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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seven Tips for Rising Above Rejection


Today I have a guest post for you from freelance writer Lauren Bailey.

Lauren believes that rejection can actually be an invaluable experience for a writer, as long as they rise above it rather than allow it to get them down. Take it away, Lauren...

* * *

Writers face rejection constantly throughout their careers. Every writer, even the greats, has had to deal with it at some point.

So sit back, toss aside your latest 'thanks, but no thanks' letter, and check out these top tips to help you get over the disappointment of rejection and emerge a better writer...

1. Accept Rejection

Perhaps the key thing to remember about rejection is that it's inevitable for any author. Once you understand that you will be rejected many times in your career, you will have a far better chance of desensitizing yourself to it. It really is a necessary part of the publishing industry - so, as an aspiring author, you must learn to accept it and not become demoralized by it.

2. Remind Yourself that Rejection is Not Personal

The back and forth between author and editor is not a personal connection, initially at least. So any rejection you receive is not directed at you as a person, but rather at your writing. In many cases, the writing is good, but it simply doesn't match the vision of that particular editor. There are plenty of markets out there; one will be a perfect match for your work. Until your work finds a home, though, bear in mind that rejection is never personal.

3. Get Some Distance from the Rejection

Another thing that will help you overcome rejection is to get some distance from it. The sting will be minor - if you even remember it - three months from now. Reminding yourself of this fact can help you regain your sense of perspective.

4. Try to Understand Why Your Manuscript Was Rejected

This can be hard with the 'form' rejections editors often send out; if you do receive a personalized rejection, though, read it carefully to try to understand why the editor rejected the manuscript. Sometimes this can be as simple as the fact that it didn't match the kind of writing he or she was looking for. For example, maybe you write science fiction, but the editor is interested in urban fantasy. Some editors actually offer advice regarding revisions you could make. This is certainly worth considering, but don't ever take such advice as gospel - it is still just one person's point of view.

5. Use Rejection as an Opportunity

On the other hand, if you get a lot of rejections on a piece, especially rejections that mention the same problem, you should take this as your cue for revision and rewriting. If a number of people are saying the same thing, it points to a significant weakness in the story. You shouldn't view this as a shortcoming in yourself - instead, think of it as a chance to revisit the story and revise it to make it better. If you view every rejection as an opportunity to improve, you'll be well on the road to becoming a professional writer.

6. Work on Other Projects

If you spend all your time working on one project, then the rejections are going to sting even worse. That single project is what has taken up all your energy - of course it's going to hurt when someone turns it down. You can minimize the sting of these rejections by always having other writing projects on the go.

7. Laugh at Rejection

Finally, you have to laugh at the very concept of rejection. Even though it's a necessary part of publishing, in many ways it's just absurd: overworked editors and agents receive huge numbers of manuscripts, and must try to guess - sorry, carefully evaluate - which are no-hopers and which are potential best-sellers. It's just too funny that this has become the method by which manuscripts either end up as books or piles of shredded paper. Think about how crazy this is: J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected by twelve publishers before it was accepted by Bloomsbury, then a struggling, little-known, independent publishing house. Taking a chance on Ms Rowling's manuscript turned them at a stroke into major global players. You have to have a sense of humor about this 'wheel of fortune' aspect of the publishing industry.

By-line: Lauren Bailey is a freelance writer and blog junkie, who blogs about online colleges. She especially loves hearing back from her readers. Please post any comments or questions for her below.

Photo credit: Flying Red Kite by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Pay the Writer! [video]

I saw this video recently on Linda Jones's excellent Freelance Writing Tips blog. Having watched it there, I knew I had to share it on my blog as well.

The video features veteran US science-fiction writer Harlan Ellison, and is apparently part of a longer interview. In this section, he talks - or perhaps more accurately rants - about why, as a writer, he expects to be paid for his work.

I should warn you that, because of some of the language used, this video is probably NSFW (Not Safe For Work).

As ever, if you are receiving this post by email, you will probably need to visit my blog to watch the video.

