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Friday, June 29, 2012

More Opportunities for Subject Guides

The giant website is actively looking for new Subject Guides again.

For those who don't know, Guides are home-based freelances who take responsibility for a particular content area on the site. Guides are expected to build up 'their' sites by sourcing (and writing) articles, adding links, hosting web-based discussions, and so on.

Payment is based on the advertising revenue generated by your site, with certain minimum guarantees in your first few months as long as you meet all their requirements.

Maximum earnings are unlimited, based on a percentage of advertising turnover - according to the website, they have some Guides who earn in excess of $100,000 a year. Good writing skills are required, along with knowledge of your chosen subject area, but training in the necessary technical skills is provided. Although for most Guides the work is part-time, it is a serious commitment, and you must expect to devote at least 10 to 20 hours a week to it.

Here is a selection of topics for which is currently looking for Guides:

Bed and Breakfast
Chicago Travel
Kosher Food
Radio Controlled Vehicles

For each available Guide topic, the information page displays a panel showing the candidate profile the company is looking for, and the type of content they will be expected to generate and curate.

Anyone can apply to be a Guide. Qualified applicants with proven expertise in a topic are accepted into Prep, which is a 17 day-long self-guided online training program. During Prep, prospective Guides become familiar with's tools and demonstrate their knowledge by building sample sites. Experienced editors evaluate these sample sites and choose the most qualified applicant for the topic concerned.

If I was just starting out as a freelance writer, I would definitely want to look into the opportunity. It's a good chance to earn a steady income from researching and writing about a subject that interests you. In addition, you'll immediately get a high profile in that subject on the web, and you'll learn some useful technical skills too. For full details, visit

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Friday, June 22, 2012

15 Facts Every Self-Publisher Should Know [Infographic]

Today I'm pleased to bring you an infographic crammed with facts and advice on all aspects of self-publishing.

As the traditional publishing industry becomes ever harder for new, non-celebrity authors to break into, more and more writers are opting to go down the self-publishing route instead.

It's definitely NOT just second best, though. Self-publishing has many attractions for authors who want to keep control over their work in this digital age. And a growing number of authors (Joe Konrath is just one example) have actually found it (much) more remunerative than traditional publishing.

Enjoy the infographic, and prepare to be amazed!

If you are receiving this post by email or RSS, you may find it easier to view the graphic if you visit my blog.

15 Facts Every Self-Publisher Should Know is sponsored by The Pen Company, a UK-based family business that specializes in providing fine pens for discerning customers.

If you have any comments about the infographic, please do leave them below.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Can David Robinson Write a Novel in a Week?

In my last blog post I highlighted the JulNoWriMo challenge to write a complete 50,000 word novel in a month.

Well, regular MWB guest poster David Robinson has decided to go (at least) one step further. He has set himself a challenge to write a complete novel of 60-70,000 words in just one week.

On his Novel in a Week blog, he writes:
I can hear people saying, "All you'll get is 60,000 words of garbage at the end of the week." Maybe, but Georges Simenon, Belgian creator of Maigret, used to write a novel in 11 days, and I recall an interview in which Tom Sharpe said his masterpiece, Wilt, was written in three weeks.
Although I've never tackled anything as bold as this, I did write the first draft of Voices in just over a month, and that came in at 120,000 words. My major thriller, The Handshaker, took only six weeks, but I was working from a previously prepared TV script at the time, and my Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries usually take less than three months from start to submission.
I have certain advantages. For a start off, I'm retired. I don't have anything better to do with my time. I also type fairly quickly. I timed myself and I produced 1,000 words in 40 minutes. So 10,000 words comes to 6-7 hours a day. I also have the bottle to take something like this on. Never let it be said that I'm a coward. Stupid, yes, but I have the neck to try it.
David obviously doesn't expect to produce a novel that is ready to publish immediately. He says he will polish, revise and edit his initial draft, and then offer it to his usual publishers, Crooked Cat Books. If they don’t want it, he says he he'll look elsewhere and possibly self-publish.
It is, nonetheless, a daunting challenge. I can remember some years ago, when my course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days was first published, being vilified in some quarters for daring to suggest that such a thing was possible. And now David is attempting to do it in just seven days!
Even if he fails, though, David isn't too concerned...
What if I don't make it? It won't matter. I will have proved that I can't write a novel in a week, but I'll still have a healthy first draft, albeit incomplete, to work on.
I wish David every success with his quest, which is scheduled for the week 9-15 July 2012.
I'll be following with interest as he documents his preparations and then his progress on his Novel in a Week blog, and hopefully be cheering him on as he approaches the finishing line. I also hope to publish a guest post from David himself when he can fit it in to his busy schedule.
If you're interested in taking on a slightly less arduous challenge than David's, of course, there's still time to sign up for JulNoWriMo.

