Category Archives: writers

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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Facebook: Une Génération Perdue?

The time has come as with all things to move on. In this particular case I want to use the next few posts to examine the utility of Facebook for writers. To be honest I spend little time on Facebook. Instead, I am more occupied with Twitter and blogs. I feel certain that social media experts would tell me I am under utilizing a valuable tool. This is why I thought it appropriate to ask a knowledgeable social media person to start a discussion about Facebook. I naturally turned to someone I trust to write a guest post. I am extremely appreciative to Nancy Burke Barr, aka Mentor Mama. She agreed to share her some wisdom Nancy is both a professional and a sincere person. I know this because I relied on her mentoring during my first few, frustrating months of learning social media.  After reviewing her submission for this post I realized that I need to have missed Mentor Mama’s friendship and should make the time to get her help to step things up to the next level. I think you’ll feel the same way after you read Nancy’s post, Facebook: Une Génération Perdue?

“You are all a lost generation.”

–Epigraph, The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

In the years following World War I, the term, “the lost generation”, believed to have been coined in France, came to represent a generation of young writers and artists travelling abroad, connecting with other creative pioneers. Counted among these “lost” youth, were the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemmingway and Gertrude Stein.

Like Jean Paul Sartre and the era of existentialists before them, these budding geniuses centered their activities around the excitement of Paris.  Writers, in particular, flocked to Paris for the intellectual interaction, the inexpensive cost of living and the ease of publication.  While Paris served as a muse for some, the decadent lifestyle of cafés and cabarets functioned as the undoing of others.

Throughout history, talented sorts have always loved to gather together to share ideas, to debate, to challenge each other, to collaborate, and to change the world.  Think of the distances that scholars traveled to work together at the ancient Library in Alexandria.  This is a vital part of the creative process.

With the amazing technology available today, it is no longer necessary to travel great distances to commune with other intellectuals. A modern day “Alexandria” or “Parisian café” is as close as your computer, where you can exchange ideas with like-minded people from around the world.

An important part of that paradigm is the social media platform, Facebook.  Facebook is, according to its own site, “a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and coworkers. . . . Facebook is a part of millions of people’s lives all around the world providing unparalleled distribution potential . . . and the opportunity to build a business that is highly relevant to people’s lives.”  (http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?factsheet)  It is the hub of the online social scene, the “Paris”, if you will, for today’s creative elite, with intellectual interaction, inexpensive access, and ease of exposure.

Not unlike the artists of the “lost generation”, your strategic use of this hub affords you the ability to interact with people who have a specific interest in the products or services that you offer.  Whether you are creating an online presence, offering consulting, or self-publishing a book, use of Facebook is a critical piece of your online strategy.

Used correctly, this platform establishes an opportunity for you to open a window into your life.  This glimpse behind the scenes affords a level of authenticity that was missing from commercial interactions in the decade preceding online social media.  During that time, TV and radio commercials essentially told the consumer what to do if they wanted to be smart, beautiful, healthy, or enlightened.

Despite its seeming anonymity, today’s strategy strives to return to the model where a buyer knew the vendor well, and could base his buying decisions on trust.  Using Facebook as a place to develop real relationships with people in your industry is a long, tedious process, much as it must have been in ancient Alexandria or early 20th century Paris.  The difference is that your social circle consists of 400 million active Facebook users. The potential is staggering.

Obviously, you cannot personally interact with 400 million users.  You can, however, develop serious friendships with hundreds of those people. Thousands of others can follow your Facebook group or community page and gage whether you are a person with whom they want to interact or do business.  You have the opportunity to reach out to people around the globe, offering them the kind of information, interaction, and support that builds lasting bonds.  Those bonds will encourage a person not only to buy your ”product”, but to follow your career, tell others about you, and to ultimately help you change the world.

Used indiscriminately, Facebook can be your undoing, as addictive as alcohol was for F. Scott Fitzgerald.  It can become an obsession, causing you to disengage with the real world and live in a Facebook fantasy.  If you are a writer or other artist, you must limit your Facebook time, ensuring that you spend adequate time pursuing your craft.  Facebook is, after all, only one online tool, not the product itself.

Many people worry about this online generation.  Will too much time online hinder their social abilities? Reduce their creativity?  Will they become another “génération perdue”?  If you use Facebook, will you become “perdu”?

This writer asserts that “the lost generation” was never really lost at all and neither is our generation of Facebook fanatics.  The early era produced great genius, as will our present era.  How and where these geniuses connect and share their brilliance simply changes with the times.  Until the birth of the Internet, it was impossible for many to afford the luxury of travelling to the great cultural centers.  Facebook now offers artists everywhere the opportunity to reach out and interface with the world.  If you are disciplined and diligent, this can only result in a generation that is universally connected and perhaps the very first “génération trouvée”.

PLEASE FRIEND ME ON FACEBOOK!

http://www.facebook.com/nancy.burke.barr

Nancy Burke Barr

“Mentor Mama”

http://www.ishouldhavelistenedtomymother.com

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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