Thursday, December 31, 2009

The last day of the year!

Today is January 31st, and that means several things. Of course, it's the end of the year and a chance to make a new beginning. It's also the last day before LAFFN begins! If you haven't already set your goal, now is the time to do it!

Also, it's the last day to pre-order your copy of Bubba Goes National! Up until midnight tonight, the price is $13 including shipping and a bookmark. Starting tomorrow, shipping will be $2.50 per book (discounts for multiple books ordered) and $1.99 for the bookmark.

Happy New Year to all, and best of luck in keeping your New Years Resolutions!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

First advance review of Bubba Goes National

I can't believe I didn't post this here the day it went up, but I've received my first review of Bubba Goes National! Please visit Linda Ann Nickerson's blog--lots of interesting stuff for horse lovers, but she has several blogs on different subjects. She is a very prolific writer all over the web.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

It's official: Let's All Finally Finish a Novel!

After talking it over with a couple of people, I've decided to go ahead with a special month for finishing a novel. I don't want to steal Chris Baty's deal, so we'll call it Let's All Finally Finish a Novel...or LAFFN. Clever, eh?

We'll do it a couple times per year, but let's gear up for the first one in January. Remember, the idea here is not to write a whole novel from scratch (like NaNoWriMo), but rather, take a novel you've already started and commit to FINISHING it by the end of January.

This can mean one of three things:

1) Pick up a novel you've started writing and actually finish writing the rough draft to the conclusion of the story.
2) Take a rough draft and rewrite it and prepare it for editing.
3) Take a prepared second draft and perfect it and edit it to being ready for submission (I realize it's not the same as writing one, but some people might need this, and the whole point is get get people moving forward, right?)

So... find a way to measure your successes... a goal meter, percentage of project, etc.

It's not about things being 'equal' for everyone, or to be a competition. It's about a personal goal and challenge to ourselves. It's about finishing something you started, and for some of us, that's really hard. It's about taking that next step toward being a published author. As with any challenge, it will be easier and harder for different folks. YOU decide!

All right, here we go...five days 'til LAFFN. What's your goal? Post it here! We also have a forum for it on the Accentuate Writers forum so we can all cheer each other on. Let's go!

My goal: finish the sequel to Bubba Goes National. I wrote 50k words of it during NaNo last year, so I probably have about 20k to go. Thats 646 words per day. Cake!

The year is winding down...

Just Six days left in 2009! I'd love to get one more Bubba Goes National fan and sell one more book for each day until midnight on New Year's Eve, when the pre-sale ends. Can I do it?

How About National Finish a Novel Month?

I've said I was going to do this ever since I started NaNoWriMo. Since a lot of us don't finish our novels during the actual month, and it's so common to start a book and never finish it, I thought it would be fun to have a month where we pick a manuscript that we've started somewhere along the way (doesn't have to be a nano) and finish the sucker. My vision for this is to work on a MS that actually needs writing to be done on it rather than just editing, and maybe have a National Novel Editing Month later.

Chris Baty is having a drive to finish your novel this year, taking the whole year to do it, but for me that's too long. I need the pressure of doing it in a month, and it's helpful to have people doing it with me. I'm thinking January or March, giving us time to recover from NaNo and the holidays, but giving us 31 days.


Friday, December 25, 2009

It's OK to say Merry Christmas!

I'm going to take a little tangent from my writing musings to talk about something that really sticks in my craw. Someone told my mom, who works at a grocery store, that she shouldn't tell people Merry Christmas, because it might offend people (I love the fact that she refused to comply and said Merry Christmas to all of her customers).

This is not the first time I've heard this: people are so afraid of offending people that they are ashamed to say Merry Christmas. They say Happy Holidays instead...not that there's anything wrong with saying Happy Holidays, but if you're saying it because you're afraid of offending someone with Merry Christmas, that's just silly.

How is it offensive to wish someone a happy, joyous, merry whatever? What is wrong with inviting someone to enjoy a day, even if it isn't one that is celebrated by their religion? Perhaps it's easy for us Christians, because our holidays are celebrated widely. However, if I walked into a store, school, government building, restaurant, etc and it was decorated for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other holiday I don't celebrate, I would think it's neat. If someone wished me a Happy [insert holiday I don't celebrate], I wouldn't be offended--I would say thank you and return the greeting. I think it's sweet that someone wants to share the joy of their holiday with me.

If you are offended by this, you seriously need to think about why. Is it because it's not politically incorrect? Is it because someone told you you should be offended? Perhaps no one is really offended at all, but so many politically correct do-gooders thinking someone MIGHT be offended has created a problem that doesn't really exist.

I implore you, gentle readers: don't be afraid to be religious in public, no matter what that religion is, as long as you aren't harming anyone or anything (including not mocking or being derogatory toward other groups). Don't be afraid of offending someone with something that isn't offensive.

On the flip side, don't be offended because you think someone should be offended, but don't really have a good reason as to why. Don't be offended by someone else's religion, whether they're wishing it on you or not...just say thank you for the blessing or whatever it is and go on your way. Consider the intent behind the greeting and what it's all about.

OK? Can we do that?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Elements of the Soul bookmarks!

Bookmarks that coordinate with Elements of the Soul (the anthology in which I have two stories) are now available for order! Place your order today and get a copy of the book!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Press Release for Bubba Goes National



Jennifer Walker/Windswept Destiny Publishing

Folsom, CA December 6, 2009 - Windswept Destiny Publishing, an imprint of Twin Trinity Media, announced today that the novel Bubba Goes National, by Jennifer Walker is due to be released in early January 2010. This is the debut novel by Walker, who has worked as a freelance writer and editor for several years.

Bubba Goes National is about 13-year-old Leslie Clark, who lives with her widowed father. She loves horses but he can’t afford them, so she works for a horse trainer to earn lessons. She saves up her money to buy her own horse and finds an Arabian gelding at a livestock auction, which she buys. Lucky, nicknamed Bubba by Leslie’s teasing father, had been cast off by his breeders but is a dream come true for Leslie. Together, they work their way to the Arabian horse National Championships.

Although Bubba Goes National was written for the 10 to 14-year-old market, it has appeal for horse lovers of all ages. Readers will learn a little about horse care and showing while reading a delightful story about working hard to make one’s dreams come true.

Michelle L. Devon, author and owner of Accentuate Services, says, “Bubba Goes National is a sweet story, but it also tackles some of the more difficult issues teens have to deal with these days, such as: death of a parent, competitive rivalry, overcoming tough obstacles, and working hard to earn something. It’s a story any teen girl who has ever dreamed of having her own horse will want to read, and horse-loving grownup girls will too!”

Bubba Goes National is available at a special pre-order price of $13.00 through December 2009, which includes shipping, handling and taxes. Orders can be placed at

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NaNo final stretch!

There are only 2.5 days left of NaNoWriMo 2009! At this point, you should have 46,676 words (by the time you go to bed tonight, that is). I am currently at 37k, so I am "only" 9,000 words behind! I want to get to 43k tonight. Remember, no matter how far behind you are, if you can invest some time over the next couple of days, you can still win! If you can't write quite that fast, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Even if you only get to 25k, that's a great start!

