Learn more. Earn more.

Learn more. Earn more.
Learn more. Earn more. "Required reading" for today's smart writer! As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati, Date My Pet, South 85 Literary Journal and other award-winning sites.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

4 Distractions That can Actually Add to Your Productivity as a Writer!

Many times, "distractions" have a negative connotation; they get a bad rap. One online dictionary defines them as: "Something that makes it difficult to think or pay attention."
Well, this can also be said of head injuries, one could argue.

Here's why a paradigm shift is in order.
I've discovered that distractions don't have to do you in!
Just like money, the "evil" exists in how they're used.

Allow me to elaborate. Distractions can be used to inspire, gain clarity, broaden our perspective, energize us, and enhance our creativity.
(Sorry, not the ones like playing computer Solitaire for hours)- I mean the constructive ones.

Rather than using distractions as a convenient excuse for not making progress, or failing to meet deadlines, let's look at how the constructive ones can actually increase productivity, allow us to explore other creative avenues, and even improve our bottom line.

Here are a few that come to mind...

How many times have you logged onto your computer to tackle your to-do list, only to be bombarded by email updates, links from friends, and announcements?
You quickly click on or open up the related content, and before you know it, you've covered a lot of online territory and spent an hour or two being detoured. 

Don't despair. Online distractions can work to our benefit through shared links and email blasts that keep us informed and "tapped"  into what's going on in the blogging community and the publishing industry; thereby saving time in future research and mental wear and tear.  Sometimes it can be through identifying new markets for creative projects, breaking news, or inspiration for a blog post idea.

I'm a big music lover, and I like mine loud. I dig listening to an array of sounds and musical approaches- from Beethoven, to Biggie Small, to Bob Marley, to Billy Joel. While for some, listening to music, (especially when accompanied by lyrics), can hinder focus, it often elevates my mood and motivates me to produce at higher levels. Additionally, those in the medical community have established that music has therapeutic properties as well. It is said to improve sleep quality, ease pain, and enhance physical workouts. You can learn more here:

No doubt we're all probably guilty of being taken in by this one. But, believe it or not, there's a wealth of information and inspiration to be acquired from the "Boob tube." Whether it's commercials that help you to brand your blog better, soap opera clues that impart lessons on crafting believable characters, or interviewing dos and don'ts, courtesy of Barbara Walters.

Cooking is a great way to turn up the heat on your creative projects and combat writer's block.
Combining various ingredients, textures, colors, and food groups, (and the pretty plating and presentation that follows), can be fun and inventive.
It can be relaxing too. Why not try your hand at some new recipes that will impress family and friends for the holidays?
No doubt, in the process, you'll discover some writing parallels, and the smells and sounds may even conjure up childhood memories that can serve as inspiration for a personal essay or "Chicken Soup" submission.

Here are a few other things to consider:
  • Set a time limit to your favorite distraction.
For example, I almost never miss watching the game show Jeopardy. But, I watch TV strategically, so that I am enhanced by it and not detrimented. I monitor what I watch and my viewing time.
You should too.
  • Recognize that all distractions are not created equally. Some are negative; while others are positive.
Here's how to tell the difference. If indulging in it makes you feel guilty, and you have nothing concrete to show for it, it's probably a negative pursuit. If the "distraction" relaxes you, makes you feel renewed, or gets those creative juices flowing, it's positive.

Keep in mind that distractions are just temporary. What's important is not to lose "focus" on the big picture and the joys of writing!

Your turn.
Agree or disagree? What's your favorite distraction? Do tell.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Does Size Matter? Examining the "Perfect" Blog Post Structure for Your Audience

Let's face it: during tough economic times, everybody's trying to get a greater yield for their time and money.
With a "supply and demand" mentality, businesses are responding accordingly with "value added" deals and super sized options. 

In the publishing arena, many bloggers believe that they should follow suit. That the more words they use to create, elaborate and elucidate, the greater the "perceived" value of their intended message.
Not necessarily. Not always.

A prime example here is Seth Godin, a best-selling author, marketer and speaker.
He has a huge, cult-like following, and much like E.F. Hutton, "when he speaks, folks listen."
Seth is legendary for his unique, short and insightful blog posts that often resonate with readers in less than 250 words. You can check out his powerful pieces here:


Now, to the post at hand...

Are you in a "blog fog" when deciding how long your posts should be?
Or maybe how frequently you should post updates?

I've got you covered. Today we'll look at a few factors you should examine when you sit down at the keyboard.

But, before we embark upon our journey, let's be clear here: at the end of the day, it's a personal choice. Do you!
Still, to maximize your efforts, compete with other sites in your niche area, and to "work smarter, not harder," you'll need a strategic approach going in.

