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From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
Because of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday I’m setting up the newsletter early. By the time you read this issue, the holiday festivities will be over. (Big thanks…again…to Sandy, Patricia and Bonnie for getting the newsletter to me early.)
For those of us who do freelance work, client work often slows down at this time of year. The winter months can be a great opportunity to catch up on your own writing projects and spend more time enjoying the holidays, friends and family. Here, I know I’m working to finish up the last of my client projects, so I can go back to work on my novel again.
Thank you for reading the SPAWN newsletter every month. It’s great to be a part of this community of creative people. I hope you enjoy your holiday season, wherever you happen to be and whatever you happen to celebrate!
Often when I e-mail a website or e-zine to ask if they use freelancers, I get an enthusiastic reply—and a little mention that they do not pay. Reasons vary from “It’s not in the budget at this time” to “Our writers are passionate about the subject and welcome the opportunity to reach our readers.” Another popular response is “You’ll get exposure!”
For one e-zine, I pointed out that I both use a pen name and ghost write, and that exposure is not my top priority. My priority is my dog, Ozzie, who says it’s in his contract to have one new toy each week. Therefore, I am unable to work for free.
I’ve since moved on to a new attitude. Money’s not the only benefit, so my new criteria is: is the work worth the benefit?
What’s your policy?
– Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, email@example.com
Join SPAWN at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
Date: April 12-13, 2014.
Place: University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California.
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (LATFB) is billed as the nation’s largest public literary festival, attracting around 140,000 people last year.
It wasn’t always this big, and some of us here at SPAWN remember its beginnings. The LATFB launched in 1996, the same year that SPAWN did. SPAWN has had a presence at this now-gigantic event almost every year since.
The LATFB will be held at the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles again this year on April 12 and 13, 2014. SPAWN has secured two booths to accommodate our members. The fee for selling your books from our booth is $203 per day. (Three titles per member, only.)
We are also offering to those who cannot attend the LATFB the opportunity to display a copy of their book(s) in the SPAWN booth for $20 each title. For an additional $37, members can list their books in the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services, which will serve as the brochure for all participants. Everyone visiting the SPAWN booth will walk away with one of our beautiful full-color print catalogs. The absolute deadline for having your book included in the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services is February 7, 2014. (Yes, it’s a short deadline this year. So don’t procrastinate.)
Visit http://www.spawn.org/latfb.htm to read about all of your options and to sign up.
Visit http://www.spawn.org/catalogofbooks.htm to view the online version of the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services.
The LATFB opportunity is open to members only. If your SPAWN membership has expired or you haven’t joined yet, this is a good time to take care of business. If you want a major bookselling opportunity and incredible exposure for your book, sign up to join us in the SPAWN booth—first come, first served. Learn more about the LATFB here: http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks.
Join SPAWN here: http://www.spawn.org
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
The December issue of the SPAWN Market Update boasts over 50 leads, opportunities, resources, competitions, and markets for authors, writers, screenwriters, artists, and photographers. Learn about NEW publishers seeking quality manuscripts. Discover high-paying markets for writers. Tap into some great resources to help you promote your book. And finally, sell your art or land a job as an artist/photographer. Give yourself the gift of success this month by studying this issue of the SPAWN Market Update. Visit the archives and locate even more treasures you can use. You will:
- Earn more money freelancing.
- Land a publisher for your great manuscript.
- Sell more books.
The SPAWN Market Update is for members only.
Join SPAWN by going to www.spawn.org and click on Join/Renew.
Ask the Book Doctor:
Ask the Book Doctor: About Single Quotation Marks, Thoughts, Farther/Further, Editors’ Preferences, and Different From/Than
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: Sam’s right hand was at ‘twelve o’clock’ on the steering wheel. Should there be quotation marks on the twelve o’clock? If so, should they be single or double?
A: The sample sentence does not need any quotation marks. In addition, for books published in America, single quotation marks should appear only within double quotation marks, for example, to show someone quoting someone else: John declared, “I heard her say, ‘Help me,’ but I thought she was kidding.”
