Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Buh-bye! We're moving!

We decided to relocate our blog to a valuable piece of virtual real estate called TheRenegadeWriter. Please change your bookmarks and come on over! We were able to archive all of our old posts, and WordPress, which is Open Source blogware, gives us a lot of cool tools and more functionality.

We hope you'll join us for the fun!

Sunday, August 06, 2006


My New Business Cards

I was happy with my iPrint black-and-white specials...until I saw the funkalicious cards from the U.K. company StreetCards. So when I started running out of my old cards, I ordered 500 of these beauties, which are full-color and laminated. You can choose the background color on the back of the card; I thought this orange was a nice contrast, and the orange and blue match my website design and the cover of The Renegade Writer. The cards arrived in about two weeks, which is amazing considering they had to be printed and then shipped to the U.S. They were a bit pricy, but look at them! Just look!

You can't see this in the photo, but underneath my contact info it says, "My editors think I'm swell." Now we'll find out for real if editors have a sense of humor! I do have that phrase as part of my sig line, and it's gotten good reception from editors so far.

I used the new cards as an excuse to remind all my editors that I'm alive; instead of working on my assignments on Friday evening (three due on Monday, yikes), I sent the new card to about 40 editors I've worked with. The only thing that's actually different about the info on the cards is that I included my cell number, but I'm not one to pass up an opportunity to contact my editors!

Thursday, August 03, 2006


The Review Copy Helper is New and Improved...and Moved

As a freelance writer, you may have used my Review Copy Helper, which was hosted at my twowriters.net site until a few weeks ago. The Review Copy Helper makes it easier for magazine writers and book reviewers to request review copies of books from publishers -- and for publishers to get their review copies into the hands of writers who will give them publicity.

I just finished updating the publisher database and moved the whole thing over to my permanent site.

Updating the database took hours and hours -- and I hope to avoid having to do it again -- so this is going to have to be a collaborative effort. If you use and like the Review Copy Helper, please help me keep it up-to-date by e-mailing me with any changes or additions you run across.




A load off my inbox

Last night I was chatting with Linda on the phone. She mentioned she was feeling stressed because she had 30 e-mails in her inbox. I said, "Only 30?" I admitted I had 2,000 in mine. By comparison, I should be climbing the walls, screaming out jibberish only other lunatics can understand. "You should delete them," Linda said. "You're never going to read them all."

This morning, I took the plunge. I highlighted all the messages pre-January 1, 2006 and hit delete. Goodbye Clifton Kareem, messages asking me "R U 2 Small?," and press releases from companies announcing new vice presidents of human resources. Roughly 1,000 messages vaporized. And damn, it felt good. Tonight I'm going to do a couple hundred more. You know, a mini-high ... just a couple tokes to keep the edge off. Woo-hoo!!

P.S. Yes, I have filters. Spam filters, too. I'm just a big fat lazy piler.


I think the people who helped Bill Gates were paid from the start.

A "writers wanted" ad from the Philadelphia Craigslist:

New Magazine HIRING! -- Fri Jul 28
email: o.easter@devinevisionsent.com

Position Type Full-Time Employee or Part Time Company Name: Devine Visions Entertainment Location: Wilmington, Delaware but accepts applicants from all over. (you may work from home) Great Opportunity for College Students! At the moment there's no monetary compensation till we get up & running (start with a new and upcoming company and you can be making a lot of money soon.. how do you think people who helped Bill Gates feel now) Even if you have no experience but willing to learn we want you. We are an upcoming company that is in the process of developing a magazine for print.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Federal Freebies for Writers

From my 2003 article in The Writer - links updated 2006.

As a writer, you probably spend more time doing research for your articles and books than actually writing them. But in your pursuit of facts are you overlooking one of the largest, cheapest, and most accessible sources of information around -- the U.S. government?

Don't let your relationship with Uncle Sam be a one-way affair, with you doing all the giving and getting nothing in return. Just take a look at this sample of free or nearly-free government resources that writers can take advantage of to cut down on research time and cost.

