Wednesday

Online Opportunities and Opportunity Costs

The list of online marketing gurus is growing every day. Every time I turn around I find another site full of valuable marketing resources and the site owner is willing to email additional information, and I get a how-to ebook, free.

How do you say no to that?

The only catch is that you have to subscribe to their site. Well, okay, that’s not so horrible. The information certainly has to be worth a subscription, so you’d think.

The deal with this is that each of those subscriptions (site owners), along with some useful informational emails, will offer products or services of their own and from affiliates they promote. According to each of these emails, every product or service offered will be a must have…a real deal. Which do you choose, if any?

In cost accounting there is a term:  Opportunity Costs. What this term means is that if you choose one path or alternative, it is at the sake of other options and benefits. Another way of putting this is: You have $27 per month to spend; you can use it to go to the movies, or go out for dessert, or buy a book a month to teach yourself how to write for children…or you can invest that $27 in a 'quality' membership site on writing or eclass.

 So, the bottom line is to choose the option that will give you the most benefit for the money and time involved. You want your opportunity costs to be low and of little consequence.

After I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time gathering information form various sites and marketing gurus, and spent a fair amount of money (fair amount for me anyway) on strategies, programs, e-books, cds and so on, I’ve come to a couple of realizations that you should consider before you venture into this bottomless pit of opportunities.

Four Tips on Choosing an Online Product or Service:

1.    You need to research any strategy, program, or service you are thinking of investing in. Though, you need to be careful here because once you google the company or site name, you will undoubtedly come upon some of their affiliates who are eager to proclaim the value of the product or service. The affiliates are partnered with the company. They get a pre-arranged percentage for every visitor they send over or visitor who makes a purchase, or some other call-to-action.

2.    Ask friends, writers and marketers you know and trust about the company or entrepreneur you’re thinking of investing time or money or both in. If no one you know can provide some input, be certain to use tip number ONE.

3.    Once you’ve made your decision and purchase that product or service, STOP looking for others until you’ve gotten your money’s worth out of your first investment. Or, at least stop until you’ve reviewed and worked on the first purchase. What I mean here is: Early on, I fell into the trap of buying one program and before I even looked at it, I bought another one. This is a huge mistake and waste of time and money. If I involved myself with the first project, I may have realized I didn’t need the second or third purchase.

4.    Always evaluate your opportunity cost when thinking of spending time or money.

Incorporating these tips into your writing and/or marketing journey should help you reap the benefits of your investments and save you time and money.

Need help with your writing project?

Visit: Karen Cioffi, Freelance Writer

Sunday

The Ghostwriter

He's Invisible...He's Powerful...He Helps Writers...He's the Ghostwriter!

What’s the essential characteristic of a ghost? Invisibility. Well, that’s exactly what a ghostwriter is…invisible.
And, the ghostwriter is a powerful tool and a huge help to writers who can’t seem to get their ideas into content or stories. Or, for writers who don’t have the time to write those articles themselves. Or, people who have a story to tell, maybe a memoir, and need someone to write it for them.

He’s kind of like a superhero of the writing world. He lifts you up and helps you create what you don’t have the time, energy or skill to do yourself.

Okay, he’s not really a superhero…but, he is a writer who will write a story, article, blog, email copy, or other form of content for someone else. He is a modest guy, and takes no recognition for his feat. The individual who hires him gets all the credit!

Do you need an ebook written for a free giveaway? Do you want to create an ebook to offer for sale? No problem. Does your story need a makeover? Do you have an outline, but don’t know where to go from there? No problem.

When you need this type of writing help, who do you call? 

In a great article titled "What is a Ghostwriter?," Gary McLaren mentions that "most books by famous personalities are actually written by ghostwriters. When you see an autobiography or memoir from a politician, businessperson, or celebrity, chances are that it has been written by a ghostwriter."

Personalities like Doris Day, Ronald Reagon, and Sophie Loren are a few examples.

