Category Archives: frustration

Naomi Asked How to Get Paid for Writing on the Internet

Naomi sent me a message. She asked:

“What I would like to know, is when you are trying to get a paid gig online, how do you find out if it is legitimate? And if they refuse to pay you at some point, what can be done about that. Most of us cannot afford a literary lawyer, since they are so expensive.”

Her question is a real problem for writers whether or not they write for an online site or for a traditional print source. I’ve had a good deal of personal experience with the latter. I was a freelance writer for a Midwestern newspaper for nearly two decades. I was paid by the article and any accompanying photographs, and retained the copyright once the work was published. It was difficult for other news sources to copy my photographs because newspaper pictures are very grainy when copied. As for text, if another source used parts of my work there was either an attribution given to me or the newspaper where my work had been published. Things became more complicated when newspapers began to publish their content online.

Back in 2006, maybe even earlier, I received a message about a class action lawsuit that pertained to writers whose work was published on the Internet. Once a work is published online there seems to be a Wild West mindset where everything on the ‘Net is thought to be fair game for use rather than plagiarism. The suit aimed at seeking restitution for writers whose work had been used without compensation.

The suit has yet to be finalized. An issue pertaining to the suit went before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was argued in October 2009.  Early in 2010, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the Second Circuit on a jurisdictional issue and sent the case back to the Second Circuit for further proceedings, which is where the case is pending at this time.

Even if the court were to eventually rule that writers should be compensated in full by anyone who uses their work, the enforcement of this finding would be very difficult, lengthy and costly to enforce. So what’s a writer to do?

Here’s what I told Naomi:

It’s my experience that there is little you can do to force anyone to pay you, give credit for your work, etc. A writer has every right to be compensated for their work, but achieving this isn’t a given. Finding a source that will pay is no different than purchasing an item on the Internet, the writer needs to research the site to determine if it is legitimate.

If a writer decides to contact a social media professional for assistance in learning how to effectively use the ‘Net to sell their literary product, one of the first things you’ll be told is to build a relationship with your intended audience. The bottom line to this advice is that you’ll have to give away content. That’s basically what a blog does. It’s free content. I know of no statistics with any numbers, research-based or speculative, on how many writers become successful and earn serious money by publishing content on the Internet. I have seen a variety of models such as subscription blogs and ebooks for ways to capitalize on online writing but, here again, I have seen no comparative numbers to assess what works, if anything works.

In my previous post I shared the story of one woman who has made a success using the ‘Net with ebooks.  She basically gave away her books in the beginning.

Learning to use the ‘Net successfully involves a steep learning curve; and, at least for me, a good deal of frustration. It took 90 days to learn the basics, 90 more days to see glimmers of results. The results are mostly contacts, not financial reward.

In her message, Naomi mentioned that she is her own agent, PR source, secretary, personal assistant, etc. I told her that was my job description too. Filling all these positions leaves me little time to write, but I’m a lot less frustrated and negative about the experience then when I started (read the full blog to see my growth). Soon I hope to have some exciting news regarding my own positive progress.

I encouraged Naomi to stick with the Internet. (I imagine Mentor Mama will shed a tear when she reads this.) I also suggested Naomi keep her day job, because money and recognition aren’t going to come overnight. Even if she was to achieve a viral success the ‘Net is fickle. Success is likely to be ephemeral. For most of us, the recipe for success is to keep at it, be resourceful and creative.

The first measure of success is that someone is reading your work. You know this when someone leaves you a comment. The next measure of success is when a writer is asked to provide content. I’m talking about a guest blog post. No money is involved. Eventually, if Naomi builds enough connections, a big enough audience, and a resume of posts online, then she’ll have evidence that she has a following, an audience, and can use this as a resume to get paid for her work by legitimate sources.

To read my other blog where I write stories about extraordinary women go to Living in the Heartland.

Read my book on how three women overcame life’s challenges on the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click Living in the Heartland video preview.