Here are some final-days-of-NaNoWriMo tips for success:

1. Coffee. The good stuff.
2. Enlist a couple of family members to cheer you on and bring you drinks and snacks.
3. Wear something comfortable. I like pj's.
4. Word sprints! NaNo top banana Chris Baty is running word sprints at I don't know where he's at right now, but last night he was behind even me. A word sprint is a period of time, say 15 or 30 minutes, where all you do is write as fast as you can. Don't allow yourself ANY distractions! No getting up, no surfing the internet, just write. Last night I got 1,455 words in one 30-minute sprint!
5. Give yourself milestones to shoot for. I like to go for round numbers, so before I allow myself to get up and go to the bathroom, or check facebook or whatever, I make myself get to the next round hundred or some other goal. Usually, I'm in the middle of a sentence or thought when I reach that point, so I ended up overshooting. Then, I often decide to do "just a little more" until I get to the next round hundred, and so on. I often get quite a bit done this way.

Anyone else have tips for success to share?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Now taking pre-orders for Bubba Goes National!

At long last, I am ready to take pre-orders for my first novel, Bubba Goes National! The books should be available by early January. Cover price is $12.95 plus shipping ($2.50 for one book, $3.97 for two, $4.97 for three, 6.50, for four, $13 for five or more). The special pre-order price, available only until December 31st, is a flat rate of $13 per book--including shipping!

To order, click:

Thirteen-year-old Leslie Clark has loved horses for as long as she can remember and has been riding since she was six. Although her widowed father cannot afford to give her everything she desires, she works hard to get what she wants. When what she wants, a great horse to show, is taken right out from under her by her rival, Kate Wellesley, Leslie thinks her whole world has been turned upside down--until she finds Lucky (nicknamed Bubba by her father, who thinks he is funny). Then, everything changes.

Readers of Bubba Goes National will be touched by an inspiring story, but they will also learn about the care and showing of horses while they read about Leslie's adventures. Sandwiched in is a lesson that if one is willing to work hard, they can make their dreams come true. Bubba Goes National is the first of the Riders of Green Meadow series, which will showcase horses that are unwanted by one person but are another's dream come true.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How's your NaNo?

Including today, we have 10 days left to finish our National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) books. I had intended to do all kinds of post about NaNo, but I've just been too busy! So busy, in fact, that I've hardly written at all...I just broke 16k a few minutes ago, and I should be at 33k already! This means I have to write 3400 words per day, every single day until the 30th if I want to finish. I'm hoping to write a ton today, maybe even 10k, and maybe 5k tomorrow, and that will help catch me up a bit. I will also have some time on Thanksgiving.

I thought NaNo would be hard last year when I was freelancing full time. Then I got an attack of tendonitis and really didn't think I'd finish, but I did. This year, I have taken a day job again--working with horses, which I love, but between work and driving to work, about 11-12 hours of my day is gone. Then, I often have writing assignments (for actual money), plus I have to bathe and eat and sleep and stuff. Sometimes, I just can't bear the thought of doing anything, so I just veg out. However, I just can't stand to lose, so I'm going to do everything in my power to get this stupid book WRITTEN!

If I can do it, you can too! Stop making excuses...just go write. Start with one sentence, or try to write just 100 words. Before you know it, you'll be screaming along, and you'll be so much further along on that book you've been wanting to write than if you just sat there and made excuses. Now, stop distracting yourself with my blog and get back to work!

Last ten days of NaNoWriMO....GO!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Elements of the Soul has shipped!

For those of you who pre-purchased a copy of Elements of the Soul, thank you so much for your support! There was a series of snafus with the printer, but the books are now available and in the mail (regular ole USPS) to each of you. Thank you so much for your patience for this long wait!

If you have not yet purchased a copy, I will have several copies for sale, or you can purchase them here. If you would like to purchase a copy from me, email me at jennifer AT authorjennwalker DOT com.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Check out my blogs about Arabian Sport Horse Nationals!

I was invited to blog about Sport Horse Nationals on out my daily musings at I recommend starting from the beginning, so scroll down until you get to the one called "When it rains, it pours..."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It's almost NaNoWriMo time!

I know, it's only September, but NaNoWriMo is just over a month away and it's time to start thinking about it! What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? It is National Novel Writing Month, a time when thousands of people across the globe are focused on one task: writing at least 50,000 words of their novel during the month. The idea is to finish it, but you "win" the challenge if you get at least 50,000 words.

There is a lot of support from other writers and it can be a lot of fun...but crazy! In order to complete the challenge, you need to write 1,667 words every day of the month--a bit more if you take a day off here and there. I can generally write about 1,000 words per hour if I'm going at a comfortable pace, 1,500 if I really push it. There are groups who get together all over the country to write together, such as at cafes, libraries, their houses, etc., which makes the writing process just a little less lonely.

So, if you think you're up to the challenge (oh, believe me, you are!), go to the site and register. You can't start writing until 12:01 on November 1st, so don't cheat! What you can do now, however, is figure out what your story will be about and even do an outline if that is your style. You can do some character sketches, setting sketches, anything that will get the story cemented in your head so all you have to do is write come November.

Are you ready? Let's go! Come visit my NaNoWriMo page and add me as a buddy. We can do it together!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Associated Content vs Helium vs Suite101 vs Examiner vs Ehow July

Once again, I tracked my earnings on each of my online contents sites: Associated Content, Helium, Suite101, Examiner and Ehow. I can't show you the actual numbers for the earnings, but I can tell you how things shook out.

As a reminder, this data is gathered rather unscientifically, and I know that.

Suite 101

Suite101, once again, came out on top for earnings per article. The revenue share there is about four times the performance pay on AC, despite the fact that I have just over a quarter of the articles there than I do on Associated Content (and just under half of what I have on Helium). Suite and AC are the only two I have page view data for, and Suite garnered me 2,540 MORE views than AC did. In fact, despite adding six articles to Associated Content, my views there went down in July. Suite page views went up about 500 with the addition of only four articles.

For total earnings, Suite is not yet up to where Helium and AC are, because they give up front payments. I suspect that once I get my article inventory up a bit at Suite, that will no longer be the case. There is a bonus once you reach 50 articles and I'm only 12 away from that, so that is my goal for August.


Helium came in second this month for earnings per article, after coming in a dismal fourth last month. This is due to a variety of reasons: adding more articles than I did anywhere else (by recycling stuff from AC, so it didn't take much time), the sale of an article to one of Helium's partners, and a dramatic drop in earnings at other sites. When I get 19 more articles up there, I will get another writing star and therefore earn a little more in up fronts per article. That is my goal for August, but given that I just started a day job and have other things to do, that's a pretty aggressive goal. I'll be happy if it happens in September.

Helium came in second for total earnings, behind AC where the up-fronts are higher and where I earned more in performance pay. However, my AC performance pay was less than a dollar more than Helium with 50 more articles--not counting the $5 sale at Helium. The gap in performance pay in June was about $3, so that is closing. I suspect that Helium will pass AC next month in that department.

Associated Content

Associated Content came in third for earnings per article, with a significant drop from last month thanks to the addition of several articles and a plummet in page views. The forums there and elsewhere are teeming with people complaining about page view accounting that does not seem right. There were many cases like mine, where a writer didn't contribute anything for a while and their views held steady, then added a bunch of articles and that's when their views dropped. It doesn't make any sense that you can add 30 articles and have fewer page views, but AC still claims there is no problem. I was hanging in there to get the little stream of up-front payments, but I think I'm done now that I have a day job and better-performing sites to write for. I'll rethink that if they fix the page view reporting problem.


eHow came in fourth for earnings per article this month, not far behind AC. I didn't add any articles this month and actually earned a little less than last month. However, you can't really draw any kind of conclusions about performance there right now because I only have seven articles. eHow came in last for total earnings, which is fair since I have the fewest articles there.


