Regular readers will know I used to be a freelance tutor and assessor for The Writers Bureau, the UK's largest distance learning school for aspiring writers.
I'm still on good terms with them, and work with them from time to time on special projects.
Anyway, I know from discussions on my forum that many people are interested in The Writers Bureau and the courses they offer. So I recently asked their Director of Studies, Mrs Diana Nadin, if she would be willing to be interviewed on this blog. I'm pleased to say she said yes.
So I wanted to ask, if you have any questions about The Writers Bureau (that aren't easily answered by visiting their website), please can you post them below as comments? I have also set up a topic on my forum for those who prefer this method of responding.
I will then choose the best questions, put them to Diana, and publish her replies. Please let me have your questions as soon as possible, and in any event by Monday 9 February. Many thanks!
Image via WikipediaIf you read this blog, there's a good chance you're a blogger as well.
And if that's the case, did you know that you can generate links and traffic to your site by contributing to - or even holding your own - blog carnival?
I only found out about blog carnivals towards the end of last year. The concept is that someone who owns a blog announces that they will be holding a carnival on a particular topic and date, and invites contributions.
Any blogger can then submit a recent post they have made that is relevant to this topic. If your post is accepted for the carnival, a link to your post is included when the carnival is published. Note that some blog carnivals accept all submissions, but others are quite selective.
Being included in a blog carnival creates an inward link to your blog post. This can help improve your blog's search engine ranking, and also generate extra traffic to it. Bloggers whose work is featured in a carnival are expected to help publicise it, so a busy carnival can attract a lot of traffic for all the participants.
The best way to get started in this field is to visit the website BlogCarnival.com and search for carnivals in your niche (e.g. writing). In many cases you can also submit your post to a carnival via the BlogCarnival.com website. The video below explains how to go about doing this:
If you are receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see the video.
If you would like to see a published blog carnival, click here to view a recent issue of the Write Anything Creative Carnival. The next issue of this wide-ranging carnival is due out on 14 February 2009 - so if you want to make a start with blog carnivals, it could be a good one to submit to now.
I would just add a couple of tips from my admittedly limited experience of blog carnivals. First, if you choose to provide any additional information about your post on the BlogCarnival.com entry form, bear in mind that it may be published word for word in the carnival, so think carefully how best to phrase it. And second, choose your post carefully. It should be something reasonably substantial and original, that visitors to the carnival will find genuinely worthwhile and interesting to read.
I'm hardly an 'A List' writer, but from time to time I do get asked to appear on TV or radio. Typically, nowadays, this happens when a producer Googles the topic of his show, and one of my books comes up in the results list.
TV appearances in particular can be a great opportunity to promote yourself and your books to a large audience - so while I do still get a bit nervous before going in front of the cameras, I usually accept any invitations. (Although I did turn down one opportunity recently to discuss obituaries, where I had been asked because I wrote a novelty book about 'famous last words' ten years ago.)
Anyway, I thought in this post I'd tell you about my first-ever TV appearance, nearly twenty years ago, and what I learned from it. It was arranged by the publishers of a book I had written called How to Find Your Ideal Partner. As you may gather, this was a guide for single people on how to find the love of their life - sadly it's out of print now...
The publisher told me I'd be appearing on a regional evening news programme. Unfortunately it wasn't in my area but in the East of England. I was promised a rail travel voucher and an overnight stay in a nice hotel, but no fee. Still, hopefully the appearance would give sales of my book a big boost, in East Anglia anyway...
At first, all went well. I arrived at the station mid-afternoon and found my way to the hotel. I had been told a taxi would pick me up at six pm, so I amused myself for an hour or two watching afternoon TV and using the hotel swimming pool and sauna.
The taxi duly came, but instead of taking me to the studio as I expected, I was delivered to a local technical college. 'This is where they're filming,' the taxi driver explained helpfully.
