Sunday, December 27, 2009

Author Marketing Experts - Comprehensive PR for your book!

Today we welcome Penny Sansevieri to Writers in Business. Penny is the CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME), a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns.

Author Marketing Experts, Inc. is described as a full-service marketing and PR firm specializing in customized campaigns and Internet Marketing. Can you tell us some of the tools you utilize to create a book campaign?

Interestingly enough the biggest and most important tool is creativity. In a world where there are 1,000 books published each day in the US, you must be creative to stand apart from the crowd. The other piece is that you must know how your book benefits your readers. Readers don’t buy books they buy benefits.

AME’s clients have been featured on The View, CBS The Early Show, The Today Show, Entertainment Tonight, CNN, National Public Radio, Reader’s Digest, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Essence Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, MSNBC and many others.

Your company has some fantastic connections! I understand this exposure is not guaranteed, but what are the chances of a fiction or non-fiction book realizing this form of promotion through AME? What percent of your clients achieve this level of exposure?

You know it really depends, we tend to focus much more on Internet than we do traditional PR anymore – the reason? The Return on Investment (ROI) tends to be better with Internet marketing and in the end, authors want to sell books. The odds though of getting on a show tend to increase with a significant platform, what this means is that the author can’t pop out with a book and say “please feature me on your show” there has so be some “legs” to the book and the campaign before any of these shows will even consider it. As to the percentage – that’s a very tough question. If we have a solid book, meaning a book that’s got a good foothold in its market, and an author who has a great platform then the chances are very good that they’ll get major exposure, sometimes as high as 90%.

Traveling to promote our books can get expensive. Can you tell us about Virtual Author Buzz Tour?

Yes, and thanks for asking. When it comes to marketing there are two types of promotion: push and pull. Push-marketing is where you “push” your message out to the media, so you push it to radio, TV, print, etc. That’s good, but not always effective. Pull-marketing is where you “pull” readers into your site via incoming links to your website. That’s where we shine. Our Virtual Author Buzz Tour is a combination of aggressive online blog pitching, social networking, Twitter – all of the latest and hottest online venues to pull readers to your book and to your website.

AME offers extensive online resources visitors can access through the Internet at A Marketing Expert. These resources include a bi-weekly online newsletter. What topics covered in your newsletter? How can we sign up to receive it?

You can go to the site to get the newsletter and thank you for mentioning it, I love it – we get tons of compliments on it. We also have a ton of free teleclasses that we offer through our AME-University. I believe in free resources. I think authors are looking for help and guidance and frankly, an educated author makes better choices for themselves and their book and in the long run, the more you know the more money you’ll save in promoting your book!

Penny’s career in the publicity, book marketing, and literary field spans over 15 years. During that time she has been an author, freelance writer, publicist, and instructor. Her diverse background enables her to bring a multitude of talents to the table. I encourage you to visit AME A Marketing Expert to learn more about how they can create the buzz you want to get your book flying off from bookstore shelves.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Freelancer & Mommy Writer Dominique Rambert

Freelance writer Dominique Rambert from New York City joins us today at Writers in Business. Dominique writes mostly about parenting and education issues, but also writes book reviews which are posted on web zine, Balancing Act. She is also the founder of Mommy Writers, a non-profit organization built to offer a community to writing mothers.

You are one busy woman! Please tell us about your web sites and blogs.

I am pretty busy. I maintain 4 different sites. The two that take up most of my time are Searching for Freelance Success - my writing blog, and Mommy Writers - the site for for writing moms support group. I also produce a web zine called Balancing Act which I started in hopes of offering opportunities to new writers to earn their first clips and begin to build their portfolio. Then, of course, there's my web page which serves mostly to promote myself as a writer.

On your Searching for Freelance Success web site, you wrote "I started this blog to chronicle my journey in the freelance writing industry, while hopefully offering some lessons from the trenches to other writers who are beginning their careers." Can you share two of these lessons with us?
The most important lesson I've learned to date is to give yourself more time than you think neccessary to complete writing jobs. I made the mistake of promising a prospective client some samples once only to find that I didn't have them. So I had to complete brand new sample newsetters in a couple days. That didn't happen and so as you can imagine I didn't get her business.

Lesson two is along the same lines. When asking for interviews make sure the bulk of your work is already done. Or at the very least be able to give the people you're interviewing a realistic deadline for the piece. I interviewed someone for a piece expecting to be finished with it in a couple weeks. It ended up taking more than double that. It's not easy wrangling interviews.

All- in-all both lessons have to do with deadlines. I've learned that dealines are a way of life for a writer.

I understand you created Mommy Writers with a goal "to foster a sense of community and sisterhood among Mommy Writers". How do writers find you? Where do you meet? What does the organization do to help mothers hone their writing skills?I participate on a lot of social networking sits like BlogHer and Mom Bloggers, so they find me there. Or occassionally I'll post an update in Yahoo Groups where I think people might be interested.

So far I've hosted two Mommy Writers events in NYC, both of which were held in the Brookyn Heights Branch Brooklyn Public Library. I will be hosting more vents in NYC in the future at different locations around NYC, and Mommy Writers members are welcome to host events in their areas.

To help mothers hone their writing skills I offer free online writing workshops. Right now the first is already in session. I use books written by writing professionals, share excerpts with the members registered for the workshop, I give assignments based on the material covered, and then we all give each other feedback on the assignments. It's a good alternative to expensive classes and using reference books with no feedback.

In the future I will be holding workshops in person and speaking engagements for our members as well.

Visit Freelancer For Hire and Mommy Writers to learn more about Dominique and how she can help your writing business.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Writers One Stop Source for Marketing with Jess Graham

J. L. Graham (Jess) is an award winning Creative Media Marketing Specialist, filmographer, graphic designer, freelance writer and author. He lives with his wife and children in Western Kentucky and operates Core Media.

Jess, in reading through your web sites I understand that you build in a “preset amount of time” to complete research for the articles you write. Can you share with us how you do this research? Is it through the Internet or local libraries? Do you have favorite web sites you utilize for research? What two tips can you share with fellow writers about this integral step in the writing process?

Successful article writing, particularly for the larger corporate clients, requires more than just well-worded articles. In my opinion, there are two aspects that one has to consider when taking on the bigger literary clients. These concepts are excellence and details. When I write for a client, I spend a minimum of two hours in research, depending upon the assignment, of course. A larger article or informative writing can take up to two or three days of research. It all depends upon the subject.

As for where I get my research, I’d have to say I have three solid resources. The first two are, as you stated, the internet and my local library. The other is that of knowledgeable individuals. It’s good to have a solid group of contacts that know about the industry that you specialize in, for reference purposes. The internet is my first source, but I take it with a grain of salt. There is a lot of shallow and incorrect information on the web. You have to be very careful. The web is my resource for building up an outline. From there, I go to the more reliable sources that can verify the information that I found online.

Tell us about Core Media. What services do you provide and how can writers benefit from working with you?
Core Media is a new business owner or someone looking to grow their business’ dream. We utilize the most effective outlets and venues to bring traffic to websites, bring customers to local businesses, and basically all-around promote a business or an individual. Core Media brings out the best of all media marketing outlets. We promote businesses onsite and online via film, writing, creative graphic design, and photography. In short, we are a one-stop source for marketing needs. We provide promotional videos, company logos, keyword rich written content, brands, and much more.

