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From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
I hope you all are having a good summer so far! It’s been busy for me; I’m happy to report that last month I took Executive Director, Patricia Fry’s advice and got out and met people who were interested in my books. I was asked to speak at a pet blogger’s conference called BlogPaws that was held in Salt Lake City. Since I write pet-related books, it’s a perfect venue.
My husband James Byrd and I spoke about how bloggers can develop products from their content and then market the products online. I even did a book signing! Of course the most fun aspect of the conference for me was seeing all the pets. The conference organizers encouraged attendees to bring their critters, so our Fuzzy White Dogs went with us. It was the first major road trip for the canine crew and they did great on their Big Adventure. (I wrote a blog post called 25 Things I Learned on the Road to BlogPaws, if you’re curious and/or like to look at pictures of cute dogs.)
No matter what your writing niche, there are probably events related to it. Seek out those events; that’s where your readers are!
Two o’clock in the afternoon and ninety degrees; two o’clock in the morning and still in the eighties. Not the time of year I want to have a job that takes me away from the air conditioning vents! With that in mind, I’m rereading Peter Bowerman’s The Well Fed Writer for ideas about commercial writing aka copy writing. His article below is enough to capture most any writer’s interest. Patricia Fry talks about platform—what is it and why do you need to have one?
The Market Update is jammed with new information this month. I’m heading for the four directories with paying freelance work. Paying markets—a phrase we don’t hear nearly often enough anymore.
It’s July, time for fireworks and barbeque, parties at the pool and I hope a vacation rather than a staycation. It’s also time to pitch ideas to editors for holiday issues of magazines. Magazines work three months or more ahead. While lying by the pool, think wintery thoughts and then pitch your ideas to new markets. Just don’t sunburn your shoulders while your mind is thinking snow!
— Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, email@example.com
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
The July SPAWN Market Update has all of the elements you’ll need in order to move your career forward. We highlight four directories with paying freelance writing work, plus a huge directory of publishers. We feature 17 publishers you have probably never heard of—10 for fiction and 7 for nonfiction. We introduce a brand new social community for authors who are seeking agents. And there are two opportunities for our more enterprising authors and illustrators. Authors with books to promote, be prepared to deposit more money in the bank this summer! We offer 7 tips and techniques for using your personality to sell more books. And why is this important? Because, in most situations, personality sells more books than any other book promotion activity. Members get all of this, plus a dose of the usual (and unusual) news bytes and trends. If you haven’t been reading the monthly SPAWN Market Update, this is a good time to take advantage of this valuable aspect of your SPAWN membership. If you are not a member, go to http://www.spawn.org NOW and click on “Join/Renew.” It’s $65/year.
You could double or triple your membership fee through earnings or savings from information, ideas and/or resources in just one issue of the SPAWN Market Update. Just imagine what our extensive archives could do for you.
If you want to make more money writing articles/stories for magazines, sell more books, locate the right agent/publisher for your book project or land a job as an illustrator or photographer, for example, this incredible newsletter could help you to realize your dream.
Successful SPAWN Networking Experience
Eight SPAWN members and some of their spouses joined together in real time last month to participate in a Book Tea in Ojai, CA. SPAWN reserved two tables at the tea for $500 and the proceeds went to the Ojai Library. What fun we had meeting other SPAWNers and learning from each other as well as the guest speakers. I’ve never seen so much biz card-swapping and note-taking. Some of us began the morning as strangers and ended it as friends.
Ask the Book Doctor:
About Hyphenation, Writing Fiction, and Following Genres
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: Which is correct, self-publish (with the hyphen) or self publish (without the hyphen)?
A: If writing a book, you should follow Chicago style, and in section 7.85, page 382 of CMOS Sixteenth Edition, the hyphenation guide for compounds and words formed with prefixes says both noun and adjective forms are hyphenated, except where self is followed by a suffix or preceded by un. It gives the following examples: self-restraint, self-realization, self-conscious, the behavior is self-destructive, selfless, and unselfconscious.
