Training

Four Top Tips on Working with Editors

Although I am primarily a freelance writer, I do sometimes work as an editor as well. Among other things, I have edited newsletters, articles, short stories, books, training courses and promotional materials.

This has given me some valuable insights into what editors do and don’t want from writers, so today I thought I would share a few of them.

1. Be Reliable

This is one of the most important qualities any editor needs in a writer. He (or she) wants to be confident that you will deliver your article (or whatever) by the agreed deadline. If the deadline arrives and your article doesn’t, it can create all sorts of problems for the editor.

If you can see you’re going to have problems meeting a deadline, therefore, DON’T just cross your fingers and hope for the best. Tell the editor. Given sufficient notice they may be able to make alternative arrangements, e.g. bringing another article forward and postponing yours till next month. But if you don’t tell them in advance, it may be too late for this. Don’t then expect them to offer you any work in future.

2. Be Available

Editors sometimes need to contact authors at short notice, e.g. to check a fact or request a partial rewrite. You don’t have to be always just a phone call away (though that won’t hurt), but it should be possible for an editor to contact you by some means and get a reply within 24 hours. Always aim to have your mobile with you, therefore, and check this and your email regularly, preferably at least twice a day.

And if you’re going away on holiday for more than a day or two, it’s a courtesy to let the editor know, especially if you have just sent them some work!

3. Don’t Argue!

OK, this one is a bit controversial. If you disagree with an editor’s decision, you can say so. But don’t push it. At the end of the day, it’s the editor’s neck on the block, not yours, if he publishes your article and it goes down like a lead balloon with his readers.

Here’s an example from my own experience. In my capacity as a newsletter editor I was pitched an idea by a semi-regular contributor. Normally I liked his ideas, but for various reasons I couldn’t use this one, so I turned it down with a polite explanation. I then received a long, aggrieved email telling me quite forcibly that I was wrong and he was right, concluding with words to the effect, “I think I know our readership by now.” As you might guess, I didn’t commission many more articles from him after that…

4. Be Friendly but Professional

It’s good to build good relationships with editors. Over a period of time you will inevitably get to know one another quite well, and genuine friendships often result.

However, remember that the editor is also your client and – in effect – your employer, so it’s important to remain professional in all your dealings with them. Don’t assume that because ‘John’ or ‘Mary’ is your buddy, they won’t mind if you palm them off with inferior work or take other liberties with them.

Another example here (all names changed to protect those concerned). A few years ago one of my regular clients, a guy I’ll call Phil, was looking for an additional freelance writer. I recommended a woman named Clare to him, whom I’d worked with on a couple of projects.

All seemed to go well at first, and then I heard that he had dropped Clare quite suddenly. As I knew Phil pretty well, I asked him what had happened. He was a bit reticent at first, but then he told me, “We’re a family company, Nick, and we choose the people we work with very carefully.”

A little more probing finally revealed that he had been on the phone to Clare one day, and she casually dropped the F-word into their conversation two or three times. Phil hadn’t said anything to her at the time, but I guess he was a bit shocked by this. Anyway, he decided that he couldn’t work with her any more.

I must admit, I don’t know why Clare did this. Maybe she wanted to show she was “one of the lads”, or maybe she’d just been watching too many Hollywood movies. In any event, it was exactly the wrong tack to take with Phil, who abhors bad language in any form. And so it cost Clare the opportunity of a continuing source of well-paid work.

That’s perhaps an extreme example, but it does illustrate an important point. A good, friendly relationship between author and editor can be very rewarding for both parties, but you should never let it become an excuse for behaving unprofessionally.

So those are some of my top tips for working with editors. Do you have any more, or any comments on the ones above? Please do post them below!

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SEven Top Tips for Hiring a Freelance Writer

Seven Top Tips for Hiring a Freelance Writer

I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for over 25 years (I’m semi-retired now). During that time I’ve had a lot of would-be clients approach me about working for them. To some I’ve said yes, others no. Often, my decision is strongly influenced by the way they approach me.

