50 Shades of Coaching: And a Few Confessions

dominatrix

Did I hear you say “Ugh”?

Many writers don’t know what they are getting themselves into until they find that not only is having a coach fun, inspiring and motivational, but essential. Writing Coaching is also incredibly therapeutic. If you think about how hard you work on a chapter or a story, how far down inside yourself you dig, and add up all the inevitable issues that a writer collides with like, confidence, am I good enough, organization, deadlines, doubt, stuck-ness, inertia, elation, self-love, and fear, then writing is like every intimate relationship in life and fraught with all the same potholes and possibilities. But, instead of the relationship being with someone else, it is between you and your deepest most essential self. Writing is all about ruthless honesty with YOU.

 Do you really know what your story is going to be about?

As a veteran psychologist and a long time professional writer my work with clients is a combination of so many of my skills: Critique and editing, listening and tracking the process, content development, therapeutic support, research and helping clients get published. And one of the most valuable things I can offer a writer is to help them discover the story they truly want to share and unearth where they want to go with that story. Some people start with a book but end with a screenplay instead. All too often a writer ends up telling a story they had no intention of telling at all and one tiny article can flourish into a series of books.

 Derailed

But, one of the nuts and bolts jobs I have is helping the writer stay on track, not get derailed by life, Procrastinate because of lack of momentum, or overwork their writing. I am here to get you unstuck and keep moving forward. This is one of the biggest roadblocks for even great writers: staying on track. Having mini deadlines and regular coaching sessions can keep the work moving forward and help the writer come to completion far faster. In our fast paced life with a thousand distractions we can start and stop a hundred times, lose track of the threads of our own creativity and this can in fact be the kiss of death to a story. One story dead in the water is common but one writer dead in the water is what we want to avoid.

Yesterday I was at the mercado in Uvita, Costa Rica buying vegetables and homemade corn tortillas. I came across a man who mentioned he was still working on a book after living here for 23 years. I asked him what it was about and he said “It’s visionary fiction”. That sounded intriguing, so I ventured further and said, “how long have you been working on it?” That always is an interesting answer and tells me a lot about the person authoring a book. This was his response:

“Well I have been writing for about eight years. I am on my 57th revision and have cut the book back from 234 pages to 150 pages.” I was frozen in place as I fondled a papaya thinking he had been working on War and Peace.

I nodded and replied, “57 revisions huh, cough, cough”. Nothing more was said.

As I walked away I whispered to myself, “well that book will never be published since it is clear that this author, no matter how good he is, is writing for himself, and the process is in fact his destination. For some authors this is so true and very important.

But for others this can be a nightmare in getting a book finished. One thing or the other stands in the way of the next chapter, or they go back over and over a chapter and want it to be perfect before venturing further. My job is to help the flow continue and for an author to never be stuck in any of these cycles.

Doctor Dread

So, I tell my clients I am a midwife, a project manager, a therapist and a muse to help each person love their writing, excel at it and get the baby born in nine months.   It is a task that takes tenacity on my part and trust extraordinaire on the part of the writer.

I am also here to deliver the truth from where I sit as both an educated reader and a trained writer and for this a client needs some pretty thick skin. Most writers bask in the prose of positive, constructive feedback but dare tell them that the chapter falls flat or simply was not very interesting or went off on a tangent and there are some writers who will simply, not call you back. I personally believe the “negative” feedback is the most valuable of all, since it sends us into self-reflection and we can either become clearer and more devoted to our course or we can learn something new.

 You are worth every single cent

The investment of money people apply to coaching is also a very important part of the process. It is no different that hiring a weekly therapist to hold the space and help you through to the other side of your process. The interesting thing is that as a therapist for over thirty years I charged between $150 and $250 a session. Not so in coaching at this point. Although coaching is even more complicated sometimes than therapy and requires numerous hats to be worn, the general going rate for coaching is far less than therapy. Go figure.

