2012: A Year of Guest Posts

If you’re interested in pitching a guest post idea to me for 2013, contact me. Those who pitch articles related to writing, freelancing, and publishing have the best odds of being accepted.

The 100+ Project

Patrick writes about his experiences with asthma and how he is raising money and awareness for The Asthma and Allergy Foundation St. Louis Chapter.

Self-Publishing Fundamentals

Kim gives a great overview of the process of self-publishing and helps you understand what steps are involved in writing, formatting, and publishing a book without using a traditional publisher.

The Definition Of Freelance Writing

What does it mean to be a freelance writer anyway? Charlotte talks about the key characteristics of freelance writers and what makes them—and their work—unique.

Writing A Book? Set Goals And Stay Motivated.

Stacy challenges authors to finish their works by setting attainable goals. Don’t let your desire motivation fizzle.

5 Unavoidable Creative Writing Quirks

Creative writers are a quirky bunch. If you’re a writer, chances are you’ll identify with one or more of these common quirks. I admit I sometimes talk to myself.

Playing The Name Game

When is it okay to use an editor’s first name? Is a more or less formal approach appealing to editors? Terri talks about the challenges of choosing how to approach an editor for the first time.

How To Choose A Domain Name — An Author’s Guide

Part of building your author platform includes setting up a website. Learn a few tips and tricks for picking a memorable and effective domain name for your author site.

From First Draft To Finished Product: The Editorial Process

Editing is a long process that involves multiple steps. Kelly explains the difference in substantive or developmental editing and copy editing and why both are important.

Writing For A Micro-Press In The Age of Self-Publishing

As self-publishing continues rising in popularity, Jessie contemplates what this means for the micro-press and weighs some of the pros and cons of each.

The Cover’s The Thing

Great advice for writers who plan to self-publish. Claire explains what makes an excellent cover and shares a handful of resources to help you get started.

Attention Writers: 6 Ways To Spot a 5-Star Publisher

With all of the negative attention surrounding poor self-publishing companies, Sara offers tips to help you evaluate and find a 5-star publisher for your next book.

5 Things Publishers Care About More Than Good Writing

Brooke, writing coach and publisher at She Writes Press, explains how writers can make themselves more appealing to traditional publishers.

In Review Part 3: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate

Just a quick update this week. Why? Because Christmas.

Last Wednesday, we had our second online discussion covering Week 2’s assignments for the ad copywriting course I’m taking as part of Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate. Fewer than half a dozen students stuck around for the full hour, and the majority of the time it was just four of us and the instructor. As with any course—in-person or online—you’re going to have some scheduling conflicts. So it’s not surprising that we were short a few enrollees this time around, but with an already small class the decline in participation had a definite impact on the discussion.

If I’m honest, I’m not really digging the discussions anyway. There’s a lot going on when it comes to the homework. Then, with all of us working on completely unrelated projects, I feel split in a thousand directions at once despite taking each student’s projects one at a time. I refuse to print out everyone’s assignments to have them in front of me, so I end up trying to juggle half a dozen open documents in both Word and Acrobat on my laptop. Plus there’s the open browser window with the actual discussion going on. My monitor just doesn’t have enough real estate. Anyway, brainstorming for someone else’s project on the spot is not one of my strongest suits. I’m a muller. I need time to mull.

From a technology standpoint, the discussion was awkward for me this week too. The instructor would say something and about 3 seconds later, I’d hear it. Not sure what was causing the lag—could be something on my end—but it wasn’t ideal.

Read other review posts:

In Review Week 1: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate
In Review Week 2: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate


Emily paid the full price for enrollment in Mediabistro.com’s Ad Copywriting Certificate program and is not being compensated in any way for her reviews.

FREE Web Conference for Authors: IndieReCon

Hat tip to Kim Bookless for this info.

I’m all about putting information in the hands of the people that need it, so I wanted to draw your attention to a free conference for indie writers. If you’re interested in getting program details and updates on the conference—which runs February 12 – 14, 2013—click through and add yourself to the mailing list. (It’s just below the big “REGISTER HERE!” button in the sidebar.)

