Pros and Cons of Self Publishing

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As advances shrink and publishers scale back on acquisitions, many writers are considering self-publishing. After all, Amanda Hocking can become a millionaire by selling her novels on the Kindle platform, why not me?

I self-published an ebook last year, and while it didn’t make me a millionaire, it certainly gave me an inside look at the world of self-publishing. Here are some pros and cons to consider before self-publishing.

Pros
1.    You’re in charge.
I’ve heard author friends kvetch about editors who’ve mangled their manuscript, agents who pressure them to change the title, book publicists who just don’t get them. Self-publishing allows authors to bypass traditional marketing channels and enjoy complete creative control. You decide when and how to market the book, you choose the cover design, you pick the title.
2.    You earn what you sell.
When you sign a book contract with a publisher, you’re splitting sales with the publisher, your agent, the retailer, and so on. Often you may never earn out your advance and collect royalties. But with self-publishing, you get to keep almost all of the money from the books you sell. There are some costs involved with print on demand (or POD), but ebooks are almost pure profit because digital goods don’t incur costs from shipping, storing, printing, and so on.
3.    Lower barriers to entry.
As interest in self-publishing grows, so do the number of tools available to indie authors and article writers. There are tons of websites offering tips on self-publishing, inexpensive tools to help format your book, and more. Plus, you don’t have to wait months or even years to hold your book as you might with a traditional publisher. Of course, while these self-publishing tools help authors who might be overlooked by larger publishers, they also help authors who haven’t taken the time to polish their manuscript.

Cons
1.    You’re in charge.
Since they don’t have the resources of a publishing house to help you, self-published authors have to be entrepreneurial, not just writing the book, but also getting it edited and formatted, creating a marketing plan, and choosing distribution channels. Some of those tasks can be outsourced (for instance, I hired a graphic designer to create my cover and a proofreader to polish my manuscript), but ultimately, it’s up to you to make things happen.
2.    Uncertain income.
With self-publishing, there are no advances, however meager. You might spend weeks or months writing and researching a book and earn no money if it doesn’t sell. That’s why I think it’s really important to study the market and figure out where you book fits in and how you’ll promote it. Of course, if you have an unsold novel manuscript gathering dust on your hard drive, then what do you have to lose?
3.    Less prestige.
Self-publishing isn’t as taboo as it was a few years ago, but there’s still a certain cache to signing with a major publisher. Savvy self-publishers like Hocking have been able to make a name for themselves, but a major publisher can help pave the way for major media coverage and other opportunities. In fact, Hocking signed a four-book deal with St. Martin so she could focus on writing instead of all the other tasks associated with self-publishing.

How to Build an Enduring Freelance Career

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Slipping into the life of a full-time freelancer was deceptively easy. A former classmate sent me a lead on a permalance copy editing gig at a daily newspaper, which I easily landed. I also parlayed an internship at a web magazine into another regular gig, managing and writing for their products blog. Sure, I took on other projects here and there… But it didn’t take much hustle to pay my bills, and I soon slipped into a sense of complacency.

Then, just as the recession was creeping close enough to slap us all upside the head, the newspaper I was permalancing at folded. Months later, the web magazine I was blogging for cut back on its posting frequency. Suddenly, I realized: I’d been coasting.

These days, the more projects I’m juggling, the safer I feel. Which is obvious, but what I’ve also learned is that the more you have to offer, the more projects you’re sure to have on your plate.

So I write and blog for print and online magazines. I ghostwrite ebooks. I do a bit of copywriting. I take on proofreading and copy editing projects. Not only that, but I earned my career coaching certification so that I could coach other freelance writers and publishing professionals. I host networking events. And — just for kicks — I’m an on-call funeral singer.

Aside from the singing, I feel as if all of the work I do is in some way connected, each service I offer a natural extension of the others. Which makes it easier to build a cohesive brand. So, as a freelance journalist, what else could you be doing to bring in the bucks?

1. Seek out different types of writing clients.

It’s all well and good to write for your favorite glossy mags, but when that lifestyle is characterized by pitching, waiting, more waiting, more waiting, maybe landing the assignment, pushed-back pub dates, and payments made at least 30 days after publication (why are we doing this again!?), it could be smart to consider additional forms of writing income. Some alternate forms of writing to consider? Industry-specific articles for business-to-business publications. Corporate copywriting. Ghostwriting (books… blog posts… even social media accounts!). Greeting card copywriting. The possibilities are endless!

