The Art of Letter Writing

mark twain

Emails have revolutionized communication much like the telephone changed the art of letter writing. But, as for me, I cannot say it was an improvement. The availability of all the various instant communications is efficient and fast but it may in fact rob us of some very essential things.

I grew up in a family that did not communicate well or often. And having a military father, he was least inclined to discuss anything and more inclined to just lay down the law. But there was a rare moment that came only once a year when I was allowed to see into a far deeper and much more wonderful part of my father: Christmas.

My dad had a tradition with all of us. He would, once a year for Christmas day, write each of us a letter. In that letter he would talk about the year, his new years resolutions but what he did the most was share feelings, share his heart and talk about loving each of us in ways he never once showed us in the year leading up to Christmas.

I imprinted on these letters as my life raft of relationship with my dad. But what I took away from 18 letters that began the day I was born was that a letter is power. It is life changing, transformative, revealing and deeply personal. A letter allows us to craft our feelings, to create imagery that remains in the heart of the reader. A letter is spacious and forgiving. I cannot say any of that about an email or a text.

So when I married at 18 years old, the letters stopped as my father thought they should. But every letter was kept by my mother in a shortbread cookie tin and handed to me when I was nearly 50.

I remember being in a U-Haul in a blizzard between Maine and somewhere in Ohio when the roads were a whiteout and my knuckles were betraying how terrified I was. My husband was driving and listening to AM radio and televangelist’s had nearly driven us mad. So, I had the tin of letters in my backpack and pulled them out and started reading them to my husband.

We crawled along with no way to see where the road started and stopped and prayed for a place to stop for the night. I kept reading letter after letter, and then I noticed that even in the midst of tension and peril my husband and I were crying. We were crying at the beauty of these small gifts that my dad had left as his legacy. We could have ended in the ditch but instead we were mesmerized by the power of a letter.

For me a letter is a gift of the soul. The time, the effort, the care and making someone a priority is an art form we are losing. It is essential that we keep this form of writing alive and well.

paper has more patience

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Writer’s Block Demystified

garfield

Writer’s block “is a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which a writer loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown. The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years.”

Now that I read this it sounds like some category found in the diagnostic manual for psychologists to refer to, like paranoia or phobias. Is writer’ block some condition that they just might be coming out with a new drug for? Surely not. But writer’s everywhere have a fear of the dreaded WB anyway.

I hear from countless writers that they struggle with writer’s block, wait for the moment it strikes like a migraine headache or simply live in fear that one day they will be in the final stretch of writing a novel or a story and be stricken down by the an inexplicable moment when there are simply no words. So I thought I would take a few minutes to debunk this mystery and myth.

I am not saying that this does not occur for many writers. But the writers it does not ever occur for are those who write from inspiration and passion. When a writer is not engaged with the subject or the story, then writer’s block may become an inevitability, just like boredom. Staring at the page with no words coming and then getting sweaty palmed is only a symptom that there is no creative edge happening, no inner fire pushing the words out onto the paper and that instead the mind is in analytical mode.

Writer’s who never experience writer’s block are those who are inside of their writing, channeling the words, the characters and the stories in ways they don’t even know where the words come from, with little concern for editing till the final draft. And the key being that the writing they are doing is not a brain job it is a heart song. Now that may feel foreign to those who write for a living and for other people as part of a paid job. There is little room for being personally inspired when you are critiquing a medical journal article or court reporting. But when you sit at the page simply because you are busting with energy to see what will happen, what scene will write itself, you anticipate which muse will take control and you allow expression to be the goal.  That is when writer’s block is not an issue.

Yet, for a writer to commit at this level, to allow intuition, passion and story to run the show and allow the mind to go on vacation for a little while, or at least till the final edit, miracles happen. Writer’s block is about only one thing: Not knowing what you are inspired and moved to write. When you locate that in your own intuition and act on it no matter whether you know the destination of your writing or not, you will write like the wind.

writers block

Costs of Self Publishing

self publishing
I am getting a lot of questions about self-publishing.  The blog http://www.thewritelife.com published a piece that covers the nuts and bolts of self publishing which I think is very comprehensive. Check it out.