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Filed under blog, cost, frustration, guarantee, income, job, perseverance, publishing, social media, statistics, success, Uncategorized, writers, writing

Author Finds Success through Ebooks: Royalties, Publishing Deal, Even a Movie

Today I heard a story on the radio that caught my attention. It began with a story not unlike my own. A writer discussed how she’d received complementary letters from publishers and editors in response to her manuscript submissions. Although they liked her work respondents didn’t think they’d be able to market it. As this was my experience, I wanted to hear what happened.

Also like me, Karen McQuestion had been a freelance writer, and had written on a regular basis for a local newspaper. Karen loved to write. Her heart’s desire was to write novels. Karen had written several and had even had an agent. Unfortunately, she was unable to sell her books.

A year ago McQuestion began to think she’d never be a success as a novelist. When her freelance work dried up, she realized it was time to take a serious look at her options. During this time Karen learned about a writer who published his novels as e-books.  After 7,000 download the author had earned a small royalty and a publishing deal.

Karen didn’t know the basics such as how to design a book cover or determine pricing, but decided publishing on the ‘Net was worth a try. McQuestion reasoned that if her books weren’t successful she’d have lost little, and in the best case she’d make enough money to continue writing. During the next six months she uploaded six books.

The end result?

Karen McQuestion wrote on her blog: “I’ve had (to me) unbelievable success. The first few months I was stunned that anyone was actually buying and reading my books. I’d wanted it for so long that I was afraid of it all going away. Some small part of me thought that my sales would peak and then taper off to nothing. But despite my worries, my sales numbers kept growing, partially because I was adding books and also because more people were buying e-book readers.

“The best part–I got emails and reviews and comments on the message boards from readers who liked my books and were recommending them to others! Without this word of mouth I never would have had the kind of numbers I had. Some of the posters are people I now consider to be Internet friends. My world became wider, and happier too, for that matter.”

Karen’s story doesn’t end there. She’s had one of her novels optioned for film. She also was contacted by an editor who wanted to publish her books.

Karen’s success didn’t come overnight. Her love of writing kept her going. Not every writer is likely to have Karen McQuestion’s success; however, if you love writing, the process is its own reward.

Patience is the hardest part of the writer’s journey. Karen McQuestion offers advice to writers who are yearning for validation of their work through publishing:

“To other writers I say–please, keep the faith. Keep writing and improving (that’s a given, I know) and keep up with the latest news and opportunities, because you never ever know.”

What keeps me going? A commitment to the women who contributed to my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories; the positive comments and support I’ve had since I released the book and it’s companion blog Living in the Heartland; and the faith that something good WILL happen.

To read stories of other extraordinary women go to Living in the Heartland.

Read how three women overcame life’s challenges on the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click Living in the Heartland video preview.

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Filed under Amazon, blog, book, dreams, editors, frustration, hopeful, income, indie writer, job, luck, on writing, Pamela Ferris-Olson, perseverance, publishing, royalty, success, writers, writing, writing block

One Writer Tells of Her Success on the Internet

Kathleen O'Keefe Kavanos, author and cancer survivor

Once again I wish to thank Nancy Burke Barr for her guest post on Facebook.  I respect both her wisdom and views on social media. Nancy has generally been patient with me, but my comments to her post resulted in a suggestion that I tone my skepticism done a notch.

I responded saying we are yin and yang on social media. Yin and yang are complementary opposites. They do not, however, represent good and evil. Yin is the shady side, and yang the sunny one. In Wikipedia the definition of the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang includes this description: “As the sun moves across the sky, yin and yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what was obscured and obscuring what was revealed.”

Nancy stands in the light. She has faith in the power of social media. I stand in the shadows looking out at the social media wondering if the promise of  its  brilliance is real or perceived. I also ask whether there are more risks than benefit.  Nancy clearly lives in sunny Southern California, and I in a more pragmatic northern cline.

