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Monday, February 25, 2013

Would-be Author in the Chicago Area? Publishing Options Program

If you live in the Chicago area, and have a book you'd like to publish, I'm presenting a program on book publishing options on Wednesday, February 27, at 7:00 p.m. at the Elmhurst Public Library. I'll cover everything from the pros and cons of choosing a print-on-demand ("POD") company to what traditional publishers are looking for to what pitfalls to avoid when publishing ebooks to what questions authors need to ask themselves before they publish a book. And I'll be happy to answer specific questions from audience members, so please spread the word and I hope to see some of my readers there

**Coming soon, the print version of Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thanks to Those Who Entered the Giveaway!

Thank you to all who commented for the chance to win a free PDF of my latest ebook, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets [Smashwords edition]! If you commented, please make sure you send me your email (send it to kelly at so I can send you your copy. And stay tuned for another giveaway soon. :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Want to Win a Free Copy of my Latest eBook?

Want to write for print and online markets--and get paid to do so? Dream of starting a freelance career but have no clue about how to do it? Here's your chance--I'm looking for a few people to review my newest ebook, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing for Print and Online Markets (which will soon be available in print from Improvise Press); if you're interested in receiving a complimentary copy to review on Amazon (or anywhere else you'd like), comment and tell me why I should choose you to get a free PDF of the book. Limited-time offer and I'm only giving out a few copies, so get your comments posted quickly!

And thanks to all who participate! :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New to Freelancing? Go from Unpublished to Published--and Paid

I've been a full-time freelancer for more than 16+ years, and have been writing about making money as a writer for almost as long. I've taught magazine-writing and led freelancing workshops at several dozen writers' conferences over the last decade. And I've found that what students find most helpful is when I take them through the entire process of pitching, researching, and writing an article. I also use actual examples of query letters, follow-up letters, and articles so new writers have templates to follow. And I do the same thing here on my blog!

That's why I'm excited to announce the Kindle version of Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets. (The print version will be available soon from Improvise Press, which publishes books for creative people who want to profit from their passions.) 

This book is limited to one topic--freelancing for print and online markets. New and inexperienced writers have questions like: 

  • How do I come up with ideas?
  • How do I get my first assignments
  • How do I write a query letter?
  • How do I find sources? 
  • What do I say when I contact a potential source?
  • What kinds of contract provisions should I be concerned about? 
  • How do I negotiate a better contract? 
  • What do I need to know about copyright?
  • How should I format my article to turn it in?
  • What's fact-checking, and how do I provide that material to my editor?
  • How can I make more money as a freelancer? 
You'll find all the answers to these questions, and many more in Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets. I'll also walk you through a dozen actual articles, showing you how I pitched, researched, and wrote each one. With this ebook, you'll have everything you need to get started writing for money. 

And if you're a more experienced writer, good news for you, too--coming soon is the second, updated edition of the classic, Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money!   

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Freelancer's Bible--and How to Collect on Every Invoice

Hi, readers, and happy President's Day to my fellow Americans. :) 
I was recently asked to read a new book aimed at freelancers of all stripes, and I was impressed with it. The Freelancer’s Bible is aimed at readers new to self-employment and walks them through everything they need to consider, including what type of business to choose, creating their initial freelance portfolio  and setting up their office. It’s got some great tips on marketing your business, including a chapter on online marketing (a skill I admit I’m weak on), and a whole section on running your business. It’s a comprehensive resource for anyone considering self-employment. 
There's a big distinction between writing and freelancing. A freelancer doesn't just write. He or she writes for money--and that's a critical distinction. That's why having a business mindset is essential to your success--and so is getting paid for your work.
But what happens when a client doesn't pay you
This will happen to you at some point in your freelance career, but there are steps you can take to get paid (almost) every time. 
1. Always have a signed contract before you start work. 
2. After you've completed your assignment, ask your client whether he or she needs an invoice to pay you. In many cases, an editor will simply “put payment through,” and you’ll receive in check. If you need to supply an invoice, though, you can use software like Quickbooks or write one yourself. Include your client’s name, the project, what rights you’re selling (or you can say “according to written contract dated January 1, 2011”), the amount of money, your social security number or tax ID number, and your contact information. I always include an invoice number for easier tracking.
            Here’s an example: 



Re: INVOICE #387

Dear Sue,

Please let this letter serve as my invoice for $90 for one-time reprint rights to “Banish the Workout Blues” per your e-mail of today. My social security number is xxx-xx-xxxx.

