Winning a Literary Feud, Getting off the Grid and Other Notable Reads of the Week

Karate

There were a lot of good tips, tricks and laughs to be had this week and following are my favs:

How to win a literary feud from Writer Unboxed, is a hilarious piece on the proper way for authors to feud. Very tongue in cheek.

Tesla Motors Announces A New Home Battery; Living Off The Grid Will Soon Be Status Quo.  Interesting idea of living off the grid, no power bills or anybody lecturing you on over-consumption. But we’ve been promised such things before.

What Indie Authors Need to Know About Their Manuscripts is a good nuts and bolts how-to on manuscript format from HuffPo.

How Do I Sell My Book? 6 Tips for New Authors. Once again Anne R. Allen hits it out of the park with some good, solid, realistic advice, help and truth about indie book marketing.

What Readers Say About eBook Prices. The Fussy Librarian gives us the results of its reader survey on eBook pricing. Illuminating.

Read them and learn – lots of great information to be had in these.

Writer Chick

Quick and Dirty Tips for the Freelancer

TIP JAR

I collect tips. Small, sometimes insignificant little gems that don’t mean much alone but in a list look pretty nifty. For your hump-day enjoyment, I offer the following:

1. A tall skinny coffee mug keeps your coffee hot longer than a short fatty. I didn’t believe it either til I tested it. It’s true.

2. Keep a jug of water on your desk to stay hydrated. Most of us don’t drink enough water. My solution: keep a jug that holds the daily requirement of water on my desk. If it’s there you’re more likely to drink it rather than lifting your lazy butt out of the chair and walking all the way to the kitchen for something else. Also, buy a humidifier. They’re cheap and replace the moisture that heaters and electronics suck out of the air.

3. Take a walk every hour. Really even if it’s just up and down the block it will refresh you, get a little blood circulating and maybe help prevent writer’s spread. Just set your phone to go off every hour and go.

4. Get the hell out of your jammies and take a shower. We all love working from home because we can work in our jammies or ratty sweats and nobody sees our bedhead hair, right? Except you, every time you pass a mirror. I promise if you get up, take a shower and put on some normal clothes you’ll feel more alert, probably be more productive and won’t scare the UPS guy either.

5. Give crap away. Most of us have too much crap. Not because we’re one-percenters but because everything is so available. I can tell you right now that half the stuff I own I don’t need, don’t use and is gathering dust in a closet somewhere. We avail ourselves too easily of shopping therapy when we’re feeling, bored, blue or denied. I say eat an apple instead. Plus crap equals clutter, equals a space that’s hard to work in, equals dust mites and more cleaning. Find your local thrift store, charity or homeless center and cart your crap over there. If you have a lot they might even send a truck.

6. Convert your files into eBook formatsCalibre  is free, easy to use and kind of fun too. The latest version enables you to do some light editing too. I use it to get a feel for how my books will look in the format and also for sending to beta readers so they can read the drafts on the eReaders rather than a big clumsy Word doc that has to be read on a computer. For actual publication though I recommend you find an eBook formatting professional.

7. Got the winter blues? Get a full spectrum lighting lamp. When they first came out they were expensive as hell but now you can get a decent one for about $100. That may seem like a lot for a lamp but these babies mimic actual daylight, which your body needs by the way, and can help chase away the winter blues. Also if you love sunlight like I do then it’s a no brainer.

8. Head stuff. Working from home has a lot of pluses but also a few drawbacks. You spend a lot of time alone. There aren’t others around to cheer you up or make you laugh or even notice if your breathing sounds right. A lot of alone time can easily dwindle into thinking time. That’s fine if it’s productive – if not, it will just mess with you. Therefore stop thinking/worrying about shit you can’t or aren’t prepared to do anything about. It will only give you a stomach ache and disturb your bliss.

9. If there is a way to screw things up, you will find it. Especially if you try really really hard not to screw up. It’s a fact of life – accept it, figure out how to fix it and move on. Don’t wallow in it or be embarrassed by it – nobody cares that you screwed up but you. You know why? Because they’re screwing up too. We all screw up. Every one of us. Figure out how to learn from mistakes and move the hell on.

