"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 and other award-winning sites.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Work Less and Earn More in 2015! Here's How...

Thanks for joining me today at Pen and Prosper.
It's good to be back. So, let's get on track...

Whether you're new to the freelancing game, or you're a seasoned veteran, how you spend your time will greatly influence your quality of life and your bottom line as a writer.

Which is why working "smarter, not harder" should be your ultimate objective.

If your output exceeds your income, it's time for a a paradigm shift.
Instead of feeling "spent," you could be out spending. Hello?

With this is mind, here are some practices and principles for a bigger payday with less toil.  

1. Sell Reprints.
I've said it before, but it's worth repeating. Get more bang for your creative buck by selling your work to multiple markets. It's perfectly legal and ethical, as long as you retain the rights, and the publication allows for it. In my interview appearing in the 2014 and 2015 editions of Writer's Market, I share how I have actually earned more on reprints than on my original submissions. In fact, one market paid me $150.00 for an article that I was previously compensated $50.00 for. Not sure where to start? Google "Reprint markets" for a listing of potential places to submit.

2. Increase your existing rates.
This may seem simple to some, yet it's often overlooked by many. If I were to venture a guess, I'd say most of you are probably still charging the same rates for blog posts, articles, press releases, etc. that you were in 2012, 2013, 2014. True? Other "professionals" get a cost of living increase, why not writers?
Here's an interesting take on the topic provided by Men With Pens.

3. Contract out.
Remember that "Time is money."  Depending upon your skill set, hourly fee, and time constraints, sometimes it just makes more sense to have someone else to do  market research, administrative tasks, or search for images to accompany blog posts. Don't always try to do the "heavy lifting" alone.

4. Publish a book once. Earn royalties many times over (depending upon the contract and the method of publishing).

5. Consider adding "coaching" or phone consulting to your creative services.
Some seasoned scribes and successful authors charge $50.00-100.00 and up, just to provide answers to budding writers' questions, and to provide their expertise on the publishing industry. This type of offering is typically less time consuming and requires less mental wear and tear.  You can list this service on your site, or place an Ad on Craigslist.

6. Market less by taking out Ads on prominent sites.
It's all about strategy. One common practice for many authors, is to guest post in order to build their brand and sell their products. Which is effective, in some instances. But, it's important to recognize that not all blogs are created equally. In other words, unless the site is one that is well-regarded with an active community of supporters and buyers, your R.O.I. (return on investment) might not be worth it.
(Interested in an Ad here at Pen & Prosper?
Email me at: Gemsjen@yahoo.com to learn more.)

7. Establish a reputation for excellence.
The more you can make this happen, the more likely you're able to garner referrals, as opposed to pitching feverishly for new business. Word of mouth is still one of the best forms of advertising.

8. Choose the right clients.
Take it from me. When you are able to partner with the right people, it truly makes a big difference. The "right" client values your contributions, pays accordingly, and generally produces less stress.
Less stress leads to greater productivity and enhanced peace of mind.
And who couldn't use more of that? :-)

Follow these eight timely tips for a more profitable, progressive 2015.

Any strategy that resonates with you in particular?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wading Through the Storms of Life, to Write!

It's a mess in the Midwest.
And frankly, it's messing with my muse.
Over the last few weeks here, we've had to contend with floods, violent storms, tornado watches and rain as relentless as a telemarketer on commission.

Don't get me wrong; other areas have had it worse. And I thank God that my basement hasn't flooded and that my life hasn't been dismantled.

Still, stormy weather is a buzz-kill that saps my concentration and creativity. I'm not talking about the occasional rain, but the heavy stuff, day after day.
Or to put it another way, it "grounds" my get-up and-go!
Instead of being my typical energetic self, I feel like crawling under the covers and waiting it out.

And did I mention that I'm just days away from throwing my annual backyard barbeque and birthday party?
Unfortunately, it looks like down pour might be on the "menu."

