Live Small, Live Well

old Italian windows_Milan

After watching a PBS Frontline report on coronavirus in Italy , I had an idea about people living smaller lives, and not just during a pandemic. What if we chose to live this way on a daily basis? Ideas led to writing and writing led me to creating this post – even though it’s not really about writing… but ends up that way, I guess.

In other words, when something moves you, write about it. 

Small and Close Is a Good Thing…Usually

Smaller living spaces bring people closer together. There’s plenty of room for everything you need using smarter design, smarter placements, living with less stuff. Simpler lives are happier lives. People are then able to focus on what really matters: relationships and community – look at Italians, they seem to have perfected it.

Europeans have lived this way for a long time out of necessity because there’s no room for the multitudes of sprawling American McMansions or penthouse-sized apartments in most European cities. Americans seem to think they need more open living space, so they purchase bigger homes and more material items, like furniture and art and expensive kitchen toys. But is it all really necessary in order to feel fulfilled? Or is it a nod to some internal need to “keep up with the Joneses?”

Or perhaps it’s the result of an overblown sense of entitlement; that what we want we deserve simply because we work for it or can afford it. That seems more like an individual-oriented mindset.

What’s Really Important

Watching the video, seeing the small spaces Italian families share, it’s no wonder they’re as close as they are. Normally, that’s a good thing but during a pandemic that kind of intimacy, sadly, has had a deleterious effect on their lives. But I doubt they’ll change their ways because those very connections are the lifeline of Italian life.

Smaller apartment homes force people to share the whole living space, including common and private areas (in Europe, brothers and sisters routinely share bedrooms). This type of living also provides lessons in conflict resolution since we’re not going to get along well all of the time. This is a community-oriented approach.  

Smaller is Better for Everyone

Tiny houses are all the rage here in America but what we need is to reduce overall apartment living space (square footage) to make room for more people in each building. With burgeoning populations across the globe, it makes sense for us to adopt more of a European style of living. We’ve been spoon fed the ideal that the “American Dream” is to own a single family home, which requires more land space and finite natural resources (and equates to a much larger individual environmental footprint). For some reason, in America, living with others in apartment or multi-family (aka tenement) housing is perceived as inferior to owning your own home (which actually owns you for 20-30 years until the deed is in your hands). The benefits of community living can far outweigh life in the suburbs.

European style refrigerators, for example, which are much smaller than their American counterparts, force people to think about what to eat, how much, and how often. Shopping becomes a daily responsibility or at least every 2-3 days, depending on how many one is shopping for and feeding. Smaller fridges force people to choose foods that are most important: what is fresh and made daily, rather than something with a 6-month or more shelf life; that’s hoarding for a future that may or may not come. This pandemic has certainly reminded us of that.

Living smaller means living well today, within our community. Tomorrow will come when it comes.

Like, Um, Well, You Know…Seriously, To Be Fair…

crutch words1
Source: Google Images

Grammar Still Rules

Grammar rules still apply to your writing and speaking and always will. Especially if you want to keep readers and listeners engaged.

Today I’m writing about a few of my pet peeves that have become far too prevalent in today’s writing and speaking. I’m talking about crutch words and fillers: like, well, you know, ah, um, uh, etc. 

My biggest issue with these overused words and space fillers is that they make the writer/speaker sound less intelligent, less able to think or speak quickly or clearly. Which equates to poor writing and speaking skills. And poor communication skills take away one’s credibility, which means people won’t read your books or listen to what you say. Is this how you want the world of readers and listeners to perceive you? 

Ditch the Crutches

While some crutch words and fillers are acceptable in written dialogue, they should be left out of interviews and other professional conversations. If you listen to podcasts, you know what I’m talking about; fillers and crutches take up way more space in a conversation. Listen to an interview, maybe even record it to your computer. Then edit out the fillers and crutches and listen to what remains – the actual conversation sounds quite different when it’s cleaned up. It’s more direct and to the point and it’s the same with writing. Remove the fillers and crutches (except when necessary in character dialogue) and you’ll find the reading succinct and clear. And credible.

