The first night we arrived in Dayton, my sister Kathleen and I rode in a van with "Wo Jo" and her husband Brad to the Erma Celebration at the Centerville Library. What a delight! She was open and friendly, with a wicked sense of humor.
Going into her "Be Funny. Make Money" workshop I knew she was funny, but I had no idea what a smart and savvy businesswoman she is.
During her session, she spoke with wit, wisdom, passion, and an insider's knowledge of making a living as a freelancer.
Here are some highlights:
* Writing is a Product. Editors get paid, printers get paid--You should get paid.
* Don't write for free unless you can get something out of it.
* Some writers claim they do it for the exposure. Wo Jo says, "People can die from too much exposure."
* An example of when it is beneficial to write and not get paid: If you have a book coming out and want free publicity, it's okay to give free content because you are getting free PR for your book out of it.
* Writers should have a "Go for the Gold " Press Kit.
* Fight for your rights; keep as many as you can.
* Negotiate your rights. Editors usually keep a contract in their desk asking only for first rights - ask for it.
* Think in the future; look at the long-term.
* Look at reselling your content, but be careful about the market so they don't overlap.
* A good place to start is with local publications.
* "In the absence of a contract, you are automatically selling first or one-time rights. if you don't sign, you own all other rights."
* To avoid an editor misunderstanding that you expect to be paid when quering about a piece you want to write on spec, always include the statement "if you would like to purchase the rights to my ..."
* Most editors prefer writers to submit as text within an e-mail rather than as an attachment.
* Be polite and be persistent. Once you have an acceptance, send the editor a follow-up. "Thanks. May I send you more?"
She also spoke about how she copyrights her columns to protect her rights. For specific info on copyright, visit the Copyright Office website.
For all the naysayers, she had this to say, "Those who say it can't be done should get out of the way for those who do it."
The last full session on Friday was "The Craft of Column Writing" with W. Bruce Cameron, Connie Schultz, Craig Wilson, and Mary McCarty, moderated by Laura Pulfer.
The format was Q&A. With questions coming from the audience and the panel members responding, some parts were interesting, others not so much. A few questioners took advantage of the opportunity and focused on their own situations. Some panelists spoke more than others. A few times I felt like I was at a political rally when the answers were steered toward politics, but I did manage to jot down several tidbits about the craft of column writing.
* There is no substitute for talent
* Use your contacts
* Do the interviews first
* Look at future opportunities
* Print will find a way to survive
* Market your unique voice
* Don't give your stuff away
* Never write for free
* Use your resources
* Keep at it and they will find you!
* Be relentless
* Because of the Internet and blogs there are voices rising that might not have been heard
* Luck + Talent + Voice = Success
* Focus on quality
* Pay your dues
* Everyday things can be great material for a column
* Column length is usually 300-700 words
* The angrier you are, the funnier you should be.
* Avoid religion or politics (unless you are a political or religion writer)
* Be honest
In my next post I'll write about the fabulous dinner with New York Times bestselling author and screenwriter/producer Adriana Trigiani, author of The Shoemaker's Wife.