AAAIM > Writers and the Online World
Writers and the Online World
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Laura Bell is now offering a new seminar to teach writers of all levels and interests how to put Cyberspace's many platforms to work in their writing business. Requirements are that students be already online, no matter what type of service. Laura Bell has 20 years of article publishing experience behind her. She has been online since 1989.
Here are some recent quotes about this seminar from industry professionals:
"The first session is well-written and packs enough information to fill a textbook. She sprinkles the information with humor, too. If the first session is any indication of the quality of the other five, you will get your money's worth."
September 5, 1997
"Even though we do the 'email' thing around here, I still want to order this for my staff. Everyone needs to learn how to look good on the Net.."
Head of PR
September 18, 1997
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A how-to and general discussion for writers/professionals and wannabes who wish to know the ins and outs of:
- emailing editors
- chatting with other writers
- how to post without getting flamed
- support groups available
- mailing lists
- net news
- forums on information services
- tapping into online writing workshops
- and much more
This class will also tackle Web page use, landing assignments through the Net, and instructions on how to send out multiple queries, samples of your work and resume without ever going to the mail box. It is suited for anyone using the Net, no matter how they are currently accessing it. It will also cover information to use and when to do your own first hand research; very key issues for those concerned with not running up gigantic online bills. Lastly, the class will cover resources of information and where it is housed.
Session 1: Making Money and Saving it. How to use email to contact editors directly, thereby cutting down on postage and turn around time for answers on assignments and submissions. How to use postings to tell the world about your work experience and your professional background.
Topic List: LET'S GET STARTED, EARNING MORE MONEY, CUT DOWN ON SNAIL MAIL, MEETING NEW EDITORS, EMAIL ADDRESSES IN MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS, EMAIL ADDRESSES ON WEBSITES, AN INTRO TO WRITERS FORUMS, USING www.liszt.com, MAKING IT A HABIT TO READ MAJOR NEWSPAPERS ONLINE, A LITTLE BIT ABOUT POSTINGS, SENDING SAMPLES OF YOUR WORK VIA THE NET, EDITORS I HAVE LOVED AND HATED
Session 2: Before going any further - Net etiquette. How to use it to your advantage and to get around its imposed limitations. Net etiquette's enforcement on bbses, information services and various areas on the Net. Background info on FAQs, (frequently asked questions), and how to find these before you find yourself ducking Cyberspace tomatoes.
Topic List: CODE OF CONDUCT, LETS STEP BACK A MINUTE, WHERE THE CASH COMES FROM, A FEW KEYS, THE ONLINE SERVICES, BREAKING THROUGH THE BARRIERS, MOVING ON TO THE NET, THE USENET, MAILING LISTS
Session 3: Workshops, forums, and support groups, and where to find them. There are feedback areas and online workshops located on all three segments of the online world, (bbses, online information services such as AOL, and the Net in general). The class will further breakdown the protocols available and how to find helpful resources.
Topic List: WHERE WRITERS GO FOR ONLINE HELP, OTHER IMPORTANT WRITING CONNECTIONS IVE MADE, DIFFERENT LEVELS OF WRITERS ONLINE, ONLINE GROUP SUPPORT AND CLASSES, WRITING WORKSHOPS, LETS STEP BACK A MINUTE, THE WELL AND ITS CONFERENCES, COMPUSERVE, OTHER SERVICES, ONE FINAL NOTE
Session 4: Postings and their Importance. Nothing is more important than getting your presence known; it is akin to spreading your business card around a new town you are moving into. If you post blatant ads you will lose credibility. You may even get yourself known as a spammer and chance losing all credibility. The class will further breakdown the protocols of posting in: net news, mailing lists, and forums. It will show you how to pick up the trail in private email.
Topic List: GETTING YOUR NAME KNOWN, POSTING IS A DOUBLE SIDED ISSUE, KEEP THE BOTTOM LINE IN MIND, PRE-POSTING HOMEWORK, HOW THIS CONNECTS TO POSTING, POSTING IN SIGNIFICANT AREAS, INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION SKILLS, DIFFERENT AREAS TO POST, THE TWO GOALS OF POSTING, MARKETING CAMPAIGN
Session 5: Using mailing lists and the Web. How to subscribe to mailing lists and what to expect. Bouncing around on the Web for publishers, PR folks, and businesses you may want to write for.
Topic List: MAILING LIST HELPFUL TIPS, FLAME WARS, BEWARE THESE CONTROVERSIES, A CLOSING NOTE, LEARNING HOW TO USE THE WEB, AND YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW...
