Are You Sure Your Query Is Ready?

A Checklist for Successful Submissions

Guest Post by Gary McLaren

One magazine. Hundreds of writers. Thousands of queries.

One editor. One desktop ... and a trashcan that appears to be incredibly, almost unimaginably deep. Where exactly will your submission go?

It has all the makings of an editor's nightmare. Stacks and stacks of submissions, and some of them are dreadfully inappropriate and unprofessional. It's enough to give our poor editor a splitting headache at the very least. No wonder that some of these submissions have only a brief existence before being filed in the circular bin.

How will you ever get through to an editor who is wading through scores of submissions being sent by your competitors? That's right, your competitors. It's important to think of those other writers with that understanding. And it wouldn't hurt to keep in mind that some of them may be reading this newsletter. Face the facts. Space in most publications is limited. Very limited. Not at all like your editor's trash. That trashcan really does appear to be as dark and bottomless as a cup of Aunt Annie's coffee.

Do you want to be successful in the business of selling your writing? If so, then having recognized your competitors for who they really are, look at the challenge from a business point of view.

Your client has a project. The project is to provide the client with writing services and writing material for publication. Your client has tendered their requirements to you and to your competitors. The project and the space in their publication are up for grabs, and work will be awarded to the most appropriate tenderer. Keep in mind that the lowest or cheapest proposal is not always accepted. In fact in this business it probably will not be!

It is very common to receive Requests For Proposals (RFPs) in the business world. Serious tenderers would not even consider submitting a sloppy, hastily drafted proposal. For a submission to be short-listed, the entire proposal has to be thoroughly researched, well written, and carefully packaged. To successfully submit a writing query or manuscript, you should be just as thorough and just as professional. Naturally your submission will be much shorter and more concise than tender documents in many other businesses.

So how can you make the shortlist with your editor? Firstly, you need a great topic or idea but this article is not designed to help you with that. Secondly, your idea or article must be professionally presented. Here is a ten-point checklist to help you ensure your submission is ready to send. Do some of the items on the list sound elementary? Please check them again. You'd be surprised how many queries are sent every day by writers who fail to perform some of these fundamental checks.

1. Have I read the publication?

Elementary? Indeed! Come on, be honest. Have you ever read a publication's writer's guidelines at a web site or in a newsletter, had a superb idea for an article and queried - or even written the article - all without going to look at the publication? Don't, don't, don't ever do this! You may as well play the poker machines, if you intend to leave your writing career to blind luck.

Especially since most publications have a web site, there is no excuse for not studying a publication before querying the editor or submitting an article. Take a look at other pieces they have been publishing recently. What types of topics are they running? What style of writing was used?

2. Have I checked the publication's writer's guidelines?

If they have any guidelines, that is. This is more common for publications in North America than in other continents, and the type and amount of information contained in the guidelines varies widely. First check a publication's web site to see if there is a link to 'Writer's Guidelines' or 'Submission Guidelines' or occasionally 'Contributions'. Sometimes you will need to go first to the 'About' or 'Contact' page before you find this link to their guidelines. If you can't find any link, you might drop the editor a polite, brief email asking if they have any writer guidelines. Do you consider obtaining and reading writer's guidelines to be a waste of time? No way. In the last few months my newsletter for freelance writers has received queries on a wild variety of topics from archaeology to gardening to European history. If there are guidelines, please read them. Ensure your manuscript meets the requirements of style, length etc.

3. Is my submission method correct?

A publication's writer's guidelines will often tell you how the editor likes to receive submissions. Do they prefer to receive a query or a finished article? Do they want submissions sent through the post or electronically by email? If sending an article by email, does the editor prefer attachments such as Microsoft Word or do they request the article to be sent as regular text within the body of your email? With the proliferation of computer viruses, many editors now refuse to open attachments that may be carrying dangerous macros or code. If you really want your proposal to execute a rapid depth test on the editor's trashcan, simply ignore this checklist item.

4. Does my opening catch the reader's attention?

If the editor only reads the first two or three sentences of your query, will you have captured their interest? The first paragraph must be a winner. Intriguing. Enticing. Like a fat, juicy worm wiggling on the end of a fishing line. Read your opening again. Can you improve it?

