Business Writing for Beginners: 5 Types of Business Writing You Need to Master

By Sherri Ledbetter

business writingBusiness writing. When I was a fledgling writer, the term business writing was new and scary to me. BUSINESS. Business was important; business was BIG right? I wondered, what is business writing anyway?

In general, most writing for business is geared toward informing and persuading the customer. For non-profits, it may mean writing in a compelling way to obtain donations or funding.

The main goal in business writing is to get the message across in a clear, accurate and simple manner. Below you’ll find 5 types of business writing you need to master as a freelance writer in this niche.

1. Website Content: Trading Paper for Bullets

The hottest form of writing is for company websites and blogs. Web writing often includes the additional requirement of establishing a good rapport with your online audience. Web writing is more casual, with a more relaxed language and attitude.

Because computer screens are harder to read than printed paper, it’s a good idea to…

  • Break paragraphs into chunks; 3 to 4 sentences at the most.
  • If you have a series of items, use bullet points to save readers’ time.
  • Boldface important words and phrases so readers can quickly see key points.

2. Press Releases: What’s the Company Up To?

Press releases, sometimes called news releases, are written to inform the news media of a company’s new product or service, award, promotion or other recent event. The goal is to attract media attention and generate publicity.

3. Technical writing: No Jargon Please.

Technical writing requires communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as:

  • Software
  • Hardware
  • Medical procedures
  • Environmental regulations

Technical writers provide detailed, how-to instructions. Examples of technical documents include: user guides, installation guides, tutorials and E-learning modules.

4. Grant Writing: Show Me the (Free) Money.

Structure, attention to detail, concise persuasive writing, and the ability to follow guidelines are skills needed as a grant writer. Grant writing involves writing proposals or completing applications in order to apply for funds. Companies requiring grant writing skills include non-profits and educational institutions.

5. Commercial White Papers: My Stuff is Better Than Their Stuff.

Commercial white papers are marketing documents written to emphasize the benefits of a particular product, technology or method. The goal is to convince the customer that the company’s product is the best choice. Commercial white papers are often used to generate sales leads and educate customers. The three main types of commercial white papers are:

  • Business Benefits: Stating a case for a certain technology or methodology.
  • Technical: Describing in detail how a certain technology works.
  • Hybrid: Combining the two types above in a single document.

These five types of business writing are just the tip of the iceberg. How about speech writing, game writing, resume writing or book reviews? The list goes on and on. Which type of business writing do you think you would enjoy doing the most?

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]sherri ledbetter
Sherri Ledbetter is an Oklahoma freelance writer, editor and food blogger. Visit her online at Sherri Ledbetter Writes
 
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Author Solutions Begs Employees for Nice Reviews

author solutions iuniverse trafford xlibrisI’m not going to lie, when I heard that people in HR at Author Solutions were asking employees to go to Glassdoor.com and submit favorable reviews, I laughed so long and so hard that the muscles in my belly literally ached. I mean, someone get Scott Adams on the phone, because this is the stuff Dilbert is made of.

Because they’re only now begging employees to talk nice about them, I have concluded three things:

  1. HR wasn’t at all concerned with the scathing reviews  until I called attention to them here and here,
  2. Things are getting really tense around Author Solutions, what with that sale looming and all, and…
  3. I’m a badass in the tenacity department.

Now, several people have asked me if it’s against Glassdoor.com’s Terms of Service for HR to be “asking” current employees to submit favorable reviews. It’s a really, really good question. Sadly, the answer appears to be no.

You’d think that coerced reviews would be frowned upon by the website, considering it needs to be taken seriously by employees and job seekers to maintain any sort of authority in its niche. Here’s the thing: anonymous reviews are awesome because they protect employees from vindictive bosses, but anonymous reviews are also bad because Kevin Weiss himself could sign up for an account (or two or seven) and leave a glowing review of the company if he wanted. How does Glassdoor police something like that and still provide anonymity to users?

So far, HR’s suggestion that employees leave favorable reviews hasn’t led to any systemic review tampering on the site anyway. Even the writer of recent four-star review “It’s a good job, but not a career” spends more time discussing the cons and frustrations of working for the company than talking about how great it is. And while that same employee approves of Kevin Weiss, he or she still only awards two stars to Author Solutions under “Culture & Values.” To me, that says a great deal.