A Interesting Peeve

Another of my pet peeves of late is the incorrect use of ‘a’ and ‘an.’ Far too often, even on the evening national news, I hear professionals using ‘a’ where ‘an’ is required.

Here’s the rule: if the word begins with a vowel or a consonant with a vowel sound like the h in hour or in abbreviations/acronyms such as MBA, use an. If the word begins with a consonant or consonant sound as in book or PTA, use a. I’m annoyed every time I hear phrases like “a airplane” or “a interested party” because the speakers come off as not very bright or particularly attentive to their grammar. Or they have lazy copyeditors!

Modify This

The next peeve on my list (which I swear grows with age) is the overuse and incorrect use of what are called vague modifiers. Vague modifiers are also crutch words and fillers and don’t belong in good writing or clear speeches: A lot, kind of, perhaps, truly, somewhat, quite, seemingly, suddenly, rather, fairly, etc.. There are more, but you get the idea. How often do you use these in your writing/speaking? Are you even conscious of whether you use these or not? Here is a link to a funny article on crutch words that “literally” made me laugh out loud.

I’ll admit I’m guilty of falling prey to the occasional crutch and filler. However, I have become more conscious of my spoken words as a result of doing a podcast last year. That, in turn, has made me more aware of written words and their impact.

Those Catholic grammar school nuns beat good English grammar into me and my classmates – quite literally, actually. To this day, I can’t finish a project and ‘turn it in’ (publish) unless it’s perfect.

Seriously. 😉

#grammarrules #thewritinglife #communicationskills #writeagoodstory #podcasting #Englishgrammar

Are All Your Eggs in One (Amazon) Basket?

eggs in basket2

Source: Google Images

New Priorities

In case you don’t already know, Publishers Weekly sent an email titled “Amazon Deprioritizes Book Sales Amid Coronavirus Crisis.” Amazon is working diligently to prioritize “the surge in demand for household staples, medical supplies, and other high demand products.” Publishers (self and otherwise) are one of the suppliers whose goods (meaning books) will receive a low priority in shipping until at least April 5th. This makes sense; a good decision on their part, I believe.

So if you have your books self-published only through Amazon, this will pose a problem of lost or delayed sales. Hopefully you have listed your books (eBooks and hard copies) with other publishing sites like Lulu, Smashwords, Ingram, and the like. Because my book is published via Lulu Press and distributed to Amazon (and other retail sites), readers can still access my book here. Not a good idea to have your works all at one location, not at anytime but certainly not in this current climate.

Amazon is aware of the negative trickle-down effect of this decision and is working diligently to add 100K new positions in fulfillment centers across the U.S. The good news is that many of those folks out of work (restaurant servers, retail jobs, etc.) will have an opportunity to earn instead of falling into financial ruin or bankruptcy while waiting for businesses to reopen.

Plenty of Options

Which is why I’m glad I’m with Lulu Press. So far, I don’t see any announcements on their site re shipment issues. Not yet, anyway. But I’ll keep watching. 

In times such as this, it’s best not to put all your eggs in one publishing basket. While sales may droop overall, it’s not the end of the world (despite what some preppers may believe). There are plenty of self-publishing sites to list your work on; make a list of which ones would best benefit your genre/s. Widen your net, keep your options open. Put a few eggs in many different baskets.  

Writers, What Do You Read?

books and coffee
Source: pexels.com

It’s known in the world of writing that all good writers make time to read. Some voraciously, some in between their own works or when taking a break from their writing. Do you read in the same genre as what you write? Or do you step outside of your knowledge or comfort zone to expand your mind and imagination?

