Monday, January 31, 2005
Before you can either tell or show the reader anything about your characters, you must know them yourself—know their history, their educational level, their loves and hates and foibles. You must know how they feel about life, the universe and everything.
The Puppet Master
Knowing these things, you must be able to portray your characters as individuals, which means, simply, that they should be distinctive. Further, the reader should never see the “strings” by which the characters are connected to you, the writer. Your heroine is strong-willed, savvy, self-assured ... until a scene requires her to whine and grovel. So she whines and grovels. You are playing (evil laughter) the Puppet Master.
Like a real human being, a fictional character must seem to be the product of both nature and nurture. Some of the best moments of high drama, in real life and in literature, occur when flawed human beings do incredible things. By having a character’s flaws imposed from outside the story by the (evil laughter) Puppet Master, you rob yourself and your reader of this drama.
If you really need this character to whine and grovel at this point, let the weakness come from inside, and show the reader the genesis of that weakness. Have your strong-willed, savvy, young protagonist be weakened by grief over the loss of a loved one. This weakness is contrary to her self-image, which in turn makes her angry at herself and the universe, and gives birth to guilt. These forces can make a normally rock-solid personality resemble gelatin. This character’s greatest struggle may be to rediscover herself, and she may be less than consistent as she goes about it.
“I’m wounded!” she said lightly.
Dialogue is, at once, one of the most essential tools of characterization and one of the easiest ways to undermine it.
The title line of this section was in a manuscript I got at a writer’s conference some years back. In the context of this story, the coupling of this exclamation with an inappropriate modifier suggested that the speaker was so much a Mage that she had ceased to have a human appreciation of pain. Since this was not the case, it made the narrative voice (and hence the writer) seem unreliable.
“You’re so smart!” he snorted wryly.
They call it “said-book-ism”: People snort and exhort when perhaps they ought to just say something. Snorts are fine once in a while, but unwatched, they proliferate like March Hares.
A close companion of said-book-ism is “adverbitis,” which can affect both dialogue and action. Mark Twain is supposed to have said, “If you see an adverb, kill it.” Extreme, but some stories have led me to suggest that if the writer cut about three-quarters of them, the manuscript would improve dramatically.
In the kitchen, he found Constance preparing their meal. He watched her quietly. He found that he was still anxious and closed his eyes tightly and sighed, loudly.
Constance jumped. “Jerrod!” she cried anxiously.
“I’m sorry, Constance.” Jerrod smiled nervously.
The adverbs disrupt the dialogue and produce shallow characterization. We know these people are nervous or anxious, but couched in weak adverbs instead of strong verbs their anxiety is barely felt.
Here’s the same passage, reworded:
Constance was in the kitchen preparing a simple meal. He watched her in silence for a moment, anxiety digging pitons into the wall of his stomach. What he meant as a cleansing breath came out as a melodramatic sigh.
Constance jumped and turned to face him. “Jerrod!”
His smile dried and set on his lips. “I’m sorry, Constance.”
The image of anxiety using mountain climbing gear provides a mental image for the reader. It conveys much more than “he said anxiously.” It’s through dialogue, thought, and action that your reader knows your characters and gauges their feelings. If these essentials are not fully formed, your characters will not be fully formed. If your dialogue lacks emotional depth, so will your characters. Strong verbs are better tools for building depth into dialogue than are weak verbs qualified by adverbs.
I challenge thee to a duel (of words).
Poorly constructed dialogue can cut down reader comprehension, hamper pacing, and make characters seem like bad high school actors flogging their way through scenes in which no one understands his lines or motivation. Worse, it may seem as if the lines have been forgotten altogether, and the characters have resorted to ad-libbing ... without listening to each other.
Here’s an example:
JERROD: “Constance, I’d like you to meet my friend, Peter Harrar.”
CONSTANCE: “I’m glad to meet you.”
PETER: “The pleasure is all mine, my lady. (He tries to read her mind.) Oh, that was dumb!”
JERROD: “I agree!”
PETER: “I apologize, my lady.”
CONSTANCE: “No need, sir.”
JERROD: “What’s the matter, Peter? Forget that she’s a level five Psi?”
PETER: “One of these days, friend! .... Would it be too rude JUST to bow?”
CONSTANCE: “No...no. I don’t think so.”
JERROD: “Don’t you think you’re overdoing it a bit?”
PETER: “No, I don’t think so.”
CONSTANCE: “I don’t think so either. Leave him alone, Jerrod. At least he knows the meaning of the word respect.”
PETER: “Yeah, me.”
What’s wrong with this conversation? Simply that it’s not a conversation—it’s a duel (or the three-participant equivalent). It’s also repetitive, trivial, and long.
The original scene staggered under the weight of stage business that seemed to exist only to give the characters something to do with their bodies. When I stripped away all the aimless movement that accompanied this dialogue what was left was a barrage of small talk that took up several pages and failed to either advance the story or reveal character.
“It is a matter of life and death!”
Avoiding the use of contractions in an academic paper or essay may be a good idea, but in fictional dialogue it is a bad idea simply because real people generally do use contractions in their speech.
“I have to talk to Matilda.” Justin tried not to let his desperation show.
“She is not receiving visitors,” the guard told him.
Justin balled his fists against the desire to use them. “This cannot wait. I have got to speak to her. I am telling you—it is a matter of life and death.”
