Wednesday, July 29, 2009

If You Have To Do It Yourself, Do It Right!

Good afternoon loyal subscribers and friends. I
hope you are well. We are preparing to get ready
for our family vacation to Washington, DC starting
this Saturday. We're excited. It's been a year
full of challenges on many levels, and we are
looking forward to focusing on fun with our

Today I wanted to touch upon the topic of graphic
design and reveal some trade secrets of mine. You
know, people do judge a book or an ebook or a
digital product by its cover. They also judge your
site by its appearance. Experts agree you only
have a few seconds to grab their attention and
build credibility, and there's no doubt that
sharp, professional, compelling graphics are your
strongest ally.

So let's assume you've decided to purchase some
tools and create your graphics yourself. Where do
you start? Of course, you could buy templates and
clip-art and start there. Most people do. Of
course, since most people were not blessed with
the gift of graphic design, they wrongfully assume
that since the tools are available that they are
capable of doing it themselves.

Let me tell you folks, of the thousands of emails
I receive each year, most ask for my opinion of
their web site or ebook cover's look and feel, and
most look like they were designed by someone who
has no sense of design. Their home-made graphics
look so amateurish. In an attempt to save money,
they have actually damaged their ability to
generate future sales. Penny wise, pound foolish.
Whatever that means.

So, my advice to you is this: if you are intent
on doing it yourself, then do it wisely. You may
find that in the long-run it cost you more to do
it yourself than it would have to pay a professional
to do it right.

If you want to design an ebook cover, start
searching for other ebooks in your genre on Amazon
and study their cover designs. Make note of
colors, layout, fonts, size and position of title,
subtitle and author text. Look at how they use
graphic elements to enhance the look and feel of
the cover. Sketch out your proposed cover design
on a napkin.

Next assemble the elements. If you have a
graphics design tool, check your fonts for title
fonts -- big, bold and easily read as all caps. If
you have PhotoShop you can easily enhance simple
fonts to create eye-catching headlines or titles.

Check to see what you have in the way of
graphical support elements such as colored bars,
lines, circles, stars, badges, etc. There are many
graphics collection available online. Seek them
out to find exactly what you need.

Next, check for availability of royalty-free
photos. There are many online services that sell
great photos for a buck. Among the ones I use the
most, I recommend Fotolia which has a very good
search engine. Photos are available in a variety
of sizes, and it is free to join and create your
own account.

The last step is the most challenging: putting it
all together in your graphics program. After years
of putting off the purchase, I finally bought
PhotoShop 7.0 years ago. I have not upgraded. I
don't really need to as the older version was
available for under $100 and does more than I need
it to. Before that I used Paint Shop Pro which is
also an excellent product. Xara makes a number of
great low-cost graphics tools, too.

Once you have assembled it all I suggest playing
with placement of elements, enhancing the
background to make your title and images pop off
the page, and in different colored fonts. Play
with drop shadows and glow effects around text.
Eventually you will wind up with something that
doesn't look half bad.

Once your have created your 2D flat cover image,
you need to render it as a 3D image. You can spend
a lot of money on PhotoShop actions which look
real nice but some require you to own a more recent
version of PhotoShop and are limited in the number
of formats.

Here's my other well-kept secret. Quick 3D Cover
enables you to transform a 2D flat cover into
approximately 100 different 3D formats including
books, DVDs, CDs, spiral reports, business cards,
iPod screens, movie screens, envelopes, boxes, and
much, much more -- and for a fraction of the cost
of a set of PhotoShop actions.

Here's a list of reviews of recommended tools and

Killer Text

Killer Abstract Backgrounds

Web Graphics 2.0

Super Easy DIY Graphics


Quick 3D Cover

And if you're throwing your hands up in despair,
drop me an email. I'll design your cover using
these very same tools, usually within 24 hours,
with minimal changes required, and for only
$49.95. Don't forget we do full site design and
sales copy, too.

Until next time,


Monday, July 27, 2009

Review of Easy Video Producer

Greetings on this sleepy Monday morning. It's time to wake up and hit the road. Today I want to tell you about an incredible new online service I found that is destined to make your life easier if you are trying to market a product or service online.

This is one of those rare finds because it's a true zero-cost service that will provide you with a wealth of ready-to-use tools.

Easy Video Producer enables you to use your webcam to record videos, create landing pages, add a video player, add a lead collection form, and it has a built-in autoresponder.