The Bureau of the Census

The census is more than some guy who shows up on your doorstep every ten years asking how many kids you have. Every year the U.S. Bureau of the Census conducts nearly 100 surveys that supplement the decennial census, and much of this census information is available on the Internet or at depository libraries nationwide. Use free census data to liven up your queries and articles with facts and figures, or to add credibility to the market research section of your book proposals. For example, in your article on the economy, you can mention that according to the 2002 Census, the poverty rate is 10.8 percent. Add interest to your query about e-commerce by mentioning that U.S. retail e-commerce reached $34 billion in 2001 -- an increase of 22 percent over 2000.

Expert information is just a phone call away with a booklet called U.S. Census Bureau Contacts, which lists experts on any census topic you can imagine plus their phone numbers.

Press Office: 301-763-3030
U.S. Census Bureau Contacts

The Securities and Exchanges Commission

Business writers rejoice: If a company you're writing about is a publicly traded company, you can get information on the business, from how much profit it made last year to where its divisions are located, from the Securities and Exchanges Commission. Publicly traded companies must submit several filings annually to the SEC, which are then made available to the public at no charge.

To review a company's filings, go to the SEC's EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval) website, which provides free access to the SEC filings of thousands of public companies in the U.S. Or, for the Net-phobe, the Public Reference office will photocopy any documents you need for a mere $.26 per page.

Public Reference: 202-942-8090

The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress serves as the research arm of Congress and is recognized as the national library of the United States. The Library, located in Washington, D.C., is open to everyone over high school age gratis.

But for writers who are too busy to trek to the Capitol to check out the Library's 20 million volumes and pamphlets, the Library offers an online "Ask a Librarian" service. Fill out the form with your question and a librarian will get back to you within five days. Some topics, such as business and science, even offer hours when you can "chat" with a librarian online.

The Library of Congress also has a photo-duplication service, which will search the Library to find what you need and send you photocopies. You pay for copying, copyright fees and postage ($12 minimum). Don't expect instant gratification, though; it can take from four to six weeks to get the information you need, though rush service (within 10 days) is available for a 100 percent mark-up.

Photoduplication Service: 202-707-5640 or photoduplication@loc.gov
Ask a Librarian

Federal Citizen Information Center

Need article ideas for a consumer pub? Or maybe you're researching an article on health, housing, money, or another consumer topic. At the Federal Citizen Information Center, writers can access hundreds of publications, information on the latest product recalls and scams, updates of consumer news from various Federal agencies, and a calendar of consumer-related events.


National Science Foundation

Here's a heads-up for all you science and technology writers out there: The National Science Foundation initiates and supports scientific research in several fields, including biology, information science/computers, social science, environmental science, and math. On the NSF website, each department offers a wealth of press releases that are ripe for the plucking by savvy writers. One recent release, for example, tells about how researchers used tiny, wireless sensors to test for stress along the famous crack in the Liberty Bell. What a cool article idea! Each press release includes contact information so you can call for additional info or set interviews.

SIDEBAR: How to Find Government Publications and Resources

The United States Government Manual

The United States Government Manual is a guide to the agencies and offices that make up the federal government.

Government Publications

The Government Publications database lets you retrieve catalogued records of government titles that are available through the Federal Depository Library Program. Once you find a record that interests you, the database will locate the nearest library that carries that item.

The Government Information Locator Service (GILS)

GILS helps you identify and reach publicly available Federal information resources, including both electronic and non-electronic sources.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Trolling, Trolling: Linda needs a mom of a kid who had transient tics.

I hate to ask here, but I'm desperate! For a national women's magazine, I'm looking to interview a U.S. mom of a kid who had transient tics. The tics need to have been completely resolved (so not chronic or recurring). If this is you, or you know someone who fits the bill, please e-mail me at linda-eric@lserv.com.