With this in mind,

  • Your target audience
Who are they? Are they stay at home moms? Lawyers? Students? Pet lovers? Working professionals? What's the age range? The more you know about them, the easier it becomes to identify their lifestyle and readership needs. For example, many of my followers are busy professionals. They work as writers and editors, in addition to juggling other careers, family obligations, etc. As such, I try to construct posts that are brief but substantive in nature. Posts that value their time and constraints. You should too.
  • The purpose of your blog
What is the main objective of your site? Is it to share recipes? Increase awareness of an important cause? Showcase your work? To rant? To dish the dirt on celebrities? Align the size of your post with your readers' "appetite." In other words, if I am visiting a site that is recreational in purpose, I don't want to be held "captive" with a 2500 word book review or rant on a bad boss. Thanks, but no thanks. I've already read through "War and Peace." I will, however "consume" a 2500-word post that addresses important literary techniques to improve my craft, or one that shares a personal and compelling essay, with excellent take-away value. There's great validity to the expression, "Less is more."
  • Your "gift to gab"
Writing can be compared to verbal conversations. And if I'm being honest here, not everyone has the skills to "entertain" and engage for a lengthy period of time without becoming boring. Do you feel me here? I like to think of it this way. When I'm getting to know someone, I would much rather leave our time spent together with a desire to learn more, to be intrigued by a sense of mystery, than to feel overwhelmed and imposed upon. How about you?
  • The time you have to devote to "connecting"
When blogging works as it should, it enhances your creative career, builds important relationships, and improves your bottom line. Which means that it should never conflict with important assignment deadlines for clients, keep you from completing that novel, or require a real "mental haul." My point? If writing long posts takes up valuable time that should be devoted to other important pursuits, adjust accordingly. Maybe you should do a combo of short and long installments, as your schedule dictates.
  • The Call to Action
What would you like readers to do after they read your particular post? Buy something? Comment? Think differently? Register for a class? Purchase property? If your piece is promotional or instructional, typically it should be relatively short and to the point. After all, you don't want folks to be too exhausted after reading your content to carry out the desired task. Hello?
  • The Clues and Comments
Often we can find the needed answers to our blogging questions by simply reviewing the analytics and readers' feedback provided at our site. For instance, I've noticed that weekend posts typically receive fewer views comparatively than the ones posted on Tuesdays.
I've also discovered that I garner more comments on personal posts than I typically do with guest posts featured; though results sometimes vary.
Assess. When you look at your posts collectively, do longer ones or the shorter receive more views? More comments?  "Lather. Rinse. Repeat."


I would be remiss if I didn't mention here that studies on blogging and related behaviors suggest that longer posts, (2000 words or more) typically:
  • Receive more social media shares
  • Result in more search engine traffic
  • Allow you to leverage the power of long tail keywords
  • Result in more link-backs

Well folks, that's the long and short of it.
My contention here is that size without substance should never be your goal.
Choose wisely.

What size do you prefer?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mid-Week Writing Links, Goodies & Announcements...

Jen's Goodies*Homemade Brownies
Happy Fall, Y'all!
I hope this season finds you enjoying abundant blessings and in good health.
Today I've got a "smorgasbord" of opportunities and announcements to share.
Please feel free to provide your own in the comments section accordingly.

Karen E. Lange, who was the chosen winner of Pen & Prosper's "Having the Last Say" Comment contest.

Susan Reinhardt for the release of her new book "Out of the Mist!"

Noelle Sterne, (who has been a frequent contributor here), who tackles the challenges currently faced in writing a dissertation, in her new title, "Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation."


If you are a fan of Pen & Prosper, and enjoy my work, I invite you to join me as I embark upon my new journey as a contributing writer for a leading website in the motivation and self-growth space.
I received a personal invitation from PERSONALGROWTH.COM to write for them, which becomes effective this week. Yay!

Starting December 1, 2015, Pen & Prosper will become a paying market! 
Initially, it will start at a modest fee, but I hope to increase it, (if possible in 2016). Here's the 4-1-1...
Guest posts and articles of 250-850 words (on marketing, blogging, or any writing related topic) will be accepted for publication by P& P followers only. The rate will be $10.00 upon publication. I reserve the right to reject posts that are poorly written, or those that do not adhere to the specified guidelines. Submissions may be sent embedded in an email, or as a Microsoft Word attachment to: Gemsjen@yahoo.com.

The reason I decided to move in this direction is because I am truly disheartened by the lack of paying opportunities for writers, as evidenced by a recent markets search I conducted in trying to land future work. I hope my efforts will help a little in providing the appreciation writers desire and deserve.