Sources reveal to me that morale inside the company, specifically at Indiana offices, is terribly low anyway. Those that fear their jobs might be outsourced to the Philippines probably don’t see much point in posting happy reviews just to appease the execs. And anyway, who could be happy dealing with angry customers, shoddy office equipment, and an apathetic executive management team all day, every day?

But reviews do matter to job seekers, so I just want to take a second to address Bloomington and Indy employees directly:

I know you work with some good-hearted, knowledgeable professionals, and I’m not asking you to leave bad reviews or even leave reviews at all, but if you do? Don’t sugarcoat it because you fear HR or fear your boss. Just tell the truth—whether its good, bad or anticlimactic.

And cheer up! Because you and the rest of the internet get to watch this hilarious video of Kevin Weiss (CEO), Joe Steinbach (General Manager, Cebu) and Bruce Bunner (VP, Global Sales & Marketing) line dancing on the beach. (At least until someone starts giggling and it gets yanked from YouTube. If that happens, don’t worry. I have another present for you guys.)


Because at Author Solutions you can either earn a living wage
or have a beach party…but you can’t have both.

Author Solutions Tax Credits Followed By Outsourcing to Philippines

If you’re an iUniverse customer, you should know that a few people on the inside care.  You should also know you’re not the only ones that parent company Author Solutions has taken advantage of. I’ve received word from sources inside Author Solutions that there’s more you and the tax paying citizens of Indiana should be pissed off about…

Take the Money…

One of my biggest concerns with the company as a resident of Indiana is that shortly after Gov. Mitch Daniels toured the Bloomington Offices and praised Author Solutions for “insourcing” jobs from China, Author Solutions started laying off employees and sending jobs to the Philippines. This disgusts me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Author Solutions was awarded an Economic Development Tax Credit for creating those Indiana jobs in the first place. Here’s an excerpt from an undated press release on the AuthorHouse website:

“The Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered Author Solutions up to $575,000 in performance-based tax credits and up to $100,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans. The Monroe County Commissioners and the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation have supported property tax abatement to assist the company with new job creation in Monroe County.

The company, which employs 230 associates in Bloomington and 50 in Indianapolis, is currently identifying candidates for creative, customer service and technology positions.”

But things changed. In April 2011, Terry Lee Simpson wrote this letter. In it she complains, “It has come to my attention that Author Solutions, a local self-publishing company owned by Bertram Capital, has recently laid-off more than fifty employees since the beginning of this year.” She urges officials to look into the problem saying that as an Indiana and Monroe County taxpayer, she feels “extremely ripped-off.”

It seems pretty clear that Author Solutions was playing the tax loophole game with the residents of Indiana. Whether or not the company conformed to the letter of the law, Indiana residents got the short end of the stick. An employee recalls:

“I don’t know the exact numbers but I can tell you that two years ago … there were not enough desks or chairs for everyone. Parking was horrible, and people would park along the curbs to get a space. They were moving filing cabinets to hallways to make room for more desks. The Indianapolis office was the same way. In fact, some people had to start working from home because the landlord said we were using too many parking spaces.”

…And Run

author solutions quoteContrast that to today, after numerous layoffs and a transitioning of the workforce to the Philippines, and this is the picture of Author Solutions one employees sees: “Now in Bloomington there is a whole section of about 25 desks that are empty. There are 3 or 4 vacant offices. In Indy, almost one entire half of the office is vacant and is being disassembled.”

An anonymous employee tells me:

“More and more jobs keep ending up in the Philippines… There are now 1200 employees there. 1200!!! That means over 2/3 of services, sales, customer service and marketing are being done out of the Philippines! And the rest of the US staff? Most of them don’t work on the core imprints. There are a handful of people who work on iUniverse and AuthorHouse in the US. The rest of the staff — they only work on the partnerships (Abbott Press, Westbow, Balboa, Inspiring Voices, Crossbooks, Dellarte). Why? Because those partners are smarter than to allow untrained Filipinos to work on their books! There is not a single Trafford or Xlibris employee in the US!”

And the picture in the Philippines isn’t pretty either. The employee likens it to a sweatshop and says the people there are “packed like sardines for pennies a day. No training, no publishing expertise, just shove those books through the assembly line and sell, sell, sell!”

