Tag Archives: writing

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.



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

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.


Filed under art, editing, editors, on publishing, on writing, publishing, self-publishing, social media, technology, writing

Down the Rabbit Hole – Where Do Writers Go From Here

Last weekend I went to see the new 3D movie Alice in Wonderland.  Those special glasses the theater hands out so the audience can experience 3D images also transported me back in time. I recalled my youth when television images were displayed in black and white. Color TV existed in my childhood, but its popularity and affordability weren’t realized for a decade or so. Even after my family owned a color television I liked to watch some of the classic old black and white movies. Movies with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, the Marx Brothers, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, and all the other stars of that era.

I’ve seen the comings and goings of analog TV, BETA and VHS tapes, VCRs, and most recently DVDs. For Christmas my kids gave me a digital HD, LED television with a BluRay player. The latter is already outdated with the demise of the local video store and the expanding availability of on demand video sites through our cable.

When the lights came on in the theater I wondered if the kids under 10 in the audience would, as adults, remember a time when they saw anything other than 3D movies. That’s when I started to think what these changes meant for me as a writer. The art of writing and publishing at first glance seems to have changed much more slowly than other visual arts. Yes, I believe writing is a visual art. Don’t the majority of readers use their eyes to see the written word? There’s no question that in medieval days illuminated written word was art.

Writing and publishing are now subject to the lightning fast changes taking place on the Internet. Witness the falling prominence of hard copy newspapers and magazines to their own dot com sites. Kindle, blogs, podcasts, and all the rest are the new formats. They deliver written content faster and farther than the older forms, but at what cost for the writer?

…to be continued…

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.


Filed under art, cost, publishing, technology, writing

She Writes Novels, I Write Blogs…Should I Be Jealous?

I’ve got a friend who’s a nationally-known, successful novelist.  Let’s call her WF for WriterFriend. WF doesn’t use twitter or Facebook, although her agent suggested WF should start. WF has a Web site, but she doesn’t handle the content. When WF writes, she working on her books. She’s working on her fourth or fifth novel. WF is a very sweet woman. I value our friendship which isn’t based on writing. There’s no competition between us. So when she told me her agent had taken her to dinner the other night I lost it, at least the space behind my eyeballs was seeing red. I also felt a bit blue. Like the saying: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer WF has the luxury to work on her novels because she has an agent and a publisher. She’s got help to promote her book. She, therefore, can focus her attention on writing. I, on the other hand, spend most of my time focused on SM. There’s no time or energy at the end of the day for me to focus on the novel I started several months ago.

Question: Should I feel jealous? Does my WF have a better deal because she has the luxury to focus on a singular purpose – her next novel. This gives WF the satisfaction to see her work progressing. WF knows at the end of the process she’s got an agent to shop the work and an editor to promote in. And me? I can’t focus on one project. I need to manage and grow my presence on the Web. I admit I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learn how to set up the different SM sites, and everyday I manage content. I also SUFFER all the frustrations that come with these things. In addition to these practical aspect I am expanding my horizons by the people I am connecting with on the ‘Net.

In terms of dollars WF is in a more secure position. I’m still throwing money at things like Web site promotion, sending complimentary books for PR purposes, etc. I haven’t seen a positive income stream yet, and have no idea what, if any, the potential is.

Is WF more successful?  WF has direct evidence that with the help of her agent and editor she can sell books and receives royalty payments. I’m still at the starting line in terms of sales of my first book. I still wondering if SM was the right choice. Maybe I was too impatient and should have looked harder for a publisher? One thing I CAN claim that WF cannot is that I am part of the ‘Net community. I’ve got my own tribe, and others who are supporting me everyday.  Am I in a better position? You might say I am. After all, the traditional publishing world is reported to be struggling to keep their market share. Instead of committing myself to the establishment, I chose to take a chance on the new frontier. While WF writes and relies on her agent and publisher to work the angles, I’m working with SM to make connections and establish associations and friendships that, I hope, will serve me well in the future. Of course, WF has hard data that demonstrates what works. At the moment I only have testimonials for the promise of the future.

While WF is working inside her protective bubble, I’m working with a ‘Net. She is a writer and I am a tweeter, FB friend, blogger, Web site administrator (here’s hoping I can get my new indie-hosted site up and running soon). I’m a writer who hopes to soon have  more time to devote to a new manuscript.

So who’s better off? It depends on what you want. How you define success? What your definition of writer is.  I do a lot of writing on my blogs. I’m writing tweets and FB posts every day. Is that writing? How important are the connections I’m making both now and in the future? It also depends on whether SM is a here to stay phenomenon or just a technology bubble.

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.


Filed under agents, book, cost, editors, on writing, social media, success, writing

OMG, What Will You Do?

In response to my last post Martin asked, “My God, I would have preferred to read something more cheerful. So what now? What will you do?”

