Building a Q&A Book

I’ve almost completed my newest just-for-fun nonfiction book.

This one has taken me close to two weeks. It was a “101 Answers to Questions about…” book.

The current book is about 50 words short of 20k words, and I still need to write the introduction, the closing, and fill in the bibliography. (Btw, I use Noodletools.com for the latter; it’s free.)

Building blocks - a step-by-step approach to a finished book.Here’s what I did:

1. I selected a topic that would be interesting. It’s one I’ve written about before, and I have an eager audience that will buy more of my books in that niche.
2. I chose a couple of very simple keyword phrases related to that topic.
3. Using scraper software (that visits sites like Kindle Answers or Jack Duncan’s system), I collected lots & lots of questions.
4. I copied those to a Notepad file and printed them.
5. I went through the list, crossing out the useless questions and highlighting the best of the rest.
6. Using cut-and-paste, I reorganized the good questions so they are grouped together, logically. (That is, if I were writing a travel book, I’d put all the questions about travel with pets in one section, and all the questions about tours in another, etc.) I deleted the rest.
7. Then, I turned on my voice recognition software and started dictating the book, using the sheets of questions.
8. About ten days later, I had my first draft completed and edited.

Now, I’m filling in the rest of the book, designing the cover, etc.

Also, I’m writing this book under a pen name; one of my related websites gets about 80k unique visitors/month, and I have tremendously loyal fans. So, anything I write for that audience… it has to be very good. I can’t just throw together an easy “tips” book and figure it’s good enough. If I did, they’d be outside my door with pitchforks or at least rotten tomatoes.

My next fun book will probably be either a UFO book (under another pen name) or a cookbook. I’ll want a break from the Q&A format. (I have a low boredom threshold, so I like to mix things up regularly.)

However, I think this is a good model for a fairly easy book. I’ve already researched the questions I’ll need for three more Q&A books.

A few tips if you try this idea, yourself:

1. Don’t number the questions until the book is finished. If you get halfway through and realize there are better ways to organize the questions, renumbering is a royal pain. Trust me on that.

2. When you’re getting ready to edit, do that the old-fashioned way… away from the computer. Before printing your draft, number your pages. Then, if they get mixed up because you dropped them, you’re not staring at a sheaf of disorganized papers with no idea how to reassemble them. Ahem. (If you skip the numbering step and the worst happens, here’s what to do: Go back to the file on your computer. Use what’s on your screen to help you see which page goes where. If you’d manage to drop, oh, about 30 pages, I recommend copious amounts of chocolate to keep your sense of humor afloat.)

3. Print your manuscript, double-spaced, and use a red pen. That combination make the editing easy, and — when you’re typing your corrections into the final manuscript — the red-ink corrections are easy to spot. (You could use blue, green, or purple ink, but those colors are not as easy to notice.)

4. Take at least two days off between dictating and editing. Then, pretend you didn’t write the book. Be ruthless with the red pen. Tighten everything, journalistically.

(Tip: Dramatic music can help keep you in the mood, and provide the gusto to boldly wield that red pen.)

5. After you’ve edited your book so it’s as concise as possible, go back and add the colorful phrases and anecdotes that will charm your readers.

6. Save the scribbled-on draft pages. Consider having them bound at Kinko’s or something, and then offer this (at a suitably high price) as an autographed, one-of-a-kind insight into the creative process of a best-selling author.

My most successful work schedule seems to be:

1. Write (dictate) 3k – 5k words per day, for two days. I usually start out writing about 1,000 – 1,500 words/hour, but things can go downhill pretty rapidly after the first two or three hours. (When you know you’re babbling, or you’re convinced your voice recognition software is misunderstanding you on purpose, it’s time to call it a day.  *grin* )
2. Do something else (research, cover design, or a completely different project) for a couple of days.
3. Edit what you’ve already written.
4. Write for two more days.
5. Rinse, lather, repeat until the first draft is completed.

Kindle Book Formatting – Dividers

The following is a 2012 article I posted at the Kindle Profit Club. (It’s a members-only forum for people writing — or at least producing — Kindle books.)

