Friday, December 28, 2007

Author, Kristen Collier, shares insights into her writing

I am pleased to introduce novelist and children's book author, Kristen Collier, to my readers. Ms. Collier is from Grand Haven, Michigan where she lives with her husband, Kevin.

Kristen is the writer in the family and Kevin illustrates the book. A great combination that works very well for this dynamic duo.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m married to author/illustrator Kevin Collier, which is great. It’s fun working on books together and watching him draw. He’s so wonderful and is my biggest fan. We spend just about all of our spare time on book stuff, hoping that one day it’ll become a full time gig. I started writing about five years ago, and it took that long just to find a publisher for my children’s picture book. So to all aspiring writers out there—never give up!

We live in Grand Haven, MI, with our son, Jarod. Grand Haven is a sleepy little bedroom town on the shores of Lake Michigan. Western Michigan is very Christian, a great place to raise a family, so we’re really sheltered here. The people are very relaxed, and very happy, so it’s just an all around nice place to live.

Kevy works a day job at the local newspaper, and I’m working in retail right now, but am training to substitute as a librarian at the local schools, which is a blast! Next year some people are retiring, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get in at one of the schools next fall. It’s so exciting being around all those children’s books that I grew up with and loved as a kid—such great memories! And working with the kids in this laid-back town is so nice—they’re sooooo sweet. So hopefully in August I’ll be able to substitute or get a full time librarian job. And then maybe down the road one day I’ll be able to be a full time writer.

What inspired you to write your first book?
I’m originally from Ohio. One night, five years ago, I was in the Broadview Heights, Ohio library, waiting to take a test for a job. I’d heard that if you write your goals down you’re more likely to achieve them, so I pulled out the only piece of paper in my purse—an envelope—and wrote down on the back of it my goals: a horse farm, a godly husband, even what kind of bridle and saddle I wanted. The next day the story for “King of Glory” came to me, complete, in my head. It was like God was saying to me, “I’m going to help you make your dreams come true, but you’re going to have to work for it.”

I wrote the whole thing in under a month, and have been writing ever since.

How many books have you written?
Two that are published, but about six or so manuscripts.

How do you decide on their topic?
The first one came to me, and the second, a picture book called “The Day Jarod Met Jesus,” (a picture book about the Second Coming as told through a child’s eyes), I don’t remember how that one came to me. Most of the other manuscripts I wrote with Kevy. He came up with the ideas for them. There are a few manuscripts that I’ve done on my own, but I always run them past him and he helps me either fine-tune the writing, or add to them in some way.

What works best to keep you focused and on track?
For now, our agent is sitting on a pile of manuscripts that he’s shopping, so I’m mostly doing promotional stuff. And I get bored if I don’t move forward, so that keeps me focused. Plus, Kevin has been lining up a bunch of interviews and short stories for various online magazines for my “Joy the Jellyfish” picture book, so that keeps me working on that series.

Do you write to make money or for the love of writing?
Sometimes it’s both. I’m not one of those people who’ve always wanted to be a writer. In fact, that’s one of my pet peeves about “writers,” because I personally feel that the people who’ve always wanted to be writers are really boring people. They live to write—they haven’t lived. I think, how can you have anything interesting to say unless you’ve lived life? If their whole focus is writing, they don’t have many life experiences.

There are some writers who spend 8 to 12 hours a day writing! I say, “When are you living if you’re spending that much time writing??” When are you taking care of your family? When are you going out and having fun? When are you learning a new skill or sharing your life with someone? It’s those sorts of life experiences that make you an interesting person. So a “writer” often ends up being a boring person, because it’s all in their imagination. They don’t have the emotional depth because they’ve never really lived.

Enough about that. So, yes, I write sometimes for the money, but it’s one of those things that when I’m doing it I enjoy it, although it’s work. I’m not a natural writer—I didn’t even start until my early thirties—but I’ve been working to improve my skill for five years now, and am getting some good comments, so my hard work is paying off. I don’t write for enjoyment, but I enjoy it when I’m doing it. It’s pleasing when I can see that I’ve honed my skill. That’s rewarding. And my end goal is to create a story that the reader enjoys. That’s rewarding also. It’s, I guess, the proverbial definition of a labor of love: it’s hard work for me, it doesn’t come natural, but while I’m doing it I enjoy it.

