Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Syndicated Column

So, my grand plan for making a living wage while working on my novels is to publish a syndicated newspaper column. Jill Pertler wrote a very helpful book called The Do-it-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication basically explaining the ins and outs of writing a column and getting it syndicated. I'm not going to to go into all the gory details, but since I have been writing about China for 3 years on my blog Two Americans in China, I figured that would be a great basis for a column.

I have spent the last couple of months writing articles that I think would appeal to a broader American audience. I didn't want to commit to doing this and run out of ideas after a couple of weeks. Last week I finally sat down and compiled a list of all the newspapers in Missouri, Arkansas, and Florida (all states I have lived in). It came to about 250 newspapers and I sent them all queries.

I got one response. It was a good one though. My home-town newspaper, The Daily Star Journal, will start running my column. But that was the only response I got. I didn't even get a few "no thanks, please take me off your list" emails. I am wondering if there is something wrong with my email and it all went into their spam folders. So, I'm not really sure what to do about that. I mean, if they are getting the column and just aren't interested, that's OK. It can be hard to make the broad topic of China appealing to a rural mid-western audience. But what if they just aren't getting them? Anyone know how to check and see if your emails are getting marked as spam?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Rejecting a Publishing Offer - Am I Crazy?

It's been a crazy week. I had a super-high (a publisher accepted my Vampire novel!) and crashing low (the publisher isn't very good) and made some headway on my long-term writing goal. So let me explain what happened.

I wrote my romance novel The Vampire's Daughter about 5 years ago (the summer between finishing my Bacherlor's degree and starting my Master's program). I then queried it like crazy, sending it to dozens of places. Now, querying takes a long time. Long story short, after I moved to FL 3 years later I was still sending queries and getting rejections. One rejection I got was even after I moved to China! But it wasn't all bad. I was getting great requests based off my query. Even Kensington requested it at one point and kept it for about 6 months before I finally got a rejection. What I learned was that I had a great query, but something was lacking in the book. I put it on the shelf for about a year while I had a bout of depression and pretty much didn't write anything. I finally dragged it back out after talking to my amazingly wonderful friend Jennifer. Jennifer was an editor for our university poetry magazine back in the day and she offered to read my novel and give me feedback. That was almost a year ago. But not only did she beta-read it and give me feedback, she did a line by line (and word by word) edit that I didn't expect. Over the next 10 months I did rewrites based on her suggestions and I think we came out with a really great book.

By November I had a lot of plans in place to help me to take the plunge and focus on my writing more. But I was working full-time at a job I hated. It was taking way too much of my time and making everyone miserable. I wanted to requery the book, but I simply didn't have the time to canvas as much as I should have. A friend of mine had been published with Rainstorm Press. I looked them over and had a good feeling about them. I knew they were a newer publisher, but I figured that would work in my favor. I queried them and only 2 or 3 other places. With in 2 weeks, Rainstorm asked for the full manuscript. That was pretty exciting.

By this time my company and I decided that we would part ways. I also had a vacation to Thailand coming up, but still had to work full-time until the end of December. I didn't push the book any more and figured I would wait to see what happened when I got back from holiday. In the meantime I started hanging out at AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler where I made a lot of connections, got great feedback, and started learning more about the publishing industry.

Last week was my first full week back home and my first week as a full-time writer, so when I got the offer for publication on Tuesday, I was totally stoked! I thought maybe it was a sign that being a writer was my calling; this is what I was supposed to be doing. I kept my cool though and didn't accept the offer right away. I went to AbsoluteWrite and asked them what they thought of my offer. They were definitely less than encouraging, but I think for the right reasons. They were able to point out red flags and outright falsehoods in the email that were warnings against this publisher.

Now, that should have been the sign to walk away, but at the same time I had been trying to get the book published for 5 years. What if I never found another publisher? After lots of soul-searching and talking with Jennifer and my husband, I decided to reject the offer. The main reason is because I feel that I was selling my book short. I think my book is great and I think the work Jennifer and I did on it together means the book needs a real second chance.

Today I entered The Vampire's Daughter in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. I'll find out on the Feb 14th if it is going on to the next round. That really isn't very long to wait. If it goes on to the next round, that's awesome! But if it doesn't, that gives me a little over 3 weeks to collect a new list of publishers and get a new query letter ready.