2. Use your word nerd abilities to clean up the writing of others.

Always hand in perfectly clean copy? You may have a very bright future on the other side of the red pen. Consider copyediting or proofreading for a magazine, newspaper, or book publisher. Offer freelance editing to other authors. Become a section editor for a print or online publication. Consider angling for a developmental editor position at your favorite publishing house.

3. Self-publish.

Of course, if the thought of nurturing other writers instead of working on your own manuscript makes you wince, you could start a niche blog and find a way to monetize it. Advertising dollars aren’t what they used to be, but you could always use your blog to build up a mailing list and promote your other products and services. Speaking of products, why not develop an information product, like an insider report or ebook? You won’t have the power of a traditional publishing house behind you but, depending on how you self-pub, you could have all the profits.

4. Share your boundless wisdom.

There are universities with strong continuing education programs out there just itching for some high-quality, part-time writing profs. Sites like mediabistro also offer classes and publishing panels, and are always looking for new teachers. Or if you’d rather go it alone, you could host your own e-course. Of course, if the thought of teaching large groups of people makes you feel light-headed (I’m with you, man), you could do what I did and offer one-on-one coaching or consulting.

5. Brainstorm some other ideas.

Ask yourself: What do I love to do in my spare time? What parts of my job or other life activities do I most enjoy? What are my natural talents and my greatest successes? What are my passions? This list has a lot of ideas, but it’s not complete.

If you’re struggling financially, I strongly suggest that you consider diversifying. You have a lot to offer. More than you think.

New Freelancer to Ebyline? Here’s How We Work!

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Are you a new freelancer to the Ebyline system? Are you a freelancer who has never used Ebyline? Either way, we want to give you a warm welcome to Ebyline!

We put together this video to give you the ins and outs of being freelance writer for Ebyline. Think of it as the welcome mat to a new home for freelancers. Just watch where you wipe your feet!

Ebyline Seeks Worldwide Freelancers

Ebyline.com Homepage Welcome to the Virtual Newsroom

Ebyline co-founder Allen Narcisse recently spoke with Veronika Belenkaya of the International Journalists’ Network about expanding the company’s freelance roster overseas. “We want to create a single destination, or database, for the outlets from around the world, to find trusted, reliable, ready-to-work journalists,” Narcisse told IJNET.

The announcement falls inline with current trend of the decentralized newsroom, where freelancers replace staffers as the primary providers of content. Belenkaya provides context for the current media landscape that Ebyline attempts to change. “While most newsrooms are shrinking, one U.S. newsroom is expanding its roster of international freelancer journalists and videomakers,” Belenkaya writes. “It is perhaps no accident that Ebyline is a ‘virtual newsroom.’”

For the entire IJNET interview with Ebyline co-founder Allen Narcisse, click here.

How to Pitch Podcasts, Slideshows and Multimedia Packages

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One way to generate more income as a freelance writer is to pitch a package to potential clients. Instead of only pitching an article, throw in a podcast, slideshow, and/or video. But don’t give it away, and charge more if it is edited.

If you’re writing a feature story on an event but you also have great photography skills, ask if you can take photos. But go one step further: propose putting together a slide show. If you also have the equipment and can shoot video, recommend that too. Keep the video clips short though — it’s a good rule to keep videos around two minutes. If you’re covering a local government meeting, tell your client you’ll record the audio of the entire meeting, and they can publish it as a public service on their website. Even better, if you have a laptop and a quality video camera, ask the client if you can “livestream” the meeting so their websites readers can watch it live from their website.

Afi Odelia-Scruggs, who has been freelancing full time since 2004, got her start as a reporter in the 1980s. She now mainly works as a freelance photographer for Cleveland Heights and Beachwood Patch sites in Ohio.

“I got into video reluctantly and through that, went into audio,” she said.

Odeli-Scruggs contributes a weekly slide show. Recently, she covered a fifth-grade graduation.

In 2008, she wrote a commentary for TheRoot.com titled “Remixing Grandma’s Voice: How to preserve her stories in the age of the iPod.” In the article, Odeli-Scruggs talks about a Mother’s Day present to her family — a digital version of an interview she taped with her grandmother in 1990. Check it out at http://www.prx.org/pieces/63534.

Odeli-Scruggs prefers using audio to tell a story because it’s “simply easier to capture, and easier [for me] to edit. I can turn a piece around fairly quickly. The equipment is lighter to carry, and the start-up costs are more manageable than video.”

She also created an audio slide show on her trip to the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009. Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scrqDitq_yo. In addition, last year at a teachers workshop, she created a video to explain news literacy.

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