As a writer I'm clearly not in Harlan Ellison's class, but I can still relate strongly to his message. It's a timely reminder that no writer can survive on the oxygen of 'free publicity' alone - like the rest of the human race, we need paying too. And the sooner certain media folk realize this, the better!

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Short Story Writing in the South of France With Iain Pattison

Iain Pattison short story writerMy old friend - and former Writers Bureau colleague - Iain Pattison (pictured left), has asked me to mention a one-week course he is running at the Perpigne Activities Centre in the South of France this summer.

As some of you will already know, Iain is a highly successful short fiction writer, with many hundreds of stories published commercially. He has also written a top-selling guide, Cracking the Short Story Market.

Iain is a popular and accomplished speaker and workshop leader, so I am sure it will be an enjoyable and inspiring week for anyone interested in short story writing.

I've copied the press release Iain sent me below. For further information about the course, and to book, please see this page of the Perpigne Holidays website.

* * *

Fancy learning the secrets of writing sensational short stories? Like to find out how to woo fiction editors and impress competition judges? And want to do all this in the idyllic surroundings of the sunny French countryside - with wine and delicious rustic cooking thrown in?

That's what's being offered this summer at the Perpigne Activities Centre in the South of France, who are playing host to Iain Pattison, one of the UK's top short story authors, creative writing tutors and competition judges.

For a week, Iain - who is widely published on both sides of the Atlantic, and author of the highly acclaimed Cracking The Short Story Market - will be revealing invaluable tips on crafting the perfect short narrative, writing for radio, and boosting your chances in competitions.

He'll be looking in depth at plotting, creating story ideas from thin air, selling - both in the UK and the US, devising a knockout twist-ending, making characters truly memorable, putting the dazzling into dialogue, and loads more.

During the course - from July 26th to August 2nd - there'll also be one-to-one tutorials and plenty of opportunity for individual help and advice.

Perpigne is a stunning location, based in a restored farmhouse on the site of a 13th century chateau, in the rolling countryside of the Jardin De Segala area. And as well as workshops and group sessions, everyone attending will have ample time to sample the amazing countryside and visit the three neighbouring medieval towns.

Guests stay at nearby gites and hotels, allowing you to choose your own budget. The course, transport and meals are 400 UKP.

Steve Kenny, who runs Perpigne with husband Bob, said: "We are really thrilled to have Iain doing this course. We know he is a very popular speaker and workshop leader at major writing events, and entertaining as well as knowledgeable. This promises the holiday will be a great chance to learn while having lots of fun in a very beautiful part of the world."

For more details, visit www.perpigneholidays.co.uk


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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How Non-US Authors on Amazon and Smashwords Can Reclaim US Tax


Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest article from UK author Ali Cooper.

It's about an issue that concerns many non-US authors publishing their own work on Amazon and Smashwords (a popular e-book self-publishing platform).

The issue is that these US companies automatically deduct tax at 30% from any sales income earned before forwarding it. This applies even though there are tax treaties with the US that are supposed to prevent this happening, as it means an author could potentially be taxed twice on the same income.

As a non-US citizen, getting your tax back from the IRS (US tax authority) is emphatically NOT a straightforward process (although, of course, it ought to be). In her article, which was originally published on her Facebook page and is reproduced here by permission, Ali sets out the exact steps she has taken to recover tax deducted by Amazon and Smashwords on the sales of her literary mystery novel, The Girl on the Swing.

Ali's article was written with specific reference to UK authors, but most of her advice would apply equally to non-US authors in other countries as well. Ali has also asked me to point out that she is a writer, not a tax expert. The advice in her article is correct as far as she knows, but she cannot be held responsible for any errors or inaccuracies. You should consult your own professional advisers if you are in any way unsure how to proceed in these matters.

Take it away, Ali...

* * *
If you are a UK citizen, paying (or required to if you earn enough) UK tax, you should not be paying US tax. There is a tax treaty between the countries agreeing this. However, the IRS will automatically deduct 30% of your earnings until you have gone through all their form-filling requirements.

Having completed most of this process myself, this is my guide to what you will need to do. Smashwords are very clued up about it and put links to all the downloadable forms you will need on their site. I'll summarise this, and add a few bits that apply specifically to UK authors.

