Writing as a business

We talk a lot about writing, but we haven’t really touch on the topic of formally creating a writing business.

This post lists types of business structure options you have, at least in the U.S., for categorizing your writing or (self-) publishing business.

Since I’m neither an accountant or an attorney, please seek out someone who is one or the other, to help you determine the best structure for your needs. All states should have (at least) similar categories; these are for New Hampshire businesses.

The full definitions (these are paraphrased) can be found via the NH Division of Economic Development site:Sole Proprietorship description

  • Sole proprietorship –  is a business with the least amount of legal formalities and simplest to form. You assume sole responsibility for the operations and finances of the business, including profit or loss.
  • General partnership – is an agreement between 2 or more individuals, or entities/businesses, to jointly own and operate a business. Profit, loss, and managerial duties are shared among the partners, and each partner is personally liable for partnership debts. As entities, partnerships do not pay tax, but must file an informational return, while individual partners report their share of profits or losses on their personal returns.Sharing risk of profit or loss
  • Limited partnership – offers some of the partners’ limited liability. It includes a general partner who organizes and manages the business and its operations, and limited partners who contribute capital, but have limited liability and assume no active role in day-to-day business affairs.
  • LLC vs LLP graphicLimited liability partnership (LLP) – is organized to protect individual partners from personal liability for the negligent acts of other partners or employees not under their direct control (i.e. licensed fields like law or medicine). Not every state has this category. Partners report their share of profits and losses on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited liability company (LLC) – combines the corporate and partnership entities. Parties in an LLC control shares and their operational liability of the company is determined by their level of investment. However, like partnerships, income tax is not paid at the LLC level, but rather it is “passed through” and taxed at the shareholder level. It’s not an easy entity to explain or understand.

Two others categories are “C” corporation and “S” corporation. Each of these has shareholders and for the purposes of this conversation, aren’t what a writing or (self-) publishing entity would need – at least not immediatly.

But again, each of the above business structures has legal, tax, and other consequences. I’m a writer, not an attorney or accountant, but I think these details can at least give you a start if you’re considering turning your writing into a business, or you’re thinking about creating an entity to self-publish under.

Have you thought about turning your writing into a business at some point?

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England-region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She’s a sole proprietor and solopreneur. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter

Mastheads are information goldmines

With so much information online, it’s getting rare to go low-tech for information, but in researching magazines and newspapers lately, I’ve come to appreciate the up-to-datedness (I made up this word) of an actual masthead.

The masthead (also referred to as a nameplate) is the portion of a magazine or newspaper, generally within the first few pages (just before, after, or with the Table of Contents) that lists the name of the publisher, contact information, subscription rates, and other pertinent stuff readers and writers want to know.

As a writer, your goal is to find the person who manages the department of the newspaper or magazine you want to submit an article to. With a small publication, this could be the editor-in-chief. For a larger publication, you may have several names to choose from.

The masthead is the place to start because it gives you some combination of these elements (and more):

  • Logo (very small, obviously, if it’s there)
  • Name of the publisher, editors, contributors, designers, and other staff responsible for the publication, sometimes with their e-mail addresses, at a minimum
  • Address, phone number, and other contact information for the publication in general, and sometimes by department/area of focus

    Parenting NH Magazine masthead

    Masthead for Parenting New Hampshire magazine

  • Date and volume number
  • Subscription information, if relevant, and/or details on how to obtain prior copies, sometimes a customer service contact
  • Information on how to submit to the publication

You can click on the image to the right to see some masthead details for this NH-based magazine.

Of course, having the information and deciphering that information can be two different things. You don’t want to submit queries or articles to the “editor-in-chief,” “contributing editor,” or “editing assistant,” at least not without research first. You want to find the best internal resource for your article.

Resources, such as WritersMarket.com, have publisher/editor information, but it is collected at least 12 months in advance of distribution, so the information may not always be relevant by the time you find it. Even if the resource sites are updated regularly, unless someone submits the changes, contact information can be outdated until the next print version.

I recently found a valuable online source for masthead details for newspapers across the country. The US Newspaper List (USNPL) lets you see newspapers and magazines by state. Details vary, of course, but sometimes you can get Twitter and Facebook contact info, along with editor names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses.

Of course if you’ve searched print copies and magazine/newspaper websites and are still unsure who to address your query to, librarians are a great resource, or calling the main number of the publication and describing the contact you need can lead to an answer.

I believe it’s best to address a query/letter/e-mail to an actual person whenever possible.

Is this information helpful? (It’s also relevant to print and e-newsletters, blogs, and book publishers.)