5. Can I cut any unnecessary or redundant words?

Many of us include unnecessary or redundant words when we first draft a piece. The makers of some editing software I know of claim that their software typically removes 25 to 30 percent of unnecessary and redundant words from users' documents. That's significant. Cast a critical eye over your work again. If the words add value to the piece, leave them. If you have waffled it may be worthwhile to take a black marker pen and start striking out any unnecessary phrases. Think crisp, think concise.

6. Have I checked my grammar?

It can be frustrating for an editor to read what would otherwise be a good article but for the fact it is riddled with bad grammar. Some writers wonder why editors haven't taken them seriously, but they haven't even taken the time to proofread their own manuscript before submitting it! Some good word processing software programs will even check your grammar for you.

7. Have I checked the spelling?

Again your software can probably do this for you. If you are writing for a publication in another country have you also taken into account any different spelling for that location, e.g. British vs. American English? Also try to spot any words that may be different from country to country, for example footpaths and sidewalks, diapers and nappies.

8. Have I included some details about my background?

This may not be necessary if the editor already knows you. Otherwise be sure to include a brief biography and list any relevant credentials, clips, or links to your articles online.

9. Have I included the article's publishing history?

Remember the last time you had to clear customs at the airport? This is just like that. 'Do you have anything to declare?' If the article has been published elsewhere, you do.

10. Have I included my contact details?

If you want a reply from the editor, and hopefully one day to receive a check in the post, be certain to provide your full contact details. Many writers making submissions by email forget to include any other contact details.

It's been a long day. The editor, red-eyed and wired on caffeine, is ready to go home. Incredibly, the trashcan is nearly full now. A few crumpled manuscripts lie scattered nearby where they didn't quite hit the mark. 'One more', the editor thinks, 'then I'll hit the road.' Finally your submission is opened, and the editor, for what seems like the hundredth time today, wonders what this new writer has to offer.

Where will your submission end up? Have you helped yourself by sending in a well-prepared submission? If you have followed the advice given here, you're well on your way. Now let's hope your idea was a good one.

Happy Writing!

About the Author

Gary McLaren is the editor of Worldwide Freelance Writer. For more information on freelance writing and a database of more than 2,200 writing markets, visit

© Copyright 2002 Gary McLaren.


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Online Membership Sites - Different Types You Can Create and Their Benefits

If you’re an expert, with lots of information and experience others can learn from . . . and want to learn about, a membership site is an online marketing tool you might be interested in.

A membership site is a site in which members pay for the benefit of learning from the owner of the site (the expert). The site owner on the other hand provides ongoing and valuable information based on his expertise.

This is usually a win-win situation. The members have ‘open’ access to the expert and his knowledge, and the expert has an in- place and often ready-to-act audience.

Membership sites come in a variety of sizes, formats, and prices. Pricing is usually based on the reputation of the expert and the problem being addressed.

Some experts offer the, what I call, ‘full service’ membership – its information packed and interactive.

The Full Service Membership Site

The full service site will take ongoing work and time. And, there is the other aspect of members who may want you to go above and beyond . . . of members who think you're their private coach.

While this type of membership site may seem like a bleak proposition, if it's well planned and well structured, and you have limits set in place, the venture can be a successful one.

The NO Interaction Membership Sites

There are also membership sites that have no interaction. The site has a number of tutorials or lessons that members simply have access to. As the site owner, you occasionally provide new content, maybe once a month. The members are usually kept happy through the new content and that’s about it.

The Bare-Bottom (Simple) Membership Sites
While this isn’t a proper name for it, this type of site offers a set number of tutorials or lessons. It’s kind of like an ecourse, but through a site where members can come back to read the material. The site doesn’t however provide any new content. Sites like this warrant a yearly membership fee.

Why a yearly membership fee?

If you have all your content on a membership site for members to partake of, what's to stop a new member from paying for one month (if it's a monthly fee site), downloading all the content, and leaving?

Unfortunately, if you're contemplating creating a membership site, you need to think of these things.

Benefits of Membership Sites

As with your mailing list, the focus of marketing is to make connections and bring visibility to your products and services. Membership sites are a vehicle to do just this.

The site creates an ongoing 'almost' one-on-one' atmosphere, which creates a closer and stronger member/expert relationship. It’s this ongoing contact and close relationship that affords you the opportunity to sell other products or services, while earning an income from the site.

Your members have already taken the plunge with their first YES to the offer of becoming a member. The first YES is usually the most difficult to get. This therefore, puts them in a 'more' YES mindset.

