Sandra Murphy, Editor
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From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
I know it’s a bit of a cliche to say that professional organizations are a great way to network with other people in your industry, but I have to say that one of the best things about being involved with SPAWN has been the people I’ve met.
Many of the questions you see on writing or publishing-related discussion boards are something like, “HELP! I really need an editor/designer/artist right now!” As you’ll note in the member news, my company just launched seven publishing training classes for SelfPubU. A few weeks ago, I realized, I needed an editor to review them.
Since I’m a member of SPAWN, I didn’t have to troll job boards full of people I don’t know. I sent an email to SPAWN Executive Director Patricia Fry and asked if she had time to look over my courses. What a comfort it is to know that if I need any services related to writing, design, or publishing, SPAWN is full of amazing, skilled people I already know!
Relationships are an important part of business. I encourage you to take a quick scan through the SPAWN member list. Then take some time get to know your fellow SPAWN members personally through our SPAWNDiscuss discussion board. If you would like referrals to people I have worked with, you are welcome to send me an email any time.
October Teleseminar Announcement!
Gail Z. Martin to Present Teleseminar for SPAWN Members
Who: Gail Z. Martin
When: October 14 at 2 pm Pacific (5 pm Eastern)
How: Members will receive an email with call-in details
Title: 30 Days to Book Marketing Magic
Read more: http://www.spawn.org/blog/?p=1204
This week a friend and I talked about inspirational fiction—what do we need to have on the bookshelf to inspire us to not only write, but to write better? What books can we read and re-read and still love the sound of the words? My list starts with Raymond Chandler. I love the language of noir. John/Ross MacDonald too—more noir, but not as ‘40-ish and great storytelling. John Dunning—he has a way with words and a true love for books. I recently discovered Stephen Greenleaf—he brings noir to the ‘80s. For characterization, good storytelling, and a great sense of place, that would be Bill Crider or Ed Gorman. They both add in a love of music, oddballs, and cats without distracting from the story.
The discussion of fiction led to a discussion of television. Some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever heard came from speeches written for President Bartlett on The West Wing. And that led to current programming and TNT’s promotional theme of, “What can I do in one hundred days?” September 22 begins the last one hundred days of 2010. By the time you read this the countdown will have started, but there’s still time for you to join in. What can you do in one hundred days? Will it mean one hundred queries? A list of one hundred article ideas or one hundred pages written? One hundred words a day? One hundred blogs or photographs?
Sometimes all we need is a challenge and a little push.
— Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. Day One—Painted my fingernails red. It’s an attitude thing.
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
The October 2010 edition of the SPAWN Market Update features publisher interviews—what are they thinking? What are they buying? What do they say about the publishing industry? Here are some sample comments from long-time publishers:
“Avoid the big vanity publishing houses—the ones that call themselves, falsely, ‘self-publishing’ companies. These may be fine for a book you are writing for friends and family, but the chances of commercial success are an illusion—their imprints are the kiss of death of critics, booksellers, anybody else who can help to reach your audience.”
“True self-publishing (as opposed to vanity publishing) is actually a much more viable option now than it was when I started out in the 1980s.”
“Keep in mind that the most important thing is the salability of your manuscript, not how you present it [to a publisher]. A book that’s likely to become a best-seller is likely to get published and reviewed, no matter how poor a job you might do in shopping it around.”
The October SPAWN Market Update also includes thirty-six news items, reported changes, and opportunities for authors, freelance writers, and scriptwriters. For example, we list eleven print magazines that publish fiction. We offer six paying nonfiction markets for freelance writers, a directory of 400 publishers of first-time novels, a directory of blog tours you can take in order to promote your book, an amazing new publishing resource, and SPAWN’s FREE gift to authors who crave more information about book promotion.
Go to www.spawn.org to join, or if you’re already a member, sign in to follow up on these topics.
Ask the Book Doctor:
About About Typography, Italics vs. Underlines, Contracts, and More
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: I want to ask about the TM symbol you use after your Find & Refine Method. How do I get this symbol high up in the copy? When typing in Word, when I add this to my copy, the TM symbol hits in the middle of the last letter of what I’m trying to indicate is trademarked, not at the top of the letter, like yours. I’m not computer-savvy, so I can’t figure it out.
A: I have several answers. On my Mac, I have to go to “insert symbol” and select TM, and it automatically is raised on the line when it appears. On my PC in Word, I type (TM) and when I type the second parenthesis, the computer automatically deletes the parentheses and changes the TM into the smaller superscript mark. I myself was shocked when it did it the first time. Yet another way on a PC is to type TM, highlight it, right click on it, go to Font, and choose Superscript. There may be other ways as well.
