May 302014

Henry HydeIf you are, or want to become, a professional writer, then I can give no better advice than to take yourself to The Creative Penn, home of author/entrepreneur and best-selling fiction and non-fiction writer Joanna Penn.

Joanna has gained a reputation as being, if you’ll pardon the military metaphor, a one-woman reconnaissance force on the self-publishing battlefield. Over the years, she has amassed a huge amount of information about writing, publishing, blogging, marketing and dealing with social media as necessary parts of being a modern author. Regardless of whether you have been, or intend to be published via the traditional route or self-publish, you will find what Joanna has to say invaluable.

Joanna does not just write: she is also an acclaimed public speaker (quite an achievement for a self-confessed introvert), acts as a consultant for both authors and publishers and is also an entertaining podcaster, both in her own right and as an interview guest on other sites.

One such site – Rocking Self Publishing – is run by interviewer Simon Whistler, where he has just published his latest broadcast: an interview with Joanna. I urge you to set aside an hour or so and have a listen. Not only is Simon a charming and accomplished interviewer who manages to draw out his interviewees, but Joanna is one of the most enthusiastic guests you’re ever likely to hear on any podcast, anywhere.

I’m sure that Joanna herself would be happy to be described as “bubbly”, but what she has to say is no mere froth. This highly intelligent woman’s description of the journey she has taken in her life and career, and the radical decisions she has willingly taken to pursue the thing she loves the most – writing – is absolutely riveting. And what makes it all the more gripping for anyone following the creative path themselves is that what she says is not mere theory: she has tried, and even sometimes failed at, everything she describes, and has learned what really works the hard way. Moreover, she has gained the respect of, and learned from, some of the foremost names in the business, allowing us vicarious access to the expertise and knowledge of market leaders and best-selling authors.

I’ve never met Joanna (though I hope that I shall one day), her life has been quite unlike mine and she writes very different fiction to the kind of stuff I’m scribbling behind the scenes. But the differences are not important. Instead, the access she gives to her own writing and publishing journey establishes a broad and common ground on which a wide cross-section of authors and publishers can come together, learn, and take comfort from the fact that we all face similar challenges.

What prompted me to write this post was one of the things Joanna mentions in her interview. Joanna initially began in the sphere of non-fiction (she planned to become the Queen of Self-Help, a female Anthony Robbins) and has even written a number of books, such as Career Change: Stop hating your job, discover what you really want to do with your life, and start doing it! But what she really wanted to do was tell stories, and it took her some time to figure out what was holding her back. Making the change was a radical decision, and she has subsequently had to ask the important question “What do you do when you have become known for one kind of writing, but really want to be better known for something else?”

Well, this question hit me square between the ears. This is completely applicable to myself, as someone who has been following a career path heavily embedded in non-fiction (military history and wargaming, to be precise) but who wishes to break that mould and move into fiction (specifically, fantasy and science fiction, and perhaps some historical fiction). This is something that I have held off doing for some time, partly because of the pressure of ‘the day job’, and partly because I know that managing the transition is going to require careful planning and, potentially, separate ‘branding’ for each of my publishing ‘personas’.

But thanks to Joanna, the solution to the psychological impasse I was suffering has become self-evident to me, and I just need to get on with it. And prompting me to write the first post here for ages is no mean achievement in itself!

Go and listen to her, read her blog, follow her on Facebook and heck, go on, spend a couple of quid on one of her thrillers available on Kindle, featuring kick-ass female lead characters. Great fun!

Dec 072012

Henry HydeHaving looked at the “why?”, it’s time to examine the “how?”.

We’ve seen how a dream, plus a combination of other factors, led me to realise that it was time for me to take the plunge into the murky waters of creating my own magazine.

But there’s a big difference between dreaming and doing, and there were a number of specific hurdles to be jumped before I could open that first delivery from the printers, sniff the fresh ink and sit back and admire ‘my baby’.

