Career and Astrology

Standard

Hello Readers,

A temporary break from political topics, as I’ve been working on a new blog/website and would like to ask you the following question:

What are your biggest frustrations with work?

I’m conducting research about astrology and how it can help people achieve their professional goals. I’m looking to get at least 100 responses. The survey takes less than 3 minutes to complete.

I’m happy to share the results once I’ve collected the numbers needed.

A free mini astrology reading is included as a gift :)

Click on this TypeForm link or the image below to begin the survey. Thank you!

Instagram Astrology

Advertisements

Why Use Organic Products?

Standard

During my semi-vacation in late 2013, I borrowed a book from the library titled, No More Dirty Looks (The Truth about Your Beauty Products).

organic_beauty_book

I started moving away from big-name commercial beauty products in 2012, but it was still a surprise to me to read that not ALL “organic products” were truly “organic.”

In No More Dirty Looks, there’s a section which mentions that companies are not required to conduct safety tests of ingredients in their products. Neither are they “regulated about what they put on product labels” (Mint & Berry).

This means that a company could (misleadingly) call their product line “XXX Organic” by placing a very small amount of organic herbs in a base of petrochemicals, toxins, and harsh preservatives. As this paragraph states:

“The word ‘organic’ should not be used unless the product ingredients as well as the manufacturing process are certified as organic by a USDA recognized certifying agency.”
~ Chagrin Valley (a great, truly-organic company)

Most commercial soaps / body washes / shampoos use harsh foam boosters such as sodium laurel sulfate (SLS). These substances are used in personal-care products because they are very cheap.

SLS is used in household and car cleaning products. The product ingredient “fragrance” contains compounds that are carcinogenic or otherwise toxic, indicating the presence of up to 4,000 separate ingredients.

Are HAZARDOUS, synthetic chemicals really substances we should be putting on our skin?

I don’t know what every single scientific study has to say about SLS, but I have sensitive skin that is quite, quite reactive.

The only proof I need is that SLS-based shampoos and soaps irritate my skin — they give me acne, eczema, and cause more of my hair to drop off — whereas products from organic companies like Desert Essence, Chagrin Valley, and Sappo Hill don’t give me half as much trouble.

It is important to me to support businesses that are ethical, socially and environmentally-conscious.

Why should we support companies who aren’t interested in the health and safety of the customers/consumers who keep them in business? Is it too much to ask for a soap that DOESN’T irritate the skin, and shampoo that DOESN’T make hair fall out? 

To make the point clear: I’m going to spend my money elsewhere on companies I am happy to support. I’d rather pay a bit more for a quality, gentle but effective product that works well than end up with the stress of skin irritation/etc. — and having to spend more to try and “treat” those symptoms instead of eliminating the products that were aggravating those issues in the first place.

To me, healthy/happy hair and skin speaks a lot more than sleek advertising or clever copywriting.

Some (un-Photoshopped) pictures to demonstrate:

acne

// July 2011 — This is a picture of me looking a bit “defeated” in 2011. It’s not the worst case of acne I’ve ever seen, but seriously, trying to get the skin to clear up was a really big headache at the time. ProActiv and some expensive products dried out my skin and made it worse. The problem improved once I started to tackle the real issues.

long_hairlonghair2

// January 2014 — My hair is thick/wavy and used to frizz up VERY easily. It’s become more manageable now (not super dry, clean, no fly-away strands). I like being “quite” low-maintenance with my hair and don’t like to dye it, flat-iron it, or put any chemicals/product into it. Best of all, the Desert Essence shampoo and conditioner make less of my hair fall out (I am currently using the “tea tree shampoo” and “coconut oil conditioner” from DE).

faceface2

// January 2014 — Nowadays I don’t put any synthetic chemicals on my face. I use organic olive oil as a cleanser, oatmeal and raw honey as an occasional scrub, and use plain water some days. I get the occasional pimple during PMS — or if I go overboard with chocolates/cookies — but it’s a lot better than having a face completely covered with red marks.