How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Book? 4 Authors Share Their Numbers

You want to self-publish your book, but budgeting for the process is more challenging that it looks. The numbers you’re hearing from experts regarding the costs of self-publishing are all over the board.  Are authors really managing to release quality books without paying for professional editing, design, marketing and other services? Or are you going to have to dig into your savings and fork over thousands of dollars to make sure you release a great book? How much does it cost to publish a book?

To assuage these common concerns, we spoke with several top self-published authors about what they spent to release one of their books. They’ve shared real numbers, as well as why they chose to invest in certain services, to help you decide how best to allocate your investment during every stage of self-publishing.

Ready to learn what it really costs to self-publish?

The self-published authors we’ve interviewed

In addition to her freelance writing expertise and two traditionally-publishedmystery series, C. Hope Clark is the author of the self-published non-fiction book The Shy Writer Reborn.

Catherine Ryan Howard is author of two travel memoirs, Mousetrapped andBackpacked, and a guide to self-publishing, Self-Printed. She blogs about self-publishing and more at Catherine, Caffeinated.

Since she quit her corporate job and published her first book about the experience, Joanna Penn has been a self-publishing powerhouse. She’s built a career as an author-entrepreneur, sharing resources for other authors at The Creative Penn and self-publishing New York Times and USA Today best-selling thriller novels as author J.F. Penn.

And there’s me, Dana Sitar. I share resources, tips and tools for writers atWritersBucketList.com, and I have self-published two collections of essays, a variety of infoproducts and the Amazon Bestselling ebook A Writer’s Bucket List.

Remember to think of the cost of self-publishing as an investment, not a cost. [A book is] an asset that earns you money long-term. – Joanna Penn

How did we do it? Here’s the breakdown of costs for Hope’s nonfiction book The Shy Writer Reborn; Catherine’s second memoir Backpacked; Joanna’s first novel, Pentecost; and my ebook A Writer’s Bucket List. All dollar amounts are listed in USD.

How much does it cost to publish a book?

How much does editing cost?

Editing — which includes developmental editing, content editing, copyediting and proofreading — can make the difference between a good book and great one. For a quality, impactful book, you need more than a proofread or spell-check of a first draft.

Beta readers and/or experienced developmental and content editors will help ensure your book shares your message or story coherently, and a strong copyeditor will help you make every sentence pop off the page.

To keep costs low, think outside the box and reach into your network. Make the most of your money, effort and time by working with a genre-specific editor who understands your voice and brand. Not all editors are created equal!

Hope:

I used beta readers from my critique group and authors I knew. I had one author dislike the book, suggesting I write it in the format used by Writer’s Digest books (she published with Writer’s Digest Books), and [I] just rescinded my request because I did not want [that look].

Catherine:

It was nonfiction so I felt developmental editing wasn’t worth it (the events really happened, so I thought I was safe enough relaying real events while leaving out the boring bits!) and then I hired a copyeditor. She went through it line by line and then she did a proofread afterwards. I also asked a couple of friends to proofread it.

Approximate cost: $600

Joanna:

Even avid readers of fiction don’t know how to structure a book, so for the first book,  [it’s a good idea to use a] structural editor. I also rewrote later on with feedback from more editors after publication. For Pentecost, I used five different editors [multiple structural editors, a line-editor and a copyeditor], so that cost the most of all the books.

[On the sixth in the ARKANE series now the process is:] Get to a good second draft myself, then send to my editor for structural and line edits, two passes by the editor, rewrites, then send to the proofreader before publication.

Cost: $1500 per book for one editor and one proofreader

Dana:

I first shared the book with beta readers from the Writer’s Bucket List community for structural feedback.

For proofreading and copyediting, I hired new writers who would benefit from the editing experience and offered pay plus a mention at the blog and in the book.

