Skip to content

Troy Lambert Posts

Doing What you Love for Money

It is said that writing is the world’s second oldest profession, and it is just about as respected. From a young age, I was taught that doing what you love was no way to make a living. In some ways, those who dispensed that wisdom were right: writing for a living is hard, and there are seasons where it is less hard, but it is never easy.

I was told this despite the fact that many who told me I needed to plan for a “real job” were Christian school teachers, pastors, and others who certainly had not pursued wealth, but were doing “ministry” work, something God had called them too. But the arts? Please. That was a dirty word.

Not to mention that I wanted to write the things I read: sci-fi, horror, and thrillers. These books and their topics were clearly sent to my mind from the depths of hell. After all, many of those sci-fi writers were atheists who believed in evolution. The horror!

It never seemed to resonate with me that I was part of the evil poor: that my single mom, a school teacher, might be somehow less because she chose to do something she loved for less money than she could have earned elsewhere because she loved it, and felt like she was making a difference.

Yet lately, we are bombarded with generalizations that say the poor are lazy, handle money poorly, and don’t deserve our respect. In fact, they are evil.

But musicians, artists, authors, even freelance writers are told to live frugally. Often we are told we should stop acting like children and get “real jobs.” Yet without writers, almost any business is dead in the water: you need artists, you need writers, you need musicians. Yet there is a strange aversion to paying for this type of work: when there is free music you can pick up on the internet (the equivalent of a dive bar) why would you purchase an album (i.e. hire an escort).

Art is Not Always a Choice

Here’s the thing. As a creative, making time for your art is not always a choice. Sometimes it is a need, and if you ignore it long enough, bad things happen in your life. A bored creative who is not creating is a monster.

It is good to understand this, even if you are not a creative yourself. If a creative person can get paid to do what they love, they should do so, even if it means sacrificing a huge income or grandiose career prospects.

As I stated above, as a musician, artist, or a writer, you must learn to live frugally. That has always been true. However, someone who gets paid for their craft, especially if they get paid well, is not a shameful thing. It doesn’t mean they have sold out. It simply means they have found a way to make what they are compelled to do into a job.

Art is an Honor

Have you ever read a book or an article that changed your thinking or your life almost instantly? Have you ever looked at a painting or read a poem that took your breath away? Someone created that art or wrote those words, and that person has bills to pay just like you do.

As a creator, it is an honor to inspire others with the things you do. As a writer, the goal is not only to make a living, but to touch others, and to be read and understood. When someone gets what you have to say, or even better is moved to action, the euphoria is amazing.

As one who has been inspired, it should be an honor to support the artist who inspires you, the writer who influences your thinking, or the poet who touches your heart.

Art Should not Equal Poverty

Despite what art does for us, we are often loathe to pay for it. We download books onto our Kindles or other e-readers for free. We listen to free music, complaining when we have to pay a premium to remove ads. We download art and photos through Google images, often without credit to the creator. We torrent movies, justifying to ourselves that they are just too expensive, and those Hollywood types make tons of money anyway.

We steal creative endeavors from the creator and then make snide comments about how no one can make a living as an author, an artist, or a musician. We laugh at them because they have to work a “day job” and pursue their hobbies in the wee hours of the morning or late at night.

It is not the profession that is the problem. It is our unwillingness to pay for things that are truly valuable, that add meaning to our lives.

Making a living doing what you love is hard. Not being able to pay your bills by doing it makes things even tougher. Your profession being treated like something that has no value is discouraging and depressing.

But loving what you do and making money should not be things that are exclusive. Being able to do both should be considered one of life’s highest achievements.

Comments closed

Business 101 for Writers: An Introduction

Most writers write because they want their words to be read. Even if they say they don’t do it for the money, most if not all dream of making a living from their words. This means that eventually, those words have to be packaged in some kind of format that can be sold to someone, somewhere.

This is true whether you are writing books or freelance articles, blogs or your memoir.  Even if you already have a large audience, eventually you will run out of friends and family who will buy your work (in fact, they are the least likely to buy it) and you will need others to sell your work for you. You will need to adopt a no-nonsense approach to creating an online presence.

