Category Archives: success

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

Is Facebook a Social Media Wunderkind?

I am most grateful to Nancy Burke Barr aka Mentor Mama for her guest post about Facebook.  I value both her wisdom and advice. A lawyer in another lifetime, Nancy clearly argues on behalf of the Internet. I am impressed by her testimony, yet the jury on social media’s value is still out for me.

I would agree with Nancy that Facebook and Twitter are utilities that help people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and coworkers. Statistics demonstrate Facebook is a part of tens of millions of people’s lives. I don’t believe, however, that social media can do more than plant the seeds of ideas or draw the attention of potential clients. In my experience, social media is not all that efficient or effective in fully developing big ideas or businesses.

Twitter appears to be designed for efficiency. Messages must be kept to 140 characters. To achieve this a language of abbreviations such as RT, #FF, and tiny.urls has grown up so people are able to convey larger messages within the confines of tweets.  But, lobbing messages out in a constant stream of similar looking tweets doesn’t impress me as an effective way to do business. I expect that if I wanted to take the time to research it I could find data on how many messages must be cast into the Twitter stream before a real conversation or a potentially valuable contact is reeled in.

Facebook is more conducive for conversations. Facebook though more generous than Twitter also limits the length of a conversation. Here too there is a constant stream of conversation. The audience is much smaller, and limited to a group who are described as “friends.”

Both Twitter and Facebook provide the option to have more personal, direct conversations among specific individuals. Unless these people are online at the same time and actively involved in chatting with each, the messages may become disjointed as a result of the delay in time

Nancy likened Facebook to the Parisian cafe used by previous centuries’ literati. Facebook, she said, is a social hub available to “today’s creative elite with intellectual interaction, inexpensive access, and ease of exposure.”  I would offer an alternative analogy:

Twitter is a fast moving train. A person with something to say puts their head out the window and yells.  People within hearing distance of the train, those who are following you on Twitter, hear bits of a bigger message. If they are interested they can make an effort to seek you out and hear more of the message. Keep in mind that the train you are on is full. There are passengers yelling their messages out of every window. Someone who might be interested in your message may not be along the side of the watching the train (ie. reading tweets) when you yell out, so you’ll have to keep riding the train over and over and over again in the hopes they will get your message.

My husband likened Facebook to sitting on the front stoop of your neighborhood. It’s more relaxed than Twitter. Your friends can chose when to drop by for a brief conversation. One limitation is that the Facebook community is gated. You have to invite your friends and they must accept before you can talk to each other. As in Twitter there’s an element of competition. Everyone else in the neighborhood is seated on their stoops carrying on conversations. Unless you send a direct message to a friend, you have to hope your friends will take the time to read what you have to say from the news stream. If your friends are social butterflies, you have to compete with a lot of people.

In terms of  potential, both Twitter and Facebook have merit especially when trying to reach a large audience. In terms of message content and exchange of ideas, Twitter potential is limited. Facebook’s possibilities are far greater. I don’t believe that it will ever substitute for the phone or person-to-person interactions.

Both Twitter and Facebook involve a good deal of upfront investment in order to establish a network of  friends and followers. The dynamics of social media is one of diminishing returns. From thousands of followers only one percent are likely to be people with whom you converse. Many of these are people who are simply interested in selling you something. An very small percentage of the followers will be individuals with whom you’ll be in regular contact.

I have yet to see any concrete evidence that Twitter and Facebook can produce the kind of sales that one would expect from a platform with tens of millions of users.

Social media works well for those whose business is social media. For writers, and bakers, and candlestick makers social media is tool we probably shouldn’t avoid but it is certainly not the magical grail we all expected it would be.

Next time I’ll relate some of the tips I learned in NYC about publishing. Then I plan to swing back and discuss blogs.

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.

Click to view my other blog Living in the Heartland

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5 in a series of 4 on Twitter! Is Twitter a Good Resource for Writers?

Okay, Okay. I did say I was done discussing Twitter. However, Mentor Mama sent me some good Twitter information written by Glyna Humm (glynahumm.com). I felt obliged to pass it on to help everyone get the most out of their Twitterland experience.

Humm offered a list of some of her favorite Twitter applications. With so many available in Twitterland – some free, some not – I think it’s helpful to have a few recommendations. I’ve added a few of my own and I end with a question.

•   Twitzu – Promote your business, special offers, promotions and events with Twitzu. [I haven’t tried Twitzu. I have not running a business and, therefore, won’t be offering promotions, etc. I’ll take Humm’s word that this is a valuable application.]

•    Social Oomph.com – This app allows you to post Tweets at a later time and date, set up direct messages to be sent to your followers, among many other things. [I’ve tried Social Oomph. There is a free version, and an upgrade for a fee. The free version is cumbersome. I prefer HootSuite. HootSuite, a free app, allows you to see your Home Feed, Direct Messages, Mentions, and Pending Tweets on a single screen. I’ve begun to appreciate this feature more and more.]

•    Twitter Alerts – Keeps track of conversations that mention you, your products, your company and anything else, via mobile devices. [I’ve never tried this app. I signed up for Google Alerts which I imagine are similar. I find the alerts annoying, probably because I don’t understand how it helps to be told that GA has come across some information I launched onto the Internet a few days back.]