One area where Nancy and I occupy the same position on social media is in its networking potential. In the six months since I have began learning about social media I’ve met some good people. One of the most amazing is Kathleen O’Keefe Kanavos. She is a two time cancer survivor. Kathy is also the author of a book designed to help cancer patients advocate for their successful recovery. This approachable, generous lady has achieved enormous success in only 8 months on the Internet. She has more than 5,000 followers on her FB page one and more than 3000 Twitter followers.

I present her story in two parts: the first is a discussion of the value of social media for writers, the second contains Kathy’s views on traditional vs. indie publishing.  Her posts are both encouraging and cautionary, but above all else Kathy is genuine.

Q. How long ago did you get involved in Social Media? Where did you start (eg. Twitter, FB, blogs)?  Why did you decide to use SM?

A. I got involved in Social Media after I signed a contract with my agent. He felt a social presence on the Internet was important for my book’s platform. He suggested that I set up a Web site, get on twitter, and Facebook. That was ten months ago. I now have 5,000 followers on FaceBook , over 3,000 on twitter,  and I share my blog http://survivingcancerland.blogspot.com on over 10 sites.

An author’s SM presence reflected in the book proposal’s platform is one of the most important areas at which a publishing house will look. It doesn’t matter if you have the best book in the world if you cannot tell others about it to sell it. Publishing companies are not in the publishing business to sell books. They are in it to make money. You, as an author, must show them that you have the contacts to do that.

Q. Did you find SM helpful from the start or did it take time?

A.I found it extremely helpful. I made many friends who were helpful in building contacts. I am followed on Twitter by many publishing houses. One of them contacted me to answer a questionnaire about the future of publishing. I was pleased, honored and shocked. Me, Miss Doesn’t-Know-How-To-Turn-On-A-Computer one year ago giving advice to publishing houses. I was rewarded by a free book of my choosing.

Q. What are your stats? Have they grown slowly, steadily or only recently jumped?

A. I found that they grew steadily and then started to snowball. My FB page became very lively with comments and sharing. Before I knew it I had 444 requests a day before I quickly hit my 5000 limit. If I had known then what I know now, I would have started off with a fan page and just let it “Rock ON!”

Q. How has SM helped as a writer? If you weren’t promoting the book, how has SM helped you?

A. I believe writing is a skill that improves with use.  Developing a “voice” takes time and patience. When I review old blogs I realize I may have stated things differently, although the main topics would have remained the same.

Q. How important do you view SM to the success of today’s writer?

Social Media is booming. It is easier now more than ever in the history of communication to contact and interact with people all over the world. Unless you are Dan Brown and already have a following, SM is very important.

To learn more about Kathleen O’Keefe Kavanos connect with her on Facebook Facebook PAGE II,
http://www.facebook.com/editprofile.php?sk=contact#!/pages/SURVIVING-CANCERLAND-The-Psychic-Aspects-of-Healing/142803307934?ref=m. Follow her on Twitter @psychichealing.

Next time we’ll explore Kathy’s book and the publishing industry.

To read more stories of extraordinary women go to Living in the Heartland.

Read how three women overcame life’s challenges on the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click Living in the Heartland video preview.

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Filed under agents, Amazon, blog, book, editors, Facebook, frustration, good read, media, networking, Pamela Ferris-Olson, publishing, social media, Twitter, voice

What’s Wrong with Book Stores?

Credit for this photo unknown.

Credit for this photo unknown as it was sent to me via email.

I had to take a diversion from my discussion of Twitter so I could share this photograph. It was emailed to me by a friend. I imagine there is a good chance  the picture has been Photoshopped, but whether it has or not I share it with no intention of making any negative commentary on the Chinese. Instead, I am commenting on what many writers and readers, I imagine too, have felt about book stores. In my case, as you will read in future posts, I’ve been frustrated in my attempts to get my indie published Living in the  Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories into book stores. When a writer can’t get her book into brick and mortar stores to share with readers across the country, and readers can’t find the books they want to read we ask ourselves” Am I in the ……?!”