Cost: $60

The costs of cover design

To develop an author brand, you want your cover to not only sell your book but to make readers immediately think of you. Book cover design is a unique craft – it takes more than InDesign skills and knowledge of fonts and colors to create a cover that achieves your goals.

As if that wasn’t enough, you also want your cover to stand out and be legible in crowded pages of tiny thumbnail images. It’s a tall order!

Look for quality designers who are just getting started in their careers and develop a relationship early on (the top recommended designers are usually booked quite far in advance!) The Book Designer’s Monthly Ebook Cover Design Awards are a great resource for cover design tips and finding designers who specialize in your genre.

Hope:

I hired a book cover designer (who happened to be my web designer) to design two covers: ebook and print.

Cost: $250

Catherine:

I used Andrew Brown of Design for Writers, who I had used before. I was one of Andrew’s first clients, so I always get a good deal from him. His prices now are, I think, around [$240] for ebook only and [$360] for the ebook “front” cover and a full CreateSpace paperback cover as well.

Joanna:

This is my other big expense [after editing]. I met Joel Friedlander of The Book Designer and paid him as a pro for book cover design for my first book, but he doesn’t do it anymore. I met Derek Murphy at CreativIndie when he was starting out and developed a relationship because of my platform [at TheCreativePenn.com].

Dana:

I DIYed! I had a big learning curve to overcome, and I went through three iterations of the PDF cover before landing on one I was comfortable with. Then I changed it again later when I published the Kindle edition (with great feedback from the Ebook Cover Design Awards).

I design all my covers in Photoshop, which I owned previously, so I don’t consider it a publishing cost.

Adding illustrations, photography and graphics

While it’s easy to disregard these additions to save money and time, custom images on your cover or throughout your book add a unique touch that gets readers talking. Forging a relationship with an artist is also a cool way to give your brand its own flair throughout your career.

We’ve recommended 99designs in the past for affordable, quality cover design, but Joanna points out that the site is also a great resource for custom illustrations!

Dana:

I hired a cartoonist friend to do illustrations for the book, and it’s one of the best decisions I made! The illustrations have always gotten great feedback from reviewers.

Cost: I paid her $50 down and share 10 percent of direct sales (about $1 per book).

Handling inner layout, formatting and ebook conversion

Second to cover design, a conventionally formatted book interior (print or ebook) is your key to avoiding a sloppy DIY look.

Many small details (that you might not think of) will red-flag your book as amateurish and sully the reader’s experience, so you want to do your research (or hire a pro who’s already done theirs) on the standards of book interior design.

To DIY typesetting for print, try one of the free templates from CreateSpace, or a paid option from Book Design Templates.

Hope:

I did the print layout myself after much research and study of formatting guides. I queried my Facebook fans when I reached one impasse, and they fixed me right up.

As for ebook [conversion], I turned that over to BookBaby. I bartered advertising for publication/preparation of my ebook.

Typical cost for ebook publishing package: $299

Catherine:

I did [inner layout] myself, using Microsoft Word and the templates you can download from CreateSpace. If you have a straightforward interior layout, I think this is a good place to save some money by doing the work yourself.

I did [conversion] myself for this book, but I’ve since started usingeBookPartnership.com.

Cost for standard ebook conversion: From $299

Joanna:

I format ebooks on Scrivener. I hate [print] formatting, so I pay for that.

Cost: $150 for print formatter for full-length book; $40-45 one-time for Scrivener software (available for both Mac and Windows)

Dana:

I did these myself. It was another learning curve, as this was the first book I’d published with illustrations and the first I published in fixed (PDF) format.

I designed the PDF version in OpenOffice Writer and converted directly to PDF. I also did the layout for the Kindle edition through OpenOffice, which creates an MS Word .doc. To sell the ebook at Amazon, I just uploaded that doc through KDP.

Cost: Free

What does printing a book cost?