All that to say that writing is a business, and a business needs several elements to succeed. Jeff Bezos did not just sell his books out of his garage to friends and family. He built a worldwide empire. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs went through the same process I am about to outline for you in a series of blog posts, and they did not stop at any one of them. In fact, they repeated the process over and over again.

The business of writing and publishing has three unique steps. Each of these is made up of several parts as well. Most writers get stuck in one of these steps, often never even completing the first one. As a result, it is impossible for them to make a living writing.

In fact, every writer who has even sold one book has followed every one of these steps. Some have done it better than others, and successful writers who make a living from their words do all of these well.

courtesy pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay.

Production

This is the process of creating a book. It is not just writing, it involves rewriting, editing, proofreading, formatting, and packaging (i.e. a book cover). In the next number of weeks, we will examine all the aspects of production from the beginning. When you type “The End” of your manuscript, your journey has just begun.

Courtesy pixabay
You have to get your books to your readers

Distribution

Where and how will people find your book? You have to put it somewhere for it to sell. Amazon is just the beginning. What about your local bookstore, your library, or other websites? For people to read your work, it has to be available to them in a format they can consume: a book, a magazine, a website, blog post, or other form of communication you can sell.

Image courtesy Pixabay

Marketing

It is good to have your book available. However, you need to make people aware of where it is, or that it even exists, before you can sell any at all. This is called marketing, and depending on what kind of book or writing you are selling will depend on how you market it and make people aware that it exists.

Social media will certainly play a role in that. Along with your own website. But you must build a brand and brand awareness, just as any new brand or business would. Freelance writers use many creative means to market themselves. Many types of advertising are essential to this, but for writers, content marketing is an essential one.

It sounds so basic. Business 101 type stuff. To sell your writing, you must first produce a product, then make it available through distribution, and finally, you must advertise your work using the same marketing techniques any business would.

This series will be designed to get you unstuck and get you into the mindset that writing is a business, and if you are going to get paid, you need to act like any other businessman.

Comments closed

Is Finding Freelance Gigs Using Job Boards Worthwhile?

The number one issue with being a freelancer is discoverability. Of course, you are already treating your writing career like a business, but how do you market your work and get your name into the hands of the right recruiters? Truth be told businesses are looking for freelancers with your particular skills and areas of knowledge. You just need to find them, and they need to find you.

While there are advantages and disadvantages to the disruptive nature of the freelance gig economy, businesses are hiring more freelancers for more tasks. They look for freelancers in several ways, and just one of them is through the use of job boards.

The one thing we freelancers never have enough of is time: marketing is vital, but not wasting time is essential. Job boards and content mills like Upwork and Demand Studios are a waste of time for the most part since well-paying jobs are so few and far between. So are there any job boards that are worthwhile?

The answer is yes, but very few. Putting in an alert for a freelance writer on job sites like CareerBuilder and other similar sites will fill your inbox with job suggestions from car wash attendant to security guard, but few if any will be for writing positions or have anything to do with your particular skill set.

Here are a few places where the search can be worthwhile. You will still have to vet clients, but they are more likely to be professional and the kind of gigs you are looking for in the first place.

DISCLAIMER: Job boards and these sites do not take the place of good marketing of your freelance business.

Ebyline

When looking at job boards, Ebyline is what is referred to by Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing as a “move-up board.” You are expected to be more professional, and clients who come to the board expect to pay, and for the most part pay well, or at least better than an Upwork or worse, a Fiverr gig.

This is also a good place to find fill-in work when things are slow, or you just need a gig to tide you over to your next client payment. Jobs typically pay quickly, something relatively important to freelancers when they are just starting out.

Skyword

Skyword is another “move-up mill,” and offers reasonable pay. For the most part, you will be creating branded content or other types of writing for the web. This is a place where you can potentially develop long-term relationships, and it is definitely worth being a part of.

As with any job boards, be sure to vet clients. There is nothing wrong with offering a free initial consultation, but don’t give away too much at the outset. Share your ideas in a more general way, and only get as specific as you need to to get hired. This is good advice for any job board, but especially more “content mill” like sites.

