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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Authorpreneurship Part 2

How many workshops and conferences have you attended solely because of one author who was speaking or teaching? If you are like most people, more than one. But why do we do that? Maybe we read their books. Maybe we know them by reputation. Maybe, and most likely, because we hope some kernel of truth will drop from them and push us through the grates that strain writers to achieve greatness.

Ever ask yourself why writers (many famous and well published) speak at workshops or conferences or teach? Maybe because they need press. Maybe because they enjoy it. Maybe, and most likely, they do it to bolster their income. As I mentioned last week, well known, well-published, well-honored writers have to work a day job to supplement their book writing. With the exception of a few notables, i.e. James Patterson, most authors only produce a book every few years - at least a book worth reading. With contract fees for books at an all time low, writers must turn themselves into a lean, mean writing and speaking machines to “bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan.”

To some degree, the changes in the publishing industry, coupled with the cost of living and the challenge to find any job these days, has brought a wealth of new ideas, new approaches to writing, new reading resources and gizmos, and thousands of new freelance jobs for writers. When downsizing, business often start with the writing staff - publicity, marketing, education, training - in the erroneous belief that “anybody can write.” The work is parceled out to unsuspecting and too often inarticulate managers.

After almost ten years of this mediocrity and lost revenue, companies have found solid gold. Freelancers don’t require overhead expenses such as an offices and equipment, supplies and insurance, or retirement plans. When this happened, freelance writing requests exploded all over the Internet. If you don’t believe me, type in freelance writers and watch your computer struggle to load the enormous lists. Unfortunately, these same companies, still believing "anybody can write" wanted to pay low rates.

I began working as a freelancer through individual clients, a word-of-mouth type of arrangement. Then I started bidding on jobs through several online freelance companies about ten years ago. Competition was (and still is) high and international. After a few jobs that paid me $1.50 for five 500-word articles for websites, and they wanted ten a day, this dummy woke up. But, I hung in there until I learned how to do research and regurgitate words on the page at an all time high. They weren't looking for quality, they wanted words and keywords that breezed through Copyscape. I built up some credits and that led me to higher paying jobs from the same online source.

It didn’t take me long to realize which companies I didn’t want to work with, but I have to admit that education was painful in all sorts of ways. Some of those companies no longer exist. Nuff said.

And that brings me to today’s lesson. Just as hair styles have changed since the dawn of time, so has the role of a freelance writer. Things have changed DRAMATICALLY in the past three years. It is much easier to find intellectual stimulation and better fees with an influx of professional people and companies vying for our skills and time.
The number of rip-off companies were complained about so frequently, most have been eradicated. I still see companies and individuals seeking to “make a deal” as though hiring a good writer was some type of e-bay activity.

I, too, have changed. I find myself talking to the computer when someone wins the bid; someone who is willing to do the work for 90% less than my I am. I wish the writer well and hope they build their credits quickly. I also wish the client well, because they make what was clearly a cost per hour decision that had nothing to do with logic. We all have to learn from our mistakes.

While online proposals for jobs account for only about 5% of my income, the bidding process is fun and challenges me to sell myself and my work, a trying job for anyone who prefers to hide at the computer or in a book. That process does me more good than anything else I’ve done when it comes to building my business, and I've met some wonderful writers and clients. Oh, the ugly looks I got from other writers when I launched my first marketing campaign. You would have thought I had single-handily pillaged and destroyed the crops for half of the United States.

Here are a few things I learned along the way to become this unusual critter - authorpreneurship.
1.  I do not work below a certain rate. Period. I have stuck to that, which has also been painful at times, but I learned there are more than enough people who understand the value of good writing and appreciate the value of editing to sell their products that I will not prostitute myself for the work.

2.  The difference between assets and liabilities (try not to laugh), and debits and credits (not the Visa or MasterCard kind), negotiation and browbeating, value given and value earned (not ego and id), harassment and feedback, and best of all friends and acquaintances.

3.  The value of contracts and agreements.

4.  The necessity of requiring some payment up front or continue to be cheated by “reputable companies and authors.”

5.  Prepare for the leaner times when you are flush.

6.  I do not work for publications that do not pay. (I have Hope Clarke to thank for harping on this on Period.

7.  If I want to finish and sell a book, the time has to be scheduled, and if it invades my reading time, I have the power to choose.