As for writers that work with us, they have the world to gain. When we are partnered with or hired by other writers we bring their writing skills to life with the aforementioned outlets. We accent their work and make them invaluable to current and future clients.

You are the author of two books and your writing is part of a few anthologies. Can you share the titles with us and where we might obtain copies?
As books go, I am the author of Wheels of Mercy (fiction novel) and co-author of Modern Day Fishers of Men, a Christian guidebook written by Pastor Michael D. Putnam and myself. Wheels of Mercy and Modern Day Fishers of Men are both available through all major book outlets, Barnes & Noble, for example, as well as If any bookstore doesn’t have it, they can order it for you.

The Anthology that I am most pleased with is that of Dragon’s Composed. This anthology, published by Kerlak Publishing, is a compilation of short works regarding dragons. One might think this to be an odd concept for a marketing writer to grasp, but I have a particular fascination with medieval legends. Author Jonathan Wolf and I co-wrote a story for this publication entitled, “Dragons’ Past.” This can be purchased at Kerlak Publishing (,, and virtually any other online book source.

To learn more about his writing or the services offered through Core Media, please visit Jess at JLGraham.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

He Is Just That Into You by Elisabeth Corcoran

Elisabeth Corcoran is the author of the devotionals, In Search of Calm: Renewal for a Mother’s Heart (Xulon, 2005), and Calm in My Chaos: Encouragement for a Mom’s Weary Soul (Kregel, 2001); the monthly column, Moments for Mom; and for two years was the contributing editor of the “Mothering Matters” section of MOPS magazine, MomSense. She lives with her husband, Kevin, and children, Sara, 13, and Jack, 11, in Elburn, Illinois.

Welcome to Writers in Business. We are happy to have you visit us today. First, for some exciting news, I understand your newest book was just released. Can you tell us about it? Where can we get a copy?

I do! I’m excited about this book. It’s called He Is Just That Into You and it’s basically about a regular girl, me, looking for God in her daily life and be blown away by seeing Him show up so intimately and in such love and pursuit of me. It’s a collection of essays about God’s love and faithfulness, good for anyone looking for some encouragement in their own faith walk. You can purchase it through Wine Press Books.

I can easily identify with the title of your first book, Calm in My Chaos: Encouragement for a Mom’s Weary Soul . There are many demands on our time. As a mom, writer and public speaker you must be quite busy. What two tips can you share with other writers who are trying to juggle multiple responsibilities while still satisfying their desire to write?

Great question. First of all, I need to say that I’m in a different season of life than when I first started to write. I wrote my first book when my two children were both under two. And frankly, I don’t remember how I did it! I’m assuming naps and bedtime – at least, that’s what I tell people! Now, I’m in a great season of having both kids in school full time (they’re both in middle school) and I do not work outside the home anymore (I was on staff at my church over Adult Ministries for four years) so I can really focus on writing and speaking without feeling too pulled. But for those who are running in a bunch of directions, which I did for years, my best two tips would be this: write when you can…make time for it…it won’t just happen, and two, get filled up by God, as He is the source of all creativity.

Are you doing any freelance writing? If so, where might we find your work?

I pretty much work on my monthly column, Moments for Mom, which is featured on several websites; my own blog; and my next project. I’m tackling fiction at the moment…we’ll see how that goes. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for freelancing at the time being.

I’ve been reading your Moments for Mom column for several years and have been touched by much of what you have written. Where can readers find your monthly column?

You can find it on my website, along with,, and among many others.

Please visit Elisabeth online at She is kicking off her Virtual Book Tour this week and we are her first stop! You can read about the other stops list on her blog
Elisabeth, thank you so much for sharing your exciting news with us!

Nancy Famolari's Unwelcome Guest at Fair Hill Farm

Nancy Famolari lives with her husband, five horses, two dogs and five white cats on a farm in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. Her stories and poems have appeared in Long Story Short, Flash Shot, Fiction Flyer, Lyrica, Alienskin Magazine Clockwise Cat, and Matters of the Heart from the Museitup Press. She received an award from Fiction Flyer for one of her flash fiction stories.

Unwelcome Guest at Fair Hill Farm is Nancy's newest book. It is based on Nancy Famolari's fourteen years of experience in the harness racing industry: breeding, training and racing Standardbreds.

What inspired you to write this story?

When we lived in New Jersey, we raised Standardbred racehorses commercially. Both my husband and I worked full time, so it was important to have help. A Swedish couple owned the farm adjoining ours. For a few months each year, they hosted girls and boys from the Scandinavian countries to work on the farm and get to visit the U.S. One year, she had an extra girl, one who was interested in the breeding aspects of the Standardbred business, rather than the racing. She asked us if we would host the girl for a few months. We were delighted, and Malin became part of our family. She was excellent with the horses, and it gave the boys a sister. When I decided to write a young adult book about horse breeding, the interesting aspect of having a foreign visitor living on the farm seemed perfect. For several years, we had hosted exchange students from Europe and Japan in the summer. Meg's reaction to having someone new living in the house is the same reaction some of the boys had the first time we hosted a foreign student. In the end, it worked very well for everyone. The boys learned a great deal about several foreign countries and made friends.

Do you have a favorite character, if so tell us why?

That's a hard question. Both Meg and Katrina are wonderful characters. I can't say either is my favorite. Meg is a typical teenager, and Katrina is such a basically nice person. There is one other character in story that I, and everyone who's read the book, love, Nicky. His character is based on my Morgan gelding, also named Nicky, and in many respects, he's the favorite.

Tell us a little about your writing schedule. What do you find most difficult, easiest?

I try to write 2000 words a day when I'm doing a first draft. When the draft is finished I put it away for months, then send it to my critique group and finally, do revisions. The hardest part for me is after the book is published, trying to promote it.

What are your future writing plans?

I plan to write two more books in this series about Meg and Katrina. In the second book, the girls go to Arizona for two weeks on a dude ranch. In the third book, it's horse show season and Meg hates watching Cindy, her major rival, drive Nicky in the shows.

Nancy, Thank you for joining us today at Writers in Business. You can learn more about Nancy and her writing by visiting Nancy Famolari.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Looking for a publisher? Introducing Around the Loop publisher Beth Rogers from Alabama.

Today Writers in Business welcomes Beth Rogers of Rutledge, AL. Beth is a writer, graphic designer and most recently a publisher. She operates Around the Loop Publishing from her home office and offers a complete line of book services for writers including establishing a marketing plan, editing, design and layout, printing and suggestions on order fulfillment.

What is the timeline to get a book publishing through Around the Loop Publishing?

I like to suggest to authors that they be prepared for a six month timeline, at least. Obviously, sometimes it may take a lot less time, but I want them to be prepared. Rushing any part of the project can make a big difference in how the final product looks.

