Archive for the ‘The Writing Business’ Category

Having Some ‘Me’ Time

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

After returning to full-time self-employment I confess I am enjoying some ‘Me’ time. Not much work on at the moment so I am taking it easy, which my cardiologist is no doubt happy about. I tend to be my own harshest critic and drive myself pretty hard; something I need to ease up on.

Yesterday I enjoyed a coffee with my parents and a quick trip to the locksmith to get a second key cut for my Land Rover Defender. I was beating myself up over the fact I wasn’t at the keyboard ‘working’; but in fact I was working. I was thinking about several projects at once, more or less. You have to put value on your ‘Me’ time because it is valuable creative thinking time. Ghostwriting is not like a 9-5 job where you swap your hours for someone’s dollars. You can produce a lot of money in a short burst of brilliance but forget it took hours to get those thoughts together.

On the weekend I worked on the Sunday presenting one of my community college course. I forget it is work as I enjoy it so much. It is work and it does drain one, but it is a lot of fun, too. It also pays the rent and as a freelance one must keep in mind your income will come in at different times and in different amounts. Some weeks there will be a cashflow issue and others money is everywhere. Managing it is the trick.

Lately I have put away a couple of academic jobs and am bidding for a major textbook re-writing project that will see me out for the year, even provide work for my two sub-contractor writers. I have had three college courses run this term and will soon bill for them, so the cash flow will not be a problem… for the moment. I am teaching myself not to look too far forward but to live in the moment with an eye on the future. Whenever I have needed money, something has turned up and it always will. so have faith, I say.

I tried that 9-5 ‘steady job’ thing over Christmas and I must say in hindsight being retrenched was the best thing other than a regular payday. Now, I am focusing on some new Philippines related eBooks and the third in the Sarah’s Child trilogy, hopefully out by July with the three volume omnibus set in time for Christmas. This time it will have me listed as the author ‘with Paul England’ as the supplier of the original idea and content which will more accurately reflect who did what. I am confident I can market this and make Paul and myself a tidy sum, split 50/50, to help us get over next Christmas. Stay tuned, the eWriter’s life is never dull.

Filling The Funnel

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Since my last post in October of 2014, a lot has happened. First of all I was offered a job in sales and marketing which I took up on the 20th of that month. I was working for a small, family run security company; lovely people and the potential to grow with the business however, fate took a hand and I find myself back doing what I know and love. Ghostwriting. In a nutshell the company had a lot of work come in over Christmas which they did and paid their staff but the clients have yet to pay them. Consequently they can’t carry on without the money to pay wages and bills, so they had to let staff go. It is a pity as I enjoyed working with the owner and they were good to me over Christmas when I had a heart attack and needed a few days off. Still, I confess I prefer the uncertainty of working for myself but having my time to use as I please to the regular, if rather small, pay cheque.

So what now? How do I recoup the lost 14 weeks of no funnel filling? I have poured nothing in the way of prospects into the sales funnel so there is no new projects dribbling out the bottom. I need to start filling the funnel, getting out there online and pitching my services to potential clients. I did this for the company I just worked for, so why not do it for my own business? It is how it is done and without it you aren’t a freelance writer, just a writer with a lot of free time to fill. I will be looking at my marketing mix, editing my existing products, creating some new ones, making things happen. Stay tuned!

Keeping Busy

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

As a freelance writer I only make any money when I am writing for other people… and they pay me. Cashflow is always a balancing act in any business and none more so in the writing game. Ghostwriting/co-writing a 60,000 word novel can take months and you don’t usually get paid up front. Getting paid is the key, of course. I know very good writers who have full order books and work 12-14 hours a day but forget to put enough focus on getting paid for all their hard work.

At the moment I have two ghostwriting projects that I hope to complete before the end of October and get paid for… which should carry us over the Christmas-January period which is always pretty slow. I have two or three regular gigs writing articles for web sites and the tutoring but the college lecturing has fallen flat this year. It seems fewer people are enrolling in community college courses all round, not just the ones I offer. Fortunately having several income irons in the fire helps to flatten out the cashflow peaks and troughs.

When it comes to what I call ‘investment writing’, those books and publications I write for myself as the client in the hope they sell down the track (what most people refer to as writing a book, being an author etc); I have several projects still bubbling away on the back burners. The trip to Malaysia and the Philippines in April still needs to be written up as do the many story ideas that were generated by having flip flops on the ground over there. I have a couple of books that need editing, re-writing, up-dating and re-publishing, not to mention lots of web site maintenance. A writer’s work is never done!

