SPAWNews Newsletter – December 2009


For contributions to the newsletter and Letters to the Editor, please email the editor of SPAWNews:

Those of you who are SPAWN members, be sure to visit the Members Only Area to read this month’s Market Update. Go to and click Log In. You will be asked for your username and password. If you are not a member, join now online:

From the President

Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!

I have spent the last few weeks on the road, which is unusual for me, since normally I’m a bit of a homebody. But last month, I attended the PubWest 2009 National Publishing Conference and Book Industry Trade Show in Tucson, Arizona. It probably won’t come as a shock to anyone, but the book business is evolving and many publishers are struggling to figure out “what’s next.” In fact, the opening keynote was called “Thriving in an Evolving Future.” Dominique Raccah from Sourcebooks encouraged everyone to think about books as just one form of content. She used the term “content continuum” to describe a complete range of products for each book niche you have.

Another message that was repeated throughout the conference was that both authors and publishers need to keep up with technology. Keeping up with all the changes requires a lot of education, which is what SPAWN is all about.

If you have questions and need answers right now, stop by our SPAWNDiscuss discussion list. We’ll also be lining up expert speakers for our teleseminar series in 2010. Are you worried about Kindle? Start with XML? Online marketing, Facebook, and Twitter? Tell us what you need (, and we’ll do our best to line up people who have the answers you need.

Along those lines, don’t forget about our first teleseminar with Sandra Beckwith, which will be on December 10, 2009 at 1 pm (Pacific). She’ll be talking about how you can “Build Book Buzz.” If you’re looking to get more PR for your book, Sandra will show you how.

Another way SPAWN members can promote their books or services is with the SPAWN Member Catalog. Check out this page for more information:

As we approach the end of the year, the SPAWN board has agreed that after 13 years, it’s really beyond time to raise our membership dues. As of January 1, 2010, a yearly SPAWN membership will cost $65 and an associate membership will cost $55. (The price is still about half that of IBPA, SPAN, PubWest, or the regional publishing associations I have encountered.)

Since it’s inception in 1996, SPAWN has actually never raised its fees. However, as you might imagine, our costs have not remained the same. Let’s face it, in 1996, a postage stamp cost 32 cents and a gallon of gas cost $1.31. They sure don’t now!

If that little Back to the Future moment made you nostalgic for low prices, check out the fun discount promotion on everything from books to business services on the SUNsational Winter Solstice Countdown on this page:

Until next month, keep on creating!

Susan Daffron (
President & Webmaster, Small Publishers Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN)
President, Logical Expressions, Inc.

Editor’s Note

Last week, I took a teleclass about breaking into food writing—did you sign up for it too? Linda Formicelli of the Renegade Writer books is offering the series of classes (for free, as in no cost!). During the first class (how to write a killer query), I learned not to wait for the perfect query but to submit and follow up a couple of weeks later. Linda says 75 percent of the writing assignments we get are not from the query but from the follow-up. She also advocates opposite thinking. If everybody is querying Good Housekeeping, query a different magazine. If the current stories are talking about how heart attack patients face depression and lack of exercise, find the story that tells of patients who don’t just get out and walk but walk shelter dogs to help them be more adoptable.

I followed up with a woman I’d interviewed through a HARO (Help a Reporter Out) connection, and I got the best paying assignment I’ve ever had! The article was easy to write, the people were great to work with and the money, just in time for Christmas. Well, you can guess how handy that will be. The next class is on writing personal essays. Will you be on the phone with us?

Also from HARO, a reporter asked about senior living—who is doing things differently? She found an Alzheimer’s facility that has a therapy kangaroo (really) and a retirement home where a pair of residents publishes books of their fellow residents’ life stories. They are on volume three now. How often have you thought, “I must ask Grandma about when she a girl,” or “who was that cousin who went to be a movie star?”—but you never got to around to doing it? It’s a great example of different thinking.

So, how will you think differently in the New Year? Economists say this economic sag will change the way we live—it’s a correction, adjustment or shift in the time/space continuum! Change isn’t coming, it’s here—will you face it or embrace it?