Keep in mind that there are many variations of membership sites and finding the format that works best for you will be a key element to its success.

This Part 2 of a 3 part series on membership sites. I hope you find it useful.

Check out Part One::
Online Membership Sites – Should You Join One?

To read Part Three, go here:
Online Marketing – What Does It Take to Create and Manage a Membership Site?


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Ten Ways to Know if Your (Internet) Marketing is Paying Off

Reprinted from Author Marketing Experts Newsletter

So you're out there marketing. You're doing all the right things (or so you think). You're following the book marketing advice of some leaders in the industry. You've got a checklist and you're methodically checking off your goals. But how do you know you're doing everything right? The fact is, most of us don't. Yet we forge ahead, keeping pace with our marketing plan, without ever knowing if it's paying off. We don't see it in sales.
Does that mean it's not working? Not at all. You could be seeing the effects in other places but just aren't keeping track of it.

I find that especially in social media you need to keep a close eye on what's working and what's not. If you've spent *any* kind of time online you know that you can be in front of your computer for what seems like 20 minutes and yet three hours have gone by. If the three hours of marketing is paying off, then it's fine to spend the time. But you need to know the difference. Here are a few things you can review to measure the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of your marketing.

1. Jumping in without a plan: Set clear, measureable goals because most marketing is invisible. Let's face it, you send an email and wonder half the time if the intended recipient got it or if it ended up in a spam filter, never to be seen again. That's the power behind goals. You need them and you need to run your campaign by them. So what are your goals? And no, you may not say sell books. Yes, that factors in - but there are a million small steps along the way before you even get to sales. Consider these goals and see if any of them fit your book, topic, and future:

a. Establish yourself as an expert or get known in your particular field. Hey, maybe you just want to be known as the go-to person for everything related to paranormal romance. That's great and it's a realistic, attainable goal.

b. Increase the visibility of your brand. OK, sort of the same as the bullet before this one but more geared to the non-fiction author.

c. Increase traffic and incoming links to your website. This is a great goal. Whether you are fiction or non-fiction, it's a great focus.

d. Do what makes sense for your book: If your followers aren't on Twitter then why have you spent the last month or so promoting yourself on there? Mind you, Twitter works for most of the books we manage, but there are a few that don't make sense. Twitter skews older than most people think so don't be surprised if your YA reader isn't on there. Before you launch head first into a campaign, make sure it fits your demographic.

2. Neglecting other marketing: I know it's easy to get all a-twitter about Twitter, but what else are you doing to promote yourself and your book? If you're good at events and speaking, are you still focused on that? Don't get too myopic on doing just one thing for your marketing. The truth is, you need to do a lot of different things, balanced out over a week or a month for your marketing to really make sense.

3. Set goals - be clear on what you hope to achieve in social media: What are your goals for Twitter? If it's just about gathering followers then you are missing a big piece of this social networking tool. For many marketing people it's all about the number, but numbers don't make as much sense unless they are driving interest to you and your book. If the numbers keep growing, along with traffic to your website, then you're on the right track. But if you're just growing numbers for the sake of being able to say that you have 10,000 followers then it makes no sense. That's like buying a fancy car you can't really afford. Eventually the debt of it will drag you down. It's the same with Twitter and Facebook and any other social media site. It's not about the numbers. It's about the activity.

4. Be clear on who you are trying to reach: Many of you say you're trying to reach readers, but is that really true? We all want to sell books, but who are you really going after? In all likelihood you will have a variety of different targets you are going after. Consider these: booksellers, speaking opportunities, interviews, bulk sale targets, reviewers, and readers to name a few.

5. Measure effectively: In order to know if stuff is working you'll need to measure effectively. As I pointed out earlier on in this article you may not want to do that by fans or followers - instead consider these ideas as ways to measure your success:

a. Retweets on Twitter: The best sign of success on Twitter is the amount of retweets. Are you getting them and if so, how often? If your tweets are good and your followers are active, you should see a few a week at least (depending on the amount of followers you have). If you're curious about the amount of Tweets that get RT'd - check out Twitter Analyzer ( is another great tool for determining how far tweets have traveled.

b. Site hits: Are the hits to your site increasing? Are you watching your analytics to be sure? If you're not, you should be. Watch your site stats closely and monitor the increase in traffic and where it's coming from.

c. Inbound links: How many new ones are you getting? Did you do a vanity search before you started this campaign? If not, do that now. Make sure you know how many new incoming links you're getting as a result of your efforts.

d. Sign-ups to your mailing list: Are they increasing? If you're doing the right stuff in your social media they should be increasing weekly.