10. Nobody owes you a living. Nobody owes you a review. Nobody owes you a job or a gig. Nobody owes you their time or energy. Unless you’ve provided a product or service for which they agreed to pay or otherwise exchange. So stop acting like you’re a victim because you didn’t get something you wanted. Just go out and get it. Yeah it’s hard. Yeah it will take some effort and work. But that’s how everybody else does it, why should you be any different?

11. Get off the maybe train and commit. You have a dream? You have a goal? Well I hate to break it to you but daydreaming will not make it so. Believe me, I am the queen of daydreams and I never got anything I wanted from daydreaming. You want to be a writer? Then guess what? You have to write. You want to be an entrepreneur? Likewise you gotta go out there and entrepreneur. Things don’t just happen because you want them. They happen because you commit to making them happen and you refuse to ever fucking give up. I know it sucks but it’s still true.

12. When you commit things do just happen (or seem to). It’s sad but people really don’t get that the answer to all the many things they want in life is about commitment. How many times have you tried and failed? And how many times have you just said, “That’s it! I’m doing this no matter what!” and somehow magically made it happen? See the difference?

13. Everybody looks good in pink and turquoise. Not together of course (well, maybe). But for some reason those colors flatter everybody. Seriously.

14. All of us have something to offer the world. Find it and offer it. You’ll be amazed by how glad people are that you did.

As always feel free to add to the list.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

Nine Work Hacks for Freelancers

freelance hacks

I’m a freelance writer by day and mystery writer by night. Thus far my day job has put food on the table and paid the bills. Good, yes? It’s not easy being a freelancer and sometimes you may feel that sticking your head in the oven is more productive than trying to be your own employer – but there are good days too.

And though there is a lot of advice out there about how to succeed, get ahead and make gobs of money as a freelancer, there are some basics that rarely get mentioned. I’ve tried to put into a lot of sage advice from the so called experts with mixed results. However, I can give you a simple list of what has always worked in my freelance business.

Be Nice. Now, I know you’re probably saying, “Duh, of course.” However, you’d be amazed by how many freelancers aren’t nice. They don’t answer your inquiries; they are impatient, sometimes even rude. Or have a take it or leave it attitude. I get all kinds of inquiries, often ones that have nothing to do with freelance writing services but I try never to treat anyone disrespectfully or make them feel stupid. If someone contacts you and you can’t help them, tell them so nicely. If possible refer them to a person or a website or other source that may help them. You never know when you might encounter that person again – and if so, it may be you needing the help or a favor.

Be Responsive. Again, you’d be surprised by how many freelancers (and businesses in general) simply don’t respond to your inquiry. It’s as though they expect you to chase after them to prove you’re really serious about wanting their service or product. I know there are some marketers out there who advise you to do this, to make yourself or your business appear exclusive, etc. To that I say, hogwash. People who voice an interest in your service or product deserve a response. If you don’t respond promptly and politely to inquiries, soon you may find that no one voices an interest at all in anything you have to offer.

Be Generous. I constantly get emails from clients or past clients asking me about things that strictly speaking have no specific connection to the service I provide. For example, I have clients ask me all the time what I think of product images or names, or slogans or logos. My services don’t cover any of those things – but it doesn’t hurt me at all to take the two minutes to respond to them. And it makes the client happy and feel that you care. So how can a happy client be a bad thing? Clients remember providers who are generous with their time and attention and are more likely to come back to them when they need the services they provide.

Be Honest. Sometimes clients are going to ask you questions or for an opinion you don’t want to go near. It’s uncomfortable when a client sends you a link to their new website, which is a disaster and asks you what you think. Or a logo, or a product, or whatever. However, they are asking you because they respect your opinion. So be honest, (not blunt, or mean) tactful, but honest. They will appreciate it and you won’t have to feel guilty over blowing smoke up their skirt.

Ask Questions. Too many freelancers just say yes, yes, yes in order to get the gig. In fact, I’ve seen experts tell you to do so – explaining that once you get the job, you can figure out how to do whatever you’ve been hired to do. This is just playing with fire. Sure there is a certain amount of winging it that occurs in freelancing but you’re better off asking questions, questions and more questions to determine if you can truly help this person than to just say yes and hope for the best. If you don’t or can’t deliver in the end, not only will it cost you money but your reputation as well.

