Sunday, October 30, 2011

Crazy Mom's Everywhere & Lit Fest Magazine's Amanda Goossen - Special Feature with Giveaway!

Joining us from Phoenix, Arizona is Amanda Goossen. She is blogging with Crazy Mom's Everywhere, and as well as working with Lit Fest Magazine and reviewing books for Publisher's Weekly. Today on Writers in Business, Amanda is announcing a short story contest, giveaway and guest blogging spots.
Welcome Amanda! Let's start with your Can you tell us about it?

Lit Fest Magazine was developed about a year and a half ago after I left my position at a literary magazine and I was determined to create an online magazine that included everything I love. I had just gone to the Los Angeles Times Literary Festival at UCLA and was feeling such bliss from everything that surrounded me at this event. I named my website Lit Fest because I wanted it to encompass everything that you would find at a really phenomenal Literary Festival...Literature, Music and Food. Living in Los Angeles my husband and I had a number of friends in these fields so I put out the word of what I was doing and that I wanted people to contribute. The reaction, feedback and eventual work submitted was terrific!

Our market for Lit Fest was originally Los Angeles based but because we had a few writers spread out through the country and actually the world (I have one book reviewer who lives in Australia) I knew it would be enjoyed internationally. I recently moved to Phoenix, AZ and I large amount of our material is based on things regarding our new city and may become our target market.

Our Guest Blogs and Weekly Short Story Contest tend to be two of the most popular parts of Lit Fest. Our Guest Blogs are done by authors who are usually promoting a book and want readers to read about their work as well as get a feel for who they are. My favorites have been the month long blog author Andrew Gross did from his vacation in Napa Valley, an author who wrote about why she was a terrible judge for a dance contest and another who write about getting her life back after spending a year in front of her computer writing her first book. In about 1,000 words these authors can crack you up laughing, make you cry or at the very least introduce themselves to you in a way you would have never known them otherwise. I love reading them each time they hit my inbox.
The short story contest is something I decided to include with Lit Fest because so many people are writing and don't know how to get their work seen by others. There are an incredible amount of talented people out there that just want a few people to read what they have to say...I think there should be more arenas to have writing viewed by other writers and readers. There are a few stories I've read by aspiring writers that were so incredibly amazing that I still think about them often.

Anyone interested in the Short Story Contest can find information on and authors looking for a Guest Blogging spot can email me Amanda (at)LitFestMagazine (dot)com about open dates and guidelines.

I love your graphics, design and content of Crazy Mom's Everywhere. Can you share your inspiration and purpose for this new blog?

Thanks! I have spent the past year teaching myself Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and have loved everything I've learned. The 'Crazy Mom's Everywhere' graphic was developed while I was experimenting with what I learned and applying it by trying to create a logo and name for an event planning company I hope to have someday. Everything was kind of accidentally working as I went and I thought I had to use this now instead of holding on to it for a few years. So I pushed that logo aside and developed this instead.

My purpose for Crazy Moms Everywhere was originally to anonymously post the good times and bad of being a mom. I feel like sometimes us moms feel like we are going to go crazy in the mayhem of everyday. But we don't always realize how many others are in our same exact position. We are all going crazy, running here, doing this thing and then that. Trying to be perfect and never quite making it there. I had friends who would act like everything was perfect but if you asked them how they really felt they would break it down and explain all the chaos that filled their day. I wanted moms to realize we don't have to put up a front, we can be honest with each other about the good times AND the bad! Oh and I gave up on the anonymous part because I felt if we were being honest, we had to be completely honest.