Examiner came in last for earnings per article this month. I didn't add many articles in July and my page views stink. I seem to get the most views right after I publish something and promote it, then they die off. I still think that could be my fault because of topic selection and keywording. I'm supposed to be writing 3-5 articles per week there and I haven't been. I'm going to keep working on it there and see if I can turn it into something good--I know other people are doing well there, so I could too if I worked on it. Examiner earned more in total earnings than eHow thanks to having more articles, but less than everywhere else.


In August, I want to get Suite and Helium article volume up to the point where I get a little more per article there with the bonuses, and I want to meet my obligation at Examiner. However, with the volume of other work I have in addition to the job, we'll have to see how that goes. See you next month!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What is so hard??

My husband and I like coffee. We like the actual taste of it, not the taste of the sugar or whatever you put in it. Coffee and or iced. That's what we like. This doesn't seem like it would be that hard to get, but the good folks who work at McDonald's can't seem to get that...and I don't get that they don't get it.

McDonald's came out with iced coffee a year or two ago, which comes in regular (sweet), vanilla or caramel. Greg and I would go, whether inside or the drive through and order thusly: "Two large iced coffees, no flavor, no sweetener, no syrup. Just coffee and cream."

Without fail, there would be a pause, and the order taker would read it back to us in an incredulous tone of voice. "You don't want sweetener?"

"No," we would say, trying desperately to keep control of our composure. "Just regular coffee, regular cream and ice. Nothing else. No syrup, no sweetener, no flavor."

"OK," they'd say, like they thought we were nuts and we would surely be sorry. When we got to the window (or stepped aside to wait for our order, without fail, somebody would come over to ask us again. "So, you don't want sweetener?"

"No," we would say a little more firmly. "Just regular coffee, regular cream and ice. Nothing else. No syrup, no sweetener, no flavor."

After they handed us our drinks, we would start to drive or walk away, confident that our request, given in triplicate, had been honored. Almost without fail, we would taste the coffee and find it was sweet. Given that regular coffee and regular cream do not come sweet, that meant that sweetener was added. Sweetener we specifically said THREE TIMES that we didn't want.

I'm not sure how to change this. I don't think you can be any clearer than, "Just regular coffee, regular cream and ice. Nothing else. No syrup, no sweetener, no flavor." The only conclusion I can come to is that America is getting dumber, and that makes me sad. On the other hand, it makes me feel smarter, so yay me.

Michy sent me this video, which had Greg and me rolling on the floor, laughing, tears streaming from our eyes...because it's just so true. Warning: harsh language! Don't play this in the presence of young children or anyone with sensitive sensibilities!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Current Associated Content Review Time

I've heard of long waits for some people, but my Associated Content review time has been quite reasonable for the sparse pieces I've submitted lately...I submitted one on July 24th and got an offer today, the 28th--just four days later, including a weekend. I submitted one on the 15th and got an offer on the 17th...submitted one on the 3rd and got an offer on the 8th. All less than a week.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Everything you do is an article

The other day I was talking to Michy, and I said I needed software that would extract pictures from a PDF. She helped me find one, and it worked great. I was raving to her about how easy it was to use and did exactly what I wanted in seconds.

"Sounds like an article," she said.

"Oh. duh." I replied.

"And a blog post," she added.

"Good idea!" I answered. So I did...I wrote a review of the product (Nitro PDF Professional)for Suite101, and how I'm going to write a blog post about it. Oh...I'm already writing it.

Every day, you do something that can be turned into an article. See a movie, read a book or use a new product? Write a review! Do something that someone might not know how to do? Write a how-to! Hear about or plan to attend an event? Write about it...there are so many things in our day-to-day lives that slip right by us and we don't think about them, but surely someone wants to know about them. Then, each of these articles can spring into others, like I can do an article or two about how to use Nitro PDF Professional, etc.

So, here's your writing prompt for today: find one aspect of your day-to-day life and write an article about it. Then, find one way to take a different angle on the same subject matter (review, how-to, history, profile, etc.).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Apple Encourages Copyright Infringement

Michy recently brought to my attention that there is an Apple iphone commercial that demonstrates its copy-and-paste functionality by showing a user copying a whole article from the web and pasting it into an email. This is ILLEGAL. For more information on why this is illegal, why you as a writer should be mad as heck about it and what you should do, please read her blog post on the subject.

Friday, July 17, 2009

No I'm not and no I don't!

You're reading an article on the Internet, and you suddenly find yourself starring in a hypothetical situation you could never imagine thinking to yourself. You think, "What in the name of Pete?" And then you think, "Wait a minute. I'd never do that, and I never say 'What in the name of Pete!'"

Somewhere along the way, many of us were taught a completely useless and annoying literary device: putting the reader into a hypothetical situation in a clumsy attempt to "draw them in." I see an exhausting number of articles online that start this way, particularly when I'm rating Helium articles.

"You're sitting in a restaurant, and you see..."

Uh, no I'm not, and no I don't. This sort of thing doesn't pull me in and engage me; it just annoys me and puts me on the defensive. In fact, if anything, I'm less likely to want to keep reading to see what the article has to say. Even if it's prefaced with "Picture it..." it's still hackneyed and a little insulting. I don't like being given directives before I've even read the story.

Don't do it. Don't try to force your reader into being the star of a hypothetical situation. It's not clever, and it's not engaging. Find another way to open your article.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why write for online content sites?

Sorry to those of you who commented on my last post that I haven't responded--I've been out of town and didn't have internet (*gasp* the torture!). A couple of the commenters questioned the usefulness of writing for online content sites, so I thought I'd use it as an excuse to make a new post.

Why write for online sites instead of magazines? Well, I would never, ever recommend these sites INSTEAD of magazines, but as a supplement. The print publishing world is agonizingly slow, between the query process and waiting for payment. I have published articles in about 10 different magazines, but I'm having a hard time keeping a high and steady income that way. That is mostly my fault for not sending enough queries, but the print world is struggling in today's economy...magazines are going under or downsizing. I don't mean to sound negative about the industry or anyone's ability to make a living that way--many people do. I'm just saying, it's frustrating and slow.

Online content sites, like Helium, Associated Content, Suite101, etc, offer quick gratification--your article is posted either immediately or within a few days. With Associated Content, you often get a small up-front payment in addition to the performance pay they all give. It is a paltry, paltry amount, but it's something, and with some effort you can keep a steady stream of these paltry payments coming in. I know of one person who makes a decent income doing just Associated Content. The other perk to these sites is they offer residual income...the right pieces can potentially earn more than print work. It's also nice to get that extra money every month--money you can earn without doing any extra effort. The above-mentioned lady makes several hundred dollars a month just in residuals, and I think she breaks $1,000 during the holiday season thanks to her seasonal articles.

No, online content sites are not a good way to make a great living. However, they are a good supplement to the more lucrative print publishing.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Associated Content vs Helium vs Suite101 vs Examiner vs Ehow

While I did not do any kind of official challenge to compare the various content sites I wrote for, I thought it would be valuable to compare the results of each one. I did not set out this month with the intention of doing this; I just tried to increase my production so I can eventually have a decent level of residual income. A week or so ago, I thought it would be interesting to see a comparison at the end of each month, so I am going to start doing that. This is pretty unscientific, because there are a lot of variables. Topic selection could have a big influence on the outcome.