Listen. We have so many gadgets talking to us at all times – TV, radio, smart phones, texts, social media, blogs, advertisements – talk, talk, talk, talk. And all of us just talk louder so we can be heard above the talkers. Yet listening has become somewhat of a lost art. It can be hard to take a breath, close your mouth and just listen to what is being said but it can also save you an enormous amount of time and work. Listen to what your client is saying, repeat it back to them, so they know they’ve been heard, write it down so you remember what was said. So much easier than sending ten emails asking the same question over and over again. And less irritating to clients too.

Give More Than Expected. In other words, exchange in abundance, go the extra mile, show that you care. For example, a client emailed me saying his product was flying off the shelves and he couldn’t quite figure out why. Clearly, he wanted to know but didn’t know how to get the information. I suggested he send out a survey to customers who recently purchased the product and suggested 3-5 questions he could ask. He didn’t pay me for that, nor did I expect him to pay me. I simply wanted to help him. It was just an idea and I have 100 of them every ten minutes, so no big deal to me. To him, it might have been though. It’s perfectly fine to make a contract with someone and fulfill that contract to the letter without giving less or more but it won’t necessarily win you any fans. You’ll gain a reputation of being fair. That’s fine. But if your client later finds another provider who offers as good a service as you but is just a little more generous with their time or attention, who do you think she will hire for the next project?

Be Sincere. And by that, I mean be yourself. As freelancers, especially if we handle our businesses largely online, we may develop what we think is a professional demeanor. But in fact, makes us seem cold or distant. While you certainly want to be taken seriously, it’s really okay to make a joke or even swap recipes (yes, I’ve actually done that) as long as your work and work ethic is professional and you deliver what you promise – being yourself should really be okay.

Never Accept a Project Just for the Money. Look, freelancing is hard. And usually it’s feast or famine. Either you have no work or more work than you can handle. So during the lean times when a prospect comes to you, of course you want to land the job – baby needs new shoes, right? However, if you look at the project and don’t honestly see how you can help the person, say no. For example, I’ve had prospects come to me and ask me to rewrite content or a product listing. In most cases, I definitely see how I can help improve what they have – but sometimes there’s nothing wrong with what the prospect wants improved. Instead of accepting the project I tell the client that I honestly don’t feel I could improve what they have and that perhaps it is some other element in their business model they need to consider. My goal is to help my clients improve their situation so they can succeed – if I don’t feel that my service will do that, I say so. Believe me; it makes life so much easier.

I know these are very basic and maybe not news to many of you, but like that little black dress you keep in your closet that can be dressed up and dressed down, depending on the occasion – basics are the new black.

What about you? Do you have hacks that help you in your freelance business? Feel free to mention them in the comments below.

Writer Chick

Copyright 2015

Writerly Things

I just had one of those really stupid realizations, you know the kind I mean? Where you literally slap yourself in the head because it was so obvious, like why did it take two years? Yup – that’s the kind.

Although, I spend a lot of time yakking about writing and my writing dreams and how I want to publish and get an agent and be rich and famous and all that crap – I’ve never really done a post about writing itself. Okay, relax, this isn’t going to be an online workshop on story form or anything like that.

However, it did dawn on me that though not all bloggers are writers, many of them are and I thought I’d do a quick little post about some pretty groovy writer resources I’ve come across in recent times. So, those of you out there who are writers and want some good links – continue reading. Those of you looking for fart jokes …. I’ll see what I can do.

Currently, my number one, favorite writing link is C. Hope Clark’s Funds For Writers. She offers many things but also sends out a weekly enewsletter that is chockful of tips, articles and markets. I love this enewsletter and anxiously await it each week and comb everything possible I can from it.

Next up is Beth Erickson’s Mindset Moments – it’s a free little thing you can sign up for and you get daily little writerly inspirations. She also offers a good enewsletter that has markets and articles as well. Definitely worth the read.

