Tuesday, April 17, 2018

15 Question to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Book


I am sending out a questionnaire to every new client of our publishing seminars, asking about their book(s), their anticipated readership, social media presence, plans for book distribution etc., but also about their plans concerning the book. 
From their answers, I can see how much (or few) they thought about their readership and the purpose of their writing.  Many, if not most writers sit down and start their book(s), writing and writing and not thinking who will read their book, nor how they will publish and most important: how will they market their work.  
Questions for You
Here are some questions you should answer honestly.  It will give you an idea how viable your book idea is.  Every business has to start with a plan. If you want to sell your book after writing it, answers to these questions could partially substitute a "business plan".  .
And if you want to self-publish, to find a publisher or a literary agent - answering these questions before your first meeting is extremely important.  Why should someone consider to publish your book when you, the writer, didn't even think about the future of your title and who will be the readers?  These are the most important topics you need to explore and answer for yourself:
  1. Is there a need for your book? Does it fill a void?
  2. Why do you find your book idea interesting?
  3. Why would someone buy your book?  What's their benefit?
  4. Will your book always be interesting in the future?
  5. How big is your market and what is the demographic of your readers?
  6. Who will buy and read your book? How many people?
  7. Could your book idea be turned into series?
  8. Would your book have a regional or international audience?
  9. Who is your competition and how well did their books sell?
  10. Where and exactly how will you market your book?  
  11. What is your next book and are you already working on it? 
  12. How many (real) friends/followers do you have on Social Media? 
  13. Could your book be sold in bulk to a company/organization to promote another product or service? 
  14. Do you have an opt-in email list on your website/blog or already an email newsletter?
  15. In what magazines or newspapers articles, TV shows, radio shows, websites, and newsletters can you market your book?
Still Excited About Your Book Idea? 
After you answered all these questions, do you still have the burning desire to write your book?  Or did some of the questions make you uneasy?  If you ever want to pitch a book idea to a publisher or an agent, you will be asked the same or similar questions. So be prepared!  
Use the answer to question 3 to prepare your "Elevator Pitch". The editor Mike Zimmerman said in an article at Success.com: "Artists starve not because they aren't talented - but because they often have no idea how to make money".


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Why People LOVE Trader Joe's

Saratoga, California Store

Last November when I found my beloved German Christmas Cake, a square praline-chocolate bar and roasted coconut snaps at Trader Joe’s and a minute later these “to-die-for” chips with turkey-and-stuffing taste and smell, I swore to finally write about these fabulous Trader Joe's places where customers find cheerful staff and extraordinary food.

“Trader Joe's is more than a grocery store. 

It is a tiki/trader-themed grocery experience.” 
says Christine Byrne from Buzzfeed.  

Bacon Chips

Travelers to the USA: a visit at Trader Joe’s is a must!  You will find these great stores in almost every city over 150,000 - at least in the Western States.  In the East, they are less frequent to find.  At the end of 2017, Trader Joe's had 474 stores nationwide in 43 states and in Washington, D.C.  In 2018 customers will be greeted at these new locations: New York (Upper West Side) - Washington (Union Market), D.C. and Fresno, California. The only question is: WHEN will Trader Joe’s open shops in Canada.  Foodies in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, and Vancouver are waiting anxiously…

Bath Tissue in fancy packages

However, there's some silver-lining on the horizon: Amazon carries Trader Joe's products on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.  But it's not the same as shopping in their stores.

Customers can experience a unique grocery store with the friendliest, an almost upbeat staff of all the chain stores, free coffee, delicious private label and organic foods, and specialty products - not to mention a great selection of wines.  Every store has a spot, where they present every day one of their delicious food items and let customers sample.

