How to Make Sure You Never Run Out of Blog Post Ideas Again

If you’re like most business owners, you’ve struggled with your blog at some point.

If you have a blog, you’ve probably thought, “I need to create a blog post today — and I have no idea what to write!” Or if you don’t have a blog yet, you may have been told you need to create one, but you’ve shrugged away the idea because you can’t figure out what you would write about.

Perhaps you’ve thought, “My business is boring. They’re nothing I could write about that would be sexy or interesting.”

If you’ve struggled with your blog (and writing blog content), I’ve got a great solution for you. It’s simple and relatively easy to implement.

But let me back up a bit. At the conference this week, I attended a session with Marcus Sheridan of River Pools and Spas. During his riveting talk (which was one of the best speeches I’ve ever seen), Marcus gave the audience a powerful blogging tip. He called it “The Golden Rule of Content Marketing.”

And the rule was — “They ask, you answer.”

When he started a blog for his pool business, Marcus took a simple, powerful approach — he decided to answer all the questions that his customers were asking about fiberglass pools. Not exactly sexy, right?

But his approach really, really worked. He answered questions like, “How much do fiberglass pools cost?” and “What are the problems with fiberglass pools?” that no one else was answering online.

Marcus wrote blog posts on each of his customers’ questions (in fact he just turned each question into the headline of a post) and received THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of visitors and leads from his articles.

People linked to his posts and emailed them to friends and family members, and Marcus brought in an avalanche of search engine traffic to his posts.

During his presentation, he shared how much revenue he brought in from some of his simple articles, and the numbers were astounding. One blog post alone brought over $250,000 in revenue.

Sounds simple, right? I’ll bet you can easily think of at LEAST ten questions your customers have asked you in the last six months — and I’ll also bet you can think of answers to those questions that you can easily turn into blog posts.

The Golden Rule – “They ask, you answer.”

No, it’s not sexy. But this Golden Rule helps you create useful content that your readers and prospects will absolutely love. It increases your credibility, and vastly increases the likelihood that your reader will buy from you.

Because here’s the secret no one talks about in my field — the more pages on your site your customers read, the more likely they are to buy from you. If a customer reads 30 pages of your content (meaning, 30 blog posts) they have an 80% buy rate.

Let that sink in for a second. If one of your prospects reads 30 of your blog posts or articles, 80% of them will purchase something from you. And of course, it kind of goes without saying that the best your content is, the better that buy rate will be.

Your assignment for this week: What kinds of questions can you answer for your audience? Write your questions down, and start writing today.

And if you haven’t started a blog yet, that is step one — talk to your web guru about adding a WordPress blog to your site.

Then start answering those customer questions. I guarantee, if you answer those questions in a compelling way, you will thank me (and Marcus Sheridan) in six months.

For more information on Marcus and his simple, accessible approach to content marketing, read this New York Times article and listen to this excellent interview.

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How Tamara Suttle Took Her Business to the Next Level

I first met Tamara Suttle in 2006, when I was teaching a group class called “Basics of Blogging.” Tamara is a therapist and marketing coach and consultant for therapist and coaches. After the class, Tamara became one of my consulting clients, and we worked together to build her very first WordPress site, AllThingsPrivatePractice.com. I coached her on how to use WordPress to publish useful and interesting blog posts, and taught her how to drive traffic to her blog, engage with her audience, and provide huge value for her readers.

I was really impressed with Tamara’s drive and motivation — she worked very hard to build her new blog into a thriving online community for therapists and coaches. Over the last few years, she has become a masterful blogger, even though she still refers to herself as a “technophobe”, and her site has become an incredible resources for therapist and coaches looking to build their practices and network with other like-minded professionals.

A few years after starting her blog, Tamara signed up for Twitter, and she came back to me for some additional coaching. I talked her through the process of learning how to tweet and using Twitter to connect with other therapists and referral sources for her business. She dove into tweeting with enthusiasm, and started building her community there, as well.

Then a few years later, she learned how to use Pinterest. Let’s just say that Pinterest and Tamara were a match made in heaven. She loves sharing interesting things on her pinboards, and people love to see the great images and resources she pins for therapists and coaches.

Tamara’s work has paid off. She now has almost 2,000 Twitter followers, and 2,500 followers on Pinterest.

