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 and other award-winning sites.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Give my Regards to Broadway...Why I'll Likely Never be Famous!

In this second chapter of my writing career, I have come to a sobering reality.
Though I've successfully published hundreds and hundreds of articles over the last two decades,
hob-nobbed with some important folks, have garnered numerous awards for my work, ghost written a few books, have a relatively broad knowledge base, and the discipline of a nun, I'll never be famous. At least not as a writer.

And I'm beginning to be okay with it. (Acceptance almost always makes things easier).
At this juncture, I've come to realize that everything that is "popular" or celebrated in our culture, is not necessarily of "excellence."

And quite frankly, in these changing times, the literary landscape is quite different than when I first embarked upon my journey.

We've condensed and distilled our communication down to 140 character "Tweets," text messages, and Instagrams. We've made powerful, engaging writing take a back seat to the size of one's platform and social media savvy. And sadly, a lot of good books and talented authors go unread and unnoticed.

More and more, it seems that those that get the "spotlight" today are:
  1. Those who court controversy (i.e. Donald Trump)
  2. Those who have outlandish gimmicks (i.e. Dennis Rodman marries himself)
  3. People who give "dysfunctional" a whole new meaning --------(fill in the blank)
  4. Those who garner attention through shock value (i.e. Miley Cyrus)
  5. People who have become famous by bedding famous people
  6. Those willing to sell their souls by exposing the dirty laundry of family and friends         
Of course, this is not to suggest that everyone fits in this category.
We have some immensely talented writers on the arts scene today, who truly deserve all the attention, accolades, and spoils they receive.

But, I think I'm running out of steam...and reality is replacing former pipe dreams.

For now, I'm abandoning my hopes of writing for fame and fortune, or the potential of being featured on a late night talk show. Heck, I can barely stay up late enough to watch them! :-)

For now, I'll write because I'm "famous" with the ladies at my mom's church and periodically at dinner parties.
I'll  write because I believe that I can make a difference.
I'll write because I believe it is my divine calling.
I'll write to keep myself sane and give inspiration to others.

I'll write because you continue to read.
And if fame comes along...well, that will just be icing on the cake.
And you know how I love cake!

Wishing you a great, safe holiday weekend!

.."A penny for your thoughts"

Monday, August 17, 2015

Getting Unstuck:Tough Love for Writers

Guest Post: by Alan Gelb

Having worked with hundreds of
writer-clients and having written quite a few books myself, I can honestly say that we all share the same syndrome: fear of writing. As Douglas Adams’ well-known quote goes, “Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a piece of blank paper until your forehead bleeds.” Unfettered, this fear can drive people away from writing and many never return. After all, it is easier to do a thousand other things than to sit down to write.

Here are some hard truths and some good tips that can help any writer get “unstuck.”

· Accept the fear. As suggested, there is no shame in being afraid to write. It’s universal, so accept it and don’t let it rule you. Understand that the reason you are jumping up to get coffee, vacuum under the couch cushions, or play Sporcle is because you are afraid and because you have reason to be. Failure isn’t pleasant and writing often leads to failure. In fact, it comes with the territory. Just know that if you fail, you can try again. All it requires is some time and energy. Writing is very low-cost when it comes to equipment.
 · Set yourself limits. Yes, it’s okay to be afraid but there comes a time when you need to tiptoe into the water. Set a timer to limit your dilatory behaviors, finally admit that the undersides of the sofa cushions are as clean as they are ever going to get, and sit down at your desk. And let’s remember what Anne Tyler had to say: “If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.”

 · Set yourself a quota. We all have romantic visions of how writers write—in garrets, through the night, sipping on absinthe. All very bad for your health. Don’t be ruled by inspiration. For some, inspiration may come in a gorgeous wave that breaks the shore and all is beautiful. For most, inspiration comes in little dribs from a medicine dropper. I have found that it is best to capture those dribs in the context of a quota. So, depending on how often you’re planning to write—three days a week, four hours at a stretch, or whatever—set yourself a quota that makes sense for such a regimen. Even 100 words a session can start to add up.