Ghostwriters also write for popular series "under on name, as with the stories of Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys. Ghostwriters also continue to write novels under the name of popular authors who have died, as in the case of Robert Ludlum."


Statistics

This is a tricky area for a ghostwriter. From personal experience I can verify that many clients don't want anyone to know they've hired / used a ghostwriter. This makes finding factual statistics difficult. It's been estimated that 50% of nonfiction books have been ghostwritten.

If you think about it, this makes sense.

How many people have the skills, time, and motivation to sit down an actually write a 'good' book? So, what do they do? They look for a professional writer to do it for them.

Ethics

There are some who feel ghostwriting is unethical. As the client, you're proclaiming you wrote the book while in fact a ghostwriter did.

Is this ethical?

Well, it depends on how you view it. Many ghostwriters use drafts, outlines, recordings, or other documentation from the client describing what should be written. The ghostwriter rewrites the information into an engaging, understandable (readable), and marketable book.

In this case, it's certainly an ethical practice.

For those who hire a ghostwriter to write a book from scratch, sometimes without even a title of idea, it may be questionable.

But, on the flip side, if you buy a house, you claim it's yours. You take pride in it and accept any and all compliments on it you can get, even though YOU didn't design or build it.

Why shouldn't a book get the same courtesy.

Types of Books

Ghostwriters write in every genre you can think of: fiction, nonfiction, technical, speeches, video, the list goes on and on.


Skills Required

The number one requirement for a ghostwriter is to be a skilled writer. 
 
Along with writing skills, the ghostwriter must be a good listener. It's her job to take the ideas, notes, and voice of the client to ensure the book (or other form of content) reflects the client.

The Pay

Payment for the ghostwriter services is usually monetary and is discussed with the client. There's usually a nondisclosure and freelance agreement that both parties sign.

Summing it Up

As you can see, there's much involved in ghostwriting. The writer and client work closely to create a masterpiece or the client may prefer leaving everything up to the writer.

If you're interested in hiring a ghostwriter, you can visit:
http://karencioffifreelancewriter.com



Friday

Writing Books: Is There Money In It?

In the most recent marketing teleclasses I've attended, one of the messages conveyed is that unless you're a major author with tremendous sales, you will not get rich from writing books. You may not even be able to make a living.

So, how does an author create a living out of writing?

Well, whether you're in the process of writing a book, in the process of having a book published, or your book is already available for sale, there are a few strategies writers can use to supplement their income or create a living from writing:

1. Create ebooks and offer them for sale. If you're a fiction writer, write about elements of writing, the process, the pit falls, the publishing process, your marketing strategies, and so on. Write what you know.

2. If you have interests other than the fiction you write, capitalize on them also. If you're a great cook, write about cooking. If you have an interest in health, do the research and write about it.

In steps 1 and 2, it's easy to create a pfd with images and a cover. You can offer them on your site, or through services such as Lulu.com.

If you're willing to invest in a clickbank account or another of these types of services, you can find affiliates to help you sell your ebooks.

3. Don't forget this ONE essential strategy that all writers need to utilize: Write articles, research appropriate magazines and submit, submit, submit - if you don't submit your work, you will not get published...or earn an income from your writing. And, being published does matter; it opens up doors and opportunities that may not otherwise be open.

4. If you're writing nonfiction, think spin-offs. You can create journals, and even videos for sale.

5. Look into selling through catalogs.

6. If you’re writing nonfiction, seek out corporations or businesses that may be interested in your topic. For example: I wrote a bed time story and a great writing coach, Suzanne Lieurance, suggested I look into children's stores (furniture, clothing, etc.) to see if they'd be interested in buying in bulk and offering your book to their clients for sale or as giveaways.

7. If you're published, offer teleclasses or coaching. This is one of those opportunities that will work better if you're published.

8. Promote, Promote, Promote!

These are a few of the strategies you can use to generate income from writing.

Tip: Remember to be focused and research your target market.