One type of writing that I didn’t enjoy that much was writing articles for papers. I always did articles that pertained in some way to my interests—such as a religion column I used to write. But the fiction stories are much more fun to write.

What are some traditional methods of marketing you have used to gain visibility for you and your book(s)?
Hmmmm—basically we do a lot online. I’m not sure what you mean by traditional, as marketing has really shifted to online sales for much of everything these days. Most books are sold online now. But I’ve read “Joy the Jellyfish” to some classes in local schools, and that has helped. But most has been online, however. Reviews are always great, so I’m really happy that they’re starting to come out now. The reviews are online, though.

What are some unique methods?
Because I’m married to my illustrator, he’s created a website that has some great free downloads for kids. When I did the book readings in schools, he did a coloring page that I handed out (which the children were thrilled to have!), and that had the website listed on it. The hits on the site went up a lot during that week I was in the schools, so that helped a lot. And along with the coloring page, there are some other activities, such as dot-to-dots, mazes, word searches, etc., all free, so the kids will want to come back to the site. And there are links to the interviews and some online stories as well, so if the kids like the book, they can go online and read some free short stories about Joy.

There is even a trailer, with music, that a guy in CA did for the book, so that’s cool. An author that Kevin illustrated a book for is in commercials, so he did that for us. And Kevin did some animations. So, between the animations, activities, interviews, and online stories, there are a lot of fun things for interested kids to do on the site. And they’re all free, so that’s a great way to spread the word. One more thing—there are links to real pictures of the undersea creatures in the story, so there is an educational aspect to the site also. Kids can click on the picture of the real sea creature and they’re taken to the Wikpedia page that teaches them about the real creature. I wanted it to have educational aspects as well as entertainment, to make it a well-rounded website.

Do you sell through a website?
There’s a button to click on to take you to the page on Amazon in which you can purchase it.

Do you plan on writing additional books?

Yep, there are some other manuscripts in various stages of completion, and the publisher for “Joy the Jellyfish” wants a sequel sometime in the future, so that’ll be fun. For now, though, I’m focusing on the marketing, and online stories for Joy. There will be one coming out in Jan. that will be on some online magazines. In Feb. another story is going to be the cover of an online children’s magazine, so if the kids like Joy, there are a few online stories in which they can read about her and her undersea friends.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

How long can we expect virtual assistants to stick?

Many speakers, trainers, authors and consultants need to expand their business, but are not in a position to hire a full time employee. A viable solution is to contract a VA - Virtual Assistant. Many a business has flourished with the right VA. On the other hand, how do you know how long one will stay with your company. This question was addressed by Gayle Buske, president and CEO of Team Double-Click.

How long can we expect virtual assistants to stick?
by Gayle Buske

My answer is always the same: “it depends.” It depends on many things. But first we need to realign our thinking a little bit and better understand today’s workforce.

As a small or home-based business owner, are you basing your perception of how long a worker stays in a position on your own work history? Personally, when I take on a position I intend to stay with it - I don’t give up. I’ve enjoyed lengthy tenures at my places of employment throughout my career.

What we need to remember though is that everyone is not like us. Especially the current workforce. I mentioned in a previous article that the days of staying in your job for the rest of your life are long gone. As business owners, we tend to forget that and we are frustrated by it.

A recent study said that the average tenure in a job for Generation Y is 18 months. That’s realistically the max you can expect someone - anyone, bricks-and-mortar or virtual, to stick with a job. Let’s leave that thought to stew for a while and talk about the “that depends” I mentioned earlier.

Depends on what?
Things change in people’s lives - everyone’s lives. Mine and yours and your virtual assistant’s. Think back to the reasons you have changed jobs in the past. What things in your past have caused a need for job changes? Pregnancy, sudden depression, death in the family, shift in financial obligations, relocation, change of career goals, a decision to go back to college, ill parents, ill children, ill spouse? Of course, and there are many more. Your virtual assistant is a human being too and they’re also subject to all of these normal human occurrences.

Any one of these or many more reasons are cause for a virtual assistant to move on elsewhere or even stop working altogether.