I would have liked to have posted something more cheerful. Believe me I would like to say I already reached my goal of selling 100,000 books. Didn’t happen though. Not even close.

What will I do?  This is a good question. In any decision-making process one answer is always: Do nothing. One way I could ignore yesterday’s problem is to say, “So what if one indie bookstore in Washington can’t get my book? After all, it IS available on Amazon.com. And, I HAVE been PROMISED that Ingram WILL carry my book (Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories) in their catalog within the next 6-8 WEEKS.” Doing nothing might also demonstrate that I’m beat up, that I have no fight left in me. I have had a number of setbacks trying to make my book available to a larger audience than only those who buy books on Amazon.

What will I do? In response I ask, “What can I do?” When I decided to take the self-publishing route, I believed in the power of the Internet. We all hear about videos going viral on YouTube. Many of us have faith in Twitter, believe it is THE WAY to spread the word. Why else are so MANY people joining SM Webinars, purchasing programs to increase their Twitter followers, and using auto-messaging sites?

I spent several weeks in February concentrating on SM. I built a following on Twitter, on Facebook and on my blog. I joined a tribe. I also saw my sales on Amazon plummet. What I’ve taken away from this experience is that I have to balance my social media work with more traditional networking. I’m actively trying to arrange for book signings (the subject of my next eye-opening post), radio and newspaper interviews, and, whatever else I can think of that will make people familiar with my book and with me.

I never imagined how much work promoting my book was going to be. I thought that by using a BIG name (Amazon) on the Internet to sell my book, I’d only need to send out emails to friends and family, ask them to pass it on to their friends and their families, and twitter. Then voila I’d be a success. Well, I’m here to tell you it isn’t that easy.

I expect there are others who have had more success. I would be more upbeat if I hadn’t set my goals so high initially, and I didn’t feel such a deep responsibility to the women I wrote about to share their stories. The positive news is that since my book became available on January 11 on Amazon, I have made several good contacts via Twitter. I’ve found a SM coach who has given me good advice and emotional support. I joined a Tribe of great gals who provide much needed emotional and professional support. These are ALL pluses especially as writers are often isolated in their work. Agents and editors probably offer similar support but, I imagine, not as frequently or earnestly.

Martin asked: What will I do? I’m going to do what I’ve been doing. Rejoice in the good days. Those are the days when I receive positive comments. Whimper and SCREAM on the bad days like yesterday.  I need to find ways to breathe, so I can move forward. Letting others know about the pitfalls I’ve encountered allows me to put a positive spin on them. They become teachable moments.

Now I ask you: What can you do? If you believe in the power of SM, if you want to help prove that writers CAN succeed by self-publishing and self-promotion on the Internet, then you will help me. I’m going to continuing sharing my experience – the good and the bad. I’d really like to prove that my initial belief in the Internet was right. I’d like to believe that everyone who has counseled me to be patient, that it takes time, were also right.

So what can YOU do? Spread the word through twitter, FB, everywhere about my book and, of course, this blog. Tell your friends and family, contact your local newspaper, everywhere, anywhere. Let’s find out what works.

I’ll going to continue blogging and encourage others to leave comments. I want to collect information from others what has worked for them and what hasn’t. How long have they found it takes?

Help me make this blog a community where writers share. What I don’t want is my blog to become an advertiser. Also, I require that all criticism  be constructive not destructive.

I am earnest and passionate about writing, about my book, and about working with other writers to help each of us realize our dreams. So onwards.

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.


Filed under book, dreams, on demand publishing, on publishing, on writing, publishing, self-publishing, social media, success, writing, writing block

Going it alone…How loud can YOU scream?

I put nearly three years of hard work into researching and writing my book. Once I had completed the draft, and had several trusted people review the manuscript I sent queries off to agents and publishers. I received a dozen or two rejections from agents and publishers. These rejections ranged from tiny slips of paper with a curt brush off printed on them to handwritten notes of encouragement. The latter kept me going for a while longer. Then I decided I was tired of waiting. I don’t have the patience of Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values) who, according to Wikipedia, received 121 rejections from publishers before his philosophical book made it into print. I reached a point where I decided I’d publish the book myself. After all how hard can that be especially in this digital age? More people are reportedly using Kindle. They say one-third of readers now use digital format. It is also reported publishers and book sellers are experiencing a downturn in sales; although people like Oprah and John Stewart appear to be doing their best to throw life preserves at the sinking publishing industry.

How hard can self-publishing be? Check it out. There are plenty of on-demand publishers on the Internet.

First, let me clarify a misnomer. On-demand companies in the business of “publishing” books are aren’t REALLY interested in whether your book sells or not, although logically they should be. These companies are, therefore, on-demand PRINTERS. They print your book. You are responsible for PROMOTING your book like any reputable publisher would do.