Customers See No Benefits From Cheap Labor

I’m assured that in addition to the number of authors who I’ve interviewed here already, there are still hundreds more who have been ripped off by the company.

The refund process was even changed to take greater advantage of customers. So the longer a customer waits to ask for a refund, the less they get. This works to the company’s advantage because most of the authors wait to ask for their money back, always thinking the company deserves a second chance to make things right.

Refunds work like this: if you have just purchased a package you can get a 100% refund, but as soon as you submit your manuscript it drops to 75%. After you start design, it drops to 50% and so on  until eventually you actually have to PAY Author Solutions $150 or $750 to get a worthless PDF of the file you already paid them to create (Schedule A, Section 9 of the publishing contract).

If labor costs less, they don’t have to pay state and county taxes, and no one’s getting a refund where is all the money going? No doubt it’s being used to make the company appear more profitable to buyers. Rumor has it that an announcement on Bertram Capital’s sale of Author Solutions is just around the corner.

It’s Time for Authors & Hoosiers to Act

As a sale becomes more likely, one employee has a message for iUniverse and other Author Solutions customers: “I can completely sympathize with authors… I wish they would all speak up.” Another employee says, “If you want to get revenge, better alert Publisher’s Weekly about everything you’ve dug up, and get organized with the Attorney General NOW.”

Get in Touch Now:

Fran Marburgh
Office of the Indiana Attorney General
Consumer Protection Invoice
302 West Washington Street, 5th Floor
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204

http://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/
317.232.6201

Indiana residents should vocalize their objections to local and state representatives as well as let Author Solutions execs know their abuse of tax code provisions for employers who are actually committed to job growth in Indiana is unacceptable.

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]Indiana citizens, authors and their supporters should voice their compaints. To reach those involved on Twitter: @INATTYGENERAL @keithogorek @authorsolutions @mymanmitch and @iuniversebooks.[/box]

5 Tips for Overcoming Your Freelance Writing Insecurities

By Marie Lapointe
overcoming freelance writing insecuritiesYou’re in the midst of or planning a major switch and want to become a freelance writer but you’re riddled with fear. You’re not the only one. Career change. That’s a scary title Stephen King never thought of!

It’s a frightening move and transitions are never easy. In order to deal with these monsters of self-destruction let’s pinpoint their source:

1: Is my writing good enough?

Tip: Write daily.

The only way to be good at something – anything – is to go out there and do it. A lot. Not a day went by where Tiger Woods didn’t hit at least 1,000 balls in order to become Tiger Woods.

Start a blog, join online writing communities, and comment on other blogs. Slowly comments will start trickling in. Blogging will give you plenty of practice and amazing feedback. It will also give you a sense of what people want to read. Internet users are fickle; some posts will draw in hundreds of hits and comments where others will leave you listening to the crickets. As you’re posting frequency increases – your stats will give you valuable information.

2: I’m not as good as they are.

Tip: Don’t compare yourself.

This is especially true when you’re left with feelings of inferiority. Use others’ articles to bring you up, not down and be inspired by them. What kind of writing draws you in? What do you like about it? Without replicating, allow it to influence your own voice and style.

3: How will I ever pay my bills?

Tip: Plan ahead – before quitting your day job, do what you can to clear your debts and reduce your living expenses.

Most people live above their means. Don’t be one of them. If you’re like me that means you don’t have rich parents or a willing spouse earning a 6-digit income to support your dream. Start by making a list of your biggest expenses and set a budget with clear strategies on how to reduce-reduce-reduce. Move to a smaller apartment, sell the new car and buy a cheaper used model or better yet take the bus!

4: Who will hire me?

Tip: Start small – do volunteer work.

Join an organization that matters to you like the Humane Society or the YMCA. Offer your services and submit articles. Chances are they’re so overwhelmed with their workload they’ll welcome you with open arms. This will provide published work content for your portfolio.

Any career specialist will tell you the key to finding a job is to have a job. Employers would rather snag an employee from the competition than hire somebody who’s unemployed.

5: I’m not even getting paid, how can I call myself a freelance writer?

Tip: Say to yourself daily, “I am a writer.”

Don’t wait for your first paycheck (it will come). The more you repeat those four words, the more you will believe it and ultimately believe in yourself.