The lack of contractions here does two things. It stiffens the prose (a stale meringue comes to mind) and it sucks any urgency out of the scene. Ultimately, poor Justin does not come across as a man desperate to see his beloved. The narration—his suppressed desperation, his desire to manhandle the guard—is at odds with the carefulness of the dialogue. Desperate people are not careful in their speech. They’re ... well, desperate.
Will the real Dinsdale please speak up?
Spoken words and thoughts, alike, should reveal character, show strength or weakness; truth, falsehood or ambiguity. They must seem like thoughts we might have or, at the very least, thoughts we can imagine that someone else could have. Likewise, we must use words our readers can imagine a particular character would use.
If a character is supposed to be callous, then the words he uses in both speech and thought should reveal his callousness ... or his compassion.
Ariel followed Dinsdale down the long, dark flight of stairs. At the top of the third landing she slipped and fell.
Below her, Dinsdale stopped and glanced back over his shoulder. “What’s the matter?” he asked callously. Good God, she might have broken her neck.
Dinsdale’s dialogue could just as easily have read: “What’s the matter?” he asked fearfully.
The only difference between Dinsdale being a rogue or a gentleman is in the adverb chosen to modify “asked.” This should raise a few red flags.
Let’s try a different approach:
Ariel followed Dinsdale down the long, dark flight of stairs. At the top of the third landing she slipped and fell.
Below her, Dinsdale stopped and glanced back over his shoulder. Hell, he thought, she might have broken her neck and stuck him with having to dispose of the body. “Trying to reach the bottom more quickly, my lady?” he asked.
I don’t have to tell you Dinsdale spoke callously, his thoughts and words are snide and uncaring. They make even a simple glance over the shoulder seem heartless. An acid test for dialogue, then, might be to ask: If I strip away all modifiers, what do these words tell me about the character?
You have to develop an ear for dialogue. You can do several things when you write dialogue to make it sound real:
1. Strip away all stage business and action. Try to write dialogue as if you were eavesdropping in the dark. No movement, just people talking.
2. Read your dialogue aloud to see what it sounds like if spoken by a real person. Imagine your characters in a real-life situation, saying these words.
3. Ask if everything you’ve written is necessary. Does it advance the plot or reveal character? Real people “um” and “uh” and “y’know” their way through life, and they indulge in conversations that wander. Fictional characters can’t afford those luxuries.
4. ‘Run the scene’ in your mind and put in the action and atmosphere only after you’re satisfied that the words work. If necessary, modify the pacing of the dialogue to work with the action.
Obviously, there are other things that contribute to realistic dialogue. Here are a few of them:
Get your plot straight. If you don’t know where your characters are going, or where they’ve been, it will be reflected in what they say. Don’t contradict yourself or your characters. Make sure the plot is sound, that the elements are clear and flow logically. Then, cut any elements that don’t advance the plot, develop or reveal character, or give the reader necessary information. A single plot flaw can make your entire story unravel.
Establish a definite point of view. You may wish to “be” your point of view character when you write dialogue so that his conversational thoughts reveal to the reader who he is.
Watch the pace. If the pacing of a scene is off, the gist of conversations can become lost, and important clues about character, missed. Don’t let “stage business” get in the way of dialogue. We don’t need to know whether a character brandished his revolver in his left or right hand. Nor, once informed of the fact, do we need to be reminded of it every time he speaks.
Stay focused. Don’t toss chunks of narrative into the middle of action/dialogue sequences.
Tighten your prose. You’ve heard the phrase, “elegant in its simplicity?” Good dialogue can be the very embodiment of this. Unless you’ve created a character who is known by his very penchant for tangled phrases, keep the dialogue as direct as possible. The purpose of speech is communication. For a writer this is true on two levels: characters communicate with each other and through them, you communicate with your reader.
Start by concentrating on how to use the language. Make sure you know what a word means and how to use it before you put it down on paper.
Know your characters. Learn who they are, then introduce them to the reader. Put words in their mouths that will make us like or dislike them (depending on their roles in your story), but which, above all, will make us care what happens to them for better or worse. Above all, don’t pull their strings. Give them distinctive personalities and motivation, put them in a situation, then stand back to watch what they do and listen to what they say.
There’s a story in that.
At 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 30, 2005, an e-commerce revolution was launched.
Like most commerce, it's based on the bedrock principle of buying low, selling high: in this case, buying the work of freelance ghostwriters, then massively marketing that work. It's not based on millions of fast-track sales for a single product. Instead, it operates on an incremental principle: many thousands of steady sales for multiple small products, adding up to millions.
And within weeks, this revolution will touch every freelance market on the Internet.
Boom time for the likes of us? To read the sales letter that's lighting the fuse to this powder keg, no. It's the freelance equivalent of sweatshop labor.
It started early in January: Google changed the rules of its Adwords program, which had previously been touted as a cash machine by Internet marketers. Under the old rules, anyone could earn affiliate commissions by posting ads for a vendor's products, paying only a small cost per click to do so. When multiple ads for one or two popular affiliate sites littered search pages, however, Google ruled that only one ad could be displayed per root URL.
Marketing gurus responded by advising their followers to create their own small sites for individual niche products (affiliate or otherwise), and to advertise those unique URLs instead.