The blog tends to have a lot of food based writing because food plays such a large part in my life and in our family. I have a hard time sharing some things about my kids and family because I believe in privacy and don't want my children to ever look back and think, "Oh thanks Mom" although I'm sure they will do that anyway, so instead I talk about our family through our relationship with food. I talk about how our stressful, frustrating day came through in our dinner when I burned the homemade pizzas I was so excited about but totally not relaxed enough to be preparing. Or how a certain incredible brand of breakfast items (Waffle Lady) has changed our life and the way we eat. You can say my food obsession translates to the blog in a huge way!
(<--Amanda's Fairy Cupcakes)

In the past week I have tried to vary things a bit, taking a few breaks from food discussions. Recently I started "31 Days of New Things" where every day I try something new, mostly food and cooking oriented but there will be some mommy firsts which will arise for sure! I am actually in the middle of writing one right now!

Speaking of food, I understand you are writing a new column in the Arcadia News and you are writing food and wine articles for and It's interesting to learn how writers acquire these regular writing projects. Do you send out query letters with clips?

Finding new writing jobs can be a challenge, but it's also about how much time you are willing to spend searching. I spend about two hours, one night a week looking for writing jobs on various websites. I'm registered in a couple online writing groups which send out emails about jobs as well. One thing I've had to learn is to apply, apply, apply. I send out resumes (with a few writing clips) every time I see something that might be up my alley. Every time I send an email for a writing job, however, I have a sudden tinge of fear before I hit send. I have a moment of doubt which quickly dissolves and hearing back a positive response makes it all worth it. I've just convinced myself that I can't get a job if I don't put myself out there!

Also, I have an outstanding friend who I went to college with who is also a writer and we talk non-stop about our progress, what we need to do to write more, find jobs, get better at what we're doing and how to juggle our passion for motherhood with our passion for writing. Our love of reading and writing is a major part of our friendship and a plays a large role in my writing career.

On top of all of this writing, you are also a reviewer for Publisher's Weekly. I'm sure many of my readers would like to learn more about this.

Reviewing books for Publisher's Weekly has been an incredibly exciting and enjoyable experience. Since I was six years old I have been an avid reader. Books have been one of the great loves of my life and being able read for a well-known company has been an honor. I can organize my time however I need to and depending on the length of the books I can usually read about 8 books a month, only having to devote a few hours a day about five days a week. This works out well for me because I also review books for Lit Fest and gives me time to read those as well.

Before we provide the information on your new giveaway, I wanted to ask if there is anything else you would like to share with my readers.

Yes, I would love for moms to know that writing (or whatever passion they have) is totally reachable, but they have to be willing to go after it. My kids and spending as much time as I can involved in their childhood is my main priority so I spend a lot of time up late. Coffee is my friend!

Thank you Amanda! I've spent years working around my childrens' nap times, bed times and now around their school days. It's wonderful to have that flexibility while still contributing to our family finances.

To end our interview, could you tell my readers how they can register to win your contest?

I'm happy to. We offer frequent contests and giveaways through Lit Fest Magazine and Crazy Mom's Everywhere.

To be entered into this Crazy Mom's Everywhere and Lit Fest Magazine Gift Bag Giveaway readers must go to or Crazy Mom's Everywhere and sign up to follow by email or as a Google follower. They must also send an email to Amandagoose (at) gmail (dot) com with their name, address and email. This information will only be used to mail the winner their prize.

Contest runs from Sunday October 30, 2011 until November 5, 2011. Winner will be notified by email on November 6, 2011 as well as announced on both websites.

Gift Bag Includes:

Waffle Lady Whole Wheat Waffle Mix (The absolute best waffle mix in the world)

Leo Monster made by Allison Barum (My favorite gift to give the special kiddos in my life)

Children's Books:
Superhero Joe by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman
Mr Duck Means Business by Tammi Sauer

Young Adult Books:
The first two books in John Grisham's YA Theodore Boone series
Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer
Theodore Boone: The Abduction

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School By Kathleen Flinn

A Pinch of Love by Alicia Bessette
Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory

Special Addition:
The Hallows Insider: New Fiction, Facts, Maps, Murders and More in the World of Rachel Morgan By Kim Harrison (Release Date: Oct. 25, 2011….beautiful hardbound book with color pages, illustrations and more)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Understanding Business Expenses by Brigitte Thompson

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 other taxpayers. For example, a book on the history of New Mexico 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.