Happy Holidays, however you celebrate!

— Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews,


It’s time to update the SPAWN Catalog of Members’ Books and Services. If you’re a member of SPAWN and if you want added exposure for your book(s) and/or writing/publishing-related services, sign up, today.

It’s just for members and it’s only $35.00 per full-color listing.

The new Catalog will debut in February 2010 online at the SPAWN Website. Your listing will be good for one year from the date you sign up.

While Catalog entries can be made at any time throughout the year, our initial deadline for the debut edition is January 1, 2010.

The fee per listing is $35 and each listing includes your book cover image (or company logo), a 40-word description/promo and your contact information.

What are the benefits of including your book(s) and/or services in the SPAWN Catalog?

  • The Catalog will be posted prominently at the SPAWN Website.
  • The SPAWN Website receives 15,000 visitors per month.
  • We will promote the Catalog in every issue of SPAWNews.
  • We will promote the Catalog outside of SPAWN, as well.
  • You can use the Catalog link in your promotional efforts.
  • You can read more about the Catalog on the SPAWN Website.

In order to have your book(s) or services included in the SPAWN Catalog of Members’ Books and Services, fill out the form today. Pay online by credit card or mail your form to the address indicated, along with your check.

Tamara Dever from TLC Graphics has volunteered to design the new SPAWN Catalog. Contact her with your technical questions at All other questions can be directed to

Market Update

by Patricia Fry

The December SPAWN Market Update carries many gifts for every member. There may be twelve days of Christmas, eight days of Chanukah and thirty days for Ramadan, but our SPAWN Market Update has gifts for each of forty-five days this season.

For our freelance writers, we’re offering nine specific writing opportunities, two more large job sites for writers and tips for how to make HARO (Help a Reporter Out) work (and pay) for you.

Authors, we have wrapped up eight promising publishers in pretty bows in the hope that your publishing dreams will all come true.

Those of you with books to promote—we generously arranged ten tips and resources under your Christmas tree, Menorah or Fanouz.

And we haven’t forgotten our artists, photographers and screenplay writers. For you, we’ve compiled a total of eleven brand-new promising opportunities to make a name for yourself and earn some money.

On top of our generous holiday offerings, we’ve beautifully wrapped up seven amazing, useful resources with great potential to help you increase your book sales, your earnings and your credibility in the coming year.

Be sure to take time during this busy season to explore all the offerings in the December SPAWN Market Update. If you’re not a member of SPAWN, give yourself the gift of membership this holiday season. It is a gift that truly will continue to reward you throughout the coming year.

Join SPAWN now at

Ask the Book Doctor:

About Poetry Contests, Story Ideas, and Setting Rates for Editing

By Bobbie Christmas

Q: Are you familiar with this Website/contest? [deleted for anonymity] Do you know if it’s legit? A friend of mine said she entered the contest a few times and that it seems legit to her. They offer prizes of $1,000, $2,000, and $4,000, but I don’t see how they make any money. I see no sponsor and no associated publication, so it seems very suspicious to me. What do you think?

A: The site offers no prestige because it is simply a financial endeavor. When you do the math, you’ll see that the organization has to receive fewer than 300 entries with the $25 entry fee to be in the black, and the rest is profit. Because the contest is promoted around the world for an extended time and at no cost through the Internet, I’m sure it gets more than the necessary entries. It runs the competitions for however long it takes to get enough entries to make it profitable, by the way. It just extended the deadline for the current competition.

I wasn’t impressed with the writing of prior winners, so it seems if you send a really good entry, you should have a chance of winning one of the cash prizes. All you have to lose is $25, right?

It depends on your goals, though. If your goal is to win money, it’s worth a try. If it’s to get recognition and publication, obviously this competition isn’t the best way to go.

Q: When I want to write a story, it’s like I am completely brain dead. I know I am a good writer, but I don’t know what to write about. Can you help me find a way to a topic or give me a few ideas?

A: I had the same problem for years. My ideas came while I took a shower or as I was falling asleep, waking up, driving the car, or even meditating. I promised myself I’d remember them, but when I sat in front of the typewriter (yes, I go back that far) or held a pen in hand, none of my grand ideas would come to mind.