 · Understand why you’re writing. You’re not writing to create art or literature. If that comes to pass, excellent. You’re writing for the same reasons that people have been writing throughout history: to connect with other people; to better understand something in the past; to arouse; to amuse; to confess; to forgive; to preserve a tradition or a folkway; to project into the future, and a variety of other concrete reasons. Gaining clarity around your goal is eminently helpful.

 · Understand your audience. If you are writing with the idea of sharing your work, then it is good to know who will be reading your work. Children, women, men, the elderly,  investors, sports fans, —these are all discrete constituencies who obviously have considerable overlap, but if you can figure out who you are trying to reach, then the reaching might be easier.

 · Be forgiving. We are all capable of bad writing and misfires. It happens to the very best of us. And, bitterly and unfairly, we can all be accused of bad writing even when we’re not guilty. Le Figaro said about Madame Bovary in 1857 that, “M. Flaubert is not a writer.” The Saturday Review in 1925 called The Great Gatsby “an absurd novel.” So it is important to know that writing comes with some built-in pain, and there is absolutely no reason for you to be the one inflicting pain on yourself. Treat yourself kindly and move on.

 · Reward yourself. One of the best ways to get “unstuck” is to write for a living. The need for a paycheck is an excellent extrinsic motivator and cashing your check may be all the reward you need. Those who are not dependent on writing for a living, however, should still remember to reward themselves. Just looking at something you have written and feeling that it works is a pretty sweet reward, but don’t forget to also do something nice for yourself after a tough work session. A walk with the dog, a swim, or an hour sitting with someone else’s good book is much warranted.

Most importantly, understand that really good writing can happen anywhere, anytime. If you hop off that theme park ride called “success,” you can write at your own pace, for your own reasons, and you can create something quite wonderful that may only touch the lives of few, but that can touch those lives profoundly.


Alan Gelb is a writing coach and widely published author of fiction and nonfiction, including his latest Having the Last Say: Capturing Your Legacy in One Small Story (Tarcher) and Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps. His work has been featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CBS Money Watch among others. Learn more at www.havingthelastsay.com

Thoughts here?
Special note: In honor of "What will be your legacy?" Month, we're giving away one free copy of Alan's book by (random drawing) to one lucky reader who comments on this post.  









Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday's Goodies-Links of Interest, Calls for $ubmissions & Announcements


It's been a a busy week here. As mentioned earlier, I'm putting the finishing touches on my new poetry book, slated to be released this fall. And of course, the painting projects, yard work and gardening never ends...

So today's post will be brief, but substantive.
(By the way, if you'd like to announce your book, creative contest, virtual tour, blog anniversary or good news, please share in the comments). I always love to hear from you.

Are you a poet seeking venues to perform your work, conduct a workshop, or share your love of the arts with library patrons? Book That Poet provides directory listings for poets across the country to schedule performances and sell their books. A one year listing is just $12.00. For more details visit:

Too busy to submit your poetic pieces to magazines or journals?  You'll definitely want to check out the placement opportunities afforded by Poemfactotum.com. No hourly fee- just flat, reasonable rates.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is accepting stories and poems on various inspirational topics. Their "Angels and Miracles" edition seeks to share "miraculous stories" and extraordinary life events. Deadline is September 30, 2015. Visit their site for full submission guidelines.

Do you have a "success story" on how you broke into a specific writing market, landed an agent, placed a guest post on a top-tier site, or signed a lucrative publishing contract? Writersweekly.com wants to hear from you.  The publication pays $40.00 for around 300 words. 

On the 1st Wednesday of each month, you'll find a listing of current calls for submissions provided @ Literary mama. Many are paying markets.

Congratulations to Marcie Hill for the recent publication of her book, "The 7 Practices of Highly Underpaid Freelance Writers."

Kudos to mystery writer, Susan Sundwall, for the completion of her third book in her popular mystery series. More details at a later date.

Did you know that August is "What Will be Your Legacy Month?" That's right. Many activities, events and book signings are being held to educate and inspire others to share their life stories, lessons on love, and family dynamics. For those of you who are memoir writers, this is a great time to promote your work. If you're a blogger, why not share a favorite family recipe passed down from generations and sage sayings offered by grandma? The possibilities are endless.

