Came across this nifty bit of information in my weekly emails from The Book Designer. If you like writing contests or would like to try one out, here’s a good list for fall 2019 writing contests from Writer Unboxed.
This is a wonderful guest post and a worthy read for anyone considering writing a personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction. Shared on one of my fave writer’s blog.
Counterfeit Books on The Rise
An article on Twitter by Publishing Perspectives caught my eye today while reading posts from Writer Beware®. Written by Porter Anderson, the article outlined and discussed illegitimate online book sales and Amazon’s response (since so many of these deceitful sales take place in their bookstore). It all started when journalist David Streitfeld of the New York Times wrote in June that “Amazon takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore” in reference to the surge in counterfeit books on Amazon.
In his article, David recounts his purchase of “numerous fake and illegitimate Orwell books from Amazon.” I’m not surprised; the advent of the Internet brought with it a host of ne’er-do-wells intent on making money off the backs of legitimate authors. The global marketplace is vast, to say the least; tracking a counterfeit copy of one of your books (or by someone famous like George Orwell) can be time-consuming and expensive, and many authors simply don’t have the resources. It’s a Digital Wild West – every man (or woman) for himself (or herself). The digital gold rush is ON.
After reading this article, one question that concerns me is, how can we be sure that what we’re buying is the real deal?
Make the Old New Again?
In trots the old workhorse: traditional publishing. I believe that at some point, authors and their readers will tire of the con jobs, counterfeits, price gouging, and other deceptive practices running rampant online. Perhaps going back to the way things were with traditional publishing, at least to some extent, can possibly protect authors from the shady side of self-publishing in a digital world.
“While Amazon is the company that has, he’s right, made it possible for even the most marginal books to be suddenly available to everyone everywhere from the most earnest but artless authors (self-published or from the trade), it can also enable the chicanery of ruthless forgers.”
I personally have had my first fiction novel illegally downloaded and offered for free (not illegitimate but definitely illegal) and it was difficult to get the cons to stop, especially since they know there’s not much we can do about it other than request a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) takedown. To my knowledge, my book was not forged in any way. However, deceit is deceit and authors can lose royalties and fan bases as a result of these illegal acts, especially if the thieves are halfway around the world.
The integrity of the written word is under attack and we must diligently protect our works.
Amazon responded by stating there’s an issue with the “differing copyright timing between countries and sometimes even different titles within the same country.” They also wrote that “there is no single source of truth for the copyright status of every book in every country that retailers could use to check copyright status.”
Should there be a central body where authors can list copyrights for their intellectual property (IP)? What do you think? Amazon is at the forefront of this issue because they created it to begin with – they gave access to everyone (too much of good thing, perhaps), including liars, cheats and counterfeit thieves looking to make a quick buck.
As written in the article, perhaps there is a need for a “central international registry of published works’ copyright status that can support the burgeoning book publishing industry with a reliable test of copyright status.” Would that mean they’d catch all the illegitimate books? Maybe some, maybe not. It would be naïve to expect that every book thief/forger intent on making money from our work would be caught. Part of the problem is the absolute explosion in book inventory. Once a manageable almost one million titles in 1998, according to Bowker’s, there are now more than 40 million titles to track.
We’re needles in a global haystack.
The Bungling of Bundling Book Reviews
Another problem is that Amazon bundles its book reviews together, David writes, “regardless of which edition (legal or not) they were written for. That means an unauthorized edition … can have thousands of positive reviews, signaling to a customer it is a valid edition.”
I can’t help but think that this illegitimacy issue might work in favor of traditional publishing, that it might strengthen their stance in the global and online publishing worlds. It might even help cull the aforementioned “earnest but artless authors” inundating self-publishing book sites. Perhaps traditional publishing will once again become the vanguard and the proverbial measuring stick.
Someone needs to be.
To read the Publishing Perspectives article in full, click here.
I was right.
That Saturn Opposition Moon kicking my butt through November? Evidently it’s an opportunity (though inconvenient, as usual) provided by the Universe for me to get off my butt and make art. Write more, paint more, create, create, create. On a whim, I recently sat down with a reader, Debra, who used Tarot, Numerology, and palm reading to give me some perspective. She validated and reinforced that I have an opportunity, in the midst of a difficult and emotionally charged personal crisis (yep, another one, sheesh), to create whenever I have free time. She explained how my parents set me up to be someone else (and it’s NOT working, I’ll tell you that)…and maybe yours did, too.
