Category Archives: writing

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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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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Three Women Featured in Author’s New Book

Nancy, Ellyn, and Ife

DAYTON — Their backgrounds may be dramatically different, but it’s their similarities that are the focus of Pamela Ferris-Olson’s new book.

“Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories,” chronicles the lives of three Miami Valley women who represent different minorities.

The idea for her book, she explains in the introduction, originated on a humid summer evening as she sat waiting for New York’s Staten Island Ferry and observed the variety of languages that filled the room.

“The interconnectedness made possible by the Internet has resulted in a burgeoning exchange of information, goods, services and ideas,” she writes. “It has made commerce and ideas readily available, but has not, as yet, transformed attitudes sufficiently to create a world view in which all people are seen as belonging to a single global family.”

Ferris-Olson, who lives in Washington Twp., hopes her self-published book might help remedy that situation. She has been a freelance writer for the Dayton Daily News for the past 15 years.

“I wanted to begin a conversation among people about diversity,” she said. “As different as we may all look, women have similar experiences as wives, mothers and business women.” By sharing three stories of minority women and their struggles, she’s hoping readers will relate and be inspired.

To find subjects for her interviews, Ferris-Olson contacted women’s centers at Wright State University and the University of Dayton, asking them to put out a call for women willing to share their life stories. She chose Dayton, not only because she lives here, but because it’s the Midwest.

“Ohio has become a bellwether for the country since the onset of the 21st century,” she writes. The search eventually led her to Nancy, Ellyn and Ife:

• Nancy Scott, a single mother of three, grew up on a reservation and is a proud member of the Seneca Nation and the Navy. A survivor of mental and physical abuse, she has met President George W. Bush on two occasions, both as an emissary for higher education.

Said Nancy: “If I’ve learned anything, it’s to stay true to yourself. Embrace your culture, your faith, and your beliefs. I really believe that. I always look for the positive in any situation; otherwise life is just wasted space.”

• Ife Shafeek grew up in a housing project in Dayton with a mother who imposed rigid restrictions. At the age of 18, Ife thought marriage offered a way to be free of her mother’s control, but discovered that neither her husband nor her Muslim religion provided the security or peace of mind she’d expected. She has faced many challenges in the process of raising two sons on her own.

Said Ife: “I realize that nothing happens in this world without the hand of God. I think everyone should recognize a higher power and count their blessings when they receive them. I don’t believe my story would be any different had I been raised with a different religion.”

• Ellyn Miller, born in Korea, was put up for adoption by her biological parents who were unable to afford the medical treatment her cleft palate necessitated. Ellyn grew up in Oakwood surrounded by a large, loving religious family but always wondered what her life would be like had she remained in Korea. In 2009, she had the chance to spend several days with her biological family.

Said Ellyn: “I believe my path to fulfilling my destiny started the day I was born. Someday something like a light bulb will click on and then I’ll know what I’m supposed to do with my life. Until then I want to try anything and everything. I don’t have a master plan so until I discover my life’s purpose I’ll just take it one step at a time and see where I go.”

Though Ferris-Olson does not belong to a religious or ethnic minority, she observed intolerance first-hand when her father’s Japanese-Americans friends — who had served with him during the war — came to visit their home and her mother refused to come out of the bedroom to see them.

“I have had an increasing desire to be involved in the dialogue about intolerance,” she said, certain that her father’s stories and respect for those men lie at the heart of her book. “Our country is more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous time in its history,” she said. “American’s population continues to grow, and become increasingly multiracial and predominantly female.”

“Living in the Heartland,” she said, is a celebration of women and an appeal for Americans to embrace diversity.

By Meredith Moss, DailyNews.com. April 24, 2010

Click to she how three women overcame many challenges along the way to success:<a href=”http://tinyurl.com/ybnk7ml”&gt; Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories</a> on Amazon.com.

Click to <a href=”http://http://tinyurl.com/ybargwg”>Living in the Heartland</a> video preview to see stories of inspirational women.

Click to subscribe to <a href=”http://tinyurl.com/yfcfjz7″>Living in the Heartland.com</a> blog.

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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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Hope for Indie Writers: Pulitzer Prize Awarded to Freelance NonConformist

“Since third grade, I have dreamed of becoming a professional novelist. During 6th grade, I began to realize that accomplishing my ultimate goal would be more difficult than I thought. It has been said that chances of publishing are one in a thousand. I know to get a book published; I have to work hard to practice writing as much as possible. I need to get other people’s feedback on my writing, from adults and not just peers. I need to get a job that involves writing on a regular basis to get practice after I graduate from college. Then, I have to try to get published and never give up, for I know chances are slim.”

This is worldly wisdom from a seventh grader. The above is an excerpt from one essay I recently judged. The young lady who wrote it has clearly done her homework. Good writing definitely requires practice, but in this competitive, fast changing digital world there are no guarantees that a living wage can be made from writing.

Fifty years ago hard work and perseverance was a pretty safe bet for landing a writing job. These days I wonder if there is consensus among professionals what it takes to make a career of writing. One thing is certain this new era is full of surprises.

For example, there was an unexpected recipient for this year’s Pulitzer Prizes. One of the most coveted prizes in journalism was awarded to animator Mark Fiore.  Fiore nominated himself because he had no colleague to nominate him. Fiore is not employed by any newspaper or Web site. He syndicates his own cartoons.

Fiore’s editorial cartoons used to appear in newspapers until he started experimenting with animation in the late ’90s. In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered Scott Shafer Fiore said: “I hope I’m a pioneer and not an anomaly. And I just think the significance of it is that it shows that people are actually starting to realize that all news doesn’t have to come across on paper.”

