Voxate Writing & Editing

South African Writer, Copywriter and Editor
Browsing General

Why I Regret My Company Name


I hesitate to admit that, actually. I chose the name Voxate while trawling through emails at my previous job, chomping at the bit to get out from behind my desk and do what my heart hankered after. I thought of lots of names and friends put their suggestions in too. There were ones like iWrite (this was 10 years ago, it was really original then, which is why I remembered it), Amelia’s Fantastic Writing (not really, but something along those lines), acronyms, and so on. But, the agency at which I was working had been busy putting a film together for a massive corporate entity and had been collecting vox-pops – quick clips interviewing random people on the streets to hear their opinions.

Vox. Voice.

I mean, that’s really what I was doing. Giving voice to a brand or product that had something to share. I still like the idea and the theory. But, the thing is, no-one else knows what it means. It has no relevance to them. So, I’m constantly needing to explain the name and spell it out (“V for voluptuous”).

And that’s precisely opposite to what I always advise clients. Don’t choose a name that people can’t pronounce / spell / identify with. You want your name to stand out, stick with them, and be easy to remember.

I don’t know what I’ll do about it. I love the name, I have a domain, and the last 10 years have some amazing memories for me. But, maybe it’s time for a change.

Old Amelia New Adventures

My website isn’t the only thing that’s changed over the years!

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Blogging – Why, How and What


There’s a romantic illusion about writing. It starts with phrases like, “everyone has a book inside them” or “you’ve got so many funny/crazy/sad/amazing stories; you should write about them”. But, the fact is that it is borderline-impossibly hard to get published or recognised unless you have something extremely special and unique to offer, coupled with a LOT of hard work (read: actual sweat, tears and maybe even some blood, depending on how hard you hammer away at those keys).

Blogging is a fabulous outlet for writers or aspiring writers who have something to share that doesn’t necessarily fall under the writing-and-publishing-a-book umbrella. And, thanks to the 21st century and the explosion of information available to us, it has become even more do-able for the everyday person.


  • Blogging creates a fantastic platform for those who enjoy writing to get plenty of experience and to establish an audience. Once you have a group of people that know you, understand your topic and enjoy reading your blog, you have a considerably bigger chance of being published and read as an author.
  • A blog is a fantastic complement for your existing business. Whether you’re a hairdresser, chef, or engineer, having a blog gives you the opportunity to reach more people with current comments and topics.
  • Once you’ve nailed blogging, you can use it to make money, without spending much (or any) money in the process. Still, this isn’t easy money. It takes lots of work.
  • Blogs are important parts of any online subject or community. You can use yours to help parents that have lost a child, couples going through a divorce, or young ones in need of advice. Or, you can use it to post tutorials on how to cut hair or decorate a party venue. You can even use it to reach out to others for advice and to share insights you wished you’d known before. There’s no telling how far-reaching and beneficial your blog could be.


  • Pick a topic – choose something that you’re invested in and have some opinions about, something you’ll research over the long term, and something that affects others. You’ll have to understand your market and have a keen insight into how your blog will add value to them. It has to be about more than your opinion. Your blog needs to be useful, relevant and current.
  • Decide on a platform and host – I use WordPress because it’s easy, quick and has attractive templates.
  • Plan ahead – ensure that you have a page that explains who you are and what your blog is about, as well as a contact page. Then, start planning your tabs and categories before you start writing. This will give your blog shape and will guide you in your writing.
  • Before you launch your blog, ensure that it is populated. Write a few blogs as well as all the static content (e.g. Home Page). It’s a good idea to have a Twitter account and Facebook page for your blog too so that each new post can be shared on social media. Do all of these before officially launching your blog to the public.
  • Once it’s ready, share your blog on social media (the blog’s accounts and, especially in the beginning, on your personal social media accounts). Find blogging groups and share it on those too.
  • Keep it up to date – I fall short here. Life gets in the way, work keeps me busy and, before I know it, it’s been months since my last post. It’s important to stay current and active – both for the blog and for your own enthusiasm.


Deciding on what to blog about is 80% of the battle. Well, probably. It can’t just be me.

A good guide to deciding on a blog (the whole concept or each blog post) is to ask:

  1. Does it solve a problem?
  2. Can it help someone to get through something? (this can refer to a fear, a loss, a trauma, or a hurdle)
  3. Does it teach something?
  4. Will it help my readers to reach a goal?
  5. Is it entertaining?

It needs to be at least one of these things.


Earning money from your blog is an organic process. Yes, there are ways and means of getting there more efficiently and proactively, but there’s no magic button that will get the bank balance soaring. The most important way that you can earn money from your blog is to focus on getting accurate, interesting information and writing it well.