Debra also told me that selling/sales (my current gig) is the ‘lowest form’ of vibration and I should be doing the higher form, which is making and selling my art, possibly even starting my own company. Hmmm…seem to remember that Redbubble site, with some of my artwork on it, not doing so well (maybe the wrong format, is all). But I get what she’s saying…I’m under-selling my skills, my art and myself by not actively creating.
Are you guilty of this as well? How many of you are following your true path? How many of you are following a path set by your parents (and their best intentions for wanting us to succeed according to how they defined success)? Artists, painters, writers, and such didn’t raise us all. Most of us were raised by parents who set us on that conformist path of ‘success’: college (Bachelor’s), then more college (MBA), then off to a swanky white collar job that is sure to suck the life out of anyone with even a hint of creativity because we were taught that art is NOT a way to earn a living, that art is NOT for serious-minded folks.
No wonder there’s so much unhappiness in the world. We’re living false lives. We’ve been deluded into believing there isn’t a place for our art, so we trudge on to the respectable, reliable job to pay the bills and bury the artsy stuff in a box in the back of the closet behind an outfit that hasn’t been worn in three years.
The tricky part is getting back on track after being off that track for so damn long. If you veered off your artistic course, what did you do to get back to your calling? What did you risk? What did you lose or gain?
Saw a sign somewhere today…it read:
“Success isn’t the road to happiness. Happiness is the road to success.” (Buddha)
Happiness in the form of creating our art, perhaps?
Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell the difference between something that feels good and something that feels right.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to distinguish between something that I need and something that I want.
So when a serendipitous moment or situation arrives, is it truly so? Or am I too focused on it being something I want? This is what scares me: that I will make a decision because I believe it to be an opportunity when really it’s not, when it’s something I want over something I need. Or just the opposite, when I make a decision based on believing it’s something I need over something I want.
I believe the Universe gives us what we need, not what we want (wouldn’t that cause a host of problems in already too-self-centered world), so maybe all situations are serendipitous, and how we respond is where we succeed or err.
Saturn Opposition Moon is still kicking my ass but has backed off somewhat since Mercury (the planet of communications) left retrograde on August 2nd and is moving forward again (big sigh of relief; no more miscommunications, misunderstandings, for a few months). I still feel philosophical, though I’m working more hours and writing/creating less – which means more money but less time for creative projects. My mind is constantly wandering off to some creative adventure I’d like to begin or complete.
I like to reread my posts; they can often inspire a new blog topic. As I reread my July 12th post on freely living a creative life, one of the quotes I included in the post bothered me. Author Elizabeth Gilbert wrote that whether or not we earn a living from a creative life isn’t the point.
I suppose it’s easy for her to write that, since she does earn a living from her writing.
How many writers/artists/creatives would agree with that statement, I wonder?
Are you truly happy just creating? I am, to a certain extent, but I admit I’d like to be able to rely, at least partially, on my creativity to support me (I’ll bet many of you would as well). Because creating something (a new novel, a painting, refinished furniture, a sculpture, etc.) is important but to earn a living from that creativity would allow us to be self-sufficient, independent, and not reliant on some J-O-B (with idiot bosses and stupid rules) so we can live our lives as we choose. Earning a living from our creativity would provide the freedom to work to live, not live to work, as so many Americans stuck in the daily grind must do.
Fear of the (Necessary) Big Leap
My biggest fear is to make the leap into 100% creativity, 100% of the time. When I think about it, I question whether I want or can create 100% of the time, since creative juices naturally ebb and flow. Caution in making deep-dive decisions come with age; thirty years ago I would have leaped into the unknown without thinking twice. Now I have responsibilities. Yet something continues to gnaw at me deep inside (could be that Saturn Opposition Moon thing). I’m not living an authentic life because I’m too concerned with that “just get a job” mantra drummed into me by my parents (that I cannot seem to let go of, for some insane reason).
What I want, then, is perhaps exactly what I need – to live creatively, freely, without doubt, without fear, always creating, always moving forward without regrets.
That is the leap of faith I (and you) must take.
The Heat Is On
OMG…summer is definitely HERE. Mid-90s to high 90s, then on up to triple digits (108 the other day), then back down to 90-ish today. No better time to catch up on some summer reading (indoors where the A/C is, of course). I’m currently digging into a Steve Berry spy novel and just finished devouring the latest in Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series (one of my all-time faves). Summer reading is a nice respite from both work (if you have a day job) and writing. The heat can sometimes ‘gunk up the works,’ leaving imaginations stalled. Summertime reading can reignite that engine. So pick up a few good books at your local library or bookstore, grab a large lemonade with ice, a nice lawn chair, and you’re good to go.
