Thursday, 24 December 2015

Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016!

2015 was a year of travelling, exploring, and trying to brighten up Charlie guinea pig's life, after his mate Alvin, died in the new year. While Charlie went to stay with his grandma, who always spoils him rotten, we went to the New Forest, Dorset, Devon, Somerset, Shropshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, and Kent in a caravan! It wasn't quite as adventurous as the Grand Tour of Scotland last year, but we had some great times and the weather was reasonably good most of the time.

In the process of seeking out new clients, I got work with a regional magazine and a health website. We've had free cinema courtesy of Tesco for the past year, so non-commercial writing in the evenings has suffered, although I did manage to complete a Start Writing Fiction course with FutureLearn, which I felt was a worthwhile experience.

Plans for 2016? Goodness knows! It's as much as I can do to keep work coming in and maintain the status quo. Although somewhere in the pipeline is a funny book on guinea pigs, and I have a few more ideas to flesh out. I'm starting to dabble in fiction, so perhaps this will be my first year of having short stories published. I also have a novel in the offing, which isn't too far from completion... although finding a publisher might be another story.

So I'll sign off with a Happy Christmas, and festive new year to all. See you in 2016! If not before.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Why didn't I think of that? Oh. I did.

I saw an article in Writer's Forum recently - an interview with a fantastically successful self-published gentleman from my writing group. I thought, "Talk about missing an opportunity. Why didn't I think to pitch that interview idea?!"

Then I realised that I had thought about it. Once in 2013 and once in 2014, when I pitched similar ideas to interview the same author, to the editor of the same magazine. At the time, both suggestions were met with rejection, and I hadn't given it any further thought since.

So was my timing poor? Was my pitch shoddy? Perhaps the other writer wrote a better pitch! That wouldn't surprise me. I was writing so many pitches, they couldn't all be fantastic.

However, I do recall the interviewee being coy about his achievements in 2013 and 2014, which made it difficult to convey just how fantastic his achievements were. Apparently by 2015 he'd overcome this modesty, or perhaps been persuaded it was good for business to be a bit less bashful about it all.

Anyway, the experience gave me a kick in the butt to resubmit some old ideas to the same magazines who'd rejected them before. I received two new assignments the very same day. I'm now grateful for that kick up the butt. Just because an article idea is rejected by a magazine one year, doesn't mean it will be rejected by the same magazine a year later. If you know it's a great idea, keep plugging away.

It seems to have worked for me!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Can I earn a decent wage freelancing, compared to a full time job?

"Can I earn a decent wage freelancing, compared to a full time job?" someone asked me recently.

Well, it depends! The Author's Licensing and Collecting Society did a survey in 2013, and the results, made available in 2014, said that professional writers only earned an average of £11,000 per annum. However, I think many of those were part time, and many were authors.

So the answer has to depend on your earning power in employment, and also whether you can get work with decent paying publications as a freelancer. Some businesses pay better for freelance work than magazines, but it varies enormously. Some publications pay a lot more than others.

Author's pay varies widely too, with debut authors often earning very modest sums, while famous authors might make millions.

Working for magazines is erratic and pay can be a long time coming, if you're paid on publication, as most magazine freelancers are.

For someone who has an aptitude for writing and a commercial mindset (you have to write what people want to read/buy) it's certainly possible to earn decent money. However, most writers work long hours, have to stay focused and motivated, and obviously you don't get perks like holiday pay or sickness. Also, in my first year, my income was low, but building up any new business takes time. If you work hard and stay focused, you'll hopefully be rewarded with growing profits year on year.

The Writers' Bureau published a blog on How Lucrative is Freelance Journalism? It's worth a look here

There are lots of books that might be helpful. I've got a book that sheds more on my own experiences here 

What do other people think about this topic? The ALCS is of the view that it's getting increasingly difficult to make a full-time living as a writer. Do leave a comment below.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Don't be a publisher's nightmare. One space at the end of a sentence is plenty!

My mum always taught me to put two spaces after a full-stop, just as she was taught to do in typing school in the 1960s. But when I started working in marketing and brochure production in the late 1990s, I quickly learnt to stop this bad habit. Times had changed and one full-stop is now sufficient for modern typefaces. Two full-stops cause ugly gaps in the text and creates more work for your editor or graphic designer, who has to go through your work, taking them all out!