[actual results removed due to a couple of the sites' policies that payments not be disclosed. Sorry!]

From the results, it is clear that Suite101 is the biggest earner per article this month, despite the lack of up-front payments.

However, I should note that Associated Content has had some indexing issues--articles are either not getting to the search engines or they are getting there but getting delisted. Associated Content claims there is no problem, but MANY content producers insist there is. Some have technical ways to show it that are over my head, but everyone is seeing a decrease in performance. For April and May, my performance pay was over $9, and it dropped by $3 in June--with 15 additional articles. There is clearly something rotten in the state of...Associated Content! However, even with an additional $3 in performance pay, AC would still be behind Suite101 in per-article earnings. came in third. They pay .01 per page view, which is not bad. I think my topic selection and keywording there need work, because my views are pretty poor. I get the most views on days I post an article, probably because I post the link everywhere.

Helium and eHow are neck and neck. Helium at least has up-fronts, but I can't deny that eHow articles perform pretty well. Lots of views and decent revenue share, it seems. I don't know how much effort I want to put in there, but it would be nice to build up enough articles to meet pay-out ($10) every month. However, is it worth putting effort into a site that has the same structure as Suite101? Why not just put my how-to articles there? I may end up doing that.

I should also point out that the sample size is pretty small, so that adds to the unscientificness of this.

I also write for Demand Studios, but not very often so I didn't bother including them. I'm probably spending too much time on online content and not enough querying magazines!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Twin Trinity Media / Accentuate Services

TEXAS, USA - July 3, 2009 Twin Trinity Media, part of the Accentuate FAMILY of Author
Services, announces the Accentuate Writers Anthology Elements of the Soul has gone to print and will be released late this summer. The collection of short stories and poems is a compilation of the winners of the Accentuate Writers Short Story Anthology and Poetry Contest that took place in 2008. Writers braved tough competition to vie for a place in the anthology, a royalty contract, cash and merchandise prizes.

The stories and poems in Elements of the Soul were written on four themes: Fire & Ice, Winds of Change, April Showers and Summer Heat. Contestants' submissions were judged on use of theme, adherence to submission guidelines and quality of the story and writing. In addition to the contest winners' stories, two authors were included in the anthology as Editor's Picks and received royalty contracts.

The Accentuate Writers Short Story Anthology and Poetry Contest, now in its second year, gives writers an opportunity to obtain critiques, a chance to win cash and merchandise prizes, and a publishing contract. Anyone is eligible to enter the contests for a small fee, but only the best work rises to the top and is included in the Accentuate Writers Anthology.

The managing editor for Twin Trinity Media and owner of Accentuate Services, Michelle L Devon, says, "I have been honored to watch the contests grow and the writers grow along with them. The stories are getting better and the competition is fierce. I'm proud to play a small part in helping make writing dreams come true with these contests and anthologies. It's very exciting and humbling."

Authors for Elements of the Soul include: Steven Thor Gunnin, Jennifer Walker, Rissa Watkins, Lindsay Maddox, George Kramer, Lucinda Gunnin, Jo Brielyn, M. Lori Motley, Susan Sosbe and Laurie Darroch-Meekis. The anthology also features talented poets to fill in the pages between stories with wonderful imagery and substance. Michelle L Devon, author of In a Perfect World and The Path: A Series on Redemption and Sensual Awakening, who is a contributing author to other anthologies herself,
edited the book and contributed to the foreword.

Elements of the Soul is currently available at a special pre-order price of $13.00, which includes shipping and handling, taxes and a specially made bookmark. Orders can be placed at

Accentuate Services has been in business for over fourteen years and is dedicated to providing services to authors, from publishing consulting to editing and writing coaching. Other ventures that are part of the Accentuate FAMILY of Author Services include Unsent Letters, Recipes & Recovery, Erotic Anthologies, and the Accentuate Writers Forum, with other projects in the works. Visit the website at

Twin Trinity Media / Accentuate Services
c/o: Michelle L Devon
1305 E. 36th Street
Odessa, TX 79762
Toll-Free: 866.641.8130
This press release may be copied, shared, distributed and/or posted on any electronic or print source provided the content is not altered in any way. Live links on electronic versions is appreciated.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Accentuate Writers Anthology is finally going to print!

I posted last year when first I came in second and then first place in the Accentuate Writers short story contests. The anthology of winners is finally going to print, and they are taking pre-orders now! Please support these very talented writers and the great lady who gave them this publishing contract by ordering your copy today! You will get to read some GREAT stories.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My new venture!

Thanks to Beth Sandland, one of my heroes and mentors, I am now the new owner of! If you are a horse lover, please check it out and help me fill up the site with great content and great people...register for free, post a blog post or two about your life with horses, post on the forum, post an ad. I want to make this an awesome resource that everyone in the Pacific Northwest will turn to!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pleased with Suite101

I am really glad I went back to writing for Suite101. While some of their style guidelines irritate me (like only being able to write in third person), they are not hard to work around. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Summer Sizzles writer's challenge gave me a lot of good ideas--those articles are getting between 10 and 40 hits per day. Even though the challenge is over, I'm still writing summer articles just because they perform so well.

Suite101 vs Associated Content

With 30 articles on Suite101, I am getting more hits and more revenue per day, on average, than I get on Associated Content with 117 articles. It was the summer articles that put me over the top on Suite101. For the month of June, I have earned more in revenue share on Suite101 than on Associated Content (with a bit over a quarter of the articles).

The big difference is that Associated Content gives up-front payment, and Suite101 does not. Now, AC does not always give up-fronts, and when they do it's only a few dollars. Most of mine are $4.xx with a few that are $3.xx. I rarely get less than $3, but I sometimes do.

Associated Content only requires $1.50 in revenue to get a pay-out each month. Suite101 requires $10. It took me about six months to hit it the first time with just seven articles. I almost reached the second one in three months with the addition of a few more, but I will get it this month with plenty left over--and if my revenue keeps up, I should reach it every month from now on.

Another nice thing about Suite101 is that they have higher standards--Associated Content has very low standards. Not everyone is approved to write for Suite101, and they have to adhere to the style guidelines. Suite101 also provides a lot of education on titling, keywording, adding photos, etc., to enhance your articles.

At this point, I am still writing for both. I would like to reach the point where each of my content sites gives me a nice little paycheck every month. The thought of getting an extra $100 or $200 per month without putting out additional work is very enticing!

PS...Visit my Suite101 and Associated Content pages to read my articles!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Have you sent an Unsent Letter?

Unsent Letters is growing by leaps and bounds. Almost everyone has a letter they wish they had sent, and now you can...even if it's just anonymously. AND, you can get paid for it. AND, you can get it published in a book! Of course, not every letter is accepted, but as of right now the editor (Michelle L. Devon)is reading and responding to all submissions.

Even if you do not have a letter idea, read the blog with the accepted submissions. Some of them are incredibly powerful and heartfelt, and today's is controversial as well--check out the comments and weigh in!

I sent in a submission, but she has so many to go through that it will probably be a while before I hear back. If mine is accepted, I'll post, but it will be posted as anonymous so you won't know which one is mine. :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bubba Goes National will finally see print!

An exciting announcement!

