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Monday, January 31, 2011

Listen to your Gut: or How to Not Waste Four Hours of Your Life

If you tune in here often, you know I'm all about managing my time as efficiently as possible, at least most of the time. Regardless, though, marketing my business and "qualifying" clients takes a significant amount of time, especially as much of the work I do now is ghostwriting/coauthoring books. Signing a book client usually takes significantly more time than getting a magazine article, so I definitely don't want to it with someone who isn't a viable client.

So let me share a story from several years ago, when I was much newer (read: mostly clueless) to the ghostwriting biz:

It started when I received an email from a potential client in the Chicago area. Well, it was actually the client's underling. Said underling was looking for a writer to handle several projects for his boss, including an autobiography. His boss was a very successful, very wealthy real estate developer.

I called the underling, and we spoke briefly. He wanted me to come to his office to meet him and his boss. I debated. The trip is an hour's drive—without traffic—and I already knew I wasn't right for a couple of the projects. My gut said "no." But my greedy little brain said, "Very wealthy!" In other words, this dude's got lots of coin to spend on an autobiography—why not spend it on me?

So I agreed, put on my grown-up clothes a couple of days later, and drove up to the northern suburbs. The traffic stunk, but I made the trip in under 90 minutes. I met with both men, and it quickly became apparent that I had wasted my time. Mr. Fabulously Wealthy began sketching out his plans for one of the projects for which he needed a writer. The project entailed an incredible amount of time and work. I listened, took notes, and asked what budget he had in mind.

He wouldn't answer me directly. Then he explained (as if talking to a four-year-old) that the writer had the "opportunity" to make an incredible amount of money as the project grew in scope. I pressed, only to have him grow angry at my insistence that no professional writer (including me) is going to put her time into a project with the promise of a payoff. We expect to be paid for our work. He waved me off, and I diplomatically suggested that I wouldn't be the right writer for this fantastic "opportunity."

Attention turned to his autobiography. Again, he fobbed off my questions about pay. "The great thing about this book is that the writer will be able to learn about my life, and learn how to sell," he said.

"And the writer will be paid for writing the book," I pointed out. Dead silence from him. Uh huh! Well, thanks for wasting my morning! Yet I politely said I needed to hit the road (I never like to burn a bridge). I drove home, mentally calculating what I'd spent for this worthless meeting. Four hours' of babysitting. Gas to drive up there. Tolls. Lost time from my real work. I came home in a foul mood, but I was just as angry at myself. My gut had warned me during my phone conversation. But I overrode it.

What could I have done differently? Number one, asked about the budget before I agreed to meet. Then I would have discovered that first, that this opportunity was nothing more than an opportunity for me to waste my time and money, and second, that Mr. Fabulously Wealthy had no intention of sharing that wealth with me.

Today, I always ask potential clients about their budget, or what they expect to invest in a project, before I proceed, let alone leave the house. I suggest you do the same.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Month of Templates: 13 in All!

What a month! I hope you found the templates I shared (and my comments on same) helpful, and that they'll inspire you to create your own. As a freelancer, cutting the minutes you spend on necessary-but-time-consuming tasks like pitching, following up, bidding, billing, and getting paid leaves more time for, you know, writing--and getting paid for it.

Here's a quick list of the templates from this month:

The essential query

A "blind" LOI, or letter of introduction

A trade query

The follow-up

The cover letter

The simple invoice

The project bid

The project bid, take two

The "pay-or-die" letter

A letter of agreement

A coauthoring agreement

A nonfiction book pitch

A novel pitch

Holy cow! This is a lot of great info; I suggest you bookmark this page for future reference--and feel free to share it with other freelancers. Coming in February, more practical advice on making more money in less time--that's how I've approached my freelance business for years.

Finally, if you've found these templates helpful, I recommend my books on freelancing as well:

*If you want to know more about coauthoring/ghostwriting, Goodbye Deadline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books (Kindle version), has all of the templates you need to get started, plus plenty of practical advice about breaking into the field from successful ghosts (including me!).

*If you're a freelancer who wants to take your business to the next level, check out Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money or its Kindle version. It's helped both new and experienced writers work more efficiently and increase their income, even in this economy.

*And if you're just getting started freelancing, I recommend Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money (Kindle version). It's aimed at newer writers, includes 20 queries that sold along with hundreds of helpful resources as well as a chapter that walks you through the process of pitching, selling, researching, and writing an article.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Guest Post on the Urban Muse

Why do I specialize? I share 7 compelling reasons in today's guest post on the Urban Muse.

A Month of Templates: The Novel Pitch

Last post, I shared a nonfiction book query to use for agents and editors. What about when you have a novel to pitch?

First, make sure you have your novel finished--not "close to finished," or "almost finished," but done. If an editor or agent expresses interest, you should be ready to send your manuscript ASAP. You may also want to have a synopsis prepared as well, which is a brief storyline of your book; many agents/editors will request a synopsis along with the first couple of chapters to get a feel for your writing.

Here's the query that sold my first novel, Did you get the Vibe?, to Kensington. My comments are in violet:

August 16, 2002

Dear Mr. Scognamiglio:

Have you ever gotten the Vibe? You know, that feeling when you meet a woman, and you know that you’re attracted to each other? [Attention-getting opener.]

Kate, 28, has based her dating life on the Vibe. If there’s a Vibe there, the guy is worth pursuing—it not, forget it. The trouble is that the too-beautiful-for-her Andrew just dumped her, and now she can hardly fit into her favorite jeans. And she hates her job, but everyone keeps telling her how great it is to be a lawyer. Yeah, right.

