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Client Profile: Craig Hughes – Teaching You How to Grow Your Small Business

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inspirational people

Making a Difference with His Nonfiction Book

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I hope you are following our mission to find 117 Solutions in 2017 because you will meet many ordinary, yet inspirational people, who are working hard to make this world a better place. Tom Hofmeister is such a man.

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Your Online Reputation And Author Brand

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This article was originally guest posted to BookBaby by Caroline Black

Your online reputation can be your most powerful marketing tool and beacon for your author brand, as long as it’s properly monitored.

Once upon a time, authors could hide behind the pages of their books with no one knowing much about them aside from the name on the front cover. We now live in a very different age.

Many readers want to know as much about the person writing the story as they do about the content. For better or worse, the Internet has provided a platform for exploration that makes it easy for fans to delve into your background, and if you aren’t properly vetting what a Google search of your name brings up, it could lead to disaster for your career. One way to take control of this is to get a RepCheckup account.

Representing your author brand

Representing your author brand covers more than just going on book tours and signings. A plethora of online platforms can be harnessed by authors as promotional tools. However, sloppy practices when producing websites, working on social media, or messaging your mailing list could cause more harm than good.

If a prospective new reader, or even a long-term fan, doesn’t like the way you present yourself online, it’s highly likely she won’t pick up another copy of your work ever again. The author brand you chose to promote is up to you, but there are questions every author should ask when considering his or her online reputation.

1. Are you marketable?

Even though the product you’re looking to sell is yourself – or at least your talents as a writer – it’s still important to consider the marketability factor of the personality you’re promoting. To begin with, it’s essential to have a comprehensive grasp of yourself as a writer; consider what themes, ideas or message you’re trying to portray with your work and what emotional response you’re trying to elicit.

After this has been established, it’s time to check whether your online reputation reflects these ideals. Consider colors, graphics and font type when setting up webpages, and be stringent about the wording and emotional weight of the things you post.

2. Are you authentic?

There’s no rule stating your online reputation has to be a positive one; plenty of public figures have found notoriety through controversy and scandal. However, if you are endeavoring to be a provocative online figure, it is important to ensure that your author brand has been properly planned and considered.

It might seem fun to play the femme fatale or outspoken critic on the Internet, but if that sort of personality is far detached from who you are, then it’s only going to be a matter of time before your readership sees through this. “Fake†is a buzzword that pops up regularly on the Internet, usually inspiring a cutthroat response.

While your online presence as an author may be more carefully fabricated than your personal social media profiles, you’re still trying to present an authentic front. Audiences want to know who you are, not who you are pretending to be.

3. Are you engaging?

It’s not enough to post a single tweet or only update your website around the time of your book release or other significant event. The key to growing a fan base is to provide regular, engaging online content. This is why so many writers have set up personal blogs.

Writing relevant posts about topics related to your work or your goal as an author means your name and face are potentially popping up in the feeds of your fans and new readers. Staying active in this way also does a lot to increase your Google ranking. Both of these things are essential to a good online reputation and continued success in your career.

Look into Google Adwords or other SEO strategies in order to better structure your blog posts to attract more traffic.

4. Are you trustworthy?

For anyone who religiously uses the Internet, there’s a constant balance of trust and risk. You’re sharing your personal information with people you don’t actually know, so, by default, a presumed level of faith between you and those you are interacting with has to be established. However, this is fickle and can easily be broken.

There are many harmless hacks that are common for regular users of social media and blogging platforms. Most often, they manifest as spam links sent without your knowledge to your followers. Although they pose no real threat, many Internet users will avoid an infected domain once they’ve seen a problem.

There are lots of simple strategies to overcome this – password management, use of secure networks, etc. – but by far the best solution is the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Using a VPN that you can find on a website like CompareMyVPN can give you an unprecedented level of online security. As one of the leading security programs on the market, a VPN encrypts all of your data and makes it very difficult for hackers or malware to gain access to your accounts. Secure Thoughts provides reviews of some of the best options on the market for those who want more information.

Your online reputation can be your most powerful marketing tool and beacon for your author brand, as long as it’s properly monitored. Ensuring you always have the questions outlined above in mind when setting up online accounts means you are positioned to get the biggest promotional benefit.

If you’ve had any insights related to an online reputation you’d like to share, be sure to leave a comment below. We’d love to hear your ideas!


About BookBaby

Based in the Philadelphia-area, BookBaby is a team of authors, poets, bloggers, and artists — so they know the thrills and challenges of bringing a book into this world.

Since 2011, BookBaby has helped thousands realize their publishing goals by offering the largest eBook distribution network, including Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and many other popular retailers in over 170 countries around the globe.

Learn more at

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2017: The Year of Solutions!

Feeling disturbed by the chaos in our world? You are not alone.

Look around you. We’ve been bombarded with problems that appear unsolvable, and many are in deep distress.

We have so many problems that we don’t even know how to name them anymore, but we do know what doesn’t work. Top-down solutions don’t work. Government can’t fix anything, organized religion hasn’t solved our problems, and we’ve tried to medicate our problems away, but that hasn’t worked either. In many cases, these attempts have made things worse and have spawned new problems.

2017: The Year of Solutions!

I believe that our problems—all of them—can be solved, and that the answers are trapped inside people like you. When you share what you know and what you’ve learned, you become the solution. The answers are inside of you. You ARE the solution.

There are two things that people cannot live without: HOPE and HELP. People need hope that things can and will get better, and they need help to get from where they are to where they want to be. When you tell your story, Nonfiction writing coachwhen you share what you’ve been through, what you’ve learned, what you’ve overcome, what you’ve developed or the path you took, you become the voice of hope and help.

There are people like you who have the answers, the solutions. And there are other people who, in some cases, are literally dying, waiting for those answers. You have what they need, and you can offer the hope and help that they crave simply by telling your story. You are the solution.

Think about what you’ve learned and how you can be a force that changes lives, saves lives, and transforms society. Don’t waste your pain and struggles. Put them to work in the world and let the mess become the messenger — the messenger of hope and help.

Maybe you’ve been through a painful time and fell like you can reach back and give others a helping hand. What do you know? What have you learned? What have you discovered or developed that can help others?

