Showing posts with label freelance writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label freelance writing. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Once again, a hiatus

I'm taking a break from blogging here at Creative Writer US. Too many work projects and two regular columns are demanding my time right now; it's a good problem to have, though.

For the time being, please visit me at my other blog, Covering Florida.

Or catch the two freelance columns I write on a regular basis at The Writer or Beneath the Brand.

Stay tuned for book news!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Web Savvy will go another round with focus on tech and content opportunities


I just mailed the new contract for my column Web Savvy to continue at The Writer. I was thrilled the editors are pleased with the response to my column because I’m passionate about the opportunities technology is opening up for writers. In coming months, I’ll cover a variety of topics and hopefully, find an expert (top bloggers who'd like some exposure, where are you?) who will help explain basics for writers who want to learn about using video to help tell stories. Digital recorders, backup programs, SEO and even favicons are all on my planned content list.

When I bought my first computer at the urging of my husband, I hung onto my word processor. I figured if I didn’t like the computer, I still had a backup. Needless to say, I never used the backup. For me, the computer has really allowed me to expand the services I offer clients in ways I never envisioned. Recently, I discussed with a client the possibility of live blogging an election event. I routinely use video for my posts, and I have become fairly adept at taking still photos. In the early days of freelancing, I never thought I’d do any of that because a lot of the technology didn’t exist yet. I admit I really enjoy learning new things and seeing results of my trial and error attempts when I'm trying out a new program.

The other day my daughter came home and told me she’s thinking about majoring in English. That’s what I did. My daughter likes to write, but I told her the truth—major in multimedia and minor in English. You have to master the language, but you also need to know something about the different options for content.

As publications focus on Web content, opportunities and challenges will continue to arise. I plan to track them diligently for you twice a month at Web Savvy.

Along with a team of writers, I also do a 3x weekly column for Beneath the Brand. If you haven’t read articles there, take a look. The site is an amazing resource for those who want to learn about or work in marketing or advertising.

Today’s writer, regardless of specialty, needs to be savvy about the Web. It goes without saying we also need to be savvy about the language. I view the words as the linchpin, but you can really broaden their impact with a little Web savvy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The diversified writer: covering rugby league and politics, with writing and advertising along for the ride

I wrote a column last week about a writer opting to work as a generalist. This morning I realized it probably isn't for everyone, but it really suits me. The first email I opened was a request from Sky News to come up with some commentary about the Florida Primary.

Covering Florida was staring me in the face, a hungry blog begging for a mouthful of content. I remember wishing for 50 visitors a day. Those days were the calm before the storm. There's lots of content there, not only about the primary but also about the Australia Day Challenge.

I just finished my column for Web Savvy at The Writer. Subscribers can read my ideas about 'web-working' and see what others have accomplished by collaborating with other people they may or may not have actually met in person.

Meanwhile, I blogged at Beneath the Brand, explaining why I think rugby league is good for American businesses, large and small.

Each day I've worked on my nonfiction book, with a target of March 31 for manuscript completion. I've set the same deadline for the poetry manuscript--I'm down to nuts and bolts on that one, with the hard part (writing the poems) basically done.

Why am I telling you all this? So you'll know exactly what I mean when I use the term 'generalist.' In looking more closely, I guess it's obvious I'm passionate enough about several subjects to write about them repeatedly. So within that generalist arena, there are some specialized categories.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Can a generalist survive today’s writing market?

Publishing has increasingly become a forum for experts. If you are a weight-loss guru, a financial expert or a spiritual sage and, more importantly, if you have succeeded in making money off your area of expertise, you automatically have an edge in pitching an article or even a book. And this phenomenon isn’t confined to nonfiction—look at Patricia Cornwall who, after working as technical writer and analyst in a medical examiner’s office, parlayed that experience into best-selling crime novels. But there are writers like me who for whatever reason decline to focus on a specialty area.

Part of the reason may lie in necessity. When I first began to freelance, it was necessary to take just about any project that came my way. As my options expanded, I decided I was basically interested in just about everything. Along the way, poetry became a sort of specialty—the study of it, the history of it and the writing of it. But most outlets for poetry are either small lit magazines that don’t pay or magazines like Poets & Writers who either have a steady stable of writers or rely on MFA types for content.

I’ve often thought expertise can be sort of dangerous, at least for the reader. If a writer relies on a single expert for content, you will see only one perspective on a subject. This has become commonplace in media—toss in a quote by a high-profile authority and prove a point. But experts often disagree among themselves, and I think we’d be better off if varying, even conflicting, perspectives are included, especially in informational pieces.