Would you like to improve your marketing by aligning your efforts to your blog personality style? Here's an interesting quiz and video that addresses how you can make that happen and work "smarter, not harder."



Allindiewriters.com provides a directory listing for writers seeking to promote their business and increase their bottom line. For a one-time fee of $14.95, get listed and get noticed.
For more details, check out the directory here:


Pen and Prosper accepts ads from authors and businesses seeking to connect with writers, educators, influencers, and those in the creative community. Get your product or service featured here. For informational purposes, this award-winning blog is read in over seven countries, and boasts more than 250,000 page views! To learn more, connect with me at Gemsjen@yahoo.com.

Writers Weekly seeks your success stories of 400 words on writing and marketing. They pay $40.00 per article, upon acceptance.

South85Journal.com is accepting submissions of essays and poetry for its formal reading period of September through April.

Moira Allen (of the hugely popular, Writing-World) offers beautiful mugs for writers and book lovers.  Why not purchase one for yourself, or for your writing buddy for the holiday season?
Here's the link to the current selection of cups:


Would you like to learn how you can earn $50.00 an hour and up for your writing services?
Peter Bowerman offers a blueprint in his award-winning book series, "The Well-Fed Writer." To purchase your copy now and get his insider's tips, click on the icon in the right-hand sidebar.
I highly recommend it. Have I ever steered you wrong? :-)

That's it for Wednesday's happenings.

By the way, I just got the proof for my new poetry book "7 Wide" today, slated for release this fall!
I'm so excited to share this here.

Your turn.
If you enjoyed these links, send me a "wink."  Leave a comment. :-)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Art With a Message...?

The other day, while listening to music from my "oldies, but goodies" collection, I was transcended to a different space and time. An age when music provided more than a good beat to groove to.
When lyrics celebrated love found and lost, raised the consciousness level of its listeners, and much like the fortune cookies purchased from my favorite Chinese restaurant, always contained a message for reflection.

Artists back then used their words as a medium for change, to build a better world, and to make us feel less alone in our journey.

Remember when Marvin Gaye sang songs like, "Mercy, Mercy Me" and "What's Going On?"
When the Beatles asked us to "Imagine" a world with "no need for greed or hunger, and a brotherhood of man?"

The concept of art with a message through music, also puts me in the mind of film director, Spike Lee: how he produces movies that are hugely entertaining, but also have a great deal of sybolism.
Though I may not agree entirely with his perspectives or creative approach, I do admire him for having the courage and conviction to use his movies and resources to illuminate important social issues surrounding racism, classism and sexism in America.

So, what's the message behind today's message...?

As writers, bloggers, and "performers" we have an awesome opportunity to use our "spotlight" to champion important causes, dispel stereotypes, start a movement, speak for those who have no platform, give hope, heal, serve as historians for future generations.

It's never too late to use your talents to speak, teach, reach.
The world awaits.
What will you "paint"?


Image: Freedigitalphotos.net

Saturday, September 19, 2015

5 Non-Writing Skills Every Successful Writer Must Possess

There's more to writing than meets the eye. Contrary to the hype you'll often encounter in online job ads and how-to books, skillful mastery requires much more than "good grammar and an Internet connection."

If only it were that simple. 
As someone who has been behind the keyboard carving out a career in the creative field for many years, I've come to the realization that most successful writers are not just effective communicators; they also possess these five skills and abilities for optimal success.
See how many you can check off here.


If I had a dollar for every person that says, "I could write a book," I'd be rich. Though it's true that many of us have a story within us, being a "real" writer requires real discipline. Day after day, week after week, month after month, amidst rejections, work woes, family dramas, self-doubt and fears.
If you don't have the discipline to commit to setting goals, writing regularly, sending out your work, researching markets, and improving your craft, you'll never cut it.

Coping skills

Can you handle stress? Would you be able to accept a career that has more ups and downs than an amusement park ride? Stress management is crucial to today's successful writer. The underlying reason? If not handled properly stress can cause writer's block. No output means no income. No income means no chocolate. Which leads to more stress...
You get where I'm going here?

Negotiation skills

Have you ever seen those hostage negotiators on many of the popular cop and weekly TV crime shows?
Take note; you'll become one. The main difference here, is not the release of a victim or kidnapped person, it's the timely and careful release of your writing fee. Hello? Sometimes you have to bargain, beg, strategize, reason and negotiate to earn what you feel you deserve with clients, publishers and editors. Your "survival", in fact, depends on it.