•   Mr. Tweet – A personal networking assistant for Twitter. It helps identify relevant followers, recommends other users and regularly computes Twitter usage statistics. [I could see how this could be handy especially early on or to hone in on users you don’t get randomly. At this point, as I’ve said many times already, I’m happy to have all the new followers I can get, but I am not actively seeking more. There’s too much else to spend my time on. I prefer responding to each of my new followers and letting them know I am happy to engage in real conversations.]

•   Twittonary – A dictionary of Twitter terms. It provides explanations of various Twitter-related words. [I don’t see much use in this except for newbies. I rarely come across a word I don’t know. If I did I could easily get an answered by tweeting a question.]

•   Twellow – The equivalent of Twitter yellow pages. [This one I’ll have to check out. I haven’t got a clue what yellow pages for Twitter means.]

•    Just Tweet IT – Just Tweet it makes it easier for tweeters to find other tweeters with similar interests. [This too sounds like a valuable app.]

•    Twuffer – Twuffer allows the Twitter user to compose a list of future tweets and schedule their release. [This can be done with HootSuite, see my comments for SocialOomph.]

•   Twtcard – Send a greeting card, a surprise message or an invitation on Twitter. [This is another app I’ll check out if I can find the time.]

•   Twitbacks – Free twitter backgrounds. [This sounds like a nice. If I ever have time to Twitteraway, I might try this. The best background I’ve seen so far is @domovoy2007. Hers makes me laugh every time I see it. Too bad she doesn’t speak English.]

Once again, I recommend you avoid TweetSpinner.  I mentioned in an earlier post that the company doesn’t appear to be interested in customer satisfaction, and they aren’t trustworthy about refunds.

Now look at these statistics:
225 Following, 11 Followers, 1 tweet
307 Following, 33 Followers, 7 tweets
371 Following, 87 Followers, 203 tweets

I suspect these are new Twpeeps. If I was asked which one I suspect is a ‘real’ person, I wouldn’t think twice.  The other night someone new began following me. I checked their statistics. They were following nearly 1000, and had less than 10 followers and 0 tweets. Can you explain that?

Those who can understand the significance of this question know why the number of followers a person has is not necessarily a good gauge of success.

Click to she how three women overcame many challenges along the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click to Living in the Heartland video preview to see stories of inspirational women.

Click to view my other blog Living in the Heartland

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Filed under blog, cost, good read, guarantee, Pamela Ferris-Olson, social media, statistics, success, Twitter

So What’s My Verdict on Twitter – Is It a Useful Tool for Writers?

My friend Leslie (moondustwriter.com) asked her readers earlier in May to write something in 160 characters. She challenged: “What can you do in 160 characters? A story surely not! I have titles longer than 160 characters for goodness sake.”

Leslie’s a poet, so I playfully sent her an email to ask if 160 characters had become a new form of Haiku. What writer can resist a challenge?  My response:

“Must say it 140 characters on Twitter. Leslie’s poet challenge 160. Ironic, no? Poets typically use fewer words 2 convey more meaning now want 20 more to do so!”

160 characters is a luxury one doesn’t have on Twitter. Although Twitter limits users to 140 characters, if someone wants their message retweeted (RT) they need to reduce their character limit further generally to less than 150 characters.

A good deal can be said within the confines of 140 characters. With the right message and what amounts to an Internet version of the kids’ game Telephone (where the first kid whispers a message into the ear of the kid next to him, who then whispers the message into the next kid’s ear, etc.) a writer has what appears to be a boundless audience. The caveat, as I have mentioned in my earlier posts, is that because of the massive amount of scam, spam, and garbage Tweets the likelihood that a tweet is read is small.

Assuming a tweet is read, how much value is it likely to produce for the writer? That depends on what you goal is. A writer who hopes Twitter will significantly increase sales is likely to be disappointed.  I can state unequivocally that in my first four months of using Twitter, it has resulted in an insignificant number of sales. However, some of the connections I’ve made have been worthwhile. There is a possibility down the road that some of these will become golden.

Early on, I was so focused on building my Twitter following that I had little time to attend to emails, phone calls and other, what I refer to as, old-fashioned networking. Sales plummeted. The lesson for me was that Twitter is a tool, but only ONE tool. Other tools I need to employ are Facebook, a variety of other social media platforms like Digg and Reddit, blogs, emails and more traditional means of getting the word out.

In my next post I will begin a discussion of Facebook. I have asked a SM coach to assist. However, before I end my thoughts about Twitter I want to make a disclaimer. My four posts on Twitter are based on my desire to promote a non-fiction book. I am looking for the best way to spread the word about my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. I am aiming at national distribution, and sales well beyond those commonly cited for an indie author and publisher.

I don’t think Twitter would affect sales much different if I were trying to market my book locally, I had written fiction, or the subject matter was about something other than women’s search for identity, self-esteem and happiness. What would change would be the mix of the social media and traditional tools I chose to use. Keep reading. I’ll cover these in future posts. In the meantime:

Click to she how three women overcame many challenges along the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click to Living in the Heartland video preview to see stories of inspirational women.

Click to view my other blog Living in the Heartland

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Filed under Amazon, blog, book, cost, digital, distribution, good read, indie writer, media, Pamela Ferris-Olson, publishing, self-publishing, social media, statistics, success, Twitter

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.

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