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Save Your Hearing

June 3, 2013

In honor of Save Your Hearing Day, which was May 31, 2013, today’s post is by Melissa Rodriguez. Melissa grew up around the hearing aid business. Shortly after high school, she obtained her license to fit hearing aids and received her National Board Certification in 1995. She is currently the owner of Hear On Earth Hearing Care Center in El Paso, Texas, and an active volunteer with the Starkey Hearing Foundation. Rodriguez sat on the board of the Texas Hearing Aid Association and served a six-year term on the Texas Governing Board, regulating the fitting and dispensing of hearing aids. She has made multiple humanitarian trips to fit hearing aids in Juarez and Mexico City, Mexico, Peru, and many other locations. She is currently a member of the International Hearing Society, the Texas Hearing Aid Association, and eWomenNetwork.


As a hearing care provider it is my daily task to evaluate hearing and frequently break the bad news to my patient that they have a permanent hearing loss. Only occasionally do I run a test that confirms good hearing. “Congratulations,” I say in those rare instances, “you have normal hearing and healthy ears!”

I’ve never tested a single person who was disappointed with this good news, nor asked to “please check again, I really want hearing loss.”

So why do we constantly engage in actions that will cause hearing loss?

Loud sounds are damaging to the 15,000 tiny hair cells in your inner ear that send signals to the brain about the sound around you. When those cells are damaged, there is no way to regenerate or repair them. Nerve by nerve the world around you becomes quieter and you become less aware of the sound around you until you no longer know that there are even sounds. Hearing loss is most often a gradual disability; it is silent and painless and it can ruin your job, relationships, hobbies, and ultimately your life.

I suspect that most of us never think about our hearing and how to protect it. Each day we wake to the alarm clock. We hear the daily sounds of the shower running, the phone ringing, our spouse or child speaking, the rustle of a book as we read, or the car roar to life as we start the engine. Although our hearing makes our life experiences so much more memorable, we move through our day without a passing thought to being a “healthy hearer.”

So, take a few minutes to appreciate your hearing and make a commitment to protect it for years to come. Here are some tips to assure healthy hearing:    

  • Never stick anything smaller than your elbow into your ear.
  •  If the sound around you is so loud that it is difficult to carry on a conversation, then it is too loud and exposes you to long-term hearing loss.
  • If the environment you’re in is too loud, either:

- Turn it down

- Put in a pair of earplugs, or

- Leave the environment.

  • Take two minutes each day to listen closely and appreciate the sound of the world around you.

For more information on how your ears work, how loud is too loud, and to get answers to your questions about hearing loss, visit www.hearwithmelissa.com, where you can pick up a copy of my book, Hear Your Life: Inspiring Stories and Honest Advice for Overcoming Hearing Loss, among other resources.   

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How to Optimize Your Amazon Page

May 29, 2013

Amazon, as some of you may already know, has been removing and editing many of its user input options – most recently by removing tagging and the ability to “Like” things over the last couple of months.

If you’ve noticed that your search results have gotten a lot less logical, it’s probably because of the missing tags.


But, not to worry, there are still optimization options available to you, dear author.


First and foremost, set up your Amazon Author Central account and claim your book! If it has been a while since you published, try to notify your publisher that you’re doing so because they will have approve your access to the title with only your e-mail address to go on. Claiming your book allows you to update info on your book’s page – —including your book description, author bio, and the editorial reviews section. It will allow you to link all your titles together on your author page (assuming that you have published multiple books), which Amazon might not otherwise intuit. It’s also a great introduction to possible fans—if you’re blogging or tweeting regularly, you can sync those feeds with your Amazon page, giving potential readers a good idea of what sort of author you are and what they can expect from you. Plus, more potential followers for your blog and/or Twitter!


An added benefit of having an Author Central Account is that Amazon maintains a direct help line. So, if an issue pops up on your book’s Amazon page you can easily contact them about how to fix it.