LinkedIn ProFinder

One of the better places to look for freelance gigs and to find other freelancers is LinkedIn, but if you have a strong profile, this can be a great tool for you. Since you are already using LinkedIn, it is a simple matter of upgrading to at least a Business Plus membership, and sharing your profile on their job board, ProFinder, designed to help businesses find the best local and regional freelancers.

This will cost you $59.99 a month, but it shows clients you are serious about your career. If you are going to make this move, be sure that your profile is complete, and that it includes all of your accomplishments and a job history. Ask your connections who know you for recommendations, and give them out as well.

LinkedIn can be a great place to showcase your skills and to find new clients, even using their regular job board. Due to the professional nature of the network, though, LinkedIn Profinder may be one of the best job boards currently out there.

There is a balance between working and marketing when you are a freelancer. You need to satisfy the needs of your current clients, but you also need to constantly develop new leads. Job boards, if used properly, can help you do that.

Comments closed

GUEST POST: Becoming a Freelance Writing Consultant

Freelance Writing ConsultantIt is estimated that 34% of the U.S. workforce is made up of freelancers. Many freelancers have found ways to go from gig to full-time work, while others stay part-time while juggling other responsibilities. What typically differentiates a freelance writing consultant from early career freelancers is that these consultants typically already have experience in their field. The consultant will then use that knowledge for the benefit of their clients.

The current freelance economy is thriving, and is made up of 53 million U.S. workers. Becoming a freelance writing consultant is a great option for those seeking to supplement their existing income and expand their writing experiences. This can include doing typical freelance work, ie, “I assign you a project and you complete it,” but can also involve offering career advice and professional guidance.

The simplified process is as follows:

  • Market your best skills
  • Successfully complete projects
  • Build momentum through positive feedback
  • Consistently hone your skills

Say for example that you’re a editor by day for a book publisher and you’ve been doing this for several years. To someone who is just starting out writing and editing, your professional expertise can be valuable…and lucrative. Whatever skills you possess or unique talents you have on your side, you can advertise these in order to gain clients.

If you’re pursuing freelancing on the side of a full-time job, it can be difficult to maintain motivation unless you break any cycles of procrastination. Being a self-starter is a required trait to be successful as a freelance writing consultant. In addition to building up your reputation, succeeding as a freelancer will help you build the confidence you need to persist even when times are lean.

There are several ways to go about offering your services. You can use freelance marketplaces like Upwork, network through LinkedIn, build your own website, or do some combination of these three. Whichever method you use, the important thing is to present yourself professionally and demonstrate your skill set. This isn’t a passive process however. Networking is necessary if you want potential clients to discover you. As you successfully complete projects and help your clients achieve their goals, positive word-of-mouth will help you build momentum.

A challenging yet rewarding aspect of owning your own consultancy is the administrative upkeep necessary. Running your own business means you must take care of your own taxes, invoices, and the rest of the paper trail. Fortunately there are many helpful resources that will teach you how to do this and even offer sample templates that you can adapt for your own purposes. Before tax season rolls around you’ll want to have all your financials in order. Keep meticulous physical or digital records, and ideally back-up those files. Though if the worst happens and the digital dog eats your homework, you can often still recover that data from failed storage devices and hard-drives. Be thorough and document everything, or back-up your files on cloud-based programs like Google Docs or Spreadsheets.

Thriving as a freelance writing consultant is hard work, yet the freedom and experience you can gain is often worth it. You don’t need to be a world-renowned expert to share your abilities and make a difference in the lives of your clients. Put your best foot forward, always keep improving your skills, and you’ll be well on your way to establishing yourself as a professional writer. Like Hemingway said, “let them think you were born that way.”

Comments closed

Why I Bother to Write Fiction at All

There are times when I realize fiction is really hard work. It is perhaps the most time consuming of things that I do in the writing and publishing world, and if you work out the pay by the word or the hour, there are plenty of other ways to make more money writing.

At the same time, I love it. I am a born storyteller. Every article I write, every blog I post is a story of some sort. Even marketing materials take the reader on a journey, if a short one. The reader has a problem, and the writer leads them on the journey to solve it, even if it is as mundane as someone with dirty clothes looking for the best laundry soap to get them clean.