As an example of how coaching is prices, here is an expert coach and their financial plan for writing coaching: She offers,

Plan One

  • $2,500/month
  • Twelve–three weekly–45-minute phone coaching sessions  (or equivalent)
  • Up to ten hours manuscript reading & critique, development editing and email exchanges per month

Plana Two

  • $1,000/month
  • Eight—two weekly—30-minute phone coaching sessions (or equivalent)
  • Up to three hours manuscript reading & critique, developmental editing and email exchanges per month

Plan Three

  • $500/month
  • Four 30-minute phone coaching sessions per month (or equivalent)
  • Up to one hour manuscript reading & critique, developmental editing and email exchanges per month

Plan Four

  • $375/month
  • Two 30-minute phone coaching sessions per month (or equivalent)
  • Up to one hour manuscript reading & critique, developmental editing and email exchanges per month

With any of these packages, additional reading, critique and email exchanges extending past the time frames outlined in the package are available upon request, and will be charged at $150/hour.

One best selling coach charges a straight fee of $800 an hour. Holy Moly! Does she write the book for her clients?

This is simply a gauge since as coaches everyone is different.

Accountability is the Key

As in most things when we invest money we take whatever the endeavor is more seriously.   And having another person to be accountable to is even more important. I remember the days of writing all alone in my room and no one having a clue what the hell I was working on. I had no deadlines, no one expecting a chapter, no feedback to kick me in the butt and sometimes a lack of real motivation so I would just zone out with the X-Files.

So coaching is a practice, a spiritual commitment between two people, and exchange of resources and in fact an alliance that makes a writer better, faster, more confident and ultimately successful. Coaching is a mini education for writers as well. I could not have chosen a better way to apply my skills and my commitment to story being one of the most powerful tools in the world.

 

Tips for Writers on How to Price Their Work: Social Media

money from sky

How to charge for something you contribute as a writer is always a bit of a question for writers starting out as freelancers.  I had someone write me today about Social Media writing and how to charge for everything from Landing Pages to Blog Posts.  This is a great article that cuts to the chase, by a site called The Content Factory.  You will find their website at the end of the article.

I will make it my business to find the best answers out there for ghostwriters, freelancers, article writer to children’s book writers since there is no need to reinvent the wheel when so many great sites are up and running to help answer these questions.  This article helps those wanting to HIRE a writer and how to price their projects.

Next time I will talk about ghostwriting a novel or a screenplay.

The Content Factory On Writing for Social Media:

Judging by the popularity of our blog post about how much social media marketing costs, people are very interested in how much agencies and freelancers charge to manage social media. In fact, that post is currently ranking #1 in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) for a variety of keywords associated with that phrase. So, we decided to write a post about how much professional web content writing costs. This pricing guide has been updated for 2014, and will tell you how much it costs to outsource landing pages, blog posts, press releases and other web content – both for our agency and in general. We did quite a bit of research, so you won’t have to!

Side note: if you just want to know about The Content Factory’s web content rates,click here to review our generic proposal that outlines everything we do and how much it all costs. PR, social media marketing and content marketing is also included in our larger packages.

There are many different types of web content writing, each with different price points. Most of our web content writing services involve one of the following:

  • US_Dollar_banknotesLanding pages — Involves writing content like you see on our home, about and services pages. They should have distinct calls to action, include the SEO keywords you’re trying to target and be somewhere in the range of 250-450 words long (depending on the design of the site). The purpose of landing pages is to convert browsers to buyers, and having amazing content can make a huge difference in your conversion rates. Poorly written content can seriously affect your sales. Landing pages are the most difficult to write out of all the web content, which is why they’re so expensive.
  • SEO blog posts — SEO blog posts (also known as SEO articles) are one of the easiest ways to increase your website traffic. They drive SEO, fuel social media marketing campaigns and are a good way to introduce people to your brand. Blogs give people a reason to visit your website, and once readers are there they tend to click around a little. In a directly indirect way, blogs drive sales.
  • Mini blog posts — These are the same as regular blog posts, only e-mailed to the client as a Word file. Most of our clients have us post the posts directly to their websites (we include relevant tags/categorization, social bookmarking and other extras), which saves them time and costs them more money. Choosing the mini blog post option takes the client a little more time, but saves them some cash. Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe.
  • Linkbait articles — These are like standard SEO blog posts, only twice the length and hyped up on awesome. Designed to go viral, linkbait articles tend to be provocative in one way or another. There’s a huge amount of effort and talent involved in writing linkbait articles, but the traffic payoff is often worth the per-word rate.

