Cross Promotion

The publishers for my travel guide have been at it for a while, so they know how to promote a book. For example, my point of contact got an article in the Huffington Post about “Under The Radar Tourist Towns” featuring my location — Astoria — and other titles in their stable.

See it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/10/post_583_n_780645.html#slide_image.

Several points make this a genius move:

  1. HuffPost is a major news website, meaning he got the word out to a passel of potential purchasers.
  2. The format made it so easy to write, he probably banged it out in half an hour.
  3. Because it’s a news source, it lends the message authority.
  4. Appearing in a news website positions the publisher as a travel expert.
  5. He might have gotten paid. Unlikely with the HuffPost, but the theory is sound.
I used to do similar when I ran a martial arts school, by writing self-defense articles for local newspapers and magazines. You see the major movie studios doing the same by turning their upcoming blockbusters into newsy pieces in the glossies and on TV.
Challenge for the day: come up with three ideas to get somebody to pay you for promoting your work. Write proposals and get paid for one of them.
Thanks for listening.
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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

Ideas for Nonfiction (Part Two)

Continuing our list of ways to come up with topics for nonfiction articles, which you can then pitch to magazines and turn into fees and a portfolio…

Springboarding

I touched on this in detail in an earlier post. Keep a note pad handy while researching and writing your assignments. A fact might grab your attention, but be inappropriate for your current assignment. A small section of an article might have enough juice to warrant a full-size piece of its own. Maybe your article for a regional magazine could be recast to suit the needs of a local, or national, publication. If you jot down a reminder, you can come back to these ideas later and pitch them as unique stories.

Library Time

If all else fails, go to your local library or friendly neighborhood bookstore. Spend an hour or so skimming through magazines and reading what kinds of articles they’ve published lately. Think of related, but unique, ideas that will suit them. If you want to write for magazines, you should be reading them anyway. You can combine this idea with your personal expertise and a mind map for ferocious onslaught of idea generation.

The Shower

From what I’ve been told, I’m not the only person who does his best thinking in the shower. I don’t know why, but it seems like humans do their best thinking wet. Your omnipresent, ever-ready notebook will get ruined in the shower. A grease pencil or kids’ shower crayon won’t. I keep one in the little caddy, between my razor and the shampoo. If I’m struck by inspiration, I scrawl it on the shower wall and jot it into my notebook when I’m finished.

That’s what I’ve come up with so far. I’m certain others have their own methods, and I’d love to see some in the comments.

Thanks for listening.

Notes From the Front: Proposals

I got a new gig recently — a one-off blog content deal. It was about average in terms of money, a bit light in terms of size. Interesting content, fun to research. It’s nice getting new clients from time to time, even for the short-term. What’s nicer is when the client in question tells you that you beat out 150 other applicants for the gig.

I’m not telling you this to brag. I’m telling you this because I was able to ask my client what it was that floated me to the top of his particular heap. What he had to say wasn’t all that surprising, but what was surprising what how many people — he said 98 percent — don’t follow these basic rules of successful proposals.

1. Read the entire job description/submission guideline/call for work. Follow any specialized instructions. Many editors and clients will insert a small detail, such as a specific email title, to make sure you did this.

2. Do some basic research. If you’re trying to land a company, cruise their website. If you want to write for a magazine, read a few articles. Don’t ask somebody to spend money on you if you can’t take a few minutes to learn about them.

3. Indicate in your cover letter than you’ve done 1 and 2, preferably with an insightful or praising comment about the work your client does.

4. Submit quality and relevant work samples. If you don’t have any, take half an hour and make one. If you had to make one, say so — it demonstrates how dedicated you are.

5. Provide a direct link to your writing samples. Editors and other potential clients aren’t interested in downloading a file that could be a virus. This means maintaining an online portfolio (like this one) and using the link features in your email. Don’t expect the person on the other end to spend the time to Google you.

6. Put your best foot forward, always. Be professional with your communication and intelligent in your approach. Never make excuses, or express doubts in your proposal. Your proposal is your brochure for the client — and you don’t see professional brochures giving you the bad news.

That’s straight from the horse’s mouth, people. The words of a man frustrated by how much rough he has to dig through to find himself a diamond. Everybody’s far more capable of being a diamond than I am — the trick is making sure the clients can see it.

Thanks for listening.

Doing it Right Redux: Freelancing

I’m a professional freelance writer, and have friends who freelance as artists, web designers, coders, financial consultants and bodyguards. Freelancing can seem like a dream: set your own hours, charge more than the daily “wage slaves,” live with your work ethic as the only limiter to your earnings. On the other hand, nobody guarantees you a paycheck. If you do it wrong, you wind up not just broke. You’re broke with an embarrassing gap in your employment history.

Freelancing successfully requires a different formula for different people, but one rule remains true. This rule serves as a warning to many – but for those who do it right, it defines the fastest route for setting yourself apart from the pack. The rule is simple:

People who want to go into business for themselves are often the least suitable people to do so.

Traits that support success for freelancers include attention to detail, sweating the small stuff, working well with multiple bosses, being consistent in communication, and making decisions that help your team over decisions that support you the most. Most people who want to freelance have trouble with one or more of these categories – otherwise, they wouldn’t mind working a 9 to 5 job.

Because this is true, the degree to which you treat your freelance career like a regular job is the degree to which you will rise above the freelance herd. From talking with my freelance friends – both the successful and the struggling, I’ve identified eight habits for remaining professional while working from home in your underwear.

  • Observe a maximum one-day turnaround on emails and phone messages unless you’ve notified a client you’re unavailable.
  • Keep all your deadlines, from turn-in dates to promised communication.
  • Take your lumps with a smile. Some clients will behave in ways you find unreasonable. Working “for the man” means playing nice. Working for yourself means playing nice with more people, more often.
  • Set working hours: time when you’re “at work,” and times when you are not.
  • Remember marketing. In a regular job, you have to work to their specs. While freelancing, you need to spend some time every day finding your next assignment.
  • Observe business communications etiquette. Just because you don’t have an HR inquisitor looking over your shoulder doesn’t mean you don’t need to be polite.
  • Have a professional website, professional business cards and professional letterhead.

The majority of freelancers hit the market with a strong skill set and a bad attitude. Don’t be that guy. It might cost your ego a little from time to time, but it’s the price of admission for success. This isn’t the only key to making it as a freelancer – there are many, many (Many! MANY!) other requirements. But if you can’t see yourself observing these rules, you’re probably better off sticking with your day job.