But, recently, I had an epiphany. And I am in a better place, as a result of it. It dawned on me that the weather is like a metaphor for life. For our creative careers, even.
We must muddle through. Persevere. Learn to weather the storms.
Because rain often fosters growth--figuratively and literally. And there's no escaping it.
Wouldn't you agree?

So, here's what I've learned as I look forward to brighter days ahead...

1. Storms come in many forms.
We lose a major client. A computer with our important files gets infected with a virus. A loved one gets sick. Someone you love stops loving you. An editor sends a stinging rejection.  Have a pity party. Pray. Eat some chocolate. Have a glass of Vino. Then get back in the game. Write in your journal. Write a letter to a far-away friend. Do a little at a time. Take baby steps. In the words of Annie, "The sun will come out tomorrow."

2. Look on the bright side.
Things could almost always be worse. Are you healthy? Have a roof over your head? Food on the table? Clothes on your back? Then you're batting a thousand, my friend.

3. Bask in the "warmth" of cherished friends and nurturing relationships.
Good ones are like Vitamin C, bringing sunshine in our lives and contributing to our enhanced health.

4. Shift happens!
Recognize that there are some things of which we simply have no control. Whenever possible, go with the flow. It's better for your health.

5. Have a Plan "B".
Back up those important files. Create blog posts a few weeks in advance. Complete clients' assignments before deadline. Smart planning can sometimes minimize the "storm's" saturation.

Ill leave you with these thoughts, as I leave to take a brief break from Pen and Prosper, for some needed rest and rejuvenation.
Let's reconnect on or around July 1st. Shall we?
Feel free to leave comments and questions in the interim.
You know I love to hear from you. :-)

Wishing you love, laughter, and sunshine!



Friday, June 12, 2015

Motivational Quotes...Food for Thought

I love motivational quotes.
I like to think of them as "Cliff Notes" to better living.
They can inspire, entertain, educate and uplift, with a few carefully chosen words.

They can also be used to "spice up" your writing.
Use them as prompts to get those creative juices flowing, or as an intro to an essay or feature piece.

With this in mind, here are a few to move you forward as you move into another week.


"Poor companions are like the buttons on an elevator. They will either take you up or take you down."

"Handle them carefully, for words have more power than an atom bomb."

"When things go wrong, don't go wrong with them."

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."--Eleanor Roosevelt 

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."--Dr. Seuss

"Why fit in, when you were born to stand out."--Dr. Seuss

"God will sometimes shake you up to move you forward."--Jennifer Brown Banks

"There is no such thing as a self-made person."--J.Countryman

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose."--Dr. Seuss

"Whether you think you can or think you can't--you are right."--Henry Ford

"Being more is better than buying more."

"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body."--Richard Steele

Thoughts? What quote serves as your life's philosophy? 
Have any favorites?

Friday, June 5, 2015

5 Tips to Selling Your Works Without Working People's Nerves...

In order to build your platform and your bottom line as a writer, you'll need to "work it" more fiercely than a fashion model on a runway. Hello!
Let's face it: even if you have Pulitzer prize-winning potential, if people don't know about who you are, and your related products and services, you'll unfortunately be a "starving artist" in every sense of the word.

Oddly enough, for many scribes, (who are largely introverts by nature), selling doesn't always come easily. It can feel a little, well...sleazy. Or imposing. Or desperate.  Or like bragging.
True? I can dig it.
But, make no mistake about it. It's a necessary evil.

Even so, as with most things in life, there's a right and a wrong way to do it.
If properly executed, you can "win friends and influence people."
Blow it, and you're likely to piss people off, come across as desperate, or miss the opportunity to make real connections and cultivate a strong following and fan base.

With this in mind, here are 5 timely tips to optimize your efforts:

1. Pitch the right people.
Know your target audience. What are their needs? Their income level? Their challenges? Their spending habits? I can't count the number of times I've gotten random, ridiculous sales pitches for everything from Viagra to tanning lotion. Duh? "Houston we have a problem."
If you'd like for customers and clients to invest in "you" invest some effort in researching how to best serve them and give  them true value for their time and money.