Find Your Faves

Late last year I got hooked on novels by bestselling author Daniel Silva (along with David Baldacci & Carlos Ruiz Zafón). To sum it up, he’s absolutely brilliant. Doesn’t hurt that he has a background in journalism and international relations (talk about ‘write what you know’). He writes the most powerful spy/action novels; better than any Tom Clancy novel, in my opinion (and not the least bit dry as John Le Carré). Last year, I picked up a copy of The English Girl in the “New” section of the local library; ironically, I didn’t feel strongly about the protagonist or the story line. Yet something drew me back. I read a few more of his novels and now I’m hooked. I just finished Prince of Fire and will request another of his books soon. Luckily, there are still at least a half dozen of his books to read. I also just finished the latest by Craig Johnson (famous for the former Netflix show Longmire), Land of Wolves, another can’t-put-it-down kind of book. I’m about to read (again) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón; you simply MUST read it, as it’s unlike any book I’ve read before (and don’t forget to read the other three books in this series!).

Gaining Perspective

Reading these books are mainly for my entertainment (and escape) but somewhere along the way I began looking at them from a writer’s perspective. Then an editor’s. And back to a writer’s. This process has melded with my love of reading and helped me to better understand how to build scenes, create dialogue, and craft suspense in a way that keeps one turning the pages (compelling). I make mental notes of words I’d like to use in my writing, including some I have to look up because either I haven’t used them in a long time or I don’t know what they mean.

Yet all this reading has not affected what I write. What I mean by that is I haven’t changed style or genre simply because I enjoy reading mostly crime novels. I enjoy a variety in my reading; the same goes for my writing. Which probably explains my affinity for both fiction and nonfiction writing, even though I do not tend toward more than the very occasional nonfiction read (I think it’s because I’m reminded of much-despised homework assignments.)

Does what you read affect what or how you write? Have you thought about the relationship between the two, if there is one? Does reading for entertainment enlighten you as a storyteller? Does writing open your reading options? As writers, we can appreciate a good book – whether we’ve written it or read it. So for the sake of  good stories, let’s keep writing and reading.

Grammar Rules! Or At Least It Used To…

which v that

Source: Writersdigest.com

Here are some great tips from Writers Digest blogger, Brian Klems. He certainly cleared up a few grammatical confusions for me. It’s been a lot of years since those Catholic grammar school English classes. Honestly, as much of a ‘grammar Nazi’ as I can be, there are times when even I can’t figure it out. Brian clears it all up succinctly and in an easily comprehensible way.

These tidbits are nice refreshers of some of the issues many people have when writing/speaking:

Lay vs. Lie (vs. Laid)

Thank god, cuz this one always has me topsy-turvy, never quite getting it right.

Here’s the difference between lay vs. lie, along with ‘lay lie’ examples and a simple chart that breaks it all down. (PLUS: laying vs. lying)

Source: Lay vs. Lie (vs. Laid) – Grammar Rules

Who vs. Whom

This one’s the easiest for me but I see their misuse all over the place.

Source: Who vs. Whom

Which vs. That

Oh, I know I get this one wrong a lot, as do many people.

Source: Which vs. That

If you like these, check out his other posts: Since vs. Because; Snuck vs. Sneaked (hint: one of them is a made-up word now a part of our American lexicon); and Leaped vs. Leapt (I never figure this one out).

For writers, grammar rules can make or break our work. We don’t have to have a Masters in Fine Arts or English. It makes sense to have a good grasp of the basic rules of grammar; then our stories will be better off and our readers will be, too. Oddly, I’m the first one to break most rules (I prefer to think they’re for other people) but, for some reason, grammar rules are the ones I choose to follow (probably because I want people to actually read and like my books and not think I’m a complete idiot). When grammar rules, stories shine. So do the writers.

Not That Kind of Blog

friends2

Source: Google Images/geekwire.com

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.

Freelancing Part 3: Would This Work For You?

20 ways to freelance-elna cain

Source: elnacain.com

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 4It’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 5Time 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 6Step up to pitch.

In this final free lesson, she details successful pitching habits, including her “proven five-step pitching formula”:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

No.

Will I continue to subscribe to her website?

No.