Time management skills

There's great validity to the expression, "Time is money."
If you don't manage time well, you're likely losing out on money, sleep, and the potential opportunity to make even more money. Additionally, poor time management and poor prioritization skills often lead to missed deadlines and costly errors.  According to Lucy V. Parker, author of "'How to Start a Home-Based Business," these are the main characteristics of time management:
doing regular planning, listing tasks, prioritizing, following through, and rewarding yourself for achievement.   

Strategic skills

Strategic skills involve good decision making, business savvy, and the ability to remain profitable as a freelancer. It means knowing that every creative situation requires the "write" approach.
It involves having a game plan for successful execution of your projects.
If you use discernment before you take a gig, weigh the pros and cons of opportunities, research, and exercise "due diligence," you're a strategic writer.

Okay, confession time...
How many of these skills do you possess? What do you lack?
What would you add to the list?
Do tell.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Don't Hate the Wait! 6 Timely Tips for Today's Writer


“Your call is very important to us. Please continue to hold. The next representative will be with you shortly.”
“Your call is very important to us. Please continue to hold. The next representative will be with you shortly.”
“Your call is very important to us. Please continue to hold. The next representative will be with you shortly.”

I listened to this repeated message for over an hour the other day, as I waited to be connected with a “live” person regarding my account. I didn’t dare dash to the washroom or go to the kitchen to retrieve a glass of water, for fear that if I made the wrong move, I would be disconnected and have to start the whole grueling process all over again.

Instead, I found myself being held “captive” for more than 3600 seconds. Time I could never recover; which really grinded on my nerves.
If I had a dollar for every hour I have waited to be helped, heard, responded to, or updated, I’d be rich as dark chocolate.

Waiting can be so frustrating. It takes time away from our productivity, makes us anxious, and keeps us in a “pending stage” where we can’t move forward or make important decisions for day-to-day tasks.

A similar situation exists in writing and the creative process. You know the script.
You meticulously craft a query letter. You send it off to an editor. You wait for her to get back to you. You wait for the green light to submit your completed piece. Then you wait for an acceptance. Then you wait to be published. Then you wait to be paid.

Though I love the creative life, I hate the wait! Always have.
In fact, at the time of this writing, I have nearly a dozen pitches, guest post requests, and completed articles I am waiting to hear something, anything on.

Don’t get me wrong: I have worked with some really cool editors that in the past have been very responsive and “rendered a verdict” in a few days. But they seem to be more the exception than the rule.
I must admit, as I continue to embark upon this journey though, I have gotten a bit better. And you can too.

Here are some practices and principles to consider as you play the “Waiting Game” as a freelancer:

1. Step away from the computer!

That’s right. Instead of checking your emails frantically, fix your mind on something else. Exercise. Garden. Take a bubble bath. Sew. As for me? I relax through baking and cooking. And the positive thing here, is that it often “feeds” my mind with other creative ideas and potential projects. Remember, “A watched pot never boils.”

2. Decorate your work space.

Creativity can manifest itself in different forms. Decorating is one of them. Why not spice up your space with some bright, new wall art? Or improve the aesthetics and air quality through potted plants? Or perhaps update your look with some attractive toss pillows? The possibilities are endless. Here’s a great book that I found helpful:

3. Blog hop!

Visit other popular blogs to find out what’s going on…with your friends, with your competition, with blogs in your hometown area. The more you know, the more you’ll grow.

4. Follow-up.

Sometimes we have to be pro-active here. Meaning, that if a “reasonable” amount of time has transpired without hearing anything on the status of a submission, we can lessen our pain by simply writing to the editor of the targeted publication to ensure they’ve received the work. Strange stuff can sometimes happen, folks. Emails get lost or embedded in “spam folders” that never get opened. Files get accidentally erased. And well… shift happens!
For example, I sent something out to an editor who had not replied to my submission in five months, after accepting my original query. The problem? She never received the final version I submitted. So I had to resend it. It’s important to remember that in following up, one needs to be respectful and professional in the approach. Never stalk.

5. Consider that “Patience is a virtue.”
Waiting can help develop us in many ways. It can help us to appreciate delayed gratification. It can help us to tap into prayer and meditation. It can help us to learn to shift gears and redirect our priorities, as needed.

