Nick Daw's Writing Blog - Inside the writing world of Nick Daws
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Friday, March 30, 2007

Attempt to Create the World's Longest Poem

Members of my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com are attempting to create the world's longest poem. The project has been spearheaded by MWC stalwarts Allie and Fordy. In her introduction, Allie says:

Our poem is a collaborative attempt to write the longest poem in the English language. By posting to the poem each contributor, while retaining copyright in his or her contribution, waives editorial rights in the context of The Longest Poem.

The poem is a journal of the lives of its writers, both personal and social. Write about your day, about what's going on around you or in the wider world, how you feel about particular social issues or, in fact, about anything at all.

The poem reflects the fact that it is a meeting of many minds and cultures, and so different styles and content are welcome, with the proviso that abusive, vulgar or otherwise objectionable material will be removed. The all-over style will be that of free verse. Any poetic device is permissible, with the exception that there should not be more than two end rhymes in any one contribution.
Anyone is welcome to contribute to this project, though you will of course need to be a forum member and logged in. If you are interested, go to the World's Longest Poem topic and read Allie's introduction. This sets out the rules (there have to be some) that contributors must follow, and the format in which contributions are to be presented. Read through the entries submitted so far, then if the mood takes you add a few lines yourself.

Finally, please note that the above link is ONLY for contributions. There is a separate thread for questions or comments about the project on the Writing Games and Challenges board - click here to go to this topic.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

An Opportunity for Children's Writers

I was interested to see the following item on the excellent Writelink website...

New media development company Sevenspiral Limited is seeking fresh and quirky children's stories, including those suitable for early teens, for development into graphic novels. We are creating a series of 'mobisode' comics for mobile phones, for broadcast partners across Europe. We will be able to storyboard and illustrate, plus add music to, your original work. We are looking for material across all genres, particularly work which could have a strong character, and those with a strong potential for soundtrack.

Stories selected to be used will receive a flat fee when sold onto a broadcaster, but we cannot pay up front fees for new work before receiving.

If interested, please contact Will Pearson, Creative Director of Sevenspiral Limited, for more information, using the contacts page of our website http://www.sevenspiral.co.uk .
You can read more about Sevenspiral on their website, although I couldn't find any more in the way of guidelines for writers. I guess if you're interested, the thing to do is e-mail Will Pearson for more information.

Incidentally, the project reminds me a bit of the ultimately unsuccessful Kwickee mobile phone publishing service I was involved with a couple of years ago. They also planned to offer fiction (and non-fiction) to people's mobile (cell) phones, but were never able to find enough customers. Possibly now the market is ready for this new initiative. In any event, I am sure they are doing the right thing by targeting young people, as they are the heaviest users of mobile phones.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More Writing Blogs to Check Out

I thought I'd take this opportunity to spotlight a few other writing blogs you might like to visit in addition to this one!

First up, my colleague Dr Suzanne (Suzie) Harris has just launched a blog specifically devoted to non-fiction writing. It's at http://nonfictionmuse.blogspot.com/. Suzie was one of the first people to buy my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course, and since then her writing career has gone from strength to strength. This particular blog has only just been launched so there isn't much on it yet, but if you're interested in writing non-fiction books and articles, it's definitely one to keep an eye on.

The second blog I wanted to mention is goodcopybadcopy, by professional writer and editor Clare Lynch. I actually discovered this when I noticed that I was getting a number of visitors to my own blog from this site, so many thanks for putting me on your "blogroll", Clare!

On her "About Me" page, Clare writes:
I'm a professional writer and editor with many years' experience in journalism and corporate communications. My clients include global banks, commercial and residential real estate firms, direct marketing companies and magazines. I also have a PhD in Old English poetry from the University of Cambridge.

My passion for the English language is almost matched by the splenetic pleasure I take in spotting its increasingly frequent abuses. Primarily for those in business, this blog aims to help readers avoid the common pitfalls that befall many writers - non-professional and otherwise.
Clare's blog includes lots of interesting observations about the good and bad use of English. If, like me, you are fascinated by grammar and punctuation and don't like to see them abused, it's a "must read".

And finally, I'd like to give a quick plug to my near-neighbour Linda Jones of Passionate Media Relations, who actually has three blogs. There's her journalism and PR blog at http://passionatemedia.typepad.com/, her freelance writing blog at http://www.freelancewritingtips.com/, and her blog devoted to news and features about having twins, triplets and more at http://www.gotyourhandsfull.com/ (great URL, by the way!). They are all well worth reading, though obviously the latter one may or may not be relevant to you!

Finally, just a quick invitation. If you have a blog or a website relevant to writers, would you be interested in swapping links with me? If so, drop me a line at e-writer-at-nickdaws.co.uk (change the -at- to the usual @ sign). I'll be happy to mention your site here (as long as I like it!), in exchange for a link to my blog from yours.

Happy blogging!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New Website to Help Authors Find Agents or Publishers

I'm grateful to my colleague Sandy Mather for drawing my attention to a brand new website for writers called Let's Get Published.