Like anyone planning to launch a new enterprise, what I needed was a business plan. In order to create that plan, I needed to answer the following questions:

  • What is the Unique Selling Point of the magazine?
  • Who will buy the magazine?
  • How many of these people are there and where are they?
  • How will the magazine be produced?
  • Should the magazine be produced as paper, digital or both?
  • Who will contribute to the magazine?
  • How big will the magazine be in terms of page count?
  • How frequently will the magazine be published?
  • If paper, how will the magazine be printed and distributed?
  • Where will the magazine be sold?
  • How will the magazine be marketed and advertised?
  • What should the cover price be?
  • How much income can be generated from the magazine?
  • Is the project worthwhile at all?
  • If I decide to go ahead, when should I launch the magazine?
  • What are the costs associated with each of the preceding questions?
  • And last, but by no means least, how will getting this enterprise off the ground be paid for?

Each of these questions required some clear thinking, beginning with those aspects that come under the remit of ‘market research’.

In essence, market research is simply a tool to find out whether your potential customers think you have a product that they will actually buy. It is simply foolhardy to imagine that “if we build it, they will come”. History is littered with the debris of ill-considered projects that nobody wanted.

But let me end this post with the very first question of all that I asked:

  • Am I going to go it alone, create a partnership, or create a company?

Initially, the plan was to launch the magazine in collaboration with a fellow enthusiast I met online, a charming and intelligent man. After meeting a few times and discussing options, we created a company together — Battlegames Ltd — and began working on the project on the basis that he would be able to provide the initial capital, and I would provide the production expertise and be the ‘front man’. His role would be to run the administrative aspects of the magazine and, with a background in publishing, he would be able to provide expertise in dealing with distribution and some editiing and liaison functions. His wife, who had a similar background, was to be the Company Secretary and have an advisory role.

Unfortunately, as can happen in life, things didn’t quite turn out as we planned, for reasons that will remain private, and just weeks before the first issue was due to be printed, he had to pull out of the deal. We parted on good terms, he and his wife relinquished all their shares in the company to me, and I am grateful that we have remained firm friends since. Chapter closed.

At that point, faced with a sudden dearth of seed capital, I could have sensibly pulled the plug, shrugged my shoulders and said, “Ah, well, nice idea; some other time”.

In fact, after looking at myself in the mirror for a while the following day, I heard myself say, “Fuck it, I’m gonna do it anyway!”.

Next time, we’ll look at the reasoning behind that apparently brash decision: the results of my market research.

Nov 262012

Henry HydeWhy on earth would anyone in their right mind want to start their own magazine?

Well, I think the answer is the same as the one I would give to the very similar question, “Why would anyone in their right mind want to write a book?”

Because they have to.

By that, I don’t mean that there’s someone with a gun to their head (though I’m sure that might be an interesting exercise in motivation); I mean that every fibre of their being tells them that that is what they must do and they feel as though they have no choice in the matter.

But there’s another potential reason, one to which I’d paid more attention at the time.

To make money.

If the very thought of filthy lucre makes you feel unwell, you’d best head towards the exit now, because the fact is that a magazine needs to be run as a business, or it will probably fail — and fail fast. Face facts: even magazines launched by extremely experienced and astute entrepreneurs hit the buffers with alarming regularity, so the more amateur your approach, the more your chances approximate those of the proverbial snowball in Hell.

We’ll spend a lot more time on the business aspects of running a magazine in due course, but for the moment, let’s dwell on that first spark of inspiration.

There are three threads that need to be unravelled to understand how I arrived at the decision to create my own magazine.

Perhaps, like me, you’d created a crude magazine of your own as a child. I certainly had. I remember at about the age of eight, my friend Timmy Eastwell and I put together The Queensouth Express (a merging of the names of the two streets where we lived). Production was, to say the least, somewhat labour intensive — I copied each issue by hand using a felt-tip pen! I must have been a scribe in a monastery in a previous life…

Then, as a teenager, I wrote articles for the school magazine. I was good at English, and found the experience of seeing my work in print thrilling. This also tied in with my mastery of what a German speaker might describe as a Wundermaschine.

The Typewriter.

It’s hard to remember just how miraculous those clattering machines seemed at the time. Instead of my unsure and wobbly youthful handwriting, it was as if my thoughts had been sent straight to perfect print.

Well, when I say “perfect”, of course, I mean after the judicious application of a patchwork of Tipp-Ex.

This really unleashed my ‘published’ output, and together with the use of early duplicating machines and carbon paper, my excitement grew as I was able to create dozens, even a few hundreds of copies of school charity week and after-school club magazines. As a keen writer, I also got plenty of chances to flex my creative muscles by contributing most of the content and, though I didn’t realise it at the time, I was also learning the rudiments of graphic design.

