"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Ask the Expert With Editor Brian Whiddon


 

Thank you for joining us today, Brian. We appreciate your time and expertise here at Pen and Prosper.
 
Thank you for having me!
Image credit: Writersweekly.com
Can you tell us a little about who you are and your background?

I am the Operations Manager for BookLocker.com as well as the Managing Editor for WritersWeekly.com - both owned and operated by Angela Hoy. I was born and raised in Florida, and still live here on my 36-foot sailboat. I served in the Army as a military policeman, and later went on to civilian law enforcement where I performed duties as a patrolman, a traffic homicide investigator, a field training officer, and a firearms instructor.
In 2008, I left law enforcement and started a small, local business but the 2009 economy caused me to lose too many of my clients. I then transitioned to the insurance industry, and worked my way up the ladder to management. I enjoyed it but the Tampa commute was brutal. During that period, I was doing some writing on the side. 
In 2015, I met Angela through a mutual friend. After a year of knowing me, and observing my work ethic, character, writing, and computer skills, she offered me a position with BookLocker.
 
As managing editor of Writers Weekly, how many submissions do you review monthly?

 

I receive, on average, 150 queries each month. We publish 52 freelance success stories and 52 feature articles each year.

Beyond the general guidelines provided at the site, what are you looking for? What increases a writer’s odds of acceptance?

Upon receiving a query, three things will immediately jump out at me:
1. Did the writer read our guidelines? Asking me “How do I write for your website?” tells me that the writer didn’t even bother to look around at the WritersWeekly.com home page. There is a “Write For Us” link right at the very top of every page on the site.
2. Did the writer actually read and follow the guidelines? In our guidelines, we spell out, very specifically, what kinds of articles we are looking for, and what types of articles we are NOT looking for. When someone sends me a pitch (or an entire article on-spec, which we do not accept), I know that they didn’t respect my time and their own reputation enough to take the five minutes to read and follow the guidelines.
3. Finally, can the writer spell, punctuate, and communicate properly in the English language? People would be amazed at how many queries we get that appear to be written by 6th graders. And when you take into account that WritersWeekly is a website about writing…
So, once I get a writer who can pass those three filters, I look to see if they are offering an article that is unique, and that shows writers and authors how to make more money writing and/or selling their books. In other words, is their article or success story something more focused and interesting than “How to become a freelance writer?” Can their experience or advice help someone else make money with the craft? And, would someone else be able to imitate the writer’s experience or advice, and achieve a similar outcome?

Describe a typical day.
I wake up about 5:30 each day, and head to the gym. Afterwards, I come home, make breakfast, and tidy up my boat. By about 8:00, I’m working on scheduling social media posts for BookLocker and WritersWeekly for the day. Afterward, my day basically follows the needs of the business. I try to follow a list of tasks and projects, but I never know when we’ll have an “author emergency,” a special project pop up, or a computer issue arise - just like my old office job!

Additionally, boat issues can spring up at any moment. Some boat issues have to be dealt with immediately, as you can imagine. The nice thing about BookLocker and WritersWeekly is that I can do the work whenever I like, as long as I meet my deadlines. So I can take breaks, or handle life’s little interruptions whenever I need to. I can even catch up on work stuff on nights when I can’t sleep.
Angela's boat is located on the same dock so I do some work in the "floating home office" (as she calls it) during the day as well, especially if we are working on a deadline, or if she's training me on a new task.

What would it surprise others to know about you?
When I was a police officer, I was a "whistleblower" after observing a specific incident. It was an extremely stressful period in my life but I knew I was doing the right thing. One thing led to another and I wouldn't be where I am today if I had not experienced that. I learned a lot during the process, which actually helps me today when writers report illegal activities in the industry to us.

What advice could you offer writers who are trying to transition from unrelated fields to shorten their learning curve and enhance their efforts?
I would advise writers to never consider their past lives/jobs as “unrelated.” The writing world is so vast, so limitless. SOMETHING you’ve done in your past can relate to something you’re writing about today. Sometimes, you have to reach a little bit. But I believe that you can always find a skill that you acquired in your past that can be applied with whatever you are tackling today.