Session 6: How to use search engines. How to use Yahoo and Alta Vista, even for those using a Lynx text-based browser. Also, how to use whowhere to locate personal email addresses. The class will include a list of various web sites which house information useful to writers.
Topic List: LETS START AT THE BEGINNING, WADING THROUGH THE JUNK, YAHOO AND ALTA VISTA, WOMEN ON THE NET, HUNTING FOR CLIENTS, CONCLUSION
Laura Bell is a graduate of P.C.C. and California State University, Northridge. Bell has been published in MicroTimes, San Jose Mercury News, Link-Up, Desktop-Journal, Prodigy's Digital, Chicago Life and Small Business Opportunities. She also published the Bell Business Report for five years. She has been online since 1989.
LET'S GET STARTED
We are all here to find out how to put the Internet to use in helping us learn and grow as writers. It goes without saying that increasing your bottom line is high on the priority list for anyone who has started drawing a portion of his/her annual income from writing.
Despite all the glorious headlines about blockbuster novel sales and movie rights, we all know that most writers, during the course of their careers, will fit into the category of the typical starving writer. We all face the dilemma of landing the job, completing the assignment, and then dealing with the stress of waiting for someone in accounting to write a check.
Will learning how to use the Net wipe away all this stress? No. But, using the Net effectively can help you by providing a place to go for support. It will cut down on the time lags. You will learn fairly quickly how to swap stories with other writers online and how to find support for the days when the check fairy failed to come. You will learn where to go to find out ahead of time, in many cases, about editors who are slow to approve stories and slower to approve payment. You can also find out how to deal with some big name publishing companies who are in arrears in paying their writers. (This kind of information flows freely between writers who are members of the WELL. More on that to follow.)
All of this and more is possible by learning how to put your knowledge of the Net to use in your writing business. Will you learn everything here? Not in this lifetime.
Learning the Net, (by the way, Learning the Net is also the name of an online distributed newsletter), is a lifelong experience. Anyone who tells you he knows it all is simply trying to get into your checkbook. The Net, even as we are sitting here, is changing. Somebody, somewhere, is either creating a new newsgroup, a new mailing list, adding to a website, or creating a new website. The Net grows, shrinks, and changes every hour.
EARNING MORE MONEY
Despite rumors you may have heard to the contrary, editors and big name publications are accepting both query letters and submissions through email. Are they all doing it? Nope. Will they ever all do it? I doubt it. You will learn how to find out about the editors you would like to curry as contacts: a) if they are online, b) if they are open to new writers, c) if they will take your work, proposals of work, or copies of your work, (clips), over the Net. You simply ask. Using the Net efficiently in your writing life will eventually bring the editors calling on you. I have gotten several good clients/editors this way.
Yes, Virginia, good editors, despite rumors to the contrary, (who was that lying rascal), are always looking for good writers.
Yes, unbelievable as it may seem, in our complicated hi-tech world, the way to get things done sometimes is as simple as asking permission.
As you start using this advice in your writing business, you will be earning more money and seeing checks arrive much faster. To work the Net efficiently requires a long learning experience; but it is an effort that does pay off. It is especially helpful when you are low on cash for marketing, and a life saver to those who may be infirm and can't get out of the house.
CUT DOWN ON SNAIL MAIL
Think of marketing your work on the Net in comparison to how freelancers have conducted their writing businesses from time in memorial. Sometimes months would go by, and sometimes they still do, before you realize you have an assignment or that a submission had been accepted. Sometimes, if you were lucky, this was announced by a phone call.
How long it took was strictly dependent on the whim of the editor. Those SASE's, and the many trips to the post office, seemed endless. For me, for many years, this led to hundreds of dollars in postage bills. The bills were of course a write-off, but it was still difficult to get out multiple submissions in times when cash was short.
Now, for the most part, you can kiss that part of your writing business good bye. However, there are still several instances where you cannot avoid snail mail. One which comes to mind is The New Republic. Although they had a friendly chap who happily wrote me email, the powers that be absolutely refuse to take subs and queries through anything but the traditional manner. I believe it had something to do with the fact that at the time this magazine was reviewing through a committee.
There was a major woman's magazine who agreed to accept submissions through email once I convinced them that chronic pain made it difficult for me to travel to the post office on a regular basis, (only a tiny stretch of the truth). They accepted several submissions via email until the employee assigned to oversee their email grew weary of forwarding my mail.
If your writing life is dedicated more to fiction than the journalism I am afraid you are probably going to be stuck with more snail mail than the rest of us.
MEETING NEW EDITORS
Meeting new editors happens in many ways. For instance, you might discover that one of your favorite editors of any major publication has now decided to publish his or her email address as a part of the monthly signature of the "letter from the editor" column.