You might already be thinking that I was destined to become the editor of my own magazine. You might even be recognising similarities with your own life. But let’s examine the second thread.

In my case, it was my hobbies. You might be passionate about needlework, cooking, travel, cats, dolls’ houses, art, or one of a million other things that make your world more interesting. For me, as a boy whose father fought in WWII and who made models of combat aircraft and tanks for me, it was playing with toy soldiers — wargaming.

As I grew older and discovered the work of J R R Tolkien, I also developed an interest in fantasy and role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, but it was the historical stuff that really stirred me initially. An avid reader of military history from an early age, I wanted to play games in which I could command armies just like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Henry V, Oliver Cromwell, George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte and J E B Stuart. Wargaming with miniature soldiers allowed me to do that and, like countless thousands of boys around the world, I painted and collected regiment upon regiment of miniatures and spent many happy hours playing thrilling games on tabletop terrain.

Almost every hobby has its magazines, and wargaming is no different. People who share a passion for a subject like to communicate that passion and share it with others. Moreover — and here’s one of the commercial aspects — companies who produce the goods and services that feed that passion are always looking for places and methods to display their wares.

You might not be familiar with wargaming, but I bet you’ve heard of model railways (or railroads, for my American friends). Almost every news stand on the planet carries at least one model railway magazine. Next time you see one, take a look. It’s packed with knowledgeable articles written by enthusiasts and it’s hard to miss the ads, some tiny, some large, publicising a surprisingly diverse marketplace of all the ‘stuff’ a model railway buff needs to pursue their hobby.

For many years, after I graduated from university, went travelling and got involved with all those other things a young man does (ahem), my hobby took a back seat. In fact, the magazines were the only contact I had with the hobby, as all my miniatures, model scenery and so on ended up being stored in boxes in my old room in my mother’s house. Titles came and went over the years, but by the early 1990s there were three with a regular presence in the shops, and I had a particular favourite called Practical Wargamer, a bi-monthly publication. It had what I felt was a really nice, approachable style and tone; I just felt that it was speaking to me.

Then, in 1999, the publishers suddenly pulled the plug and it disappeared.

Surely, I thought — as did thousands of others — someone will step in, buy the title, and relaunch the publication.

Years passed.

No one did.


Fast forward. >>>

Third thread.

It’s 1998. I’ve been learning how to design websites for a couple of years. The early days. Hand-coded HTML, JavaScript, the war between Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. I’m trying to think of ways to convert potential clients who have been answering my approaches with, firstly, “What’s a website?” followed by “Why on earth would I ever need one?”

I have an idea. I buy the domain and create a site devoted to my old hobby.

Within months, I have several thousand regular visitors. Though it wasn’t given the name at the time, what I’d created would now be called a blog.

And I had absolutely no idea what to do with it.

I posted on many different aspects of the hobby. My inbox filled with messages from fans of the site from all over the world. As an ego boost, it was tremendous. As a commercial venture, it sucked. I spent countless hours with (then) Macromedia Dreamweaver and Adobe Photoshop, becoming technically proficient in the art of wrangling tables to create half-decent layouts. David Siegel, Raymond Pirouz and Lynda Weinman were the gurus of the time. Sure, it helped me demonstrate my skills to potential clients, but monetizing the site itself was like pushing a rock uphill. I managed to get a couple of forward-thinking advertisers to place banners, but this was still in the days when very, very few companies had seen the future for online advertising, especially in the UK which lagged behind the US in Internet savvy.


Fast forward again. >>>

Early 2005.

I get an email from one of the regular visitors to my site, telling me about a new Yahoo! group that has been set up to discuss a particular aspect of the hobby about which I was known to have expertise. (Hello to any ‘old school’ wargamers reading this!) To my astonishment, an article I wrote and illustrated that had been published in one of the hobby’s magazines back in 1986 was not only remembered, but apparently even lauded by some of the membership of this new group, which had already attracted a few dozen people. Would I be kind enough to drop in, say hello and answer a few questions?

You’ve probably already guessed that I became heavily involved. It turned out that many of the people in the group were also regular visitors to my own site, very much in tune with my own ‘take’ on the hobby, and soon I took on a leading role in the forum, becoming a moderator and designing its logo. The forum grew quickly, reaching more than 1,000 members.