And in addition to my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course, my blog sponsors WCCL also publish a course titled Novel in a Month (see banner below), which you might like to check out for guidance and inspiration.

Good luck to everyone planning to write a novel in July, and to David especially!
Photo Credit: Black and White by Koalazymonkey on Flickr. Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Licence.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

JulNoWriMo - Write a Novel in July!

Regular readers of this blog will know all about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.

This event takes place every November, and I've mentioned it most years on my blog.

JulNoWriMo is a more recent innovation, started in 2006. Aimed at people for whom November isn't such a good month for writing - or for whom one monthly writing marathon a year just isn't enough - JulNoWriMo is a challenge to write a complete 50,000 word novel in July.

JulNoWriMo isn't (yet) nearly as big as NaNoWriMo, but it's getting more popular every year. This FAQ page is a good place to find out more. To sign up for JulNoWriMo, you simply have to visit their forum and register a username. They also have a Facebook Page and a Twitter account.

If you're looking for a challenge to kick-start your novel - and don't have too much else planned for July - JulNoWriMo could provide just the incentive you need. It is also, by the way, a great opportunity to apply the techniques taught in WCCL's Novel in a Month course, or indeed my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days (see banner ad below).

I wish you every success if you do decide to register for JulNoWriMo and write a novel in July. Please do leave a comment below if you succeed in completing the challenge!

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Monday, June 11, 2012

An Interview with Frederick Lee Brooke, Author of Zombie Candy

I'm pleased to bring you today a guest post by author Frederick Lee Brooke, published as part of a blog tour to launch his novel Zombie Candy.

In the (syndicated) interview below, Frederick talks about the inspiration behind Zombie Candy and shares his thoughts about how he works as a writer and what made him decide to go down the indie route...

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Please enjoy this interview with Frederick Lee Brooke, author of the genre-bending mystery Zombie Candy. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $550 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

1. What was the inspiration behind your novel, Zombie Candy?

There was a famous golfer whose wife chased him out of the house with a golf club in the middle of the night a couple of years ago. It was funny that she attacked her husband with his own weapon of choice. I got to thinking what must be going through a woman's mind in that situation? I thought it would be interesting to explore the thought processes of a woman who discovers that her husband is a serial cheater. After the denial comes anger, but there is also a phase of grief. There's guilt. Maybe she blames herself, rightly or wrongly. Candace oscillates between wanting revenge and wanting her husband back, and as the novel winds up she makes discoveries about herself that I thought a woman in her situation would be likely to make.

2. Do you think Zombie Candy will appeal to true zombie fans?

What's a true zombie fan? I don't want to give anything away, but any active zombie fan who participates in zombie walks, goes to festivals, etc. will love Zombie Candy. That being said, this is a book that has elements of mystery, horror and romance all in one. It had quite a few early readers, fans of all different genres, and the consensus is that it really works.