8.  Networking is an absolute necessity to survive as an entrepreneur and as a writer. Deal with it.

9.  Prizes such as the Agatha, Pulitzer, Newberry, PEN/Faulkner, Pushcart, Gold Dagger Award, etc. are next to impossible for most writers to win. I will be happy with great reviews on GoodReads and Amazon.

10.  There is a secret to the New York Times bestseller list. It is called advance copy distribution. The NYT list is based on the speed at which a book sells in its first week on the shelf. Pre-orders count towards the first week’s sales rate. No wonder ARCs are all over websites such as GoodReads and the authors are happy to give them away and publicize their upcoming books on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

11.  Careful placement of a book in a category or selling an e-book for 99 cents can skyrocket a book 
to the top of the list, and then the author has bragging rights and sells more books.

If you are interested in being a freelancer and/or an authorpreneur, jump on in. The water’s choppy but what an adventure you will have!


Saturday, February 21, 2015


cj Sez:  I’m feeling better than I was last weekend (thanks for asking).
In fact, I’m feeling so much better, I’m starting on synopses (more than one = synopses, right?) for my works-in-progress. Since I don’t do a formal outline of my story (gasp), I use the synopsis as a form of outline. Someone asked me once how I knew when I’d reached the end of my story if I didn’t know where it was going. The reason I don’t outline is because once I’ve gone through that whole process, I feel as if I’ve written the entire story. I need the excitement of finding outas I writewhat kind of trouble I can create for my characters then figure out how to get them out of it. I write until I’ve solved all the characters’ problems then I’m done. The End.

I’ve talked with writers who say they have absolutely no problem creating a synopsis. Not so me. I need a step-by-step, how-to, cheat-sheet and would love to find the one I safely filed away a couple of years ago. But I do remember that there are important rules. As I’ve said before, some rules are made to be broken, but first, one must know what they are. I wouldn’t, however, advise a novice writer to break any rules when submitting a manuscript, especially if the instructions are spelled out on an agent’s or publisher’s website. And always, always use the agent/publisher instructions for font and page layout format.

So here’s my synopsis outline:  

Write the synopsis in third person, present tense.  Since my stories are written in past tense, I need to keep that directive on a piece of paper taped to the monitor in front of me.

Start with a hook (the character or the inciting incident) and reveal the story premise. I think of this as my “elevator pitch” . . . the twenty-five words and amount of time a writer has to impress an agent if caught on the elevator together.

Concentrate on the primary story line, the turning points, and their effect (internal and external) on the characters . . . and do this in the chronological order of the story.

As for the characters, only include primary characters by name. Use all capital letters on the name the first time (s)he is introduced within the synopsis. Then be consistent with how the character is referred to in the rest of the document. For example, JOHN DOE might become Johnny for the remainder of the synopsis. Secondary characters can be described by what they do rather than by name . . . the sheriff, the teacher, the doctor.

Very important is to show the complete narrative arc for the primary character. How (s)he felt at the beginning of the manuscript and how the character is changed by the end of the story.

Write in active voice. Use strong verbs and words that show emotions, motivations, conflict, and tension.

Don’t go into lengthy descriptions and backstory in a synopsis. Unless a character’s physical description or age is pertinent to one of the story threads, keep focused on the nitty-gritty of the main story line.

The synopsis should be written in the same tone (voice) as the novel. If the novel is lighthearted, the synopsis should be also.  

It looks soooo simple, doesn’t it? One, two, three and done.  Ha!

Just like every other writer who’s typed THE END on the last page of their novel, I’ll be trying to cram thousands of words and hundreds of pages of manuscript into a concise document that is sometimes restricted to maybe four or five pages. Though I have read that some peak at eighteen, depending on who’s asking.

Do you have any helpful hints on writing a synopsis? I’d certainly appreciate hearing about them.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


PS:  All the photos crossed my desk in a recent eMail. Those problems don’t exist on the Gulf Coast, but I have a lot of friends up north dealing with them.


Thursday, February 19, 2015


I just read another article on the topic of authorpreneurship, a new word and a topic that has taken on
an “immense proportion” as one of my book characters often says. It’s impossible to believe that a mere decade ago, writers were being wined and dined by large publishers. Book tours and publicity was their bailiwick, not the authors. Of course, copyediting was also part of the package, and we all know from the number of typos in new books, that too is history. I mean what is the world coming to when the likes of James Patterson, Stephen King, and Adriana Trigiani have hit social media to sell their books?!

