This blog's focus is helping you earn money, hopefully big bucks, from writing, with practical suggestions from a published writer.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Two is better than one

Sometimes, it is better to be working on two writing projects simultaneously than one. When you get tired of working on one, you can easily switch to the other. And best of all, the motivation to work on both is already built in! Plus, you stay on track and finish both projects in a timely manner.

Consider, for example, working on an article and a novel, or an article and a nonfiction book, or a poem and a screenplay. Moving from one project to the other should be easily accomplished and problem-free. It gets more interesting and tricky, however, if you choose to work on two novels or two nonfiction books or two screenplays simultaneously. You have to work harder to stay motivated while doing a good job with both. There is no running from one to the other for relief and inspiration. So it pays to vary the projects, whatever they are.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Ghostwriting job update

Here it is in one sentence: I didn't get it.

Apparently, the client wanted someone to partner with who would work for free. And for me, that is just a big fat waste of my time. You know the saying, one bitten, twice shy. Well, about 9 years ago, I was bitten by someone else who had the same objective and who made similar grandiose promises: You'll get credit. You'll get interviewed on talk shows. You'll be famous.

Yeah right. In a pig's eye.

To test the latest freeloader's intentions, I offered to e-mail my price list and couldn't believe it when he requested it a few e-mails later. Before sending it, I rechecked the items and prices. I even made a few minor changes, breaking down larger jobs into smaller, manageable parts.

I never heard from him again.

I wish him a lot of luck in finding someone who will do a good job for no pay whatsoever. He'll need it.

Friday, March 24, 2006

About that ghostwriting job.....

Recently, someone sent an e-mail, asking if I'd be interested in helping him ghostwrite a book, explaining that someone else had referred him to me. My first reaction was yes! I'll do it! When would you like to get started?

But I held off for a day just to think about it. While the potential client submitted an attachment of the details of a fascinating true-life story that he had so far, I could see that there was some merit in the project. I needed to know more, such as what kind of book he really wanted to write, novel or nonfiction, and how much work he had completed so far. Also, did he want any query letters and book proposals written? And just as important, an idea of how much he budgeted for the project.

Of course, a few other matters had to be worked out, but all of that would happen later on.

If I sound cynical, it is with good reason. In one ghostwriting project for a doctor, the book's chapters needed editing and query letters had been written. And I did get some money, roughly about 4 hundred dollars for the query letters and outline. But somewhere between those query letters and book chapters, the project died on the vine. I assumed that the good doctor lost interest, since he had not communicated with me in a while. So I let that go.

In another project, the client was a female professor who was working to get tenure. In order to improve her chances, she decided to write a book for two different audiences, one audience consisted of administrators and the other consisted of teachers. So immediately, there was a problem because she had to decide which audience was best suited for the book, and she did, eventually. Then she wanted query letters written and mailed and paid me a few hundred dollars for those. And she was successful. One of the publishers we contacted expressed an interest in the book and was ready to offer a contract if ...... The professor told me that she did not have time to write those chapters and I agreed to write the first two. Unfortunately, I did not insist on an upfront fee and wound up with almost no money at all.

But I'm wiser now, letting that potential client know that I would be happy to help and would provide him with a list of services and fees. His response will clue me in as to how serious he is in getting the project started and completed in a timely manner. If he balks, well, I'll apologize, but insist on some money upfront. After all, he willingly pays his accountant, lawyer, doctor, dentist and other experts for their professional services. I'm an experienced professional too, and my time is worth money. We'll see.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Get more gigs by getting the word out with a writing website

As you probably know, getting the word out can involve a number of things, such as those mentioned in yesterday's post. In addition to letting others know how you can help them meet their writing needs, consider starting a writing website. A lot of published writers have their own, and there's no reason why you shouldn't as well. A writing website enables you to get the word out to a wider audience and gives you a chance to show off your writing skills if it includes articles, stories, poems, etc. that you have written. You should also include an "About this Site" or "About Me" on one of your site's pages.

Doing this should provide quite a bit of free publicity and a few gigs as well, but like anything worthwhile, requires some work. The most important aspect is focusing your site on some aspect of writing and giving it a unique name. After all, you want your site to stand out from all of the other writing sites out there and attract more visitors. Once you've set your website up, you may wish to add other items, such as free newsletters.