A few weeks later, after whipping up anticipation with teleclasses, email blasts and other promotions, Frank Kern and Ed Dale launched a marketing package called Underachiever Mastery (www.underachievermastery.com). Only 700 copies were available at $1,497 apiece, as Kern and Dale chose not to offer continuing information or support a virally growing audience. By the 7:00 a.m. pre-launch release, nearly 12,000 people were on the waiting list. Six hours later, subscribers to just one listserv had snapped up more than half the available copies.
What was all the fuss about?
Frank Kern is the Internet marketer who was sued by the FTC for selling a wildly popular package called "Instant Internet Empires" that allegedly made claims of guaranteed wealth. As he says, he learned his lesson, stopped creating "make money by selling `make money' information for the incestuous Internet marketing community," and instead embraced and promoted the idea of ultra-targeted marketing to micro-niche audiences. For the full story in his own words, see http://netpreneurnow.blogspot.com/2005/01/frank-kern-call.html.
Kern's micro-niche idea arose thanks to a site that he had created as a joke years before the Instant Internet Empires debacle: www.yourparrotwilltalk.com. For an E-Lance bid of less than $700, with no rights or royalties, he'd commissioned a ghostwriter to produce an e-book titled How to Teach Your Parrot to Talk in 30 Days or Less…Guaranteed! By selling this e-book for $37.77 on a two-page site (sales letter and order form), he quietly pulled in an average income of several thousand per month.
When the FTC shut down his Internet empire, he took a second look at this faithful little micro-business site and built his Underachiever program on the principles it had proven.
Here are the principles (to quote the Underachiever Mastery sales letter directly):
Step #1: Find a market to sell to that's irrationally passionate about... something... anything. This needs to be a group of people who are easily identifiable but not too great in number, yet have plenty of money and are insanely rabid about a certain hobby or topic. For example, golfers or, say, brides-to-be. These folks are crazy about their interests and will spend money on just about anything that fuels their desire!…
Step #2: Find out exactly what they want to buy right now! (And not what they need to buy. Big difference!) Fortunately for you and I, the Internet has made much easier to do this in most cases. In fact, you can even find out how much they're willing to spend, if you know where to look. We even show you many ways to do this absolutely free!
Step #3: Create the product they want. But YOU don't have to, and you shouldn't, create it yourself. You can create what it is they want on the cheap, without any effort or work on your part. Heck, for just a few bucks, you can have a product created that sells over and over and over again, without ever having to lift a finger in creating it!
This is vital! Listen, the moment this process starts to look like work, or if it stops being fun, it defeats the purpose of the Underachiever System. Why sweat over something that can be easily outsourced to someone else for just pennies on the dollar?
Step #4: Have a website that sells, and put it in front of the very people you just identified! Listen, thanks to some new developments we've uncovered, getting your website in front of the right people might just be the easiest step. You don't need a fancy website, an affiliate program, an email list, join-venture partners, or any of that fancy stuff that can drive any sane marketer mad!
Principle #3 makes it clear: the whole idea is to do this fast, cheap, and easy: to haul in millions using many small, "underachieving" sites, by outsourcing the actual production work "for pennies on the dollar." It's the same principle used by corporations from Wal*Mart on down.
This kind of exploitation would not be possible without freelance writers' undervaluation of our own work...our willingness to accept terms like those offered for the Parrot e-book: low pay, no rights, no royalties. Meanwhile, as Kern says, there's no effort or work for the marketer, just profit and fun!
Sweetening the deal for marketers is the fact that e-book publishing budgets are a fraction of those in the legitimate publishing industry: there is no agent, no editorial, artistic or marketing staff, no printer to pay, no physical plant to maintain. Sales sites can be launched within a day or two, with a paltry few hundred paid for domain, hosting, and e-commerce utilities.
Promotional expenses are minescule compared to those of the publishing houses, with tools, tricks and techniques such as "hypnotic" language achieving immediate results that mainstream advertising campaigns never could. More than this: niche sites may be further promoted by one or more levels of affiliates, giving the product (your work product) near-viral distribution across the Internet.
And once the minimal product, setup, and promotion costs are paid, the marketer earns virtually pure profit.
Over the coming weeks following the release of Underachiever Mastery, freelance writers can expect to see a tidal wave of e-book projects being posted on E-Lance and similar sites. Those e-books will be marketed massively to niche audiences, and will profit their marketers many times over the flat fee paid to the ghostwriter.
Before you leap to bid on projects like these, consider carefully what you are asking and offering. If you are content with gleaning a flat few hundred dollars from a book that may earn many hundreds of thousands (or more), that's certainly your option.
The question, however, is: how much do you value your own work...your own time...your own dignity? Do you choose to see yourself as a professional among professionals, or as a cottage industry worker, laboring at sweatshop wages with no rights? The Underachiever system is based on the latter.
Protect yourself! If possible, find out what you're getting into before you bid. As you would for any other ghostwriting job, quote a living wage. Most important in this case, however: require royalties. After making an "Underachiever" site possible, you have a right to a portion of its profits.
Phila Hoopes is a freelance writer of nonfiction articles for local and national publications, newly escaped from Corporate America and particularly passionate about fair trade and living wage issues. Her website is www.pathstoprosperity.org.
And of course, the number of people who subscribed yesterday was equally encouraging. THANK YOU! There was, of course, an error in the pitch: April 1 is two, not three months away. I didn’t mean to wish a longer winter on anyone.
If you’d like to subscribe and haven’t done so yet, you can click here to subscribe. Please note, you do not need a PayPal account to make payments through PayPal. However, if you feel more comfortable, you can send check or money order payments to David Copeland, 2008 Altmar Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15226.