When you think about all the things that need to be done, after the author is finished, it makes sense. When the manuscript is done, it needs to be given to someone to be read and edited. The storyline flow should make sense, spelling and grammar errors need to be corrected and verb tense needs to be consistent. Logical errors need to be corrected as well- for example, a minor character may be named Chad in chapter three, and by chapter five the name may change to Brad. (Errors like these can be easy to miss, but sometimes they leap out at readers after the book has been printed- I’ve seen whole websites dedicated to catching and publicizing these errors.) The person doing the proofreading and editing should not only be knowledgeable in grammar and writing, they need to be familiar with the author- they don’t need to change his ‘voice’. When the editor is done, the author usually has to do a rewrite, and then the editor goes through the manuscript again. This may take several times to get everything correct.

While the editing and rewriting are being done, the design for the book cover and contents should be completed. The person creating the designs should be familiar enough with the book to make sure the cover brings out part of the story, or matches the intent of the story.

Once the editing is complete and the design is ready, it’s time to ship the files to the printer. Then they have to check the files to make sure there aren’t any problems before they send the book to press. They’ll send a final quote on what they’ll charge to print the books; after they receive the go- ahead, the books are printed. We’ve been fortunate to get books printed as quickly as two weeks, but it can take longer.

Cover design is an integral part of creating a marketable book. Your web site states, “Just as the front door to your home gives visitors an idea of who you are and what your home is like, the cover should tell a very small part of your story, to intrigue potential visitors, and get them to pick it up and flip through the pages.” How do you help writers create their book covers? What pieces are important in the overall design?

The fonts, images and colors chosen all play an important part of the cover design- I can’t honestly say that one is more important than another. Any bookstore will prove this- walk through the section of mysteries and you’ll see what I mean. The cover shows something that says ‘mystery’- it may be colors that combine to jar you, or an image that is disturbing.Romantic novels use fonts with a flourish.

I like to use the book “If I Did It” by OJ Simpson as an example of one way the design can truly tell something about the book. Anyone who has ever seen it knows what I mean - the author meant one thing by the title, but the people who ended up with publishing rights had a totally different take on the story. To see what I mean, look at the cover of If I Did It. Just by looking at the way the title is presented, you know exactly how the Goldman family feels- a very simple design, but anyone seeing it has no doubt about it.

How do you charge authors for the services you provide? Is it by the hour or by the job?

I know most other publishers pay a fee to an author, and then take over the entire process for the book. They then reap the lion’s share of the profits from sales of the book. This really limits how many books get published every year, and I am sure there are lots of good books which don’t get published, simply because a publisher won’t sign a new author.

On the other hand, I work with the author to do whatever tasks are required. As a general rule, I ask for a couple of sample chapters from a prospective author. By reading his work, I can judge how much time and effort the process will take, and I prepare quotes with that in mind.

One author I’m working with now has someone who can do the editing and proofreading. My main tasks for this author will be cover and interior design. I’ll help them find a printer that fits their needs, and I’ll help write press releases, contact bookstores, newspapers, and radio and television stations, and I’ll supply the ISBN number.

They pay me for the tasks they need me to do, and when my job is finished, the book and its profits are all theirs.

To me, a book is a part of the author’s life, like a family member. That’s where it should belong.
Around the Loop Publishing provides personalized services, competitive prices, southern hospitality, hometown respect and courtesy. You can get professional results and outstanding customer service by visiting Beth at Around the Loop Publishing.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Art of Writing by Margaret (Peggy) Fieland

Born and raised in New York City, Margaret Fieland has been around art and music all her life. Daughter of a painter, she is the mother of three grown sons and an accomplished flute and piccolo player. She is an avid science fiction fan. She lives in the suburbs west of Boston, MA with her partner and seven dogs.

Her poems, articles and stories have appeared in journals and anthologies such as Main Channel Voices, Echolocation, and Twisted Tongue. Her first book, The Angry Little Boy, has been completed.

Welcome Peggy.

Thank you Brigitte, I'm happy to be here.

Tell us what you write about

I'm a professional Computer Software engineer (BA in mathematics, MS in computer science), but I've written poetry as far back as I can remember.

Who has inspired you in your writing?
Lewis Carroll. My all time favorite book is “Alice in Wonderland,” which I reread every exam time when I was in college, as I made it a habit to avoid the library during exams. I'm also very fond of Carroll's poetry. I've got several stanzas of Jabberwocky and You Are Old, Father William memorized.

What made you want to start writing?

Good question – I started and became addicted. I really love writing -- and I just plain enjoy writing poetry, rhymed and unrhymed. I've developed my own algorithm for generating rhymes, which means that I often don't have to use a rhyming dictionary at all.

Besides, if I don't write it down it stays stuck in my head.

When do you write? Do you work best when you set aside specific times?

Since I have a full time job, I write whenever the spirit moves me, and I have (or can make) the time. The nice thing about poetry is that a lot of it is short and taking a couple of minutes to jot down poetry is pretty easy to do. Waiting for appointments is a favorite time to write. I've had good luck being "inspired" by those articles you find in waiting rooms.

Do you ever have a problem with writer's block?

Not so far, thank goodness {pauses to knock wood}.

You may visit Peggy’s website at to view some of her writing. Peggy is a member of VBT- Writers on the Move who are celebrating their anniversary this November.

Learn more about this fantastic promotional group for authors by visiting Prizes are given away each day during this event.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tips on Writing Conference Success by Mary Andonian

Today’s guest is author and freelance writer, Mary Andonian. Mary has written two books, Mind Chatter: Stories from the Squirrel Cage and Bitsy's Labyrinth. She is a columnist for Writers on the Rise and Writer Mama.

She shares her tips on preparing a high impact dossier which you can circulate at your next writing conference.

Writing Conference Success: Preparing Your Dossier – More on Bios and Cover Letters

Many people will go into a conference empty-handed, but not you. I have two good reasons why you should walk into the conference armed with business cards and proposal packages (thinly disguised as inexpensive paper folders).

- First, these items will build your credibility and boost your professional demeanor.

- Second, at best you’ll get your proposal in the hands of editors and agents for their long flight home, and at worst you’ll be in the enviable position to immediately mail follow-up materials.

Two important elements that will go into your proposal package are your bio and cover letter.


Your bio page can be made up in any number of ways. You can use a more traditional resume approach, listing all of your writing credits in chronological order, along with relevant educational background, and so on.

Or you may opt for the author’s book flap approach, where you write your bio the way you would like it to be seen on the back cover of your book.

Best-selling author Julie Fast lists her writing credits, but includes next to each credit a full color photo representing each credit. I used her approach for my last proposal package and ended up using visual icons representing the Contra Costa Times Newspapers (two of my essays were printed in this newspaper) and both an Institute of Children’s Literature logo and a Willamette Writers logo (for my education and involvement in these institutions, respectively).

When it was all said and done, my bio page looked pretty impressive.

Cover Letter

The cover letter is really a one-page query letter you would send in lieu of meeting your agent or editor. It should be addressed to the agent or editor to whom you’ll pitch, along with her complete (and accurate) company title/imprint, address and phone number.

Your salutation should be addressed to Ms. [Last Name], unless you have met the person before.

The first paragraph should be a one-sentence summary of the book you’re trying to pitch.

The second and possibly third paragraphs should describe your book by first stating the need for such a book and then by telling why your book is the perfect solution to that need.