The Answer: 117 Solutions in 2017

It’s time for us to take the reins and solve the problems that surround us. In 2017, we are going to find 117 solutions to the problems that plague us. Every week we will focus on 2 specific problems and ask for your help to solve them. Perhaps you have a solution of your own, or maybe you know someone else who does. Introduce us to one another.

You can share the problems you’ve encountered and the solutions you crafted to offer hope and help to this chaotic world. If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

When you tell your story and what you’ve been through, what you’ve discovered, what you’ve overcome, or what you’ve developed, you become the voice of hope and help.

The purpose of 117 Solutions in 2017 is:

  • To create a groundswell of solutions to problems that have, until now, seemed too big or impossible to resolve
  • To unleash the answers that are trapped inside of people
  • To change lives, save lives, and transform society

Call to Action:

You can’t sit around and hope that things will change. If you want change, you must be the solution. Be the one who offers hope and help and write your high-impact nonfiction book that can save lives, change lives or transform society. Click the button to get involved:

Write a nonficiton book

The Problems:

We have a lot of problems, and here are a few to consider. What do you know or what have you learned about these problems that could help others?

Immigration Reform
Refugee Crisis
Church-State Separation Tension
Eroding Middle Class
Government restrictions on small business
Drug Abuse
Capital Punishment
Misuse of social networking
Animal abuse
Women’s Rights
Domestic Terrorism
Religion-based Discrimination
Organ & body donation
Human Rights Violations
Environmental Pollution
Children’s Rights
Corporate Downsizing
Defense Spending and Preparedness
Euthanasia & assisted suicide
Eating Disorders
Racial profiling
Recycling and Conservation
Civil Rights
Genetic Engineering
Consumer Debt and Bankruptcy
Judicial Reform
Academic Freedom
Gun Control
Gender issues
Environmental issues
Single Parenting
Child Labor
Nuclear Proliferation
Health Care Reform
Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Child pornography
Sex Trafficking
Refugee Crisis
Data Security
Use of Drones
Violence through indoctrination
Child Neglect
Child Abuse
Juvenile Offenders
Child prostitution
Information Overload
Instability of the EU
Gender Wage Gap
Child care alternatives
Lack of human connection in over-connected world
Over-stressed parents
Under-served populations
Reliance on government programs rather than self
Effects of childhood traumas
Teen heroin use and overdose
Polarized political parties
Crippling anxiety
Traumatic brain injury
Living with chronic disease
Overcoming childhood abuse
Racial reconciliation
White privilege
Failure of the education system – elementary
Failure of the education system – secondary
Tort reform
Eroding middle class
Domestic poverty
Child-on-child crime
Polarized societies
Eating disorders
Date rape
Cyber bullying
Domestic violence
Gang violence
Climate Change
Cloud Hacking
Computer Hacking
Corporal Punishment
Disaster Relief
Drinking and Driving
Identify Theft
Legalization of Marijuana
Hate Crimes

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Seven basic – but important – questions about eBooks

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This article was originally posted to BookBaby.

Even though they’ve been around for almost 10 years, a lot of folks are still trying to understand the world of eBooks. Our BookBaby publishing specialists field dozens of questions about eBooks every day, and any question, no matter how basic, deserves a good answer.

“There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question” –Carl Sagan

Even though they’ve been around for almost 10 years, a lot of folks are still trying to understand the world of eBooks. Choosing an e-book service can be hard, and our BookBaby publishing specialists field dozens of questions about eBooks every day.

I agree with the opinion of that famous astrophysicist – any question, no matter how basic, deserves a good answer. In that spirit, let’s go to the most basic level of eBook knowledge, starting with:

1. What is an eBook?

Electronic books – or eBooks – are digital versions of a manuscript. An eBook can consist of text, images, or both. An eBook requires special dedicated files to be created from digital files like Word or PDF. (See below for more information about these eBook files.) eBooks have been around since 2007, when Amazon introduced the Kindle, followed by the Barnes & Noble Nook and the iPad from Apple.

2. How do people buy and read eBooks?

eBooks are downloaded directly to all kinds reading devices. They can be read on almost any modern computing device including dedicated eReaders like the Kindle or Nook. These devices are mainly used to buy and read eBooks. Many people read eBooks on smartphones – all iPhone and Android devices have eBook reading apps available as downloads. Others use multipurpose devices – tablets like the iPad and Surface – to consume eBooks.

Readers can buy eBooks from thousands of online retailers around the globe, including Amazon. The Kindle BookStore is the world’s largest online eBook store, with hundreds of new titles added each day. Other popular eBook retailers include Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble. In addition, authors can sell eBooks directly to readers from their own websites.

3. How do I turn my book into an eBook?

It starts with having your content on one of the popular digital file formats, such as Word or a PDF. These source documents will then be converted into two special eBook files. One file type, .mobi, is used in the Amazon Kindle device. The other file, called an ePub, is used in all other eBook reading devices, apps, and programs.
Some authors can convert their files themselves using third-party software applications. But for most writers, eBook conversion is a complicated process and can be difficult to do correctly. The coding can get very intricate and complex.

That’s why many authors turn to a company like BookBaby for professional eBook file conversion. At BookBaby, we inspect your Word or PDF document to make sure it conforms to eBook file specifications and then convert it into both .mobi and ePub files for all eReader types. BookBaby then sends a format proof of the eBook files that you can load and view on your own device. At this stage you can still make changes or corrections to your book.

4. What kind of books can be eBooks?

Just about any kind of book can be made into an eBook. Most text-based books work very well as eBooks because they have a simple layout. This is called a “dynamic” layout, because the book’s appearance will change depending on the screen size of the eReader. (More information here and below.) Books that have a lot of pictures or graphics often need a different conversion process, called “fixed layout”. We recommend this kind of conversion for children’s books, cook books, photography, and art books. (Note: BookBaby performs fixed layout conversions for books destined to be sold in Apple’s iBookstore only. For more information about what kind of conversion you’ll need, go to the BookBaby website.