But every now and then, a reader or reviewer reaches out, and when you hear or read that your words, the story you have told, touches someone, you pause and realize those words, those touched lives, are why you do what you do. It is worth all of the pain, the hours of writing and editing that go into producing a book.

It happened to me again recently, when I got a notification of a five-star review of my Kindle short, The Angel. The reviewer said simply this:

“I’ve suffered several tragedies in the last few years. I thought I had dealt with each loss in turn. Yet Lambert’s prose is so deceptively innocent that shines a light on any darkness lurking on the fringes of your consciousness. I found the message of The Angel stayed with me for days.”

Her words warmed my heart. They made me smile in all the right ways. There was more, too. You can read her full review here. https://findingmeinwords.wordpress.com/2017/02/27/the-angel/

I write stories so not only will they be read, but the world will be changed for the better because they have been told. I have not always been successful in achieving that goal. Sometimes a story is just a story.

But The Angel was different. It was special to me and still is. When I read Hans Christian Anderson’s poem “The Dying Child” I knew it had to be a part of this.

When we read, we do so for many reasons. We want to feel, we want to escape, we want to travel to other places. But sometimes if I can make you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, if the light that shines from my stories can dispel the darkness in you at all, it is worth it.

That is why I write stories. That is why I bother to write fiction at all. Because words can change the world, even if only the world of one person, and only for a moment.

Comments closed

Taxes for Authors: Before You File and the Year Ahead

I’m not an accountant, but I have seen the movie and written about a few in my books. Not that any of those things make me an expert, but I have filed my own taxes as a freelancer and author for the last 10 years or so, and for five of those I had no “traditional income” from an employer: I started with only stacks of 1099 forms and a list of business expenses.

Before you panic thinking I am going to launch into some professional jargon, don’t. I’ve got some solid, simple advice for you that might affect how you file this year, and will certainly affect how you look at the year ahead.

Get Organized

This used to mean getting out a shoebox, or a file box if you were really organized, and labeling and cataloging your receipts. It also meant sitting down with 1099’s and your company books and totaling up your income. Much of this can be done digitally now but gathering all of your data into one place is still a necessary task.

Note that small businesses have longer to file than individuals, and even though your individual return is actually the same as your small business return, you can take advantage of these extensions if you need more time to get your paperwork together,

Tracking Expenses

You sit in front of a computer all day, and that computer should do some work for you. You should use a single debit or credit card (or a combination of the two) for business expenses. You can then use an accounting program that will track and categorize your expenses for you. These programs are not 100% accurate, so you should check them monthly to make sure expenses are properly labeled, but you can keep the manual tracking you have to do to a minimum.

You can then export these into a spreadsheet to share with your accountant or import them directly into your tax software when tax time comes around.

Where You Work

There are many different places you can work if you are an author or freelancer, from coffee shops and libraries to your own office at home or outside of your residence. When choosing where you will do your work, taxes should factor into it.

Home: Even if you work at coffee shops and libraries, you should also have a home office if possible. For one thing, you will be more productive in a structured environment, even one you have created yourself. The second is that you can write off a part of your expenses including mortgage, rent, and utilities as business expenses.

A few things you should keep in mind about your office expenses, especially if you are a new homeowner:

  • Don’t Overspend. You may be tempted to buy a new desk and totally revamp your office, but not only are you limited on how much you can deduct, but you also need to stay within your business budget. Resist temptation and be patient, doing things as you can afford them.
  • Get Good Insurance. You will need good renters insurance that is enough to replace all of your items in case something goes wrong. Be sure you have enough in savings to cover the deductible so you can get back to work as soon as possible.
  • Save for Unexpected Expenses. Just as your household budget should include emergency savings, so should your business account. This should be enough to cover your operating expenses including the salary you pay yourself for approximately three months.
  • Keep Records of Everything. Printer ink. Paper. Batteries for your mouse and other computer accessories. Carpet cleaning and other cleaning supplies. Upgrades to furniture and decorations. All of these are deductible.

Even though you should be careful not to overspend, once you do undertake improvements and remodels, be sure to take advantage of the tax benefits that offers.