OK, then. I headed for the college reception and explained my business. I was directed to a small room where a trio of bored-looking technicians were drinking coffee from plastic cups. I introduced myself to the one with the most impressive stubble. 'Oh, you're the relationships expert, aren't you?' I duly accepted this description. 'They want you up in the library.'
So off I went. I was immediately grabbed by the producer and told to stand by one of the bookshelves while the Glamorous Female Presenter introduced me. He gave me a slip of paper: 'Here's what we want you to say.' It was along the lines, 'I'll be telling you everything you need to know on how to meet the man or woman of your dreams.'
And within moments a camera was pointing at me and the GFP began, 'Tonight I want to introduce you to Nick Daws, our very own Doctor Lurrrve...' I was so stunned by this, I completely forgot what I was meant to say and instead muttered something like, 'Hey, there.' 'That'll do,' the producer said, and off we marched to the next location...
To cut a long story short, instead of the cosy studio discussion I had envisaged, the show in question was a manically paced, 'zany' affair. After the library, we invaded a workshop, where the only female student was asked embarrassing questions about whether she fancied any of the men there, and I was asked to pontificate on the attractions (or not) of evening classes for those in search of a mate.
Eventually I got a chance to sit down and the GFP asked me a few more serious questions about the dating game. I answered as best I could, and then suddenly the shoot was over. 'Thanks, mate,' one of the techs said as they were leaving. 'That was good TV.'
It was half-past six and I was left on my own as the crew bundled into their van and headed off to the local pizza house. I realised as they drove off that, in all the frantic excitement, I had completely forgotten to mention my book....
So that was my introduction to the crazy world of television. Here are a few things I learned from it. I pass them on in case any of you find yourselves in the position I was...
* Find out as much as you can beforehand about the show you are appearing on. Don't trust your publisher to tell you the whole story!
* If it's a regular show, try to watch it yourself a few times to get a feel for the style and approach.
* If it's not in your area, ask a friend or relative who does live there to watch and report back (and preferably send you a recording). Nowadays, you may be able to check it out on the Internet as well.
* Remember that the producer and interviewer will have their own agenda and 'angle' they want to pursue. Try to find out in advance what this is. If you're not happy about this, then say so.
* Have your own goal or target as well. If you're going to promote your book, DON'T forget to mention it! Be sure to take a copy with you, and if at all possible show it to the viewers.
* If you have a good anecdote to impart, tell the researcher beforehand. There is every chance it will be passed on to the interviewer, who will take the opportunity to ask you about it.
* And finally, don't take any of it too seriously. Try to relax and be yourself. TV is entertainment - it's not a matter of life or death.
So those are some of the lessons I learned from my first TV appearance - I'm glad to say others I've done subsequently have been a little more successful. But what about YOU? If you've been on TV or radio to discuss your work, I'd love to hear about your experiences and any tips you'd like to share. Please use the comment facility below.
A while ago in this post I wrote about Helium (then called Helium Knowledge), a website that pays writers a portion of the advertising revenue generated by the articles they post there.
In my article I wrote that Helium was open to any writer, though with payment by advertising revenue share only, you were unlikely to make a fortune from it. However, this article by Peter Johns suggests that I may have been wrong on the latter score.
As you will see from his article, Johns really did make $1246 in 24 hours, from an article about credit cards. This happened after the article 'went viral', with people urging their friends and colleagues to read it in an ever-widening circle.
It wasn't just luck, though. As he explains in his article, Johns spent some time crafting a title that he hoped would pique people's curiosity and impel them to read more. He also posted a link to the article on the social bookmarking website Reddit, where others viewed it, liked it, and voted it up to the front page.
Johns' experience is food for thought for anyone who thinks sites such as Helium are a waste of time. He admits that not all his articles have earned anything like the amount made by this one (and remember, that $1246 was just on the first day - it's still presumably making money for him now). However, he lists five other short articles that have made him from $10 to $30 to date, so he is obviously doing something right.
