Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Query Critique is Back! And Last Chance to Enter the Giveaway...

Remember my Query Critique Week from last year? Well, I'm doing it again during the month of June. I'll offer personalized feedback on a select number of pitches here on the blog. Here's how to play: 

1. Send your one-page query (for an article, nonfiction book proposal or novel) to kelly at by Monday, June 11, 2012. Make sure you put "Query Critique Week" in the subject line. 

2. Cross your fingers and hope that your query gets picked to be critiqued here on my blog. (I'll only be able to choose a few.) And don't worry, I won't identify the writer of the query. I would, however, like permission to include some of them in an upcoming ebook on writing more powerful successful queries.  

3. Tune in throughout June for ongoing query critiques! 

So send them in ASAP...the earlier you submit yours, the more likely I am to choose it for critique.  

**Finally, it's your last chance to enter the giveaway for a free, signed copy of Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success. The winner will be announced Friday, June 1st. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hot Freelance Tip of the Day: Wring Every Idea Dry--and The Query Critique is Back

When you specialize, you have a background in your subject area that makes it faster to research queries, articles, blog posts, books, you name it. Take that concept a little further and you have today's Hot Freelance Tip of the Day: Wring Every Idea Dry

Early in my freelance career, I pitched and wrote stories about a lot of different topics--everything from animal dissection alternatives to modular learning stations for high schools to charity car shows. Each story took a significant amount of time to research and write, yet I never wrote about the topic again. Bad idea. Once I started wringing my ideas dry, I cut my research and writing time, became more efficient, and made more money. 

If you're new to the idea of reslanting, I've written before about the 5-Step Method to Reslant Every Idea. The bottom line is that I try to never write a one-shot, or cover a subject only one time. I'll repurpose it by coming up with a new angle, a fresh spin, or a different approach to another market. I may not be able to do this right away, but I'll watch for a news item, study, or other time peg that  lets me pitch the subject to a new market. 

***Last chance to enter the giveaway for a free, signed copy of Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success

Remember my Query Critique Week from last year? Well, I'm doing it again during the month of June. I'll offer personalized feedback on a select number of pitches here on the blog. Here's how to play: 

1. Send your one-page query to kelly at by Wednesday, June 6, 2012. Make sure you put "Query Critique Week" in the subject line. 

2. Cross your fingers and hope that your query gets picked to be critiqued here on my blog. (I'll only be able to choose a few.) And don't worry, I won't identify the writer of the query. I would, however, like permission to include some of them in an upcoming ebook on writing more powerful successful queries.  

3. Tune in throughout June for ongoing query critiques! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hot Freelance Tip of the Day: Say, "Enough, Already"

When I started out as a freelancer, I over-researched pretty much everything. I would spend hours researching a particular topic for a query letter. Then, if the piece was assigned (and if it wasn't, then all of that time was pretty much wasted), I'd over-research some more. I'd do background reading, identify way too many potential sources, line up interviews, and conduct interviews. Usually too many interviews. Trust me, you don't need to interview four sources for a 300-word piece. But yeah, I did that.

Today, I've gotten smart. Or you might say lazy. Probably both. But in general, I do the least amount of work necessary to research a piece and complete an assignment. If I'm writing a piece on "mommy guilt," for example, I don't need to read books on the psychology of mothers, the working mom vs. SAHM debate, or on the changing role that parents play in society. I can get by a lot less than that and I do. In this article's case, that meant:

  • locating and interviewing a parenting/psychology expert (maybe two) who could talk about why moms feel guilty; and
  • locating and interviewing two Chicago-area moms who could talk about their experiences with mommy guilt. (This was for Chicago Parent, so I wanted to use local sources.)
That's it. My story of 1,330 words was based on four interviews, each of which took less than fifteen minutes to conduct (and write a thank-you note afterwards). Including background research to identity and locate my sources, I spent less than two hours researching the story, and another hour or two writing it.