Commercial Space: Some freelancers do not work as well at home and find it to be distracting. You can office share or use other creative ways to rent your own commercial space. The best thing about a commercial office is that all of those expenses are deductible, and they are easy to keep separate. Remember to include all of the expenses related to an outside office when doing your taxes, including your commuting time and mileage.

Health Insurance Coverage

One of the toughest things about being an author or a freelancer ins finding and keeping health insurance, especially if you are not covered by a spouse or significant other. You have a couple of choices.

Individual Coverage: You can use an insurance agent or even on your own search for individual coverage. With the ACA, there are some tax credits available if you do so, but that may change under the current administration.

This is still more expensive than group coverage, but you can choose if you want a lower premium and a higher deductible plan supplemented by a health savings account, or a more traditional insurance plan with co-pays and lower out of pocket costs in the case of an emergency.

Group Coverage: Even if you do not have a regular employer, you can find group coverage. One of the best places to compare coverage and options for writers is Freelancer’s Union, although they do not have coverage in every state. However, there are insurance co-ops for contractors and other self-employed individuals, and you should search for those in your area.

Google has shut down its insurance comparison tool because it was not working well, but there are dozens of other places to compare insurance coverage, including healthcare.gov and private insurance comparison tools.

Retirement

As a self-employed person, you need to provide your own retirement. You don’t have the benefit of an employer matching your contributions, but you should still donate the maximum amount allowed each year into a 401 K of some sort. You can choose either a Roth or a traditional IRA, depending on how old you are when you start, and what you anticipate you will need to retire and maintain the lifestyle you want.

Since you are self-employed, limits are higher for you as you can contribute as both your employer (since you employ yourself) and as an employee. Be sure to factor in these limits when deciding how to handle your taxes.

These contributions are tax deductible, as are other investments. A large consideration of how you invest for your retirement will depend on your tax situation, and how much you can afford to put towards it. Remember that as a freelancer, you will have to pay your own social security as well, and because you do not have an employer matching your costs it will be more expensive.

Tax Savings Accounts

More than likely you will owe taxes at the end of the year no matter how diligent you are with deductions, investments, and savings. To prepare for this, you need to have a tax savings account. You should save approximately 30% of your income, and make quarterly estimated tax payments. The self-employment tax is the combination of social security and medicare that an employer would normally contribute to you paying and is 15.3%. This is separate from income taxes, which is why you should save 30%.

The IRS demands that taxes be paid on money when it is made, so if you fall behind on quarterly payments not only will you have a huge bill at the end of the year, but you also may face penalties for not paying on time.

There are countless other tax tips and deductions for freelancers, but these are a few of the more common and often overlooked ones. As you prepare for tax time, be sure you are organized and know all of the deductions you have a right too.  Use what you learn from preparing for your taxes this year to plan for next year.

While doing taxes is not fun, having a solid tax plan is essential to having a profitable business and being an effective entrepreneur.

Comments closed

Why Self-Editing is Not Enough

Double commas. Simple typos. A word that is not misspelled, per se, but is just in the wrong place.

Software grammar checkers like Grammarly are getting better all the time, but we as humans keep thinking of ways to trip them up. Microsoft Word is even getting better without the Grammarly plugin, but it still misses things from time to time. That is because it uses a machine learning program: it learns from us as we type, tell it to ignore certain issues or add words to our personal dictionaries.

Google docs have another delightful feature: the dictionary will even correct the spelling of celebrity or popular athlete names, just as if you had searched Google for them. Once again, machine learning and an enormous database mean spelling and grammar correction is getting better all the time.

But it still isn’t human. Sometimes sentences are too long, or the word order just does not make sense. You are not clearly getting your point across.  This is where a human editor comes in.

Think of your story, or your article, or whatever you have written as a fire. When you created it, you created a lot of smoke. An editor’s job, really, is to clear away all of the smoke. The problem is, since you created it, you often don’t see the smoke yourself.

Repetitive Words and Phrases

As writers, no matter what level your experience, we tend to repeat words in close proximity to one another. “That” is extremely common, and most of the time unnecessary. But we repeat other words, like the phrase “as well” or “in light of.” We often use “though” and “however” much too often and too close together, especially in non-fiction.