Amazing Cheese Selection
Not only me, but all of my friends stock up before we leave the States for Canada.  Even my dog is crazy about their canned pet food. It’s so much fun to read Trader Joe’s monthly flyer, called “Fearless Flyer”, containing lots of recipes and kitchen tips, in addition to little stories about the company and their products.  Great recipes can be found on their website too.  Enjoyable product and wine insider stories, decorated with cute graphics are dotting their website.
Their unique design, not only in these flyers but also in the packaging of their own store brands resembles images of 19th-century scenes.  A very smart brand identity!  It saves the company a lot of money for designers, and they get the images for free as they are not copyrighted anymore.

“It’s not complicated. We just focus on what matters
 — great food + great prices = Value.”

How it All Started
Way back in 1958, when the first store opened, the chain was called Pronto Markets. Its founder Joe Coulombe is said to have developed the idea of the Trader Joe's South Seas motif while on vacation in the Caribbean. The Tiki culture fad of the 1950s and 1960s was fresh in the cultural memory.  Trader Vic's was at its height with 25 locations worldwide.  Coulombe had noticed that Americans were traveling more and returning home with a taste for food and wine they had trouble satisfying in supermarkets of the time.

Trader Joe's Boise, Idaho

Trader Joe's
Trader Joe's is an American chain of grocery stores based in Monrovia, California, owned in the meantime by a German private equity family trust (Aldi).  The first store, which was branded as "Trader Joe's" opened in 1967.  This store, on Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena, California, remains still in operation.  Joe Coulombe made the stores larger, decked the walls with cedar planks and donned the crews in cool Hawaiian shirts.  Most importantly, he started packaging innovative, hard-to-find, great-tasting foods under the “Trader Joe’s” name.  That cut costs and saved customers money.  It still does.  And that’s important, because “Value” is a concept they take very seriously.  And by ‘Value’, they mean great everyday prices on all great products — no sales, no gimmicks, no clubs to join, no special cards to swipe...

Panettone & Christstollen from Europe

House Brands
Trader Joe’s buys directly from https://www.eater.com/2017/8/9/16099028/trader-joes-productssuppliers whenever possible, bargaining hard to get the best price, and then pass the savings on to their customers.  If an item doesn’t pull its weight in their stores, it goes away to give way for something else.  They buy in volume and contract early to get the best prices.  The quirky, service-driven chain has even inspired a nebulously legal Canadian spinoff for Trader-Joe’s-deprived neighbors to the north. See also and article by the CBC about the "pirate".

Morning Joe

Benefits For Employees
According to this 2010 CNN Money article, Trader Joe's full-time crew members (the people that stock the shelves, ring up and bag groceries, and help customers in the aisles) can earn starting salaries between $40,000-$60,000 a year with benefits.  Also, "Trader Joe's annually contributes 15.4% of employees' gross income to tax-deferred retirement accounts.  By industry standards, that is A LOT in America.

Typical Flyer Ads

Trader Joe's has said its private-label products contain no artificial flavors, no artificial preservatives, no colors derived from anything other than naturally available products, no genetically modified ingredients, no partially hydrogenated oils (adding trans fat), and no MSG. In addition, its private label dairy products use milk from cows not given the artificial growth hormone.

Grocery shopping these days is not always a pleasant experience, but at Trader Joe’s it is a joy!  Not only does the staff seem to like working there, even the customers look like they love to go to Trader Joe’s.  If you’ve never shopped at a Trader Joe's, it’s probably difficult to understand why people are so doggedly loyal to and enthusiastic about the food retailer.


Monday, April 2, 2018

Secrets of a Perfect Lawn

Not happy with the green patch in your garden?  Has your lawn dry patches or moss in the grass?  Here are some basics about healthy and attractive lawns:

The Foundation of a Great Lawn
Before sowing grass seeds or rolling out lawn carpets add one foot (ca. 30 cm) of loam soil on the ground - which is made up of a balance of sand, silt, and clay.  This is called loam soil.  Loam soil holds moisture but also drains well when you water the lawn.  It is able to retain nutrients and allow air flow, making it an ideal soil for plants.  You can also mix your own lawn soil with black soil, sand and peat moss (60:20:20).  You can even mix a bit chicken, cow or sheep manure into this mix.