What are you reading right now? Some people like to save certain books for summer reading – are you one of those? I’d love to hear what titles people are reading; who knows, you might hook me on one of your fave authors.
Posting On Book Ad Sites – Are They Worth It?
I got this idea from an email newsletter I subscribe to and decided to check out the four options they listed. You know how you ‘just know’ when a website, due to its layout style (too busy, not busy enough, asymmetrical, etc.) turns you off? That’s how I felt when I visited the some of the sites. Nothing impressive and they seemed already full of a lot of books I’ve not heard of – then again, I’m not exactly worldly when it comes to global writers and authors. They just didn’t feel right to me. Suggestions on some good sites for posting book ads are welcome.
Bookswifi.com and creativedesignwriters.com are two paid sites that seem decent enough. Books Wifi offers four options: Premium, Featured, Standard, and Basic and the prices are reasonable. How many hits you’ll get on your book, I have no idea. You can decide whether it’s a worthy expense.
Creative Design Writers (.com) is definitely international; there are classifieds, company ads (realty) and fan pages (do people really look at these?); one even reads like a resume/dating site ad. There are ads in other languages, too. Something for everyone, I suppose.
Also offered are SM marketing ($100 USD/month) and SEO ($150 USD/month) but I prefer to work with people I know and who live in my area. Not sure how safe some of these international sites are or who’s running them.
The Dark Side of Writing
A good place to learn about the shadowy world of writing is Writer Beware®, a brilliant website where writing and literary scams are tracked by a team of writers. The current article is on vanity publishers – you know, the companies that make you pay up front for marketing, printing, and other expenditures, only to not receive royalty payments, inaccurate accounting of sales, refusal to print more books, etc. The complaints have been rolling in on these vanity publishers and you should do your due diligence in checking out the site on a regular basis. This is one of the recent articles on vanity publishers that is a MUST-READ:
Once upon a time, back in the early days of self-publishing, I almost fell for a vanity publisher called Tate Publishing (a Christian-based company, which I was unaware of until I read the heavy Christian verbiage in the publishing contract and changed my mind), now touting itself as Christian Faith Publishing , and is connected to another vanity publisher, Page Publishing. Lots of five-star BBB ratings to go with the numerous complaints, but the good does not outweigh the bad in these cases.
Basically, these vanity publishers take your money because that’s how they make theirs. They don’t follow through on their promises of sales, royalties and book exposure. If you’re new to self-publishing, DO YOUR RESEARCH and AVOID VANITY PUBLISHERS. These days, it’s fairly easy to get your book out there as long as you spend some money on a professional editor, book layout, and book cover design.
“The secret of these vanities is that they present themselves as publishers. Their target customer doesn’t want to self-publish…what they see is the validation of being chosen by a publisher, and because they don’t realize that reputable publishers don’t charge fees, they are vulnerable to this kind of deceptive advertising.” Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware®
Summer is a busy time for writers, readers, and booksellers. Take the time to enjoy a good read and don’t fall for literary predators!
Scroll, Scroll, and Scroll Again
Scrolling through Indeed.com job titles is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The worst part is when I finally arrive at a title that interests me but the SEO metadata doesn’t give me a CLUE as what the job is, what kind of company I’m looking at, or which skills are needed for the position in the title.
Here’s the first example of poor metadata:
Okay, a few skills here; but do you know what product this company makes/sells?
I want to know so I did what I’m sure others have done and copied the company’s name to a Google Search page. Come to find out, they’re a cannabis delivery business. Hmmm…that kind of makes sense once I read on down the job page (which contains no information whatsoever on the company itself) but the metadata is insufficient.
This one’s worse:
401K plan? Work up a sweat? Is this a gym job disguised as an office job? I’d rather learn something about the position/company in the metadata.
You might be thinking…
What does this have to do with my author website?
You NEED Good SEO For Your SERP
If you don’t have good SEO (search engine optimization, or for some people, Search Everywhere Online) metadata for your SERP (search engine results pages), that might explain why you’re not getting enough (or more) traffic to your site. Have you done a Google (or Bing or Yahoo or Yandex) search on your website? I just ran a search on the word ‘mestengo’ and got plenty of hits but none of them for my site (grrrrr).
Then I added the word ‘books’ and up pops (second option) my ineffective (and mostly inactive) Mestengobooks FB page (which I re-activated so I can join writers groups). The link to my actual website was the fifth option down the list, below the ineffective FB site (sigh). Below that, at least, my website logo pops up in a gallery of images.
That’s a link to my first blog post, the introduction, which I have changed numerous times since then – from three years ago!