Tamara is one of my Star Clients. She has worked incredibly hard to set up an very successful online marketing machine for her business. She not only gets invited to speak at industry events, but her private practice AND her coaching business are both thriving. Last month, she even launched a new blogging class for therapists, which has also been a huge success!

I’m absolutely thrilled that Tamara took the information I taught her about social media and online marketing, and turned it into a marketing machines for her business. I am unbelievably proud of her, and I am thrilled to be her coach!

If you’d like to learn more about how to set up a successful online marketing system, and see results like Tamara’s, consider making an investment in your business by signing up for my VIP Coaching Program. Registration ends Monday, April 8th at midnight, Eastern Standard Time.

Get all the details right here.

“Beth Hayden is the best investment that I have made in my business in the last 30 years.”

Beth taught me everything I know about social media. She was able to teach me – this tech-challenged professional counselor who had no real interest in all-things-tech – and she has turned me into a really effective social media fiend!

Thanks to Beth, I can not only maintain my own website, blog on a regular basis, tweet and stay active on LinkedIn. And, this web presence has truly caused my business to mushroom in growth! Best of all – this is all REALLY FUN!

Beth Hayden is responsible for all of this! She was able to chunk the information down into tiny, palatable, bite-size pieces that were not-too-scary for this tech-phobic psychotherapist.

I can’t say enough good things about the value and products that you receive from Beth! She helped me take my business to the next level; and it can take yours there, too.
–Tamara Suttle, AllThingsPrivatePractice.com

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Six Ways to Get More Pinterest Followers

Gorgeous pins from photographer Trey Ratcliff (click on the image to go to his Pinterest profile).

One of the main questions I get from people who are trying to use Pinterest for marketing their business is “How do I get more followers?”

Well, here’s the deal — building a Pinterest following does take time, so you will need to have a little patience. But if you want to take some steps toward actively building your following, here are six quick ideas:

1. Consistently post interesting content. If you pin a couple of great things a day, you will get more followers. People will start to see you as the go-to expert in your niche. So think about what your target audience would enjoy (think entertaining, educational and interesting content), and pin lots of stuff from different sources.

2. Comment on pins posted by people who aren’t following you. Target some interesting people (especially ones who share your target audience) and comment on their pins. Comment with interesting discussion points or conversation starters, instead of just saying, “Nice image!”

3. Join collaborative boards. When people invite you to co-pin on collaborative boards (and the topic of the board is interesting to you), say yes! Joining collaborative boards and posting on them regularly will help put your pins in front of a substantially larger audience — which can help you build your following.

4. Follow other pinners. If you follow 5-10 people every week, a substantial portion of those folks will follow you back. And you choose those pinner strategically (and pick people who pin cool stuff) you’ll get more interesting content to re-pin from your Pinterest home page.

5. Find out who’s pinning images from your website, and thank those people! To see who’s pinning from your site, go to: www.pinterest.com/source/[yoursitehere]. Make sure to drop the http:// and www and JUST use your domain name (for example, bethhayden.com). Check out Copyblogger’s source page if you want to see an example from Pinterest. When you see that someone is pinning from your site, leave a comment on that pin and thank the pinner! They will often follow you back (they already love your stuff, right?)

6. Regularly tell your blog readers and your email subscribers that you’re on Pinterest. The Container Store recently joined Pinterest, and sent out a special email to their entire list that announced their new Pinterest presence. They’ve already got over 11,000 followers — so we know their email announcement worked like a charm! 🙂

The key to developing a large Pinterest presence is taking small steps (every day, or every week). If you keep putting in consistent effort, you will see results!

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What’s Your Why?

Do you ever think about why you started your business?

Yes, we all like to make money. But most of us also started our companies because we want to help people in some way.

If you’re a coach, you probably want to help people live their best lives. If you’re a realtor, you want to help people find their dream homes. If you’re a personal stylist, you want to instill professional and personal confidence in your clients.

As a social media consultant, I want to teach people how to leverage social media so they can make more money with their businesses. And that mission is really important to me. But it’s not what truly drives me.

Let me back up a bit.

I am incredibly lucky. The last two years of my life have been absolutely amazing — and things just keep getting better and better.

