FREE Web Conference for Authors: IndieReCon

Hat tip to Kim Bookless for this info.

IndiereconI’m all about putting information in the hands of the people that need it, so I wanted to draw your attention to a free conference for indie writers. If you’re interested in getting program details and updates on the conference—which runs February 12 – 14, 2013—click through and add yourself to the mailing list. (It’s just below the big “REGISTER HERE!” button in the sidebar.)

It looks like they’ll have something for everyone. The schedule promises coverage of the following topics:

  • Getting started
  • Creating quality products
  • Writing big sellers
  • Marketing
  • Going forward

Here’s a brief description from IndieReCon.org:

INDIE ReCon is a FREE, ONLINE conference inspired by WriteOnCon. It is designed to help any writer or author who is curious about the ins and outs of Indie publishing. You’ll find everything from the pros and cons of Indie publishing, essential aspects in creating a high-quality book, successful online marketing, and expanding into international markets.

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5 Things Publishers Care about More than Good Writing

[box border=”full”]Brooke is giving away 2 copies of What’s Your Book? this week. Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway at the end of this post by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Friday, October 26, 2012. Open to residents of US & Canada.[/box]

by Brooke Warner

Many aspiring authors are naïve about what it takes to get published in today’s publishing climate. I know, this is a harsh way to start a post, but over the course of my 13 years in book publishing, I’ve found this to be true.

Recently, a reader told me my new book, What’s Your Book?, was sobering when it came to the part about getting published. And that’s because I want writers to be armed with the right information so that they have a shot at getting traditionally published if that’s what they want.

Being savvy about getting published, for better or for worse, means becoming a bit dispassionate. The relationship you’ll eventually have with your publisher is not one in which they do (or want to do) a whole lot of hand-holding. Publishers (understandably) want to work with authors who bring to the table not just a good manuscript, but marketing and publicity ideas and initiative. You don’t have to be a marketing expert, by any means, but you do need to understand how much it matters.

So, in the spirit of dispassion, here are 5 things publishers care about more than good writing.

  1. Your platform. I have an entire chapter of my book dedicated to platform because it’s central to getting a publishing deal. It means having a great website complete with a blog and being active on social media—with a decent number of followers (at least 500 for Facebook and 1,000 for Twitter to make an impact). Your platform is about increasing your visibility, and because, as an author, you’re up against a lot of competition in the marketplace, you must grow your visibility, and you must do it before you start shopping your book to agents or publishers.
  2. Your connections. If you don’t have a database, start one now. The number of people you’re connected to or have the capacity to reach should be a highlight of your book proposal if you’re writing nonfiction, or your pitch letter if you’re writing fiction. Your connections are more than your social media following. These are people you can sell to, who will be the shoo-in buyers of your book when the time comes. If you know the only shoo-ins you have are you’re friends and family, you need to start tending to your database.
  3. Your can-do attitude. You can showcase this in your pitch, in your proposal, and in the simple existence of a strong online presence. You need to come to the table with enthusiasm, but be realistic. Hype-y language will not get you very far with agents and editors who know the world of books. A can-do attitude is expressed on the page by writing about your willingness to try new things, to reach out to everyone you know, and to think outside the box. For a good example of this, see the sample marketing ideas proposed in the Marketing/Publicity section of “Create a Winning Nonfiction Book Proposal.
  4. Your professionalism. Do a lot of heavy-lifting before you start shopping your book. Get an assessment. Work with a professional. Spend money to be edited, multiple times. Many authors will work with a developmental editor, a copyeditor, and a proofreader before they shop their work to an agent. Does this cost money? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.
  5. Your ability to be collaborative. Again, you can showcase this in writing by talking about how collaborative you are in your proposal or your pitch, and the energy behind what you say will go a long way. Think of it this way: no one wants to work with someone who’s going to be a hassle. Prepare yourself to be a good partner on the journey that is getting your book published. You need to look out for your interests, of course, but the notion that some writers still harbor, that the publisher is somehow getting an asset when they sign a new author, is off-base. A book is a liability until it sells well (at least until it earns out its advance)—and all parties, but most especially the author, have to work their butts off to make it an asset.