See what I mean? You need to regularly check your SEO SERP for your author website, your commercial/business website, landing page, Google Ads…for any website you want customers to visit and SPEND MONEY. Go to your admin page right now and check your SEO SERP then search for your site online and make sure you’re coming out at (or near) the top and your site metadata provides the right information.
Where Is It?
Okay, page two of Google results gets me to the top of the page for my Lulu spotlight page (where my self-published nutrition book is housed and printed) that people must be actually visiting
Still no link for my website, though…(sigh)…
I have some work to do.
And perhaps you do, as well.
Update: I played around with some SEO on my admin page and now my website comes up on the first page – but still below my less-than-active FB page and the original 2016 intro blog….progress, not perfection, right?
Saturn Opposition Moon is Kicking My Ass Right Now
I don’t know how many of you are into astrology or accept its veracity but I’m in a Saturn opposition Moon situation through November that has me re-thinking some very personal issues (career vs. personal happiness is one aspect; others are some specific security/insecurity issues and it’s during this time that I’m to work this all out, lucky me). I feel more philosophical these days (which is what comes with age, oh joy) and it shows up in my writing more and more. I’ve realized it’s who I am (and have become more so) and my writing reflects that aspect, even in this blog. I feel a greater need to be even more creative (like it’s pushing everything else out of my mind lately; this is my 3rd blog in the space of a week because the words keep flowing) and often find myself daydreaming about creating in other ways (painting, fabric painting, mosaics, photography, etc.). My creativity seems to have worked its way to the forefront of my life; I’m still not sure if it’s a good thing (because it’s the road I’m meant to be on) or just some wishful thinking (as an escape from those pesky issues). I think it’s part of what I’m forced to work out during this transition.
Not That Kind of Blog
Mine is not a how-to-be-a-better-writer kind of blog, I never intended it to be. Though I might pepper in a few how-to posts, my blog has a more philosophical, narrative and personal style. Since the beginning, I’ve gained and lost readership as a result of writing this blog from a different approach. As with many (insecure) writers, I’m learning to be okay with the ups and downs and continue 1) as if it doesn’t matter in the long run, and 2) believing that some readers will gain new perspectives on their own writing from my personal perspectives.
What Do You Gain?
Are you gleaning anything positive from my posts? Do they help you become more introspective in relation to your writing skills and style? Do my posts help you look at the work you’re creating with a new set of eyes, with a renewed sense that what you’re creating is good enough? This is my hope, my goal. Sharing on a deeper level, to me, is more profound than focusing only on the technical aspects of writing (how to be a better writer, how to sell more books, etc.). Depending on your genre, philosophical or narrative posts may be more helpful; maybe not. It’s all a crapshoot anyway, right?
Walk With Me
So there it is. I hope you’ll stay with me even though I’m not trying to ‘teach’ you how to be a better writer (at least not directly). If we travel this road together long enough, something will stick.
And that’s all that really matters.
I’m passionate about many topics but the subject of homelessness has moved to the top of my list recently. Here in California there has been an exponential increase in people losing their homes, for a variety of reasons. Three of the main reasons are 1) increased rents (and illegal evictions); 2) wildfires/natural disasters; and 3) loss of jobs or loss of full-time jobs.
Loss is Loss
While it’s easy to feel compassion for folks who have lost their homes due to wildfires (or other natural disasters, as seen around the world right now), there seems to be less compassion and understanding for people who have been priced out of their homes (mainly apartments) here in California, creating a surge in homelessness (including many who work). Sadly, one of the largest increases in recent months here in northern California has been in the senior/over 65 community – it saddens me to think about elderly people forced to move out of their homes because they can no longer afford rent, food, and prescription medications. But it’s true.
Jobs are also getting more difficult to find and many people are scrambling to work in any capacity. I currently work a part-time job for a company that, for the most part, does not offer many full-time positions. So many part-time employees are scrambling to make ends meet with ever-changing schedules that don’t allow room for a second part-time job. (On any given day, you’ll see jobs posted on Indeed where it’s written in the posting they’re accepting only the first 700 applications! Who can compete with that?)
I’m seeing it everywhere: TV, SM, newspapers. So I can’t help but want to write about it, tell a few stories, and hope to be a small but positive effect on changing attitudes and finding solutions. So I had a brainchild: why not blog about the situation? Why not tell people’s stories? After all, everybody has a story, right? I’m bothered by the lack of serious action by our local government (and the national one as well, since it deems national security and warfare far more important than caring for its citizens by raising their standard of living) so I need to speak up.
