Tag: Videos

How To Write Songs: 5 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

Morphing Kafka sleeping now

This is part of an article series about how to write songs, which I am writing entirely from my own experience as a songwriter. I don’t have any formal training and haven’t studied under any great teachers in the field, but I seem to have a knack for it, and it is my passion and livelihood. I have taught a number of successful songwriting workshops and am happily pursuing a career as an independent recording artist, performer, and producer. I hope these articles help you. If you like what you see, please comment with your own songwriting tips, questions, or success stories.

In this article I will share five different techniques that have helped me to shake myself free of writer’s block.

1. Take a Walk

I have written many, many songs while walking. I once wrote an entire song while delivering flyers for my home teaching business. (If you’re a fan of my music, you might be interested to know that I’m talking about It All Winds Up in the Glass from Thought Experiment.)

Taking a walk is a time-honoured technique for clearing the mind. Try not to think too much about the songwriting process at first, and don’t give yourself a destination. Just walk around for a while and the ideas will start to flow, like magic. It might be a good idea to take a recording device along with you to record your ideas, unless you have a very good memory. If you normally write with an instrument, like a guitar or piano, you might be surprised at how beneficial it can be to get away from your instrument for once. Which brings me to my next tip:

2. Change Instruments

If you normally write on the guitar, give the piano or keyboard a try. Even if you don’t think you know how to play the piano, plunking around on the keys might give you an idea for a melody. Getting away from instruments entirely can also be helpful. We tend to fall into certain habits and patterns when we play an instrument. If we get away from them and just hum or sing to ourselves, it gives us a chance to approach songwriting from a new angle.

3. Automatic Writing

Sit down in a quiet, calm place with a pen and paper (or your computer) and just write. Write as fast as you can and do your best not to think about it. If you haven’t done this before, you may feel self-conscious at first, but be patient. Once you learn to write without thinking, you will begin accessing your subconscious mind and giving it a voice. You may be very surprised at what comes out. This is a good way to come up with lyric ideas. They may need editing, but automatic writing can produce some wonderfully visceral and powerful lyrics.

4. Draw Stories From Your Life

Some of the best songs you can write will be based on your own experience. I’m talking about vivid life experiences: the very best and very worst things that have ever happened to you. What matters most, though, is not so much what has happened to you, but how you feel about it. For instance, if you had a difficult breakup, you may resist writing a song about it, thinking that it’s already been done to death. If you think about your own experience of that breakup, though, you will find something unique that could make a truly beautiful song. How did the pain feel, physically, in your chest, belly or throat? What were the dreams that you had to give up? What are the images that come to your head when you think of it? Going to the heart of your own experiences can create very powerful lyrics.

5. Draw Stories from Mythology and History

Are you interested in history or mythology? If you haven’t really thought about it before, this is a good time to start. There are millions of wonderful stories that make wonderful subject matter for songwriting. Singing of the deeds of heroes, the power of gods, and the fate of nations has kept songwriters busy for millennia.

Ruskin Bond’s Short Stories

Δελφοί Ναός του Απόλλωνος Delfi Temble of Apollo

Ruskin Bond’s short stories are like photographs. They give us a picture in an instant, almost like the flash of a camera. With Bond, each story is also an experience. There are two ways in which these experiences have been unfolded; firstly through the experiences of Bond as a boy and secondly through his experiences as an adult. The experiences could be of some passing incident of life, uniquely remembered though; or it could be just a vision, a glimpse, a happening or a passing relationship.

In The Woman on Platform No. 8 for instance, it is just a woman who suddenly mothers him as a boy, fusses over him and thus becomes etched in the memory of the child. In The Coral Tree on the other hand, where he is an adult, just the experience of climbing a tree makes him nostalgically think about his grandfather’s house and he suddenly longs for childhood.

There are two categories into which Bond’s short stories could be divided. First are remembrances and memories. Bond pens down the past, when he was a child and which he remembers as an adult. These memories and experiences or childhood remembrances of the past or experience of the present, are such that in them nothing really happens.

The second category are the narratives, where something happens. In both cases Bond is lucid, clear and instant, so that the experiences are transmitted to us in their most original selves. Again, the experiences that he puts down, are at many times universal; like the boys playing cricket in The Photograph, which he recalls when he was a boy of ten.

To take up the remembrances or experiences first; certain features clearly emerge as the author pens them. It is the idiosyncrasies of the old that Bond depicts when his grandmother looks at the picture of a small girl in The Photograph again and refuses stubbornly to reveal the identity of the girl. Nothing happens in the story, except the last remark of the grandmother that keeps us guessing that it could be her own self. This story falls under the first category. Numerous other stories fall under this category. There are some odd sixty five stories of Bond’s from which some selected stories could be commented upon. Under the categories of remembrances especially are stories like The Window, The Man Who Was Kipling,A Guardian Angel, The Prospect of Flowers, A Face in the Dark, The Cherry Tree and so on.

