Monthly Archives: November 2011

Laughter Feeds the Writing Muse

It’s one o’clock in the morning and I really should get to sleep. Yet, I can’t stop smiling and I’m still laughing. I have to write. Now. Why?

I just finished a rather long conversation with a technical support person from Amazon. I can honestly say that it was the most enjoyable tech support call I’ve ever experienced. And when you have something to write about, it’s best to write while the experience is fresh in your mind.

What does this have to do with writing? Nothing. And everything.

Nothing because I initiated the call due to a problem using my Kindle. Everything because after the man helped me figure out how to download the books I wanted, I asked him how I could publish my books on Amazon and he told me how to do this.

The man who answered my call for help had a lovely British accent, or so I thought—it turns out he’s from Capetown, South Africa—not British at all. And he had a sense of humor, which is much needed by any tech support person who helps me because by the time I contact tech support, I usually am so lost that I’m not very coherent. To each of his questions, I could only answer, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” laughing giddily at myself. He took my answers in stride and even laughed along with me. I was impressed.

He gently and patiently guided me through the Amazon web site, encouraging me at every step by saying, “Brilliant,” in such a way that by the end of our conversation I actually felt brilliant.

Here’s what I learned and now want to share with you.

If you decide to publish your book on Amazon’s Kindle, it will be available to an audience of millions of potential readers because books published on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) are not only available on Kindle devices, they are also available on Kindle apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, PC, Macintosh, Blackberry, and Android-based devices. Think about the possibilities.

Have I captured your interest? Roused your curiosity? Whetted your appetite for a broader audience? Good. Read on then.

How to Publish Your Book on Amazon’s Kindle
When you are on the web site, click the Help link in the upper right corner of the window. In the Search Help box, type the words ‘Kindle Direct Publishing’ and click Search.

All you need to get started is a digital copy of your book, a book cover page, and a description of your book. You can also access the Getting Started & FAQ page and a video that explains how to get started publishing your book on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing site.

There’s more, however, that is for my next post when I’ll take you on my journey publishing a small book on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

Until then, I am grateful for that wonderful conversation with a brilliant man halfway around the world in Capetown, South Africa—Thank you!

You made my day!

Why Is Writing Difficult for Writers?

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann

Writing is often more difficult for writers than it is for other people because writers, by nature, are perfectionists. We craft our words to put our thoughts and feelings on display for the entire world to see. We bare our souls and that makes us feel vulnerable, so we want to make sure that what we write is perfect, although it rarely is.

Perfection, of course, is an elusive concept. The printers who used Gutenberg’s first printing press were very aware of that. And, although the works they printed often were riddled with typos, they still would deliberately misspell one word in each book they printed because, as they said, “Only God is Perfect.”

Whenever I find myself laboring obsessively over something I am writing, I find it helpful to recall this story about the first printers. It helps me remember to relax and just write. It comforts me to remember that I am only human and that my job is to put those words down in a legible format, so that a good editor can polish my words and make them shine.

The Writing Life, Part 5—Finding Clients

In The Writing Life, Part 4—Finding Clients, I covered how to find clients using cold calls, warm calls, and serendipity. In this post, I’ll cover how to find them using public speaking gigs, published articles, and networking.

Although there are probably as many ways to find clients as there are writers, these next three are quite popular with writers who are outgoing and find it easy to talk with people:

Public Speaking Gigs
Make it a point to accept and even look for opportunities to speak in public. Local writer’s groups, seminars, conferences, chambers of commerce, and other organizations often need speakers for their meetings.

These are opportunities that provide you with exposure to a wide variety of people in many walks of life. You never know when you may get a new client just because they or someone they know heard you speak. At the very least, you may find fodder for your next article or book.

Published Articles
I’ve gotten several clients as a result of articles and columns I’ve written that were published in newspapers and magazines. Oftentimes a person reading an article may be looking for someone with your specific expertise or they may know someone who is. The enterprising readers will call the publication or contact you directly if the publication includes your contact information in your byline or bio.

Joining local groups and organizations may provide you with networking contacts in fields you are interested in working in. Now, I don’t mean, join an organization only with the intention of finding work.

I mean join an organization that you are interested in and participate in it as an active member. Other members will see you in action and appreciate your contributions. That type of networking is a soft-sell form of selling and usually results in the highest yields of client leads. Furthermore, it often results in potential clients approaching you, so there’s no selling on your part at all.

The Writing Life, Part 4—Finding Clients

How do you find clients?