Follow Along, If You Like
If you’re interested in following the journey into homelessness and what stories I may find there, please follow my stories at The Homeless Project. At some point, I may even hit the road to find the stories that need telling. In the telling, perhaps, I can awaken whatever sensibilities need awakening to push people into action, whether large or small. Every step forward is progress on the road to success.
Hope some of you will take the journey with me.
I recently finished (with much sadness, it was such a wonderful read) Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic (she wrote the delightful book Eat, Pray, Love). Basically it’s about the magic of inspiration, the freedom to create without another’s permission, and the magic of living a creative life. I devoured each chapter, dog-earing so many pages it looks more like an accordion than a book!
Somewhere along the way, like she writes in the book, I got it all wrong. I believed, wholeheartedly, that I needed the RIGHT desk/workspace/ideas/inspiration/subject, etc. to go ahead and begin creating. That I needed someone to tell me that what I was doing – actually, creating – was okay. I needed permission to create.
Turns out I’ve been creating all my life. I still have sketches from grade and high school (but I stupidly got rid of my oil and acrylic paintings because I thought they weren’t good enough to show anyone) and a few poems I wrote. I re-discovered them while cleaning out a box during one of my many moves to another new place a few years back. (And I still keep them tucked away, out of sight, for some unknown reason.)
Don’t Be Afraid
Then I reached the “You’re Afraid” chapter and found many of the same excuses I’ve used over the years to not create. Let’s see if you find yourself in any of these (there were many more but I think you’ll get the gist):
- You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or – worst of all – ignored.
- You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it.
- You’re afraid somebody else already did it better.
- You’re afraid everybody else already did it better. (You know, you’re not original enough…)
- You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline.
- You’re afraid you don’t have the ‘right’ [quotes added] kind of work space, or financial freedom or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration. (This was and has always been one of my lamest excuses for not creating something. That I was always so sensitive to my artistic environment; that the ‘wrong’ time or place or direction I faced with my desk would surely ruin any chances of creating something GREAT that would be enjoyed by ALL; that without all of the ‘right’ things necessary to SUCCEED I would, after all, definitely FAIL.)
- You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now you can never get it back. (It must be my fault – since I couldn’t get the setting ‘just right’ and now I’m doomed to never create again. Hurrumph.)
- You’re afraid of being a one-hit wonder.
- You’re afraid of being a no-hit wonder.
And so on….
You Don’t Need Permission, After All
But here’s the BEST part, the REVELATION that so many of us (especially me) need to hear (more than once,obviously):
“You do not need anybody’s permission to live a creative life. Maybe your parents were rule-followers or too busy being melancholic depressives, or addicts, or abusers to ever use their imaginations toward creativity. Maybe they weren’t makers…maybe just pure consumers. Maybe you grew up in an environment where people just sat around watching TV and waiting for stuff to happen to them.”
This was my childhood: mom and dad plunked in front of the TV at the end of exhausting days of housework [mom] and construction [dad], smoking cigarettes and barely speaking to each other (or us) while watching variety shows or sitcoms. Art was what hung on someone else’s walls (our living room was decorated with my parents bowling trophies, including the back end of a donkey for my dad’s team coming in last place); I certainly wasn’t encouraged to follow that road. Go to college. Get a job. Those were my parents’ mantras all through school. How on earth could I escape that fate? I’m still struggling to make room for creativity, to give myself PERMISSION to create WHATEVER I want to create, regardless of what you or whoever thinks about it. My sister was even more talented than me and she, too, was forced to become a square peg in a round hole, to abandon all artistic dreams for a future where putting bread on the table was the most important (and only) thing one could do with one’s life. It was the sensible thing to do, after all, right? (sneer)
“You want to write a book? Make a song? Learn a dance? Draw a penis on your wall? Do it. Who cares? Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants to lead you.”
In other words, stop worrying what others will think; you don’t need their permission or approval; just create, damn it! And damn anyone who believes differently! Because, in the end, it’s all just creativity. So it really doesn’t matter all that much. Get it?
Entitlement (the right kind)
That said, you need to understand the concept of entitlement – not the narcissistic American ‘I-deserve-everything-I-want‘ kind of entitlement but the kind of entitlement that lets you live freely with your creativity intact:
“… in order to live this way – free to create, free to explore – you must possess a fierce sense of personal entitlement… Creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here and that – merely by being here – you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.”