Thank you very much!

Kelly James-Enger
[mailing address]

            Good enough. But what if you don’t get paid right away? 
            3. Then it's time for step 3: a follow-up letter like the following:



Re: INVOICE #387

Dear Sue,

I’m reviewing my accounts receivable and realize I haven’t yet been paid for the above-referenced invoice, for $90 for one-time reprint rights to “Banish the Workout Blues.” Could you please let me know when I can expect payment?

Thank you very much for your time and help.

Kelly James-Enger
[mailing address]

            4. Still haven't been paid? Call the market, repeatedly if you must. If you still don't get paid, it's time for the big guns--what I call the “pay-or-die” letter. You’ll want to detail the terms of your contract, prove that you’ve satisfied your contractual obligations, and describe the attempts you’ve taken to get paid. I’ve found that threatening legal action usually provokes payment.
            One more thing--find out who actually cuts the checks (it’s not your editor) and pursue him or her directly. That will get you paid quicker.
            Here’s an example of a letter I sent to the owner of a publishing company that had owed me money for months, with names changed to protect the guilty: 


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

With this letter, I did get paid, finally. And oh, let's not forget step 5:
5. Refuse to write for the market again. 

That's it--five steps to collecting your money. Readers, how do you collect outstanding invoices? Have you found my pay-or-die letter helpful? Let me know! 
**This post is drawn from "Collect every check" from Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Research Faster, Make More Money: How to Find Facts Fast

           Hi, readers...I apologize for not getting a post up yesterday. I'm in the midst of updating Six-Figure Freelancing and am finishing another book for brand-new freelancers, and will announce them soon! In the meantime, the topic of today's post is research--and how to spend less time doing it 

            I used to write for a magazine that was known for making some eye-catching claims in its articles. My editor assigned a piece with a planned cover line claiming, “Boost your Metabolism by 200% or More with our Fat-Blasting Diet!” When she assigned the piece, she explained that the piece would be based on a new study, which had found that eating hot peppers, which contain capsaicin, could boost your metabolism.
Sounded good—until I actually read the study. First, it was conducted over just a few weeks. Second, it included a small number of subjects who were force-fed huge amounts of hot peppers—far more than people would eat in the course of a month, let alone a meal. And third, the subjects of the study were rats. As far as I’m concerned this study didn’t prove anything--except that it sucks to be a rat.  
            When you read lines like “Studies say…,” “According to recent research…,” or “Statistics suggest…,” that research comes from somewhere. As a freelancer, you have to research article topics and report on that research. It helps to know how to find the info you need—and how to make sense of it--as quickly as possible.
            Get the Big Picture  
            If I’m covering a subject new to me, my first stop is often Don’t laugh! Last year I was assigned a piece on interventional radiology, or IR. A quick stop at described that IR is “A subspecialty of radiology in which minimally invasive procedures are performed using image guidance” like angiograms. Guess what? I actually knew what IR was—I just didn’t know that’s what it was called. A little more background reading and I was reading to start my in-depth reporting.
Find the Source, Find the Fact—and Stat 
            Often simply finding the right experts is all I need to locate the facts or statistics I’m looking for. One of my favorite sources is Help a Reporter Out, a/k/a “HARO.” You send an email request detailing what you’re looking for, and HARO sends it to thousands of subscribers. This is a great way to locate people who are otherwise hard to buttonhole (say someone who’s been in three traffic accidents in the last year or a researchers working on an as-of-yet unpublished study).
Profnet offers a similar service for freelancers. You can search an extensive database of experts or submit a query specifying what you're looking for ("a master gardener with experience in English roses”) that's sent to PR agencies, universities, hospitals, and experts.
            In addition to ProfNet and Haro, to locate sources, look for relevant associations. In addition to Google, check out the three-volume Encyclopedia of Associations, which will be found on reserve at your local library; it contains 20,000 U.S.-based organizations that cover everything from medicine to gardening to hobbies to sports to charity groups.
Then contact the association, ask for the media affairs or public relations department, and explain what you’re looking for. That person often can suggest a member who can provide you with the information you need—or may have it on hand.
In addition to governmental websites, which maintain statistics on a variety of subjects, universities often have data and statistics you need. As with an association, ask for the public affairs or media relations department and request a referral to an appropriate faculty member to interview.
Don’t overlook book authors who’ve written on the topic you’re covering. Check on Amazon for possible authors, Google their backgrounds, and make contact through their publisher’s PR department. After you’ve identified your sources, contact them to arrange your interviews
            Background research is a necessary task for much of your work--just make sure you don’t get bogged down with it. After all, you get paid for the words you actually write, not for the time you spend researching.
            **This post was drawn from Secret 27: Find facts fast, from Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success. Readers, what do you think? Do you have any time-slashing research techniques you'd like to share? 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Performing CPR: When Your Story Gets Killed