Here is the reason a public list of email addresses leaves out the personal touch. Once you read a column about which you have something intelligent to say, you start an email chat with the editor who penned it. Depending on what, if any, response you receive, you can determine for yourself when to pitch an idea to this editor. This method beats picking names off a published list which may, or may not, be accurate by the time you get around to launching a missive. Use any opportunity to make a personal connection when writing over the Net. The rifle approach may work, but the editor is going to remember you more favorably if you use the personal touch. This amounts to a soft sell versus a hard sell.
I once met a very successful stockbroker. She related to me, "...remember Laura, in your business career, your first job is to sell yourself to any potential customer. After that, you can sell them anything."
Another way to attract attention from editors is by postings. (Session four will be entirely about postings.) Write short notes in response to questions and topics anywhere you find an opportunity. Also, be sure and create what is commonly known as a 'sig' line, or signature file. A 'sig' line is a tag to your posts which is included as a closing every time you make a post or send an email message. It gives your reader a hint of what type of work you do, where you can be found: email, voice mail, fax or business address, website location, tag phrase, etc.
I have found more than a few editors this way. They are impressed with what I have to say and come to me instead of the other way around. This gives me a chance to present myself in a more positive light. It can and will happen for you if you follow these guidelines and put them to work along with the other information you will learn in this class.
EMAIL ADDRESSES IN MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS
Keep a lookout for any articles which catch your interest whose authors have a short bio with an email address. This should also include freelance writers. To succeed in this business, you must know as many people as possible. Other freelance writers, including syndicated columnists, will respond with helpful information if you write to them and tell them you enjoyed their recent article.
Do not end your first email contact with comments about your credentials as a freelance writer. Let this come later. Some may open the door for additional input with their response. Others may not. Learn to be quiet and listen awhile.
On your usual trip to the newsstand, magazines and newspapers which may prove worth buying and keeping for reference are those that have a lot of columnists and writers with email addresses. This means that the magazine is a reference for correspondence and a good indication that it is an open market to new folks.
If there is only one email address down at the bottom of the Letters to the editor page, in such tiny print that it requires a magnifying glass to read, or if the email address only appears on the masthead, then you may want to put that one aside. This is a good indication that the only reason they have an email address at all, is that somebody told them it was a good idea.
Except for some of the long published women's magazines who have been running a portion of their text on America Online for several years, one way to get a feeling on just how new they are in the game is to find out if their email address is an AOL account. An AOL account is usually an indicator they are still amateurs in the Net world. The person answering email messages from that page probably looks at the email once or twice a week and wouldn't know what to do with a serious submission if he ran across one.
However, if I know the publication, and the only published email address is the letters@xxxx, I will take a chance and write asking that my submission be forwarded. If this goes against their policy, they will let you know.
EMAIL ADDRESSES ON WEBSITES
By web hopping, a term I invented because I got tired of the image of using my monitor to surf, one can find tons of email addresses for researching and media lists for pitching. In this session's addenda, you will find the published list from the New York Times. There is a similar one at the Washington Post's page which is not easy to find. I have included a sampling of addresses. For those reading the Los Angeles Times, the way to discern whether or not your favorite reporter or editor has an email address is to write. Here's an example using one of my favorite's - Roger.Vincent@latimes.com. Not all reporters and editors at the Times use email. If your email message bounces back to you as returned or undeliverable, then that writer or editor doesn't have an easy to deduce email account name.
Web hopping to various mainstay newspapers is not only rewarding, but it can potentially give you a great number of calling cards to help get you in the door.
Keep in mind, however, that just because you find a publication on the web doesn't mean that they are ready to communicate with the outside world via email. Of course, this doesn't include the major newspapers. By major newspapers I mean the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the Hartford Courant, the Miami Herald, the Atlantic Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Denver Post and about a dozen or so others. If they house a listing of staff which includes email addresses, you know they have joined the Net in a big way.
Just as a piece of irony to share, there are a few major women's magazines which have websites. These websites show that they have had quite a bit of work done on them. But, they have a fatal flaw - there is absolutely no place to leave email, comments, or even an option to write to the webmaster in charge of the site.
A way to find out if newspapers, from out of town or from your region, have web presence, is to do a Yahoo search on the city in question. Then, zero in on newspapers or publications. Also, sometimes simply plugging in the newspaper's name surrounded by www. and .com, i.e. www.latimes.com, will get you there.
The first time you write an editor through a webpage link, make a comment or ask a question. Then ask whether or not it is the company's policy to, a) use new freelancers, and b) if they will discuss writing assignments or accept queries or submissions over the Net.