6. Get more bang for your buck by sending out simultaneous submissions.

This increases your odds of acceptance and can decrease the time it takes for a piece to ultimately be published. Unless a market specifically forbids it, it is totally ethical. Just make sure to keep publications posted if the piece is purchased, so that it can be removed from their submissions files.
In the meantime and in between time, you never need to wait to be awesome!
"Carpe diem!"
Your turn.
Agree or disagree?
How about you? How do you deal with the "wait" of freelancing?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Marketing Wisdom for Authors Who Hate Marketing

Jon Bard

For most authors, book marketing ranks somewhere between root canal and sitting next to a screaming baby on an airplane.I get it. It's a daunting task for anyone – and especially for someone who may be on the introverted side – to get out there and promote. We writers typically aren't the brashest folks on the planet, and we lean toward humility as a default position (mailboxes full of rejection letters will have that effect.).
And so, we're left with three choices – none of them especially appealing:
· Pay someone else a bunch of money we don't have to promote on our behalf
· Force ourselves to promote and hate every minute of it
· Don't promote at all
In this article, I'd like to offer a different perspective. One that has the potential to turn marketing from a chore to a meaningful, enjoyable and yes, profitable experience.
Why I View Author Marketing Differently

As the co-owner of Children's Book Insider, the Children's Writing Monthly, I've helped writers become published authors for 25 years. So I know you guys. I know you really well.

But I'm also a marketing pro. I used to own a PR agency in New York (we introduced Pictionary to the US market) and I've mentored scores of entrepreneurs on marketing over the years. It's a topic I find endlessly interesting.
So here I am, with a foot in both worlds and an ability to see the bigger picture. And now, I'd like you to share a bit of that vision.
The Essence of Author Marketing

The first thing you need to grasp is that so much of what's talked about when we talk about marketing is just nonsense. You've probably been subjected to an avalanche of buzzwords, “magical” techniques and marketing horror stories. It's left you puzzled, worried and thoroughly convinced that marketing just isn't for you.
Let's fix that. Here's some truth about author marketing:
Marketing isn't about you and your book. It's 100% about the hopes, desires and needs of your potential reader.

Considering most of what passes for author marketing is slapping book covers and Amazon links on Facebook and then shouting “BUY!”, it's no wonder “author marketing doesn't work”. You need to grasp this and hold on to it – all good marketing is based on what value you have to offer someone that will make their life experience better.
In other words, lead with the reader, not with you.
Marketing is just another word for Communication.

The word “marketing” is so loaded with meaning that it might be helpful to replace it with something else. Something that's actually much more to the point.
Marketing is communicating.   That's all it is. The medium may change, but that fundamental point doesn't. It's one person (you) talking to another person (your prospective reader). You've got something to say (“here's something of value that will make your life better”). And your prospective reader has something to say (“Really? Tell me more!”).
As a writer you are a born communicator. This is right in your wheelhouse
Marketing is just another word for Advocacy.

There are people out there who need to read your work. The education, inspiration or entertainment you're ready to provide them can greatly enhance their lives.
If you can make someone's life better, you owe it to them to share that important news. Doing anything less would be a major disservice.
You've put your heart and soul into your work. But if you don't stand up and advocate for it, who will? Your marketing efforts shouldn't be a business activity – it needs to be a mission.

Get going and start advocating for your work. There are people out there who need you.

Marketing should NOT be complicated. One simple technique that works is all you'll ever need.

One reason I like to give people alternatives to the word “marketing” is because it's such a giant, all-encompassing term. Heck, you can get a Masters degree in it, so you know that it can get really complex.
I'm willing to bet that you aren't interested in getting your Marketing Masters. You want to spend as little time as possible even thinking about marketing. You just want to write. And sell some books.

Good news: author marketing can be really, really simple if you allow it to be. In my course I teach just one technique. I've been using it for years and so have many other folks who have sold a lot of things.

Here it is: Build a community (or Tribe, if you prefer) around an interest or core concern of your ideal readers. Nurture the community, feed it, lead it. Have fun with these folks (who will rapidly evolve into your fans). And, when it comes time to sell your book, you've got a built-in audience.
Then, month after month, year after year, just keep building your Tribe.

In other words, lather, rinse, repeat.

My students do use social media, but sparingly and in a targeted fashion. In other words, they don't spend hours on Twitter or Facebook. They have writing to do.
You've just been handed the keys to book marketing: put your reader first ; make it a human connection; advocate for what's important; and use a simple technique, not a mismatched collection of time-wasting activities.

And above all, don't be intimidated or frightened. Let your humanity shine and start connecting!

Jon Bard has been helping authors for 25 years as the co-owner of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers (http://writeforkids.org). He recently introduced his course Easy Author Marketing – The Simple Solution That Sells Books (http://easyauthormarketing.com).

Free gift for Pen & Prosper readers:
To learn more about Jon's unique take on book marketing, download Jon's free eBook: The 10 Minute Turnaround: Overcome Your Fear of Marketing & Start Connecting with Readers Now! It's yours with his compliments, and you can get it right now at http://easyauthormarketing.com/free-report