So, how much does all this web content writing cost? It’s hard to say, because most companies don’t advertise their prices. Here’s what we were able to find out, though:

How much do landing pages cost?

Landing page content is where you want to drop your money, since it acts as your website’s silent salesman. If your web content is coming off like a sweaty and desperate used car salesman, it’s not going to convert and your sales are going to suffer. Who cares if you’re getting a ton of traffic if none of it is converting into actual sales? With that said, how many Benjamins should you expect to throw at your website copy?

This is one instance where it’s difficult to tell what companies really charge for landing pages. For example, at The Content Factory, we only write landing page copy. We don’t develop or design websites — instead, we specialize in writing the words that go on the pages and outsource the design aspect to one of our agency partners who (surprise!) specializes only in designing amazing and functional websites. Many web design businesses roll the cost of the content writing into their design fees, and then scratch together the content themselves. This is why so many websites have such crappy landing page copy.

There was a really interesting forum discussion about it, though — and some professional landing page writers quoted $1,500-$25,000 per page of content.

Now, I’m not going to argue that there isn’t a ton of time involved with creating landing pages that convert. But $3,000-$4,000 per page still seems excessive. When you consider that you’re looking at five or more pages per website, the actual cost of content comes to $15,000-$20,000about the cost of a new compact car.

Here’s the argument these and other people use to justify such expensive fees: if you pay more for content, you’ll get a better conversion rate and the extra sales will make up for the obscene per-piece rate. That may hold true for a luxury car dealership, plastic surgeon’s office or home remodeling company, but only because they make so much money on each transaction — and the truth of the matter is that most businesses don’t. The majority of the people who come to us for web content writing services make less than $500 profit on each sale, or are fresh startups that don’t have that kind of capital. For them, that argument just doesn’t work (especially not in the short-term).

At The Content Factory, we bill for landing pages by the word — $1 per, with a project minimum of $750. On rare cases it may cost slightly more, depending on the complexity of the subject and research involved. Our landing pages are usually around 250-500 words and most clients need five pages of content written, which means thatthe average 5-7 page website content project costs between $1,500 and $2,000, including all edits.

For that price, you get pretty sweet copy — the copy on our site features a certain tone that we find preferable, but when we write for clients we do so with their preferred tone. We’ve written content for large law firms, real estate agents, adult e-tail sites, startups and everything in between. Everyone wants something a little different, and we can modify our writing style to deliver exactly what the client wants.

How much do SEO blogs cost?

For our regular SEO blog posts, we charge between $80 and $750 each, depending on the length and how many you want (we give bulk discounts). If you want a 2,000+ word in-depth article that features interviews from industry experts and thought leaders, it’s going to be on the higher end of the spectrum. Our rates include posting the content to the your website, using proper tags/categories, formatting, etc. If we have access to your analytics, we’ll even target our topics based on the popularity of past posts. If you’re looking to save some money and know how to publish the blogs yourself, we’ll e-mail the Word docs and let you take care of the posting and promotion. We call these “mini blogs” and charge $60 per. Plus, we give bulk discounts for orders of 10 or more.

Another thing that isn’t really outlined is the most important: content strategy. Before you can execute a successful content marketing plan, you need to know:

  • Everything about your target audience
  • Which keywords to target, to target the target audience (is that enough targeting?)
  • How difficult the keywords will be to rank for
  • Which keywords your site currently ranking for
  • Which keywords the competition is ranking for
  • Which keywords are more likely to convert
  • If your site needs any tweaks on the back-end for better optimization (we useSEOsiteCheckup – it’s free, fast and VERY easy to understand, even if you know nothing about SEO)

This all takes quite a bit of time, knowledge and experience – along with a dash of A/B testing. It’s unclear if strategy is included in these rates, but at TCF we complete comprehensive keyword research and competitive analysis for $1500. This also includes coming up with a content strategy to target keywords, while also appealing to your target audience in a way that will get the keywords searchers to convert into paying clients or customers. It’s something we’ve done with great success for our website, and we’ve helped clients achieve similar goals.

