Product Review: Author 2.0

I wrote once before about the New Pulp Era , about how the ease of access to publishing means we can all publish our work for an audience of billions. Writer Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn is not only using an intriguing model for making her living in this era, but offers a free eBook on exactly how you can do it, too.

You can sign up for a free subscription and receive her book Author 2.0 at this website. The book describes in broad strokes how her model works, how it contrasts to traditional routes of publishing, and what 21st century authors must do to build an internet platform.

Author 2.0 describes a line of demarcation between free content you use to build readership — such as blogging, newsletters and expert interviews — and the content you charge for, like speaking engagements and full-length books.  It’s a simple structure, and one you can make work for you if you have the hours available in your week.

Pros of Author 2.0 are its simplicity and the truth of what Joanna is saying. This is the model she’s using, and that others have used, to make a full-time living as a professional writer. It’s a strong primer to introduce you to what may be the best opportunity for lifestyle design as a writer.

The biggest con of Author 2.0 is that it’s a fairly typical eBook. It’s long on rah-rah, and short on details. Like other promotional free eBooks, its purpose is to give you just enough information to want to hear more from its creator. Folks who have been paying attention won’t learn anything new from it, but they might still benefit from the clarity of its organization.

Bottom line Author 2.0 is worth every penny Joanna charges for it. I’d probably even pay a few bucks. New and aspiring writers will definitely benefit from giving it a look. Folks with more experience can still get some value — though much of it will be from inspiration and organization, rather than information.

Joanna’s website and content are full of deeper insights and more actionably advice. Whether or not you sign up for the subscription and book, I recommend taking a look and listen.

Thanks for listening.

Customer Service: Doing it Wrong

I have recently changed one of my utilities from one option to another, meaning that I signed up with company A, and cancelled service with company B. Company A has been great. Personable, professional, punctual. The guy who came in to install my new equipment even took time to start interesting conversation as he worked.

Company B has left something to be desired. A quick timeline.

D (Decision) Day: I call company B and tell them to shut of my service in two days. They describe the process, which includes shutoff on D+2, and them shipping me a box to send them back their modem.

D+1: Company A’s chatty representative comes to my house and sets up my new service.

D+9: A sales rep from company B calls and asks if I really intend to shut down service with them (note that this is a week after the day they were instructed to). I say no thank you.

D+13: I get a call from the collections department of company A, asking — I’ll admit politely — why I haven’t turned in the modem. I tell them I was waiting for the box, which the rep says they never said they’d send. They arrange to send a courier out to pick it up in two days.

D+14: Courier shows up in the middle of my day, a day early. I give him the modem and collect my receipt.

D+16 (yesterday): I get another collections call asking where their modem is. I read them the receipt number from the courier.

I’m not just writing this to vent. Learning from other peoples’ mistakes is one of the best things we can do as professionals in any field. I’m not worried that these guys are going to torch my credit, or that I won’t get a full refund for the extra week they kept me on.  Big companies usually make these things right. That’s not the problem here.

The problem here is that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and neither of them are in touch with the foot they’re subcontracting part of the job to. It’s a problem of organization and communication.

As freelance writers, it’s easy to fall into the habit of “remembering” all of our deadlines and urgent communications. Heck, my rule for years was “if I’m tempted to buy a calendar, it’s time to simplify my life.” But if you want to make a full-time living, you need to keep your tasks and contacts organized.

There’s all manner of ways to make and keep that organization. I’d love to hear some of your ideas and methods. Doesn’t really matter how you meet your deadlines and keep your promises…

…but it matters a lot that you do so.

Thanks for listening.

