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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Keep Those Queries Coming...And Note for Chicago-Area Writers

Hi, gang, and keep those queries coming for the query critique! Thanks to those who have submitted one already; I've already chosen one to critique first (good news for the writer who's pitching a truffle piece!). In the meantime, I wanted to notify Chicago-area readers of several writing-related programs I have coming up: 

I hope to see some of you in person soon and look forward to answering your freelance writing and publishing questions in person! If you can't make it, check out my popular books on freelancing: Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets or Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition. Prefer a print copy? Use the coupon code IMPROVISEPRESS (all caps,no spaces) for 20 percent off when you order directly through 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

You Know You Want it: The Query Critique Returns

Have an idea you've been pitching for a while but haven't been able to sell? Are you a new writer who wants to make the best possible first impression on an editor--or do you simply want some honest feedback on your query from an experienced freelancer? 

You've come to the right place--I'm launching another query critique. The rules are simple: 

1. Email a one-page query (no longer, please) to dollarsanddeadlines at gmail dot com with "query" in the subject line. Put the query in the body of the email; don't attach it, please. 

2. Tune in to the blog to see if yours is chosen for critique! 

This is an opportunity for you to have a seasoned pro (um, that would be me--I've written hundreds of queries that sold, and edited hundreds more!) take a look at your pitch, and help you improve it--and hopefully sell it as well. I don't do these critiques often (and I charge $100/hour when clients hire me to do so), and they offer valuable feedback, especially for  new freelancers. 

I look forward to seeing your queries soon! Please get them to me by Monday, September 30 but the earlier, the better--the first ones in have a higher chance of being chosen. 

In the meantime, for 20+ queries that worked--and everything you need to know about freelancing for print and online markets, check out check out my latest two books, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets or Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition. Prefer a print copy? Use the coupon code IMPROVISEPRESS (all caps,no spaces) for 20 percent off when you order directly through

Monday, September 16, 2013

"It Annoy Me": Why I Feel Like a Three-Year-Old

I told my three-and-half-year-old daughter the other day that she needed to clean her room, which was littered with naked Barbies and about 100 pieces of plastic food, before we could go to the park. "I don't want to clean my room!" she protested. "It annoy me."

This has become my anthem for freelancing this week. In short, everything "annoy" me. I have a book to finish by September 30, and I can't find my usual motivation. I've overextended myself with volunteer "opportunities," and I'm wishing I would have said "NO!" several months ago. (I've taped a sign up on my office wall to remind me that "no" may be a hard word to say, but I rarely regret it.) I just lost out on a lucrative, promising ghostwriting gig--one that I fully expected to sign this week. And I'm having all kinds of problems with my Internet connection. So yeah, I'm annoyed.

But this isn't exactly a novel feeling. I've found that at a certain point while working on any big project, it annoy me. It actually annoy the hell out of me. I wish for a clone who would come in and finish the piece for me--or that like the cobbler and his shoes, I could simply leave my Word document open and discover that the magical elves have done everything--except maybe print the book out for its final proofreading.

Alas, I have no magical elves. So I have to try ignore my annoyance and just buckle down. I have a variety of tricks I use when my motivation flags: 

* I set a timer and promise myself I won't get up until at least 45 minutes have passed. I always manage to write at least a page or two before I'm sprung.  
* I change locations and work at Caribou Coffee instead of at home. If I'm really serious about work, I wear headphones to keep people from chatting with me. 
* I choose a part of the project that produces the least amount of resistance--maybe it's the final edit of an earlier chapter instead of drafting one of the later ones and tackle that.
* Promise myself a treat at the end of the day, if I meet whatever goal I've set.
* Remind myself that I could still be a lawyer. UGH! That always kicks me back into gear. 

My point? Despite the freedom freelancing brings, you're still prone to everyday frustrations, setbacks, and yes, annoyances. Carping about being annoyed won't help you. The only thing that will is to use the ABC method (as in "Apply Butt to Chair") and get that work done. I promise, your mood will markedly improve! 