Another of the best and easiest ways to start earning is to endorse other people’s products on your blog and to charge a set rate or a commission. This is called Affiliate Marketing. However, if your blog is about a service that you offer, then stick to offering that right from the get-go.

I enjoyed this excerpt from SmartBlogger on the subject:

Affiliate marketing is a good way to start for several reasons:

  • It’s faster. Instead of investing months or even years creating a product, all you have to do is publish a link on your site. Assuming your audience is engaged, you could be earning commissions within hours or even minutes.
  • The income from affiliate marketing is almost entirely passive. You don’t have to worry about creating products, supporting customers, or any of the technical complexity of selling your own products or services. You can also invest the time you save into growing your traffic, leading to more revenue later.
  • It can guide future product creation. If one affiliate product sells 10X better than all the others you promote, you might want to think about developing your own version of the product, because you have proof your audience wants it.

In addition, ensure that your blog is getting some exposure on relevant Facebook pages; such as this one. This sets up a public platform on which to post new pieces that you’ve written, engage with other bloggers, and get feedback from your target market.

Other than this, the success of a blog comes down to its being well written and on topic. There’s just no getting around it. So, invest the time into research, interviews, participating in forums and honing your writing skills to present something of value. When your blog is valuable, your market is more likely to follow.

How Cape Town Inspires Work-From-Homers


What is it about Cape Town? There’s a kind of magic that infuses every part of her. From the moment I peek over Sir Lowry’s Pass or at the first site of MY Table Mountain, its ethereal allure grabs me in a way that I just can’t get enough of. The Mother City is the perfect place for writers and other creatives to stay inspired, even when inspiration is sorely lacking and motivation follows closely behind it. As a work-from-home writer, Cape Town gives me my creativity boost.

I’ve put together a list of Cape Town-based places I’ve gone and things I’ve done, as well as those I haven’t, that may just give others the kind of inspiration kick-start they need:

The Drawing Room Café and Gallery

I can’t wait to try this quirky spot out. As a self-described ‘social space’, this coffee shop and meeting spot sounds ideal for those wanting to break the mould and enjoy something new. The gallery showcases stunning design work by locals and the coffee shop and restaurant encourages creativity in every way. There are even colouring-in books. For adults. Adults that can pay for their own coffee get to colour in. #LoveIt

SUP on the Waterfront Canals

I learnt to SUP in Mauritius, motivated to stay on my board by the 30cm spines of the urchins that lay in wait for my untouched tootsies. That was not inspiring. That was scary. Exploring the canals on a SUP at the V & A Waterfront, though, will be something memorable for all the right reasons. A short lesson and all of the necessary equipment are provided. After spending time on the water with views of Table Mountain and the warm South African sunshine on your back, your mind will be cleared, ready to dive right back into work.

Township tours

Experiencing other cultures can be incredibly special. Their customs, music, language and hospitality can reboot the mind and spirit, casting old thoughts and feelings aside and opening your eyes to new possibilities. What more could a stagnant creative project need? There are many tour operators in Cape Town that offer trips into the massive informal settlements and townships around the city. Many of these include a visit to a shebeen, restaurant, and school; and traditional song and dance performances.

 Yoga and Hike Combo

Views from Table Mountain - perfect after a long hike and a relaxing yoga session

Views from Table Mountain – perfect after a long hike and a relaxing yoga session

Yes, yes, yes. This is the perfect combination of exercise and relaxation to get the juices flowing and the sparks flying. Inmotion offers a combo package that involves a hike (the length depends on the package you choose), finished off with a yoga sesh atop the mountain and, if you’d like, a glass of wine while watching the sunset. Good for your mind and body. Bliss.



Enrich yourself

One of the best ways to clean the cobwebs and awaken new pathways is to try something new. Take a class for something unrelated to your work; like cooking, kitesurfing, beading, or writing. Cape Town is brimming with courses and classes. These are also great places to network with corporate folk and to meet other work-from-homers.

Self-Publishing – The Insights of a Publishing House


In light of my recent interview series with various South African authors, I recently contacted a publishing house with a few similar questions. Partridge Publishing is a publishing house that supports self-publishing and is operated by Penguin Random House. Representing Partridge, here’s what Keith Ogorek, Senior Vice President of Marketing (Author Solutions) had to say about getting published:


Keith Ogorek

Keith Ogorek

Thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions. Before I give you specific answers, I want to share with you a white paper that will give you context for my answers. It is called the 4 Paths to Publishing and it lays out the options available to authors today.


It will help you better understand my answers to your questions.