At least she has Tracy, her best friend from law school. Both live in Chicago’s up-and-coming Lakeview neighborhood. Tracy’s gorgeous, smart, and has a great job, a great apartment, and a great live-in boyfriend, Tom, to go along with it all. She also has an eating disorder she’s managed to keep secret from even her closest friend. Tracy doesn’t believe in the Vibe—until she experiences it for the first time, and it turns her life upside down. [The preceding two paragraphs introduce the two main characters and their "issues."]

Will Kate find lasting love, meaningful work, and be able to squeeze back into her clothes? Will Tracy give up the man who loves her to experience sexual fulfillment—and come to grips with what she’s doing to her body and her spirit? Did you Get the Vibe? explores the lives of these two best friends as they love, work, diet, laugh, and bond over their boyfriends, jobs, diets, and sex lives. Readers of women’s contemporary fiction will enjoy their stories, and relate to their experiences, struggles, and insights. [More on the characters' issues along with a preview of the storyline. note that I've also described what kind of book this is--commonly referred to as "chick lit."]

Did you Get the Vibe? is 78,855 words is my first novel. As a fulltime freelance journalist for the past five years, my work has appeared in more than 40 magazines including Marie Claire, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Self, and Redbook; I’m also a contributing editor at Oxygen, The Writer, and For the Bride. My first nonfiction book, Ready, Aim, Specialize! How to Create your Writing Specialty and Make More Money will be published by The Writer Books in the winter of 2003. I’m also a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences, and not surprisingly, a big believer in the Vibe. [Here is my ISG, but I could have done much better here in terms of playing up my ability to promote and market the book. You want the editor/agent to know that you've already identified your audience--i.e. book buyers--and that you'll work your butt off to sell it when it comes out.]

Please let me know if you’re interested in seeing a synopsis and three chapters or the complete manuscript of Vibe. I’m contacting a handful of editors and agents who I think might be interested in this book, and hope to find a home for it soon. [Letting him know I'm simultaneously submitting, or pitching more than one agent/editor at a time. This is standard practice for novel submissions--otherwise, you'd spend years just waiting for responses!]

Thank you very much for your time.

Kelly James-Enger

Here's the best part about this query--it sold! I mailed it on Tuesday (this was back in 2002), and John requested the full manuscript that Saturday. He bought the book three weeks later, and it was published the next year--and translated into five languages as well! Not bad for my first novel, which is still FREE on Smashwords for a limited time. Or check out my two other books, White Bikini Panties, and The Honesty Index.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Month of Templates: A Nonfiction Book Pitch

Welcome back to the month of templates. This one is for those of you with a nonfiction book to pitch. While you'll need a book proposal to actually sell your book, you open the door with a query you send to an agent or editor (if you're contacting publishers directly). Here's one that's included in Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money; my comments are in orange:

Dear Ms. Harper:

I’ve heard good things about you from fellow ASJA member Tina Tessina and am writing to query you about a nonfiction book proposal you may be interested in: [Always open with an "in," if you have one. Otherwise I suggest mentioning a book that the agent or editor has repped or published to let her or him know that you've done your homework. The majority of writers don't even bother!]

Falling in love is the easy part—it’s the day-to-day challenges that really put a relationship to the test. But while maintaining a strong, loving bond is difficult for even the most committed couples, those in long-distance relationships face an even greater challenge. [This is a brief description of the book's concept.]

According to recent statistics, at least 1 million Americans currently have commuter marriages and maintain two separate households. Millions more—including the more than 1,300,000 men and women in the U.S. armed services—face extended time away from each other because of jobs that require frequent travel. And every fall as students leave to attend college and graduate school, hundreds of thousands of dating and engaged couples face the prospect of long-distance love as well. [I've described the audience for the book, using relevant stats. Remember, you have to have an audience of eager readers who will buy your book!]

Any couple faced with a long-distance relationship faces a multitude of concerns. Will distance threaten their relationship? How will they maintain intimacy? What kind of financial burden will it cause? How will it affect the couple’s future? Is infidelity more likely? What if children are involved? How do they know if this is the right decision? How will they cope with the inevitable stress of being apart? [This gives an idea of the kinds of issues my readers face.]

My book, Make the Heart Grow Fonder: How to Survive—and Thrive in—Your Long-Distance Relationship, will answer all of the questions and concerns that these couples face. Heart will include the experiences of hundreds of long-distance relationship “veterans” as well as expert advice from psychologists and relationship experts. The book will also feature quizzes and activities for couples to use to determine whether a long-distance relationship is a healthy option for their relationship as well as ways to cope with loneliness and separation, tips on dealing with the financial burden these relationships can cause, and advice for parents who want to maintain a close relationship with their children regardless of physical distance. Heart will also look at the reasons for the growing trend in long-distance relationships and report on recent research on the factors that influence the success and stability of such relationships. [More detail about the book and what it will include.]

This down-to-earth, anecdote-filled book will be both a source of strength and encouragement as well as a wealth of practical information for the millions of people facing this increasingly common challenge. As a fulltime journalist and a veteran of three long-distance relationships, I can bring a unique perspective to this timely subject. [Here's where I fumble the ball a bit. Yes, I'm uniquelyl qualified, but I should have mentioned that I'd already written hundreds of articles for national magazines--evidence of my "platform."]

I hope you’ll be interested reviewing my book proposal for Heart—please let me know if I may send it to you immediately. Thank you very much for your time; I look forward to hearing from you soon. [Pretty typical close.]

