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Looking for work is always a job in itself. Not only do you have to create an eye-catching resume, but you have to research the job market to make sure you’re submitting yourself to positions you actually qualify for. Finding a company which offers you money in exchange for your product (stories, edits, non-fiction web content, whatever) isn’t the last step in the process. You have to weigh the pay rate against the hours involved, the commute, and any other benefits or negative aspects the job might offer. You want to make sure that the company is giving you something – money, experience, health insurance – that’s worth the time and energy you’re investing in them.
You want to be certain you’re not being taken advantage of.
That’s made more difficult when you’re looking for telecommuting work. Writing and editing are often jobs that are done from your location, with the finished product emailed to the place which has hired you, or that you hope will buy what you’ve created. When you’re not able to physically go to a location and check it out, it’s harder to know if the company is legit. We rely on writers’s guilds, sites like Writer Beware, forums, friends in the business and even Twitter to tell us when a publisher or market is bad news. Whenever possible we ask someone who’s had direct experience with the job we want.
Scammers are everywhere, whether it’s the guy who hires you as a receptionist and then expects you to work through your unpaid lunch hour, or an Internet-based position asking you to pay for the privilege of even applying to work for them. The farther away you get from “traditional” employment and the closer you get to freelancing from home, the more diligent you need to be in protecting yourself. This means not just turning down work from companies you can prove are bad, but also not exposing your personal data to companies you can’t prove are honest. The easiest way for you to do that is to Google them. I’ll give you an example:
Last night someone I know from the writing community asked if I was interested in some content creation work. This is writing copy for a website, including SEO keywords and certain marketing hot points. It’s not difficult if you’ve got experience in it (I do) and it either pays decently, or is a complete scam. What I mean is, a great number of Internet-only companies ask writers to do this kind of work and then either don’t pay them, harvesting “free” content which they then sell to others, or the entire thing is a front designed to get a person’s bank account info and social security number (as part of the hiring process).
I don’t know this person in real life, but I have interacted with them online for over a year, both on Twitter and Facebook. This person comments and writes reviews and talks about normal life things, so I have reason to believe they are a live human. Also, they’ve talked for quite a while about working in a physical office, so I believe that is true too. I was willing to look into the job because of all of these factors. Without it, if some random person had tweeted me a link to a non-US “Internet solutions” company, I’d have turned it down flat.
As it was, I agreed to have my email passed on to the person in charge of hiring writers. That guy, who we’ll call Bob, emailed me back right away, very enthusiastically, though he was about 12 hours ahead of me (in China, he said), meaning he was emailing me in the evening. Not impossible, but a tiny flag goes up. In his email he explains that it’s content creation, that he’s seen my website, and I’d be perfect. More tiny flags: he says he didn’t have time to look over my whole site before deciding I was a great fit for his company, and he also doesn’t know if the writing on the sample website (that he wanted me to look at for an example of what I’d do) was any good. He hadn’t looked at that either.
The pay is about 1 cent a word – not great, but that also meant they weren’t offering massive sums they didn’t plan to pay. 1 cent a word is just enough to feel slightly taken advantage of without being tipped off to a larger scam. He offered to send me style guides and more info. Okay, I said, send me your information. I wasn’t sold on the position yet, and there were some things swaying me against it, but it didn’t hurt me to find out more, as Bob would be sending it to an email address he already had. Nothing lost there.
I did ask how and how often freelancers worked, and got paid. Bob’s reply had enough in it to concern me more:
- In two emails, he hadn’t told me the name of the company.
- He didn’t just reply with info, he set me up with a login and temp password to their freelancer site, where I’d log in and work.
- Getting paid meant submitting an invoice only once a month, and being paid via bank transfer 15 days later. Which means you could do work and not get paid for 45 days – not uncommon, but worth noting – AND it meant Bob was asking for my banking information.
- Bob never asked to see a resume, or samples of my work.
- He told me I had to hurry up and get back to him about the job because he’d be unavailable after the end of the week. That’s already a warning, but his excuse was that he’s going to North Korea, and they don’t allow Internet there. Then, what are you doing there, Internet-based entrepreneur?
Mostly I don’t talk about my personal life online, because I want my website and social media to be about my work. Writing, editing, things that inspire me – that I’m comfortable talking about. My personal life has had a lot of ups and downs lately, and I tend to think that no one wants to be bothered with that. Everyone’s life is hard, right?