Does she offer anything NEW that isn’t already out there on the web?

No.

That’s my pitch to you. Take from it what you will.

Is The Freelance Writers Market Saturated?

 

freelance writer pic

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

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.

  1. Start Cold Pitching. …

  2. Pitch to a Job Board Ad. …

  3. Follow Tweets From Job Boards. …

  4. Ask Friends, Family and Work. …

  5. Use Your Website. …

  6. Guest Post (For Free!) …

  7. Network With Other Freelance Writers. …

  8. 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:

  1. All Indie Writers
  2. Facebook (especially groups)
  3. Fiverr
  4. Flex Jobs
  5. Freelance Writing
  6. Freelance Writing Gigs
  7. Guru
  8. Job Box
  9. Remote.co
  10. The Barefoot Writer
  11. The Write Life
  12. Upwork
  13. Various job boards (Glass Door, CareerBuilder, Zip Recruiter, etc.)
  14. We Work Remotely
  15. Writers.work

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!

This and That

pad and pencil

Source: Pixabay

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:

Guest Blogging

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.

Write on!

The Bloom Is Off The Rose

withered rose

Source: Pixabay

That’s it, I’m done. This morning I read an interesting post by a writer I follow who took a 6-week break from SM (which explains why I didn’t get any new posts from her in my inbox). Many of the comments I read for that post agreed and offered some useful words on how to handle SM if you choose to stay in the game. I’ve posted before on the pros and cons of SM and how much we actually ‘need’ to be on it. I was inspired by her desire to cut the proverbial ties that bound her to her followers and the global writing community, the ties that took her away from her writing time. I constantly struggle with a similar issue. But her honesty encouraged me to take a small step today and I deleted my Goodreads account (for the second, and hopefully, last time) while reorganizing and thinning out my online bookmark manager.

Honestly, why should I give a damn which books complete strangers are reading? And why would they give a damn what I’m reading or have read? FYI – just finished Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan; I hope knowing this changes your life in some way. 🙂

I’ve also wrestled (many times, actually) with closing my Mestengo Books FB page; it contains the same information as my website and I’d rather you visited that over a lackluster FB page. All my FB followers (a whopping 35 people) can visit my website, if so inclined. Well, that’s gone now, too. Whew. A moment of trepidation but I quickly recovered. (And I have fourteen days to make it live again, in case I change my mind and realize I simply can’t live without an ineffective FB page.)

I’ll keep the FB page for my nutrition book; eventually, I’m fairly sure, I’ll tire of that one as well. I’m trying out Instagtram and Twitter for a few months; I don’t spend more than about thirty minutes a day on each (first thing in the morning is best for me) so I don’t yet feel they’re sucking the soul out of me. Give ‘em time.

Does this mean I’m focusing more on productive writing? Not necessarily. I am currently in a predicament that is engulfing almost every moment of almost every day and invading my thoughts almost round the clock . Exhausting. But that’s life: the ups and downs, hills and valleys, ebbs and flows. Due to unforeseen circumstances, my life is currently in that ebb/down/valley so I’m not focused on writing other than this post. Maybe I should be, it would bring a welcome relief from the stress and insomnia.

As I’ve posted before: all we can do, in my opinion, is what’s best for each of us, no matter what the ‘experts’ tout. If you like SM, are good at it, and are finding success with it, then stay the course. Too many people are in burnout mode from the addictive lure of instant success, instant money, instant something. As always with a fad that rapidly becomes popular, (almost) everyone  wants on board, wants their ‘piece of the pie.’ What was once shiny and new quickly fades into oblivion, replaced more quickly by the newest, baddest, greatest, freshest, cheapest, etc. And many of us (writers) are exhausted from trying to keep up. In that realization, a host of writers are backing off, reverting back to doing things ‘the old-fashioned way.’ They’re taking a step back to view the bigger picture. Exhaustion is then replaced with serenity, clarity, and wisdom gained only by the experience.