So I thought in this post I would set out a few tips for anyone who wants to hire a freelance writer. If you’re a writer yourself, maybe you’ll identify with some of these points. If you’re looking to hire a freelance writer, I hope my advice will make the process a little less stressful for all concerned!

1. First Find Your Writer

One of the best ways to find a freelance writer is by personal recommendation. So if you happen know anyone who hires freelance writers, find out whom they use and ask for their contact details. This will give you a good starting point in your search at least.

Otherwise, you will need to start looking around. You could simply enter “freelance writer” in Google and see who turns up (not forgetting to check the ‘sponsored listings’ as well). You can also narrow down your search by area or by specialism.

In addition, there are lots of resource sites you can use to find a writer – the WritersNet Writers & Authors Directory is one example.

You can also post details of the job you have in mind on websites such as Guru and Upwork and invite authors to bid for them. This does have some drawbacks, though. Apart from being time-consuming, the information available on those bidding for work is often minimal. You will still need to check very carefully whether any candidates have the skills and knowledge you require.

2. Give Them Enough Information

Once you’ve found a potential writer and checked them out, you’ll want to contact them to see if they are interested in taking on your assignment. It’s important to include enough information in your query for the writer to tell if the job would suit their skills and experience.

Personally, the type of enquiry I least enjoy receiving is along the lines, ‘I have a writing job for you. Phone me to discuss.’ That means I am expected to call this individual at my expense – possibly at international rates – with no clue what he or she wants me to do, and the need to make an on-the-spot decision whether I am interested or not.

While I don’t require a detailed brief with the initial enquiry, I much prefer a paragraph or two of explanation so that I can get some idea what the job will entail: length, subject matter, deadline, and so on. If there is a set budget, it is helpful to know this also. Otherwise, especially if I am busy, I am quite inclined to say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks’. Experience has taught me that vague enquiries seldom lead to worthwhile assignments.

3. Don’t Assume You’re Doing Them a Favour

Professional writers are busy people, and they can’t take on every job that is offered to them. That applies especially with jobs that are offered out of the blue. You need to make some effort in your approach to demonstrate that you are a genuine prospective client and not, as they say, a tyre-kicker. As mentioned above, it helps a lot if you provide enough information in your initial approach to show the writer that you are business-like and professional, and have devoted some serious thought to what you want the writer to do.

4. Don’t Expect Them to Work for Free

If you just want a quote or expression of interest, that’s fine. But if you want your writer to produce sample articles, outlines, or whatever so that you can assess their suitability for the job, you should offer them a reasonable fee for this.

5. Don’t Assume Any Writer Will Do

Writing covers a huge spectrum of activities, and all writers specialize to some extent. This is another reason you should tell your prospective writer what the job will involve in your initial approach. Even if it’s not a type of writing he (or she) does, he may know someone who specializes in that field and be able to refer you.

6. Be Honest and Up Front

Perhaps this is stating the obvious, but it’s important not to get off on the wrong foot with your writer.

Here’s an example from my own experience. I was asked by a potential client to help him write a book, and as a first step to produce an outline. This involved researching the topic concerned, and turned out to involve a bit more work than I anticipated. However, I agreed to do it, as I assumed that as long as the client was happy with my outline, I would get this well-paying assignment.

Then I found out, quite by chance, that a colleague had been approached by the same person and asked to do exactly the same thing. In fact, the client had approached at least two other writers as well, and we were effectively competing against one another. I felt I had been misled, and told the client I was no longer interested in working for him.

Of course, there is no objection to a potential client getting several quotes if he wants to, but where preliminary work is going to be involved for the unsuccessful writers as well, I believe the client should make this clear to all concerned. See also my comments above about not expecting writers to work for free.

7. Give Them All the Essential Info

If you don’t tell your writer all the important facts, don’t be surprised if they produce something unsuitable for you.

Here’s another example from my experience. A few years ago I was approached by someone wanting me to write a short story for him, to give to his fiancee on their wedding day. He told me he wanted a medieval-style fairy tale, with himself as the hero and his fiancee as his princess.