Such news suggests that there is hope for writers like myself and illustrators like Fiore who embark on their own experiment with the Internet. May there be many more successes for independent artists so that when the seventh grader essayist graduates college she’ll have a well-worn path to success to follow.

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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Publishers and Media: Do they conspire against self-published authors?

I’ve begun to wonder if there isn’t some type of unspoken yet accepted relationship between established publishers and the media that has made it difficult for self-published authors to get recognition in the press, on the radio and television. I can’t remember reading a review of a self-published book in a mainstream newspaper or magazine. So I decided to do a little research of my own.

First I contacted a syndicated National Public Radio show host. Her response wasn’t all bad news.

“I know how hard most authors work on their books so I know how easy it is to take everything personally but it is simply a matter of volume. I may get anywhere from three to five books a DAY, unsolicited. Some shows get easily 150 books a MONTH. There is no way all of these authors are going to get the attention they would like. I personally have done two self-published books, neither particularly well written (to be honest) but the news hooks were so strong I felt compelled. There are also documentaries to cover and other cultural works. Add to that the fact that most NPR hosts insist on reading the books themselves and you can see why we can only address a fraction of the material we receive.”

Then I queried Jane Friedman, editorial leader and brand manager for the Writer’s Digest writing community (including Writer’s Digest magazine, Writer’s Digest Books, Writer’s Market annuals, WritersMarket.com, WritersOnlineWorkshops). Her answer provided less hope for self-published authors.

“Yes, there is definitely a bias. Most self-published work is considered inferior in quality.”

Friedman referred me to a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of American article Print-On-Demand Self-Publishing Services last updated on Feb. 20, 2010. I WISH I had read this before I’d decided that two dozen rejections, some personal handwritten notes from agents and publishers, were too many and it was time I go the self-publishing route.

I’m not going to quote the entire SFFWA article here. It’s too depressing, but I’ll refer to it again in the future. The article touched on a number of issues I’ve mentioned in previous posts. The article says that Print-On-Demand (POD) services are not a good fit for writers looking to establish a career.

“ POD services’ policies on pricing, marketing, and distribution severely limit their books’ availability…, and are likely to result in tiny sales and readership, even for authors who diligently self-promote…It’s unlikely that a book published by a POD service will be considered a professional publishing credit, or that, as many authors hope, it will provide a springboard to commercial publication (according to a 2004 article in the New York Times, out of the 10,000 or so titles published to that time by POD service Xlibris, only 20 had been picked up by commercial publishers).”

One of the few cases where the article suggests a POD service may be a good option is for writers of a niche nonfiction project. “These can be a tough sell for commercial or academic publishers, but they can do well for the motivated self-publisher who has a way of reaching his or her audience, and is able to devote time and money to marketing and promotion. Writers who can exploit ‘back of the room’ situations may also do well with a POD service–someone who lectures or conducts workshops, for instance, and can sell books at these occasions, or a restauranteur who wants to make a cookbook available to his or her customers.”

The article points out that there are people on the Internet who are eager to dispute the negatives of POD. “They’ll tell you that self-publishing is the way of the future. They’ll claim that the stigma traditionally associated with paying to publish has all but disappeared, and that it’s becoming ever more common for self-published books to be acquired by bigger publishing houses. They’ll often be able to point you to a news story about a writer who parlayed self-publishing into a lucrative commercial contract.

“But like the hype from self-publishing “evangelists,” articles about self-publishing success are often biased, inaccurate, or overstated…And there’s nothing new about big publishers picking up self-published books that sell robustly–just Google What Color Is Your Parachute? or The Christmas Box. As for the self-publishing stigma–unfair though it may be in many cases, it is alive and well.”

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

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

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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Down the Rabbit Hole continued – The Effect of the Internet on Writers

…As a freelance writer for a traditionally published newspaper I have never been assured a paycheck or a given pay rate. I have always served at the whim of my editors, and I DO mean whim. Some editors are more generous than others. I have never been clear on how they determine the value of an article. There are, of course, less material returns. My work IS published. Some of my stories are a form of community service. Many of the human interest stories I write are likely to go unnoticed. I enjoy meeting a diverse range of people, especially the kids, and giving them a few inches of fame in the paper. I get no rewards from the Internet sites that use my stories without my permission or royalty payment. The Internet has caused me to lose control of my material. I’m not sure if there’s much recourse for writers.

I know people who write for online sites. These writers are getting fractions of cents on the dollar for their content.  One writer said: “I CAN tell you that hard word, talent, and an insane number of submissions to mags equals publication –and some small amount of recognition. I don’t even know if I register on the radar screen, but I am making a teesny-weensy blip somewhere. After something like 900 submissions last year (sixty acceptances.)… I know the world is stacked against us, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just ALMOST impossible! You keep trying!”

You do the math. 900 submissions in 365 days. 60 acceptances out of 900 submissions. If Phoebe isn’t prone to hyperbole then she is writing her heart out every day with little reward. Her time spent writing is matched, I am sure, with cruising the Internet to find places to submit content.

Content has also been changed by the Internet. In this digital age people want quick reads. Articles are shortened. Language is morphing. There is more jargon, abbreviated words, less grammatical rules. It might be argued that this laissez fair world makes it easier on writers.

As the craft of writing is morphing into shortened forms, I wonder if there won’t come a point when our written language returns to symbology, becomes the modern equivalent of hieroglyphics. I also see video images replacing the written word. For example, I have noticed an increase in the number of video tweets on Twitter.

I think writers are in the midst of a free fall. Like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, we don’t know what lies at the bottom. I’m using this time to learn how to maneuver in the social media world.

I want to discuss the notion that in the not too distant future that all books will be digital, but in my next post I want to return to looking at the trials of self-publishing.

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

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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