In The Window Bond remembers a window simply because of the view it had given; the quizzical encounter with Kipling in The Man Who Was Kipling or simply the sadness of life itself as in The Guardian Angel. In this story Bond presents the grotesque truth of his Aunt Mirium pleasing customers at night, the sadness of her life, and the broken piece of guardian angel that stood as her gravestone. This gravestone is remembered and it remains also in the memory of the reader. Certain features emerge from such stories; there are quite often encounters with little girls, when Bond was also a boy, or encounters with grandmotherly women or doting motherly figures, who could be an aunt or a teacher. In The Night Train at Deoli it is just an encounter with a girl and then as the train moves, she passes as a figure. In The Prospect of Flowers there is Miss Mackenzie and just a talk on flowers. A Face in the Dark is also the tale of a teacher. Little girls figure in Madhu or Binya Passes By. In My Father’s Trees at Dehra, nothing really happens except that trees are planted, and that they will grow constitutes the enjoyment of it. Somewhat similar is the theme The Cherry Tree. As Time Goes By is again the remembrance of a pool in which Bond and his playmates used to play and enjoy as boys. From Small Beginnings has uniquely nostalgic and poignant moments of planting a cherry tree and friendship with Prem Singh. The most striking instance of a story which is the remembrance of experiences is perhaps in The Girl from Copenhagen that has an intimate beginning ‘We made no promises- of writing or of meeting again. Somehow our relationships seemed complete and whole…’

Before passing on to the narrative stories, one could look in passing at some of the longer short stories, there are especially three stories of such a kind: Panther’s Moon, Time Stops at Shamli and Dust on the Mountain with similar features as in the short stories. In the first one a panther is killed by the author’s friend Bisnu, and the sheer excitement of the villagers is depicted; in the second one there is again an experience with trees and nostalgia for childhood. The Dust on the Mountain is a picture of the choking dust of mines and quarries. In these stories too nothing seems to happen, except experiences penned down. The first story however is a narration which brings us to the narratives.

In The Thief for instance the author himself is a thief and his exploit is narrated. The Death of a Familiar is the narration of the murder of his friend Sunil. There is the rather grotesque account of monkeys in The Monkeys who kill to take revenge for the death of one in their gang. A Job Well Done is narrator where Dukhi the gardener murders the Major and in The Fight he gives the account of Ranji’s fight with the villagers on an issue of not obeying orders regarding swimming in a pool. The Tunnel again is just an experience. In Going Home something happens, Daya Ram finds back the lost purse which he had lost or which had been stolen on the train. Some of Bond’s stories revolve round tigers which were his real life experience since he had grown up in Dehra Dun. Eyes of a Cat, and Tiger Tiger Burning Bright, are stories where the detailing of the description of the tigers is worth noting.

Ruskin Bond was also well known for his ghost stories. In The Haunted Bicycle the little girl changes ridiculously into a grown man. The other ghost story is Whispering in the Dark while stories like He Said it With Arsenic are written in the detective story vein.

Whatever it may be after reading the short stories of Bond the reader-author relationship seems to be as quoted before ‘complete and whole.’

Writers Learning to Learn

Qoʻqon UZ - Dakhmai-Shokhon 02

Software like Photoshop, Excel, and Scrivener are great, but they can also be intimidating. Have you ever paid for a program and never use it? Learning something new can be scary. Many programs have help files, but often that’s not enough. Reading something and learning it are two different things. There are three types of learning. They are audio, visual, and hands-on. In this article, I will use Scrivener as my example.

When considering this software, I looked at the Scrivener website and studied the overviews and features section. Impressed enough to make the purchase and read the written tutorial, I was quickly overwhelmed. Note, at this point, I was only looking at buttons and icons.

Next, I went to Facebook and found a group called Scrivener Users. I prefer to hear from those who use the software, as opposed to those trying to sell me something. One advantage was now I could ask questions. Many people kept referring to the book Scrivener for… by Gwen Hernandez, so I purchased that. The book was excellent. Occasionally, I would click on an icon to verify the features listed underneath.

Being a photographer for 40+ years, I relate to all things visual. Therefore, the next logical step was YouTube. Although they had dozens of tutorials most felt like a synopsis, a summary if you will.

I liked being able to see and hear what I was learning. But, I wanted to watch without being dependent on the internet. What I found was a website called udemy.com, which had several outstanding video tutorials. What I had missed to this point, was the hands-on approach. With the program now open, I found the pause button was my new best friend.

The class was reasonably priced and had excellent quality. It was also downloadable. With my slow internet speed, it did take a while (over 5 hours), but each of the 46 videos was downloaded to a folder on my desktop. Now, I could watch, practice, and hear the lessons all at the same time.

If you want to be a writer, you don’t just write when it’s convenient, you write every day. If you want to learn something new you don’t just read a manual and expect to know it all. You use different senses when you want to learn effectively, and you can also use a variety of resources.

Millions of writers write blogs and how-to books with the expectation you will comprehend the subject better. There are thousands of users on Facebook and other social media outlets, waiting to share information they have learned from experience. The key word being experience. You must jump right in and get your hands dirty. YouTube has videos on almost any subject you can imagine. You can find inexpensive courses online. In many cases, you can also find Pod Casts and audio CDs on your favorite subject.

The information age does not limit you to one medium. You’ve heard the phrase show don’t tell. This applies to learning as well as writing. Part of my learning process includes repetition. If I can listen or watch something multiple times, it tends to stay with me better. Some people can read something once and retain everything. I’m not one of those people. The more types of learning methods you employ, the better the odds you will retain the information. When getting your hands dirty doesn’t help and reading is not enough, try using more resources.

The 4 Different Types of Connectives Used in Good Public Speaking

THE OLD VILLAGE ON THE ROCK

Good public speaking skills involve more than presenting informative or persuasive material to an audience in an engaging, uplifting manner. It requires the use of connectives to keep your presentation or speech organized as well as unified. Better than a verbal tic, such as ‘um’ or ‘ah,’ by employing good connectives in your speech, you will also make it easier for your listeners to both follow what you are saying and remember more of what you are saying.