How much do linkbait articles cost?

Linkbait blog posts take much more time and talent to write than a standard blog post, although some of our posts turn out to be linkbait anyway (we can’t help it, sometimes our writers submit incredible work). The whole point of writing linkbait articles is to get as many sites to link back to you as possible, which boils down to getting more site traffic.

Linkbait takes a lot of time to write and even more time to edit — but it won’t cost you as much as a new Honda Civic. We weren’t really able to find too many  prices for linkbait articles, which I’m guessing is an indication that other content writing companies aren’t as hip and with it as we are. Christopher Angus, alleged SEO expert (he has a very nice haircut and a black and white headshot, which makes me trust him immediately), seems to think they cost $2,000 each.

Our linkbait costs around $500 each. Do we guarantee that each one will get you hundreds of backlinks? No…but nobody else can, either.

Other writing services:

There are a couple of other writing assignments that we get in on a regular basis:

  • Press releases — A professional press release writer knows how to format the damn thing correctly, which is the hardest part. Well, at least the second hardest part, since coming up with a catchy headline isn’t as easy as you’d think. Press releases should be written from a semi-objective viewpoint, so that journalists can copy/paste it into their articles and blogs.
  • E-mail newsletters — A good e-mail newsletter writer knows how to create a subject title that boosts open rates. Once the readers are in, it’s up to the writer to hold their attention and get them to click through to the website (or some other action). Great e-mail newsletters are hard to come by, which is why so many end up in the spam folder.

There are all kinds of BS prices listed online for e-mail newsletter and press release writing. You can find somebody on Craigslist to write either for less than $15, or you could pay $2,500 with a fancy online PR agency. We charge a flat rate of $1500 per press release, which includes writing, editing, distribution and promotion.

www.contentfac.com

 

It’s All In Your Mind

 

In 2004 J.K. Rowling became the very first writer in history to become a billionaire from her Harry Potter series.  Harry Potter has sold more than 450 million copies.  And she has her own strategy for mapping out her ideas.

At first glance this may look just like some school notes, or random scribbles. But, this is literally Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix!

A story board and crafting the direction of your book, your story and your article is important and Rowling lets us know that there are no hard and fast rule to the creative process.  More on ideas for storyboarding soon.

A Little Word Humor

word soup
The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.  Personally my favorite is Karmageddon.

Here are some of the contestants: 

1.  Cashtration (n.):  The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
2. Ignoranus:  A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
3. Intaxicaton:  Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
4.  Reintarnation:  Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer,
unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
6.  Foreploy:  Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
7. Giraffiti:  Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
8. Sarchasm:  The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
9. Inoculatte:  To take coffee intravenously when you are running late..
10.  Osteopornosis:  A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
11. Karmageddon:  It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right?  And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
12.  Decafalon (n.):  The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
13. Glibido:  All talk and no action.
14.  Dopeler Effect:  The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.):  The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.
16.  Beelzebug (n.):  Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
17. Caterpallor (n.):  The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.
The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked
to supply alternate meanings for common words.

And the winners are:  

1.  Coffee, n.  The person upon whom one coughs.
2.  Flabbergasted, adj.  Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.
3.  Abdicate, v.  To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade, v.  To attempt an explanation while drunk.
5.  Willy-nilly, adj.  impotent.
6. Negligent, adj.  Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.
7. Lymph, v.  To walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle, n.  Olive-flavored mouthwash.
9.  Flatulence, n.  Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash, n.  A rapidly receding hairline.
11.  Testicle, n.  A humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude, n.  The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13.  Pokemon, n.  A Rastafarian proctologist.
14.  Oyster, n.  A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15.  Circumvent, n.  An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.
If you have anything to add of your own please feel free to post it in a comment.

The End of Books?

books on the street

The End of Books
By ROBERT COOVER, NYTimes, 1992

“In the real world nowadays, that is to say, in the world of video transmissions, cellular phones, fax machines, computer networks, and in particular out in the humming digitalized precincts of avant-garde computer hackers, cyberpunks and hyperspace freaks, you will often hear it said that the print medium is a doomed and outdated technology, a mere curiosity of bygone days destined soon to be consigned forever to those dusty unattended museums we now call libraries. Indeed, the very proliferation of books and other print-based media, so prevalent in this forest-harvesting, paper-wasting age, is held to be a sign of its feverish moribundity, the last futile gasp of a once vital form before it finally passes away forever, dead as God.