Even in a digital age, readers will still ask for a print copy of your book. Print-on-demand services make it possible for you to offer this without the expense or headache of managing and storing a print run. If you do speaking gigs or host author events, you’ll also want the option to keep print copies in stock for back-of-room sales.

Across the board, we all use, have used, or plan to use Amazon’s CreateSpacefor print-on-demand books. Choosing this route saves you money because you only print books as readers buy them. You’ll pay manufacturing and shipping costs if you want to approve a proof before listing the book for sale, which is highly recommended.

If you do want to order a print run of your books — which isn’t recommended unless you have a proven distribution method — you’ll also pay manufacturing and shipping costs to receive them.

Publishing through CreateSpace is free, and they will keep between 20 and 60 percent of book sales, depending on the sales channel.

Joanna also recommends IngramSpark for non-Amazon print-on-demand sales.

Sales and distribution costs

Self-publishing an ebook comes with the benefit of not needing to seek bookstores to stock your book. Selling your ebook through online retailers is relatively simple.

Most popular ebook distributors (e.g. Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, etc.) charge no upfront costs to publish, but keep a percentage of book sales. Publishers Weekly put together a great breakdown of royalty rates, pros and cons for each platform.

Hope:

I used Kindle Direct Publishing to sell through Amazon. For other ebook outlets I used BookBaby. For print I used Amazon and Barnes & Noble. No costs.

Catherine:

KDP and Smashwords, so all free.

Joanna:

I upload directly to ebook stores [e.g. Amazon, iBooks, NOOK, Kobo] as well as using Smashwords for smaller markets. I was selling direct through selz.comuntil the EU VAT tax laws came in January 1, 2015.

Dana:

I used E-junkie for direct distribution of the PDF edition and payments via PayPal. I published the Kindle edition to sell on Amazon using KDP. Later, I made the PDF edition a freebie to email subscribers, so I used MailChimp to distribute it.

Cost: $5 per month for E-junkie

Launch and marketing costs

As a self-published author, your relationships are your greatest assets. In addition to tapping into your network for self-publishing services, you also rely on your community to buy and promote your books.

Building and nurturing these relationships shouldn’t come with direct costs, but this is where you need to budget a huge portion of your (non-writing) time as an author.

Hope:

I used Facebook, my newsletters with FundsforWriters.com, Twitter and a lot ofguest blog posting. I feature [the book] at conferences and speaking engagements.

Also, I keep swag for all my books. Usually rack cards or postcards, business cards and stickers. I have a sticker for each of my books so that people can immediately see what’s in the envelope when it comes in the mail.

I use Vistaprint for postcards and rackcards, and I use Moo.com for business cards and the stickers. Moo is more expensive, but the quality is astounding.

Catherine:

I didn’t spend any money on [marketing]. I used my blog, Twitter account and Facebook page, and Goodreads for running giveaways [of print books].

Joanna:

I do all the marketing/launch [myself], and collaborate with other authors. I pay for BookBub and other email list advertising after launch once the book has good reviews. This is usually the most effective paid advertising for fiction authors in particular.

Cost: BookBub advertising varies by genre and list price.

Dana:

My strongest launch effort was my Launch Team. Beyond that, all promotion has cost is my time and effort: I guest blog, run social media promotions, do ebook giveaways, host online events, etc. to engage readers and get my name out there.

What about miscellaneous costs?

Indirect costs like travel, promotional swag, contest fees, audiobook recording and website hosting can help sell books as well as promote your entire business or brand, so consider these items part of your marketing budget.

Hope:

[When traveling to promote a book], I do not travel outside my state without being compensated for room, board, travel and an honorarium. I make appearances in conjunction with personal travel as well.

I did submit Shy to the EPIC awards for ebooks, and it made finalist in the nonfiction category in early 2014. But keep in mind that I use this book for back-of-the-room sales, to have a tool when I speak. It’s one of several tools I have, so it’s difficult to define individual expenses.

Catherine:

My domain name costs $18 a year (my blog is free on WordPress.com). I do regularly have travel costs to events but this are offset by the speaking fees.