This is one case where all the usual tactics didn't work: I did a ProfNet query, posted to all the writers' boards, posted to Tourette's discussion lists, sent an e-mail to all my friends and family, sent an e-mail to all Eric's friends and family, asked the Tourette's Association, and asked every specialist I can think of. No luck! So, sometimes you just have to beg.


Monday, July 31, 2006


Renegade Writer Q&A: Rachel Weingarten

Rachel Weingarten (middle in photo) is an author, freelance writer, marketing maven, and all-around cool person. Recently, the chichi New York City department store Henri Bendel ran a huge promotion surrounding her new book Hello Gorgeous! Linda interviewed Rachel to find out how scored this coup, how she markets herself and her work, and how freelance writers can learn from her marketing genius.

Q. You got Henri Bendel in NYC to run a huge promotion surrounding your book, Hello Gorgeous! Okay, spill -- how did you pull off such a coup?

A. Okay, I think that people should realize that my 'day' job is in marketing and promotions, so to shake off some of the stardust -- it was less of a Cinderella story (though trust me, it was a fairytale) and more about me doing my job extremely well and working with a brilliant marketing and creative team at Bendel's. In other words, I do fabulous launches and events for clients all of the time, but this was the first one that I've done for myself.

The other thing is that it didn't just happen, I wrote the initial proposals way back in February and the week long event took place in July. It was months of back and forth, dead leads, detail work, bringing in additional partners and more. Bendel's went above and beyond in every element of this promotion, from the spectacular windows, to the displays, to the marketing, PR, creative and in store staff- I was blown away by their professionalism, attention to detail and enthusiasm for the promo. I cannot say enough wonderful things about them. I practically collapsed with exhaustion after it was over! What I really did in this situation was hire myself to market this book for me. Easier said than done, since Rachel the author didn't have the budget (or any budget to speak of) that GTK's clients normally do!

I'll paste in something that I'd written on FLX as well:

I think the misconception is that I, as a first time author, managed to snag a promo of this magnitude. The fact is that for my 'day' job, I run a marketing agency (GTK Marketing Group). As part of my day to day, I create brand strategies, produce major events (among others Fashion Week events, events for the Oscars and Golden Globes, and charity events), launch books/films/celebrity projects, and create promotions including for NY Times best-selling authors.

In other words, Rachel the author 'hired' Rachel the marketer to create a promotion. It was brutal, and took months of planning, proposals, preparation (what's with the Ps?) networking, calling in a lot of my existing contacts, making new ones, sweet talking, etc. The bottom line is that I never ask anyone simply to do something for me; whenever I create partnerships for launch projects, be it for myself or a client, I make damn well sure that they are getting as much (brand equity, exposure) if not more than I or my client are getting. For me this is second nature, so I can make it sound overly simplistic or even easy -- it isn't, it's a ton of hard work, brainstorming, frequent failure and more -- you all just hear about some of the successes.

I will quote an email that I received from a very dear, very wise friend who shall remain nameless (and I will hope that she's okay with me posting this): She was commenting on the fact that I make it look easy, and that others might not quite understand just how hard I work (and that perhaps I don't even realize how hard I work, because I thoroughly enjoy it): "An anecdote: years ago an acquaintance of mine interviewed the late Pierre Franey, who did an incredibly popular meals in 60 minutes column for the NYT (it predated Mark Bittman). She asked Franey how long it took him to do each column. He said, about an hour and 30 years of experience. I think that's how it is with you. You don't just wake up and say I think I'll ask Bendel to feature me in their window. This takes a life of collaboration, planning, networking, etc. If you've laid the groundwork it looks easy; if you haven't, you'll never pull it off." She's entirely right. This promotion was the culmination of years of work.

Q. How did the promotion go?

A. The promo itself was spectacular -- beyond my wildest dreams. I actually had Bendel's in mind when writing the book, so I'm sure that colored my determination to work with them!