It’s part of a thread in which the topic was good dividers for cookbooks, but this info applies to almost any Kindle book where you want graphic dividers between sections.

Some of the links may have vanished. It’s the Internet. Everything changes, regularly.

However, the basic ideas are sound and may help you.

Free graphical book dividers

I sometimes find good book dividers searching for “free clipart dividers.”

One fast way to find what you’re looking for is to do an image search at Google, using that keyword phrase. Then, when the images appear, notice which ones have copyright symbols or watermarks on them. Chances are, they’re not free. (They show up because they’re royalty-free clipart dividers… so they’re included in the search results.)

The following website that may be useful, but it’s one of thousands with lots of free clipart dividers you can use: http://www.webweaver.nu/clipart/bar1.shtml

Teachers’ websites — clipart for teachers — can be good resources, too. However, be sure to check their terms of use; many teachers’ sites won’t allow commercial use of their clipart.

Also, if you’re looking for dividers for printed books, be sure you download an image that’s h-u-g-e at 72 dpi (the standard for online images), or already at 300 dpi.

And, don’t forget free, unrestricted fonts that include divider-type dingbats. Increase the font size to 120 points or so, and some of them are great as dividers. I’d start with http://www.dafont.com/

The biggest problem with searching for dividers is finding websites with good, free clipart… that aren’t full of ads (including “dating” ads), pop-ups, pop-unders, and so on.

This is a free clipart divider.

Book divider images you can purchase

Dover Clip Art - Food and Drink
I’ve ordered a copy of this one.

If you have a scanner or a digital camera, see if your public library has Dover clip art books. Dover specializes in public domain images, usually b&w and ideal for use in books of all kinds.

If your library doesn’t have any Dover clip art books, they’re often very inexpensive at Amazon. If you’re working on a cookbook, search at Amazon for “dover clip art cooking.”  There are about half a dozen good books that will have useful, public domain illustrations, starting at one cent for the entire book.

One of the largest is Dover Clip  Art – Food and Drink, which I’ve ordered. (Most of those images will be vintage and old-fashioned. That may not fit your cookbook, but it will definitely fit a couple of mine.  Dover offers several other, similar books, and they have modern clipart images in them.)

When scanning a divider or image in a book, be sure to scan at 300 dpi or higher. Otherwise, it will look “pixelated” if you use it in a printed book. (If it’s just for an ebook, like a Kindle book, I still scan at 150 dpi, to meet Amazon’s changing resolution standards.)

If you’re want something more unique, or with a bit more snap-crackle-and-pop, check sellers at Etsy.com. You can often find very nice divider designs there for very low prices. Here’s a typical divider package: http://www.etsy.com/listing/72948304/text-dividers-page-decoration-clip-art

That seller’s rules prohibit use of the dividers in any project that will be printed more than 5,000 times. However, when you sell 5,000 copies of your book, I think you’d be happy to pay another $7 for use of the graphics in the next 5,000 copies sold.

For a slightly higher price, check http://www.clipartof.com They have a far wider range of dividers, but their prices are around $12 per divider. It all depends on how elegant you want to get.

You’ll also find dividers at the usual photo/image resources: Shutterstock, iStockPhoto, etc.

And, for some extreme images you can use as dividers, don’t forget tattoo artists’ websites. Many of them sell their designs as digital, royalty-free clipart. They’re not inexpensive, but — wow — some of them are gorgeous.

My first choice for dividers and accent art is Dover clip art books. Remember, if your public library keeps them in the reference section (can’t be checked out of the library), you can photocopy or (with a digital camera and the flash turned off) photograph them, and then tweak them in your graphics program.

