Categories
Writing and Publishing

What is the Ultimate Reading Device?

There’s Kindle, Nook, Kobo eReader, tablets, and apps. Which one is the ultimate e-reader? Which one will rise to the top, replace its competitors, and survive as the reader of choice? Which one is the ultimate reading device that will endure long into the future?

The ultimate reading device

The answer is none of them!

What is the ultimate reading device?

Quite simply, it is the printed word.

With a hard copy, you don’t need to worry about software compatibility, device obsolescence, battery power consumption, damage when it’s dropped, someone electronically recalling your book, and so forth.

A printed book has none of these concerns. You can read a book anytime, anywhere. It is truly the ultimate reader.

Although e-readers have their place and do offer benefits, I do not see them replacing printed books as many have predicted. The two will co-exist, side-by-side for the foreseeable future.

Even so, the ultimate reading device will continue to be the printed word.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Do Readers Want Digital Instead of Print?

magazine publishers

For magazine publishers, there’s a lot of hype and excitement about reading magazines and books electronically. All variety of statistics are being bandied about to support the deluge of digital. Studies are being conducted and consultants are consulting. There is euphoria over electronic reading.

But is it warranted? While digital reading is a tantalizing development and may someday change the way people interact with the written word, that day is not yet here. Consider some stats that I have stumbled upon from the magazine industry:

  • One magazine found that 75 percent of readers would not give up their print magazine. That means, the magazine can’t risk going fully digital.
  • A survey of magazine publishers over the performance of their digital editions found that 38% were “somewhat dissatisfied” and 22% were “extremely dissatisfied.” That means that among publishers, a full 60% are not happy with digital.
  • In another study, 61.5% of magazine publishers aren’t even sure how they can generate enough revenue to cover the costs of digital.

So, based on these stats, the majority of readers don’t want to read digitally, the majority of publishers are not happy with digital, and the majority of publishers don’t even know how they can financially support digital.

Going digital may be exciting, but the numbers are not behind it and the masses don’t support it—at this time.

Given this, shouldn’t the focus be on print?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Categories
Business Articles

The Pursuit of Perfection

Do you want a staff of perfectionists?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Some managers say “yes,” whereas others respond with a resounding “no.” The informed answer is, “it all depends.” Here’s why:

Of that portion of the populace who are perfectionists, some are blindly or proudly so. Others are self-aware of possessing this characteristic and informed about it; I call them recovering perfectionists. A self-aware perfectionist understands this condition, knowing how to tap into and celebrate the many strengths and benefits of pursuing excellence. At the same time, they know to guard against its limiting, self-defeating, and even paralyzing facets.

Doing research on perfectionism reveals a host of debilitating traits, starting with compulsiveness and going downhill from there. However, knowledgeable perfectionists can tap into the positive aspects of their natural tendencies when appropriate, that is, when it is to their advantage to do so. At the same time, they can usually avoid being handicapped by perfectionism’s alluring snares.

For a perfectionist, there are many traits which provide great value in the workplace:

  • Produce quality work: Perfectionists tend to produce high quality work. They take pleasure in excellence and find satisfaction in a job well-done.
  • Exceed expectations: If the boss expects a short summary, the perfectionist will submit a report. If achieving a 99 percent rating is admirable, the purist will aim for 99.9—and then 100. Being above average is not good enough; being the best is a self-imposed requirement.
  • Go the extra mile: Perfectionists often give more than asked. If a report needs to be five pages long, they will turn in six. If a product needs to have three new features, they will add a fourth and maybe a fifth. If they set a record last month, they will strive to better it this month. In sports, this results in shooting free throws while the rest of the team showers or taking 30 minutes of extra batting practice—every day.
  • Set high standards: Another trait is that perfectionists set high standards, both for themselves and others. As long as the standards are reasonably attainable, it is acceptable, and even admirable for the perfectionist to set a bar high—for him or herself. (However, foisting faultlessness on the others does little more than establish the groundwork for future frustration, disappointment, and conflict between the precision-minded and the rest of the world.)