I think it will win though :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Steampunk Story Contest

You can win a free corset from one of the best corset shops on the web by writing a Steampunk Valentine story.

"We’re looking for Steampunk Valentine stories, because that seems apropos. But we’re also a little pressed for time, so we’d like them to be short shorts. There isn’t a specific definition for this length, but 500 words would be a good guideline. If you go over a little, so be it. If you hit 1000, it is safe to say you’ve got more story than our little contest can handle. So, that’s the short short part.

The short part is that you only have a week, well less than a week really. Stories need to be in by next Sunday (January 20th) by midnight Eastern Daylight Time. That’s not much time, but that’s what makes it a short short short competition."

So not much time, but a short entry, a quick turn-around, and a cool prize! Enter here:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Expat Women in Asia: Call for Submissions - Deadline: 28 Feb

Here is an interesting writing contest I know I will be entering. 

"Editor Shannon Young is seeking contributions from expatriate women in East Asia for a new anthology fromSignal 8 Press in Hong Kong. This collection will feature the writing of women who are currently expatriates or who previously lived in an East Asian country. For the purposes of this anthology, we construe East Asia to include Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and the ASEAN countries. All submissions should be creative non-fiction and/or travel memoir pieces that speak to the expat experience in modern East Asia. Potential topics include travel, work, relationships, gender roles, safety, family, and repatriation. We are looking for stories with a strong and personal narrative arc, not just travel guides or descriptions of the places you’ve lived. We hope to make this anthology as inclusive as possible, as well, and we welcome submissions from women from different parts of the world."

Go here to enter:

Monday, January 14, 2013

Good-bye, Content Mill

When I first started toying with the idea of writing full-time, I wasn't sure where to find paying markets. I have books written and planned and other ideas, but those won't happen if I can't pay the bills in the meantime.

One website I was reading for commercial writing ideas said to check out Craig's List. That sounded pretty crazy to me at first. I really despise Craig's List. I don't find the site user-friendly at all so I have generally avoided using it. But I decided to take a look at the jobs listing to see what I could find. I was pretty surprised to find listings for writing jobs. I applied for a few and sat back and waited.

I only heard back from a couple of the jobs I applied for, but they seemed legitimate. They had solid websites, paid through Paypal, and had specific writing outlines and goals.

They also paid 1 cent per word.

It seemed pretty low, but thought I would give it a shot. I actually started earning between fifty and a hundred dollars a week. But the problem was that these short articles (5-10, 250-word articles per day) were taking up a lot of my time. Between research, editing, formatting, and reediting I was spending 5+ hours per day only earning between $12 - $25. I also began reading more and more about the "evils" of content mills over at Make a Living Writing and other places. I realized I began writing for a content mill before I even knew what they were.

I began to ask myself what I should do. I need to make money, but these unscrupulous companies are underpaying writers for content to skew search results. I was feeling bad for playing into this rotten system. But I need the money. How am I supposed to make money in the mean time?

I just got back from holiday and had received another content mill assignment. I told the content mill that I needed them to reassign it because I knew I wouldn't get the work done on time since I had a lot of other things to get caught up on. I gave them several days notice so they could find someone else and the assignment wouldn't be late. Even though I thought I did the courteous thing by passing on work so that it wouldn't be late, I got a nasty email from the boss telling me that passing on work was "not an option" and that "most people are grateful for the work." I was actually kind of glad that she made my decision for me. I wrote back to her that I was disappointed that she didn't appreciate my courtesy or the fact that anyone was willing to work for her one-cent content mill. I told her that I enjoyed the writing practice, but that I couldn't allow my name to be associated with her company any more.

I know I did the right thing, but at the same time, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of other staving writers out there willing to take my place. My choice to stand up for writer's fair pay won't end the business of writer exploitation, I just hope it pays off for me personally and I am able to redirect my writing efforts elsewhere.


Hi! Welcome to my writing blog. I have been living and writing in China for almost 3 years and I focused on writing in college. The time has come in my life when I can focus solely on my writing. This blog will chronicle my experiences in the writing and publishing game and also share news and events in the world of publishing. Thanks for joining me on this exciting journey!