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Filed under Amazon, book, cartoons, distribution, frustration, good read, indie writer, Pamela Ferris-Olson, publishing, success

Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers? Twitter Part 3

Wouldn’t you think two lengthy posts about Twitter would be more than enough to evaluate a form of communication that limits discussions to 140 characters? Well it’s not. So here’s my third installment on the subject.

My first two posts were little more than an introduction to Twitter. There were many things I didn’t mention. For example, I didn’t discuss hash tags, RTs, or tinyurls. While Twitter isn’t difficult to use, there is a learning curve especially if you want to use it effectively. So you need to have the time and the desire to learn it.

Every day I realize there are more things I should learn about Twitter. SEO is one of those areas. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Social media professionals use SEO to find words which have been demonstrated to be effective in grabbing the social media audience’s attention.
Twitterland is full of tweets from SM professionals who offer to teach others through free Webinars, etc. how to maximize their Twitter success. There also a shadowy subculture that operating in Twitterland. These Twitter shadows aren’t necessarily bad guys. They do, however, operate behind the scenes so most people aren’t aware of their efforts. These Twitter professionals know how to direct traffic and architecturally enhance the power of Twitter.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting one (a very nice guy with eight sisters. Now, he knows 😉 I’m talking about him). This guy gave me a peek into the shadows, and I hope he will continue to try and help me.

I am certain there are other things going on in Twitterland of which I am not aware.

The purpose of this series, however, was not to offer a thorough evaluation of Twitter. Instead, my goal was to answer the question: Which is more helpful to a writer: social media or old-fashioned networking?

Yesterday, @patrickcurl engaged me in a conversation on Twitter. I was interested enough to check his Web site. Here’s what I learned from patrickcurl.com.

According to Barracuda Networks, an Internet research company, Twitter may have an image problem. The company says that the majority of first-time or short-term users try Twitter out, don’t understand Twitter’s value, and decide not to use it.

I have personally heard people say they didn’t find Twitter useful. These people tend to be business owners who operate locally. They do better advertising by word of mouth than through Twitter. They don’t have the time or patience for reading scam, spam and other low-value tweets.
Patrick loves Twitter. He values it as a way to reach out to people in his niche. He works with social media consultants and experts. Patrick admits these people have a better grasp on how to use and develop Twitter’s power than the average Twitter user.

Here’s what I find revealing about Patrick’s discussion of Twitter. He cites a report from Hubspot that states 55.5 percent of Twitter users don’t follow anyone, and 54.9 percent have never tweeted.

Here are some more startling numbers Patrick provided on Twitter usage:
•    79.79% of users provided no homepage URL.
•    75.86% of users have not entered a bio.
•    68.68% have not specified their location.
•    55.50% are not following anyone.
•    54.88% have never tweeted.
•    52.71% have no followers.

What these numbers show are  that as little as a quarter of Twitter’s members use the service on a regular basis.

So here’s my question: If more than half the people who try Twitter don’t hang around long, and those that do stay aren’t really involved, is marketing on Twitter really effective for a writer?

The answer depends on a number of things. Anyone who is lobbing tweets out in Twitter space and hoping to reel in lots of new readers isn’t realistic about their success rate. That strategy isn’t any more effective than putting a book up on Amazon and figuring it will automatically be read by millions. Knowing how to target potential followers and developing a relationship with people so they become followers can be a worthwhile pursuit if you aren’t going to find these people otherwise.

Twitter is a high maintenance beast. Content although limited to 140 characters must be provided regularly or followers lose interest.  How much time do want to spend working Twitter?

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers? Twitter Part 2

Just before I started writing this post I looked at my Twitter account. I had 1,621 followers, and was on 131 lists.