In the past, though, I would have gone online, read about mommy guilt for hours (and then probably feel guilty for spending too much time working!), talked to at least a half-dozen potential sources before I felt that I had the "best" anecdotes, and generally done a lot of unnecessary work. As a working writer with limited time, I've learned to do the least amount possible to make a story work.

So today's Hot Freelance Tip of the Day is: Say, "Enough, Already." (See Secret 28, Find facts and experts fast, and Secret 36, Find sources more quickly, from Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success.)

***There's still time to register for the giveaway and win a copy of Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success! And if you enjoy contemporary women's fiction, check out Did You Get the Vibe?, my first novel which was translated into four languages. I'm offering it as a free ebook for a limited time, or buy it from Kindle for a mere $0.99 (hopefully it will be free soon).

Coming soon...I share another royalty statement, explain why ebooks are essential for authors, and tell you why you're not making money as a freelancer. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

For a Very Limited Time: Free "Chick Lit" Novel

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I made one of my ebooks, Dollars and Deadlines' 10 Truths Every Writer Who Wants to be Published Should Know, available free? (It's still free...for a few more days, anyway.) Well, if you enjoy contemporary women's fiction (or know someone who does), I've making another book free--for a limited time, of course. That's how these things work.

My first novel, Did you Get the Vibe?, has been called "a great read" and "A+++ blissful summertime reading." It was translated into four languages when it first was published, and continues to sell steadily in its second life as an ebook. It's been labeled "chick lit" but I promise my characters have more going on in their lives than worrying about shoes and shopping--they're real women you'll relate to, laugh with, and hopefully like as well.

Download Did you Get the Vibe? for free through Smashwords; Amazon should have it priced at $0.99 soon--and hopefully FREE once it catches up with Smashwords. (Amazon won't list an ebook for free UNLESS another ebook retailer is doing so--then it follows suit, at least in theory. So far the Kindle version of 10 Truths still is listed at $0.99.)

If you enjoy Did you Get the Vibe?, I hope you'll check out my other two novels, White Bikini Panties, and The Honesty Index. The Honesty Index is garnering good reviews on Amazon (from people who don't even know me!) and I'm excited about it. In a future post, I'll share the results on my ongoing ebook experiments.

***P.S. Have you entered my latest giveaway for Writer for Hire? 101 Secrets to Freelance Success? It's not too late! Post a comment about your favorite reason to freelance, and you'll have a chance to win a free, signed copy of the book!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hot Freelance Tip of the Day: Narrow your Focus

Hard to believe, but I've been writing this blog for two years as of this month. Today's Hot Freelance Tip of the Day calls back to one of my first posts, and one of my philosophies as a freelancer. It's simple. Narrow your focus. 

I get a lot of pushback when I suggest that writers specialize, so let me explain that specializing doesn't mean that you must always write in your specialty. It means, though, that you take a smarter approach to your freelance career, and focus your energies on several subject areas/types of writing as opposed to trying to write about anything and everything. 

Specializing in several subject areas (health, fitness, nutrition, and writing) means I have a background in most of the topics I cover. That means it's faster for me to research and pitch ideas than if I'm covering a subject I know nothing about (and trust me, there are many!). 

But I don't just specialize in subject areas. I specialize in types of writing as well. I consider myself a service writer. That's what I do the most of, and I'm good at it. Whether I'm writing an article, a blog post, or a book (whether my own or ghostwriting for a client), I'm likely explaining something to readers and then showing them how to do something. It might be how to become more active, or take more risks as a parent, or how to make more money as a freelancer (gee, that makes me think of Writer for Hire). 

I know not every writer is driven by money, or wants to freelance full-time. But if you do, you want to work as efficiently as possible and narrowing your focus will help you do that. (Here's a much longer post on reasons to specialize.) 

**OK, now for announcements and freebies. My second giveaway continues; the winner will be announced by month's end. Enter here--and get your queries/LOIs ready as I'm gearing up for a query critique in June. 