The last few paragraphs talk about you. Why are you the perfect person to write this book? What have you done that’s note-worthy, and why would people buy from you? This is where you will talk about your platform, if you have one. If you don’t have paid writing credits, then highlight other achievements, such as (relevant) degrees completed or awards won. Even non-relevant degrees might work if you spin them right: “I have an M.B.A. with an emphasis in Marketing, a skill set that will come in handy after my book has sold.”

Remember: Every interaction should close the sale or advance the sale, so close your letter with an offer to send more: “May I send you the entire manuscript? Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.”

Please visit Mary’s web site at Mary Andonian to learn more about her writing as well as her exciting news regarding her new screenplay.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Book Reviewer & Editor, Robert Medak

Robert Medak began writing book reviews for Allbooks Review in February of 2006. He has been expanding his services ever since and now offers editing for manuscripts as well as a variety of writing applications including freelance articles and Internet content. Robert is the co-founder of a creative writing workshop and he has facilitated courses for writers at Writers' Village University (WVU).

Through his writing & editing business, Robert’s mission is to offer businesses, individuals, and writers help with their writing needs. He is joining us today at Writers in Business.

In doing research for this interview, I went to visit your web site and blogs. You have a lot of information to offer. Can you tell us a bit about each blog?

I have numerous blogs, some are about freelance writing, about writing in general, book reviews, and about animals and items for children. I also maintain two blogs for AllBook Reviews. I have also started some at other sites but there is not much on them yet.

With your writing & editing business, do you find one of your services is in more demand than another?

Writing is the most in demand at this time, mostly writing articles and book reviews.

Does writing or editing work keep you the busiest?

Writing keeps me the busiest, but I also enjoy editing. Doing editing and writing helps me improve in both areas. I feel that one should always strive to improve in whatever they do.

Do you have a preference for working with fiction or non-fiction? As an avid reader, I enjoy both fiction and non-fiction and all genres.

I’m also interested in your courses for writers. What topics are you teaching? What aspects are covered? Are your courses available online?

I created a course about how to overcome procrastination, the creative writing workshop is a series of writing prompts to help new writers get started, I have facilitated courses on different aspects of writing at the Writers’ Village University. I do not do much there, as my time is spent writing articles online. They are online at WVU. I have also approached my local library to have an ongoing writing workshop for people thinking about writing. I would cover all aspects of writing, publishing, marketing, and promotion.

I understand you have a new book in the works. Please tell us about it.

I have been asked many times about how to break into freelance writing. I decided to write a book about the subject. I also presented a course at the October 2009 Muse Online Writers Conference “So You Want to be a Freelance Writer.”

You can visit Robert at Stormy Writer and at RJM Book Reviews. He is also an expert at Ezine Articles.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Employee or Self-Employed?

As your writing business grows, there may be times when you need to hire help. You also may be providing writing services and wonder if you are working for a company as an employee or if you are really self-employed.

The Internal Revenue Service has strict definitions they use when determining if someone is an employee or a subcontractor. You can learn all about it on their web site using this link:Employee vs Independent Contractor

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Start All Over - A Writer's Journey with D. Kai Wilson-Viola

Today I’m pleased to welcome D. Kai Wilson-Viola to Writers in Business. She writes about writing, blogging, freelancing, artwork, supporting friends, publication, studying for a Creative Writing degree and more, whilst keeping her sense of humor, her wits about her and her purse always within sight.

The following post is from Kai’s blog, Work Back to Now and is something many of us experience in our writing journey.

Late last year, very quietly, I retired from writing. My last story sold about six months after – and only because I wanted to find out if I was right to quit.

Actually, that’s wrong. I’ll phrase it a bit more accurately.

I’ve always thought of my writing as water. It’s essential to life, refreshing, can poison, and be very bad for you in high doses, but it can heal. It can support, or it can turn on you. Elementally, I’m more at home with water than anything else. And water, with pigment is ink. If writing is water, imagination is pigment.
Up until last summer, writing was the ‘thing’ I did.

It was my ‘thing and the whole of the thing’ as Terry Pratchett would put it, but nevertheless, I had no reason to claim to be a writer, other than it was something I did. Writers are one of the luckiest – and overburdened – careers in the world. You need no qualifications to get into the ‘club’ – which is why, increasingly professional organisations expect writers to actually pay their dues by getting publication credits. Basically, you can say ‘I’m a writer’ – and bash out some words, and that’s it. I had nothing to show for it though, and I began to feel like a fraud.

That’s one of the worst feelings in the world – it creeps into you – insidious, and sickens you. It makes the water you’re drawing from that well brackish and bitter. Every word I typed, just for emails felt like a betrayal. The pigment I was adding wasn’t ’settling’ right, and in turn my pens clogged up (I know, I’m taking this metaphor WAAAY far). I even stopped journaling for a while.

For those of us that live and breathe our stories – those that pour our lives into writing, for those that dabble - anyone that writes for the joy of it, whether it’s once a year at the Nanowrimo, or daily, butt so far into the seat that it’s memory foamed to your rear end, it’s hard to explain. People think that writing is just sitting down and bashing out words.

And they’re right – that’s part of it. Another part of it entirely is being so drawn into it as a craft, that you can’t help yourself – giving in wholly and fully, till you’re a shell, and everything that you are is contained in the novel or story, essay or poem you’re working on (and thank god writers have stupidly good regenerative powers).

I’ve been telling people for so long that I’m a writer – that it’s all I can do to stop the noise and clamour in my head, that I’ve forgotten how to be anything else. But even then, in the last few years, I’ve burned out, and forgotten how to *be* a writer. I was going through the motions – like a relationship that everyone knows should have ended long ago, and is just a soulless shard of the passion it once contained – or a friendship that’s grown apart. I thought I’d grown apart from my writing.

Turns out – I hadn’t. One of the major aspects of head injury, of any kind, is disassociation – part of it is fear, because if you can *see* where you excelled and can’t do it anymore, where does that leave you? Another part of it is inability and tiredness – I barely cope with the ‘immediate’ around me, let alone anything else, so writing took a back burner. I worked on pieces for Uni (I’m two years through a three year degree in Creative Writing and Psychology) but…there was nothing there. It had caved in, or sealed, and I thought that was it.

It’s not.

It’s just the beginning again. I forgot the joy of finding untapped sweet spots, where it’s so pressurised and solid that stories gush free from underneath my feet – I forgot that if my stories are water, there are rivers, streams, estuaries, feeding back to the sea. And that it’s fine to bathe in them – it’s acceptable to dream, and revel and remember everything again. It’s a bit of a pain that it’s gone at the moment, but it’s OK.

I decided, because this is a fairly common ‘complaint’ of writers, and because I’m able to, that I’d blog this. So…start all over.

Take my hand, I promise I won’t let you drown; the water’s cold, and you might get a couple of stains in places you never thought of before, but it’s too much fun to miss. And you never know what those stains might invoke for you….

You can visit Kai online at Work Back to Now.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

15 Commandments for Getting FREE Publicity by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

A huge retailer once said that advertising works, we just don't know how, why, or where it works best. What we do know is that advertising's less mysterious cousin, publicity, works even better. It is the more reliable relative because it is judged on its merit alone and carries the cachet of an editor's approval. It also is surrounded by the ever-magic word free. The two are easily identified as kin.