Using Podcasts to Promote Your Books

On the air - podcastingIf you’ve thought of creating podcasts to promote or support your books, here are some of my best tips:

1. Record with the free program, Audacity. It’s the best software you’ll find, unless you’re willing to spend $100+.  http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/
2. Keep your podcasts under 20 minutes… preferably under 15 minutes.  While some people love 1-hour podcasts, most people want something to listen to on the way to work, in the gym, etc.
3. Search for free, podcast-safe music for your introduction and conclusion.  It helps you sound more professional.  And, if you want less talking and more music, you can have a podcast that’s like a “morning drive” radio show, alternately talking and then playing music.
4. In Audacity, be sure to use Effects > Normalize so your podcast isn’t all over the place, in terms of volume.  This is especially important if you recorded it in a few sections.
5. Get a good microphone as soon as you can, and use a foam cover to prevent pops & whistles (from breathing) when you talk.  However, any microphone is “good enough” when you’re starting.
6. Post your podcasts at free sites like Podbean and PodOMatic.  http://www.podbean.com/ In the show notes, be sure to include links to your website and your Kindle book.
7. If you’re creating a series of podcasts, be sure to stick to a schedule.  Don’t over-commit and find yourself skipping a day or a week or whatever.  It’s better to have a once-a-month podcast that you actually record on time, than a weekly podcast that’s hit or miss.
8. Once you see if podcasts are right for you, consider placing them at LibSyn.  It’s inexpensive. It’s also commercial free and –if you ask the staff — they can help you find (paying) advertisers for your show.  http://libsyn.com/

Some of my favorite free, podcast-safe music sites

Sites like these come & go. By the time you read this, all of these links may be broken. Don’t worry. Other sites will have replaced them. Just use any search engine and look for podcast-safe music.

Tip:  If you’re podcasting to promote your book or income-producing website, even it’s just a short blurb at the end of the podcast, it’s a commercial podcast.  If your podcast is hosted (free) by a site that inserts their own commercials, that’s a commercial podcast, too.

Play nice.  Use music that’s okay for commercial podcasts, and if you’re supposed to credit the source of the music, do so.

Microphone tips

I’ve tried headsets ranging from $10 to around $65.  The big problem was the noise they generated if/when I moved my head as I talked.  Those little pops and crackling noises can sound pretty loud. Weirdly, the cheaper headsets were usually the quietest for recording.

While I was deciding whether or not I liked recording podcasts, I found a few ways to reduce the headset noises:

  • Once you have your headset exactly how you like it — the size of the head clamp, the angle of the microphone —  use hot glue to hold it in place.  That will reduce about 80% of the snaps and crackles in your recording.  Generally, if you decide not to bother with podcasts, the hot glue peels off the headset, so you can make other adjustments for comfort.
  • If you have a lot of pops and whistles in your recording, wrap your microphone with a square of lightweight foam rubber.  It’s easy to find, once you look for scraps of it.  A lot of packaging — especially electronics — comes wrapped with the kind of thin foam I’ve used for my headset mic.  (Worst case, you can ask at most stores that sell china. They probably throw out piles of the foam; their inventory usually arrives with it.)  All I did was cut a piece about twice as long as the microphone (and wide enough to wrap fully around it). Then, I stapled one end closed, pulled the foam over the mic (like a sock), and used a long piece of tape (or twist tie) to hold it snug below the mic.

Updates:

Until 2015, I was using a USB Samson Q1U microphone, and I purchased a foam cover (“windscreen”) for the mic to prevent pops from being interpreted as parts of words.  I used this same mic when I’m working with voice-recognition software, and for promotional Skype interviews.

As of 2016, I’m use a Blue Snowball mic. Amazon’s prices were good when I bought mine, there.

Check reviews online, especially from people recording podcasts and online courses (such as at Udemy), to see what they recomment.

Free Kindle Promo Lists

Are you a Kindle author?  Have a book to promote?  Start here.

If you have time for just one site that opens the promotional forms for you, in-frame, here’s the big kahuna: Author Marketing Club.

That’s where I start my PR, after the usual posts on my own websites and at Facebook and Twitter.  About 80% of the Author Marketing Club sites are for same-day promotions; the rest require advanced notice or an existing track record for that book, or something else that most new authors won’t have, yet.

In addition, these links may be useful:

When you’re posting Twitter links to your free Kindle books, be sure to include: #freeKindlebooks #freebooks #free .  Also include at least one hashtag related to your book’s main niche.

Also, the following list was posted by Tiffany Dow. Some links are better than others, and — like everything else on the Internet — some links will vanish or be co-opted by new owners whose rules should be double-checked.