New writers can also contact us with any questions. We are always happy to give advice on specific issues. And, those questions (always posted anonymously) occasionally end up in our "Ask the Expert" column. Our readers can relate to the issues being discussed, and appreciate the input their fellow writers provide.

Along these lines, what qualities or skill sets from your former line of work do you find to be the most helpful to your creative career?
Every job I’ve had gave me something that allowed me to open the next door in life. My military experience gave me a discipline that made me a very good and honest cop. What most cop shows don’t reveal is that about 80% of police work is writing (technical and other). My police career gave me professionalism that later impressed my clients and bosses in other jobs. All of these experiences built my communication skills, which helped me discuss clients’ needs, and make sales. And now, all of these things - the discipline, the writing, the professionalism, the communication skills - come into play as I help Angela run her business.

What about the adjustment of going from a very public career and working with people, to one of working independently, and sitting behind a computer all day? Many freelance writers who come from corporate America (for example) find it challenging or lonely. How about you?
When you work from home, you have to set time aside to get out from behind the computer, join the world, and socialize. I’m lucky in that, living on a boat, I live in a tight-knit neighborhood. It is rare that I step off my boat and don't run into a dock neighbor. Somebody is always out and about. Boat people become very close because we’re all cut from a similar spiritual fabric, and share many of the same challenges and risks. We are always happy to step in and help a neighbor in need. We cannot (and don't want to) ignore each other like people in cities and suburbs tend to do.
Image credit: Writersweekly.com
Last year, I was able to take a one-month cruise in my boat while working at the same time. I would sail to a location, anchor for a few days, work (using a wifi card), and then get back out on the water. All of Angela's employees are on flex-time, and work from home. It's very important to Angela that her employees are able to be with their families as much as possible. She only hires extremely disciplined professionals who LIKE to work. The rule is we can work whenever we want as long as we get our work done, and done well. I wouldn't trade the freedom I have now for those old freeway commuting days for anything.

How do you define success? Did changing careers change the way you view success?
 
I used to feel that success was directly connected to how much money and how many things a person has. Leaving law enforcement, and starting my own small business, gave me the freedom to find and rebuild the boat that I would later live on. Changing from a corporate job to my 100% online career with BookLocker and WritersWeekly allows me to enjoy my unique living arrangement even more. Now I see success as how much you get out of life, and how much you enjoy the life you’ve built for yourself.   I love that definition, Brian. I would agree here.

Anything exciting going on at Writers Weekly in the upcoming months that we should know about?
The WritersWeekly Winter 24-Hour Short Story Contest is coming up in January (https://24hourshortstorycontest.com/). That's always an exciting time. Right now, we're knee-deep in the busy season at BookLocker so it's hard to catch a breath. Everybody wants their book published by Christmas and, since we're the fastest in the industry (we can get a book to market within two weeks - and that includes formatting and cover design), last-minute authors are flocking to us. Things will slow down considerably the second week of December we'll all have a couple of weeks to rest before the New Year rush begins.

Anything else you’d like to share…?
There are a lot of naysayers in the industry that say making a living writing is not possible. It absolutely is! But, it takes discipline and hard work. I hear from writers who are just scraping but and I hear from writers who are supporting an entire family with their writing. At WritersWeekly, we are honored when our readers share these stories with us, and allow us to share their stories with others. When I hear from a writer who landed a new client through a listing on our website, or sold an article to a new market we've featured, that is absolutely the highlight of my day. And, we receive those awesome emails all the time!

Thanks, Brian. It's been a pleasure.
 
Thoughts, readers? Comments?
 




Image credits: Pixabay.com



4 comments:

  1. Thanks Jen and Brian. This post was informative and inspiring for writers at all stages.

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  2. Jennifer Brown BanksOctober 18, 2018 at 10:09 AM

    Thanks, Lin. I may be a bit biased here, but I would be inclined to agree. Lol

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  3. It's great to meet and learn more about you, Brian. I appreciate your insight and submission tips. Have been meaning to check out WW guidelines, so this is timely. Wishing you much success.

    Jen, thanks for hosting Brian this week. Appreciate all you do to keep us informed and sharp. Have a great weekend!

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  4. Thanks so kindly, Karen. I do it for readers like you.

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