Check out my book, Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers, to learn more about deductible expenses and how to reduce the income taxes you pay as a writer. You can read about it on my web site and on

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Revised - Frugal Book Promoter: Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Carolyn Howard-Johnson has just released the revised, second edition of her award winning book, The Frugal Book Promoter.
Carolyn joins us today to tell us more about this updated title.

Your first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter changed the way authors view their role in marketing their titles. What can we expect in this revised edition?

The content has been expanded to include simple ways to promote books using newer technology--always considering promotion and marketing techniques that are easy on the pocketbook and frugal of time. It also includes a multitude of ways for authors and publishers to promote the so-called hard-to-promote genres.

You'll also learn to write media releases, query letters and a knock 'em dead media kit--all tools that help an author find a publisher and sell their book once it's in print.

Specific updates include:

~ The basics that make you into an on-your-own publicist or a great partner

~ Chapters on what I call the "game changers"

~ Information on using online bookstores to your benefit

~ Making your blog actually work for you

Wow... this sounds amazing! You mentioned offering suggestions on how to work with technology. Can you share some of that information?

Sure, this new edition covers how to use the e-book format to promote sales, provides information on how to use Google Alerts to their full advantage and how to put together Power Point presentations. All very timely promotional tips.

I understand you have received rave reviews for this new edition including one from self-publishing guru Dan Poynter.

Yes, here are a few.

"If you're going to read only one book to get other people to read your book, it should be this one."
~ Tim Bete, director Dayton University's Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop

" Unlike other books and articles on the subject, this one is detailed--and it's chock full of ideas that even seasoned book promoters will not have tried."
~ Dallas Hodder Franklin, editor of

"Howard-Johnson has the comforting tone of a mentor and writes with the precision of a surgeon."
~ Francine Silverman, author and editor of Book Promotion Newsletter

"The most expensive parts of book promotion are the mistakes. This book will save you time and money."
~ Dan Poynter, author of The Self-Pubishing Manual

Carolyn, thank you for joining us today to share your exciting news! How can we order a copy of the revised book?

You can order it online through my web site Frugal Book Promoter and through

You can also visit Carolyn online at She also offers a newsletter and blog filled with useful information.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Making a Living Online as a Copywriter: Mission Impossible? by Kristine M. Smith

Kristine M. Smith has been a freelance writer for more than 35 years and a professional copywriter since 2007. The author of six books, her most recent title is SERVAL SON: Spots and Stripes Forever, a cautionary true story about what it’s like to own—and be owned by—a wild cat. Endorsed by several high-profile animal advocates, SERVAL SON debuted at #2 and #4 in two categories on the day it was released at Amazon (Sept. 1, 2011). She joins us today to share her tips on making a living as a copywriter.

Making a Living Online as a Copywriter: Mission Impossible?

Back in the day—not all that long ago—it was entirely possible to hang a shingle at Elance and other online freelance websites, take a battery of tests, post a portfolio of your best work, and within months hit some semblance of a stride and begin to make a living. It happened for me that way back in 2008-2009.

Things have changed dramatically.

Even those of us with stellar ratings from clients and hundreds of projects under our belts are finding the freelance jungle a tedious, tangled tribulation these days. It seems the bigger and better-known a freelance site gets, the worse it becomes at doing what it set out to do: serve as a matchmaker between buyers and providers.
Unfortunately, at the moment Elance happens to be the best known (and best) freelance website out there (in my opinion) so until a competitor comes along that is willing to do right by its buyers and sellers again, Elance it is. I have an awfully secure feeling that they’ll get their comeuppance one day when a group of savvy Creatives gets together and decides to do it right. At that point Elance will have to straighten up, change what it’s doing wrong, or die a sadly well-deserved death.

Just a year ago as I write this, providers (that’s what we’re called at Elance and at other sites) were able to ask questions (via a Public Message Board) of prospective “employers” (buyers) to clarify project parameters whenever a project description lacked vital details and to make sure the association would be a win-win for both parties. Not anymore.