I’ve survived as a generalist, and I don’t foresee changing my tactics anytime soon. I’m having an amazing, diversified journey through the lives of others, shaping their stories into content for readers.

And frankly, there aren’t a whole lot of experts I trust these days anyway.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Networks that pay off for freelance writers

I get email frequently from different people but with the same question. How do I get started in freelancing? I always view these with frustration, because there’s no easy answer and of course because there’s so much information about this on the Web free of charge. But one of the first things I point an aspiring freelancer to is a network. You can do one physically or on the Web. You can do one as part of an organization or a commercial group. You can even start one yourself.

Most states have writing organizations. Some effective organizations—and this is my opinion so do your own research first—are the North Carolina Writers Network, the South Carolina Writers Workshop and the Florida Writers Association. If you’d like a group with a regional slant, take a look at the Southeastern Writers Association. I’ve spoken at conferences for each of these, except for the NC organization. They run top tier programs and the people in charge are very helpful. Do a search for an organization in your own state and see what the group has to offer versus what it will cost you to join.

Web-based networks are also very effective. Most of these communicate by way of message boards and/or email news groups. Online News Association is on the cutting edge of technology that changes this profession on an almost daily basis. ONA has a fantastic conference; I plan to attend this year. Freelance Success (commonly known as FLX) is not non-profit, but the fee is well worth it. I speak from experience and I know many writers who say FLX brought their career to the next level. It certainly helped me. Very nice members; all very helpful.

Finally, there are organizations like the American Society of Journalists and Authors and The Authors Guild. Both of these are pricier because their base comprises professional writers. Once you have national publication credits, you can apply. ASJA does allow non-members to attend the annual conference.

Some writers opt to start a network. This is easily done by way of Yahoo or Google groups. You simply set up a group, solicit members and take it from there.

The writer in the lonely ivory tower is mostly a myth. I won’t say he or she doesn’t exist. I will say most of us need a network, myself included.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What’s hot for writers in 2008?


Maybe it’s the unusual chill in the Florida air (temp in the 20s tonight), but I had an uncommon amount of spring in my step this morning. I’d left the office early on Christmas Eve in a mess, having run out of time. Normally, I’d have dreaded returning to work. But once I took the hound out about 7 a.m. this morning, I was revved up and ready to go. Nothing like a little icy wind to wake up a Floridian.

Part of the reason I’m excited has to do with projects on the books. I just finished my first blog post, about business buzz words, for a new client, Beneath the Brand. I write about advertising and marketing for this site, so that’s sort of like plunking a bee down in clover. A newspaper editor assigned a story about a church that includes Christian rock in its services. I don’t know beans about Christian rock, so that will definitely be a learning process. And I’m working on a neat feature about writing.

I'm already looking forward to doing poetry at the SC Book Festival, participating in the Pure Poetry exhibit organized each year by South Carolina poet Janet Carr Hull.

Over the holiday, I came up with plans for the coming year. I mandated to myself that I finish both books that have somehow formed within the small confines of my home office.

Lots of topics intrigue me as possibilities for the coming year. These include the U.S. presidential election, the environment, alternative sources of fuel, American toys (courtesy of product recalls), and the omni-present topic of healthcare. Other possibles include stories about families whose loved ones are serving in the military, rugby league (because of the Australia Day match here in Jacksonville, an event that will put rugby league on the minds of many Americans), and the weather, always an ally because there’s always something going on in the sky. I may also write about legal scrapes writers get into; my last two installments of my column Web Savvy for The Writer deal with this subject.

Meanwhile, I opened two weeks of mail and sorted it, wrote and submitted two assigned columns and caught up my own blogs. I actually had a good first day back. That’s a benign sign for the beginning of anyone’s year.

Note: Yep, my laptop is resting on two pieces of scrap lumber left over from all the work we had done to the house. The bottom of the laptop gets so hot I figured elevating it would help. I looked at commercially available products, but a trip to our garage solved my problem and it didn’t cost me anything more.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Exploiting the news for pay

A writer’s best friend is the news. Whether you’re a journalist, poet or novelist, you can always find something to inspire you. You then simply translate your epiphany to a published work.