I took the job (at below my usual rates, but I actually found the project quite touching and romantic) and produced a story where the hero went to Hispaniola with the king’s forces and slayed a mechanical dragon that had been terrorizing the locals. He then came back as a hero to claim his bride.

My client wasn’t impressed. He told me his fiancee’s ex had been in the army, so could I come up with a story that had no military connections? Everything I’d written had to be scrapped. I told the client that if he still wanted me to do this job, he would have to come up with an outline plot himself. I would then flesh it out for him, but I couldn’t go on writing stories then having them rejected for reasons I had hitherto heard nothing about. I never heard from him again.

In the last example, I do actually have some sympathy for the young man concerned, as he obviously had no experience working with freelance writers, and he did have the best of intentions. However, it turned out to be a waste of a week’s work for me, purely because I wasn’t given all the essential details.

To sum up, then, if you want to hire a professional writer, it’s important to present a business-like image. Show the writer that you value their skills and understand that they may not want, or be able, to take the job on. Give them all the facts they require to assess your proposed project in an open and honest way. If you want them to produce a sample of work for you, offer them a fee. And once you’ve hired them, give them all the information they need to be able to do a good job for you.

Do all of these things, and you will be well on your way to becoming the ideal client for a freelance writer. And, more importantly, there is every chance you will find a suitably skilled individual for your project, and get the best possible results from them.

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Why All Freelance Writers Need Regular Clients

Why All Freelance Writers Need Regular Clients

A question I am asked quite regularly is how I have managed to sustain a freelance writing career for over thirty years.

There are various answers I could give to this, but probably the single most important factor has been having regular clients.

Over my career I have had somewhere in the region of thirty regular clients – people and companies who have supplied me with work over a lengthy period. As a matter of interest I have listed some of my main clients over the years below:

Maple Marketing (UK) Ltd – books and ebooks, distance learning courses and email newsletters

Streetwise – newsletter articles and training course content

Lagoon Games – puzzles, games, novelty books, quiz books, and so on

Agora (Fleet Street Publishing) – newsletter articles and web content (currently I am contributing two articles a week to their Creating Wealth email newsletter)

Hilite – newsletter articles, distance learning courses and web content

WCCL – distance learning courses, website content and copywriting

The Writers Bureau – distance learning courses and copywriting (I was also for several years a tutor and assessor for them)

Some of the above I’m still working for, others not – though my door is always open, of course!

Having regular clients has meant that almost every month I know there is some money coming in. Obviously I have also had other occasional and one-off clients, but I’d hate to have to rely on that to pay the bills.

For one thing, you get to know your ‘regulars’ and build a relationship with them. Good clients can be guaranteed to pay you for work done (even if once in a while their accounts department may need a prod). With new clients you simply don’t have that reassurance. They may be good, or nit-picking nightmares, or at worst downright crooks. When a potential new client approaches me these days, I am quite cautious before taking them on!

Regular clients are a lot less worry and hassle, and over the years I have developed strong working relationships and even friendships with some of them. This is great when, on occasion, you  need a little extra flexibility (over a deadline, say).

And of course, it makes work less stressful and more enjoyable.

And finally, if you have a core group of regular clients, you don’t need to spend so much time marketing your services. You can therefore concentrate on your writing, which is presumably what you enjoy doing, and also what you get paid for.

So my top advice to any writer starting out today would be to make every effort to build long-term relationships with clients. For me anyway this has been the key to sustaining a long career as a working professional freelance writer.

If you have any comments or questions, as always, please do post them below.

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Start Writing Fiction

Free Fiction Writing Course Starting Soon

I have mentioned FutureLearn on this blog before. It’s a UK-based platform for short online courses from British and international universities. All FutureLearn courses are free and open to anyone in the world.

Anyway, I thought you might like to know that a course titled Start Writing Fiction begins on Monday 25 September 2017. It comes from The Open University, a well-respected UK distance learning institution. It will run for eight weeks and you can enrol now if you wish. It is also usually possible to register for a few days after a course has started.