Recently Elance decided that providers now must pay one or more connect fees (depending on the monetary value of the project) just to ask follow-up questions if a project description is incomplete! This has effectively priced the service out of most beginning providers’ ability to pay and has caused long-time providers to initiate strategies that will allow them to head for the exits as soon as practical without losing their shirts.

Charging providers to pay connect fees in every instance where project parameters need to be clarified (which is at least 50% of the time) makes about as much sense as charging job seekers to pay for the preliminary interviews they get with employers to find out what a total job entails and whether it’s a good fit. On the face of it, it’s completely ludicrous.

This new wrinkle has caused the search for good projects to take two to three times longer and to cost two to three times more in connect fees. If a project description is inadequate (which happens most of the time), all you can do to escape a connect fee is to submit a violation report that tells Elance “Insufficient detail to bid reliably” and hope that the powers-that-be will de-list it before someone else bids blind on it and lands it.

I have developed a content questionnaire, a multiple-page document of kudos from over 100 clients, and an article that instructs buyers how to write a complete project description when seeking copywriters. Whenever I find a project that intrigues me enough that I decide to pay a connect fee to bid tentatively on it until I learn more, I attach these three documents to the bid.

It’s no surprise that some potential buyers/employers balk when they see the attachments because they then understand what their part of the bargain must be in order for me to hit their project out of the ball park for them. Others are extremely appreciative that I care enough to show them what’s needed so the project can be completed to their vision in a fraction of the time it would take otherwise (and hence at less cost to them).

Incidentally, the three documents act as a great screening device. The kudos pages prove my value; the PD page educates the buyer; the content questionnaire solicits what I need to know to bid reliably and helps me discern if the buyer is someone I really want to do business with.

If a buyer isn’t willing to collaborate by filling out the questionnaire, or provide sufficient parameters so I can bid reliably, it’s a red flag and my first indication that—should I elect to take the job—I’d better charge significantly more than I would for a buyer who’s willing to do their fair share. After all, business owners know their customers, their product or service, and their USPs (unique selling propositions) like the back of their hands. If they don’t, that’s a red flag, too: the project will be more time-consuming research-wise and may require one-on-one counseling with the buyer. And if a buyer can provide testimonials as well, your job as a copywriter is that much simpler and becomes making what they offer so irresistible that only a nincompoop would go anywhere else!

Ready to Roll?
I know that what I’ve outlined here sounds discouraging, but if you’re a talented copywriter who can compete well in the space between a vast army of offshore (third world, English-as-a-second-language) and/or hobbyist writers and the handful of superstars who ask a bundle for their services, go ahead and throw your hat into the ring. In this economy, do whatever you have to do to bring home the bacon. If you can write (or edit) (or proofread) (or build websites), don’t hesitate.

I’ll be happy to send you my Content Questionnaire and the Elance article to get you started. Feel free to adapt the Content Questionnaire to make it your own. The Elance article will help you see what a complete project description (PD) should look like.

5 Quick Tips
Never bid blind. If a PD isn’t complete, report it to the website and move on unless you’re so intrigued by the partial description that it just won’t leave you alone.

Be sure your project is funded before you work on it. Grab-and-go “will you write this on spec” folks are out there ripping people off right and left. Don’t fall victim to them.

Read the buyer’s/employer’s feedback for other projects s/he has funded before bidding. Don’t risk your budding reputation on a chronically cranky character.
Take the website’s battery of pertinent tests. Don’t self-rate if given the option. Few people believe self-rated claims.

Post a portfolio at the website as soon as you can. If you don’t have anything to show at first, ask your clients whenever you get a great rating if you can post what you’ve written for them in your portfolio. (Unless they’ve asked you to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, most will be happy to let you do that.)

Thank you Kristine! You can visit Kristine online at Her email address is kristine m smith AT msn DOT com (all one word).

©2011 by Kristine M. Smith. Published here with permission.