Oh yeah, did I say there's no cost to use this service? I know this sounds too good to be true, so I wrote a lengthy review and included screen shots of the service in action here:

I'm telling you, Easy Video Producer is going to make your life much easier. It will save you time and money and make you much more productive. You'll also be able to create killer video landing pages with incredible ease. You will be amazed.

Don't have a webcam? That's OK because they are cheaper than ever before. If your PC or laptop didn't come with one, you can pick one up at your local electronics or office supply store.

Microsoft makes some very inexpensive models which work fine; they run around $50.00. If you want a top-notch, high-definition webcam, then the Logitech 9000 is the way to go. It runs around $100.00 and is worth every penny. It's the model I use.

I don't know how long Easy Video Producer will remain open to the public. I urge you to check it out right now before they start charging for their service. You'll thank me for this one! Go here now to read my review:

Until next time,


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Spiritual Gifts

Good afternoon. I'm a week away from taking my
daughter to her Junior Leadership Conference in
Washington D.C. We're dropping her and then the
family and I will see the city until we've
overdosed on museums. Hopefully, I will not spend
a lot of time working on my laptop. All work and
no play make Jack a dull boy, so the saying goes.
Do you take your laptop on vacation or just
totally disconnect?

I've had an interesting week. Attended a half-day
Mens' retreat to investigate my spiritual gifts.
After answering a lengthy survey, my top scores
were in Administration, Leadership and Wisdom. Did
not come as a huge revelation, but did make me
think about how I am applying my gifts to help

Obviously through consulting I am helping
customers, and I try through my newsletters and
blog entries to help subscribers and virtual
friends. I guess the question is how can I do

Of course, extending my body of knowledge out
through Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Linked In
is a good start, and I've recently started
including links to my newsletters in all of these
distribution vehicles as well as through my two
blogs. Two blogs? yes, I maintain one for business
and one for pleasure. The business blog may be
found here:

The pleasure blog is for magicians. That's one of
those things I don't speak a lot about because it
has a limited and highly targeted audience. If you
have multiple areas of subject matter expertise,
you might consider creating some micro blogs for
different audiences. My magic blog for those who
are interested is here:

I do maintain a Facebook account here:

If you have not tried to secure your personalized
Facebook URL then you are missing the boat here.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, use this

Does all of this social networking actually
accomplish anything? I'm not sure yet, but I am
giving it a whirl. I find most of the stuff posted
these days to consist of self-indulgent drivel. I
don't know about you, but I don't really care if
you are sitting in Starbucks having coffee reading
the morning newspaper.

Back to gifts.

When was the last time you really thought hard
about what your gifts are and how you were using
them? It certainly gives one a chance to pause and
think, hmmmmmmm.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself,
earning a living aside, is there a way for you to
apply your knowledge and experience to help
someone else pro bono. If that's a dirty word for
you, then you've probably read enough of this
newsletter ;)

It used to be a dirty word for me, but I've made
a concerted effort to make time daily to respond
to email requests seeking advice and help. Most of
these requests come from people younger or older
than I who are newbies online, often seeking to
earn a living online or to augment their income
from their day job. I've been doing both of these
things for years, so why not share what I know?
While many of these people have not been able to
afford my services at the time they first
contacted me, some have referred me to others or
returned to me in the future to pay me for my
services, so I think it does come back to you.

Interesting in taking a spiritual gifts test? I found
the identical one I took listed here:

Go ahead and try it. Even if you are not that spiritual
it might reveal areas of strength you may never have

I would also advise looking at low scores to examine
areas of your life you may need to work on and strengthen.

Until next time,


Friday, July 17, 2009

New Cool Tools

Greetings folks. Steve Schneiderman here with a
few quick reviews and marketing tips. If you have
ever wondered why your web site doesn't convert
more visitors into subscribers or sales then it
might be the look and feel of the web page or the
lack of key elements required in an effective
sales page.

For instance, while a page may be plain or
colorful in its design, it still needs
well-written, clear sales copy. There has to be a
compelling headline which grabs your visitors'
attention and compels them to read on.

In addition, the landing or sales page should be
very clearly laid out in it placement of headline,
sales copy, etc. The page needs to contain certain
components such as a call to action and a
subscription form, a button to click on and more.

More and more, marketers are using video to
deliver their sales message, and a new product has
been released to help you create a
professional-looking video squeeze page. What's a
squeeze page? It's simply a short-form sales
letter designed to capture the first name and
email address BEFORE they access the main sales
page. This way, even if they don't buy from you
NOW, you can continue to market to them LATER and
hopefully sell something else to them in the
future. It's the perfect tool for list-building.