 

 

Writing Retreat Planned For April

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

IMG_1319This Easter I will be spending two weeks travelling through Malaysia and the Philippines with fellow author and StreetWise Global business partner, Frank Green. A major objective of the trip is to actually meet after over a decade of online friendship and nearly three years in business together. We have shared many hours of  VoIP conferencing (Skype) and email exchanges but nothing beats spending time face to face. Frank is an Englishman who lives on an island off the west coast of Ireland with his two children. A superb writer in his own right, Frank handles a lot of the ‘grunt’ work of running an online writing business.

StreetWise Global is one of the StreetWise group of businesses, but separate to my personal StreetWise Publications. SWG handles the factual self-help series of StreetWise Guides and Language Courses that currently focus on the Philippines. One of our goals is to explore Malaysia a little more than we already have on previous individual visits. (I was last there in November 2012 after attending the Singapore Writer’s Festival). We both believe there is a lot of potential in providing StreetWise Guides for those looking to retire to Malaysia, especially those who can’t quite afford the superb ‘Malaysia My Second Home‘ retirement scheme. We have some unique insights to develop on how expats can enjoy everything this fabulous country has to offer, but at a more affordable retirement budget.

IMG_1274While in Malaysia we will be undertaking a road trip, not quite as epic in length and duration as the one Scott and Greg enjoy in ‘Never Be Unsaid’, but epic nonetheless. The plan, so far, is to drive from Kuala Lumpur to Kuantan on the East Coast, then north to Kota Bharu, across to Alor Setar and then back down to KL before flying on to Cebu. In Cebu we will circumnavigate the island as we both believe road trips are ideal for focusing one’s thoughts and giving us plenty of time to talk things through in detail. While on this trip we have pledged to write at least 1,000 words per day of short fiction. The theme will be decided but the setting will be wherever we are that day. The resulting anthology will be published online and in print.

Another objective is to scout out various WW2 and Malayan Emergency (1948-60) battlefields and add them to the planned tours of Singapore. Once the focus on Gallipoli, Flanders and WW1 dies off and everyone has done the Kokoda Track and Vietnam, I think there will be interest in the Malayan Campaign, Fall of Singapore and the Emergency and Confrontation with Indonesia (1964-67) as a place of military historical value to visit. In the Philippines I have to visit my inlaws and make sure they are getting back to normal after the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda, meet up with old friends and refresh a lot of material for my existing titles. While you can update many things via the Internet and forums, there is nothing like boots on the ground (or sandals in my case) to get you genned up.

When we return there will be a lot of writing to be done and no doubt some new publications to be promoted. I can’t wait to challenge Frank to a Satay Eating Contest!

Never Be Unsaid Now Available!

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

Screenshot 2013-12-22 23.32.11At last! ‘Never Be Unsaid’ is now available in paperback through Lulu.com and soon in paperback and eBook on Amazon.com and as an eBook through Apple, Kobo, Sony, BN and Smashwords and wherever quality literary fiction is sold.

NaNoWriMo Completed

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

I finished my novel, ‘Never Be Unsaid’ and hit the 50,000 word target for National Novel Writing Month. All up the novel has nearly 90,000 words and is currently being reviewed by my literary friend and fellow author, Ginny Lowndes. I can’t stress enough the value of having a critical friend review your work. Ginny has given me some great tips and ideas for improving my novel. It will mean more writing, but this project has taken a couple of years to get from idea to manuscript, so a few more weeks will be worth the wait and the effort.

I learned my lesson with the 2011 Nanowrimo event. That produced the 2012 Miles-Franklin Award entrant, ‘Twenty Seven Seventy’. It was rushed, not so much the writing but the vital background work; the editing, proofing and reviewing that makes all the difference between a good novel and a literary masterpiece. I’m hoping this year, ‘Never Be Unsaid’ will be that literary masterpiece. I have said everything in it I have to say for now so my next work will be more commercial. I have chosen YA, or young adult (also known as teen fiction) for my next genre. I recently completed a YA novel for a client as a ghostwriter and enjoyed the work. I also consider ‘Twenty Seven Seventy’ to be suitable for a YA audience (12-18+), but y next work will be aimed at the market and the vocabulary used will be far more simple and easy to understand by the major group of readers too often passed by. Boys.

I know from my own work as a tutor many simply hate reading because they aren’t very good at it. A lot of that comes down to not being interested in the book’s characters and plot. I’m going to see if I can add to the body of work available, give them the modern equivalent of Biggles, The Famous Five or Swallows and Amazons, without resorting to witches, wizards, zombies, vampires or orcs. Wish me luck.