Let's Get Published aims to provide a platform for authors of fiction or non-fiction who are seeking a publisher or agent. The idea is that you join the site (which is free) and upload a sample of your writing. This is then available for anyone to read on the website. If an agent or publisher sees your work and likes it, they will be able to contact you and (hopefully) make you an offer you can't refuse. The site's founder, Nigel Edwards, explains the concept as follows:
Instead of writers sending out manuscripts to agents and publishers, why don't the agents and publishers go directly to the manuscripts? Absurd? Not at all; the medium to do just that exists with the world wide web. Writers could publish work samples on their own websites - but how are the agents and publishers to know where to look? There are millions of writers and thousands of agents worldwide. What's needed is a common portal, or meeting place, which is exactly what http://www.letsgetpublished.com/ provides.
Of course, the success of Let's Get Published will depend ultimately on whether agents and publishers do actually visit the site in search of new talent. Nigel Edwards promises he will do everything in his power to ensure that the site is widely publicised. On the FAQs page he says they will use three main methods:
Firstly Let's Get Published will contact people in the publishing industry directly and tell them of the service we offer. Secondly we will link to various internet sites where we believe there is mutual benefit. Thirdly, and most importantly, we hope that our members will spread the word themselves. A personal recommendation is worth vastly more than any mail promotion!
Let's Get Published has only just been launched so at present the site is a little bare. You could, however, argue that now is the ideal time to join, as your work will not be crowded out by other people's!

Becoming a member is quick and easy - just click on Sign Up at the top right of the main page and complete the short application form. Once you are in, you will be able to upload samples of your work, set up your profile page, publish 'snippets' for other members to comment on, and so forth.

Overall, I think any author who is currently seeking an agent or publisher should check out Let's Get Published. Yes, there are a few mildly irritating ads to negotiate, but this is a small price to pay for the range of features and services on offer at the site.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Win A Fortune From Consumer Competitions, Contests And Sweepstakes

That's the full official title of my brand new course just published by WCCL, though as it's a bit of a mouthful I'll refer to it by its shorter title of How to Win Contests from now on!

As buyers of my course Quick Cash Writing will know, I have an enjoyable and profitable sideline entering consumer competitions. I regularly collect prizes large and small just by writing a few words on an entry form and sending it in.

You see, the type of competition I most enjoy - and which is discussed in detail in my new course - requires you to produce as part of your entry a so-called tie-breaker slogan. But really, in such competitions, the slogan is the only thing that matters (the preliminary tasks are usually quite straightforward). Write a good slogan, and there is every chance that YOUR name will pop up on the winners' list!

I believe that this is an opportunity that no-one with a smidgeon of writing talent can afford to ignore. So in How to Win Contests I've set out in detail my never-before-revealed strategies for winning consumer contests. I've covered everything you need to know, from how to find out about contests to how to avoid being disqualified, where to get help on the Internet to how to improve your chances in sweepstakes and mail-ins.

I cover all the preliminary tasks you may be asked to perform in detail - yes, most are straightforward, but there are still pitfalls to catch out the unwary. And - most importantly of all - I show you how to come up with slogans that will knock the judges' socks off! I've examined many thousands of winning slogans and analysed the categories they fall into - and in my new course I reveal a range of easy-to-apply techniques you can use to come up with similar slogans, or even better ones!

If you have my course Quick Cash Writing, you'll have seen the module where I talk about consumer competitions. Many people have written to me saying that this has given them a start in this field, but asking if I can go into more detail. So in this course, which as far as I'm aware is unique, I've held nothing back. I reveal all the techniques I've used successfully over the years to win prizes ranging from a crate of beer to a Mediterranean cruise.

If you would like to see further information about How to Win Contests, including an extract from the course material, just click on any of the links in this post to go to the relevant page of my website. My website page also includes banners that will take you through to my publisher's sales site if you wish to order.

Just a couple of other things I wanted to mention about my new course. First, it isn't so much a manual as a complete kit to get you started at winning competitions in the shortest possible time. So as well as the main instructional material, you also get my Treasure Chest of Winning Slogans, a 40-page list of winning slogans from recent competitions to learn from and adapt in your own entries. AND you get a copy of the special template I use myself to help generate slogan ideas, AND you get a lifetime subscription to my exclusive email newsletter for competition fans, Winning Lines.

Because the course has only just been launched, my publishers are currently offering it at a giveaway price. However, once the launch period is over, this will DEFINITELY go up. So please, if you want to purchase How to Win Contests at the lowest possible price, order your copy today!

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Dean Koontz Book Trailer Contest

It's a little-known fact that I'm a big Dean Koontz fan. I subscribe to his entertaining email newsletter, which you can do via his website if you like.

That's how I heard about his brand new competition with a $5,000 top prize. To win you have to create a 30-second book trailer based on reading two pre-publication chapters of Dean's forthcoming novel, The Good Guy. As his publishers say on the competition page, the trailer that best brings the book alive for potential readers will win the grand prize.

You can download the first two chapters of The Good Guy from the competition page, along with the "Essentials Packet" that provides everything else you need to enter the contest. All you have to do then is write and shoot your trailer and upload it to the video-sharing site YouTube. The deadline is May 1 2007.

I appreciate that to enter this contest you will need video-making as well as writing skills, but there are still lots of things I like about it. One of them is that everybody who enters wins a prize - a free "I Shot The Good Guy" tee-shirt. Also, as well as the $5,000 grand prize, there are two runner-up prizes of sets of signed, limited edition Dean Koontz novels, with a value of approximately $1,000.