Windswept Destiny Publishing, an imprint of Twin Trinity Media, is pleased to announce the release this summer of Jennifer Walker's first book, Bubba Goes National!

We don't have a firm date yet, but will definitely announce it when we do. For more information, visit

Associated Content Review Time

As of June 10th, Associated Content's review time is about a week. I just got an offer on an article from June 3rd.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Article Ideas are Everywhere

When I first started freelance writing, I was always at a loss for article ideas. I struggled with thinking of things to write about and the ideas were few and far between. From time to time, I would think of something, then forget it before I got the chance to go home and write about it. At one point, Greg bought me a notebook for my purse so I could write things down, and that helped quite a bit. At the encouragement of a couple of friends, I started brainstorming on specific topics, and that seemed to get the juices flowing.

Lately, I've found that ideas are constantly coming to me. I go to the store, drive down the street, go to the dance, go to a horse show, ride my matter what I do, an idea seems to pop in my head. Sometimes I remember to write it down, and sometimes I don't, but with the abundance of ideas, some of them are bound to stick! The other day, I ran out of summer topics for the Suite101 Summer Sizzles contest. I asked Michy for some ideas, and she gave me some...and through the course of my research came up with several ways to dissect each one or thought of tangents that will keep me going for a while.

I mentioned the contests the other day...having something like that to narrow my focus also helps generate ideas. Now eHow is having a summer home & garden contest--you get $75 if your article is featured on the front page! Now, that's some motivation...I have been pleased with the number of page views and revenue share I've gotten on the piddly number of articles I have there.

So, today's challenge: through the course of your day today, find one thing that inspires an article, whether for a print magazine or an online content site, it doesn't matter as long as it gets you writing. Once you find that one topic, either dissect it into three parts or find two tangents/related topics you can then cover.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Contests are great writing prompts

Two of my online content sites are currently running contests: "Summer Sizzles" (write five articles about summer and get a chance at $101) on Suite101 and a local content contest on Associated Content.

These contests are great for writers for a couple of reasons:

1. They motivate you to write a lot, because hey, you might win something!

2. They give you a prompt to get you started brainstorming.

These are both big factors in my writing for these sites. The pay is low, so it's hard to be motivated to write for them, but I know that if I could just get a big library on them, I could have a very decent stream of residual income.

For the latter, I often struggle with coming up with ideas. Having just the smallest prompt, like "summer", at least sets me in a specific direction. I've already posted four articles to Suite101 for this contest, and two are doing quite well by my standards. In fact, two were Twittered (or is it Tweeted?) by people I don't even know with huge followings! I had my biggest day ever there yesterday. I've submitted two articles to AC so far for their local content drive and they have not been processed yet.

There are many, many writing contests out there for both fiction and non-fiction. Winning one is not only good for your ego and gets you prizes (sometimes cash), but it's good for your resume, too. Plus, they get you writing, which is what is hard for many of us.

My challenge to you, dear reader, is to find a contest and enter it. A couple of places to find them are at Accentuate Writers Forum and the Writer's Market. Enter, then post here so I and others can cheer you on!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I have several friends on but had not really thought about signing up until recently. They do not give up-front payments, but they do give revenue share. They do not tell you exactly how much, just that it's based on a variety of factors. When you sign up, you have to submit a writing sample and explain why you are a good fit for the position, just like applying for a job...and you may or may not be selected. If you are, they perform a brief and simple background check on you (mostly, where you've lived recently and if you have any convictions).

I signed up and was accepted as the Sacramento Equestrian Examiner last week. It took them just under a week to send my acceptance, but I've heard of other people taking longer or shorter so it probably depends on the channel you choose. They expect you to post 3-5 articles per week so you can build a readership, but I have not found any guidelines that say how long the article has to be. They do want a picture with every article, as well as hyperlinks within it to relevant websites. It's kind of a pain, but if I'm honest about it, those things probably do enhance the article and make it more appealing. The channel managers are very good about providing helpful information to make your article appear professional and draw traffic.

I have only posted two articles so far, and one of them was late last night. Sacramento Equestrian is probably not the most popular subject to search for, so I'm thinking of getting something more mainstream as a second topic(will post on that later if I do). I have about 30 views so far and $.27, so about a penny a view. Like any content site, this is not a place to get rich, nor should anyone quit their day job to work for however, it'll be a little side income, and they do not ask for exclusivity on anything you publish there.

The thing that really prompted me to sign up was that a lot of people have gotten some good connections through their articles...invitations to events, requests for reviews, etc. I haven't heard nearly as many stories of this type from other online content sites. I also like that is somewhat exclusive--unlike Associated Content or Helium, where anyone can write anything,, like Suite101, has standards. Like my blatant self-promotion there? :)

I'll report back in a couple of months when I have a good base of articles going.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Arabian Horse World!

I mentioned a while back that I had an article accepted by Arabian Horse Times, one of the two big national magazines for the Arabian horse industry. I am please to report that I will be in the May issue of the other biggie, Arabian Horse World! If you subscribe or are able to pick up a copy, the article is "National Champion Turns to Law Enforcement" and it is about my friend, Aimee Pahl. May issue, page 242. Whoopee!!! I am very excited!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Associated Content Review

It's been a while since I've talked about Associated Content. I go in and out with how much I post there, but I really think it's worth giving it some attention. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is an online content site, kind of like an article warehouse. Anyone can sign up for an account and post articles there (that they wrote, not that they found somewhere). In many cases, you can get paid $3-$5 up front for these articles, and in all cases you get paid $1.50 or more (depending on your "clout level", which is based on how many articles and page views you have) per 1,000 page views. Up-front payments are made via paypal several times per week, and the performance payments are made once per month.

I currently have 102 articles on the site, which have varying levels of success--I don't concentrate nearly enough on SEO or finding hot topics to write about. My performance payment last month was a little over $9, and this month it'll be just over $10. Whoopee, right? Well, if I worked a little harder at it, I could make some decent money. There are AC "sources" (as the writers are called) who make a full-on living at it. It's not the highest paid living, but they do it.

I know of at least one woman who got her performance payments up to four figures during the holiday $1,000 just in residual income! That starts to make the $5 up-front a little easier to bear. My buddy and mentor, Michy, regularly makes over $100 per month in residual income...and the more sites you earn residuals on, the more it adds up. The more articles you have out there, the more you will earn.

Michy did month-long challenges for both Helium and Associated Content. You can read a Q&A with her here on AC's blog, and you can read her whole challenge here. She gives some great advice in the Q&A.

Most important things, IMO, for succeeding on AC:

1. Learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is where you will get most of your traffic, from people searching on search engines. You will get some from promotional efforts as well, but SEO is vital.

2. Pick good topics, ones that a lot of people are interested in. Hot topics, like recent news events, celebrities, and things that are popular with kids, often bring in a lot of page views in a short period of time. Evergreen topics are ones that people search for over and over again. Holiday articles do great around that time of year every single year, then fizzle out the rest of the year.

3. Write a lot. The more articles you get out there, the more you can earn and the more you can draw attention to yourself.

4. There is a ton of information on the AC forums (careful, though, they can get a little snarky there, but they're really good people who mostly want to help. Read as much as you can before you post questions) and on AC sources' blogs.

If I followed my own advice better, I'd be more successful! Ha!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Interview with me posted

Karina Fabian, whose book I copy edited a few months ago, interviewed me about my job as a copy editor at Swimming Kangaroo Books. Please check it out!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Do you HARO?