Premium Video Squeeze Pages from Max Rylski is a
package of professionally-designed landing pages
that contain all of the critical graphical
elements you need for a successful landing page.
He's taken all of the hard work out of the

Premium Video Squeeze Pages also comes with a
suite of tools which enable you to quickly and
easily customize the look and feel of the page to
match the rest of your site. Adding video and
links to your autoresponder service is as easy as
typing in a little information. Very simple.

Don't know much about design or using PhotoShop,
have no fear. He has included extensive videos
explaining it all!

You can learn more about this new tool here:

Now let's get back to the plain sales page vs.
colorful sales page. This has been the topic of
much discussion by Internet marketers over the
years. Split-testing has often proven that simple
works better. I think that while this may be true,
the higher the price tag of your product or
service, the more a polished design is called for.

For instance, I see many ebook covers and
software boxes designed with very plain covers,
yet the asking price is frequently $97 or higher.
Would you be more inclined to buy a plain-looking
ebook or software tool if the cover was plain
black and white and looked amateurish in its lack
of design OR would you spend the money on a
product that had a MORE professional-looking,
colorful design? I think the latter.

I've said it before: people do judge an ebook or
software tool by the product shot. Colorful
outsells plain images every time. But what if you
lack the type of graphic skills required to create
that sophisticated product image? What really
makes the difference between a great product shot
and a poor product shot anyway?

I think the answer lies in the type of background
you use. Again, going back to the plain product
design, if you were to add some color or subtle
abstract graphic element to the background, it
makes the design more visually compelling.

Here's a solution to look at:

Killer Abstract Backgrounds, also from Max
Rylski, is a collection of breath-taking abstract
background images ranging from swirls to lines to

You may customize these to any type of
color combination you like and then slide them
into the background of your ebook cover or
software box design, and instantly you have solved
the problem. Your product shot will look amazing.
I show an example here:

Check it out. You will be surprised by the subtle
difference. An abstract background grabs your
attention and transforms simple and dull to
compelling and "I gotta have it!"

Killer Text 2, yep - another Max product, is also
an amazing collection of fun fonts and styles that
will transform your product packaging, brochures,
web pages and headlines into eye-catching,
attention-grabbing words. You will love it:

OK, time to run. Best to all. Talk to you again
next week!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Are You Reasonably Happy?

Good morning, and I hope this day finds you well.
Been busy trying to stay cool and productive. I
have found that the two are sometimes mutually
exclusive. For instance, helping my wife in the
garden in 103 degree heat is not cool even though
it is productive. It occurred to me that we
frequently make mistakes like this. It is our
nature to try to do two things at once or to set
unrealistic goals for ourselves and then become
disappointed by the outcome.

Consider career goals: we seek to make more money
to be able to afford more stuff, but we find that
making more money also carries greater
responsibilities, pressures and frustrations.
This, in turn, makes life, in general, less happy
and our careers less satisfying. So we may achieve
our goal of making more money, but at what cost of

There's a lot to be said about having money. I'd
rather have money than not have it. I've
experienced periods of great abundance and great
famine. I've been blessed with periods where I
made more money in a single year than most make in
a lifetime, and other periods where I did not know
where the next check was coming from.

At age 50, with two kids, a first and second
mortgage, and being self-employed, it's all about
managing cash flow. In this insane economy, it's
difficult to see revenue consistency long into the
future. There's so much unknown and we have so
little control over the events that impact our

For many, it is a time of panic and uncertainty.
After months of watching my own 401K and SEP
retirement accounts drop to below 40% of their
value, I am only now beginning to see some growth.
But with all of these talks of false bottoms in
the market, it's difficult to know what to do or
who to trust.

And so lately I have been considering the
Serenity Prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr:

"God grant me
the Serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change,
Courage to change the things
I can, and the wisdom
to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as the
pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things
right if I surrender to His will;

That I may be reasonably happy
in this life,
And supremely happy with Him
forever in the next."

Whether you are Christian, Jew, Muslim, etc. is
not really a point I am trying to debate. Rather,
it is the difference between being "reasonably
happy" vs. "supremely happy".

What would it take for you to be "reasonably
happy"? For me, it would be consistent income and
work to pay the monthly bills and maybe put a
little away for retirement, the kids' college
education, and for emergencies. I want and need
love, too.

