Thursday, November 01, 2007

Writing for Websites

Question of the week: I was just wondering if you might know about writing for the websites of various magazines. For example,; is it easier to get something accepted for their website than for their mag? Any idea what they pay?

I don't have specifics on, but I will offer some general thoughts on writing for websites. In a nutshell, I think they're a fabulous way to build your clip file. Most websites turn over content a lot faster than a monthly magazine would, so they're always on the lookout for new ideas, and because there is a lesser sense of permanence on the site, I think they're more willing to take a chance on a new-to-them writer than a big, established magazine might be.

As far as pay, in my experience, websites do pay less than big magazines (i.e. vs. Parents mag, though that's just an example and nothing concrete because again, I have no idea what pays, and I'm sure that it varies per writer and per assignment), in terms of per word, but that doesn't mean that they aren't very worth your while. I used to do A LOT of web writing, and let me tell you, my hourly rate almost always came out higher than when I wrote for magazines.

Think of it this way: a magazine pays you $1 a word for 1,000 words, but between all the editing and interviews, you put in, say, 10 hours. You're making $100 an hour.

A website might pay you 50 cents per word for 1000 words, but the editing will likely be less consuming, at the very least. So even though you've started off with a lower baseline, if you put in, say 4 hours, you're actually making more per hour ($125..and I used to make a lot more per hour) than you would at the magazine.

So readers, what say you? Do you enjoy writing for websites? Have you found them easier to crack?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Story Behind My Story

For some reason, I got a bunch of emails last week asking how I got my start as a writer, so I thought I'd give you my backstory which, I think, is a good example of how luck, persistence and truly hard work all came together fortuitously and granted me a career.

I was always a writer, but I didn't always intend to be a writer, if that makes sense. In college, people suggested that I pursue it, but it just sounded so dang impossible. I mean, who makes money writing??? It sounded insane. So I dipped my toe in a variety of other careers (PR, acting (to this day, I have my SAG card!), internet ventures), and finally, writing came to me, not vice versa.

About seven years ago, just after the bubble burst on the whole internet boom, I was toiling at a start-up which I co-ran, focusing on our pr and marketing, basically, creating press kits, writing web copy, establishing partnerships with other sites, etc. When we sold the site (for peanuts), a lot of our partners asked me to continue doing their web copy and press releases, and voila, my freelancing career was born. I wasn't quite sure about working full-time for myself, however, so I applied for a writing position at a well-known PR company, but by the time they called and eventually offered me the job, I'd realized that I'd be bananas NOT to attempt the freelancing thing. And somehow, by the grace of God, I got the PR firm to agree to also hire me on a freelance basis - paying me for three days of work per week. (There is a point to this background, hang in there.)

As luck would have it, part of my job at this PR firm was ghostwriting for celebrity clients. While the PR work paid my bills, I still felt unfulfilled, so, because I was getting married, I pitched The Knot a story idea for their website. I don't think this was my first query ever, but it was one of them, certainly. As further luck would have it, they were looking for someone with ghostwriting experience to pen a book for them, and though I still can't believe this, they hired me. (I did have to submit sample chapters and all of that.)

The experience itself was less than ideal, however, it opened all sorts of doors for me because my very next pitch was to Bride's, who assigned me a story immediately, and just like that, I'd landed my first national assignment. Wow! Who knew it was so easy? Right? Right???

Er, wrong. I landed another feature at another big magazine, and when I returned home from my honeymoon, was unceremoniously told that it was being killed. No offers for a rewrite, no second chances. And then, came a dry spell.

I can't remember how long this dry spell lasted, but I'd venture that it was another six months until I landed any other type of assignment (beyond my usual PR stuff). But I hung in there, despite the hundreds of rejections that dinged my inbox. I pitched story ideas like no one has ever pitched story ideas: juggling dozens of them at a time. One editor rejects it? I sent it right out to someone else. I kept on top of research and studies and trends, and if anything remotely pinged for me, off it went to an editor.

Eventually, I started breaking in with FOBs and at various websites, like (now I made myself invaluable to my editors and became genuine friends with many of them. But I never stopped working at 150 miles per hour. I turned in work early; I kept pitching; I let editors know that I was available to do just about anything for them, big or small, menial or not. (Er, that sounds dirty, but you know what I mean.) And now, seven years later, I have a career. Yes, it takes that long - okay, maybe I hit this about two years ago - to firmly entrench yourself.

I wish that I could promise that there were easier paths. I wish that I could say that there are secret handshakes to open hidden doors. But there aren't. I got lucky - The Knot needed someone, and I was in the right place and the right time, but from there, I earned it. There are thousands of aspiring writers out there, if not more. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep knocking on doors. If you do so, sooner or later, you'll likely distinguish yourself and one (or more) of these doors will open to greet you.

Monday, October 29, 2007

GCC Presents: Jana DeLeon and Unlucky

You know, my husband has long told me that I should write a book that deals with gambling or poker or something along those lines (actually, "a woman with gambling addiction" was what he threw at me, as if that's supposed to somehow give me a plot or purpose, but ahem, I digress), and the good news is, that since I know nothing about any of these things, I can now tell him that the book has already been written: Jana DeLeon's Unlucky. I totally love this premise, here's the scoop:

Her luck’s so bad it’s a crime.

Everyone in Royal Flush, Louisiana, knows Mallory Devereaux is a walking disaster. At least now she’s found a way to take advantage of her chronic bad luck: by “cooling” cards on her uncle’s casino boat. As long as the crooks invited to his special poker tournament don’t win their money back, she’ll get a cut of the profit.

But Mal isn’t the only one working some major mojo. There’s a dark-eyed dealer sending her looks steamier than the bayou in August. Turns out he’s an undercover agent named Jake Randoll, and for a Yank, he’s pretty darn smart. Smart enough to enlist her help to catch a money launderer. As they race to untangle a web of decades-old lies and secrets amid a gathering of criminals, Mallory can’t help hoping her luck’s about to change….

Today, we're lucky enough (ha! I didn't even do that intentionally) to have Jana weigh in with some answers to my five usual questions...

1) What's the backstory behind your book?
My husband and I got married in Vegas in 2000. Before we left, I studied and studied blackjack combinations, determined to beat the house. Unfortunately, I have absolutely, positively NO LUCK. In fact, my luck is so bad that when I sit down at a table, not only don't I win, everyone else starts losing too. So I came up with Mallory Devereaux, the unluckiest woman in the world, who needs to make some money fast and decides to do it by "cooling" cards at a poker tournament of criminals.

2) What do you love most about writing fiction? What do you like least?
The fan letters/emails are definitely the best. All the waiting you do as an author (waiting to hear on proposals, waiting to hear on sales) is definitely the worst.

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?
I did it the old-fashioned way. I wrote the book, edited the ever-living heck out of it, queried agents, got/accepted an offer for representation, got a list of edits from my agent (13 pages – yikes), made revisions, my agent submitted and we got an offer.

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What's your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?
I write first thing in the morning before I go to the day job. That way if other things happen during the day (ie bad work day, bad Chinese for lunch) I've already gotten my pages in and don't have to feel guilty for taking a night off. If I feel fine and get a second wind, I'll write some more at night after dinner. My drive comes from the desire to constantly improve my place as an author. I don't have any rituals, per se, but I love to write in cafes and work in the same one every week.

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?
I would love someone like Eva Mendes to play the heroine. I think she's sexy in a fun way and could totally pull of a Cajun girl. For the hero, I'm thinking David Duchovny because I always loved him in the X-Files.