This particular course runs regularly via FutureLearn and I have mentioned it on this blog before. If you can’t fit it in this time, you can put your name down on the website to be notified the next time it is scheduled.

Start Writing Fiction is intended for anyone with an interest in starting to write fiction or improving their fiction writing. There is a particular focus on creating interesting, believable characters. The course does not require any previous experience of studying the subject.

On the website, it says:

Start Writing Fiction focuses on a skill which is central to the writing of all stories and novels – creating characters.

You will listen to established writers, such as Louis de Bernières, Patricia Duncker, Alex Garland, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Tim Pears, Michèle Roberts and Monique Roffey, talk about how they started writing. You’ll consider the rituals of writing and the importance of keeping a journal.

You’ll learn how to develop your ideas and the importance of reflecting on writing and editing, and you’ll hear other writers talking about their approaches to research and consider ways of turning events into a plot.

You’ll also have the opportunity to review and comment on the work of fellow writers, and receive peer feedback on your own story, learning the importance of reading as a writer and how to receive and respond to feedback.

The course is run by short-story writer and novelist Dr Derek Neale. It requires a commitment of around three hours a week.

The course itself is free, but optionally you can pay £39 to upgrade. Upgrading entitles you to receive a Statement of Participation when you complete over half the course. In addition, you get unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, and quizzes). With the free version, your access ends 14 days after the end of the course. You can, of course, sign up for free and upgrade later if you choose.

For more information (including a video trailer) and to register, visit the Start Writing Fiction information page of the Futurelearn website.

FutureLearn have lots of other interesting free courses, incidentally. I recently took one called Secrets of Successful Ageing from Trinity College, Dublin, which was informative and thought-provoking. As well as the teaching itself, another big attraction of FutureLearn courses is the opportunity they provide to interact with fellow students all over the world. You can see all upcoming courses on this web page.

If you have any comments or questions about FutureLearn, as ever, please do post them below.

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Guest Post: Some Beneficial Tips for New Fiction Authors

Guest Post: Some Beneficial Tips for New Fiction Authors

Today I have a syndicated guest post for you from writer, editor and writing teacher Joyce Shafer. In her post below, Joyce offers some great tips for new fiction writers, and novelists in particular.

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Let’s start with what is for some writers akin to a four-letter word: Outline. Yes, there are successful authors–and I do mean best-selling authors–whose practice is to let their fingers fly and write by the seat of their pants (known as pantsers), but they are few in number. These authors may seem like they’re winging it. They aren’t. They have years (or decades) of practice built upon a foundation of knowledge about technical and creative principles of the writing craft. The majority of best-selling authors spend time on their outlines, even a few months, including doing needed research, before the first word of the draft is typed. This includes sometimes significantly changing or tossing the outline and starting over.

I recently worked with a client who wrote and self-published his first novel. It was written without an official outline, but he had an organized mental outline going on, even though he didn’t realize it. However, during our time working together, he did James Patterson’s online writing course, and saw first-hand how creating an outline would save time. As I write this, we’re working on the sequel, which started with an outline we both reviewed and revised. And as anyone who uses outlines will tell you, just because you wrote the outline down, this doesn’t mean it’s etched in stone. For example, as I went through the client’s outline, several ideas came forward, especially about how to create the desired big twist that alters the protagonist in a monumental way, which is a shift the author was looking for. When such inspiration happens to you, just change the outline and keep writing.

Now, let’s talk about skills. This client has experience writing non-fiction papers and articles, but this was his first foray into fiction writing. He was genuinely shocked to learn he didn’t know how much he didn’t know about the technical and creative aspects of writing fiction. A truth to keep in mind is that a successful author works very hard, using the technical and creative principles, to make writing seem easy. This means you, if you are committed to being a good writer, need to study these principles and put them into practice so they can become natural for you as well.