The 4 types of connectives include:

1. Signposts

Without a doubt, one of the most popular forms of connectives are signposts. The signpost refers to very brief statements that tell your audience where you are in your speech. They can be numbers – the 1st idea, the 2nd idea, etc.; they can be questions which offer good audience interaction; and, they can be phrases that underscore important points in your message.

Example: The most important thing I want you to gain from my presentation is that breathing with the support of your diaphragm will not only end vocal abuse but it will also mean a more confident, more mature-sounding speaking voice.

In the above statement, I have reiterated what I want my audience to remember but I have also let them know that I have come to the end of my development. While those words are not my concluding statement, they have paved the way for my conclusion.

2. Transitions

Transitions are words or phrases that mark the end of one thought or idea and move the speaker into another thought or idea by including material from the previous statement into the new one.

Example: Now that we have seen that the habitual voice can be affected by vocal abuse, allow me to explain how the situation can be reversed.

In the above sentence, the words in bold mark the transition, reinforcing my previous statements and paving the way for the new statement.

3. Internal Previews

Similar to the transition and often including a transition, the internal preview is found in the development of the speech or presentation and includes what is coming up in greater detail than the transition. The preview is in bold.

Example: Now that we have seen that the habitual voice can be affected by vocal abuse, the remedy is quite simple. Learn to breathe with the support of your diaphragm and allow your chests to power your voice.

Including the original transition, the internal preview consists of the statement which follows in bold.

4. Internal Summaries

Found also in the development of the speech or presentation, the internal summary is the opposite of the internal preview because it lists ever so briefly what has already been stated. These summaries are important because they reinforce what has already been said, making it easier for your audience to follow your message.

Example: In essence, by learning to breathe properly, finding the optimum pitch of your speaking voice, and allowing your chest to do the work, you will eliminate vocal abuse forever.

The above sentence summarizes succinctly what may have been discussed for the last 10, 20 or even 40 minutes of your delivery.

Using any and all of the above connectives in your delivery are very effective means of keeping your audience’s attention as well as keeping your talk organized. Use them and your listeners will remember more of what you have said.

The Most Popular Fiction Authors in America By Number of Sales

Wandering through the Garden

It may shock you to know that there is no single repository of statistics for the number of books sold by an author. Likewise, there is no keeper of records on the sales of a particular book title. (Registering your book with the Library of Congress only protects the copyright. The library does not track sales.)

Authors or publishers get an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) that is unique to each book format. Thus, a title may have several ISBNs attached to it, one for hardback, one for paperback and one for an ebook. Writers may change publishers, and publishers may change their names, merge or disappear. Multiply this complexity by the sales made worldwide, and you can understand why the following figures have a tremendous margin for error.

This list includes only American fiction authors, who have sold over an estimated 100 million books. William Shakespeare and Agatha Christie, both Brits, are by far the biggest individual sellers of books with an estimated 2-4 billion. Yes, that is billion with a capital B. Keep in mind that the numbers refer to the complete works of an author (including co-written works) and not a specific title.

The list is fluid in that younger authors will no doubt improve their rankings over their careers. Likewise, as populations and communications have increased, so has the exposure of these authors to an increasing audience. The added popularity gained when a book is made into a movie or television show can cause sales and rankings to soar.

The prolific series of children’s or young adult books by R.L Stine, Ann M. Martin, Stan and Jan Berenstein, Richard Scarry, Gilbert Patten or Norman Bridwell (from 400 to 80 titles each) average just 2 million units per title. Taken as a body of work, each of these writers has sold over 110 million books. Dr. Seuss wrote just 44 books with the same rate of sales and like Stine and Patten are in the top ten. Only one nineteenth century writer, specializing in rags-to-riches stories about young boys, is in the top ten. Horatio Alger wrote 135 dime novels.

Although only ten American women (one of those, Jan Berenstein co-wrote with her husband) made the top forty, a woman, Danielle Steel, came in at number one. She has sold between 500-800 million romance books and has written about 120 titles. Other best selling romance writers include Janet Dailey, Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber and the youngest and least prolific author, Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame. Other women in the top forty include gothic/horror author V.C. Andrews, whose works are now ghost written by a man; Anne Rice, the queen of vampires; suspense writer Mary Higgins Clark; and forensic writer Patricia Cornwell.

Two Western authors made the top twenty. Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey have both sold over 230 million books. L’Amour is credited with over 101 books, while Zane Grey’s count is unclear. Publishers sold about 24 of his books after his death in 1939, but a conservative estimate is around 55 titles.

Only one other American has done as well as Stephanie Meyer when it comes to selling the most books with the least number of titles. His name is Dan Brown. Thanks to Tom Hanks (The DaVinci Code) he has sold over 120 million books with just 5 titles. Likewise, only one name on the list is someone you might study in an American literature course. His name is Erskine Caldwell. You may have heard of his books, including Tobacco Road and God’s Little Acre.

Mystery, suspense, thriller and private detective genres are often grouped together in the minds of readers. Together they represent the largest group of bestselling authors. Sidney Sheldon of television fame, Irving Wallace, champion of the underdog, and Mickey Spillane of the Mike Hammer series, have all reached their high rankings with roughly 25 titles. David Baldacci is gaining in rank with 25 titles of his own to date. The more fruitful authors include Dean Koontz, James Patterson and Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain), all of whom hover around the 100 mark. Straddling the middle ground of productivity with 50 titles is Rex Stout, famous for his Nero Wolfe series.