For my first book, Mousetrapped, I had a bookstore launch but I’d never do it again. I had to buy the stock, print flyers [and] invites, buy an outfit to wear, etc., and while it was fun I didn’t make any money that I wouldn’t have made without it.

I since avoid stock at all costs — if I’m holding a physical edition of my book, I’ve lost money.

The totals: How much does it cost to publish a book?

It’s tough to nail down a final cost because of the number of indirect and one-time expenditures. With that in mind, here are approximate costs for one book from each of our authors:

Hope:

$250 for cover design

Greatest cost: cover design

Saves by: building relationships for bartering, tapping her network

DIYs: print layout, marketing, sales and distribution

Catherine:

$1,250 (less bartering for cover design) for ebook conversion, cover design and editing

Greatest cost: ebook conversion

Saves by: promoting online, limiting print stock, building relationships for bartering

DIYs: formatting, marketing, sales and distribution

Joanna:

$1,650 for editing and print formatting, bartering for cover design, plus BookBub ad fees

Greatest cost: editing

Saves by: building relationships for bartering

DIYs: marketing, ebook formatting and conversion, sales and distribution

Dana:

$150 for editing and illustrations, plus $5 per month for distribution

Greatest cost: illustrations

Saves by: bartering for editing and illustrations

DIYs: cover design, formatting and conversion, marketing, sales and distribution

Key takeaways

  • Look into your network to see how you can trade or barter services, experience, influence or exposure to offset the costs of self-publishing services.
  • Editors and cover designers you hire should know your voice and understand your genre — these aren’t one-size-fits-all services!
  • All stages and costs of self-publishing differ significantly from nonfiction to fiction.
  • Expect the greatest portion of your budget to go toward editing and cover design.
  • Very little (or none) of your budget should go toward paid advertising, other promotional services or print runs of the book.
  • To save money without sacrificing quality, you can DIY formatting and conversion with a little research and practice, if you’re willing to put in the time. Here’s a guide to formatting and converting an ebook for Kindle from TWL Assistant Editor Heather van der Hoop.
  • You’ll make a number of one-time investments early on, like purchasing software for word processing and design or taking courses in self-publishing and marketing. Your first self-publishing project is likely to be the biggest hit to your wallet — and the greatest investment in your writing career.

Are you ready to self-publish your book?

Stop fretting about those costs, and start planning. Self-publishing is all about innovation and creativity. Now that you’ve created a product or work of art (or both!), flip the switch and use your creativity on the business side of things.

Successful self-publishers are ambitious entrepreneurs who learn to wear several hats and display a variety of talents. To understand and cover the costs of self-publishing your book, dig into your network, do your research and plan ahead how you’ll allocate your time and money.

 

Making Money as a Writer

17 grants

Question:  How do you make money as a writer?

Writers write because they are compelled to, because they are  crazy, because they want to tell their story, feel that writing is their purpose, their passion and some write for profit.  Making money in a shapeshifting industry for writers is always a creative edge.  From simply paying the bills to making six figures, most people do not consider grants as coming to the rescue for getting your project off the ground.  Rebecca McCray (see her profile at the end of her article) did some serious homework for you so I am passing her article along to add to your file on how to get paid as a writer.

typewriter and champagne

“Writing may be incredibly satisfying, but it’s not a cash cow; most writers do what they do because they love it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

When you find yourself with a big, time-consuming writing project to pursue, your love of words alone might not pay the bills. That’s when grant money can swoop in to save the day (and your budget).  Here are 17 great grants for writers. Ready to apply for money to fund your writing?

1. Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grants

These grants are available to women and transgender artists and writers based in the Delaware Valley region whose work emphasizes social change. That means “social change must be integral to the ideas, beliefs and goals that are woven throughout your [writing] and your process of creating and sharing your art,” and should positively engage the community.

Keep in mind that one key to success for this grant is securing a “Change Partner”: an individual, business, or organization that is connected to your work, and who will endorse your project.

