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Archive for September, 2010

Demand Studios – Devil or Savior?

I wouldn’t be properly covering freelance options, especially content writing, if I didn’t talk about Demand Studios. A quick Internet search will provide opinions on Demand Studios that seem most often to swing in one extreme direction or another. Some writers declare DS a savior, while others are convinced DS is the devil.

Some entrenched in the old school of journalism blame companies like DS for the downfall of journalism. I think this is a bit of a stretch. I do not think that an article on How to Hang a Toilet Paper Roll somehow lowered the profit margin of any major news reporting agency. Bottom line, DS does not report news. It provides information articles for a collection of company-owned websites and outside clients written with the sole purpose of generating ad revenue in mind. So I call the reports of DS killing journalism bunk. They are apples and oranges.

Others argue that DS has cheapened writing by paying sweatshop rates while some contend that they make more per hour writing for DS than they could at a regular job. Again, I don’t think it’s appropriate to compare the pay per word at DS to the pay per word for a national distributed magazine. That would be no more accurate than comparing the pay per word for a magazine article to the pay per word for a technical manual. Writing is not all the same, and writers, of all people, should realize that. So what is the pay reality?

A regular 400-word DS article pays $15. Some shorter formats are available that pay $3, $5 and $7.50. Special projects are available to those that qualify that offer 400-word articles at higher rates of $20 and $25. Based on posts on the DS forums, I’d say the average DS writer writes mostly $15 articles at a rate of two per hour. That’s $30/hour in pay, which, when annualized, equates to an annual salary of $62,400. Sure, some will argue that self-employment tax makes that same $62,400 less than salary paid at a regular job. The additional 7.65 percent of tax paid due to self-employment adds up, but so does gas, oil changes, tolls, dry cleaning and business clothes expense of a regular job. If one also considers the available tax deductions for the self-employed, then the person working for home is likely to net more of that same $62,400 than the person earning the same salary at a regular job.

Sounds great, so why all the complaining?

The DS system of writing is not for everyone. DS provides specific style guides and rules for article creation. Copy editors review articles not only for grammar but for factual accuracy and to ensure that the information given meets the title requirements. If an article falls short, the CE can request a rewrite. If the rewrite falls short, the article is rejected and the writer is out the time and money. Some writers do not feel comfortable or perform well working within such strict guidelines. Some writers have a limited range of knowledge on DS topics and find that the time to research an article outweighs the money made by writing it.

So is the system perfect, otherwise?

Of course not. DS is not heavenly. System glitches occur that make people groan. Guidelines are often inconsistently distributed and enforced. CEs and writers often interpret guidelines differently and butt heads. But the reality is, it’s an article processing machine. Hundreds of thousands of titles are available to write. There are no quotas or limits, so no matter how much or how little time you have available, you can make money writing at DS. And then there’s the payment processing. Unlike many content companies that pay once a month, DS processes payment for articles approved twice a week, far more often than any regular employer I know.

Bottom line: I started writing for DS a little over a year ago and have been perfectly happy writing for them. I hold a full-time day job and have novels under contract, so I write articles in between other deadlines. Where else could I obtain part-time employment that allows me to work from home, whenever I want and as much or as little as I want, then pays me within a week or two for all the work I’ve completed? Despite my busy schedule, I’ve managed to make an additional $17k in my first year of writing for DS. Not too shabby.

But as with all things, your mileage may vary.

Your Writing Competition

Especially in a tight economy, aspiring writers can’t help but think that there’s too much competition. They’re sorta right. There ARE a lot of people who think that owning a copy of MS Word and the ability to type mean they can be writers, but that doesn’t mean they’ll ever do the hard work learning writing technique to take their work to a publishable level. I started writing fiction and learning to write fiction nine years ago. Eight years ago, I attended my first national writer’s conference. 2,500 writers in one hotel, all chasing the same dream. It was both exhilarating and daunting.

I stood just outside the entry door for the first night party looking inside. It was packed with writers – some published, most not – and the thought passed suddenly through my mind “what in the world are you thinking? How can you compete with all these people?”

About that time, my mentor stepped up behind me, and in addition to being a technique genius, she must also read minds. She leaned over a whispered “Take a good look. 90 percent of them will never finish a book. Of the 10 percent that do, only 5 percent will be good enough to publish.”

It was one of those eye-opening moments for me. She hadn’t just drastically reduced my competition – she’d eliminated it.

You see, even if all 5 percent of those writers wrote a publishable book at the same time as me, an editor who loved their book and my book, would buy both. There really is no competition. There may be a lot of unprepared writers clogging submission channels and agent/editor appointments at conferences, but they’re not going to hinder you in publisher any more than the 5 percent who are good enough to publish are. Your only competition is with yourself. And getting the first book sold is just the beginning. There is no “arrived” or “set” or “done” in publishing. With every book you must strive to be bigger, better, greater, more passionate, more ______, than you were in the book before.

So don’t let the figurative competition sway you from your dream. You, your keyboard and your imagination are the keys to your success!

Why Write a Romance Novel?

I get this question a lot, especially from people who know me well. Wait, you say – they KNOW you and ask that question. Yes. You see, I’m the anti-girly-girl. I’m a tomboy who hates anything remotely domestic. If you need help with a dinner party, I can call a caterer. If you need help building a deck, I’ll be there with an excellent selection of personally-owned power tools. And then there’s the practical side of me. What can I say, I come from a practical family. You know, the kind that if someone dies in the middle of the night, they wait until the next morning to call because there was nothing you could do anyway…that kind of practical.

But romances are hearts and flowers and birds singy and gooey, right?

Not necessarily. And my single title romances certainly didn’t feature the defenseless heroine waiting to be rescued by the strong man. They featured strong women who fell in love because they met their equal in a man. To me, a great romance novel is about empowering women, not making them the helpless maiden. A great romance is about a heroine who is NOT looking for a hero but finds him anyway.

Now, I say that with the caveat that I write blended romances, in that I write a combination of romance and mystery, so it’s easy to create a stressful/dangerous situation and make the heroine face it along with her man. And I twist my hero and heroine every which way possible before the end of the book.

Which brings me to the main reason I write and read romance – the end: Happily Ever After. If you want to call your book a romance, the happily ever after is required. Otherwise, you may be writing women’s fiction, but you’re not writing a romance. And I love the happily ever after part. I love knowing when I pick up a book that no matter what the hero and heroine go through, no one’s going to die at the end. They will ride off into the figurative sunset.

Real life is so stressful. If I want a dose of reality, I’ll turn on the news for my daily depression. But when I’m reading, I want to escape…to a place where everything ends in love.

Former Dorchester Editor Finds Home at Sourcebooks

Former Dorchester editorial director, Leah Hultenschmidt, received her walking papers from the struggling publisher almost two weeks ago when the entire editorial staff, except for one, was laid off due to cost-saving measures. This week, Sourcebooks, an independent publisher growing in size and popularity, announced that Leah started as the Senior Editor for romance and YA on Wednesday of this week.

I want to extend huge congratulations to Leah for obtaining another position and with a growing company. I also want to congratulate Sourcebooks for having the great business sense to acquire a wonderful editor who knows the romance industry so well and knows how to make a good book even better.

Leah was my editor at Dorchester and I can’t say enough about her. She is a pleasure to work with, down to earth, and smart as a whip. If you really want an editor who cares about your work, then you can’t do better than working with Leah.