Q: When I first started on a novel in 1995, publishers wanted italicized words to be underlined instead, even though we had the capability of changing the font on our computers. Is this still the case? Can we now use the appropriate font, or must we inquire from each publisher? I have visions of having two manuscripts, one with and one without italics.
A: It’s always best to check with the publisher, but The Chicago Manual of Style says to use italics. If you do use underlines, tell the publisher your intent is that underlined items are to be set in italics in the printed version.
Q: I plan to self-publish my book. Do you have a simple work-for-hire contract I can use with my illustrator?
A: The following Web site has a simple work-for-hire contract. It may be exactly what you need: http://www.aw-wrdsmth.com/FAQ/work_for_hire.html
Q: In Write In Style I did not see anywhere you may have addressed this directly, but when writing internal dialogue, I take it from your book that you would never say he told himself or I told myself something. Is that correct?
A: This conclusion might be drawn from the fact that in my book I say “thought to himself” is redundant, because we cannot think to anyone but ourselves. We can, however, tell other people things, just as we can tell ourselves things, so I have no problem with saying he told himself, she told herself, or I told myself.
What’s your question about writing or publishing? Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.
Three Excuses That Are Keeping You from a Successful Freelance Writing Career
by Linda Formichelli
Did you ever think it’s not the economy, the toughness of the industry, or just plain bad luck that’s keeping you from flourishing as a freelance writer—but your own limiting beliefs? Many aspiring freelancers are wonderful writers with salable ideas, but they can’t break out of the writing-for-cheap (or worse, writing-for-free) stage and make a full-time living doing what they love. And even while they complain about their lack of success, they have plenty of seemingly reasonable explanations for why they aren’t even trying.
Here are some of the excuses I’ve heard from my mentoring and e-course clients—and my thoughts on how you can bust those excuses.
Excuse #1: “I have to pay my dues.”
Many writers believe they can’t write for magazines that pay a decent fee until they “pay their dues” by writing for markets that pay peanuts. But who decides what constitutes “paying your dues,” how long you need to do it, and even that you have to do it at all? The term “paying your dues” is meaningless, because no one has defined exactly what it is and when it ends.
When I hear people say they have to “pay their dues” before pitching the magazines they really want to write for, I know it’s a stalling tactic. I never hear a writer say, “Well, now I’ve ‘paid my dues’ and it’s time for me to get cracking on my dream markets.” Because there’s no defined limit to “paying your dues,” writers just keep toiling away at sure-thing markets instead of risking rejection by the big guys. It’s the perfect excuse for not making the leap to better markets.
I’ve never heard an editor, when approached by a writer with a brilliant query and stellar writing, say, “I can’t possibly accept this—this writer hasn’t ‘paid her dues.’” In fact, consider this:
* I have a friend whose very first clip was for Cosmopolitan. She went on to have a successful freelance writing career and even write books on freelancing.
* Last year one of my students landed an assignment to write a short for SELF magazine. She had not had a single clip before that. Now she’s working on an assignment for Parenting that’s worth $1,300. She’s had only two assignments and she’s never worked for less than $1.50 per word.
* I recently had a mentoring client who kept “paying her dues” by writing for exposure and wondering why she wasn’t making more money. I convinced her to stop writing for free and cheap, and within ten days she had an assignment that was worth twenty assignments from one of her “el-cheapo” clients.
* My very first assignment, based on my very first query back in 1996, paid $500. I never paid a dime of “dues.”
Look: “Paying your dues” is just an excuse. No one is tracking what you do and judging whether you have written for enough peanuts-paying clients to start pitching your dream markets. If you have a great idea and you present it well, no one will care whether you slogged your way up from the bottom or just burst onto the scene.
Excuse #2: “I need to learn more.”
I hate to say this since I teach e-courses of my own, but some writers take every writing course they can find, yet never feel like they know enough to actually get started pitching markets. “I can’t get started because I don’t know every single thing there is to know about query writing.” “Well, now I know how to write a query, but what happens when I get an assignment? I’d better take a course on that.” “I’m not so good on the business side of things. I wonder if there’s a class that can help me.” And on and on and on.