This is a list compiled and shared with me so I’ll share it with you. On the day OF your free promo (not before) you can post it here:

http://snickslist.com

http://www.kindleforum.co/forum/viewforum.php?f=17

http://www.facebook.com/eReader1

http://www.facebook.com/ebooksfreefreefree

http://www.facebook.com/AontheC

http://www.facebook.com/fkbooksandtips

http://www.facebook.com/freeebookdeal

http://www.facebook.com/3D4TDP

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kindle-Finds/217115528350246

http://www.facebook.com/IndieKindleWLC

http://www.facebook.com/readingkindle

http://www.facebook.com/FreeBooksForKindle

Tweet the following Twitter users:

@kindlenews

@DigitalBkToday

@kindleebooks

@free@Kindlestuff

@KindleBookKing

@free_kindle

@FreeReadFeed

@4FreeKindleBook

@FreeKindleStuff

@KindleUpdates

Also add these two tags to your book:

free ebook

kindle freebie

If you hear about more marketing and promotion resources for authors with free Kindle books, leave a comment.

Write Faster – Free Voice Recognition Software

Microphone - useful for free voice recognition softwareHere’s a useful tip: It’s far faster to dictate a book than to type it.  That’s a quick-writing trick I learned from Jason Fladlien, and it’s worked for me for years.

I used Via Voice (originally from IBM) for a long time, and loved it.  With some training, the program was 95% – 98% accurate, and I liked how I could enter specific, unusual phrases that I use often.

Now, that old program doesn’t work on my newer (Windows 7) computer, and I was thinking about picking up a copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking, which has earned great reviews.

(If you’re going to get one of the Dragon programs, look at versions with all the bells & whistles you might need, so you can do things like input from a digital voice recorder.)

[Update: I bought an older version of Dragon that had the best reviews. It’s Dragon 11 Home edition. Out of the box, it’s better than the free Windows software. However, if you’re on a budget, the Windows option works just fine.]

Before you buy Dragon:  Did you know that Windows has a (free) voice recognition program already in it?  Yep.  And, from my experience, it works better straight out of the box than my well-trained Via Voice program did.

Weird, eh?

When I began using voice-recognition software, I’d tried a headset, but it gave me a headache and I suspected that the microphone wasn’t good enough to record consistently.

Then, I used a USB Samson Q1U microphone with a foam cover (“windscreen”) for the mic to prevent pops from being interpreted as parts of words.  The quality was excellent, and I used this same mic for my podcasts and Skype interviews.

2016 update: I’m now using a Blue Snowball mic.

I may still buy the Dragon program.  I’ll see how often I’d actually record/dictate while I’m out walking or in the car.  For now, the Windows program is working fine.

For best efficiency, I outline my book first… chapters and main headings.  I print that out as my “script” and then I start dictating what’s going to fill in the book.

Then, I print that out, double-spaced, and edit it, away from the computer. If I’m not rushing through a project, I like to edit my work so it’s in a journalistic style, with few extra words and no fluff.

Click here for 'Cult of Done Manifesto' poster download pageNote:  Be sure to keep enough style and color in your book that it’s not totally dry & boring.  If it could be read, convincingly, in a “Joe Friday” (Dragnet) voice… throw in more colorful words and anecdotes.

Then, I type in the edits and call it good.

(Over my desk, I have the text poster for the Cult of Done.  It’s a good reminder to just complete the work.  It doesn’t have to be perfect!  I do edit… but just once.  More than that can lead to stilted language and frankly, most readers either don’t notice or don’t care about an occasional, minor grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.  That’s not an excuse to be sloppy, but — for someone like me — it’s important not to micromanage the book for so long, it never gets published.)

If you’re running Windows 7, here are the instructions to set up the software and use it:  http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/What-can-I-do-with-Speech-Recognition

2016 update: I did buy Dragon Naturally Speaking, but I chose an older edition (11), not the current one. The older one cost less and had far better reviews.

Out of the box, it’s the best voice recognition software I’ve tried.

However, the free Windows speech recognition software is still a close second-best.

Who Are Your eReaders? Two Infographics Explain.

When you write a book in any format, it’s good to know who your readers are.  It helps you write with a voice that reaches them.  You might also discover the kind of language to use, how many illustrations they’ll like, how long (or short) the book can be, and so on.

