Book review – Leigh Gallagher – “The AirBnB Story” #books #amreading

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Thanks to the publisher, Virgin Books, for making this review copy available via NetGalley. I do like a book on business, and did even before I ran my own business. I’m very far from being the kind of dynamic start-up AirBnB was, but I am always fascinated by a good, well-written story that goes into the nitty-gritty of how a company was started and is run, and this certainly gave me that. I’m gradually chipping my way through this rather frightening Kindle to-be-read list by the way; I’ve read and reviewed one from there already, this is the second and I’m reading another one right now!

Leigh Gallagher – “The AirBnB Story”

(17 February 2017 – ebook)

The well-done and lively authorised story of the foundation and rise of this disruptive firm, taking us through the history of its growth in detail, warts and all, describing problems hit along the way, including well-documented accidents, issues with damage to houses and racial discrimination issues (on the part of hosts and guests, not the company, as such) and how the company dealt with these bumps in the road while adhering to its special and unique culture. It also looks at the reaction of city authorities and townspeople, again examining the company’s claims to want to limit multiple listings and adding pressure on difficult housing situations, and the reactions of the hotel industry, along with an excursion into a short history of other hotel industry disruptors that have been gradually absorbed into the mainstream and ways in which this is being done with the sharing-houses concept, too.

It also looks at the way the company has been scaled, including a celebration of the fact that it’s practically the only start-up which has retained the three original founders and their complementary skillsets, also examining how (on Earth!) they have developed the management skills necessary for running a huge company when they were essentially two designers and a coder with little management experience between them (it turns out they’ve done this collaboratively, too, using gurus from all sorts of industries, bringing in employees where they have gaps in knowledge, and bravely asking for assessments of the way they manage in order to do it better).

A good attempt is made at describing the company culture which has so appealed to millennials but spread out to the rest of the age groups, too, and with the author’s access to the three founders, investors and employees as well as hosts, it feels rounded and authentic. The future is examined, always hard in a very fast-moving company like this one, with talk of brand extensions and then an up-to-date epilogue (written in November 2016) once some of those had been officially announced. There is much focus on how the company has been able to scale its growth while preserving its mission and culture, largely because it has chosen its own investors and not gone public yet (I know from my small experience that being independent is the only way to retain your own culture and values unless you are very, very careful).

There are lots of notes, which is great, as it shows a commitment to proper referencing, however it suffers here from the standard problem with ebooks, in that you don’t know where the book will end and the notes start, so you don’t really know how far through the book you are. There’s also a rather annoying non-interactive index with a note at the top reminding us that it won’t work as such as it comes from the print version, so ebook readers will need to look up terms using their search function. Why include it, then?

This aside, a good read with a nice lot of detail.


I’m now reading Elizabeth Fair’s “Seaview House”, which I started during some bus journeys to buy cheese and skyr and meet my friend Meg for coffee. Absolutely CHARMING as anything so far. And probably matches my usual readers more closely than this review. Anyone else out there appreciate a good, solid business read?

Book review – The Editor’s Companion

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Dec 2014 3You might think that I get enough editing and thinking about words in my day job as an editor, proofreader, transcriber and localiser, but in fact I’m always up for a good and interesting book on topics around editing, small businesses, language, words, etc. So reading this book on the business of editing was certainly not a chore and I learned something from it, too!

Steve Dunham – “The Editor’s Companion”

I understand this useful book to be intended as a guide for new editors or people who are assigned editing work in their organisation but might not have a full understanding of what this involves.

It helpfully defines and is then divided into chapters on editing for content, focus, precise language and grammar, with a section on typography and layout which will be very useful for proofreaders and a good section on editorial relationships. There’s a chapter titled “A Few Tips” which looks at some commonly misused words, homophones, etc., although this is a larger subject than can be treated in a short chapter.

A chapter on “The Editor’s Tools” includes a very useful checklist for editors, and points out the use of keeping a list of incorrect but “real” words, which Dunham charmingly calls his “Bad Words list” (asses, theses, form, etc.) to run a final search on. These are good, real-world and applicable tools which I’ve not seen in other books of this kind.