I solved the problem when someone gave me a pocket-sized journal. Perhaps it was meant to be some sort of diary, but instead I carried it with me at all times, and when an idea came to me, I jotted down a few words, so I could remember it.

Soon I discovered that story ideas were not the only things worth recording. Once I had pen and paper with me at all times, hoards of material bombarded me. Sometimes a minister said a line in church that struck a chord or someone said something in passing that made me stop and think. Whatever I heard that interested me, I wrote it down. If I read an interesting name that might make a good character name, I wrote it down. I recorded good city names or odd business names that came to mind or that I actually saw. If a childhood memory floated through, I wrote down enough words so I’d remember it. I made up names for stories and books I might produce. I documented subjects I should cover in future nonfiction books. I wrote down bits of information or trivia that struck me as interesting. Since that first journal, I have filled many journals and spiral-bound notebooks, and they reside on a bookshelf in my office.

Now whenever I sit down to write, if my mind goes blank, I can flip through any one of my journals, and the first bit of information that speaks to me at that time becomes a story, an essay, or a poem. Sometimes a poem triggers an entire essay, or vice versa. Although much of what I write these days is nonfiction, I also combine items from my journals to create fiction. No matter what I want to write, I have a treasure trove of ideas and information I can dip into at any time.

Make sure you have a writing instrument and paper with you at all times, and you’ll stockpile information and material you can use whenever you sit down to write. I promise.

Q: Someone at my office inquired about the going rate for editors. His daughter was offered a chance to edit proposals seven to fifteen pages long. I did not know what to tell them to charge. Do you have any idea?

A: “The going rate” for editors won’t be the same rate as for a person just starting into the business, and if editors do not know what to charge, they are definitely newcomers.

It’s unfair to start out charging an hourly rate, because inexperienced but conscientious editors spend more hours completing a job than experienced editors would spend. Under an hourly arrangement, clients would pay more money for a novice than a professional.

When it comes to setting rates, only the editors themselves can decide what they are willing to accept while they get their on-the-job training, but read on for some ideas.

For a project as short as seven to fifteen pages, I suggest beginning editors should charge a minimum of $25 for fifteen or fewer pages. If that price seems low, remember that editing is not a “get rich” plan, it’s simply another job, and if you don’t love it and enjoy delving into all the details and continuing to learn during your entire career, it’s best to find something else that you do love.

Once you land your first project, though, time yourself to see how long it takes to finish the project, to get an average of how long it takes you per page. From that starting point—also with the knowledge that you will get faster as your skills improve—you can decide what your time is worth. You can raise your rates gradually as you gain more experience.

Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Visit Bobbie’s blog at Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at

Member News

Want to be part of the Member News? Send us your items and we’ll be glad to include your good news in the next issue. Want to be a Member Interview? It will give you a chance to plug your book, your business, yourself. Just email me and let me know you’d like to be included. The email is


SPAWN Needs You

There is a position on the SPAWN board open. We hope to recruit someone who has PR or marketing experience and/or who is interested in promoting SPAWN to the world.

If you are that person and you would like to be a part of this exclusive group, please contact Patricia Fry at We require that you be a member in good standing (paid member). Your membership fees for subsequent years will be waived. The board meets once every quarter via conference call.

* * * * *

Patricia Fry was a speaker at the Cat Writers’ Association Conference in White Plains, New York in November. When you speak at a conference, you are also invited to attend other presentations and Patricia spent her time sitting in on workshops related to social networking. We hope to bring in some experts on this subject through Webinars and through the SPAWN Market Update. Patricia also took this opportunity to spread the word about SPAWN to some of the 100 attendees. (See more below.)

* * * * *

President, Susan Daffron attended the PubWest Conference in Tucson, Arizona last month. (See her comments in the President’s Letter above.) Her company Logical Expressions, Inc. is also running a promotion called the SUNsational Winter Solstice Countdown. You can get more information on this page:

If you sign up, every day for 15 days, you receive an email with a new discount on one of the products from Logical Expressions. You’ll find discounts from 20% – 70% on everything from pet books to publishing and business services.