Legal and medical mysteries/thrillers are sought out for their occupational themes. John Grisham with 33 titles and Earl Stanley Gardner with 140 titles are the most noteworthy for their sales. Gardner, the Perry Mason writer may someday get surpassed in books sold given Grisham’s continuing movie adaptations. In the medical field Robin Cook has 27 titles, while Frank G. Slaughter wrote 62 books before his death.

There are two top-forty writers who fall under the adventure genre. Harold Robbins has sold over 750 million books with just 23 titles. Clive Cussler has 37 books with less than 150 million in sales. Cussler, L’Amour and Grey are what many women consider romance writers for men.

Some writers just don’t fit any mold. They not only stand out in their own unique way, but also define their genre. Among these are horror/fantasy writer Stephen King with 70 books to his credit and spy writer Robert Ludlum with 40 books. Michael Crichton of The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park is considered a techno-thriller/science fiction author. He wrote 25 books. James Michener had 47 titles to his historical fiction credit.

One last author that may surprise you wrote about 70 books, many in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He was eager to exploit his most popular fictional character, who has become an American icon. He even set up his own printing operation to publish his books. He became one of the oldest war correspondents in WWII and died in 1950. You may have heard of him, Edgar Rice Burroughs. If not, surely you’ve heard of his famous jungle character, Tarzan.

Famous People With Asperger’s Syndrome

Punti di vista / Points of view

Recently, some researchers, in particular, Simon Baron-Kohen and John James, suggested that such well-known personalities from the past, as Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton had Asperger’s syndrome. Scientists say that they showed some tendencies of the syndrome in their behavior, such as an intense interest in one topic, or social problems. One of the chapters of this Gillberg’s book is devoted to this theme, including a detailed case analysis of the situation with philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein with the conclusion that the person meets the criteria for Asperger’s Syndrome. Naturally, the absence of diagnosis during life does not mean that there was nothing to diagnose, especially if we bear in mind that while there was no widespread knowledge about the syndrome (as often happens with Asperger’s syndrome, which recently has been widely recognized in psychiatric circles). However, such post-mortem diagnosis remains controversial.

Arguments in favor of the alleged autism spectrum disorders in famous personalities vary from person to person. Some of them argue that in the case of Albert Einstein (one of the most frequently cited suspected autistic), he learned to talk late, was a lonely kid, organized violent tantrums, silently repeated the previously pronounced sentence, and needed his wives to play the role of parents when he was an adult – the stereotypical factors for autistic individuals. Isaac Newton stuttered and suffered from epilepsy. Many of these alleged historical cases of Asperger’s syndrome can be quite soft (not expressed), but some skeptics argue that in these cases only some features of autism can be seen, and they are not enough to diagnose autism spectrum. In the end, many critics of historical diagnosis claim that it is simply impossible to diagnose the dead, and therefore nothing can be said with certainty about historic individuals with (or withour) Asperger’s syndrome.

All of these assumptions may be just an attempt to create a pattern of behavior (role model, an object for imitation) for people with autism, and demonstrate that they can do constructive things, and make a contribution to society. Such a presumptive diagnosis is often used by activists for the rights of people with autism to show that the treatment of autism would be a loss to society. But others in the organizations for the rights of autistic people do not like these arguments because they feel that people with autism have to appreciate their uniqueness even if they do not want to be healed, regardless of whether people like Einstein were autistic.

Some features of appearance and facts of activity indicate that John Carmack is also a man with AS, or he has other unusual personality type of a similar nature.

Possible causes and origins of Asperger’s syndrome is hotly debated and controversial topic. The majority opinion today is that the causes of Asperger’s syndrome are the same as autism’s. Some researchers, however, disagree and argue that the Asperger syndrome and autism are lead by two different things. All this occurs during the ongoing wider debate about whether Asperger’s syndrome and other conditions (such as attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity disorder – ADHD) are the part of the so-called autism spectrum.

Among many competing theories about the causes of autism (and, therefore, as many believe – Asperger’s Syndrome) – theory of non-complete connection, developed by researchers of cognition at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, the theory of marginal male brain of Simon Baron-Kohena, the theory of pre-working, theory of social structure and genetics.

Some theorists give more arguments in favor of Asperger’s syndrome than autism. Sometimes they argument that some specific theories play a greater role in Asperger’s syndrome, for example, theory of social structure and genetics. However, this is the area of considerable controversy.

The Most Popular Fiction Authors in America By Number of Sales

Curse of the Demon (Columbia, 1957). Photo (8

It may shock you to know that there is no single repository of statistics for the number of books sold by an author. Likewise, there is no keeper of records on the sales of a particular book title. (Registering your book with the Library of Congress only protects the copyright. The library does not track sales.)

Authors or publishers get an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) that is unique to each book format. Thus, a title may have several ISBNs attached to it, one for hardback, one for paperback and one for an ebook. Writers may change publishers, and publishers may change their names, merge or disappear. Multiply this complexity by the sales made worldwide, and you can understand why the following figures have a tremendous margin for error.

This list includes only American fiction authors, who have sold over an estimated 100 million books. William Shakespeare and Agatha Christie, both Brits, are by far the biggest individual sellers of books with an estimated 2-4 billion. Yes, that is billion with a capital B. Keep in mind that the numbers refer to the complete works of an author (including co-written works) and not a specific title.

