Tag Archives: e-books

Freelancers: Turn Your PC Into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine

By Celeste Heiter

Throughout my life, it seems, I’ve had to wait for technology to catch up with my dreams. As a child, I grew up in family that valued both academic achievement and creative expression, and in high school, I excelled in the clerical arts. So, as a young woman, I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in both English and Art.

I loved ad layout and graphic design, but had little patience for the technical precision it required. In those days, graphic artists were still using Letraset dry transfer font sheets to set type, and wax-adhered paste-ups for publication layout. And although my veins practically course with printer’s ink, and I had always dabbled in creative writing, I hadn’t a clue how to break into the world of publishing…Unless I count my first real job, working as a classified ad typist at our local newspaper, a short-lived summer job that never segued into the editorial department.

Upon graduating college, with zero prospects in journalism or graphic design, I earned my daily bread waiting tables and tending bar. I was good at both, and although I loved the culinary world (and still do), I never gave up on the notion of someday working in the publishing industry.

Fast-forward twelve years, to the day I got my first computer. By then, I was the mother of a precocious toddler, and my first attempts at publishing were two parenting books: one called Potty Pals, a children’s book for potty training; and another one for parents titled The Reading Seed, outlining how I taught my son to read at age two. But even with the advent of the home PC for “desktop publishing” (as it was called back then), neither of my books took flight. So I shelved them both and went back to the restaurant business.

Fast-forward another nine years, to the day I submitted my first story to a publisher of web-based travel articles. Not only did he publish the story I submitted, he assigned me to write four more articles, which eventually became the foundation for my first published book, Ganbatte Means Go for It…Or How to Become an English Teacher in Japan.

There was no stopping me now. I had finally cracked the publishing nut, and I wanted more. So the first thing I did was streamline my computer (now a laptop model) for optimal productivity. I set up my Internet browser to maximize my research time, customized all my publishing and bookkeeping software, and organized my documents for easy access. In less than a year, I had transformed myself and my laptop into a lean, mean, freelancing machine, and had written an e-book to show other freelance writers how I did it.

celeste heiterThe next thing I did was quit my day job, and…I’ve never looked back. Ten years and six laptops later, my gaze is firmly fixed on the future of publishing: E-Books! In the past few months, with the help of that precocious toddler who has since grown into a brilliant young man with a degree in computer science, I’ve been hard at work learning to design and code e-books for Amazon Kindle. I’m now offering my e-book design services to independent authors, and have more than a dozen of my own titles in circulation, including Turn Your PC Into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine.

With machete as metaphor in the jungle of the publishing industry, this lively and colorful e-book (for which I also designed the layout) teaches aspiring writers to streamline their computers for productivity, and shows how to maximize the potential for publishing success.  Each page is packed with my best tips and secrets as a successful freelance writer and published author: from customizing software and setting up time-saving shortcuts, to finding sources for freelance writing jobs. And of course…Freelance Zone is mentioned on my short list of the best resources for freelance writers!

About the Author: With her lifelong love of Japan, its people, and its culture, Celeste Heiter believes that she may have been Japanese in a previous incarnation. In this lifetime however, Celeste was born in Mobile, Alabama, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Art and English from the University of South Alabama.

Inspired by a lifelong dream to visit the Great Buddha at Kamakura, she moved to Tokyo in 1988, where she spent two years teaching English conversation. Celeste now makes her home in California’s beautiful Napa Valley, with the most treasured souvenir of her life in Japan: her son Will, who was born during her stay in Tokyo. Her books are inspired by her travels, and by her culinary creativity as a cookbook author, food writer, and photographer.

Celeste Heiter
Celeste Heiter

Celeste is the author of Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine, the creator of the LoveBites cookbook series for Kindle Fire, and the author of Potty Pals , a potty-training book for children (PottyPalsBook.com). She has also written ten books published by ThingsAsian Press (ThingsAsianPress.com); and spent eight years posting her recipes, food photographs, and film reviews on ChopstickCinema.com.