Here are two useful infographics.  Click on either one to see it full-size, at the website where I found it.

………

Content Curation – Know Your Target Audience

Globe - DaVinci referenceContent curation requires more than a “shotgun” approach to your niche.  You cannot be all things to all people.  Focus is essential.

Choosing your focus — and your target audience — is a two-sided challenge.  First, there’s what you’re interested in writing about, and have time and resources for.  Then, there are the interests of your target audience.

Every writer in every media needs to understand the market.  This may start with the level of expertise among your target readers.  A blog written for a novice in the field will include information very different from the analyses and extrapolations necessary if your audience includes industry leaders.  If your target is an entry-level audience, you may confuse them (or even bore them) if you use industry-specific terminology and focus on complex and subtle issues.

By contrast, if you’re writing for industry leaders, their busy schedules prevent them from wasting time on blogs that don’t include innovative and relevant news and concepts.  Their assistants may read and summarize what you’ve said at your website, but the actual opinion leaders in the field… they won’t bother to sort through the blather or text added merely to increase the article’s word count.

Time can be the ruling factor as you identify your target audience.

A curated, entry-level article can be assembled in as little as 20 minutes.  They’re more interested in your links as education; they aren’t ready for extrapolated predictions.  In fact, part of your curation may be explaining why each link is relevant.  Talking to beginners, this could be as simple as saying, “This article is important because ________.”

As those readers become more educated and proficient, they’ll start scanning (or skimming) your articles for what’s most important.  In time, to maintain them as followers, you may need to add a second blog or section to your website, specifically for their rapidly-advancing information needs.

Nevertheless, when you’re writing for entry-level readers, the curation process usually takes less time.

By contrast, when you’re writing for industry leaders, a curated article can require two hours or more.  You’re bypassing trite resources and conclusions that may be “old news” to your readers. Your goal is to maintain loyal followers who often say, “Interesting.  I hadn’t thought of this in that context.”

For some corporate, C-level readers, it may be enough to compile a series of diverse curated references.  They’re bright enough and experienced enough to connect the dots.  You’re simply saving them time finding those gems of information.

For example, someone in fashion may be interested in startling trends in street fashions, plus a few references to exceptional costuming for an upcoming movie.  Explaining why you made your curation choices… that may be redundant and annoying.  Anyone with a solid background in current fashions can spot what’s new and exciting in the influences you’ve linked to.

For other executives, especially if the information will be filtered and delivered via an assistant, you may have a higher ratio of editorial content to curation.  In other words, you may explain the trends as you see them, and use curated references as supporting information and “for further reading” asides.

In fields where intellectual property rights and copyright are taken very seriously, it may be vital to summarize the impact of the reference, followed by a simple link.  Extensive quoting can be a liability if you’re stretching “fair use” protocols.

Tone of voice is also important.  A readership of fans may appreciate a very personal connection to the writer.  Jokes, slang, and “insider” phrases may help develop loyal readers who identify with you.  (By contrast, you could develop an online persona that’s the writer fans “love to hate.”  If you’re choosing that path, use a pen name as a buffer.  Overzealous fans can turn a perceived insult into a personal crusade.)

Professionals may want a personal “voice” when you’re writing, but jokes can look like filler and slang can become outdated in weeks, damaging your perceived value as someone who’s not only current but forward-thinking.

If you’re writing for a global audience, especially those with limited language skills (or those who use the translate option on your website), use a more literal vocabulary and restrained tone of voice.  Keep cultural nuances in mind, as well.  (The book, Essential Do’s and Taboos: The Complete Guide to International Business and Leisure Travel, is a good starting point.)

As I said earlier, these decisions can be a two-sided challenge.  On one hand, you must evaluate your resources, including the time you can invest in content curation as well as the availability of references.  Linking to an online article is easier and faster than curating information you found in a book, or learned at a week-long seminar.

The audience you’d like to reach is equally important.  There’s nothing wrong with having a “Mom blog or Dad blog.”  That approach can attract a broad audience of loyal fans, followers, customers and clients.