Worldwide Freelance also offers an enewsletter, which is not nearly as good as Hope’s and Beth’s but often has good articles and nonfiction markets. Additionally, they have an onsite database for markets as well. Plus when you sign up for their newsletter you get a nice little free ebook on well paying markets. Definitely worth a look.

Writer’s Gazette is put out by Krista Barrett, who is an accomplished and published writer and also provides a free enewsletter with markets and articles. Sometimes it’s a little short but she is an enthusiastic person and clearly likes to help out her fellow writers.

Absolute Write is another who offers a free enewsletter and has articles and markets, plus they have other venues and resources that may be just what you are looking for.

Aspiring crime/mystery writers may like Crimes and Clues which offers lots of facts, tips and tricks on the crime trade. Great resource.

If you’re looking for an agent, you can try Agent Query. This was the first place I looked and though I didn’t find anyone they still have a very impressive database and it’s worth a look.

And of course, the list would not be complete without the standardbearer of the industry, Writer’s Digest is its own institution and has everything from books, writing prompts, news, and markets.

And finally, a great article on how to set your freelance fees.

I guess that just about does it. Have fun.

WC

Oh yeah, and here’s that fart joke:

Barrista Babies…

I don’t know about you, but whenever I go into my local Starbuck’s I have a heck of a time just getting my darn coffee and getting out of there. The funny thing is that it doesn’t seem to matter how many customers are there or not there, nor how many barristas are standing behind the counter. They just don’t move like the greased lightning that I’d like them to.

Happily, I’m not addicted to their coffee and don’t need to hit the local unit on a daily basis, or I’d have a serious breakdown and probably end up in jail.

Aside from their slower than molasses in January approach to service, the other thing that kind of gets me is the ubiqutious tip jar. I’ve noticed over the years that many fast food, or fast service places have taken to putting up tip jars on the service counter. And somehow we’ve all become convinced that we should tip the guy for doing his job. I mean, how much service is there involved in ringing up a latte and yelling it to the other pimply-faced kid to make it?

It could very well be that I’m a little sensitive about this because I waited tables for many years and I have the bunions to prove it. Serving coffee to a bunch of people who will patiently wait in line until the milk foam is just right is nothing compared to feeding 50-60 people lunch in a one to two hour period, who are all hungry and in a hurry. Sometimes it’s not too pretty. And truly, for that kind of stuff you do deserve a tip if you give good service.

Many people may not know that the word tip, insofar as the food industry is concerned is an ancronyn that stands for ‘to insure promptness.’ And was a tradition that started in jolly ol’ England during the major seafaring days. When the sailors who’d been out to sea for God knows how long and finally returned to shore they would hit the local pubs. It was a mad house by all accounts and in order to get the serving wench’s attention they would put money on the table. The wenches being the clever gals that they were would naturally go to the tables that had the most pennies waiting there for them. And the money did indeed promptness.

These days the only thing you’re ensuring is that you feel fricking guilty if you don’t tip anybody who seems to expect it.

Anyway, the point of this story is the ridiculous court case that recently came to the conclusion that Starbuck’s had to pay employees millions of dollars in tips that were shared by shift supervisors in their many California stores. This is one of those, now I’ve heard everything stories. Clearly, whomever sat in the jury or the judge or both, never worked in the food industry because if they did, they would realize that a shift supervisor is not a manager – which was their claim – but really just an employee who the management feels is trustworthy enough to give a set of keys to. Actually, generally speaking they are likely the most responsible of the crew and the person who steps in and helps you when everybody else is ignoring you – and basically does all the duties of any regular worker in addition to being responsible that the place doesnt’ burn to the ground.

All this aside, since when does the government get to tell a private company what policy to have in their business – unless it has to do with safety or health the government has no dang business telling Starbuck’s or anyone else who can and who cannot have tips, guiltily extracted from customers too spineless to object.

Personally, I’d like to meet the barristas who filed this lawsuit, I’d be willing to bet they are a hoard of shiftless and relatively useless individuals who really need to get a life. Rather than find a career or job that pays better, they’d rather stick a knife in the back of a fellow worker for a few coins. Yeah, I have to say, this really makes me want to tip them more, how about you?

WC