6. Increasing the contacts in your industry: Remember that social media marketing is just like going to a networking meeting. You want to expand your reach and get to know others in your industry. If you're not increasing your reach and contact base, then you need to be. This is another great way to gauge how effective your marketing is.

We always want to make progress in our marketing but we're not always sure how to do it or if what we're doing is making a difference. Follow these steps and see if it doesn't help your marketing momentum. If it's paying off, you'll know sooner rather than later and you can keep doing the good stuff, and punt the bad.

Bonus: additional tools for tracking marketing This site serves as both a URL shortener and also as a measurement tool. can help get you real-time results on clicks to links you are posting to Facebook and Twitter.

Google Analytics: If you don't have any back end web analytics (and even if you do), Google gives you a lot of valuable data.

Trackur: This is a great monitoring site to see what's being featured on you online and off. It's not free like Google Alerts, but much more comprehensive. Their basic package is $18 a month.

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.


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Library Skills for Writers

Guest Post by Joan Whetzel

When was the last time you ventured into your local public library? They aren't just buildings full bookshelves stacked floor to ceiling with books, a periodicals section, and a reference section. There's plenty more worth investigating at the library these days. Libraries are constantly looking for ways to update what they have to offer. Besides the books, these institutions also offer DVDs, VHS tapes, audio books, audio cassettes, music CDs, music scores, and even jigsaw puzzles. Computers are now available for use by those who don't have computers or internet service at home. Many even offer WiFi. Other services include: author readings, homework help, English or Spanish as a second language classes, toddler story time, computer classes, and a calendar full of activities. Have questions? No problem, just contact your library by phone, email of online messaging.

Library Cards

For anyone looking to use their local library, library cards are free. All that is required - depending on the library - is a driver's license, an ID, or a utility bill to show proof of residence. Then fill out the form, and the librarian hands you a library card on the spot. But you don't have to do it in person any more. Fill out the library card application online, and within days, your card arrives in the mail.

Library cards allow users to check out just about everything - except, of course, items held in the reference section or any special collections. Generally, books can be checked out for about 2 weeks, while CDs, video tapes, audio books and DVDs are checked out for 1 week. While there's still a limit to the number of items that can be checked out, the limit is much higher than when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s. My local library, for instance, allows up to 75 books to be checked out at one time; not that I could read 75 books in 2 weeks time. But if I wanted to, I could check out that many.

Library cards also allow you to place on holds (online) on items that are offered by the library, reserve time on one of the library computers, and make use of the library's online resources. But even without a card, anyone can

•    sit in the library and read the books, periodicals or anything held in the reference or special collections sections.
•    use the Ask a Librarian tab on the Library's website.
•    attend any of the events or classes offered by the Library.
•    get homework help.
•    make use of the WiFi.

Visitors and non-residents can buy a library card for a minimal fee, usually less than $10 up front, with smaller annual renewal fees. Lost Library cards are can be replaced for a fee of around one dollar. If your library card gets stolen - along with your purse or wallet - card holders are urged to notify the library immediately so the card can be cancelled. Most libraries will hold the owner of the library card responsible for any items checked out on the card by the person who stole that card. (The cost of replacing books, DVDs, CDs, videos etcetera can get quite expensive).

Card Catalog

Card catalogs have been digital for at least the last 15 to 20 years now. If you still haven't figures out how to use this new digital version, either in the library or online, then simply ask a librarian to show you the ropes. Or take a tech savvy friend or relative with you. By the way, the card catalog available online is the same catalog available inside the library.

The card catalog allows users to search for books (and all other library holdings) using the same parameters as the old card catalogs. The card catalog shows how many of each item each library in the library system has, how many are on the shelves available for check-out, how many are currently checked-out, and when checked-out items are due to be returned. In addition to searching the catalog, users can place a hold on books and other items (CDs, DVDs, etc.), submit requests for interlibrary loans, and even purchase items that the library has for sale. Use the mouse to point and click on a specific entry to learn more about that item.