            It’s happened to just about every freelancer I know. You got the assignment. You researched the piece, wrote it to your editor’s specifications, and turned it in on deadline. A week or two later, the editor requested a rewrite, or maybe two. But the end result was unexpected, and undesired. Your piece got killed.
            What’s next? How do you perform CPR to a dead story?
            First, ask why. Having a story killed is unfair. At least it feels that way. But be honest with yourself. Did you give the editor what she asked for? Did you follow her the terms of the assignment, or was yourstory subpar? If you dropped the ball, admit it. Offer to rewrite the piece if you haven’t already--better to collect the full fee for an assignment, and have it run, than a kill fee. (Kill fee provisions vary but the idea is that they pay you a percentage of the assignment--often one-quarter to one-third of the original fee--and rights revert back to you.)
            If you didn’t, well, it’s okay to be angry--especially when the piece was killed through no fault of your own. Stories are killed for unfair and nebulous reasons. Some editors routinely over-assign and then kill the stories they decide they don’t want. Sometimes your assigning editor leaves the magazines, “orphaning” your piece. His successor may decide to go in a new direction, and kill stories assigned by his predecessor. (This has happened to me several times at three different magazines.) 
            Sometimes an editor sits on a piece too long and then decides it’s no longer timely. (That’s happened, too.) Sometimes the editor changes her mind about what she wants, or her higher-up does. Sometimes they both do. You can’t control any of these scenarios but you can ask that the editor pay the full fee.
            While a kill fee provision is created to protect the writer (you get paid at least a little for your work), it shouldn’t be used without good reason. If you met the story specs, you should get paid the full fee, and I’ve argued this point (and know other writers who have as well). Alas, editors almost always fall back on the kill fee clause and refuse to pay the full fee.
            Now what? Pitch the piece elsewhere. Don’t tell the editor you’re querying that it was written and assigned and killed by someone else, possibly one of her competitors (even though you may want to!). Just pitch the piece as if you just came up with the idea, and see if another editor will bite. If so, you may be able to sell the piece you already wrote. If you do have to write a different piece, don’t be afraid to pull from your earlier research; when a publication kills a piece, all rights to it revert to you.
            Ideally you’ll be able to sell the piece to another market and negotiate a better deal for your story. I’ve had about a dozen stories killed over 15 years and managed to resell all but one to other markets, which meant that I made up for the lost fee--and even made more for several stories, which meant that being killed actually boosted my pay!
            Even if you can’t don’t take a piece being killed as a personal attack. If you know you did a good job and met the terms of the assignment, chalk it up as bad luck--and consider whether you want to work with that particular editor again. 

            ****This post was drawn from Secret 38, Perform CPR, from Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success. And don't forget that my series of Kindle e-books for freelancers are still available for only $2.99 for a limited time. Dollars and Deadlines' Guide to Selling your First Article gives you a simple blueprint to follow to break into print or pixels, and Dollars and Deadlines' 10 Essential Freelance Templates provides you with the 10 documents you need to start freelancing.