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Sunday, January 30, 2005
Friday, January 28, 2005
If you don't know exactly how much money you're going to make before you write an article, then, chances are, you're being taken for a ride. Never, ever write an article if you don't know exactly how much you're going to make before you start writing.
You see it all the time!
"We can't afford to pay you now, but we'll publish your bio."
"Payment is in the form of byline."
"Get published here and get exposure!"
Exposure? Exposure to what? These promises of payment that in no way involve money are, by far, the ultimate insult to writers. Been tempted by these in the past? Let's discuss what "exposure" is beneficial to writers, and what is not.
"EXPOSURE" TO PROMOTE YOUR WRITING ABILITIES - GET REAL!
If you get "exposure" to a dozen people who might visit that website or read that ezine, newsletter or magazine, what will that get you? Okay, how about a hundred people? A thousand? Maybe 10,000? How many of those people are editors looking for freelancers? In the mast majority of cases, whether there are 10 readers or 1,000, the answer is zero. Real editors that offer real compensation to writers are just not surfing the 'Net looking for more writers! They're already inundated with submissions!!
WRITING FOR EQUITY AND/OR STOCK OPTIONS
Oh come on! Ask any five people you know if they've ever had stock options. Then ask them how much CASH they got out of that deal. Chances are all five people will say zero.
WRITING FOR PERCENTAGE OF AD REVENUE OR PAY PER CLICK
If you want to write for two pennies per article or less, this is the way to go. See my article on this bad deal here:
BYLINE/BIO AS PAYMENT
As in writing for exposure above, getting a byline in a small-circulation print magazine or newsletter or even a popular website is usually worth zero dollars and is a gross waste of your time.
"EXPOSURE" TO PROMOTE YOUR PRODUCT
Now, this is different. Are you promoting a book or a business writing service (writing copy for business brochures, letters, etc.)? Then exposure in this capacity might be valuable, provided the audience you're writing for is appropriate for your product or service.
HOW THE INSULT WORKS:
Publications need content. They desire to obtain this content for "free", of course. However, "free" doesn't feed our families, does it? So, they insult us by concocting other creative tactics to get us to write for them for free…like promises of "exposure", the publication of our "byline" or "bio" and the opportunity to be read by "thousands" or more.
Many start-up websites, newsletters and others make a big dog and pony show about how valuable exposure to their readers is. When, in reality, they know that exposure to their readers is going to have absolutely zero monetary value for you, the writer, no matter how many people read your article. If they're that new, they don't have enough readers to make it financially worth your time!
ADS WE FOUND THAT INSULTED US:
At fanstop.com, their site says, "We're not a corporate gorilla (hello, Sportscenter) but there's equity and profit sharing for feature and Smash Mouth writers. Everyone that works on this network gets compensation, which separates us from the other guys."
Excuse me? You call equity and profit sharing compensation? If you can't afford to pay real money for content, you shouldn't be in business. I'd like to know how much cash your equity and profit sharing have equated to thus far!
At TheBabyCorner.com: If we choose to use your work, it will be featured on the website, along with any links to your site and a brief bio."
Whoo hoo! But, how is that going to help me buy groceries this week, keep my electricity on and take my child to the doctor? Do you work your job for free? Does your ISP? Your doctor? Your grocer? So, why should I write for you…for FREE?!
At CottageHaven.com: "We offer good exposure to writers. Our magazine is currently seen by over 5000 people per month. Unfortunately, we cannot pay for the articles yet, but we will start paying writers as soon as we are able."
Um, if your traffic is so low that you can't earn any ad revenue, what makes you think a writer will get "good exposure" writing for you? IF YOU CAN'T PAY WRITERS, YOU SHOULDN'T BE IN BUSINESS!
Let's face it. If these firms had respectable traffic to their sites, they'd have paying advertisers and would be able to afford to pay YOU! If they can't even attract advertisers what makes you think you're going to make any money writing for their small audience? If they do have good traffic or any ad revenue at all, they should be PAYING THEIR WRITERS!
WRITING FOR FREE HURTS ALL WRITERS
If you write for free, you are part of the problem. You are hurting the rest of us who refuse to write for nothing. When you write for free, you are telling that publication/website that freelance writing services are not worth paying for. Not only that, but you're also telling that publication/website that your own writing is not worth paying for.
Believe me…when you write for free, other editors who might see your article know you wrote it for free. They won't offer you a paying gig when they know they can get you…for free. Professional writers don't write for free. Amateurs do. Editors know this!
WHAT HAS HAPPENED?
So many writers willingly write for free that freelance writing pay has declined in the past 40 years, not increased with the cost of living. According to the National Writers Union, "We discovered that the situation is even worse than we had thought. In real dollars, freelance rates have declined by more than 50 percent since the 1960s. And while rates have gone down, publishers are getting more for their money." See: http://www.nwu.org. Click on journalists and then on: Report on Pay Rates for Freelance Journalists
What does that tell you?! Every writer who writes for "exposure" is selling out their brothers and sisters! What in the world can YOU do?
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MAKE A CHANGE?
1. Never write for "exposure/bio/byline" unless you're promoting your product or service with the article and, then, only if that publication's audience is your book's/product's target audience. Writing an article on coupons while promoting a book on business taxation will sell zero books. Writing an article on parenting while promoting a book on parenting provides value to the author.