Very truly yours,
Kelly James-Enger

While this book didn't end up selling, this pitch letter did get me my first agent. You can use a similar format to approach an agent or editor with your own nonfiction book idea. Just make sure you have your book proposal ready to go a future post, I'll talk more about teh elements of a successful one.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Upcoming Appearances in Chicago and Beyond

Hard to believe the first month of the year is drawing to a close. I have a slew of speaking gigs in the Chicago area coming up in February and will be speaking at a couple of writers' conferences in April and May.

Here's a brief description of my February programs:

• Want to sell your book to a traditional publisher? Learn why platform is so important, what elements to include in your book proposal, and how to make your proposal stand out from the pack in Author, Author: Publish your First Book at the Orland Park Public Library on Tuesday, February 8, at 7:00 p.m.

• Want to freelance for magazines? You’ll learn everything you need to know to get started at Breaking In: The Basics of Writing for Magazines, at the Bloomingdale Public Library, on Wednesday, February 9, at 7:00 p.m.

• I'll be talking about thriving as a freelancer (especially these days!) at Chicago Women in Publishing’s February program on freelancing on Wednesday, February 16, at 6:00 p.m. in downtown Chicago.

• If you want to hit the six-figure mark as a freelancer, or simply make more for your work, come to my program, Six-Figure Freelancing: Techniques to Help you Get There, on Thursday, Februrary 24, at 9:30 a.m. at Off-Campus Writers Workshop in Winnetka.

Want even more Kelly time? The weekend of April 8-10, I'll be returning to the UW/Madison's Annual Writers' Institute, where I'll be presenting on six-figure freelancing, query-writing, and your book publishing options today and providing one-on-one critiques for those who sign up. This is a great conference and Madison is a fun city (and my birthplace!)

And the first weekend of May (May 5-7), I'm returning to Oklahoma City for the OWFI's Annual Conference. I'll be presenting four sessions, including sessions on ghostwriting, freelancing for magazines, query-writing, and business advice for freelancers. This is another worthwhile conference that I spoke at last year, and am looking forward to returning!

I hope to see some of you in the next few months...if you're a regular blog reader, please come up and introduce yourself! I love meeting readers in person.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Month of Templates: A Coauthoring Contract

Last post, I gave you a simple contract/letter of agreement. But what about when you need a more formal contract--like when you work as a ghostwriter or coauthor?

Here's the kind of agreement I like to use; I made a few comments in green:

Coauthoring Collaboration Agreement

THIS AGREEMENT is made on the _____ day of __________, 2010, by and among CLIENT of CITY, STATE (hereinafter referred to as CLIENT) and Kelly James-Enger of Downers Grove, Illinois (hereinafter referred to as James-Enger). The parties agree as follows:

1. Subject to the terms and conditions herein, CLIENT and James-Enger agree to collaborate exclusively with each other in the preparation of a book proposal based on CLIENT's book idea. [You can be more specific here if you like, and describe more about the project you're taking on.]

2. The fee for the proposal will be $7,000, payable to James-Enger in the following amounts:
• $2,000.00 to James-Enger upon signing of the agreement;
• $2,500.00 to James-Enger upon delivery of the draft of the proposal;
• $2,500.00 to James-Enger upon delivery of the final proposal, including one sample chapter. [I suggest you always get a retainer for a big project like this.]

3. CLIENT and James-Enger will work together to create the proposal, and determine mutually-agreeable deadlines at the outset for the delivery of the draft and final proposals. James-Enger will provide one revision of the proposal for the stated fee; other changes requested by CLIENT will be billed at a rate of $100/hour. [This last sentence is to protect me from a client who wants to make change after change after change after get the idea.]

4. Copyright in the book proposal, in all forms and languages throughout the world, shall be held in the name of CLIENT. [Typically my ghosting/coauthoring clients want to retain copyright to their work.]

5. CLIENT agrees to indemnify James-Enger and hold her harmless against any claim, demand, suit, action, proceeding, or expense of any kind arising from or based upon language, information, advice, citations, anecdotal matter, resource materials, or other content of the work that was provided by CLIENT. [My standard indemnification language though I'm willing to tweak it upon request.]l

6. Either party can terminate this agreement by giving the other party written notice; if the agreement is terminated before completion, CLIENT agrees to pay James-Enger for work already performed under the agreement.

7. This agreement sets forth the entire understanding of the parties hereto and may not be changed except by written consent of both parties. If CLIENT acquires a book publishing contract, she can choose to work with James-Enger or with another writer on the book manuscript.

8. The terms and conditions of this agreement shall be binding upon, and the benefits thereof shall inure to, the respective heirs, executors, administrators, successors, and assigns of the parties hereto.

9. Both parties to this agreement warrant that they have no other contractual commitment which will or might conflict with this agreement or interfere with, or otherwise affect, the performance of any obligations hereunder.

10. This agreement shall be construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Illinois.

11. Should any controversy, claim, or dispute arise out of or in connection with this agreement, such controversy, claim, or dispute shall be submitted to arbitration before the American Arbitration Association in accordance with its rules, and judgment confirming the arbitrator's award may be entered in any court of competent jurisdiction.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties hereto have set their hands on the date first above specified.


Kelly James-Enger


Want to know more about coauthoring/ghostwriting, or add to your collection of templates? My book, Goodbye Deadline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books (Kindle version), has all of the templates you need to get started, plus plenty of practical advice about breaking into the field from successful ghosts.

If you're more interested in the templates you'll need for general freelancing, check out Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money or its Kindle version. It's helped both new and experienced writers work more efficiently and increase their income.