Until next time,
Karen Cioffi, Freelance Writer

Wednesday

Two Computer and Internet Safety Tips

Lately, a number of writers I know have had their sites and emails hacked into. While there are no guarantees that anything you do will protect you, the more obstacles or barriers you put up the better. If you were a knight, your first line of personal defense would be your shield. As an internet user, your first line of defense is your password.

1. Use Strong Passwords

Many sites, groups, forums, etc., that require passwords have a password gauge. It actually tells you how strong your password is.

This is convenient and a great tool if you actually use it. I watch as I type in my password; it goes from weak to medium to strong; using the best combinations of words and letters creates the strong reading.

An important tip from the Elance.com blog (a freelance writer’s job listing site) is to mix it up. What does this mean? Don’t use “Iwantin” as your password for everything. If a hacker figures out one of your passwords, you don’t want that to be the ‘key to the city.’

To keep track of all your passwords may need to create a Password Sheet. While it’s a bit of extra work, you’ll be glad you have it when you forget a password.

And, please be aware that I was just kidding with the password of “I want in.” Your passwords shouldn’t be your name or other simple word, date, or phrase, no matter how funny or cute. You need a combination of letters and numbers, and/or special characters. Pretend you’re at a carnival and you have the hammer in your hand…you lift it up and over your should, then you slam it down with all your might…the ball rises to the top and hits the bell. This is how you should view the creation of your passwords—hit the bell with each one.

To be extra careful, it would be a good idea to periodically change your passwords, even it they have a strong reading.

2. Back Up Your Work Daily

I’ve written about this before, but it’s such an important aspect of writing that I’m including in here.

Often, I know this pertains to me, we forget to back up our work. I also know how important it is because twice I lost VERY IMPORTANT documents. One of those documents was a manuscript I was working on – about a week’s worth of revisions…GONE. I ranted and raved…and cried.

Backing up your work should be done on a daily basis, if you’ve done any writing or saved an article or newsletter – it’s important to backup. If you’ve bother to save useful or interesting information, it’s worth it to back it up. I save so much information from sites or emails or newsletters that I intend to read later...often I forget where I saved it, but that’s another story.

The strategy I use now is to save directly to a zip drive. If it’s an exceptionally important file, say, my manuscripts or clients work, I “save as” to my hard drive also. Then, I save the important folders to a 2nd zip – I should be doing this daily, but I always forget. And, as a full back up, I save any folders I’ve worked in to a 3rd zip drive once a week. I feel confident that a 3and 4 layer backup should be safe.

I know may writers save their work at offsite services such as carbonite.com or backupsolution.com (please note, I’m not recommending any service), but I haven’t journeyed down that path yet. I have enough monthly writing expenses without adding an offsite backup system. Even at $5-7 per month, it’s more than I’m willing to pay right now. I just hope I don't end up regreting my decision.

Until next time,

Karen Cioffi
Platform Building with Content Marketing

Saturday

Writing's the Easy Part

I've said it before and I'll say it again, writing is the easy part of the business of writing. Unless you're working with an editor and have a deadline, you write at your own pace...and there really isn't any stress. You either know where you're heading with your story, if you're working from an outline, or your story unfolds as you write like a rose bud blossoming.

As for the other side of the business of writing, the promotion, marketing, and networking...this is the stressful and time consuming part.

As an example, yesterday I realized, thanks to my wonderful writing coach, Suzanne Lieurance, that I needed to get on the ball with my autoresponder and free gifts. Thank goodness for Suzanne! So, I spent the day working on my website. I deleted an old freebie and added a new one. I edited the free offer for subscribing also. And, then I went to my autoresponder company, iContact, and edited my Welcome Messages to include a link to the freebies.

You would think this shouldn't be so time consuming or stressful, but I couldn't figure out how to exclude the freebie pages from my sidebar links. The reason this is important is because if the pages were visible on the sidebar or header area, anyone who stopped by the site could go to the page and download the freebie I have specifically for those readers who subscribe to the site.