Dunham’s background is in working as an in-house editor, so there’s not much in the book about freelancing, although most of the general information in the book can be applied to freelancers and those who work on contract for publishers, for example. His general principles are very sound: here are two of them

If you have something worth saying, then care about communicating it (p. 17)

If you need to read something twice to understand it, then it needs editing (p. 58)

We can all learn something from even the most basic of guides, and I certainly picked up some pointers in this book. I usually work in Word with style suggestions turned off, so I didn’t know that you could set Word to pick up gender-specific terms in your document, which could be very useful (I’m planning to blog about this with screen shots soon!). I also found a good explanation of why you don’t hyphenate words ending in -ly (the hyphen shows you which words are connected, e.g. “best-known artist” (best known) vs. “best known artist” (best artist); a -ly word can only link to the verb, e.g. “barely known artist” (barely artist doesn’t work)).

It’s worth noting that the book and its author are American – this is certainly not a deal-breaker, but should be kept in mind when reading the sections on language use and also on style guides. For example, it mentions the Chicago Manual of Style and Associated Press Stylebook but not Oxford style. But mentioning style guides at all and pointing to their existence means the UK reader will soon work out which guides they should be using when dealing with UK content, and it’s useful for those who work with US English, too (I can’t be the only person to have a shelf of UK and US style guides).

All of the examples of errors and their editing are drawn from real life, including the author’s leisure reading on occasion, and this intensifies towards the end of the book which features “Ones That Got Away”. I tend to feel a little uncomfortable about criticisms of “bloopers”, but I appreciate that this is informed by my client base, which includes many non-native speakers and people who have issues with their production of English: the examples here are apparently all drawn from texts which should have been edited properly in the first place, and the tone is not particularly snarky. I can see the value of using real examples, especially for newer editors who may not be sure what to look out for; the problems are explained in detail and the solutions presented. Non-specialists will find something to amuse here, too.

Overall, it’s a practical and useful book for those considering a career in or newly in an editorial position or, indeed, for giving to people who wonder loud and often about what we actually do all day in this editing job.

This book is published in January 2015 in the UK and is out now in the US – here’s the Amazon.co.uk page for it and the Amazon.com page and you can also visit Steve’s website for more information.

Disclosure: I was sent a review copy of this book by the publisher after being contacted by the author. My work is quoted in the book and appears in the reference list and index. I did not allow this to influence my view of the book (I hope!). We did a review swap, and I write about Steve’s review of my book here.

Change your book title and boost sales …?

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Liz and Business books

Liz and her books. Photo by Simon Howes

I was setting up a post on my main blog introducing my two new books to the world and I thought it would be interesting to write a “making of” on this blog which is, after all, about my adventures in reading, WRITING and working from home … And the title of this piece explains it all, really – can tweaking your book titles change your sales profile? I’m sharing my experience of naming my books and tweaking those names … and what might have happened next …

Funny book titles equals higher sales? Hm.

My first book was called “Going it Alone at 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment“. I realised there was a danger of people only reading the first part of the title and thinking it was a guide to empty nest syndrome or divorce, but it was my first book, so I could ‘leverage’ that and tell the world about my book. It was sufficiently differentiated from other books to do quite well, and I’ve had some lovely positive reviews (if the worst someone can say about your book is that it contains a few too many cardigans, then life isn’t too bad).

I wasn’t really planning on writing another self-help careers book … except I then put together a Quick Guide to Your Career in Transcription, because people kept searching for that topic on my blog, and that has indeed done pretty well, given that it’s a small book, not a full-length one. And then I kept on blogging about how I was building my business and developing my career and it became apparent that I could put together another book, about increasing your income, saying no and planning your time, plus what I’d learned about blogging and social media. I wrote some new chapters for the book which were later summarised in blog posts, and I published “Who are you Calling Mature? Running a Successful Business After the Start-up Phase” in early 2014.

I did some market research on this title, this way round (and yes, if you’ve clicked the links, you’ll notice that the titles aren’t quite the same now) and people generally thought it was a good and funny title, as well as thinking the idea of the book was useful, given that there are lots of books out there about starting out and not so many about what happens next. I asked friends and colleagues on Facebook and in person at networking events, and excitedly launched the book. At the same time, I launched an omnibus e-edition of the two together so people could get better value, and called that “Going it Alone at 40 AND Who are you Calling Mature? The Omnibus“, which was probably a mistake. Who was going to find THAT searching for business books?

Launch your book and watch it fly!