How to Place a Hold

To place a book on hold, first look it up in the card catalog. click on that item to find out how many copies are available at you branch or any other branch of the library system. Click on the "hold" icon, tab or button. The librarian will pull the item from the shelf, and hold it for up to a week. For items only available at other branches within the library system, it will take a day or two for the item to be delivered to your branch, where it will be held under your name. The library notifies the card holder by email when the hold is available, or check the status of the item online.

There is a limit to the number of books or other items that may be held in reserve, so check with your library to find out the limit. If the item you want is currently checked out, you will be placed on a waiting list for that item. Reference books, special collections, microfilm or microfiche items cannot be placed on hold or sent to another branch on interlibrary loans. If you really need to use these items, you will have to go to the branch that owns them.

The Dewey Decimal Classification

The old version of the Dewey Decimal System was an alpha-numeric system. Over the last century, it has gone through multiple versions. The current version of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) is a totally decimal numbering system. This makes it easier to organize the online card catalogs, re-shelf books, and locate books once on the shelf. However, it does allow for the addition of letters to the numbering system so that individual libraries can customize it to their needs. Fiction books are still permitted to use letters to organize and shelf books by author's last name, since most people are accustomed to looking for fiction books by their favorite authors' last name.

Generally speaking, the DDC numbering consists of a 3 digit number before the decimal and multiple numbers following the decimal. The first three numbers reflect the general areas, or genres, where the item is shelved. The decimals break down the numbering system further to reflect smaller subject subdivisions. For instance, history will be broken into State, US, and World history. US history will be further broken down into Early American history, the revolutionary period, slavery, black history, the Civil War period, World War I, WW II, and recent history. Each subdivisions within a genre adds more numbers behind the decimal, to further refine the placement of books on the shelves. The classes, or genres, for shelving books and other items are:

•    000 - Computer Science, Information, General Works
•    100 - Philosophy and Psychology
•    200 - Religion
•    300 - Social Sciences
•    400 - Language
•    500 - Sciences and Mathematics
•    600 - Technology and Applied Science
•    700 - Arts and Recreation
•    800 - Literature
•    900 - History and Geography

Classes and Events

The classes and other events held at a library are usually posted on a bulletin board in the lobby or inside the library. They are also posted online in the library's calendar of events. The classes and events include programs for children, teens and adults as well as language programs (i.e. English, Spanish), toddler's story time, authors' readings and any anything else that are of local interest or that are popular among the library's users.

Reference Section

All libraries have a reference section full of books and other bound items intended for use inside the library only. These items are not available for check-out or for inter-library loan. The items in the reference section are usually multi-volume sets (encyclopedias) or massive volumes (major dictionaries and atlases), and are usually too large to loan out and too expensive to replace. The reference section in most any library will include:

•    Dictionaries (e.g. The American Heritage college dictionary, The Random House dictionary of the English language, Webster's dictionary of English usage)
•    Encyclopedias (e.g. Encyclopedia Americana, Encyclopaedia Britannica, HispaƂnica, World Book)
•    Almanacs
•    Atlases
•    Bibliographies
•    Directories
•    Handbooks
•    Yearbooks and Statistical Sources (e.g. The Statesman's year-book, Statistical abstract of the United States, Statistical abstract of the world, The World almanac and book of facts)
•    Biographical Sources (e.g. Biography index, Command, a historical dictionary of military leaders, Current biography, Who's who among Hispanic Americans, Who's who in U.S. writers, editors & poets, The Who's who of Nobel Prize winners)
•    Quotation sources (e.g. American heritage dictionary of American quotations, Familiar quotations: a collection of passages, phrases, and proverbs traced to their sources in ancient and modern literature, The Oxford dictionary of quotations)
•    Science and Technology Sources (e.g. American Heritage science dictionary, Dictionary of science and technology, The history of science and technology: a browser's guide to the great discoveries, inventions, and the people who made them, from the dawn of time to today, Van Nostrand's scientific encyclopedia)

Reading Books Online

Many libraries now have books online now. So you don't have to physically go to the library to read some material. As long as you have a library card, you can "check out" the library's online reading materials for the same amount of time as you would check out a physical book. You can even print the pages you need right from our home computer.