Increase Organic Matter and Microbes
Applying fertilizer will not help if your soil does not contain an adequate population of microbes; you need billions of these microscopic organisms per handful of soil. Your soil must contain 2- to 5-percent organic material to have a thriving microbe population.

If you want to improve an already existing, ugly lawn, just spread this soil mixture on top of the old lawn - AFTER you dug out any weeds.  Or mow the lawn very low, and then cover the whole lawn with thick layers of cardboard and place a foot of soil over it, before you apply the seed.  Don’t worry, the soil will sink down over the next weeks to approx. 5 inches or less in height.  You can also over-seed as often as once or twice a year, in mid-spring or early fall for cool-season grasses.  Water well before and after over-seeding and for at least four weeks after the application - every single day!  Unless it is heavily raining.

Important:  Do NOT buy the so-called “topsoil” unless you like weeds in your yard… Topsoil is made out of ground excavation soil from new developments and contains roots, stones, weeds, etc. - finely ground up.

Choose the Right Lawn Seeds
Is your lawn all day in the full sun or most of the time in the shade?  For cool-season grass, fine and tall Fescues offer the most shade tolerance.  They require four hours of sun minimum to survive.

  • Tall fescue is a cool-season grass that does well in the hot, full sun.  Primarily used in northern provinces and states, tall fescue does not require a lot of maintenance and is generally resistant to drought and high heat.  The reason it can withstand dry conditions is that it has deep roots that draw water from the ground.  It also grows from seed quickly and usually germinates in 10 to 14 days.  Bermuda grass thrives in full sun and more southern dry areas - and even coastal areas.
  • Cool-season turfgrasses are those species with optimum growth at temperatures between 60 and 75°F (15.5 to 24°C).  Cool-season grass species include for example Fine Fescue, Tall fescue, Kentucky Blue Grass, etc.
  • Warm-season turfgrass is those species with optimum growth at temperatures between 80 and 95°F (27 to 35°C).  Warm-season grass species include Bahia Grass, Bermuda Grass, Carpet Grass, St. Augustine, and Zoysia Grass.

Benefits of Aeration 
Aeration allows grassroots to deeply penetrate the soil and for water, fertilizer, and organic matter to reach the roots. It’s controlling thatch buildup and reducing water runoff.
There are lots of aerator tools available from Lawn Aerator Shoes to Rolling Lawn Aerators to engine-driven aerators that can even be used as a tiller.  My favorite is a Rotary Cultivator which reduces back strain and can also be used in planting beds.

Watering Your Lawn
Under a tree, two things occur to create drier soil.  First, rainfall doesn’t always penetrate the tree canopy to reach the soil beneath.  Second, tree roots absorb available moisture. As a result, turf beneath a tree needs more frequent irrigation.  Water these areas deeply to encourage deep grassroots for a healthy lawn around trees.

Constrain Your Lawn
A lawn is spreading over time - preferable towards planting beds (as the soil is often better there). To avoid this you would either have to edge your lawn twice or three times a year at least or build a tight stone rim around the lawn and edge only once in a while.

Another Question:
Are lawns really necessary?  They require so much work and are really expensive if you consider the cost of soil, seed, water, fertilizer, mower, stones, for yard workers and lawn mower service.  Many garden owners who are too lazy to dig out weeds - before they are seeding - are buying poisons, such as glyphosate-containing, to de-weed their lawns. Those poisons are very dangerous for pets and children and are contaminating the soil, groundwater, and oceans or lakes.  Lawns are nothing natural, rather use to impress people how large your property is - not how beautiful a natural garden could be.

And then there is the aesthetic aspect of lawns versus blooming shrubs, water features, fruit-bearing trees with their lovely, enchanting spring colors and attractive perennial blooms that are offering fascinating showpieces almost year-round.  You decide!  Turn at least a part of your lawn into a sea of flowering shrubs to invite butterflies and birds.