It looks like they’ll have something for everyone. The schedule promises coverage of the following topics:

  • Getting started
  • Creating quality products
  • Writing big sellers
  • Marketing
  • Going forward

Here’s a brief description from IndieReCon.org:

INDIE ReCon is a FREE, ONLINE conference inspired by WriteOnCon. It is designed to help any writer or author who is curious about the ins and outs of Indie publishing. You’ll find everything from the pros and cons of Indie publishing, essential aspects in creating a high-quality book, successful online marketing, and expanding into international markets.

Phoenix Fire Publishing Owner Publishes Fake Customer Testimonials

For the record, people who publicly lie to me or my readers are going to get called on it.

Last, night the comment thread on my post about Mystic Press turned into a veritable circus. This is partly my fault, because sometimes I like to give my site’s trolls a little rope.

It would appear that the owner of the former Mystic Press and the newly established Phoenix Fire Publishing, Tabetha Jones, came by to defend herself against complaints of fraud and failure to deliver services. And she brought all her little friends to help clear her name.

Actually, she brought her alter egos. That would be the more accurate term. But they didn’t exactly help her cause.

When I noticed that Tabetha Jones, Skylinn Wicker, and Rai Willis were posting comments and submitting contact forms from the same IP address (why do people always create fake personalities to defend themselves?), I threw my hands up and stopped engaging Tabetha. In light of this, comments from Anna Lovelace, Louise Charleston, Eris Kelli and Cindy Franks are suspect.

I’m Going On Record Now: Stay Away from Phoenix Fire Publishing

If you’re an author researching Phoenix Fire Publishing before signing a contract, I want you to consider something:

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that all of these people defending Mystic and Phoenix Fire aren’t really Tabetha, they’re actually legitimate customers. And let’s say that all the customers complaining are making everything up. A person would still have to be a fool to recommend Tabetha’s company.

Why? Well, take a second look at the original comment thread (which is now closed) and notice what kinds of details her defenders, supposedly just other authors publishing with her, know about the complainants’ business dealings. The best thing you can say about Tabetha—even giving her the benefit of the doubt—is that she is completely unprofessional and will tell her other customers your business.

But it’s ridiculous to give the woman even that much credit. So I’m settling the score, at least as far as Suess’s Pieces is involved in this mess.

Tabetha’s alter ego, Skylynn Wicker, questions my commitment to the truth by pointing out that her contact form submission wasn’t published on the blog like I’d promised earlier. She says:

I used the contact form and MINE isnt posted?

I’m going to say this with all the respect I can muster, and it ain’t much: Whatever your real name is, you’re a fucking liar, and you’re done shitting on my playground. On this blog, we deal in verifiable truth and honest testimonials. Take your fraudulent-ass comments and misrepresentations somewhere else.



UPDATE: Comment thread closed as of 11:00 a.m. EST. It should be pretty clear why.

In Review Part 2: Mediabistro's Ad Copywriting Certificate

We wrapped up the first week by posting our assignments and participating in our first online discussion on Wednesday evening. Also, the course materials for Lesson 2 went live. Now we’re getting somewhere.

The Recommended Books

I didn’t bring it up in the Week 1 Review, but there are a couple of books that were recommended reading for the Creative Ad Writing course. They are:

I’ve thumbed through the books and read several chapters of the Bly book already. My opinion is that they’re a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the content is immensely helpful, and some of the content is just fluff for me. I find myself skipping and skimming quite a bit. They’re paperback though, so used copies are inexpensive. (Bonus!)  I’ll be keeping both for reference later, because 1.) I have a hard time parting with books, and 2.) the info on strategies could prove to be very useful if I get stuck on a client’s project at some point in the future.

Posting the Homework Assignment

For me, Wednesday night was the first real test of the online system Mediabistro uses to administer class. A few students had trouble uploading their assignments in the dedicated forum thread.

First problem? The system doesn’t support multiple attachments in a single forum post. If you want to post two separate files–one for the creative brief and one for the ad samples–that means you need two separate forum posts. Because of this, I ended up opting out of automatic email updates for new posts. My inbox was being bombarded! Not anyone’s fault, just the nature of the beast.

