All posts by Helen Gallagher

Ready for NaNoWriMo?

by Helen Gallagher


November is National Novel Writing Month and it gives you a great excuse to drop everything else and focus on your writing all month. If you are not familiar with NaNoWriMo, there’s loads of information on their site (

You can participate as little or as much as you want. There really are no rules. A serious writer is not likely to think of writing a novel in a month, but being focused on writing and having a goal can be the difference between wanting to write and actually having something to show for it at the end of November.

By signing up (free) at NANOWRIMO, you’ll be able to log in daily and track the words you’ve written. And the motivation is nearly irresistible. You’re accountable only to yourself, and by logging in to track your words, you are setting a goal for yourself to at least try to write every day for the whole month.  You write on your own computer or in a notebook, not online, so your work stays private.

Thousands of participants have enjoyed this worldwide event, making it great fun. Sign up, log in when you write, and the system tracks your word count toward your goal.

You have nothing to lose. If you’re a past participant in NaNoWriMo you already know it does one great thing:

Every day it makes you think… makes you think about writing… and teases you into taking at least half an hour to try and get some words down.

Nice way to accomplish something special this year, and a great reason to celebrate the holidays after November’s achievements stack up on your desk or laptop.

Advice from Twitter

by Helen Gallagher

Did you know Twitter maintains a helpful blog? Twitter’s blog offers some sane advice on best practices for journalists.


We can all use a reminder of the basics of good writing, especially for the online world. In brief, the tips suggest:

1. Tweet regularly about the beats you cover. Their research states that for people who post “a concentrated number of Tweets in a short time span, follower growth is 50 percent more than average. Live-tweeting or posting updates about a news event related to your beat is one way to grow followers and increase interaction.”

2. You know about hash tags, right? That pound symbol on your keyboard,  (the # ) followed by the subject or keyword of the post you’re commenting on…  Use the hash tag so your post gets noticed by others reading about the topic. “Journalists and news publishers use hashtags to organize conversations, gather feedback, and to identify and engage with Twitter users discussing a particular topic.”

3. When you mention a person or brand, use the @ sign, followed by the username   Twitter reports: “Brands that tweet 20 percent fewer URLs and 100 percent more @mentions grow followers 17 percent more than average.”

Master these three Tw-etiquette tips and then read their full article here.

Helen Gallagher writes and blogs at

Need global exposure? Reach for Tumblr

by Helen Gallagher


I confess I paid little attention to Tumblr until I needed to find more article resources. It is described as a cross between a blog platform and social media. You can use it like a blog filter to find relevant material for the stories you are researching.

Now I’ve read there are reasons you might consider spending time with Tumblr, and I’ll share them here, from what I learned at  They analyzed how various news source are using Tumbler, and found some interesting concepts.


  1. The Washington Post, is using it for a project with  twelve students covering the U.S. presidential election.
  2. The New York Times put its historic photo archive on Tumblr at and sells prints of the photos there.
  3. In the U.K., the Guardian newspaper is segmenting its content on Tumblr into areas of Food, Art and Fashion.
  4. During the recent South by Southwest conference (SXSW), reports that The Guardian “created a Tumblr blog, which they could update from their iPhone or Android phone, and then they used the Tumblr API to pull those posts from the seven blogs back to the main Guardian website as a way to collect all the reporting and then give it back to Guardian readers in a central space on their site.”

Between sleep and paying assignments, freelancers always need to find hot ideas, news, fresh sources and current research.  Instead of scrubbing the web, Tumblr might be a faster way to find what you need.

If you’d like to see how other journalists are using it, take a look here. If people can find journalists by publication, beat, geography and through keyword searches, it makes me think we should all be aware of it.

Dig a little deeper and learn how Tumblr can help you expand your reach as a freelance journalist too. Muck Rack, a site that tracks what journalists are talking about offers a free database, allowing journalists to build a portfolio and link to their work. If you want more exposure for your work, and a wider research base for story ideas and networking, take a look at these resources.

Tell me, do you know and use Tumblr? Does it benefit you?

Helen Gallagher writes and blogs at

Can You Reach the Right People via Social Media?

by Helen Gallagher

You might think being on blogs, Facebook and Twitter gives you enough exposure for your professional profile. But what if your desired reader or client isn’t out there?


