Lessons Learned in Master Writing Session with Lou Mongello at TBEX at Sea

Lou Mongello

Lou Mongello [Photo courtesy https://www.facebook.com/]

Conferences are great places to network and pick up tips that can make the difference between being good and great at blogging (or any other kind of content creation), especially when the speaker is someone who has it mastered like Lou Mongello and the conference is with TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange).

Who is Lou Mongello? For starters, he’s a widely recognized Walt Disney World author, expert, host, speaker, and podcaster. His background, like many entrepreneurs you find on the Web, isn’t what you’d expect since he left a career in law and IT consulting company to pursue his passion.

And luckily for us, Lou is also adept at giving master training sessions to help others identify their passions and explore ways to grow them into successful businesses.

In fact, Lou started out with something we could all relate to as bloggers and Web writers, a feeling he’d experienced in the beginning of his Web career: “This is frustrating; I feel like quitting.” And then he took us along on his personal journey to success, inspiring and teaching with anecdotes.

In Lou’s words, these are three of the most important things you need to know as a Web content provider:

  • “There is no formula.”

  • “There is no blueprint.”

  • “You can’t fake it.”

I couldn’t agree more with Lou, so I settled in to find out what he did recommend.

People Want to Belong

No matter what purpose your blog or webpage might have, you hope people will want to belong and become part of your regular traffic. Even if you’re a business rather than a content provider, you’re hoping for a “buy in” that says people like what you’ve got to sell, whether you’re selling paintings or smartphone apps or t-shirts.

Lou phrased this as a need to nurture your audience. In fact, he said, “treat your fans like your friends and those loyal people become your most loyal evangelists.”

Loyalty, especially brand loyalty, is a phrase that’s tossed about all the time on the Web. While we all recognize the definition as being a behavior, it’s not always easy to measure how loyal your readers are when you’re a blogger–or as Lou is–a podcaster.

One very useful thing that Lou shared was how he uses surveys to gather this kind of data from his regular visitors. Then, he incorporates the information into his media kit, stressing again and again that a successful Web presence is less about the numbers than it is about the relationships.

We agreed completely that one question at a time is best–after all, our readers and listeners are busy people too. The tool? Surveymonkey.

Something I’ve never done, but that Lou found successful, was arranging meet-ups in cities around the U.S. so his fans could join him for coffee and talk about his podcasts. It’s certainly something I’ll have to take under consideration!

Networking on the Web

All of us in the master session agreed completely that other bloggers, content providers, and podcasters aren’t competition. Far from it! Instead, building up a supportive community can help everyone achieve those dreams.

Relying on your “tribe” to share their ideas and expertise on your platform can work great, whether that’s a guest post or two or a regular speaker like some Lou invites monthly to his podcasts.

When you think about the stat Lou shared, that there are 500 million blogs online with a new blog “born” every second, that’s a lot of potential communities or tribes of bloggers. I personally use Triberr to find my supportive community.

I’ve installed the Triberr WordPress plugin on my blogs, so each time I publish an article it has the potential to be tweeted out by my 140 tribemates to their one million Twitter followers! Now, that’s a lot of help from my community.

Beyond the Blog

Blogging is great and for some of us, the best way to deliver our content. Well, until you think about those 500 million other blogs that is! That’s why Lou recommended we all consider a podcast where the competition is lower, in fact, there are around just 250,000 English podcasts available.

Since bloggers are predominately female, Lou also pointed out that there’s a 7800 : 1 ratio of female bloggers to female podcasters. Now that’s a nice statistic to think about if you’re female and trying to establish your brand.

Lou also noted that books–a topic I totally love and am familiar with since I teach Publish and Sell Your E-Books–are another awesome way to make contact with more readers and fans. In fact, he said, “his books are his new business cards.” That makes a lot of sense for writers, podcasters, and businesses of every sort.

And this, of course, is just a very small sample of things we talked about at our master session! If you ever have a chance, I do recommend you find your own inspiration in a session with Lou Mongello.


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5 Reasons Every Author Should Experience an Ocean Cruise Ship

Oasis of the Seas

Linda Aksomitis on Oasis of the Seas Cruise Ship (November/2015)

Over 20 million passengers around the world take a cruise every year! That may sound like a lot of people until you find out it’s only half the number of people who visit Las Vegas annually. And yes, Las Vegas is a must-do, but I also believe that everyone should take a cruise at least once in life, especially authors. Why? Here are five reasons.

#1 – To See Why Our Ancestors Thought We Could Fall off the Edge of the World

While today we debate whether or not there was ever life on Mars, our ancestors spent centuries arguing over whether or not the earth was flat. While the ancient Greeks decided it was spherical, it wasn’t until Ferdinand Magellan actually circumnavigated the globe (1519-1522) and never fell off the edge, that it was established as an indisputable fact.