1. Why opt for a traditional publishing house?
If you refer to the 4 Paths white paper, you will see there are some advantages to traditional publishing. The first is their ability to curate and improve the content through their editors. The second is their relationship with bookstores and potential investment in print runs. The third is association with other well known authors.

And there are some drawbacks. You grant the rights to the content so you no longer have a final say in the content. You also do not have control of how fast the book gets to market.

2. What service do you offer? What are the advantages?
As a supported self-publishing company, we offer the widest range of services for writers who want to bring their books to market. This includes everything from editing and illustrations to print and ebook formatting to cover design to a full suite of marketing services, including publicity, online, events, and multimedia.

3. Can you give any indication re: the costs?
The investment that authors make is completely up to them. However, our publishing packages range from $399 to $5,999, before any promotional discount. It simply depends on the author’s goal and budget, and what services they need. Here is a link that shows the range of publishing packages and what is included. This is for black and white but we also offer color packages as well: http://www.partridgepublishing.com/Africa/Packages/PackageComparisonBW.aspx

4. What advice do you have for those that want to get published? Where do they start?
This is a great question. I have provided a link to a post that provides 6 tips on how to fulfill your publishing resolution: http://www.authorsolutions.com/Publishing-Resources/6-Tips-on-How-to-Fulfill-Your-Publishing-Resolution/

I also recommend that authors join The Author Learning Center. It is designed to help aspiring authors to reach their goal, no matter where they are on their journey. The How It Works link will give you a detailed explanation about the site.


Thank you to Mr Ogorek for these helpful links and insights.

Follow him on Twitter or read his blog.

Published Author – Meet Mia


Mia has known the highs and lows that life throws at us in what seems to be such wreckless abandon. She used writing as an outlet, and discovered a love she hadn’t explored until recently. Read about her writing and self-publishing adventure here.

Self-published author, Mia Henry, and four of her gorgeous furry kids

Self-published author, Mia Henry, and four of her gorgeous furry kids

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself and the book(s) you have written, including the genre you prefer:

I will always be a mother to three beautiful daughters and a handsome son, even though two daughters now rest in peace. I have always worked, helping with the running and managing of my husband’s medical practice, so I had to learn the art of being able to juggle between motherhood and being an entrepreneur. Both tasks are not your normal 9-5 job, so it was important to understand the definition of balance. Sometimes your children need a lot more attention than your business but then there may be times when your business needs more attention. You learn to be flexible and the ability to quickly change direction. The upside of this is that it teaches your children to be independent and self-reliant, important skills to have in this day and age. Although I must admit that I do wish I had spent more time with my children.

I started writing close on 7 years ago, which was inspired by a difficult family situation that took years to resolve. I thought then that it being so dramatic would make a good story. I started, got to chapter 3 and then laid it aside. Suddenly in 2012, I was confronted with one of the most heart rendering tragedies in my life and couldn’t help recalling my mother’s agony. Do children suffer because of the sin of their parents? So my book, A Mother’s Sin, arose from recollections of my mother’s verbal agonizing, brought back to mind each time a tragedy struck. Reflecting on that, I felt I could add far more to the originally intended story. So six years later, I once again picked up my pen and completed it within four months. I took real life tragedies and turned it into a novel. The protagonist in this story is Ella. She had a fair number of tragedies in her life. When tragedy strikes any family, many questions arise. Although reliving some moments in my writing proved exceptionally traumatic, I tried to portray the raw emotion, so I hope my book will be an inspiration and a catalyst for healing to those whose lives have also been struck by tragedy.

2. Why did you decide to self-publish? What was the process leading up to this decision?

After researching both options, I realized I lacked a bit on the side of patience besides the fact that by the end of the six years any patience I did have was now exhausted. After doing some research I felt that going the traditional route was like playing the Lotto …. You may or may not win, what are the odds? I was also wary of using a company which assists with the self-publishing route. Internet is full of trolls everywhere, and with all the warnings and scams, it was very disconcerting. Fortunately, I knew an author who used the same self-publishing company I chose to use. Her reassurance put my mind at ease that I was dealing with an authentic company. I have been very impressed with their proactive approach and how quickly they respond to any queries I may have. It doesn’t come free, but making the publishing so hassle-free has to me, been worth every cent.

3. What kind of feedback have you had from your readers and editors?

The book was supposed to have been launched in December but the OCD in me kept changing things so the marketing team then decided to rather launch it as a 2017 publication. Now just waiting on a launch date which will be sometime in February. The reviews from the publishing company have been great. They want me to attend the book-to-screen Pitchfest in New York in May, and are even willing to subsidize some of the costs.

4. Please give us a quick list of pros and cons for the self-publishing route:

I think I covered that in point 2. My only criticism is that they kept pressurising me to submit the manuscript. I would have liked more time to spend on the editing.

5. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

They need to work out what will work out best for them. Speak first hand to those who have gone both routes and then decide what you can afford and what will suit you better. There is a lot the self-publishing assist companies can offer, but that comes with a price.

I loved being consumed in the world of writing so I have started on another book.

Then, just some fun questions:

6. Do you try to be as original as possible? Or do you prefer to stick to what you know readers / publishing houses are looking for?

Prefer originality

7. When did you first experience the power of literature?

Always loved reading. My preferred genre are biographies. I also enjoy legal thrillers.

8. How much time do you spend writing per day / week?

When I’m on a roll, I can spend hours and into the night for days. Then I can go weeks without writing, but my mind is constantly thinking and plotting. I’ve even stopped my car whilst driving to make quick notes.

9. What do you tend to edit out of your books after the initial writing?

I tend to add more to enhance. Although I do often need to change words so that they don’t become too repetitive

10. What are the hardest scenes for you to write?

Emotionally, it is reliving through tragedy. Also accepting the fact that sometimes in order to make a character authentic to his/her personality will require cursing and profanity that could be offensive.

11. What could you have done as a child or teenager to ensure that you were an even better writer today?

Read more

12. What else do you do, if you aren’t a full-time writer?

A juggler ….help manage husband’s businesses, own guesthouse, interior-designer, wife, mother, traveller.

Mia is on Facebook and Twitter.

*Note: all interviews are published as submitted, and not edited*

A Mother's Sin

A Mother’s Sin

Published Author – Meet Melissa


I loved being a small part of proofreading Melissa’s first soon-to-be-published novel. I love her style. But, more than that, I appreciate her approach to life, love and literature.

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself and the book(s) you have written, including the genre you prefer:

Meet Melissa - author, blogger, beauty therapist, mom, and watersports enthusiast

Meet Melissa – author, blogger, beauty therapist, mom, and watersports enthusiast

I am a writer, blogger, recycler and beauty therapist; also the slave of one presumptuous cat. I live in Cape Town with the aforementioned feline, a patient husband and two smart daughters. I am a serial defaulter on Kayla’s bikini body programme and I surf my SUP when the ocean allows me to.

I have written two books. One was rejected by all the publishers in the Southern Hemisphere and a smattering of those in the North before I gave up and ate chocolate. The second, A Fractured Land, was *yay* requested by publishers in both hemispheres before I was offered a contract by Literary Wanderlust of Denver, Colorado. I write eco-romance. A Fractured Land has a few scenes set in Texas, but it’s mostly on a farm in the Karoo. There, Lexi Taylor is peacefully managing a guesthouse,until the land is earmarked for shale gas exploration by the brusque, yet intriguing Texan geologist, Carter O’Brien.

2. What was the process of getting published like?

The road to publication is paved with rejection. Also desperation, self loathing, great sadness, crocodile-thick skin and mediocre wine. When you feel you are ready to query your manuscript, it must be complete, edited and so polished that it gleams. In South Africa, if you would like to go the traditional route, you query the publishing houses directly. You write a letter that contains a bit about the book, a bit (a very small bit) about you, and then you attach the first three chapters and a synopsis. There are about 5-7 major publishing houses in South Africa and a couple of independent ones. You submit your query and wait. It can take 6 weeks to 6 months to hear back from them, if at all. And then they might ask for a partial (half the manuscript) or the full, before they decide whether to publish it or not. Some don’t take unsolicited submissions, except during certain windows stipulated on their website, so you need to stalk them a little and time it right.

If you would like an international publisher, you need to find an agent. The query process is similar, you send out query letter, 3 chapters and a synopsis, if that is what they indicate on their website. It is important to review their submission requirements before you submit.

Then you wait. Soon you begin to empathise with Miss Havisham at her wedding table. You may even channel your inner Mrs Rochester and wail in your attic.

If you would like to go the self-publishing route, you must be sure you are at peace with not traditionally publishing your book. Because you can’t go back. Also you need a bit of cash, as you are going to have to pay for the cover design, editorial process and all the behind-the-scenes stuff that produces a book. Staging Post (the self-publishing imprint of Jacana) recommends crowd-sourced funding like Thunda Fund or Go Fund Me.

A Fractured Land got lots of interest straight up, from all areas of traditional publishing: local publishers, an agent and two international publishers. I knew I was onto something straight away. (Unlike the previous manuscript. That manuscript had so many rejections I lost count. One agent said there was nothing about the sample chapters that made her want to read further. Which was like a kick in the teeth after my editor and writing teacher told me it was so good.)