Okay, the 5th Avenue windows were decorated with '50s style mannequins wearing "dresses" made up out of blown up pages from my book. At their feet were these cool sort of 'shrines' made up of beauty products used in the '50s along with copies of my book. And the windows were emblazoned with bright red script (like the cover of my book) saying "Hello Gorgeous!" When you walked into the store the main atrium entrance was transformed into a 'house' from the '50s and lining the center aisles were blown up images from my book in these cool neon kiosks.

Three of the coolest indie cosmetic brands (Pout, Tarte, and Benefit) participated. The artists from each brand wore satin hostess aprons emblazoned with "Hello Gorgeous" (three different colors depending on the brand) and each brand had a 'room' in the house. So you could sit at a retro kitchen, living room or bedroom and be transformed to a glamazon from another era. I was in the 'bar' section which was a cool and kitschy bar with stools set up for me to sign books during my appearances in the store. (okay, I'm still convinced that I dreamed it all, but pictures prove otherwise)

Q. How would you translate your promotional wizardry for magazine writers? Can freelance writers use any of your techniques to sell more articles?

A. Ah. another great question. I think that many magazine writers panic after some queries go ignored, and blame everything on themselves -- that they don't have a J school background, nor do they have contacts in place to help them to ease the way. I think that if you're good enough and have something new to say, people will eventually take notice. I think that the key is not to wait around thinking that you'll be discovered -- that's the fallacy.

And never give up when you know in your gut that you're onto something. For better or worse, I'm not terribly devastated when rejected. Sure it hurts (like a punch in my highly intuitive gut). Perhaps it's idiotic bravado, but when I know that I'm onto something I'll keep knocking on doors until someone opens, usually long after a 'normal' person would have given up.

I pick up magazines at times and am horrified at how trite or poorly written some of the articles are, and then I'll pick up a magazine with a story that I could have written better, and thennnnnnnnn I'll pick up a magazine and be blown away by the purity of prose of a really good writer. I learn from all three of these articles on how I can change and evolve. I think for many renegade writers, there's the attitude that they're different, and that's enough -- not so. You have to prove that your kind of different is the good different as opposed to the cross-the-street-when-they-see-you-coming different.

The other thing is when wrong to accept it and move on. Don't push if your story is stale -- what's the point?

Q. You sound like a real renegade chick. What are some rules you've broken in authoring a book, writing for magazines, or promoting yourself?

A. Thank you for that compliment! I am a rule breaker by nature (as mentioned above). I think that one of the rules that I live by is the fact that I don't live by the same rules that anyone else does, and I'm okay with it (after years of trying to conform).

When I started out in business people thought that I was insane since I didn't have a formal business background, nor did I have any connections -- be it in the old boy's club or high-placed sorority sisters. Your question actually illustrates the rules that I've broken -- I did all three at the same time -- while working full time!

I'm someone who firmly believes that if you want to do something (and it's legal), you should just do it. I think that as a society we can be bogged down with so many ideas of right or wrong, that we stop trusting ourselves. I think the key to being a successful rebel is in having something that doesn't work to rebel against. If something isn't working, then you figure out how to provide a solution that does.

Q. Where did you pick up your promotional skills?

A. I don't think that it's something that you pick up, or it runs the risk of becoming mechanical and far from creative. Some people play the violin, I get people excited about what I'm working on. I have honed my skills over the years and will continue to do so. I've had business mentors in my life and dear friends, and I mostly just study success and failure and try to learn from them. I also take genuine joy in seeing people get excited about what I'm working on. I've toyed with the idea of going to B School, but have been told that it would kill my creativity. I've been asked many times over the years if I have an MBA to which I answer, 'Yes, I do. And he lives in Chicago.' The other thing is that I turn down work all the time. If I'm not excited by what you're doing, I can't see 'living' with it for months or years, nor can I see getting other people excited by it.

