Launching onto the Web:
A Small Business View 
by William J Piniarski 

Feb 14th, 1999 America Online Chat Transcript


GraceMI:      Welcome to the Biz Writers Chat Session
GraceMI:      Tonight our guest is
GraceMI:      Will Piniarski, the author of Launching Onto The Web:
                     A Small Business View
GraceMI:      Will also owns a web business
GraceMI:      Will, tell us a little about your business, please.
LiveWebcs:   all right...
LiveWebcs:   I am the founder and owner of webcs.com, a web design and hosting
                     firm out of MASS...
LiveWebcs:   We serve clients from around the world and those experiences are
                     the basis for my book
DarcieKY:     sounds great
LiveWebcs:   A wildly changing field where tomorrow is always different.
GraceMI:      How did you get the idea, then, for your book?  GA
LiveWebcs:   Funny actually.
LiveWebcs:   I was watching Dream On one night, and it was about a new writer,
                     and suddenly I got this urge to write and the rest was history.
                     Unconventional I know...
GraceMI:      How long did it take you to write the book? GA
LiveWebcs:   Initially about a year...although rewrites stretched it to a year
                     and a half.
LiveWebcs:   Technical info has to be updated constantly.
GraceMI:      What has been the biggest hurdle you went through in writing the book?
LiveWebcs:   The ticking of the clock:
LiveWebcs:   like every author I want my work out on the streets
                     tomorrow...just need to be patient and
                     everything falls into place
GraceMI:      did you self publish or use a publisher?
MSACTUA: How hard to find an agent?
LiveWebcs:   My publisher is Briarwood Publications out of VA....
LiveWebcs:   They are located at briarwoodva.com...I also designed their
                     website recently.
LiveWebcs:   Yes, I  have an agent.
LiveWebcs:   However, I did this book deal without an agent...which has
                     many advantages obviously.
GraceMI:      Our guest is Will Piniarski, the author of Launching Onto The
                     Web: A Small Business View
GraceMI:      Go Ahead Darcie
DarcieKY:    Did you have previous professional writing experience, or
                     was it just that urge that inspired you?
LiveWebcs:   I have some writing schooling, but in large part writing has come
                     natural to me because LiveWebcs:  it is how I prefer to communicate
                     my deepest thoughts.
Sestina7:       Have you any significant sales (profits) or is this more like a
                     vanity publishing experience
LiveWebcs:   Actually you're catching my on the release date...so I can't
                     comment on the sales :)
DarcieKY:     Does your book provide small business owners with ideas for
                      marketing their site?
LiveWebcs:    That's part of its primary focus:
LiveWebcs:    I go through on-line and off-line marketing, through
                      international law, on-line ethics
LiveWebcs:    what to do and what not to do...it covers the bases.
DarcieKY:     What suggestions would you give a very small business
                      owner like me whose site is
                      designed to promote freelance business writing services?
DarcieKY:      My business is just me.
LiveWebcs:    Well first get my book :)
LiveWebcs:     Most importantly
LiveWebcs:     don't be afraid to fail.  Trial and error is so important.  On
                       the web you will fail and fail and fail.  That's part of the
                       learning process and that is what
LiveWebcs:     success springs from.
GraceMI:        are all businesses suited for the Internet, Will?
LiveWebcs:    A lot of people can't handle the down arrow and don't see the up
LiveWebcs:    Most are.
LiveWebcs:    If a business has a project or service which can be expanded
                      beyond a local area then that
LiveWebcs:    business has a chance on the internet if executed correctly.
LiveWebcs:    Unlike the real world, the internet is a level playing field for
                      large and small businesses.
Sestina7:        We're not talking about AMAZON.COM.  We're talking about
                      the average business....
LiveWebcs:    Exactly...good point Sestina
Sestina7:         Is the internet really going to be a huge sales factor?
LiveWebcs:    Small business has an equal chance on the internet because the
                      tools are basically the same.
LiveWebcs:    As we have seen this Christmas, the internet sales realm is
LiveWebcs:    We are approaching a point where the consumer is confident
                      about buying on the net
LiveWebcs:    and that fact alone will propel net sales higher and higher in
                      the next five years.
GraceMI:       What advice do you have for Darcie for promoting  freelance
                      business writing services?
LiveWebcs:    Make her website as understandable as possible and focus on
                      the individual,
LiveWebcs:    also expand her website to attract these kind of people by
                      linking to
LiveWebcs:    services that are related to freelance business.  Sometimes
LiveWebcs:    people come into web sites looking for something else and
                      then use your core business instead
Sestina7:        Hey, I bought a mouse from Dell and a book from Amazon.
                      That doesn't mean that I give my....
Sestina7:        credit card number out to everyone who has a good product.
