How I’m Making Money On UpWork As A Freelance Writer

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At the end of July of 2017 I began looking at new ways to make some money. I love to write and ultimately want to publish some books. I began to wonder if I shouldn’t try to get some freelance writing jobs. About that time, my cousin suggested a site called UpWork. For those of you not familiar with UpWork, it was created after the merger of two other freelance connection sites – Elance and oDesk. UpWork, like its predecessors, works to link together clients with freelancers. The catch – they take a whole 20% of the total billed amount. Yes, this is a large percentage. That is the biggest downside to UpWork.

Let me give you a little background on my experience with the site as of right now.

Opening an Account

I was confused as all get out at first. I have never been a freelancer and I had no idea what to do on the site. Here are some steps you need to make BEFORE you start to submit proposals for jobs. Take a look at my profile here before you read on so you at least have a visual understanding of what I am talking about.

  • Ensure you complete your profile – There will be a meter telling you how much of your profile is complete. No client will bother with any freelancer who does not have a complete profile.
  • Photograph – You need to find a professional looking photo, preferably of you in business attire. You need to look friendly in the photo, as studies have shown that a simple smile can get you more jobs. I don’t know what program UpWork uses to ensure profile photos are good ones, but it is hard to get one approved (at least it was for me).
  • Profile Information – Go browse successful freelancers on UpWork and see what they put in their profile. Try to make yours look like theirs, just with your information. You need a good and to the point section to tell clients about you. I have changed mine regularly as I learn better ways to describe myself and my skills. You will have sections for your education, certifications, work history, and other experiences. Fill it out as much as you can but DO NOT LIE. If you lie and get caught up with work you can’t handle, it will be evident pretty quickly.
  • Payment Verified – When you browse UpWork clients and freelances, you will see a little mark signaling whether or not payment for that user has been verified. This is very important, as most people simply do not bother dealing with anyone unless they see the payment is verified. I don’t even look at clients who can’t verify how they will pay me and I don’t expect them to deal with me if I don’t verify mine. This is just another way to signal you are a real and serious freelancer.
  • Tests – UpWork offers hundreds of tests for you to prove your skills. These range from language skills, management skills, to programming skills. Take the ones that are relevant to the field you will be in. If you do well, they will say you scored in the top 10% or something similar and note that in your profile. You don’t have to have these tests visible on your profile if you don’t want, so don’t worry about taking one and failing it. Just know that you have to wait 3 months before you can take the same tests again. Why are the tests important? To show clients you really do know your stuff.
  • Portfolio – If you have some good samples of your work, you need to put them in your portfolio for clients to see. I lost my jump drive with all my old work, so I had to piecemeal mine together.

Feedback

You won’t have any feedback when you start, which is the hardest thing to deal with. The main thing clients look at is a freelancer’s feedback history, just as it is the main thing you need to look at before deciding whether or not to work for a client. Since you have no feedback, the first job will be the hardest. How do you get feedback? Get some jobs and knock them out of the park like I did.

Submitting Proposals

Now what? It is time to browse and start submitting proposals. Search for jobs in your desired field. One trick I quickly learned – when searching, take OFF the filter that shows you jobs only in the US. All of the jobs I have gotten so far have come from overseas. As soon as you take the filter off, the number of available jobs usually triples.

You are given 60 CONNECTS each month with the basic free account. This will allow you to apply for 30 jobs, as each job usually requires 2 connects to apply. Once you use your connects, you can’t apply for any more jobs until your connects refresh the next month. I ran out the first month, but have learned to pace them. DO use them all, as they do not carry over.

When you find a job you might be interested in, just know that there is an art to submitting proposals. Remember this – there are foreigners who apply to every single job that pops up and they all use the same generic proposal cover letter.

  • Submit to each one with a new cover letter, not just a copy and paste generic letter. You need to show the client that you really read their job description (some have ways to verify this anyway). Here is a typical letter that I write (of course, I tailor it to each posting).

Hello,

I am writing to you about your need for someone to write some articles for you. I have attached my resume so you can view my education and experience. I am a native English speaker. I have a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in teaching. I worked as a research assistant in graduate school and then taught high school.

I see you need articles for a political website. May I ask what the majority of the articles need to be about? Is there are certain political party your site caters to?

While I am new to UpWork, I am certainly not new to the professional realm.

You can see some of my work in the portfolio section of my profile. If you have any questions about my qualifications, please feel free so ask me. I hope you find the right person for your job.

Take Care

 

There are a few things to this. I offer my resume because it says more than I need to say in a cover letter and I am lucky to have an extensive one with great experience. I also offer the resume because I am still new on UpWork without a whole lot of feedback.

It is important to mention that you are a native English speaker. Most clients are looking for this, not a foreigner who says they know English. I have nothing against them, but their English skills will never quite grasp the language’s nuances needed for some jobs.

Notice how I mentioned specific things from the job posting and then I asked questions. It shows that I read their post and am interested, but not overly interested. Remember, you want jobs that are good fits for you and the clients, so don’t beg.