Anyway, I'm not much of a videographer, but this contest has definitely grabbed my interest. Jayne (my partner) is a Dean fan as well, so we're considering entering a video together, and tossing a coin to see who gets the tee-shirt. If you decide to enter too, maybe we'll see you on YouTube?

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

New Look for Mywriterscircle.com

You may have discovered this already, but in case you haven't I thought I should let you know - my forum has had a make-over!

Some of the changes you will notice as soon as the site opens. For example, we have a new colour scheme based on shades of blue. One person described this as restful, but someone else complained it was hard to read in sunlight. Why not visit today and see what you think?

Other changes are less obvious. For example, all new members will now have to verify their applications before their membership is activated. This should make it harder for spammers to join the forum. Another new addition is the "news box" at the top of the homepage, which will be used to pass on urgent news and forum announcements.

One consequence of the redesign is that you may have to log in again with your user-name and password. This applies even if you selected the option to stay logged in "forever" on your PC. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience. The good news is that you will only have to do this once!

We welcome your feedback on the redesign. There is a poll on the forum at this topic, and you are also very welcome to post your comments on the new look there (as well as read what others have been saying about it).

If you haven't seen the forum for a while (or ever), this could be a very good time to check it out. Anyone can visit the forum and read the posts, but to reply to messages or post your own, you will need to register as a member. The good news is that this is free and simple - just click on the Register tab at the top of the page, then follow the on-screen instructions.

Here's hoping to see you soon on the forum!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

One Way to Get an Idea for Your Next Book...

Today I wanted to share with you an interesting article I came across the other day. It's by Jimmy D. Brown, a successful e-book author and entrepreneur. His article sets out a method for coming up with new ideas for e-books, though it could just as well be used to generate ideas for conventional non-fiction books. There are some similarities with a method I set out in my course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, but Jimmy has definitely put his own original spin on it.

The article is quite short, so I've reproduced it in full. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Idea Hangouts: Where to Find Hot Product Ideas to Use For Creating Your Next Best-Selling eBook
By Jimmy D. Brown of "Small Reports Fortune"

.........................

46,094.

That's how many times I've been asked "Where can I find hot product ideas to write about in my next eBook?"

Really. I've been keeping count. :o)

OK, so it's probably not quite that many times, but you get the idea. I get asked that question a LOT. And so, I've decided to share my favorite "idea hangouts".

That's right ... "idea hangouts." It's been my experience that there are specific places where hot product ideas are always gathered. I call them "idea hangouts."

*** Idea Hangout #1 ***

One of the "idea hangouts" that I've identified is Amazon.com.

Amazon.com is the web's largest bookstore. It's also a community center for new product ideas. I use it as one of my top brainstorming resources. Again and again I visit this site to come up with topics to write about.

What makes Amazon.com so useful as a research tool for getting new ideas is their searchable database of books. There are thousands of great ideas lurking in there if you just know how to use it. And that's what I'm here for. :o)

I'm going to show you how to find hot product ideas with Amazon.com anytime you want.

It's really a matter of three simple steps ...

STEP 01 : >>> Decide Upon A Broad Category.

When brainstorming ideas, you must begin with a broad category to work with. Some examples might be: weight loss, marketing, dating, travel, baseball. So, you need that ahead of time. Figure out a broad subject that you know is popular (I.E. You know that losing weight is ALWAYS going to be a popular subject, as is "making money.").

As an example for this article, I'm going to choose GOLF.

STEP 02 : >>> Search Amazon's Database.

After picking your broad topic to research, it's time to visit Amazon.com. Specifically, you're going to SEARCH their database of books they are selling.

Upon arriving at their site, locate their SEARCH form. At the time of this writing, it was in the upper left hand corner of their main page. Pull the menu down and select BOOKS from the options.

In the space provided, type in whatever broad category you chose. I'd type in "Golf". (You don't need quotation marks.)

If you did indeed start with a broad category, then hundreds (or even thousands) of book listings should appear as a result of the search.

STEP 03 : >>> Brainstorm Ideas From The Listings.

Let the brainstorming session begin! Now it's time to look at the books that are listed and write down as many possible ideas as you can find.

Look for the different TYPES of books written about the subject, identifying different THEMES, STYLES and SUBCATEGORIES.

Let's look at an example ...

When I searched for "Golf", I was able to immediately spot dozens of great ideas. Here are a handful ...

1. Becoming a better golfer. There are many golf books available in this area, covering everything from "A-Z of Golf Shots" to specific topics such as "Improving Your Short Game." There were lots of different themes from "learning to break 100" to "shaving 10 shots off your score" to "7 shots that will change your golf game forever."

2. Guides to Golf Courses. Again, we have many different ideas here. Specific golf guides like "Florida golfing", "golfing in Tennessee" and "golfing the Robert Trent Jones trail" appear, as well as books on "the best golf courses in America," "best kept secrets: great golf courses you've probably never played," and "golf vacation guides."

3. Profiting from Golf. More ideas pour in with "opening a golf repair business," "becoming a golf retailer," "learning how to caddy" and "buying & selling used golf clubs."

What about "running an online golf auction", "organizing a golf tournament for profit" or even "writing information products about golf!"