Many of my poems have been written as a result of something that happened, something that inspired me to speak. I recall seeing the story of a river that flooded a community. Ironically, this was the second time the river did this. I found myself wondering why these people would rebuild without resolving the issue in the first place. I wrote the poem, “Monologue by a River,” and it was published by an educational publisher then included in my collection A Poetry Break. I guess because the poem is a sonnet, people latch onto it.

I just finished an article for a new client I provide content to, Beyond Madison Avenue. This is a really fun account for me; blogging for a client is definitely a plus since I seem addicted to this form. I’d seen a PBS clip about Dr. Ron Paul’s remarkable fundraising via the Internet. I found it fascinating that a candidate could raise the kind of money he did without his official organizers doing a thing to orchestrate it. To read the story, visit Beyond Madison Avenue.

After Ken Burns’ movie The War aired, he came to the University of North Florida to do a lecture. I cover news here in Jax, so I went to the lecture and then arranged a followup interview. Burns and his script writer Geoffrey C. Ward will be the cover feature for The Writer in March, 2008. Chuck Leddy did the article about Ward; I wrote about Burns.

I learned about an Orlando mom who got sued for writing a blog. That spurred me to look into liability issues for writers, a topic I believe will increase in importance because, let’s face it, everybody wants to write these days. With lots of help from fellow members in the American Society of Journalists and Authors, I interviewed a leading intellectual property rights attorney. I cover the topics of liability and copyright issues in my column Web Savvy at the online site for The Writer—part I published yesterday and part II will go live around the end of the year.

I admit I’m an avid (even rabid) consumer of news. I’ll read anything if it’s topical. It brings me pleasure to know what’s happening in the world. And it also helps me to publish freelance work. Win-Win.


Poets who read Creative Writer US may want to read the interview I did with Donald Hall in the December issue of The Writer. And watch for a story I did about Hanukkah for The Florida Times Union.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Top ten gift ideas for writerly types


This is the time of year when my family gets annoyed with me. My younger daughter is a perfect example. She asks, "What do you want for Christmas?" Then before I can utter a syllable she says with disdain, "Oh, I know! Legal pads and stamps, right?" Truth is, I like practical gifts for myself--things that can be used in my home office-- though I don't apply that to others. When I select a gift for someone, I honestly try to pick something he or she would like rather than what I want to give. Being a freelancer produces special needs, so here are my top ten suggestions for the writer on your list. I can't guarantee this is what your writer will want. I can guarantee these items are/would be useful to me. I've included helpful remarks below each item.

(Drum roll begins).

1. Postage stamps
I know, they're almost obsolete, right? But when you need a stamp you gotta' have one and I always seem to run low. I don't need enough of them to go the online postage route and if I can avoid a trip to the postal center I do.

2. Starbucks or Panera gift card
In every city I've traveled to (well, almost every city), I look for coffee. Enough said.

3. A good bottle of wine
That doesn't necessarily mean you break the bank by selecting the most expensive bottle you can afford. If you don't drink (my sympathies to you on that note), visit a good wine shop and talk to the salesperson. A bottle of wine is good for occasions when you sign that exciting contract or when you screw up big time.

4. Sparco Brand Reporter's Notebooks
My favorite. If your writer does interviews, this is the way to go. I get mine from amazon.com.

5. Multipurpose paper, 8 1/2" x 11", preferably recycled, and/or paper clips (jumbo size)
Do I really need to explain this one? I didn't think so.

6. Gas card
Gas is the hidden expense that goes on taking all year long. Despite the fact gas prices have risen to a point parallel to the tip of Mt. Everest, rates for my freelance brethren and me are static. So a gas card will bring a smile to any freelancer's face. Unless of course he or she relies on public transportation or uses a bike, neither of which is doable for many of us.

7. Gift card to a restaurant
Always helpful despite the fact many of us eat in Mom&Pop restaurants that don't sell gift cards.

8. Red pens
Somebody always takes my red pen and I really need these not only to correct spelling and grammar on my first drafts but also to add the brilliant afterthoughts that will delight my editors and readers. Plus it's more fun to doodle with a red pen when you're locked into one of those long, drawn-out phone calls you'd love to conclude but can't find a polite or honest way to do so.

9. Gift card for books
Any bookstore will do.

10. Item for neurotic moments
This one has some wiggle room. Try a squeeze ball or something that can be hurled at the wall without causing damage to the wall or anything else. This is because if you work as a writer, you are guaranteed moments when you will need to throw something at something. I once threw my pencil sharpener into the back yard, and that was not a good idea because then I had to purchase another pencil sharpener.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Does a writer deserve to be paid?

