Too Many Irons In The Fire?

December 19, 2010

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Things have been busy lately in the world of Kosmo.  Barring a complete collapse in the second half of the month (which is possible, with Christmas pulling people away from their computers) we should set a new record in page views for the fourth consecutive month.  We’re not seeing a million visitors per month, but we’re seeing solid growth, particularly from search engine traffic.  The Soap Boxers has always been the flagship offering of Hyrax Publications, and this will continue in the future.

I have also launched a consulting business, Sparks By Kosmo.  The thought was that up-and-coming bloggers would take advantage of the service to get some new ideas for their site.  However, at this point, the main interest seems to be coming from established bloggers looking to iron out the last few wrinkles.  We’ll be unveiling new packages geared toward these different sets of customers in January.  And perhaps we’ll also unveil a new member of the Sparks team at that point?  While The Soap Boxers is the flagship of Hyrax Publications, Sparks has the potential to actually pay some bills.

We’ll also be launching an eBook project in January.  This isn’t me just announcing a new eBook or audio book for sale in the Hyrax Publications store.  This will actually be a collaborative effort involving up to 100 individual authors.  I’ll be looking to include some of you in this project.  Keep your eyes open for more details in January, with publication slated for late spring or early summer.  Some of you are already aware of this effort and have signed on to become contributors.

Hyrax Publications will also be getting into the business of selling printed books in 2011.  The first two books are written by a self-published author on an interesting niche topic.  Putting her books for sale in the Hyrax Publications store will allow her to reach a potentially worldwide audience without having to build out any infrastructure.  If this experiment proves successful, we may opt to work with other authors later in the year.

My novel, unfortunately, has been pushed to the back burner a bit.  My New Year’s resolution for 2011 will be to get some traction on it.  Given the free time, I think I could hammer out the first hundred pages fairly quickly.

Several days ago, I received notification that I was NOT the winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award contest.  This wasn’t a big shock, since the contest attracted 400+ writers.

And in the category of “things you didn’t notice and really don’t care about,” my business name has changed from Hyrax Publications to Hyrax Publications, LLC.

Introducing “Sparks by Kosmo”

December 8, 2010

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You’ve seen the ads.  Sparks by Kosmo – Web consulting with a twist.  What the heck does that mean?

Although our little site at The Soap Boxers is still a relatively undiscovered diamond in the rough that is the blogosphere, I can, with confidence, claim to have one unique specialty.

My mind is not bound by the constraints that tend to hamper most people.  Most people operate with a filter that weeds out the bizarre ideas before they actually have a chance to live at all.  Not the case with me.  I say to those ideas “be fruitful and multiply!”  Honestly, if I didn’t have a day job in a conservative industry, I’d probably commonly be referred to as “a bit eccentric”.

Introduce people to a variety of unusual ideas, and you will expand their horizons to encompass a broad range of possibilities.  While the original ideas themselves may not be a final answer, they may open up a line of thought that leads to other ideas which are eventually implemented.

To that end, I am announcing a service that will allow you to bottle a little bit of Kosmo.  Few can doubt that my creativity factory churns out some unique stuff (don’t believe me?  Check out short stories like Second Chances and The Critic) – why not work with web site owners to come up with new ideas to help improve their sites?

This will certainly not be your grandfather’s brand of web consulting.  There will be no chatter about click-through rates, search engine optimizations, and load times.  The focus will simply be on making the site more interesting and useful for your visitors, pushing the envelope beyond what you do today.

I’m going to start out with two different levels of service.

The first, affectionately nicknamed “I hate your website because …” will be a quick look-see at your site, with an email from me pointing out the aspects of the site that I disliked the most.  Most often, these are going to be tactical things, although I’ll throw in an outside-the-box idea when possible.

The second level will be a more in-depth look at the site.  For a small retainer, I’ll give you two quick tips on how to improve your site, plus a quote on how much I would change for a full review.  At the end of a full review, you will receive a formal report (between 500 and 3000+ words) detailing suggested changes.  Bear in mind that I have no prior knowledge of your site or your audience, so I don’t know what “won’t work”.  Odds are good that several of my ideas will be things that “won’t work”.  Given a chance, I bet that some of those ideas actually WILL work.  And if they don’t work, you just blame it on the crazy consultant!

I can’t guarantee that you’ll be a BETTER person after working with me –  but you’ll certainly be a DIFFERENT person.

I lined up a lucky sucker customer to give Sparks a try.  You may know her as Silicon Valley Blogger from The Digerati Life.  Honestly, she’s probably not in my target audience.  Not only has she spent much time refining her site over the years and has a strong sense of the direction she is heading, but I am also a frequent reader.  This means that it will be difficult to truly look upon her site as a blank slate.  The report I gave to SVB ended up being on the more basic side of the spectrum.  What could Kosmo come up with the improve one of the most popular personal finance sites on the web?

Here are a couple of sample suggestions

Navigation bar links to outdated information – The most current deal in the Special Deals section is from July, and the most recent online coupon is from May. You need to decide if these are important enough to take up prime real estate on the navigation bar, or if they are so unimportant that they can go a half-year between updates. These are mutually exclusive categories.

Recent articles – If a new visitor stumbles across your site, they aren’t able to determine what you have been writing about recently. Consider using a “recent articles” plug-in in a sidebar to draw their attention to your recent activity.

Another client was Mommy’s Recess.  This is a newer site that has only been up for a few months – so I was able to put together a more detailed report.  This is the type of client who can probably gain the most from Sparks.

Here are some nuggets from the detailed report:

Who’s your daddy? – Obviously, your site is centered on the perspective of a mother. Every once in a while (perhaps once a month), why not have a guest article that comes from a different perspective? Have a father write something about the joys of fatherhood – or a grandmother, teacher, or even the owner of a store that specializes in children’s clothing or merchandise?

Go ask mother – Get your readers more involved with an advice column. You may need to prime the pump at first – getting some questions from friends and family in the “real world”, but before long, you’ll be getting questions from your site visitors.

Recalls – Consider covering the important topic of manufacturer recalls once a month. Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission provides this information on their web site, not every checks the site. Also, you may choose to go explain the importance of some of the recalls.

Sarah and Emma had this to say about Sparks:

We received a great review from Kosmo. As stay at home moms working on a blog, we know diapers and kids but not internet.

Not only did he give us tips on colors and links, but he gave us content ideas that will give the blog a fresh look and ideas!

Hop over the Sparks today for some introductory pricing.