4. Golf and Business. There are millions of dollars in business deals negotiated on the golf course every single year. And there are books available to teach folks how to get it done. "How to negotiate business deals during golf outings," "Legal golf tax deductions for businesspeople," and "business seminars and golf: how to mix training and fun for maximum profit" are just a few more ideas worth exploring.

5. Golf Products. My, my, my there are so many ideas floating around in here! Everything ranging from reviews of the latest golf equipment to ratings of golf courses to discounts on golf packages. Resource guides to finding the best deals on golfing products, how to negotiate discounts, and how to find the best products for your specific golf game also come to mind as product ideas.

One Broad Category (Golf)+ Amazon.com Searchable Database of Books= 28 Potential Product Ideas

See how easy that was? I found TWENTY-EIGHT potential new product ideas (and there were MANY MORE that I didn't mention in this article) from a simple brainstorming exercise using ONE "idea hangout."

There's got to be a best-seller in that bunch somewhere.

And certainly with a little "mix -n- match" I can come up with a hit product with these ideas.

Not bad, eh?

So, now it's YOUR turn. It's a simple system for coming up with product ideas anytime you want. Like right now.

.........................
Jimmy D. Brown is the author of "Small Reports Fortune" - if you can write 7-15 page small reports, you can earn a living online working just a few hours each week from your home. Look for his EXCLUSIVE formula "Creating A Six-Figure Income With Small Reports" at http://tinyurl.com/ypa7wp.
.........................

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One-Minute Plays Wanted!

If play-writing is your thing, here's an interesting opportunity for you. Submissions of one-minute plays are currently being sought for an International Festival titled 'Gone in 60 Secs'. Here's what they say on their website at www.screamingmediaproductions.com.

Now in its third international year, Screaming Media Productions have once again teamed up with Harrogate Theatre, Harrogate College and Brooklyn College New York to present 'GI60', the world's only 'International Interactive Theatre Festival'. In May and June of this year both Harrogate Theatre and Brooklyn College will host an evening of new theatre. Each venue will premiere fifty new plays, each lasting no more than sixty seconds in length. Actors at Brooklyn College and Harrogate Theatre will perform the plays, which will be recorded and then made available for viewing or download via the screaming media website for a period of up to one year. 'GI60' celebrates new writing by providing a creative platform to a diverse range of people of all ages from around the world. If you have an idea, why not write a play? It's open to anybody and it couldn't be easier...
Full details can be viewed on the Screaming Media site, but briefly the main rules are (1) plays must last no longer than 60 seconds, (2) all plays must be totally original and the author's own work, and (3) the cast size may not exceed 12 actors. All entries must be submitted by email, and the deadline is Saturday 14 April.

The downside is that there are no prizes on offer apart from having your work performed, but then again these are only one-minute plays we're talking about. It's an interesting challenge and a chance to get a bit of free publicity if you're a winner, not to mention an eye-catching addition to your writing CV/resume. So if you agree with the Bard that "the play's the thing", why not give it a try?!

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Monday, March 19, 2007

New EU Directive Could Affect Writers

I was concerned to read this post by Dr Suzanne (Suzie) Harris in her S Files blog about the new Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which is due to come into force across Europe in December 2007. I've copied Suzie's first paragraph below:

When I received my copy of the Writers' News Magazine today I was shocked to read about a new law that prevents us as authors reviewing our own books online. If you are an author or publisher that reviews your own work on the 'net you could run into some serious trouble. On the 31st December (in some reports it's the 12th of December) 'The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive' comes into force.
Having read Suzie's post, I wanted to find out more about this myself. A little online research unearthed a useful article on the Media Entertainment Lawyer website. One quote from this seemed to sum up the situation to me:

The UK is still drafting its version of the legislation but amongst the activities that will certainly be prohibited is a business falsely representing itself as a consumer. Flogs or fake postings to newsgroups will certainly fall foul of this prohibition.
As I read it then, there will be no bar on authors reviewing their own books as long as they make it clear in the review that they are the author. It will, however, outlaw the (allegedly common) practice on Amazon and similar sites of authors giving their books a glowing review under a false name - representing themselves as ordinary consumers, in other words.

Banning this practice does not seem unreasonable to me, though there is an argument that it should be left to the sites themseves to police (as Amazon.com has done) rather than bringing in the lawyers. Unfortunately, also, there will still be no redress for authors who have been given deliberately poor reviews by rival authors or publishers.

In her blog, Suzie also expresses concern that the Directive may impact on sites such as PayPerPost, which pay bloggers to review other websites, products and so on. It will certainly stop bloggers doing this covertly, but if the blogger makes clear that the post is sponsored, I can't see there will be any problem. It is significant that PayPerPost and similar sites have all now moved to a policy of full disclosure, possibly in anticipation of the new law.

The article in Writers News Magazine referred to by Suzie in her blog post also hints that in future there may be moves to prevent friends giving one another's books glowing reviews. Truthfully I can't see this happening, though. The process of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" has being going on among authors and publishers almost since books were invented. And how could you "prove" that one person is a friend of another, and that this has influenced their review? I'm sure Trading Standards Officers, who are responsible for implementing the present laws in the UK, would feel that they have many more important things to do with their time.