5. Will my eBook read and look just like my printed book?

All of the content of your printed book will be in your eBook, but it won’t look exactly the same. Why? Think of it this way: A printed book stays in one format, for instance a 6×9 trade book. Each page stays exactly the same – forever! But an eBook page can and will change based on several factors including the screen size of the reading device being used and the reader’s personal preferences. For more information about why eBooks don’t look like printed books, I invite you to read “Why Doesn’t My eBook Look Like My Printed Book?” on the BookBaby Blog.

6. How long will it take to create an eBook?

There is no simple answer to this question, it all depends on your book files and the time spent reviewing your eBook proof. Here’s the process:

  • When you send your Word or PDF book file to BookBaby, we’ll inspect all of the contents to make sure everything is right.
  • Next we convert your file into both a .mobi and ePub, and send you a digital proof. Your first proof will arrive in about 6-8 business days.
  • Then the ball is in your court! You’ll need to review your proof and contact BookBaby with any changes. This can take five minutes… five days… or five weeks.

Most eBook conversions take two rounds of proofs. How long does the “average” conversion take? You can generally expect this part of the eBook creation process to last between 12-15 business days. Please note: If you’re doing both a printed book and eBook at the same time, BookBaby will work on your printed book file first and then your eBook. That way we make sure both versions of your book are exactly the same.

7. What do I need to do to get started on my eBook?

First, you should have your book professionally edited. That goes for any kind of book, printed book or eBook. There’s just no substitute for another set of eyes combing your manuscript to eliminate typos and grammar issues.

When you send us your edited book file in Word or PDF format, I recommend you keep everything very simple. Because there are so many kinds of eBook readers and devices, a simple book file is best for the sake of consistency. Avoid any kind of special fonts or type treatments. Remember It’s the content of your book that’s most important – not a fancy typeface. For more instructions how to prepare your file, download BookBaby’s free guide, Preparing Your Document For eBook Conversion.

About BookBaby

Based in the Philadelphia-area, BookBaby is a team of authors, poets, bloggers, and artists — so they know the thrills and challenges of bringing a book into this world.

Since 2011, BookBaby has helped thousands realize their publishing goals by offering the largest eBook distribution network, including Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and many other popular retailers in over 170 countries around the globe.

Learn more at

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Gifts to give others: time, authenticity, and focused attention

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, gifts are certainly on your mind. As you rack your brain for the perfect gift ideas for everyone on your list, remember that the best presents aren’t flashy and expensive. The most memorable gifts involve giving your time, authenticity, and focused attention. The best gifts show that you put time and thought into the selection and had the receiver’s unique personality in mind.

gift for writers

Gifts for writers and readers

These are just a few ideas for the writers and readers in your life. Be creative! Remember, the true gift is your time and attention. It is not simply about the act of giving, but also about being present in the moment. Give the people in your life the gift of your time and company and your gift will surely be well remembered.

Personalized pen

A pen may seem like a boring gift, but it could make the perfect gift for writers. There are many ways you can personalize this standard item. You might purchase a wooden ballpoint pen with a quote from the writer’s favorite book or author. You could also get the writer’s name engraved on a metal pen. If you know the receiver is prone to misplacing their pens, buy them a pack of pens in bulk and dress it up with ribbons and a hand-written note about never having to search for a pen again!

Journal or notebook

Writers need to write somewhere! While many writers do the bulk of their writing on a computer these days, a small journal or notebook is a great thing to keep around in case inspiration strikes them while they are away from the keyboard. Many writers also find that scribbling things down on paper actually helps them clear their head and narrow in on good ideas. You can further personalize this item by inscribing it with a heartfelt note that encourages the receiver to keep writing, no matter what.  Take the time to show the writer in your life that you value their words and ideas; that you believe in the story they need to tell.

Coffee and Tea

Readers and writers alike can find comfort in a mug of hot coffee or tea. Writers might keep the coffee pot on while they do some late-night writing and readers can sip on a cup of calming tea while they unwind with a good book. A set of great coffee and/or tea flavors is a great gift for writers and readers, especially if you package it in a cute mug. You can further personalize this gift with a custom mug that includes the receiver’s name or a favorite quote.


What encompasses the gift of time, authenticity, and focused attention better than a handpicked book? A book is an obvious gift for writers and readers, but it’s important to keep the receiver in mind when you choose the book. The book you choose should say something about the receiver or perhaps your relationship with them. You could give them a fictional world to lose himself or herself in or a nonfiction book to inspire them. Take the time to picture the receiver reading the book and imagine the emotions it will inspire. Find a book that will make it onto their list of all-time favorites to make your gift a memorable one.

Something handmade

Handmade gifts show that you took the time to create something with the receiver in mind. Hand-poured candles are a great gift for writers who might enjoy some calming scents while they work. Bath bombs are a great gift for readers who enjoy hot baths paired with a good book. If you are handy with wood and a hammer, you could build a small bookshelf for your favorite reader’s book collection. If you are not a particularly crafty person, try something simple like a handwritten letter that shows the receiver how much you love and appreciate them. You could also dedicate time to the receiver by sending them a handmade invitation to join you for coffee and your undivided attention.

Give the gift of your time and you are sure to give memorable gifts, year after year.

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Capture the Time

It often seems impossible to make time to write, or to even make time for anything outside of your normal schedule. I don’t exactly know what time is, but I know I’ve been a slave to it for much of my life. My life, like yours, is filled with so much: things I want to do, things I need to do, and a lot of things I don’t really want to do, but must. There’s always that race against the clock, which leaves me feeling scattered and torn, like a scarecrow with his stuffing pulled out. At the end of the day, there isn’t much left, and what’s left doesn’t feel like me.

Recently I’ve been learning that time is actually nothing — and I do mean nothing. They say it doesn’t actually exist, make time to writeand yet, I’ve not only given it great power in my life, but I’ve allowed it to be a tyrannical and unsympathetic ruler, never satisfied because no matter how much I do, I never have enough time. There’s always more–more to achieve, more to accomplish, more to attend to. Time is never satisfied.