2. Never, ever assume that, by writing for that editor, you're going to be noticed by paying editors and land future writing assignments. If ain't gonna happen!
3. If you need clips, write for one of the paying magazines that welcome new writers! See: http://www.writersweekly.com/markets/markets.html, page down to the markets, and look for the phrase "welcomes new writers." At the end of that page is a link to more markets, and at the end of that, even more. You'll soon see that, with all the publications willing to PAY new writers, there is no need to write for free to obtain clips!
4. When you see an ad or writer's guidelines offering "exposure" in exchange for articles, email the editor and tell him/her what an atrocity their insult is. Better yet, forward this article to them.
5. When you see an ad or writer's guidelines offering "exposure" in exchange for articles, ask your fellow freelancers to write to him/her as well to voice their outrage!
There are tens of thousands of magazines and websites that PAY writers for their work. If we all refuse to write for nothing, the non-paying ones will be forced to start paying for our valuable services. That, or they'll go out of business…which is where they should be if they can't pay!
Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com, the largest-circulation freelance writing ezine in the world featuring new freelance jobs and paying markets every Wednesday. It's free! Subscribe at: http://www.writersweekly.com
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Somehow we have come to believe more is better, that it's a good thing if a search engine pops up with 27,999 entries on a given subject. Yet it's because of this very "too muchness" that many journalists have found themselves entangled in the Web.
Writers believe they've sold one-time rights to articles, which then are left indefinitely on Websites or in archives - trapped without permission, often times even without their creator's knowledge. In all but a few cases, writers have not been compensated financially for this prolonged use of their work. These days every tiny business, every magazine and newspaper, wants a Website. Editors/Webmasters who would probably hand back the coin to the supermarket cashier who gave them too much change apparently think nothing of decorating their cyberpages with "donated" articles. Our articles!
Copyright is copyright, folks, be it bleached pulp or cyberspace. Cyberspace is just more complex. To me, the Internet is not unlike a train out of control, running away with writers' rights. Because the Web is still in its infancy, these working conditions can be improved. There's a chance to patch things up and head that train in the right direction. Web editors (sometimes also serving as Webmasters) do seem to have a problem on their hands. Practically overnight, they have been expected to become HTML savvy and to produce fully-functioning, competitive sites with plenty of toots and whistles. Often they have little or no staff. They are supposed to intelligently address an international audience, wow them with information and somehow turn a profit at the end. Fill those slots!
To disguise the function of journalists by referring to them as "content providers," "word architects" or mere "slot fillers" is a disservice. With the new titles, it's easy to imagine robots churning out piece after piece. Instead of sitting in first class, "content providers" end up chasing after the caboose.
There's no passing the buck. Let's not allow all the rules of fair play to be thoughtlessly tossed out the train's window as we sit back and enjoy the ride. Editors on the Web are the ones with the authority to make positive changes and they certainly have the responsibility to know exactly what's posted on their sites, under what conditions it got there, where it goes next - and why.
Roberta Beach Jacobson has contributed to 22 books and has published print articles in eight countries. Her Website is www.travelwriters.com/Roberta.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Here is an excerpt from a real email I received last week:
"I don't know anything about the publishing business and I'm not a writer but I have a great story to tell! How do I go about speaking with professionals about writing my story for me and then getting it published?"
We see this type of inquiry a lot and most people with a "story to tell" are surprised when they learn it's going to cost them money, often a few thousand dollars, to hire someone to write that story. A common public misconception is that, if you think your life would make a good book, writers will line up at your door, demanding the privilege of writing your story for only a portion of future royalties.
The sad fact is that most adults have had something challenging happen in their lives that they (or their friends/relatives) think would make a good book. Unfortunately, most of these tragedies have already happened, in one way or another, to someone else. And, books with similar stories are probably already on the market. There just isn't a huge market for personal experience books but there is no shortage of people who want someone else to write their life story. Finally, with most personal-experience stories, the only people who are really interested in reading the story are the people who know the person who's life is featured.
This person often truly believes their story would make a great book and movie, and may promise fame and fortune to the writer willing to write their story. But, what you must remember is that this is a business transaction. Don't let yourself be pulled into someone's misconception about the marketability of their life story.
Unless this person, I'll call him Survivor Sam, is a very well-known celebrity, you should not agree to write his story for only a portion of future royalties. And, you should absolutely not agree to be paid only if you, yourself, manage to land a publishing contract for the book. This is another misconception among the public...that you, the author of their book, will sell the manuscript to a publisher or to Hollywood. That's not what ghostwriters or biographers do. That's what agents are for.
What should you charge for this type of work? Never settle for anything less than a respectable hourly fee PLUS a percentage of future royalties. There is absolutely no way for you to predict what kind of project this could turn into. Survivor Sam may want a flat rate, quoted up front, but he may later change his mind about what to include in the story and ask for more work. He may approve every chapter, one by one, but decide he wants it all redone after you're finished. He may want to add more to the story later or may ask you to cut pieces out, requiring additional editing and rewriting on your part. I can guarantee you one thing...Survivor Sam is NOT going to approve your manuscript without requesting changes. And just wait till he shows his friends and relatives the draft! They're all going to have suggestions and changes that Survivor Sam is going to demand you do. And he's going to blame you for everything wrong in the story, even if you've followed his desires to the letter.