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

5 ways to increase your exposure

You’re a writer who needs to get her name out in the world. You want magazines, businesses, and organizations to discover how talented you are and hire you to write for them. Here are five ways to get you started on a plan that will get yourself and your business better known.

Network, network, and network some more
You’re making writing your business, and like many businesses, it’s more about who you know than what you know, at least to get in the door. Networking, both in-person at events and online through social media, is a solid way to add new clients. Make sure to at least know who your target client is and what makes you the best writer for their needs. You can also think of who can introduce you to the person who can introduce you to the contact you really want to meet.

Ask for referrals
Sure you need to have clients to be in business, so you can’t ask for referrals until you have some satisfied customers, but referrals are a powerful way to build your credibility. When a client compliments you on a job well done, take that moment to ask them for a recommendation or referral. It’s nice to assume that that client will tell a friend who will tell a friend, but ask, and you’ll make sure it happens. Or it may be more comfortable for you to could offer a future discount to clients who refer new clients to you.

Publish content
You’re a writer, so, write something and publish it. It’s the best way to get exposure. You can publish online, through your blog or online article directories (as a way to start). Get your writing published in print newspapers or magazines. Starting with local and regional publications is fun (at least I’m enjoying myself immensely writing for community papers and a regional magazine). And then you can move up to  national and international publications. And a lot of print articles also end up online, so that multiplies your exposure.

Offer a freebie
Everyone loves giveaways, especially those that are relevant and helpful. Free reports can help you accomplish two goals at once. Report content can help establish you as a good writer and as a solid, credible source of information. Offering a useful freebie can entice prospective clients to your Web site and motivate them to hire you for your services.

Blog
Having a blog helps drive traffic to your business and your business site, and it builds your brand. Your writing ability will shine through in your blog’s content, but don’t make it all about you all the time. Make sure to include useful information for your visitors. Of course you want to share what you can do, but also offer helpful links to other sites, links to resources, ways for your reader to find events local to themselves, and other similar things.

What do you do to get your name out there and showcase your writing?

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a solopreneur who works hard to take her own advice. She’s also a New England region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom

Time management – scheduling e-mails in Gmail

Did you know e-mails can be scheduled ahead of time like blog posts? Do you have a need to schedule e-mails? Do you ever create e-mail drafts and then send the e-mails when you need to? I’ve tried the drafts technique, but the busier I get, the easier it is to lose track of when an e-mail needs to go out.

Scheduling and forgetting is a great option.

There are some e-mail programs that allow scheduling, such as Microsoft Outlook, but if you have Gmail, scheduling isn’t an option…without a plug-in. And I recently found one with everyone’s favorite price tag –> $0.

It’s called Boomerang for Gmail. It’s compatible with Firefox 3.6+Chrome 5.0+ and Safari 5.1+ and it works with Gmail and Google Apps e-mail.

In addition to scheduling, you can also set up automatic reminders on any e-mails. For instance, I schedule a lot of author interviews for my Reviews and Interviews blog and I ask that interviews be to me at least 7 days before the scheduled date. With the scheduling option, I can have the confirmation e-mail returned to me if the person doesn’t reply to the e-mail by the date I specify.

This definitely saves me time. I don’t have to:

  • check my calendarBoomerang for Gmail Reminder Hear Back
  • determine which person I haven’t heard from
  • search for the last e-mail I sent to them
  • and then forward that e-mail asking the person to reply.

With scheduler, if the recipient doesn’t reply by the date I specify (for myself, which is called ‘boomerang this message‘), I’ll have my last note to them pop up as a new message that I can then easily forward again. Definite time saver! This is great to use for any e-mail that you need a reply to by a specific date.

Do you and your friends say, “We should schedule lunch some time?” Now you can say, “Pick a date. If I don’t hear from you by next Thursday, I’ll get back in touch.” User ‘boomerang this message’ and get that lunch scheduled!

A bonus I found with this plug-in is that if you have multiple Gmail accounts, you only have to install the plug-in to one of them.  I did one simple and quick install, and all my accounts now have the scheduler.

In related news, I saw an article yesterday about Google Chrome passing Internet Explorer as the most popular Web browser. I’ve been using Chrome for less than a year and am just starting to get used to it. What browser do you favor?

Do you see any benefit to scheduling e-mails?

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is an independent editor and writer who is still striving to find the perfect combination of technology that makes her life most efficient. She’s also a New England region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom

Grammar-ease – When the words outpace the fingers

As writers, we’re always working with words. Right? No surprise. And even if we know what we want to say, it’s not always the case that the fingers can keep up with the brain.Fingers in a blur over a keyboard

Do you ever have this problem: the story/article is gelling in your mind and it needs to reach the page – NOW. Not 5 minutes from now, not after you’ve showered or had your breakfast. But have you ever experienced a time when the words start flowing like white water rapids and you grab a pad and pen or open a blank document and get those fingers over the keyboard and start capturing what you can?