* * * * *

Barbara Florio-Graham has expanded the Book Publishing Options page on her Website,

with more comprehensive descriptions and many links to additional information. SPAWN members Patricia Fry, Susan Daffron and Dan Poynter were a great help with this. See

Bobbi says you are free to pass this on to anyone else you think might be interested. It’s important to clarify some of the misperceptions in this muddy field.

* * * * *

Dallas Woodburn’s “Write On! For Literacy” is holding its Ninth Annual Holiday Book Drive to benefit underprivileged children! Last year they collected nearly 2,000 books (bringing the grand total to more than 10,000 books!), which were distributed to various schools and charities, including the Boys & Girls Club, Casa Pacifica, and Project Understanding. Please do your part to help children have a better holiday season. Help beat illiteracy and give the gift that lasts forever: the gift of reading! Want to get involved?

You can mail book donations to the Write On! chapter headquarters: 400 Roosevelt Court, Ventura, CA, 93003

You can also mail monetary donations, which will be used to purchase books, to the above address. (Checks payable to Dallas Woodburn.)

You can start a chapter in your area! Donate books to a local charity—Boys and Girls Clubs are very grateful for donations—then e-mail Dallas the total number of books donated, which will be added to the grand total.


Seen on our Yahoo list—a fine example of networking between members:

“I’m one of those new members Patricia mentioned. I learned about SPAWN

through Susan Daffron and I’m happy to be a part of the group now.

“In addition to writing nonfiction (books, magazines articles, newsletters), I use my background as an award-winning publicist to teach authors how to generate media buzz for their books through my free e-zine (sign up at, my e-courses, and teleseminars. I don’t take on publicity assignments anymore, preferring to write instead, but I stay current and I love sharing what I know.

“I’ve written three publicity books and one humor book, and recently completed my first book ghostwriting assignment. I’m looking forward to learning and sharing here.”

Sandra Beckwith


“Many of my clients and readers of my free newsletter for writers, The Writers Network News, could use your information and newsletter. I’ll put a blurb in my next issue. Thank you for sharing your information.”

Bobbie Christmas

Author, Write In Style and other books for writers

Zebra Communications

230 Deerchase Drive

Woodstock, Georgia 30188-4438


“I’m adding both and to

the publishing resources page on my Website.

“Hope both of you will link back to me (in my role as a publishing consultant).”


Barbara Florio Graham

Simon Teakettle Ink


international award-winner


Note: To have your announcements included in Member News, you must be a paid member of SPAWN. Please email your news to

Sing for Your Supper

By Patricia Fry

You can’t sell a book that no one knows about. One way to spread the word is to go out and talk about it. If you aren’t entirely comfortable with the idea of speaking before a group, you might want to take steps to overcome your fears.

In 1983, when I published the first edition of “The Ojai Valley, An Illustrated History,” I called everyone I knew who belonged to local clubs or organizations and offered to speak before their group. I contacted the Chamber of Commerce and requested a list of local clubs and organizations. I called some of these club organizers and set up speaking engagements. I learned that clubs and organizations that meet weekly or even monthly are always looking for interesting, educational, entertaining programs.

I enjoyed going out and talking about my book and the audiences seemed to enjoy my talks. After a while, however, I felt the need for improvement and in 1992, I joined a Toastmasters club. The supportive Toastmaster environment helped me to develop more self-confidence, gain a better stage presence and improve my speaking skills.

With three more local history books to my credit now, eight books on writing/publishing and books on a variety of other topics, I’m doing even more public speaking. I’ve presented programs around my book themes for many different clubs and organizations and for special events such as Ojai Day (locally) and Much Ado About Books in Jacksonville, Florida. I’ve participated in lecture series for the local museum and I’ve given presentations in public and private schools. I currently travel around the U.S. and speak at writers’/publishers’ conferences. My travels have taken me to cities throughout California as well as Wisconsin, Hawaii, Washington, Texas, Maryland, Arizona and Dubai (yes, that amazing city in the Middle East).