I will continue to post to my blog because I need it, even if you don’t. And I will make a concerted effort to keep only a small space in my life for SM. The bloom is definitely off that rose for me.

 

What has been your experience with SM? Positive or negative? Care to share? What are some good arguments for keeping up with it? What are some good arguments for letting it go?

 

 

 

Here Are Some Easy, Not-So-Easy, Free, Low-Tech & Low-Budget Marketing Options for the Budget-Minded, Techie-Challenged, or Self-Publishing Newbies

MB window sign-new

Okay, it’s official; I’m now on Instagram (dthunderhawk325). Serendipity played a role in this decision, as I believe there are no accidents. Last week I was at my local Office Max getting some photos enlarged to sell in various home and personal forms (pillows, t-shirts, mugs, etc.) on Redbubble, when I learned of the positive effect Instagram can have on one’s business since it’s a visual-based app. A woman named Kat came to the Print/Copy center shortly after I did and I noticed what she was printing. The fonts on the cards were gorgeous; they referred to a healing crystals class she teaches. When I asked how she got started (after telling me she now did this full-time), she said she trained in architecture but due to some health issues she began using healing crystals, which lead her down this path.

Funny how that works, eh?

 She also does calligraphy, which explains the gorgeous script on the cards, all done by (her) hand, not computer fonts. She built this part-time hobby into a full-time business in less than a year, with her products (healing crystals kits and handmade calligraphy information cards) for sale online and in physical stores. Talk about the power of positive intent: Zulilly and a company called Fare contacted her directly; they buy wholesale from her and now she’s all over the place! She explained that she did a clearing with her crystals and set her intention and, lo and behold, it all fell into place.

So I got to thinking: Instagram is FREE and a great way to share your products with potential customers if you use it strictly for business (means: focus your business intent here). If you want to post to Instagram from your home computer, Bluestacks is a new app designed so you can upload photos to Instagram from your Mac or PC. Just download from their site, Bluestacks.com, for FREE and they instruct you on how to post from your computer. Nice if you’re home and want to spend some time away from your phone or if your work product is mainly on your computer (better security, I think).

Fivver is a decent (read: hit or miss) place to get some LOW-COST marketing: 1) pay five dollars for someone to tweet about your website, books, art work, etc. and you write the copy; 2) pay five dollars for someone to send a blurb (you write the copy) out to all their LinkedIn connections; I tried this avenue, with little success; probably has more to do with who their connections are and if any are within your target market; 3) pay a few dollars more for someone to create a mini-commercial that you can post on SM or your website. There are multiple options on Fivver and it won’t hurt to check out what might or might not work for you, since the initial investment can fit into a LOW-BUDGET (and tax deductible, by the way, so keep all receipts!). Also a good avenue for SELF-PUBLISHING NEWBIES to get their marketing feet wet.

MB bookmark-new

Handing out FREE bookmarks with your logo, website, etc. is a good LOW-TECH way to market yourself. I keep a supply in my purse and my wallet, just in case, and I hand them out everywhere – cafés, post office, local coffee shop – wherever I’m talking with people. They’re inexpensive to buy in bulk and easily fit into carry bags/purses. Vistaprint is one good source and they provide good quality products. I also designed a business card with the book cover of my nutrition book as the whole card; the colors are bright and eye-catching and always get a positive response when I hand it out. With a good promo, you can get 250-500 business cards for free or less than $20 on Vistaprint, a good option for LOW-BUDGETS and SELF-PUBLISHING NEWBIES.

MB nutrition book-cardCar signs (window) and magnets (door) are affordable LOW-TECH options, especially if you do a decent amount of driving around where you live (and a good motivator to go out for a drive so everyone can see your signs). It’s also a good way to get folks directly to your website instead of Amazon or Ingram (where they can often buy it cheaper, which means less commission for you); they can then see what else you may have to offer. Plus: If you have to park on the street as I do, everyone who walks by or drives by sees your car signs. Win-win!