15 Commandments for Getting FREE Publicity (An excerpt from The Frugal Book Promoter) By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

1. Educate yourself: Study other press releases. Read a book like Publicity Advice & How-To Handbook, by UCLA Marketing Instructor, Rolf Gompertz, a SPAN member. Order it by calling 818-980-3576. Join publicity oriented e-groups.

2. Read, read, read: Your newspaper. Your e-zines. Even your junk mail, a wonderful newsletter put out by the Small Publishers of North America ( and one called The Publicity Hound ( My daughter found a flier from the local library in the Sunday paper stuffed between grocery coupons. It mentioned a display done by a local merchant in the library window. My second book, HARKENING: A COLLECTION OF STORIES REMEMBERED, became a super model in their lobby and I became a seminar speaker for their author series. Rubbish (and that includes SPAM) can be the goose that laid the golden egg.

3. Keep an open mind for promotion ideas: Look at the different themes in your book. There are angles there you can exploit when you're talking to editors. My first book, THIS IS THE PLACE is sort of romantic (a romance website will like it) but it is also set in Salt Lake City, the site where the winter games were played in 2002 and, though that's a reach, I found sports desks and feature editors open to it as Olympics© fervor grew and even as it waned because they were desperate for material as the zeal for the games wound down.

4. Cull contacts: Develop your Rolodex by adding quality recipients from media directories. The website has an All-in-One Directory that gives links to others such as Editor, Publisher Year Book, and Burrell's. Some partial directories on the web are free and so are your yellow pages. Ask for help from your librarian - a good research librarian is like a shark; she'll keep biting until she's got exactly what she wants.

5. Etiquette counts: Send thank-you notes to contacts after they've featured you or your book. This happens so rarely they are sure to be impressed and to pay attention to the next idea you have, even if it's just a listing in a calendar for your next book signing.

6. Partner with your publicist and publisher: Ask for help from their promotion department even if it's just for a sample press release.

7. Publicize who you are, what you do: Reviews aren't the only way to go. E-books are big news right now. Katy Walls, author of The Last Step, coordinated an anthology of recipes from authors who mention food in their books (yes, some of my family's ancient recipes from polygamist times are in it). It is a free e-book, a promotional CD, and great fodder for the local newspapers. You can download it at (click on the Free E-books tab). Use it as a cookbook and as a sample for your own e-book promotion.

Think of angles for human interest stories, not only about your book but about you as its author. Are you very young? Is writing a book a new endeavor for you? Several editors have liked the idea that I wrote my first book at an age when most are thinking of retiring, that I think of myself as an example of the fact that it is never too late to follow a dream.

8. Develop new activities to publicize: Don't do just book signings. Use your imagination for a spectacular launch. Get charities involved. Think in terms of ways to help your community.

9. Send professional photos with your release: Request guidelines from your target media. Local editors won't mind if you send homey Kodak moment--properly labeled--along with your release. Some will use it; it may pique the interest of others and they'll send out their own photographers. It's best, however, to send only professional photos to the big guys.

10. Frequency is important: The editor who ignores your first release may pay more attention to your second or twenty-fifth. She will come to view you as a source and call you when she needs to quote an expert. This can work for novels as well as nonfiction. I received a nice referral in my local newspaper because I am now an expert on prejudice, even though my book is a novel and not a how-to or self-help piece.

11. Follow Up: Shel Horowitz, author of Marketing Without Megabucks (, reports that follow-up calls boost the chances of a press release being published. Voice contact builds relationships better than any other means of communication.

12. Keep clippings: Professional publicists like Debra Gold of Gold & Company do this for their clients; you do it so you'll know what's working and what isn't.

13. Evaluate: One year after your first release, add up the column inches. Measure the number of inches any paper gave you free including headlines and pictures. If the piece is three columns wide and each column of your story is six inches long, that is 18 column inches. How much does that newspaper charge per inch for their ads? Multiply the column inches by that rate to know what the piece is worth in advertising dollars. Now add 20% for the additional trust the reader puts in editorial material.

14. Set goals: You now have a total of what your year's efforts have reaped. New publicist-authors should set a goal to increase that amount by 100% in the next year. If you already have a track record, aim for 20%.

15: Observe progress: Publicity is like planting bulbs. It proliferates even when you aren't trying very hard. By watching for unintended results, you learn how to make them happen in the future.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER: HOW TO DO WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER WON'T. For a little over 2 cents a day THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER assures your book the best possible start in life. Full of nitty gritty how-tos for getting nearly free publicity, Carolyn Howard-Johnson shares her professional experience as well as practical tips gleaned from the successes of her own book campaigns. She is a former publicist for a New York PR firm and a marketing instructor for UCLA's Writers' Program. Learn more about the author at or

Sunday, October 11, 2009

L. Diane Wolfe - Overcoming Obstacles with SPUNK

Known as “Spunk On A Stick”, L. Diane Wolfe is a professional speaker & author who averages over one hundred appearances each year. She conducts seminars on promoting, leadership and goal setting. Her new book “Overcoming Obstacles With SPUNK! The Keys to Leadership & Goal-Setting” is an inspirational self-help book that explains the five Keys to success.

~Can you tell us about the five Keys and why they are important?

There are a lot of books with success formulas, but success principles are really pretty simple. If we just learn to master five basic aspects, Five Keys - developing a positive attitude, learning people skills, raising self-esteem, overcoming fears, and setting goals – then we’ll have all it takes to lead a successful, productive and fulfilling life. These Five Keys work in conjunction with one another, too. We cannot focus on just one aspect, nor is any one Key above the rest. We can’t have a good self-esteem if we allow fear to continue holding us prisoner. Or possess a positive attitude if we refuse to deal positively with other people. It’s all or nothing!
~Can these Keys be applied to all aspects of life or are they better suited for work related goals?

All aspects! Human beings need goals to survive – they motivate us and force us to grow and change. (“Where there is not vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:18) We need goals in all areas of our life, and the Five Keys help us to accomplish those dreams. Again, success principles are very universal.

~As a member of the National Speakers Association, you travel the East Coast for seminars. When traveling, have you found a good system to keep track of your business expenses?

I keep a small notebook in the car for mileage and I am very diligent in writing down each business-related excursion. Any expense – from buying a coffee to hotel rooms – I save the receipt and organize upon my return. (I am an uber-organized person – I have lists for my lists!) I’ve had several years of accounting and really enjoy it, so I stay on top of recording monthly expenses and income. I’ve never used a computer program, either. I created my own ledger instead, and even my accountant says it is scary organized!

~When you approach a bookstore to schedule a promotional event, are they usually receptive? Can you share one tip with us on how to make this a positive experience?

Yes! Now in my home state, Barnes & Noble prefers multi-author events, although I’ve done numerous solo appearances elsewhere. Borders also seems gun-shy to do events right now, but everyone else is very receptive.

My one tip – make the event fun for the manager and staff as well! I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve heard the staff tell me that most authors ignore them. Involve those working while you are in the store – take photos of them, talk with them, give them bookmarks… And be sure to send a thank you card – most authors forget this as well. Even if you don’t move many books, if you were a joy to work with, the store will welcome you back anytime!