 

 

Picking And Choosing

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

I have been pretty busy the past month or so with some excellent assignments and terrific clients. I learned, or rather I should say re-learned a valuable lesson about selling oneself cheaply. Don’t do it. I agreed to write a novella of 35,000 words or so for US$800. Never again. The client took forever to fund the project via Elance escrow and only after I had finished it and was hanging on to the manuscript awaiting payment. He also tried to cut our agreed fee because he was having money issues, mostly from not taking into account the exchange rate and the Elance fees. Not my problem, basically as I wrote the book on time and to the highest standard. Anyway, no  more ‘quick, cheap jobs’ for me as they are more trouble than they are worth. Funny how when you have a client who is wiling to pay a fair fee for your services you never have problems, only when you do favours or cut your rates.

Prospecting for work on Elance lately I have come across numerous dreamer jobs. Not dream jobs, but jobs put up by dreamers. One wants a 244 page book read and reviewed in 2,000 – 2,500 words to academic standards for, wait for it, $0.003 per word. That’s a third of a cent per word. Another wants 1,000 words, again they must be academic standard, for an eighth of a cent per word. What amazed me was that not all those chasing these jobs lived in India, Pakistan, the Philippines or Nigeria. I appreciate our writing colleagues in these countries can work for much less, but some respondents were in the USA, UK and Canada. I did notice they were new with no jobs up or feedback given and I was willing to work for free to get some runs on the board when I first began, too. I would still caution anyone about working for someone with so little budget, or worse, so little regard for a writer’s skills and time. Don’t do it.

Unless you are absolutely cash strapped or desperate, hold out. Pick and choose the jobs you bid for. Specialise and make one or two areas your own. I do ghostwriting, particularly eBooks and high end articles. If they don’t work out around the $50/hour mark then I really need to either love the project or have nothing else to do to chase them. Never forget, time you spend working on your business is as valuable and vital as time spent working in it. Spend the time prospecting, networking, finding better clients rather than toiling away for fractions of a penny.

 

Letting Go, On Both Sides

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

My latest crop of clients for ghostwriting services have given me a good education into ghostwriting and how I feel about my work. First of all, there were three projects that, once I created them for the client as outlines I really wanted them to reject them all. Hde didn’t nd I am writing one of them for him and I must say, it is getting easier the more I write. Let me explain.

I was so rapt with the story I came up with that I wanted to write it for myself and put my name on the book cover, not his. Yet, that is not what a ghostwriter does. We are writers for hire, literary mercenarys writing for whoever pays us. Hired pens, or keyboards in this case, rather than hired guns. I carried a gun for pay many years ago as a much younger man, first wearing my country’s uniform and later in a suit or the uniform of whoever was paying my wages. Today I write for myself but I also write for pay, yet all of my writing is always, has to be, my very best.

When you are a ghostwriter you might think if you get a job writing fiction you can write any old flannel, after all the client won’t know the difference otherwise they would have written it themselves. Yes, you can do that but I won’t. If you don’t stand for anything then what good are you? Taking someone’s money under false pretenses is no better than holding them up at the muzzle of that gun I used to sling.

It hurt to let my baby go but to be honest, if the client hadn’t asked me to come up with a story I would likely as not have never thought of it, so let’s not get too carried away here. Now I have taken their money (I always get 25-50% up front as a commencement fee because I do a lot of work just to get to the point where I can start typing) they deserve the best I can do. Simple as that. Why? Because that is the right thing to do; the professional thing. It would be easy enough to offer ‘A Dark And Stormy Night’ standard writing, but that’s not how I do things.

Many years ago I was working a job where I came into contact with blokes in the same game, but on the other side, so to speak. One was bragging to his mates how when he had been in his country’s army they once cleared some bad guys out of a strongpoint by walking the ‘baddies’ wives and kids in front of them as they advanced on the strongpoint. His table all found that highly amusing. My table wasn’t so chuffed. One of our lads, a lovely bloke but tough as nails and the real deal, turned around and said; “Hey mate. In our army, we put ourselves in front of the women and children, not the other way around.” They must have got his drift because they shut up, packed up and left the canteen. I have never forgotten that and have always been one to put the women and children behind me, whether I’m soldiering or writing. In other words, do the right thing, the ethical thing.

This doesn’t mean you work for free or give away your capabilities. Another client I was writing a non-fiction book for realised after the first chapter where I had copy edited his original content then, as asked by him, added my own material that this was not how he wanted to proceed. He realise he could write the book, didn’t need a ghostwriter and as much as he liked what I wrote, it wasn’t his book. Fine, no problem. He also wanted a refund of the balance of the commencement fee. Balance? What balance? I had invested several hours reading his two other books he sent to me to get an idea of his style, plus I had spent over an hour on a conference call and several hours producing a scaffold and outline he was able to use to better organize his work. I earned my commencement fee and, once I invoiced work to date he accepted that.