When I get in this mode (which is great, I think, and thankfully not too common), I’ll be typing as fast as I can and start munging words together – because there isn’t a pause button for the characters’ voices in my head. I can’t rewind the words, and darn it if times like these don’t produce “the best” turn of phrase imaginable. Right?

When I’m chasing after my thoughts, if I don’t type fast enough, I end up creating funky words – a creative mix of 2-3 words that Word immediately highlights as a spelling error.

Also when I’m in the try-to-keep-up-with-the-thoughts mode, I end up typing variations of words – for instance “there” when I know it should be “their” or “they’re,” but I just type what is fastest and is best phonetically. The same happens with “your” instead of “you’re” when my brain is in overdrive.

“Lose” when it should be “loose” is another. Sometimes I just don’t have time for that second ‘o’.

When I’m writing to like that, which I actually refer to it as a ‘brain dump’, but it’s probably more PC to call it ‘brain download’, but I had these moments before I had computers, so, old dogs and all that… when I’m in that fast mode of writing, I muffle the internal editor with duct tape and shove him in a closet and lock the door (funny, I just realized the internal editor is male and my muse is female – that’s a topic for another post). Anyway, when I’m typing fast, I let myself do whatever is needed to get the words on the page and then I hope to catch all the typos before the final product is submitted.

In this post alone, which wasn’t overly fast, I had words such as “femail”, “fingrsca nkeep” and “chas in gafter”.

Do you ever type so fast to keep up with your thoughts that you create new words, or find yourself spelling phonetically? Or does something else happen when your fingers are chasing the invisible words? I’m curious to know.

(If you want to see what happens when you type fast, try writeordie.com. There’s various functionality you can play with, but one setting is that your words start getting erased if you pause for too long. Another is an obnoxious noise sounding. It’s fun!)

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is an independent editor and writer who gives herself a lot of chuckles through word play. She’s also a New England region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom

Giving script writing a shot

I’ve done it. I couldn’t wait for November this year for another National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so I went ahead and signed up for April’s madness known as Script Frenzy.

Script frenzy participant badge

Where the NaNoWriMo challenge is to write 50,000 words in November’s 30 days, the Script Frenzy challenge is to write 100 properly-formatted pages of original scripted material in April’s 30 days.

The script can be: a screenplay, stage play, web series, TV show, short film, or graphic novel.

Like NaNoWriMo (the two are related) Script Frenzy:

  • is no cost to enter
  • uses the same login as NaNoWriMo – so if you’re a wrimo, you’re ready to go!
  • has cool banners and badges (like the one to the right) to download and post to a blog, website, or Facebook page
  • has forums for moral support and advice
  • offers regional forums to connect with other participants in the local area
  • sends participants motivational emails
  • is a great opportunity to push to achieve a new writing goal
  • looks like a lot of fun

This will be my first-ever Script Frenzy and I haven’t decided on the type of script I’ll write yet. I started a TV show script a million years ago while working on my master’s degree in writing and literature, but have been more into short and novel-length fiction since then.

What drew me to Script Frenzy?

  • Perhaps it’s that I got a discount on Scrivener (writing software) for ‘winning’ November’s NaNoWriMo, and Scrivener has a tool to help format scripts so I don’t have to stress about formatting
  • Perhaps my muse needs something completely different from the non-fiction articles I’ve been focused on the past few months
  • Maybe it’s the 2012 Script Frenzy logo that caught my attention

I’m not sure what drew me to this challenge, but in looking around the scriptfrenzy.org site, I’m impressed with the how-to guides they offer under Writer’s Resources.

They have great descriptions of the different types of scripts, examples, and even some self-paced ‘boot camps’ to get folks started. The only thing I know for sure is that I won’t be scripting a graphic novel. Every other script type is up for grabs though!

The scriptwriting starts at midnight the morning of April 1 and ends at midnight the night of April 30, your local time.

What do you say? Are you ‘frenzied’ enough to join me in the April challenge?

Lisa Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is an independent editor, writer, New England region journalist, and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom

NaNoWriMo 2011 complete, but not done

This is a nice follow-on to Lee’s post yesterday about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

I’ve done NaNo several times before, not always completing, like last year, but I have ‘won’ a few, like this year.  National Novel Writing Month 2011 winner banner

One year my goal was the 1,667 words per day for 30 days. I didn’t always achieve the total, but was able to make up for one day’s shortfall the next day, usually.