I began my adventure with social media by seeking the advice of a social media coach. One of the first assignments was to” follow” 50-100 new people every day.  There were many ways to accomplish this. The easiest and cheapest it seemed was to find someone on Twitter who had lots of followers. I could scroll down their list and click FOLLOW.  It was a fast way to accomplish what I had been instructed to do. Later I discovered it wasn’t an effective method.

Why do I say it’s effective? Some of the Twitter accounts turned out to be inactive. Some of the accounts were rarely used, others were OVERused. I had other issues with a stream of tweets that were scams, spams or garbage.

So, until I knew better, I would scan down a page and click FOLLOW, FOLLOW, FOLLOW wherever I saw a person’s face.  I was sure that in a month I’d accumulate a follow list equivalent to the population of Rhode Island. I got giddy watching my follow list grow. However, when I took the time to think about what I was doing I asked myself: “How is this was going to help me?” I realized I could click “FOLLOW” buttons until my fingers were sore, but it wasn’t going to help me achieve my goal. It wasn’t going to make people aware of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. What I really needed was to have people follow me. That was the only best way to be sure they’d see the messages I tweeted.

Getting followers was a more complicated proposition. Not everyone automatically followed me. My mentor suggested I use Friend or Follow, a free program that identifies who among the people you are following is not following you back.  I considered dumping everyone who wasn’t following.  I realized this wasn’t a great plan. I wasn’t sure how long it had been since  I had starting following some of these people. Unless they had an auto follow program I needed to give people time to follow me. I certainly didn’t want to unfollow someone I had just started to follow. There were also people on the list I thought would be good people to follow even if they didn’t follow me.  I decided to poke these people to see if they simply needed a poke from me before they added me to their follow list.

Of course there are programs for purchase that are designed to increase followers. Some programs target specific demographics. These programs  search for Tweet peeps who are more likely to be interested in what you are  selling. As I was in a hurry to be successful I decided that such a program would be a terrific way to build my Twitter empire. I thought I had nothing to loose by taking advantage of  free trial offers. What I discovered was that some of the programs weren’t user friendly. At least not for this newbie. I didn’t understand the social techie language, and I didn’t need help managing multiple Twitter accounts.

I dumped each program long before the trial period expired. I gave up on Tweet Spinner in less than 24 hours. I emailed the company right away to tell them I was canceling long before their five-day free trial expired. Tweet Spinner still charged my Pay Pal account for a one-year subscription. The company has refused to refund my money! I’m out $14.95. Pay Pal says I have to get a refund from Tweet Spinner, but after my first email exchange with Tweet Spinner they have stopped responding. My suggestion is don’t try any free trial offers if they ask for payment information before the trial expires! Some companies aren’t user friendly!

Adding 50-100 people a day and watching the numbers grow might be the cheapest, least time consuming way to grow a list, especially as most of those tweeps are going to follow you back. It can be addictive watching the numbers grow. BEWARE! There’s a Twitter posse. They patrol for speeders. You can commit a violation by adding too many people TOO FAST. I’ve heard it said that there is also a rule about the ratio between follows and followers. A person can’t be following too many more people than are following them. Otherwise, you could be considered a stalker. I don’t know what these numbers are, because I quickly decided that I didn’t want to play the numbers game.  Adding people for the sake of increasing numbers is in direct conflict with the NUMBER 1 rule social media gurus place on their social media “do” lists. The NUMBER ONE rule is BE REAL.

A person can’t be real if they are only interested in numbers. The number that  is important to me is my tweet count. It’s 2,217!  Those aren’t auto-generated tweets. Some guy a while back called me a conversationalist!

Here’s how I operate. When I get a notice someone is following me, I check them out. I go to their Web site. If they aren’t a bot or aren’t simply selling something I send them a personal tweet. If they tweet back we may continue our conversation.