Over the years, though, bookstores have become less ideal for authors. A bookstore really is the worst way to move books! I still make store appearances, but I’ve found far greater success as far as book sales at my speaking engagements.

~I understand you manage an online writer’s group. Can you tell us about the group?
It’s on the social site Deviant Art. I and two other members founded it almost three years ago and we have close to 500 members now. Only a small percentage of members are active at any given time, just like any organization, but that’s probably a good thing! We have contests & exercises, and the members submit their work to the club for feedback and critiques. We’ve stressed from the beginning that it’s family-friendly and we want encouraging comments. (Which is really the definition of critiquing – to make a thing better with positive suggestions of improvement.)

L. Diane Wolfe is also the author of a young adult series of books entitled The Circle of Friends, which are available online & retail. She enjoys life with her husband and two cats in North Carolina. You can catch her on tour this fall as she makes stops in GA, NC, SC, and VA. Visit her page on Book Tour for specific locations and dates: Book Tour or visit her online at Spunk on a or The Circle of

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bookkeeping for Writers by Brigitte Thompson

Writers work in all different genres and write for a variety of media outlets. Some of us are business writers, others create romance novels and many write articles for magazines or copy for web sites. Putting words into print is our profession, but dealing with the financial aspects of our writing business can be challenging.

As an accountant, author and freelance writer, I can help. My newest title, Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers, addresses issues writers face daily such as how to deduct travel expenses, differentiate between personal and business property and claim home office deductions.

Bookkeeping is an essential part of the business of writing, especially identifying and tracking expenses. Business expenses are considered an operating cost. The more legitimate business expenses that we can document, the lower our tax payments will be.

Understanding Expenses

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires that our writing expenses be ordinary and necessary in order for them to be acceptable. An ordinary expense is defined as common and accepted in our profession. A necessary expense means we need to spend this money in order to operate the business. The expenses must not be considered extravagant. They must be an essential part of doing business as a writer. It is important to differentiate between personal expenses and business expenses.

Writers are able to realize some unique deductions which may be considered personal for most other taxpayers. For example, a book on the history of California used for researching my fiction manuscript based in that state could be deductible as a writer. Other potentially deductible expenses include tickets to a ballet used to build the character of a ballerina I am writing about and an instructional DVD used to improve my public speaking skills. Most writers will call these expenses research or professional development. We need to be able to justify each expense if audited, so be sure it is legitimate and has the supporting documents to back up the claim.

Recordkeeping Options

To justify expenses, it is important to establish a system of recordkeeping that works for you. Some things need to be recorded daily, while others can be done weekly or monthly. It is imperative that you get into the habit of saving and recording everything related to your writing business. All invoices, receipts, credit card slips and bank statements are essential documentation that should be kept.

Some people find it helpful to create a system for their financial transactions using envelopes and lined paper. Transactions can be recorded on sheets of 8 ½” by 11” paper attached to the front of a large clasp envelope with supporting documentation stored inside. This system works well for many writers because it is simple to set up and only requires the purchase of paper and envelopes. However, one disadvantage of this system is that it’s hard to see at a glance how much you have spent on supplies during the year or how much you have paid for your business phone line.

If you prefer computerized bookkeeping, these transactions could be recorded on a spreadsheet and receipts could still be kept in a clasp envelope. Microsoft Excel® provides an easy-to-use program which can help organize your records. One benefit of tracking this information with a computer spreadsheet is its ability to compute. Once you learn the program, you will be able to format columns to add a range of numbers. This eliminates the chance of addition errors haunting you during an audit. Unfortunately, spreadsheets do not offer much room for detail and are not able to generate financial statements.

If you would like to go a step further, QuickBooks® is a user-friendly accounting program which generates financial statements and budgets using the data you input. Again, entering the data allows for error free calculations and, as a bonus, custom reports compile the information so you can easily determine how much was spent on shipping manuscripts during the year, for example. Trial versions of accounting software can be found online, but the cost to purchase and the time spent learning it could be a disadvantage to some writers. Receipts would still have to be kept to document your deduction.

The choice is yours. Any system that works for you is acceptable to the IRS, as long as the pertinent information is retained. Learning what to record as writing expenses as well as how to properly document each transaction is important to the success of your writing business.

Please visit my web site for more information: Bookkeeping for Writers .

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sage Cohen on Poetry and Writing the Life Poetic

Please extend a warm welcome to award-winning poet Sage Cohen, author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry published this year by Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Sage received her BA in Comparative Literature at Brown University and MA in English, Creative Writing from New York University. She feels the real learning laboratory is life!

Her web sites Writing the Life Poetic , Sage Said So and blog Writing the Life Poetic are filled with her creativity in both the literary and artistic realm. I just love her original illustrations!

~How does poetry make the world a better place to live?
I think poetry fills the gap left by the so-called objective truth that dominates our media, science and legislation. Many of us want to comprehend and communicate the complexity of human experience on a deeper, more soulful level. Poetry gives us a shared language that is more subtle, more human, and—at its best—more universally “true” than we are capable of achieving with just the facts.

~ How has integrating the reading and writing of poetry into your life impacted you?

I will risk sounding melodramatic in saying that poetry saved my life. I stumbled into a writing practice at an extremely vulnerable time in my early teenage years. Poetry gave me then, as it does today, a way of giving voice to feelings and ideas that felt too risky and complicated to speak out loud. There was a kind of alchemy in writing through such welcoming them in language, I was able to transform the energies of fear, pain and loneliness into a kind of friendly camaraderie with myself. In a way, I wrote myself into a trust that I belonged in this world.

~Why did you write Writing the Life Poetic?
While working with writers for the past fifteen years, I have observed that even the most creative people fear that they don’t have what it takes to write and read poetry. I wrote Writing the Life Poetic to put poetry back into the hands of the people––not because they are aspiring to become the poet laureate of the United States––but because poetry is one of the great pleasures in life.”

~What sets Writing the Life Poetic apart from other poetry how-to books?
The craft of poetry has been well documented in a variety of books that offer a valuable service to serious writers striving to become competent poets. Now it’s time for a poetry book that does more than lecture from the front of the classroom. Writing the Life Poetic was written to be a contagiously fun adventure in writing. Through an entertaining mix of insights, exercises, expert guidance and encouragement, I hope to get readers excited about the possibilities of poetry––and engaged in a creative practice. Leonard Cohen says: “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” My goal is that Writing the Life Poetic be the flame fueling the life well lived.

~Is it true that your book and your baby were conceived and birthed at the same time? What did you learn from this process?
Yes, I often refer to my son Theo and Writing the Life Poetic as my multi-media twins! I found out I was pregnant with Theo about two months into the writing of the book and I was making final edits to the book in layout two weeks after he was born. It was fascinating to have two of the most potent creative processes I’ve ever experienced happening in tandem. What I learned is a great respect for the birthing journey; it is one that has completely rewritten me along the way.

I am writing a monthly column this year for The Writer Mama zine titled “The Articulate Conception” which chronicles my journey of becoming an author and a mom. Through the course of ten essays, I am exploring this double-whammy birth trajectory--from the twinkle in my eye to the bags under my eyes. The first column is available here: Articulate Conception.