Q: In my writer’s group, one person has written a couple of stories in third person and puts the lead character’s thoughts in italics. I don’t have a problem with that; however, she changes from third person to first person with the thoughts. The shift feels strange to me. The other members of the group are fine with it. What do you think?
A: Direct thoughts should indeed be in first person, present tense. Indirect thoughts, however, normally appear in third person, past tense. Here’s a direct thought: I can’t tell him I love him; what am I going to do? Here’s an indirect thought: She couldn’t tell him she loved him; what was she going to do? I recommend italicizing direct thoughts, to distinguish them from dialogue spoken aloud, but indirect thoughts should be in Roman (standard) type.
Q: Should I use farther or further in the following sentence setting a philosophical ideal? We never get any f*rther by finding fault.
A: “Further” is the correct word choice in the sample sentence: We never get any further by finding fault. “Farther” refers to measurable distances: We walked farther into the woods.
Q: Can you tell me if manuscript editors need to like books from all genres? Is that something that major publishers look for in potential editors?
A: I cannot speak for all publishers, especially because as an independent editor, I work for independent (smaller) publishers, rather than major ones. I will say this, though: most of the publishers prefer that I work on the genres with which I am familiar. They don’t ask me to be an expert in every genre. Occasionally a publisher will ask me to work on a type of book that is outside my expertise, and I have the flexibility to accept or turn down those projects. As a result, I have expanded my capabilities by taking projects that stretch my skills into new areas. For example, I had never read or edited a paranormal romance, but when one publisher asked me to edit a romance novel that included werewolves and shape shifters, I found myself fascinated with the genre. When I finished, the representative from the publisher told me I did an excellent job. Eventually she assigned me an entire series of books in that genre.
Q: On TV and in newspaper and magazine articles lately, I’ve noticed some people use a comparative description of something as “different than.” I always thought the word “than” was quantitative, as in “more than,” while a contrasting comparison would be “different from.” The incorrect usage has become so pervasive that I fear it will become the accepted way. Do you have any thoughts on it?
A: I sure do have thoughts on the subject, but they aren’t my opinion; they are fact. “Different from” is usually the correct usage, rather than “different than,” although it is not a hard-and-fast rule; it depends on usage. For examples, “The restaurant spaghetti sauce is different from what your mother used to serve,” but “The twins are more different than alike.”
Q: Radio pirates have two for-fun radio stations that everyone knows do not exist. When the pirates use the made-up call letters in dialogue, should they be together, as in KTRU and BULL, or separated, as in K-T-R-U and B-U-L-L? How about when they are referenced in the narrative? My feeling is there should be consistency, but I’m not sure.
A: As you suspect, consistency throughout a manuscript is important. I could not find a specific answer in The Chicago Manual of Style, which means the usage is left up to the author, as long as it is consistent. That said, I used to write commercials for a radio station, and it never used hyphens in its name. In all its internal and external forms and printed advertisements, it was always WHYZ. I suggest you do the same. Use KTRU and BULL, in both dialogue and narrative.
To read more questions and answers, order the book Ask the Book Doctor: How to Beat the Competition and Sell Your Writing at http://zebraeditor.com/book_ask_the_book_doctor.shtml. 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.zebraeditor.com.
by Patricia Fry
Editor-Proof Your Writing, 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave
by Don McNair
Quill Driver Books, 2013 Paperback, 215 pages, $16.95 ISBN 978-1-61035-178-2
Don McNair has used and honed his talents and skills as a magazine editor, article writer, novelist, and public-relations and marketing manager. He has seen many articles and book manuscripts over the years with many of the same editorial mistakes. Narrowing them down to twenty-one, he created this book for the many authors who are being rejected time and time again. According to McNair, the reason your material is being rejected might be discovered within one or more of these twenty-one editorial mistakes.