Advertising:  The fact is, writers must be entrepreneurs and learn to sell their writing in all of its formats. As a freelancer, submitting proposals and bidding on jobs is a part of my life, and I quickly learned that I had to advertise my professional expertise in order to make a living, not an easy task for a writer. By nature, we tend to work well by ourselves. As a freelancer, I have to work well by myself and play nice with others as well.

Teamwork:  I’ve seen an increase in the necessity for freelancers to work in teams to accomplish what a company needs and often what an author needs. An example: three clients I currently work with have two different types of editors on their projects and one requires meetings with other team members to hash out who is responsible for what, deadlines, and other processes. I find myself almost daily thanking my lucky stars that I have a background in team facilitation and organizational management, skills I thought I wouldn't need as a freelance writer.

Branding:  Three of us came together to create Lyrical Pens and begin to develop our author brands for the day when we would be published (or at least more published authors). Little did we know how prophetic our mission would become over the last five years. As the self-publishing and e-book markets have exploded, so has the imperative that an author think like an entrepreneur if we want to sell our books. No one is going to do it for us—not the traditional publisher, not the self-publishing companies, and not e-book providers. They all pay lip service to what they “give” us for our work, but do not be fooled. The author is the one in the pilothouse.

Captain:  You are the captain of your own ship. And for most authors, we are the ensign, the crew, the cook, and the social director. And last, but most important, we are the engine that powers the ship.

Stats:  If the statistics I’ve seen are true, there were roughly 2 million more books published in the U.S. in 2014 than in 2004. That does not include international markets. Well-known, extensively published authors have begun clawing their way out of the slush piles along with the rest of us. And how many books have you read over the last year that weren’t worth the paper or digital thingamajigs they were self-published on? Too many, in my estimation!

How does all of this discouraging news help?

Here is my take on starting to look at your writing as an entrepreneur. Remember, you are now the boss. You make the decisions, which can be daunting, but being bossy, I naturally flow in that direction.

Structure: Most book authors have day jobs out of necessity. Look around where you work. What structures are in place to keep things working?

1.     Schedules: time sheets or clocks, 24/7 or 9 - 5, Monday - Friday or seven days a week, defined turnaround times or arbitrary?
  • Do you schedule your writing or write when the mood strikes you? What software do you use? Which ones would help you move forward?
2.  Job descriptions: detailed or broad, skills and accountabilities defined, evaluation periods or open?
  • Have you defined what a freelance writer or author in your genre needs to do to succeed? What skills do you have that will help? What skills do you need?
 3.  Philosophy: mission that defines the company, vision for the future, and measurable goals?
  • Why do you want to write or why are you writing? What genre do you write (or want to write) in? What do you want to accomplish (number of articles or posts a month, so many words or pages a day)? What products do you want to produce?
4.  Marketing: digital, social media, news and magazine ads, direct mail, emails, website, blogs?
  •  Do you use any of these resources? What do you talk about on them? Do you slam others in public? What skills do you have that would help you sell your ideas and books, articles, etc.?
They are not new ideas.These questions are the basics that businesses deal with to be successful. 

Success:  They are an absolute necessity for every writer who wants to move forward and rise above the mid-point of success as a writer. The majority of writers don’t have the financial resources to hire a publicist, a substantive editor, a copyeditor, a website developer, a blogger, and an administrative assistant.

But we do have:
  • stamina to believe in dreams
  • guts to go to critique groups
  • chutzpah to enter contests
  • fearlessness to revise and revise in the sure knowledge that it’s worth the effort.
Do not for one minute think I don’t have days when I want to run the pages through the shredder. 
Fortunately, those days do not define me as a writer. Don't let them define you.

Writing is the basis of communication, whether it is in a company or as a company. And in today’s world, written communication is critical to get the message about any topic and any product and any service imaginable to the masses. It is the core of societal information.
Sell yourself. Crass? Yes and No. Necessary? YES!

Published authors work as professors in universities, peddle their skills and services as lawyers, doctors, therapists, and freelancers, model, write for television sitcoms, give workshops, and travel lecture circuits to make a living. And a select few earn royalties from conversions of their books to the big screen and Broadway.

Writers are in good company with teachers, coaches, photographers, artists, designers, chefs, ministers, musicians, athletes, and actors. How many of these have you seen in an ad? Guess what?

They are all entrepreneurs! We are authorpreneurs - a breed unto itself! 


P.S. Check out the Written Word pages to see what a freelancer does.
P. P. S.  Register at for a class on Blogging Basics