Of course, there are counterparts to these traits. One is procrastination. It is said that the perfectionist subconsciously reasons that the results of their work will never be just right—no matter how much time is invested—so why start? In fact, the project is often delayed until the last possible moment, so there is a plausible excuse as to why it’s not perfect: “I didn’t have much time to work on it!” Taking this to an extreme, some perfectionists miss deadlines and blow past due dates, often agonizing over some trivial or irrelevant detail.

Another side-effect associated with perfectionism is having problems in making quick decisions. Sometimes, they need to “sleep on it” to be assured of the correctness of their judgment. Other times decisions can be agonizingly difficult for them to reach. They fear making the wrong conclusion, that is, a less than perfect one. They delay a decision, while awaiting more information, so they can conduct an informed analysis. Unfortunately, this mental paralysis is seldom cured by amassing more data.

Over the years I have often interviewed perfectionists during job interviews. As it becomes apparent that I am talking to a perfectionist, I segue into a special interview segment, just for them. “So,” I inquire, “Do you consider yourself to be a perfectionist?”

Their responses fall into one of three categories. The first one is shock or denial. If a person who has just exhibited several perfectionist traits is taken aback at the thought of being called one or disavows any connection whatsoever, I judge them to either be disingenuous or lacking in self-awareness. Neither are characteristics that I seek in an employee.

The second type of response to my perfectionist query is unabashed pride and total satisfaction in possessing this quality. To make sure I am not rushing to a snap judgment, I give them one last chance for redemption. “What,” I ask, “do you see as the weaknesses of being a perfectionist?” Occasionally, they will comprehend the importance of that question, using an astute answer to move them from this category over to category three. Usually, however, they give me a blank stare, as if my inquiry was nonsensical, responding that there is no downside or that they don’t understand what I asked. In similar fashion, I don’t want to work with a perfectionist that has failed to realize the turmoil and trouble they can produce by their proclivity for perfection.

The third type of perfectionist applicant smiles at this question and begins to share their self-awareness about the shortcomings of how their version of perfectionism is manifested. They openly identify the less then admirable ways that it reveals itself in them and often proceeds to communicate how they guard themselves and others from this tendency. This is a person I want on my team. Yes, they may require a bit more management effort from time to time, but doing so is worth the extra energy as the results will be an employee who produces quality work, frequently exceeds expectations, goes the extra mile, and sets high standards for him or herself. Isn’t that who you want working in your organization, too?

Categories
Telephone Answering Service

Does Your TAS Have a Great Website?

Regardless of How You Market Your Answering Service, a Killer Website is Key

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

There are many ways to market your answering service, limited only by your creativity and budget. Regardless of which strategy you use, you need a website. Even if you claim you’re not accepting any new clients—and I never met an answering service that meant that—you still need a website for existing clients.

And this isn’t just any website but a great one. Your website stands as your make-or-break element to close sales. Regardless of your marketing tactics, prospects expect to find a website. In most cases your website will be part of your marketing campaign. But even if it isn’t, buyers may still look for one. What they see will determine whether they say “yes” or “no.”

Impress them and they’re likely to sign up. Disappoint them and they’ll go to your competitor. And if you don’t have a website, or they can’t find it, you’ve lost their business.

What about Social Media?

market your answering service

Some businesses, including those in the answering service industry, insist a website isn’t necessary, that they get along just fine using social media—thank you very much. However, using social media as your online home base is foolish. You don’t own it or have any control over what happens to it.

On social media, you’re at the whim of corporate overlords. At any moment, your online social media presence could go away or your audiences’ ability to see your content could face severe limitations. All social media platforms are moving to a pay-to-play scenario, some faster than others. At the most basic level, they want to charge you to reach your audience.

Instead, use social media to point people to your website, your home base, the only online real estate that you can own and control.

What about Print?