I published a book last year.

I’ve earned a spot on the Copyblogger Media editorial staff — which is my dream job.

I work from home every day, and set my own hours. As a single mom, owning my own business allows me the flexibility to go to school events (or stay home with my kiddo when he’s sick).

I have a brand new puppy who brings my family joy.

I feel like my life is pretty damn awesome.

I don’t mean to sound like one of those cheesy 10-page sales letters filled with promises of sailboats and tropical vacations. It’s not about that.

But here’s the secret — in my consulting and coaching business, I do more than help people with their online marketing. I help people fulfill their dreams of living happier, abundant, amazing lives.

I believe – from the bottom of my heart – that we can all lead lives of extraordinary power and magic. We don’t have to suffer through jobs we hate, or 3-hour daily commutes, or living in places we don’t like.

The real reason I started my business — and the reason I keep going, even when things occasionally get tough — is that I believe that people can live amazing lives.

They can build an online business that supports their dreams. They can travel, or work from home, or have the money to buy that new house.

And I want to help them get there. That’s the real reason I get out of bed every day. I want to help people live magical, extraordinary lives.

For more inspiration about finding your “Why,” check out this incredible TED talk by Simon Sinek.

So tell me – why do you run your business? Tell me your “Why” in the comments below.

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Steve Martin’s Advice for Online Marketers

As an online marketing coach, I know the kinds of questions I usually get from people when they’re trying to build an online business. My prospects and clients want to know how to get more traffic, more conversions, more press coverage, and more sales.

They want search engine optimization tricks, the latest flashy widget for WordPress, and everything I can teach them about using Pinterest to market their businesses.

But lately, I haven’t had many questions about content. It seems like building quality blog or website content is sort of an afterthought for a lot of people. And that’s a shame.

When we’re figuring out our social media strategy, I want to make sure we’re putting our initial focus where it really needs to be — which is on creating incredible content that our audience will absolutely love.

Are you creating super-useful, compelling content on your website or blog? If not, please drop everything you’re doing and just focus on that.

Comedian Steve Martin, in his brilliant memoir Born Standing Up, is often asked about the secret to his incredible success. He advises people:

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Being great (in the world of content marketing) means creating useful content that gets passed around, commented on, and linked to by other bloggers.

Your content could be a great video series. It could a fantastic how-to blog. It could also be an audio podcast.

“Be so great they can’t ignore you” is the core of what I teach my clients about online marketing. And creating content that is so good people just can’t ignore it is the first step you should take if you are just starting out, or if you’re not getting the results you want with your online efforts.

Here are some examples of great content that I’ve seen recently:

Moment Junkie – a fantastic daily photo blog of emotional and beautiful wedding moments

The Art of Non-Conformity – a blog by entrepreneur and author Chris Guillebeau that encourages readers to live their best lives (and think outside the box)

Today’s Letters – a beautiful personal blog written by a married couple in Louisville, Kentucky

I read each of these blogs every single day. That’s right – every day. And it’s the great content that keeps me coming back, day after day. I wouldn’t be a megafan of each of these sites if the content wasn’t so good I couldn’t ignore it.

It’s springtime — the time for renewal and growth — which makes now a perfect time to revisit your website, and commit to creating incredible content. Make sure to make it so good that no one in your target audience could possibly ignore it.

Your assignment this week: Take a look at what you’re creating online. How is your content (truthfully)? If it’s not great, can you make it better? Can you put a temporary moratorium on your Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest activity while you publish some outstanding new blog posts? Can you carve out time every week to create a valuable podcast for your audience? Let us know your thoughts (and your plan of action) in the comments.

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Our Fluffy New Marketing Assistant

This is our new marketing assistant. His name is Moose.

After many years of contemplating getting a dog for our family, we have finally taken the plunge. Moose is a Coton de Tulear, and he is a soft, fluffy, incredibly sweet little guy.

But what in the world does getting a puppy have to do with marketing?

Well, first I have to tell you my little secret. Up until this week, I had a serious problem with work/life balance. In fact, I’d say “balance” was nonexistent. I worked ridiculously long hours. I worked weekends, I worked evenings, and I didn’t take vacations.

It had been going on this way for years, and although I was really pleased with the results that I was getting in my business, I wasn’t happy.