Locate your local library on the internet, then navigate through their website for available library services, "Ask a Librarian" resources, branch location and hours, contact information, card catalog, the library's databases, "Friends of the Library" services and events, meeting and study room policies, use of public computers, general library policies, special events, events calendar, the "What's New" section, and WiFi availability. If you don't already have a library card, then by all means avail yourself of this awesome - and free - resource. It's worth every tax dollar spent on keeping this wonderful institution relevant, modern and usable.

Unfortunately, the links associated with Joan Whetzel don't work any longer.


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Online Membership Sites - Should You Join One?

For those of you who aren't sure what a membership site is, it's a website where members pay to be a part of it, usually to get help in a particular area.

Depending on the gravity of the topic (how specific and severe a problem the site is focusing on) the prices vary drastically. There are some memberships at $5 annually, some at $5 per month, others are at $397 annually, and some thousands per month. As you can see, prices vary drastically.

Another factor in the pricing is the reputation of the owner (expert). Then there is also the amount of information and the services offered.  This all plays a part in membership pricing.

I just subscribed to a site that offered WordPress training (just to see if I could pick up a couple of tips), it was $10 a month or $24 per year. Being a former accountant, I did the cost efficient thing and opted for the $24.

The site consisted of around 20 videos, about 10 minutes each. They were on the very basics of WordPress – that was it.

Two Lessons Learned:

1. It might be a good idea to opt for the monthly fee, even if it's just for a month, so you can determine if the site has what you need. If it does, opt for the long-term, cheaper rate. If it doesn't, unsubscribe.

2. Don't underestimate your skills. There are a number of worthwhile programs, sites, and courses online that warrant the investment, but, before you jump in know exactly what you'll be getting. There will be those membership sites, programs, etc., that teach less than what you already know (sometimes much less).

Finding a ‘Good’ Membership Site

There are loads of experts out there vying for your ‘dollar.’ So, how do you pick a membership site that will provide you with what you need? A membership site that will move your forward in your area of choice.

First thing is to determine if you need a membership site. Can you get by with the information in an ebook, or maybe an ecourse? This is something you’ll need to figure out.

A lot of people like the connection and access to the expert/s, and want the ongoing and updated information. They also like the community of members who are like-minded and struggling to the same end. This allows for a much wider ‘help pool.’ Members often end up helping each other. There are also big organizational membership sites like the National Association of Professional Women – women join for the networking aspects.

Once you’ve decided you want to be part of a membership site, the first action step is to ask around for one that’s worth the cost. A good place to ask is ‘big’ sites in the topic or area you’re interested in. For example if you’re looking for writing and online marketing you might visit WOW! Women on Writing. Send a message asking for help through their contact page.

Site’s like this deal with a lot of professionals and will probably be able to recommend someone.

You can also do an online search.

Once you find a membership site you’re interested in, check out what’s being offered:

•    Is it member interactive – is there a member forum?
•    Is the information updated regularly with new helpful content to keep you moving forward?
•    Is the ‘expert’ active on the site – will she respond to hot topics and questions?
•    Will there be bonus content, like screen-sharing webinars or videos?

In her promotional material, the ‘expert’ should have a detailed outline of what you can expect. Then of course find out the cost. Many sites offer a monthly and yearly option, the yearly being less expensive.

Do your homework if you’re interested in a membership site to find one that’s right for you.

What do you think of membership sites? Would you join one?

P.S. Like this post? Please share it!


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The Fastest Way to Build a Freelance Writing Business and Start Making Money

Guest post by Suzanne Lieurance

Do you want to start a freelance writing business but you just don't know how to get started?

It really isn't that difficult to start earning at least $100 a day as a writer. The real trick is to do that without having to work 24-7.

Here's probably the fastest way to build your freelance writing business, particularly if you don't have much writing experience or many publication credits. Just follow these steps:

1.    Set up a website or blogsite that targets a specific niche of potential customers/clients. Choose a topic that interests you and preferably one you already know something about. What are your hobbies? One of your hobbies just might make the perfect topic for your writing business.

2.    Load that site with valuable content that this niche market is eagerly searching for (do your keyword research to find out what your target market is after). You'll want your target market to get to know, like, and trust you. You can start doing this by providing plenty of helpful content at your site, and don't forget to add fresh information and resources all the time.

3.    Load that site with products and services that you are an affiliate for or with your own products and services that cater to this niche market. It's best to promote only those products and services that you have tried yourself and can truthfully recommend to others.