Sometimes a big challenge in freelance writing is finding sources (heck, even fiction writers can benefit--you might need some research). Well, Peter Shankman had a great idea...people kept asking him for sources, so he started a group on Facebook where writers and sources could find each other. It grew so big that it exceeded the 5,000 member limit on Facebook and he had to start his own site, Help A Reporter Out.

The process is simple. If you're a writer and need a source, you fill out an online form. Your request goes out in one of two group emails each day, and chances are, there is someone in the thousands of people on the list who can serve as a source for you.

If you are interested in giving back and being a source yourself (of course, you must agree to only answer questions you are truly qualified to answer), you can sign up and you will start receiving three emails per day. You may get the chance to be quoted in an article and help someone else out--and you might find some inspiration in what other people are writing about (not that you should copy them, but something might inspire you).

Give it a try!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why you shouldn't give out free samples

I have posted before about my annoyance at people who ask me to create free samples for them, when I have many samples available on the Internet. It's a rude and unreasonable thing to ask. On Elance (and I think oDesk but I haven't checked), it's against the TOS to require or offer free work, even a mock-up, to be considered in hiring decisions. I recently reported someone for requiring free work (he had a book that needed editing and it seemed he was having every candidate edit a separate chapter...hmmmm) and his job listing was removed from the site.

Recently, someone on AbsoluteWrite posted this link, which gives another excellent reason to not give free samples to anyone. A legitimate publisher, whether in print or on the web, should be satisfied with your existing, already published samples.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Literary Showcase: I don't think so!

I received a friend request on facebook from Literary Showcase ( It's a place to upload samples in one place, where only registered publishers can see them.

On the surface, this seems like a good idea because uploading your sample supposedly allows many publishers to see it instead of sending out multiple queries, and you're only posting a portion of it so the whole thing isn't out there.

However, I have my reservations. First of all, they charge you $30 per sample you upload. Email queries are free and mail queries only cost, what $.42 I think a stamp is now? Secondly, why would publishers go on this site looking for material when their inboxes are flooded? Sure, it SAYS it has publishers signed up, but it's pretty easy to say that.

I ignored the friend request, and I don't see any reason to sign up or try this place out.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Mini Outline

Some people like to do a complete outline of whatever they're going to write before they actually start writing. I don't like to do that--I like to just get down to business, although I usually have an informal outline in my head. However, sometimes I sit down to write a 1200-2000 word article and stress that I don't have enough material to fill it. What I have started doing recently is doing a quick brainstorm on the different section headings I want to cover and putting them in. Once I have that, I can see that I only need a couple hundred words (or whatever) per topic...which makes the whole thing much more palatable to approach. Give it a try!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

YouPublish: share and sell what you write

Michy referred me to a site this morning that I think has a lot of potential. It's called YouPublish, and it is a site that allows you to post your work, either for free or for a charge. They keep 50% of the proceeds...but hey, that's a lot less than traditional publishers!

This is pretty cool, because you can post things here you don't have another outlet for. I have some humorous first-person essays that don't really fit into what most magazines want, so this will be a good place for them. I may not make much on them, but if I sell even one copy, that's more than it made sitting on my hard drive!

I decided to try it out with one of my books, Budget Horse-keeping. I'll post each chapter for $1 for those who only want parts of it, then the whole thing will be available for a discounted price. Here's hoping it works for me...and you!

If you are interested in signing up to sell your work, please use my referral link. I'll receive a commission from your sales (out of YouPublish's half, not yours), and you will get the same if you refer your friends.

Please visit my profile there, and Michy's too!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Save Garbeau's!

If you live in the Sacramento, California area, you are probably familiar with Garbeau's Dinner Theatre. Sadly, they are in danger of closing! Here is a note from one of the owners:

Urgent and amazing news on Garbeau's!!

We have a final deadline and a final goal!! If we make $8,000 by Monday, March 16th, we stay alive and the landlord says he will renegotiate the rent in a way that will help us sustain Garbeau's through this recession!

If we do not raise $8k by Monday, Garbeau's is closed.

This is the final stretch and it's soooo close to being in our grasp! If you've been considering it, please attend Thursday's karaoke or the weekend's dinner theatre or family theatre.

This is it! Let's keep Garbeau's open! Please tell everyone and repost this on every Facebook, MySpace, online blog--everywhere!

Thank you all for all the support you've offered throughout this campaign!


Visit Garbeau's today at to see how you can help.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Helium Review

I mentioned some time ago that I decided to start writing for Helium. I didn't do a lot there until they started paying small up-front payments and empty title bonuses in December--at which point I started writing a lot more. I decided to write enough to earn $25 per month, which is the minimum payout. Of course, having more articles there means that I make a little more in trails, which is nice, but mostly for the ego because it's still not very much! Another nice thing about Helium is they sell articles in their "stock content" program, which has happened to me twice--two different articles have earned an extra $5 because someone read it and liked it and bought it. I retain the rights and the articles stay on Helium to earn more pennies and maybe even get sold again.

Is Helium a good place to earn money?

Well, Helium is a place to earn some money. Don't quit your day job purely to write for Helium, unless you live where the cost of living is very, very low and you have very, very low standards for living. Even if you have five writing stars, and it takes a long time to get there, you only get $2.50 in up-front payments plus $1 for empty titles. The performance pay is paltry, but it all does add up to a little bit of cash at the end of the month.

The best chance at making money is to do the Marketplace, where publishers are looking for articles for a bit better money. The competition is fierce--I've only sold one article there so far. However, you get a kill fee if your article is not selected and you have at least one writing star, and then you earn pennies on it. Everything I put on Helium I rework and put on Associated Content. I also take non-exclusives from Associated Content and put them up on Helium. Between the two, I end up making a somewhat less paltry rate per article.

What I like about Helium:

*No waiting for someone to review your work. It goes up immediately.
*Guaranteed payment, although it's small.
*Stock content sales
*Good place to get ideas for articles

What I do not like about Helium:

*Very low pay
*The rating system sucks
*No formatting, so it doesn't look as professional as other sites
*There's a lot of crap content

Check out Michelle L. Devon's thoughts on Helium in her
Month-Long Helium Challenge

Friday, February 20, 2009

Arabian Horse Times

I think I mentioned when my query was accepted by Arabian Horse Times a few months ago, but I just wanted to update that the piece finally appeared and is in the February issue. I haven't seen it yet, but at least one of my friends has (thanks, G). I'm looking forward to seeing it! Although I'm in several other magazines, this is a big deal for me and I hope to write more for them! I don't know what the circulation is, but they are one of the premier magazines for Arabian horse owners and enthusiasts. As they say:

The premier monthly, international magazine devoted to Arabian horses and the people that love them. With a circulation that reaches around the globe (over 66 countries), the Arabian Horse Times brings to its readers the most complete coverage of the Arabian horse in the world today.

Onward and upward! I love adding new magazines to my list!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Editor Interview: Jenn Talley, Managing Editor of Sierra Style Publishing

Sierra Style is a group of magazines in the Sierra Foothills. Last summer, I sent a letter of introduction (hi, my husband and I are freelance writers, here's a sample, we're available for freelance assignments, etc) to Jenn's predecessor, Desiree Patterson, who is now the publisher. Desiree said she would keep us in mind, gave us our first assignment a month or so later, and now we are in nearly every issue.