Lists are also still an available optimization option through both “Listmania” and “So You’d Like to. . .” to any reviewer with an Amazon account. Lists (through the secret magic of Amazon’s algorithm) contribute to the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” bar on each book page.  So when you ask your friends, family, and early reviewers to post reviews of your book, ask them to create a list as well. Since you can make a list with as few as two items, it won’t be overly time consuming for them to create. And with as few as 3 or 4 items it can still significant help to optimize your Amazon page by introducing your title to readers of other, related titles.


What do you do to optimize your Amazon page? Is there anything we left out? Let us know in the comments below.

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Why Twitter Still Matters to Authors

May 23, 2013

twitter bird on books

Can you believe Twitter is about to turn six years old already? With over 200 million active users, Twitter still represents one of the most powerful opportunities for building community and growing influence.

When put to good use, Twitter can enhance your status as an expert, give you access to influencers, foster connections for new business ventures, and constantly expose you to fresh ideas from people all over the world. (And expose them to your ideas as well!)

Why should Twitter still matter to you?

  • For starters, if you’re not on Twitter, people are wondering where you are. If people are having a conversation about yourbook online, you should be an active participant as well.
  • Your readers are your greatest assets! Leverage your existing followers by communicating with them directly. Givingthempersonal access to you is what can transform a casual fan into a superfan.
  • The sky is the limit in terms of who and how many people you can connect with, including your current fans, potentialfans,fellow authors, business people, and endless amounts of media including bloggers, journalists, reviewers, etc.

If you have yet to get going on Twitter or just need some inspiration, here are a few tips:

  • Follow and engage with like-minded authors, business people, and others, commenting on their tweets and retweeting interesting subject matter. Follow their fans as well.
  • Post your own original content, including blog posts, articles, media coverage, videos, and photos.
  • Be authentic. Resist the urge to identify yourself as just an author, pushing only your book and book-related topics. People relate more to an approachable person who shows his or her true identity.
  • Follow people back as you continue to grow your followers. Down the road you can be more selective.
  • Engage your audience and use them as a sounding board. Consider polling your followers if you’re stuck on a decision, or experiment with crowdsourcing. Your followers might surprise you their creativity.
  • Start with what you know and go from there. Focus on your niche first.
  • Get on board with trending topics. If you can tie together some content of value with a trending hashtag, even better.
  • Set some goals. Decide what you want to get out of the time you put into Twitter, and make sure everything you dosupports those goals, whether it’s selling books or growing your network or gaining access to specific people.

It appears that Twitter is here to stay (at least for now), so embrace it, give it a little bit of your time, and see how much it can give back to you!

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Social Media Dos and Don’ts

May 21, 2013

Social media has crept into our lives and taken over with a vengeance. Be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Vine, LinkedIn, and whatever the “next big thing” may be, these platforms have surged into our daily lives and don’t seem to be going anywhere in the near future.  So, how do we present ourselves in the best light for the world to see?

First, is important to remember that social media is a form of communication, not simply a sounding board; apply the same common sense and appropriate behavior you would use when speaking with a colleague or client. These platforms are a resource that allow us to connect with more people and form bonds around the world. Here are some quick tips to help you communicate  more effectively online:

DO treat others as you would like to be treated.

Respond to questions or comments in a polite and genuine manner, and ultimately: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

DO self-edit.

Will your post/tweet/comment be relevant, positive or informative? Avoid rants, complaints and general negativity.  We all have problems, the rest of the world should not have to hear about them.  

DO credit others’ work.

With sites like Pinterest and Tumblr it is easy to post an image unsourced.  It’s important to give credit to the idea creator. Add links to your tweets and post from the original source, not just from the person who shared it before you. When in doubt, try to track down the originator and ask for permission.

DO check—and double-check—your grammar.

It is important to put your best foot forward, and by overlooking grammatical errors you are presenting yourself and your company in a poor light. 