Initially, the client expressed that his confidence was shaken because of the needed corrections brought to his attention and because of the suggested revisions provided. I pointed out that his innate abilities were obvious to me (they are!) and reminded him that he was just starting on this path, so it was unfair for him to compare his efforts with my twenty-plus years of study and experience. He soon got on board with the learning process. Happily for both of us, he’s a willing, enthusiastic learner. (By the way, he’s ecstatic that his debut novel is getting five-star reviews!)

The more willing and enthusiastic you are about improving your skills, the better your experience and results will be, and the more eager your readers will be for additional books from you. As you improve, you’ll reduce the time it takes to get your novels ready for your audience. If you’re a new writer of fiction, please understand that rushing the process of writing a novel, especially your first one, is never a good idea. Never. Be willing to take your novels through a number of revisions, if needed.

Some other things to focus on when writing a novel are as follows:

Track the chapters: Keep track of chapter numbers and include a brief one-liner about what main thing happens in each chapter. This makes it easier to find your place in the story if/when an inspired idea or needed change flashes in your mind. If this flash happens during the night or when you’re doing something else, make a note so you don’t lose the idea, and then add it in the next day. Also, watch that you don’t make your chapters too long. Look at several books by successful authors and note how long their chapters usually run. The number of chapter pages will differ throughout their books, but you’ll see that sometimes chapters are longer and sometimes they are one, two, or three pages in length. Shorter chapters keep readers reading. Long chapters will keep them reading as long as the content is page-turning good. In longer chapters by these authors, note how often they have scene breaks or scene changes.

Track timing: Keep track of the dates, days of the week, months, and times of day. It’s too easy to slip up. You might start a scene at eight in the morning then three paragraphs or two pages later it’s nighttime but you’re in the same scene that may have lasted only fifteen minutes. Oops. So, it’s also beneficial to keep track of the duration of the scene. Did it play out in fifteen minutes, a half hour, an hour or more?

Track characters: Create a character list. The best way to do this is to write the characters’ first and last names down (and make certain you are consistent with how you spell their names throughout the manuscript), as well as their relationship to the protagonist and or their role in the story. This also makes it easier for you to look up a character’s name if s/he hasn’t been “on stage” for a while. You benefit by doing character profiles prior to starting your draft. The more significant a character is to the story, the more detailed the profile should be.

Track conflict type: You want to pay attention to how many scenes include conflict that is external, internal, interpersonal, and or antagonistic so that you keep the correct balance for your plot and character development. Conflict is required for a good story, and how much and which types of conflict occur have all to do with your genre. Commercial fiction typically has far less internal conflict for one or more characters than literary or light literary fiction requires. The most engaging, page-turner novels have conflict of some sort escalating gradually until the climax point in the story. This doesn’t mean each chapter has so much action or conflict in it that you exhaust your readers. Some conflicts are simple, like your protagonist needing to contact someone in a hurry and s/he can’t reach them, or perhaps your protagonist needs to speak up in a situation but has self-esteem issues.

Track point of view (POV): This is something you can organize when you create your outline. Tracking POV for scenes is important because it’s too easy for inexperienced (and even experienced) writers to include more than one POV in a scene. Each scene that includes POV needs to be in the POV of only one character at a time.

Read aloud: This includes reading passages from books by your favorite authors, but especially your own manuscripts. Once you complete your first draft, print it out (don’t read from the computer) and read it aloud with pen and extra paper on hand. It’s vital that when you do this, you do so from the perspective of a reader/editor, rather than the proud creator. Look for extra spaces, misspelled words, missing words, incorrect punctuation, consistency of indents for paragraphs (be sure you do not include spaces between paragraphs, and be sure you do use only one space between sentences), wrong word choices, boring dialogue, not enough information, more information than what’s needed, run-on sentences, flow, pace, and anything and everything that impedes the writing from being a good story that keeps readers in their mental movie and eager to turn the page. You read aloud what you write because you need to hear how your story sounds, because this is how it will sound in readers’ minds. Do this for each revision. You’ll be happy you did.