The thing that forced some students to post multiple comments in the thread: file size limits. A few students had files that were too big to upload because of all the images, and that meant breaking their original files down into smaller chunks. And, since you can’t post multiple files to a single thread….

So, honestly? The classroom software could be friendlier, but in the end we all got by.

The Online Discussion

For the online discussion (held from 8-9 p.m. on Wednesdays for this particular course) Mediabistro uses Adobe Connect meeting software.  I tested it according to the instructions in the course materials a couple of days early to make sure it was working. I had to install a plug-in to make it work, and at first it didn’t want to play nice with Chrome. But after about 15 minutes, I was all set.

I was unsure what the format for our hour-long discussion would be like. Would we all be video chatting like a hangout? Would we all be typing while looking at slides? Turns out the instructor talks, and you can see her webcam feed. The students just type. So, I’m happy to report that you can participate in the discussion while wearing pajamas if you like.

It’s a little awkward switching between talk and text, but you (or at least I) got used to it. As far as the technology goes, it worked seamlessly. The discussion was managed pretty darn well, and we all (well all of us who participated) had an opportunity to talk about our portfolio choices and get some feedback and ideas from the instructor and our fellow classmates.

Other Stuff I Noticed

Thursday morning I signed on to get the materials for Lesson 2. I noticed there was a video lecture in three parts, just like in week one. Then, underneath those links, I saw a link for a PDF of the slides used in the lecture. Woohoo! So I went back to Lesson 1 and saw a link there too. Then I started wondering–were the slides always there and I was complaining like an idiot last week or did they respond to feedback? Either way, I’m a happy camper.

Emily paid the full price for enrollment in Mediabistro.com’s Ad Copywriting Certificate program and is not being compensated in any way for her reviews.

Author Warns Mystic Press Reopening Under New Name

A little while ago, I was contacted by an author who had worked with a publishing company called Mystic Press. She wrote to me about some problems she’d had with the company and the company’s CEO.  And as I learned more about her story, I decided it was worthy of sharing. It’s reminiscent of the stuff I routinely hear about Author Solutions, only the problems start with a much, much smaller company. And, seeing how my goal is to inform and support writers no matter the publisher, I decided it would be worthwhile to share my interview with Georgina Merry, author of The Ferryman’s Wife.

When we first got in touch, she described her issues with Mystic Press:

“In March I approached a small publishing company called Mystic Press regarding my story The Ferryman’s Wife. Tabetha Jones, who described herself as the CEO, accepted my manuscript. It was published through Createspace in August. There have been a catalog of issues …[ranging] from having the wrong manuscript published to price changes after orders/payments were made to books being bought for promo events but not arriving for 3 months.

Last month the company Mystic Press “folded”…. Tabetha Jones is claiming our royalties are “frozen” and that either way, after thier cut, I will only receive $10. (I was quoted in September as having $30.) The sums don’t add up, but I have also been informed that all royalties should have reverted to me after the company folded. Now Tabetha has started up another company, Phoenix Fire Publishing  just one month after claiming all the money had “gone” for Mystic. I fear she is about to scam a whole load of new authors. I was told that this isn’t the first time this company has done this. Several other ex-Mystic authors have filed reports and claims against her, as she is witholding their money. She refuses to back up her claims with any physical evidence, i.e. emails/sales sheets.”

If you’re a publisher, you’re not going to get a whole lot of love from me by refusing to put the details in writing. I emailed Georgina a few Q&A style interview questions to learn more.

ES: What kind of package or services did you purchase, and what promises were you made?

GM: I paid for my cover art ($20). I paid for my ISBN and createspace fees ($35)  and Lightening source ($87.50). I was told that Tabetha would handle my promotions, make over my website, plan a blog tour, hold an online launch party, and she’d supply the swag. In the contract it stated that I’d be supplied copies of my book for promotional events. I was told in the contract that I would receive 60% of royalties for paperback and 50% on all ebooks sold. I was assured that I would receive three free proofs in time for my launch party, and I was also told that I could order copies of my book any time at a discounted rate of $2.75 per copy.