You can catch these when doing self-edits, but it takes a conscious effort. Often, if you read your work aloud or have it read to you by a program like Natural Reader, you will notice your mistakes before you submit your piece or publish that blog post.

Someone else reading your work will probably catch the error right away. They can then flag the word for you so you can substitute a synonym or somehow reword your sentence to eliminate it.

Word Blindness

Sometimes we use the wrong word in place of the one we actually want. But when we read over our own work, we see the word we meant to put there. This is called being word blind and is why editing and proofreading by another set of eyes is so critical.

The editor will see the wrong or odd word usage even when software does not catch it. These types of errors not only make you look unprofessional in some venues, but they often throw the reader out of your narrative, making them wonder what you meant.

Clarity

A software grammar checker can tell if your grammar is wrong (sometimes) or if your spelling is off (most of the time) but it does not know the point you are trying to get across.

Hopefully, your work makes enough sense and you have structured it in a way that your editor can tell what information or plot point you are trying to convey. If not, and editor can simply say “I don’t get it. What do you mean by this?”

So far, software editors, at least those available to the general public, are not able to do this effectively. As machine learning matures, they may get better, becoming very IBM Watson-like in their evaluation of your work.

Until then, and maybe even then, you need another set of human eyes on your work, one that will see your repetition, decipher your word blindness, and help you clarify your language.

Self-editing is not enough. You need an editor, someone to take an objective look at your work with a fresh perspective. It is one of the many ways to make your work the best it can be.

Comments closed

5 Steps in Building A New Website


Typically, building a new website is something that, at least initially, you can do yourself. At some point, you will probably need at least a little help, unless you do this for a living. In which case, good for you. You can skip this post.

But if you are an author or you just want to start a blog with your own domain name rather than a generic Blogspot or WordPress, or you have a small business and want to have a solid online presence, read further.

Planning

Probably the most important thing to have before you start to build your new website is to have a plan. The plan should involve a few simple things:

Your Name. Even if you don’t plan to build a website right away, you should snag your name as soon as possible, if it is available. What do I mean by your name? I mean firstnamelastname.com. If that is not available because you have a common name, you can add what you do, like troylambertwrites.com or add an underscore or your title to the end of your name, such as firstname_lastname.com.

It is the same if you are looking at the name of your business. Also, to protect your name, you may want to buy more than one domain, including the .org, .net, and other extensions, then redirect them to your primary site.

A Subject Matter. Your website needs to be about something. What do you write about, or will your site be about writing? What does your business do? Need ideas? Try this:

  • What do the protagonists in your books do? What are their hobbies and what do they do for a living? Would your readers be interested in learning about those things?
  • What hobbies do you have that might relate? You do things besides writing, right? What are they, and how can you make them interesting to your reader?
  • What is your emotional biography? Not your normal bio, this is about you. How do you feel about life? Writing? Current events? (Avoid being too political or religious)

There are thousands of other things you can write about related to you or your work, even if you run a business. Attorney and dental websites can be full of rich content, but you need the next step to get there.

A Content Strategy. A strategy is just that, a road map. It describes where you are and where you want to go. Your content strategy is not just to sell books. That will be a byproduct of a good content strategy for a writer.

So what should your strategy be? That depends on what you want to write about and what you want your new website to do for you. Do you want to use it to connect with other writers? With readers? With both?

Do you want readers to get to know you and your characters? Do you want to use it to keep them up to date? What is your content going to inform them about?

Once you have a content strategy, plan out your blog posts for at least a few months. Plant titles and subjects. You don’t have to write them all at once, as long as you have a plan for what you will write. Your plan, of course, can be flexible. But having a target and a blog strategy will help you be consistent.

Choosing A Host

Once you have a content plan in place, you need to pick a host. You can do this at one of two times: you can do it when you buy your domain name, or you can do it now. Your host is the server or group of servers where your website lives. Think of it this way: the cloud is not really a cloud, it is someone else’s computer.

There are a number of host options, from small to large and expensive to cheap. Overall, you will probably spend close to the same no matter where you host your site, it will just depend on the special deals they are offering at the time how that cost will be broken down.