In the modern world, publishers want just one full stop. Don't be 'traditional' and give them two. After I was told once, I didn't dare do it again, yet in 2015, some publishers are still battling to get the message across to their contributors!

The editors of Chicken Soup for the Soul have sent the following message to their contributors, in their September newsletter...

"Did you take typing in high school? We did, and we were taught to add two spaces after a period. It turns out that is very “old school.” Everyone over 40 was taught to add two spaces; many people under 40 were taught to add only one space after a period.

"Here’s why: In the old days, we didn’t have word processors and  fonts   that   automatically   spaced   themselves   nicely,   so   it  sometimes  wasn’t  clear  that  there  was  indeed  a  space  after  a  period.  Now,  with  most  fonts  it  is  crystal  clear.  And  that  extra  space  at  the  end  of   sentence wastes  space,  spaces  that  add  up  over the course of  a newspaper article or a 400-page book.

"No  matter  what  you  were  taught,  and  how  diligently  you  put  two  spaces  after  every  period,  stop  doing  it!  We  have  to  go  through  all  the  stories  and  remove  those  extra  spaces.  AP  style, Chicago style, and every other up-to-date source will tell you the same  thing—put  one  space  at  the  end  of   a  sentence! 

"Thank you."

I don't think I need to say any more! This is 2015, not the 1960s. Don't do what my mum did in the typing pool. Get up-to-date with the modern world! One full-stop is enough.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Is social media for authors a waste of time?

I've been writing professionally since 2011, and started using social media in 2014, pending the publication of my first book by Compass Books, called 'Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens'. My day job is writing magazine articles. I've also self-published a second writing book, a collection of WWII memoirs, and some inspiring Christian stories.

When I first joined Twitter, it struck me as a waste of time, but I persevered and have since come to enjoy some of the interactions with other authors. I've learnt some valuable things from people on social media. For example, I first heard about the Author's Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) from people I met on Twitter, and I've since made money from joining ALCS, which made the whole experience worthwhile! I've also picked up things about commercial book publishers, agents, and self-publishing, which have been useful.

I find Twitter infinitely more engaging than Facebook, perhaps because my Facebook author page rarely appears on anyone's feeds due to Facebook's policy of charging for exposure. Twitter, in contrast, results in some great interactions. I've met some really interesting people, and find the author community really supportive. I try to post links and tips that will help people achieve their writing ambitions.

My blogs help me engage with readers, exchange thoughts, and promote my work. Does my social media activity result in book sales? Well, writers like to read too, and some of those people I've met online have bought copies of my books. Some even told me how much they enjoyed the books or felt inspired by them. This and the other benefits, such as generation of feature ideas and positive interactions, make logging onto social media regularly, worthwhile.

Authors can be a generous bunch on social media, and will offer hints and tips, help promote your work, might give you an interview on their blog, or support you in other ways, so there are good reasons to be active on social media. My most memorable interactions on social media have been from readers who have loved my books, or been inspired by my articles, and have tweeted to say so.

The main thing to remember is that it's not a one way street. If your communications are all about promoting your work, to the exclusion of everything else, you're not making the most of the opportunities to engage with potential readers in a more meaningful way. Two way communication is more effective, more rewarding, and more likely to generate interest in your work.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Meet prolific book reviewer, Tracy Shephard

My latest guest blogger, Tracy Shephard, is a prolific book reviewer, with ambitions to have a novel of her own published. She has a decent following on her blog, which has surprised her with its success. I asked Tracy about her book reviews, her writing, her favourite books and her life as a book reviewer. This is what she said...

Q. How do you select which books to review next?

A. I always review books in order that I am asked to read them. If I have a blog tour I read those first. A blog tour is where a group of book reviewers all get a specific date to tweet our reviews. These blogs sometimes include a Q&A with the author, or whatever the blogger wants to include. My next tour is on the 9th June when I'll be reviewing The Spider in the Corner of the Room

Once the blog tours are prioritised, I read other books I've been asked to review, and then I read whatever takes my fancy.