And if you're just getting started freelancing, I recommend Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money (Kindle version). It's aimed at newer writers and includes 20 queries that sold along with hundreds of resources

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Month of Templates: A Letter of Agreement

When you freelance for many publications, your editor will send you a contract to sign setting out the terms of your agreement. But what about when you take an assignment for a market that doesn't have a standard contract--or when you're working for a client that asks you for one? Then you'll need to draft your own contract, so having a template for a letter of agreement is essential.

And it's not as complicated as you might think. To create an enforceable agreement, you'll want to include the following:
  • The date
  • Statement/description of the work you're performing
  • Deadline
  • Description of the rights being purchased
  • The amount of money you're being paid
  • The name/identity of your client
I like to keep it simple. Here's an example of a letter of agreement I recently used for an editing/ghosting gig:

Dear Dick:

It was a pleasure meeting you and Florence yesterday, and I'm excited about working together on your book. We agreed that I'll track my time and bill you at my standard consulting rate of $100/hour, and will invoice monthly. We've also agreed to keep my total fee at $10,000 or under, so I'll remind you if/when we approach that figure.

I'll provide you with a schedule that sets out our timeframe for the chapters, with a final deadline of January 15, 2010. It's an aggreessive schedule, but I know working together we can meet it.

Could you email me back when you receive this and let me know that you confirm the terms of our agreement? Thank you very much and I'll be in touch soon.

All my best,

Here's another letter for a regional publication that hired me to tweak a reprint for a fee. (My editor was looking for a piece on New Year's resolutions, and wanted me to rework my story for her market.)

Dear Kathleen:

Thanks for getting in touch; I'm looking forward to working with you! I'm writing to confirm our agreement where I'll rework my resolutions piece for you by October 31, 2009. I'll provide a 1,200-word article aimed at an audience of both men and women, and you'll pay me $200 for one-time reprint rights to the story.

Please confirm this agreement by replying to this email, and I'll get to work! Thank you very much and I'll talk to you soon.

Kelly James-Enger

See how simple these contracts are? If you want an actual signature, you can email your client and ask him to print, sign, and return the contract to you--or send this by mail and ask that it be signed and returned.

For straightforward projects like these, a simple letter of agreement will suffice. When I work with a client on a more substantial project like a book proposal, I do like to have a written contract that is countersigned by both parties. That will be my next template...stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Month of Templates: The "Pay-or-Die" Letter

You accepted the assignment. You did the work. The editor or client accepted the piece. So where is your money?

Usually an invoice will do the trick, but what happens with a client doesn’t pay? Then you’ll need a demand for payment, or what I call “pay-or-die” letters. You'll want to detail the terms of your contract, prove that you have satisfied your contractual obligations, and describe the attempts you’ve taken to get paid. I’ve found that threatening to turn the matter over to my attorney usually provokes payment.

One more thing--find out who actually cuts the checks and pursue that person for payment. You can certainly enlist your editor's help, but I've found that going to the person who holds the purse strings gets me paid more quickly.

Here’s an example of one such letter that I sent to the owner of a publishing company which had owe me money for months (with identifying information redacted). As you'll see in the letter, I'd already pursued the controller (i.e. AP manager) with no success:

Dear Mr. Badman:

I am a fulltime freelance writer who has spent over six months trying to collect payment for work performed for No-pay magazine. I first sent invoices for the work last August after my articles were accepted, but have never been paid for them.

In the past two months alone, I have sent two letters with copies of invoices to Michael Nogood, your controller, and have called him on nine occasions. He has never returned my calls nor paid me for the outstanding sums owed me. Your company still owes me the following amounts:

“Fit on the Street”/November/December, 1999/$270.45
“Ten Health Club Commandments”/January/February, 2000/$750.00

TOTAL $1,020.45

As all of this work was long since performed (back in the summer of 1999) and these issues have already been published, I would appreciate it if you would immediately issue me a check for $1,020.45. If I don’t receive payment within five days, I’ll turn the matter over for collection and will involve my attorney.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you and receiving my check soon.

Very truly yours,
Kelly James-Enger


This letter worked--I finally collected my check, and it cleared. And before you ask, no, I never wrote for the publication again!

Readers, what do you think of my pay-or-die letter? Do you use something similar? What do you do when you don't get paid?

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Month of Templates: The Project Bid, Take Two

Last post, I shared a simple project bid. In general, though, the bigger the project, the more detail I provide my potential client. I never just give a quote--I want the client to understand exactly what I'm going to provide him and the benefits to him of what I'll write. That will hopefully motivate him to hire me!

Here's a project bid I sent a client for a ghosting project; my comments are in blue:


First, thanks so much for getting in touch with me earlier this week. I'm really excited about your book concept and the possibility of us working together. I think you have a lot of good ideas, and also feel that I can bring a lot to both the proposal and the book itself. (Oh, and thanks for sending the research you sent last night—I read through it and there's a lot of good stuff there as well.) [A little enthusiasm never hurts, especially when it's genuine. And I like to start my bid off on a positive note.]

The seeds for the book are there. There's still much to do, however. Working together, we need to come up with a title and subtitle; an overview; the "hook" (i.e., what makes this book different from everything else out there); competitive analysis (a rundown on the book's likely biggest competitors and how it's different than/better than the other titles, which relates to the hook); the audience (is it all career-oriented busy people, or more aimed at women or men, for example); marketing/promotion (again, you've got a platform already but we really want to showcase this in the proposal); about the author(s) (depending on whether you want to include me as coauthor in the proposal—I think that's a selling point but that's your call); the overall structure (i.e., total number of chapters, pages, appendices, and the like); the chapter summaries; and one well-written sample chapter of approximately 15 to 20 pages. The total proposal will come in at 30-40 pages. [Holy cow! That's a lot of work I'm signing up for, isn't it? That's the point I'm making--that a book proposal is a big project. I'm getting her ready for me to actually talk money.]