ES: Did you receive all off the things promised?

GM: No. I had my cover art, but that was by a freelance graphic artist. I was refunded my lightening Source fee ($87) as apparently the option for hardback was no more.

I was asked to supply some swag prizes for my launch, which I did. Tabetha Jones claimed she was scammed for the prizes she was meant to be organising [so] anyone that won something from her didn’t receive anything. She also didn’t post out the copies of my book, she waited to send them to me and charged me postage.

My “launch party” was a Facebook event, and my “blog tour” was basically 3three interviews on other authors’ blogs, Tabetha Jones’ being one of them. My blog page was made-over, but not by anyone connected to Mystic Press. I basically had to handle my own promotion. I made arrangements to visit my old school — teens: my target audience — and give a presentation and hopefully sell some books, but you’ll soon see that I ran into problems.

I did not have the proofs for my launch party, so I didn’t see that the wrong manuscript was sent to print. On page 123 the writing appeared as an edited page, with the one correction in the whole manuscript being highlighted. I was mortified, as this had not been my final manuscript. I was sent three of the faulty proofs. Then, I was assured that the correct manuscript was to go ahead, and new proofs were ordered. I discovered yet again that it was the wrong manuscript when the proof arrived, but by this time they were on sale. There was a mad rush to get the correct document uploaded, but I was then sent no proofs at all. I ordered 13 copies of my books at the discounted rate to replace the faulty ones my friends had bought. I had to pay for the postage & packaging from the US, and these books didn’t arrive for two months.

I then ordered another 20 books for the promotional event at my old high school, only to be told after I had paid for them plus postage, that I would only be receiving half the amount I’d ordered as the price had gone up. I did not have them in time for the event in September. In fact, they arrived late October after an unpleasant series of communications. I was told I was being unreasonable for wanting my books. I was disapointed not to have any copies of my book to sell at what turned out to be a successful promotional event. I’d have sold more, had I copies there and then.

I was informed in October — my book launched in August and I signed in March 2012 — that I would only make $1.56 on my UK sales…and that I had sold 22 paperbacks 8 ebooks. I was then quoted as having made $30.50 in royalties. I’ve since been told, since the company folded, that I will only be receiving $10. However, as all accounts have been “frozen” I haven’t received a penny. I wouldn’t know as I have never seen any sales sheets and Tabetha Jones refuses to provide me with any evidence, i.e. sales figures, notification emails etc.

ES: How did you attempt to resolve the issue with Mystic?

GM: I kept regular contact via Facebook, email and Skype and always looked to resolve issues quickly and fairly. I would be replied to quickly, but with a string of [what turned out to be] lies. I was told things would be fixed, I was told issues would be resolved, but their efforts were less than satisfactory. After nearly 3 months with my double-the-price books not arriving, I became quite irate. By this point there had been too many issues for me to set aside as new business hiccoughs. Private messages went back and forth until I requested a Skype call. Tabetha Jones called me unreasonable and although she made me offers as a means of helping the situation, they were all offers to do with the publicaion of my 2nd book. As you can imagine, after everything that happened I wasn’t willing to sign another contract. Things soon rose to an argument and Tabetha’s fiance and business partner stepped in to resolve the issue and promised my books would be with me soon. Communication after this was stilted; one sentence responses. My books did arrive 10 days after, but whether by accident or not, Tabetha Jones revealed that the issue had been an avoidable, repeated mistake that had occured when she’d sent out my first package.

ES: Any other thoughts or comments to share with other writers?

GM: This company have now folded and started up a new company, ready to do the same thing all over again, no doubt. I’ve heard rumours that this isn’t even the first time they’ve folded and restarted.

Unsigned authors — take care to do your research first. Don’t sign with anyone until you know everything about them. Ensure that if you live in a different country, you wont be discriminated against financiallly. I should have realised Tabetha Jones’ eagerness to sign me was a warning. I’m left feeling stressed and depressed, all because of what this woman and her “company” have done to me and my reputation as an author. Thankfully what has come out of this is feedback. Enough people have read my book and enjoyed it so I know it’s worth carrying on with. Otherwise my faith in my ability as an author would have been shaken to the core by what’s happened.