A Final Word
These are two of my favorites from the book – because they’re true, no matter what anyone says:
“Pure creativity is magnificent expressly because it is the opposite of everything else in life that’s essential or inescapable (food, shelter, medicine, rule of law, social order, familial responsibility, death, taxes, etc.). Pure creativity is something better than a necessity; it’s a gift. It’s the frosting… a wild and unexpected bonus from the universe.”
This is a woman deeply in love with her creativity. This is a woman who knows she is FREE to create without boundaries, permissions, critiques, etc. This is the kind of person I aspire to become and after reading her book, I know I am several steps closer to the clarity that I am FREE TO CREATE simply because I MUST CREATE. Because it’s who I AM.
“You can live a long life, making and doing really cool things the entire time. You might earn a living with your pursuits or you might not, but you can recognize that this is not really the point. And at the end of your days, you can thank creativity for having blessed you with a charmed, interesting, passionate existence.”
So get out there, folks, and create SOMETHING.
I dare you.
This just in from Publishing Perspectives:
An interesting read!
The Association of American Publishers filed a statement with the FTC supporting scrutiny of big tech companies, especially Amazon and Google.
Here are the final 3 lessons on finding freelance work, especially if you’re a beginner. I was skeptical to begin with (I tend toward cynicism naturally) and wasn’t all that impressed with what she offered. Not that she doesn’t offer quality information or lessons. It’s just that I can find what she’s offering all over the Internet so her services/products aren’t unique. Honestly, once I finished perusing her 6-day lesson, I got the impression that she moved quickly from freelance writing to selling her ‘secret to success.’
Lesson 4 – It’s all about you.
Again, Elna touches on something that many bloggers and writers before her have discussed – the lack of confidence in your ability to earn money by writing for other people. The DOUBT and FEAR that people have about getting themselves out there, that they don’t really have something to offer. Heard it before but I agree it’s an important aspect to face and move beyond in order to succeed.
Lesson 5 – Time to source freelance jobs and apply for them.
Assuming you’ve worked out the doubts and fears, she emphasizes the best way (actually, I think it’s the only way, in the beginning) is to start applying for freelance gigs on various sites. A no-brainer; how else might you find work? Once again, she inserts her call to action in the middle of the narrative (the hook). Good advice re free job boards and she lists some sites to visit. Then she offers another 53 sites by clicking on a link to a page on her website that is chock full of information. Overall, some useful information for beginners here.
Lesson 6 – Step up to pitch.
In this final free lesson, she details successful pitching habits, including her “proven five-step pitching formula”:
- Pitch often – make a goal to send 10 pitches a week, or if you’re super competitive, try sending 10 pitches every day before 10 a.m.
- Cast a wide net – pitch to any job ad that you’re somewhat qualified for. In the beginning, you’ll have more success if you’re not too picky.
- Pitch in the morning or on the day the ad is published. Heard the saying, the early bird catches the worm? Well, the early freelance writer catches all the gigs.
- Do some research about the company or startup. Many job ads tell you the name of the company so run a Google search to check them out. This can prove to be helpful when pitching.
- Include a name in your pitch – make it more personable by finding out the name associated with the job ad. This can be tricky but looking at their company website is a start.
She closes with some good advice on how to write that pitch letter.
All in all, the information in the last three segments is useful, including the 53 sites for finding freelance work. I like the details on building a pitch letter. And, of course, she closes with another call to action to sign up for her class and ends with an offer for a “special exclusive lesson + gift for you!”
Take away the sales pitches and you’ll find a few good pointers.
Will I sign up for her class?
Will I continue to subscribe to her website?
Does she offer anything NEW that isn’t already out there on the web?
That’s my pitch to you. Take from it what you will.
I realize I didn’t quite answer the question re freelance market saturation in my last post. Here’s what I think: that we are heading toward a zenith, a straight shot to the top of the bell curve (then it’s all downhill from there, folks). As with any fad (a huge segment of it is a fad, don’t kid yourselves), excitement reaches a booming crescendo before making a meteoric nosedive into triteness.
With the launch of Facebook and the SM sites that followed in kind, millions of humans raced to be a part of something global that connected everyone to everyone else, with the thought that that was a good thing. Now, people are leaving in droves, exhaustion and overwhelm having replaced excitement and novelty. For many, the bloom is off the rose as stress levels rise. Freelance writing will follow the same path, to some extent, in that the good freelancers will continue to earn a living while the mediocre and inadequate will fade into oblivion. Survival of the fittest, as Darwin said.