Overall, then, I'm not going to lose any sleep over the new Directive. The practices being barred are not ones that would be used by any ethical writer anyway, and if the "cheats" on sites such as Amazon are barred, it can only be good news for the rest of us who would not stoop to such deceptions.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

WhiteSmoke's Weekend Sale

I've just heard from the people at WhiteSmoke that, for this weekend only, they are offering a huge 30% off the price of their writing software. If you're at all interested in this, there's never been a better time to place your order.

For those who don't know, WhiteSmoke is a program that aims to help users produce better-written documents. It does this by analyzing the spelling, punctuation and grammar in any document, and then suggesting corrections and possible improvements. You can read my original review of WhiteSmoke by clicking here.

I should perhaps mention as well that WhiteSmoke have just added two new features to their software. There's a new Dictionary and Translation tool, which includes definitions, idioms, a thesaurus, and translation to 17 different languages. And they have also launched a "top expert" service, which enables users to ask any question about English writing and grammar.

For more information, please click on the banner below. Remember to enter the coupon code 3030 to claim your 30% discount!

Whitesmoke all-in-one solution

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Have You Seen Smart Writers Newsletter?

Did you know that my publishers, WCCL, publish their own weekly email newsletter for writers? It's called Smart Writers, and recently it's been given a bit of a facelift.

Every issue now includes a Welcome message from WCCL's Trent Steele, and Morning Inspiration, a set of quotes about writing to inspire and motivate you. That's followed by Recommendations, a round-up of the latest writing books, courses, e-books and other products (not only WCCL publications).

Following that - a neat new feature! - you get an extract from my latest blog post, whatever it might be. Naturally, a link is provided to take you to my blog if you want to read the whole article.

And finally, every issue includes an article about some aspect of writing by a guest author. In the latest I received, this was "Untold Secrets of Writing Best-Selling Children's Books" by Caterina Christakos, who has a website at www.howtowriteachildrensbook.com. This was a short but interesting article about the importance of characters and conflict in children's fiction.

Smart Writers is attractively formatted and a quick, enjoyable read. Not only is it free to subscribe, WCCL are also giving away a selection of e-books, audio interviews and so on as an extra incentive to sign up. They put a value of almost $4,000 on the freebies, which you might want to take with a pinch of salt (even if they do include several items from me!). It's all good stuff, though, and free, so there's no real cause for complaint.

You can subscribe to Smart Writers via any of the links in this post. And don't worry, you can unsubscribe at any time if you find it's not for you. WCCL is a reputable company and it has no interest in spamming anyone. They also sponsor my forum, as well as the world's first free Internet radio station for writers, WritersFM.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Postcards From Hell

Postcards From Hell is a new, paying market for short horror stories (around 500 words). Information about it was originally posted on my forum by Country4Gal, otherwise known as Alice.

Payment for accepted stories is a flat rate of $50 US per story. They are asking for both print and electronic publication rights for one year from the date of publication, but after that all rights revert to you. Here's what they say about the sort of stories they are looking for:
These are Postcards from Hell, so make your story hellish. No, we're not just interested in stories about demons and devils, or zombies or werewolves or vampires, although all these things are nice. Hell has many layers, each one unique, and several are often mistaken for real life. So hell might be a child's closet or the trunk of a car or the muddy bank of a river in India. But keep in mind that we have a sense of humor around here. The most interesting person in Paradise Lost was The Boss. If we couldn't laugh, this really would be hell. We're not especially looking for funny stories, but if your story makes us chuckle, we won't immediately toss it in the Lake of Fire.

I highly recommend reading the whole of the Postcards From Hell website, not only because it will give you a better idea of what they are looking for, but also it is quite an amusing read (check out the photo of the three-headed golden retriever who guards their electronic domain!).

Finally, do visit as well this topic on my forum, where this opportunity is currently being discussed.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

See Nick Daws IRL

...That's "in real life" for those of you who may not be familiar with chat room jargon!

Yes, this Thursday evening (15 March) I'm giving a talk to the Lichfield & District Writers titled "Pushing the Envelope - Unusual Markets for Writers".

I realise most readers of this blog won't live in the Lichfield area, so apologies to them. But if by chance you do, it would be great to see you there. Non-members are welcome, though there is a small charge for attendance (two pounds, I believe).

The meeting will be held at Cruck House, Stowe Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire, starting at 7.45 pm and going through till 10. I'll be talking about some of the unusual writing jobs I've had in the last year or two, and giving those present the chance to try their hand at one or two of these odd assignments themselves. I expect it to be a light-hearted, but hopefully informative, evening.

If you've not been to a meeting of Lichfield & District Writers before, I recommend sending their publicity secretary, Jane Rogers, an email beforehand, to let her know you'll be coming. Her address is jmr-at-bunwd.demon.co.uk (change the -at- to the usual @ sign). Jane will also be able to answer any queries you may have about the meeting and the group generally.

I'll hope to see you there!

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Free Motivational Software From WCCL

If you have trouble motivating yourself to write - and let's face it, we all do at times - here's a program to get you on track again. It's called The Motivator, and it comes from my publishers WCCL. And perhaps the best news is that it's completely free, with no strings attached.

The Motivator uses a powerful psychological technique called programmed rehearsal. Basically, you load it with a series of messages to help you remember your goals. The Motivator then runs quietly in the background, and at intervals displays your messages in popup boxes like those instant messenger popups that tell you a friend has just logged on. But instead, The Motivator software will be moving you one step closer towards achieving your aims.