This really makes me think about all the Time + Energy + Hope + Money + STRESS I wasted on face/skin products which promised miraculous results (and never worked). Seriously, WTF?!

I am very grateful to everyone who’s spoken up on the subject of organic vs. commercial products, which is why I decided to write a blog post on this topic too :)

Have you had good experiences with natural/organic products? Post a comment or email me to share the news!

* * *

* Websites with More Information:

(1) Skin Deep: Cosmetics Database (the world’s largest personal care product safety guide, by EWG)

(2) Empowered Sustenance (Lauren shows you how to “eat well and heal”)

(3) The Love Vitamin (Tracy shows you the way to clear skin, a healthy body, and a happy soul)

* Check out some of these lovely organic companies:

(1) Desert Essence (I use their deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and lip balm)

(2) Chagrin Valley (rave reviews/testimonials on their FB page)

(3) Sappo Hill (I like their fragrance-free oatmeal soap)

(4) Vermont Soap (I’ve not used their products yet…but I would)

(5) BRAGG (100 years+ in business)

Author Interview, Jason Pendergrass

Standard

Interview #76, with “serial entrepreneur,” Jason Pendergrass!

Hi Jason! Describe yourself in 5 words:

I am a serial entrepreneur.

Share a short blurb of your work (10-100 words):

business_lessons

This book is a roadmap for business success teaching entrepreneurs how to start and run their own business while not being “Nickel & Dimed” to death. This book teaches such skills as product development, performing effective market research, driving sales using social media, protecting your intellectual property, developing and implementing an effective business strategy, and developing a sales strategy, among many other skills and lessons. This book teaches from my personal experiences with my own businesses. Some lessons came easy and some came the hard way, but this book breaks it down in an easy to understand, simple format.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

One of my favorite books, besides my own, is Managing written by Harold Geneen, former CEO of ITT from 1959 to 1977. One of the key quotes form this book is “Performance is reality. Forget everything else.” I completely agree. Performance is the only measure that matters. It will define success and it will define failure. To be successful, you must produce positive results. At the bottom line, that is what matters.

Well-said! Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

In my experience, writing a book is extremely time-consuming. Just when you think it is perfect, you proofread again and find a chapter you want to expand upon, a grammatical mistake, etc. You also get tunnel vision and that hinders you as well. You’re then forced to clear your head and take a break before continuing on with the quest of writing the book.

As for publishing a book, the only hassle I found was that it was costly. Luckily, my book has been selling successfully, but if the book was not in demand, I could have been stuck with a huge inventory of books I could not sell. There was risk involved. On the other hand, I also sell my book on Screwpulp.com as an e-book, and that eliminates the capital investment needed to publish an actual physical book.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

My definition of good writing is exceeding the readers’ expectations. My book is a business self-help book, so I want to ensure my book helps these entrepreneurs become successful and learn from my experiences while providing an easy to read format. Basically, since my readers are successful because of the lessons taught in this book, Business Lessons of a Rookie Entrepreneur is well written.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

My number one lesson is to not rush the process. Writing a book is a long journey and everyone wants to finish before their book is perfect. Be patient and remember, quality over speed. You have got to stay focused and keep this lesson in mind. Quality over speed!!

Your websites/blogs/etc:

www.pendergrassbooks.com or message me on Facebook. My book can also be found as an E-book on www.screwpulp.com by searching my name (Jason Pendergrass) or the book title (Business Lessons of a Rookie Entrepreneur).

* * * * *

Much thanks to Jason for stopping by — do visit Jason’s Website for more info on his projects!

JASON’S SHORT BIO (in his own words):

Started three small businesses, learned a lot, had a mixture of successes and failures. I am here to help you become successful in business.

Website: www.pendergrassbooks.com

* * * * *

Introducing Screwpulp

Standard

screwpulp

P.S. That’s a nice logo, isn’t it? :)

Screwpulp is run by Richard Billings, who has this to say of his start-up publishing company:

“I want to change a broken industry. It’s been broken for a while. I’m not just someone trying to start a business to make money.”