April Moore on Work Habits (Part 2)

Go To Your Room
If I had known how much I could have accomplished as a kid when my parents sent me to my room, I’d have
a seven-book series by now. Today, I treasure alone time in my room where instead of plotting revenge on my
sister, I actually get quality time to write. Claim your own space, whether it’s a room, a corner, or a table. Your
area should also consist of only what you need to write. Don’t work at a desk where you pay bills, or do other
hobbies. You need to focus on writing. My area is the guest bedroom. I found a small desk at a flea market,
painted it and parked it by the window. The closet, situated behind the desk, houses my weapons of writing:
reference books, research, and all those extra office supplies I stocked up on. (You can never have too many
Post-Its). Make the space inviting—but only to you. You need to be left alone, so politely inform your spouse,
your kids, and your dog (who’s holding the leash in his mouth) to not bother you while you are in this special
space of yours. I’m one of those who needs a change of scenery every once in a while, so sometimes I’ll work
in the sun room, out on the deck, or on the living room couch. But inevitably, I find that I’m most productive
when I go to my room.

Break it Down
I tend to freak myself out thinking about the amount of work I have ahead of me. Nothing like a bit of fear to
kill your motivation. I must remind myself to take baby steps. Luckily, Folsom’s 93 can be broken down into
roughly 93 steps. So, I tackle one at a time, sometimes two. If your project feels like deciphering the Dead Sea
Scrolls, then break it down. Work on one scroll at time—or half a scroll. Don’t put more pressure on yourself
than you need to. Shoot for a certain number of pages a day to get done. Maybe it’s one chapter at time, or one
article a day, or the introduction of your book proposal. You will feel more accomplished and productive if you
take on only what you can handle that day. When I applied this method, I had those scrolls deciphered in no
time.

Reward Yourself
What does your little heart desire? (Think small for this, okay?) Maybe it’s a new book, a nice bottle of wine,
or going to the theater to see a movie. Now, choose the task or project you need to do and set a deadline. When
you meet that deadline, reward yourself. I know this may sound simplistic, but it works. Yes, you could give
yourself the reward anyway, but show some willpower, because trust me, that reward is way less satisfying if
you truly didn’t earn it. Write your deadline and reward on a board or post it on the refrigerator to keep you
motivated. Get the family involved to help support you on your journey because it’s even more rewarding when
others can share it with you.

With a bit of creativity, it’s possible to be a productive writer without fleeing to deserted beach house, or a
lonely cabin in the mountains.

 

Thank you, April, for this great advice for us all. And thank you, readers, in advance, for checking out April’s project when you get the chance. 

Accountability

This week was a big, steaming brown pile from an accountability standpoint.

Instead of working on writing goals, I built some furniture with my son, visited with old friends from out of town and cleaned the living bajeezus out of my back yard and garage.

I did manage to meet my basic moneymaking goals, to post on this blog and work on an ongoing speculative project I plan to launch soon. I also finished off a larger assignment and took two meetings on another project I might become embroiled in.

I should have scheduled this week as a week off — I knew ahead of time how hard it would be to get everything done. That way I’d feel pretty okay about meeting my plan instead of vaguely uptight with myself for slacking off.

Ah well — the best part of screwing up is that you get to try again.

Thanks for listening.

Friday Fun: Beat the Reaper

Published in 2009, Josh Bazell’s first novel is some of the most fun I’ve had with fiction this decade. It’s popcorn fiction — nothing deep or philosophically challenging, just a good adventure yarn.

It has a few things to teach budding writers. The structure builds and maintains suspense. The prose is engaging and distinctive. Better still from a professional standpoint, the website for the book is very, very clever.

Click here for the website, and click “Excerpt” for print and audio samples from the book.  Be sure to check out the games and video trailer. These are great ideas for promoting our own work in a memorable way.

Warning. Beat the Reaper is not for children, not work safe and not for the easily offended. By the end of the excerpt, you will have been exposed to grossly vulgar language, casual sex, explicit violence, drug use and “fact” about the medical profession that will make you cringe every time you see a hospital for the rest of your life.

Not for the faint of heart, but wow is it fun.