And if you're struggling with your writing, or looking for a way to breathe new life into your writing, check out Kelly Stone's writing class, Empower your Muse, Empower your Writing Self, which starts in June. She's an excellent teacher and the subject matter is a great one. 

Finally, remember my free ebook offer? Well, I'm keeping it going another week or so. If you're clueless about getting published, or know something who is, have them get a free copy of Dollars and Deadlines' 10 Truths Every Writer Who Wants to Get Published Should Know

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

8 Tips for eBook Authors: Post on ASJA's New Blog, The Word--and Another Giveaway!

Hi, gang...

If you're considering an ebook (and what author isn't these days), check out my post on ASJA's new blog, The Word, where I provide 8 important tips for ebook authors. In honor of the post, I'm keeping my ebook, Dollars and Deadlines' 10 Truths Every Writer Who Wants to Get Published Must Know, free for another week. Yay!

And yeah, if you're serious about freelancing, or want to boost your bottom line, check out Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success. It's my updated version of Six-Figure Freelancing, a book that has helped thousands of freelancers make more money.

Finally, if you read this whole post, you get another chance to win a signed copy of Writer for Hire. That's right, I'm doing another giveaway. Yay! To enter, post a comment below with one reason you love freelancing. Winner to be announced by month's end.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hot Freelance Tip of the Day: Customize your Message

Welcome back to the Hot Freelance Tip of the Day series. Today's tip comes from David Wilk of Creative Management Partners, who spoke on the Ghostwriter's Resume Workshop panel at ASJA this year. He receives hundreds of resumes from potential ghostwriters each year, and reminded attendees that to stand out from the pack, you must customize your approach. 

"Customize your message [to potential clients] so that they will recognize you as a possible writer [for that project]," saids Wilk. This may seem like an obvious tip, but I'm telling you that many writers overlook it. They'll see, say, a post looking for a ghostwriter and send their typical LOI

Sure, it's faster to use your usual template, but when you do so, you miss an opportunity to 1. make an awesome first impression 2. set yourself apart from the competition and 3. ensure that your letter actually gets read! (Remember you're likely one of dozens, if not hundreds, of writers contacting that person. Yikes!)

So make sure your LOI reads like it was written just for that person. If I'm contacting a lawyer who wants to write a memoir about her legal career, I'll open with the fact that I'm a former attorney. If I'm contacting a book packager, I'll mention that I've worked with packagers before. If I'm contacting someone whose name I was given, I open my letter explaining why I'm getting in touch, and then briefly explain why our mutual contact thought I should reach out. 

Which makes today's Hot Freelance Tip of the Day: Customize your Message. [See Secret 19, Market constantly, from Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success--you know, that new book I keep talking about.]

Stay tuned for more I'll be answering some of the questions readers posted for the first giveaway. And announcing another giveaway this week, too. :) 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Didn't win the giveaway? Sad face. Here's another chance...if you're speedy!

If you weren't lucky enough to be Brenda M (and thanks for getting in touch, Brenda!) and win a free copy of Writer for Hire, here's another chance. Visit Erika Dreifus' awesome blog, Practicing Writing, for another way to win a copy (you'll have to check out my Hot Freelance Tip of the Day series)--but make sure you do it by Friday, May 11, when the giveaway ends!

Hot Freelance Tip of the Day: Create Templates

Your most valuable asset as a freelancer (besides your brain, anyway) is your time. If you have enough of it, you can reach just about any goal you may have. If you don't have enough--or you don't manage the time you have--you'll struggle in this business. 

I work fewer hours today than I have in the past--partly by choice (I'm the mostly stay-at-home-mom of two little kids) and partly because I don't need to work as much to make my monetary goals. (I will say, though, that promoting two books right now is definitely hurting my bottom line. How to promote a book and not go broke will be the subject of an upcoming post!)