2. Recognize that there's a fine line between being persistent and being a pest.
Here's a case in point. With the onset of spring, a popular yard maintenance service in my local area contacted me to offer their services, a few months ago. After carefully considering their offer, I politely declined.  A few weeks later the representative made a follow-up call. I declined again. A few weeks after, he actually came out to my house and left his business card in my door. Needless to say, he's really beginning to bug me. Know when to give people space.

3. Consider the proper timing.
Take some pointers from retail. They typically sell grills in summer, boots in winter, school supplies around August, etc.
For greater success, align your pitches, work, and services with the right editorial calendars, contest deadlines, and monthly awareness themes. For instance, you might want to market your new poetry book around April, which is National Poetry Month. Get the idea here?

4. Sweeten the deal.
In these uncertain economic times, everybody's looking for ways to do more with less, and get more bang for their buck. Accordingly, why not offer "Early Bird" discounts? Or establish a "Client's Appreciation Day." Or provide a "buy one, get one free" sale.  A little creativity can sometimes yield big rewards.  Give to get!

5. Establish a good ratio to ask:
In the book, "How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life,"
author Michael LeBoeuf, Ph.D. shares that "People love to buy, but hate to be sold."
So it's crucial to recognize the importance of the right approach. The moral of the story here?
Don't saturate your blog with pop-up ads, or send emails every week promoting the same products and services. This can feel a little intrusive. Instead, do it periodically-- say once every 2 or 3 months. Or one pitch per every ten blog posts. Or run different promotions at the same time, targeting different groups.

And last but not least... be supportive of others.
Successful relationships often enhance business sales.

Okay, folks, here's where I practice what I preach:

As a way of saying "thanks" to my readers and followers, I'm offering a 25% discount on 6 of my most popular services, for my six-year anniversary, here at Pen and Prosper.

They are as follows:
  • Blog Audits
  • Web content
  • Blogging
  • Editing
  • Editorial Calendars
  • Strategic Consulting
Use the promotional code: Pensix
Send all requests and price quotes to: Gemsjen@yahoo.com

This is a limited offer for the month of June.
For testimonials from satisfied customers, view the "Hire me" tab on this site.
If you like my Blog, you'll love my creative services.

Thanks for reading.

Comments? Questions?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Pen & Prosper Celebrates 6 Years of Helping Writers Earn more and Learn More!

Greetings, Pen and Prosper Peeps!
In the words of the Pointer Sisters, "I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it!"
June is here.
It's one of my favorite months of the year. The end of the school year, backyard barbeques, my birthday, and the anniversary of the inception of this blog. Need I say more?

Thanks so much for joining me here today. And more importantly, for your faithful readership and support over the years; it means more than I can convey.
I'd also like to send a "shout out" to my new friends and followers. Welcome, welcome!

Please feel free to introduce yourself, post a comment, or ask a question. We're a fun bunch here, and I enjoy the interaction, as well as the mutual opportunities to know more and grow more.

In honor of my 6th year, I thought it would be cool to share six trivia facts about Pen and Prosper and its founder. Game?

1. My original major in college was Psychology. I have always been fascinated by people's behavior.

2. I am a big "foodie."  I love to cook, eat and entertain friends.

3. Beethoven moves me to tears.

4. I have authored and published more than 700 articles and essays professionally, and have ghostwritten books for others.

5. Pen and Prosper is my 3rd attempt at launching a successful Blog.  

6. I have a fear of flying and have never been on a plane.

And here's an extra one, for good measure...

My celebrity crushes are Bad Boy Rapper 50 Cent, Keanu Reeves, and Michael Strahan.

Any surprises?

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead.

"You are the wind beneath my wings." :-)



P.S. Feel free to share a comment or an interesting trivia fact about you and your Blog.
Go ahead. You know you wanna'. :-)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Should Writers Write the Way They Speak...?