AN INTRO TO WRITERS FORUMS
Workshops will be discussed in Session three. Workshops are only one of many forums open to writers online. Forums, in the generic sense, are group discussion areas.
Forums can be found in the following areas of the Net: a) Usenet groups, also known as Newsgroups or Net News, b) mailing lists, c) BBSes, also known as electronic Bulletin Board Systems, d) Online services such as AOL, CompuServe, MSN et al, and e) websites of newspapers and publications, (these websites often provide both forum and chatting areas).
Over time, you will find that keeping up to date on the latest forum activities is an important asset. It will become part of the ongoing process that keeps you in tune with what's happening on the Net.
My favorite writers forums are on CompuServe, (there are so many writers forums that I am scared to give a number for fear it will be out of date), and The WELL. The WELL is a combination ISP, (Internet Service Provider), and BBS. It was founded in the mid '80s and has been sold and revamped many times over. It has access numbers internationally and encourages new subscribers to purchase "Telnet only" accounts. Telnet service is equivalent to dial up BBS service, but the connection is carried over the Internet instead of long distance phone lines. Telnet service reduces costs by substituting the Internet to carry the signal rather than a more expensive long distance phone network. It also eliminates the need for related equipment at the hosting site.
The WELL is a story all to itself. If you want more information, contact me personally.
Mailing lists will become a part of your life on the Net - if they have not as yet. Using the www.liszt.com search machine will start you off in the right direction. Mailing lists will be thoroughly discussed in Session five.
For those who have web access, using www.liszt.com is the best way I have found for searching through mailing lists. You can check online services, such as America Online, for mailing lists. They usually maintain a directory of them. You can check various newsgroups on the Usenet and ask for feedback on recommended mailing lists on the topic of writing or specific genres. This will get you plenty of leads.
MAKING IT A HABIT TO READ MAJOR NEWSPAPERS ONLINE
Reading newspapers online will keep you up to date and familiar with those who are writing online. This will open doors to more email or chat sessions.
Web hopping to the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times will keep you up to date with what is happening on the Internet. It will help you reduce the amount you spend on publications. It will also allow you to add to your forum and chatting opportunities. Most major newspapers have scheduled chat times and open forum areas. Additionally, one can get new ideas for pitches by staying in touch with others online.
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT POSTINGS
Writing notes on mailing lists, forums, newspaper websites, etc. are all referred to as posting. An effective posting must include credible comments. The topic may be about the goings on in forums, discussions about current events, or talk regarding the writing life in general. The more credible you sound, the more often people will start asking your opinion. You can actually begin to have a Net following, or a fan club, if you wish to think of it in those terms.
Sooner than you think, you will start getting requests for work.
SENDING SAMPLES OF YOUR WORK VIA THE NET
After starting a conversation with an editor, he is going to want to see your work. Get his attention, sound credible enough, and he may actually volunteer to read some of your previous clips. The clips may be from a website, or ASCII files you send, as proof of your credentials.
If you have been published with ezines, other online publications, or if you have your own web page, try to get editors to visit. Many are more than willing to do so. It reduces your time and effort spent and many editors find it very convenient. Website editors, in particular, prefer it.
EDITORS I HAVE LOVED AND HATED
Also included here are a few contributions from my mailing list, working writers, and email pals.
This contribution is from Pat, a working journalist on a mailing list called "writers." This list, and how to subscribe to it, can be found by using www.liszt.com. The list contains members who are: wannabes, writers still in college, those who submit only poetry, those who write about their personal life, and working journalists. In other words, a little bit of everything.
Anyway, here is Pat's story. "My favorite editor is Jeff Nowak of 'Birds and Blooms.' The guy always answers my queries personally, not to mention he was the first one to accept my work and publish it. Even when he rejects a submission, he is kind and always comments on the excellence of the writing. If I send a query not quite to his liking, he would tell me how to re-submit, what to include and what to exclude. As editors go, this guy is tops."
A member of another writers' mailing list wrote and told me about an owner/publisher of a fantasy fiction magazine who wrote to her and apologized for not buying her story. She objected to a child being the main protagonist, made several suggestions for rewriting, and added again, in an apologetic tone; after all, it was her magazine. The rejection was handwritten since the publisher apparently didn't favor the typewriter and was weary of the time it would take to write a letter. An unusual tale, that, which indicates something we don't often consider. Editors and publishers are kings, and even though we might have penned a great story, they may turn it down for purely personal reasons.
Some of my favorite tales include the following.