Three-Stage Process

There are three things you need to complete in order to avoid US tax. And you need to do them in this order.

1. Obtain a letter from a withholding agent (i.e. someone who's paying you, Amazon or Smashwords) saying that they are paying you.

2. Submit this letter along with ID and a form to the IRS.

3. When you receive your ITIN from the IRS, fill in another form and submit it to Amazon, etc.

ALSO

4. If any of your earnings were withheld in previous tax years (that's Jan-Dec in the US) you can claim back the tax for three years from the IRS.

Stage One

The IRS require a signed letter, written on paper, from someone in the US who is paying you, before they will process your application for an ITIN (individual tax identification number). The statement you get with a cheque from Amazon, which clearly states they are paying you and how much, is not enough.

Smashwords are very clued up and helpful about this. Amazon, unfortunately, are not. As soon as you earn $10 from Smashwords, they will provide the necessary letter - click a button to request. I would suggest that if you are earning and being taxed by the IRS, the sooner you get the tax process started, the better. I would advise any new author, even if you aren't selling much (or anything) through Smashwords, it might be worth buying enough copies of your own book through them (you'll get most of it back as royalty anyway) in order to request that letter now.

Stage Two

When you have a letter stating you are being paid by a US company, you can apply for an ITIN. You will need to fill in form W-7. This, and the copious instructions for filling it in, can be downloaded from the IRS website. Smashwords provides the links, but do a Google check just to make sure you have the most up-to-date form. You can fill it in on your computer, then print it off and sign it. Reason for submitting form should be a, and h, and alongside h you should write 'exception 1d royalties'. The treaty article number is 12 [for the UK, I assume - Nick].

You now need ID, preferably a passport. It's possible that a driving license would be accepted, but check first. The US Embassy in London are very helpful and will answer questions by email. They say they also offer phone support, but I've not known them answer!

When you have your letter from Smashwords, completed W-7 and passport(s), you have three options.

1. Get your passport copied and signed by a notary (cost approx £50 - £100) and send with form and letter to the IRS in the US.

2. Go in person to the US embassy in London (check their website for opening times).

3. Send your documents, including passport, to the US embassy in London (cost approx £5 for special delivery).

I went for option 3 and am glad I did for several reasons. Many people get something wrong first time and have to redo it - not good if you've sent everything to the US. The embassy will check everything for you and return your passport by special delivery within a couple of days. They then forward your application to the US and will follow it up for you if it takes too long, etc.

Stage Three

Eventually you will receive a letter from the IRS with your ITIN. You now need to download form W-8BEN and instructions from the IRS. As usual, Smashwords have the links for this. They also suggest that you enter the user name and/or email you use with them in the 'reference number' section of the form. You will need to fill in the form, including your ITIN, and print a copy for each company paying you, e.g. Smashwords, Amazon. Obviously, the reference details for each one may be different. You then need to sign and post a physical copy to each company.

Once the forms have been received and processed, any tax withheld by each company for this tax year should be automatically reimbursed by them. Any tax withheld for previous tax years will have already been sent to IRS and you will need to claim it back from them yourself.

* * *
Many thanks to Ali for sharing this valuable information with the world-wide writing community. Do check out her website at www.alicooper.net and her excellent novel The Girl on the Swing (available on Amazon as a Kindle book and in printed form and in various e-book formats on Smashwords).

If you have any comments or questions on Ali's article, please do leave them below.

Update June 2012: It now appears that applying for an EIN may provide a faster, easier method than applying for an ITIN. Please see my new post A Fast Track Route for Non-US Authors to Avoid Paying US Tax on Royalties? for details.

Photo Credit: Income Tax by Alan Cleaver on Flickr.


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Monday, March 21, 2011

Scriptfrenzy - Coming Soon!


Script Frenzy
is is an annual writing challenge run along similar lines to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), though a bit less well-known.

As the name indicates, Script Frenzy is aimed at scriptwriters. Participants commit to writing 100 pages of scripted material for any dramatic medium in the month of April.