Jenn took over as managing editor a few months ago and does a great job. I asked her a few questions about her job and about the query process from her perspective.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us a little about your background--education and experience before you became the editor at Style.

Jenn Talley: I graduated from the University of Florida, where I double-majored in English and Communication and minored in Advertising. Out of college in Jacksonville, Florida, I was a copy editor at an advertising agency, an amazing and fast-paced industry in which the businesses are much more like fraternities than corporations-I loved it tremendously! From there, I reluctantly moved on to working for the foundation of a large five hospital system to gain more writing opportunities. There, I wrote the foundation newsletter, along with the children's hospital newsletter and various collateral material. I moved to Sacramento from Florida in July of 2008 when my husband accepted a transfer with the Oracle Corporation. I sent an email to Style, asking if their editorial department had opportunities available, and one month after sending that initial e-mail, I was contacted regarding the managing editor position. I interviewed and accepted the position, and I have loved every day of work. My goal has always been to work in publishing and I'm so thankful that I am where I am now.

Jennifer Walker: How did you get your job? Did you have an edge over other people looking for the same job?

Jenn Talley: I simply took the initiative to send an e-mail and follow up. My former experience in the advertising industry gave me an edge because it is very deadline-driven and you are forced to balance multiple projects at once.

Jennifer Walker: Do you do any writing outside of Style?

Jenn Talley: I currently freelance write, proofread and copy edit manuscripts and will be completing my Web site soon. I can be reached by e-mail at

Jennifer Walker: How many queries do you receive for Style every week, and how many of these pieces actually end up in the magazine?

Jenn Talley:
We receive between 5 and 20 queries per week with article suggestions and new freelance writers, and we consider all of them. Many of them are already in queue to be placed in the magazine, and others are new. The number that end up in the magazine varies, as the editorial department as a whole plans each issue and decides content.

Jennifer Walker: What is your typical day like?

Jenn Talley:There really is no such thing as a typical day for me. Each day is literally different. I have several publications, projects and issues that I balance each day. I very much enjoy that aspect of my job.

Jennifer Walker: When reading queries from freelancers, what compels you to want to learn more about the piece or writer?

Jenn Talley: When freelancers show their personalities in their initial inquiries-whether in their e-mails or clips, I am compelled to get to know them better. When every freelance inquiry looks the same, it's sometimes difficult to differentiate between the average and exceptional.

Jennifer Walker: When reading submitted manuscripts, do you have any deal breakers that will always cause you to reject the piece (i.e., grammar, lack of sources, etc.)? Or do you tend to be flexible and work with the writer to improve it?

Jenn Talley: Grammar and writing style are extremely important for all writers. As a trained proofreader and copyeditor I am a stickler for grammar, but it will not be a complete deal breaker. Writing style, however, is key. If a writer's style does not match that of our publication, they may not be the best fit.

Jennifer Walker: Is there something a writer can do to make their query or submission stand out from the rest for you?

Jenn Talley: You get one shot to make a first impression, so show your personality as much as possible without being overbearing, so that whomever you are contacting gets a real sense of who you are as a person and writer.

Jennifer Walker: What other advice, from an editor's standpoint, can you offer to new freelancers?

Jenn Talley: Never submit a piece that is not your best work, details are important, and plagiarism is never okay.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Are you making some things happen, or waiting for something to happen?

My brother and his girlfriend took me out to dinner last night to Chinese food. At the end of the meal, we each opened our fortune cookie. One of them was one of the best I'd ever read...I may misremember the exact phrasing, but essentially it said: Make some things happen, instead of waiting for something to happen.

This is a philosophy that I have always tried to live by. I've never been one to sit around and moan that nothing good ever happens to me--I'm the one that decides something needs to happen and I try to figure out how to bring it about. However, we're all human and slip from time to time. I get busy with projects and forget to seek more, and soon I'm out of work (and money).

This is a little bit of a stretch on the original intent of the message, but it's a good lesson anyway: as a freelance writer, you have to constantly make things happen for you. It's easy to get complacent when you have ongoing relationships with an editor or two who give you work every month, but is that enough to pay your bills? What if they have to cut back? Keep sending out queries, posting on bid sites, online content sites, etc. You have to constantly push. I let things slack last fall, and I am just now really recovering and getting to the point where I have enough work.

Every writer is hoping for that phone call or email from Big Time Magazine Editor saying, "I read your piece in XX and I want you to write for me", but that just doesn't happen...or it's exceedingly rare if it does. (Pause to chuckle, because I saw an episode of Family Guy last night, where the New Yorker called Brian and asked him to write for them because he'd written something in some podunk paper. They fired him because he didn't have a college degree.) You have to keep sending those queries out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Publisher Interview: Dindy Robinson of Swimming Kangaroo Books

I am a copy editor at Swimming Kangaroo Books, a small, independent publishing company. I asked the owner/publisher, Dindy Robinson if she would mind answering a few questions about her life as a publisher and advice for authors, and she was kind enough to give me a few minutes of her time.

If you are considering submitting to Swimming Kangaroo Books, I can tell you that Dindy is very nice, and the authors and editors all get along quite well. It's just like having an extended family! And now for the interview...

Jennifer Walker: What was your experience in the publishing world before you started Swimming Kangaroo Books?

Dindy Robinson: Not as much as it probably should have been. I had written a teacher’s resource book that was published by Teacher Idea Press, and written and published numerous short stories and articles. I’d written and not published several novels, some in partnership with my husband and some on my own. I actually hadn’t written seriously for several years because I was working full time at a very demanding job, attending graduate school and raising two kids. Writing fell by the wayside.

Jennifer Walker: Can you give us a brief history of how Swimming Kangaroo Books was born?

Dindy Robinson: Through a rather uninteresting series of events I found myself unemployed in late 2005. By that time my kids were out of the house, I had my masters degree and since I no longer had a job where I could put in 50-60 hours a week, I needed something to do. I took out the books I had written and not touched for years with the intent of polishing them up and trying again to get them published. I discovered that in the ten or so years I’d been out of the business, the internet and digital technology had revolutionized the world of publishing. I’ve never been good at following rules, and following the unwritten rules for genre fiction was no different so I decided to publish my books myself. I started researching how to do so and realized that if I was going to publish my own books I might as well publish other people’s as well. Since my daughter, Jaala, is a whiz at web design, I tapped her to be my partner and in February 2006 we launched

Jennifer Walker: What is your job like as a publisher?

Dindy Robinson: I love being a publisher. I spend probably about a third of my time communicating with people via email. I also spend a lot of time dealing with editors—answering questions for editors, making decisions as to style or settling disputes between the author and the editor. I also deal with cover artists—soliciting bids for cover art, selecting an artist, working with the artist and the author to make sure the cover properly reflects the author’s vision. I have to format manuscripts for print, and then reformat them as many as four different ways for the various eBook formats (that’s the part of publishing I hate, by the way!) I have to interface with the various vendors who sell our books, work with the wholesalers to ensure the books are listed, solicit book reviews and send out review copies, and handle the various listings with the Library of Congress and other registration agencies. I also have to find time to market the books—I don’t spend as much time on that as I should because there are only so many hours in a day and I need to get at least 6 hours of sleep each night.

Jennifer Walker: What is your favorite part about your job?

Dindy Robinson: I love working with first time authors. They are so excited at each phase of the process and when they get their first book in their hands, it’s like holding their first baby. I love being a part of making people’s dreams come true.