Speed and reliability are the most important things to look at besides customer service. Finding the best web hosting company for you just involves some shopping around and looking at features.

Picking A Website Builder

There are also a number of ways to construct your website and run your blog. My favorite is WordPress, even though it is actually a content management system (CMS) it is one of the more robust ways to build a website. It can be used by beginners and professionals alike, and some of the biggest and best sites you see are WordPress based.

There are other platforms that are equally as good. The more you know and research about what website builder you are comfortable using, the better. Even if you have someone else construct the site for you initially, you will have to do a lot of the work unless you are going to pay someone for everyday tasks like simple updates or posting blogs.

You can learn almost any website builder, but having one you are comfortable with from the beginning certainly helps.

Designing Graphics, Logos, and Banners

At first, stock photos and graphics will be okay, but to make your site look more professional, you will probably need to hire someone unless you are a designer yourself.

This means you need to select what your site would look like, using a theme. You can then work with the designer once you know the size of the banners you need and what you want your logo to look like.

Unless you have experience in this area, don’t do this yourself. Beware of deals on Fiverr and other such sites: often you get what you pay for. Reliable designers like EJR Digital Art are good to work with and priced reasonably.

Backing Up Everything

Once you have taken all the time to create a great looking website and a whole bunch of content, you need to protect it. Not only should you have good security but you should plug ins in place, but you need to have a data backup and recovery plan.

While most websites have backups of their own, if for some reason your host were to fail, you too should have a backup of your site. It should not only be stored on your hard drive, but stored in the cloud as well.

Do backups regularly. Any data, changes, or posts not in your backup will potentially be lost. Your writing may not be a large business, but time and effort put into recovering your website, not to mention the time it is off line will cost you.

Ready, Set, Go

Of course, all of these tips are general advice. There is a ton of material out there about the details of each step. But if you are a writer or a small business on the fence about creating a website, these are some ideas about how to get started.

Your presence and reputation on the internet is one of your most precious assets, and building a website it just the first of many steps in the process of developing it, growing in, and guarding it.

2 Comments

What Do You Know About That?: The Myth of Writing What You Know

If writers only write what they know, the world, and their writing, will be very boring spaces. Well, with a few exceptions.

Like many writers, I had a series of “careers” and a diverse education before I figured out a way to write for a living. I’ve described before how I do other things than just writing: editing, formatting, and other tasks, most of them relating to publishing. They all have one thing in common: writing about them is boring except to other writers.

So as an author, what do you write about? I mean, they say write what you know, but in many ways what I know sucks. There are only so many stories of fast food workers, Fed Ex delivery drivers, and ski bums that people can stand, right?

When we say “write what you know” we don’t mean your job, past occupations, and the criminal activities you may or may not have participated in in college. That is what research is for, and if you are not a writer you will often find them to be quite knowledgeable on several topics if you engage them in conversation.

This is because we, as writers, write what we get to know. We research, study, and become unqualified experts on any number of topics to make our stories richer. Therefore, from time to time, we get it wrong in our stories. Many of us are not police officers, doctors, lawyers, or other professions we write about. We’ve just researched them.

But there are things we can write about that we do know, and that is what we mean when we say “write what you know.”

Fear

If anyone is familiar with fear, it is a writer, regardless of how sheltered the rest of their life might have been. For the most part, though, writers have endured fear in many areas of their lives.

Every time you sit down to look at a blank page, whether it is to write an article or blog post or to start that next story or novel, a writer experiences fear: fear that the words won’t come this time, or that someone will discover how poorly we write, or worse that no one will read our work at all.

This fear is something we can put into our stories and our characters. When they are afraid, we can describe it accurately, show it to our readers. To do so, we must be open and allow our own fear to show through.

This is tough: it means we are making ourselves vulnerable. It means that in every moment of fear in our work, our readers catch a glimpse of what is inside us, and that makes for great fiction.


Blue October, Fear [Explicit]

Love

If there is one thing artists do an astonishing job at, it is love. We also tend to love imperfectly, because we are flawed, and our attention is often drawn to things it should not be. It’s hard to walk through the day and not be distracted by something that is the next story idea, even just an odd creative spark.