There are many, many additional things to pay attention to when writing fiction, and this is why there are so many books available on this subject. One book I highly recommend is Spellbinding Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Achieving Excellence & Captivating Readers by Barbara Baig. This is not a book you read like most books: Baig puts you to work, but it’s not hard or tedious work. If you’re committed to being a writer and improving your craft, you’ll find her practices engaging and revealing. Your ability to write better, and with more confidence, will unfold as you move through the material.

Know this: There’s always more to learn. This is why even best-selling authors go to workshops and conferences. Commit some of your time to studying to improve your skills, some time to reading so you study what other authors do, and some time to writing, which is the only way to practice what you learn.

I wish you the best with your writing and progress.

Joyce L. Shafer provides services for writers, with a focus on assisting new and indie authors. Services include Manuscript Evaluation, Substantive Editing, and Silent (Ghost) Rewriting/Editing, which includes converting plays and screenplays into novels. Her clients say she’s part editor, part teacher, part coach. Details are available at http://editmybookandmore.weebly.com/.

Article Source: Some Beneficial Tips for New Fiction Authors.

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Many thanks to Joyce for a valuable and thought-provoking article. I agree with everything she says, especially the advice to read your work out loud. This can be great for spotting awkward phrases and sentences that mar the flow of your writing.

If you have any comments or questions about the article, as always, please do post them below.

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Check Out These Content Writing Tips from 70 Experts

Check Out These Content Writing Tips From 70 Experts

I was recently asked to contribute a writing-related tip to a blog post that was being compiled by my colleague Camilla Hallstrom. Camilla runs the popular Influence with Content copywriting blog.

The post has now been published, and it is such a comprehensive resource I thought I would share a link to it here. The title is Writing Engaging Content – 70 Powerful Expert Tips.

The 70 experts are divided into categories, as follows:

  • Entrepreneurs and Bloggers
  • Digital and Content Marketing Specialists and Strategists
  • Content Writers and Copywriters
  • Writing Experts
  • Social Media Experts
  • Branding Experts

If you’re interested, you can find me (and my tip) about half-way through, in the Content Writers and Copywriters category.

Here is a sample tip from one of my fellow experts, Kayla Hollatz, a professional copywriter and brand strategist.

My best writing tip for engaging your audience is writing in your unique brand voice. You don’t have to sound like everyone else in your industry. In fact, you shouldn’t. The more you deep dive into who you are and what you offer, the more you’ll be able to communicate that in a clear, concise way. That builds trust which then builds engagement. Also, it never hurts to sprinkle in some personality, too!

Although the article is aimed primarily at copywriters and content writers, many of the tips would apply equally in other types of writing. So it’s well worth scrolling through the advice and making notes on any parts that seem particularly relevant to you.

Camilla has also created a free writing workbook that incorporates many of the tips offered. You can download this via the blog post.

If you have any comments or questions about any of the advice in Writing Engaging Content – 70 Powerful Expert Tips, of course, please do post them below as usual.

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Sign up now for this free screenwriting course

Sign Up Now For This Free Screenwriting Course

If screenwriting is something that interests you, you might like to sign up for the free introductory course currently on offer via FutureLearn (a UK-based educational initiative that advertises short online courses from British and international universities).

The course title is An Introduction to Screenwriting and it comes from the University of East Anglia. It starts on 8 May 2017 and runs for two weeks with an estimated time commitment of three hours per week.

An Introduction to Screenwriting is an online course for anyone new to scriptwriting and for more experienced writers who wish to raise their scriptwriting to a professional level. It does not require any previous experience of studying the subject.

On the website, it says:

You’ll learn from a mixture of basic theory, script analysis and practical exercises. We will explore key principles as they’re expressed in great films, then immediately apply these concepts. Videos, articles and discussion steps will offer you the opportunity to learn and engage with other learners on key concepts and ideas.

By the end of the course, you will understand the key concepts necessary to write an effective screenplay and be fluent in the language used to discuss the form.

The course is run by screenwriter Michael Lengsfield and his colleagues at UEA’s School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing.