Publishing Gives Back Auction

Not everything coming out of the publishing industry makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little. Hooray!

For example: the Publishing Gives Back Auction.

Stephen Power, Senior Editor at Wiley, is offering 10 aspiring writers a chance to bid on a 10-minute phone consultation, with proceeds from the auction going to Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts. Bids start at just $10.

Here’s your chance to toss him your pitch, and he’ll give you feedback to help you make it even better.

About Stephen S. Power (@stephenspower)

Stephen S. Power is a senior editor at Wiley, where he works on sports, music, history, science and narrative nonfiction. His NY Times bestsellers include The Worst Person in the World by Keith Olbermann, Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001) by Don Felder and Wendy Holden, and Never Give Up: My Stroke, My Recovery and My Return to the NFL by Tedy Bruschi and Michael Holley. His two most recent books, both excellent gifts for the holidays, are Learn Something New Every Day: 365 Facts to Fulfill Your Life by NPR librarian Kee Malesky; and Perfection: The Inside Story of the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ Perfect Season by Bob Griese and Dave Hyde.

BID NOW. Auction ends 9:00 a.m. EST, Tuesday, December 11.

In Review Part 1: Mediabistro's Ad Copywriting Certificate

mediabistro ad copywriting course

This week I started my first course for the Mediabistro Ad Copywriting Certificate. I thought I’d write about my experiences here on the blog for the benefit of other writers and wannabes. You should know this: I paid the full $1,500 for the certificate program, and I am not being compensated in any way for what I write. (Although, I did inquire if they had an affiliate program. They do not.)

Program Basics

Students must complete a total of six courses within one year to earn the certificate, including four required courses and two electives. The courses are offered frequently; I don’t foresee a scheduling problem.

Required Courses

  • Copywriting: Creative Ad Writing
  • Copywriting for the Web
  • Copywriting: Advanced
  • Brand Writing

Elective Choices

  • Copywriting for the Web: Advanced
  • Search and Online Marketing
  • Writing and Editing for the Web
  • Web Analytics
  • Web Analytics: Advanced

My First Course

I’m starting off with the 8-week, online Creative Ad Writing Course. It’s Week 1, so there isn’t a whole lot to report yet. But we’ve done the online introduction thing through the dedicated forum, and I can tell you that so far it looks like the class is comprised of 7 women and 1 man. Based on the intros, it looks like my virtual classmates are all professionals with some impressive previous writing and editing experiences — a good sign.

A major part of the class is building a portfolio as we work through the lessons, and that involves picking a real or fictitious product or service for the focus of the copywriting exercises. Instead of faking it, I wanted to actually work on a real campaign. So I tweeted the message above, and Sara from Insqpired Quill replied back. (If you read this blog at all, you know I’ve got more than a passing interest in the world of publishing. Should be a good fit.)

Week 1 Lesson: This week’s lesson was a lecture from the instructor presented in three parts in video format. The information was solid, and the instructor has more than adequate credentials to present the course. My only complaint at this point has to do with the presentation of the lecture slides. Trying to read them in the video gives me a headache. In lots of cases the text is too tiny to read in the standard video size. Move to full screen, and everything just gets super blurry. An accompanying PDF of the text on the slides would’ve been perfect.

Week 1 Assignment: By Tuesday evening I have to choose my product or service, write a creative brief, and select three print ads that I like and three I don’t like and discuss why I like them or not. On Wednesday evening, we’ll all join in an online discussion from 8-9 p.m.

$1,500. Is It Legit?

You know, ask me again in 8 weeks. But I will say this: I looked into another online copywriting program last year, and I bailed on it because they were spamming the hell out of me. I never wrote about it (and I won’t name that company here) because I didn’t stick it out. But that company left me feeling like I needed to take a shower every time they emailed me.

Mediabistro does online and IRL training. Plus, they already have a solid reputation when it comes to industry events, news and jobs. I’m much more confident in this program, even though I don’t personally know anyone who’s completed it…yet.

Got questions for me? Drop them in the comments.

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