This is very different then when I was wrapped in
the corporate telecom wars in the 1990s. As a
fast-moving executive, I was tied into the
life-blood of the company, and as I worked around
the clock and traveled away from my family, I was
rewarded richly for my sacrifice. In those days,
it was all about passing "Go" as many times as
possible and seeing who could die with the most

The older I get and the more I live, the more I
place greater value in my family and in my faith
and hope for the future. I still work hard to pay
the bills, but I am focused more on being
"reasonably happy" as opposed to being "supremely

So how does this relate to you? Simple question:
what's your goal in life?

If you are self-employed as I am, where is your
focus? Are you setting realistic goals you can
achieve or are you constantly setting yourself up
for failure by mistaking dreams for goals? The two
are different. One is objectively possible if you
take the necessary steps to accomplish it. The
other is ether, unattainable and always out of

If you are employed (good for you!), are you
stuck in a rut where you are miserable or are you
hell bent on success no matter the cost? In either
case, you need to zero in on what you NEED to be
happy while you are here on Earth vs. chasing the
indefinable, impossible dream.

I'm not saying you shouldn't dream. I'm saying
beware of mistaking your dream for your goal. You
may be setting yourself up for failure.

Until next time,


P.S.: One way to be more successful online is to
invest in the appearance of your web site. Here is
a link to a number of graphics tools that I use
everyday in designing sites and product images for
myself as well as my clients:

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Carbonite, eCover Suite Elite, Rocket Science and More!

Greetings my loyal friends and subscribers. I
hope your weather is better than ours. It's
pouring and close to 100 degrees out this week.
It's like walking through a sauna. Lots of fun
especially if you wear glasses as I do. The second
I get out of my air-conditioned office or car, my
eyeglasses steam up. Maybe I should try contacts.

A few quick bits of business:

Carbonite -- I finally bit the bullet and dropped
by $54.95 for a year's backup service. This thing
appears to be great. It works in the background on
my laptop while I work with zero degradation to
the system. Very easy to retrieve files, too. Here's
the review:

eCover Suite Elite -- The creators of a new
collection of PhotoShop actions sent me their
product for review and it's quite nice. With these
actions you can create some very life-like product
shots with relative ease. Sample product shots
and a review of the product may be found here:

People frequently ask me if I pay for all the
stuff I review. Well, I created the site back in 1999 when I
relaunched my consulting services in Tulsa. I
realized I was going to need a bunch of products
and services, and I didn't want to pay for it all.

So I approached the companies with the products I
wanted and needed, and "nominated" them for a Cool
Tool review. In exchange for a free "reviewer"
copy of their product, I would evaluate and review
it on my site. Participants could receive a
Bronze, Silver or Gold award graphic which they
were directed to add to their web site and
cross-link to their review on my site.

This did many things for me:

- I got almost everything I wanted for free
- I got a lot of traffic sent to my site through
the cross-links to the reviews
- I got a lot of affiliate commissions as a
result of embedding my links in my reviews

Now I don't get everything for free. Some
marketers don't bite when I extend my offer. In
those rare cases I will buy a product if it comes
with reseller rights and I feel I can market it
and make my money back. In most cases, I can make
many times my money back.

So if you are interested in learning all the
details of how I accomplish this bit of marketing
magic, I invite you to check out my ebook, Rocket
Science Revealed, where I explain the history and
success of the site, and how to duplicate it for

To this day, the vast majority of my
product reviews have very high search engine
ranking, and this affords me consistent monthly
recurring passive revenue stream. If you like
getting free products and services, lots of
traffic and affiliate commissions while you sleep,
starting your own product review site is a good
place to focus your energies. If I can do it,
anyone can.

I have received many emails asking for help with
smaller marketing projects. If I can accommodate
your project within my schedule, I will be pleased
to do so. In some cases, though, it might be less
expensive and more practical for some of you to
consider joining my Sales Copy Clinic:

For a low introductory price, I will mentor you
by phone or email and help you with your sales
copy each and every month. Remember, I normally
bill my time at $150/hour. Sales letters and email
series start at $750.00. But through this new
mentoring service, you will pay a low $99/month.
Check it out. This may be for you if you are on a
limited budget and willing to write the first draft.

Do you have a 2D cover designed and simply want
to see it rendered as a 3D product image without
having to buy PhotoShop or hire an expensive
designer? Well, for $29.95 I will take your 2D
image and render it in over 50 different product
image combinations including books, boxes, CDs,
DVDs and more. So while other designers may charge
you $97-117 for each image, I will charge you only
$29.95 to take an existing 2D image and render
over 50 different images for you -- and in most
cases -- same day service. Write to me at if you are in need of this
special service.

OK, that's it.

Until next time,