There was a woman I met about eight years ago who was masquerading as an editor for a start-up publication in the San Fernando Valley area of Southern California. For some reason, she thought that she should decide who my interview sources should be. I managed all right in the first go-around because the story wasn't a feature. My attempts at getting along with her long enough for a second time, ended, when I frustrated the PR people I had working with me to track down clients for interviews. I left a note on her voice mail simply stating that with the current state of affairs, I could not work with her. One thing to keep in mind when it comes to bad editors, get rid of them as fast as possible.
The following editors should be in the editing Hall of Fame.
Mary Eisenhart runs MicroTimes. She is constrained as far as payment on stories, by her management's guidelines . She always finds a way when you are hungry to get an invoice in the hopper even though your piece hasn't run yet. MicroTimes is officially, well sort of, a pay-on-publication magazine.
After you get to know her, your queries to her can be as short as a sentence or two. If she wants more information, she will let you know. If you like computer related writing assignments, check out the publication by going to http://www.microtimes.com. She will definitely not be in the mood to chat with you, until you prove to her through your correspondence, that you are familiar with her magazine. I approached her before they had a full web page going and I had to ask for back issues. Once she lets you into her world of writers she can count on, she will always be in your corner.
Susan Rakowski of Small Business Opportunities. Though she is still listed on their masthead, I have tried calling, faxing, (fax: 212-627-4678), and emailing over the past year with no results. I don't know whether or not this publication is going through management changes. When I first met Susan, via a personal referral, she was an editor sent from heaven. I made one long distance phone call to introduce myself. We chatted. She agreed to send writers' guidelines and back issues. I sent a resume, clips, and eight ideas. She bought seven. Those okays and writers contracts were in my hot little 'ole' hands within eight working days from the time I snail mailed the queries. I worked for the woman for two years after that time. It never took me longer than 10 days to receive payment for my work. I did not have to remind her to send me copies of the magazine on publication. There was always a lovely form letter included which said, "thank you for being a part of our issue and best wishes with your work." Here is one lady I wish I could clone.
The next two editors, as far as I know, have vanished off the face of the earth. Or at least, vanished from the editorial circles I have been travelling in Cyberspace. One is named Vicki. During the '80s, she ran a monthly publication called the Orange County Business Journal. As far as I know, this business newspaper still exists, but ownership and management has changed several times.
Vicki took everything I wrote without question. Well, no, that's not entirely true. She called me once during a six month period of time and asked for the clarification of one word. I met her after a bad experience as a stringer with a local daily newspaper that was overseen by a young city editor whose only reason for being was to prove he knew more than me. He wanted every story I turned in to be as if he had personally written it. If it didn't fit his personal taste, it was "bad writing." It took me three months to figure out what a jerk he was.
By the time I met Vicki, my confidence was very thin. After I phoned a the third time to check on an assignment I had turned in, she said, "Laura, if you don't hear from me, you'll see it in print along with a check." Darn, I wish I knew where she was today. One day I called and she had just "left."
And then there was Paula, who worked at the time for a city magazine called Chicago Life. This is a Net story. I was still on America Online at the time and was posting one of my usual whines about editors or people who talked business but never did a darn thing. I think my posting went something like, "Aren't there any paying editors from the print world who read these postings?" About two weeks after that, Paula wrote back and simply said, "...we do. What do you write?" I wrote for her, also, for about two years. Unfortunately, it was and is a magazine with a very limited budget. However, once she liked my ideas, she never questioned a thing I wrote, other than one article about online shopping.
But, best of all, she listened and reacted the first time we spoke. We spoke over the phone several times, as they had an 800 number. When I said starving writer, she took it to heart. The first check was sent via FedEx on the same day she received copy. In two years, the longest lag time from receipt of copy and mailing a check from her was four days. She was a peach. And then one day, she simply went to work for another publication with a larger budget. Such is the way of the publishing world.
The addenda to this are left off. They will only be made available to those who purchase the seminar. The addenda include the published email listing of the New York Times, a snippet from the same type of listing from the Washington Post, and a partial listing, with hints, from my own personal email list.
PLEASE NOTE: Session 1 is being made available here free of charge so that you may examine the material before purchasing. To receive the remaining 5 sessions in the seminar you must arrange for payment of the $79 (US Dollars) seminar fee. To learn more about the seminar or to place an order now, please view the order form here, or send an email message to Laura Bell, or email LBSwebmaster@aaaim.com.
All purchasers will receive the complete seminar and are entitled to ask up to 10 questions during each of the 6 sessions. Sessions will be delivered via a password protected website or email. All seminar transactions will be conducted by email, except for payment which will be done through snail mail.
[ Description | Topical Outline | Biographical Data | Session 1 | Info Request & Comment Form | Order | Paid ]
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