If all that information is confusing, the simple answer is this: in books, anyway, “self-published” should be hyphenated, always.
Q: I have an interest in writing fiction. The unknown has always terrified me, but I am determined to overcome this fear. The desire to be an author is stronger, therefore pushing me not to give up. Any advice for someone like me?
A: We fear only those things with which we’re not familiar. Once you learn more about writing fiction, your fear will change to anticipation and excitement. For that reason, I suggest you do what all writers of fiction have done, and that’s learn the craft. Read books on how to write fiction. Take classes. Join organizations for writers. Attend conferences and workshops. Subscribe to magazines and e-zines for writers (I hope you will go to my website and sign up for my free e-zine, The Writers Network News). Study the fiction you enjoy reading and decide what makes it fun for you to read.
Next practice, practice, practice. Use contests, prompts, and assignments to tempt yourself to write short pieces and then longer pieces. Be willing to work on a piece until it is the very best you can make it. For that reason, after you write (not while you are writing), revise, revise, revise.
Next get feedback from other writers. Join a critique circle.
Never stop learning about writing; it’s an endless subject.
Go ahead. Dive into writing. It is nothing like diving into an abyss. Other writers, books, magazines, and e-zines will be all around to help you, and you will find yourself in the company of many other writers, the most interesting people in the world.
Q: I am in the process of editing my novel. I gave it to some people to edit, and one person came back to me thinking that the genre was not the genre I had intended the book to be. He thought it was a young adult novel, when I meant for the story to be an adult romance/suspense. I was surprised when he thought it was young adult, because of some of the sexual scenes. How can I create the story to be more adult, like those of Nora Roberts, so people won’t confuse the genre?
A: Each genre has specific attributes that set it apart, such as a mystery usually involves a crime and the solution to it. Other factors, however, determine the intended audience. Those factors include such things as word count, complexity of language, and whether the subject matter and language are age appropriate.
If only one person thought the manuscript was a young adult novel, you have the opinion of only one person. Don’t make sweeping changes based on the opinion of one reader. Get feedback from others familiar with your intended age level and genre. Perhaps you should even pay for an evaluation from a professional book doctor.
If you want to write something that reaches the same audience as Nora Roberts, be sure to read plenty of Nora Roberts novels and examine how she develops her stories and characters. Analyze her techniques and word choices. Pick apart her work until you understand what she does. After studying her techniques for developing characters and revealing a story, apply the same techniques to your own plots, but in your own writing style.
Bobbie Christmas, book editor, 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.zebracommunications.com.
by Patricia Fry
Rik Feeney’s experience as the author of several books on the sport and business of gymnastics, prompted him to write a book for other authors. Writing Books for Fun, Fame and Fortune is his gift to authors who are seeking an easy path to publishing.
He professes that almost anyone can write a nonfiction book in forty days using his easy-to-follow guide. As Feeney says, “I believe we are all experts in something.” He asks readers to consider, “What are your hobbies, what are you passionate about, what unique life experience have you had that others can learn from?” In other words, write about what you know and are interested in.
In this book, Feeney covers the basics of writing a nonfiction book and includes storybook templates as well as templates for writing your book summary and your introduction. He also covers alternative ways to write a book, through columns and blogs and public speaking, for example. In other words, create a book from your live presentations or from your blog posts.
Chapter 6 covers editing. Now there’s a valuable chapter. I especially like his suggestion to use your five senses when self-editing. He says, “Bring your story alive by going through it at least five times, once for each sense. On the first pass, look for ways to communicate the sense of sight and imagery by adding descriptions of color, lightness and darkness, speed of motion, or anything the reader would ‘see’ in your writing. Add specific elements to the piece for each of the other senses until you create an experience for your reader that literally enables them to feel they are in the book experiencing it firsthand.”
Have you ever been stumped by a book title? Feeney devotes a whole chapter to this issue. In fact he says that a book title can be your key to success. And he strongly suggests that you keep your ego out of the equation when you are choosing a book title. Here’s this author’s theory, “Headlines hook them. Content keeps them. Value sells them on a product.”