What’s great about freelancing is that there are no major barriers to entry. You don’t have to have a degree or certificate, and you don’t need to have 100% complete knowledge of every aspect of the business in order to get started. Heck, when I started I didn’t know even one other freelancer, there were no writers’ online networking groups (that I knew of, anyway), and I had one book on freelancing. I made mistakes, but I learned as I went along. In fact, some of my early queries were real doozies. But the “uneducated” writer who takes action has a much higher chance at success than the writer who learns and learns and learns—but never dares to send out a pitch.
Don’t use this excuse to put off pursuing your writing dreams. You’ll never know everything there is to know about freelancing, so don’t even try. There’s so much information online and on bookstore shelves that if you ever do get stuck, help is just a few clicks or pages away.
Of course, I’m not saying you shouldn’t educate yourself by reading books, taking classes, and reading educational Web sites—just that you shouldn’t get so bogged down in gathering information that you never actually pitch markets.
Excuse #3: “I don’t deserve it.”
I’m guilty of this one. Three of my family members work in retail, and one just retired from a corporate job he hated, after 42 years. I always think, “This relative of mine works eight hours a day for $13 per hour doing a job she can’t stand. I work two days per week doing a job I love, and make more money. Who am I to have such luck?” Then the guilt sets in.
I told my life coach about this, and she asked who will be served if I hold back so as not to be more successful than anyone I know. The answer is, of course, that it will do no one any good if I work for less money doing a job I don’t enjoy. She also pointed out that I worked hard and invested in my writing career for years before reaching the point where I could cut my hours and still earn the same income. Not only that, but by making a living doing what I love, I can help inspire others to do the same.
It’s true that some people will never get over the fact that you’re more successful than they are. I actually had a writer friend “break up” with me when I landed the Renegade Writer book deal because—and I quote— “You’re always so successful while I always seem to be struggling.” But you know what? A friend who is sad because you’re doing well isn’t a true friend.
So…do you feel guilty about the idea of becoming a successful freelance writer because your aspiring writer friends might resent it if you’re suddenly writing for the big names while they slog away for markets that pay them in exposure? Think of it this way: Once you’ve reached your goals, you can help your friends do the same.
Linda Formichelli has written for over 120 magazines and is the co-author of The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success. She runs the Renegade Writer blog at http://www.therenegadewriter.com and teaches e-courses for writers at http://www.writeformagazines.com.
Tapping Your Innate Creativity
by Barbara Florio Graham
The editors of AARP Magazine recently asked readers what they’d do if they weren’t afraid? The answers will appear in a future “Your Story” column they’ve been running in the magazine. This month’s creativity exercise is for you to answer that question, but then go on to describe exactly how you would handle your fear, what preparations you’d make before, for example, sailing around the world solo. Include how you would prepare emotionally, and how you’d rationalize your decision with friends and family. You may end up with an interesting short story!
Read a description of the online course, “Tapping Your Innate Creativity,” at www.SimonTeakettle.com/tapping.htm.
by Patricia Fry
How to Write Your Life Story by Ralph Fletcher
Scholastic, Inc. (Jan. 2010)
102 pages, hardcover $15.99; paperback, $5.99
Memoir-writing has become a popular endeavor with the advent of computers. While some authors write their life stories strictly for family keepsakes, others are eager to be widely read, thus they seek publication. There are complete memoirs—covering an entire lifetime—and memoirs featuring an event or a period in an author’s life. Ralph Fletcher is the author of several books, including his memoir, Marshfield Dreams; When I Was a Kid, a chapter book for young readers. He shares what he learned from that writing experience in this book. He also includes snippets from some of his own autobiographical writings and interviews with other memoirists.
Fletcher covers the basics of memoir-writing—character development, plot, setting, etc., and he offers ideas and exercises to help budding memoirists collect material for their stories. I particularly like his idea of drawing a neighborhood map and a heart map to jumpstart the memory.
He warns writers against getting too attached to their collection of stories and to be willing to let go of those that just don’t fit the theme or focus of the book. Nothing can ruin a wonderful book faster than inserting stories and vignettes that aren’t a good fit.
This author also touches on writing style and form. I enjoyed reading his writing samples and I particularly appreciated his example of bland writing and what happens when you change some of the verbs.
A question that many memoirists face and ponder is what path of time to follow. Fletcher says his friend, author Donald Murray, recommends, “Do not write chronologically. Pick the most important moments and write about them in detail.” But some experts suggest you start out writing your story year by year, as it is the easiest way to begin a project of this magnitude, and then decide later which stories to keep and which to eliminate.