How Has It Worked For Me?

On August 1st I got my first UpWork job. This was writing five articles about the United Nations for a Model UN website. It was for $50, of which I would receive $40. The articles needed to be about 1000 words each. I got lucky – I’ve created Model UN teams as two high schools. I nailed the articles well ahead of the deadline and submitted them. The client loved them and immediately offered more.

THE BEST WAY TO MAKE MONEY ON UPWORK IS TO MAKE THE CLIENTS HAPPY SO THEY KEEP YOU ON CONTRACT.

Every client I’ve had so far has used me again immediately after I submitted the first job. Good, fast work leads to recurring clients.

On August 7th I got an entirely different job with an advertising firm. I was to take 60 sentences and rewrite each one three times without changing the meaning – $40 charge. They would then choose the one that works the best for ads. Well, this is nothing like anything I’ve ever done, but I wanted to try. I love writing and I’m good with words. Turns out, I did it in a few hours. I made about $20 an hour with this job. When I turned it in the client was so impressed that they immediately gave me another set. They also left great feedback.

On September 4th I saw a job that involved taking photographs of certain rooms in a house, giving the photo a title, and writing a one sentence description about them. The job offered $20 for 100 descriptions. I bid on it, but I didn’t bid at $20. I bid at $25. Why? Because I know my value and that is what I would do it for. I was actually surprised when the client contacted me the next morning, asked for a few samples, and hired me at the higher price. I finished the job in two days and they offered unlimited work for me. Another recurring client.

So, that is my experience so far. I am certainly not making mega dollars, but I am able to do this work from anywhere with an internet connection. As my feedback increases, I expect to get better work. I have upped my hourly charge once and will do so again once I get a few more jobs under my belt. I always look at profiles of successful freelancer on UpWork to see if I can make my profile better.

I will continue to update this post about once a month. I will let you know whether or not this is something I will stick with. Only time will tell. Again, take a look at my page for some ideas of how to set yours up.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or contact me through email or social media.

 

 

 

 

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Since I Started High School

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I’m starting a post about the state of the US when I started high school. I hope others will write their own. I’ve found it interesting to look back and see what was going on when I started high school. It’s amazing how much I didn’t know about the world then, so going back and looking at all the news highlights, knowing what I know now, is a journey. I didn’t actually intend on this being anything but a fun post, but reality set in as I started to write.

I started high school in the year 2000. Bill Clinton was president, but as we all know, it was an election year. THE election year. Bush versus Gore. The outcome would shape everything I’ve known since.

When I started high school:

  • Y2K turned out to be just a big party
  • The US had a $232 billion SURPLUS not a deficit
  • Gas was $1.26 per gallon
  • Unemployment was at 3.8% (an absurdly low rate)
  • The Yankees won the World Series, the Rams won the Superbowl
  • Survivor was the number one show (can’t believe that show is still around)
  • Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Eminem, blah, blah, blah

We should have known things were brewing. In 2000:

  • The Pyrenean Ibex went extinct
  • The Dot-Com bubble burst
  • Vladimir Putin was elected president of Russia (I mean, damn, he’s still there)
  • I’m sure I was wearing ridiculous clothing held over from the 90’s

I started high school before the Supreme Court put George Bush in office, changing the next few decades of military and political roles and influence. It was before 9/11, an event that taught Americans that our isolation can be violated. It reopened the wounds of those who lived through Pearl Harbor and taught a new generation that the days of our invulnerability were gone. For a moment in time, though, it united the country as we tried to heal.

When I started high school, I thought the idea of war was cool (having not learned what war really was). The invasion of Iraq had my full support. I didn’t understand then, when I started high school, that my country was capable of mistakes.

We started the year 2000 with hope. Hope for our booming economy. Hope for global partnership. We were boosted up for a new millennium, so full of energy that anything seemed possible. If the year 2000 taught us anything, it’s that things can change.

Since the year I started high school, things have changed. The victor of the 2000 election was handed one of the worst situations our country has ever faced, and he handled it well…at first. He attacked those we thought were responsible, then abused our blank check to start a war with someone else.

In 2000, our economy was so good that we couldn’t know that a combination of 90’s mortgage policies and labor union exploitation would set off a major economic disaster. We couldn’t know that our hopes would be dashed by 2007, but renewed in 2008 when we thought racism was on its way to defeat. Our first black president would bring us together, or so we thought.

Since 2000, a hurricane in one of our oldest cities taught us that underlying racial tensions can lead to delayed assistance for those who need it the most. Since then, race has taken center stage. Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott. Ferguson and Baltimore. In my home state, a sick and deranged young man murdered nine African Americans in Charleston. In a church. I wish he was alone in his thinking, but after what we all just saw in Charlottesville, Virginia, we know better.

Black Lives Matter was born because of much of this, though we should have never gotten to a place where we had to be reminded that anyone’s lives matter. How is it that we don’t know, don’t realize, that every single life should matter?