If you are looking for a streamlined book to help you write your book while offering encouragement along the way, take a look at Writing Books for Fun, Fame and Fortune.
Why Commercial Writing? When You’re Looking for Good Money, Lots of Freedom and Time for a Life
by Peter Bowerman
The PR firm had hired me to work on a 12-page brochure for their client, a local telecomm giant. Source material was nine one-hour interviews which I then transformed into the same number of one-page profiles plus an intro piece. The fee? $6,000. Hours? Probably about 50—55, spread out over 2-3 weeks.
The brochure was an “audition” piece for the PR firm. If it went well, they’d get the contract to produce a six-page monthly newsletter for the next year. Well…it went well. The client really liked my work but wasn’t quite sure what the PR firm was doing to earn their hefty add-on fee. So, once the project was done, she called up the PR folks and said, “We’ve decided to produce this in-house. But we want your writer.”
What could they do? So, for the next year, I was the writer for this six-pager, the main internal (for their employees) communications piece for this division. After paying the PR firm a 10 percent “finder’s fee” (only fair), my monthly income from this single account was $4,000. Time invested in writing the piece—30-35 hours.
Common scenarios? Not everyday occurrences, but hardly rare once you’re established. This is the field of commercial writing a.k.a. “copywriting” or marketing writing. If you’ve got writing in your blood, you’ve likely dreamed of writing full-time but realize how difficult it is to thrive as a novelist or poet. But, in the commercial field, it’s all about becoming a well-respected and well-compensated writer. And with hourly rates ranging from $50-$125+, you can write for a good living and still have time and energy left over to pursue your writing passions.
Prior to entering the field, I had no paid writing experience or professional writing background and I was entering a high-stakes writing field. Yet, by leveraging my sales and marketing background to prop up a pretty sorry starter portfolio, I was paying all the bills in less than four months. You may have the writing background but no marketing experience.
How Good An Opportunity?
In the last decade, two huge trends have sculpted the American landscape: downsizing and outsourcing. The creative and communications departments of today’s companies are running leaner and meaner, but the work still needs to get done. Add to that the countless opportunities with smaller companies that don’t have budgets for either those departments or high-priced agencies, but nonetheless, still need to create a wide variety of marketing materials. Put it all together and it spells rich opportunities for freelancers.
A manager with a huge high-tech firm in Atlanta says, “Most people would assume that a company of our size would do the bulk of our writing in-house, and they’d be wrong. My writing needs these days are pretty steady, and I pay anywhere from $65-$85/hour, depending on experience.”
Huge Volume of Work
The sheer volume and variety of work outsourced not only by industry giants like UPS, the Coca-Cola Company, BellSouth, IBM and MCI but companies of all sizes is formidable. Marketing brochures, ad copy, newsletters, video scripts, direct mail campaigns, speeches, web copy and much much more (and FYI, you just do the writing; graphic designers handle laying it all out).
Corporations outsource for good solid business reasons: They pay for what they need, only when they need it. They get fresh “outsider” perspectives. No salaries, vacations or benefits to pay (as a freelancer, I’m more than willing to take care of those things myself). And given the wide variety of writing projects, a stable of talented freelancers, each with different strengths, ensures the best writer for the job.
And there’s far more work out there than meets the eye. As consumers, we mostly see what is known as “B2C” (business-to-consumer): newspaper and magazine ads, direct mail solicitations for credit cards, home equity lines, cellular service, etc., newsletters from our frequent flyer program or utilities and the like. What we generally don’t see is “B2B” (business-to-business): all the materials created by a business to market to other businesses.
Finally, there’s the huge arena of internal communications: all materials created by a business only for their own people: marketing manuals, brochures, CD-ROMS, sales sheets, newsletters, web sites, speeches, etc. Think of how many materials in all these categories are produced within your own university. Someone has to write them. Sometimes it’s done in-house, oftentimes not.