Jennifer Walker: How many submissions do you receive?

Dindy Robinson: Depends on the month. There’s kind of a rhythm to it. During Spring Break and summer we get a lot of submissions from teenagers who are out of school and have nothing better to do. After NaNoWriMo, in November and December we receive a lot of submissions from the NaNoWriMo writers. We also generally receive a lot of submissions after the Muse Online conference, or if we attend some other convention or conference we’ll receive a rush. However, in the general course of events, we’ll receive about ten to fifteen submissions a month. While we are always open for submissions, we don’t actively solicit them. People seem to find us without that and we are happy with the quantity and quality of submissions we receive. (By actively soliciting submissions I mean we don’t post notices inviting people to send things in.)

Jennifer Walker What makes a query stand out to you and make you want to read the whole manuscript?

Dindy Robinson: I- um- don’t actually read the queries, for several reasons. First, I don’t have time. Second, many of the queries come from people I’ve come to know through various on line events, and it’s hard for me to be objective. Third, I trust my acquisitions staff completely. They read all the queries and they are the ones who decide if they want the whole manuscript. If I were to ask them this question, they would growl at me and say, “Tell them not to write stupid stuff.” What they mean is, show your story and don’t tell it; write realistic dialogue, and check your grammar and spelling.

Jennifer Walker: Other than the subject matter you explicitly say you do not want (listed very clearly on the website), is there something the author can do or say that would be a definite deal breaker? Or do you tend to be flexible and work with authors on weak submissions?

Dindy Robinson: We like working with new writers. I don’t like to say we will take something that’s weak—I’d prefer to say that we will take something that shows potential even if it’s not quite there yet. Many times a writer has a good plot and good writing skills, but just needs a little help with execution. We have excellent editors who will work with the writers on strengthening their manuscripts to make the book even better.

Definite deal breakers? I think we’re pretty upfront about what we don’t want to see.

Jennifer Walker: What advice can you offer to aspiring authors who want to send you a query?

Dindy Robinson: Check your spelling and grammar. Have someone else read it and check it for you. Don’t tell us that your mother or your father or your best friend or your English teacher read it and liked it, therefore we should too. Don’t send me an email after we reject your manuscript telling me that we’ll be sorry. Honestly, who you know or who referred you to us isn’t really that important (I’m not the one who reads the queries, remember.)

Do your research about us ahead of time. I read a blog last week that was written by a guy whose novel we rejected. He stated that we probably wouldn’t have gotten along anyway because in looking at our website, we seemed to mainly be interested in making sarcastic remarks, and he didn’t care about how we got our name or what our kids were named and he didn’t see what difference it made that we were atheists anyway or why we felt we needed to state it on our website. So I have to ask, why did he even bother submitting to us in the first place? If all these things bothered him BEFORE he submitted his manuscript to us, then why didn’t he send it somewhere else to begin with?

I like the queries I get from people who comment about something on the website, and I like the queries from people who make me laugh. Since I’m not the one who reads the queries, it may not necessarily do the author any good because the acquisitions people don’t see those comments. However, it makes me feel good and making a publisher feel good is NEVER a bad thing.

Jennifer Walker: What's a personal fact about you that many people do not know?

Dindy: Oh jeez. Anyone who reads our website or my blogs knows a great deal about me. I’m a fairly open book. But here’s something that people in my publishing life may not know. I collect pelicans. I’ve been fascinated by them ever since the girls and I went through Florida many, many years ago and I saw them sitting on the piers out on the water. Although I don’t believe in spirit guides, if I did, mine would be a pelican. On the ground, they seem very gawky and graceless, but when they fly, they soar beautifully, heedless of the bounds of earth. I can so relate to that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How often do you count your blessings?

One of my philosophies of life that has always stayed with me through the hardest and the best of times is to be thankful. If I'm having a hard time, reminding myself of the good things in my life lifts my spirits. If things are going well, it is good to remember why that is.

Today I have been thinking about how thankful I am for the good friends I have who want the best for me, and who do what they can to help me reach my goals and constantly encourage me to keep striving for them. Michelle L. Devon, who is responsible for me having a freelance writing, editing and noveling career. Sandra Ketcham, who coached me on SEO and gave me work. Beth Sandland, who gives me work and advice and is going to fly me to her home so she can teach me how to build web pages. All the editors and other clients who decided to take a chance on me and pay me for doing what I love to do. The dance clubs and studios who think enough of my teaching to ask me back again and again.

On the horsey front, Ashley and Allyssa for helping me with halter training, finding me an amazing gelding at an even more amazing price, and giving me a great deal on a place to keep him and my darling mare. Patience, who has given me worlds of help in dressage and coaches me daily on my weight loss journey.

On a family front, I am grateful for my wonderful husband, whom I love more every say. My mom for taking care of us and my daughter for...well, just being her.

Wow, uncharacteristically mushy post. It's like an academy awards speech or something, but it's so true. I am so thankful to have these people in my life...and I can't help thinking maybe God might have a little to do with it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A different kind of freelancing opportunity: Elastic Lab

A few months ago, I was contacted by a woman named Marina, who read this blog and thought I would be interested, to tell me about her company, Elastic Lab. Elastic Lab hires filmmakers of all skill levels (literally--complete beginners to professionals) to complete freelance filming assignments. They call this "crowd sourcing". They take the filmed bits,which are often interviews, edit them and put them together into films or commercials or whatever they were hired to produce.

Every single person who signs up as a freelance filmmaker gets a trial $100 project, and the company claims subsequent assignments pay anywhere from $300 to $1000 depending on what is required ($1000 is in the professional realm). Once you receive your assignment, you complete it, burn the footage onto DVDs (they take care of all the editing) and mail it in. After the first project, they pay for shipping and DVDs. As long as you complete the assignment as directed and on time, you get paid whether they use your footage or not.

Greg and I did not have a video camera at the time Marina contacted me, but we made the decision to start shopping for one because we wanted one anyway. Marina recommended purchasing one that will film straight to DVD (or mini DV), but we found those were too expensive so we chose one that records to memory. It really was not hard to upload the videos to the computer and burn them, but it does add a little extra time.

Once we received the camera, we both signed up for the site and were each given a $100 project as promised just a few days later. The project was such that we were able to interview each other--the subject was creating digital content, which we do every day, so it was easy. We were also encouraged to film "b-roll", which is personality footage with your hobbies, pets, etc. It was a lot of fun to do! We had some blips along the way, but overall it went pretty well.

We sent in our footage on Christmas Eve so I did not expect an immediate response--I think it was maybe a week and a half later, which I felt was reasonable. They gave some tips to look out for next time and said they enjoyed our footage. We received our checks by the end of that week.

That was last week, so we have not received any new assignments yet. I don't know when we will or what they will be like, but I will report when I do! As of right now, I definitely recommend Elastic Lab. I have no filmmaking experience and Greg just had a little in college (which was *ahem* years ago), and yet we were able to make some decent money doing something fun.

Check it out! If you have any questions about our experience, please comment. Perhaps Marina will stop by again and give her input on anything I left out!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Blog!

I have decided to start a book review blog! Have a book you need to publicize? Send me a copy, I'll read and review it and post my review along with an interview with you. All I ask is that you send me a copy of the book (which I will keep) and link to my page from your blog or website if you have one.

Need a book to read? Check out my reviews! A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book...