I liked following the updates on Screwpulp’s Facebook page, so I decided to enroll a couple of my eBooks in their catalog. I thought my parodies were a good fit so I submitted those for consideration.

Here’s a bit more information for you to get a better idea of Screwpulp.

* * *

Mission Statement:

The glacial pace that the traditional publishing world moves is not beneficial to new authors or to readers. We believe we have a better way to move forward, a way that not only helps new authors, but a way that protects the readers as well.

Disclaimer:

Screwpulp believes in giving every author a voice. While we believe this wholeheartedly, we understand that some voices might be hard to listen to, or may even be insulting. Screwpulp is not responsible or liable for any author’s content. We do not endorse or condone any viewpoints contained within the works of an author’s book. If you find something offensive, don’t read it. The power is in your hands.

Recent Press:

Screwpulp won the Amazing Risk competition for first-time entrepreneurs, which earned the company $10,000 through Launch Memphis. It was also chosen to participate in Launch Memphis’ 48-Hour Launch last June and the 2013 Seed Hatchery.

http://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/free-press/Content?oid=3343490

* * *

Books are available for free download when they’re first up on the website (how the current system works). New features are being added all the time so signing up for newsletter/mail updates might be a good idea.

My eBook Literary Heroin: A Twilight Parody is on Screwpulp so you can go download a copy!

twilight parody

You can also check out Lit Hero on my website jessINK (which includes a link to Screwpulp).

These are Screwpulp’s URLs on the web:

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Screwpulp’s Logo by Sleek Design:

Website | About

Ways to Differentiate in an Increasingly Commoditizing Market Place

Standard

By Guest Blogger Imogen Reed

* * * * *

Ways to Stand Out in a Commoditizing Market Place

standing_out

[Image from Channel Champion]

All products and services broadly speaking follow a life cycle, where the early adopters take on a product or service as soon as it is launched and then there are those who take up a product or service towards the end of its cycle or the end of that version, waiting until almost everyone else has already given it a go. Thinking of any product or service can nearly always be linked to a life span of some sort. For example, in terms of products, the mobile phone in the beginning was only really a tool of the affluent or business types. Similarly, in terms of services such as restaurants or balance transfer offers it is only a select few that try something out first, with the rest of the population following suit if it is successful and appeals to them.

It is only when the products or services become more uniform, more available and more affordable that they become the commonplace items or services that we know today. There is no defined time limit on a product life cycle and something may not always reach the end of a life cycle — it could evolve and develop to always maintain the peak of its success by constantly reinventing itself.

Something becomes commoditized when one offering is nearly indistinguishable from another. As a result of advances in technology, broader education and more aggressive marketing methods many goods and services, like mobile phones, bank accounts and even holiday destinations have become commoditized and, therefore, widely accessible.

(1) Working smarter

Companies now need to work smarter and harder to win over their customers to differentiate and set themselves apart in the marketplace. The best ones do this just one way — through branding their products and services. Coca Cola, Pandora and Apple are all well known brands with commoditized products — however, something drives their customers to their products and that is the power of their brand.

Whilst there are numerous ways to differentiate your business, through segmentation, product development, market research and so on, at the heart of them all is a company’s brand. Branding is all about getting to heart of your customers and understanding them better than they do themselves. The extent that a company can position itself as providing a superior value to its competitors will enable it to gain competitive advantage.

(2) Evoking emotional response

The best brands evoke strong emotional responses from their customers, thus creating a special relationship. This is often based on intangible qualities that the brand conveys through its logo, general look and feel, or the way the company interacts with its customers and how it conducts itself in the market place. Being the best brand isn’t always about price it is about the whole package and delivering that package well.

(3) Shrinking world

With the advent of social media the world has never been so small, certainly on a communications level at least. People can share something in an instant so whilst goods and services are infinitely more accessible, word of mouth has never been more widespread and companies/businesses should be mindful of this and leverage as appropriate when developing their brand. It is important to meet and some would argue exceed your customer’s expectations as far as possible. If a company fails not only will the world find out quicker there will also be a rival product waiting in the wings only too happy to pick up the pieces.  Repairing a brand’s reputation is hard so the trick is not to damage it beyond ruin in the first place.