If you have more than one business or money-earning hobby, building a landing page (GoDaddy and Wix have nice options) lets you keep all of your work in one location, giving potential customers more options to shop with you. However, no matter how much they advertise easy it’s to build one of their sites in “less than an hour,” it can take more than the hour they claim if you’re TECH-CHALLENGED, also making this a NOT-SO-EASY option for some folks.

Which easy, not-so-easy, free, low-tech or low-budget options have you tried? Were you successful? If not, why not? I’d love to hear what worked for you, what avenues you took to bring even the smallest success. Feel free to comment so we can all learn from your business acumen!

There’s an ancient Chinese proverb (I’m paraphrasing) that says a smart man learns from his own mistakes; a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.

Let’s learn from each other!

 

 

More of the Same

All I Hear Is Blah Blah Blah

Source: PhotoFunia

My literary Inbox today: “Same old, same old” advice on writing books, marketing books, building a fan base, following the blogs of award-winning authors, blah blah blah. Today is my Groundhog Day for unoriginal blog articles on writing, selling and marketing books. I’ve heard it all before. Where are the fresh ideas? How many times can they recycle the same **it over and over again? I get it; they’re the constant nudge, the ever-present voice in your head, urging you in that direction where you actually reach a publishing, marketing or sales goal, small or large. Maybe if we hear it enough, we’ll begin to believe it, like subliminal messages: You are a marketing guru; you will sell more books; more readers will follow your blog, listen to my voice…

What if writing is a hobby for you? What if you’re not earning anything close to a full-time paycheck with your book sales? Lots of expert advice available online about marketing, hiring people (virtual or in-person) or companies to do it. Do bloggers assume that many writers have the available cash to spend on these “necessary evils?” Book experts touting the latest, the greatest, the essentials for winning more fans, earning more, being more, doing more, in an ever-growing competitive field where it’s getting harder and harder to find your niche. It’s the never-ending game of “let’s see how many people will buy my advice on [some] new marketing avenue.” Talk about even more responsibility, more time spent trying to get your books into the hands of millions of readers. Okay, maybe not millions, unless you’re a bestselling author and your books are available in multiple languages.

When do you work your “real” job (if you have to have one, as many writers do)? When do you spend time with family and friends? When do you make time to write? Only so many hours in a day, a week, a month, this thing called time. Yes, it’s essential to prioritize, to make room for each aspect of the writing/marketing/selling process but have we sacrificed other areas of our lives (read: time) for this?

If I sound exasperated, it’s because I am but I continue to rebel, to question, to be the “devil’s advocate” in the room (and on the blog).

Caveat:

“Sometimes it’s the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” From the movie The Imitation Game

Where’d My Mojo Go?

Where did my mojo go_typewriter

Source: PhotoFunia

I’m not sure when it happened, or why. After my trip to Italy, I figured I’d get to writing, pick up where I left off with several projects piled near my desk. Not so. When I sat down at my computer the other day, determined to work on something, I couldn’t do it. I opened up several files, perused them, and then closed them. No writing juice, no aspiration to finish any of my open projects. Where’d my mojo go? When I quit my job in October, I was convinced I’d finish at least one in-the-works project, what with so much free time on my hands. I even blogged about it, telling you exactly what I’d do. Only I haven’t. And I’m not sure why. It doesn’t feel like writer’s block; it doesn’t feel like anything, to be honest. What’s wrong with me? Have any of you experienced this? Do I ride out the avoidance storm, hoping it will pass? Is writing something you really need to do daily to stay fresh? Have I become stale? Do I have anything more to write, any more stories to tell? Today, I’m not sure.

Writing books and selling them is a long-term commitment, whether you write one book or several or a whole bunch. You kinda have to be committed to your digital legacy. As I write this, it occurs to me that perhaps I’ve become bored with writing. That’s typical; I easily bore with the same ol’, same ol’ whether it’s a job, or a hobby, or whatever. Time for something new, something I haven’t done, to hopefully reignite my passion for writing and storytelling. I’ve been thinking about painting again. I like to mix mediums and it’s a good way to get the creative juices flowing in a different direction. I’ve mentioned this before, but maybe I need to start a new writing project. Do you find this helps you get the juices flowing again?