Again, I must stress that the specifics of my experience are irrelevant. The point is that I had become a respected voice, even an authority, amongst a group of devoted enthusiasts. I claim no bragging rights: it just seemed to happen. But this fact proved to be very important later, in both positive and negative senses.

I also started to notice a recurring theme. Wasn’t it a shame, forum members often commented, that Practical Wargamer had disappeared? Wasn’t it disappointing, they opined, that nobody had ever stepped forward with something similar to relaunch or replace it?

The penny dropped.

Here was I, with an accurate understanding of what they — and I — felt was missing from the current magazines on the market. There was a gap, a niche-shaped hole, in the range of publications on offer. As a graphic designer, copywriter, photographer and editor (with a history degree for good measure), with a deep understanding of what wargamers wanted, I knew I had the skills required to create that very magazine. After all, I’d been creating magazines and brochures for clients for about 15 years.

However, I also knew something about the risk. Printing a full colour magazine and distributing it is expensive. Doing so with no guarantee that anyone will buy it is suicidal.

And for various reasons I won’t go into here, I was already broke. Flat broke.

So, I had plenty of answers to the question “Why?” But how on earth did I turn the dream of running my own hobby magazine into reality?

You’ll find the answer in Part 3, coming soon.

Nov 212012

Henry HydeLet me tell you a story.

This one isn’t about a fairy princess who meets her Prince Charming. Nor, sadly, is it about the brave adventurer who went into the wilderness and discovered riches beyond his wildest dreams.

It is, however, my story: the story of how, as a one-man-band, over a period of six years, I created a magazine from scratch which is now read by thousands of people around the world in both printed and digital format.

It’s also a story which doesn’t — thank goodness — have an ending yet, because I still write for, edit and design the magazine, even though I sold the name to another publishing company almost exactly a year ago.

I’m telling this story so that I can pass on what I have learned along the way — and what I’ve learned is a lot about traditional publishing, e-publishing, design, typography, photography, illustration, print, distribution, marketing, sales, business, management, e-commerce, social media and a few more things besides.

So if you’re interests cover any of these things, I very much hope that you’ll find my story useful. I especially hope that you might be able to learn from my mistakes and avoid some of the traps I fell into and the heartaches I suffered as a result.

Do what I say, don’t do what I sometimes did.

Be warned that the subject matter of the magazine may not interest you — indeed, may not be to your taste at all — but I’m assuming that you’re that more intelligent type of reader who can take a hard-learned lesson from anyone, anywhere and apply it to their own circumstances. In most walks of life, I believe that’s known as ‘wisdom’.

Perhaps, when I’ve finished the story — and that’s going to take a while — I’ll be able to condense it into one of those marvellous “Ten Top Tips for Magazine Magnates” articles that you’ll be able to digest over your lunchtime sandwich. But for now, I feel a bit like the captain of a ship, casting off from the quayside and setting a vague course westwards, but without knowing precisely what I’ll encounter along the way.

Perhaps, then, the best place to start is at the beginning, and explain why I got started at all.

For that, look out for Part 2 shortly.

Oct 292012

Henry HydeThe process of creating a new identity is always challenging – especially if the client is yourself! It would be so nice to have the time and resources to step off the treadmill and spend a couple of weeks, with no other distractions, just concentrating on creating a new face to show the world. But this is real life, and that’s just not possible.

For me, the start of the process was this blog. Using WordPress and a theme called Suffusion, I’m gradually moulding it into shape, like a sculptor adding a little extra clay here, or taking away a blob there, until eventually the end result will be a reasonably accurate self-portrait.

One of the features that Suffusion offers is to add your own ‘favicon’. If you’ve no idea what that is, it’s the tiny square logo that appears next to the website URL in the address bar at the top of your browser window and, more importantly, next to the name of the website in your bookmarks list. In essence, it gives your website a brand.

Now, making a favicon turns out to be something of a challenge, because their standard size is a mere 16 x 16 pixels! That’s less than a quarter of an inch — 6.25mm — square. Many designs that look great at a larger size simply disappear when shrunk to this size . As far as I was concerned, this led me to settle upon the simplest of logos for my own branding: the sans-serif HH on a plain black background that you should be able to see here.

If you fancy creating a favicon for your own website or blog, then you can use Photoshop as I did (here’s some good advice and a link to download the plugin) or one of the many online favicon creation pages, such as this one.