(4) Brand archetypes

Those interested in branding may like to consider the concept of ‘brand archetypes’ popularized by Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson in the book The Hero and The Outlaw.

hero

The basic premise behind brand archetypes is that brands are a basic human social concept. They’re a way for us to understand ourselves and associate with others, and through common themes and characters, we can better understand how consumers connect with brands. For example; what is it that makes Nelson Mandela so inspiring or Oprah Winfrey so motivating? Why is the Harley-Davidson brand so compelling and exciting or Apple as a company so innovative and aspirational? Such iconic individuals, brands, and organizations command our attention because they carry the mythic power of an archetype. By aligning your company strategy and direction to brand archetypes you too can create an engaging and differentiated brand.

* * *

Author Bio:

Imogen Reed has been working full-time as a professional writer and researcher for five years; in that time there isn’t a lot she hasn’t already covered (including a nice article on Mary Louise Brooks, who defines: “I don’t give a damn”). Imogen enjoys writing with a site’s readership in mind. She can be reached at imogenATlinegrayDOTcom

* * *

Thanks, Imogen — I agree with the importance of branding ;)! Here are a couple of links readers might like to check out:

(1) Differentiating the Brand is a PDF by Six Degrees (a sensory branding agency).

(2) Why We Don’t Commoditize, by Anthony Iannarino, author of The Sales Blog.

— Jess C Scott / jessINK

Why I’m Not Joining Amazon’s KDP Select Program

Standard

monopolistic

[Image from a cached page of Entrepreneur Watch]

===

Amazon recently introduced the KDP Select program to entice authors in making their ebooks available through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (to earn a percentage of the $500,000 pool for the month of Dec 2011 — C. D. Reimer).

I personally chose not to enroll any of my eBooks in the program because I try not to support monopolistic tactics, though I understand many other authors/individuals may feel differently.

This post isn’t meant to bash Amazon — I’m thankful for the opportunity to sell my work on their website, and that Amazon’s Kindle was the device that sparked the eBook revolution.

This post just reflects my (polite, but firm) decision to not participate in Amazon KDP Select.

We are all in this together. Think about who really benefits from the exclusivity (see email below for more info), and why Amazon is appealing to individual self-interests instead of collective self-interest (“how much I could potentially make if I participated in KDP Select” versus “what’s really best for readers/customers/independent writers”).

It’s in all our interests to encourage a thriving, competitive market. We have to realize (now, before it’s “oops, too late”) that when Amazon’s the only game in town, they’ll start pulling more of these maneuvers on everyone that shops/sells there. This is the case with all big businesses that start becoming monopolistic (Amazon is in no way an exclusive case in point).

I’ve included an official reply from Amazon below, along with some links for more information on the matter.

AMAZON.COM REPLY (to an author re: KDP Select):

Hello xxx,

When you choose KDP Select for a book, you’re committing to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP.

During the period of your book’s enrollment in KDP Select, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. However, you can continue to distribute your book in physical format, or in any format other than digital.

Similarly, you cannot offer a sample or teaser on any platforms. With this in mind, you may certainly link to your Amazon detail page from other websites; a sample of your book will be available there.

Be sure to take a look at the KDP Select Terms & Conditions here:

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=APILE934L348N#Select

If you have additional questions about KDP Select, check out our Help pages:

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=200798990

I hope this helps. Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

P.S. Thanks to Joel Kirkpatrick, Maria Savva, Keta Diablo, Darcia Helle, J. Michael Radcliffe, Stephen Goldin, James Sophi (apologies to anyone else I missed out) for the heads up re: KDP Select (members of BestsellerBound).

* * *

* UPDATE (9 May 2012): Emailed KDP to clarify a couple of points.

AMAZON.COM REPLY (re: KDP Select exclusivity):

Hello Jess,

. . .Every term of KDP Select is 90 days long. Your digital content would have to be exclusively available on Amazon.com as long as the book is enrolled in KDP Select.