Job likeability.
You’ve got to like your job. I hope we can all agree on that. If you don’t like what you’re doing you’re not going to do your best and you’re always going to be shopping for a better job or better opportunity. Virtual assistants, as with bricks-and-mortar assistants, are not immune. I’m not talking about being a virtual assistant in general - though that happens too - where a virtual assistant decides she can’t handle the isolation and hangs up her computer. I’m talking about all of the tasks a virtual assistant does on a daily basis. For one client she may answer phones, for another she may do data entry, and for yet another she may be asked to cold call. If she doesn’t like those duties she’s not going to like the job and will ask for reassignment or quit entirely.

Boss likeability.
For me, the only one I didn’t stick with for a good length of time was one where I was treated like a prisoner in a concentration camp, neck breathed down and so on. I left one day for lunch and never looked back. Have you ever had a boss you just couldn’t stand? How about one with whom you just couldn’t see eye-to-eye. Or maybe there was the one you always thought was creepy or shifty. Would you stick with a boss that gave you those feelings? Certainly not! Yet we expect our virtual assistants to do that and we can’t. With 6.6 billion people in the world every one of them is not going to like each and every one of us. And you’re not going to like every one of them either.

Determining your needs.
At Team Double-ClickSM, our job, as we see it is this: to help you determine your needs in a virtual assistant; to locate the best virtual assistant for you, our client, based on your personality needs as well as your skills needs; to locate problem virtual assistants and send them packing before they do damage to you; to nurture the relationship between you and your virtual assistant; alert you to potential problems with a virtual assistant; to stand by what we do and what we offer; and locate a new virtual assistant for you should things not work out. Now, sometimes the virtual assistants we contract don’t like this. This is when we become “Big Bad Team Double-ClickSM”. You see, we’re the good guys when we’re offering work to virtual assistants. However, when we have to take that work away or ask a virtual assistant for reimbursement for a client due to negligence in their actions, we’re no longer popular with that virtual assistant. This quite often causes a virtual assistant to quit. In order to protect you, our client, sometimes we have to tick people off to do it.

Theft. Yes, theft. Team Double-Click is a virtual staffing agency - we’re the middleman. We work hard to do the best by our clients and locate quality virtual assistants for them. And theft does happen - even from virtual assistants who’ve shown no signs of being anything but above board. If finances get tough, the first thing most people want to do is cut out the middleman. Why? Usually to make more money of course! While we do our best to prevent it from happening, it does from time to time happen that a virtual assistant will attempt to steal a client - to make more money. I’m sure you can see how this opens a whole can of worms here and can easily mess things up for other clients. My question to you: would you want to directly hire a person with that kind of track record? Could you really trust they wouldn’t try to steal something from you later on down the road? I wouldn’t.

A virtual assistant (let’s call her Jane) recently successfully stole a client (let’s call him Dick) from Team Double-Click. In this instance, rather than enter into a lengthy legal battle with Dick and Jane, we let it go. We of course discussed with Dick the potential for Jane the Thief to repeat her history again in the future. Three months later Dick came back and said “Gayle, Jane just stole from me - she embezzled my funds in fact.” While I felt badly for Dick we predicted that this could happen which is why we’d warned him. Dick chose not to listen to our years of experience and the information we had available.

Most virtual assistants are contracted - not employed. As with most contractors (think home builders, highway builders, and other competitive bidders) we too at Team Double-Click impose restrictions, benchmarks, and even penalties on our contractors for lack of performance. Again, this sometimes makes us unpopular and can cause a virtual assistant to quit.

Knowing what causes people to leave should help you better understand how long a virtual assistant may stay in a position. About 25% of our virtual assistants have been with us and the same clients for well over a year and many more approaching the one year mark. In fact, earlier this year one of our virtual assistants retired from Team Double-Click and the client she was assigned, after being with him for more than three years.

So when asked “how long can I expect my virtual assistant to stay with me?” I always say, “It depends. As long as nothing goes wrong and there is no reason for the virtual assistant to leave, he or she will most likely stay.”

Gayle Buske is the co-founder, president and CEO of Team Double-Click, one of the country’s foremost virtual staffing agencies. As the head of a virtual staffing agency with over 29,000 virtual professionals in its pool, Buske is uniquely qualified to aid clients’ growth through virtual outsourcing as well as speak to the ins and outs of the industry.