Another year, I wrote as much as I could when I had a couple free hours, that might have been the year I wrote 25,000 words over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

I’ve finished well before the midnight November 30 deadline, and sometimes not that much before the deadline.

A few years ago, I discovered “word wars.” It’s a fun and wonderful way to get some words on the page. It’s an online (like all of NaNo is) competition between 2 or more people. It was as simple as going to the Word War thread and adding a post “I’m going to do a 20 minute sprint at the top of the hour (“:00″). Who’s in?”

Or I could say “:15” or “:30” or “:45” – to show what time I was starting. Since NaNo is international, using the minutes to indicate the hour was all that was necessary.

So at whatever the designated time, writers would set a timer, write until the timer went off, and then post their total words to the thread. And like all of NaNo, it’s all on the honor system. It was a thrill – whether I had the highest word count for the sprint or not. The thrill was knowing there were others out there typing at the same time.

Those word wars that year got me where I needed to be. There are even word wars between states and regions now. It’s a lot of fun all around. I didn’t commit to any word wars this year, but I used the concept to get my novel written.

My novel started out as a humorous type tentatively titled “New Hampshire: Yes, We Still Have Four Seasons”. It turned out to be something I’m currently calling “How to Beat Procrastination with a Very Large (Invisible) Stick and Only a Little Bit Screaming.”

I may have written 50,000+ words on it, but it’s just starting to come together. I have a lot more writing to do and then the editing will begin.

Oh, I have to mention that I didn’t start the novel until about 3 p.m. on Black Friday. I finished by 10 p.m. on Monday. Less than 4 days. I didn’t start on Friday with that intense goal, trust me.

I decided to write in 30-minute increments. I used a timer, started it, typed until the timer went off, then took a break. Sometimes I could do 2 or 3 sprints at one sitting and then get up for a stretch, and sometimes I paused at 15 minutes, but I did all 50,000 words in 30-minute timed increments, except for 2 untimed sessions.

In the past, I’ve used Microsoft Word for my novels, this time I saw that Scrivener was available as a trial for PC, so I downloaded it. They are having a 50% discount for NaNo 2011 winners and I’m going to take advantage of the discount to purchase the software.

I hadn’t been able to use Scrivener before now, since I’m not a Mac person (I hear a lot of gasps from readers), but I’ve seen other writers use it and it’s an incredible way to organize a novel.

Seeing the discount for NaNo winners was a main motivator for me to ‘win’ NaNo this year. I admit it.

My official NaNoWriMo 2011 word count is 50,255. 30-minute writing sprints are soon going to be a part of every day.

NaNo can be addictive and more and more writers are finding they can’t wait for each November to roll around. So, there are now numerous artistic challenges out there for writers.

If you completed NaNo this year, or any past year, what was your strategy?

*****

About Lisa Jackson

Lisa Jackson writer Lisa Jackson is an independent editor, writer, journalist, and chocolate and iced coffee lover. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to chat with best-selling authors, non-fiction writers, publishers, and other writing professionals on a weekly basis.

Grammar-ease: Active voice versus passive voice

I’m skipping the introduction this month. If you’re curious about previous grammar post introductions, please search older posts.

The introduction is being skipped this month. The older posts can be checked for previous grammar post introductions.

Did you just do a double take? The first two paragraphs are similar. Other than being repetitious, can you pick out which of the two paragraphs above contains active voice? Which one moves you right along? Which one has you yawning?

 

This month’s grammar tip investigates the difference between active voice and passive voice. It’s common to hear the rule ‘avoid passive voice.’ If you’re a writer, it’s a good rule to follow if you want to keep your reader engaged. There are times, however, when passive voice is fine. Honest. Read on.

Active voice is dynamic and the ‘doer’ of the action is obvious. Passive voice is, well, laid back and can leave questions in the reader’s mind as to who is doing what. The time to use passive voice is when you want to emphasize results instead of who achieved those results.

Check out the following examples and see what you think (passive is listed first).

  • The ball was kicked.
  • Scott kicked the soccer ball.
  • The limo was driven by Mr. Boyd.
  • Mr. Boyd drove the empty limo into a house.
  • The project was managed effectively.
  • Shelly and her team brought the project in under budget and ahead of schedule.
  • The computer was repaired.
  • I fixed my computer.

The following are examples of where you may find passive voice to be the preferred voice:

  • My advice was followed.
  • My students followed my advice.
  • The water was heated to 185 degrees.
  • She heated the water to 185 degrees.
  • The convenient store was robbed.
  • Unknown persons robbed the convenient store.