3. The book contains some of Candace's favorite recipes. Why?

I confess, I love to cook, and it's such an important part of my life, it just felt natural to have Candace want to share her recipes. We are all vulnerable to being attacked through our taste buds. I like reading about cooking, and I love watching cooking shows on TV. I feel like I'm learning something and tasting it at the same time. It felt right for this to be really important for Candace. At the same time, her husband Larry is so incredibly lacking in appreciation of her talents, not just the cooking itself, but organizing complex meals and directing the preparation of them by her class of twelve people. These are amazing skills, and Larry is blind to them. I thought marriages are sometimes like that, where people get to a point where they are totally ignorant of what their partner is great at.

4. There is a no-cilantro label on the back cover of the book. What is the significance of it?

Candace is a gourmet cook, and her cheating husband Larry insists on covering all his food with cilantro. This is one of those minor points of contention in a marriage that flares up and becomes important, like a trigger. I thought it was funny. And it seems a lot of people really do have strong feelings about cilantro, either for or against. When I was searching for a good graphic I came across pages on the internet like and

5. After starting out in Chicago, why did you decide to set the story in Tuscany?

I've been fortunate enough to travel to Italy forty or fifty times in my life, sometimes for a two-week vacation, sometimes just for a very short trip. I absolutely love it there, from the food to the language to the beauty of the countryside and the architecture. In Zombie Candy, Candace realizes at a certain point that she has to get Larry out of his comfort zone. This is a guy who travelled all over the country every week for his work, and cheated on Candace with waitresses, flight attendants, whoever. He can adapt just about anywhere. But in Tuscany Larry discovers two things: 1) it's not so easy to find a willing waitress or flight attendant to spend the night with him; and 2) there are zombies here.

6. How would you describe the way you work as a writer?

I guess I'm a bit of a chameleon, able to adapt pretty well to circumstances around me. My wife and I have three boys and they are not quiet. I can do most revision with significant background noise and interruptions. Only when I'm writing a first draft or doing some serious planning work do I need peace and quiet. Then I'll often take a walk in the forest anyway. It helps a lot to be adaptable. If I had to put off writing every time someone asked me to cook dinner or help them with their homework, my book would never have been finished. For me, being able to jump right back in has been the key to being able to finish big projects.

7. Did you always want to be a writer?

I was an early reader and this led to curiosity about writing stories. My sister and I wrote stories during long car trips. In high school and then in college I dreamed of writing novels, but I only started writing short stories after graduating from college. That writing phase lasted about five years, and I learned a lot about writing, but life got in the way, with marriage and job and career and kids. Only when my kids were halfway grown and my career reached a certain level of success did I find a way to return to writing. Now I'm fulfilling a lifelong dream.

8. What process do you go through to define your characters?

I start with an image of them as basically good or basically evil, and put them into a context or a situation, and then just basically make sure there is plenty of conflict. My characters are never perfectly white or black. I think we're drawn to weaknesses. We want to watch them mess up, and see how they'll extricate themselves. Of course, sometimes all my planning goes out the window. It's a cliche to say that characters surprise you with their actions, but they do. They're defined by what they do and what they say. I did some acting in high school and have always loved the theater, and knowing what it means to be in character helps me be in character when I'm writing dialogue. My books are fairly dialogue-driven. What the characters say reveals what they are thinking and feeling.

9. What writing advice did you receive that was most beneficial to you?

I had to learn to love conflict. The conflict is the story. The conflict shows the true colors of your characters. I grew up in the suburbs in a family where we avoided conflict at all costs. We talked like diplomats. So embracing conflict has been something I had to learn.

10. You're an indie author. Any thoughts on the divide between independent publishing and traditional publishing?

I think the market will sort itself out, but it's going to take time. Good books will find their way into readers' hands somehow, whether in printed or electronic form. We need our stories every day. We can't live without stories. For me personally, independent publishing has been the perfect solution. I found an excellent editor who professionally edited my manuscript. I like the idea that I can control the timing of the publication of my books. If my first book, Doing Max Vinyl, had been traditionally published in April 2011 instead of the way I did it, it probably would have hit the remainder tables by Thanksgiving, and it would be out of print now. I think Zombie Candy might spark some interest in Doing Max Vinyl, so it's a benefit to readers as well as to me that it continues to be available, rather than going out of print and being forgotten. E-books are clearly here to stay, because the consumers (readers) and providers (authors) are the big winners. The only losers are the bookstores, publishing companies, agents and others who refuse to adapt.