I felt like I wasn’t enjoying my life. Weeks and months were going by so quickly (in a blur of meetings and deadlines) that I couldn’t enjoy my success, or the life I’ve created for myself and my family.

So I said to myself, “What would bring me joy this year? What would help me slow down a little? What would force me to take a breath every now and then? What would bring an infusion of happiness into my life?”

So we decided to get a puppy. And it’s the best thing I’ve done in YEARS.

I’m getting more sleep, because I know I can’t stay up until 1 AM every night. Moose rises at 6 AM on the dot.

Earlier today, I put aside an editing project so the puppy and I could take a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Making time for exercise is something I could never seem to do in my pre-puppy days. Now it’s an absolute must.

And I know that I’m going to use my time in more efficient ways, because now I absolutely can’t work 80+ hour weeks. Long hours are out of the question, because I have to make sure I have enough time to make sure the new marketing guy doesn’t wee on the carpet.

And my days of scheduling 8 or 9 back-to-back meetings every day are also gone. Moose simply can’t be at home alone for that long!

I can tell that 2013 is going to be a big year for the business, and that things are going to continue to grow in enormous ways.

And guess what? I’m going to be happier in 2013, too. Because now my life is just where it should be – in balance.

What This Means for You

As business owners, we’re often overwhelmed. We work too hard. We can’t figure out how to get off the roller coasters we’ve created with our businesses and actually enjoy our lives.

If you find yourself needing to slow down, but you can’t seem to make yourself do it, consider something drastic. Think about doing something that might seem a little crazy to your friends and family. It will do wonders for your business and your sanity. And you may just make a new friend in the process.

Have thoughts on how you’re achieving better balance? Leave us a comment with your best tips and stories. Or give us links to pictures of your own furry little assistants, too!

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How to Get a Pinterest Business Account

Pinterest recently made an exciting announcement – they have added new business accounts for pinners who want to market their companies with Pinterest!

You can convert your current personal account over to a business one, or you can start a brand new account as a business.

It’s easy to convert your account – just go to Pinterest’s new business center and click on “Convert My Account.” Or to create a new business account, click on “New to Pinterest? Join as a business.”

Your business account won’t actually look different than a regular Pinterest one – your boards and pins will still look exactly the same.

So why would you want a Pinterest business account?

Business users on Pinterest have access to case studies and best practices for Pinterest marketing success, including advice on building your community and getting more traffic to your website from your pins.

Pinterest also gives business account owners some new buttons, badges and widgets for their websites and blogs.

With the creation of business accounts, Pinterest is now providing resources that were created specifically to help businesses succeed on its network. What that means is that they recognize that businesses have special needs on Pinterest, and they are trying to provide targeted, helpful resources to help businesses thrive as pinners.

Pinterest’s dedication to brands and businesses on Pinterest is a signal that the company is going to continue making improvements to the way its platform works for businesses. That means a host of exciting new feature releases will likely be coming down the road.

If you do choose to convert your account, make sure to read over the new business Terms of Service before you commit – they are different than the regular Pinterest TOS.

So take a look at Pinterest’s new business accounts today, and decide if you’d like to convert your current personal account (or start a new one). If you decide to convert, take a look through the new business best practices and case studies and learn something new about how to create a thriving community on Pinterest! Then share your experiences in the comments below, and let us know how the move went for you!

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How I Screwed Up (and What I Learned From It)

I messed up. I admit it.

Last week, I hosted a webinar with my friend and colleague, Nancy Juetten. I was responsible for sending out several emails to my email list, and asking my subscribers to sign up for the webinar so Nancy could give them advice on how to make their About Pages and social media profiles better.

When the time came to send the emails, I struggled. I had been sick for almost three weeks at that point, and had zero motivation to craft an email campaign that was convincing and persuasive. All I really wanted to do was pull the covers over my head and go back to bed.

So I rushed it. I threw together a quick email and send it to my list.

If you’re on my mailing list, you probably received the note, so you might know exactly what I’m talking about. You might even have some opinions about the note, and where I went wrong.

The email subject line was “You Need to Spice Things Up a Little,” and it basically said, “Your bio is boring. You need to change it.”