Visit her website at CelesteHeiter.com, and her Amazon Author Page at http://www.amazon.com/Celeste-Heiter/e/B002OXU6S2

Engadget Reports Microsoft Patents Contextual Ads in E-Books

Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorThis certainly could inspire a couple dozen pages worth of commentary, snark, doomsaying, and other ranty gibberish, but instead, I’ll settle for a very George Takei-inspired “Oh MY” and let it go at that.

What is all the fuss potentially about? A report by techy blog Engadget from early August 2012 about the notion of inserting contextual ads in eBooks that seems to just now be getting a bit of traction in the circles I read via Twitter and elsewhere.

Author William Gibson’s Twitter posts mentioned this in passing with a link to the Engadget ad, and after reading it, I can’t say it’s sunny skies on the horizon IF such a notion actually catches on in the marketplace…but it’s early days for the concept, so it could be a lot of hot air and hand-wringing over nothing. A damp squib, as writer Stephen King would say. What do YOU think?

Read the entire article about Microsoft’s patent on contextual ads in e-books by Jon Fingas at Engadget.

Joe Wallace is a writer, editor, and social media manager. Lately he’s also been writing screenplays, directing the short film 45 RPM, and eating a lot of Thai food. He’s studying sound design and post-production for film at Tribeca Flashpoint Media Academy starting in September and planning his next move on the big screen–a feature-length documentary about independent publishing. Contact him: jwallace@freelance-zone.com

A Fashionable Way to Write a Best-Seller

Today we welcome guest blogger Dr. John Yeoman, who tutors creative writers in the UK and offers hands-on instruction in writing. His take on the creative writing process is definitely right up our alley, and if you enjoy this post, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section. We figure some of our US-based readers might not be familiar with terms like “tosh” or know where Stratford is (we recommend watching more BBC America), but we do feel it’s safe to assume you can connect the dots without editorial interference–a few days of BBC America will sort you out, mate. Many thanks to John for his post tackling a sadly pertinent question…


Why are so many best-selling novels unreadable?

I don’t mean the Booker award winners that wing predictably from bookshop to landfill in the time it takes a reader to cry ‘Bosh!’. I mean the novels that top The New York Times best-seller lists for months on end. Reassured, we buy them. We plod through their first clumsy chapters. And we cry ‘Bosh!’.

Must we conclude there are ‘good’ novels and best-selling novels but they are rarely the same? Or, more rationally, that a ‘good’ novel is simply one that many people enjoy, whether it’s bosh or not? That’s dangerous.

We’d first have to define a ‘good’ novel and no two readers would agree on a definition. But here’s mine. It’s a story that we’d willingly read twice. At a stroke, there go most of the Amazon chart toppers. Few will be remembered fifty years from now and fewer will be read.

Ironically, that fate will be shared even by those novels that satisfy my definition of ‘good’. Hulbert Footner was a best-seller circa 1910 with his Madame Storey tales. In the 1920s, S S van Dine made millions from his Philo Vance detective novels. Who reads them now? Only scholars. Yet all these stories are ‘good’. I’ve re-read them several times.

Why have they died? Fashions change.

It’s heartbreaking to conclude that success in novel writing has little to do with the intrinsic quality of a work and everything to do with fashion. Most of Edgar Wallace’s stories – with the arguable exception of the Four Just Men series – are unreadably bad. His badness was notorious in his own day. He was badder even than Dan Brown and critics wondered, then as now, how anyone could buy such tosh.

Yet, of course, they did – in their millions. Crowds follow fashion.

What can authors learn from this?

Simply, we must stop trying to perfect our craft skills. A basic competence is good enough. Instead, we should hone our expertise in spotting trends that might emerge two years hence – the average time it takes to write a print book and get it in the book shops. (An ebook novella might require just three months, of course.)

First, we must study trend gurus like Gerald Celente. Even if their forecasts are unoriginal (prophets who want to stay in business take no risks), they may help us to define the issues that will still resonate come publication day.