Just a thought, but most of that happened under a black president.

How could we know, in 2000, that a real estate businessman, a reality TV joke, would become president of our country. We should have known. We would have known, if we had been careful in monitoring just how much certain groups in this country were looking for an answer to the hate they had been building. We’d have seen those who were just waiting to hear their dreams spoken by a demagogue who could disguise their ideals inside the guise of patriotic nationalism. Too bad we never paid attention to 1930s German history.

Yes, we’ve had trouble since 2000.

And damn, here’s what’s happening now:

But we’re not going to give up. I didn’t know about these issues when I started high school, but now I do. I know how to write, so I’ll figure it out that way. I would never have come out back then, but now I have. We’ll make it through this okay. Just hold on tight, it’s going to be a wild ride.

Need Your Thoughts! Chapter One of First Draft

Hey all! This is the first draft of chapter one of the new book I’m working on. The book is called “Southern Defiance” and will revolve around growing up on a Southern plantation  in Charleston shortly before the Civil War. It will focus on the plantation owner’s son and his best friend, who happens to be a slave on the plantation.

I’d love to know if you would be interested after reading the first chapter. I have NOT edited, so you can ignore any errors. Thanks all!

Chapter 1, Draft 1 – Southern Defiance

1926

Arnie Jackson certainly had to give it to the man in front of him. Ninety years old and still moving around like a man of seventy. Of course, when you manage to amass a fortune like Joel Canton’s, life tended be a bit easier. Arnie attempted to help the old man sit in his chair, but there was no need. Mr. Canton handled it just fine. It was hot out, as Charleston usually was in July, but Canton didn’t seem to notice. He just sipped his tea and watched the people on the street walk by, as he had been doing for decades.

Arnie, on the other hand, was not from the South. He was from New York and wasn’t very happy about being sent to South Carolina for this assignment, but his editor wanted him.

“You’re the only one he’ll talk to,” his boss told him.

“And why is that?” Arnie replied. There was nothing special about him, save that he liked cats. No man he knew actually liked cats. No man he knew who would admit it anyway.

Seeing the puzzled look on his face, his editor elaborated. “Bring Rayne.”

Rayne was Arnie’s longtime girlfriend. They had met at a rather progressive bar nine years before. They hit it off so well the first night that there was no courtship needed. Arnie brought her back to his apartment that night and, despite his underperforming that first time, she stayed with him. Her fidelity had been unwavering for all those years, as had his. Yet despite his multiple attempts to get Rayne to marry him, she always said no. She said there was no way it could work. You see, Rayne Adams was black.

So he brought Rayne with him. Brought her to the South, in the early 1900’s, to the state that fired the first shots, the state that first succeeded. He brought his black girlfriend to South Carolina. All so that Joel Canton would talk to him. The funny thing was that it worked.

“Mr. Jackson,” said Mr. Canton.

“Please,” Arnie stopped him, “I insist you call me Arnie.”

“Very well,” Mr. Canton replied, “but you’ll gave to call me Joel then.”

“Alright, Joel,” said Arnie. “I’d like to start with your background. You’re from Charleston, correct?”

“Oh yes,” Joel said with the wave of a hand, gesturing to some unknown place down the road. “I grew up on the Canton Plantation about five miles down the road there.”

“It was an indigo plantation, was it not?”

“It was,” relied Joel. “It was either that or rice in this climate. Father placed his bet on the wealthy wanting color in their fabrics. He made the right bet.”

“Mr. Canton,” said Arnie, “you are one of the wealthiest men in America. How did you get from Charleston, South Carolina, to the inner circles of power in the country?”

Joel Canton set his tea down and stood. He looked down at the street then walked back into the house. Arnie wondered if he had said something to upset the old man, but he heard him coming back a few seconds later. When he returned he had a bottle of what looked like whisky in his hand. He tipped a generous amount into his tea and then into Arnie’s. Joel sat back down and took a long sip. Staring down the road, towards where he said the plantation was, he shook his head.

“I reckon it’s time for a few stories to be told,” he said. “Some confessions to be made.”

Arnie got out his pen and pad. He had known Joel Canton for only a few days, but this was the first time he had seen him become so serious. Usually he was lighthearted, always armed with a joke. He flirted shamelessly with Rayne on their first night there, but Arnie didn’t mind. He was just happy Mr. Canton was happy. Now, though, he could see the mood shifting.

“Confessions?” Arnie asked.

“My memory is pretty good and I very much hate lying,” Joel said. “This story starts in 1855. And 1836. Well, I guess in 1861 as well. You’re going to have to bear with me here.

And so began the most incredible story. A story so remarkable that if Arnie hadn’t seen the proof and the sheer look of truth in the old man’s eyes, he would never have believed it. The story that Mr. Joel Canton told to Arnie Jackson and Rayne Adams over the next few weeks would astound them. By the time the tale was over, Arnie knew he wouldn’t be working for the paper much longer. No, he was going to write a book and make millions. Here, friends, is Arnie’s story about the life of Joel Canton.

