Archive for April, 2005
My family and I will be moving to the east coast of Canada (specifically St. Stephen New Brunswick, which is about an hour west of Saint John). This was one of our hopeful destinations. We’ve been offered a summer apartment for cheap (400$/month for 2 bedrooms), so we decided to take it. If we like it, we’ll stay (barring some interesting opportunities coming up elsewhere).
We’ll be moving Monday / Tuesday, so I’ll be offline for a day or two during that period.
Wish us luck! :)
Just a note that my brand spanking new, gorgeous laptop that was donated by Jason is now dead. The water incident from this week hosed the hard drive to the point of complete data loss, fried the power supply and likely toasted the motherboard.
Estimated repair cost: 1000$. Estimated data recover cost: 600$. Estimated cost of clothing replacement due to profound weeping: 100$.
All in all, it means the laptop is effectively worthless to me, I think. Anyone want to buy it? It’s a great laptop. Just needs some TLC. I’ll get an official quote later next week on the repairs. Y’never know, it might just be the powersupply and the HDD.
Drop me a line if you’re interested in refurbishing this beast. Otherwise I’ll likely eBay it sometime in June. And then I’m computer-less. I have no idea how I’m going to work at this point, but something’ll work out. It always does.
I’m actually remarkably unstressed about all of this. I still don’t know what it all means, or how I’ll get any work done in the long term, but then I’ve been through worse in the last year and still landed on my feet. I’m open to ideas though. Always open to ideas ;-)
I’ll just post them verbatim, since they’re full of nuggets of wisdom:
Sam Horn, long time emcee of Maui Writers Conference
How to make titles, taglines pop Editors/agents always ask, “So what’s your book about?” Need to pitch project in concise way others can replicate, so people instantly get it and want it.
Not talking about elevator pitches…
If you want to name your business, your goal is to be one of a kind instead of many. Capitalize on a phrase everyone is familiar with, e.g. Got Milk = Got Yoga
Specific techniques people can use to come up with names, taglines, titles.
How to Valley Girl your product: “It’s a Chucky Cheese for adults.” What is it like? Who is a role model for your product? Who is a shining example of what your business is all about, what you want to achieve?
Write down five words you would use to describe your topic, business benefits, attributes of your book. Then take one word and work through alphabet. Dalai Lama = Dalai Mama. Two words that get an immediate favorable response.
“Dealing with Difficult People without Becoming One Yourself.” Cute title but still similar to many other titles. Our goal is to be one of a kind not many. Still too close to other titles. A man told her I’m tired of dealing with arrogant clients who think they can do anything they want to.” “I’m a student of martial arts, what your talking about is verbal kung fu.” She responded, “Yes it’s like Tongue Fu.” That’s the name of her new book.
Unique name can become an empire with products, books, videos, and so on: Tongue Sue = for lawyers, Young Fu = Kids.
Great ideas can come from anywhere, even people in the front row not getting what they want.
Think about your topic, business, product and what keeps your clients up at night?
Dialogue title - What is the challenge and concerns of the person who will use your book, product, service. Makes your offer useful.
What do clients say? “I don’t know what I want, but I know it’s this.” What will compel people to pull your book off a shelf?
“He’s just not that into you” catapulted the book into national conscientiousness. Dared to make a bold assertion that flew in the face of what people think.
Dan: How can we test ideas to know which one to run with? Sam: You can test market your title free, just give your title to people, and do the Jerry McGuire test, when Renee Zellwiger said after his long apology and plea, “You had me at hello.” Your listener either will have an oh response or OH? Apathy or intrigue. Looking for a visceral response: that sounds great (polite, confused, apathetic) or where can I get that? Or laughing out loud.
If your idea does not pass this test, how will people remember or find your book, business, or product?