This is the most-asked question of new freelance writers and probably the most reasonable because without clients you’re obviously not working or earning. There are several ways freelance writers use to find clients:

• Cold calls
• Warm calls
• Serendipity
• Public speaking gigs
• Published articles
• Networking

Cold Calls
Although cold calling is the least favorite way to find clients, I must admit it’s one I’ve had a good deal of success with. Which is odd when I think about how much I dislike doing it. Still, I’ve worked on some interesting projects which I found just by picking up the phone and calling someone I didn’t know and asking for the work.

Warm Calls
Warm calls are much friendlier than cold calls because the person you’re calling either already knows about you and is expecting your call or because you’ve been referred by someone they know. In many instances, you know that the person you’re calling is looking for a writer because the person who gave you the lead provided that information.

My first gig with a start-up company happened purely as a result of serendipity. I was in a store making photocopies and I struck up a conversation with the man at the photocopy machine next to mine.

He was the president and CEO of a start-up company. When he learned that I was a writer and editor, he asked me to work on the marketing materials for his new company.

In The Writing Life, Part 5—Finding Clients, I cover finding clients through public speaking gigs, published articles, and networking.

The Writing Life, Part 3—Why Freelance?

I was scared when I decided to take the leap from a full-time position as member of the editorial staff of a magazine to freelancing. But I was more scared not to.

That probably sounds odd, however, the thought of never experiencing the thrill of working for myself, of living my life only working for others terrified me more than the uncertainty that goes with not having a steady paycheck.

When I was growing up, most of the adults I knew—family, neighbors—owned their own businesses. I had difficulty understanding what my classmate’s fathers did for a living because they had to go to work at some destination called an office or a factory or a construction site.

At sixteen, I got my first ‘real’ job. I felt like a captive because I ‘had’ to be at work at a specific time each day. That feeling continued as I graduated college and entered the workforce. Even when I got my dream job working on the editorial staff of a magazine, I felt like a captive. I loved my job and the people I worked with were terrific. Still, I felt constrained by the requirements of being in an office for a specific length of time each day. I felt like I was missing out on my life.

In my mind, freelancing offered me the perfect mix of focused work time and flexibility. Sure, sometimes I had to be on site to work with a client. However, there were a lot of other times when I could work from home in the comfort of my own office. And those were the times that more than made up for when I needed to be on site.

They still are and they still do.

The Writing Life, Part 2—Freelancing Without an Agency

Although I enjoyed the agency work I did when I first began freelancing, there comes a time in every writer’s life when it makes sense to freelance without an agency. Why? Because most writers are independent souls, free spirits who feel constrained by the rules and regulations of agency work.

When I decided to branch out on my own, I felt excited, elated, and terrified all at the same time. Amazingly, one of my first non-agency clients was one of my former employers. Shortly after I decided to drop the agency and fly solo, I unexpectedly received a phone call from the manager I’d reported to at the first magazine I worked for. They needed a freelancer to work on a premium product they planned to give to new subscribers.

It sounded like an interesting project. It also felt great to return to familiar surroundings—and at twice the hourly pay I had received as an employee. After that, I was convinced that freelancing without an agency was definitely right for me.

The Writing Life, Part 1—Working With Agencies

Agencies that hire and place writers are much like temporary agencies that hire office personnel or laborers. They find clients who want to hire writers, then they negotiate the contract, find and hire the writers, schedule the interviews with the client company, collect the payment, and pay the writer, keeping a percentage for themselves for the work they’ve done.

It’s fair, but it means you’re working for much less than you would be paid if you worked directly with the client. Still, I loved working this way when I was relatively new to freelancing and still learning how to find clients and negotiate contracts. I also appreciated that the agency would go after any delinquent payers.

Still, after a while the constraints of working for an agency became apparent and I determined to work for myself. More about that in Part Two of The Writing Life.

3 Things Editors Don’t Want Writers to Know

I’ve been both a writer and an editor. Sitting on both sides of the hiring desk has provided me with an insight that most writers don’t have access to. What’s more, there are three things editors don’t want writers to know because if writers knew these things, editors fear they would lose their negotiating power.

The three things that editors don’t want writers to know are:

1. They Need You.
Editors need writers. Writers provide editors with job security. Without writers and what they write, editors would not have jobs.

2. Editors Depend on Writers.
Editors know that they can depend on professional writers to meet the deadlines they set for them. This is important because if a writer misses a deadline, the editor may have to come up with a replacement article at the last minute. And editors do not like to have to do this. So editors depend on their stable of writers to meet their deadlines on time or even early.

3. Editors Have Favorite Writers.
Editors, like teachers, have favorites among the writers they work with. Their favorite writers meet the deadlines they set and often over deliver. That is, they provide sidebars, graphics, and backup information that editors can use to enhance page layouts and provide filler. All of this makes the editor’s job easier. Who wouldn’t like working with someone who does this?