In some ways I’m blessed to have the life I do. I have love, friends, and an adorable happy child. I have time to work on my writing, my projects for Dagan Books, and after some delays those are rolling out. 2013 is set to be a much better year than 2012, and I’m glad.
In other ways, my life is a bit hard. Being a single mom to a child with a disability – having no family and few friends nearby – means that I can’t work a full-time job. Since the only time I get that isn’t parenting time is when he’s in school, that gives me about 20 hours a week to be outside of the house without him. Except that there are short days and school holidays and meetings I have to attend with his special education team … I’ve been looking for a part-time position but haven’t yet found one which is flexible enough to allow for his schedule. Meanwhile I cut down expenses, moved to a smaller apt, used up my savings and now … I’m out of time. Now I have bills to pay, but no income.
There are three things I can do about this:
1. If you haven’t yet purchased one of the anthologies I’ve edited for Dagan Books, please consider picking up an ebook. Buying directly from us means that more of that money goes to DB, which in turn goes straight to our contributors. Buying our books keeps us going, and means that eventually we’ll grow enough to where I can draw a paycheck (which I haven’t yet).
DRM-free ebooks direct from us:
2. I’m putting together a collection of my short fiction, which I will have up for sale soon. I’m so lucky to have talented friends working with me on cover art and editing; I know it’ll be a great little book. When it’s ready I’ll post it online.
3. Do you have writing or editing work that you need doing? I’m looking for anything with a paycheck attached. I have edited well-respected collections of fantasy, science fiction, even erotica. I write fiction all along the genre spectrum, and non-fiction on a range of topics. Stories, articles, site content – let me know what you need. You can contact me here.
In an effort to keep better track of the work I do as a writer, reviewer, editor, and publisher, I’m going to try to post regular stats updates. I did this one by creating a post at the beginning of the month, saving it as a draft, and then adding to it whenever I accomplished something. (Much easier than trying to put it together all at once on the day I want it to post.)
In January I …
- “After the Apocalypse”, the last story in the collection of the same name by Maureen F. McHugh. Read my review here.
- The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Brief review on Goodreads.
- The Bleeding Man, and Other Science Fiction Stories, by Craig Strete. Review here.
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies magazine, issues 104, 105 & 106. Review of 104 & 105 here.
- Started reading Nobokov’s Pale Fire.
- and some Tony Stark/Captain America slash fic, but I blame Conni for that.
- The book reviews listed above, and this post.
- Two Tech Nerd posts for Functional Nerds, which will go up in February and March.
- SF Signal Outside the Frame comics reviews about My Favorite Comics of 2012, Tale of Sand, Raplh Azham No. 1, and Elmer (will post in Feb).
- Guest posts for:
- First draft (1300 words) of “Darling, Daughter, Dear” which I plan to finish and submit to Interfictions: A Journal of Interstitial Arts . They open to subs today – but only for the month of February, so I have a deadline.
- A 990 word lit fiction piece from 2011 called “Skipping Ahead To The End” (see below)
- FISH. (And there was much rejoicing.) This included proofing print and ebooks several times, submitting files to markets, blog posts, a Goodreads giveaway, and so on.
- appeared on two more Functional Nerds podcasts – Episode #133 and Episode #134 (click on the links to listen)
- appeared on an SF Signal podcast (will post in February).
- got my Goodreads account organized, updated my bookshelf, and started using it to keep track of the books I’m reading.
- Updated the Our Staff page on the Dagan Books site; fixed date/link/spelling errors in other places on the site.
- Updated my Non-Fiction page, and my links.
- Chased down and corrected contract issues for two stories I sold back in Spring 2012 (as yet unpublished).
- Critiqued two 4k word stories for a friend.
- Spent some time in the forums at Zoetrope. It’s focused more on literary fiction than genre fiction, and I like getting that perspective on my work.
- Read and critiqued 5 flash-length stories.
- Submitted one of my own (“Skipping Ahead To The End”).
- Put more story ideas into Evernote.
- Interviewed E.C. Meyers (read it here) and Fran Wilde (here).
- And started tracking my fiction submissions in one of these:
That’s about 9,300 new words of non-fiction writing for the month and 1300 of fiction. Read 22 short stories (7 unpublished) and one novel (started a second). Revised and submitted one flash piece to be critiqued & critiqued 7 stories for other writers. Was on 3 podcasts. Got an anthology prepped and published – a year later than I’d originally intended but proof that I am starting to get back on track. Plus a bunch of office work (I am my own middle manager).
I’m planning to write more fiction in February, as well as get at least one more (hopefully two) Dagan Books projects published, and move forward on the other four in-progress titles.
