Ask The Expert

Joe Gregg Helps Future Technical Writer

I have some questions about "breaking in" to technical writing, and I am just not sure where to start. I have a Masters degree in nutrition, and a significant amount of writing experience in a lab setting, for a student manual, etc., but nothing published. I currently stay at home with my two young boys, working from home part-time doing medical transcription to make ends meet, but I am really wanting to launch a writing career. I am stymied as to how to do this. I don't know if you can offer advice to me, or direct me to a resource, but any help would be appreciated. …

Copyrighting Letters

What are the legalities of publishing letters received from others? …

Are They Taking Advantage of Me?

I have a question for Ask the Expert. For the past six months or so I have done a few book reviews for a particular website. I understood when I signed on that there was no monetary compensation. I now realize that this is more time consuming and harder than I expected. I assume the company running the website must get some compensation for their work. How do these types of businesses work? Do you think I am being taken advantage of doing reviews for free? …

Publisher Won’t Pay For Website Design Work

In addition to freelance writing, I also develop websites for writers and publishers. Recently, I developed a website for a magazine publisher who now refuses to pay me. What should I do? …

Can I Decline My First Offer For A Better One?

I sent out a simultaneous submission and got an offer from one publication almost instantly. I agreed to their terms and agreed to write the article. The very next day, a higher paying publication said they wanted to buy it. Can I now decline the first one so I can get more money from the second publication?…

Is It Okay To Query By Email?

Is it okay to send query letters and requests for guidelines to editors via email? It makes perfect sense to me, but I also know how easy it is to hit delete when that email box is full! What do you recommend? …

How Can I Land Interviews?

How do I go about booking interviews with radio and tv stations and newspapers? How do I ask them in essence, "Hi, I just published a book. Would you like to interview me?" …

Where Can I Find A New Agent?

I am in need of a new agent. I understand Janet Kay's agency is out of business. Can you recommend one or send a small list of agents seeking new writers? …

How Do You Hook?

You know that "thing" you do in your newsletter where you hook the reader with just enough of an article to make us absolutely, positively HAVE to click on the link to read more? You do that extremely well. What is that called and how did you learn how to do it? …

ISBN or ISSN?

Angela, I was referred to you by Mark McCann, an author who published through your program. I am putting together a one-time literary magazine and I wasn't sure how to get an ISBN # for the magazine. What is the procedure for doing so? All the best, Elizabeth ISBNs are actually assigned to books. ISSNs are for periodicals. You can apply for an ISSN at: http://www.lcweb.loc.gov/issn/ You'll be happy to know that, while ISBNs are quite expensive, there is currently no charge for an ISSN assignment. …

Fuzzy-Eyed Self-Editing Syndrome

Do all writers make mistakes (lack of clarity, weird misspellings after proofing the text more than once, etc) in the beginning of their writing careers? …

MJ Rose On The Difficulty of Getting Fiction Published

I have self-published three books and have been trying to build my writing credits. But I only have four magazine acceptances in four years of submissions- none for poetry or fiction. I have become increasingly frustrated by the rejections. Here's the most puzzling part. As a 34-year journalist, I have earned a 2004 first place award for sports column writing in the state of Pennsylvania, and was one of three finalists for a Western Pennsylvania Golden Quill Award for editorial columns in 2003. Obviously, I am doing something right journalistically, but haven't been able to make the transition to fiction and poetry. I have submitted to more than 20 publications, more than half of them multiple times. I have had a number of rejections wherein I was encouraged as in "you were among the final submissions considered." But that only helps for so long. Recently, I have even lacked the desire to write. Thanks for reading this. Do you have any suggestions that could be of help? …

MJ Rose on Switching From Fiction to Journalism

I am struggling with an issue related to writing. I am in my second semester of college, studying journalism. My past writing experience has mainly been fiction, and personal essays. Last semester I wrote several feature articles as well as a movie review. This semester, I have been working on an investigative piece and am now having a problem with switching writing styles. …

Do I Need to Pay Interview Subjects?

I'm writing a memoir for which I'm interviewing a number of people who were involved in the story, such as EMTs, witnesses, family members, friends, etc. The story is a very positive one, overall. My question is, do the interviewees need to sign any kind of a release to allow me to use the information they provide? I think they do, or should. But I can't find a standard release that seems to fit this situation-- the usual release that absolves them of any libel/slander arising from the book but also indicates they release all rights to receive revenue from doing the interview. And, if I do need to use such a release, where can I find one? …

Literary Journals – Non-Paying Markets?

What's your take on the literary journal market? In my research, most legitimate literary magazines and journals -- may of them nationally and internationally acclaimed -- are strapped for cash. Many of them only pay in contributor copies. But a lot of fiction writers -- even novelists who have managed to get published with a traditional publisher -- have contributed to them as a way to get their fiction out and to build a writing resume. When you say that editors should always pay, do you consider free contributor copies to be payment? …

When Writers Get Hate Mail

How do you develop the thick skin? I recently wrote an article for my site, it was actually for the chit chat or ramblings part where I change the content every week. At any rate, I wrote about my experience at a restaurant. Today, I received such a pretty harsh lashing from a reader. …

How Can I Attract Contributors?