When my husband and I went to the Grand Canyon for a ten day float trip, time changed. I can’t figure out if it stretched, shifted, or stopped altogether, but I do know that one day melted into the next, and the pressure of time was lost. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. All I had to do was to eat, drink, and be. After ten days of floating from day to day, I was fundamentally changed. I had found the wide open spaces inside of me, and I only felt the pressure of time as our trip was coming to a close. I dreaded going back to the calendar and clock that ruled my life.

Somewhere along the way, and I don’t know when, I made a decision. “I don’t want to do anything that I don’t want to do anymore,” I told Tom. He looked at me with a kind of quizzical look on his face, kind of like my daughters did when they were teenagers right before the word “duh” came out of their mouths.

“Then don’t,” he said.

Then don’t? Could it be that easy? Figure out what I don’t want to do and just stop?

It took no effort at all to make a list of the things I didn’t want to do anymore. The list wasn’t that long, but when I matched it up to my day-to-day activities, I saw that the “don’t like” stuff ruled my calendar and, thus, ruled my life. I spent most of my time doing things I didn’t like. All I had to do was stop doing these things—and that was the challenge.

The first thing I crossed off was going to meetings and gatherings that didn’t interest me. I often said “yes” to things like networking events that other people asked me to attend, and I quit doing that. There comes a point in time, especially when you’re a business owner, that you have to say “no” to the good opportunities, so you can focus on building a great business. It wasn’t so much that the events themselves took a lot of time, but when coupled with the travel time and the cost of not doing what I really needed to do, they were simply too expensive, too great a cost for the benefit.

Because I own my own business, there are countless behind-the-scenes responsibilities that must be handled, such as accounting, payroll, social media, and website maintenance. I used to do all these things myself because I had to, but in recent years I’ve gotten help with them. I fully delegated all the tasks in the financial arena to my CPA firm, because I hate that stuff! When I looked at the rest of the bits and bytes of running my business, I decided to hire an Operations Manager to run the daily show, but that was a scary step for me. How would I pay for her?

On the other hand, how could I afford NOT to hire her? Quite simply, I’d pay for her by directing my energies into doing the things that I love and that only I can do — like reaching more writers, developing more programs, and publishing more books by people like you that can change lives, save lives, or transform society out to the world.

Prioritize your time and make time to write

So what does this have to do with you and your book? I assume that you’re a busy professional, and you’re not looking for extra things to fill your time. Life is busy enough with work, but when you layer on the more important things like faith and family, there’s no wiggle room, no gaps where you can sneak in a major project like writing your book. And yet, it’s something you want to do. And you’re only one who can tell your story; you’re the only one who can do it. The reason why people want to write a book varies from writer to writer, but I’ve found that most people want to do it because they have found a solution and they want to help others. They want to make a difference.

You actually have time to do the things you want to do. You can make time to write your book if you learn how to prioritize your time.

When I was forty-eight years old, I went back to school to earn my Masters degree in writing (MFA) because I wanted to hone my skills to the point where I could not only make a living by writing, but because I wanted to help other people discover and unleash the critical messages that were trapped inside of them. At the time, both my daughters were not only grown, but one of them was married and had already earned her Masters degree, and the other one had just started medical school. I was old, and the first day I walked into class, I felt it!

It was hard. I hadn’t been in school for twenty-six years, and I’d forgotten about the rigors of academia. The program lasted two years—that’s twenty-four consecutive months without a summer break—and it seemed like an eternity. When I was in the thick of it, I couldn’t imagine what life would be like when I finally graduated. I mean that. I could not picture life after school. The work was hard, and I had to adopt the attitude that school was only for a season of my life, not its entirety. In order to be successful and earn my degree, I had to cut out everything else in order to get the work done. After all, it was only two years. That time was going to pass anyway. “I may as well have something to show for it,” I thought.

Writing your book is a lot like going to school. You have this major project that you work and work and work on, and you think you’ll never get finished, that you’ll never get out of school, then one day — voilà! It’s over! You have your book in hand, and you can have free time again. The year is going to pass anyway. Your might as well have something to show for it. Dedicate a year to it, and make the time to write.

Just like there’s a season for going to school, there’s a season for writing your book. But it’s only a season. It doesn’t last forever. You must adopt this mindset.

It would be ridiculous to think that someone like you is going to drop everything or possibly even quit your job to make time to write a book. That wouldn’t be healthy. But it’s not unreasonable to expect you to shift your schedule for the next year, in order to prioritize the project. You can’t create time, but you can capture pockets of it and re-purpose its use. Don’t get me wrong. It’s going to be busy, perhaps busier than you’d like, but if you simply get up an hour earlier each day, or commit your lunch hour to your book, or turn off the TV to write, you can absolutely accomplish this, step by step by step. One day at a time, one paragraph or page at a time, until the pages become chapters and the chapters become a book. By giving attention to the little details on a consistent basis, you will build your book brick by brick. The big thing comes forth from the little things, but the process has to be efficient.

You don’t have to do this alone. Work with me and I can help you make time to write your book. The year will pass no matter what, so make sure you have something to show for it.

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Things I Learned About Storytelling from Stranger Things

This article was originally guest posted to BookBaby by

It’s good practice to reverse-engineer the stories you love most and apply the best storytelling elements to your own writing. Stranger Things had that effect on me, and here’s what I learned.

If you are one of the millions of viewers who got sucked into the world of Stranger Things, you know why the show was such a big hit. A compelling story, great characters, monsters and the supernatural… the list goes on. The show is set in the ’80s in an ordinary small town, but when a boy goes missing, we get to see many secrets rise to the surface, and as this small town becomes torn by shocking events, we’re taken on a trip to the upside down.

This isn’t a Stranger Things review, though. Similar to what I did with “The Jungle Book: Beautiful Film, Flawed Storytelling,” I found several good points I can apply to my own storytelling watching this exceptional show.

Spoiler alert! I’ve done my best not to give too many details away, but if you haven’t watched the show and intend to, you might learn a few things about the story.

1. Get nostalgic

People read and watch movies because they love to forget about the habitual reality they live every day and dive into some other setting, be it a fantasy land filled with magic, a cybernetic future ruled by almighty corporations, or the not-so-distant past with all its charms.