There's an interesting post at the blog TechCrunch, about how easy it is to use portable media devices for "stealing books." The writer notes the technology known as BitTorrents conveniently enables this act. What's even more interesting is the discussion following the post. One fellow, Chris, who describes himself as a writer, offers some interesting views about compensating writers. He posits that publishers rip us off on contracts, but a reader who illegally acquires a book by the use of technology is doing no harm. Chris believes we should value all readers (desperately seeking readers?) whether they pay for our product or not.

I posted a question on the discussion, asking Chris whether he's paid for what he writes or whether he's been doing the deed for free. I'll let you know if there's a response.

While ivory towers are useful, most of us who try to earn a living by the pen do not have the luxury of an ivory tower. Some of us write full-time, others teach and write on the side, and still others work a non-related day job to be able to write during leisure time.

I obviously love my work--otherwise I wouldn't do it. But I also expect to be paid for content I supply to a publication or Web site. I like royalties from my books. Do you think those who own publications, presses, or Web sites are doing it for free? Should the U.S. follow the suit of countries where government controls the written word, reimbursing journalists and others who write?

I have a hard time wrapping my brain around working for nothing. When grocers fill my bag with free food items and gas stations pump fuel at no charge, when utilities supply me with free water and when cats stop chasing songbirds, I suppose we can all work for free. Until then, you work you should be paid.

Ed. note: In the article at Tech Crunch, since BitTorrents is mentioned, readers should be aware the technology does not cloak users' identities. Numeric Internet addresses are viewable, according to Bram Cohen, BitTorrents developer. Cohen was interviewed by The New York Times. He told the paper he didn't envision people using his technology for copyright infringement. Read our Covering Florida story of an Orlando man facing 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for participating in a the Elite Torrents network, involving file sharing of music, games, movies and software.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Freelance writers’ claims nixed for works published on Internet; NWU president calls court decision ‘an outrage’

The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan voided a settlement on Thursday, resulting in widespread implications for freelance writers. The New York Times reported Judge Chester J. Straub contended in his decision, “… federal copyright law allows claims for damages only by writers who have registered their work with the United States Copyright Office. The vast majority of freelancers did not register, so he said the courts had no jurisdiction over their disputes, and the case should not have been approved as a class-action suit.”

An original agreement had been brokered in 2005 and approved by the courts, whereby publishers would reimburse writers for Web use. Straub apparently contradicts the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2001 that digital reproduction without permission violates the author’s rights.

Straub’s ruling also contradicts information listed in F.A.Q. on the U.S. government Copyright Office site declaring that copyright exists from the moment the work is created. Bear the fine print listed on the U.S. government Copyright Office Web site in mind, however:
Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”

Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration” and Circular 38b, Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), on non-U.S. works.

The courts typically favor creative workers in the entertainment industry, but when it comes to writers, it’s a sad tale of abandonment and woe. It’s this writer’s opinion that courts have little idea of the intricacies and practices in the publishing industry. Gerard Colby, National Writers Union president, called the latest decision an “outrage,” and he told the Times he hopes the decision can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday after Thanksgiving: Cash registers go ‘ding’ at malls; keys go tap tap in the freelance word factory


The first day back after any holiday always hurts. Like when you get one of those little paper slash cuts as you lick an envelope. You get the wince and the ouch. It hurts whether you had a good holiday or a bad holiday.

My Thanksgiving ended up Turkey Perfect. As soon as I closed the laptop last Wednesday, I managed to ditch every single work-related thought. I’d spent several weeks trying to get ahead so I could have 4 days off with family, friends and critters. By the time I started cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I had reached a sort of Nirvana populated by bowls, mixing cups and wire whisks. When I chopped fresh apple for breakfast muffins, the scent alone took me miles away from end of month billings, articles due and the hundreds of emails I never seem to catch up on. I cooked, we built fires (outside), we watched football and movies and took walks. When Sunday evening rolled around, I was already wincing.

Naturally, Monday morning got off to a rollicking start and I am already trying to set schedules so I can have even more time off at Christmas.

The freelance writing business is a stressful, labor intensive and sometimes lonely endeavor. And the best method I’ve found for coping is taking time off. The navel gazing my hound is doing in the photo above makes a great case for downtime. Creativity recharges, energy increases, and bliss comes from losing yourself in work. On the other hand, all that good stuff happens only after the initial paper slash feeling wears off as you stand there on Monday, wondering how you’re going to get it all done. When you dive in, that’s when the good stuff starts and the keys go to tapping. (Photo by Becky Day)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Reality writer--what the writing biz is like



The video says it all.