Which would mean of course that the novel, too, as we know it, has come to its end. Not that those announcing its demise are grieving. For all its passing charm, the traditional novel, which took center stage at the same time that industrial mercantile democracies arose — and which Hegel called “the epic of the middle-class world” — is perceived by its would-be executioners as the virulent carrier of the patriarchal, colonial, canonical, proprietary, hierarchical and authoritarian values of a past that is no longer with us.” Published in the New York Times 1992

You might think that this article above was written recently but look again. The debate over books becoming obsolete began when my daughters were seven years old and the computer had just become a household option.

Now, 23 years after this article was written by Mr. Coover, much of what he says is true, but what is even truer is that the function of the book, the memoir, the novel and the poetry collection has been given new delivery systems and in small sound bites to fit our changing brains and lifestyles. As with the web series which is rapidly replacing the movie, texting that is replacing most of our oral tradition (like calling and having a long chat with your mother on Mother’s Day), E-Cards replacing that Hallmark cry your eyes card with a personal signature from your loved one, who may have taken the time to compose a poem or say something personal, now we let technology speak for us.
There is something very specific about a physical book and the story it contains. Books are like a treasure chest full of secrets as you move  from one page to another and even the font can be a thing of beauty. A book is something that is irreplaceable. There is a bit of magic in perusing Barnes and Nobel, even if most of the books are geared to romantically starved women and coming of age teens who cannot get enough vampire literature. The dimensionality of a physical book, the texture, the smell of the pages, the graphics, turning pages until the book slumps down on your chest before the night light is out, is brain food that technology cannot replace. Brain Food!

Much like writing with a pen or pencil verses typing on a computer, our brain needs proprioceptive input to fully function and to retain what we are reading or writing. Sensory data is necessary for our imaginative centers of the brain to light up. When we type on a computer there is minimal sensory data and we can simply zone out and skim life. As a result, our attention span withers and is not only shortened but so is retention and general interest: enter the need for the “soundbite. With texting, three-min videos, web series, and even Kindle, being fully engaged in writing or reading a book or story is reduced significantly.

Another perfect example is the sand box.  Or should I say the absence of the proverbial sand box.  It used to be that the sand box was a canvas for the imagination.  Tunnels and towns, wet-scaped mountains, Tonka Trucks and little plastic figures made stories unfold and engaged the body the mind and the spirit.  Building and creating was the mission of the sand box.  Now we have video games.  Enough said.

A story is interactive, and a book should be a relationship you are having for several hundred pages. When did you last have a 500 page barn burner and not even get out of your Jammies or comb your hair all day? Please don’t say Fifty Shades of Grey!

The advent of the television series in the 1950’s, whether it was a half hour sitcom or a one hour crime drama like Dragnet is how we have become accustomed to a story one a piece at a time. Most of the time we are cooking, eating or texting all the while the story is unfolding on the TV. What we miss, what we are not giving ourselves by sitting with a real book, a well written and imaginative story, is priceless. But more than that it is essential for health. No longer indulging in the pricelessness of reading a book, finding that perfect story at the bookstore, and savoring our own imagination is part of why there is so much illness in our country. We fail to take downtime, to focus our creative energy, the have sensory input by writing with a pen or by turning pages. We fail to really read with our whole being and allow our imagination to take us into…the depths of ourselves.

We have replaced this essential relationship between reader and author with a hurried technological life that in fact may be more efficient and more can in fact get done in a day but we have traded a kind of neuro-stimulation of our brains, our eye hand connection, our imagination and creative centers for….expediency.
That is a costly trade since our body depends on all the brain firing that goes on when we are fully engaged. Not only fully engaged with ourselves, our book, our writing project, our characters but with each other and not our phones or Xbox. It is time to rethink how in fact technology is dumbing us down and freezing our brain from our own limitless passion and imagination.