~I’d love to conclude with a poem of yours. Would you be willing to share one?
Of course! Happy to!

Leaving Buckhorn Springs
By Sage Cohen

The farmland was an orchestra,
its ochres holding a baritone below
the soft bells of farmhouses,
altos of shadowed hills,
violins grieving the late
afternoon light. When I saw
the horses, glazed over with rain,
the battered old motorcycle parked
beside them, I pulled my car over
and silenced it on the gravel.
The rain and I were diamonds
displacing appetite with mystery.
As the horses turned toward me,
the centuries poured through
their powerful necks and my body
was the drum receiving the pulse
of history. The skin between me
and the world became the rhythm
of the rain keeping time with the sky
and into the music walked
the smallest of the horses. We stood
for many measures considering
each other, his eyes the quarter notes
of my heart’s staccato. This symphony
of privacy and silence: this wildness
that the fence between us could not divide.

Sage writes four monthly columns about the craft and business of writing and serves as Poetry Editor for VoiceCatcher 4. Sage co-curates a monthly reading series at Barnes & Noble and teaches the online class Poetry for the People.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Frugal Marketing Guru Carolyn-Howard Johnson

Award winning writer and frugal marketing expert, Carolyn Howard-Johnson joins us today at Writers in Business.

Carolyn is a prolific writer of fiction and non-fiction books and a marketing guru referred to in writer’s networks as the Queen of Frugal Book Promotion. Her new series of books, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success have both won USA Book News’ awards and are certain to become frequently read favorites in the writing world. She is also an instructor at UCLA Extension's world renown Writers' Program and a popular speaker.

In order to prepare for this interview, I spent many hours over several days learning about Carolyn and the work she is doing to help writers and editors discover affordable marketing. I’m amazed at what she has accomplished and all the information she has to share. Today I’d like to focus on Carolyn’s book, The Frugal Book Promoter.

~As a former publicist and current author, you have spent a lot of time honing your marketing skills. What are some important concepts writers should utilize when promoting a book?

Ha! Well, I did write a whole book about this--just because I wanted to share that information. I think the most important concept is "branding." Branding is at the root of all marketing. Too many writers publicize their book. Most writers will not be one-title wonders. Think about who you are and brand your name--or your pen name. The other most important concept is that it is never too early to start. If an author gets this message a year or two before her work is published--well, that is not too early to start.

~ There are hundreds of low cost promotional ideas listed in your book. Can you share three of these ideas with us and why they work well?

My favorite ways to promote, in order of importance are:

1. Speaking. That can be reading at book signings (not just book signings) or speaking on themes related to your book at conferences, tradeshows or anywhere else. If speaking scares you, take a class now. At a minimum you'll need to know how to talk to people from book fair booths at bookstore events.

2. Teaching. Not only is it enormously satisfying, it gives you credibility as an expert. Even novelists need credibility. Yep, even poets.

3. Online promotions. Because they're very, very frugal. Of course, that is a broad category. If I have to narrow it down, I choose blogging--and then promoting the blog. If you'd like to know more about how to go about that, go to and download a chapter for a future book I'm writing with partner Phyllis Zimbler Miller.

~ What key components should writers include in their media kit?

The list is very long. Kits should include whatever an editor or agent (or whoever else you're sending your kit to) needs to do their job quickly and easily. Then once all the elements are prepared, the author should prune what won't help a particular recipient from their kit.

Picture this: It's deadline. A harried editor is looking for a story. She comes across a query you sent her two weeks ago. It includes a complete kit. In it is a first person essay with permission to print it. On her desk she also has a famous person's pitch but there is almost nothing there for her to work with. Guess who will get their story printed? If you guessed the famous person, you're wrong. She's on deadline. She has to be ready when the presses roll.

~ There are travel costs and other fees associated with attending a writers conference or book fair. In terms of promotion, do you feel these events are cost effective?

I adore conferences because they can make such a difference in a writer's career. Networking. Finding agents. Learning more about our craft. Giving us a needed break from our computers. Having said that, they are expensive. So, Lea Schizas and I sponsor an online conference. I'd like to see writers go to real hands-on conferences but when they can't, this one can work well, too. You'll find it at:

You'll also find a list of writers' conferences, book fairs and even some tradeshows on my Web site in the Resources for Writers section:

Book Fairs & Trade Shows

Carolyn, thank you for the very informative interview. Your insight and experience with book promotion are valuable resources that we can all benefit from. The Frugal Book Promoter is a must-have book for every author! Please visit Carolyn’s web site at or

Coming Soon! Carolyn will share her "15 Commandments for Getting FREE Publicity" with us at Writers In Business.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Writers-Editors Network with Dana Cassell

Dana Cassell from North Stratford, NH is visiting us today at Writers In Business. Dana is a freelance writer, author, editor as well as the founder and executive director of Florida Freelance Writers Association and Cassell Network of Writers (a.k.a The Writers-Editors Network). She began her career in 1971 and has a wealth of information to share.

On a recent afternoon, I sat down at my computer to gather information for this interview and was blown away by all Dana has to offer for writers and editors. The resources available on her site are comprehensive and include marketing tips, conferences & event listings, articles on getting an agent and syndication, and a bookstore geared toward the writing world.

Her site also offer 4 levels of paid membership with even more substantial benefits such as a monthly newsletter Freelance Writer's Report (which I’ve had the pleasure of reading and highly recommend!), and access to the private Members section of where you will find postings of freelance jobs, new magazines, publications to avoid, and a listing of average payments for various kinds of writing-related work to help you set your fees. Members can also be listed in the Writer Data Bank, receive a Press ID card and access a toll free number for questions related to writing. This network is amazing!

~Dana, you have been linking professional writers and editors with those who need content and editorial services since 1982. Can you tell us how the process works?

Our process works in both directions. When clients or editors need something written or editorial help (e.g., proofreading, copyediting, revision), we can (a) send them contact information on those CNW members who meet their criteria, (b) post what they need on our private Member Bulletin Board (so their info is not out there on the Web for all to see), and/or (c) allow them to peruse our Member Bios posted on our Meet Writers Web pages or in our downloadable "Guide to CNW/FFWA Writers." Then from the other direction, our members can contact editors through our "Latest Markets" listings (new magazines with contact information posted almost daily in our Members section and republished each month in FWR), and by checking in our Bulletin Board page for job listings that come in through our site or that I find and link to by perusing dozens of job sites for writers (thereby saving our members much time). The
Bulletin Board is updated a couple times a day on most days.

~Can you share with us two of the most common questions you receive on the Member’s Hotline?

Most often, questions deal with how much to charge, which is often a bugaboo for freelancers. We do have a lengthy "Average Payments" page in our Members section, providing lowest, highest, and average payments our members have reported for various types of work and magazine genres. However, that "different" type of job will come along that's completely new to even the most established writer, and he or she will not be sure how to establish a job quote.

After that, I'd say they run the gamut -- from copyright issues to collecting from a slow- or non-paying publisher; the typical questions and issues that independent business people run into.