Some of his suggestions might surprise you; they include “take words out,” “write in the active voice,” and “avoid redundancies and clichés.” His examples are abundant. He lists 180 redundancies, 250 foggy phrases you should avoid, over 200 clichés you shouldn’t use, and 50 dialog sources you can use in place of “he said.”
If you write fiction, you really ought to pick up this book. As McNair says, “If you’re not getting published, you may suffer from foggy writing—writing that’s full of unnecessary, misused, and overused words.” He says, “Foggy writing drives editors crazy and it’s the number-one reason most manuscripts are rejected on first glance.”
What’s in it for Me?
by Sandra Murphy
Years ago, I wrote articles for a national organization’s newsletter—just the latest on what our local chapter was doing. When the newsletter editor’s life changed, I took the job, volunteer of course. It was like jumping out of an airplane—no parachute, into the ocean—and being told on the way down: oh yeah, watch out for sharks.
I learned Microsoft Publisher by trial and error—the first issue had photos that were slightly (noticeably) skewed. I got five pages of hand written letters and learned to cut and edit to the heart of the story. I learned that no matter what, a scanned newspaper article that was folded to fit into an envelope and mailed to the office and then to me won’t show enough detail to be recognizable. I edited, wrote, scanned and resized photos, did the layout, got it to the printer, labeled and stamped 700-800 copies to mail—and did it three or four times a year.
The president asked for original articles, rather than the personal kind we’d been getting. I researched and wrote those and found graphics to use as illustrations.
I suggested a choice between a PDF newsletter and a print copy. I was glad I used a P.O. Box address so the townspeople carrying flaming torches couldn’t find me. PDF!? No, no, they must have a print copy to hold in their hands.
A couple of months later, in the middle of setting up the next newsletter, I got an e-mail (not even a phone call?) to say the new president had decided to go with a “professional writer” instead. Never mind that I was also writing for magazines at the time, although a beginner.
(The “professional writer” put together four PDF-only issues—two the first year, one the next year and one issue three years ago.)
I had a No-Work-for-Free rule for a long time after that, but have relented. Now it’s the What’s-in-it-for-Me? criteria that makes the decision. Byline only? Not worth it. Exposure? Nope. Getting the word out there about …? No again. Because I’m passionate about…? I’m more passionate about keeping my cats well supplied with food—otherwise, I’m sure they’ll wait until I’m asleep and launch an assault. It wouldn’t be pretty.
Book reviews? Free books, my genre: totally worth it. Edit for a friend? You bet, and here’s mine for you to look over. Work for lower pay? If the topic is something I know, can do without a lot of research, and the pay is immediate, I’m on it.
Do I regret the volunteer newsletter job? No, because I learned so much. Although on-the-job training, as in “here’s the software, good luck with that,” was stressful to say the least, it was a fabulous learning experience. I suspect that can be said only because so much time has passed.
Basically, don’t sell yourself cheap. If you write for free or for less than the going rate, have a solid reason for doing it. Remember: when you’ve learned what you need to know, move on. There’s another writer waiting for the opportunity.
Sandra Murphy lives with four hungry cats and a much more understanding dog. She writes/edits the SPAWNews, magazine articles about all kinds of pets, wacky sports, going green, and more. Find her short fiction stories at Untreed Reads.com
Why You Should Write for Free and Like It
by Linda Formichelli
For years I’ve been preaching to new writers: know what you’re worth! Demand to be paid fairly! Don’t write for free!
And now here I am, telling you it’s good to write for free.
Am I crazy?
No. I changed because the industry has changed. When I was starting out in 1997, there were no content mills and bidding sites offering writers $15 per 750 words, or blogs paying $20 for an extensive post.
So when I said “Don’t write for free,” I meant, “You should be snagging $500 for a feature article.” Not “Don’t write for free…at least get a few pennies for your efforts.”
Also, in 1997, there was a lot less competition and even a newbie writer had a chance to break into big markets and land impressive clients. Today, thanks to the Internet, the competition is stiff and writers with more samples have a better chance of landing a gig. Another reason many aspiring writers flock to the el-cheapo clients. “What an easy way to get samples!” they crow.