Here’s today’s example. Here’s the latest frustration that made me decide to go public with my self-publishing experience… I got a call from a bookstore in the state of Washington. John tells me he has a client who’d like to buy my book! Hallelujah. The word is getting out and someone wants to BUY MY book!!!

Q. Why is the bookstore calling me? Did they want to make my day? What do you think?

A. Because John has been unable to find my book through their distributors. They have NO way to buy it!

I say to John my book is  available through two nationwide distributors: Baker & Taylor and Ingram Book Company (this is a story for another day). John says he has checked both distributors, neither has a listing for my book! I ask John if I can call him right back. I want to see what I can do to help him. I won’t tell you how many phone calls I had to make to get a live person on the phone at the on-demand book “publisher.”  Jenny is not very helpful. I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say, she explains why there are new, previously unmentioned roadblocks. Jenny tells me that John has two options: wait for 6-8 weeks until it shows up in Ingram’s catalog or open an account with the on demand “publisher”.

Clearly, this is a lot of work for John the bookseller. He’d prefer his client not go to Amazon.com and buy the book online. Clearly, I want to make it as easy as possible for John the bookseller to sell my book. My head is about to explode as I wonder how many other booksellers across the country can’t locate my book. I’ve been many hours every day since my book was released on Amazon.com on Jan. 11 promoting my book. If booksellers can’t find and sell my book then I could find better things to do with my time!?!

…more… Leave me comments about your experiences or questions. It’s time for me to tell the whole story.

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.

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

Read more at Amazon.com.


Filed under book, on publishing, on writing

Paid-to-Write Sites: To Write or Not to Write

Last night I did something I rarely do, I noticed an advertisement on the right hand side of my Facebook page. Suite101.com advertised that they needed writers. Intrigued I went to their site. Writers are asked to fill out an application that requires two writing samples. The Web site said that my credentials and samples would be reviewed, and if Suite101 felt my writing and credentials met their needs an editor would contact me. My writing samples were two previously published articles. I wasn’t surprised to find out I’d been accepted. I was, however, surprised to receive the congratulations email in less than 12 hours. The terms of the employment which they outlined in the email included a set number of articles I’d be expected to write within a given period of time. I was instructed to read and sign their contract. That’s when I decided to do a little investigative work. Below is one of the articles I found. This review by IBrutus on hubpages.com

“Suite101.com is another revenue sharing, paid-to-write site (PTW), similar to Gather and Helium. However, the terms of agreement at Suite101 so favor the company and deprive writers of revenue, I’m giving it a big thumbs down.

These PTW sites work by placing ads on the pages and sharing whatever revenue is generated with the authors. The exact percentage is often hard to determine, but it definitely favors the website owners. The real advantage to a blogger is that by posting material on multiple sites you can drive traffic to your own site.

And that is where the fault in Suite101 lies. Other sites allow duplicate posting. You can post a article about Tom Cruise’s latest movie on your website, Gather, Helium, Xomba, Hub Pages and Thisisby. Suite101 demands exclusive writes to all your content and does not except previously published material.

For exclusive rights to original material, they pay $1.50 per thousand page views. One writer posting on the sites forum said he had 100 articles that received 34,000 page views in a month. Fifty-dollars a month for all that work. Ridiculous! Had he sold those articles to Associated Content, he would have received anywhere from $4 to $50 a piece. AC also pays a performance bonus of $1.50 per thousand page views in addition to the upfront pay.

I recommended selling non-exclusive rights to AC, then posting the same article to to Hub Pages and Xomba. Both those sites alternate showing Google Adsense ads with their account code and yours. The fairest revenue sharing model for making money writing online. I wrote this article on Associated Content for Hub Pages. It has received 193 page views with my Adsense account code, making $2.50. That’s about $10 a thousand views for comparison.”

I cannot substantiate the information posted on HubPages, After my cursory research and given my own experiences with publishing I decided that Suite101.com was not an opportunity I wanted to pursue at this time. (Later on I’ll discuss the problems I’m currently having validating the royality payments I am receiving through Amazon.)

If you need money to validate your work then a PTW may be the answer. If you never receive any money or you get some obscenely small payment for your work, the only thing you’ve lost is the investment of your time. That’s why I’ve continually suggested people write because they love to write. The reward is in the writing. If you decide to try a PTW I offer several cautionaries. Don’t expect writing for a PTW to be a good resume builder. I don’t know how stringent PTWs are about selecting writers, and I don’t know how other employers view the content on these sites. Finally, you’ll have to provide the PTW with personal data and specifics on how you are to be paid. My advice is to use a PayPal account and not  a checking or savings account. If they want information for direct deposit, I’d advise you to look elsewhere. Providing direct deposit information could open you to financial problems rather than rewards.

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

Click video preview to see preview of my new book. Click Amazon.com to order.

View my other blog Living in the Heartland

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Filed under cost, PTW, scams, writing