My advice for February:
Do one thing every day. If you can, write. A blog post, or 500 words on your current story. If not, read. A short story, chapter, a couple of articles you need for research, it’s all useful, and often easier than writing when you’ve had a long day. Make a list of the things you’ve been meaning to do and check one off. By focusing on one thing a day, you’ll end up having done 28 things by the end of the month, instead of pushing yourself to do too much and being too burnt out to work for days at a time. That’s reading several magazines, or writing your weekly blog post for the next six months, or 14,000 words on your novel…
E.C. Myers is the author of two YA speculative fiction novels – Fair Coin & Quantum Coin – out now from Pyr. When he isn’t writing, he reads, plays video games, watches films, sleeps as little as possible, and spends far too much time on the internet. Luckily, he let me steal him away to answer a few questions …
1. You’re a prolific reviewer of television, film and video games. One of your current projects is The Viewscreen, where you’re rewatching every episode of Star Trek TNG. How does that kind of writing fit in with the rest of your writing career?
Sometimes I worry that writing for The Viewscreen or even my own blog might be too much of a distraction from my fiction career. It may not make the most sense to devote so much of my limited writing time to work that doesn’t pay, but economics aside, I do think it’s valuable. Writing regularly—any kind of writing—helps me grow as a writer, and the regular deadlines are powerful motivation to sit down at the keyboard and work fast. I love stories in all their forms, especially in television and film, and these re-watches are opportunities to examine fiction critically and think about what makes it brilliant, a spectacular failure, or an interesting effort that just falls short of success. I also think it’s important to be able to write many different things, just as it’s important to read widely, and one day perhaps I will be able to support myself from a variety of freelancing projects like these. It’s also a lot of fun, and I enjoy discussing Star Trek with the smart, engaged community at The Viewscreen.
2. You have a wife, a day job, friends, pets, and hobbies – and you still wrote four novels and several short stories. How do you find the time?
I steal the time wherever I can get it: by falling hopelessly behind on my favorite TV shows while dodging spoilers on the internet, watching the stacks of unplayed video games and unread books grow, getting by on four or five hours of sleep a night so I can stay up late and wake up early, writing during my lunch breaks, and unfortunately giving up too many hours I could be spending with family and friends. I don’t feel like I’ve been as productive as I used to be, so I’m experimenting with new writing routines to counterbalance all the recent changes in my life. The changes are all good ones, but they’re also challenges when you’ve become accustomed to working a certain way. I think if something’s important enough to you, you make the time for it no matter what else you have going on.
3. You’re a member of the writing group Altered Fluid. How did you get involved with the group, and how has that influenced you as a writer?
One of the founding members of Altered Fluid, Kris Dikeman, was one of my classmates at Clarion West in 2005. When we both returned home to New York City after the workshop, she graciously introduced me to the group and sponsored me for membership. I went through their rigorous screening process and happily was accepted. Second to Clarion West, Altered Fluid has probably improved my writing the most. Everyone in the group is deeply committed to the craft of writing and has diverse strengths, areas of expertise, and perspectives. The constant demand for new short stories to critique made me more prolific, and it’s very helpful to not only receive critiques from such smart, experienced writers, but to think critically about each others’ stories and hear everyone else’s reactions and suggestions on every piece. I also appreciate what supportive, fun friends they’ve become—we keep each other informed about story markets, share publishing news and advice, help each other with various projects, and we even go on writing dates and retreats together.
4. What short fiction publication are you most proud of, and why?
Every one of them is a victory, but I’m especially proud of “All the Lonely People”, which appeared in Shimmer issue #13 in April 2011. I think it’s one of my best published pieces, but it took a long time for it to find the perfect home; Shimmer is one of my favorite fiction magazines, and I had been trying to break into the market for years, with several close calls. I also had the privilege of reading that story at the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series, which was definitely a highlight of my career so far.
5. You’ve published two YA novels, Fair Coin and Quantum Coin, and have two others you’re revising. What stage of the novel/publishing process do you enjoy the most?
Naturally I am particularly thrilled by the part that puts my books in the hands of readers! But as far as the writing process goes, it’s a toss-up between writing a first draft, when there’s still so much potential, and revision, when the book is creeping closer to what I want it to be. I like revision when I know what to fix and how to fix it. (more…)
A.C. Wise was born and raised in Montreal, and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with a spouse, a stripey cat, a spotty cat, and a very short dog. Her fiction has appeared, or is forthcoming, in publications such as Clarkesworld, Apex, Lightspeed,and The Best Horror of the Year Volume 4, among others. In addition to her fiction, she co-edits The Journal of Unlikely Entomology(www.grumpsjournal.com), an online publication of fiction and art generally dedicated to all things multi-legged and creepy-crawly. You can find her online at www.acwise.net, and on twitter as @ac_wise.