This is a quick read, and it provides a good basis for anyone who is a tad insecure about how to approach the writing of a memoir. Along with some worthwhile instruction and good ideas, Fletcher even includes a list of memoirs you might want to read in order to become more familiar with the various styles. If you are thinking about writing about your life or an event in your life, pick up this book. It will help you to strike out in the right direction.
Words to Live By
by Bonnie Myhrum
Have you ever played Stink-Pink? You may have played that game and called it by a different name, but that’s the game name I learned.
A smelly color is a stink pink. An empty seat is a bare chair. A chilly body of water is a cool pool. No-cost plant = free tree. Distant vehicle = far car.
If the answer is a two-syllable word, it’s called a stinky-pinky: a colorful gentleman is a yellow fellow. Laid-back string instrument = mellow cello. Sweetheart blanket = lover cover. And of course, a muddy robin is a dirty birdie.
A three-syllable answer is a stinkity-pinkity. A noisy power source is a clattery battery. Or a chattery battery. If you stretch it a bit, overdraft protection could be overage coverage. Meeting cancellation = convention prevention. Getting a drink by using a see-saw to bring it up to your hand = beverage leverage.
Playing Stink-Pink in your head is a great way to help you think outside the box.
Read Bonnie’s blog at http://professionalsecretary.wordpress.com
How To Announce Your Book with an E-Mail Blast
by Sandra Beckwith
What’s the best way to announce your book via e-mail?
I’ve received quite a few book announcement e-mails lately, including some trying to achieve “Amazon-best-seller” status. Sadly, most of the messages were not very compelling. More often than not, they were self-congratulatory (“I’ve achieved my dream!”) or self-serving (“If you buy my book on Amazon at 11:00 tomorrow morning, my book might become a best-seller!”). Some were brief: “My new book is out. Here’s a link where you can buy it.” Others were rambling. None of them told me why I’d want to buy the book—what was in it for me, the reader.
I don’t want you to repeat the mistakes I keep seeing in my inbox, so I’m sharing seven tips that will help authors with any level of marketing experience write a book announcement e-mail message that isn’t obnoxious, annoying, offensive, or downright sad.
1. Start with the text from your back book cover. It should tell us why we will want to buy your book, right? You might need to massage it to make it more personal, since e-mail is such an informal means of communicating.
2. It’s not about you. It’s about the person you’re writing to. Tell me what your book will do for me. Will it educate, inform, entertain, enlighten? What’s in it for me? How will your book improve my world, help me improve someone else’s world, or help me forget about my world?
3. Include a link where we can purchase the book. Seriously—you’d be surprised at how many messages omit this.
4. Forget the “help me make my book an Amazon-best-seller” plea. Unless you are my total BFF, I don’t care if your book is a best-seller. All I want to know is whether I’ll like or need your book or whether I know someone else who would like it. If you feel compelled to be focused on that best-seller-for-five-minutes-on-Amazon plan (and my newsletter readers know how I feel about these campaigns), at least share information about your book, too.
5. Don’t come on too strong. You might suggest that it makes a nice gift, but don’t tell me that I “should” buy it for everybody on my holiday gift list.
6. Ask me to share your news with my networks. If I know people who will want to know about your book, I’ll help spread the word. But sometimes I need to be reminded.
7. Remember that the quality of your announcement reflects the quality of your book, so make it as high-quality as you can. I received one this week that looked like a ransom note, with multiple fonts and sizes. I know this wasn’t what the author intended. You don’t need to have a professionally designed, all-HTML’d-up message, but you do want something that reflects the quality of your book.
Send your announcement to as large a list as you can assemble, remembering that some people will be more interested in this news than others. And some are just naturally better at sharing and forwarding. And whatever you do, make this just the starting point for your book launch. There’s lots more you could—and “should”—be doing.
SPAWN member and author Sandra Beckwith helps authors learn how to be their own book publicist. Learn more and subscribe to her free Build Book Buzz e-zine at www.buildbookbuzz.com
Want to be part of the Member News? Send us your items and we’ll be glad to include your good news in the next issue. Want to be a Member Interview? It will give you a chance to plug your book, your business, yourself. Just email me and let me know you’d like to be included. The email is email@example.com
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SPAWN President Susan Daffron launched seven training courses in September. Seeing the need for real-world hands-on, how-to “indie” publisher training, Susan’s company, Logical Expressions, Inc. created SelfPubU (http://www.SelfPubU.com), which is the first online training specifically for self-publishers who want to publish a nonfiction book. Seven writing-related courses are live now:
- How to Turn Your Blog Into a Book
- How to Turn Your Book Idea Into a Marketable Book
- How to Come Up with a Marketable Title for Your Book
- How to Create an Outline for Your Nonfiction Book
- How to Create a Strategic Writing Plan and (Really!) Finish Your Book
- How to Find and Select an Editor for Your Book
- How to Get an ISBN for Your Book
Eight more courses on publishing and marketing are in development. Course descriptions are on the Web site at http://www.SelfPubU.com.