The Motivator isn't specifically designed for writers, but it can certainly be used to help achieve writing-related goals. To give you an idea, here are some possible messages you could program into the software:

* I am a talented writer.

* Every day I write better.

* Great ideas come naturally to me.

* I am focused and "in the zone".

* I enjoy my writing.

* Every day I achieve my writing targets.

* I enjoy exercising my writing skills.

Obviously, you can choose any messages you like, but it is normally best if they are (a) positive rather than negative, and (b) set in the here and now ("I am") rather than the past or future ("I was" or "I will").

There's lots more advice included with The Motivator software, including a video tutorial prepared by WCCL's Karl Moore, so why not click through any of the links in this post to find out more? It could make all the difference between finishing your book or having it gather dust in your desk drawer!

Finally, while on the subject of software, I just wanted to mention that WhiteSmoke are having another of their weekend sales. Until Sunday 11 March, you can buy their writing program for a huge 25% off. See my review of WhiteSmoke for more information about the software, and click on the banner at the end of the review to visit the sales page. Remember to enter the coupon code 2525 to claim your discount!

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Review: Self Publishing Secrets

Self Publishing Secrets is a recent addition to WCCL's range of electronic courses for writers, which also includes my own Quick Cash Writing and Write Any Book in Under 28 Days. It is written by the prolific UK author Carol Ann Strange, who also happens to be a former colleague from my days as a freelance tutor for The Writers Bureau.

SPS (as I'll call it from now on) is available as an instant download. What you get for your money is a 140-page-plus searchable manual. As you'd expect from a WCCL production, it's attractively designed and professionally written and edited.

When you launch SPS, the Index page will open. This sets out the entire contents of the manual, with links to the main chapters and all the sub-sections (there are getting on for 100 of these). You can return here from any other page of the manual by clicking on 'Back to Main' at the foot of every page. Incidentally, you can also search for any term in the manual by clicking on the search icon at the very top of the screen.

The manual is divided into nine chapters as follows: Introduction, Welcome to Self Publishing, Preparing Your Book for Publication, Going Into Print, Handling Your Book's Sales and Distribution, How to Market Your Book Successfully, Using the Power of the Web to Promote Your Book, How to Increase Your Self Publishing Profits, and Resources.

SPS makes a persuasive case for self publishing as an alternative to seeking out a conventional publisher. In particular, the author points out that self publishing is NOT the same as vanity press. Modern print-on-demand and e-book technology has made self publishing for profit a realistic and achievable target for many writers. And, as Carol Ann points out, a growing number of authors have self published initially then had their books picked up and bought for large sums by mainstream publishers.

Where SPS is particularly strong is in the advice it offers about promoting and marketing your book. The manual is packed with ideas for getting publicity (and sales), and really does fire you up with enthusiasm for getting your book out there and embarking on your first publicity tour! Inevitably, it can't go into the same degree of detail when it comes to exactly how you turn your manuscript into an attractive-looking book, though it does set out all the important points you will need to consider.

Overall, I am happy to recommend Self Publishing Secrets to any author who wants to get an insight into self publishing their work, especially as it is currently on sale at the ultra-low offer price of just $25.95, or around 14 UK pounds.

However, I like to make sure readers of my blog always get the best deal going, so if you order via one of the links in this review, I'm going to throw in not one but TWO extra bonus items of my own. First of all, you'll get a copy of my exclusive 2,500-word report on how I self-published my e-book Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching on the top self-publishing site Lulu.com. Starting from a finished Microsoft Word manuscript, it took me just a morning to sign up at Lulu and complete the entire e-book publishing process. In my report I reveal exactly how I did it, with some very important hints and tips for publishing your own e-book at Lulu along the way.

And not only that, I'll send you a free copy of Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching too. This e-book is intended for teachers and writers who work in schools, but the exercises it contains could equally be used by adult writers groups and individuals. More importantly, though, you will see the actual e-book I refer to in my report in its finished form. If you want to dip your toe into self-publishing, an e-book is the quickest and easiest way to do it. My free bonuses will show you EXACTLY how to do this on the world's favourite self-publishing website!

To claim your bonuses, just forward a copy of your order confirmation email for Self Publishing Secrets to me at SPS-at-nickdaws.co.uk (change the -at- to the usual @ sign). Please put FREE BONUS CLAIM in the subject line. I will check your order details and send you your bonus items, normally within 24 hours.

Happy self publishing!

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Opportunities for Short Story Writers

A few interesting-looking opportunities for short story writers have been posted on the Writers Wanted board of my forum recently, so in case you've missed them I thought I'd draw them to your attention today.

First up, Gyppo (also known as John) was kind enough to post some info about a competition for a seriously short story being held by BBC Radio Four to celebrate World Book Day.

Your story must comprise exactly 100 words, no more, no less, and incorporate the following six words: bodies, experiments, bacon, organic, fire, paper (apparently the contest theme was suggested by a recent interview with surrealist film-maker David Lynch).

You can enter free via the website - just click here to go straight to the relevant page. Fifty UK pounds in book tokens is the first and only prize, and the top three entries will be read out on air. The closing date is Midnight GMT on March 12 2007.

By the way, this competition has been the subject of some discussion on my forum, and you can go directly to the relevant topic here.