Q. Does one book you've reviewed stand out above all the others?

A. A couple of reviews stand out. The Red Notebook by Antoine Lauren was one of them. I fell in love with this book from the first page and read it in three hours. It's a beautiful book and one I recommend. 

I also like reviews that include a Q&A with the author. My favorite review is with a rather unknown author, L M Krier, about her novel, Baby's Got Blue Eyes. It's a fab read and in my opinion should be picked up by a Publisher.

Q. How long does it typically take you to get through a new book?

A. I have so many books to read, but I'm quite an avid reader too, so I can read about four books a week. I am partially disabled so I can't do very much, which means I sit and read a lot. I usually read a book in one sitting, if its doesn't grab me then I read it in about two days.

Q. Do you only review novels or do you sometimes review non-fiction works too?
A. I like to read all books, but the ones I review are mainly fiction. This is because I only get sent or asked to read this type of book.

Q. Have you ever given up on a book? Why?

A. I have given up on books, mainly ones I read for the book club I attend. They are books that I wouldn't normally read. I have given up reviewing these books for my blog. I like to be honest in my reviews and I don't think my negativity is helpful so I don't review them. I'm sure the books would appeal to other people. They're just not my cup of tea.

Q. What's your background / career history / greatest achievement?

A. I was a manager in a department store but had to leave when I had an accident which badly hurt my back. I cannot work now as I am always in a lot of pain and sometimes, I can't move easily. My greatest achievements are my children. I take no credit for how they have turned out, but they are successful well-rounded kids and they are rather likeable.

Q. What are your personal writing aspirations and what are you doing to try and achieve them?

A. I have written a book called A Human Drama, which has sold a few copies on Kindle. however it has been turned down by two publishers. I am now writing a romance which I hope will be successful.

Q. How do you rate the success of your blog?

A. I am quite surprised by how well my blog has been received. I started it on Christmas Eve 2014. It has had 3500 views and I have about 30 followers. You can find my blog here

Q. Do you find blogging fulfilling?

A. Yes. I enjoy blogging. I like it when I receive comments that tell me how much someone has loved my review or when someone has bought a book based on my review. I also love being able to recommend a good read to the people I meet. I have seen the way I review change over the time since I started my blog, and I hope to continue with it  - and for it to be successful.

Q. What's your favourite book ever?

A. My favorite books of all time are anything by Agatha Christie. She was so plot driven and although I try, I can never guess the culprit. They are so cleverly written, Agatha really had a fantastic brain.

Q. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

A. I would encourage people to start a blog about anything they enjoy. It is a way of connecting with new friends and giving yourself a voice about something you are passionate about. I marvel at blogs I read, as each are different and interesting. I read as many as I can and follow almost all of them.

View Tracy's blog on - you'll find plenty of inspiration on what to read next!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Insider Secrets For Successful Freelance Writing

I was interviewed recently by fellow writer, Tony Riches, for his blog. I thought I'd post a copy on here. You might enjoy it. :-)

How did you first start to make a living as a freelance writer?

I took redundancy from a career in marketing and had a couple of short-term jobs, one of which opened my eyes to the possibilities as a freelance writer. Basically, I was much better than the freelance writers that this company was using. So when that doomed job ended (and no-one else wanted me) I decided to set myself up as a freelance writer. Getting started was hard work, but I've never looked back. I'm really glad I did it.

I started pitching article ideas to the editors of magazines that I wanted to write for - all day long, relentlessly. I got rejection after rejection initially - and those that didn't reject me, offered 'exposure' in return for working for free. Well I was serious about a career, so 'exposure' wasn't enough. I needed to chase the money.

Among those offering 'exposure' was a glossy women's magazine called Marie Claire. I agreed to cooperate with a short interview piece for Marie Claire, just so that I could say I'd been published in that magazine (or on their website technically). But as a general rule, I was very focused on the money. I had to be. I'd quit my job, and this was supposed to be my new career!

My first paid commission came through from a military magazine, followed by a couple of assignments from gardening magazines and I was away! I kept pitching relentlessly, and the work kept coming in. The rest is history (or in my books if you want more detail!).

Where can new writers find the best opportunities to build their portfolio?