A special thank you to Karen Lange, whose recent "Tweet" landed me a link as a featured blogger on The Food Daily's Art section yesterday.
And an additional thanks to all of you who take the time to "Tweet" my posts and share my work via your social media circles. Words can not adequately express my appreciation. Keep it up!

Last, but not least...

Pen and Prosper will take a brief break from August 22nd to September 7th. Be sure to join me then, for "hot topics," cool contests, guest posts, and tips and tools to grow your craft and increase your cash.

Have a fabulous Friday, folks.

If you enjoyed these links, send me a "wink."
By leaving a comment...

*Baskets by
Jennifer Brown Banks

Saturday, August 8, 2015

30 Days Net* A Month's Look at my Writing Life


There's something to be said for blogging and the online accountability provided to others. Trust me. If you publicly announce your plans to participate in a contest, finish your novel, update your blog every week, or land a guest post at a prominent site, readers will keep you on point.

They will periodically inquire. They will remind you. They will keep you true to your word. True?

Which is a good thing. It's one of the reasons I think it's important to share our creative goals, dreams, failures and lessons learned.
It also helps to build a community of support and a healthy exchange of ideas, strategies and suggestions.

And who understands the struggles of a writer better than another writer?

With this in mind, today I am revealing my "profits," "losses" and related activities for July and August, thus far. My hope is that...

A). You'll be inspired and encouraged in your own efforts.


B). Rejoice in knowing that you're at least doing better than I am! :-)

1. I finally submitted a draft of my poetry book to a publisher, for release later this year. Yay!
2. I applied for a position as a columnist for a local magazine in my area. No word yet on the status of my application.
3. I created a beautiful blog for a travel agency that caters to women. It was fun and enlightening.
(By the way, if you need someone to design and set up a blog for your business or new book, I am available). Please get in touch.
4. I am working on three guest blog posts to be submitted by the end of the month.
One of my long-time goals is to write for a food blog. (If you or someone you know has one, I'd love to potentially post something).
5. I had a poet re-sign with me for some promotional work.
6. I'm working on a crowdfunding campaign for one of my favorite clients.
7. I've sent pitches to two former clients about future work. The verdict is still out on this one.
8. I am having challenges with some technical work required for the re-launch of one of my other sites. Details at a later date. Word to the wise: things always take longer than you think, budget your time accordingly.
9. I am planning a blog break for later this month to catch up on things and get a second wind.
10. Looking into incorporating more templates in my weekly tasks, to save time and "work smarter, not harder."

Well, that's it for now. Wishing you a great week ahead.

Care to share?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Food for Thought--Handling Those Passion Projects!


We all have them.
You know: the creative projects that don't put much money in your pockets, but "feed" your soul and make your heart sing.
The ones you can't wait to work on, even after a hard day's work. The ones that allow you to truly express yourself and make a difference.

Sometimes it can be "pro bono" work for a local charity. Or the newsletter at your church.
For me, it's definitely my poetry.
Did I mention it's my first literary love? Way back before blogging existed, I poured my heart out over romantic poetry.

And to my delight, some of it has been published in anthologies and magazines.
But back then, I had fewer clients, more time, and fewer competing demands.
How about you?

So the $64,000 question becomes...
How do you balance work that you truly dig, with work that may not be as enjoyable, but often pays the bills?

Jen's Homemade Pineapple Salsa
Right now, I'm feeling that tug.
I'm currently working on a poetry chapbook to be released later this year, in addition to blog work for clients, consultations provided to other writers, and articles that I need to submit to help keep my ledger "in the black."

I'm also looking into the possibility of doing some food writing, as I love to cook and conduct reviews on cookbooks and restaurants.

Truth be told, most creative folks are passionate about an array of things. Which is why you'll often see actresses that also sing, dance, and design their own clothes line.
The key to success is proper perspective and balance.
(And a good agent doesn't hurt either.)

If you'd like to pursue your passion projects, without guilt or detriment to other obligations here are a few things to consider:

1. Passion projects should be prioritized properly. One approach is to get up a little earlier in the morning to fit them in. Some may even be worked on during lunch breaks, or late at night when everyone is tucked away in bed, and the house is quiet.