It ended with a pitch for the webinar, and information on how to sign up.

The note was sort of…obnoxious. But even worse – there were things I said in the email that made it sound personal, and some of my subscribers didn’t realized it was a mass email and got offended.

Some wrote to me and said, “Look, I don’t think my bio is THAT bad.” Others asked me how I even found their bios online.

Others were just flat-out offended by the tone of the note. They thought it was offensive.

I spend the next three days putting out fires, apologizing, and watching a massive number of “unsubscribe” messages flooding into my inbox. It was not fun.

I felt awful that I had offended my loyal readers – some of whom had been with me for quite a while. I did my best to explain myself to the people who wrote to me to complain, but all the folks who unsubscribed from my list are just gone forever – they’re not coming back.

It was not my best work, to say the least.

Before I tell you what I learned from this little disaster, I will say this – if any of you read my note and were offended, I apologize profusively. I didn’t mean to offend you. Please know that the note wasn’t meant to be personally criticial of you.

Okay, now that I’ve apologized, let me tell you what I’ve learned from this debacle:

  1. Do not send email messages to your subscriber list when you are sick, tired, hungry or otherwise compromised. If possible, put off sending a broadcast until you feel better.
  2. If you absolutely must send an email when you’re impaired, have an editor, friend or colleague read the note before you send it out.
  3. Your subscribers are sacred. If there’s a possibility you’re going to offend your list by sending something to them, don’t send it. Try a different strategy or rewrite the campaign. Rein in the desire to be cute or witty, and be straightforward instead. Your subscribers will thank you for it.
  4. Respect for your list should come before cleverness, before wit, and before following copywriting principles. If you write a clever and pithy email campaign, but you lose half your list because of it, you haven’t succeeded.
  5. Listen to the little voice in your head. When I was creating this failed email campaign, my intuition (just a tiny little voice at the time) was asking, “Are you sure this strikes the right tone? Are you sure this is what you want to send?” I ignored that little voice, and I paid for it dearly. Your intuition knows things you may not consciously know – so if it puts up a red flag, take note!

Have you ever sent a note to your list that you later regretted? What did you learn from it? Tell me about it in the comments of this blog post.

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How to Automatically Publish Your Blog to Facebook — and Why You Should Do It Manually Instead

The question I get almost every day is “How do I import my blog into Facebook, so my blog posts automatically get published to my Facebook profile?”

Facebook used to offer an easy way to import blogs using Facebook Notes, but they discontinued that feature, leaving bloggers struggling for an easy way to import their posts to their profiles and Pages.

Enter NetworkedBlogs – a Facebook app you can use to import your blog into a Facebook profile or Page.

Here’s a great video from Facebook expert Andrea Vahl that explains how to import your blog into the NetworkedBlogs app and then syndicate it to your Facebook profile or Page. The video is a few years old, but the process is essentially the same – don’t get freaked out if some of the steps look a little different. Just keep calm and carry on.

Okay, now that I’ve told you HOW to import your blog into Facebook, I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t actually DO it.

All evidence points to the fact that Facebook is fiddling around with things in their system, and that it has ways of hiding some content from you, while highlighting other content. Facebook is making (somewhat arbitrary) judgments for you about what content it wants you to see. These judgements seem to be based on who and what you’re engaging with when you’re logged into Facebook.

What that means for us as publishers is that we need to do everything we can to counteract Facebook’s hijinks and make sure that our posts and updates are still reaching the people we are trying to reach.

The bottom line is this – while you CAN automatically import your blog into Facebook so your posts get published automatically, you shouldn’t actually do it.

Instead, you should manually link to each of your blog posts from a status update. It doesn’t take very long – 30 seconds, max – to write a Facebook status update and paste a link to your new blog post into that update.

The reason you want to add links manually — instead of relying on NetworkedBlogs (or any other tool) — is that when you import your blog (and your posts get published to Facebook automatically) your blog posts get shared and Liked less often. A LOT less often. That means less traffic for you. Here’s an article that shows you the research to back up my advice.

So it’s up to you – you can use an automated tool, or not. I definitely choose not to. I manually publish a link to each new blog post – and that’s what I recommend my clients do, too. I think I get more traffic and more engagement because I choose to do this.

