Sandra Murphy, Editor
For contributions to the newsletter and Letters to the Editor, please email the editor of SPAWNews: email@example.com.
Those of you who are SPAWN members, be sure to visit the Members Only Area to read this month’s Market Update. Go to http://www.spawn.org and click Log In. You will be asked for your username and password. If you are not a member, join now online: http://www.spawn.org/join.htm
From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
Here in Idaho, March came in like a lion. At my house we got about 25-inches of snow over the last 24 hours and I’m tired from shoveling. I think the groundhog was wrong about an early spring!
Spring also means more events. For those of you who have been thinking about joining SPAWN at the LA Festival of Books at the end of April, note there are only a few slots left, so you need to act fast. Also don’t forget that IBPA is offering scholarships to affiliates (including SPAWN) for two of our members to attend IBPA Publishing University 2011 in May. If you want the forms to apply, please contact me. The applications need to be returned to me or our Executive Director Patricia Fry by March 15.
Plus, the third annual Self-Publishers Online Conference is coming. SPAWN is a sponsor again this year, and I have been busy lining up speakers. If there are publishing topics you want us to address or experts you would love to learn from at the 3-day event, please let me know. We’ll have the Web site updated with more information soon!
February Teleseminar Announcement!
Teleseminar for SPAWN Members
Who: Judith Briles
When: March 22 at 1 pm Pacific (4 pm Eastern)
How: Members will receive an email with call-in details
Title: “Show Me About Book Publishing”
This month has been an odd one. From below zero temperatures, snow and ice, to a 70-degree day followed by an early morning freezing rain that aided and abetted a twenty-six car pileup on the highway, it’s been twenty-eight days of not being able to plan from one minute to the next. One benefit has been that I have had more time to write. When there’s nothing to see outside the window but white, the white screen of the computer doesn’t look so bad. I wrote what I think is my best article yet—and I hope you think the same about this issue of the newsletter.
I enjoy writing, and have a list of ideas for articles just waiting to be researched and written. I know of a half-dozen magazines asking for submissions, but I wondered why I couldn’t make time to write. Writing seems to get done after every other possible chore is completed, when it should be first on the list. I decided that writing needs to be a priority, so I made a few changes.
As a result, I’ve been writing more often and getting better-quality results. What’s the difference? Writer’s group. I belong to two groups now. Being able to bounce ideas off another writer, talk about research, and test an approach can make a big difference.
Writers Under the Arch meets once a week at a bookstore. We each read a sample of our work to the other members, who critique it. Knowing that our organizer Cindy will ask, “Sandy, what did you bring us tonight?” forces me to have something ready to read. Members’ remarks are generous with compliments, tactful with criticism, and go to the heart of the piece.
The other group is online and called Book in a Week (see interview below). The first week of every month is set aside for marathon writing. No editing, no reworking old pieces, no whining. I can research, plot, outline, and prepare ahead of time, but come Monday morning, I write. The two groups complement each other. BIW gets me writing. WUTA makes the writing quality work. People who really listen, know what works, what doesn’t, and how to fix it, are invaluable. The best ones offer compliments first and then criticism. The compliments make me feel better. The criticism makes me write better.
At WUTA, Chris collects great sentences. I look forward to hearing him read a sentence back to the writer and then say, “I’m going to steal this for my inspiration wall!” I thought of an inspiration of my own. I’ll make myself a bracelet that says “WWCS?” on it. It will serve as a reminder to write clearly and concisely, to show rather than tell, and to use the fewest words to tell the story.
What does WWCS mean? “What Would Chris Steal,” of course!
— Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, firstname.lastname@example.org
Join SPAWN at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books – Only a Few Spaces Left!
The LATFB is being held at a new venue this year—the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles, April 30–May 1. SPAWN has secured two booths to accommodate our members; the fee for selling your books from our booth is $200 per day.
For those who can’t attend, we offer you the opportunity to display a copy of your book(s) in the SPAWN booth for $20 each. For an additional $35, members can list their books in the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services, which will serve as the brochure for all participants. Everyone visiting the SPAWN booth will walk away with one of our beautiful catalogs. Explore all of your options and sign up here: http://www.spawn.org/latfb2011.htm
The LATFB opportunity is open to members only. If your membership has expired or you haven’t joined yet, this is a good time to take care of business.