Study Your Mail
Start taking the time to study your mail (okay, yes, the junk mail)—the B2C stuff you get every day—the ads, direct mail and newsletters. Take a gander at the rack brochures in your bank. Pick up a brochure or two from a car dealership. Take a closer look at the Web sites you visit. Notice the ones that are well-written and user-friendly and the ones that aren’t. Ask yourself if you have the skills to write any of this. I’m guessing you do. Every single one of these projects is written by someone and many by freelancers.
Could You Get Used To This?
Recently, I had a nicely productive three weeks of business. A non-technical eight-page brochure for a medical software firm: $2,500. A four-page financial services newsletter (recurring quarterly): $1,800. A rework of a rack brochure for the same client: $600. The first phase of a brochure project for our state’s EOE department: $900. An 800-word article for a huge global staffing giant: $800. Two sales sheets explaining a company’s new Web site: $850. And, finally, the same company had me bid on two big brochures ($3,000-$3,500 each), both to be done within the next six weeks.
A Reality Check
Again, stretches like these aren’t every week occurrences but they don’t have to be to make a good living (and they become more common the more established you become). No question, you’ll have your share of $300-$400 weeks. In the beginning, with prospecting and marketing, you’ll be working a lot harder for a lot less. This is NOT a get-rich quick proposition. Any field that pays $60-$80+ an hour, is flexible, home based and can potentially earn you $75K or more annually in the space of a few short years, by definition, is going to require an investment of time to get established. Few professions meet those criteria.
How Good Do You Have To Be?
You do have to be a goodwriter. No one’s going to pay you $60-$80/hour if you’re lousy (at least not more than once…). But the good news is that many fields—i.e. financial services, healthcare, high-tech, real estate and others—don’t expect brilliant prose. They want clear, concise, readable copy.
That said, the better-paid scribes in this field do more than just craft pretty sentences. They’re professionals who take the time to learn about a company—its products, customers and market niche—and what it does better than the competition. He or she then uses this information to help the company craft marketing materials that speak effectively to their target audience. And you do that by asking enough questions to determine what’s important to that audience—the things that they care about, which are benefits. As opposed to features, which are about the product or service and the company selling it. When writing persuasive copy, always begin with benefits, follow with features.
It’s about determining what things that company does better than any other and highlighting that in the copy you write. We’re not talking rocket science here. Yet, interestingly enough, ideas like these are not universally understood or practiced by a goodly chunk of commercial writers out there. Master them and you’ll set yourself apart.
Who Will Hire You?
The first broad category of prospective clients are end-users (EUs): various divisions and departments of corporations—ranging in size from 10 to 100,000 employees—not-for-profits, universities, government agencies and others. The second is middlemen (MMs): graphic design firms, marketing companies, PR firms, advertising agencies, etc. MMs are hired by EUs to execute various projects and since most don’t staff full-time writing help (larger ad agencies and PR firms will but even they outsource a lot of writing), they’ll need to find writing talent to get the job done.
Approach EUs through their marketing communications department (also known as “MarCom”), marketing or sales. At MMs, contact the Creative, Assistant Creative, or and Marketing Directors, Production Manager or Account Executive. For both EUs and MMs, make the first contact by phone or through networking functions (business associations, Chamber of Commerce, etc.). And speaking of networking, tap your different circles to land business contacts. Don’t feel uncomfortable doing this—it’s the way it’s done. Referrals are the best way to get in the door. And since your likelihood of being hired rises dramatically once you meet a client face-to-face, always push for a meeting.
What About A Portfolio?
If you don’t have any “corporate-type” samples (i.e. the kinds of work corporate clients might hire you to do: marketing brochures, newsletters, ad copy, direct mail, web content, etc.), you’ll need to gather some of those.
Start with any projects from past/present jobs: manuals, press releases, newsletters, web content, speeches, articles, etc. Do pro bono work for a charity or start-up firm. Team up with a graphic designer, also starting out, and either approach those same type entities together or “create” a portfolio with pieces for real or fictitious companies. You might choose to streamline your marketing (and boost your credibility) by using an online portfolio to showcase your work (check out www.writeinc.biz , my commercial site).
How Much Can You Make?