Sound like a lot? It is. But the end product—the finished proposal will be worth it. I'm assuming that you're willing to do some of the research and work with me on the sample chapter and overview in particular; that will save me some time. As I told you yesterday, I typically charge $5000 to $10,000 for a proposal, but considering the subject matter and the level of your involvement writing- and research-wise, my fee will be $4,500. This includes all of the elements of the proposal including one sample chapter, to be delivered within four to six weeks (at a date we agree on.) I'd like $2,000 on going forward/signing a collaboration agreement (see below); $1,000 upon delivery of the draft proposal (without the sample chapter): and $1,500 upon delivery of the finished proposal with the sample chapter. [Here I've made my bid, asked for a retainer, and explained what I'm basing it on.]

With the polished, finished proposal in hand, you'll be ready to pitch agents and editors—and you'll have the framework for the book completed which makes the actual writing of it easier. I know you want to use the book to take the next step in your career, but I also think you have a saleable idea, a strong platform, and the dedication to see the project through—all of which is necessary to succeed as a book author! [Reminding the client of the benefits to her of hiring me always helps "close" the deal. Imagine if this paragraph was missing--my bid wouldn't be nearly as compelling.]

Another thing to consider is whether you want to sign a formal collaboration agreement that sets out our expectations for working together. We can sign one for the proposal itself, or for a potential book deal, or work something out that you're comfortable with. I can send you a sample one that you can tweak/modify how you see fit. [I'm letting her know I will want something in writing...if she balks at that, it's a red flag.]

What else? I think we've got a good rapport, and I'm reliable, professional, and easy to work with. If I tell you I'm going to do something, you can count on me to get it done. I love collaborating with smart people to get their ideas in print, and helping them become book authors. [Is this paragraph necessary? Not really...but it lets her know more about me and my attitude. And truth be told, I only want to work with smart people! :)]

Please let me know if you have any questions about my bid or the project—I hope we’ll have the chance to work together! If this is a go, I can make your proposal my first priority, and I think you (and hopefully a wonderful agent and editor as well) will be delighted with the finished product. Let me know if you're ready to take the next step. [Pretty standard close, but note my promise to her--I will make her happy. And I did!]

All good things,

The lesson? Don't just give a bid. Tell your potential client what you'll do and how it will benefit him, and you're much more likely to sign him. And if you're interested in learning more about ghostwriting, please check out my new book, Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books. Marcia Layton Turner, founder and executive director of the Association of Ghostwriters, calls it "the comprehensive guide to becoming a ghostwriter."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Month of Templates: The Project Bid

During this month of templates, we've covered queries and letters of introduction, but what happens when you have a potential client who requests that you provide her with a bid or written proposal? I use a template for that as well.

In the proposal, I provide my bid, and describe the scope of the work of the project. Sometimes it’s beneficial to list the amount of hours you estimate the work will take; in other situations, you'll just give a flat “project fee.”

Here’s an example which I used for a small advertising agency that needed a writer for a full-color brochure for its client. (My fee was based on my hourly rate at the time.) My comments appear in green:



Re: Smooth Stone Brochure

Dear Diane:

It was a pleasure speaking with you this morning about the referenced project; thank you for giving me the opportunity to bid on the Smooth Stone brochure.

My bid to provide the copy on the project is $1,200, which includes:

• Phone calls with client re: theme and purpose behind brochure;
• Trip to Smooth Stone to visit site;
• Initial draft of copy;
• Reviewing and discussing copy with client;
• Phone calls with you and client re: copy, layout, etc.;
• Editing and revising copy; and
• Final copy for production. [I like that I've explained the amount of work writing the brochure will entail; in this case, the ad agency's client insisted I visit the company in person so I could see firsthand what kind of work they did. That meant more time, and a higher bid. In retrospect, though, I would have clarified how long the brochure would be, either in pages or words, to keep the project from growing into a larger one than I expected.]

Thanks again for your interest and I hope we’ll have the chance to work together.

Very truly yours,
Kelly James-Enger


Readers, this is a simple but effective bid, and it got me the job. You should have a similar template on hand for any work you do that may require a proposal. Next up, a longer, more substantial bid for a book proposal.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Month of Templates: The Simple Invoice

In some cases, when you submit an article to an editor, she'll simply "put payment through." Most of the time, however, you'll need to submit an invoice to get paid.

I've used Quickbooks in the past but all you need is a simple template that includes a date, invoice number (which makes it easier for Accounts Payable departments to track it), amount, statement of what rights are being purchased/what you're invoicing for, and your social security or tax ID number.

Easy, right? Here's one you can use as a template, with my brief comments in green:



Re: INVOICE #387 [Always include an invoice number! If you're a new freelancer, you don't have start with invoice number 1; start with 601 or 801 or whatever you like.]

Dear Sue:

Please let this letter serve as my invoice for $90 for one-time reprint rights to “Banish the Workout Blues” per your email of today. My social security number is xxx-xx-xxxx. [If you have a written contract, you can also use language like "per our written contract of January 13, 2001," for example. When selling reprint rights, however, I always specify that I'm selling one-time reprint rights (as opposed to unlimited reprint rights) to a piece.]

Thank you very much!