Reading Across the Genres

I think we all know how important reading is for our writing. I am willing to say that there is no way you will ever become a successful writer if you aren’t also an avid reader. What I want to open is a discussion on is the importance of reading multiple genres.

I had a hard enough time switching my writing style from technical academic research writing to fiction. Dialogue was an absolute pain for me to get down. The only writing I had done up to four years ago was purely for my college and research career. I wasn’t aided by the fact that science fiction was my only reading genre. I used to read only science fiction. Seriously, that was it.

As I mentioned a few blog posts ago, I have been gone for a while. I’ve been doing a ton of research and have outlined approximately four books that I am beginning to work on. During my time away, something magical happened. I began to read everything.

Genres

Over the last four years I have read everything except science fiction. Don’t get me wrong, sci-fi is my first love, but I am now in an open relationship with many other genres (to the complete dismay of sci-fi). I have read romance, fantasy, horror, suspense thrillers, LGBT, and young adult books across the spectrum. I have read books from the most basic, easy to read, to challenging brain-burners. From 200 pages to 1400.

I can absolutely guarantee that my writing has improved five-fold since then and it has everything to do with my new reading experiences. I have gone back and looked at some of the stuff I was writing four and five years ago. While it wasn’t horrible, it is nowhere near what I am producing now. Thanks to these last few years of massive reading consumption, over 250 books, I have been introduced to new worlds, new words, and new wisdom.

We all get stuck reading certain types of books. We have our favorites. We know what mine was. Your favorite might be everything Charlaine Harris and all things supernatural. Maybe you love Danielle Steel. Stephen King versus Dean Coontz. It is okay to have a favorite, but it’s time to challenge yourself to try something new.

I haven’t even discussed those who think reading fiction is a waste of time. These types stick to non-fiction books such as histories and biographies. This is a complete disservice to your brain. Non-fiction is essential as well, but it won’t stretch your creativity as much as fiction.

As writers, we have to do everything we can to improve our skills. Reading is the absolute best way to expand our vocabulary. Reading across genres helps us evaluate the styles used and take what works for us. How can you write a love scene for your kickass bank thief if you’ve never read a proper romance novel? If you intend to target and conquer the huge and ever expanding young adult market, you’ll never do so if you aren’t well read in the YA genres. They have their own style and pace.

If you already read across genres, help me out. Has it helped your writing? Leave me some comments. If you don’t yet read multiple genres, tell me what’s holding you back.

ALSO – tell me what your favorite genre is! We all have one, so let’s admit it. Like I said, I fall back on science fiction when I need some comfort.

I challenge you to go out today and buy a book that you know you wouldn’t normally buy. Give it a chance. Write a review for it. You might find you enjoyed getting out of your comfort zone.

Types Of Bad Book Reviews And What To Do About Them

 

picard_ashamed Picard got a bad review on a Captain’s log entry

We’ve all chimed in on this topic and there are differing opinions on how to handle it when it happens. What do you do about bad reviews? This is a tough question to answer. In fact, it doesn’t have one answer. It depends on the situation. Unfortunately, receiving a bad review sets off a chain of emotional responses that don’t lead to clear thinking. Especially for self-published authors, because they rely so heavily on reviews and having just one negative one can hurt sales in the beginning of a book’s life. Let’s start by exploring the types of bad reviews and how I would respond to them.

The I bought the book by accident – Yes, people leave bad reviews for books if they bought it and didn’t mean to. They probably don’t think about the consequence of their review.

How to respond – Leave a reply offering to refund their money.

The it’s not my genre – These people bought the book, apparently not reading the description. Not sure how it happens, but they still leave the one star review.

How to respond – I would be tempted to ask why they bought it in the first place, but I would hold back. I’m not going to offer to refund this person. Tough break on the review.

The grammar and spelling complainer – Let’s face it, there will be errors in our work and someone will find them. Some of the people that find the errors will let you know about it, though they may sprinkle it in at the end of a decent review of the overall book.

How to respond – Thank them for pointing out the error (chances are we already knew about it) and let them know you have corrected it. Don’t offer money back on this one.

The this story doesn’t make sense or the flow is off – This type of review is probably legit. Sometimes the organization of our books makes sense to us, but not to the readers. If one notices, chances are that others have as well.

How to respond – I would thank them for reading and letting me know about their concerns. That’s it. At this point, there’s nothing we can do about this type of complaint.

The dreaded, this is a self-published author and it shows – Some people just do NOT like self-published authors, so whether the work is good or not, they will find a way to point out you are self-published. They may be right. Certainly there is less professionalism overall in the indie scene. Face it, teenagers going through love spells can publish a book. They may also be wrong and chose to leave a bad review simply because it’s self-published.

How to respond – Thank them for reading and let them know you are working to improve your work daily. They’ll feel like they did a good thing and you come off as a decent person. 

The I know this author and they are horrible review – Ever pissed someone off in your lifetime? Will anyone be envious of the fact that there’s a book out there with your name on it? They might very well leave a bad review just to get back at you. If they drop to the level of actually slandering you personally, it really hurts.