Then there’s that nagging voice in my head that says maybe I’m not much of a writer after all. It usually shows up after reading a well-written book that mesmerizes me from the first page to the last. The book I refer to is Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It was, honestly, one of the best books I’ve ever read; captivating from beginning to end. He weaves a story with subplots that have subplots and you can’t put it down until you know how they’re all connected, and you can’t help but love every character, good or bad. I haven’t mesmerized anyone with my books and don’t think I ever will. Do you ever find yourself comparing your work/writing skills to someone like him? I have to dig deep within myself to find that speck of confidence about my writing to move forward. 

I’ve thought about trying my hand at short stories. They do seem harder to write, though. You have to introduce the characters, weave the story in with the characters, and finish the story in a much shorter time. It’s like moving from a normal-sized house to a tiny house; you have to decide what to keep and what to discard to make it complete. 

The moral of my blog? Write what you know, write what you live, write what you dream. But most of all, WRITE. Life is full of hills (highs) and valleys (lows); be gentle with yourself as you muddle your way through a valley (as I am now), because you can only go up from there.

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Oh, and here’s a neat tip: have you heard of PhotoFunia? It’s an awesome FREE site where you can plug a picture or text into their existing pictures to create a whole new poster, card, graphic logo, etc. It’s free all the time and really neat to use. See the typewriter graphic up top? Did that on their site. So many options to choose from, check it out. As far as I understand, they’re copyright free, too.

 

Jolt of Inspiration

the world is my canvas

It all started out as a nice dinner and conversation between friends. Actually, we’ve been work associates for the past two years and found we have some common interests. I had a spur-of-the-moment idea during one of my store visits, so I invited him to have dinner with me to celebrate my recent good fortune (see Quit It! blog). Turns out my friend is what I call a ‘costumer’; he makes amazing costumes (Halloween, Sci-fi conventions, etc.) by hand when he’s not working his day job. He brought along some pictures and I was in awe of his talent – and the pricing he gets for each commission (but if you think about all the planning and work that actually goes into each commission, it makes sense he should earn well). He pays great attention to detail, which is probably why his finished pieces and whole outfits are so outstanding.

I told him of my creative endeavors: writing, sketching, painting, working with multiple mediums (ink, watercolor, Sumi-e, & origami, for example) and that I’m tired of living the ‘square-peg-in-round-hole’ life, and how I desire to touch base again with the artist in me. He listened with enthusiasm and support, and told me of his circle of artist friends that he’d like me to meet. I gave him a free bookmark for this website and said I would forward some samples of my art. He then expressed interest in me helping him part-time with his costume work. While I’m not the stitcher my mother was, I told him, I was certainly interested in the painting, coloring, and working with fabric options. He has multiple commissions going at any given time (up to five or more) and has reached the point where he needs people to assist him with his projects (he’s already training a roommate, who is catching on quickly).

I can’t help but feel a jolt of excitement and inspiration; the anticipation alone will drive me crazy, since we won’t make any decisions about my coming on board until after I’ve returned from my extended vacation to Italy (pasta! art! wine!). Regardless of the outcome, it felt so good to talk with someone who understands that need to CREATE, no matter what. Do you feel this way? Do you see colors and shapes everywhere in your world? Are clouds more than billowy weather formations for you? Do you hear stories in mundane conversations at work, in a cafe, or at the laundromat? This is the hallmark of a ‘creative’ – someone who MUST create SOMETHING, simply for the sake of the creating itself, as an outlet for all of your mind’s meanderings around the universe. I get that many of us can’t quit our day jobs but if you can find a way to include creating in your daily life, you may get there just yet. (Starving artist, my ass.)

Let your motto be:

I CREATE. 

[It’s mine. :)]