Q. Have your renegade ways ever backfired?

A. Linda, I wish that I had but a single failure to share with you. I've had far more failures than successes, but I've learned not to dwell on the failures and to keep building on the successes. The other thing is that I have failed to live by corporate America's rules and therefore had to determine the career path(s) that work for me. I live by Thomas Edison's words: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

Q. Fill in the blanks: Freelance writer is to marketer as:

A. architect is to interior designer.

Q. Do you have any other tips for freelance writers?

A. Love what you do and love your subjects. Passion is nearly impossible to fake and there are zillions of mediocre and poor writers out there -- let yourself and your subject soar.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Moneysaving tips you'll never read about in magazines

***Our blog has moved! You'll find more great tips for your renegade writing lifestyle at the Renegade Writer Blog. ***

This week I bought three magazines at Borders I may be interested in pitching. Total cost? $14.48. Ouch! To riff off Leona Helmsley, only fools pay newsstand prices, but I really needed these magazines, and I consoled myself that I'd be able to expense them on my taxes.

I don't think I've ever read any money-saving tips in articles about how to save major bucks buying magazines. We talked about it briefly in the Renegade Writer, but since then I've picked up some new tips. Let's break them into three categories: cheap, cheaper, cheapest.


-- Check your Sunday coupon supplements. Occasionally you'll find a cents-off coupon for magazines like Woman's Day and Family Circle. The coupon is usually for a certain issue, but other times, it's good for six weeks or so. If you want to buy a couple issues for market research, it may be worth raiding your mother-in-law's coupon caddy for extra coupons.

-- Use cash register coupons. When I buy magazines at the grocery store, I frequently get a store coupon to use on my next purchase of a similar magazine. For example, I buy Fitness and get a coupon for 50 cents off my next Self.

-- Send the magazine's SASC for a year-long subscription. You might as well get a whole year for what you'd pay for three newsstand issues.

-- A bonus tip for the super thrifty: Check your subscription's start date. I've sent in subscription cards from a January issue, yet the publication will start my subscription effective with the December issue -- occasionally November! Call the magazine and ask that they change your start date to the February issue -- or even the March if you purchased February on the newsstand.


-- Buy subscriptions off eBay. I've found some fantastic deals here. I got three years each of Parents, Parenting, and Child for $9.78. A two-year sub to Reader's Digest for $9.98. Yankee for $8.00. You get the idea. I buy only from sellers/brokers who have excellent ratings, and I haven't run into problems yet.

-- Mine your professional affiliations. I'm not a member of ASJA, but I hear they have an excellent magazine subscription program for member/writers. I get subscription offers from magazines because I teach at a local community college: for example, I just got an offer for a year's worth of The New Yorker for $20 (or something like that).

-- Use your frequent flier miles or rewards points to buy magazines. I've used American Express rewards points to buy dozens of magazines, and when some of my United Mileage Plus miles were about to expire, I traded them for subscriptions.

-- Check out the following websites for cheap magazines subscriptions: MagazinePriceSearch.com, Discountmagazines.com, netmagazines.com, and amazon.com. Or Google "cheap magazine subscriptions" -- you'll get thousands of hits.


-- Read magazines online. More and more magazines are putting their content on the web. If you're simply reading these publications to figure out what kind of stories they like, or you're already familiar with their demographics (I like to look at the actual magazine when I'm doing market research), web-based reading costs you nothing but bandwidth.

-- Steal them. Well, let me clarify that. Steal them from doctor's offices, your mother's coffee table, your brother's lad mag stash ... that sort of stealing. Occassionally I'll see a magazine that I've never seen at the newsstand, so I turn on the charm and ask if I can borrow it. I've never been turned down.

-- Read them at the library. This is what Linda does. My local library has subscriptions to at least 200 magazines. They don't even charge late fees if I'm late returning them!

-- Log into a database. Back to the library -- in Massachusetts, any resident with a library card has access to some amazing magazine databases, including Gale Group, InfoTrak, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and more. While I still subscribe to dozens of magazines, I've been able to dump hundreds of back issues from my library. If I want to find out what Parenting has done on potty training recently, I can search InfoTrak.

Any other tips you have to save money on magazines?

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