Only thing I can add is thank God for the good editors I have--you know who you are.

Thanks to a fellow ASJA member for sharing this link.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Yes, Virginia, there’s a place for you on Facebook even if you’re over 40


Last week I was on the phone, talking business with a meeting organizer. She’s younger than me. When I told her I had a Facebook page, she giggled. I told her age doesn't mean much to me. I forget how old I am; most days I have more energy than I did at 20 because I don’t keep the late (often rowdy) hours I did then.

My older daughter, a grad student at a Florida university, actually talked me into doing the Facebook page. I’ve already had lots of fun (her friends have become mine in many cases), but I’ve also discovered two interesting poetry groups, a magazine group, an animal lovers' group, and linked up to several other freelance writers. There's even an over 40 Facebook group. A daily newspaper reporter did an interview with me about my Facebook experience, and the story was in the business section Monday.

Major publishers use social networks to promote their book titles ahead of the title’s release date. Journalists like me use social networks to glean quotes for articles, to dig up stories, and to stay on top of trends. When my new book comes out, my page will be the first place I announce the release. I’ve already turned up two stories I’ll write, based on my interaction within this social network. I also post links to stories I've written for magazines, Web sites and newspapers.

I wrote an earlier article here at Creative Writer US about a poem inspired by my Facebook experience.

I’ve received virtual plants that grow and bloom over a period of several days, and friends have gifted me cyber-beers and a cup of coffee.

So even if you’re over 40, you can still have fun and benefit professionally by using social networks like Facebook.

Related links:

Florida Times-Union story by J. Elliott Walker about Facebook

Creative Writer US column about Facebook poem

My article at The Writer, ‘Networking with Other Writers’, for my column ‘Web Savvy’

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Writers find inspiration like a penny on the sidewalk

I came across this statue at Marywood Retreat as I finished interviews for a newspaper story. I'll gaze at the photo tacked to my bulletin board until, one day, my pen will begin to crawl across my notebook.

I was interviewing an author this morning for my Web Savvy column, and I mentioned inspiration. To me, the process is sort of like finding a penny on the sidewalk. Since I was a girl, I’ve checked first to see whether the coin was heads up or down. Heads up meant pick the coin up, pocket it and wait for good luck to follow. Sometimes I’d make a wish. Heads down meant pass on the coin.

Inspiration is very much like that penny on the sidewalk. You often encounter it unexpectedly, and you still don’t know what to expect from the encounter until you take a closer look. Despite the overwhelming creative bent, this is a key approach to running my business. I call myself a writer, but what keeps me working rests on the information I can provide and craft. The more unique the information and the more unique the style, the chances for publication rise. By unique style, I don’t mean writing the pronoun ‘I’ in lower case or paring away all the modifiers. I mean the way the piece sounds to someone’s ear, how the person’s brain perceives the information.

Poets and writers can often be on inspiration overload. Once you train the eye and brain, opportunities for creating a work of art from words abound. I’ve sold several pieces related to kumquats, all because I discovered those peculiar little fruits as a girl and many years later, bumped into a kumquat tree for the first time as we shopped at a plant nursery. A polychrome sculpture of the Virgin Mary in an art museum in South Carolina almost got me arrested. I sat for so long in the room containing the statue, the security guard began to hover. That experience led me to write a poem that is one of the only poems I’ve written that satisfies me, and it was included in my last collection. Newspapers and old cookbooks, my husband and daughters, my dog, my chicken and my cat have also spurred my pen to write poetry and prose. And the relationship with my mother is a veritable gold mine.

When I speak to groups, people often ask me if I get writer’s block. I have to say I don’t. It is true that sometimes I just don’t really feel very inspired. But if I gaze around my writing room long enough, something is bound to shine, just like that penny on the sidewalk.

To read a sampler of works I've published, visit my page at Media Bistro.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Billionaire says Internet ‘dead and boring’

I learned to navigate Facebook by enlisting help from my daughter, a graduate student at a Florida university.



I read part of an interview with Mark Cuban in Lloyd Grove’s column at Portfolio.com. Cuban made his primary fortune by plying his entrepreneurial skills as a partner in Broadcast.com. This Web TV company was sold to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in stock, and then, Lloyd writes, “cashed out before the tech market imploded.” Cuban’s remarks about the Internet are based on what he perceives as an inadequate broadband speed to your home, that limits potential for “technical innovation.” I’m not a computer expert, so I won’t argue Cuban’s point. I guess I’d call myself a “creative expert,” though, using the Web for everything from finding markets for my writing to locating old friends and enjoying the seemingly limitless potential at sites like the social network Facebook as well as the eclectic BlogHer community.