~What are some recent topics covered in Freelance Writer’s Report?
Because of the economic downturn, we've had a number of articles and tips this year on how to survive and even take advantage of it. (With both publishers and corporations cutting back on staff, many will turn to freelancers to take up the slack more than they did when they had full staffs to keep busy.) We've also had articles on staying organized with a submissions database, tips for maximizing book signings, successful speaking gigs, self-publishing, book promotion, and cutting costs in recent months.

~In addition to operating the Writers-Editors Network, you are a prolific writer contributing to retail trade magazines and moving on to pharmaceutical and medical topics. Can you tell us about your most recent book? What are you working on next?

My most recently published book is the Encyclopedia of Obesity and Eating Disorders - Third Edition (Facts On File). I am currently wrapping up the Encyclopedia of Pharmaceutical Drugs, and working on the Encyclopedia of Autoimmune Diseases - Second Edition (both for Facts On File).

If you are looking for information on how to improve the success of your business, be sure to stop by Dana knows her members and her old-fashioned personal attention is something no other network can provide!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Jen Singer, Parenting Author, Blogger & Humorist

What began in the basement of a New Jersey home in 2003 has blossomed into a successful parenting empire for Jen Singer. She is the founder of an award-winning web site,, creator of the national holiday Please Take My Children to Work Day and author of several parenting books including the Stop Second- Guessing Yourself series and You're a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren't So Bad Either).

~ You are on an inspirational journey sharing humor and insightful parenting advice through a variety of outlets. When you started in your basement back in 2003, what did you have in mind for your business? Are you heading in that direction or has your business plan changed over the years?

I was one of the original mommy bloggers. I started MommaSaid to help build an audience for future books, because my occasional essay in Woman’s Day and Parenting weren’t, I felt, enough to building a regular following. Plus, it was a relief to find out that other mothers felt like I did that perhaps spending your days pulling graham crackers out of the VCR and chasing toddlers through parking lots was, let’s say, “challenging.”My business plan has changed as MommaSaid has grown. Every step, from the first book to my fifth, from my first spokespersonship to appearing on TV on behalf of S’mores, has warranted changes and tweaks to my original plan.

~ Through national media appearances on ABC's World News Now, NBC News, CBS The Early Show, the CBS Evening News as well as radio shows including Sally Jessy Raphael Talk Net and XM's Take Five, your name has an almost iconic familiarity. It’s amazing! Can you share with us some of your tips for getting on the media radar?

Together with my publicist Robin Blakely (author of “PR Therapy”), I spend a good amount of time courting the media. I answer Profnet and HARO (Help a Reporter Out) leads, and Robin pitches print, radio and TV outlets. The key is to give great quotes and sound bites that journalists and producers can use, and to provide insights and, in my case, humor.

~ While you were building name recognition for your writing, how did you market your skills? Did you volunteer to write parenting columns, use business cards or submit queries to magazines? How do you suggest new writers build name recognition?

Honestly, I let my writing speak for itself. Editors want to see completed essays, especially humorous ones, rather than pitches. So I figured that if I’d done the work, I might as well aim high. The first essay I wrote I sent to an editor at Woman’s Day who called me to tell me I had “wonderful flair.” She had something similar in inventory, but bought my next essay. Having that high profile clip gave me credibility when I approached other editors.

Plus, I was writing for MommaSaid all along, so editors could drop by my site and check out my writing. It’s a good thing I kept up my blog for so long, because I was able to show that I could sustain a blog for a long period of time. That helped me sell my blog, “Good Grief: A Tale of Two Tweens,” which ran on Good for two years. If you want to build name recognition, write often and write well, even if it’s just on your own blog. Continue to submit well targeted queries and essays to magazine editors, providing them with clips of your published works. Be persistent, but not annoying. And be patient.

~ How do you keep track of your writing income and expenses? Do you use a software program or record transactions on paper?

I’ve always used an Excel spreadsheet to manage submissions and rejections and online banking to keep track of the money.

~ Your new series of books, Stop Second Guessing Yourself, are filled with “real-world, mom-tested tips”. Can you share one of your favorite tips from the first book, The Toddler Years? “If you’re having one of those days where your inquisitive toddler’s incessant questions feel like they’re burning holes in your brain, initiate No Question Zones, where, for example, she’s not allowed to ask you ‘What dat?’ through all of Hallmark.”

Jen’s warm conversational writing style and sense of humor make me feel as if I’m catching up with a friend. That connection is a breath of fresh air and is not easy to find these days. To learn more about Jen and her family, you can visit her at I encourage you to sign up for her online newsletter as well. Her books are all available through

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Susan Johnston's Urban Muse

Joining us today is freelance writer, Susan Johnston, who is happy her job lets her “apply that childlike curiosity and love of language on a daily basis.” She is a non-fiction writer whose work appears in newspapers, trade publications, blogs, company websites, consumer magazines and in the anthologies, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Getting In To College and the soon to be released P.S. What I Didn’t Say.

~ Can you tell us about some of your recent freelance projects?
Sure! I just finished a couple of articles about dating and relationships for various websites. I'm also working on several career articles for a soon-to-be launched magazine in Canada and getting ready to start a big project writing product descriptions for a catalogue. I do a lot of product descriptions, actually, and they remind me of haikus, because they're short and sweet.

~ How do new clients find you?
A lot of it happens through word of mouth. I'm really fortunate to have a few wonderful mentors who have helped me network and land bigger clients. Plus, I sometimes respond to ads looking for freelance writers, which is how I've landed several clients.

~ Do you advertise your writing services other than your web site?
I printed postcards last year, but other than that, I don't spend any money on marketing. It's mostly an investment of time updating various profiles and my blog. I have profiles on several freelance websites like and, plus I'm on LinkedIn, because that's a great all-purpose website for professionals in any industry. (When I have extra time, I'll answer questions on LinkedIn to build my network and generally be a resource.) Several recruiters have emailed me after seeing my profile on CHL or LI.

~ I understand you are a Writing/blogging instructor at BCAE & CCAE. What is one key point you would like your students to learn from your class?
I think it's great that so many students want to learn about freelance writing or blogging, but I try to emphasize that the only way they'll get published is if they take what they've learned and start sending out queries or writing a blog! Some people are so focused on learning that they aren't doing. There's so much to learn about researching, querying, etc. that it can be daunting, but it's an ongoing process. You don't need to know everything to get published. A lot of writers learn as they go. I'm still learning and many established writers are, too.

~ Your blog, Urban Muse, has won several awards and Writer’s Digest named it in the 101 Best Websites for Writers. Do you feel blogging is a good way for a new writer to start out?
Definitely! It gives you a creative outlet so you can practice writing on a regular basis and hone your voice. But don't expect to be an overnight blogging sensation, because that's how people burn out. Focus on writing good content and building your readership over time.

~ You have a huge following on Twitter! How can new writers harness this networking opportunity to improve their businesses?
By engaging with writers, editors, and any other followers. Twitter should not be purely self-promotional. In fact, people get turned off by that. If you're conversing with people and retweeting interesting links, then your followers are more likely to look at your links when you post them than if you're constantly and exclusively promoting yourself.

You can follow Susan on Twitter, @UrbanMuseWriter, visit her web site at and follow her writing adventures at