Kelly James-Enger
[mailing address]

When you send an invoice (or when a story is accepted and your editor puts payment through), make a note of it on your calendar. Then if you haven't been paid in four to six weeks, follow up on the outstanding invoice. Staying on top of your accounts receivable is an essential part of running your freelance business.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Month of Templates: The Cover Letter

Sure, you know by now that I believe in queries, even for short, FOB pieces. (And before you send one, make sure you ask these ten questions!) But as with most things in life, there is an exception to the rule--and for nonfiction writers, that exception is submitting essays.

With an essay, you send the manuscript itself but you still need to include a brief cover letter. Go beyond the standard "EPF" ("enclosed please find") letter; catch the editor's attention and give a little background about yourself. The essay itself will sell (or not) on its own merits, but your cover letter is what intrigues the editor to actually read it.

Here's a quick example of a good one; my comments are in blue:

Dear Ms. West:

I’m writing to submit an essay, “A Taste for Sex,” for your “First Person” section. It explores the chasm between lovemaking and baby-making, and I think women will enjoy the piece. And with one in seven couples experiencing infertility, it's likely to resonate with many of your readers. [This was pitched to the now defunct "WomanNews" section of The Chicago Tribune. Note that I've let the editor know that I read her newspaper by suggesting where it belongs, and provided a little detail about the piece as well as provided a statistic to support that readers will be interested in it.]

I’m a fulltime freelancer and author who’s written for more than forty national magazines including Woman’s Day, Redbook, Parents, Marie Claire, Family Circle, Fitness, Self, Shape, Oxygen, and Energy for Women. If you have any questions about the essay, please let me know. [I've included a brief rundown on my experience and clips. However, I should have mentioned that I was well-versed in the difference between lovemaking and baby-making (my husband and I were trying to conceive at the time) to bolster my ISG.]

Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon. [Standard closing language. If I were sending this today, I'd tell her I'd follow up on the piece in four to six weeks.]

Kelly James-Enger

This cover letter, which I've tweaked here, led to my first essay sale, and the most "reader mail" I've ever had from a piece. I've also used cover letters to offer reprint rights to a story that has already been published, though I prefer now to send a letter listing all of my relevant stories and letting the editor choose the ones he/she would like to see.

Readers, what do you think? If you sell essays, do you use a cover letter? Why or why not?

And what do you think of my month's worth of templates so far? Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Month of Templates: The Follow-Up

The template I’m going to share today is one of the simplest to write, yet is often overlooked by freelancers. It’s the follow-up letter.

Failing to follow up on a query or submission is a common freelance mistake. Yet simply sending a follow-up letter increases not only the chance of a response, but of an assignment as well. (Hey, the editor may have overlooked or missed your query, or been meaning to get to it…your follow-up letter may make the difference.)

A follow-up need only include a few sentences. Here's one of mine, with my comments in purple:

Dear Stephanie:

Hope you’re doing well. I’m writing to follow up on a query I sent you (working title, “Sleep Yourself Thin”) four weeks ago; I’ve dropped it below for your convenience. [Remind the editor of which pitch you're following up on, and include it in your follow-up (in the body of the email, not as an attachment) to make it easy for her. ]

Would you let me know at your earliest opportunity if you’re interested in this story for Complete Woman? If I don’t hear from you within two weeks, I’ll assume you’re not interested in the idea at this time and may market it elsewhere. [[Here's the bonus of following up--you put the onus on the editor to get back to you. If she wants the piece, great! If not, I'm not going to sit around for months hoping for a response--I'm moving on, baby. I've found this tends to provoke a response, even it's a "no thanks." You can give a market more time to respond--say three to four weeks--if you like. The idea is to give the editor (and yourself) a deadline.]

Thank you very much for your time; I look forward to hearing from you soon. [Standard closing line.]

Very truly yours,

Kelly James-Enger

And when do you follow up? That depends on the publication's guidelines. If it says that it typically responds in four to six weeks, for example, I follow up in (you guessed it) four to six weeks. For markets I've written for before, I follow up in two to three weeks. For markets that are new to me and that don't provide response guidelines, I usually follow up in about four weeks.

Don't let your queries languish! Follow up and if you don't garner a response from a pitch, resub it to another market. It's not doing you any good sitting on your hard drive.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Month of Templates: A Trade Query

I usually prefer to use LOIs, or letter of introduction, when pitching trade magazines. However, in some instances I will send a query instead. Here's one that recently worked for me; my comments about it appear in red:


Dear Christine:

As an ACE-certified trainer, you work a variety of clients. Some are new to working out and simply want to get into a healthy exercise groove; others are committed endurance athletes looking for an added edge or a way to round out their training program. But these athletes are also at a higher risk for injuries. Distance runners in particular are susceptible to developing conditions like plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, and Achilles tendonitis that keep them off the roads. [My lead shows that I already know something about the common injuries athletes are likely suffer. I could included some stats here, too, though--for example, that 4 out of 5 Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives.]

As a trainer, you can develop a plan to help these clients stay fit even when they can’t perform their exercise of choice. But what about the emotional impact of being unable to run (or bike, or swim)? A study published last year revealed that regular exercisers who experienced forced exercise withdrawal also had increased negative mood and fatigue. Another earlier study found that regular exercisers experienced depressed mood and fatigue in as little as a week without their thrice-weekly workouts. [I'm letting her know I've done my homework, and hopefully making the case for the topic. And note that I'm focusing on what trainers can do because trainers are the readers of the publication, not the clients themselves.]