How to handle it – Don’t respond, especially if you know or suspect it’s from someone you know. They will make you eat any response you leave, even if you respond positively. They may even hunt out other places to slander your book if they know they got your attention. If I see a review like this for a book I’m scouting, I always find the author more dignified for not responding.

*One caveat – If the reviewer says something like, “This author hits puppies,” and the review gains traction or gets a response from other people thinking about buying your book, you should probably respond. Do it calmly and politely, explaining the situation. Address it once on the review site and then maybe on your social networks. That’s all you can do. Unless you really hit puppies. Then I hope you lose your house.

The this book sucked review – This person hated the book from top to bottom and it’s clear from the review that nothing will change their mind. Maybe the content sparked their little fingers to chop your book, maybe it was the fact that they didn’t like your name. You may never know.

How to handle it – I think this one should be left alone. It’s not your fault they didn’t like it, so don’t offer them their money back. Responding to a review like this would likely provoke another response from the reviewer that will make you look dumb. It’s like when I was teaching – as soon as I engaged a student in an argument, I lost no matter what the outcome was.

No matter what, if we see a bad review pop up, we’re going to hate it. We spend so much time getting our books ready to publish and are so proud when it finally hits the shelves (digital or otherwise) that hearing someone didn’t like it hits us in the gut. We get attached to our characters, so an attack on them it like an attack on our siblings. Heck, I recently got slammed on Reddit for my ideas about women writing science fiction. What I thought was a completely thoughtful blog post actually pissed some people off. That bothered me! I want everyone to love what I write, but I do admit that we can learn from bad review, especially constructive ones. It just sucks to get the bad review.

Bad reviews will happen and often we had nothing to do with the reasons. Many times the people leaving the bad reviews simply don’t think about the damage they could be doing. We have to live with it. Ultimately it is up to you to formulate your response plan, but be careful and think first. Let the review sit in your mind overnight before you choose to respond or not. No matter what, we should always work to improve our work. Also, as indies, we always need to help out our fellow self-pubbers

Have you gotten bad reviews? How did you handle them?

 

 

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Your Indie Author Mission Statement

Being a self-published author, or indie author, does not simply mean that you write books and hit the publish button. Without the power of a publisher behind them, indie authors are forced to become much more than just writers. They have to become business men and women. They need to have great communications and marketing skills and they have to be relentless in their quest to get their books seen.

Indie authors have to do it all. There is no outside help. Sure they can, and should, hire an editor, but that comes at their own expense. They have to develop, or at least hire someone to develop, a quality cover. Another expense that a traditional publisher would normally cover.

You know what it sounds like an indie author is? A business in itself. Yes, an indie author is a person, but that person is their own business. Does that make sense? Yes. Okay, so now what?

Indie authors have to treat every day like a business day. They need a plan and they need to stick with it if they want to be successful. They need goals and they have to keep producing. They need quality material that never wavers and they need to gain and keep their readers. Treating it like a business will ultimately lead to success. What constitutes success for an indie? I wrote about the differing meanings of success for indie authors. Success depends on the author. Ultimately, though, it means having your books read and making a little money for it. It’s a business. You know what all businesses have? A mission statement.

What is a mission statement?

Mission statements are used in many different fields. Business, education, law enforcement, and churches. They provide for their stakeholders, or many times shareholders, to see that the organization has a clear direction with goals and growth in mind. They provide the employees or members of the organization with a constant reminder of the reasons for what they are doing. They usually discuss the values of that organization and try to distinguish themselves from the competition. Here are some examples of mission statements from various fields:

McDonalds CorporationMcDonald’s brand mission is to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink. Our worldwide operations are aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win, which center on an exceptional customer experience – People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion. We are committed to continuously improving our operations and enhancing our customers’ experience.

Google Inc.Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Columbia University – Columbia University is one of the world’s most important centers of research and at the same time a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields. The University recognizes the importance of its location in New York City and seeks to link its research and teaching to the vast resources of a great metropolis. It seeks to attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions. It expects all areas of the university to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of its efforts to the world.

And here is one from a field more closely related to us…

Pelican Publishing CompanyPelican Publishing Company has been committed to publishing books of quality and permanence that enrich the lives of those who read them since 1926. With a backlist of more than 2,000 titles, Pelican produces art and architecture books, travel guides, holiday books, local and international cookbooks, motivational and inspirational works, business titles, children’s books, and a growing number of social commentary and history titles.

Even though those four mission statements come from different types of organizations, they all have common themes. They tell the stakeholders what they do and where they are going. Google is the exception. They followed their usual minimalist approach and stuck with a simple, yet powerful, sentence. It still tells you what they do and is probably more along the lines of what Sir Richard Branson would like to see from a mission statement.