If you are at least 18 years old and live in Bucks, Camden, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery or Philadelphia counties, you are eligible to apply. All genres are welcome. Applications must be received by March 1, 2015, and you can only apply once per grant cycle. Check out this page for all the details.

2. Artist Trust

If you are a resident of Washington state, this is the grant for you.

The Grants for Artists Program (GAP) awards up to $1,500 annually to 50 practicing literary and visual artists. Grant money can support the “development, completion or presentation of new work.”

Applications for the next round of grants will be available in March 2015; check out the details here. The organization also connects artists to an array of services, including career development, legal support, residencies and continuing education (just to name a few).

3. Bard College Fiction Prize

This writer-in-residence award is an amazing opportunity for an emerging writer over the age of 39 to devote a semester to a fiction project.

The recipient is required to give one public lecture on the campus and to informally meet with Bard students, but the rest of the time is devoted to their writing project. Bard College’s writing program boasts a talented faculty and a beautiful Annandale-on-Hudson campus in New York.

The award is annual, with this year’s project deadline having just passed on July 15, 2014; look for details on the 2015 deadline shortly. The application process is very straightforward; no lengthy FAQ pages here. Applicants should havepublished at least one book, three copies of which must be submitted with a cover letter explaining their next project and their C.V.

4. A Room Of Her Own Freedom Award

An especially generous grant of $50,000, this award is for a female writer in any genre with a true vision for her project. The application is a serious undertaking, but AROHO boasts that the process is a rewarding one, whether or not you end up with the big prize.

This grant period’s deadline has yet to be announced, so starting dreaming and planning now. Take a look at some of the past grantees and their work for inspiration.

5. Arts Writers Grant Program

If contemporary visual art is your writing area of expertise, you’re in luck. This grant funds writers who are passionate and knowledgeable about contemporary art and whose work will broaden the arts writing audience.

Good news for those who are trying to break into the arts writing field: emerging talent is welcome to apply. Writers can apply for a grant in one of five project types: blog, article, book, new and alternative media, or short-form writing. With prizes that range from $5,000 to $50,000, keep your eye out for the application period to reopen in spring 2015. Details are available here.

6. Sustainable Arts Foundation Award

This award of $2,000 or $6,000 stands out from the crowd by specifically supporting artists and writers with at least one child under the age of 18. The foundation strives to support parents who are trying to balance their creative work with the demands of child rearing.

Interested applicants should submit a sample of their work (maximum 25 pages), along with the answers to the questions found here. The fall deadline is September 8, 2014. Writers with kids might also want to keep an eye on this foundation’s work funding organizations that are trying to make their residency programs more parent friendly.

7. Creative Capital

If you’ve been working as a writer for at least five years, Creative Capital’s individual awards for “Artist Projects” might be for you. They aim to support working artists (in film, visual and performing art, emerging fields and literature) through funding and career development, based on a venture-capital model with the goal of helping grant recipients build sustainable artistic practices.

Projects receive between $10,000 and $50,000. Past literature recipients includeRebecca Solnit, Ben Marcus, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, and Alan Gilbert. Applications for Literature Projects will be accepted from February 2 to 28, 2015, and winners will be announced in 2016, so you have plenty of time to get organized.

Check out an online info session and this page for details on the application process. Note: applicants must also be over 25 years old, legal permanent residents of the United States and cannot be full-time students.

8. Arizona Artist Research and Development Grant

Arizona writers who are “pioneering new works” may want to try their luck with this grant, awarded to 10 to 12 artists across disciplines each year. The grant’s amount goes up to $5,000 depending on funding, though last year the average award was $3,500.

Applicants whose projects emphasize the “new” — new methodologies, new strategies, new ways of engaging readers — are primed for success. Writers should also explicitly state in their applications how their project will impact not just their own artistic practices, but also the larger Arizona community. The application has numerous demanding parts, so be sure to give yourself time to delve into the guidelines and meet the September 18, 2014 deadline.