The Duffer Brothers, who created Stranger Things, definitely harnessed the power of nostalgia and hit it spot on. Whether the viewers were remembering the past or got to experience the ’80s for the first time, part of the appeal of the show was tied to the depiction of the time period in which it was set. There are many references to this decade, such as the music, outfits and even the equipment they use throughout the show. Who would have thought that a HAM Radio would be making an appearance on our screens in 2019? This article from CW Touch Keyer does mention how the use of equipment like this can be used to communicate to pretty much anyone and considering the group are trying to communicate with the “upside down”, it makes sense. Plus, it all fits in with the idea of the 80s and nostalgia. An iPhone wouldn’t have the same impact.
As much as people love to ponder the future, they love to go back in time to some preciously calmer and simpler moment in history. Perhaps they love going back even more than traveling to the future.

If you are going to set your story in the past, carefully research the time period you’re conjuring up and build it with details and an emotional connection. If you are successful, your readers will want to stay with your book forever.

2. Add allusions to enrich your story

TheThingI just love when writers make allusions to other popular books, movies, shows, games, historical events – or fast food restaurants. As a matter of fact, in my own fantasy book, there’s room for McDonald’s.

Watching Stranger Things, you notice a number of allusions to popular culture of the ’80s.

    • Hanging on the walls are posters from popular movies of those years, like Evil Dead, Jaws, and The Thing (note that the poster of The Thing includes the image of a person with no face)
    • A character who takes the “weirdo,” who possesses paranormal abilities, on a bicycle ride (remember E.T.?)
    • The characters are listening to well-known songs of the ’80s including Foreigner and The Clash, with “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” mirroring the conundrum some of the characters are facing even as they sing or hum the song

And that’s just a few examples – there are many more.

So why do you want to use allusions in your story? Because it adds depth to the world you’re building. Your story gains multiple levels and becomes rich with subtext – your reader will believe he’s experiencing something true, something connected to the world he knows, even if it is an imaginary ghost story. The characters become real people who read the books you know, listen to the songs you remember, who might as well live in your neighborhood.

3. Kill your darlings

I’m not suggesting a crime here, but Stranger Things teaches us writers that we shouldn’t be afraid of killing off our characters, even beloved ones.

This doesn’t mean you need to be a killing junkie like George R. R. Martin, but the unexpected loss of a character can add a feeling of risk to your adventure. After all, what kind of adventure is it if there is no risk of being killed, eaten by a monster, or lost in a parallel dimension with a creepy serpentine tentacle down your throat?

Pay attention to who you kill, though. The death of a third-plane character like the bartender who just served your hero a drink won’t affect your readers (or story) nearly as much as the death of your hero who was just poisoned by that drink.

4. Make your characters change and grow

NancyWe all know how important it is to take your characters on a journey that will change them in some way. They can become stronger or weaker, wiser or maybe even more naive as the story progresses. They can evolve from an ordinary gardener to the president – or they can grow despondent and lose any hope for a happy ending. That’s what people want: a story that affects the characters at the center of it, and Stranger Things never forgets this.

In the pilot episode, we watch four kids playing Dungeons & Dragons who confront the Demogorgon, a hideous creature they’re very much afraid of, though it is only a plastic figurine on the board. As the story unfolds, the kids learn about another dimension, to which their friend disappeared. In order to save their friend, the three of them have to battle a very real monster in a very dark world.

Thanks to this parallel between the tabletop game’s imaginary trouble and the real world trouble, we experience how these ordinary boys, who only play the hero in their fantasy games, grow stronger and become a believable rescue team ready to fight a creature from another world. They become so brave in the process, they are no longer afraid to face the troubles in the real world, like standing up to the bullies in school.

But in Stranger Things, these boys are not the only ones who change. When we first met her, Eleven used to jump at any rustle and didn’t trust anyone. She was also afraid of her special powers. Throughout the story, she learns to trust her new friends and finds confidence in using her powers to save them.

Nancy takes off her rose-colored glasses and stops looking at the world through the eyes of a naive schoolgirl. Her best friend is missing, and when she finds out that it was the monster that took her, she partners with an unlikely confidant and arms herself with a gun. She takes charge, breaks locks with her bare hands (and a rock), and charges headlong into an unknown dimension. After all she experiences, Nancy comes to understand how important her family is to her, particularly her brother, which leads them to a friendship that was not present at the beginning of the story.

5. Pace your mystery

Little by little, Stranger Things builds the mystery and horror in this small town. The creators take the characters you believe in and continuously add details – like Eleven’s flashbacks to her time at the experimental facility – pacing the revelations to propel their story at a slow but measured pace.

And it keeps on coming. Whenever one mystery gets resolved, another is already underway. The viewer is in a constant chase after answers, and Stranger Things strikes a perfect balance of concealing a mystery and offering satisfying answers to our burning questions.

6. Don’t just provide answers, provide satisfying answers

If you’re a master at building mystery and suspense but fail at connecting the dots, your readers will be more than frustrated – they will feel deceived, or worse, betrayed.

Were you a fan of Lost? It started off with such promise, so much potential, and viewers and critics were enrapt. But the creators lost their way (no pun intended) and their desperate efforts to get out of it only led to a disappointing dead end. This case teaches us storytellers that it’s important to not only give answers to the questions we raise, but that these answers must be satisfying for the audience, moving the plot and affecting the readers/viewers as much as the characters in the story.

If you add resolutions but don’t add depth or value to your story, reconsider. You might as well leave those mysteries unsolved rather than making readers angry with the dull answers.

7. Make your monsters really scary

Stranger Things doesn’t show you its hideous monster in full until about three-quarters through the series. You have to go along with obscure bits and pieces of the monster that are shown to you in nearly pitch-black darkness. Seriously, the night and Upside Down scenes in this show are so dark I couldn’t make out the details much of the time.

It comes back to the Lovecraft’s trick of conjuring up fear of the supernatural. A monster that you can’t see is so much scarier than a monster you have a clear view of.

Now that you’ve abandoned your writing to binge watch this excellent show, I hope you’ve learned how many tools you have at your disposal when writing a book. There are more, of course, and it’s good practice to reverse-engineer the stories you love most and apply the best storytelling elements to your own writing. Share your discoveries in the comments section!