3. What made you decide on the publishing house you did?

I think you have it the wrong way round. What made them decide on me? I entered a Twitter contest, where you pitch your book (ie. query your manuscript) in 140 characters. (It was the fourth time I have entered such a contest, for you to get a sense of the mountain of rejections). Literary Wanderlust was among the respondents who liked my pitch and asked for the full manuscript. They were first to send me a contract. (Which is basically the best love letter you can send a writer.)

4. What kind of feedback have you had from your readers and editors?

My beta reader, a prolific and talented writer, gave me some tough advice, which I followed. It was hard to do, but it turned out to be the right advice. I am thankful to her. My editor found a huge hole in the plot, which we fixed, and since that, I have had good feedback. I’m stoked.

5. We’d like to know the results of your decision. Would you consider it successful? Why? What does success mean to you?

I feel it’s a success because I worked so hard to get the manuscript to a standard that interested publishers and I didn’t give up despite the odds and the difficulty. It’s also terrifying. The thought that the things I wrote in private are now going to be in the public domain is paralysing. But I am pleased that I no longer feel like a fraud when I say I am a writer. I am stoked that I have the credibility now.

6. If you knew then (before embarking on the journey of publishing through a formal publishing house) what you know now, what would you tell yourself?

Stock up on wine, chocs and tissues. And a nice comfy chair because you are going to have to own that desk if you want to get a book written in the first place. I would also tell myself not to let the rejection define me. I was determined to view the rejection, not as a rod that beat me down, but rather, as a mollusc treats any irritation inside its shell. It uses it to create a pearl.

7. Please give us a quick list of pros and cons for the traditional publishing route.

There are no cons to a traditional publisher offering you a contract. Stephen King sank to the floor when he was finally offered a publishing contract. I nearly did too. Literary Wanderlust have been amazing, so professional and supportive, from the editorial and marketing perspective, as well as the art and cover design. It’s been a fantastic experience working with them. After I received the contract, I was invited to become a member of PEN South Africa and I am really excited about that. I feel that the personal validation afforded by traditional publishing is invaluable.

8. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Write the book. Even if it’s terrible. It’s kind of like sculpture. If you don’t have a big ungainly hunk of marble, you will never be able to refine it to the Venus De Milo. Your first draft will be big and ungainly. Edit it, shape it, take out the rough spots, polish it, but if you never throw it down in its large ugliness, you will never have a book. Social media can be helpful to build a platform. But you need to be authentic on social media, mind your manners and know your lane. Bitter rants are best avoided. Writing and publishing can be a small community, so good online (and offline) behaviour is paramount. Nanowrimo is also useful if you need a kick in the writing pants. It gets you going or back on track. Also, do not let rejection define you.

Then, just some fun questions:

9. Do you try to be as original as possible? Or do you prefer to stick to what you know readers / publishing houses are looking for?

I write what I like to read. Writing is such a consuming thing, you must enjoy the process. And half of writing is reading what you wrote. I know I’m writing well when it moves me emotionally, even though I made it up and knew it was coming.

10. When did you first experience the power of literature?

I loved all the Little House books when I was a child and, for years, our garden was my mind prairie. I remember being deeply upset by Csardas when I was a young teenager. I think when you have a more intense emotional experience in a book than you do in real life, you feel the power of literature.

11. How much time do you spend writing per day / week?

I’m a binge writer. I write in clumps. I should write a regular 2 hours a day. Successful people like Stephen King do that. Instead, I write when I have blocks of time or I when I am on a roll. I think a lot about plotting while I drive.

12. What do you tend to edit out of your books after the initial writing?

I edit out about 15% of the first draft, most of which is from the first few chapters. I think I set the stage for myself and my writing process by a long involved beginning which is a death knell for any book. So I end up cutting most of it out.

13. What are the hardest scenes for you to write?

Dialogue is quite tricky. It’s hard to make it sound natural but still be the literary device that shows character and drives the plot forward.

14. What could you have done as a child or teenager to ensure that you were an even better writer today?

I read a lot as a child and a teenager. I guess I could have read more but I should have written more. I didn’t know that all first drafts are terrible. I just assumed my writing was bad.

15. How long (on average) does it take you to write a book and how many times do you edit it?

It takes me about a year to write and a year to edit.

16. What else do you do, if you aren’t a full-time writer?

I work as a beauty therapist in my home salon. It’s a great job. I love the people I meet. Writing can be a lonely business, so I enjoy the human interaction in my day job. I thrive on the energy my clients give me.

You can find me on twitter @MissyAnnV my blogs are missmelissawrites.com and sunrisebeautyblog.wordpress.com

*Note: all interviews are published as submitted, and not edited*

I am on Instagram @sunrisebeautystudio.