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Jen Molander Photography

Brooke Warner is founder of Warner Coaching Inc. and publisher of She Writes Press. Brooke’s expertise is in traditional and new publishing, and she is an equal advocate for publishing with a traditional house and self-publishing. What’s Your Book? is her first book, and she’s honored to be publishing on She Writes Press.
 
 
Find Brooke online:
www.warnercoaching.comwww.shewritespress.comFacebookTwitterPinterest

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5 Unavoidable Creative Writing Quirks

By Megan Harris

creative writing quirksWriters are notoriously peculiar people. We have different ways of telling the same story and a variety of characters to help us. We might write for clients that appreciate our vision and appetite for the written word. Here are some quirks writers have a hard time escaping. Perhaps you’ll recognize yourself in these quirks!

Talking to Yourself

Writers might not admit it, but creative writing often involves speaking out loud. I find that I do this not only in my fiction writing, but writing for my freelance clients as well.

People around me might think writers are crazy when we do this, especially when working in public around strangers, but it helps in many ways. Not only can you find better ways to write, but you can change awkward wording you didn’t realize was there from the beginning. Try it! It might be a quirk you come to love.

Writing Out of Order

It’s very rare that I can start writing from beginning to end. Usually, I begin writing from the middle and fill in the gaps as I go. I’m sure other writers do the same thing…right?

Writing out of order makes sense to me and to other writers as well. I don’t think in a linear fashion when it comes to writing articles, so working from the middle outwards makes perfect sense. Whatever I happen to be writing works better if I wait to write the beginning. Plus, getting too attached to the beginning of a story makes it difficult to move forward. Beginning with the body paragraphs can help you develop your introduction and entice writers to read the rest of your story or article.

Continuous Revisions

Maybe it’s just a quirk specific to me as a writer, but I find myself constantly changing dialogue or reworking scenes when I write. Same with blog posts; I write, revise, and repeat. It’s a hard habit to break, but the editor in me likes to correct as I go. Same with my freelance articles for clients; what I begin with is not often the same as the end result, but that is a good thing.

Scrapping the Story

Have you ever written a story, only to completely scrap it? That was me last year during NaNoWriMo. I wrote about 20,000 words before I realized my story was going nowhere, so I abandoned the idea. It’s certainly not the first time I’ve done it! Writers are usually critical of their writing, and even the good ones can judge their work harshly.

It might be a weird quirk, but sometimes writers just have to realize when a story is going nowhere.

Commiserating with Other Writers

Writers everywhere often find themselves in conversation with other writers about their ideas. This might include talking about the progress with our current manuscripts and articles, and the scenes we’re trying to write. It’s a quirk that goes back well before social media, but it’s one that writers are likely to keep going for a long time.

Writers and their controlled chaos may not always make sense, but it helps the creative process and leads to better writing. So what if we’re quirky? We embrace it!

[box border=”full”]megan harrisMegan Harris is a freelance copywriter, editor and social media manager. She writes about the freelance life at MeganWrites.com and likes to motivate others with her story of how she became an independent writer. When she’s not writing, she researches her family tree in her spare time and is earning her Masters in Public Administration at University of Illinois-Springfield. You can also connect with Megan on Twitter or her Facebook page.[/box]

Writing a Book? Set Goals and Stay Motivated.

WriterBy Stacy Ennis

Once writers have a book idea that takes hold, the urge to write can be an unstoppable force. Many go into the book-writing process with a high amount of energy, ready to write until their fingers fall off. They envision their stories, ideas, or business concepts flowing gracefully and concisely onto the computer screen. Many make such claims as, “I don’t ever get writer’s block!” or “I don’t have trouble sitting down and writing every day.”

When I hear statements like these, I usually offer a knowing smile. And behind that smile is the knowledge of two things: 1) Most writers will hit a point when they just can’t write another word, and 2) Many aspiring authors never finish their book projects…and if they do, it’ll take them longer than they ever expected.