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Prior Programming & Personal Growth

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There’s a funny thing about childhood. It’s seems like we make it through only to spend the rest of our lives either denying it or trying to recover from it. I wasn’t always willing to examine my childhood and how it has affected me long into my adult life, but I now realize that stories of personal growth help others see that they are not alone in our struggles.

When I was growing up, I had a wonderful family, but we moved a lot. My dad worked for IBM, which at the time people joked about it meaning “I’ve Been Moved.” We moved a lot. The longest place we ever lived was three years, and the shortest was nine months. By the time I graduated high school, I’d been to nine different schools.

The culture shock was, at times, dizzying. When I was twelve, we moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma to the Chicago area. Itprior-programming-and-personal-growth was like moving to a foreign country. The people talked differently, and it wasn’t just their strange accent I had trouble understanding. They used odd phrases like, “Do you want to go with?” Go with what? With whom? I kept waiting for them to finish their sentence and they never did. They called the restrooms “washrooms,” and Coke, which, for me, was the proper name for every soft drink in the world, was called “pop.”

Even the solar system was different. It got dark around 4:00 when I was barely home from school, when in Tulsa—even in the dead of winter—the sun didn’t set until around 5:30. And then there was the cold. It wasn’t just cold in Chicago. It was bitter, bone chilling cold, and the real temperature, which plunged to 21 below zero, felt like 40 below with the wind chill. When I walked outside to go to the bus stop, my nostrils froze shut. I was cold to the bone, summer and winter, the entire three years we lived there.

It wasn’t easy always being the new girl. Every place we moved was so different. What were the rules here? Who could I trust? Who should I be? The trepidation of walking into a new school on the first day was crippling. My stomach tightened, my bowels loosened, and my neck got stiff. As all eyes bored into me when I stood in front of the room to be introduced, I fantasized about being lifted up onto a cloud and transported away. I didn’t want to start over. And over. And over.

It was important that I figure things out before I shared any of myself in any way. I needed to learn the rules and customs and behaviors in a new place, so I could mimic them and fit in. I became a completely different person every time we moved, and I adopted new personas to match what I saw in others. That’s when I developed my three most crippling self-defeating beliefs:
1. If people know who I really am, they won’t like me.
2. No one cares about me.
3. I don’t matter.

My personal growth process progressed slowly but surely

It’s been a long time since I was twelve years old, and I wish I could say that those internal messages disappeared with my youth, but they did not. To the contrary, these became my core beliefs about myself, and they kept me in chameleon mode for far too much of my life. These negative beliefs caused me to neglect myself and my own needs, to marry an abusive husband, to work in a career that I hated, to be under-developed as a human being, and to live a life of crippling anxiety — always trying to figure out what to do, who to be, how to act.

With the help of some good therapy, journaling, and a daily practice of meditation, I’ve worked through these issues, and they no longer cripple me. But I admit that, on certain days, I have to work really, really hard just to justify my existence. On those days I feel like I don’t matter, that no one cares about me, and if people knew who I really was, they wouldn’t like me.

When you’ve built your life on a lie, it’s hard to overcome that thinking. The lie becomes the truth, and the truth becomes a lie. I believe it’s the lies we tell ourselves that prevent us from doing the things we were meant to do and for which we are gifted. The lies we create become barriers that block us from personal growth.

I don’t know what lies you’ve been telling yourself, but I do know the truth.

You do matter. You are important. You can help other people.

You may feel that you don’t have anything to offer that’s worthy of writing a book, but I disagree. Take a look at your life, what you’ve learned, what you’ve been through, what you’ve developed, what you’ve gleaned, what you’ve endured. Take a moment to consider your story of personal growth and all you have done to get to where you are now. You may not know everything else in life, but you do know your own life. You know your own patch of ground, and you know it well. What do you know and what have you learned that can change lives, save lives, or transform society?

You can do that, can be that voice of hope and help to others, and I’m here to help.

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Who Am I To Write a Book?

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard the question, “who am I to write a book?” Most people don’t put much thought into writing a memoir because they don’t think they have an interesting story to tell. The problem is that most of us are so accustomed to living our lives that we can’t see how interesting and inspirational our struggles, accomplishments, and experiences might be to others.

Let me tell you about a remarkable man who had never considered writing a memoir

We were sitting at the tiny round table eating our $10 ice creams that had been blended with the candies of our choice. I had recently started dating Tom (now my husband), and Bill was his friend. They had worked together several years earlier, which was all I knew about Bill, except for the fact that he was blind.

I had never known a blind person, so I didn’t know what to expect. Although he got around remarkably well on his own, in certain situations like in shops and stores, he needed a guiding hand to help him go to the counter, place his order, and get to his seat. Once he sat down, you couldn’t really tell he was blind. He didn’t wear the dark glasses that some blind people do, and I was fascinated that he actually made eye contact and that his eyes tracked to whomever was speaking. If you hadn’t seen him come in and be seated, you’d never know he was blind.

I asked Bill about his time working with Tom.

“Yeah,” Bill said, “we worked together but we worked in different business units. I was a consultant, and he was a tax guy.”

“Consulting can be rough on the home life,” I said. “You probably traveled a lot. Out Monday mornings and home on Thursday nights, right?”

“I lived that way for years,” he said. “That is, until I got shot.”

“You what?” I asked.

Tom jumped in. “That’s why Bill is blind. He was in Atlanta, and when he came out of the MARTA station with his boss andwho-am-i-to-write-a-book their customer, some deranged guy jumped out and shot all three of them. Bill’s bullet entered and exited through his temples, and it severed his optic nerve. He’s been blind ever since. The other two guys died.

“It was weird.” Tom continued, “I was watching the news and a story came on about two St. Louis people who had been shot in Atlanta. Then they mentioned Bill Johnson and Tony Lake. I couldn’t believe it. I’d just seen Bill the day before he left.”

“Wow,” I said. “That’s terrible. I didn’t realize there were public shootings in 1991. I thought that was a recent thing. So, what happened next? Obviously you went back to work at some point.” Bill had recently retired, so I knew he had finished his career.