If you want a major bookselling opportunity and incredible exposure for your book, sign up TODAY! http://www.spawn.org/latfb2011.htm
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
The March edition of the SPAWN Market Update is designed with the serious writer and sincere author in mind. We’ve included descriptions of over a dozen writers’ conferences throughout the U.S., links to several conference directories, and a guide to getting the most out of a writer’s/author’s conference. We’ve posted over a dozen book review sites for authors. We’ve listed two brand-new publishers, a wild opportunity for scriptwriters, a dozen writing opportunities for freelance writers, and MORE. We’ve even included some good news about bookstores, for a change.
If you pursue just a handful of the resources and opportunities from each issue of the SPAWN Market Update, and if you act on those leads, you could increase your income considerably through article submissions, book sales, and/or publishing opportunities each month.
Locate the SPAWN Market Update in the member area of the SPAWN Web site.
Ask the Book Doctor:
About Literary Virginity, Capitalization in Titles, and Possessives
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: When is it correct to use “their” instead of constantly using “his and her?”
Example 1: Anyone at any age can learn to use their intuition.
Example 2: Cultural symbols differ for each person because of their backgrounds.
Example 3: She and he need to find their own musical instrument.
A: It is correct to use “their” only when it refers to a plural, so one way to avoid overusing “his or her” and other such wordy phrases is to make the noun plural, so the pronoun can be plural. Another way is to recast the sentence. Here are some potential rewrites of the examples you sent:
Example 1: Anyone at any age can learn to use intuition.
Example 2: Because of differing backgrounds, everyone has differing cultural symbols.
Example 3: All musicians need to find their own musical instruments.
Q: Explain prologue, preface, foreword, and introduction. What are the differences?
A: A prologue precedes a work of fiction (a novel) and gives backstory, setting, or prior events leading up to the main story.
A preface or introduction precedes a work of nonfiction. The difference between a preface and an introduction is slight, in that both are written by the author to introduce the book and explain how it came about, but a preface often closes with acknowledgments of those who assisted with the book.
A foreword, however, which also precedes a work of nonfiction, is written by someone other than the author of the book. The foreword should precede the preface or introduction.
It’s fine to have a foreword and introduction or a foreword and preface, but not a preface and an introduction.
Q: How can I make my history book more interesting? Can you comment on interpretive sense for a historical writing?
A: History books become interesting when they relate interesting stories and show the interplay between personalities, countries, cultures, and times. Contrast and conflict add interest to writing of any kind. To show that conflict and contrast, the author might personally interpret events, use conflicting historical “facts,” rely on the opinions of others in the same era, or even use the opinions or interpretations of historians today, especially in light of the outcome. Anytime you can resurrect actual dialogue or quotations, that, too, aids readers in understanding and enjoying the content. In other words, writing that shows, rather than tells, engages readers, and writing that tells, rather than shows, lectures to the reader.
Q: I’m being bombarded with info from [name of publisher and marketing company deleted]. Are they the true scam that they seem to be? They send e-mails, and if you respond, someone replies to you almost instantly. They claim to have a thousand authors that they’ve published. I would greatly appreciate it if you’d give me your thoughts, even though I know in advance what you’re going to say.
A: First, when a publisher contacts you (and especially if it “bombards” you) before you contact it, a big red warning flag should go up, unless you already have a best-selling book on the market. Next, when a publisher also claims to be a marketing firm, a red flag should rise, because no traditional publisher makes such a claim, even if some publishers do help with marketing. Next, when publishers make claims regarding the number of authors they’ve published, another red flag should rise. Traditional publishers do not make such claims; they may refer to best-selling authors and titles in their catalog, but they don’t speak in terms of the number of authors they publish.
Yet another giant red flag went up for me when I researched the firm and found nothing on the Internet about the company. Any respectable business has a presence on the Internet.
Indeed, when any company responds instantly with great eagerness, it has something to sell you, not something to give you, and if a traditional, respectable publisher likes your book, it sends you money in advance of publishing your book; it never asks you for money or sells you any services.