“Buzz-Killed: Helping Clients Deal with Exercise Withdrawal” will explain the link between regular exercise and elevated mood and decreased anxiety, and more importantly, help regular exercisers manage the emotional changes that can occur during a forced layoff. I plan to interview sports psychologists like Jack Lesyk, Ph.D., director of the Ohio Center for Sport Psychology for this piece, as well as ACE-certified trainers who have trained athletes dealing with time-off due to injuries; I’ll also report on recent research in this area. A possible sidebar will include a list of emotional symptoms severe enough to warrant your client (or yourself) talking to a mental health professional. [I've provided a working title, described how I plan to approach this piece, and listed the types of experts I plan to interview. (And I did use Lesyk and three ACE-certified trainers for the story.) I've promised to report on recent research because I know this magazine cites sources, research studies, etc. And I've suggested a sidebar, giving the editor a "package" instead of a story.]

Interested in this story as a feature for ACE Certified News? I estimate 1,000 words for this piece, but that’s flexible depending on your needs. In addition to being an ACE-certified personal trainer, I’ve been a freelance journalist for 12+ years, and have written for more than 50 national magazines including Runner’s World, Redbook, Health, Self, Fitness, Shape, and Chicago Athlete. As a runner of 20+ years who has faced injuries and forced time off, I believe my recent experience will help bring a unique perspective to this piece (for example, I found that cross-training helps me cope, but doesn’t produce the same “buzz” as a run), and hope you’ll find it’s appropriate for a future issue of your magazine. [I have to say that I love my ISG; my background and personal experience make me the perfect writer for this piece, right? The editor sure thought so!]

Christine, please let me know if you have any questions about this story idea or would like to see clips of my work; otherwise, I’ll follow up on it in a few weeks. Many thanks for your time, and I hope we’ll have the chance to work together soon. [This is my standard closing language. Note that I tell her I'll follow up soon.]

All best,

Kelly James-Enger


Readers, what about you? Do you prefer LOIs or queries when pitching trade or custom magazines, or do (like me) use both approaches?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Come See Me Live...If You're in the Chicago Area

If you live in the Chicago area and want to see (and hear) me live and in person, I have a slew of speaking gigs coming up in January and February. Most are writing-related, and all are open to the public (but check the location's website about advance registration and any program fees):

• Thinking about writing a book and want to know more about your publishing options? Or want to know more about POD publishing and whether it’s right for you? I’m presenting So You Want to be an Author: Your Publishing Options Today at the Orland Park Public Library on Tuesday, January 11, at 7:00 p.m.

• Did you make New Year’s Resolutions that you want to keep this year? Come listen to my popular program, Break Your Bad Habits—and Replace Them with Better Ones, at the Glen Ellyn Public Library on Thursday, January 20 at 7:00 p.m.

• Want to sell your book to a traditional publisher? Learn why platform is so important, what elements to include in your book proposal, and how to make your proposal stand out from the pack in Author, Author: Publish your First Book at the Orland Park Public Library on Tuesday, February 8, at 7:00 p.m.

• Want to freelance for magazines? You’ll learn everything you need to know to get started at Breaking In: The Basics of Writing for Magazines, at the Bloomingdale Public Library, on Wednesday, February 9, at 7:00 p.m.

• If you want to hit the six-figure mark as a freelancer, or simply make more for your work, come to my program, Six-Figure Freelancing: Techniques to Help you Get There, on Thursday, Februrary 24, at 9:30 a.m. at Off-Campus Writers Workshop in Winnetka.

• I'll be talking about thriving as a freelancer (especially these days!) today at Chicago Women in Publishing’s February program on freelancing on Wednesday, February 16, at 6:00 p.m. in downtown Chicago.

I hope to see some of you in the next few months...if you're a regular blog reader, please come up and introduce yourself and tell me so!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Month of Templates: A "Blind" LOI

I've written before about letter of introduction, or LOIs. A strong LOI is an essential weapon in any freelancer's arsenal, and you may have more than one. (For example, I have an LOI I use for possible ghostwriting gigs, another for possible speaking gigs, and other for general freelancing gigs. Each highlights a different area of my expertise and experience.)

In some instances, you'll know something about the market or client you're pitching, and you can customize your LOI to reflect that fact. But what about when you're pitching "blind" and have no info about the market? Then you just "dance with who brung you," so to speak, and highlight your qualifications that are likely to make you stand out from the pack.

Here's an LOI I sent to a post on craigslist seeking health/wellness writers. This pitch resulted in multiple assignments for a custom publisher. My comments are in green:


Dear Sir or Madam:

I’m replying to your ad seeking experienced writers who can cover health and wellness stories. I’m sure you’re inundated with responses, so I’ll keep this brief. I’m a full-time freelance journalist who specializes in health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness pieces; my work has appeared in more than 50 national magazines including Self, Fitness, Muscle Media, American Health & Fitness, Shape, Woman’s Day, Redbook, and Family Circle. I’ve attached two recent articles to give you a feel for my writing style. [Pretty simple, yet effective. I've described my relevant background and attached the two writing samples the ad requested. This lets the editor know that I'm good at following directions!]

I’m a skilled researcher and writer, and know how to translate complicated health topics into “plain English” for a lay audience. I’m also an ACE-certified personal trainer, and speak and consult about subjects ranging from time management to goal-setting to getting (and staying) fit. (That's the "BodyWise" part of my business.) I enjoy helping people make positive changes in their lives through my work as an author, journalist, and speaker. [The ad is looking for writers who can write about health and fitness and my background as a personal trainer gives me a unique perspective on the subject. If I was pitching a parenting magazine or business magazine, I'd probably omit this. Also note that I make no mention of my book-writing or ghostwriting experience. It's simply not relevant for this LOI, and I want to keep it short and sweet.]

