Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Planning a Writers' Conference Part 2

I’ve blogged about how my writers’ group conference committee approached planning our first major event this past spring. Now I’m listing what we learned (sometimes the hard way) from the event itself as we gear up for 2011. Hopefully these items will be helpful for anyone out there looking to plan a similar event in the not-too-distant future.

Choose a venue that fits your needs. Large conference-type facilities are pretty sparse in my corner of the world, so we had to get a little creative. Since we were very conservative in our attendance goals (not to mention budget), we decided on our arts council, headquartered in a beautiful old Victorian mansion. As it turned out, our registration far exceeded our expectations! The location was high on historical significance (it’s a local landmark) and character, but extremely tight on space and maneuverability. Since we only expect our attendance figures to grow (fingers crossed), we had no choice but to find somewhere else for next year. We just booked a hotel with meeting rooms that seem to be a much better fit for what we’re doing—until we outgrow that (here’s hoping).

Ask attendees for feedback. This is a quick and easy way to brainstorm for the next year. We provided everyone with a formal evaluation in their registration materials and asked for suggestions for speakers, topics, and any other types of programs they would like to see. There were some recurring suggestions, so we’ll be keeping those in mind for sure as we start planning the day’s schedule.

Invite agents and editors. A caveat—we aren’t quite at this level yet, but I’ve already sent out some inquiry emails asking about the best way to locate these industry pros. But this is a huge selling point, and one of the biggest reasons writers attend these types of events. The enticement of possible publication is almost always irresistible to most writers.

Secure a killer keynote speaker. Last spring I went to a conference that featured James “How to Write a Damn Good Novel” Frey as the keynote, and they sold out. Our keynote was a developmental manuscript editor who spoke about incorporating writing and art into our everyday lives. We aren’t quite at the James Frey level yet, but for my money, our keynote’s presentation was the relevant, moving, and inspiring message that our crowd needed.

Find sponsors. Any event, no matter how small the budget or scale, can benefit from securing a few sponsors. It’s a win-win—financial or in-kind support for your event, free publicity for them.

What about you? Any other tips for planning a terrific writers’ conference?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Random Writerly Thoughts

I'm working on about 5 different things at the moment, so today's post will be short and sweet.

Last week I received a nice surprise in the mail--5 contributor's copies of a publication that finally printed an article I'd written for them two years ago. Some months back I'd contacted the editor to see what the heck ever became of it, but I wrote it off as being lost in the shuffle. What a nice surprise to find that my work has finally seen the light of day. Best of all, there was a check in with the copies! Can't ask for more than that.


I'm at a loss as to what it takes to make money as a blogger. Not here, necessarily, but as a blogger for other people. It seems that there are no shortage of blogging opportunities out there, but very few of them have any kind of compensation attached. I've lost count of the websites I see with a blogging "Community" where anyone can post, but good luck breaking in as a paid contributor. I have one possible lead for a regular (paid) blogging gig, but that might be a few months away yet. I'm completely stumped as to how folks make money with blogging, though I know many of them do. I tend to steer clear of blogging gigs unless it's one I somehow work out for myself (like this potential one--it's for a very reputable company whom I work with regularly, so I have no worries about payment, etc.)


How the heck do freelancers put together a resume? I just applied for a writing job and I had to send a resume, and I'll be damned if I had the foggiest idea of where to start. I just sent my whole CV--I don't think I have enough "specialized" clips to make a targeted resume, so I just sent the whole thing with all of my links, clips, etc. listed and am hoping for the best.

Your turn. What's plaguing you these days?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer Reads (So Far)

Hard to believe the summer is half over already! WOW! Seems like it was only a few days ago that I was plotting out the next few months, trying to line up some assignments and do some serious chilling out. Well, I did manage to land a few assignments, and I've done a pretty good job of chilling out, although I'm already starting to prep for my classes this fall. Busy, busy, busy!

I've been true to my word and have been doing a lot of reading. My list since classes ended in May include:

The Postmistress, Sarah Blake

Admit One: My Life in Film, Emmett James

*Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, Jordan Sonnenblick

On Mystic Lake, Kristin Hannah

Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict, Avis Cardella

*To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

*The Help, Kathryn Stockett

My Fair Lazy, Jen Lancaster

The Fixer Upper, Mary Kay Andrews

*The Lost Girls, Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, Amanda Pressner

*The Opposite of Love, Julie Buxbaum

*highly recommended

I'm currently revisiting The Great Gatsby for my one class this fall, and The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais, which I didn't expect to like (very different from what I usually read) but am getting into.