Titles should be AIRtight: Alliteration Iambic pentameter “Jack and Jill went up the hill” beat, cadence, helps memory: “It’s hard to make a difference when you can’t find your keys” is has a beat and plays on the aspirational interests of people who try not to forget things. Rhyme helps memory, Read more, faster” with subtitle, “Increasing productivity online while saving paper and frustration and time.” Re-ordered subtitle to create rhyme and rhythm.
Most memorable titles and taglines are 7 words or less, Nike, Where’s the Beef? And so on.
Write down 5-10 words you use often to describe your business, book. Ways to play with them to coin new words/phrases.
For example, a book about how sugar influences moods. “Sugar Bitch” is a kick out title, 50% will not buy because they don’t care for that word. They wrote down all songs with “sugar” for example Sugar Shack. “Sugar Shock” is powerful, it mimics insulin shock, resonates.
Sam: book market is saturated, only celebrity names can cut through clutter. Titles that stand out are only way to even get a contract.
Half and Half Words. Draw a vertical line down the center, “my book or business is a little bit of this, a little of that” On one side write down the logical ways to describe your project (left brain), on other side but more emotional, creative, and aspirational (right brain). Take first half of word on one side and combine with one half of a word on the other side. “Chrismakkah” on OC show got lot of media play. “Diabesity” “Adultlescents”
Samhorn.com: articles about how to get writing to get that book out of their head.
Reverse cliches, proverbs with your key words. Reverse or replace words. “Puppy Power” is initial phrase (play on People Power). Chapter titles could be like “Dog Tired” about keeping dogs fit, etc. Table of Contents becomes a selling piece. Don’t just state the obvious in your TOC. “You can teach a new dog old tricks” was his subtitle.
“Life is a Cabernet” “I think therefore IBM” “Go ahead make my eBay” “Do you march the beat of a different Hummer?”
Dan: can you mix approaches in TOC? Valley Girl plus Reverse plus Half/Half? Sam: the death of any proposal is repetition, the reader starts skipping. Variety is critical. Mix it up so they never know what is next but they trust it’ll be good and useful.
Oh Say Can You See. Recent survey asked toddlers what sounds do barnyard animals make? They said ducks make the sound, “AFLAC.” The power of branding, a nonsensical word. They created an association. GEICO and the gecko, a visual icon. What’s the name of your business, book, presentation? If people cannot see it, they may not be able to relate to it. How will they feel warm and favorable towards your book or product?
For example, a super glue company asked what are attributes of our glue? They said it’s strong. What comes to mind when you say “strong”? Gorillas are strong. Gorilla Glue was the result. Created instant favorable connection.
Need a niche, something to make us unique. Sue Grafton and alphabet titles, she’s not just another mystery writer, she’s the lady whose book titles key off letters of the alphabet. People read for her lead character and to see what word she’ll do for her next book title.
Ask yourself, do we have a lead character? What is the incentive to come back to our website or next book? Where are we building in perpetual long term business into our books and businesses like a lead character in a set of mystery novels? Email newsletters and Articles are one way to keep people coming back.
Dan: When do you decide it’s worth fighting for a title your editor hates? Sam: Agent said for my first book don’t write in first person, don’t ask questions. I finished book and hated it: too anonymous, impersonal. Went back and wrote the book the way I wanted. Springsteen said “If you write for yourself, you’ll always have an audience.”
Quality is important, and is not enough. A great name that accurately describes your business only keeps us as one of many. The need is for a creative title that’ll help you break out of the pack. “TV is Good for your kids.” and subtitle “No it’s not.” Newsweek. Are you stating the obvious? Or the opposite? Where are you stating the assumptions are outdated or incorrect? Being contrarian is a good strategy.
Purposeful. Accurately reflect project in favorable terms for our audience. One of a kind. Pithy. Precise and concise.
Go to GoDaddy, Amazon, Google for name searches. Francine Ward (www.ncompliance.net) can do an official search. Many titles cannot be copyrighted if they have vernacular “What’s holding you back?”