2.  Remember that it's okay to have two loves here.
Don't feel guilty. Passion projects often keep us energized and inspire us to greater heights.

3. Consider cutting back a little on social media to make more progress.
Even a few hours less a week can make a measurable difference.

4. Don't overlook the advantages of collaborating.
There's some validity to the expression, "Two heads are better than one." Collaborative projects can save time, build supportive relationships, and allow writers to partner with individuals whose strengths compensate their weaknesses.

5. Keep a weekly calendar.
It will help you to become organized, focused on your goals, and deadline oriented.

6. Control outside distractions.
They can be a real time thief. For example, this morning I got a call from a relative of mine. Interested to learn what was going on in her world, I took the call, even though I was in the middle of penning this piece. My initial goal was to devote just
10-15 minutes or so for the conversation. But, she got a little sidetracked, and when I looked up, nearly an hour had passed by the time we said goodbye.
Sound familiar?

To sum things up here, Passion Projects are a great way to express our individual talents, touch others, and make a difference through our gifts. When handled properly, they can be a blessing that enhances us spiritually, mentally and professionally.

Your turn.
What's your one passion project?
Are you working on it now?
Any tips you'd like to share for greater success?

Monday, July 27, 2015

My Top 10 Blogging Tips for 2015!

Gone are the days when blogging exists simply as a forum for ranting about your "achey-breaky" heart, or an oppressive boss.
That's played out like 8-track tapes.
Fast forward. It's 2015, a new age and a new stage.

Blogging has evolved into a profitable medium that has launched major book deals, created income avenues for today's entrepreneur, and has even been integral in increasing awareness of important social causes. 

With millions of blogs launched into the blogosphere, it's become the new black!
Much like competitive sports, if you want to emerge a "winner" here, you'll need to have a strategic game plan in place.

With this being the goal, I'd like to share with you my Top 10 Blogging Tips for 2015.
The practices and principles outlined are based upon my six years of professional experience, trial and error, and a little savvy that has allowed me to be recognized with a few blogging awards along the way.

If you're on board, let's get busy.


1. Know your target audience.
Better yet, become intimately acquainted. What are their interests? Their challenges? Their habits?
As they say: "Knowledge is power."

2. Have concrete goals.
Is the objective of your blog to build a platform? Meet new people? Make money? Entertain? Educate? The clearer you are, the fewer detours you'll encounter on the road to success.

3. Provide take-away value.
Much like many of today's restaurants offer "value-added" menu selections to customers, today's readers are "hungry" for information and inspiration that can make a positive difference in their lives.
Show appreciation for their time and readership through quality content and valuable resources.

4. Don't forget the importance of humor.
When appropriate and applicable, tickle your readers' funny bone. That's right. Pastor Joel Osteen does each Sunday on his weekly TV sermons. I find it rather refreshing.

5. Keep your site updated regularly.
Blogging is hard work. You'll get no arguments here. Still, that doesn't mean you should "check out"  when things get busy or rough. Take breaks, as your situation dictates, but don't take an extended leave of absence without notification to your followers. You'll lose momentum, credibility, and likely lose loyal readers as well.

6. Add value to the blogging community.
Support others. Share links. Tweet to your peeps. Comment on other sites. Conduct interviews on successful authors.
Just like other areas in life, it creates good karma. And who couldn't use more of that?

7. Maintain a good "sharing" balance.
I hate to say it, but some folks share waaaayyyy too much with readers. Of course, it's definitely a personal decision. But keep in mind that you never know who might be reading your site. It could be a potential client, your in-laws, your boss, or members of your church congregation. For this reason, "full-disclosure" is not always wise ( or recommended). Don't get me wrong: you certainly should share some personal info on the individual behind the words. This might include your hobbies, talents, dreams, recipes and favorite things. It helps to personalize your blog and builds bonds based upon commonalities.

8. Brand your blog, baby.
Make it memorable. Make it personal. Branding is to bloggers what TV commercials are to businesses. Have a clever tag line. Create a logo that is associated with your spot and adds to the visual appeal. Write in your own style. Keep 'em coming back for more.