Getting Published – A Series of Interviews


Over the years, I’ve been approached by loads of aspiring or actual authors. Some have an idea for a book, others have ventured into actually writing the book. But all of them have one thing in common – they want to get published. And, the more writers that I meet or chat to, the more I realise how vague, misunderstood, complex and maybe even frustrating the publishing process can be.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be interviewing a number of authors that have been or are being published. Some have opted for publishing houses, others have gone down the route of self-publishing. I’ll be chatting to them about their experiences, and gleaning some valuable advice from them so that those wanting to head down this very exciting course have some sort of direction, and a better idea of what to expect.

I’m excited to share these insights with you.

Reader Confessions


Book Bloke (@bloke_book) started this ‘Reader Confessions’ series. I was tagged by the gloriously talented Melissa Volker of Miss Melissa Writes.

1. Have you ever damaged a book?
Sadly, yes. I’ve gotten them wet, torn pages, spilt food, spilt coffee, spilt wine, covered books in melted wax… I think the real question is whether I’ve ever managed not to damage a book. We’re all a little damaged, thought, aren’t we?

2. Have you ever damaged a borrowed book?
Yep. I bought them a brand new one, though.

3. How long does it take you to read a book?
Which book? I’m a sucker for Roald Dahl, and I motor through his novels in two or three days. If I had to apply an average over all of them, I’d guess about a week or two.

4. Books you haven’t finished?
There was a Bill Bryson book that I started in a hospital bed once, and never got around to finishing. Pity, I was enjoying it.

5. Hyped/Popular books you didn’t like?
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez). I didn’t NOT like it. I just needed it to be over sooner. Like, I didn’t think it was going to take the best part of the 100 years to wade through it.

6. Is there a book you wouldn’t tell anyone you were reading?
Nope. I am an open book. Tl tl tl.

7. How many books do you own?
I recently moved and purged. I donated my South African poetry and short stories to a lovely friend from Denmark, and gave many of the others to charity. The books I held onto include The Norton Anthology of Poetry, a bit of Shakespeare, and Asterix. The rest are borrowed or read online.

8. Are you a fast/slow reader?

9. Do you like to buddy read?
I’m an only child. We’re not team players.

10. Do you read better in your head/out loud?
In my head.

11. If you were only allowed to own one book, what would it be and why?
One of James Herriot’s. They’re light, funny, intelligent, engaging, deeply emotional and wonderfully entertaining.

I tag Eleanor and Nadine.

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SEO For Dummies (We’ve All Been Dummies At Some Point)


Writing websites and blogs for a living, I meet with plenty of different people, selling different things to different target markets. Still, every one of them needed great Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO). It’s what gets your website noticed, drives traffic.

Wikipedia says:

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results – often referred to as “natural,” “organic,” or “earned” results.

In the “old days” (you know, three years ago, or so), we used to cram the site and its content with keywords and phrases. If it was the website of a guesthouse, we would make sure that there were (sometimes gratuitous) mentions of “guest house, tourism, accommodation, holiday accommodation, cape town accommodation, beach house, destination, travel, south african accommodation” and so on. This led to a repetitive style that was sometimes jarring and didn’t always flow well.

In recent years, though, the search engines (such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing) have demanded a far more reader-friendly approach to online content. In fact, it’s almost all about good quality, relevant, readable content these days. Instead of scanning the content for keywords and phrases, these search engines actually research websites for useful, informative content that is engaging and accurate.

This means that, as content writers, we have a massive responsibility to understand the target market of our clients, research the material well, and write really good content.

Here are some tips to ensure that your site achieves the best in terms of SEO:
content writing, search engine optimization

  • GOOD content is first and foremost – updated it frequently and focus on information that is 1) useful and 2) beneficial.
  • You still need intelligent, well planned keywords and phrases, but they should be used wisely and in a way that flows. This takes research, as you will need to understand what your target market is looking for, then use these words and phrases in the body of your website / blog as well as in your meta info.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of your title – don’t be cute or obtuse, write titles that contain your keywords and give readers a good idea of what they can expect. Include your title in your title tag and in your top level heading tag.
  • Steer clear of Flash or splash pages – these can sometimes block the search engine’s crawler. Rather, use images that have relevant descriptions, making use of your keywords.
  • Keep your coding clean – this makes it easier for the engines to crawl. So, keep your titles in the title / heading tags, the paragraphs in the paragraph tags, and so on.
  • Put your readers first– if you put your readers first, consider what they need and want to know, and are committed to providing them with this, the process will be organic. The search engines are far more likely to notice and rank your site. There are no shortcuts or cheats.