One thing Johns' article does indicate is the importance of promoting your articles on Helium and similar sites such as Qassia, rather than simply posting them and waiting for visitors to come. As well as Reddit, other social bookmarking sites such as Delicious and StumbleUpon are well worth trying for this purpose as well.
As far me, I'm planning to dust down my old Helium account I've never done much with, and start posting on it again!
I heard recently from my friends at WEbook.com, the collaborative writing website, that they are planning a new, printed book about Barack Obama's Inauguration as US President on January 20th (next Tuesday).
They are invitinImage by jmtimages via Flickrg anyone interested to contribute an article for possible inclusion in the book. All profits from sales will go to a nonprofit educational and publishing organisation, 826 National. I've reproduced below the information sheet they sent me, including where to submit your work.
Make History on Jan 20 2009: True Stories, Real People, One Day
On January 20, 2009, the United States will inaugurate Barack Obama as its forty-fourth president. Millions will flock to Washington, and countless more will mark the event in their hometowns. WEbook.com, the home of community-sourced books, will publish a collection of inauguration stories, told by real people in their own words.
Jan 20 2009: True Stories, Real People, One Day represents a new approach to documenting history, made possible by WEbook.com's innovative online writing and social media platform. Never before has a publisher had access to so many voices so quickly around such a noteworthy event. This is Community-Sourced History: by the people, for the people.
Will this be a printed book?
Leveraging the speed and agility of the internet and digital printing by CreateSpace (an Amazon company), the printed book will be available within two weeks of the inauguration. Books will be sold on WEbook.com and Amazon.com for $9.99. WEbook will donate all profits from the project - and ask its authors to donate their royalties - to 826 National (www.826National.org), a nonprofit tutoring, writing, and publishing organization with locations in seven cities across the country. Their goal is to assist students ages six to eighteen with their writing skills, and to help teachers get their classes excited about writing
You can add your voice to Jan 20 2009: True Stories, Real People, One Day by sharing your story of your anticipation of, participation in, and reflection on inauguration day. The deadline for short (500 word max) submissions is midnight EST, January 21. Submit online at www.webook.com/jan20.
If you know other writers who might be interested in being part of this community-sourced history, spread the word or email jan20-at-WEbook.com.
WEbook.com is an online community where writers, readers, and 'feedbackers' create great books and cast their votes to make their favorite undiscovered writers the next published authors. WEbook is an innovative avenue for new and established writers to find an audience, tapping the wisdom of the crowd to create a unique new form of creative work: community-sourced books.
In early February 2009, WEbook will release its first published community-sourced guide, 101 Things Every Man Should Know How to Do. This 'manthology' - comprising valuable lessons like 'How to Fight a Bear' and 'How to Sneak into Cuba' - was written by 28 authors working on WEbook.com, with help from hundreds of others who shared their insights along the way. What's next? Thrillers, fantasy novels, mysteries, children's books, and more - all written, refined, read, and rated by WEbook users.
You might also like to read this guest post on my blog last year by Melissa Jones, Content Manager of WEbook.com, which explains in more detail how this innovative site works. One of these days I shall definitely get around to joining myself!
As some of you will know, Jayne and I spent Christmas on the island of Madeira. I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about it, and share a few pictures I took.
For those who don't know, Madeira is in the north Atlantic, about 360 miles from the coast of North Africa. The island is an autonomous region of Portugal. It's become very popular with holidaymakers due to its pleasant all-year-round climate and verdant landscape, though there are no beaches to speak of.
We stayed in the island capital, Funchal, at the Hotel Porto Mare. The hotel was great, and if anyone is considering going there, I strongly recommend spending a few extra pounds (or euro/dollars) for a 'superior room'. That's what we did, and we ended up in a suite bigger than the ground floor of our home, complete with His and Hers bathrooms. We felt like rock stars!
Although we had a good time, the weather wasn't that wonderful. It started raining on the second day, and continued almost without interruption till we left. Still, at least it was warmer than Britain, which was shivering with sub-zero temperatures. Here's Jayne walking along the promenade during one of the rare sunny intervals...