You knew all those things, though, because you said you knew what I was going to say, but thank you for letting me say it.
What’s your question about writing or publishing? 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 Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.
Book Review: Self-Publishing Manual Volume 2
by Patricia Fry
Self-Publishing Manual Volume 2 by Dan Poynter
Para Publishing (2009)
Paperback, e-book, large print, 144 pages, $14.95
Most of you are familiar with Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual, which is in the 16th printing. Well, times are a-changing rapidly within the publishing industry, and Poynter has produced Volume 2 of this book in order to help you keep up. The subtitle is: “How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book Employing the Latest Technologies and the Newest Techniques.” It’s a sequel to the Self-Publishing Manual and it’s all about writing your book faster, publishing it for less, more economical ways to distribute your book, and earning more profit by cutting out the middlemen. This book covers print books, e-books, audiobooks, and others.
I was a little surprised to discover that, while it would be wise for hopeful authors to study Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual, the new Volume 2 is a stand-alone book. Poynter briefly describes the world of publishing and how it has evolved. He leads readers through the process of writing and promoting their books; he talks about choosing a title and suggests a title-testing method, as well as various printing methods and distribution channels.
One of the most impressive chapters is the one on book promotion. Poynter offers some concrete advice in this chapter, along with some tips for organizing this aspect of your book project. He touches on common promotional activities, such as getting book reviews, contributing articles, etc., but he also covers book trailers, blogging, Webcasting, podcasts, virtual book tours, and, of course, social networking.
Have you ever thought about following up your book review submissions with articles to magazines in the same category? Are you familiar with Blog talk radio? And what about having a book trailer designed? Poynter explains where to go to get a book trailer made and how to promote it.
Probably the most impressive aspect of this book is the enormous helping of resources. At first glance, I’d say there are somewhere between 800 and 1,000 resources related to distribution, copyright issues, book promotion, e-books, statistics, and much more.
I like this book because it brings into focus what you truly need to know and provides links to any additional information you might require.
A Request! From Patricia Fry
I hope you are all taking advantage of the programs SPAWN offers members via monthly teleseminars and that you appreciate the work our President Susan Daffron is doing to locate the magnificent experts and conduct interviews with them.
You can listen in real-time or you can tune in later to the recordings at the SPAWN Website. If you haven’t been taking advantage of this benefit, you are really missing some good information, resources, and advice from experts in the publishing field.
Most recently, Susan interviewed Bob Bly, author of How to Write and Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit and numbers of other books. We’ve heard from Marcia Meier, author of Navigating the Rough Waters of Today’s Publishing World; David Garland, Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-Free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting your Business; Kate Bandos, Are Book Awards Worth It; Gail Z. Martin’s, Book Marketing Magic, as well as Brian Jud, Penny Sansevieri, Peter Bowerman, Mark Levine … the impressive list just goes on.
To learn more about the speakers we’ve heard from and to get a list of those who are scheduled through September 2011, go to http://www.spawn.org./events.htm
For those who think they don’t have time to listen, Helen Gallagher tells how she manages.
“I listen to all of our speaker teleseminars … [eventually.] Each time they are announced, I put the date/time on my calendar. If I’m home, I listen. More often, though, I am working and can’t stop, so I move the appointment to the next Saturday. That’s when the fun begins. I devote the uninterrupted time to listening and simultaneously take down notes in my computer file of lectures. Our teleseminars are a neat benefit of SPAWN.”
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 email@example.com
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David Perkins (ww.DavidMPerkins.com) says “I’ve been invited for a reprise appearance, this coming Father’s Day, on the Jordan Rich Show in Boston, to spend an hour discussing my book Dear Austin ~ A Letter To My Son, fatherhood, and to take calls from the listening audience.”
It’s conference time again and Hope Clark will appear in several places to discuss finding funding streams for your writing career. Hope’s mystery is slated to release this winter from Bell Bridge Books, a mystery/suspense imprint of Belle Book. In the meantime, she talks the business of writing.