Since these projects are so fuzzy, you must charge an hourly fee. Quote an hourly fee that you are happy to work for. Don't sell yourself short because you will regret it in the end. Ask for a portion of the royalties if it ever sells to a publisher, producer, or any other entity. Whatever you do, do NOT enter into this agreement without a contract signed by both parties! If Survivor Sam asks you to hurry up and start work, promising to send the contract later, tell him you can't work without a signed contract. If he's that desperate, he can fax it to you. And, in that contract, specify that you own the copyright on the entire manuscript until the balance he owes you is zero. Think he won't skip off with your story and claim he owns "his story?" Think again. It happens all the time. We've received complaints from writers about people who thought they owned their own life-story (just because they lived it) even though somebody else wrote it!
Finally, charge Survivor Sam an up-front deposit that would equal at least two to four weeks of work. Then bill him in increments. I recommend billing him weekly if you have a two-week deposit or monthly if you have a four-week deposit). Only start work on the next portion of the book after receiving payment on the last portion. Never let yourself get into a predicament where he owes you more than the deposit you're holding.
I can't tell you how many authors have written to me, after signing contracts for this type of work, and then found themselves earning only pennies per hour because of numerous changes in the scope of work. I have also heard from dozens of authors who have delivered the entire manuscript to the client and then never been paid or been shorted by several hundred or more dollars.
While some people really do have a tragic story to tell that just might sell some books, never let yourself be victimized by their promises of fame. While Survivor Sam may be focused on seeing his name on the big-screen, you need to remain focused on seeing your name on those weekly or monthly checks.
Angela Hoy publishes WritersWeekly.com, the free marketing emag for writers featuring new freelance jobs and paying markets every Wednesday. Subscribe at: http://www.writersweekly.com.
Illustrious brother of the sun and moon – Behold thy servant prostrate before thy feet. I kow-tow to thee and beg of thy graciousness thouh mayest grant and live. Thy honored manuscript has deigned to cast the light of its august countenance upon me. With raptures I have perused it. By thy bones of my ancestry never have I encountered such wit, such pathos, such lofty thoughts. With fear and trembling I return the writing. Were I to publish the treasure you sent me, the Emperor would order that it should be made the standard, and that none be published except such as equaled it. Knowing literature as I do, and that it would be impossible in ten thousand years to equal what you have done, I send your writing back. Ten thousand times I crave your pardon. Behold my head is at your feet. Do what you will.
Your servant’s servant.
Monday, January 24, 2005
Friday, January 21, 2005
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
By Roberta Beach Jacobson
In a bit of a slump lately? Here are some tips to jump start your freelance career:
Can't seem to sell that feature? Break it up into a few fillers and try marketing that way. Your chances will improve.
Consider getting translations of your best articles so you can market to other countries.
If your article seems a bit drab, spruce it up with a sidebar or a photo. Or maybe an opening quote will do the trick.
Remember you can borrow photographs at no cost from many tourist bureaus. Many travel publications, of course, won't consider your work if you don't offer photos.
Could it be there is nothing wrong with your article except the title? Give it a catchier headline before trying the next editor.
Exchange success stories with writer friends. You'll learn about other markets this way.
Usually it's fine to insert a touch of humor in your writing, but don't go overboard or editors might be turned off.
You want to study the publications you hope to write for, but can't spend a lot of money, right? You can e-mail the advertising department to ask if they offer free sample issues. Chances are you can find a number of newspapers and magazines at your local library and be sure to look in secondhand shops for back issues of glossy magazines at bargain rates. If all else fails, don't forget to consult those abbreviated on-line versions of any publications you have in mind.
Be aware of timing. Don't sit around waiting for your article to appear before you query your next idea.
If you've been working hard, reward yourself with time off now and then. You'll feel more creative after a break from the computer screen.
Roberta Beach Jacobson has contributed to 22 books and has published print articles in eight countries. Her Website is www.travelwriters.com/Roberta.
Monday, January 17, 2005
This was one of 39 job leads that subscribers to Freelance Daily received this morning. Are you getting Freelance Daily every weekday? Subscribe for free by sending a blanck email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Random notes on what I do and how I do it:
1. I usually do all the screening in the evenings, although I do re-check some of the bigger sites and Wes Coast sites early in the morning as circumstances warrant. For this reason, jobs will not always be included in FD within 24 hours of their being posted on the original site.
2. I include any job that pays or appears to pay. Because this newsletter is primarily targeted at people who earn all or a significant portion of their income from freelance writing and editing, I never include ads that specifically state they do not compensate writers (and I’d guesstimate a quarter of the time I spend on this is reading through those ads, so forgive me on the rare occasion that one slips through).
3. I do not include ads from students looking to hire someone to write their papers for them, or from services that write and sell term papers to students. I do, however, include ads from students who appear to be looking for legitimate editing and tutoring help.
4. I include ads from legitimate businesses and publications, even if I don’t necessarily agree with the philosophies or editorial stances of those organizations (if you don’t like companies that provide adult services, no one will force you to apply for their openings).
5. I do not include ads from companies looking to fill full-time, permanent positions, although I do include full-time, temporary and contract positions. Again, this is a service for freelancers and there are more than enough services out there for people looking for full-time work.
6. For Craig’s List ads that specifically say it’s not okay to repost, I only include the link. I have had one person cancel their subscription because of this, but my feeling is that a link is in the public domain, and it’s no different than someone forwarding a potentially interesting job lead to a friend or two (or, in my case, 1,500). Otherwise, links to the actual ad are only provided when there is an anonymous email address or the ads are incredibly long.