Thanks for listening

April Moore on Work Habits (Part 1)

I’m pleased to announce that April Moore, author of Folsom’s 93  and all-around great writer, has agreed to do a few guest posts about writing from her perspective. Without further foolish foofoorah, heeeeeere’s April…

I think many writers revel in the idea of a secluded place to work; a long retreat, free from interruptions and time to master our craft. However, this concept never seems to end well for Stephen King’s writer characters. So before you head to a vacant mountain hotel, or a remote cabin in upstate New York, consider these work-from-home tips that won’t involve axes, poltergeists, or dead bodies.

Take Care of Distractions

I’m easily distracted, whether it’s something shiny or a pile of laundry. Sometimes, no matter how determined I am to get several pages written, even small things can veer me off the creative path. Working from home poses a plethora of distractions that can keep you from settling into work mode. Combat them by dealing with those things before you flip on the laptop. Wake up early and take care of that load of laundry, pile of bills, or a sink full of dishes. Schedule your chores and writing time. Perhaps designating one day to household tasks can enable you to work the rest of the week. Another distraction is the internet. Aren’t you curious about your blog stats, Twitter updates, or Lindsay Lohan’s latest court appearance? If you don’t need internet access to write, then turn it off. What about noises? One word: Earplugs.

 Get Organized

Treat yourself to a shopping spree at an office supply store. They say if you buy great workout gear, you’re more likely to get your butt to the gym. Same goes for writing. If you want that fancy pencil holder, get it. Do what you need to do to create a productive work environment. Organization is critical for me since I have 93 dead guys to keep track of. I bought a few file boxes with hanging folders and together, my label maker and I went to town. Each inmate has his own folder containing absolutely everything pertaining to him: transcripts, newspaper articles, and even critiques from my writers group when I’ve submitted his story to them. If your work is disorganized, you may not feel motivated and driven. Get the right tools to help you.

Tune in soon to hear April tell you about rewarding yourself, breaking work down and going to your room. 

Thanks for listening.

 

4 Ways to Get Paid For Your Work

You can write all you want, but you’re an amateur until somebody gives you money for what you’ve written. There’s nothing wrong with that for all the folks who write for the simple joy of the craft. If you want to make it as a full-time writer, though, you need to get paid for your work. Either that, or marry somebody rich.

Not too long ago, there was just one model of getting paid for your work. You sent your work to magazines or book publishers and hoped they liked it. If they did, you got some money and then started up on your next project.

That situation has changed. Traditional publishers are starting to hemorrhage. The market isn’t as strong, and the pay isn’t as good. That’s the bad news — and it’s not comforting. The good news is that as that market fails, others have sprung up.

1. Advertising Revenue

If you blog, or have another kind of website that brings in traffic, you can set up advertising accounts that get you paid for every visitor who clicks through to the ad. Google Ads will work with your page even before you have any traffic, paying you a small fee for each visitor. As you get increasingly more visitors, you can find higher-paying and more focused sponsors.

2. Content Writing

Print magazines that sell advertising and subscriptions close every day, but they are being replaced by websites hungry for a constant stream of fresh, well-written content. Many of them work on the ad revenue model from above, only on a massive scale. The best sites pay up to $25 for a 500-word article on basic topics, up to several hundred for longer feature pieces.

3. Company Blogs

Company websites need blogs — they’re one of the surest and simplest ways to keep a page high in the search engine rankings. They also provide useful information that attracts and interests potential customers. Although large companies have their own people for this, small businesses can’t afford a full-time guy, and the owner rarely has the time and talent to do it right. You can reach out to local businesses and offer to do their blog, or search writing job sites for potential clients.

4. E-Books

Instead of submitting your book to a traditional publisher, you can make your own e-book and distribute it on your website, via eBay and on Amazon. Print publication through on-demand printers is also an option, but e-book printing is free. There’s no risk other than the time you spent to write the book…and your share of the profits is much higher than if you’d published through a traditional house.

Later, I’ll go into some of the best practices for success in each of these models. I don’t pretend to know everything, but I’ll share what I do know.

Thanks for listening.