BLUE RIDGE WRITERS CONFERENCE (GEORGIA) Apr. 1–2, 2011 http://www.blueridgewritersconference.com/
MISSOURI WRITERS GUILD (ST LOUIS) Apr. 8–10, 2011 http://www.missouriwritersguild.org/
VILLAGES FOLK WRITERS CONFERENCE (IOWA) Sept. 23–25, 2011 http://www.villagesfolkschool.com/
~ C. Hope Clark, Editor, FundsforWriters, www.fundsforwriters.com Writer’s Digest 101 Best Web Sites for Writers – 2001-2010 Blog – www.hopeclark.blogspot.com Twitter – www.twitter.com/hopeclark Facebook – www.facebook.com/chopeclark
Patricia Fry announces her new online course for authors who need to establish or build on their platform. Patricia now offers seven online, on-demand courses for freelance writers and authors. Check them all out at http://www.matilijapress.com/courses.htm. The Author’s Platform Workshop is listed here: http://www.matilijapress.com/course_platform.htm.
New release from SPAWN Youth Director Dallas Woodburn! Dancing With The Pen, a collection of today’s best youth writing, is the debut anthology from Dallas Woodburn’s new publishing company Write On! Books. Edited and compiled by Woodburn, Dancing With The Pen features stories, essays, and poetry by more than sixty writers in middle school and high school, from all across the U.S. and even abroad—Canada, Singapore, and New Zealand. Write On! Books has a twofold goal: give young writers an outlet for expression, while publishing exciting, creative stories that get kids excited about reading. Copies are available at www.amazon.com and at www.writeonbooks.org for $24.95, which includes shipping and handling. Discounted bulk orders are also available. For every copy purchased, a new book will be donated to Write On’s Holiday Book Drive to benefit disadvantaged youth. Woodburn founded Write On! Books in 2010 as an offshoot of her organization Write On! For Literacy, which empowers youth through reading and writing. The annual Write On! Holiday Book Drive has donated nearly 12,000 new books to underprivileged kids. ~ Dallas Woodburn, author, speaker, freelance writer, founder of “Write On! For Literacy” firstname.lastname@example.org www.writeonbooks.org http://dallaswoodburn.blogspot.com (Editor’s note: Dallas is also Youth Director on the SPAWN Board.)
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Note: To have your announcements included in Member News, you must be a paid member of SPAWN. Please email your news to email@example.com
Eight Ways to Land New Writing Assignments (Not Just Queries!)
by Linda Formichelli
I get a lot of assignments—I have to, as I’m the main breadwinner for my family! Since 1997, I’ve written for more than 130 magazines (the vast majority of them multiple times) and close to thirty corporate clients.
Writers often write to me asking why they aren’t getting assignments, and I know they expect me to say, “Oh, if you just did this in your query letters, the assignments would come rolling in.”
Yes, query letters are important, and you want yours to be great. But they’re hardly the only marketing tactic that should be in the freelance writer’s toolbox. I think that where many writers go wrong is by limiting their marketing to just one or two types.
Here are the various tactics I’ve used to get work:
Guess how I landed clients ranging from Bay State Gas to Pizzeria Uno to Cheshire Medical Center? Through good old-fashioned direct mail. I send a sales letter, and interested prospects e-mail, call, or mail back my reply card. A direct mail (DM) packet is something a potential client can keep in her files for when she needs a writer—as opposed to an e-mail, which is all too easy to delete. Recently, I got an assignment from a prospect who had kept my packet for more than two years.
How you can do it: Interested in trying copywriting yourself—and in doing a direct mail campaign? I recently wrote a guest post for Copyblogger on how I do it.
A few months ago, I got a Twitter follow notice from a regional hospital. I sent a direct message saying, “Hey, I’m a freelance writer who writes on health topics. Do you need any help?” The hospital’s Twitter person sent my note along to their marketing person, who asked me for clips. We then had a phone call, and I’m on line to do some Web writing work for this hospital.
In the meantime, the marketing person sent my name along to the hospital system’s Web guru, who in turn passed it along to the marketing manager at one of their sister hospitals in Virginia. The marketing manager called me, and I landed an assignment worth $3,000.