Secondly, WritersWeekly.com is holding a 24-Hour Short Story Contest. Basically, you pay a $5 entry fee to register now, then on the start date (April 21 2007) you are emailed the topic of the contest. You then have 24 hours to write and submit your story by email.

It's a nice little challenge, and limited to 500 entrants. There are also over 85 prizes on offer, so if you can turn out a half-way decent story you have a pretty good chance of winning something. You can read full details of the contest here.

Finally, the quarterly US magazine Glimmer Train says it is looking for 'emotonally affecting, literary short fiction.' Stories may be up to 12,000 words in length, and writers can submit up to three in any one reading month (the next reading month is April). There are no reading fees for standard submissions.

Glimmer Train pays a standard fee of $700 for first publication rights. In addition, they run regular contests for new writers, very short stories, and so on. Entry fees are payable for these contests, but the prizes on offer to the winners are higher than the (still substantial) $700 fee paid for standard submissions.

Full guidelines can be found at www.glimmertrain.com/writguid1.html. If you're serious about your short story writing, this looks like a market you should definitely check out.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Joys of E-Commerce...

OK, I'm venting a little today. But sometimes in this business you don't know whether to laugh or to cry. Here's an email I received a few days ago:

Subject: Write for Cash Course

SWREG have cashed my cheque for this course over three weeks ago yet I have not received your course.

I will take legal action to recover costs if you do not deliver the course within the next 7 days.

I can't say I was delighted by this communication, but I replied as politely as I could:

Thank you for your email. I am sorry you have not received the course you ordered.

I am not sure from your message which of my courses you ordered. If it was "Quick Cash Writing" this is provided as an instant download via the Internet. If it was "Write Any Book in Under 28 Days", this is supplied on CD-ROM, which is of course sent by mail.

In any event, can I ask you to go to my publisher's customer support website at www.myhelphub.com and raise a ticket there? Please give them as much information as possible, including the correct name of the course you ordered and, if possible, your order reference number. They should then be able to trace your order and, assuming it was for "Write Any Book in Under 28 Days", let you know when the CD was dispatched. Alternatively, if your order was for Quick Cash Writing, they will be able to provide you with download details.

I am sorry I cannot give you this information myself, but I am simply the writer. All orders are processed and dispatched by my publishers, WCCL.

Thank you for your interest in my writing courses...

And that was the last I heard from this lady - until I started getting emails from people listed on the testimonials page of my publisher's sales site saying that they had received emails out of the blue from this lady asking about "the Nick Daws scam" and requesting various items of information from them.

So can I say first of all that if you have received any emails from this lady in the last day or two, I can only apologise and suggest that you disregard them. As well as my email above, she has also had a stronger message from my publishers asking her to desist from contacting people via our websites with her possibly libellous comments. As a matter of interest, my publishers have no record of receiving any order from her email address, and neither has she (as of this morning) opened a support ticket with them.

I'd just like to add that most of the (many) emails I get are friendly and positive, and I'm delighted to receive them. But there are always a few who, at the drop of a hat, start screaming "scam" rather than go through the appropriate channels. So I'd just like to conclude with a few pointers for anyone who orders my writing courses or any other software via WCCL and has a query about it...

1. With CDs, please allow up to 28 days for delivery. CDs are normally dispatched within 24 hours of orders being received, but sometimes when they are being sent internationally they get delayed at customs and such like. This is outside WCCL's control, but if you haven't received your CD after 28 days please raise a ticket at www.myhelphub.com and they will do their best to find a solution for you.

2. If you have any queries about the ordering process or when your CD was dispatched, again, please raise a ticket at www.myhelphub.com. All these matters are looked after by my publishers, WCCL, rather than me personally. As I frequently have to tell people, I'm just the writer!

3. And again, if you have any problems with the CD's copyright-protection feature (e.g. you have forgotten the email address you ordered the CD from, so cannot activate it), please raise a ticket at www.myhelphub.com and their technicians will sort it out for you. I'd really like to help, but I'm just the... Well, I'm sure you get the idea by now!

OK, vent over. Back to writing-related topics in my next post!

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Monday, March 05, 2007

My First Lulu.com E-book!

I'm feeling quite pleased with myself today, as I've just published my first title at the self-publishing site Lulu.com.

The title in question is Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching. It's actually a joint project between myself and the poet Simon Pitt (an old friend of mine). Here's a description of the book, as it appears on the Lulu web page:

Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching is by UK-based writers Simon Pitt and Nick Daws. As the name suggests, it is designed to help teachers who wish to include creative writing as an element in their teaching programmes. It is also intended for writers who work in schools (or would like to).

The workshops in Fifty Great Ideas For Creative Writing Teaching are designed to harness the educational potential of creative writing in the classroom, and all have been tried and tested in schools. Some are designed primarily as warm-ups, while others can easily keep a group occupied for an hour or more. The e-book includes advice on how the enthusiasm developed in writing workshops can be built upon, including hints and tips on self-publishing, inviting guest writers into schools, and so on. It concludes with a selection of useful websites.

Of course, I appreciate that only a minority of readers of this blog will be in the target market for Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching - but if you are, it's available for the bargain price of just 5 UK pounds (around $9.00 US)!