The list is fluid in that younger authors will no doubt improve their rankings over their careers. Likewise, as populations and communications have increased, so has the exposure of these authors to an increasing audience. The added popularity gained when a book is made into a movie or television show can cause sales and rankings to soar.

The prolific series of children’s or young adult books by R.L Stine, Ann M. Martin, Stan and Jan Berenstein, Richard Scarry, Gilbert Patten or Norman Bridwell (from 400 to 80 titles each) average just 2 million units per title. Taken as a body of work, each of these writers has sold over 110 million books. Dr. Seuss wrote just 44 books with the same rate of sales and like Stine and Patten are in the top ten. Only one nineteenth century writer, specializing in rags-to-riches stories about young boys, is in the top ten. Horatio Alger wrote 135 dime novels.

Although only ten American women (one of those, Jan Berenstein co-wrote with her husband) made the top forty, a woman, Danielle Steel, came in at number one. She has sold between 500-800 million romance books and has written about 120 titles. Other best selling romance writers include Janet Dailey, Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber and the youngest and least prolific author, Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame. Other women in the top forty include gothic/horror author V.C. Andrews, whose works are now ghost written by a man; Anne Rice, the queen of vampires; suspense writer Mary Higgins Clark; and forensic writer Patricia Cornwell.

Two Western authors made the top twenty. Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey have both sold over 230 million books. L’Amour is credited with over 101 books, while Zane Grey’s count is unclear. Publishers sold about 24 of his books after his death in 1939, but a conservative estimate is around 55 titles.

Only one other American has done as well as Stephanie Meyer when it comes to selling the most books with the least number of titles. His name is Dan Brown. Thanks to Tom Hanks (The DaVinci Code) he has sold over 120 million books with just 5 titles. Likewise, only one name on the list is someone you might study in an American literature course. His name is Erskine Caldwell. You may have heard of his books, including Tobacco Road and God’s Little Acre.

Mystery, suspense, thriller and private detective genres are often grouped together in the minds of readers. Together they represent the largest group of bestselling authors. Sidney Sheldon of television fame, Irving Wallace, champion of the underdog, and Mickey Spillane of the Mike Hammer series, have all reached their high rankings with roughly 25 titles. David Baldacci is gaining in rank with 25 titles of his own to date. The more fruitful authors include Dean Koontz, James Patterson and Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain), all of whom hover around the 100 mark. Straddling the middle ground of productivity with 50 titles is Rex Stout, famous for his Nero Wolfe series.

Legal and medical mysteries/thrillers are sought out for their occupational themes. John Grisham with 33 titles and Earl Stanley Gardner with 140 titles are the most noteworthy for their sales. Gardner, the Perry Mason writer may someday get surpassed in books sold given Grisham’s continuing movie adaptations. In the medical field Robin Cook has 27 titles, while Frank G. Slaughter wrote 62 books before his death.

There are two top-forty writers who fall under the adventure genre. Harold Robbins has sold over 750 million books with just 23 titles. Clive Cussler has 37 books with less than 150 million in sales. Cussler, L’Amour and Grey are what many women consider romance writers for men.

Some writers just don’t fit any mold. They not only stand out in their own unique way, but also define their genre. Among these are horror/fantasy writer Stephen King with 70 books to his credit and spy writer Robert Ludlum with 40 books. Michael Crichton of The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park is considered a techno-thriller/science fiction author. He wrote 25 books. James Michener had 47 titles to his historical fiction credit.

One last author that may surprise you wrote about 70 books, many in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He was eager to exploit his most popular fictional character, who has become an American icon. He even set up his own printing operation to publish his books. He became one of the oldest war correspondents in WWII and died in 1950. You may have heard of him, Edgar Rice Burroughs. If not, surely you’ve heard of his famous jungle character, Tarzan.

The Top Ten Characteristics of a Good Sales Letter

Batemans Castle

With today’s rapidly crowding global market, your product or service will need more publicity and marketing so that your unique voice can be heard. With the thousands of advertisements on television, the thousands of posters plastered on both city and town walls, and the thousands of sales people all jostling each other to catch a prospective customer’s attention, is there still an alternative marketing method that could ensure your commercial success?

Believe it or not, the crowded global market can work both to your advantage and disadvantage. With more products and services like yours on the market, you will have to contend with competition, not to mention often hard sell marketing tactics from your more financially equipped rivals. Customers, however, are already saturated with hard sell marketing tactics – such strategies tend to make companies appear impersonal, and customers may feel alienated. More than ever, you will need a marketing strategy that will show customers that you care for their needs and wants.

A good sales letter is a viable strategy that you may want to try out. Whether you will send the sales letter through snail mail or email, a sales letter can outline the outstanding characteristics of your company, the products or services that you are offering, and incentives that may come with purchasing your products or services. A sales letter, moreover, is addressed to individual prospective customers. This personalized form of marketing can make customers feel special; if done properly, a good sales letter can earn you customers and widen your market base.