As a writer you spend precious time thinking, creating and developing the material. This needs to be compensated for because it is work and work time. During the time I spent doing work on his book I wasn’t earning money on any other project. In fact I had blocked out several weeks to ensure his job was done to schedule and I stopped looking for other work so that I wouldn’t double book. Now I have a gap in my work schedule I will have to fill by finding other clients and that time is not producing any income as it would have had he not realised, through the work I did with him to that point, that he should write it himself.

The bottom line? Give great value and go your hardest every time but, do not be ashamed to ask for a fair reward. You deserve it and not asking for it insults you and your client, as if you don’t think they are professional enough to accept you have a right to be paid for what you know as much as what you do. What do you think?

 

How’s Your Writing Year Shaping Up?

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Mine is coming along with a couple of pressing projects done and dusted. I have just received confirmation the two Become A Published Author Course anthologies, ‘The Rorschach Seventh’ and ‘The Rorschach Revelation’ ahve left the printer and are on their way to me. We will launch on the weekend of 6-7 April and it should be a lot of fun. I also completed the work for a course of study at diploma level and while in hot debate about one module and the three assignment’s therein being winners or losers, it is good to finish that off; a year’s work finished on time.

I have several ongoing writing projects including a ghostwriting job for an eBook, some academic essays and a rewrite of one of my community college courses. There are some other jobs in the wind but until the money is paid into escrow or a deposit made to my account, they are all just maybe’s. Nevertheless, this is all keeping me busy and I haven’t even thought of the upcoming updates for my StreetWise Philippines titles, the filipino language course promotions or any of the other stuff!

We are five weeks away from the ‘Big Trip’, taking the family to Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. I still haven’t written up my business trip there last November! One of the culprits is the fact the 40% of income from tutoring and lecturing is already up to over 50% and going for 60%. Well, you take it where you can get it when you are freelance. I must say I do look forward to the school holidays which let me catch up with the writing stuff. So, how is your writing year coming along?

Fishing Where The Fish Are

Monday, January 14th, 2013

During the quiet time the Christmas-New Year period usually brings, I decided to spend some time working on my business rather than in it. I looked at where I earned my writing income last year and found that 40% of my income was derived teaching my online writing and getting published courses as well as tutoring. That left 60%, or the majority of my income, to come from my writing efforts on the web.

Although not as good as in previous years, 8.5% of my annual income was derived from Adsense. Spread over a couple of dozen web sites with maybe four or five actually producing any income, the Adsense money trickles in and basically just covers the costs of hosting the web sites the ads live on and a few domain name renewals.

Book sales accounted for 15% of total income but I have to pay royalties to authors I publish and distribute for, but at least it was good to see book sales growing again. They had fallen dramatically in previous years when my then marketing partner found himself otherwise distracted and the regular traffic building work he did so well at first simply ceased. I had switched to a ‘hands-off’ approach via Amazon and other distributors and while getting a third less per sale, at least I didn’t have to worry about delivering the product, handling the problems and so on.

I earned a little less, 14% for my ghostwriting and a little more for my blog and web site content creation, 16.5%. Together these two areas took in nearly a third of my annual income. Editing services covered the remaining 7%. Now that I had the data to study, what did it tell me?

First of all I knew how and where each client came to me and that told me a mix of networking and referrals got me through the year. I did some marketing to get new clients, in fact 66% of my clientele for 2012 were new, first timers. Most of them were billed more than twice so there was repeat business and that is a good sign. Never forget your existing and former clients but never stop looking for new cheese, as they say.

I enjoyed the ghostwriting but it did take up huge chunks of time and focus for relatively little return, given how long the books took to get written and finished. The same for editing; not a lot of return for a lot of time and brain drain, after all you must be as close to perfect as possible and check every typed character and space! Web content creation was good but often debilitating. Writing over a hundred 300 word articles on the same topic really stretches you. You tend to spend so much time searching for new material and inspiration that eventually it takes far longer to write them than what they pay.

So what was the most lucrative area and what should I focus on this year? Obviously the teaching is worth keeping on as it provides a nice amount of cash for little outlay. I would like more ghostwriting jobs as they provide nice chunks of cash at the end and I can schedule them fairly easily. Web content keeps bubbling along but the place I plan to focus most is the book sales. I have quite a good title list now and they need promoting and marketing and if I do that then sales will increase. The mechanics of selling them and getting the money is all taken care of. All I need to do is invest the time and effort promoting them and that means one thing.

Social media. I must invest the time to really come to grips with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and make them work for me. There is no avoiding this new marketing tool. It is here to stay and will only get more complex and necessary this coming year and the one after that. Watch this space for more about my move into social media in a big way!