How you can do it: Keep an eye on your follow notices so you’ll know if someone in a field you write for starts following you on Twitter, and be proactive by following potential clients, as well. Send prospects a quick DM letting them know who you are and asking if you can help them. And be sure to keep your Twitter stream clean and professional. I occasionally post about my toddler, but most of my tweets are business-related—no posts about bodily functions or drunken antics.
The hospital gig (which came in a roundabout way through Twitter) isn’t the only work I’ve gotten via referrals. One editor of a custom-published magazine loved my work and shared my info with other editors in the group. I’ve now written for four magazines at this company. This has happened at more than one custom publication!
How you can do it: Do kick-ass work for all your clients. Act like a professional, get your work in on time, and write great articles. Oh, and after you’ve gotten to know an editor, ask her to introduce you to other editors in the group.
My blog was voted one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers by Write to Done. The list of the winning blogs was picked up by Copyblogger and the owner of a consulting company in Chicago saw it. He checked out my Renegade Writer blog, and he then hired me to write for his company’s blog.
How you can do it: A good blog shows prospective clients what you can do. If you do blog, make a commitment to update it regularly with valuable content. Pick a frequency that you’re sure you can stick with, and keep it up. For example, I aim to post on this blog a minimum of twice a week, and the stats show that I actually update it an average of 2.7 times weekly. Want to learn more about blogging? Problogger is a huge site full of great information on the topic.
A couple of years ago I was at a friend’s house, and I noticed that he had a copy of a magazine called Choice Health. I asked him about it and he said that his health insurance company sent it to him. The masthead didn’t list the editor’s e-mail address, but it did have her phone number. So I called and left a voicemail telling the editor what I do and asking her if she hires freelancers. The editor sent me an e-mail asking for clips, which I sent.
Five months went by, and I forgot all about the magazine. Then, suddenly, the editor e-mailed with an assignment—at $1 per word. I ended up writing a few articles for her before the magazine ceased publication. It was a great gig.
How you can do it: You may have trouble reaching an editor at a big newsstand magazine by phone, but it’s not as hard with local, trade, and custom pubs. If you’re shy, call after hours and leave a voicemail. Have a short elevator speech ready about who you are. For example, in my voicemail I said, “Hi, Julie. I’m a freelance writer who has written on health topics for magazines like Health, Women’s Health, and Redbook. I saw your magazine and was wondering if you assign articles to freelance writers, and if so, if I might send you some clips. You can call me at X or e-mail me at Y. Thanks so much, and I look forward to hearing from you!”
I wrote for Cleveland Clinic Magazine until they stopped publication recently. Last year, I got an e-mail from the editor of a medical school’s magazine. She saw an article I wrote in Cleveland Clinic Magazine, liked it, and was wondering if I could write an article for $1,700. Heck yes!
How you can do it: This is yet another reason to kick ass on your assignments. Editors and potential clients are probably among your readers, and this is the case even with magazines that aren’t on the newsstands.
Letters of Introduction
I’ve broken into more than two dozen trade magazines and at least ten custom publications by sending well-crafted letters of introduction.
How you can do it: Write up a basic letter of intro and tweak it for each magazine. I often read through the magazine’s online archives and point out an article I especially like. Then I ask if the editor assigns articles to freelance writers, and launch into my credentials. Finally, I ask the editor if I can send her some clips. I think this question gives the editor an easy way to say “yes” without having to commit to anything big.
And then there are queries—of course! Last June I wrote a post called “Are Queries Dead?” The conclusion: No, they are not. Queries are an important tool for every magazine writer.
How you can do it: How to write a query is a huge topic. In short, you need to convince the editor that your idea is perfect for her magazine and that you’re just the right writer to write it. Read the “Query That Rocked” posts on this blog, and sign up for my e-mail list to receive a free packet of ten queries that landed assignments. And of course, I teach an eight-week e-course called “Write for Magazines” (next session starts March 7) that shows writers how to write a killer query.
So as you can see, queries are only one of eight ways I’ve gotten new assignments. Don’t rely on just one marketing tactic—keep your eyes open for new opportunities everywhere.