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Jacob Isom is pleased to announce The Living Testament: Trading Dollars for Change, a non-fiction, self-help book that deals with social awareness, personal growth, and community involvement, is now available at Amazon.com or through bookstores. “This is my first book and it is published through my company Iyndea Arts Group.”
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Member Hope Clark wants to remind you of the 9th annual Funds for Writers essay contest. FundsforWriters.com and Literary Database team up to co-sponsor the 9th Annual FundsforWriters Essay Contest. Theme: Writing that made a difference. Both entry fee and no entry fee categories. First place winner receives $300. Six awards given. Limit 750 words. Deadline October 31, 2010. Winners announced December 1, 2010. www.fundsforwriters.com/annualcontest.htm / www.literarydatabase.com
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Leslie Korenko just released her second book, Kelleys Island 1862-1865 – The Civil War, the Island Soldiers & the Island Queen. This is the second in a series focusing on the history of this little island in Lake Erie. The book is 400 pages long and contains letters from the soldiers who served in the war. One soldier was captured as a spy, sent to Cahaba Prison, helped organize an escape attempt and when finally released, was one of the few survivors of the Sultana explosion. www.KelleysIslandStory.com
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Jenevieve Fisher reports I’m a Kid Living with Cancer became available September 1, to coincide with National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The book explains cancer at a child’s level, covering diagnostic exams, chemotherapy, radiation, side effects, hospitalization, nutrition, and remission. Jenevieve is currently on a book tour through Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Nevada, visiting children’s oncology hospitals in each state, and donating books to their child life departments. www.isaiah11-6pubco.com
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On Sept. 26, Susan Jardine signed copies of THE CHANNEL: Stories From L.A. at the 9th
Annual West Hollywood Book Fair. The fair was open to the public with lectures, panels, writing classes, signings, and 150 book-related vendors. Susan is also redesigning her Web page with the help of a Web site designer. It will have a shopping cart, blog and tie-ins to social media. It also features a book link and book trailer. Coordinating the work by Skype is a new experience! www.greendooreditions.com
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Note: To have your announcements included in Member News, you must be a paid member of SPAWN. Please email your news to firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured Member – Sigrid Macdonald
My passion for writing is the direct result of my love of reading. When I was in second grade, I wrote to an author who impressed me and he wrote back! I was flattered and inspired to devour more books.
My academic background is in psychology and social work, but I write for advocacy organizations and newsletters in my spare time.
Most, but not all, of my writing is non-fiction. I aim to inform and sometimes persuade. I’m particularly interested in social issues. My novel D’Amour Road is about a woman who goes missing and her midlife crisis friend who goes looking for her. It’s based on the story of Louise Ellis, an acquaintance of mine who was murdered, and I dedicated the book to her. VIVA, an offshoot of the women’s channel in Canada, did a documentary on Louise on September 11, 2010; I was interviewed for this show, “Murder She Solved,” which aired nationally.
My last book is called Be Your Own Editor. I’m a manuscript evaluator and a copy editor (a fascinating job). I often feel like a combination teacher, bartender, hairdresser, and priest, because people routinely confide, confess, and reveal themselves to me through their words. Since consistency and clarity are paramount in writing, my goal was to share as many tips as possible about rewriting and editing.
Although I published BYOE myself, it has been picked up by a publisher in Texas and will be rereleased under a new name shortly. I also have an agent in Nashville for a fourth book that I am co-authoring with my sister.
SPAWN appeals to me because I love connecting with other writers. There is something bittersweet about the solitary and brave act of sitting down every day to face a blank page and create something out of nothing. I admire everyone who can do that and I’m honored to be a part of the group.
Be Your Own Editor, available on Amazon.com
Contests, Events and Opportunities
We have moved the Contests, Awards, Events, and Opportunities listings to the blog. Please use these links to get the latest information
SPAWN is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. SPAWNews advises “caveat emptor” when dealing with venues, contests or promotions unknown to you. SPAWNews was proofread by Bonnie Myhrum, Professional Secretary, LLC. 734-455-0987.