9. Table 4

In honor of New York restaurateur Elaine Kaufman, the Table 4 Writers Foundation offers funding to New York City-based fiction and nonfiction writers.

Kaufman was known for opening the doors of her Upper East Side restaurant to established writers as well as those who were waiting for their big break, sometimes even picking up the tab when they were low on cash. The grant upholds this spirit by supporting promising writers aged 21 and older with grants of $2,500.

Applicants must provide an unpublished writing sample that somehow addresses New York City and an explanation of how the grant will further their latest project. Take a look at past winners and details here. The 2014 deadline hasn’t been posted yet, but last year’s application was due in October.

10. Minnesota Artist Initiative Grant

Minnesota-based writers of poetry and prose should keep an eye on this grant in 2015, awarded in amounts of $2,000 to $10,000. If you’ve been a resident for at least six months and are 18 or older, the Minnesota State Arts Board will consider your application for this grant, which supports the “career building and creative development” of Minnesota artists across mediums.

Public engagement is key for successful applicants; all projects must include a community component such as a reading or open workshop. Find the full details of the application process here.

11. Spirit of Writing Grant

If your writing project involves or serves a team, this grant may be a good fit for you. The Crystal Spirit Publishing grant supports writing projects that benefit a group of people rather than just an individual writer, particularly projects that tackle a designated problem head-on.

Expect to explain the problem in your application and how your work will address it. There are two application cycles per year; this year’s deadlines were in January and July, so you have time to prepare for 2015. Winners receive grants ranging from $500 to $2,500, but keep in mind the larger sums will likely go to organizational entrants as the grant is open to both organizations and individuals.

12. Kansas City Inspiration Grant

Kansas City writers may be awarded between $250 and $2,500 for professional development and budding projects. The regional arts council notes that the highest priority for the grant is to fund projects that significantly advance career development or an artist’s capacity to complete their work — not to fund “business as usual.”

Interested applicants can submit letters of intent, the first step, in March, July and November. A full proposal, which includes six samples of work, is only submitted after an applicant passes this initial phase.

Note that if you request more than $1,000 for your project, matching funds may be required. Check out the Inspiration Resources page for more information.

13. RISCA Project Grants for Artists

As with most other state arts council-based grants, this Rhode Island grant is available to writers who ultimately plan to share their work with the public through a reading, performance or other open event. The emphasis on public value is strong with the RI Arts Council, so this grant will best serve socially minded writing projects.

Submit applications twice per year, on April 1 and October 1. Individual applicants can request up to a whopping $10,000, but be mindful that more realistic requests are more likely to be granted, and if your request is especially sizeable you might consider providing proof that other organizations or individuals have invested monetarily in your project.

Note that applicants to this program must contact the director, Cristina DiChiera, before submission. Find her contact information here, along with all the application details.

14. Arts Council Grants for the Arts

Writers of fiction and poetry in England are eligible for this grant opportunity. Some nonfiction options exist for particularly innovative applicants, but theguidelines explicitly exclude screenwriting.

Public engagement and significant professional development are key for successful applicants, and writers should be able to demonstrate the support of an objective third-party such as a publisher, editor or literary organization that also supports their work.

One of the great things about this grant is that the funding can be applied to a broad range of resources, including residencies, mentoring, research or simply time to write.

15. Wyoming Individual Artist Grant

Awards of up to $500 are available for Wyoming writers of prose, poetry, scripts or screenplays. The Wyoming Arts Council notes that many applicants who receive the grant use the funding for travel or to build a professional website.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but should be submitted at least six weeks prior to the anticipated project start date. The application process is delightfully straightforward; take a look here for more information.

16.North Carolina Regional Project Grant

North Carolina writers at any stage in their careers are invited to apply for grants to fund new or existing projects, with awards ranging from $300 to $5,000.

Application procedures and deadlines vary depending on your county, so make sure you reach out to the office designated on this page for specific regional details. The guidelines are fairly open-ended, which is good news for writers who want to use the funds for a variety of professional development needs.