What else should you know? I’m reliable, professional, and easy to work with, and strive to give my clients just what they want. It sounds like I have the background and experience you’re looking for, but if you have any questions about my skills, please let me know. [I always have a paragraph like this in my LOIs. When I pitch a ghostwriting client, I mention my sense of humor and my pleasure in collaborating. Here I'm letting the editor know that I'm just the kind of reliable freelancer he's looking for.]

Many thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

All best,
Kelly James-Enger


Readers, what do you think? Do you like this LOI? How do you pitch yourself when you have to pitch "blind"?

Monday, January 3, 2011

More on 2011 Freelance Goals

What are your goals for 2011? Check out this post by freelancer Kristine Meldrum Delholm about some freelancers' goals for the coming year (including some of mine!)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Month of Templates: The Essential Query

Let's launch this month of templates with a query letter. Starting out as a freelancer, I wrote some of the worst queries ever. But query-writing is a skill, and one that can be (thank goodness) improved. Fourteen years later, I've written at least 1,200 queries and edited more than 1,000 for other writers, and I know what works.

Queries don't have to be complicated; I use a simple, four-section query for nearly all of mine:

  • The lead. Here I catch the editor's attention, usually with a recent study or other time peg, a startling (or at least interesting) statistic, or an anecdote.
  • The "why-write it" section. Here I make the case for the piece, providing more details adn basically explaining why readers will be interested in the story.
  • The "nuts-and-bolts" section. Here I explain how I'll approach the story, suggesting word count, possible sources, and format (i.e. will the piece include a sidebar? A quiz?). I also like to include a working title, and I always suggest the section of the publication to let the editor know I've actually read her magazine.
  • The ISG, or "I'm-so-great" section. Here I demonstrate that I'm uniquely qualified to write the piece and highlight my relevant background and experience.

Pretty simple, right? Here's one of my recent queries that sold; my comments appear in blue.


Dear Pam:

Thanks so much for your response to my recent pitch; while I’m sorry you can’t use it for Oxygen at this time, I have another for you to consider: [Usually I open with a lead. But I've been in contact with her before, and want to remind her of that fact.]

It’s a common conundrum. You’ve actually stuck to a regular workout routine, but you’re still not seeing results. While “lack of time” is the number one excuse for not exercising, what’s even more frustrating is making the time to hit the gym—and seeing no change in your body. What is the deal? [Here's my lead. It's not bad, but I could have cited a recent study to back up my "number one excuse" for not exercising. However, this lead is aimed at the readers of Oxygen--they're women who are serious about their workout regimes and their physiques.]

The culprit may be multifaceted. Driven by a desire to burn calories and get ripped, women commonly overlook (or deny) the importance of refueling their muscles with glycogen by consuming carbs (and protein, too) within the “magic window” that closes 45 minutes after intense exercise. Without adequate refueling, your regular routine may leave your muscles chronically depleted, which affects your energy level, motivation, and workout quality. [My "why-write-it" section is pretty good. Note the amount of research I've done here--yet again, I could have cited a recent study to strengthen the query.]

“Dumb Fitness Mistakes Even Smart Women Make” will examine some of the most common mistakes, how they impact (or prevent) desired results, and most important, how to overcome them. I plan to interview experts such as Tom Holland, MS/CSCS sports performance coach, and author of The Truth about How to Get in Shape, and Nancy Clark, RD, author of The Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Fourth Edition, for this story. While I estimate 1200 words for this story, that’s flexible depending on your needs. [My nuts-and-bolts section is pretty good, too. Note I've told her the types of experts I plan to interview and provided a working title and word count. She can assign something different, but this gives her an idea of how I plan to approach the piece.]

Interested in this informative piece as a coverline fitness feature? As you know, I haven’t worked with you before but have written for Oxygen in the past and have been a fulltime freelancer for more than a decade; my work has also appeared in magazines including Redbook, Self, Health, Continental, Fitness, Woman's Day, and Shape. I’m also an ACE-certified personal trainer, which will help bring a unique perspective to this piece. [My ISG is strong--and note that I let her know I've written for her pub before as well as for other major fitness and health magazines. And I'm an ACE-certifed personal trainer, too. Even if I had no clips to my name, that fact and a strong query would give me a good chance of getting my foot in the door.]

Please let me know if you have any questions about this pitch, and I'll be in touch soon with another story idea as well. [Standard close--and note that I tell her I'll soon be in touch!]

All best,


Readers, what do you think? Any questions about this query format? If you're new to magazine freelancing, you'll find 20 queries that sold (including those from inexperienced freelancers!) in Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money.

Stay tuned for more templates!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome to 2011: A Month's Worth of Templates

Happy 2011! Regular readers of my blog know I'm all about working as efficiently as least most of the time. When I set my business goals for 2011, I included an overall financial goal, a daily financial goal (a/k/a the "daily nut"), and an hourly-rate goal. The latter two goals--making a minimum amount each day, and averaging a certain per-hour rate--are what help me meet my "big" goal, my annual income.

To hit my daily nut and my hourly rate, I need to work fast whenever I can. One way I do so is by using templates. I don't want to have to recreate the wheel every time I write a query, send a follow-up email, pitch a new client, or write up an invoice for a reprint sale. So I have a stash of templates I use, which save me time both marketing and running my business.

So, January will be a month of templates as well as resolutions. Tune in for samples you can use and adapt for your own freelance business in the weeks to come.

A special thanks to my readers who have bought my books on writing...all, especially Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books, which is selling steadily. I'll announce another ghostwriting e-class in the next month.

I hope 2011 is your best year of freelancing yet!