LiveWebcs:    True...but then again a few years ago those two transactions
                      you made would not have been
DarcieKY:     When you say "by linking to services that are related to
                      freelance business" do you mean me
LiveWebcs:    made...security on the web is now available for even the
                      smallest merchant and is very inexpensive to setup.
DarcieKY:      having links to freelance business stuff? Right now, I have links
                      that I think would be
DarcieKY:     of interest to business owners.
LiveWebcs:   Yes that is part of what I mean Darcie...also
DarcieKY:     okay
LiveWebcs:    you may want to create a separate website that doesn't relate
                      directly to your core business, because with that you can drag
                      in people who are interested in other topics related to that core
                      business.  Kind of like doing an advertisement for one website
                      with another website.
GraceMI:       I think you are talking two diff things.  Darcie is saying she has
                      links of interest to people who come to her site.
DarcieKY:     I was trying to think of what would attract the most business
                     owners and get them to come back.
GraceMI:      You are suggesting she open another site to draw people...right?
LiveWebcs:   Correct....
LiveWebcs:   Because a lot of people and business owners that don't think
                     they need her services
LiveWebcs:   now may change their minds when they see them offered in a
                    different context.
GraceMI:     Can you give an example?
LiveWebcs:  An example:
LiveWebcs:  A site sells science fiction video tapes...
LiveWebcs:  they open a site dedicated to UFO phenomena and put ads for
                    their core business on it.
LiveWebcs:  The UFO page isn't a business but its a billboard that allows
                    free ads to be placed and also gives customers access to
                    information free of charge which makes them feel good.
LiveWebcs:  So those users searching for UFO material, who weren't looking
                    to buy anything, might be drawn in....
GraceMI:     ok. Assuming she develops her site (s), what's the timeline for a
                    successful site?  How soon does that usually happen?  Immediately,
                    3 months, what?
LiveWebcs:  Usually one year or more...success WILL NOT come quickly
                    because on the internet exposure builds...but once that exposure
                    is there it seldom goes away.
Sestina7:      Isn't this the P.T. Barnum principle? (There's a sucker born every
LiveWebcs:  If you offer someone something they want for free and then flash
                    an ad along with it...then everyone is happy....a recent example of
                    this principle
LiveWebcs:  is in the computing industry where they are thinking of giving
                    away PC's
LiveWebcs:  for free as long as they can place an ad on your screen for the
                    life of the machine.
DarcieKY:   I do not like banner advertising, and I don't click on banner ads.
                    Do you think they are absolutely necessary?
LiveWebcs:  I don't think any browsing user likes banner ads however
DarcieKY:    I mean for a business owner who wants to promote themselves
LiveWebcs:  they are not going to go away because website owners need to
                    support themselves...an interesting story is
LiveWebcs:  when the internet was first developed business web sites were
                    illegal...what a difference a few years makes...
LiveWebcs:  As far as promotion...yes they are necessary.
GraceMI:     What skills do you need to create a good website? GA
LiveWebcs:  (1) The ability to accept trial and error like I stated earlier
LiveWebcs:  (2) Knowledge of uploading and downloading files
LiveWebcs:  (3) Knowledge of basic HTML (web programming).
LiveWebcs:  Everything beyond that will come slowly and naturally as your
                    website builds.
LiveWebcs:  I always recommend using raw HTML code for the first year instead
                    of using a
LiveWebcs:  website graphical editor because it helps you understand what is
                    happening underneath.
GraceMI:     Will, how did you find your publisher?
LiveWebcs:  I found my publisher through an intense search of the internet,
                    sending out my samples to
LiveWebcs:  whomever I could and then narrowing down the offers.
LiveWebcs:  It's amazing how they vary!!!!
WOCAS:     What level did you assume your readers were at...
WOCAS:     did you assume they'd already explored the web?
LiveWebcs:  Novice....if you understand how to use AOL and have
                    experimented with the internet, you can
LiveWebcs:  use my book.  It was writing in very simple language.
GraceMI:     What should a new writer look for when selecting a publisher?
LiveWebcs:  yet it would also helped the more advanced.
LiveWebcs:  Well a good contract wouldn't hurt :)  But most importantly
LiveWebcs:   a publisher should be willing to answer all questions you ask and
LiveWebcs:   participate fully in the writing process.  Some publishers
LiveWebcs:   make you sign and then let you do all of the work.  That is not
DarcieKY:    I did my web site without any HTML knowledge by using Claris
                    Home Page. Isn't it becoming
DarcieKY:    easier for novices to "design" sites? And are you worried that it
                    will be so easy to do, "designers" won't be necessary?