Second, we should craft a novel around three of those issues. (Why three? One may fade away, one may have become a cliché, but one might still contain a whiff of freshness. With our eyes fixed firmly on Google Trends, we should plan to make major scene cuts up until the very last moment.)

Third, and this is a provocative suggestion, we should model our protagonist upon a global celebrity who – given his or her reputation or occupation – is likely to die a scandalous death within two years. The moment we hear of that person’s demise, we can rush out our novel. Bestsellerdom is guaranteed within a week! (A book can be printed, publicised and distributed overnight, if publishers really want to do it.)

Of course, this gambit is ghoulish. It is unthinkable for publishers of integrity, all three of them. The rest will love it.

We won’t have to work so hard on our next novel. Our name will be famous. It will be as fashionable as that of Umberto Eco. We can publish our laundry list (or The Prague Cemetery), and millions will buy it and acclaim its every cryptic word.

This three-step process works.

Proof? It’s the very sequence that Shakespeare followed in 1609.

Chewing nutmeg one night (the way Nostradamus got his visions), he said: “Methinks, there is happening at this moment a great shipwreck on the Islands of the Bahamas and within a year it will be the gossip of every alehouse in England. Ergo, now is a good time to write The Tempest.”

News of the Bahamian shipwreck came to England around 1610. Indeed, it was the gossip of the land. And Shakespeare by then had written his play. What global celebrity had he cast as its protagonist? Why, himself! At the end of the play, you will recall, Prospero drowns his book. After the debut of The Tempest in 1611, Shakespeare did the same. He stopped writing. He retired to Stratford, a very wealthy man.

Clearly, Shakespeare used the three-step process. It works. Why don’t they teach it on creative writing programs?

Dr. John Yeoman, PhD Creative Writing, judges the Writers’ Village story competition and is a tutor in creative writing at a UK university. His hands-on course in story writing for profit can be found at: http://www.writers-village.org/academy

Today’s Writing Tip Is on E-Books

Last year, for the first time ever, electronic book sales exceeded those of books in print. Amazing, and mostly attributable to the affordability of the Kindle reader. So, if you ever wanted to write an e-book, now is the time. There are three main advantages to having your book available electronically, starting with the size of the book, and moving on to the price and waiting time for your purchase.

Not all books are 250-350 pages long. Sometimes we want to write a short book that is only 40 pages or 80 pages. This would look rather skimpy in print but it would be fine digitally.

Second, most books in print cost somewhere between $15-$20, not including shipping and handling. But e-books can sell for as little as three or four dollars. Right now my book, Be Your Own Editor, is available for $3.79 on Amazon. That’s less than most people pay for postage when they’re buying a paperback! And there’s no tax.

Third, e-books can be downloaded within minutes whereas it can take 10 days or more for Amazon to deliver a hardcopy book to your door.

All the reasons for buying e-books are good reasons for writing e-books, because they sell. And if you sell them yourself, it’s 100% profit. So, if you’ve been thinking about writing an e-book, but have been procrastinating, open up a new Word document and start today.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor. Buy it on Kindle at http://tinyurl.com/329hmu6.

When Not to Buy an E-Book

iBook_plastic_letters_floatI’m going to piss a lot of people off with this one. For the record, I have helped edit e-books, I’ve written them anonymously for clients, and I’ve even purchased a few.

In most cases, my own personal purchases were met with disappointment.

Mostly in myself, mind you, for being a sucker. The writing on most e-books is more or less the same–full of breathless enthusiasm and encouragement which is never a bad thing for a new writer to read. But as far as specific, actionable advice beyond the “Write good content and sell your book everywhere you can” type advice? Um….well, at the risk of being totally shameless, I’ll just say my friend and fellow FZ writer Yo Prinzel does a MUCH better job than the writers I personally have bought and paid for to read–head and shoulders above, in fact.

But I find the e-books you should consistently avoid have some of the same flaws–and the biggest one is usually right there in the title, telling you loud and clear not to buy the book. Continue reading When Not to Buy an E-Book