The overall rule for choosing active or passive is to use what best says what you mean.

If you have grammar topics you’d like to see covered, please leave a comment about it.

Lisa Jackson is an independent editor, writer, journalist, and chocolate lover. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis! © Lisa J. Jackson, 2011

Grammar-ease: Affect vs. effect

If you’re like many people, two words that you have to pause and think about are affect and effect.

In most instances, affect is used as a verb. A verb does something; it shows action. Affect means “to change” or “to influence.”

Examples with affect:

  • Motion affects my ability to hold down lunch.
  • Snow affects how people drive.
  • My cat’s fear of loud noises affects his behavior.
  • Humidity negatively affects some types of hair.
  • He affected an air of superiority.
  • As a mother, she is affected by her children.
You could also try substituting a different verb to see if affect is what you need. (for example, He practiced an air of superiority.)
Conan the Grammarian's Affect Effect visual aid

In most instances, effect, will be used as a noun. A noun is a thing. It has something done to it. Effect when used as a noun means “a result.”

Examples with effect:

  • The effect of the bumpy road made me lose my lunch.
  • The blizzard had no effect on our travel plans.
  • The sound of the pot crashing to the floor had a startling effect on my cat.
  • “Good,” he said. “I still have an effect on you.”
  • The special effects were incredible.
  • social media effect
  • placebo effect

A mnemonic that might be helpful is: a very easy noun = affect (with an ‘a’) is a verb, effect (with an ‘e’) is a noun = affect verb effect noun.

Like all rules, there’s generally at least one exception. Here’s this exception: There is one time when affect will be a noun and effect will be a verb. It’s rare, but it exists. That is when affect (pronounced with the the accent on the first syllable), is a psychological term for “feeling.” And effect as a verb means “to bring about,” or “to accomplish.”

Learning the definitions of each will carry you far. Remembering an example of each will come in handy. The mnemonic can be used in a pinch.

So, did this help? Please share any tips or tricks for remembering the differences between affect and effect in a comment below.

If you have grammar topics you’d like to see covered, please leave a comment about it.

Lisa Jackson is an editor, writer, and chocolate lover. She’s addicted to Sudoku, cafés, and words. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis — and you can, too! © Lisa J. Jackson, 2011

Grammar-ease – Less versus fewer

Welcome to a new grammar tip.

I like finding ways to remember grammar ‘rules’ and when something clicks for me, it might also click for someone else.

Let’s dive in today with the less/fewer differences. Less is used with mass nouns and fewer is used with count nouns. A mass noun, also referred to as an ‘amount word’, is something that is measured in bulk – clutter, water, snow, milk, syrup, etc. A count noun, also referred to as a ‘number word’, is something you can count – books, pens, cards, paperclips, oranges, etc.

Examples:

There are ____ boys in class than on the roster.

Can you count boys? Yes. Use fewer.

There was _____ snow this year than last year, so the kids had _____ snow days to make up.

Can you count snow? No. Use less. Can you count days? Yes. Use fewer.

Try these:

____ tangerines to eat   [Can you count them? Yes.]

____ sugar to bake with   [Refers to bulk as written. Cups of sugar can be counted.]

____ frozen dinners to thaw   [Can you count them? Yes.]

____ onions to slice   [Can you count them? Yes.]

____ tomato juice   [Refers to bulk as written. Cups of juice can be counted.]

____ coffee to make   [Refers to bulk as written. Cups of coffee can be counted.]

____ cups of lemonade   [Can you count them? Yes.]

____ water in the pond   [Refers to bulk as written. Gallons of water can be counted.]

____ clams for dinner   [Can you count them? Yes.]

____ clutter on the table   [Refers to bulk as written. Piles of clutter can be counted.]

Exceptions. There are always exceptions, aren’t there? Even though you can count hours, dollars, and miles, you want to use less.

Examples: We traveled less than twenty miles.

The reception lasted less than two hours.

We made an investment of less than a hundred dollars.

If you refer to individual units, then use fewer. Example: I have fewer than six state quarters.

You know how there’s usually a lane at the grocery store with the sign “10 items or less”? It sounds better than “10 items or fewer,” doesn’t it? “Less” is grammatically wrong because you can count items.

So, the general rule is: if you can count something, use fewer; if you can’t count it, use less.

I hope that if the less/fewer decision was confusing for you, that it’s now clear.

If you have grammar topics you’d like to see covered, please leave a comment or e-mail me.

Lisa Jackson is an editor, writer, and chocolate lover. She’s addicted to Sudoku, cafés, and words. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has a blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis — and you can, too! © Lisa J. Jackson, 2011