“It was an adjustment,” he said. “But it wasn’t really that big of a deal. I thought, ‘This is the way my life is now, so I may as well get on with it.’ And I did.”

“Wasn’t that big of a deal! How can you say that?” I asked.

“It just wasn’t. I made up my mind to get back to doing the things I loved as soon as I could. It didn’t make any sense to sit around feeling sorry for myself,” he said.

“Get this,” Tom interjected. “He really did get back to the things he loved. Six months later he was snow skiing.”

“What??” I asked. “How?”

“It wasn’t that complicated,” Bill said. “I just hired a guide and he talked me down the slopes. We communicated through a microphone, and it was really fun. I love to ski and didn’t want to give it up.”

“That’s amazing, Bill. Really inspirational. Have you ever thought about writing a book?” I asked.

“A book?” he snorted. “What would I write about? I wouldn’t have anything to say. I just took things one day at a time and got back to being me. That’s not very interesting. I can’t imagine that anybody would want to read about that.” He shook his head, rejecting the idea.

Who other than a blind skier should be writing a memoir?

I don’t know about you, but I think that Bill’s story is incredibly interesting. Amazing and inspiring and unusual. I wanted to learn how Bill was able to simply accept the fact that he was now blind. I wanted to know what he did to reenter life as a fully functional man, and I wanted to know what allowed him to even think that he could snow ski again. Surely he’d been faced with all the “can’ts”: You can’t drive, you can’t go out by yourself, you can’t travel, you can’t work, you can’t date, you can’t ever be a whole human being again. And you certainly can’t ever snow ski. That part of your life is over. You will be in the dark forever.

But Bill didn’t think those things. Instead, he put one foot in front of the other and lived what he thought was an unremarkable life. Which I think is remarkable — that he truly thought his life was unremarkable.

The point is, I was full of questions and hungry for more of his story. He already had me hooked. If I were to read a synopsis of his story, I would definitely buy that book.

Bill isn’t unusual. I’ve met hundreds of people who have been through things, have learned things, have discovered things, and have developed things that can truly change the world, if only the world knew about them. But there’s a nagging voice in their head that tells them they’re average, that they don’t have anything to say, that nobody cares about their story, that it’s not that big of a deal,  and that they have no business writing a memoir, when, in fact, the opposite is actually true. Fortunately Bill is writing his book, and it will be released in June of 2017.

So if you ever find yourself saying “Who am I to write a book?” remember that you, too, have a remarkable story. You don’t have to be a victim of a shooting or to be blind. You just have to be you, and there’s nothing average about that.

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A Prophet is Not a Prophet…

Mark 6:4 ”A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” (NIV)


I love my book club. We read a new book every month, meet for dinner and girl talk, and unlike many book clubs I’ve heard of, we actually discuss our books and the impact they have on us. It’s a great group of women who I consider to be great friends. At first I felt a little out of their league because so many of them were so accomplished. One had been a champion for working women and a leader in the WBE certification process at the federal level. She had actually met with two different Presidents at the White House during their respective terms. Another had a husband who was the CEO of a large coal company and was, on occasion, found in closed-door meetings with President Obama. A third member wabe-a-prophet-to-the-world-not-your-home-towns the founder and CEO of a $50 million global career transition and development firm. We also have a realtor, a couple of corporate wives, a highly successful commercial real estate broker, and little old me.

Except I wasn’t really little old me. I had recently published two books through my small press, Stonebrook Publishing, that we had read for our book club. One was called Storming the Tulips by Hannie J. Voyles, and it was about her life as a Holocaust survivor who went to school with Anne Frank. She had interviewed twenty of the students from their school and written about their lives during the war and what they endured in hiding, in concentrations camps, and how they survived the time when much of the population of Amsterdam either starved to death or froze to death. The other book, A Life in Parts by Vicki Bennington and Daniel Brannan, is the story of Loretta Goebel, a quadruple amputee. Loretta had been in her basement wrapping Christmas presents when the doorbell rang. As she flew up the stairs, she banged her hand on the door jamb, but thought nothing of it. As a result of that injury, she ended up having both her legs, her left hand, and all the fingers on her right hand amputated. During her recovery she got hooked up with Heather Mills and Paul McCartney, and they brought her to England to have her beautiful prosthetic legs designed at the same place Heather got hers. As a result of that relationship, we got back-cover endorsements from both Sir Paul McCartney and Cindy Crawford.

My book club knew the ins and outs of both these books because they had, in a sense, walked through the process with me as I edited and worked with the authors to write and rewrite the manuscripts until they were ready for final publication. After the books were published, as a group, we attended a conference where author Hannie Voyles spoke about the ravages of living during the Holocaust, and Loretta Goebel had attended our book club to talk about her faith and recovery the month we read A Life in Parts. They also knew that I had turned my attention away from signing authors and publishing their books and had developed a step-by-step program to help thousands and thousands of people write high-impact nonfiction books that would save lives, change lives, or transform society. And it worked. People were writing their books and impacting the world.

We talk about a lot of things at book club and always find out who’s doing what, whose kids are doing what, and in the past few years, we’ve begun to share pictures and stories of our grandchildren. I tried not to let my feelings be hurt when two of the women started writing their books — with the help of someone else. They both traveled to distant places and parked themselves in scenic locations to write their books, shelling out thousands and thousands of dollars for assistance to write and produce their books. I mentioned this to my friend, the realtor in our group.

“Can I ask you something?” I said, dipping my toe in the water.

“Anything,” she said. We’d been friends for a long time, and she’d helped me buy and sell several houses, always for the price I wanted within a two week period. She was good at what she did.

“Every time they start talking about their books, I get really embarrassed. I know they know that this is my profession and that I have clients all over the world. What do you make of that?” I asked.

“Beats me,” she replied. “They all know I’m a realtor and we’ve had group discussions about them selling their parents’ homes to move them into nursing care. And they use other realtors. It doesn’t seem to dawn on them that I am a real estate agent.”