4.    Set up a system for driving traffic to your site so that thousands of people in your niche market are seeing what you have to offer there. Your system should include article marketing, media release campaigns, and email campaigns.

Make this your major focus for the next 30 days and see what happens. It shouldn't be long before you're earning at least $100 a day from your new writing business.

Try it!

There are many other ways to earn a substantial income from your writing. Every month, members of The Working Writer's Club have access to a LIVE 55-minute teleclass that covers (in greater depth than is possible here) at least one way to build a freelance writing business. If you're trying to build your freelance writing business, why not join the club? For more information go to

Suzanne Lieurance is a full time freelance writer, the author of more than 20 published books, and the Working Writer's Coach.

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Your Website – Keep it Simple and to the Point

As an instructor of online classes that teach how to create and build a home-business or author-writer online platform, of all the lessons, the most popular one, and the one that sparks the most questions, is 'how to create an effective author website.'

While some marketers still lean toward the effectiveness of long copy, especially for sales pages, some heavy hitters like Mike Volpe of say, simple works best. And, as time passes, this ‘simple’ strategy is gaining more and more ground.

Why is this so?

The answer is time.

Have you landed on pages, especially sales pages that go on, and on, and on? I have and it’s actually kind of annoys me. If it’s a product I’m interested in I’ll scroll down, skimming, looking for highlights and the price in particular.

Have you scrolled down these pages and not been able to find the price? As crazy as it sounds, there are landing pages out there that you have to click on the BUY button to find out how much the product you’re interested in costs. This takes additional time.

You and everyone else are strapped for time today. We live in a faster and faster and faster world, a world that never sleeps, and this causes us to work more and more and at a faster and faster pace.

According to the latest statistics, you have around FIVE seconds to grab a visitor, to convince or motivate him to pause long enough to move past the title and read your first and, hopefully, your second paragraph.

Time matters. Give the reader what she wants up front. And, what does she want?

The visitor to your site wants to know who you are and what you have to offer. Again, give the reader what she wants.

Keep your site simple, easy to read, and with a clear and simple call- to-action. And, if you have a product or service for sale, make the cost visible. Don’t make your landing page a Hide and Seek game. The visitor won’t appreciate it.

Okay, now that that you have the reasons for keeping your site simple and your call-to-action simple, here is one reason marketers may use the Hide and Seek strategy (a more complicated strategy).

There is a marketing philosophy that uses a succession of Yeses to trigger the mind of the potential client or customer, or motivate him, to say YES to the offer. According to pro marketer Clay Collins, this is considered ‘micro commitments’ or the YES ladder. Each time the visitor responds to the request, the conversion possibility increases.

While this might be a useful strategy for high-end products, for lower-end products, like your books or products under $50, this strategy could back-fire, especially with time factored in the equation. It’s not a good thing to make visitors jump through hoops to get the information they need.

So, bottom-line, keep your website simple and to the point.


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Content Marketing - Websites in Trouble

As we all do, I come across website designs while I’m following a link to an article or doing research. There are a number of sites I find that are in ‘effective marketing’ trouble.

When I find one or two that have obvious mistakes I discuss the problems and solutions here.

These tips are valid for content marketing, book marketing, and online marketing in general.

Note: I won’t be including the name of the site/s or the links for obvious reasons. This is just helpful information for you.


The first site being critiqued this week is a site that has a beautiful full header, but upon landing on the site there is no information as to what the site is about. The tile is the individual’s, but you can’t tell if that person is an author, a businesswoman, or other. Even the page tags don’t give sufficient information on where you are.

There is an opt-in above the fold, but it’s simple text and unboxed . . . very easy to overlook.

Solution: Add a subtitle to the header, using effective keywords. This will let the visitor instantly know what type of site he is on.

For the text opt-in, get a standard boxed opt-in that is easily distinguishable.


This site is a business site that I found through Twitter. I clicked on its link and was taken to their graphic design service. The background of the site is navy blue, very, very dark and the sidebar text is white. The header is busy and it’s difficult to read the center text. 

The ‘store’ page has boxed individual service options, but the text is tiny. And, being in scattered, individual boxes, along with a busy heading and dark background, it’s not an easy or appealing read.

Solution: Lighten the background color and use black text. According to, a very light background (white) with dark text (black) is the most ‘visitor friendly’ and effective combination. And, tone down the header graphics.