I use a lot of techniques to help me make the most of my time. One that new writers often overlook is creating templates for pieces you'll use over and over. (I posted a whole month's worth of templates back in January, 2011.) If you already have an LOI, for example, on your hard drive, it only takes a few minutes to "tweak" it for a particular market or client. Same goes with sending an invoice, simple contract/letter of agreement, or a follow-up letter. When you have a template, you're freed from recreating the wheel each time, which makes you more efficient. 

So the Hot Freelance Tip of the Day is: Create templates for your freelance business--and use them whenever you can. 

**If you want a dozen templates for your business, along with how to use them (and 89 other keys to building a lucrative career), check out my newest freelancing book, Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success. Just want the templates themselves? Then download Dollars and Deadlines' 10 Essential Freelance Templates via Kindle or Smashwords. And don't forget about Dollars and Deadlines' 10 Truths for Every Writer Who Wants to Get Published, which will be FREE for only four more days!  


Monday, May 7, 2012

And the winner another Hot Freelance Tip of the Day!

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway last month. I appreciate your freelancing questions and will answer them here on the blog in the coming months. But first, congrats to:  Brenda M! Brenda won a free, signed copy of Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success. (Brenda, your email isn't enabled, so please email me at kelly at, and I'll get your mailing address.) 

And I have a Hot Freelance Tip of the Day, too, from Katherine Reynolds Lewis, who spoke on my "Secrets of Successful Freelancers" panel at ASJA. Katherine, a former newspaper reporter, has only been freelancing full-time for three years, but she's built an impressive freelance career in a relatively short timeframe. She said that from day one, she approached her writing as a business. (Sound like anyone else you know?) One of her initial goals, one of her tips for attendees, and the Hot Freelance Tip of the Day is: Aim to land an anchor client. 

An anchor client is one that you can count on for regular work, hopefully an ongoing basis. Katherine says that having an anchor client (or two) relieves much of the anxiety of having to constantly troll for work, and reduces the risk of taking a really bad client just to get some money in the door. 

I couldn't agree more. When I was primarily freelancing for magazines, I had several "anchors," or "regulars," that I knew would assign work to me. It may not have been a certain amount per-month, but I could expect a certain amount over the year. Now that most of my work is ghostwriting/coauthoring for private clients, I don't have an anchor client per se, but try to have at least one ghostwriting project on my desk at any given time. That's my temporary anchor. Plus I take on a mix of other assignments that produce steadier cash flow

**Finally, did you see my earlier post? I've doing something I've never done before--giving away an e-book for free.Dollars and Deadlines' 10 Truths Every Writer Who Wants to be Be Published Should Know includes exactly that--straight talk to help take you from unpublished to published. (The link will take you to the book's Smashwords page; if you prefer Kindle, it will cost you $0.99. (I still need to figure out how to make it FREE there, too.) Please spread the word about it! 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

FREE eBook for Every Writer who Wants to Get Published

Promotion for Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success continues. Tomorrow I'll announce the winner of the first giveaway; get your entry in before midnight CDT (central daylight-savings time) tonight if you want to win a chance for a free copy of the book.

This week's promotion is something I've never done before. I'm giving away one of my Dollars and Deadlines ebooks for FREE for the next week. Yup, free. No charge. Not a penny. (Yeah, I know giving away work for free isn't my thing. But I have my reasons. Stay tuned for how this experiment turns out.)

Dollars and Deadlines' 10 Truths Every Writer Who Wants to be Be Published Should Know includes exactly that--straight talk to help take you from unpublished to published. (The link will take you to the book's Smashwords page; if you prefer Kindle, it will cost you $0.99 (you can't offer a book for free there) and will be available by tomorrow (May 7) morning.