Well, I went to Blue Host and asked if the information I needed was at their end or WordPress's end. I was told it was probably with WordPress. Then I went to the WordPress information site and spent at least an hour trying to find the info I needed. FINALLY, I found a response to a question similar to mine. How easy the solution was...after I found it. All I had to do was download a plugin that easily allows the exclusion of specific pages from the sidebar and header area. Ah, ha!

Then, today, I knew I had to revise an e-book I have available on Lulu. I wanted to add my own cover to the book rather than use the standard and dull cover that Lulu provides. I tried to create a jpg from a word doc page. Now, I have Adobe Photoshop Elements, which is a pretty handed tool, but I just couldn't get the word doc to save as a jpg in the size I needed, so I tried to create my own cover in Photoshop.

Okay, now I'm rambling...the bottom line is I wasted hours and hours again and I still couldn't get what I wanted, so I'm using Lulu's cover. I did include my own covers as the first page of the interior though!

And, NO, I didn't get any writing done yesterday or today! AGGGHHHHHHH


Until next time,

Karen Cioffi
http://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com
Follow Karen at: http://twitter.com/KarenCV

Creating a Writer's Resume by Moira Allen

I thought it'd be a good idea for all of us to get our writing resumes spiffed up a bit. I found this wonderful article that gives great tips and advice on doing just that and wanted to share it with you (with the author's permission of course!).

Creating a Writer's Resume
by Moira Allen

Do you know what a writer's resume looks like? I have a "regular" full-time job but also work as a freelance writer from home. Recently I saw two ads for writing jobs, requiring a resume along with clips and a query leter. Should I include only my writing credits and education? Or should I include my whole employment history even though many of those jobs had nothing to do with writing?

Here's a dilemma freelance writers often face: How do you go about getting a "day job" in the writing or publishing business? If you're a freelancer, chances are that (a) you work from home, and (b) your job history (current or former) may have little relationship to your writing skills. You know that you have the skills to handle a regular writing or editorial position, but how do you convince an employer?

Don't despair: There is an alternative. Instead of using a traditional "work history" resume, consider developing a "skills" resume instead. This type of resume is a perfectly acceptable alternative to the chronological resume, and enables you to focus on the skills and experience that are directly relevant to the job for which you're applying.

Putting Your Credentials First

A skills resume differs from a job-history resume in that it lists your skills and qualifications in a separate section, rather than as a subset of your work history. The basic framework for such a resume might look something like this:

Section 1: Name, address, telephone, fax, e-mail, URL

If you're using a print resume, center these in a larger, attractive (but not too fancy) font, as follows:

Ima Great Writer
123 Quill Pen Rd. • Hometown, CA 94000
(555) 123-4567 • (555) 123-4568 (fax) • e-mail
Great Writings Page • http://XXXXXXX

Section 2: Objectives

Optional. If you choose to list your objectives, use no more than two lines here.

Section 3: Qualifications

This is the critical part of your resume. You may want to give this section a more definitive title, such as Writing and Editing Experience. Here, you'll want to list each type of skill that is relevant to the job you're applying for. For example, if the job listing asks for demonstrated writing and editing skills, plus familiarity with Internet publishing and HTML, your "qualifications" section might look something like this:

•    Writing: Professional writer for XX years, with experience in magazine, newspaper, and business writing. Author of XXX articles in XX national publications; co-author of two books; author of three book chapters. Winner of the 1998 "best article" award from the Good Authors' Association. (See attached publications list for details.)
•    Editing: Editor of two electronic newsletters, various corporate and business materials (including reports, white papers, and brochures) and one organizational newsletter. Experienced in copyediting, content editing, and proofreading.
•    Business and Corporate Writing: Developer, writer, editor and designer of a wide range of business materials, including brochures, newsletters, and annual reports. Clients include...
•    Internet, HTML, and Desktop Publishing: Webmaster for the Great Writings Page (http://www.greatwritings.com). Familiar with HTML, VTML, and java. Familiar with several desktop publishing programs for both electronic and print publishing, including [list programs you've used].
•    Anything else that might seem relevant...