Among my first regular assignments was a column in the local newspaper about events happening in my town. That kind of opportunity is a reasonable starting point - it gets you focused on the writing discipline, meeting deadlines, developing a routine, ensuring a high level of accuracy, and complying with in-house style-guides.

I also had some work published in a regional magazine some years earlier, which meant that when I started writing full-time, I had a modest portfolio of work to show off. I did those early articles for free because it was promoting something that was in my interests. Doing the odd thing for free can help you get a basic portfolio together.

What can writers do to increase their chances of success?

I think it can be very easy to give up in the face of rejection, but if you want it badly enough, you'll keep plugging away, and improve your craft until you get there. I read lots of books, asked people for advice, and persevered. I pitched feature ideas all day, every day, for weeks before I got a positive reply. Tenacity and determination really help - but you've got to have a good command of English and some decent ideas too.

Where do you start to find the right contacts for magazines and newspapers?

The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, a magazine's website, or the editorial column inside a magazine itself, are all good places to start. Staff turnover can be quite high in publishing, so it's worth checking online if in doubt.

Do you need an agent—and what can they do for you?

I don't have an agent. I got a book contract directly with a publisher. I don't think you need one, but they can be very helpful if you have your heart set on a publishing deal with a large publishing house. Agents represent your interests. They can, hopefully, get your manuscript in front of the people who matter and get you a decent advance. Getting access to the big publishers is very difficult to achieve without an agent, as most of them refuse to deal directly with authors these days.

What are the biggest challenges to a sustainable freelance career and how can writers overcome them?

Getting paid quickly is one of the biggest challenges. You don't get paid until the article is published, which depending on the publication, can take months, or even years. There are also issues with many publications having their budgets cut at the moment, so some are cutting their fees, and others are taking less freelance material. It's a real squeeze.

I think it helps to have other skills so that you can diversify a bit. I intend to do more on the photography side this year, and I hope to do more writing for business markets, where you get paid more quickly.

What are your ‘top tips’ for new freelance writers?
  • Persevere.
  • Take notice of all feedback because it often provides valuable insight into how you can improve your writing skills.
  • Read books on writing, and meet others who write, for inspiration and support.
You'll find that my latest writing book, 'Freelance Writing Aim Higher, Earn More' is on special offer for Kindle at the moment. Why not grab a copy here?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

You know you're a writer when...

Having read a great blog called, "You know you're a writer when..." by Dylan Hearn, I thought I'd create my own!

You know you're a writer when...

1. You wake up every day bursting to get to your writing desk and start on the day's project.
2. You become fascinated with the differences between UK and US English - because you have to get it right when you're working for different markets. You're still in a bit hazy about which version the Australians use!
3. Friends and family think you should get a 'proper job'.
4. You scribble article ideas on scraps of paper as they come to you, and end up with lots of half-cut ideas that might make it into stories one day.
5. All your acquaintances appear in magazines at least once, telling their fascinating stories as interview pieces.
6. You take photos of everything, in case they can be used in an article.
7. Your compulsion to edit, over and over, can lead to silly mistakes if you're not very careful.
8. Your partner becomes an unpaid proof reader.
9. Your work schedule is erratic and unpredictable. So are your clients. A new editor decides your work is no longer suitable for his magazine, so that's a dozen articles that suddenly need a new home. You cry.
10. When that happens, you recoil and end up wondering if a proper job wouldn't be so bad after all!
11. Then things pick up and you get to write some amazing travel features. You have the best job in the world!
12. Your book publisher runs a 99p ebook promotion, which leaves you with 17p royalties per book. You never thought you'd get rich, but this is ridiculous!
13. If you're self-publishing, you check your Kindle ebook sales daily, and become slightly obsessed by it.
14. Your writing has taken you to places you never dreamed of visiting before, all in the name of research. You've met some amazing people and your eyes have been opened to all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff. Your writing makes life interesting.
15. You could probably earn more money working in a shop, but that wouldn't be as much fun, and you wouldn't learn so much.
16. You're often left wondering when pay will come through, two years after your article was accepted for publication. 
17. Your pets make regular appearances in pet magazines and women's weeklies!
18. You're slightly obsessed with English grammar and getting everything perfect.
19. Nothing is private: your whole life is laid bare in magazine articles and books.