An Introduction to Screenwriting is free of charge and open to anyone anywhere in the world. There is, though, a paid-for upgrade as well (costing 49 UKP) with a few extra features. In particular, you get a certificate at the end and can continue to access all the course materials indefinitely. With the free version you only get access for up to a fortnight after the end of the course – so if you don’t want to pay the fee you may need to do a bit of copying and pasting to keep all the materials for future reference!

For more information about the course (including a video trailer) and to register, visit the Introduction to Screenwriting information page of the FutureLearn website.

FutureLearn have lots of other interesting free courses, incidentally, on subjects ranging from anatomy to physical theatre, cyber-security to discovering dentistry!

I have taken a number of Futurelearn courses myself and always find them stimulating and thought-provoking. Another big attraction is that you get to interact with fellow students from all over the world.

  • If you are interested in screenwriting, you might also like to check out Movie in a Month, a high-quality CD-based course from my publishers WCCL. As well as in-depth advice on screenwriting, this also includes over 800 actual movie scripts and treatments you can learn from.
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Puzzle Publishing Profits

Review: Puzzle Publishing Profits by Amy Harrop

Puzzle Publishing Profits is the latest writing product to be launched by my prolific colleague Amy Harrop.

Amy is a successful self-published author, and publisher of many guides and software products for authors. She was kind enough to allow me a review copy, so here’s what I found…

Puzzle Publishing Profits is a guide to making money by publishing puzzle books of all types, probably using Amazon’s CreateSpace print publishing platform. It is being sold via the popular and well-established WarriorPlus platform. The main guide is a 60-page PDF.

As you would expect with any of Amy’s publications, this is well written and attractively presented. It is illustrated with graphics and screen captures where relevant.

In the manual, Amy explains how you can capitalize on the huge market for puzzle books. She starts by discussing the wide range of such books and reveals the various target audiences for them, from children to the elderly. She also discusses current trends in the puzzle books field. The manual covers crossword puzzles, Sudoku, logic puzzles, maze puzzles, word-search, graphic puzzles, math (or maths) puzzles, brainteasers, and many more.

The latter part of the manual then discusses how readers can write, publish and market these books themselves. Amy recommends publishing in print rather than Kindle e-book form, as in general people like to complete puzzles using a pen and paper, not on a tablet or e-reader. As mentioned above, she recommends using Amazon’s CreateSpace POD (print on demand) self-publishing platform.

Clearly covering how to do all this in detail would require a much longer book, so what Amy has done is link to useful resources throughout the manual. Some of these resources she has produced herself, while others are from external websites. An example of the former is a six-page spreadsheet listing sources of online puzzle-making software (free and paid for), puzzle-making resources, forums, Facebook Groups, Yahoo Groups, and Pinterest pages. The forum, groups and Pinterest pages strike me as being more relevant for puzzle aficionados than for puzzle-book makers,. but the software and resources websites are certainly worth knowing about.

There is some good advice on publishing your puzzle book using CreateSpace, again with links to other resources for finding out more. The manual closes with an 8-page discussion of how to promote your puzzle book. This focuses especially on writing a good description of your book for the Amazon store, and using social media to build your following and help spread the word. I thought there were some very good tips here.

When preparing puzzle books, Amy advises strongly against referring to actual product and brand names. While I understand her caution, personally I think it’s a bit excessive. While I would agree that producing a Frozen puzzle book is a bad idea and would likely attract the attention of the Disney company lawyers, simply mentioning the name of a movie or TV show in a broader-based book is unlikely to cause problems. If that were not the case, most trivia quiz books (such as the one pictured below that I wrote a while ago for my clients at Lagoon Games) would never see the light of day. The key thing is to be sensible and only refer to high-profile, trademarked productions in a broader context. In a themed puzzle book about movies, for example, you could (in my view) have a wordsearch puzzle featuring the names of well-known characters from children’s films.