You may offer a sample, excerpt or teaser of your KDP Select-enrolled book on your website, as long as it doesn’t include a substantial portion of your book’s content. Up to about 10% of the book’s content is a reasonable amount.

Keep in mind that a sample of your book is also available on your Amazon.com detail page, and we recommend linking to your detail page from your other sites.

You may also put similar samples on other websites. We strongly recommend you clearly indicate in the title of your sample that it is a sample, so that there won’t be confusion regarding availability of your book on another sales channel.

I may try out a couple of promotional eBook items with KDP Select (to stay competitive), though I’ll keep my backlist on other retailers’ sites for now.

===

More Links:

1. Amazon Aims to Empty Competitor Shelves of Indie Ebooks (Mark Coker @ Huffington Report)

2. Amazon Shows Predatory Spots with KDP Select (Mark Coker @ Smashwords Blog)

3. Avoid Getting Banned from Amazon as an Author! – Part 1

Elven Trilogy, Book02 (Draft01)

Standard

I’ll be expanding on my commercial/mainstream department over 2012. I think the main commercial elements are as follows:

accessibility; niche genre; output; plot-driven;
series/sense of familiarity

When I look at my catalogue of work critically/realistically, I can say with all certainty that I’m commercially (very) weak at the moment. However, I like to be adaptable/flexible (i.e. Virgo Sun + Pisces Moon), so it might be more or less balanced in the long run (the challenge of keeping to some artistic and/or technical standard with non-commercial work is good practice for the business of commercial writing).

I like to think of Roald Dahl and Shakespeare (amongst many other writers), who were both artistically and commercially successful. The substance is what lasts, which is separate from popularity that results from capitalizing on a cultural zeitgeist.

I am very careful to always focus on substance (i.e. some “meaning” to combat the proliferation of “fluff” out there). I do not mind if people enjoy fluff or mindless entertainment (something I myself enjoy, from time to time), but I do think the media has a tendency of over-glorifying fluff at the expense of something new/original/innovative (which is what I do mind).

I incorporate these sentiments straight into my work (embedded somewhere in the plot). I like to target my work to the YA crowd when possible also, because I think it’s dangerous when the proliferation of fluff is celebrated without a critical eye (so much so that shallowness has become the accepted norm and “way of life”).

I know shallowness has always been around, though I think it’s become more and more amplified over time (particularly after the music/publishing/etc industries became COMPLETELY 100%-commercial, and substance was generally tossed aside in the name of hype and $$$$$).

Regarding my ongoing Cyberpunk Elven Trilogy, I’ll probably get straight to the first draft of Book03 once the current draft for Book02 is done (since the “momentum” is in full swing at the moment — might as well make the most of it).

A non-cliched love triangle has been established in Book02. I’ll take extra care to keep it non-cliched, but still intense. I’ve also increased the cyberpunk focus/themes (with slightly more emphasis on “cybernetics“), though I’ll tidy everything up so that the details are intricate without being overwhelmingly complicated (I’ll do my best to follow that aspect of Book01).

I’ve updated the summary and synopsis for The Darker Side of Life (Book02) (on the about page here). Got to go continue Chapter 12 now. Completed first draft’s gonna be a real big mess to clean up (the first draft usually is, lol).

=====

P.S. Since the title’s The Darker Side of Life, I included the following phrase in one of the chapters (the title helps me keep to the theme):

“The brightest light casts the darkest shadow.”

=====

P.P.S. I’ve dreamt of Eminem several times in the past. I recently read a dream book which suggested dreaming of celebrities could signify the desire to emulate some of their traits.

I know many of Eminem’s lyrics by heart, and one I always fondly remember is:

I’m sick of you little girl and boy groups — all you do is annoy me
So I’ve been sent here to destroy you.
~ The Real Slim Shady

When anger/a destructive force is correctly channeled into something positive (i.e. creating something that matters), I think the result can be something really good/significant/memorable.