Elna Cain’s 6-day Free Lesson Plan to Get You Earning as a Freelancer
I’ve covered the first three lessons here; I’ll post about the last three once I’ve reviewed them:
Lesson 1: Pick a Niche
It took a while to get to the first step in her 6-day lesson plan. I had to scroll through a lengthy monologue on her journey to becoming a freelance writer (yawn). To top it off, she wants me to tag her at her Twitter account to “prove” I’m “100% committed” to a freelance life.
Her first lesson is to pick a niche – figure out what you like (hobby, passion) or dig into your background (education, training) and make that your niche. Seems kind of obvious to start with writing what you know, I’ve posted on it more than once. So far, I’m not seeing anything not found online already.
Lesson 2: Write Some Samples
She suggests you start writing some samples, based on the niches you choose. She highlights what she describes as “the three best – and quickest – ways to gather real samples to show prospective clients (and the last way is the BEST way to show clients you’re a TRUE freelance writer).” Hmm. Sounds like a hook.
Here are her 3 BIG (but not novel) IDEAS:
- Create your own samples. (Duh.) Freelance sites require you upload samples of your writing, so you should already have these handy.
- Start your own blog. (Double duh.) I agree that having your own blog showcases your writing skills. Do your best to make your website showcase YOU and your freelance skills. Leave pictures of kitties and puppies and other cutesy stuff for your personal FB page. Use a clean, sleek, professional layout; WordPress has some great free options.
- Start guest posting on other people’s blogs. The one lesson that makes sense: “Pro-tip: Start searching for places to guest post on. You can Google, “[niche] + guest post” to get an idea of places you can try.”
A smart piece of advice is to shoot for lesser-known sites where you’ll have a better shot at guest hosting with them versus reaching for the brass ring, trying to break in on sites like Huffington Post (unless you know someone who knows someone who knows someone).
Lesson 3: Time To Get Known
As usual, she begins this lesson with a nostalgic narration (taking care of her infant twins while pitching her freelance skills). Then she quickly draws you in with a call to action link for her “proven system” that has brought her clients and steady work. This lesson contains more common sense (still not novel) advice, like getting your name out there in SM. She recommends not being out there on ALL SM, but to pick and choose the ones that work for you and your style. Hmm, I remember posting that exact advice some time ago… and more than once.
She outlines two ways to develop your online presence; these are good for beginners:
1) Visit freelance writing websites and leave comments. Her argument here is that you will become more well known if you engage with more sites, allowing other readers to see your comments; you can also post your comment (or the whole thread) to your own SM.
2) Sign up for a LinkedIn account. Her argument here is solid; it’s beneficial to join LinkedIn groups, like freelance writing and copywriting groups, to provide exposure and open you to paid writing gigs. It did force me to think about my past LinkedIn accounts (I’ve had more than one over the years). I realized that I hadn’t designed my accounts for getting freelance work; instead, I used them as a way to showcase my books and my day jobs – big mistake on the latter, since it wasn’t my end goal. I should have designed my LI page to reflect my writing skills and my desire to freelance, and I should have joined LI writing groups.
All in all, what I’ve read so far are some good points that are best for beginners. There isn’t much new information in her lessons, though her advice on LinkedIn did hit home. In the midst of all the repetition, I did manage to find a crumb of advice that I can use.
Is The Freelance Writers Market Saturated?
In an online world where it’s getting harder and harder to get noticed, I question whether we’ve reached a saturation point for freelance writers. While writers are a community-minded bunch, we are still competing with each other for writing gigs, publishers, exposure, etc. So I wonder whether or not freelance opportunities have reached a zenith.
When I Googled the title to this blog, lots of freelance sites popped up, as well as the ‘people also ask’ segment loaded with related questions and drop-downs. When I clicked on the drop-down for ‘How do I get freelance writing jobs?’ this showed up:
If you’re just thinking about freelance writing, bookmark this post and come back to it when you’re ready to take action.
Start Cold Pitching. …
Pitch to a Job Board Ad. …
Follow Tweets From Job Boards. …
Ask Friends, Family and Work. …
Use Your Website. …
Guest Post (For Free!) …
Network With Other Freelance Writers. …
Start Warm Pitching
Intrigued by the list, I checked for the source. It lead me to a website where freelance writer, Elna Cain, offers a free 6-day course and basically promises to teach you how to earn good money from freelance gigs. Honestly, I didn’t see anything different on her site; it contained the usual marketing and calls to action, like signing up for her newsletter, her free course, and some paid options. Ironically, I also found several grammatical/spelling errors in the midst of all the marketing content. I wonder how well she writes for her clients if her website has these kinds of errors.
From what I read, she does offer some good options/tips for getting freelance work but none of it is any different from what’s already on so many other sites. Curiosity got the better of me, so I signed up for her free 6-day course.