So, having created this little square icon, I could immediately see where I wanted to take it for my full logo, because it already bears a strong resemblance to the branding for my previous graphic and web design business, Gladius (shown here on the left). The Gladius name was born in a brainstorm about ten years ago and has served me well enough, but I’m now gathering all my talents under one name and one brand — and that brand is Henry Hyde, pure and simple. But I loved the logo when I first designed it and I still love it now, so I’m going to stick with the visual elements that made it effective.

From a typographical perspective, Gladius was all curves. The “G” and “GLADIUS” were rendered using a wonderful typeface called Trajan, which features beautiful, classical forms that would suit being carved into marble as much as being printed on paper. Trajan also forms a nice counterpoint to the “CREATIVE COMMUNICATION” which is set in that most stylish of sans-serif faces, Gill Sans.

Developing the HH logo in PhotoshopIn order to achieve absolute clarity in the favicon I just created, however, the “HH” had to be rendered as a sans-serif duo and, in fact, as you can see from the next image, I simply created a couple of utterly simple characters using the pencil tool in Photoshop, with uprights and crossbars one pixel wide. I tried a number of other options using both serif and sans-serif fonts, but none of them did the job of conveying my initials with the directness of what you see here. I also tried different colours, including white and red, but the pale grey worked best, with none of the blurring that seemed to occur when using either the stark contrast of white on black or the strong red. It’s also slightly fortuitous because, for print purposes, my Gladius identity used a metallic gunmetal silver ink (Pantone 8201), so I’ll probably use it again.

My next task was to adapt this design for use in print and in forms larger than a favicon on the web. Whilst I kept the shapes and proportions essentially the same, I wanted to try out some subtle tweaks to ensure clarity at all the sizes the logo is likely to be used on paper, whether that be business cards, brochures, letterheads, ads or even larger.

While I was thinking about this, I happened to be tidying up my attic studio space and uncovered something that made me think hard about the next step: boxes of unused stationery from my previous businesses! As I dumped them in the recycling bin, this made me ask myself just how many letters – that is, real letters, either printed out or written by hand and placed in an envelope with a stamp, rather than emails – do I actually send nowadays? Sadly, the answer is “hardly any at all”.

Why “sadly”? Well, I actually like letters and have become conscious of how few one sends and receives nowadays. The only letters I seem to get are from those banks and institutions I’d rather not hear from at all; gone are the days of enthusiastic correspondence between lovers, friends, family and pen-pals, all of whom now communicate via email, Skype, Twitter, Facebook and the other social media that have taken over so rapidly in the last few years. Of course, being able to get in touch with a friend or business contact so easily, wherever they are in the world, is a wonderful thing, but I can’t help but feel a twang of nostalgia for the sweetly scented letter from a lover, or the enthusiastic scrawl of a hobby pal.

Be that as it may, the unfortunate reality is that the postal service has become expensive. Even the supposed savings offered by a franking machine are often outweighed by the rental costs. So, any small business has to look at digital communication as the best way forward. No longer do I get regular calls from prospective clients needing letterheads and compliment slips; nowadays, it’s for branding that can be applied primarily online and for digital communication. Gone are the days of lingering lovingly over paper samples from a range of suppliers; now, people need brands that can be incorporated into their Microsoft Word documents, PDFs, websites and social media pages.

And I’m no different. And so, rather than plunging ahead and placing an order for thousands of sheets of beautiful paper with my logo in the corner, I decided to work on the basis that if it is ever printed, I shall print it myself on an ordinary inkjet or laser printer, unless a special occasion demands that I turn to good, old-fashioned litho or letterpress. I don’t even need business cards. (More boxes gathering dust.) Nowadays, the mobile phone fulfils that function. I am, in short, being my own most ruthless and penny-pinching client!

Focusing on the ‘byline’ for a moment, whilst I rather liked the “Creative Communication” of my Gladius brand, I felt it was time for a change. I’m older now, perhaps a little less pretentious, and perhaps more keen to focus prospective clients on precisely who I am and what it is that I do.

Henry Hyde. Designer. Writer. Editor.