My main reason for mentioning it here, however, is to demonstrate that this really is a viable method of self-publishing your work and getting it out to a world-wide audience. Once I had the finished manuscript in Word format, it was literally a morning's work to sign up at Lulu.com, enter the required info using their Publishing Wizard, convert the file to PDF format and upload it, and see my (sorry, our!) e-book published on the site.

I chose to self-publish in e-book form only, but with Lulu.com you can also (or alternatively) publish in hard copy format. For every copy of your e-book sold the money is forwarded to you quarterly, less a 20% deduction for Lulu's charges. If you have your book published in paper format, obviously the costs are higher (so you would set a higher price to compensate for this).

I will be writing more about self-publishing soon, as I am convinced that with services such as Lulu.com, publishing your own work is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to the traditional method of seeking a publisher.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

More Opportunities with Survival Books

Further to my recent post on this subject, I have had another email from Peter Read, the publisher at Survival Books. He is now looking for writers for "Culture & Customs" books for Mexico, South Africa and Thailand.

If you are interested, please drop Peter a line initially stating where you live and providing some information about your writing background. His email address is peterread-at-survivalbooks.net (change the -at- to the usual @ sign). You will need to live and work in the country concerned for at least some of the time, or to have done so very recently.

This is a genuine opportunity to write a book and get paid for it by a successful, London-based, independent publishing company. Payment is per 1,000 words rather than by royalties.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Why You (Probably) Need a Paypal Account

A question that arises regularly on my forum is whether or not writers should open a Paypal account. Here's my take on the subject...

To start with, I should explain what Paypal is. It's an online payment system that operates via the Paypal website and email. Once you have a Paypal account, you can send money to anyone in the world who has a Paypal account, simply by logging into the site and entering a few details, including the recipient's Paypal-registered email address.

More importantly for writers, having a Paypal account means that you can be paid easily by anyone in the world, even if they use a different currency from your own. Paypal is therefore an ideal system for use in the multi-national online writing market. Having a Paypal account makes it easy for a British writer to work for a US publisher, or vice versa. Many online businesses now specifically require freelances to accept payment by Paypal. There are other advantages as well to having a Paypal account:

1. You can accept payments in UK pounds, US dollars, Euro, and many other currencies too, and hold separate balances in each currency if you wish.

2. You can also quickly and easily convert between currencies at the prevailing inter-bank rate (not tourist rates).

3. You can use the money in your Paypal account to fund purchases at the online auction site eBay. You can also use it to buy goods and services from many online vendors.

4. You can withdraw money from your Paypal account to any bank/savings account you wish. You can also fund your account in this way.

5. With a Premier or Business Account, you can also accept credit card payments from your clients.

In addition, many affiliate programs (including that run by my publishers WCCL) pay commission to their affiliates using Paypal. Other programs that pay writers for posting articles, such as Triond, also use the Paypal system.

Are there any drawbacks to having a Paypal account? Well, as with any bank account, security is always a consideration. Paypal actually has a pretty good record (and I've never had any problems in the five years I've had my account), but you do hear the occasional horror story. My advice is to avoid letting large sums build up in your Paypal account (not sensible, anyway, as they don't pay interest). Also, open a separate bank/savings account specifically to link to your Paypal account. I don't recommend linking your Paypal account directly to your main bank account, just in case there are ever any problems.

One other consideration is the type of Paypal account you open. As a solo freelance, your choice will be between a Personal and a Premier account. Personal accounts are really intended for people who want to fund the occasional Internet auction purchase this way - they are not supposed to be used for business purposes. There is a receiving limit of $500 or 250 UK pounds a month, but the good thing is that these accounts are free of all charges.

Most freelance writers will probably need a Premier account. These give you a much wider range of facilities, including the ability to accept credit card payments, set up repeating payments, and so on. There are also no limits on the amount of money you can receive. Unfortunately, the one drawback of Premier (and Business) accounts is that you pay a small transaction fee for every payment received.

To sum up, if you are serious about your writing and want to keep as many earning options open as possible, you will almost certainly need to open a Paypal account. The only writers for whom it may not currently be relevant are book authors who write only for publishers in their own country or operate via an agent.

For more information about Paypal visit www.paypal.com. For more information about Paypal Premier and Business accounts, click here.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Survival Team!

I just wanted to congratulate the five people who have been commissioned to write books for Survival as a result of hearing about them in my blog, forum or email newsletter. And there may well be others I don't know about as well!

Survival Books publish titles for people who are planning protracted stays in another country, to work or perhaps to retire. I wrote a couple of books for them a few years ago, Living & Working in Germany and Living & Working in Italy.

The series for which authors were required this time were new 'Living & Working In' books and a new series called 'Culture Wise'. Many congratulations therefore to the 'famous five' below, who have been commissioned to write books for one of these series or both:

Dr Suzanne (Suzie) Harris - China
David Leaper - Japan
Ruth Barringham - Australia
Noel Gama - India
Anthony Poulton-Smith - USA

By the way, Suzie has suggested that members of the 'Survival Team' should get in touch with one another to compare notes and provide mutual support. Noel and Suzie are already doing this, but Suzie would love to hear from the others as well - just drop her a line via the 'Contact Us' page of her new website at www.etwc.co.uk. The same applies if you've also been commissioned by Survival but aren't listed above (in which case, do let me know as well).

If I hear of any further opportunities with Survival Books - or indeed any other publisher - readers of this blog will, of course, be the first to know!

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