    An Appeal for Free Booze


    Jesse emerging from his shed

    There was a show I used to enjoy that featured a series of sketches. You got to know the characters and, even when they said something inane, it became hilarious the more often you watched it. One sketch was entirely centered around an old man coming out of his shed in a painfully slow, meticulously deliberate way, finally turning to the camera and rattling off in his thick Irish accent, “This week, I have been mostly eating {insert a random ingredient, such as acorns, here}”, and then turning around to enter his shed the same way he came out. Painful. Hilarious.

    My point? This week, I have been mostly thinking about writing a book. This isn’t the first time that this has crossed my mind. Usually, though, I’m too busy with other people’s novels to contemplate my own. The realisation dawned on me that, while I encourage others to write (for love, for money, for sheer catharsis), I am really quite nervous about venturing down this road myself. It can be soul-destroying. And that’s not even when the rejection letters from potential publishers start. It’s the emotion of writing. It reminds me of those operations that they need to do that require the surgeon to haul your intestines out and lay them in a dish next to them while they work on the deepest, darkest crevices of your insides. It’s just so…personal, intrusive. But, in a way that doesn’t quite relate to colorectal surgery, it is strangely enticing.

    I’m very open to encouragement, ideas, feedback and donations of Shiraz to assist in my new adventure. Please feel free to email me (amelia{at}voxate{dot}co{za} with insights and, as I say, some sort of access to free wine.

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    Reasons For Rejection


    Courtesy of Writers Write


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    My Hond is Dood – Louise Eksteen



    My hond is dood.
    Die huis is nou so stil,
    Die ander twee gaan wel hul gang, maar ek voel aan:
    Dit is asof hulle wag.
    Soms kom sy ma so voor my staan en kyk na my asof sy vra:
    ‘Wat het geword van my groot seun,
    hy wat ons almal so bewaak het, waar’s hy nou?’
    Dan vryf ek maar my hande oor haar ruggie. Ons deel die seer, twee moeders saam,
    Dis sy wat hom een nag gebaar het, maar hy was myne, myne, myne.

    Saans het hy graag sy groot, swaar poot so op my knie kom plak
    en met sy blinkbruin oë stip na my gekyk – nie gevra nie, niks gebedel –
    net so diep tot in my siel gestaar, sy liefde stilweg uitgestraal.
    En as hy so lê in die gang, plat op sy rug, vol uitgestrek,
    sy ore soos swart vere langs sy kop, dan lag hy oopbek saam met my,
    en tokkel ritmes vrolik met sy stertpunt op die mat.

    Ek hoor nog steeds die tik-tokklanke in my hart se leë oor.
    Soms, saans, dink ek ek sien hom . . .
    my hand reik uit en raak aan niks.

    ‘n Maand of drie tevore het hy begin te hoes,
    die veearts het sorgvuldig ondersoek gedoen
    en toe met skok moes ons verneem
    dat hy aan hartprobleme ly.
    Die pille het gehelp;
    hy het dit tog so soet geëet, dit was soos nog ‘n speletjie,
    die lekker happie vleis, tweemaal per dag, met pilletjies daarby.

    Die laaste nag wou hy nie anderkant die ysterhek gaan slaap nie.
    Hy het gebewe, sag gehuil, totdat ons hom na ons laat kom het,
    en urelank het hy stil voor my bed gesit, en ek het hom gestreel
    terwyl ek wonder wat dit was wat hom ontstel het.
    Teen die skemer van die straatlig kon ek sien hy sit so regop,
    sy nek gestrek, asof hy staar na iets daar bo wat hy alleen kan sien.

    [Hoe kon ek nie geweet het nie? Hoe kon ek later rustig sluimer?]

    Hy was van kleinsaf bang vir onweer – die grote lummel, bewend en kortasem –
    kon donderweer hoor dreun nog lank voor een van ons vermoed het.
    En vreesbevange kon hy half-histeries blaf en bokspring oor ‘n vlieg,
    en erger nog op hol raak oor die nou en dan se brommer teen die ruit.

    Ek dog, dié nag, dat hy hom kwel oor veraf donder, siestog,
    en onbesorg en lomerig, hopende op reën, kon ek weer slaap.
    Die oggendnuus was al verby toe ek besef hy lê nie voor my bed nie –
    en skynbaar het die reën ook nie gekom nie.
    Ek strompel gang af, sonder bril; kombuisdeur moet nou oopkom, dis tyd vir aldrie om hul ding te doen, buite op die agtertuin se gras.
    Hy lê daar in die gang, half op sy maag, sy pote vreemd onder hom ingevou.
    Ek roep sy naam, verwag dat hy sal opspring, sy oggendblaf sal lag, voorpote hoog sal hou om my soos elke oggend te begroet.
    Ek voel sy borskas, dis nog effens lou, maar die groot hart se klop het opgehou.
    My gil skeur deur die huis, ek roep na pa, ons huil daar op ons knieë langs ons hond.
    Dis baie seer.
    Hy was nog jonk – te jonk om nou al dood te gaan – hy en sy sus is net maar agt,
    hul ma’s al dertien en sy is dan nog sterk.