DarcieKY:    thanks
LiveWebcs:   I cover that in my book:
LiveWebcs:   The problem is that if something goes wrong with your program
                     you will
LiveWebcs:   have no idea what happened underneath in the raw code.  Also
LiveWebcs:   editors are not interchangeable and do things slightly different.
                     If you
LiveWebcs:   use raw HTML and understand it you can simply do more and
                     protect yourself from program errors...which do occur.
GraceMI:      I used Front Page and you can look at the raw code in it.
GraceMI:      Will, have you written other books for publication?
LiveWebcs:   Grace: You can always look at the raw code, but my point is
                     that you should understand it.
GraceMI:      yes, and I learned HTML first.  I think that Darcie's point is
                     well taken.
GraceMI:      It's easier to start off with a friendly program.
LiveWebcs:   Yes, it is easier but a lot of people (this may not include you)
                     are too scared to try the raw code.  I applaud you if you know
LiveWebcs:   I just finished a science fiction novel called Saturn's Rings
                     which is in the editing process now.  Look for that one to
                     come out by late this year if all falls
                     into place.
GraceMI:      So you write technical stuff AND fiction.  That's an interesting
                     combo.   What process do you go through with tech books
                     vs. sci fi?
LiveWebcs:   Good question Grace.
LiveWebcs:   With a technical book there are a lot of rewrites because info
                     changes on a dime.
LiveWebcs:   With a fiction book what you put down on the page first is
                      probably what stays.
LiveWebcs:   All in all though the work load is pretty close.
GraceMI:      What about secure sites and internet payment systems?
LiveWebcs:    Huge topics and they are covered in my work:
LiveWebcs:    I believe the future of internet payment systems will be the end
                      of complex systems
LiveWebcs:    such as digital wallets.  An extension of the credit card will be
LiveWebcs:    what we use now and forever on the net.  The only thing is the
                      credit card will get smarter.
GraceMI:       What is the next step in Internet law?
LiveWebcs:    As part of my writing, I was in contact quite a bit with the
                      United Nations. They are concentrating on two areas:  contracts
                      and commerce.
LiveWebcs:    As far as contracts go, there will soon be a way to make
                      agreements fully legal over the net, without having to physically
                      sign them.
LiveWebcs:    And the world is working, slowly, toward standards in currency
                      and in the ways we use that currency.
GraceMI:       Interesting!  What is in the near and distant future for your
LiveWebcs:    My writing:
LiveWebcs:    As I stated Saturn's Rings, a science fiction novel which I am
                      very excited about is in the editing phase.  Currently, I am taking
LiveWebcs:    a few months off because Launching and Rings were written at
LiveWebcs:    the same time.  Then I will do a follow-up to Rings, which is
LiveWebcs:    planned out and may do another sci-fi work which I am currently
LiveWebcs:    throwing around my head.
GraceMI:       Do you have the same publisher for both books?
LiveWebcs:    No.
LiveWebcs:    Just a different book with different needs.  GA
GraceMI:       How will your publisher market your Launching book?
LiveWebcs:    They are going to tackle the major markets.  They have major
                      contracts with Borders, Ingrim, Amazon.com, and other major
                      clearinghouses. It's my job to hit the smaller areas.
GraceMI:       I forgot to ask whether you used an agent for either book?
                      Did you?
LiveWebcs:    I do have an agent but only use him when I have to.  Since I
                      am a business man I do everything myself whenever possible.
                      These books, so far, I have not used the agent directly.
LiveWebcs:    Ask away Annie
AnnieHawk:    I missed part of this discussion... Who was your publisher for
                       the LAUNCHING book?
LiveWebcs:     Briarwood Publishing (you can get info on them on my website
                       http://www.webcs.com/author if
LiveWebcs:     you would like it.
AnnieHawk:    E-Pub?
LiveWebcs:     No...traditional paper publication.
LiveWebcs:     Actually due to some legal issues this particular book could
LiveWebcs:     not be a E-publication.  Because of screen shot rights.
AnnieHawk:    Strange Contract.
LiveWebcs:     Well, when you write a book like mine that uses so many
                       web sites you have to please everyone
LiveWebcs:     including AOL I might add :)
GraceMI:        Will, thanks very much for a most interesting session.  We
                       wish you the best of luck with both pubs....come back and
                       tell us how you are doing.
GraceMI:        Good night, all.  And thanks again, WOCAS, for greeting.
LiveWebcs:     Thanks for a spirited forum...I enjoyed it and hope to come
                       back here some day to talk with you all.
WOCAS:        Thank you, Will and Grace!
LiveWebcs:     My personal thanks to you Grace and everyone...
LiveWebcs:     Thanks for the work WOCAS
GraceMI:        This session of the Biz Writers Chat closed at 9:58 p.m. EST.