As with NaNoWriMo, there is no fee to participate, and no prizes are awarded for the 'best' scripts. Every writer who achieves the goal of completing 100 pages gets a Script Frenzy Winner's Certificate and web icon proclaiming this fact. But really, the main aim is to challenge yourself to get a substantial script-writing project completed in 30 days, and have fun while doing so.

You can visit the Script Frenzy website by clicking on any of the links in this blog post. Here you can register for this year's event and check out the wide range of writers' resources on offer. You can also join the Script Frenzy Forum and get help and advice from fellow Script Frenzy participants.

Incidentally, don't forget that my sponsors, WCCL, produce a CD-based guide called Movie in a Month (see banner below), which could be an ideal resource if you want to complete a movie-writing project for Script Frenzy.

Happy scriptwriting!



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Friday, March 18, 2011

Lessons on Self-Publishing Success from Amanda Hocking

Amanda Hocking author photoToday I'm delighted to bring you a guest post from freelance writer Mariana Ashley.

Mariana's subject is the 26-year-old Kindle publishing sensation Amanda Hocking (left), who writes paranormal romance novels.

Mariana takes a closer look at Amanda's success, and suggests some lessons other aspiring authors can learn from her...

* * *

Many self-published authors don't fully realize that after their book is completed and published, they have a whole new set of objectives to meet. They aren't trying to write 2,000 words or so a day any more. Instead, they must start work on selling their book!

For many self-publishing authors, marketing their books can be a major stumbling block; others, however, seem to have a knack for it. In fact, there is a small but growing number of authors who are enjoying huge success - greater indeed than most conventionally published authors - from self-publishing.

Take the example of 26-year-old web fiction author Amanda Hocking, who has self-published nine books to date and sells approximately 100,000 copies per month according to Novelr.com. Most of her income comes from e-books sold through the Amazon Kindle store. Under Amazon's terms for Kindle authors, she keeps up to 70% of gross sales, compared with the typical 10% of net earned by most traditionally published authors.

Even more exciting for her is that Terri Tatchell, of District 9 fame, has recently optioned her trilogy for a screenplay.

So how has Hocking accomplished these amazing feats by self-publishing books such as Switched (see below)?


Well, if you read Hocking's own blog post The Epic Tale Of How It All Happened, you'll get a good idea of how she became one of the most popular web fiction authors alive. Here are some of the most important lessons from that post and others on her blog.

Select a Publishing Format

One of the keys to Hocking's success was her decision to make her books easily accessible to a lot of people through the Amazon Kindle store. By formatting her novels as e-books, she was able to price them lower than a standard hardback: $2.99, for example, versus $14.95. That, and the ubiquity of the Kindle e-readers, gave interested audiences a quick and easy way to access her writing.

Build Connections with Book Bloggers

The next thing Hocking did that helped sales take off was contact book bloggers. She says that after she contacted bloggers to start reviewing her books, "something surreal started happening. My books were selling. Like, really selling." Her sales jumped dramatically, going from 624 books for $362 in May to 4,285 books for $3,180 in June. She attributes this success to the buzz created by the bloggers.

Find a Trusted Editor

Once she could afford it, Hocking began to pay an editor to help her revise and edit her books. In fact, this is her most important tip for aspiring authors. She writes, "My biggest word of advice to any new/future writers thinking about diving into Kindle: Edit." Hocking admits it wasn't easy to find a good editor, and most of her books have been edited by a number of different people (and, she says, she still finds some mistakes when she looks at them now). Still, she believes it's crucial to ensure your books are as error-free as possible: "Some people won't care that there's errors, its true, but enough of them will. And they paid for it, so they have a right to. So edit more. And then again. Really."

Commit to the Writing Life

This is perhaps the most courageous act an aspiring author can commit. Hocking quit her day job after she had decent sales on the Kindle so that she could write full time. Doing so allowed her to produce even more work and increase those sales. In one month, she claims, she made as much as she made at her job for a year. Of course, this was after the buildup to her success, but still: quitting her job gave her the opportunity to commit fully to the writing life.