In the old days, back before the internet, businesses did just fine without a website. They relied on various forms of print media to promote their business and gain new clients. This included the Yellow Pages, newspaper ads, and direct mail. When is the last time you’ve seen the Yellow Pages? When’s the last time you read a newspaper? And what do you do when you receive direct mail? You throw it away without opening it. Even for specific print niches that still work, today’s consumers expect you to have a website. To not have one means you’re not viable. You’re invisible.

What about Online Advertising?

Many people love online advertising. It’s easy to track and determine your ROI. You can measure your success, or the lack thereof, fast. Though the call to action for online marketing can be to call a phone number, most involve a website. And even if the goal is to have the prospect pick up the phone, having a website adds essential credibility to your offer.

Rethink Your Website

You should view your website as your online home base. Use social media to point to it. Social media is ancillary to marketing, not central. And if you prefer print media, the results will be stronger if you have a killer website riding shotgun. The same is true for online advertising. Without a website, you might get a lot of ad clicks but few conversions.

So, scrutinize your website. Is it as good as it can be? Or does it look tired and dated? I’ve looked at a lot of TAS websites. Most could be better. And too many are embarrassing. For the sake of the industry, and the sake of your business, that needs to change.

To market your answering service, hopefully, you’re convinced of the importance of a website, a good website. Next month I’ll share tips on how to make yours stand out.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Why Printed Books Are Still Relevant

Though e-books receive all of the hype, printed books are still important, for both readers and authors

printed books

People like to talk about what is new, what is exciting, and what is fresh. That’s why the book publishing industry has so much buzz about reading digital books and listening to audiobooks.

I’m not going to dismiss those options—because they’re exciting opportunities for authors—but I do caution against overreacting. While digital and audio are fun, sexy, and viable, print is still king. Seriously.

Printed Books

Printed books have a proven history. Printed books have ardent supporters. And printed books do not require a device or a charged battery. They are always on and always available.

Print still has a role to play. Just look at libraries and bookstores, especially the local bookshops that have figured out how to compete against the national chains, online shopping, and electronic book consumption.

And don’t ignore the fact that Amazon has a physical bookstore. They wouldn’t do that on a lark. Though it may be years before we know why, be assured they have a well-reasoned business strategy for doing so.

There is also mounting evidence that younger generations prefer printed books. They like to unplug and immerse themselves into a good read. And at colleges that only provide e-textbooks, some students, out of frustration, will actually print their own copy of the text using their PC printer.

While some independent authors shun print and do only e-publication, they miss an important, and possibly growing, market. A success book publication strategy needs to stand on three legs: ebooks, audiobooks, and print books, which include paperback and hard cover.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Is It Time to Start a Medical Answering Service?

Begin Your Investigation with a Little Research

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

When I worked as a call center consultant (before moving full-time into publishing and writing) I advised hospital communication centers, healthcare call centers, and medical answering services. One hospital asked me to investigate the feasibility of them starting a medical answering service. Their doctors begged them to do so, and there was only one local provider that no one seemed to like.

I talked with some of the advocates of a hospital-based answering service and did a bit of investigation into the local provider. The initiative looked promising, and I ran the numbers. The hospital decided to move forward. But before they scheduled me to help them start their answering service, my contact abruptly retired and a change in management decided to pause the project. Next quarter they assured me, which became next year. They never did have me return.

I don’t know if they started their answering service or not, but I do know that what I would’ve charged them thousands of dollars for is now condensed in my new book How to Start a Telephone Answering Service, which came out in January.

If your hospital or healthcare organization is considering starting a medical answering service, you can hire an industry consultant to guide you or you can save a lot of money and buy my book.

And even if hiring a consultant is the way you want to go, start with my book as a primer. It’s available in paperback and Kindle and carries a 4.8-star rating.

Learn more at www.startanansweringservice.com.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Just Because You Can Self-Publish a Book Doesn’t Mean You Should

As the price barrier to book publishing lowers, too many books show up with too little quality

self-published anthology of short stories

I once read a self-published book by a “NY Times Best-Selling Author.” I’ll let him remain anonymous. It was a short story anthology of “the best” short stories in a certain genre. I expected much and received little.