I've been subscribing for a while, and now I am on the flip side of the job market. I am hoping to start a newsletter and wondering how to attract contributors. It is to be a "sharing" newsletter, so the writers need not be professional. I'll be the editor, and at least at first, the writers will not be paid. Do you have a place on your site where I can spread the word? If not, do you know where I can? …

Online Writing Guilds For Youth Writers

A gentleman who is trying to reinforce his daughter's interest in writing has asked me if I know of any online writing guilds for youth writers. All I could suggest was that you had something to do with Booklocker.com and I would see what else I could find out. I also mentioned he should to be on the lookout for a possible response from you. I'm forwarding your latest e-newsletter to him to give him a jump-start of sorts. …

Should I Buy a List of Email Addresses

Dear Ms. Hoy, Once I get an e-mag together, I still need to get a list, a starting point to get it out there. There's so much to choose from and not knowing what is good or not makes it very difficult. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks. I assume you're talking about buying a list of email addresses? Please don't do that. Most of those lists are lists of people who never authorized their emails to be sold. And, even if they had, emailing them about your book is still spam because they didn't request specific emails about your specific book. You'll need to start from scratch in building your own list. Sending out spam will destroy your reputation (and may result in you losing your website and ISP account). I offer a free ebook (http://www.writersweekly.com/index-starterkit.htm) for new WritersWeekly subscribers, which is always a good way to bring in new readers. …

Editor is Sitting On My Article…and My Money

I wrote an article for a well-known trade magazine and the editor said it would be in the fall 2003 issue. Then I sent more ideas and the editor said he was stressed running two magazines. I kept emailing him until I told him I was upset and I wanted payment. I sent him an invoice this week for a hundred dollars. He said he might be able to get my article published this fall. What should I do? Since they haven't yet published it, they may not owe you money yet. If they pay on publication, they can legally hold it and pay whenever (and if ever) they decide to publish it. You should check your contract. And, in the future, change your contracts to specify the pub only has xx amount of months to publish or they need to pay at that time rather than making you wait for publication. …

Husband Won’t Support My Writing

Dear Angela, I've always wanted to be a writer, but I'm embarrassed. Each time my husband catches me writing on the computer, he tells me it's a waste of time. I really want to write but his comments make me doubt myself. What can I do to show him how important it is to me? Jan Your letter really hit home with me and I've written added this topic to my feature article this week. See: http://www.angelahoy.com/writing/archives/001799.html

Looking For An Agent…

I am looking for an agent for my mother (78 yrs). Please help me / direct me to a source that will look at my mothers writings. Since there are thousands of publishers out there, as well as agents, we can't recommend specific publishers and agents for specific writers. I'm sorry. You might try looking for a reputable agent here: http://www.aar-online.org/

Internet Connection Through Cell Phone?

Wow, your article last week was really inspiring. I'd love to know more about how you got an Internet connection through your cell phone and how much it costs. My lack of knowledge on this has prevented me from traveling sometimes. I bought a laptop, but I'm forever chained to my desktop. Even if you don't have the time to tell me the details, maybe you can point in the right direction? Also, I'd love for you to keep us posted about your travels. I'm sure you'll do that. Thank you, Darla Bruno Richard answering here... We went with T-Mobile after reading this article, which reviewed all the cellular data services: http://www.jiwire.com/cellular-data-introduction.htm It is not the fastest, nor even the best coverage, but it was unlimited access for a flat monthly rate. Most of the other services charge you if you go over a certain quota. We're on so much that I was afraid we would hit the quotas and get stuck with extra charges (hefty ones, in some cases). Overall, it worked well. I wouldn't do any heavy surfing on it, but the connection was good enough to do email and to access the administration pages on our sites (which are fairly small in size). Though there was some signal drop in certain areas, generally it held steady as we tooled down the road. T-Mobile's coverage is pretty decent, especially along the major US highways. The big plus is it allowed us to work while in transit. Usually when we go on these road trips, everything piles up until we stop for the night. Cellular data service lets us keep on top of stuff during that normally "dead time" while on the road. It is currently the only reliable option for Internet access while in transit on the highway. It costs $29.99 per month for the service, and you have to buy a special card for $350 that fits into your laptop. (It is basically a cell phone without the "phone" part.) Details are on the T-Mobile site here: http://www.t-mobile.com/plans/default.asp?tab=internet

Did I Plagiarize?

I use the Internet as well as books and magazines for my research. However, a publisher recently accused me of plagiarism. He pointed me to websites that contained information very similar to mine. Either my notes were too similar to the original articles, or maybe I retained too much of the research material in my memory before sitting down to write. I'm not sure if I plagiarized the works or not. Can you tell me what is and is not plagiarism? …

How to Obtain Items in the Public Record

I want to learn more about what is "public record" so that I will have the confidence to walk into city hall or the court house and ask for records. Often times, small town folks who work in these offices don't even know what the law is and I find myself not educated enough on this matter to push the issue or know where exactly to look for information. I don't really want to take a law class. Surely there is some place the information is available for writers. …

Can You Quote Speeches?

Thanks for the info on the songs. How about quotes from speeches? Does the same rule apply if I use a famous quote from a person who is still alive? Thank you. Karen You can quote people briefly (note how the newspapers quote speeches liberally). However, you may encounter trouble if you use someone's quotes to make a point in your article that is NOT about the speech itself. If you make it appear the person is somehow endorsing your ideas in your article, that could get you into trouble if they have not given their permission for you to use their words in that context. …

He’s Threatening to Sue Me, But I Told The Truth!

I posted a complaint about a publisher on a website and it was all true. But, the publisher is now threatening to sue me for libel. I'm not willing to remove the story and offer a "public apology" as he demands. I was all true, but I'm still afraid. I can't afford a lawyer. What should I do? …

I Need to Hire a Marketing/PR Person…

Dear Angela, I am in the process of getting my second book published. Nine publishing houses now have it in their hot hands. I am patiently awaiting responses. In the meantime I am looking to hire someone who is "genius" with on-line marketing. Can you lend your expertise to lead me in the right direction? Many blessings and thank you in advance. Maureen Moss Author of The Nature of Bliss: Balance, Love, Integrity, Sexuality, Soul http://www.TheNatureofBliss.com Please contact http://www.patronsaintpr.com. We know the owner, Steve O'Keefe, for years, and he's a super guy. …