Here’s my advice – You need to make a decision that works for you and your business. You should either install NetworkedBlogs in your Facebook profile and import your blog to your profile or page, OR you should add a task to the checklist of things you do every time you publish a new post that says “Publish a link to my new blog post to my Facebook page”.

What are thoughts on this issue? Has anyone experienced a dip in traffic when they publish blog posts to Facebook with a third party app?

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How I Got a Book Deal, Part Three

How I Got a Book Deal, Part 3

Note: This is a series of posts about how I signed a deal with Wiley and Sons for a book on Pinterest marketing. Click here to see the navigation page for the rest of the series.

I was in the middle of my workday on Wednesday, February 22nd when I got an email note via my website contact form.  Here’s what the email said:

Hello, Beth.

I am a business book editor and would love to talk about a publishing idea I have. I just read your piece on CopyBlogger for how to market your business on Pinterest. Good stuff!! There is a HUGE market ready to hear what you have to say on this.

Let’s talk!

The note was signed by an editor at Wiley. This is the kind of note that bloggers dream about getting from publishers, so I had to read it several times (and look up the editor online to see if she was legit) before I let myself believe that this wasn’t just a nasty trick that someone was playing on me.

After doing a little research on Wiley (and realizing that Wiley has published virtually ALL of my favorite social media books (by authors like Scott Stratten, David Meerman Scott, Ann Handley and Joel Comm) I spent about fifteen minutes privately freaking out about the fact that a publisher had contact me.

After I spent another couple of minutes getting my major delusions of grandeur and daydreams of best-selling book glory out of system, I took a couple of deep breaths and called the editor back.

The editor was wonderful on the phone. She was clearly very excited about the idea of publishing a book on Pinterest marketing, and thought there could be a huge market for a book on the topic. She told me she had seen my guest post on Copyblogger and really enjoyed it, then asked me if I thought I would have enough material for a book on Pinterest marketing. I said yes.

She then asked me if I could write a book proposal by the following Monday morning. Internally, I groaned, knowing that book proposals are notoriously hard to write and that they are typically incredibly labor intensive.

But when an editor from Wiley is on the phone, and she asks you for a proposal, and she thinks you might be able to write a book that could really sell really well, YOU SAY YES.

So I smiled and said “Absolutely! No problem!” We exchanged a few more pleasantries and hung up the phone.

Over the course of the next few days, I also found out from Wiley that they really needed me to write the Pinterest book in six weeks.

When they asked me if that was possible, I had a moment where I consciously thought to myself, “Say yes, then figure out how to do it.” I called my friend Lori Wostl, who is the person in my life who supports me when I want to do truly insane and awesome things, and asked “I am insane for wanting to agree to this?”

She said, “Yes. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it!”

We talked logistics. We talked time management. We talked about quitting my day job. And in the end, we came up with a workable plan for getting the book done. So I told Wiley that I thought I could do the work in six weeks.

Then I started working on the proposal. Because of family and work obligations (I was still working 30 hours a week at a day job at this point) I had to wait until the weekend to really be able to dig into the writing. And man, did I work hard that weekend. My butt didn’t leave my chair (except to eat and sleep) for three solid days.

My agent, Kristina Holmes, was invaluable in helping me write the proposal. The story of how I retained Kristina as my agent is another epic tale, but I’ll save that one for another day. Kristina read every word of my proposal – many of them several times – and gave me great advice on what publishers look for in a book proposal and how to present myself and my platform in the best possible light.

By Monday morning, I was exhausted, but I felt like we had put together a decent proposal. I took a deep breath and sent it to the Wiley editor, saying a little prayer in my head to the publishing gods as I hit “send.”

After sweating it and dealing with very negative self-talk for several hours, I heard back from the editor and heard that she was happy with the proposal. Then she told me she was going to take my proposal into a weekly meeting that she had on Tuesday afternoon. I got the feeling this was a meeting where people pitching new ideas. I also got the feeling this was a meeting that was kind of a Big Deal.

I won’t deny it – Tuesday was hell. I went back and forth between thinking that my life was about to change and thinking that I was a crap writer who was going to fail utterly at everything I tried to do in my life.

All I could do was wait until the good folks in Hoboken, New Jersey decided my fate.

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