If you believe in yourself, then you should try to write as much as possible. It doesn't mean you have to quit your day job immediately, but it does mean that you may have to sacrifice other things (such as your social life!) to achieve the success you dream of in the end.

Write for an Audience

Finally, one crucial thing about Hocking is that she researches what her audience want and then tries to give it to them. If you simply write for yourself, you risk failing to find readers who share your enthusiasm. Sure, it's OK to start out that way, but you should look towards your audience for inspiration as well. It's no coincidence that Hocking started off by publishing on her blog - this gave her invaluable feedback, and helped her focus on providing the sort of reading experience her audience craved.

By-line: Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, so please do leave any comments or questions for her below.

* * *

Thank you to Mariana for an interesting and inspiring article. Incidentally, you might be interested to know that I have a new course on writing for the Amazon Kindle coming out very soon from my blog sponsors, The WCCL Network. Keep watching this blog for more information!


Authors, Share Your Book with Millions of Readers

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Two Opportunities for Writers to Help Japan


On March 11, 2011 a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the north of Japan. In the wake of one of the most catastrophic natural disasters in the history of the country, a state of nuclear emergency was declared, forcing the mass evacuation of thousands of people.

Although not a poor nation, Japan is stretched almost to breaking point at the moment. The combined death toll from the earthquake and tsunami is expected to exceed 10,000, and nearly half a million people have been left homeless and are living in shelters.

Japan therefore needs help from the international community right now. You can, of course, donate to the Red Cross and other national and international organizations assisting with disaster relief in Japan, and I encourage everyone to do so. This Google Crisis Response website lists a number of accredited organizations that are accepting donations, and it also has a variety of other useful information for people with friends or relatives in Japan..

In addition, however, there are two specific projects writers may like to get involved with. The first is Authors for Japan, which has been organized by UK writer Keris Stainton. Hundreds of writers have offered their books and services for auction. Anyone is welcome to bid, and the highest bidder will of course win the product or service concerned, with the whole payment going to the British Red Cross Japan Tsunami Appeal.

One auction that caught my eye is this one being offered by my near-neighbour, chick-lit author Miranda Dickinson. Miranda is offering signed copies of her books Fairytale of New York and Welcome to my World, plus she promises to write an exclusive short story starring the winning bidder! At the time of writing, the top bid in this auction was 55 pounds. Still a bargain, though!

It's too late now to offer your own books or services for the auction, but I do highly recommend visiting Authors for Japan and seeing if anything on offer appeals to you. If so, put in a bid, and be generous. It's all for a very good cause!

All auctions close at 8 pm GMT on Sunday 20 March. Bids must be in pounds sterling, but anyone in the world is welcome to take part.

The other project is a charity fundraising anthology to be called New Sun Rising. This is being organized by writer Frankie Sachs and a team of fellow writers and bloggers.

They are looking for stories, poems, and artwork celebrating Japan. They can be about Japanese people and culture, set in Japan, or executed in traditional Japanese forms. But any work that is relevant to or evocative of Japan may be suitable.

On the New Sun Rising website, Frankie says:

Stories should be no longer than 5000 words, and please only send one, because we are going to have a lot of reading to do in a very short time.

Flash (under 1000 words) and micro-fiction are awesome. Please submit no more than 3 of these.

Poems should be no longer than 40 lines, and please no more than 3. (Unless it's haiku. Then you can send us 5 - and it's still only 15 lines!)

They also want black and white artwork and photography, which should, again, be relevant to Japan.

Nobody will receive any payment for their contribution to the anthology. All profits from sales will go to an organization assisting with disaster relief in Japan (probably the Red Cross). For more information, visit the New Sun Rising submissions page.

Frankie and her team also need people to help with editing, proofreading and all the other aspects of bringing the book from idea to reality - so if you think you could assist with this as well, visit the Helping Out page for more information.

Here's hoping that the crisis in Japan is soon over and the country can start to rebuild. And here's hoping also that there are no more terrible natural disasters waiting in the wings. The world has had quite enough of these in the last year or so.

Photo credit: Mt. Fuji by Skyseeker on Flickr.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

A New Carnival Hits Town...