How to carve out time? Find your third place. Home is first, office second. The third place is best place to brainstorm: Starbucks, library, hotel lobby. One hour a week in your third place at a set time, it is easier to focus and get things done. Pocket of privacy in midst of people. Time to immerse in brainstorming, writing. Time to work on business instead of in it.
Mac OS X Tiger is out. Normally I wouldn’t comment on this, as it doesn’t affect me. Walt Mossberg said this is the best OS ever, which rocks. I have a lot of respect for Walt.
However, reading the review of Tiger over at MacInTouch, I have a hard time understanding what’s so exciting.
Let me summarize the “key features” (according to the review):
Spotlight: Does less than every other desktop search tool out there, with less flexibility, less files, no email and it has crashed for a large number of users.
Dashboard: Some really nice widgets. But the widget toolbar’s useless. To quote:
Removing non-active Widgets breaks the “widget bar” at the bottom of the screen, causing the icons not to match the Widget they actually launch, or causes the entire Widget bar to be unclickable. Again, we’re not sure how this got through QA; these are bugs in basic functionality.
Similarly, Dashboard does not always notice if you add a new Widget to the Widgets folders, and new Widgets may not display in the “widget bar.” Double-clicking a widget in the Finder causes Dashboard to notice, displaying the Widget both in the “add widget” bar and creating an instance of the widget on screen.
Nice. I can’t imagine what folk would say if Microsoft released these “undocumented features” in Longhorn. Ah well, at least Apple gets some stuff right in this release. The flight tracker sounds cool, even though I’d rarely use it.
Safari RSS: Sure, it does RSS, but you can’t “subscribe” to feeds, you HAVE to bookmark the page. Wtf? Oh, and actually implementing parental controls breaks the RSS feature.
iChat AV 3: Requires dual processors. Yeah, and you thought Longhorn’s requirements were stiff…
Automator: I hadn’t heard of this. This sounds killer. Seriously. Apparently, some more QA issues here:
In practice, however, we also noticed that the Automator application can be slow, and it frequently went into “spinning rainbow” mode for brief periods. We found that some Actions, such as the “View Results” debugging Action, did not always appear in the Workflow, even though other Actions made space for it and renumbered themselves correctly.
Still, sounds kickass. Well done Apple.
QuickTime 7: Minor upgrade. A few nice features. It’s not like Quicktime had any issues in v6, so it’s not like Apple could have done a lot for v7. They kept it stable, which is great.
.Mac Sync / VoiceOver / Parental Controls: All solid, nice features, if you need them. No flash or anything here. They just work.
Apple Mail: It seems that Apple isn’t giving users as many choices as they’d like in terms of how to manage mail and such. It’d be interesting to see how the time and mail management courses I’m helping develop for Microsoft would play with this new mail client. Apparently the interface is confusing and such though, which sucks. Thankfully there are other, better, programs for mail available. This still isn’t a decent PIM though. It’s just wanky mail.
All in all, it seems like a decent upgrade. I will never get over that Mac users have to pay for what is effectively a service pack, but I guess it’s just a different mindset. Windows users pay through the nose for the new OS (if they don’t buy it with a PC), Mac users pay for it (through the nose) over time.
I’m concerned that the reviews I’m reading seem to be all “well, this sucks and this doesn’t work and this is badly designed and this blows… but it’s great anyways”. That really concerns me. As Apple goes more mainstream they need to be held to a higher standard. And, considering their hallmakr has always been how much stuff “just works”, you’d think their QA will be better. Like all major OS releases, expect at least 3 major rounds of patches, several of which conflict. My mac friends always hate new OS X upgrades for this very reason. Hang in there guys, it’ll be stable and rocking again in a few weeks :)
Good luck everyone, and well done Apple. In spite of the negativity around this post, Tiger looks rocking. I’ll be looking to play with most of these features first hand when I’m in Vancouver next week.
Okay, I’ve now got Skype up and running. With a mic! This means you can call me at my normal skype number now, leave voicemails, etc.