**Want to set yourself apart from other writers, nab more assignments, and create long-lasting relationships with editors and clients and make money as a freelancer, check out my latest two books, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets or Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition. Prefer print? Order directly from and use the discount code IMPROVISEPRESS (all caps, no spaces) for 20 percent off of your order. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

More Straight Talk about Royalties: 3,429 Books = ?

I've been a full-time freelancer for 16+ years, a book author for more than a decade, and a ghostwriter/coauthor for 8+ years. While I still work with traditional publishers, I've also published books through POD companies; published stand-alone ebooks (a stand-alone is an ebook that is only published electronically, compared to an electronic version of a print book; and launched my own publishing company, Improvise Press, earlier this year.

So I've accumulated a fair amount of knowledge about the book publishing industry, at least from an author's perspective. I'm what publishers call "mid-list." A mid-list author isn't a bestseller (at least not yet) but she usually produces a profit for her publisher. A mid-list author might sell 10,000 copies of a nonfiction book--not a bad number when you consider that traditional publishers produced more than 360,000 titles in 2011 alone (and that's not counting POD and stand-alone electronic books!) 

What new and would-be authors don't realize, however, is how little most authors actually make for their books. (This is the primary reason I started ghostwriting--so that I could cut back on the time I spent promoting books and boost my hourly rate.) I've seen average advances drop, particularly over the last five years. A book that might have garnered me a $15,000 advance a few years ago? Well, I'm probably going to get offered maybe $5,000 for it.

Which sucks.

But there is one advantage to a small advance, at least in theory--you can earn out faster. But not as fast as you'd probably like.

So let's look at some real numbers. I just received my latest royalty statement from Writer's Digest for Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success. (I've shared before what I make per-book.) The good news? The book is still selling, and selling steadily. The bad news? I have yet to earn out.

From January 1 until June 30, 2013, I sold a total of 802 copies of Writer for Hire, including 72 electronic versions. (This surprises me as I usually sell a higher percentage of ebooks than this.) That means that since the book was first published, I've sold a total of 3,489 books. Those 3,489 books have produced a total of $3,046.26. Do the math and you'll see I'm averaging less than $1/book--which is one reason I launched Improvise Press earlier this year.) Do more math and you'll see that I have to produce another $1,953.74 in royalties before I collect that elusive check--but I'll get there, I guarantee it. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When Publishers Go Bad: Taking Control as an Author

One of the reasons I was drawn to writing full-time was that it allowed me to decide when I would work, what types of work I would do, and what markets I would pursue. When I was a lawyer, though, partners routinely dumped clients they didn't want to deal with and cases of questionable value on me and my fellow associates. We could never say "no." And it sucked.

As a freelancer, though, I decide which clients I work for (assuming they hire me). No one can force me to take an assignment I don't want. That's part of freelancing I appreciate; I like being able to control who I agree to work for. I've posted before about what you can control, and what you can't as a self-employed writer, but the fact is that some things are completely outside your control.

Like getting paid on time. In 16+ years of full-time freelancing, I've had several dozen clients pay me late--and in a few instances, not at all, despite me following up, using pay-or-die letters. That frustrates me, but in almost every case, I've managed to sell the piece somewhere else. I figure I have to make the best of a bad situation.

Which brings us to today's post. I have a publisher that has refused to pay me my long-overdue royalties for many months. I've repeatedly requested that the publisher honor our contract and given it  multiple opportunities to do so. In short, I've waited. And you know what? The publisher has continued to breach the contract. I still don't have my money, and I'm done with waiting.

So, what did I do? The only thing I can do--namely, rescind the contract, demand all royalties due to me along with a complete accounting--and demand that the publisher immediately stop selling my book as the breach has rendered our contract null and void.

I'll probably have to hire a lawyer to get the money that's owed to me (stay tuned) but in the meantime, I'm taking control of what I can. I just released the book on Kindle. Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money, Second Edition, is a well-reviewed book that is a comprehensive guide who both new freelancers and and those who have some experience but want to take their careers to the next level. It includes more than 20 sample queries, hundreds of online resources, and advice from more than 50 established freelancers. And for a limited time, it will be priced at just $4.99, a discount of 50 percent! Pick it up, if you haven't done so already.

And readers, a question. Have you ever been screwed by a publisher? How did you handle it?