The Real Reason

Of course, there could be a number of reasons why our book club friends chose to work with other professionals, but I don’t think it had anything to do with our competency or expertise. We’re both really good at what we do. Perhaps they don’t want to mix friends with business, or maybe they don’t want to complicate our book club relationships.

But I actually think there’s a different reason: I don’t think it ever even occurred to them. I don’t think it ever crossed their minds that they could use us, women that they knew, liked, and trusted. It’s because we were too familiar to them.

In his article “Why You Need To Move Away From Your Home Town,” Isaac Morehouse, Founder & CEO of Praxis says that in our own home town, people perceive us through the lens of our perceived past. They’re too familiar with our own humanity. “Introduce a speaker from next door, and no matter how much they know about the topic at hand, few will be moved and impressed. Fly someone in from the next city and they’ll get attention no matter what they say.”

I know that’s true because I’ve experienced it. Why else would my friends spend close to six figures (an exorbitant amount by any measure) to write and publish their books with someone else? Could it be that it’s because their contact was from New York, the Oz of the publishing perception?

Which brings us to your book

The people who know you best may not be the best measure for what you have to offer. And it doesn’t matter because they aren’t your audience! Your audience is the world, not your home town.

You know what you’ve been through, what you’ve learned, what you’ve developed, and you know how those things can benefit others. Don’t wait for the people you know to bless it. They may know you’re writing a book and never even ask you about it. And that’s okay because it’s not for them. It can actually be kind of freeing to know that you don’t have to be grilled about what you’re doing and why. You can be in your normal everyday situations, like my book club, and you don’t have to worry about getting anyone’s approval or wonder if they like it, which for many of us translates to “Do they like ME?”

So take your message, get it out of your head, get it down on paper, and get it out to the world where it can do its work to change lives, save lives, or transform society.

Be a prophet to the world, not your home town.


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Identifying your Audience: Don’t spin your wheels with those who aren’t interested in what you have to say

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When you start to write your book, it’s essential to know your audience and your market. Identifying your audience will help shape your book throughout the writing process and ensure better sales when it comes time to market and promote your nonfiction book. If you think your book is for everyone, you are setting yourself up for failure. No matter how great your message, it simply cannot appeal to every person! Just like in life, if you try to please everyone, you’ll end up stretching yourself too thin and the result will be a bland final product. When you identify your specific audience, you can reach the people who will be most interested in your story.

Who do you want to reach?

identifying your audienceYour book has a purpose. You wouldn’t be writing it if you didn’t want to reach someone, so exactly who is that? Many people make the mistake of thinking that their audience is just like them, but that’s not always the case. Your ideal audience may be very different from you, so take the time to think about who will be most impacted by your book. Are your readers women between 20 and 40? Can you narrow that down to women who have also been to college? It may seem counter-intuitive to narrow in on a specific group, but when you target a specific audience, you can increase your following within that niche group and reach more people than if your audience is too broad.

Pick a genre

Part of identifying your audience is selecting the correct genre. A genre is a general term that refers to a particular classification or type of book. We already know that your book will fall into the nonfiction genre, but where else does your book fit?

Remember, bookstores categorize books by genre, so the genre you choose is critically important. What section of the bookstore will your ideal reader go to in order to find the kind of help you offer? Make sure your book ends up on the right shelf — the one that best suits your ideal reader.

Identifying your audience and market, is there a difference?

Audiences and markets often overlap, but not always! Your audience is the people who will read and benefit from your book. Your market is the people who will actually purchase the book. Take a minute to picture your book buyers. Are they in your target market? For example, if your target reader is a child, your market is probably the parents, the people who have the money to spend on the book.

Identify secondary markets

Many books will have a primary and secondary market. Secondary markets are people/organizations/institutions who will also benefit from your book. Secondary markets may include mental health practitioners if you are writing about depression or a particularly difficult time in your life, or educators if you are writing about children. If you are writing about money management, high school and university counselors could be a secondary market because they might recommend the book to their students. If you are writing about blogging for business, parents of hopeful bloggers could easily become a secondary market. Think about every possibility! You should have several secondary markets, so be sure to analyze which people, organizations, or groups could benefit from your book.

Start with an audience, finish with a successful book

Keep your target audience in mind every step of the way. Write for your audience, identify your markets, and reach out to them with your solution!

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How becoming a “thought leader” contributes to the success of a coach

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What exactly is a “thought leader?” The short answer is that it depends on who you ask. Although the definitions can vary, the majority agree that a thought leader possesses expert knowledge in a particular field, and their position and opinions about that subject are both authoritative and influential.

Anyone who wants to be a successful coach should focus on becoming a thought leader
thought leader. The term “coach” is broad a term and can  include business coaches, career coaches, life coaches, financial coaches, exercise coaches, etc. If your profession centers around helping others find their way down a specific path to reach a desired result, you are a coach. And you can increase your overall success by becoming a thought leader, as well as by writing a book to increase your credibility and attract a following.

Becoming a thought leader better prepares you to be a coach

To be a true thought leader, you must put in the time and work necessary to gain that coveted title. Media and advertising analyst, Rebecca Lieb, describes thought leadership as, “rather like achieving academic tenure,” and goes on to say, “Thought leadership requires a continuum of wisdom, accomplishment, and a body of published work that stands the test of a degree of time.” (Source)

A true thought leader doesn’t become an expert overnight. They have honed their craft, gathered knowledge, and learned by working over a number of years. They have a list of accomplishments that prove their value. When a coach puts in the time to become a thought leader, they are not simply knowledgeable but also influential, meaning that they not only help their clients but also other professionals in that field.

Publishing a book sets you up to become a thought leader

When you present your knowledge in a well-written nonfiction book, you set yourself up for success. You go from being a self-proclaimed expert to a recognized expert. You set yourself apart from the crowded field and add a significant credential. You know that knowledge is power, but name recognition is just as important. There are hundreds of coaches in your field and the competition for clients is fierce. Don’t you want to be the one with the prestige and name recognition associated with being a thought leader?

When you write your book, you establish yourself as an expert in your field, increase your credibility, set yourself apart from all the self-proclaimed experts, and attract a following. It’s one way to take a step towards thought leadership.


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