The bad news is, better-paying writing clients don’t take samples from content mills, bidding sites, or crappy-looking blogs seriously. There’s no barrier to entry (pretty much anyone can write for one of them), writers need to crank out words too fast to do their best work, and even a great writer’s work is surrounded by mediocre (at best) writing from other cheap scribes.
So I’m changing my stance on the whole issue:
I believe it’s better to write for free temporarily, on your own terms, than to write for pennies for a content mill or a bidding-site client who doesn’t value your skills–and won’t make a good sample anyway.
There, I said it. Now let’s explore the whys and hows.
Why Free Is Awesome
I’ve become a big fan of writing for nothing. Here’s why.
1. It feels good. As you’ll see below, I recommend writing for free for causes you care about. For example, several years ago I was a volunteer writer for the SPCA’s newsletter. That’s gotta feel way better than writing gratis for some company that hopes to earn lots of profit from your free work.
2. You get to choose your clients. Landing free gigs is much easier than pitching low-paying clients. After all, the first is, “Hey, I’d love to write a post for you for free to help build my portfolio” (who can say no to that?), and the second is, “You say I’m competing against hundreds of writers for this low-paying assignment? Let me bend over further for you, my liege.”
When it comes to getting those first samples or building your reputation in a new field, free is more of a sure thing.
3. You can make demands. When you’re writing for free, you have more control over what you’ll do and what you’ll get in return for your efforts. Of course, your client will have standards and specs you’ll need to adhere to, but you have more leeway to ask for a byline, negotiate the deadline, or request PDFs of your work.
4. Your writing will kick butt. When you’re writing for a cause or a business you love, on a reasonable timeline, you get the chance to show off your creativity, writing skills, and ability to generate ideas. Those are the kinds of samples you want in your portfolio.
5. You only need to do it a few times. With the content mills, bidding sites, and blogs that pay yucko rates, it’s easy to fall into the trap of churning out assignment after assignment, because the only way to make good money is to write in volume.
Soon, you’ve forgotten that you started writing for cheap only to get a few samples, and are caught in the vicious cycle of mill work. And the longer you do it, the harder it is to climb out.
When you choose to write for free to get clips, you’re able to set limits on how much you’ll do. For example, you may decide you want to become a pet blogger, so you’ll write for free for two animal-related nonprofits and your local independent pet supply store and then use those samples to go after well-paying pet gigs.
When You Should Write for Free
Here are the three situations where you may want to offer your writing services gratis.
1. You have no samples at all. You’re a rank newbie and have zero writing credits to your name. In this case, it makes sense to do a few free gigs to build your portfolio.
2. You’re looking to break into a new field. Say you’re a health writer, but you’d like to write more about entrepreneurship. You have plenty of samples showing you can write fluently about gluten intolerance and the dangers of crossfit, but when it comes to business writing, you’re starting from scratch. This is a good time to write for free.
3. You want to switch things up. Maybe you’ve written dozens of articles or brochures or case studies, but you’ve never written a blog post—and in your heart you really, really want to become a paid blogger.
Blogging is an entirely different skill, and you’ll need to prove you have what it takes. Do a little writing gratis and soon you’ll have blogging samples to show to your prospects.
Whom to Bestow Your Free Writing On
The last thing you want to do is offer the gift of your writing to some greedy conglomerate that’s going to turn around and make thousands off it—a business that can actually afford to pay writers. That would make you feel all angry and sad at the same time.
Instead, try approaching:
1. Nonprofits. Chances are, there’s a cause you believe in that has a nonprofit organization attached to it. For example, check out charities at Charity Navigator [www.charitynavigator.com], especially their list of Top 10’s–like 10 Highly Rated Charities Relying on Private Contributions, 10 Highly-Rated Charities with Low-Paid CEOs, and 10 Charities with the Most Consecutive 4-Star Ratings.