I’d have to say those of us in the arts are having a field day with the Web. Even the U.S. presidential candidates (or their strategists) are beginning to respect the power of YouTube.

As a journalist, I learn something every day, courtesy of the world’s largest information resource. Naturally, using the Web has diversified my publishing portfolio. I write regular columns and articles for some sites and publications, but I often simply write something, email it to a publication I've never done business with, and learn, with pleasure, it suits the editor I sent it to. This happened recently when I spotted a story that no one had covered yet. I did some research, put the copy together and sent it on its merry way. In a short while, I had an acceptance and shortly thereafter, had emailed the invoice. This happens quite frequently. The process once took weeks, even months in some cases. I deal with every editor I provide content to by means of email and on lesser occasions, fax by email. If I have a question related to freelancing, I can post it on any of several message boards at professional organizations I belong to and receive an answer quickly, sometimes immediately. If I need quotes from experts, they're keystrokes and a few URLs away.

As a poet outside the collegiate writing industry, I am certain my poems would have never connected with the number of readers who've found them and then bought the book. Same goes for the readings and programs I speak at. The Web is a writer's best ally.

So maybe those of us in the creative arts, non-geeks that we mostly are, simply look at the Web with a different perspective than someone who is an expert in matters technological. The beauty of the Web, like other media, is in the eyes of the beholder.


Visit my column Web Savvy at The Writer, and drop by my blog Covering Florida.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Five great Web sites for writers


Want to know which digital camera is best for your budget and your purpose? Or how to shorten that URL to an easier-to-remember Web address? Or whether a Web site has published your content without legal permission? How about finding information about fair poetry and writing contests? Or maybe just find a site with forums, markets and writer-bewares (not to mention a free newsletter). Here are five Web sites useful to writers.

1. PC World is a commercial site with information about tools and aids for the computer. There’s a great review of digital cameras. I looked at cameras on-site, and then quizzed an editor I knew about the best camera for my needs. Being able to take a good photo is a great asset if you’re providing content for Web sites or for newspapers. You don’t necessarily need the most expensive camera.

2. TinyURL.com is the site with a quick fix for a long URL. Visit the page to learn how to convert that really long Web address into something snappy and easy to remember.

3. Copyscape allows you to input a URL to see if your content has been used elsewhere on the Web.

4. Winning Writers offers a free newsletter and basic site access as well as a more expansive subscription at a modest fee for information about fair contests.

5. Writers Weekly is tops for general information, forums, markets and writer bewares. I’d say Angela Adair Hoy is probably one of the best independent advocates for writers on the Web. Free newsletter. The Web site also has a great comparison chart about print-on-demand publishing costs.

I’ve personally used each of these sites with great results.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Don’t be na├»ve: if your content is good enough to publish you deserve to be paid


I often have aspiring writers ask me if they should write for free. I usually tell them if something’s good enough to publish, you should be paid for it. I confess I often see things published that weren’t good enough to see the light of day, in my humble opinion, but yesterday I saw something that completely blew my mind.

There was a “job” listing by a publication at the freelance board for the Society of Professional Journalists. I took a look at the publication’s Web site. The manuscript and image submission guidelines state the following:
“By submitting your material, for good and valuable consideration, the sufficiency and receipt of which you hereby acknowledge, you hereby grant to (publication) a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license to edit, rerun, reproduce, use, syndicate, and otherwise exhibit the materials you submit, or any portion thereof, as incorporated in their feature, (name of feature) or the promotion thereof, in any manner and in any medium or forum, whether now known or hereafter devised, without payment to you or any third party.”


Amazing. My advice to you when confronting terms like this: Just don’t do it.

The Web enables any aspiring artist in any genre to set up a blog or Web site and share your work. This is the era of citizen journalism. Why would you want to assign any kind of rights to your material if you’re not getting compensated? So you can say someone else put your work on their site and stuck your name on it?

This is almost as bad as buying an anthology so your poem will be included in a book.

Be smart. If your content is good enough to publish you deserve to be paid. And if you’re not offered compensation, go and set up a blog or a Web site. You can do that free at a number of places, including blogger.com.