Before you set to work writing your sales letter, take note of these characteristics of a good sales letter.

o A good sales letter should catch attention even before it is opened. Catchphrases such as “Know how to get great discounts when you buy your PC” or “Save hundreds of dollars on your grocery shopping now!” can attract customers. Remember, your envelope has to be opened before you can make any prospective sale, so make sure that your letter is attractive enough not to be placed in the trash bin before it is even read.

o Some sales letters will contain jokes, puns, or clever language. Although this may make you appear playful, it will also undermine your credibility before customers who know nothing about you. The simpler your language is, the easier your letter is to read.

o A good sales letter should be personal. Address your letter directly to the recipient, and address the person by name throughout the letter. Avoid “Dear Sir or Madame” or “To whom it might concern.” Customers need to know that you care before they care about what you know.

o Email is not necessarily the best way to send a sales letter. Some sales letters are often placed automatically in the spam folder, where they can be ignored, and then disposed of without even being read. Because snail mail is becoming rare, an attractive sales letter can catch a prospective customer’s eye.

o A good sales letter should establish a company’s credibility. Do not be afraid to use testimonials from your satisfied customers, or quotes from famous people who may have used your product or service. However, do not overdo it: one or two quotes will be enough, three will be hard sell, four will be annoying, and anything more than that will make you appear either desperate or lying.

o A good sales letter cannot stand on its own – you should have not only good products and services, but incentives as well. If you offer incentives for buying your product or service, state them explicitly. Studies show that discounts as low as ten percent, and all kinds of free things appeal to customers, and make them want to buy a product or take advantage of a service.

o A good sales letter should not only sound good but look good as well. Use large fonts, and append your company banner or a picture of your company headquarters if you can. If you feel that this is not appropriate, then add pictures of your products, along with captions. Print your sales letter on high quality paper, and make sure that your pictures come out clear and crisp. A sales letter on rough paper, with low quality ink, will not speak well of your company no matter how good your products and services are.

o Provide contact information, especially phone numbers and emails. Be ready, moreover, to respond to each question your prospective customers will put forth.

o Avoid jargon and acronyms. Remember, you have to make your prospective customers understand you. If they do not understand any part of your letter, they will simply throw it away.

o Enclose brochures with your sales letter, along with tips that the customer might be able to use. For instance, if you are selling luxury cars, you can include the top ten tips when choosing car upholstery. Make customers feel that you care for them, and they will flock to you.

A good sales letter is challenging to write, but if written well, the rewards can be numerous. As long as you keep your language simple and maintain the credibility of your company, you will have the wider market base that you need, and the profits that you want.

Top 10 Best, Popular and Famous Highly Paying Affiliate Programs

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Affiliation is an automated and robotized marketing program where an online website advertiser, merchant or entrepreneur engage webmasters (the person who keeps a specific website) to place their banners ads or buttons on their blog or websites. Webmasters will receive a referral fee or commission from sales when the customer has clicked the affiliate link to get to the merchant’s website to perform the desired action.

Generally, make a purchase or fill out a contact form, desired action varies from merchant to merchant and according to their offers or promotions. In other words, we can say that, it’s an online business center for thousands of affiliate programs on the web. Now a days, affiliate marketing has become a multi-billion dollar industry and it’s the best way to monetize your blog or website. All the affiliate networks system have their own tracking, reporting, and payment system.

Affiliate programs or associate programs is an agreement between an advertiser and a webmasters, if a company or organization has generated, produced or designed a product and they are promoting and trading it via your website then you can also generate extra income by inviting your website visitors to promote it in exchange for a commission.

Moreover, if you are monetizing your website or blog with the absolute affiliate program then it can make a lot of money with a slight effort. For this, you need a healthy, bountiful and rich content website with a handsome amount of targeted traffic.Advertisers finance in affiliate programs for initiation of consumer interest or inquiry into their products or services of a business, it is also called lead generation. Different advertisers provide different kinds of affiliate programs. All affiliate plans do not work in the same way or pay the same rates. If you join a search engine affiliate program you most likely will be placing text links or banners to their advertisers and you’ll work on a pay-per-click fee. Similarly, some of others allow you to set up a shopping or store page that offers products related to the content of your website.

Basically, in association of any affiliate merchant means you are paid a commission per sale on the advertiser’s website and pay-per-click affiliate programs reward the minimum amount, as affiliates are usually paid per thousand clicks (CPC).

There are lots of other affiliate marketing programs than the ones that have been mentioned below, but these are the ones that are extremely successful and has been short listed on the behalf of advertiser’s worth and valuation, Alexa traffic rank, user experience and off course visitor’s strength.

1- CJ Affiliate by Conversant (Commission Junction) – Since 1998

  1. Alexa Rank: 5,645
  2. Minimum Payment Amount: $50, $100 (Direct Deposit, Check)
  3. Payment Method: Check, Direct Deposit
  4. Programs Offered: CPA, CPL, CPS, CPC
  5. Referral Program: No

CJ Affiliate by Conversant is an extensive, largest and highly paying affiliate marketing network in North America, it operates globally. CJ Affiliate is one of the oldest advertising company that is why it is preferred affiliate network of more than 500 companies and major online stores on the internet. I will recommend it personally because it has unmatched hub of advertisers, beautiful and easy to understand user interface, unworried payment system and the customer support that we cannot find anywhere.

CJ Affiliate has a very large variety of products to promote and merchants (advertisers) frequently pay high amount of commission rates for CJ publishers when we compare to other marketing affiliate companies or even their personal in-house affiliate program.

CJ Affiliate Network is free to join and you can simply sign in to CJ Account Manager once your application is approved and apply to different affiliate programs. Some of the advertisers approve publishers immediately while others approve manually after reviewing your account/website. But you need to link a quality website with healthy and rich content to get approval for individual affiliate programs.