Do you know any indie author with a mission statement? I don’t. That’s not to say there aren’t any with one, but I still haven’t seen them. As we strive to make self-published authors more respected, I think this could be a huge step in the right direction. We are all our own business, so we might all have different mission statements, but it will help. We will have something that tells people who we are, what we do, and where we are going. It will provide a promise to us and our readers. It will be a promise of quality and commitment. Does this mean that we can only focus on the indie scene? Heck no. Most of us have other jobs or are father and mothers. That still doesn’t change the value of having a mission statement.

Here’s my first draft:

Allen Watson is a self-published author dedicated to creating quality content for his readers. He has experience in politics, education, law enforcement, and emergency medicine and is an avid science fiction fan. He hopes to use his experiences and passions to write works that will engage a global audience and allow them to explore new worlds and ideas. Allen wants his work to inspire readers to become creators and allow their imaginations to run wild.

I’m going to print this out and tape it to my computer so I see it everyday. I’m going to put it on my blog under its own heading. I want people to take me seriously because I take my work seriously. I’ve written before about gaining respect from readers, and this is another way to do that. Professionalize yourself and it will transform to your work. If self-published authors work hard to ensure that they put forth nothing but quality work and they stick to a strong value system that their readers can appreciate, we will all be better off. At some point the people that refuse to read any self-published work will realize that they are really missing out on some good reading and the publishers will have to transform their methods even more than they already have. 

Don’t worry about making your mission statement perfect right away. Heck, I’ll probably change mine at some point. Just be sure to make one. Take a minute and do it now on a scratch piece of paper. You’ll discover something about yourself in the process.

mission-statement

Please share your mission statements in a comment!

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If You’re Truly A Writer

Then write.

 

Write because you have to,

And write because you want to.

 

Write because somebody told you you couldn’t,

And write because somebody told you to go for it.

 

Write because your heart it broken,

And write because it’s starting to heal.

 

Write because you love your life,

And write because your life exists.

 

Write because of the bumps in the road,

And write to soften their blow.

 

Write because you lost your temper,

And write because we have, too.

 

Write because you’re an accomplished individual,

And write because you’ve got more to give.

 

Write because a relative died,

And write because they would want you to.

 

Write because your child was born,

And write because they’ll need your sanity.

 

Write because you can’t express your emotions,

And write because your emotions can’t handle anymore.

 

Write because you’re hungry,

And write because the hungry need you.

 

Write because you’ve tasted your tears,

And write because those tears are temporary.

 

Write because you’re rich,

And write because your wealth doesn’t define you.

 

Write because you’re fighting with your best friend,

And write so you don’t say something you’ll regret.

 

Write because you’ve hit the bottom,

And write to build the steps back up.

 

Write because you have a story,

And damnit, write because your story matters.

 

Writers lead different lives than the rest. Their words often come out better when they aren’t spoken, and that’s okay. Writers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and genders. Every writer has a different reason for writing. They all have different inspirations. Their reason for writing doesn’t matter, and their reason might change. What’s important is that they keep writing no matter what the situation or challenge.

Can Women Write Science Fiction?

Uh oh. It makes me cringe to think of how many people that title just offended. Honestly, it was meant to get you in here. Yes, I’m still going to talk about women writers in science fiction, but in a completely respectful way. Some of what I discuss might make you mad, but trust me, it makes me mad as well. I’m going to talk about the male slanted bias in science fiction and I’m going to be completely honest about what my thoughts are about women writers in the genre.

Until I opened up Destiny Allison’s book Pipe Dream, the only female science fiction author I recall reading was a Star Wars book by Christie Golden and Suzanne Collins. Honestly, I’m not sure I would have gotten Golden’s book if it wasn’t the next in a series that I had already started or Hunger Games if it wasn’t so popular. Why? Well, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I have had an unknown bias towards reading male authors in the science fiction genre. I didn’t even know it. Seriously, it never dawned on me that I hadn’t read anything by female authors, but I obviously subconsciously avoided them.

It wasn’t until I was sitting with my good friend, Dr. David Powers, that I even mentioned it. We were going about our usual pre-Bible study routine (talking about science fiction, super heroes, and other things religion usually doesn’t like) and I asked him if he could recall having read a sci-fi book written by a female. He couldn’t. Following up with him for this blog post he said, “I have personally never read a single novel that I can recall by a female science fiction author, unless of course you count the Hunger Games trilogy as such.”

Dr. Powers went on to say that he doesn’t have a bias against female sci-fi authors, just that he hasn’t come across any or know of any. He truly wants to read some from them and is open to recommendations. Some of you might call Dr. Powers and I stupid. Some of you know how many great female sci-fi authors there are out there, but it really is saying something that Dr. Powers has missed out on them. He owns what is probably the largest comic book collection in the South East and is one of the biggest sci-fi nuts I know.

Let’s face it, the genre has a male slant, if for no other reason than the time period it became popular. Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas, though certainly not the first to come up with many of their ideas, were the first to bring it to the forefront of popular culture. When these came out, particularly Star Trek, women were just beginning to push into the work force and get away from their male created shackles. Thank goodness for the progressive movement. So, while both Roddenberry and Lucas both tried (come on, a black and female bridge officer in the 60’s?! Gene be crazy!) they were writing and producing in a male dominated world.