Of course, when you speak on the topic of your book, you will sell copies of that book. But, I’ve found that you don’t have to speak on the topic of your book in order to sell it. I sell my book, “The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book,” even when I am speaking about my experiences in Dubai. While in Dubai, I sold out of my supply of “The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book,” yet the topic of my speech wasn’t related to writing or publishing.

People ask me how I get invited to speak at conferences and other events. Occasionally, invitations seem to come from out of the blue. In reality, however, they come from people who know about me, and they know about me because I am continually putting myself out there. Most commonly I seek out conferences, contact the organizers and present my bio for consideration.

In order to land speaking gigs outside of your geographic area, search for opportunities on the Web. If your book is on gardening, use Google to locate “garden shows” or “gardening workshops,” for example. Use Google to find conferences, shows, workshops and expos related to your fiction or nonfiction book topic—aviation, home decorating, homeschooling, senior travel, aging, death and dying or cooking, for example. If you have a book of poetry, seek out poetry slams, literary events and writers’ conferences. Arrange to speak at colleges, libraries and art shows. To promote a novel, consider applying to speak or conduct a workshop at writers’ conferences, events in the city where your story takes place or at events related to a key aspect of your story—sports, photography, dieting, anorexia, managing a certain kind of business or animal rescue, for example.

Whether you’re speaking for a local club or at a well-attended conference, get creative. If your book is a mystery, present a mystery for the audience to solve and make sure there is a real surprise ending. Have audience members take on the various character roles. You could do something similar with a humorous book or an adventure story. I once had a group of seniors taking turns reading a children’s story to imaginary grandchildren while practicing vocal variety and drama to make the story more exciting for a child. This was a workshop I presented to a visiting Elder Hostel group in order to promote my long-distance grandparenting book.

Accepting public speaking engagements offers many benefits. This is an opportunity to promote your book to 10 or 1,000 people. You get free press for your book. Think about it—the club or organization will usually submit news releases announcing the meeting or event. Sometimes there’s a follow-up news article recapping the presentation. Be sure to send your photo and bio to the publicity chairperson. If s/he hasn’t developed a promotional strategy, you do it. I often send a press release about an upcoming presentation just in case the publicity chairman drops the ball or his/her news release is lost or tossed aside. Post your speaking schedule at your Website.

Once you’ve drummed up the courage to do some public speaking and you’ve located appropriate venues, start developing a dynamite presentation. Remember, a speech is not a sales pitch—at least not the sort of pitch we are accustomed to when walking onto a used car lot, for example. Your presentation should be enjoyable, entertaining, interesting and/or informative. Use this opportunity to teach and/or to share. For a nonfiction book, you’ll want to demonstrate your expertise in your topic. Let’s say that your book focuses on how to achieve curb appeal when selling your home. Explain to your audience why curb appeal is important. Provide a few statistics and anecdotes. And then offer a few easy-to-do ideas either from your book or that you have come across since writing your book. (A slide show or PowerPoint presentation would greatly enhance this program.) Have the master of ceremonies announce that you have books for sale. In fact, you’ll want to give the person who introduces you a pre-written intro. Include the fact that you are the author of “Curb Appeal Made Simple and Profitable.” At the end of your talk, invite audience members to join you in the back of the room to purchase signed copies of your book.

For a novel, dress to reflect a major aspect of your story—in period clothing, riding or racing attire, ethnic dress or as a homeless person, for example. Either talk about the process of writing your book (what made you choose this story, anecdotes about things that occurred during the writing process, etc.) or tell a story from the book. Make it so intriguing that everyone is compelled to buy a copy of the book.

If the idea of public speaking scares you to death, but you really want to promote your book through this means, here are some ideas for getting rid of your noodle knees.

  • Join a Toastmasters club near you and participate regularly. (
  • Get involved in a storytelling group.
  • Hire a voice coach.
  • Take on a leadership role at work or through your other affiliations.
  • Observe other speakers and follow their good examples.
  • Practice speaking in front of people every chance you get.