DON’T over-hashtag.

Too many hashtags can make you look desperate.  It is probably best to use no more than two, and make sure to check out the meaning of what is trending before posting to make sure you are being appropriate.

DON’T try to pitch a sale through social media.

If you would like to make a formal request or submission to an individual or organization it is best to reach out to them through the “contact me” section on their website. In general, it is best to use social media outlets for brief, basic-level comments and email for more in-depth questions or conversations.

DON’T post everything all at once.

Twitter and Facebook allow you to schedule out your post days, weeks, even months in advance.  Use this resource to your advantage, but be mindful of current events. Make sure to cancel a post before it runs if something tragic has just happened.

DON’T voice your political opinion through your business account.

These are better suited to your personal account, yet even that is questionable. As a rule, your clients and customers do not need to know your political position.

Do you have any social media strategy and etiquette tips? 

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Children's Book Week

May 16, 2013


Children’s Book Week is upon us. Celebrated since 1919, this week aims to instill a lifelong love of reading in children. Events are held in schools, libraries, and bookstores across the country. Why not check their map and see if any of those events will take place near you?

To celebrate, we decided to share some of our favorite children’s books with you. (Hint: This continues our list in celebration of Winnie the Pooh day .)

The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin  

“My sister and I loved this book. It's Grover.  What else do I need to say?” – Jessie Goff

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

“My favorite book was The Snowy Day because I grew up in Dallas!” – Suzanne Harris

Brian Viktorin recommends absolutely anything Dr. Seuss.

Lady and the Tramp

Mine was Lady and the Tramp because I was obsessed with dogs.” – Abby Kitten

Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig

“My favorite children's book when I was growing up (which my mom can attest to with the countless reads I put her through) was Angelina Ballerina. As a child, the illustrations really appealed to me and I still remember a lot of the pictures and characters to this day. And, of course, the ballerina storyline was perfect for my younger self, who refused to wear long pants the first several years of her life and wore her dance recital attire on a daily basis. Only dresses and tights for this girly girl” – Kristine Peyre-Ferry

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

“I really liked The Hobbit. It was my favorite book.  I felt like I lived in the story.  I enjoyed the epic nature of the book and Bilbo himself.  What can I say?  I identified with the feet.” – Steven Elizalde

The Nancy Drew Series by Caroline Keene

When I was a kid, I read all the Nancy Drew mysteries, many times over, as did my best friend Mona. We would often act out scenes, where I got to be Nancy, so she had to be George.” – Carrie Jones

Sam and the Firefly by P. D. Eastman

“My all time favorite. The story is engaging and educational. I remember feeling a lot of emotions reading this book – which was wonderful as a child. I probably learned a lot about life and relationships from this book...looking back on it now.” - Jessica Birenz Pflanz

Just the Thing for Geraldine by Ellen Conford

“Geraldine is a possum who just wants to hang from a tree and jugglebut her family keeps making her take lessons: sculpture, ballet, and weaving. She is awful at everything but juggling, and her family finally accepts that. I think I liked this one so much because of the pictures of Geraldine in her family's treehouse. I spent the majority of my time in a tree with a book and wanted a treehouse like Geraldine's soooo badly. (I'm still waiting on that one.) I loved that Geraldine knew exactly what she wanted and was finally allowed to do it.”  Amber Hales

The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter

“My favorite children's books were those in the Beatrix Potter series. Each birthday and Christmas were certain to bring a new book from my grandparentsand those little books didn't live on the grownups' shelves with their dust jackets intact. They stayed in my room so that I could read them whenever I liked. Although many of those books have been lost over the years, I still have a few at home on my bookshelf...almost 35 years later. The dust jackets are gone, the covers are bent and scratched, and the pages look like they've been chewed by a small dog (or a toddler), but my grandparents' inscriptions are still legible. These are my favorite children's books, then and now.” Angela Alwin

What are some of your favorite children’s books?

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