Please spread the word to writers you know...and let me know what you think of the ebook! See you tomorrow! :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Downers Grove Area Authors & Wanna-be Authors: FREE Publishing Program Sat May 5

I forgot to mention I have a book publishing program happening Saturday, May 5, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Here are the details: 

Calling all Authors (and Would-Be) Authors: Get your Book Publishing Questions Answered 

If you want to publish a book, you have more options than ever before. What are the pros and cons or using a print-on-demand, or POD, publisher versus selling your book to a traditional publisher? What should you know about e-books, the fastest growing type of book today? And how can you avoid many of the pitfalls that new authors make when they get their books in print? Come hear publishing veteran and local author, Kelly James-Enger, author of Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success, talk about book publishing options today, and get your questions answered! The program will held on Saturday, May 5, starting sat 7:00 p.m. at the Caribou Cofeee at 5100 Main Street (just south of the train tracks), Downers Grove. Please spread the word! 

Hot Freelance Tip of the Day: Go Beyond What's Expected

Last week at ASJA, long-time freelancer Sam Greengard shared his "Seven Deadly Freelancing Sins" during the "Secrets of Successful Freelancers" Panel. Number one was, "Do only what's asked of you."

At first glance, this doesn't seem to be a problem. You're given an assignment by an editor or client. You follow the parameters of the assignment, complete it, and turn it in. No problem. Right?

Except that you've lost an opportunity to impress your editor--and to move to "favored freelancer status" with her.

So instead of doing what's asked, or expected, of you: the Hot Freelance Tip of the Day is: Go beyond what's expected of you.

What does that mean? That depends on what type of work you're doing, but it could include:

  • Suggesting art/graphics for the piece as you're researching/working on it. (For example, while working on a piece about the increasing problem of obesity in kids, I wrote a lead about "uprooting your couch potato kids." I told my editor about it and the story wound up with a layout that included graphics of cute potato/children hybrids. Art directors/designers love having a little extra time to work and plan.)
  • Obtaining art for a story. For a travel piece on festivals in Coeur d'Alene, I obtained photographs from the local convention and visitor's bureau, and sent along a half-dozen with the piece. My editor used three of them. (I knew she couldn't pay me extra for them--this was a market with a very limited budget--so most writers never bothered to submit photos with their stories.) 
  • Turning your story in before deadline. Most writers turn work in on the day of the deadline. Beat the deadline by a few days or more, and you'll endear yourself to your editor. 
  • Sending backup without being asked or reminded. In my opinion, your backup, or fact-checking material, should be ready to go when you turn in a story. Then if your editor accepts is as is (yay!), you send the backup in and you're done. So why not attach the backup along with the piece, explaining that you've included everything when you turn it in? 
  • Throwing in an extra. Several years ago, I wrote a book for a ghosting client. After the book itself was completed, he realized he needed jacket copy, too for the inside front and back covers. He had pulled something together and asked me to edit it. I did--for no charge. (This isn't the same as writing for free! This is providing a bonus to someone who's already your client, like I did with the photos for the CDA story.) 
You may not always be able to "go beyond," but make an effort to find ways to surprise your editor (in a good way!), and you'll be rewarded with more assignments and grateful clients. (See Secret #43, Follow the platinum rule, in Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success.)

**Readers, do you "go beyond" for your clients? If so, how? I welcome your comments below.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

FYI: The Writer Mama Every-Day-in-May Book Giveaway

Next post, I'll return to the Hot Freelance Tip of the Day series. But today I wanted to tell you that I'm participating in the Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway this month. 

I'll be featured on on Christina Katz' blog, The Prosperous Writer, as part of her fifth annual daily book giveaway, on Wednesday, May 2.

If you're a "writer mama" (I know I am), and would like a chance to win my books (a free copy of Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success and a free e-copy of my new novel, The Honesty Index) on Wednesday, May 2--and books by other mom authors all month long--head on over to and answer a daily question about your writing process.

You can "win" just by participating, even if you don't get selected by random drawing to "win" a book. This is all part of an annual effort by Christina to support the author mama community and the writer mama community--and to bring the two communities together.

Hope you will swing by and participate to win! Next up, one of the best tips I gleaned from this year's ASJA's annual writers' conference.