So, as you set out to write your best-selling cookbook or the next chart-topping young adult vampire novel, do some planning. A proactive approach to writing the first draft of your book will help you maintain focus and motivation as you accomplish a pretty impressive task. The following tips will help you overcome some of the major hurdles authors face:

#1: Choose a consistent time and space.

Figure out where you write best. Is it at a busy coffee shop? At the kitchen table, with a cup of tea and soft music playing? At the office, once your work is finished and colleagues have gone home? Wherever it is, make sure you have consistent access to that space.

Then, sit down with your calendar and determine how much time per week you have to devote to writing your book. Choose specific times each week that will be given exclusively to writing. If you keep a planner, schedule yourself out to write. Treat that time the same you would any other important appointment.

#2: Outline, outline, outline.

Now that you have your designated writing space and time set aside each week, it’s time to outline your book. Even if it’s just a loose outline, and even if you’re a fiction writer who likes to go with the literary flow, an outline can be a make-or-break thing. Proper planning can help save hours of rewriting, since the structure and main concepts (or story elements) are already established. You know all of those brilliant thoughts that strike you from time to time? How about those pages of notes you’ve been saving to eventually use when you write your book? An outline helps you place your notes, ideas, and research into the right places, as well as helps you visualize where you are in the book-writing process. It also helps you see that the end is in sight when you’re halfway through your draft.

#3: Set goals.

Goal setting isn’t just for losing weight and financial planning; it can be used while writing the first draft of your book, too. Do some research into the word count of typical books in your genre. Then, determine an approximate number of words you can write in the amount of time you have available per week (which you determined in step #1). For example, you might be writing a nonfiction business book and find that your specific niche tends to be in the 30,000-word range. Let’s say you have four hours available per week to write, split between two days, and you can write about 2,000 words in that amount of time, or 1,000 words per session (since you have two two-hour sessions per week). With our example above, it would take 15 weeks, or less than four months, to write a 30,000-word book. Not bad, right?

Next, look at your outline and assign loose word count totals for each chapter. The easiest way to do this is to divide evenly. In our example, let’s say there are eight chapters at 3,750 words each. So, it would take about two weeks to write the first draft of one chapter. Determining per-chapter word counts will help you gauge the approximate amount of time you should be spending on each chapter.

Finally, use these goals as you work on your book. Each writing day, set out to complete 1,000 words, or whatever goal you’ve set. Try to not spend more than the budgeted time on a chapter, unless you really need to. You can always go back later and expand, rework, or revise the chapter. The key is getting the first draft done. You can unleash your perfectionism in later drafts.

Setting small goals helps you accomplish little victories along the way—which can be very important in maintaining motivation to achieve the bigger goal: writing a book.

#4 Tell your friends and family.

Writing is a solo affair, but it’s rarely successful if the author works in absolute isolation. Accountability is one of the best motivators for success. Ask your friends and family to support you as you work on this big goal. Let them know that you need their help to stay motivated and focused, whether it’s verbal encouragement or helping with life tasks. The kids can do some extra chores for a little while, right? And your mom would be happy to help pick Foo Foo up from doggie day care once a week, now wouldn’t she? Just don’t forget to thank them in the acknowledgements section of your book once it’s published.

#5 Take it one bite at a time.

A colleague once told me that writing a book is like eating an elephant—you have to take it one bite at a time. Eat too much, too fast, and you’ll most likely find yourself getting overwhelmed. When you’re working on chapter 1, let it be the only thing in your writing world. Let yourself focus fully on developing that chapter, without getting distracted by the larger project ahead of you. On a smaller scale, focus on the daily writing goal. If you’re aiming for 1,000 words in two hours, then focus on finishing that goal.

#6 Sacrifice: get your butt in the chair.

You weren’t expecting that one, were you? Well, here’s the truth: Writing a book takes sacrifice. It won’t write itself…even if you ask really, really nicely. This sometimes means making personal sacrifices. Dinner with friends or monthly wine tasting may have to be put on hold until you accomplish your goal. But you can do anything for a few months, right? Stick with your goals, get your butt in that chair, and write your book.

#7 Remember: It’s not done.