Henry Hyde Designer Writer Editor logotype

The little full stop is deliberate, providing a visual balance point, like a keystone in a bridge, so that the text doesn’t ‘topple over’. At least, that’s my theory – I hope you agree! The font, by the way, is Ubuntu Condensed, one of the family of free Google fonts. I like its clean lines and modernity; it’s functional, yet stylish too, and works as a body font as well.

The logo can also work in horizontal format, by moving the type, which is useful for banner-style headers and other placements where tall and thin is less useful than shallow and wide:

Henry Hyde Designer Writer Editor logotype wide version

That’s quite enough about me and my logo, though I hope you might find the process I’ve been through thought-provoking. I’m interested to hear what you think, and I’ll be posting more about logo design and identity in future.

Oct 222012

Henry HydeI had something of a ‘vision collapse’ early this summer, which is when I completely deleted the content I had uploaded previously. The fact is, I just didn’t have a clue where I was going.

Why is that?

Am I bereft of ideas and interests?

No. Quite the opposite.

Am I shy and retiring and worried about what people might think?

Ummm, no, not exactly…

Do I lack the talent to design and build a successful website?

Errr, I’ve been building websites since 1996 and designing since – well, it seems like forever, but professionally since 1991.

Am I lost for words?

Hmmm, ask anyone that knows me and they’ll probably say, “Hardly”.

No, none of the above.

In fact, what I now realise is that in some ways I have too many interests, and had created websites for just about all of them.

Guess what? Yup, I was trying to slice my precious time too thinly to cope with them all, and ended up barely coping at all. Most dangerously, I just wasn’t enjoying it any more, and feeling like you ought to be doing something, rather than doing it because you enjoy it, is like pushing a cart uphill.

For me, that cart had become too heavy, rolled right back over me and flattened me creatively.

Lesson 1 learned. Tick.

I had become similarly burned out with social media. No sooner had I just about come to grips with Facebook than I built a page for the hobby magazine I edit. The page is doing fine, and has a few hundred followers – not bad for the niche market I’m addressing. So far, so good.

Then, after building another website for one of my other interests, I launched a Facebook page for that.

Not so good, and it has sat, unloved and untended, for months.

Twitter. Don’t get me started.

Again, I run two accounts. The first was intended to be my ‘personal’ account, but I have to confess that initially, I didn’t really ‘get’ Twitter and the kind of dialogue it represents. Then I started another account, again for my hobby magazine. Like Facebook, it took off nicely and has a similar number of followers amounting to several hundred solid fans.

What I learned from the second account was that my original account sucked. It took me a long time to realise that the Twitter ‘me’ would never really be – could never really be – the whole ‘me’. But what to do about it?

Then, of course, came the siren call of Google+, Pinterest, YouTube and the rest, not to mention the gazillion forums where I realised I ought to be active, and the newsletters I should be sending out, and… and… and…

Erk. Screech. Crash. Tinkle…

Not everything I did on Twitter was bad. The best thing I’ve done is to follow a handful of people who really know what they’re doing. These include a very small number of celebrities who I admire and who know how to address their Twitter audience, including the polymath and technophile Stephen Fry @stephenfry who is clearly completely at ease with the medium and, as it happens, leads an interesting life as well as having a brain the size of Jupiter and, to my mind, the perfect sense of humour.

But there are two people to whom I owe the most when it comes to getting my head sorted when it comes to social media. I have never met either of them personally, but both of them strike me as highly professional at what they do and, most importantly, both of them go the extra mile to be helpful to their followers, giving away a great deal of genuinely useful information and guidance for free, and providing great value for money for the stuff that isn’t.

They are Joanna Penn @thecreativepenn and Joel Friedlander @JFbookman.

Joanna is a fiction writer who has plunged, successfully I might add, into the world of self-publishing. Her website is at

Joel is a highly skilled book designer who specialises in self-publishing, and you can find his site at

Both these worthies are multi-talented, producing not only excellent blogs and social media posts, but also podcasts, webinars and more: they’ll even turn up in person if the price is right!

Now, I’m not saying that they are the only people I follow, nor that they have a monopoly of good ideas. Far from it, the blogosphere and online world generally has a constellation of sparkling intellects. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is part of the problem, isn’t it? We’re dazzled by so many posts by so many people, most of whom appear to be much brighter than ourselves, that you can end up trawling the Internet endlessly, wasting half your life in front of your Mac, PC or portable device, but coming away none the wiser.