For more information, visit or phone 888.827.9129.

The world of author tours is changing rapidly

I just received a notice from Allison Nazarian about how traditional author tours are changing - and fast.

Here's what Allison sent me that she found during one of her web searches.

AUTHOR BOOK TOURS SWITCHING TO ELECTRONIC CONTACT. The traditional author tour has been in decline: Fewer writers are being sent out, and those who do tour make fewer stops. Among the many reasons for this shiftare marketing tools that have made it possible to orchestrate a virtual encounter, without the hassle or expense of travel. Publishers and authors are now touting books through podcasts, film tours, blog tours, bookvideos, and book trailers. See

Thanks Allison for this great information. Allison is a professional copywriter and always on the lookout for the latest trends. Allison sets herself apart by constantly providing great information to her readers. You can read more about Allison at or

In success,

Kathleen Gage
The Street Smarts Marketer

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Did you hear the recording of The Blog Squad and The Street Smarts Marketer

Last evening The Blog Squad and the Street Smarts Marketer had over 700 people registered for our teleseminar on The 5 Traps of Internet Marketing that Can Derail Your Business. Afterwards, many registered for our 4-week mentoring teleseries starting January 7, 2008:

To gain access to the free recording and check out our mentoring course go to:

In success

Kathleen Gage
The Street Smarts Marketer

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What to do if someone questions your integrity

Over the last few weeks, Patsi Krakoff and Denise Wakeman aka The Blog Squad and I have been working on a very important project. We are hosting a free telesminar on Monday, December 17, 2007 about Internet Marketing Traps That Can Derail Your Business.

The Blog Squad set up the process so that we could collect comments and questions from people who register. One question we got was the following...

"Why should we believe that you are any better that the other Internet marketers. They will claim how much they make. So what other criteria can we use to evaluate the validity of your claims?"

Valid question. Go to to read my response.

If you haven't registered for the free teleseminar yet, you still have time to do so by visiting

In success,

Kathleen Gage
The Street Smarts Marketer

Friday, December 14, 2007

Poll reveals 30% of people don't know how to market on the

What is one of the greatest challenges businesses today? Almost 30% of respondents to a poll on say they don't know how to market their business on the Web.

This information comes from my collegues, Patsi Krakoff and Denise Wakeman aka The Blog Squad. To read the full story go to

In response to this staggering statistic, The Blog Squad and The Street Smarts Marketer are hosting a free teleseminar on Monday, December 17, 2007 at 6 p.m. Eastern to provide an overview of what people need to be aware of when taking their business online. Details and registration are at

Kathleen Gage
The Street Smarts Marketer

Sunday, December 09, 2007

I don't have any money and I don't know where to start.

Denise Wakeman of The Blog Squad had a great post on one of her blogs. It has to do with a poll we have been conducting. The post was so good, I couldn't help but take most of it for this post....

I don't have any money and I don't know where to start.

It's been interesting to watch the results of our
current poll as people vote to let us know where they are having trouble with marketing their business on the Internet.

The past two days the "winners" have been:

I don't have any money so how can I start an Internet-based business?

I don't know where to start.


There are so many free resources and tools on the 'net, it perplexes me that people feel they don't have the resources to get started. I know they do.

So that leaves me with "I don't know where to start." I think that gives us a better picture of what's going on.

Kathleen Gage, Patsi and I are carefully monitoring this poll and are having daily IM chats, emails and phone conversations about the best way to address these issues in our free teleseminar on December 17.

Last night, Kathleen and I were exchanging emails about when we were first starting out online, with literally no money, how we took risks, made scary investments in mentoring, marketing programs and tools, and a lot of desire to teach, share, coach and have our own businesses. For me, it started in 1996. I didn't know anything.

Read the rest of Denise's post at

She reveals some great insights.

Kathleen Gage
The Street Smarts Marketer

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Take our poll on the traps of Internet Marketing

Inquiring minds want to know….

If you could select the #1 Internet Marketing Trap….What is yours?

Would you help out and take our poll?

Click here to select your answer.

While there, you can register for the FREE teleseminar on how to avoid the 5 most common traps.

In success,

Kathleen Gage
The Street Smarts Marketer