Rates for corporate freelancers runs from $50-$125+/hour. I started out at $50 and now am billing at $100. In the commercial arena, $50/hour will faze no one except you and in most larger markets, anything lower will have clients wondering how good you really are. For those starting out, once you’ve built up a decent starter portfolio (or “book”), making $30-40K just isn’t that difficult. Get reasonably aggressive about getting the word out and you should start getting into the $50-75K range. Build a good reputation, start getting a lot of referrals and who knows? A healthy number of writers in this business gross $100K annually.
The Prosaic Truth
But doesn’t commercial writing entail becoming, in essence, a corporate shill, compromising one’s morals, filthy lucre and all that? Contrary to some widely disseminated notions…no. My current clients and projects: a mortgage company (brochures, direct mail pieces, sales letters and web content). A graphic design firm (brochure). A residential security firm (brochures and web content). A sales training organization (web content). Not exactly soul-selling stuff.
In a nutshell, commercial writers help companies highlight their strong suits and put their best foot forward in marketing materials. It’s about talking in language that will resonate with a reader and move him or her to take action. It’s selling an idea. It’s not journalism. It’s not literary masterpieces. It’s not supposed to be objective.
The Commercial Downside
But, isn’t commercial writing b-o-r-i-n-g mind-numbing stuff? I don’t romanticize the field. You won’t get all your creative fulfillment here. That said, I’ve worked on plenty of projects over the years that have been fun, challenging, interesting, and personally satisfying. And sure, plenty of others were just jobs. But all of them paid well—and provided some nice lifestyle benefits.
And if you’re coming from a journalism, English or MFA Creative Writing background, you’re almost certain to have the requisite writing skills for the commercial arena, where mid-to-high five figure earnings (and higher) are well within reach. They just need to be channeled and refined for a different arena.
Whatever your goals or circumstances, the commercial field offers a lucrative and growing opportunity for those with even moderate talent and drive. I’ll leave you with this. Bob Bly, author of Secrets of a Freelance Writer, (and 50+ other titles) and a 25-year veteran freelance commercial writer, says of this field: “I know of no other arena of writing so lucrative, yet so easy to get started in.”
Peter Bowerman is the author of The Well-Fed Writer (2000), an award-winning Book-of-the-Month Club selection, and its companion volume, The Well-Fed Writer: Back for Seconds (October 2004). A commercial freelancer and columnist in Atlanta, Georgia since 1993, his client list includes Coca-Cola, BellSouth, IBM, UPS, Cingular Wireless, American Express, Mercedes-Benz, Junior Achievement and others. He has published over 250 columns and articles and leads seminars on writing. Find out more at www.wellfedwriter.com.
Do Freelance Writers Need a Platform?
You keep hearing the term “platform,” and you’re aware that this is something authors need. But what if you write for magazines, e-zines and websites—do you need a platform, too? Actually, yes.
In fact, if you’ve had some of your articles published, you’ve begun to establish a platform. Now keep adding to it.
What is a platform, anyway? A platform for a freelance writer might consist of credits, connections and experiences related to the type of work he/she does. Your platform will be designed to impress the editors or employers you hope to work for. In fact, it will resemble a resume. You might be surprised to learn that some of the building blocks of your platform are already be in place. For example:
- List your prior writing experience—as editor of the church bulletin, contributor to two association newsletters within your area of interest and publisher of your own newsletter, for example.
- List individuals and companies you have done writing work for—a brochure for the local water district, sales letters for a couple of small businesses and a query letter for an author of a memoir, perhaps. List the magazines/e-zines to which you’ve contributed.
- Note your affiliations. This might be president of a local writers group and membership in three national journalist organizations.
- Reveal any schooling you’ve had related to writing: creative writing courses, writers conferences, MFA degree in creative writing, etc.?
And here’s the important part of the platform issue—building on it. How can you add to your platform?
- Write and submit numerous articles/stories to the types of magazines you want to write for. Start racking up credits. If you have to, start small—with low-or no-paying publications in your area of interest or genre.