7. If an ad looks fishy, I try to check it out by contacting the poster and/or validate its legitimacy before I include it.
8. I generally only post ads once, even if the people posting them repost them frequently and on several different sites. I may, however, repost ads every few months taking into account I add 50-100 subscribers per week and ads that are reposted over that length of time are generally coming from companies that have a constant need for writers.
Generally, I err on the side of including too much. If I don’t include ads – even ads for positions that most of us would consider low-paying – I’m defeating the purpose of this. Put another way, if you have to check the Web sites to see the ads I didn’t include, then there’s really no point in you reading this.
To answer another question that was asked recently, “Do I apply for positions listed in Freelance Daily?”
Well, duh. I need to eat as well. This essentially started soon after I began freelancing full time. I figured since I was screening all of these sites to begin with, I could email what I was turning up to a few friends. And then it sort of snow-balled from there.
You’re going to have to take my word on this, but let me go on the record as saying I will never leave out an ad because I’m applying for it in an effort to limit my competition. That’s just shady. (On the contrary, I often end up listing a job I have applied for as “Freelance Job of the Day”).
Questions, comments, suggestions or complaints? Email me.
There have been several updates already this year in needs lists of several, top paying publications. As I continue to rethink how to present Market Monday (I’m looking to offer more “exclusive” and less “recycled” info in this section) I’ll use the next couple of weeks profiles some of the better markets that have had recent updates.
Target audience: Alternative tabloid for Chicago.
Rates: $100-$3,000 for features from 500 to 50,000 words.
Kill Fee: Not specified.
Terms: Pays on publication.
Right purchased: One-time rights
Address article queries to: Kiki Yablon, managing editor, email@example.com
Mailing address: 11 E. Illinois St.Chicago IL 60611
Web site: www.chicagoreader.com
In the editor’s words: " "Our greatest need is for full-length magazine-style feature stories on Chicago topics. We're not looking for: hard news (What the Mayor Said About the Schools Yesterday); commentary and opinion (What I Think About What the Mayor Said About the Schools Yesterday); poetry. We are not particularly interested in stories of national (as opposed to local) scope, or in celebrity for celebrity's sake (à la Rolling Stone, Interview, etc.). More than half the articles published in the Reader each week come from freelancers, and once or twice a month we publish one that's come in `over the transom'--from a writer we've never heard of and may never hear from again. We think that keeping the Reader open to the greatest possible number of contributors makes a fresher, less predictable, more interesting paper. We not only publish unsolicited freelance writing, we depend on it. Our last issue in December is dedicated to original fiction."
Market notes: Nonfiction needs include magazine-style features; also book excerpts, essays, humor, interview/profile, opinion, personal experience, photo feature.
(via Writer’s Market)
Other markets covered in today's edition: Skiing, POZ
Friday, January 14, 2005
Press release, speech, business writing
Looking for a person to write press releases, speeches, some business writing and work PR. Willing to negotiate contract. Potential $5-10k a year. firstname.lastname@example.org
…is suspect. A reader who applied did some research and found this thread that indicates some writers who worked for them in the past have had trouble getting paid:
My apologies to anyone who applied if it is a waste of time, or to the advertiser if they’ve resolved those problems and are now paying people they way they deserve to be paid.
In one of the exercises in my "Getting Started as a Freelance Writer" workshop, I ask participants to describe what a "perfect day" would be like for them.
The responses are frequently tender, wistful and unfailingly vivid. Those who've taken my course write about waking up first thing in the morning, refreshed and filled with anticipation for what their "perfect day" holds in store. They paint lush and lovely surroundings with their words, serve up exquisite foods, and spend endearing or romantic time with loved ones. They describe feelings of peace and deep contentment, so often lacking in their day to day realities.
But what invariably surprises me is that these writers seldom include time to write in their "perfect day" narratives. Nor do they mention that such a day would include the thrill of opening their mailboxes to find acceptance letters or checks for something they've written. What I had thought would be an exercise that would enable workshop participants to visualize writing as an integral part of their lives, generally turns out to have nothing to do with writing whatsoever.
Not that I'm criticizing--there are no right or wrong responses to these writing exercises. I simply wonder whether placing such a low priority--or none at all--on writing as part of one's "perfect day" is a reason for lack of writing success. In other words, do people truly dream of being writers, or simply dream of what writing might bring them--fame, fortune, freedom--while skipping the process altogether?
The idea of being a published writer, or a six-figure income writer, is indeed glamorous. But make no mistake--writing is hard work for most of us. Rejections outpace acceptances, at least until we're very well established. Making a more-than-decent living from stringing words together takes extensive persistence, diligence, dedication and chutzpah. Moreover, you've got to love doing it.
I do a lot of writing during my vacations from my day job. All of my "perfect days" include stints at the keyboard, or filling page after page in a paper notebook when I'm far from home. As a matter of fact, I am on vacation as I write this. It's a stunning day outside, deliciously warm and gloriously sunny. I will venture out soon enough, to run errands and bask in the day's beauty. But right now, in front of my PC, I am perfectly content, my fingers clicking along the keys, putting black words onto a white screen.