However, if your target audience is in the “C-suite” (CEOs, COOs, and so on), you’ll need to be very sure you’re providing in-depth information and insights that are worth their time.

First, understand your own interests, expertise and resources, and those you can acquire.  Then, examine the best target audience for what you can offer via content curation.    Aim to deliver what they need, rather than trying to be all things to all people.

Curating Curated Content

explosion of ideasCurating curated content isn’t just a tongue-twister.  If past curation patterns are a guide, curating curated content will be an upcoming trend. (I talk about that history in my book.)

What does this mean?

Well, when you’re curating curated content, you’re surveying sites that have curated content, and you’re referencing that curation in your own curated article or  post.

In other words, you’re not referring to a link you found at Drudge Report; you’re actually mentioning Drudge Report, perhaps quoting their blurb or editorial reference to the original content, and linking to the Drudge Report instead of (or in addition to) the site they linked to.

Confused?  Maybe this will make it clearer: You’re surveying sites that include curated content, and including links to specific posts/articles at the curated sites, when you talk about your niche topic.

In simple terms, it’s next in a series of steps in content development, online.

Phase one was original content: Articles and other content that were created by an individual for his or her own website.

Phase two was derivative content: Sites that referred to that original content, with or without links, and sometimes without mentioning where the information came from.  This includes quoted content,  referenced content, and — a particularly grim example — “spun” content.

Currently, derivative content may make up 80% of existing websites, or more. Google and other search engines try to filter out blatantly scraped content. The task is daunting, and search engines often lose the battle.

Phase three — growing rapidly, as of 2012 — is curated content.  That is, annotated content gathered (and linked to) from other sources.  Most curated content includes excerpts and/or references to at least two or three other resources, most of them online.

Tip: Often, search engines can’t respond intelligently when someone is looking for the latest news and trends in a particular niche. A curated site can. It’s current and it has a bias. The latter is important.

Phase four will be a response to the explosion of curated websites.  It’s becoming necessary to curate those resources.  For example, you might create an article about a political issue.  You’d include comments about relevant content at curated sites such as Drudge Report and Huffington Post, and videos at Newsy.

And, because there may not be enough good curated sites to link to, you’d probably include some original content links, as well.

It might be a little early to start curating curated content in your niche. But, if you niche is something like politics, it might be relevant now. In that field, you’ll find many posts at a wide range of excellent curated sites.

In turn, those need to be filtered to meet the specific interests of your readers.

Should curating curated content be part of your future?  Maybe.

In business, it’s essential to be an innovator or an early adopter of trends.   Watch for upcoming trends in your niche, in general. Keep them in mind as you plan what’s next — and what’s after that — for your business.

In the field of curation, those who curate curated content are among the innovators and early adopters.  It may be something to watch for, in your niche.

Attracting Traffic with Curated Content

crowd“How do you drive traffic to your curated sites?”  That’s what a reader asked me today.

It’s a good question.  Here’s what I told him:

The great thing about having powerful, well-curated content is that it’s easy to attract traffic.  Word-of-mouth spreads quickly, so you just have to get the ball rolling.  That can be done in whatever way works for you.

The content should attract and drive traffic.  If it’s not good enough to stand on its own, you probably need to improve it.

However, even the best, new website needs to send signals to the search engines so they find you.  For small businesses, online, my defaults used to be a Squidoo lens pointing to the site, some intelligent articles at eZineArticles.com, and a few Facebook posts.  If I had time (rare), I’d comment at related blogs, especially if they had CommentLuv.

Now, I’m more discerning about where I post. G+ has been good, but nothing stays constant, online. So, keep your ear to the ground and see where most related discussions go on.

From my experience, once a dozen or so people have visited a site with rich, juicy, intelligent, and original content, they’ll tell others in that niche.  (Don’t expect similar results if you’re automating your content.  For this laid-back approach to work, your posts must stand out in the crowd.)

It’s key not to devalue your site by looking spammy or desperate for traffic.  That’s not just being mindful of Google’s Penguin update.  It’s also part of the impression you’ll make on potential clients and customers.  As Clay Collins commented, even new, kitchen-table businesses need to look like businesses, not garage sales.