As many of you will know, blog carnivals are regular online events where links to interesting blog posts are shared.

Blog carnivals can be great for getting up-to-date information on their specialist topic. And equally, they can provide a great method for bringing your own blog posts to a wider readership.

A while ago on this blog I mentioned the Just Write Blog Carnival, hosted on the Incurable Disease of Writing Blog. I was a big fan of this, but unfortunately Missy Frye, who ran it, has decided to move on to new projects, so there will be no more Just Write blog carnivals. Shame, but I wish her well for the future.

In recent months, however, a new blog carnival has rolled into town and put up its tents. This one is run by Joel Friedlander, otherwise known as The Book Designer.

Joel specializes in helping authors publish their own work, so it is no surprise that his carnival relates to self-publishing. The Carnival of the Indies blog carnival welcome submissions on all topics related to writing, self-publishing, book design and marketing books.

The Carnival of the Indies is published monthly - you can see the latest edition here. The deadline for submitting blog posts for the next edition is March 20 2011, and the carnival itself will appear on March 26.

If you have a writing- or self-publishing-related blog and would like to submit a post, click here to go to the submission form and enter the details requested. Don't forget to choose a category from the list provided. You can submit more than one post if you like. The best posts submitted for each edition are given Featured Blogger status.

Finally, do spread the word about the carnival, through your blog (sidebar badges are available from the Carnival of the Indies website), Twitter, Facebook, and so on. The more visitors each edition of the Carnival of the Indies attracts, the more beneficial it will be for everyone taking part!


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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Help Choose the Cover for my New Book

I'm looking for a bit of help from my readers today.

A new edition of my (print) book Start Your Own Home-Based Business is coming out shortly, and my publishers have come up with three possible cover designs.

We can't decide which we prefer, so I'm hoping you can help us decide. I've posted the three designs below, and I'd be grateful if you could vote for the one you like best via the widget below. Try to think which cover design would be most likely to catch your eye in a bookshop (or online), and which would be most likely to influence your decision to buy. Clicking on any image should open a larger version in your browser.

Cover 1
Cover 2

Cover 3


Please vote for your favorite using the widget below. Just one vote per person, please - multiple votes will not be counted.


If you have received this post by email, you may need to visit my blog to see the poll.

If you have any questions or comments on why you prefer one cover rather than another, please post them below.

Thank you very much for your help with this. I will forward the results to my publisher to help him (and me) decide which cover to use. I've set the voting to close on 31 March, but I hope to get a good indication before then, so an early vote would be much appreciated.

* Start Your Own Home-Based Business is a comprehensive guide to starting and running a business from home. It provides step-by-step guidance on every aspect, from assessing your suitability to bookkeeping and marketing, and ultimately deciding when to expand. The book is written primarily for a UK readership, but many aspects would be equally relevant worldwide.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

Products to Help You Be the Best You Can Be...


As many of you will know, my blog is sponsored by The WCCL Network, who publish many of my writing courses. WCCL also sponsor my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com, the online radio station WritersFM, and various other free resources for writers.

What you may not know is that WCCL also publish a wide range of self-development manuals, courses and products.

They include over 300 self-hypnosis downloads to improve any aspect of your life, from stopping smoking to beating phobias. There are also downloads aimed specifically at writers, including one to improve your creative writing skills and another to help beat writer's block.

Other products include meditation aids, sleep programming scripts, brainwave technology including binaural beats, and many more - all at extremely competitive prices.

I'm mentioning this now because WCCL have just launched a brand new online catalogue with details of all their self-development products. It's a big site, running to 16 pages, and does a great job of showcasing their entire product range.

If you've bought any WCCL writing courses, you'll know that they are produced to the highest professional standards, with 24/7 help available if required from their customer support website. The same is true of their self-development products, which apply the very latest technology to help address some age-old problems.

Anyway, even if you're only curious, take a look at WCCL's online self-development catalogue - whatever issues you face in your life, there may be a product there that can help you. And if you like what you see, do click on the buttons on the top right to share it with your friends as well.

Thank you very much for supporting my sponsors!

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