I've been pleasantly surprised to have read quite a few great books so far. Last summer, I hate to say it, but nothing really rocked my world. So glad that that isn't the case this year! I have oodles of noodles more to go, so I'll keep you posted once summer winds down.

What books have you read so far this summer? Which ones have been hits? Misses?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How Effective Are LOI's (Letters of Introduction)?

We freelancers land work in a variety of ways. Most of us secure assignments through the old-fashioned query. A few lucky ones have established relationships with editors in which the editors come to them. A third option is to send a letter of introduction (LOI) to editors, which basically tests the waters of a publication before you send out a formal query.

An LOI is great if you aren't sure the publication even uses freelancers. There's nothing worse than wasting your efforts putting together a killer query only to have it rejected because you didn't do a little bit of extra research. An LOI can help you save face.

Personally, I've sent out a few LOI's over the years, with mixed results. I've been on a hot streak with querying lately and sent out a few LOI's for kicks, too. I send it directly to the editor if there's one listed on the website or masthead, but I've also sent them to the generic "editor@", "info@", or "mail@" addresses.

I've sent LOI's as basic as:

Dear [Editor's Name]:
I'm a freelance writer and I would be very interested in contributing to your publication/website. Do you typically work with freelancers? Could I receive a copy of your writers' guidelines?
My work has appeared in blah blah blah. I'm very interested in contributing to your publication based on my interest in [insert subject area here].
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Sara Hodon

Of the 10 or so LOI's I've sent out recently, I've only gotten a response from about 2 editors. Not great odds in my eyes. But I'll keep sending them. 'Cause that's what I do.

What about you? Have you had luck with the LOI's, or do you just take your chances and go direct to the query?

Monday, July 12, 2010

How to Talk (and Listen) to an Editor

by Priscilla Y. Huff

I have been a freelance writer and author for a long time, and one axiom that I have learned (and still have to remind myself) is how to talk and listen to an editor. Here are some tips:

1) Editors are ALWAYS on deadline, so keep all your communications with them succinct and to the point.

2) NEVER ASSUME any details of an assignment’s specs. Check with your editor if you are not sure of any part of your assignment. It is a bit crass, but a former day job boss of mine wrote the word “assume” on a piece of paper for me when I made a mistake with a project without checking with her first. She broke it down explaining (that): “It (assume) makes an a@# out of u and me.”

3) Deliver what she asked: An article that is on time with the correct word length, quotes and facts checked, photos the right size for publication, sidebars; and one that is proofread for wording and grammar. Daily re-read your assignment’s specs to be certain you are including all that your editor has stipulated.

4) Your assignment is not over until it is printed: Many times, I submitted an article, only to be contacted by the editor a couple of weeks later when the editor was then going over it for publication and had some questions. Be ready to revise or answer her questions and that she has your contact information if she wants to reach you.

5) Make it easy to get paid. Submit an invoice and include your address or online payment information; your contact information; and what rights you are selling. Editors may “assume” you are selling ALL your rights to a piece when you are not or vice-versa.

When it doubt about any part of your assignment, ask; even editors with whom you have worked with previously. Your editor will appreciate it. When editors are happy with writers, they tend to give more assignments to those writers who really DO listen and make their jobs easier.

For Further Reading:

Writer's Digest Handbook of Making Money Freelance Writing
Writer's Digest Magazine Article:“Tips for Dealing with Your Editor” by guide, Allena Tapia

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

This 'n That...

I hope everyone had a great long weekend, and I pologize for the sporadic posts over the past week!

I had deadlines for 2 articles (both new-to-me publications, so I wanted to make them as shipshape as possible), I'm working hard at making some changes to my writers' group (there may be a post about that in the not-too-distant future), I had a few gatherings with friends, and, you stuff has sort of taken over.

It's been really nice to have some breathing room. I'm feeling much less stifled by my current schedule, but I know that by the fall 'll be itching to get back to my classes and the new challenges they'll bring. I've been using my time wisely--doing a lot of querying, and I'll be reading some of my materials for my lit class so I'm going in prepared. I'll also be starting my syllabus over the next few weeks.

I have 3 articles due in August, 1 for September (thus far), and I'm hoping a few other queries pan out.

What about you? What's keeping you busy lately?