds, I have been very active on my current company’s blog. But there is a lot more blogging activity on the individual product sites for books like Twitter In 30 Minutes and the recently released book about the iPhone 6 and 6S. It’s hard, but I have developed a strategy for frequent posting on the blogs. It helps give the books a higher online profile, and in the case of several of the books, the posts prompt feedback from readers which I can use for follow-up editions of the books.

Here is a sample of recent posts:

How is it possible for me to write so many blog posts? There are several answers. First, I am an extremely prolific writer. In 10 years I have written well over 1,000 blog posts across all blogs. More than 450 posts appear on my old Harvard blog alone, and a few others are above 200 posts. I am just one of those people who likes to write, and when I get the urge I have to sit down in front of my keyboard and get it out there, as I did yesterday morning on Ipso Facto with my blog post about the Fessenden School and St. George’s.

Second, for the book blogs, I have started to excerpt sections from the manuscripts. It’s a great way to showcase the quality of the books while getting some additional online attention. I am also using draft chapters from my forthcoming Lean Media book to get feedback which I can use to improve the manuscript.

Simpsons blog post example from Lean Media In 30 Minutes

I have also begun to leverage other types of content — chiefly videos — upon which to base blog posts. This is especially true of the books about browser-based software, which are easy to screencast. I have created scores of short YouTube videos on topics such as how to do something in Twitter or Excel or LinkedIn. It’s not hard to take the embed code from one of the videos, put it on the blog, write up a summary or additional instructions, and then post it.