2- ShareASale – Since 2000

  1. Alexa Rank: 1,008
  2. Minimum Payment Amount: $50
  3. Payment Method: Check, Direct Deposit
  4. Programs Offered: CPA, CPL, CPS, CPC
  5. Referral Program: Yes

ShareASale is another popular and most accepted affiliate network with a large amount of product choices. It has collected an excellent ratings, with the company’s outstanding persona, safety, morality, customer service, and ease of commission payment receiving glowing reviews. In fact, it is the well-known affiliate marketing company with over 3,900 merchant programs and more than 40 different categories. There are lots of other affiliate programs on the internet that are very distinctive to ShareASale.

ShareASale also provides you an extra feature that you can add products to your “basket”. It means, you can keep all information about specific merchants or products that you’d like to apply for, review, or export later on.

If someone is unfitted or failed to find an appropriate advertiser on CJ then most apparently it will be here at ShareASale. Moreover, to get start joint affiliate program with ShareASale is not complicated. There are couple of important and easy steps to get started. Essentially, you have to verify that you own your website before you can join any of them, which involves placing a key code in your website’s header tag.

3- Rakuten Affiliate Network (LinkShare) – Since 1996

  1. Alexa Rank: 2,138
  2. Minimum Payment Amount: $50
  3. Payment Method: Check, Direct Deposit, PayPal
  4. Programs Offered: CPA, CPL, CPS, CPC
  5. Referral Program: No

According to writers and online surveys, Rakuten Affiliate Network Company has been declared and listed in one of the largest affiliate network, with over 10 million affiliate partnerships. Rakuten Affiliate (LinkShare) took the number one spot in the 2012 Affiliate Networks because of platform stability, support quality and ability to spread all around the world with more than 4,000 affiliate programs which allows you to manage your own program using the company’s various service and support options.

Rakuten is not the quickest to sign-up or the simplest to navigate, but there’s a lot of helpful guidance as you go. You have to sign-up with each separate advertiser before you can boost their products. This reveals that quality is important here.

Rakuten Affiliate has a lot of physical products to promote, including some big-brands. They provide access to thousands of publishers recruited daily worldwide. Search by product category, traffic, consumer geography and other criteria significant and relevant to your online affiliate campaign. They provide patented tracking technology, easy tools to upload ad links, coupon links or product feeds and reliable online payment options.

4- AWIN.com (Affiliate Window) – Since 2000

  1. Alexa Rank: 17,848
  2. Minimum Payment Amount: $20/£20
  3. Payment Method: Check, Direct Deposit, Wire Transfer
  4. Programs Offered: CPA, CPL, CPS, CPC
  5. Referral Program: Yes

AWIN.com, Affiliate Window is one of the best affiliate network in Europe and prominently increasing around the globe with over 2,100 advertiser and 75,000 publisher respectively. It provides instance access to nearly 77 sectors in 11 territories. This affiliate program is at the top because of its unique traffic light system which is providing visibility on payments, low threshold payments available in multiple currencies twice a month, simple user-friendly platform, interface with real-time reporting.

In 2013, UK buyers made 150M purchases via affiliate websites. Monetize your website and join the thousands of bloggers by adopting affiliate marketing as a way of monetizing your website in an intelligent and excellent way.

Affiliate Window is incredible to work with because this affiliate program understand that independent publishers have different demands and will work with the advertiser and publisher to ensure the program works for both. It has dedicated publisher services team with sector specialists, access to more than half of the UK’s biggest brands* (as listed by IMRG 2013 survey), live chat support and multiple range of tools to create links.

5- Click Bank – Since 1998

  1. Alexa Rank: 3,414
  2. Minimum Payment Amount: $10
  3. Payment Method: Check, Direct Deposit, Wire Transfer
  4. Sell Products: Globally
  5. Referral Program: Yes

Click bank a well-known affiliate network and has a huge statistics with 200 million customers, it features over 6 million digital products, such as e-books, software and membership sites. With their network of 500,000 digital marketing experts in over 190 countries, digital product will reach customers around the world. They help you to set commissions that maximize the network of digital marketers promoting your offers and together watch your sales grow. Click Bank has delivered lifestyle products to customers around the globe.

After joining Click Bank affiliate program, you can get up to 75% commission on all sales. Find particular informational lifestyle products with just one click, obtain advice on any topic, immediately access products and there is no need to wait.

ClickBank sells lifestyle products that are produced by fervent entrepreneurs. Their products give innovation and instruction on topics ranging from training the family dog and Paleo cooking recipes to workouts to become a better surfer. With each click and every sale, their products improve the lives of customers around the world. They stand behind the products and strive to deliver unparalleled customer satisfaction.

6- Zanox – Since 2000

  1. Alexa Rank: 9,099
  2. Minimum Payment Amount: €25
  3. Payment Method: Check, Direct Deposit, Wire Transfer
  4. Programs Offered: CPA, CPL, CPS, CPC
  5. Referral Program: No

Perhaps the largest European network and a partner of Affiliate Window and eprofessional, zanox supports more than 4,300 international advertisers in the successful marketing of products and services on the internet. However, it is not very much familiar with USA but has a growing terrific reputation gradually. Globally, more than 700 people work for zanox and its partner companies. Moreover, zanox champions the establishment of international quality standards with its own Code of Conduct for all participants in the network.