Numerous studies show that men and women have differing online habits. While this may seem obvious, it is important if you’re counting on people finding you online and hiring you to work with/for them.

Examples from recent news items in The Atlantic and Christian Science Monitor:

— Fewer men use social media, and they are dramatically less likely to log on everyday.
— Men spend 28 percent less of their online time on social networks than women.
— Males don’t “Like” brands, update their status, or comment on others’ pictures as frequently as women.
— Women view social networks as a way to connect with family, friends, and co-workers. Men do not.

So, before wasting time on social media, hoping to reach the right contacts, consider spending more time reading up on sites that share meaningful industry-specific content. In other words, go where your clients are. Ideas include:, and for business contacts industry-specific groups for journalists and media industry news

And, don’t overlook traditional trade magazines. (See  Whether your client works in insurance, housewares or transportation, you’ll keep up with industry news, and be ready to talk business the next time the client contacts you for a freelance assignment.

Helen Gallagher blogs at to share her thoughts on small business and technology. She writes about, coaches and speaks on publishing. Her blogs and books are accessible through

Making Money as a Book Reviewer

by Helen Gallagher


By its nature, the life of a freelancer requires adaptation to changes circumstances, markets, and the

all-important bank balance. Like most freelancers, my list of services is often expanding. It grows to meet the needs of clients who request services I’ve never offered before.

One field that is apparently lucrative for freelancers is writing book reviews. Some of us write reviews without pay to stay current with the literary marketplace, grow our library with all the free books sent by publicists, and of course, to expand our visibility and popularity. Reviews can be posted on blogs, review sites, even national newspaper and magazines.

A recent Sunday New York Times article might enlighten you further — writing book reviews can be lucrative. The article, The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy, covers the growing landscape of reviews for the explosive amount of new books published.

“For decades a largely stagnant industry controlled from New York, book publishing is fragmenting and changing at high speed. Twenty percent of Amazon’s top-selling e-books are self-published. They do not get to the top without adulation, lots and lots of it.”

With self-publishing increasing, it creates more opportunities for good reviews to spread the word about a new title.

“It used to take the same time to produce a book that it does to produce a baby. Now it takes about as long as boiling an egg.”

Consider all the facts, ethical as well as financial, before saying yes to becoming a paid reviewer. But done well, it might be a wonderful late-night sideline that can bring you and the author greater notoriety, in a good way.

BIO: Helen Gallagher’s no-fee book reviews appear at, New York Journal of Books and Open Salon. She  blogs at to share her thoughts on small business and technology. She writes about, coaches and speaks on publishing. Her blogs and books are accessible through

Planning to Publish by Christmas?

pagesIf you plan to publish a book in 2012, the time is now. We know some self-publishing firms, like and have a quick turn-around time. They can help you make your book project a reality yet this year. But other firms are now making a “last call” for anyone desiring to publish this year. Here’s an example of a message I received last week: (This deadline for new manuscripts comes from Bookstand Publishing, but could just as well be from any of a dozen publishers who assist authors:)

September 7, 2012 – To Have Your Book Published and Available for Sale during the Christmas Shopping Season:

To have your book published and available for sale during the busy Holiday Season (i.e., your book available for purchase by customers from mid-November on) you will need to submit your new manuscript to us no later than September 7, 2012.

October 12, 2012 – To Have Your Book Under the Christmas Tree as Gifts

If you submit your new manuscript by October 12th, we should have no problem publishing your book and having your 48 paperback books (or 10 hardcover books) to you before Christmas 2012 so you can give them as gifts.

Please keep in mind that you may need to get your manuscript to us even earlier if you will require additional services, such as Copy Editing, Scanning or Custom Cover services.”

So whether you use a service like this, or use the “butt in chair” method of getting your book done, now is clearly the time, if you want to have it on the market by the end of 2012.

Ask any of us here at Freelance Zone if you get stuck. We all know good resources who might be able to help you.

Helen Gallagher

BIO: Helen Gallagher blogs at to share her thoughts on small business and technology. She writes about, coaches and speaks on publishing. Her blogs and books are accessible through