During my introductory phase in Twitterland I spent more than an hour or more in one session working on building and pruning my list – clicking follow buttons, weeding out non-followers or people with inactive accounts, or viewing mindless tweets. Now I may spend an hour each day, but I don’t do it all at once. Much of what I do now is have conversations. I enjoy most of my time on Twitter. I’ve got special tweeps I look forward to “seeing” every day. I’ve got a tweep who talks to me in French. “Bon jour Martien. Comment ca va?” My French is tres mal, but I still look forward to talking to him. Yesterday, someone I only recently met tweeted me with a possible lead about being on public television.

There are good people out there. But in order for me to find them I had to stop playing the numbers game. I had to think about the people.  Now, I don’t even look for followers, they find me.

So what’s with Twitter? Some say Twitter is IT. Others say Twitter is already OVER. What I say is: Don’t use or abuse Twitter, it’s the people who matter. My Twitter peeps may not be contributing in any direct way to book sales, at least not yet, but I enjoy my peeps.

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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Filed under blog, book, cost, distribution, dreams, frustration, good read, hopeful, media, Pamela Ferris-Olson, perseverance, practice, scams, social media, statistics, success, Twitter

Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers? Twitter Part 1

I decided not to do any promotional work until my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories appeared on Amazon.com. As I’ve said in previous posts, I chose to independently publish my book after I’d received about two dozen ‘no thank you’ letters from agents and publishers. I thought: “How can I go wrong selling my book on America’s largest online behemoth, a retailer with nearly three times the Internet sales revenue of its nearest competitor?”

Since my book was cataloged among Amazon’s thousands upon thousands of other offerings, it seemed obvious that I needed to focus my marketing energies online. So began my social media (SM) education.

The first step was to build a SM platform. SM coaches tout the importance of starting with a foundation based upon Twitter, Facebook, and a blog. So that is what I did. Twitter was easy. Facebook required more time to set up, because  more information was requested. My blog, even though WordPress makes set up pretty simple, was even more time consuming. I admit I had plenty of frustration. For example, I had to evaluate nearly 100 layouts to choose the best layout for my Living in the Heartland blog. Then I had to figure out how to customize the banner and learn how to install and operate the widgets.

Initially, I hated Twitter. The few people who I started following seemed to have established their own clique. They tweeted predominantly among themselves. Much of what they said wasn’t interesting to me. I began to realize I was stuck in an infinitesimally small Twitter puddle. It was a small droplet in a Twitterscape where oceans of Twitter folk were chattering away. I had no idea how to swim into the deeper water. As I became more confident and competent, I was able to find new people. To my dismay many of the Tweets I received were either “words to live by”, quotes attributable to famous or anonymous people, or outright marketing.

Numerous people told me to persevere. They also told me that the number one rule on the Internet is to be genuine and build trust before trying to market anything on the Internet. My cynicism grew as I wondered about the disconnect between what I was being told were “and what people were doing. The response to my questioning the rules was always the same: give it time. In time I would see the benefits.

Being trained as a scientist I wanted evidence on which to base my hopes that Twitter was going to help me make people aware of my book. What I heard on Webinars and through Twitter were merely testimonials. Needless to say this was not a good introduction to the Internet for me. I was overwhelmed by all the SM tasks I needed to do, and wanted concrete evidence that all my hours of work building a Twitter following was going to pay off . In otherwords, show me some book sales.

The sales figures I saw that first month were UNBELIEVABLE. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There HAD to be a mistake! I could have sold more books door to door on my block!

Doubt began to flood in: Had I made the wrong decision? Should I have waited longer for a publisher; after all, I had received some handwritten letters. Maybe I shouldn’t have chosen to publish independently. Should I have sent out more manuscripts?

As you can see I’m still working with SM. I am more positive than I’ve ever been. Come back soon for the next installment. As I discuss my experience you will understand how I arrived at my answer to the question: Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers?

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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Filed under agents, book, distribution, dreams, editors, frustration, guarantee, hopeful, indie writer, media, Pamela Ferris-Olson, perseverance, publishing, self-publishing, social media, success, technology