And finally, remember that just because that website is up and running doesn't mean that it will automatically get visitors. You'll have to get the word out on it as well, not only by telling friends and family members, but by advertising it on your business cards and letters. You may also have to wait awhile..... very few people know about that website yet or have had a chance to visit it. This is why you have to be patient and persistent. If you give up too early, you will have denied yourself an opportunity to be profitable AND successful!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

One way to get better gigs: helping others to write stuff

Helping others to write letters and resumes is a good way to help you begin, get some experience and a little money as well. If you're still attending college, for example, consider posting a sign advertising your writing services with little tabs for potential clients to take. Each tab should include the name of your service and phone number. Consider telling friends about your writing service and asking them to share that information with people they know. As you wait for clients, invest some time reading books on resume and business writing at the library and consider investing some money to buy one or more books that you can use for reference. (Buying books related to your business is a business expense that you may be able to deduct on Schedule C later on. Other examples of business expenses include office supplies, phone, and postage.)

Also contact local printers, especially any that you've already patronized, and ask them if they need help in proofreading and editing. To be sure, you'll likely get a few "no's" but that's okay. Check the Yellow Pages for other business that could use help, such as local publishers, restaurants, landscaping services, utilities, and organizations. Again, you will likely get a few "no's," but don't let them discourage you. Consider getting business cards to distribute to others as reminders of your writing services.

Remember to spread the word about your writing service to family members and encourage them to share that information with their friends and coworkers. If you persist and refuse to be discouraged, you will most definitely gain clients and grow your business! And if you have questions to ask or experiences to share, please post them here and gain another advantage: free publicity for your business!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Find out what books and magazines people read

Aside from asking perfect strangers what they like to read, the next best thing is just observing them in action at one of those large chain bookstores. That should tell you plenty. In a recent trip, for example, I've noticed quite a few people poking about in the business book and computer sections and none in the music or photography sections. Now that doesn't mean that music and photography books aren't selling; they probably are. I wouldn't be able to make an educated guess about any of that, since music and photography aren't my things. Nor are science fiction, literature, mystery, cooking or history books. But that's only me.

And while you're at it, head for the magazine racks just to see what a small sample of people gravitate to. Doing this is easy if a coffee bar is adjacent to the magazine racks. All you have to do is bring a few books or magazines to a nearby table or better yet, invest some money in one of the overpriced coffees or snacks and you can sit around all morning, just observing people visiting the magazine racks. A few of them will buy a magazine, but a lot will pick up and leaf through several magazines and put them all back in a little while.

And the point of these observations? You need to see what attracts people and what they're buying now, as far as books are concerned. If you happen to be attracted to similar books and magazines, you just may be able to get an article or book idea. If you have some interest and work experience in writing grants or installing the latest software, for example, you may be able to develop a book that attracts attention and sales.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Beginning to end...

In one of my books on novel writing, the author makes a good suggestion, which is to state what happens in the beginning (Chapter 1) of a novel AND what happens in the end. That is, is the character's problem solved or not? Does he win the girl or not?

Honestly, all of this looks so simplistic! It is also the easy part of writing a novel, but at least it offers a destination, however vague that destination may be. The trick is to figure out what steps the character takes to solve his or her problem in order to arrive at that destination. And for any novel to "work," it should have a BIG concept. Here's an example:

I'm reading a novel by John Nance called Orbit, which has a fascinating plot line. In that novel, a pharmaceutical salesman, Kip Dawson, wins a trip to space and accepts the prize against his wife's and children's objections. So there he is, up in a rocket ship, with one other passenger, the captain of the ship. Then just as things seem to be going well, a little space object smacks into the ship and hits the captain in the head, killing him instantly. Kip finds himself alone.

Now how's that for a great concept and a page turner?

I'm sure that the author must have asked himself a "what-if" question, then figured out how his main character, Kip, solved his problem. His beginning chapter was Kip's having accepted the prize and pondering over its implications and the final chapter is....... I haven't reached it yet, but wouldn't tell you if I did. That would be giving away the story and spoiling the reading pleasure for someone who might be interested in reading Nance's novel.

But the whole idea is that the author figured out a beginning and end to his novel, then worked out the details in the middle chapters, some of which include Kip's perceptions of what is happening, the other characters' responses, his realization that his survival will depend on his efforts and so on.