I’ll let you know what happens.
Quality of Freelance Writing: Up or Down?
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my other question is whether the quality of writing in freelance gigs is going up or down and is it a problem? With so many people out there trying to be freelance writers, I wonder if the quality of content is affected. Just go online, search Google, websites, job boards, etc. and you will find an overabundance of errors in copy/content. I see it all the time on Indeed, in both job posts and reviews. I’ve seen errors on Yelp, too, but there’s no way to know if the person was hired to write the review or if they actually interacted with the business.
Fifteen Freelance Options to Try
The following is not an exhaustive list; there are numerous sites to search, requiring some time on your part. It’s important to find a good fit for you and your writing skills. Always start out with writing what you know. Do some research, and just maybe you’ll land a paid writing gig:
- All Indie Writers
- Facebook (especially groups)
- Flex Jobs
- Freelance Writing
- Freelance Writing Gigs
- Job Box
- The Barefoot Writer
- The Write Life
- Various job boards (Glass Door, CareerBuilder, Zip Recruiter, etc.)
- We Work Remotely
I’m waiting on Lesson 3 to arrive in my Inbox; once I receive all 6 free lessons, I’ll post my review of what she offers. Stay tuned!
I’ve been itching to write something today but this heat (triple digits!) and humidity gunk up my imagination/thought process. So I’m perusing the many writing tips I save in my Writing Tips folder, hoping to find some noteworthy tidbits for you. This is what I managed to patch together:
Do you guest blog? Do you have guest bloggers on your site? Guest blogging is a great way to increase your exposure, give you access to a larger audience and increase traffic to your own site. Likewise, having guest bloggers on your site adds credibility and again increases traffic to your site. Win-win. If you’re the guest blogger, be sure to familiarize yourself with the host’s guidelines and don’t miss your deadline – that’s a surefire way to not be invited back. Have a nice professional picture you can post with the blog; readers like to see who’s writing what. If you’re the host, make sure to lay out clear guidelines regarding what to blog about, the length of the post, etc.
Niche Freelance Work
It can be difficult to find a good niche these days but with a little homework you can find areas where you have the best chance of finding work (and earn money). While it’s good to write blogs/copy on topics that interest you, profit (you get paid) and demand (this area needs better coverage so there’s plenty of work) may lead you to write on topics or on sites you haven’t considered. With a little research, a good writer can create good copy on almost any subject and it could lead you to a regular, lucrative niche freelance gig. (That means money in the bank on a regular basis.)
One of the places I see a (desperate) need for good copy is on Indeed, the online job search site. It’s obvious after reading pages of job posts that the people writing copy for their companies are clearly not writers. One idea is to copy and paste poorly written job ads to a Word document, make the necessary corrections, then email both the bad ad copy and the corrected ad copy to the company’s HR or hiring person and offer your services. Include a link to your site, your Upwork profile, wherever you’re listed.
Some other areas that need good copy are: law/legal, insurance, financial markets, how-to topics, and employment (resumé writing, curriculum vitae, job ads).
Charging for Your Freelance Work
So how much should you charge? Are you writing only copy or do you edit as well? Do you have a degree in English/Journalism or in some other field where writing was mandatory (e.g., Psychology, medicine, criminal justice)? What is your experience? What you charge will depend on the body of work you’ve already created. If you’re just starting out, you’ll likely have to take those low-paying gigs, like on Upwork, where they pay $1-5 for 100-500 words.
Do you edit or proofread? Proofreading is a type of editing, as are copy editing and content editing. I find myself automatically editing for spelling and grammar no matter what I’m reading (which is why I picked up on the idea of writing job ad copy since so many are written so poorly). Proofreading is the easiest of the three and I prefer to charge hourly. You can also charge by the word; Writer’s Market suggests you charge $3 per page for proofreading.
Copyediting is about improving style, formatting and accuracy so experience in this area is key. You can do light (accuracy, grammatical issues), medium (correcting flow, reworking text) or heavy (restructure paragraphs, style, flow, and grammar) copy editing, depending on your abilities. Writer’s Market suggests $4 per page for copy editing.
Content editing is more intensive; you will often have to add what was left out or rewrite whole sections. Because this is a higher level of editing, Writer’s Market suggests $7.50 per page.
Miranda Marquit, an experienced editor, gives this advice: If you’re just starting out as an editor, you can charge around $20 per hour. An experienced content editor can charge as much as $50 to $85 an hour. Once you have established yourself as a proofreader, you can charge $25 to $35 an hour.