Section 4: Work History

Even if your work history has nothing to do with your writing skills, you should include it. A history of employment indicates to a potential employer that you are, in fact, employable. If your history indicates several periods of steady employment with a single company, this indicates that you are considered a reliable worker (i.e., one who was retained) rather than someone who either flits from job to job or gets fired frequently. If you've been promoted within your company (past or present), list this as well, as this is another good indication of your ability to function well as an employee.

Unlike the job-history listings in a regular chronological resume, however, you'll want to keep these sections short. List your job title, dates, the name of the company and its location, and a contact name and number if you wish. Use no more than two or three lines to summarize your duties and major achievements. Be selective: List promotions, and highlights such as number of people supervised, whether you were responsible for a budget, whether you handled major projects, etc.

If you have been self-employed as a freelance writer for a period of time, list this as your most recent "job." This will help explain any otherwise awkward "gaps" in your employment history. For example:

Freelance Writer - June 1997 to present
City, state
Brief description of your primary writing activities, including the names of any major clients or publications for which you have provided material or services. Don't bother to recap the skills you've already listed above.

Previous Job Title - April 1990 to June 1997
Company Name
City, state; contact name and phone number if desired.
Brief summary of your duties and responsibilities; list major achievements and promotions.

Job Before That - January 1985 to March 1990
Company Name (etc.)

Needless to say, if you can find any duties in your work history that relate to writing or the job you're trying to obtain, list them -- even if it's something as obscure as "contributed to the company newsletter." Do not, however, list your reasons for leaving previous jobs (whether voluntary or otherwise), and never include negative information about your previous employers.

Section 5: Education

Every resume should include your educational history, starting with the most recent degrees and working backwards. If you have a college education, omit information about high school. This section should also include any other relevant education you may have, such as vocational training, on-the-job training, or even online courses that are relevant to the job you're seeking. (Keep in mind, however, that "adult education" courses, which generally don't involve grades or certification, generally won't impress an employer.)

Many writing and editorial jobs ask for a degree in writing (e.g., journalism, English, etc.). Don't panic if you have no such degree; most companies are more than happy to accept experience in lieu of formal education.

Section 6: Awards and Memberships

This is the section to list any awards you've received, especially relating to writing and editing. (Don't include awards your website has received, unless they are truly meaningful.) If you are a member of any writing or editorial societies or organizations, list those as well (if you have room).

Section 7: Personal Information
 

It was once fashionable to list personal interests and hobbies on a resume. Now, however, that is considered inappropriate. If you have specific "hobby" skills that somehow relate to the job in question, try to find a way to list those under "skills" instead. (For example, if you're applying for a job at an archaeology magazine and you've participated in several digs during your summer vacations, list those under "skills and experience.").

Pulling it All Together...

Here's what your resume might look like when you're finished:

Ima Great Writer
123 Quill Pen Rd. • Hometown, CA 94000
(555) 123-4567 • (555) 123-4568 (fax) • e-mail
Great Writings Page • http://XXXXXX

Objectives: An editorial position that will enable me to contribute to the creative development of a publication and expansion of its circulation.

Writing and Editorial Background

•    Writing: Professional writer for XX years, with experience in magazine, newspaper, and business writing. Author of XXX articles in XX national publications; co-author of two books; author of three book chapters. Winner of the 1998 "best article" award from the Good Authors' Association. (See attached publications list for details.)
•    Editing: Editor of two electronic newsletters, various corporate and business materials (including reports, white papers, and brochures) and one organizational newsletter. Experienced in copyediting, content editing, and proofreading.
•    Business and Corporate Writing: Developer, writer, editor and designer of a wide range of business materials, including brochures, newsletters, and annual reports. Clients include...
•    Internet, HTML, and Desktop Publishing: Webmaster for the Great Writings Page (http://www.greatwritings.com). Familiar with HTML, VTML, and java. Familiar with several desktop publishing programs for both electronic and print publishing, including [list programs you've used].
•    Speaker: Invited speaker to several writing conferences, including...