A Self-Published Anthology of Short Stories

Perhaps I focus too much on flash fiction (short stories under 1,000 words). Possibly I read too many YA (young adult) books to appreciate writing that is more “serious.” It could be I lack patience. Or maybe I don’t know how to truly appreciate short stories. But just possibly this collection is not all that good, certainly not “the best.”

Here are the good parts: the cover design was okay, the interior layout was professional, and I didn’t notice any editing shortfalls. Failure in these areas is emblematic of shoddy self-publishing. So at least he covered the basics.

I started every one of the short stories but only finished a few. The one that I actually thought was well written and even had a twist at the end, elicited a “so what?” response from me and a stifled yawn.

Too often the stories failed to hook me at the beginning—and I always gave them a full page to do so. (I give books the first chapter to grab my attention.) And the few with promising openings that had me turn a couple of pages, failed to establish any reason why I should care about the protagonist. When you don’t wonder what happens to the lead character, there is no reason to turn the page. Ho-hum.

Don’t Bore Your Readers

The book’s introduction was copied from one of the author’s other books. (I tried to read that one, too, but ended up too bored to even skim it.) He may have tweaked a few words, but if so, it wasn’t enough to notice or give it a fresh feel.

He also provided a short preview about the writing of each story, highlighting what he liked about it and the strengths he appreciated. This may have been helpful as a learning experience, had not the stories been too painful for me to read.

I selected this book to learn about short stories. What I learned was don’t bore readers or waste their time. And if you self-publish, it had better be good.

Although a worthy concept, I doubt a traditional publisher would have touched this book. This is likely why the author self-published it. He shouldn’t have bothered.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Putting Blog Content in a Book

Can You Book Your Blog?

If a blog has a specific focus, could you compile this information in a book and sell it? But some people say you shouldn’t sell anything you’ve offered free. They think you won’t be able to sell something you once gave away (and may still be giving away) on your blog. An agent or publisher will also be concerned, fearful there is no one left to sell to.

putting blog content in a book

However, I disagree.

Though you may have lost some sales, you will pick up a new audience with a book. In addition, some of your blog readers will buy a copy because they want all the content in one place in a convenient format, while others who read some posts won’t read the rest online, though they will read a book. Although it’s best if you can add new content to the book, which isn’t in your blog, this isn’t a requirement.

There are many cases of authors who successfully turned a series of blog posts into a book. (Of course, you can do the opposite and turn your book into a blog.)

With all the self-publishing options available to us today, I say go for it.

Categories
Call Center Articles

Is Your Call Center Ready for Anything?



How to Survive When Receiving Twice the Calls or Having Half the Staff—or Both

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Running a call center is hard, at least doing it right. Even under normal conditions, managers struggle to balance traffic and staffing levels while maintaining high quality and minimizing complaints.

But what happens when conditions aren’t normal? If you’re slammed with calls for an extended period, how will you fare? What happens if several agents can’t make it into work? What if the remote access portion of your system goes down, leaving your local staff to deal with everything?

One solution is to ignore the risk and hope nothing abnormal happens. But eventually, something abnormal will occur. It might be a weather event, a natural disaster, or a manmade crisis. Use your imagination—it’s easy to see that any number of things that could cause call traffic to spike or your staffing levels to drop. In fact, these both could happen at the same time. How well could your call center manage trying to handle twice the number of calls with half the staff?

Here are some ideas:

Multilocation

call center

If the source of the problem that moves you from normal to not normal is local, having a multilocation call center is one easy solution—provided that the other call centers are far enough away to not have the same scenario affect them. Of course, this strains the other call centers in the network, but more locations and more agents to share the load reduces the negative impact.