As chance would have it, (or maybe serendipity), I ran into a young lady some time ago, at a creative function, who was an aspiring author. We hit it off right away.
In the hopes that we might collaborate on future creative projects, we exchanged information.
Excited to learn more about her background and her future events, I looked up her site to check her out, days later. What I found was impressive.

She was obviously educated, accomplished, talented, and eager to build a platform and make a difference. There was just one problem.

Her "About Me" page came across more like she was applying for a prestigious position, as opposed to connecting with readers and having an online "conversation."
She used lofty, 100 dollar words, when $5.00 words would have sufficed.

Don't get me wrong; I do believe that the words she chose to express herself on her profile were no doubt a part of her everyday vocabulary, given her credentials. Yet the language was cold and impersonal.
Not at all like the friendly and engaging woman I encountered upon meeting her.

But, it's a mistake that many bloggers and aspiring authors make.
Which begs the question...
Should you write the way you speak?
The answer is yes. And no.

Allow me to elaborate here...

In my professional capacity, I have had the opportunity to pen pieces for an array of different publications and projects. From academic articles, to blog posts, to columns and social commentary, to reviews.
My language, tone, and approach are dictated by related factors. As should yours.
Accordingly, here are some things you'll need to consider in deciding how to best use your "writer's voice":

  •   Informal or formal project?
When I sit down to craft my blog posts, I typically write very informally. I want folks to feel as if they're sitting in the same room with me, perhaps over a cup of tea or a glass of Merlot. With this being the case, I write as the mood hits me, or as the creative process leads me. You'll read everything from fragments, to Ebonics, to Pig Latin, to a little Spanish, to the King's English. And I will, from time to time, end a sentence with a preposition, thank you very much. :-)
Word up!  But, when I'm writing for a corporate client or an article for academia, I am more "poised" and conventional in what I present. You should be too.

  • Who is your audience?  
Are you writing a book for kids? A blog post for other writers? An instructional guide for employees? A speech to be delivered at a graduation? It's all relative. That's why knowing your audience is one of the cardinal rules of writing. The more you know about who your audience is comprised of, the greater the chance of tailoring your words to that readership and resonating with them.

  • What is your purpose?
Is it to entertain? To rant? To educate? To raise awareness of an important cause? Your purpose will ultimately determine your word choices, the type of information you share, your level of "intimacy" with readers, and the delivery.

  • What's your communication style?
Some folks are naturally inclined to be funny, while others may come across as more serious and low-keyed. By all means, when the situation dictates, "do you!" Speak naturally.
A case in point would be Dr. Phil. I love his colorful expressions: "That dog ain't gon hunt." And his frequent use of the words "y'all" and "ole boy." He comes off as someone who knows his stuff without being "stuffy."
I find that in a world with far too many imposters and fakes, being authentic has real value. Just make sure it's appropriate and applicable. Meaning, just because you may use four-letter words around friends, doesn't mean that you should adopt this philosophy for your blog. Keep it real, but be realistic.

Your turn.
What's your take on this topic, so to

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"Class Clown" Graduates to Successful Comedy Writer

Remember back in school when "class clowns" were frowned down upon?
Teachers would warn you, (if you were one of them), that you were headed for a life of trouble and limited career options? Well, it turns out...not always. Not for everyone.

Meet Jonathan Savitt. A comedy writer and entrepreneur who seems to be "laughing his way to the bank" these days. Read on to discover more about his unconventional path, and how you can infuse your writing with more humor.  This piece has been a while in the making, so without further ado... 

