Archive for May 16th, 2007

Volunteer Your Way to Success

Mary AndonianWriting Conference Success

By Mary Andonian

Every career handbook states that the best way to find a job is through networking. Why should your writing career be any different? We assume you have some writing talent, but these days that’s not enough. You need people in the biz who can help you. But first you must help them.

Last month I talked about befriending the conference committee. This will be your primary objective before the conference. Not only will you walk into the conference with a few new friends, but you just might score a free registration or even some monetary compensation.

As an example of where you might volunteer your time/skills, consider the Willamette Writers conference committee. This group is made up of five people, each needing a multitude of helpers to accomplish their goals. The agents and editors coordinator (currently, that’s me) brings in the literary people who will accept your book (or book proposal); the film coordinator brings in film agents and producers who will purchase screenplays; the program coordinator designs a workshop schedule that includes authors, and literary/film professionals; the office manager handles the background details, like registration, volunteer coordination, and hotel logistics; and the conference chair oversees these positions and has the additional task of creating marketing materials and advertisements.

These people need volunteers to help them before, during, and sometimes after the conference. Depending on the assignment, you may score a free registration, pocket change, or even an opportunity to interact with agents, editors, and film producers. No matter what, you’ll instantly feel like you’re “a part of,” instead of the outsider who’s trying to “break in.” This small shift in attitude will do wonders for your confidence level when it’s time to pitch that all-important book proposal.

Case in point: I recently contracted with a prominent agent for my book, “Bitsy’s Labyrinth.” I have corresponded with her for over two years: first, as the program coordinator, and now as the agents and editors coordinator. When I pitched to her recently, I didn’t have the usual jitters because I was already in a semi-working relationship with her. It feels natural now that we would collaborate on my new book.

Action Steps this month:
Call your local writer’s association and ask how you can help out with the conference.

What not to do:
Don’t wait until the last minute to volunteer. The best positions fill quickly. Do not misuse your volunteer position by badgering the agents and editors with your book idea. Instead, concentrate on doing your job well. When the time comes to pitch your book, they’ll remember you.

Mary Andonian is the agents and editors coordinator for the Willamette Writers conference—one of the largest writers’ conferences in the United States. In past years, she was Co-chair and Program Coordinator.  Her book, Bitsy’s Labyrinth, was picked up by a prominent agent at last year’s conference. You can reach her at (   

The Secret Language of Editors: Evergreen = More Green in your Wallet

Abigail GreenFreelancers’ Phrase Book

By Abigail Green

Last month I talked about lead time, and timing your pitches to coincide with a certain season or event. But what about those story ideas that could run almost anytime? Editors have a term for the types of articles they can always use: evergreen. How many times have you seen stories like, “Walk Off the Weight” or “Tips to Improve Your Memory” or “Top 10 Super Foods” or “Secrets for Better Sex”? Hundreds, I’d bet.

Some subjects, like these, are perennial favorites. On the one hand, that beats trying to come up with the latest, greatest trend that an editor has never heard of. On the other hand, neither editors nor readers want to see the same old tired topics recycled again and again. “Fresh” is a favorite editor catchphrase. The publications that have the hardest time staying fresh are the ones that run the same stories year after year, like wedding, pregnancy, and home décor magazines, to name a few.

So how do you make an evergreen idea fresh again? Find out what’s new about it. Has a recent study come out on the topic? A new book? Can you tie it to current events or pop culture? I once sold an article on a several-thousand-year-old Indian interior design practice called vastu. What’s fresh about that? I pegged it as “the new feng shui” and interviewed an expert with a new book coming out. Bingo!

Other topics I’ve written about again and again include wedding planning and staying fit while traveling. Not much changes from year to year, but I can always include a fresh anecdote or a new book or product. Do a Google News search on your subject. Better yet, set up Google Alerts to e-mail you news on specific search terms. (On click on “more” and then “even more” to find the Alerts page.) Go through your Rolodex and call your contacts to ask what’s new in their industry. Consider major milestones that may renew interest in a topic – say, the tenth anniversary of an event or the bicentennial of a town. Dust off some of your old stories and see if there’s anything happening in the world that makes them fresh again.

With a little bit of research and creativity, evergreen stories can put a lot of green in your wallet.

Abigail Green ( is a freelance writer in Baltimore. Over the past 10 years, she has written about health, travel, weddings, business, education and more for national, regional and online publications including AOL, AAA World, Bride’s, Baltimore Magazine, Cooking Light and Health. Her latest project is raising her first child, which she chronicles in her blog:

Keep an Eye Out for Writing-related Tax Deductions

sharonwotrhead.gifThe Parent-Writer: Strategies for Success
By Sharon Miller Cindrich

When I think of spring, I think of two things: jelly beans and taxes. Whether you make $400 or $40,000 writing, you’ll most likely be filing taxes to document your income and earnings.