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Science fiction pretty much stayed the course as far as portrayals were concerned. Males dominated with the occasional powerful female showing up. Even then, the females eventually became sex focused. Seven-of-Nine, as bad ass as she was, never wore anything but skin tight suits. Imagine Captain Janeway wearing that every episode (well, don’t imagine that). Heck even Star Trek: Into Darkness had the very unneeded scene of Dr. Carol Marcus stripping down in front of Kirk. Come on, she’s a doctor. I didn’t see Bones throwing off his clothes. And this is all coming from J.J. Abrams, a man known for wanting powerful female characters (Judging by the photos below, I’m guessing the next Star Trek movie will involve an NC-17 Rating?).

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So, why haven’t I read female science fiction material? I honestly don’t know. Okay, fine. I’ll admit it. I think I did purposely avoid female sci-fi authors. I didn’t think they could do it as good as males. I apologize. Really, I do. I debated not telling you, but there it is. I’ve amended my brain waves.

Is the genre still crawling out of its male centered culture? I don’t think so. In fact, attending the X-Con in Myrtle Beach, I honestly think I saw just as many females as males, so the perception and fan base has changed. It’s no longer just a boys club. Shows like Eureka, Warehouse 13, and Falling Skies all have great females in lead roles (though only one, WH13, has a female writer).

I’m willing to bet that female authors can do better with females characters. As hard as I try, I will never be able to tap into the emotion and mindset of the female characters that I write. I just don’t have the right body to understand the mindset of a female. No male does, no matter how much they think they do. Look at Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games. We fell in love with Katniss, a strong lead, female character. If those books had been written by a male, I really don’t think we would have gotten such great material. Katniss Everdeen made girls everywhere proud. There is no doubt that Katniss needs no male to get through her challenges and survive. She can make it on her own. If a male had written the character, Katniss would have eventually needed a male to live. Not once did I think, “Man, Katniss would have been better as a Korey.” Not sure Peeta or Gale could handle that anyway.

I’m reading a great book right now. Pipe Dreams, by Destiny Allison, is turning out to be fantastic. Now that I am consciously reading a female science fiction author, I keep catching myself thinking about whether or not I would write the same things she does. As a female author, she brings a different perspective to every scene (She will also be a featured guest poster on this blog tomorrow, so be sure to check it out). That’s what we need in the genre. A new perspective. We can still have our male heroes, but instead of it being the sexy, obligatory female with them, they can have a true partner that is just as capable of saving the day. I think the best way to get there, and to gain complete respect for female sci-fi characters, is to have more female sci-fi creators. 

Guys, if you are still on the fence about picking up a sci-fi book written by a female, then do it for your relationships. If you are as big of a science fiction nerd as I am, then you have probably had a hard time balancing your love life with your love for the genre. Science fiction controls us, but it’s not our fault. Use the genre to your advantage. Read female authors, learn this new mysterious perspective on sci-fi life, and you will begin to connect better with your partner. Maybe you can convince her that, hey, maybe this science fiction thing can be super cool for girls, too! Good luck!

What Your Support Means To Indie Authors

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Authors have many different reasons for taking the self-publishing route. Maybe they’ve tried traditional publishing but got rejected. Maybe they didn’t get rejected but realized the possibilities present in self-publishing that might not be there from traditional publishers (percentage of profits). Maybe the authors simply want a way to share their work without having to go through the long process of submitting and having it sit at the gatekeepers desk for months or years.

No matter what your opinion of self-publishing, I think we can all admit that there is some seriously good work out there from the indie author scene. If you don’t think so, then you likely haven’t bought any indie work. As I’ve said before, there are many pieces of bad work out there, but who cares? Just like in music and movies, there will always be less than par work that gets into the mix. It honestly doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t make my work look worse. If an author spends the time and puts forth a professional effort, as we have advocated, then the work will stand out. Many self-published authors take the time to do it the right way. I know that there are still some of you who will argue that unless a traditional publisher has vetted the work then it can never be as good. Fine. I promise that you are missing work that is often of higher quality than what is on the shelves of your chain book stores.

So, what should we do when we find work that is fantastic come out of the indie author realm? Well, we owe it to the author, and to ourselves, to let as many people know as we can. I’m talking, Tweet about it, Facebook about it, and tell your friends. Most importantly – LEAVE A REVIEW!

As I was reading some indie work yesterday, my main thought was about how much of a difference we can make in each others lives. 99% of self-published authors are nearly broke, but took the time to get their work out to the rest of us. It means something to the author, and if we find that it means something to us, we can truly make a difference in that author’s life. Let me do a little story and some math for you. Now, this may seem like I’m only writing this to make profits for indie authors. I’m not. I want you to know what a difference your support can make (because often, other indies don’t support self-pubbers).