 

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]Marie Lapointe
Marie Lapointe is an ex-race car mechanic and now lives and travels on a boat with her best friend Leo. This quirky writer dreams of running away with the circus and has been writing about her vida loca since 2010 on my cyber house rules.
 
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3 Reasons Freelance Writers Need to Understand SEO

By Eric Storch

SEO writingIf you own a website, understanding search engine optimization (SEO) is an important factor in driving traffic to your site. As a freelance writer, it’s also important for you to understand it and be able to use it well. SEO is what search engines look for when scanning the internet in order to provide a list of the most relevant websites to the searcher. Having good SEO for your site will place it higher on a search engine results page (SERP).

Small companies may not have an SEO specialist

When a company doesn’t have an SEO team or just doesn’t have the money to spend on a specialist, they are going to look to the writer to provide SEO for their site. You will need to know all you can about SEO in order to make yourself more marketable. Companies will hire freelance writers with SEO experience over those who don’t. There is a wealth of information on SEO to be found on the internet and a simple search will get you started on what you need to know.

SEO is connected to content

Since the majority of SEO is content related, it can be a simple thing for the writer to provide SEO in an article. In most cases, the company is looking for certain keywords to be placed within an article and some companies may even require a certain percentage of words in the article to be keywords. Companies and SEO experts both agree though, that content should always come before SEO. SEO may bring a reader to your site once, but good content keeps them coming back.

Being ignorant of the rules of SEO is no excuse

Search engines don’t like scraping or plagiarism and when it’s detected, it can hurt a website’s showing on a SERP. It should go without saying, but original content is preferred, both by companies and search engines.

Does a freelance writer have to understand SEO? The short answer is no. You will be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least have a grasp of the basics, though. Companies will love you if you can do your own SEO work, and the knowledge will give you a better chance of getting repeat business.

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]Eric Storch
Eric Storch is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire where he runs Studio30 Plus, a social media website for writers. His fiction is featured on his blog, Sinistral Scribblings, including his web serial, “The Linden Tree.”
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5 Tips for Writing Book Reviews as a Freelance Writer

By Elisabeth Kauffman

book

If you have a love for reading and enjoy expressing your opinions about the books you read, writing book reviews can be a great way to build your portfolio as a freelance writer. Here are 5 tips if you’re considering giving book reviews a try.

Try small local publications first.

You’re going to need a place to publish your reviews. Your local newspaper may be willing to print your review for you. If they don’t have a book review section, start one! Not every place you turn to will be ready to pay you for book reviews, but even without pay you’ll be adding by-lines to your portfolio, and will build professional relationships in the process. When you’ve exhausted those avenues then try Writer’s Market and Literary Marketplace for places to publish your reviews.

Timeliness is important.

Make sure you stay current with the literary trends. Review books that have just been published or that are being released soon. In order for your review to have the greatest possible impact, make sure to publish it within 2 weeks to 2 months of a book’s release. If you wait too long, you’ll risk not having enough reader interest to make your review relevant. You can often write to the publisher to request an advance copy of a book if you let them know you are planning to review it.

Be thorough.

Read the entire book, don’t just skim it. This should go without saying, but some people like to cut corners. Don’t be that person. If you feel the need to skim, ask yourself why? There could be a reason you’re not enjoying the process.

Play to your strengths.

Romance, mystery, dark fantasy—pick a genre you enjoy and become an expert. There’s no reason you should limit yourself, but if you read all of Orson Scott Card’s Ender books as a child and love them dearly, there’s a chance you may enjoy sci-fi. Why not spend time reading and writing about the things you love? That said, be prepared not to love every book you review.

Honesty is the best policy.

If you loved the book, say so. If you didn’t love it, again, say so. Every writer wants a positive review, but if you read a book and you have a negative reaction, be forthright about it.  Your readers will appreciate your honest opinion in the long run. If you write a negative review back up your opinion with solid examples in the text. You’ll build credibility this way.

Review writing can be an enjoyable experience, or an overwhelming one. Set your boundaries and expectations clearly. Remember, your time is valuable. When people begin regularly soliciting your reviews, it may be time to consider raising your rates!

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]

Elisabeth Kauffman is a freelance writer and editor in Connecticut. She blogs about writing and Young Adult fiction at Fairbetty’s World. When her nose is not in a book she likes hiking with her awesome dog, Tag.
 