My first cruised showed me why it would have been difficult to convince people the earth was any other shape than flat, when I gazed out on that never-ending blue of ocean that seemed to flow over the edge like a waterfall.

Cruising on the Atlantic Ocean

Cruising on the Atlantic Ocean

And if you’re asking how any of this matters to an author, it’s because the first thing you have to establish as an author is the suspension of disbelief. While yes, that horizon looks very much like you could sail right off the end, if your characters and world immediately come to life, your reader will believe you when you tell them it’s not flat at all, but a sphere.

#2 – To Live as if We’re Under the Dome

Stephen King says that he sets his stories in small towns because they’re a microcosm of the world. All the parts of society you find anywhere, you can find in a small town. And everything you need anywhere, you need there.

Spending a weekend, or a week, on an ocean cruise makes you consider all kinds of things we tend to take for granted most of the time, like how much water will the ship need to carry so we can shower every morning and flush the toilets? How much food? What about medical assistance? And of course, the Internet? Who could leave home without it?

Dining on Oasis of the Seas

Dining on Oasis of the Seas

When you’re floating on the ocean, hundreds of miles away from anywhere, in a ship that does around 23 knots (26 mph), you’re a long ways from the services we rely on these days. Somebody has to plan ahead to supply them.

Authors need to ensure they take care of every detail when they create worlds and characters. And if they’re using real worlds, they need to do the research to be sure they’ve got all the facts right.

#3 – To Experience Life Again as it was in Kindergarten

You’ve no doubt seen Robert Fulghum’s list of everything I needed to know in life I learned in kindergarten. Whether we call these things life lessons or a guide for global leadership, these are all things we have to practice on a cruise.

After all, how could 6000 people all just line up for dinner at whichever restaurant they wanted, whenever they wanted. It just doesn’t work.

So once again, we experience life as it was in kindergarten, lining up and learning to take our turn. Nobody shoves to get to the head of the line, because it’s really not going to make any difference whether you’re at the front or the back, your seat already has your name on it because it was assigned to you or you reserved a different one.

And this matters to authors how?

We all write with a purpose–or should–whether we’re revealing the human condition or entertaining or informing, and somewhere along the way our purposes often align with those things we learned in kindergarten.

#4 – To Exercise Your Brain’s Hippocampus

So right now you’re wondering what your hippocampus does and how you can exercise it on a cruise ship–and no, I’m not talking about one of those singles cruise ships either!

A ship, as we know, has a fore and an aft, and in between are all the cabins and working parts that keep us cruising along the water. What I didn’t know was that on a ship with 17 decks, likely there’d be a number of them where you really can’t get “there” from here, because things are in the way.

Instead, you can go up and down on the ends and sometimes, across the middle. In actual application that can mean you spend a lot of time trying to remember how to get where you want to be (especially if you’re on a megaship–one of the largest ones on the ocean like I was) if the neurons, called grid cells and place cells (which are believed to create a cellular map of the places you’ve been and the routes you’ve taken) in your hippocampus, need some exercise.

As authors, we also need to have mental maps of what’s happening in our books. It often helps to draw them out, whether it’s a family/relationship tree of the characters, a map of a location, or a timeline to keep events straight. And if you don’t, chances are you’re going to run into at least a few readers with well-exercised hippocampuses, who will catch your mistakes!

#5 – To Discover How to Enjoy the Journey Not Just the Destination

A cruise, unlike any other form of traveling, considers the journey as another part to be enjoyed rather than skipped through to get to the good “stuff.” My entertainment on board the Oasis of the Seas has been stellar, whether I want to watch others (Cats, the musical was on the first day, along with ventriloquists, comedians, and various other entertainers) or do something myself like swim or attend an art auction. Even dining is an event.

Entertainment on Oasis of the Seas

Entertainment on Oasis of the Seas

Many cruises have ports of call along the way, where travellers can get off in another country and check it out. My cruise left from Fort Lauderdale, then stopped in the Bahamas (a British Colony until 1973 now an independent Commonwealth), St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands (U.S.), and the dual country island of St. Maarten (Dutch) / St. Martin (French).

Each stop just adds to the enjoyment of the journey.

In contrast, new authors often think of getting the story down on paper as being the destination, not realizing that like a cruise, it’s just part of the journey–rather more like boarding the ship than getting off. For after that initial draft comes the hard, or the fun (for many of us), part of the writing process.

Each draft is something to be savoured, whether it’s playing with language or adding in a red herring in a mystery, just as each port of call adds to the richness of the journey.

Share Your Cruise Experiences!

How has cruising enriched your life? I’d love to hear your comments.

Sail with Oasis of the Seas to have the same experience I did! http://www.royalcaribbean.com/

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