I try always to put a Feedburner sign-up form on each site.  Really, the vast majority of subscribers seem to think I’m emailing them, personally, when I post a new article at the site they’re following.

For my sites featuring curated content — not books — I’ve tried email lists. I know that many people swear by them for income. So far, I’m not impressed.

I tried Aweber lists for about four years and my results were equally good with Feedburner emails.  Once again, this is about important content, not an ongoing garage sale or pitchfest.

Likewise, I don’t aim to get to “#1 at Google in 24 hours,” like a lot of people do.  Instead, I go for steady, increasing traffic that grows organically.

That makes my sites pretty much immune to algorithm changes at search engines.  Example: One of my sites currently gets 80k visitors/month… not huge, but it’s pretty good for a site I’ve never promoted at all.

Remember: Good, unique content is the Holy Grail of the Internet.  It’s not quite “if you build it, they will come,” but it’s pretty close.  Aim for great content, including lots of curation, and — with minimal effort, just to let people know your site exists — I think you’ll attract traffic.

Driving traffic is important, but a good website can be close to self-sustaining.   When my numbers aren’t as good as I’d like, I add powerful content and I try to be one step ahead of popular trends.  (In technical terms: I try to be at the “early adopters” end of the Diffusion of Innovations bell curve.)  Then, I make sure people know about it.

Once people decide that they can’t afford to miss my posts, and sign up for Feedburner emails or add my RSS to their reader, word-of-mouth takes care of the rest.

Curating Content? Be an Early Adopter!

Diffusion of Innovation and Ideas
Where are you in your niche?

If you want powerful content that earns raves and links in social media, you’ll need to be an Early Adopter or even an Innovator.  (That refers to the Diffusion of Innovations, also called Diffusion of Ideas, meaning: The ways in which new ideas travel organically through a community.)

Innovators are the people who go way out on a limb, testing new ideas.  The vast majority of those ideas will fall flat, but a sparkling few will be picked up and adopted by Early Adopters.  They’ll explain the idea, and perhaps modify it slightly, so it’s more appealing to a broader audience.

That’s your job as a curator of news in your niche.  You’re an Early Adopter… one of the first 20% (or less) who spot what’s important in your field, and tell others about it.

This means being one step ahead of the trends.  You’ll need to keep your virtual ear to the ground. Stay on the alert (or at least on Google Alerts) for things that can spark interest, trends and even fads in your niche.

Find important, breaking news. Share it. Then, comment on it, explaining why it’s important and what you think of it.

That can make your curated content extremely valuable to your readers.  It’ll turn visitors into rabid fans who never want to miss one of your posts.

The focus for most successful curators isn’t on traffic, marketing, outsourcing, or the latest bells-and-whistles for website design.  (Take a look at the Drudge Report.  That guy hasn’t significantly changed his website design in over 10 years.)

Curators focus on what’s new and important.  They’re Early Adopters or — at the very latest — early members of the Early Majority.

By the time you’re on the down side of the Late Majority, you’ll also see a far lower conversion rate.

The “sweet spot” for conversions is at the first half of that curve or at its peak.  After that, most of your website visitors have less money to spend and they’re reluctant to part with it.

Curation isn’t for the casual niche observer who’s only in it for the money.  Curation can’t achieve anything close to full impact if it’s managed by a plugin or people who barely speak English.

Successful content curation is achieved by people who are dedicated to their niches.

Not sure? Read Seth Godin’s book, The Dip.

If you can’t be the very best in your niche or subniche, don’t even bother to start.  What he says about The Dip applies to content curation, too:  Your website should be “sharply-defined, newsworthy, interesting to write about, easy to tell friends about.”

Curation can’t be effective if — paraphrasing Godin in an interview with Guy Kawasaki — you’re playing it safe, or if your website merely says, “Me, too!”

You have to go out on a limb.  You must embrace all the risks of being an Early Adopter, knowing that you’ll be wrong now and then.

In fact, you might be wrong often, but at least you’re being interesting when you’re wrong.

With practice and increasing understanding of your niche and the people who make up its Early Majority, you’ll be wrong less often. 

Yours will become the must-read website with the latest important news and curated content about your niche.  You’ll become the person to quote, and your website will be the one people link to.