Public speaking is just one way to promote your book, but it is definitely a major promotional activity that can open doors to amazing, unexpected opportunities. And the part in the title about singing for your supper—it’s valid. Anytime a meal is being served at an event, the speaker is almost always invited to eat for free.

How many books can you sell through speaking engagements? Do you really think I could answer this question? You’d like me to say, “hundreds,” but it might only be a dozen or five or three. Your choice of venues, the number of people in attendance and the level of the audience’s interest will determine the number of books you will sell at any given event. Sometimes it costs money to attend (especially if there is a plane ticket and a hotel room involved). And sometimes you spend nothing and earn hundreds of dollars. At the end of the year when I figure my expenses and earnings related to the conferences I attend, I always come out ahead. I’ve attended conferences that have cost me a bundle, only to recoup that amount and more at the next one or from a new client generated through that conference.

I am never disappointed in the number of books sold at any of these events, and this is not because I always sell a lot of books; it’s because I try not to have any expectations. I’ve learned that expectations breed disappointment.

Here’s my recipe for a successful speaking gig: preparation, product and professionalism. Be well-prepared, have a viable product that’s appropriate for the audience and the setting and behave in a professional manner. If these things are in place, yet all you get from a speaking engagement is exposure, consider yourself blessed, because with the right follow-up, exposure computes into future sales.

Patricia Fry is the executive director of SPAWN and the author of 29 books, including “The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book.” Visit her informative blog often at

Your Leaders Have Been Schmoozing and Learning

By Patricia Fry

SPAWN President, Susan Daffron attended the PubWest Conference in Arizona last month. (See her report in this issue of SPAWNews above.)

I (Patricia Fry) was a speaker at the Cat Writers’ Association Conference in White Plains, New York in November. When you speak at a conference, you are also invited to attend other presentations. This time I spent quite a bit of time sitting in on workshops related to social networking. We hope to bring in some experts on this subject through Webinars and through the SPAWN Market Update. I also took this opportunity to spread the word about SPAWN to some of the 100 attendees.

Some of you have never attended a writers’ conference. You may wonder what happens at a writers’ conference. Are they worth attending?

What can a writer get out of the writers’ conference experience? First, writers’ conferences typically involve hour-long workshops/seminars on various subjects related to writing and/or publishing—how to write a book proposal, understanding your publishing options, how to create stronger characters in your story, learning your way around Facebook and other social networking sites, how to write for trade magazines, tips for building a Website, book promotion ideas and so forth. There are typically luncheons and banquets featuring keynote speakers. Some conference coordinators run contests in conjunction with the event and many of them now set up appointments between attendees and the editors/agents/publishers of their choice.

Are these conferences worth attending? If you are trying to break in as a freelance writer or make it as an author, these conferences are absolutely critical. Not only will you benefit from the presentations and, possibly, the agent/editor meetings, you will have amazing networking opportunities throughout the event.

What can a writer/author get out of a writers’ conference? Whatever s/he is willing to put into it. I attend many conferences as a speaker throughout the U.S. every year, and I come away from each of them having made important and/or interesting contacts and having learned something new. Here’s what I recommend:

Choose the conference carefully. Use to help you get started. You can also use Google to locate a conference near you.

  • Plan to attend the entire conference—don’t cut your opportunities short.
  • Participate in as many seminars as you can fit in.
  • Take good notes.
  • Attend all of the networking luncheons, banquets and so forth.
  • Reach out to other attendees. Talk to them and listen to them.

If you follow these six tips, you’ll most likely return home from a writers’ conference feeling very tired, but also full of new information, ideas and inspiration.


Note: SPAWNews advises “caveat emptor” when dealing with venues, contests or promotions unknown to you. SPAWN is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.

Contests, Events and Opportunities

We have moved the Contests, Awards, Events, and Opportunities listings to the blog. Please use these links to get the latest information

Contests and Awards

Events and Opportunities


SPAWN is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. SPAWNews advises “caveat emptor” when dealing with venues, contests or promotions unknown to you. SPAWNews was proofread by Bonnie Myhrum, Professional Secretary, LLC. 734-455-0987.

Learn more about SPAWN at the Website

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