On the ‘store’ page, simple would work much better. Along with the color fixes, this site needs to create conformity in the services boxes’ size. It also needs to un-scatter them. Having one under the other would create a much easier read.

Based on the site’s design, I wouldn’t use their services.

One of the most important elements to an effective website is clarity and ‘easy reading.’ You have to quickly let the visitor know: who you are; what you have to offer; and why they should say YES to what you're offering.



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Don’t be Taken to the Website Design Cleaners - 5 Tips on Creating Your New Site

There is an abundance of website design and hosting services on the internet. You can get services that handle both the design and the hosting, or services that provide one or the other. Whatever your needs, there is a service out there for you. But . . . consumer beware.

Some design/ hosting website services prey on unsuspecting and naive individuals new to the marketing arena. They charge to not only create a site, but they keep control of managing the site. The customer is only allowed to add or edit content on the site.

This means you, the owner, can’t add links, change images, or tweak the site for SEO optimization, such as page title optimization. I get upset when I hear of occurrences like this. There is no reason why a design and hosting service needs to control website functions and features to the point that an author or individual needs to pay the service to add or delete a simple link.

You really need to be aware. There is so much information online advising the basic dos and don’ts of creating a website, but you do need to do a bit of research to find it. There are plenty of legitimate and reasonable services out there. If you’re confused or uncertain, ask around.

Here are 5 starting tips to create an author website:

1. Choose an effective domain name. Think about it carefully. You want a name that will be search engine effective, reflect what the site is about, and is able to grow with you (unless you are creating the site for a specific book). You can also use the subheading to elaborate on the domain name.

2. Decide if you have the skills, or want to learn them, to create a website of your own.

3. If you decide you need help with creating a website, look for someone who wants to establish themselves as a website creator, or someone who does it in her spare time, or a writing/marketing service that does it as more of a courtesy to clients, you will pay much less. And, try to make arrangements that will include the designer teach you how to manage your own site. This will make updates, changes, and posting much easier, and cost free.

4. If you feel you can create your own, you can choose a free hosting site, such as WordPress, Weebly, or Blogger. On the flip side, if the thought of having to create a website feels daunting, go for It’s very user friendly and good for beginners. And with its updates, it has a number of features much like a website.

5. Keep in mind that down the road you may want to have a website that can be effectively optimized and that’s more SEO versatile, so you may want to have a WordPress site through a hosted service from the beginning. The prices range from around $3 to $12 per month – depending on how long you sign up for. And, they have occasional specials where you can sign up for as low as $3.49 per month (I use Bluehost for my hosting service and I love their service).


While these five tips are just the starting point for your author website, they will hopefully help you from being taken to the website design/hosting cleaners.


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Online Marketing and Website No-Nos (5 Tips)

While this post is focused on authors, the tips are valid for everyone.

An author from one of my social networks started a discussion on 20 tips for marketing books.

Her marketing strategy was a good one: she gave the first couple of tips and led the reader back to her site for a few more. The following tips would be posted at future dates, a few at a time.

All-in-all, this is good marketing – she got me to click on the link to her site. But, and there is a big ‘BUT,’ once on her site, it was evident that she wasn’t an effective marketer.

The first thing I noticed when on her site:

There were no ‘pages’ on the site, aside from the Blog page
She didn’t post to the site on a regular basis – if I remember correctly she had 12 posts for the year
There weren’t any social network connecting links.

These are the bare-bottom basics.

Visiting her site, it just made me wonder why she decided to promote a series of posts on book marketing.

So, what’s the 'marketing' things to learn from this?

Here are five tips:

1. Your website needs to be specific or focused. If you’re claiming to be a poet, you’d better have content about poetry on your site. If you’re offering book marketing tips, you should have the basic website elements in place.

A visitor to your site will feel cheated if you lead him there with a particular lure and finds something else.

2. It’s always a good idea to have an About Me page. Let the visitor know who you are.

3. If you're selling a product or service, you need a Sales Page. If you're an author, it should be a Book/s Page.

4. You should have links to your social networks, to connect with the visitor.

5. You should be posting to your site on a regular basis. Three times a week is a good number. If that seems too much, go for two times per week. Once a week is the bare minimum.

While there’s more to an effective website, if the individual I mentioned had these simple elements in place, her site would have been more effective and made more sense.



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