2. Local small businesses you frequent and love. That little shop downtown that sells handmade soaps, your local co-op grocery store, and the café you visit three days per week that serves farm-to-table cuisine—these can make great prospects for your free writing.
3. Friends and relatives who are getting their businesses off the ground. This is a super way to gain writing samples while helping your loved ones. And, they’re the most likely of all the types of clients to give you free rein on your work!
What You Get from All This
You’re not writing for free for your health, right? You want something out of the deal. Of course, you’ll get samples. But also be sure to request:
1. Credit. A byline on an article or blog post, or credit on other types of written materials, will give your sample more credence.
2. Testimonials. Let your clients know that in exchange for your free writing, you expect them to write a testimonial you can run on your website and use in your marketing materials.
3. Recommendations. Ask clients if they can recommend you to any of their colleagues—preferably ones who pay for writers.
Okay, now you have two or three samples. It’s time to stop writing for free. Use those samples to land paying gigs. After all, now you can say, “I’ve written attention-grabbing, effective posts for X, Y, and Z.” That’s what you were after, and now you have it.
Offering your writing skills for free—if you choose the right clients and do a great job—can lead to writing work that pays so well, you’re not even tempted to bother with the content mills, bidding sites, and junky blogs.
Linda Formichelli runs the Renegade Writer blog at http://www.therenegadewriter.com. Her latest e-book is Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step into a Career You Love http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOSGLVA. Linda has written for more than 150 magazines since 1997, from Pizza Today to Redbook.
Dallas Woodburn, Youth Director for SPAWN, recently won second place in the American Fiction Prize. Her short story Hearts Like Lemons in Fists of Dew will be published in American Fiction Volume 13: The Best Unpublished Short Stories by American Writers, forthcoming from New Rivers Press in October 2014. firstname.lastname@example.org
Patricia Fry is now producing her own FREE e-newsletter, Publishing/Marketing News and Views. See the first two issues here: http://www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog/?page_id=3081 Subscribe here: http://www.patriciafry.com.
Tammy Ditmore’s article How to Make Your Author Love You, was published in the September-October newsletter of the The Freelancer, the bi-monthly newsletter of the Editorial Freelancers Association (http://www.the-efa.org/). Tammy was asked to write this piece for The Freelancer after her article, How to Make Your Editor Love You, appeared in the August issue of the SPAWN newsletter. A version of that article is scheduled to appear in the November-December issue of The Freelancer. eDitmore Editorial Services email@example.com www.editmore.com
I’m thankful that I’m still working and coming up with creative ideas. My inspiration is my cat, Simon Teakettle, who is always urging me to play, twists into adorable poses that have me reaching for the camera, and continues to perfect new tricks. That means I’m learning how to use a video camera so we can post a second video to his YouTube channel. This year, instead of a normal calendar, Terzo is featured on a perpetual calendar, as well as in greeting cards. The idea came to me when Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa asked him to pose for their Christmas card last year. Helping him with his blog is both fun and challenging. It’s at: http://SimonTeakettle.com/blogterzo.htm. Barbara Florio Graham
Rex Owen’s debut historical thriller, Murphy’s Troubles, is launching November 25 on Amazon. www.rexowens.us
The December issue Harper’s Magazine has an ad for Stephan Morsk’s He.
There is no feeling like that of watching happiness exude out of every pore of a ninety-one-year-old friend. Joy Rich is the niece of Caldecott-Award-winning illustrators Berta and Elmer Hader. It has been Joy’s dream to share the beautiful art and writings of her aunt and uncle with a new generation. Joy and I, with John and Judy Waller, have created Berta and Elmer Hader: A Lifetime of Art. Our release party was held in October. The book was printed in full color, showcasing 285 images, 23 photographs, and 12,000 words. We’ve been bedazzled with comments. Am I thankful this year? You bet. Joy is smiling at me from across the table and Berta and Elmer are smiling at me from above. Karen Tolley, Joyful Productions, Berta and Elmer Hader: A Lifetime of Art ISBN 978-0-9891087-0-6
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