- Solicit writing work at companies you’re familiar with and/or websites that could use editing. Offer a free sample by rewriting a form letter for them or the “about” page at their website.
- Begin and maintain an active blog and/or newsletter in your area of interest.
- Become active in organizations related to your topic.
- Hone your speaking skills and go out and speak on this subject to civic organization groups as well as at appropriate trade shows and conferences.
- Establish connections with the right people and organizations. And call on them for references or introductions.
- Keep a close eye on your industry and try to get in on the ground floor as a columnist at appropriate magazines/websites.
If you hope to break into a certain field of writing or a higher level of publication, you had better take the steps necessary to establish a platform that will get the attention of the editors and company heads you hope to impress.
Patricia Fry is the executive director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) www.spawn.org. She has been writing for publication for nearly 40 years and is the author of 35 books including, Publish Your Book and Promote Your Book, both available at Amazon.com and most other online and downtown bookstores. They are also on Kindle and other e-readers. Follow her informative daily blog at www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog. Download her FREE e-book, “50 Reasons Why You Should Write That Book” www.patriciafry.com
Tammy Ditmore’s freelance business, eDitmore Editorial Services, was recently featured in the “Saturday Business Chat” on Liz Broomfield’s LibroEditing website (http://libroediting.com/ ). Every week, Liz, an editor based in Birmingham, England, offers up virtual chats with the owner of a small or freelance business. The interview with Tammy can be found at http://libroediting.com/2012/06/02/tammy-ditmore/
Two of the 34 first-person stories in Prose to Go: Tales from a Private List, have just won humor awards for contributor Joanne Carnegie. Managing Editor Barbara Florio Graham is among other contributors whose writing has won numerous awards over the years. Other contributors have won writing awards from the International Association of Business Communicators, Writer’s Digest, and the Travel Media Association of Canada, to name a few. The book is entering its second year, and is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, in many countries and in most e-book formats. The publisher’s website is: www.bridgeross.com and details about the book are also on Bobbi’s website: www.SimonTeakettle.com
BookExpo America (BEA) is the premier industry show for publishing. The Authors’ Assistant is excited to offer live streaming for BEA on our website www.authorsassistant.com. If you are interested in any aspect of the book or publishing industry please visit our website. BEA is front and center on our site. If you have any questions about BEA or publishing, please let us know. Mindy Reed/Danielle Hartman, The Authors’ Assistant, P. O. Box 82516. Austin, TX 78708, 512-907-1821, www.authorsassistant.com
Sandra Murphy sold a humor article titled For Sale on eBay to Moira Allen’s Writing World newsletter. www.writing-world.com and click on newsletter to see archived issues.
Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D. reports that Mommy, Daddy, I Had a Bad Dream! was named 2012 Best Book of the Year in Kids Storybooks by Creative Child Magazine. It received the Bronze Award from the Independent Publisher (IPPY) in the National Category of Children’s Picture Books, the Creative Child Magazine Award: 2012 Book of the Year, was a 2012 International Book Awards: Award-Winning Finalist in the Children’s Picture Book: Hardcover Fiction Category, and received the Mom’s Choice Awards Highest Honor: Gold Seal of Excellence.
Wendy Dager’s humorous mystery novel I Murdered the Spelling Bee, the second in the series of Daphne Lee-Lee Misadventures, was just released by Zumaya Enigma. It’s available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle, and on Barnes and Noble in paperback and for Nook. Read more about the series and see Wendy’s bio by visiting her website, www.wendydager.com
Jesus or Yeshua: Exploring the Jewish Roots of Christianity by Louis Lapides has been published by ScriptureSolutions. Presently the booklet is for Kindle only. Lapides recounts his experiences as a Jewish person who has accepted Christ after reading the New Testament and observing that Jesus and His first followers were Jewish. Louis expected his attendance at a Christian church would reflect the Hebraic background of the Christian faith. After getting over the initial shock, Lapides spent several years exploring the Jewish roots of Christianity especially in its terminology and practices, and shares his findings.
Contests, Events and Opportunities
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