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Zombie Candy eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $550 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment--easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:
  1. Purchase your copy of Zombie Candy for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event
About the book: Weaving elements of mystery, horror and romance in a hilarious romp that starts in Chicago and ends in a quaint medieval town in sun-drenched Tuscany, Zombie Candy is a genre-hopping knee-slapper of a novel. Get it on Amazon.

About the author: Frederick Lee Brooke has worked as an English teacher, language school manager and small business owner and has travelled extensively in Tuscany, the setting of part of Zombie Candy. Visit Fred on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

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Thank you to Frederick for a very interesting and informative interview. I definitely want to read Zombie Candy now!

Kudos is also due to Novel Publicity, who organized this highly professional blog tour. If you're a blogger yourself, you might want to consider signing up with them to get the chance to be a host on other tours and be eligible for free books and prizes.

As ever, if you have any comments or questions, please feel free to post them below!

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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

A Fast-Track Route for non-US Authors to Avoid Paying US Tax on Royalties?

Last year I published a guest post by UK author Ali Cooper on how self-publishing non-US authors on Amazon (Createspace and Kindle) and Smashwords can reclaim the 30 percent tax otherwise automatically deducted by these US companies.

The post attracted a lot of comment (and still does today). The method set out by Ali is basically sound, but it does involve a lot of hard work with no absolute guarantee of success at the end of it.

In particular, the method involves applying for a US ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number), for which applicants have to jump through an inordinate number of hurdles, including either visiting the US embassy in person or sending their passport by registered post to America (rather you than me).

Recently, however, word has gone round that a simpler method can work just as well. This involves applying for an EIN (Employer Identification Number) rather than an ITIN.

According to this article on Catherine Ryan Howard's blog, all you have to do to obtain an EIN is phone +1 267 941 1099. This is a direct line to a dedicated IRS unit in Philadelphia that deals with foreign businesses and individuals who need an EIN. A growing number of authors have done this and been issued with an EIN over the phone after answering a few questions.

Catherine's blog has a very helpful, step-by-step guide to the process. One point to note is that to get an EIN you are meant to be running a business, so ideally you will have set up a limited company for your self-publishing operations. Of course, this won't apply to most freelance writers, but thankfully it does appear that the IRS will also accept EIN applications from self-employed writers (as long as they don't live in the US).

My own thought is that it might help if you use a trading name such as XYZ Publishing. You can then describe yourself as John/Jane Doe trading as XYZ Publishing (which is a perfectly legitmate business description).You can explain that you are a sole trader if asked.

The (otherwise excellent) advice given in Catherine's blog post is (in my view) a bit misleading at the end, where she writes, "This will require you to have a company, even if that means just registering as a sole trader." In UK business law anyway, this statement is meaningless. Either you are in business as a (limited) company or a sole trader - you can't be both. It seems to me that as long as you are set up in a businesslike manner, whether as a limited company, partnership or sole trader, you should be OK to apply for a non-US EIN.

It is, as ever, a pity that definitive advice on this is so hard to find, and some of the advice on offer online is contradictory. You might, however, like to check out this topic on my forum, where a number of writers discuss their experiences of going down the EIN route. The good news is that all of them so far appear to have been successful.

Once you have your EIN, it's then just a matter of completing form W8-BEN for each relevant company (Amazon KDP, Smashwords, CreateSpace, Lulu, and so on). Once your form has been received and processed, the companies should stop making deductions from your income and possibly refund any money that was deducted previously.

Good luck, and please do post details of your own experiences below. I'd love to hear if applying for an EIN has worked for you!

Photo Credit: Tax by Phillip on Flickr. Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Licence.

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