Employment History

Freelance Writer - June 1997 to present
City, state
Brief description of your primary writing activities, including the names of any major clients or publications for which you have provided material or services. Don't bother to recap the skills you've already listed above.

Previous Job Title - April 1990 to June 1997
Company Name
City, state; contact name and phone number if desired.
Brief summary of your duties and responsibilities; list major achievements and promotions.

Previous Job Title - January 1985 to March 1990
Company Name
Brief summary of your duties and responsibilities; list major achievements and promotions.

Education
M.A., University of Somewhere, 1989 - Journalism
B.A., University of Somewhere Else, 1985 - English
Certification in Editorial Excellence, 1992; Certification in HTML, Online School of HTML, 1997.

Awards and Memberships
Cat Writers' Association, "Best Article," 1998
Speakers' Bureau Certificate of Excellence, 1997
Member, Authors' Guild
Member, Mystery Writers' Association of America
Member, Mytown Writers' Consortium; Vice-President 1997-1998

Extra Materials

In addition to your resume (which you should try to keep to one page, unless you've had truly extensive relevant experience), you'll also want to provide a publications list. This should also be kept to a single page. Give it the same header (name, address, etc) as your resume, and use it to list your most significant publications or those that are most relevant to the position. Double-space the list, which should include the title of each article or story, the publication in which it appeared, and the date of publication. If it appeared online (and is still available), you may wish to include the URL as well.

You may also be asked for clips. Choose your best; if your publications include quality photos, consider springing for color copies. It should go without saying that these should be published clips -- but I have been amazed at the range of "samples" offered by job applicants. One individual who was applying to a job I was about to vacate offered the first three pages of two unfinished short stories as "samples" of her writing ability (need I say that she wasn't hired?).

If you haven't assembled a portfolio of your best work, this is a good time to do so. Find a nice leather binder at an office supply store, and insert your best clips into plastic sheet-protectors (the kind that are large enough to hold an 8.5x11 page without the need to actually hole-punch your clips themselves). Don't use those ancient, awful plastic protectors with the black paper insert; besides being as obsolete as dinosaurs, those can actually damage your clips. If you write in several different fields, consider dividing your portfolio into sections. Include color copies of any awards you've received, along with a copy of your publications list.

Preparing in Advance

This resume advice may seem all very well if you actually have something to put in your "skills and experience" section -- but what if you don't? The short answer is that you're not likely to get the job of your dreams. The long answer is: If you know you'd like to be able to apply for a job in the writing, editing, or publishing business in the future, start preparing now.

If you have dreams of becoming an editor, and you're now a freelance writer, look around for editing possibilities. Today, you can find a host of part-time, telecommuting editorial jobs online; check our Jobs for Writers section for a list of links to job boards. For many of these jobs, all you need is skill and a modem.
Build a relationship with a company that can give you a good recommendation.

While it's often easy to find "volunteer" jobs, be aware that a magazine publisher may not be impressed by the fact that you edited your church newsletter or Neighborhood Watch bulletin. A history of "paid" positions, even part-time contract jobs, will serve far better (and put food on your table at the same time). Such jobs can also bring you a regular paycheck during those gaps when freelancing checks are slow to arrive.

A good "skills" resume may be all you need to get your foot in the door. After that, it's up to you. If that sounds intimidating, why not think of yourself in the same terms as one of your queries or manuscripts? With the proper presentation -- the right envelope, a professional approach, and appropriate credentials -- you'll be well on your way to the job of your dreams.

Copyright © 2001 Moira Allen
________________________________________
Moira Allen, editor of Writing-World.com, has published more than 350 articles and columns and seven books, including How to Write for Magazines, Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and her most recent book, Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests. Allen has served as columnist and contributing editor for The Writer and has written for Writer's Digest, Byline, and various other writing publications. In addition to Writing-World.com, Allen hosts the travel website TimeTravel-Britain.com, The Pet Loss Support Page, and the photography website AllenImages.net. She can be contacted at editors "at" writing-world.com.
________________________________________


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