Or not. I’ll be honest, sales were not what I’d hoped for. I did all the stuff you’re supposed to do, including sending out review copies, and people have bought it and posted some good reviews. But not in the numbers I’d wished for.  Then I asked again, did anyone think there was anything wrong with the title? And I got lots of replies, some along the lines of the business area not being as large, but several saying that the title didn’t lead them to think about business, but about some kind of guide to growing old disgracefully. Oh. After some fulminating about there being subtitles and blue books with graphs on the cover not generally being the way to sell comedy books on ageing, I actually listened to the advice, realised that no one had a chance of finding the omnibus, and switched all the titles around.

Do your research and tread carefully

It’s been a week or so since I changed the titles around. I haven’t actually changed the book covers – yet. I considered it, but as my motto is “Do things carefully and don’t spend out unless you have to”, I thought I’d see if the change had an effect.

What did I do?

  • I changed the titles around on Amazon, and added a whole new title to the omnibus, so it’s now called “Your Guide to Starting and Building your Business“.
  • I remembered to change the titles on my business website’s publications page, and I took the opportunity to add to their SEO (search engine optimisation, AKA making sure that people can find your stuff) by adding sub-headings with the book titles.
  • I changed the titles on my book pages on this blog
  • I told people what I’d done and thanked them for their input
  • I wrote a blog post on my main blog introducing the books (with their new titles) to the world – it’s common practice to launch independent authors’ books once they’ve garnered a few sales and reviews) and made sure they were helped by the SEO of that site

What happened?

I sold more books. It’s anecdotal, obviously: there hasn’t been enough time to see whether this is a trend or a spike. I don’t think the sales were ‘support buys’, i.e. my friends feeling sorry for me and buying a copy to help out (I do massively appreciate that when it happens, and am chuffed at all sales, but that does sort of skew your sales statistics!), but so far I have had significantly more interest and sales.

What happens next for those book titles?

Well, for a start, I’m going to leave them that way around, as it obviously works.

I’m going to see how sales go through next month, and if they are good enough and I can see they’re going to pay their way, I will get the covers redesigned (including the covers for the print books)

And I’ll let you know!

Update – 20 days on and I’m redoing my book covers!

Update: 20 June. I’m pleased to report that as of 20 June I’ve sold copies of my books every day, and more copies of the renamed ones. Luckily, I get a nice report from Amazon about daily sales. I don’t think I’ve been talking about my books any more on social media than I usually do, so I’m putting it down to the new book titles.

Update – August 2014

Liz new books fbI ordered a new cover for the Omnibus e-book, and the two print books – and here they are. Doing that plus creating a dedicated books website has helped to build traffic and sales – but what started it all off was changing the titles! I’ve blogged a more detailed update here.

Book review – Louise Harnby – “Marketing Your Editing and Proofreading Business”

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Marketing Your Editing and Proofreading Business Louise HarnbyI’ve previously read and reviewed Louise’s first book, “Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers“, aimed at newcomers to the profession and those who needed to brush up their business planning skills. This book on marketing is for a similar audience, but it goes much more into the nuts and bolts of the actual marketing process, telling the reader what is out there that they can try, explaining why it’s a good idea to try it, providing some examples of people who have tried it (and in the interests of disclosure, I am one of the people who she mentions as examples of good practice) and giving some pointers as to what to do next.

As I do in my own writing, the author professes not to use jargon in her book, and she doesn’t, explaining concepts clearly and concisely without muddling the waters with marketing speak. As such, the book will be very accessible to those who fear marketing and can’t see the point of making the effort – or those who try to do it, but half-heartedly – the “embarrassed marketers” as Harnby calls them. But no one could fail to be convinced by the information that’s laid out clearly and methodically – and everyone can learn from it – I certainly learned a bit more about the relationship between Google+ and searching for your services, and about some of the other social media service that are out there.

The book is clearly laid out in four parts, covering concepts – ideas about marketing, what it is, how it helps you to grow your business; then activities, which sets out a chapter on each of various marketing channels including cold letters, face-to-face networking and social media, among many more; then a very useful sample marketing plan; and a good solid list of resources at the end. The marketing plan is a stroke of genius, as it takes a non-traditional editor – certainly not a woman who’s worked for a publisher then struck out on her own, which is something of a stereotype in our industry – and sets out what they can achieve around an editing career, branching out into all sorts of other activities and, as Harnby advocates at the beginning of the book (and something I strongly advocate, too) making sure that they have a mix of customers and types of work.