 
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Photo Credit: pear83

Author Solutions Negligent, Wastes Thousands in Author's Money

iuniverse author solutionsHere we go again. Another iUniverse/Author Solutions FAIL.

On Friday, I got an email from Mark Thornton, one of the iUniverse authors I interviewed back in May. Mark is an assistant producer for a Louisville-based AM radio station, and in that capacity he discovered something quite unsettling about iUniverse and its parent company, Author Solutions, Inc (ASI).

Mark writes:

I’m an Assitant Producer at WGTK 970 AM, and I book authors to be on one of our talk shows.

There’s a publication that every radio station in America uses: RTIR Radio-TV Interview Guide. Anyway, iUniverse is charging their authors to place ads in RTIR and listing the Author Solutions phone number 812-339-6000 ext. 5222 and the contact person Kelly Rynard, but that extension is not vaild and there is no Kelly Rynard at Author Soultions or iUniverse.* So the writers are paying iUniverse to promote their book to Radio and TV producers, but when somone calls to book an interview they hit a dead end.

I used the Internet to track down the author we wanted to interview, and she was shocked to find out that her ad was useless.

Mark gave me the phone number for RTIR. Armed with that and the power of Google, I started digging. What I found was pretty repulsive, but sadly not surprising.

Authors Can Buy Ads Directly From RTIR

Author Solutions’ imprints iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris, Publish in the USA** and Author House all encourage authors to purchase RTIR ads through their website. However, as is the case with their Trifecta Book Review Services, these vanity presses fleece authors by tacking thousands of dollars on to the original supplier’s price tag.

There is nothing preventing authors from buying ads directly through RTIR, except perhaps the misleading copy on Author Solutions websites.

  • ASI companies don’t spell out what RTIR stands for, presumably to prevent authors from discovering they can buy ads without the middleman for thousands less through Radio-TV Interview Report.
  • ASI companies brag that the RTIR packages include “professionally written content (with your final approval),” making it sound like ASI’s people provide this service when actually RTIR includes copywriting in their base price.

iUniverse’s Mark-Up on Ads is Unholy

author solutions iuniverse RTIR

Sources: RTIR Ad Rates, Deadlines and Other Information and Author Solutions’ company websites.

Just how the math works depends on several factors: Does ASI purchase the 1/2-page or full-page ad from RTIR? Does the customer buy 1/4-page or 1/2-page ad from ASI? And does the customer go for a 1-, 3- or 6-issue package? I ran all the scenarios, and estimate that ASI takes in anywhere from $2,000 to $18,000. (Those numbers assume that ASI doesn’t get a price break from RTIR. The gap could actually be bigger.)

Here’s a look at what iUniverse, Trafford, Author House and Xlibris imprints pocket when authors pay for these advertising services:

iuniverse profits

Missed Publicity Opportunities for Authors

Like Mark mentioned, there’s more than just price jacking going on here. The information printed in the ads points radio and TV producers to an invalid extension and an employee that is no longer with the company. Mark kept digging until he found the author he was looking for, but how many others don’t bother? How many authors should have been contacted for interviews and weren’t? And how many authors paid thousands of dollars for nothing?

The way I see it, Author Solutions has failed epicly this time. First, change the ad copy, idiots. Second, reroute or reassign extensions when an employee leaves. Third, stop being such an awful employer. It’s like those DishTV commercials:

When you run a scam business, your employees hate working for you. When your employees hate working for you they leave in droves. When they leave in droves, current employees don’t know where to route calls for former employees.

So my question for Kevin Weiss and Keith Ogorek is this: Are you guys too stupid to anticipate that this would be a problem, or do you just prefer collecting thousands of dollars from your customers without having to provide any actual services? My bet’s on the latter. Because then your employees don’t have to work for your authors, they just have to make more sales calls for you.

For more information, read the Complete Index of Author Solutions and iUniverse Complaints.


*A search on LinkedIn revealed that there was a Kelly Rynard who worked at Author Soultions from June 2010 – November 2011.
**The imprints Author Solutions owns seems to grow exponentially every time I search the web. Publish in the USA is the latest one I’ve stumbled across. I refuse to link to the site, but you really should see it. It’s like the Time Cube guy made it for them.