1. What is your favorite of your published works, and why?
Well… My favorite work is usually the one I haven’t written yet, but is currently setting my brain on fire. Or the one I’m deep in the middle of, slinging words hither and thither like an irresponsible maniac. Among the works actually published, I find it harder to choose. There are pieces I think I like, but haven’t read in a while, so it may just be a factor of looking back with rose-colored glasses. With the more recent works, I have a certain fondness for ‘Final Girl Theory’ and ‘Venice Burning’. That said, as a general rule, I try to avoid re-reading my stories once they’ve been published.
2. You started publishing your work in 2004. Has the state of the publishing industry changed since then? Anything you prefer about being a writing now? Anything you miss?
I think online publications have gained more respectability since I started publishing. They were already well on their way with publications like Strange Horizons, Abyss & Apex, and ChiZine (know as Chiaroscuro back then), but I think the advent ofClarkesworld, Tor.com, Lightspeed, and its predecessor Fantasy Magazine, really tipped the balance in making online publications widely acceptable and desirable. In addition to the rise of online publications, I think the widespread acceptance of electronic submissions is more prevalent these days, which is definitely an improvement. In terms of things I’ll miss… I’ll always lament the loss of Story House Coffee. Not only did they print my first-ever professionally published story, but they printed it on a freakin’ coffee can label. Coffee! Fiction! It’s so many things I love all in one place. What more could a person want?
3. What market would you most like to be published in, and why? What do you think has kept you from breaking in there so far?
I’ve been lucky enough to have my work published in the majority of publications I admire – Strange Horizons, ChiZine, Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, and (forthcoming) Lightspeed, among others. Something I aspire to is being invited to contribute to an original anthology edited by Ellen Datlow. I adore her work; it was, and continues to be, a major inspiration and influence on my writing. I distinctly remember an ‘ah-ha’ moment reading the fairy tale anthologies (Black Thorn, White Rose; Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears, etc.), which she edited with Terri Windling, where I thought: Yes. This is what I want to do with my life. I want to write stories like these.
4. You often talk about your super adorable corgi. What other people, creatures, or activities help keep you relatively sane in a field known for breaking aspiring writers?
My cats ‘help’ in their own way. Mostly by insisting my lap is the absolute best place in the world to be as soon as I settle down to write, which means the laptop needs to be shoved out of the way, and chin scritches need to be administered NOW, or else. In the realm of things that are actually helpful, my family has always been incredibly supportive of my writing, which definitely helps, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet other writers along the way who help keep me sane(ish). Or, who are at least willing to listen to me rant and moan when sanity abandons me for warmer climes.
5. In your, well, let’s call it “free time” you also co-edit the Journal of Unlikely Entomology. How did that project come together?
The short answer is: It started as a joke, which rapidly turned into, ‘Hey, we could actually make something of this.’ The longer answer requires finding me or my co-editor at a con and buying us a drink. (No, I’m not trying to scam free drinks, how dare you suggest such a thing!) In all seriousness, even though it did start as a joke, I take my role as co-editor of the Journal of Unlikely Entomology very seriously. It’s also given me a whole new appreciation for the multi-legged critters that share our world. In a way, bugs are much like zombies, the ultimate blank-slate monster. It’s the story the author tells around theme that counts and one can tell some incredible stories around bugs. There’s an amazing wealth of symbolism and mythology to do with bugs. We get the question ‘why bugs?’ a lot, but, really…why not bugs?
6. How does being an editor affect your writing?
Heh. It makes me more conscious of time management, for one thing. It also gives me a new appreciation of the submission process. I’m far more patient with response times than I used to be. It also helps me take rejections less personally. Ultimately, I hope it’s allowing me to build better instincts, and helping me avoid clichés, slow openings, and all the other things that annoy me when I encounter them in the slush pile.
7. What are currently writing on?
Theoretically, I’m working on a novel. (Ha!) It’s based on my short story ‘The Thief of Precious Things’, which appeared in Ekaterina Sedia’s Bewere the Night anthology. At any given time, I also have a handful of story stories brewing. And there’s always editing to keep my busy.