This book would be particularly useful for anyone starting out in editing freelancing or for anyone who’s giving it a go but not getting very far with getting customers. It’s also very useful for anyone planning to work with traditional publishers, as it sets out a lot of information about choosing which companies to target, etc., although one of Harnby’s own strengths is that she also works with self-publishers, and she has plenty of advice about how to deal with this market segment too. It also served to make me count my blessings and realise how lucky I’ve been to have gathered together a broad portfolio of clients through word of mouth, social media marketing and a couple of directory sites.

In summary, if you’re in the early stages of an editorial career, perhaps especially if you are not sure of the market in which you wish to work, buy a copy of “Marketing your Editing and Proofreading Business” and read it cover to cover (or percentage to percentage, I suppose, if you read the e-book version!). I will be recommending it to my mentees in the profession, and including it in the list of resources in my next book!

Find out more about the book on Louise’s website. You’ll find more info there on the book and links to where you can buy it.

Note: I received a review copy from Louise – thank you. Although I am quoted and referenced in the book, I make no financial gain from you purchasing it (although of course it helps my marketing effort in raising awareness of my website and thus my own books!).

Business book review – Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers

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Product DetailsLouise Harnby’s book, “Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers” is a must-read for anyone considering going into this line of business. In fact, there is a great deal of useful general information in the book that would be useful for anyone looking to start their own business.

The book is packed with useful advice on working out what you want to do, formulating a business plan, building a customer base, networking, using social media, etc. It’s peppered throughout with real-life examples from a handful of other editors, who are working in fields as diverse as genre fiction editing, STM publishing and academic articles, as well as Louise’s own experiences and some longer case studies at the end. There’s a great resource guide with loads of links to useful blogs, pages and reference materials (I was chuffed to see a link to my blog in the resource guide, which I hadn’t expected!).

Although I’m obviously an experienced editor (etc.) who has been running a business for some time, I found it useful for two reasons. One, it’s always gratifying to know you did the right thing when you started out, and indeed I have done much of what is recommended here. Two, I learned a few things, which is always nice, specifically about some editing software that makes the job easier (which I will hopefully be getting hold of and reviewing on here at some stage), and about how to embed downloadable pdfs into your website. It’s never too late to learn something new!

There was lots more to recognise, too, such as the emphasis on other editors being colleagues, not competitors, and the advice to use what you’ve learned in your previous jobs and life experience to deepen and broaden your offering as a freelance editor. I also realised how lucky I was to come into the work having learnt my trade in various jobs in the past, and how lucky I was to build the business pretty much by word of mouth and advertising on one or two sites, plus using social media. Things can be a lot more daunting than that, and I appreciate how lucky I’ve been that everything came together at the right time.

As regular readers will know, I’ve written a book about starting your own business myself recently. I think this book and mine complement each other very well – this is about hard facts, research and the resources you need to get there, whereas mine is more a collection of experiences and lessons learned along the way, along with coverage of other areas such as what to do when you’re ill and what to wear in the home office. There’s also a great deal of information about training courses in editing and proofreading and the professional organisations, as befits a book published in association with the Publishing Training Centre. So I’m not shooting myself in the foot by shouting loud about how very good and useful this book of Louise’s is: it’s excellent and I wish it had been around 4 years ago when I was setting up Libro. I will certainly recommend it to new editorial colleagues and more experienced colleagues who might want to pick up additional information on training, networking or social media, for example.

More information about the book on Louise’s website, which includes links to the various places where you can buy the book.

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Note: the author kindly sent me an e-copy of this book to review.

Book progress …

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Going it alone coverAs you probably know, I’m putting together an e-book based on my posts on this blog and my main Libroediting one about the process of going self-employed and my first year working full-time from home. I’ve just got to do final edits and it’ll be ready to go.

I hope that those of you who have been reading and enjoying this blog will feel able to share the news – it does have new information and content as well as repeating blog posts, and people will get about 50 pages of A4 for £1.00, so it’ll be worth it! It’ll be available on Amazon for Kindle – if you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a free Kindle reader app or software from Amazon.

Anyway, I’ve written about my experiences having the book edited and I thought you might like to read it too, if you don’t read my other blog. Do pop over and have a read and let me know what you think! It’s been a very popular post among my fellow editors …

Today is the first day of the second year of the rest of my life …

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Exif_JPEG_PICTURE12 December 2011 was my last day in my old office. So today is semi-officially the first day of my second year of full self-employment, although I was still employed and paid by the University until 31 December, so there will be another celebration on 1 January. Happy days! How long have you been at it … or how long have you to go until freedom?

You can read all about my journey to full-time self-employment on this blog, and I’ll be publishing a book about it in the New Year!

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