However, when we love, we love with everything we are and are loyal to a fault. Sometimes that love is misunderstood because our loyalties are so divided. We are loyal to our craft and our stories, often even our characters. It does not mean we don’t have enough love for others too, it just means we struggle with the balance between the real world and the fantasy we live in.

Writers are often broken and dark, and our writing is where the darkness goes so we do not spread it to those around us. When we are not writing and creating, we are dangerous, hurtful people, the gods forgive us. When we create and channel that darkness, we love with a fierce passion, and take our place among the gods.

Can we write of this struggle to love? Of course we can, because every story is a love story, whether it is in the romance genre or not. Every story has love of something woven into it. To be effective, though, we must show this love to our readers: the pain of it, the struggle, and the triumph.

Darkness

Speaking of the darkness we release through our writing, we must understand that to make it effective, we must not fear showing it to our readers. This is the thing we know so well, yet is difficult to write about. It reveals something inside us we don’t always want the world to see.


I don’t care what genre you write in, there is at some point darkness in your story. The moment the love interests part in a fight over some silly little thing, the moment the husband dies and the woman has to move on, or the moment the murder kills or the monster appears.

The monster is us. Those that are most real contain elements of our darkest secrets, our hidden flaws, the secret desire to destroy that lives within us, shrouded in the shadows of our hearts.

We must provide this darkness a place to play, to live in the light so that we do not harm those around us.

Triumph

Our victories sometimes are small. That one publishing credit. The one book or article acceptance. The one moment when we feel validated as a writer. The time when our child is actually kind or shares a story of their own. The time when we actually do get the girl (or guy), the one who understands us to our very soul and supports us.

These are the triumphs we know. These are the feelings, the emotions, the joy we can infuse into our stories the moment our hero slays the dragon, gets the bad guy, gets the girl, or finally overcomes that one issue in his life.

We must, whenever we can, balance the darkness with triumph. We must impart to our readers the one thing that keeps us going: hope.

You know more than you think as a writer. But it is the things you know in your soul that matter the most. These are the things you must write about. Write what you know. Learn what you don’t.

Comments closed

Digital Marketing for Authors: Infographics

Make no mistake, if you are an author, you are in the digital marketing field. You need to market your work to as many places as you can.

One of the ways we have discussed here to improve Google ranking is through creating backlinks to your site from other sites. Here is a guest post from James Franklin about the role of infographics in digital marketing.

You, as an author, can use your book covers to create infographics about your series, your characters, or other aspects of your work, and share them with other websites who might find them useful. This is a simple way to earn links back to your site without creating a bunch of content. Here’s James’ take on infographics from the perspective of a digital marketer. And hey, the infographic is about gaming monitors. What writer doesn’t want one of those to game on after a hard day of writing?

For all of those in the digital marketing field, you all know how much of a task it can be to build links up to other sites to improve Search Engine Optimization. Why are they important? Because links are the number one thing you need to rank. By building up multiple backlinks, a site will move up on search engines like Google.

This post is about my favorite format of content: Infographics. Why are they my favorite? Because it’s one of the simplest ways to get links. Infographics mean link building doesn’t require you to type content all day long until your fingers ache. I have been using infographic’s to get my clients some great domain authority. Here’s why it works. Links are the reason for content marketing. It isn’t to “tell Google we know what we are talking about.”. It’s to get links. Links is what helps rank websites at the top of the SERPs. Good links are earned by providing good content.

Most people think that websites are pleading for guest posts since it is “free content” but that isn’t the case. I can ensure you that any large website that is considered an “authority” has a large group of staff dedicated to its content. They have staff that plan, review, edit, and scan it. Even a “free” guest post goes through several sets of hands the website employs.

Why do infographic’s get more views and more social media shares than a standard blog post? It’s because website visitors are often looking for simple answers in visual form. They often skim articles. That is why formatting is so significant. It’s imperative to have something that while informative is also fun, colorful, and a provides the information the searcher is looking for.

This infographic created by The Gaming Monitor has clear headings, a bold and clear structure, great content and is a great example of the type of infographic which sites need to be using to improve links and SEO rankings.

Comments closed