Here's a view of Funchal from a viewpoint high above the city. Note the red hot pokers in the foreground.
Father Christmas paid a visit on Christmas morning. Here he is handing out gifts to the children at breakfast.
This is one of the many chestnut sellers along the seafront in Funchal. All the steam comes from the cooking. It started raining again soon after this!
The hotel had some beautiful gardens. Here's a lovely Hibiscus flower...
And here's a view through the gardens to the back of the hotel itself.
Finally, the hotel put on some great entertainment in the evenings. We went every night, and enjoyed a magic show as well as traditional and modern music and dance. The video below shows a number performed by one of our favourites, a group called Sweet Dancers. As ever, you will need to visit my blog to see the video.
Incidentally, I hope Sweet Dancers don't mind me posting this video here for others to enjoy. Of course, if I receive any objections, I'll take it straight down.
January is traditionally the month for sales - and more so than ever in the current recession.
So I thought I'd do my bit and offer my best-selling course, Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, at a full $10 off the standard price for the rest of January.
The course normally sells for $49.95 - in fact, that's what it costs right now if you click through to the main sales site. If you follow the links at the end of this post, however, you can buy the CD for just $39.95 - a full 20% reduction!
In case you don't know, Write Any Book in Under 28 Days was my first course written for The WCCL Network. At its heart is my unique five-step outlining and blueprinting method, which thousands of buyers across the world have used to help create their first book (and in some cases many more...).
Quite apart from the five-step method, however, the course is also crammed with hints and tips on planning, researching, writing, editing and marketing your book, based on my own experience as the author of over 80 titles. Essentially, it's pretty much a 'brain dump' of everything I've ever learned about book writing...
The method set out in Write Any Book in Under 28 Days is suitable for writing both fiction and non-fiction books. Although the course as a whole has a slight bias towards non-fiction (which is what I mainly write), there is also a long section devoted specifically to fiction writing.
...But only if you're in the UK for the moment. Sorry!
I've been a member of the QNA online survey panel for several years now, and during that time I've earned hundreds of pounds in Amazon vouchers from them by completing short (typically five or six questions) online surveys.
Reward vouchers arrive almost instantly, and active members are also entered in a monthly prize draw. No fee is required to join. QNA are by a distance the best firm in the online survey field I have ever found.
QNA are currently looking to expand their panel, so this is a good time to apply to them. As mentioned above, you do have to be UK-based (though this may change in future). Also, you must be in business in some capacity. You can be running your own business (and yes, freelance writers do qualify) or working in a managerial capacity for someone else. They probably won't accept you if you're unemployed, a student or a homemaker, unfortunately.
As stated, the rewards comprise vouchers from Amazon, usually for 5 or 10 pounds. That may not sound a lot, but surveys can typically be completed in five minutes or less. You can also choose to receive vouchers from other major retailers, or donate your fees to charity. Personally I ask for Amazon vouchers, as they are almost as good as cash as far as I'm concerned - there's always something I want from Amazon!
The company behind QNA is Vanson Bourne, a well-known market research company in the technology and business-to-business field. Based on my experience, if you're eligible to join their panel, I'd say signing up should be a no-brainer.
Economic conditions are undoubtedly tough right now, but such times bring opportunities as well as threats.
So in this post I thought I'd set out a few reasons for optimism where freelance writers are concerned. And there are actually more of these than you might think...
1. With companies laying off permanent staff to save money, I fully expect more work to be outsourced to freelances in the months ahead.
2. In tough times, businesses have to do more to promote themselves and keep sales ticking over. This will create more opportunities for business writers (and copywriters in particular).
3. And likewise, in these harshly competitive times, I expect more businesses to come to appreciate the value of good-quality writing, both on- and off-line. This should create more, better paid opportunities for writers who can deliver the goods.
4. I also expect that the flexibility and low overheads offered by freelances will be increasingly appreciated by cash-strapped companies.