Q.  Can you tell us a little about who you are and your writing background?

Absolutely. I’m a recent graduate so I feel I’m at the perfect age where I’m young enough to be doing what makes me happy without a stigma attached, but old enough where I can legally drink. So, yeah, life is good. Beyond that, I think my writing background really is who I am. It’s really what I focus most of my time into because it’s my passion - It makes me happy. I actually didn’t develop an interest for writing until I was about twenty, so a couple years ago in college.
It started from short one-liners on Twitter, once people started to positively respond and I started to gain a following I thought, “Hmm, maybe I can do more with this.” From there, it was pretty discouraging. I faced a lot of rejection because I didn’t have a portfolio or really any notable experience. I really had to reflect on how I was unique and how I was going to provide value for audiences. Once I started to further understand my tone and style I was ale to get my first piece published in“College Humor.” From there I did more consistent writing for some other larger publications and started to get paid for my work – that was a cool concept, getting paid for having fun, essentially – but money has never been a motivator for my writing.
My first big “break” I like to say was last year when I was brought on as a writer for MTV News in New York (where I currently contribute). Many more people were reading my articles and I was able to show my personality more. From there opportunities like Thought Catalog, Huffington Post, and some other projects presented themselves – it’s almost like a snowball effect.
Q. In this day and age of "political correctness" and protocol, how do you maintain that delicate balance of making people laugh without offending anyone? Or is it even a consideration in your comedic approach?
Yeah, I think it’s definitely in my mind. With the prominence of social media these days, you really have to expect that there will be comments about whatever or whoever you are writing about. I assume anything I write is permanent. I mean, look at what happened to Trevor Noah with his Twitter account when he was named Jon Stewart’s replacement.
That being said, I think a delicate balance, as you put it, is the perfect mindset. A big part of my humor is touching on societal issues and current events, so it’s important to me to talk about, what I believe, is the truth and bring these concepts to light for others – to make them aware of all that is going on, though not intentionally in an offensive way. Instead, in a way that initially makes them laugh, and then think and reflect. I’m not the type of writer or comic that is going to go out of my way to offend people, that’s not my style (though I definitely have). However, on the other hand I think being blind to situations that are so present in our lives is just as bad, so the answer isn't to just avoid certain topics. It’s all about balance.
Q. What advice would you give to other writers who would like to infuse humor in their blogs or other creative projects?
I am a huge advocate of humor. I think it’s just such a humanizing aspect in so many ways and can go a long way in creating a connection with your audience. But my advice would be don’t force it. I think the more important lesson is play to your strengths. If you’re funny then humor can go a long way, but there are also a ton of other writers out there who do things that I could never do and who have a style that wouldn't work for me. When I write I try to transfer my personality onto paper. Almost like I’m having a conversation rather than giving a lecture.
I try to be real – I think that’s the takeaway.

Q. If you had to compare your life to a popular sitcom or TV character, what or who would it be?
I love this question. It’s tough. This question is the most stressful part of my week. I watch a lot of Netflix. I might be a Ted Mosby type from “How I Met Your Mother?” Ya know, I tend to take risks and put myself in uncomfortable situations. Sometimes this results in some awkwardness, but I love that. I never like to be too comfortable. I’m also single, so there’s that (wink wink). I was a big fan of“How I Met Your Mother,” for a while (until I wasn’t) and I just view Ted as a nice, down-to-earth, funny guy who isn’t afraid to take risks even if they result in failure. OK, I have a little Barney Stinson in my personality, too.

Q. How would you complete the following sentence: Success is------?
Controlled discomfort. For sure. Looking back, almost every moment in my life that I have been proud of has stemmed from feeling some sort of discomfort – though in a way that makes me grow as a person. And these times spent out of my comfort zone have led to happiness, which is the ultimate goal, right? Now, what happiness means to various people, that’s a completely different story. Happiness can be measured by money, or profession, one’s family, or how many Oreos you can eat in one sitting (17). I’m not here to argue your definition of success or happiness, however, I do believe that taking a trip outside your comfort zone often results in both.

Thanks, Jon. It's been a pleasure having you with us here at Pen and Prosper.

Jon Savitt is a comedian and writer who has work featured on popular sites such as: Huffington Post, MTV, Thought Catalog, College Humor, and Buzz Feed.
Connect on Twitter@SavittJ