Many writers make the mistake of believing that their first drafts have to be perfect. This tendency toward perfectionism can be crippling as new authors try to get the first drafts of their books finished. But the truth is that all books go through several drafts—heck, mine took six drafts over seven months! What you are writing now is just the beginning of what your book will eventually become. During later stages, your editor will help you take your book from good to great and transform your first-draft prose into the well-written book you envisioned when you set out on your book-writing endeavor. So don’t get so hung up on writing the perfect book that you never get done writing it.

Thomas Edison must have been talking about book writing when he said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” By setting goals and taking steps to stay motivated, you will be able to put in the work required to finish your book—and achieve a pretty awesome lifetime accomplishment.

[box border=”full”]Stacy EnnisStacy Ennis is a book and magazine editor, book coach, and speaker. Her book, The Editor’s Eye: A Practical Guide to Transforming Your Book from Good to Great, will be released in September 2012. Visit http://www.nightowlspress.com/e-book-store/the-editors-eye/ for more information.[/box]

5 Places to Look for Freelance Writing Opportunities

By Katie Sluiter

So you’ve decided you want your writing to earn you some money. But where do you start?  How do you find something that will pay? A good rule of thumb is to start with what you already read and branch out from there.

dollar sign

Local Publications

Poke around your local paper’s website for the name of the submission editor.  Years ago I submitted a piece on celebrity baby names to my local paper and was unexpectedly hired as a freelancer for their print paper.  But local publications aren’t limited to newspapers.  There are probably many local publications—newletters, magazines, blogs, etc.—that you don’t know about yet because you haven’t looked.  You may have the edge over another writer, because you are familiar with the local beat.

Online Magazines

These are generally bigger and get many submissions, but they are worth a shot. Babble, Curvy Girl Guide, AllParenting.com, etc. are some that usually offer open submissions.  Places like BlogHer takes submissions for syndication (which pays) and will often highlight work (which sends your site pageviews) Somewhere on the site you want to work with will be a “careers” or “submissions” link/button.  There you will find guidelines and pay information.  Watch social media as well, Babble, for instance, will tweet when they are looking for new writers for a specific section or column on their site.

Print Magazines

Some Large scale print magazines will run essay contests and hold open submissions for articles.  Watch for reputable, well-advertised contests, not the hidden ones in the backs of the magazines.   Real Simple holds an annual essay contest that is legitimate, for instance, and gets the writer published in the magazine and a cash prize.  Trade and scholarly journals will also have a section in the front of the magazine for calls for articles.  The English Journal, for instance, has a space devoted to what themes and subjects it is looking for to publish in future editions.

The Google

It probably sounds obvious, but searching Google for writing opportunities will bring up various communities/groups you can join.  Some come with a membership fee, some are private and you need to apply, but some are open to anyone.  For example, Linkedin has a group you can apply to be in that posts paid writing opportunities and lists companies looking for freelance writers.

Company Websites

Corporations like Best Buy have programs where they hire bloggers to do their product reviews FOR them.  You join their network and receive the latest products and gadgets to use and review.  The catch is that you need to have your own blog to work with some companies as they do not have a review site.

It is undoubtedly overwhelming for the beginning freelancer to know where to look, but remember: The opportunities are out there.  You just have to go find them.

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]katie sluiter
Katie Sluiter
is a freelance writer and teacher who should probably be grading papers or changing diapers but is more likely blogging, tweeting, or just overusing social media in general. She chronicles all this on her blog, Sluiter Nation.

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Image credit: ba1969

Tips for Writing Polls and Surveys

If you need to know what your clients really want, sometimes you just have to ask. Online polls and surveys are quick ways to collect market research for your business. However, getting useful feedback requires asking the right questions and providing a quick, convenient method for survey participants to submit data.

The odds of your online poll being scientific are about zero. But that doesn’t mean the answers aren’t very useful. Polls and surveys can help with a range of small business problems and questions including:

  • Evaluating customer satisfaction
  • Determining the need for your products or services
  • Determining the need to expand to additional locations
  • Analyzing interest in an existing or new product

Online Survey and Poll Question Types

writing online surveysShort Answer: Using a blank text box, allow respondents to provide their own answers to your survey question. Coupled with a well-written question, this is a great method for getting feedback without guiding answers.