9. Guest post.
Not only does it help to establish your expertise and cultivate new readers, it's a way of "working smarter, not harder." And did I mention that it helps to foster relationships with editors and other bloggers? It's a real win/win.

10. Use quality images to enhance your writing.
This may seem elementary, but unfortunately it isn't. I can't count the number of times that I have come across sites that were fabulously written, with photos that were amateurish, or blurry, or cartoon-like in appearance. I'm no expert on this, but a picture is more than "worth a thousand words." It's part of your blog's online image. Act accordingly.

Well, there you have it folks, 10 tips to make the second half of the year better than the first.
I've shared. How about you?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

8 Regrets to Avoid in Self-publishing Your First Novel...

We all have regrets. They are inevitable in some form throughout life, but the ultimate goal is to restrict regret as much as possible, either through learning from our own mistakes or from the mistakes of others.

Are you with me here?

The process of self-publishing a novel is no exception. This task is a complicated one with a rather high learning curve. Unfortunately many authors become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work that goes into the management and promotion that follows the launch of their first self-published book. This can happen to the best of us. The skill set required to sell a lot of copies is different from the skill set needed to write a great novel.

Let’s go over some of the common regrets we in the publishing industry have heard from authors, so  you can circumvent the mistakes and save time, money and stress.

1. Don’t underestimate the importance of a great book cover. Perhaps no aspect of a book screams amateur more than a low quality book cover. Don’t even try to make your own cover. Research the vital components, hire a professional designer and provide your input. A good designer should work with you until you are satisfied with the outcome.

2. Learn the art of writing superb jacket copy. Those two paragraphs are so important to get right and because the jacket copy will also be used as a description in marketplaces, mastering this task can be a driving force to at least decent, if not great sales numbers.

3. Don’t fall for marketing scams. Once your email starts getting spread around amongst the business community you will undoubtedly begin receiving spam from unscrupulous individuals claiming to get your book on some bestseller list for only $3,000. Don’t buy it.

4. Proofread your book with redundant, OCD precision. After you proofread it, give it to someone you know, then an editor, then a professional proofreader, then a beta reader, then you check it two more times, etc. Simple mistakes have more impact on perceived quality than you might think and a couple mediocre reviews from people calling you out on this can certainly be a detriment to sales.

5. Diligently check references for any contractors you hire to work on any aspect of your book. I don’t know if there is an Angie’s List for author services but if not, there should be. Too many authors have been burned by shoddy services rendered.

6. Put a delay on launch advertising. It might be best to wait a few weeks after your book release before you splurge on advertising. This will give advance readers a chance to post their reviews and point out any mistakes your already "manic" proofreading overlooked.

7. Properly formatting an eBook is not as easy as it sounds. Let a pro handle it and be sure to preview the book on a variety of e-readers before posting the book for sale. Another great tip is to include a link at the end of the eBook where a reader can go to leave a review.

8. To print or not to print?  That is the question. Well, the answer is sort of both. Print, but don’t print too much up front. Print 25-100 copies to send out as advance reader copies or promotional giveaways. This is important because some reviewers will only read a print copy and fans will get more excited over receiving a print copy in the mail rather than a free eBook download. It also couldn’t hurt to have some copies to put in a few local bookstores. Just make sure the store has agreed to accept them before you have them printed. On the flip side you don’t want 1,000 copies getting moth eaten in a spare bedroom.

These timely tips are sure to help you avoid some costly setbacks and put your new book on the fast track to success, (if there is such a thing). Marketing a book is a skill that must be mastered just like any other. Don’t obsess too much over it and let it distract you from writing your next masterpiece.
Most authors don’t find REAL success until their second or third book anyway. Be content to let this first book be your crucible.

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?

James A. Rose is a writer for
InstantPublisher.com, a full-service self-publishing company with 100% of all work performed in-house. We have been helping authors realize their dreams for the past 14 years. Whether you're printing a novel, how-to book, manual, brochure or any type of book you can imagine, our step-by-step instructions make publishing your own book simple and easy.