Linda Formichelli writes articles, books, and blogs. Read more about her and available classes at http://www.therenegadewriter.com/new-renegade-writer-classes/
I Hate Accounting
I love writing, editing, and even page layout and formatting for publishing. I also enjoy doing research, but there is one part of this business that I hate: accounting. Sure, I know accurate and up-to-date accounting is critical to the success of any business, and self-publishing is no exception, but I still hate it. Nevertheless, it has to be done by someone.
Over the years, I have done my own accounting using Quickbooks and my own taxes using TurboTax Online. My lack of accounting knowledge or the desire to learn means that I fail to take full advantage of the capabilities of Quickbooks. My utter dislike of accounting causes me to put it off, resulting in hours of last-minute, unpleasant work.
At the end of every year, my failings in accounting motivate a search for an easier, simpler way to handle it for the next year. I know there must be a better system somewhere. Each year ends in disappointment and, at the end of the first quarter, I’m once again scrambling to post all of my transactions in my accounting software.
Fortunately, this is the year to put my accounting nightmares behind me.
I had almost decided to stop avoiding it and hire an accountant. It turned out there was another way—a company called Outright.com. They now do my accounting for only $10 a month.
To make use of their service, your business has to be formalized so it doesn’t mix personal and business funds—something you should be doing anyway. You need to have a checking account for your business. If you make business purchases with a credit card, it should be a card just for the business. If you accept credit cards or Paypal, you need to have those accounts solely for your business.
At Outright.com, you register your business accounts such as checking, credit card, and Paypal or merchant account with their secure Web service and they sweep information from your accounts on a daily basis. This information is categorized and posted to your account. At first, you check the posted items to make certain they are properly categorized and correct those that aren’t. From then on, all the items are categorized automatically.
You never have to post anything and you can run reports on anything you choose, including sales tax, profit and loss, and specific vendor information. You can also add cash and other items that may not be listed on the accounts you have registered with them. It is comprehensive and easy to understand.
If you hate doing your accounting as much as I do and don’t already have an accountant to handle this for you, I suggest you check out www.outright.com
Book-in-a-Week? An Interview with Maureen (Moe) Woods
Book-in-a-Week (BIW) provides the opportunity for writers to connect through an online community, the main purpose of the group being to write, and exchange information, publishing news, and kudos.
How did BIW get started?
Moe: Book-in-a-week (BIW) was started as a listserv at Painted Rock. In October 1998 it was moved to another listserv that was owned and operated by Carmel Thomaston (aka Fay Robinson), until she handed it over shortly before her death. I took over as moderator in July 2002 and took ownership in 2006. BIW has been continually growing and evolving ever since.
I eventually developed a plan that encourages a stricter format of goal-setting and routine check-ins, which I think works for the majority. It helps to keep writers on track and prevents any from disappearing unrecognized in the sea of pages.
Moving to our current home required a change in format (from listserv to forum) and was a huge adjustment for everyone; however, BIW’s main goal of bringing writers of like minds together once a week to write as much as they can has remained constant. Only the delivery has changed.
How many members are there? How many people participate each month?
Moe: We are now up to 200 members. There are many new faces, but still some old familiars. We all live hectic lives, and participating in BIW takes a commitment on many levels, so I never know from one month to the next who or how many writers will participate, and it is always a pleasant surprise. Some writers participate every month and others just a few times throughout the year. We can have anywhere from forty to eighty writers taking part in a weekly challenge.
What are the most pages written?
Moe: The highest weekly total I found in my current records is 259 pages, written by a long-term member. I know there are members who have written over 300. I have done in the sixty-page range, but I no longer participate during the challenges, other than moderating and keeping the Web site working. I guess you can say I live vicariously through the BIW writers.
Have people actually written a book in a week?
Moe: Yes, but I have not seen it done in a few years. It takes great dedication and stamina. BIW has become the week many writers work on their books more than they do at other times of the month; for some, it is the only time they work on their book.
The concept is to get us in the habit of Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard, Typing Away Madly?
Moe: Yes, BIC HOK TAM is definitely the main motto for BIW. But another plus is that we are not alone as it is typically portrayed in the media. Yes, for sure, the actual act of writing is solitary, but with the Internet we are able to feel camaraderie with writers from all over the world who are typing along on their keyboards with us.
How many prompts do you send out? What do they do to get people to sit and start typing?