Keeping receipts is key for the parent writer – you never know when you may find yourself writing about a fun picnic at your local state park (write off the picnic, mileage and parking) or review a local performance of “A Christmas Carol” (write off tickets, mileage and parking) or sell a story on how to make the most of a road trip (write off food, lodging, videos, crafts and, of course, mileage.) If you’ve held on to your receipts, you can deduct these costs from your annual earnings.

While tax laws vary from state to state, consider the following when filing your taxes–and more importantly, when planning this year’s expenses.

Gas it up. Trips to the beach, a forest preserve or even an amusement park can be deducted for mileage – this year 48.4 cents a mile – if you can connect them to your writing job.

Toys, snacks and bicycles, oh my. Toys, recreational equipment or even snacks that you’re using as a component of a story can be deducted as an expense.

Bucks for babysitters. Check your state requirements to see if you can deduct childcare expenses based on your writing projects.

Renew your subscription to Parents. Subscriptions to magazines, newsletters or newspapers that you use for research or write for can also be deducted.

Do you do the zoo?
If you write about local attractions in your area, you can deduct memberships and admission to organizations like the zoo, the conservatory or a community pool. Consider pitching stories about local theater, museums or family-friendly sports events.

Understanding deductions can help you make the most of your family activities, ignite ideas for fun pitches and manage your bottom line.

E-Parenting, Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids by Sharon CindrichSharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer whose work has been published nationally in magazines and newspapers around the country including The Chicago Tribune, Parents Magazine, and The Writer. She is a Contributing Editor at FamilyFun Magazine and writes a bimonthly humor column for West Suburban Living Magazine in the Chicago Suburbs. She is a regular contributor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Lifestyle section and Metroparent Magazine. Her book E-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids is now out from Random House. Read more about Sharon at

Brand Your Writing Career with an Autoresponder

gregorywotr_002.gifWriter-preneur: Building Your Writing Career Using Technology
By Gregory A. Kompes

If you’ve ever set up your e-mail account to send an “Out of the Office” or “I’m on Vacation” e-mail reply, you’ve used an autoresponder. In its simplest form, an autoresponder automatically responds to e-mail messages it receives.

Autoresponders are also used as e-mail marketing tools, immediately providing information to prospective customers and then following up with them at preset time intervals. They can also handle e-mail list subscriptions, confirmations, unsubscribes, and e-mailing to lists in bulk, like your e-zine or information announcements.

Here are examples of how authors use autoresponders:

You can sign up for my zine, The Fabulist Flash, by filling in your name and e-mail address on my Web site—just like most zines. When you hit the “join list” button, your information is sent to my autoresponder, which adds you to my list and sends a follow up confirmation and then an e-mail link with download instructions for the e-book you get as a joining incentive. Each week I send my zine out to my list via autoresponder, without having to worry about individual e-mail addresses, nor who has subscribed or unsubscribed to my list.

Lars Clausen, author of “Straight into Gay America”

Straight into Gay America has an excellent marketing concept. It may seem counterintuitive to give your book away, but that’s just what Lars does. He sends his book to his autoresponder list, one page a day. He’s enjoyed great sales with this model because people decide they want the whole book at one time.

Australian author and freelance journalist, Cheryl Wright, offers free mini-courses via autoresponder. After signing up, you receive course lessons spread out over a period of time, one section of the course in each e-mail. Cheryl offers readers information they’re interested in, while at the same time putting her additional paid courses and products repeatedly in front of her niche audience. (For details on how to write your own mini-course to deliver via autoresponder check out “How The Heck Do I Write An Online Course” (

Autoresponders are the perfect way to extend your niche-topic expert position and increase your readership and following. When set up properly, they’ll also increase your earning potential. And, most autoresponders are easy to use.

Find a service you like. I use and recommend GetResponse, but doing a Google search for “autoresponder” will result in dozens of potential options. Like my earlier advice about Web sites (WOTR February 2007), it may be worth trying a free service just to kick the tires a bit, but you’ll appear more professional using a paid service that doesn’t include outside advertising in your autoresponder e-mails.

After signing up, follow the simple instructions for setting up your autoresponder. Your service provider will also explain how to include clickable text links or more detailed HTML sign-up boxes on your Web site or in your e-mail signature.

Gregory A. Kompes ( is a writer, speaker, mentor and coach. He is the author of the #1 bestseller 50 Fabulous Gay-Friendly Places to Live, The Endorsement Quest, Turning Your Writing Hobby into a Writing Career, and The Everyday Gay Activist. Gregory is the editor of The Fabulist Flash, an informative newsletter for writers, founder of LAMOO Books, and Coordinator of the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference. The author holds a BA in English Literature from Columbia University, NY, and is currently a MS in Education candidate at California State University, Eastbay.

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