    Ons het hom sagkens in ons grootste handdoek toegevou en huilend na die kar gedra.
    Die vroue daar by Animal Welfare het ons omhels en saam met ons gehuil,
    en die jong helper het hom op die kruiwa weggestoot.
    Later het ons die klein wit boksie met sy assies in gaan haal.
    Voorop pryk ‘n mooi troos-versie en, in sierletters geskryf, sy naam.

    Sy sussie tree nou vreemd op, sy’s sku vir ons, en skigtig,
    sy wil nie meer ontspanne sommer rustig by ons sit nie.
    Sou sy dink dat een van óns hom laat verloor het?
    Dat ons haar ook gaan laat wegraak?

    Ons groot swart kind, ons hond, is dood.
    Die huis is nou so stil.


    [Louise Eksteen. September 2010]

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    Advice to Clients


    Courtesy of No. 17

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    Latest Pubs!


    This is really just a bit of a “look at me, look at me!” about the three latest books with which I’ve been involved.

    My passion is, undoubtedly, animals. I was asked to proofread and edit this book on a charity basis. All proceeds are donated to Save-a-Pet Port Elizabeth and Cat Care. What a pleasure (and what a story!)






    I was commissioned to write this wedding planning book, based on years of experience and on the pieces I’d already written for Celebration.co.za. A must-have for brides-to-be!






    A beautiful wildlife photography book for which I wrote and / or edited all of the captions. WARNING: do not page through this book in the office – you’re likely to toss your PC out of the window and head off on a game drive.





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    Why Splash on a Copywriter?


    One of the biggest hurdles I need to overcome as a writer is trying to convince a potential client (even after they’ve contacted me) that they need my services. “What’s so hard about writing a website?” they ask in mocking disgust at my measly quote, “I could do it, if I had the time”. Well, yes, you could certainly write something. But, you should probably let me. Here’s why:

    • I’ve got my grammar going on – I know it and I know it well. This is a really important part of having a website that sells your product rather than distracting the reader with badly composed (or, even worse, incorrectly spelt) information.
    • I understand what Google and similar search engines want in a website in terms of search engine optimisation (SEO). This gives your site a much better chance of ranking well, which means that far more people will stumble upon it.
    • You’re paying me to do it, which means that you only sign it off when you’re 100% happy with it.
    • I have training (in the form of university degrees) as well as years of experience. So, when I write, it’s backed by a solid foundation, which translates to a better quality of writing as well as focus on your product and / or service.
    • Copywriting = marketing. Very valuable marketing.
    • Outsourcing gives you more time to do what you do best.
    • So, if you want effective copy – written in a way that promotes, informs and entices – hire a professional copywriter.

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    The Joys of Freelancing


    I have worked for companies and agencies; good bosses and not-great ones (ah, a blog post in its own right). But, even when I am in my most generous and nostalgic mood, there really is nothing that compares to freelancing. I’m dedicating my Friday post to all of the reasons that I love to freelance:

    • I can work anywhere, any time. This actually means that I usually work longer hours than I did when I was employed, but at least it’s in a coffee shop overlooking the beach or while watching a DVD on my oversized couch.
    • Although I have almost never refused work or a client, the fact remains that I could.
    • I get to deal with clients directly and in the way that I prefer. I don’t have to cover up for anyone else’s mistakes or disinterest.
    • I can wear my PJ’s ALL DAY LONG, if I choose to.
    • If I want to have an 11th cup of coffee, there is no judgement.
    • I get to make money for myself, and the money I make is proportional to the effort that I put in.
    • Many of my clients have become great friends.
    • There is so much variety and fun in my job, which I feel is largely due to the flexibility I have as a freelancer.
    • People are paying me by the hour for my skill. This feels great as I know that they recognise the value of what I do.
    • I don’t have to ask for time off. Although I have responsibilities to my clients, which I take very seriously, I can decide to take a long weekend any time I want (although I usually end up feeling bad and working on a Saturday, but the principle remains valid).
    • There is quite a supportive freelance community in South Africa, in which the individuals are generally willing to help one another with advice, warnings and tips.

    If you are considering freelancing, there is plenty to think about. The pressures of making all of your own money can be quite stressful at times. However, when weighed against the benefits, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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