TV trivia quiz book by Nick Daws

As well as the main manual, buyers of Puzzle Publishing Profits get two bonus items. I didn’t actually receive these with my pre-launch review copy, but here are the descriptions from the sales page:

Amy Puzzle Book Bonusese

It sounds as though these will add value to the main manual, especially the CreateSpace publishing guide.

In summary, Puzzle Publishing Profits is an eye-opening guide to a field that appears crammed with potential right now, and it has definitely inspired me to think about trying it myself. It is currently on a launch special offer for $17 (about £14), after which – as is Amy’s usual practice – the price will be rising to $27. If you want to broaden your publishing portfolio with something that is fun and not too time-consuming, it is definitely worth a look.

If you have any comments or questions about Puzzle Publishing Profits, as always, please do post them below.

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screenwriting

Free Online Screenwriting Course

If you’re interested in screenwriting, you may like to know about a free online Introduction to Screenwriting course that starts next month.

It’s being run by the University of East Anglia, under the auspices of FutureLearn. Details from the website are copied below…

The course is a must for anyone new to scriptwriting and for more experienced writers who wish to raise their scriptwriting to a professional level. It will establish a common vocabulary for approaching the screenplay and form the basis for upcoming courses in dramatic adaptation, the crime screenplay, and other genres and skills.

What and how will I learn?

You’ll learn from a mixture of basic theory, script analysis and practical exercises. We will explore key principles as they’re expressed in great films, then immediately apply these concepts. Videos, articles and discussion steps will offer you the opportunity to learn and engage with other learners on key concepts and ideas.

By the end of the course, you will understand the key concepts necessary to write an effective screenplay and be fluent in the language used to discuss the form.

Source: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/screenwriting

The course is free to join and starts on 29 February 2016. It lasts two weeks and involves a commitment of three hours a week. The course is open to anyone in the world.

For more information, and to sign up, visit the Futurelearn web page for the course. You might also like to check out the other free online courses currently available from Futurelearn here.

Good luck, and see you in Hollywood!

 

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SBI! for WP homepage

SBI! for WP – A New WordPress Training Program and Plugin

Regular readers will know that I am a writer and bizopps reviewer for the UK-based More Money Review website.

Many of the products I review are average at best, but occasionally I come across one so good that I feel it is worth drawing to the attention of readers of this blog as well.

SBI! for WP is one such case. It comes from the Canadian SiteSell organization, who also produce the long-established SBI! website building and training product. As the name implies, SBI! for WP incorporates the best of SBI! into a new product aimed at new and fledgling WordPress users.

WordPress is, of course, a hugely popular blogging platform. And because of the ease with which it can be customized, it’s also used to create many other types of website, from sales and marketing pages to review sites, online stores to authority sites. Entrepreneur Writer and More Money Review both use WordPress to power them, incidentally.

One drawback with WordPress is that there can be quite a steep learning curve. SBI! for WP aims to get round this by providing an in-depth, structured training program, divided into ten “daily” lessons (though some lessons may well take longer than a day to complete). You also get access to a huge online library of “Tips and Tricks” articles, and another library of ways of making money from your WordPress site.

Apart from the training, you also get access to BrainstormIt! This is a powerful research tool which helps you research concepts for your site and then specific keywords you can target in your content. It also shows you which keywords (and phrases) may have the best money-making potential with Google AdSense.

SBI! for WP is reasonably priced, and what I really like is that you can try the entire course (and plugin) free of charge for 30 days. You don’t even have to hand over your credit card number.

If you have any interest at all in learning about WordPress and setting up a WordPress website, in my view SBI! for WP is well worth considering, therefore. Even as a moderately experienced WordPress user, I have picked up a lot of useful tips and information from it.

If you would like to read my full, in-depth review of SBI! for WP on the More Money Review website, you can do so by clicking on this link. Note that you will need to open an account on MMR and log in to read the full review, but this is free and only takes a moment.

And if you want to take up the current 30-day free trial offer, just click through any of the SBI! for WP links in this article.

As ever, if you have any queries about SBI! for WP, please do post them below.

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