Multi-Point Rating: Responses for this question style typically run from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree” with an additional opt-out response like, “N/A” or “Does Not Apply.”

Numeric Rating: Numeric ratings are most commonly set from 1-5 and are another way of determining how well your respondents like an aspect of your business. Note that using and odd-numbered scale allows respondents to take a neutral stance, while even numbered scales force clients to lean more to one side or another.

Multiple Choice: Let’s say you want to add a new type of muffin to your menu, but you only have the ability to make three different flavors. An open question survey wouldn’t help much. With multiple-choice questions, you can have respondents pick their favorite of the available choices.

Rank Choices:  Ranking available options gets survey takers to sort available options from good to bad or like to dislike. Looking to take a muffin away from the menu? Ranking surveys can help you find which flavor will be missed the least.

Survey and Poll Writing Tips

  1. Write simple questions. Muddled questions result in muddled feedback. So don’t ask a series of questions in a single poll prompt. Use everyday language and do your best to avoid ambiguous words and phrases.
  2. Don’t pigeonhole your respondents. When using written responses instead of a likability scale, provide several options that run the gamut and leave an “other” prompt for clients who wish to write their own response.
  3. Don’t force readers to answer every question. You should provide a way for respondents to opt out of a question—either by making all answers optional or by providing a “not applicable” selection on each question.  Forcing answers only leads to skewed results, and skewed results are a complete waste of time.

Free Survey Resources

In most cases free  surveys are limited in function. You might find that it’s necessary to purchase an upgrade for surveys that go beyond the basics. That said, here are some places to get started creating free online surveys.

<center [stextbox id=”info”]This post is part of the March Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event specifically for small business owners. (It’s the most fun you’ll have all month!) Check out the rest of the fabulous carney work here.[/stextbox]

ABCs of Freelance Writing: U is for Upfront Payment

I’ve written about the sticky subject of collecting money from difficult clients before. In an article I wrote for Small Business Bonfire, I shared some ideas I had for getting deadbeat clients to pay up. But today I’d like to talk about one way you, as a freelance writer, can avoid dealing with deadbeats entirely.

It’s called an upfront payment.

And it’s glorious.

Tips for Collecting Upfront Payments

Create a fee schedule for your most popular services.

Online freelance writing payment

First things first, establish freelance writing fees so you’re not wasting time debating what to charge. Most of my pre-pay clients are in a hurry to get a job done, and having a rate sheet expedites the process.

Choose between full and partial upfront payments.

When it comes down to it, you have a couple of pre-pay options: you can bill for a fraction of the invoice upfront, or you can bill for the entire cost of services. I’ve done both, but I tend not to split invoices under $200.

Explain your upfront payment policy.

New clients may need to be reassured that you’re not going to leave them high and dry after you’ve got their money. Explain your entire process in writing (preferably in a contract) before any money changes hands. Confirm your commitment to the deadline and be clear about what happens if the customer is not satisfied with the work or requests revisions.

Offer immediate Payment processing.

FreshBooksI bill with Freshbooks because it enables me to send invoices and statements immediately via email. I can collect payments through my PayPal account, making it possible for me to accept a job, bill the client, receive payment, and begin work on a project in a matter of minutes. Freshbooks even has an arrangement with PayPal where you can opt to waive the standard PayPal fees and select a flat rate fee per transaction for $.50. That’s pretty sweet, because those percentage-based PayPal fees can seriously eat into your profits if you use it a lot.

Never miss a deadline.

The thing about charging for work upfront is that you have to be able to deliver consistently. If you aren’t committed to delivering the finished product when promised, you’ll have a hard time maintaining a solid business relationship with your clients.

Deliver your best work.

Think of the upfront payment scenario like a transaction at your local electronics store. As a customer, you expect to walk away with a solid product that lives up to the claims on the packaging. Your clients feel the same way about your writing. When a client pays upfront, there’s a greater expectation for you to get the job done right the first time.
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