5. The accelerating trend away from buying on the high street and toward buying online can only benefit freelances and other small businesses as long as they are 'web wise'.
6. The latest software and Internet services make it easier than ever for freelances to operate successfully via the net, set up professional-looking websites, use social networking to find new clients and collaborators, bid for commissions, and so on.
7. And freelances are typically far quicker to adapt to changing circumstances than large companies, who become set in their ways and vulnerable to changes in the market that make their products and services suddenly less desirable.
I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea.
Don't get me wrong - I have a lot of sympathy for people who are in conventional employment and don't know from one day to the next whether they will still have a job to go to tomorrow. But for a growing number of people, I'm convinced that the answer lies in self-employment. And unlike traditional jobs, I expect that opportunities for freelances will actually increase in the months - and years - ahead.
I thought I'd start 2009 by looking back at my Top Ten (plus one) most popular posts on this blog last year.
If you missed any of these first time round - perhaps you're one of my many new readers - I hope you'll enjoy reading them now.
And if you've been following me for a while, I hope there are some posts here you'll enjoy revisiting. They are listed in no particular order...
The Benefits of Twitter for Writers. 2008 was the year I joined Twitter, and I've been hugely impressed by the many benefits of this micro-blogging and social networking service. In this post I set out the advantages to a writer of joining Twitter, and described a few Twitter applications I have found useful.
Best Firefox Add-Ons for Writers. I'm a big fan of the Firefox web browser, not least because of the huge range of add-ons that are available for it. Check out my top recommendations in this post - and read the comments section for some further suggestions.
Two Useful Websites for Online Writers. Several readers wrote to thank me for sharing details of these sites. They both offer free tools for preparing text for online publication, and have saved me personally many hours of tedious work.
How Can Writers Survive the Credit Crunch? It seems 2008 will go down in history as the year the global economy went into meltdown. In this post I looked at the implications of the downturn for writers, and set out two particular strategies I believe every writer needs to apply at this time.
Brain Evolution System Review. I reviewed various new products and courses during 2008, but I'd like to highlight this one in particular. The Brain Evolution System uses advanced scientific methods, including binaural beats and brainwave entrainment, to help improve creativity, beat stress, boost energy levels, and so on. Even if you're understandably skeptical, I'd urge you to check it out.
New Promotional Site for E-book Authors. In November I posted this article about Mark Gladding's new site for e-book readers and writers, and it has quickly gone from strength to strength. If you read e-books and - especially - if you publish or self-publish them, this site is an invaluable free resource.
Trouble With Paypal. I use the online payment system Paypal a lot in my online writing work, but I've had some 'issues' with them this year. See this post to learn about my experiences, and read my advice on how to minimize your own chances of problems.
Writing Tips Contest Results. In 2008 I held a contest for writing tips of 250 words or less. Some great entries were submitted, and you can read the winner and all the runner-up entries here.
How to Hire a Freelance Writer. In this 'poacher turned gamekeeper' article, I set out some advice to anyone wanting to hire a freelance writer. The article includes seven tips based on my own experience of 'good' and 'bad' clients. I hope anyone wanting to hire me this year reads this article first!
Do check out these posts, and feel free to add your own comments if you like. And watch out for more posts from me on all aspects of writing for profit in 2009!
Just wanted to wish every reader of my blog a happy, creative and (Credit Crunch notwithstanding) prosperous 2009!
I hope this is the year when you fulfill, or at least start to fulfill, all of your writing ambitions.
I'm looking forward to sharing my writing tips, advice, online "discoveries" and more with you on my blog in 2009. So if you haven't already done so, be sure to subscribe via email or RSS to ensure you never miss a post!
Don't forget, also, to sign up to follow me on the micro-blogging service Twitter. I regularly use this to share details of resources, contests, writers' markets and more that I don't always have time to post on my blog.
Good luck to all of you, and I very much look forward to hearing about your writing successes in the months ahead.