Remote Workforce

Many call centers use some work-at-home agents, whereas others prefer all staff to work from one centralized location to allow for better management. Regardless, allowing staff to work from a remote location during a crisis is a key way to minimize the impact. This could provide options for staff unable to make it into the office, as well as make it easier for staff not scheduled to login and help.

Strategic Partners

Having multiple locations and allowing staff to work remotely are key solutions to deal with abnormal call center scenarios. However, these tactics only go so far. To supplement these two approaches, form strategic partnerships with other call centers that can help during an emergency. But select a call center partner geographically distant from you. If you’re on the coast, work with one who is inland. If you’re in the north part of the country, find one in the south. If you’re east, go west.

Vendor Solutions

Check with your vendor to see what disaster mitigation solutions they offer. They may be able to help you better handle a not-normal call center situation. They could also recommend strategic partners for you to work with.

Outsourcing

If you’re a corporate call center, you may want to arrange with an outsourcing call center to help during a crisis. And if you’re an outsourcing call center, you know how this functions, so work with another outsourcing call center to help you.

Automate

Regardless of your paradigm to provide people to help people, sometimes automating portions of your call response will serve callers better than by not answering their phone calls at all or making them wait in queue a long time for the next available agent.

Plan Now

The key to make any of this work is planning. When things are going along normally for you and your call center, it’s the ideal time to come up with solutions for when normal goes away. Don’t wait for a crisis to hit and then scramble for answers.

Preparation today will help achieve success for tomorrow, even under less-than-ideal situations. When disaster strikes, you’ll be glad you have a plan to deal with it.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Should You Be a Writer or an Entrepreneur?

Authors are advised to treat their writing like a business

Entrepreneurial

If you write solely for the fun of it or treat writing as a mere hobby, then don’t read this post. Seriously, it will just make you mad.

But if you want to succeed as a writer, regardless of how you define success, then this post should give you some ideas to consider. Please read on. Then let me know what you think about it.

Writing is a Business

When we treat our writing like a business it means we strategically pursue actions to meet the needs others have. We hope to earn a profit in doing so. This need we strive to fill is information, inspiration, or entertainment. Maybe all three. For nonfiction, we know things (or can find out things) that most people don’t know. For fiction we tell stories others want to read. We write to fill these needs. When we charge money for meeting the needs of others, we ensure we have the means to write more—and meet more needs.

A Book Is a Product

Yes, our books are creative works. Books are art, but they are also products; books provide a service to our audience.

A Series is a Product Line

If one book is a product, then a series is a product line. This is why beginning authors need to stay within one genre or one theme, so they can develop a product line and build a following around that line.

A Book Proposal is a Business Plan

At its most basic level, an author’s business plan is a book proposal. Look at the elements of a proposal. It outlines the theme and purpose of the book (the product), it lays out a vision for what it will accomplish, it talks about the need for the book, and it addresses the competition. It also proposes follow-up books (a product line).

At the very least, a book proposal informs our writing and guides us in producing a marketable book (product). No business will ever produce a product people don’t want. An author shouldn’t either.

[bctt tweet=”Writing is a business, a book is a product, and a proposal is a mini-business plan.” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

We Need Backing

The purpose of a business plan is to raise funding, to procure investors. When it comes to publishing a book our business plan (our book proposal) is the means to get a publisher to back us, to invest in our product (our book).

In theory, an advance is a money to live on while we develop the product (write our book). Our publisher will produce the book for us, distribute it, and sell it.

If we self-publish our book, we may go to Kickstarter to raise funds or solicit friends and relatives. They’ll want to see a plan before they fork over the cash. Even if we self-fund our book, we would be foolish to do so without treating it as an investment.

Marketing Plan

Our marketing plan—often part of the book proposal—addresses how we will let others know about our book. Even if we go with a traditional publisher, they will expect us to market our book. If we self-publish, marketing is even more critical.

Writing and publishing a book requires thinking like a business person; we must become an entrepreneur, especially if we choose to self-publish.

Do you think of your book as a product? What do you think about treating writing as a business?