So here’s the thing. Choose two or three, or a handful at the most, of the people whose posts you always turn to first.

You know who they are.

When you log in to Twitter, there’s a torrent of posts to catch up on, like a raging river. You can’t possibly grasp everything that’s rushing past, but you always spot the salmon leaping. If all the other posters disappeared overnight, you probably wouldn’t miss them. But amidst the spray and roar of the rapids, you’re drawn to those shining, leaping, and strong-swimming souls who rise above the rest.

Okay, enough with the fish metaphor, but you know what I mean. These are the folks who don’t try to be clever, they just are. If there’s a link to their own blog in their Tweet, it always leads to good, solid information. If they offer you a PDF, you know it will be worth the few minutes to download and read it. If they want to sell you something, they’re honest and upfront and won’t try to fool you with a smokescreen. If they link to someone else’s site, you know it will be worth investigating. They have a voice which is reassuring and approachable, but professional and not falsely ‘matey’ or trendy.

The word we’re looking for here?


In short, you realise that they are the salmon swimming upstream, and that’s where you want to be heading too, to the spawning ground of your imagination where the truth and opportunities, nicely sifted out from all the dross and lies and speculation, really are. And if you swim with these individuals, you feel a great deal safer than trying to go it alone.

Sorry, back to pescatorial allusions again, aren’t I?

Thanks for trawling through all the fishy stuff (groan), but there’s a final link in this story. And I have to thank Joel for this.

Even though I was learning a fair amount about the kind of Tweets I like to read, and I already knew a great deal about building websites and blogs, the penny still hadn’t quite dropped about how to disentangle my own online life. I was still faced with the thorny problem of trying to do too much, in too many places, and lacking a sense of fulfilment about any of them.

Then my inbox went ping.

Well, no, I tell a lie, it makes a Microsoft-y noise that I can’t readily duplicate onomatopoeically (now, there’s a favourite word), so “ping” will just have to do.

It was a message from Joel Friedlander. I’m on his mailing list, and he only sends something when he knows it will be genuinely interesting for his subscribers, so naturally, I opened it.

The message described a webinar, with ancillary materials, that was available on the topic of  “The Hub and Outpost Method”.

Boy, am I glad I clicked, paid Joel a few dollars and downloaded the materials.

Now, I imagine you might think this is starting to sound like one of those naff sockpuppet reviews, and I’ll forgive you for that. But the fact is, even coming from a hard-bitten and somewhat cynical Brit like myself, Joel’s little webinar movie – it’s only about 45 minutes long – unseeled my eyes.

If you want to know how much of a veteran non-believer I am when it comes to snake-oil schemes, think of the Cal Lightman character played by Tim Roth in the TV series Lie to Me. So I’m not easily fooled into opening my wallet online, having smelled the scent of BS with some other supposed online gurus in the past. No names, no pack drill.

But this investment – and that’s what it is, a small investment in my sanity – is well embedded in the ‘trust’ end of the scale. Joel’s webinar calmly and simply outlines a straightforward approach that is the antithesis of all the rushing-around-trying-to-do-everything-at-once stuff that had really got me down. And when I say “down”, it was contributing significantly to my stress levels – and as a man diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and moderate depression, that’s no laughing matter.

About halfway into the webinar, I realised what I had been doing wrong, and how to fix it.

Which is why you’re reading this.


On my hub.

“Hub”. That’s one of those words that, if you say it often enough, you start to wonder if it’s a real word.

But then, so is “blog”.

Anyhow, whatever I finally decide to call it, it represents the cure of my internet ills, for the time being at least. Like all habits, I’ll need to be vigilant that I don’t slip back into the same old ways, but that moment of clarity watching Joel’s webinar was so piercing that it felt like some kind of inoculation against the problem recurring.

Lesson 2 learned. Tick.

If what I’ve been describing here at all resembles what’s ailing you too, then why not find out for yourself?

Here’s that link again.

Good luck with finding your own clarity of online purpose.

And Joel, if you’re reading this: thank you.


Jul 252012

Henry HydeSometimes, you just have to.

Like many bloggers, I started with the best of intentions, but then life took a ninety-degree turn and not only was I distracted, but I also became bored with the plans I had for this site.

So, delete-delete-delete and the place looks less cluttered already.

Back soon.

 Posted by at 8:52 pm