Moe: I create a writing prompt or exercise once a day during BIW, just for those who are stuck and need a little push. Writing prompts basically give the writer a writing assignment to get the juices flowing, so to speak, and force the act of writing. I have what I call a sister site to BIW, where I create a daily prompt; I see it eventually taking over as the main prompt provider for BIWers. It’s a time thing, really.
Do you limit the number of members to keep it manageable?
Moe: When we had 300 members we had over 100 members participating at one time and it was more than a little crazy. At our current numbers I haven’t felt the need to limit members. But I have thought ahead; as the group continues to grow, I will consider adding another week in the month to divide up the group, and I am hopeful that by then we will have another moderator to help out. But that is definitely down the road.
What else do we need to know about BIW?
Moe: BIW has a great group of writers from all walks of life and experience who are situated all over the world. There are newbie writers and published writers and they all have the same goal—to write more. BIW is not a miracle cure for writing more. The onus is still on the writer to set a goal and stick to it.
The BIW community is a closed adult community. We are friendly and open to anyone eighteen years and older, but there are stipulations for joining. We are not an anonymous group; we don’t use cutesy names like Lady Dragonfly or Mr. WriteSomeMore. We are real people with real names, with most wanting to be in the real business of writing. This creates a comfort level amongst members. It is a community of real people, real writers. Having said that, BIW really isn’t a social community for whining about home life, although there are forums for doing that during off times. For the most part, BIW is pretty quiet until a challenge week comes around. Then it’s about the task at hand, which is and always will be writing—no excuses.
A nominal $3 non-refundable payment is required before joining, which helps support the site and weed out those who are not entirely serious. There is a helpful FAQ on the Website that really explains the nuts and bolts of BIW.
What do you write?
Moe: I used to actively submit to magazines and literary journals when I started out in 1999, but my interests and activities have evolved to my being a content writer for the Internet. Most of my time is spent at BellaOnline, on my blogs, and networking—amazingly this has become my career. I still have long-term plans for finishing my book series and producing a poetry book, but they are more personal goals than professional at this point. www.book-in-a-week.com
How to Position Yourself as an Expert
by Patricia Fry
You’ve heard that a nonfiction author must position him/herself as an expert. But you don’t feel like an authority of any kind; you just wrote a book about raising feral kittens, hang gliding, going organic, or encouraging creativity in children.
If you hope to sell copies of your book, you will have to convince readers that you know what you’re talking about—that you have knowledge, experience, and expertise in the subject. As the author of a nonfiction book, you need to earn yourself some credibility as an expert in your field so your readers will turn to you (and your book) for the information and answers they seek.
Once you produce a book, you are already considered an expert on that topic. But what will make readers choose your book over others on the subject? One major inducement is name recognition.
How does an author develop a level of familiarity with readers that will cause them to purchase his or her book instead of the others? Think about where you learn about the experts in your field of interest.
- You hear their names mentioned at meetings, gatherings, shows, etc. related to the topic.
- You see their names on articles in the publications you read.
- You may read their blogs and subscribe to their newsletters.
- You see their book reviewed and/or recommended at the sites you visit and at Amazon.
- You attend their lectures at conferences related to your area of interest.
- You see their endorsements on the covers of other books on the subject.
- You notice their interviews at other blog sites.
- You rely on their Web site for information and resources.
- Other experts mention their works in their articles and lectures.
- Their name shows up in your Google Alerts quite often.
These are the things you should be doing, even before you complete your nonfiction book, in order to position yourself as an expert in your field or area of interest.
You don’t have to be the best and most knowledgeable organic cook around in order to sell your book on the topic. What you do need is enough experience and information to write a credible book on the subject, using a slant that others may not have thought of. And you need to work at becoming known to your audience.
Read the SPAWN Market Update every month (in the member area of the SPAWN Web site) and learn additional ways to increase your exposure and credibility in the subject of your nonfiction book.
Patricia Fry is the Executive Director of SPAWN and the author of 33 books. View her array of publishing and book promotion books here: www.matilijapress.com. Patricia teaches online courses on publishing and book marketing themes and works with other authors on their publishing projects. www.patriciafry.com Visit her informative blog often: www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog
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