Affiliate networks becomes important when they have an exclusive relationship with a brand. The most famous handmade marketplace Etsy.com’s affiliate program is powered by Zanox. So you will need a Zanox publisher account to become an affiliate of Etsy.

Simply, display ads on your website and earn money for generating sales and leads. You gain maximum reach via Zanox global publisher network with a wide variety of publisher models. You will be given maximum benefit from their global network of high-quality brands and attractive promotions and their statistics enable you to track and improve your performance. They also provide great importance to trust, network quality and transparency.

7- Affiliate.com – Since 2008

  1. Alexa Rank: 465,669
  2. Minimum Payment Amount: $100
  3. Payment Method: Check, Wire, ACH, PayPal
  4. Programs Offered: CPA, CPL, CPS
  5. Referral Program: Yes

Affiliate.com only works with top and high quality affiliates and provide some of the most sought after campaigns across various verticals, including campaigns for more than 100 different countries. They provide world class affiliate support, whether you are looking for a particular offer or are in need of a fresh new creative, their affiliate managers are your number one resource for helping you to generate the highest level of revenue. Lots of other affiliate networks suffer from disconnection, not so from this network.

Affiliate.com oblige anyone from beginner level to advanced affiliates. They have a very helpful staff that take each case on an individual basis. So, if you do not have much experience yet you should probably be best to try one of the other networks first.

Affiliate.com network declares more than 2,000 live campaigns in different categories, so there is definitely a large selection to choose from. To become a part of Affiliate.com you have to fill out an affiliate application form, your application will be reviewed within 2 business days. You’ll get a call to confirm all of your information and be assigned to an affiliate manager. They also offer domain parking and redirect monetization services.

8- Vig Link – Since 2009

  1. Alexa Rank: 9,959
  2. Minimum Payment Amount: $10
  3. Payment Method: PayPal
  4. Programs Offered: CPA, CPL, CPS, CPC
  5. Referral Program: Yes

It is very much similar to Skimlinks, complete the sign up process and then simply add one line of code to your website or blog and VigLink will automatically turns existing links on your pages into revenue generating links. VigLink can also insert new links on relevant terms and phrases to capture purchase purpose. You can also earn from purchase intent created in your app, the content created and shared over mobile apps drives purchase. VigLink’s Rest API opens up a new revenue stream for publishers by allowing them to earn from this created purchase intent.

VigLink manages a publisher network of over 2 million sites and apps, as well as an advertiser network of over 50,000 brands and merchants. It is also backed by top investors including Google Ventures, Emergence Capital, and RRE.

VigLink believes that it links out every feasibility so what seems to be a simple and normal link to you can be turned into a monetizing affiliated link with them. It takes a 25% cut of the affiliate commissions generated from your website or blog. You get 35% of what they earn for a year from your referral. Moreover, VigLink identifies commercial products mentioned within content and links them to destinations determined in real-time, advertiser-bid auctions.

9- Valuleads – Since 2009

  1. Alexa Rank: 996,763
  2. Minimum Payment Amount: $50
  3. Payment Method: PayPal, Pay Check, ACH (Direct)
  4. Programs Offered: CPA, CPL, CPS
  5. Referral Program: Yes

ValuLeads is an energetic and widely growing, achievement based advertising agency founded in 2009. Their basic goal as a team is to provide the best value possible to every organization they work with. ValuLeads understand that each client, whether advertiser or publisher, has different needs and wishes. Therefore, they work with their customers on a one-on-one basis to create a completely customized system or campaign designed to maximize value and results. ValuLeads is committed to getting the top payout for each and every campaign.

At ValuLeads, every publisher in the network is distributes as though it were their most important customer. No matter, what the size of your campaign, they will always provide you the best possible support and guide you through all the ups and downs.

They also offer on-time payments, as well as flexible payment options and provide weekly payments (for qualified publishers). At ValuLeads dedicated experts and quality service continues from 8 A.M until 12 A.M, seven days a week. Fill out an application to set up a free consultation an affiliate manager will call you to discuss what offers to run, and how to work together to make you some money. They also offer referral program.

10- JV Zoo – Since 2009

  1. Alexa Rank: 3,517
  2. Minimum Payment Amount: $50
  3. Payment Method: PayPal, Stripe or Authorize.net
  4. Programs Offered: CPA, CPL, CPS
  5. Referral Program: Yes

It is free to become an affiliate at JVZoo. It provides one affiliate link and instant access for all products in a sales funnel. JVZoo having little resemblance to ClickBank. Because, it’s a network for affiliates and sellers based around digital products. It’s easy to manage, just like with ClickBank, you can check out the marketplace to get an idea of the products you could promote before you have even signed up. After joining, you can have access to the JVZoo Affiliate Product Library, which contains products from a wide variety of categories.

Their affiliate product library gives you up to the minute conversion and EPC details for all products. Know what you can expect from a promotion by seeing network wide performance data. When you promote a vendor’s product, you are automatically cookied for all of that vendor’s products.

As an affiliate, see exactly how your campaigns are accomplish in real time. You can even generate multiple trackers for the matching product, using our Tracking ID System. You can keep an eye on your campaigns with an instant sales notifications. Notices are sent to your email’s inbox each time an affiliate sale is made. Vendors deal directly with buyers, so there is no need to provide customer support for people that purchase from your affiliate links.

Note: “Commission rates, payment method, offered programs and referral programs may change according to affiliate marketers new promotions and policies. Also, Alexa Ranking will not be consistent it keeps on changing with the variation of your traffic performance.”