Let’s say Ralph (nobody in particular) puts out his science fiction self-published book. If it had been printed, it would run about 300 pages, the normal size for a science fiction book at the local store. Ralph has two kids, a wife, and works 50 hours a week to support his family, but has always had a passion for writing science fiction. He decided to take the plunge and write a book. He writes it, re-writes it, gets it professionally edited, re-writes it, gets a professional cover done, gets it just right for Kindle (or other platform) and finally hits the publish button. Any of that sound familiar to anyone out there? He took the right steps to give us his story.

We buy Ralph’s book for $2.99, less than a gallon of gas or a cup of coffee. We start reading it and quickly realize that, dang, this Ralph guy has written a really good book! Upon realizing this, we should now have a responsibility to Ralph, particularly because he is an indie author. When we finish it, we need to review it. It needs to be a quality review. Something more than “Awesome book.” Write a paragraph encouraging others to buy Ralph’s book. Send out a link to Ralph’s book on your Twitter and Facebook pages. Even if only one or two of your friends pick up a copy, that is still a few extra dollars for Ralph. Let’s say that twenty people pick up Ralph’s book on day one and Ralph gets about $2.05 per copy sold.

20 x 2.05 = $41 – Ralph can take his family our for dinner or pay more on his credit card.

Now let’s say that each of those 20 buyers gets one more person to buy Ralph’s book. Now he has sold 40 copies.

40 x 2.05 = $82 – Ralph starts to feel good about his work and starts a second book, as well as pays down some more debt.

Now let’s say that some reviews start to give his book a boost and all the previous buyers get one more person to buy Ralph’s book. Maybe Ralph gets up to 250 copies sold

250 x 2.05 = $512.5 – Ralph used this to make his car payment, allowing him to possibly spend some more time with his family instead of at work.

How many of you would have your lives transformed just by having an extra $500 or so? All of us.

Most indie authors aren’t looking to become rich. They are looking for just a little extra to help out around the house. There are so many ways for people to make a difference in the world. In fact, because there are so many ways, many people get overwhelmed and do nothing. Instead, let’s play to our strengths – writing and communicating. We are in the indie author scene! Let’s use it and make a difference for our friends and fellow authors. 

When we find great indie work, we CAN absolutely ensure that the author gets that little extra to help them out. Imagine if Ralph’s book hit one of Amazon’s best seller charts for a day because of your help and he sold 2,000 copies. Suddenly he can take a vacation. You helped Ralph take a vacation and all it cost you was $2.99 and some tweets. The indie author scene can be transformed by all of us taking simple steps and recognizing quality work. We may not all be the next Hugh Howey, but dangit, we can still make a difference around the house. Take care.

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Your Indie Author Mission Statement

More on the Importance of Editing for Indies

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Wow! Haven’t made a post in a while. I apologize, but I have been busy working on the second book in my series as well as a short story. It’s been one of those, ‘If I write something else now, I’ll lose train of thought’ weeks.

I’m on here today because I got back the fourth of five edited copies of my first book, Journey of the Kings. I gave it out in late March to my five gracious editors. As I said in a previous post, editing for self-publishers is definitely the most important things. No, I do not mean you reading it through one time. No, it does not mean handing it to your wife/husband. No way they will give you completely honest feedback. For indie authors to ever get on the same playing field as authors that go the traditional publishing route, they have to become their own gatekeepers. Self-publishing should not be a shortcut to getting your work the readers. It should involve just as much work. Write it, rewrite it, edit, edit, edit, rewrite, professional cover, beta readers, etc. Whew!

Editing, again, is the most important of all of those. It needs to be done by a professional. This is, unfortunately, where you will have to fork over some dollars, if you have some. Maybe you’re lucky enough to know an editor, but make sure they are good at what they do. I have been lucky enough to connect with some great professionals in my area that actually do this kind of work. Now that I have four copies back, I have begun the process of going through book one and making the necessary changes.

What is the point of me telling you this story? Well, I want to tell you just how different some of these copies are as far as what they found and what it means for you. Before I gave the copies to my editors, I went back through the book and read it very slowly and very carefully, making changes the entire time. Now, of course I knew I wouldn’t catch everything, but even I was surprised at how many errors I let slip through. I mean, I did well in undergrad and grad school. Very well. Looking at my edited copied, you wouldn’t think so.

Even funnier was that, out of the four I have back, each of them have caught different errors. Sure, they all caught the obvious ones, but sometimes each would find something different on a single page. Each of them had stylistic differences, but some of the things they found differently were legitimate errors.

So, I wrote the book and then re-read it very slowly to check for errors. That’s two times through. Now I have four more times through from the editors. In each of them, different errors were found. Are you seeing the overriding message here?

YOU CANNOT DO WITHOUT SERIOUS EDITING! If you think you can, put your work-in-progress down and stop calling yourself a serious indie author. I know it sounds harsh, but if we don’t work to professionalize and get others to do the same, we are destined to fall victim to the naysayers. You know they’re out there, so let’s edit and work hard to prove them wrong.