Read the original blog that inspired me here: (For anyone who doesn't know... WIP=Work In Progress)

Please add your own ideas in the comments section below!

And please check out my freelance writing books here:

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

My first Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, Reviews, & Why I Prefer Paperbacks

I took the plunge before Christmas and bought a Kindle. Then come new year, with the offer of a month's free borrowing on Kindle Unlimited, I decided to dive in and explore the joys of Kindle Unlimited. The results were very mixed.

The quality of some ebooks was disappointing. Some were written by people who had clearly never practised what they were preaching, and many were clearly opportunistic exercises trying to generate sales regardless of quality. Others however, were surprisingly good - and I did those authors a favour by leaving reviews saying how much I enjoyed the read.

While I was glad that I hadn't paid out for some titles, I liked the idea of being able to borrow books. After all, if you like the book, you might buy a copy for keeps, so I'm not convinced it's a bad deal for authors. The author royalties on Kindle Unlimited are better than you might imagine too - approximately $1.40 per borrow last time I checked - so it's a good way for authors to get exposure without buyers taking too much of a gamble.

The key in the long run, I think, is going to be down to reviews. Reviews can help to differentiate the good from the questionable. They're also a great way to say 'thanks' to an author who has written a good book that you enjoyed, so do consider leaving a review when you enjoy an author's work.

My conclusion on the Kindle experience? I prefer paperbacks! Kindle Unlimited has been a bit disappointing - I seem to have downloaded a lot of dross. But with regards to the format - ebook versus paperback - I find paperback a more pleasant read. I have the attention span of a goldfish which isn't good on Kindle. When I'm reading non-fiction, I like to flick back through a book when I've forgotten something (or I'm simply confused) and I didn't find it as easy on my Kindle to flick back and clarify things!

I don't think ebooks are a real threat to traditional publishing, although my Kindle will no doubt continue to provide a comfortable way to read PDFs away from the computer, or to get e-copies of books that are otherwise prohibitively expensive.

What's your preference and why?

Friday, 9 January 2015

Freelance Writing: Aim Higher, Earn More

Check out my new freelance writing book. Here's the blurb...

Freelance Writing: Aim Higher, Earn More

In 2011 Susie Kearley quit a career in marketing to follow her lifelong dream of becoming a full-time freelance writer. She had no contacts, no real experience in the publishing industry, and no idea whether she would succeed. Yet through sheer tenacity, determination and hard work, she built a solid career as a freelance writer, in the middle of a global economic recession. Today, she works for some well-known publications and earns a living from her writing.

In this book, Susie discusses her approaches to getting published and answers many of the burning questions asked of any freelance writer:

- How much money do writers make? How much do you earn?
- How can I generate more income from my writing?
- Where can I find the best opportunities in freelance writing?
- How can I learn from rejection and increase my chances of success?
- How do I break into magazines and newspapers overseas?
- Do I need an agent? What can they do for me?
- What's it like working with a small press book publisher?
- What are the biggest challenges to a sustainable freelance career,
and how can I overcome them?

This book discusses writers' average earnings and the many challenges facing someone following a freelance career. It explains how to generate income from feature articles, blogging, books, photography, and content creation for business. It details the money to be made from associations that pay out secondary royalties on your articles, photographs, and books. It also looks at record keeping and organisational skills - essential requirements once your workload reaches a certain level.

This book is written for those writers who've seen modest successes in publishing, to help them take their writing to the next level. It will help anyone looking for new inspiration and insight, who wants to earn more from their writing.

There are many beginners books on the market. This book is different. It focuses on making a regular income from writing. It doesn't go into great detail on the basics like how to pitch, because that's covered in lots of other books, including the author's first book, Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens.

Part 1 focuses on different ways of making money from your writing.

Part 2 looks at working for magazines around the world and discusses the things you need to think about when you write for overseas markets.

Part 3 looks at opportunities in book publishing, a day in court, professional indemnity insurance, marketing, social media and writing as therapy.

Out in paperback and Kindle now.

Click here to buy