17.Awesome Foundation Grant

This grant is as awesome as it sounds. Winners receive $1,000 with “no strings attached” to pursue their incredibly awesome projects, and the foundation and its donors have no say in the finished project.

Chapters of the foundation organized by region or subject review applications and select the grantees. The process is almost unsettlingly simple (the website boasts it can be completed in 15 minutes), but don’t be deterred — this really is a great opportunity.

Looking for more great grants and funding options? Check out C. Hope Clark’s fantastic list of opportunities at Funds for Writers.”

 

Rebecca McCray is a New York-based writer who covers social justice, criminal justice reform, and whatever else catches her eye. Check out more of her writing here. .

Rebecca McCray | @rebeccakmccray

Dana Sitar

FEATURED

The Writer’s Experience in Costa Rica

               The Writer’s Experience in Costa Rica

                                                          With Maya Christobel

blue osa spa        Blue osa beach

This immersion workshop is to rejuvenate your writing spirit, your body and your soul. Blue Osa Retreat and Spa Eco-Village is located in Costa Rica in what National Geographic says is the most beautiful rainforest in the world. Come and join us to learn creative writing skills, craft a first project, finish your final draft of a novel or dive into a story you have always known you were born to tell. And in between working in-group, polishing an article, meeting with Maya one on one, have a Thai massage, gather shells on the beach and eat organic vegetarian meals prepared with love. For all the information on this extensive Eco-Village visit: www.blueosa.com.

blue osa food                     blue osa room

 When: Sept. 19-26, 2015                                                                                                              

Cost: $1800 (airfare not included)                                                                                                  

Early Bird Registration is up to July 15th, 2015 for a savings. Limited to 10 participants

Includes all of your gratuities at the Eco-Village, four fabulous meals a day, airport shuttle and 7 nights’ accommodations, all with breathtaking beauty and bounty. Cost does not include spa treatments or professional yoga classes and Eco Tours.

best Maya Photo for 2015

Maya Christobel is a Harvard psychotherapist, professional writer, award-winning screenwriter and teacher working with people for over 30 years. She has published books and screenplays, produced music with AOMusic, and ghostwritten fiction and non-fictionShe is currently coaching clients around the world who are writing novels and memoirs, children’s books and writing for life. Her resume is here at www.mythotherapy.org and her website is www.mayalunachristobel.com

Early Bird Registration is $1600 if deposit is received by June 30th. (see website)

Deposit Required to Register is $500, balance due August 15th 2015.

Maya can be reached with any questions at mayachristobel@gmail.com

Extensive FAQs and Information will be available at www.mythotherapy.org on The Writer’s Experience page at the top of this site.  

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

 

Get Your Butt in the Chair

anne lamott

Anne Lamott is an amazing writer and is about to turn 61.  She wrote a piece about what she has learned about life and a couple of items had to do with being a successful writer.  She is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Grace (Eventually), Plan B, Traveling Mercies, Bird by Bird and Operating Instructions, as well as seven novels, including Rosie and Crooked Little Heart. She is a past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and is a premier example of writing from the heart with humor, with depth, and with flat-out courage.

Here is what Anne offers up to those of us who craft our words and send them out into the world as seeds never knowing what garden will spring up as a result.

“Writing: shitty first drafts. Butt in chair. Just do it. You own everything that happened to you. You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves in your heart–your stories, visions, memories, songs: your truth, your version of things, in your voice. That is really all you have to offer us, and it’s why you were born.”

“Publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. The most degraded and sometimes nearly evil men I have known were all writers who’d had bestsellers. Yet, it is also a miracle to get your work published (see #1.). Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, will fill the Swiss cheesy holes. It won’t, it can’t. But writing can. So can singing.”

“E.L. Doctorow said about writing: “It’s like driving at night with the headlights on. You can only see a little ahead of you, but you can make the whole journey that way.”