Certainly my own perfect day scenario would include a beautiful and peaceful setting, excellent cuisine, time with John and my family, and the freedom and energy to volunteer my services to a worthy cause. But I believe that a "perfect day" for all writers must include writing. If it doesn't, how could it ever be perfect? And even in an imperfect world in an imperfect life, every day that I do at least a little bit of writing comes that much closer to perfection.
© 2004 Mary Anne Hahn
Mary Anne Hahn is editor of WriteSuccess, a free biweekly ezine of ideas, information and inspiration for writers. She is also building a Web site that hopes will someday be one of the best online resources for new and experienced writers alike. To check out her growing site and subscribe to her ezine visit http://writesuccess.com.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Memorial Day, Monday, May 30
Independence Day, Monday, July 4
Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5
Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 24 and Friday, Nov. 25
Christmas (Observed), Monday, December 26
There may be some others that I’m missing, and occasionally, life, technical problems on the road or illness will get in the way and force me to take an unexpected day off.
I am looking into a way to publish when I’m on vacation so we won’t miss a full week like we did following Christmas. But nothing is set in stone, so I may miss a week in August and December.
Thanks for understanding.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Monday, January 10, 2005
Friday, January 07, 2005
By Phyllis Ring
At 17, I wanted to write, but knew intuitively that a writer needs life experience.
When friends pursued journalism or English degrees, I studied forestry -- something I know nothing about, though I’d always wanted to.
Getting good grades was easy –forestry jobs proved more elusive. So, since I'd earned tuition money working as a nurse’s aide, liked people, and was interested in health, I went to nursing school.
This career shift coincided with my marriage and near-instant family -- two children in three years. My husband attended graduate school and I worked evenings as charge nurse of a 30-bed floor. I learned more about people and health, and our ships-in-the-afternoon life insured that our children always had at least one parent around.
In my infrequent moments of solitude, I craved putting words on paper. A friend's parenting newsletter provided a forum, and when she pulled my first story from the printer, she uttered a life-changing statement: "You know, you're a real WRITER."
Determined to prove her right, I launched at least a half-dozen novels and as many stillborn short stories.
Then an artist’s story captured me, a local woman’s triumph in adversity prompted an essay; and when both sold to regional magazines, the editors quickly offered more assignments. My husband had gained enough job security since graduating for me to leave nursing to write full time -- for about six months.
The shifting sands of the '80s saw most of my markets fold, then a friend introduced the more stable option of a local newspaper group. She shared an assignment she couldn't take herself, and though I knew nothing about the soft-drink-bottling business, I was curious, and fortunately, the interview source was delightful.
The editor called the day after I filed the story to offer three more. Soon, it looked like I'd need to return to the workplace and that’s when that editor called to tell me the paper had an opening for a assistant editor—especially one who could also write features.
My writer’s education began in earnest. Writer's block? I was too busy cranking out stories, meeting tight deadlines, and trying to engage readers and tell a story well in under 800 words. (And mediating by phone the occasional spat between my two pre-teenagers.)
Eventually, I became features editor – my "graduate study" in what editors need (and don’t), how to time queries and submissions, and what makes editors appreciate writers. I gained a storehouse of ideas and access to interviews with those both nationally and locally known. Among the many resales I made were a couple of national markets.
A newsroom can be a gloomy place, though, so, when my favorite non-profit, a local Bahá’í school, needed a program coordinator, I was ready for change. It kept my writing muscles warm, brought contact with thousands of people from around the world, increased my knowledge about many social issues, and helped me get to know the Internet.
After five-years, I had that mid-life longing for "the life unlived" and made the leap to full-time freelancing last fall. I decided I’d assess my progress after six months and get another job as necessary.
At the six-month mark, I closed in on what I’d made each month in that job. Three years later, I’ve doubled it and publish regularly in such national markets as American Profile, Delicious Living, and Women’s Health & Fitness, plus I’ve secured three regular contributor’s gigs. I’m also getting more nods in response to my sometimes-manic (though I hope focused) queries.
My “career” trail taught me I can learn anything I decide to. Writing’s less about what you know than what you’re excited to find out on the reader’s behalf and share as readably and accurately as you can. Of course, this includes learning more about good writing.
Yes, life experience is a writer’s necessity, and my publication credits now flow directly from it – parenting, health, environment, spirituality, and the variety of social issues that increasingly interest me.
What I didn’t know at 17 is that the way we use our God-given abilities to follow where that experience leads is the way that we find our truest writing voice – and our success.
Phyllis Ring has published more than 800 articles and essays in magazines that include Christian Science Monitor, Ms., and Writers Weekly. A parenting columnist for several publications, she previously coordinated programs for all ages at a Bahá'í conference center and serves as instructor for the Long Ridge Writers Group of the Institute of Children's Literature. For more information about her current projects, visit www.phyllisring.com.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
This is one of 22 new job leads subscribers to Freelance Daily received this morning. To start your own subscription to our FREE, daily newsletter and begin receiving all of our leads, send a blank email to email@example.com.
I’m not a famous writer. I don’t have an agent. The money I make in one year of writing is about enough to buy a new suit, or maybe cover my rent for a few weeks.
So why should you listen to me?
Well, you can be the judge of whether I have anything helpful to say about getting published. I know that when I was just starting out, I would have loved to have someone like me offer advice.
When I made my decision to be a writer, I purchased every book every published on the subject of freelancing. The problem was, everything I read was written by someone who had clearly made it. Most of the things they wrote about were things that didn’t concern me.
I read articles on what you should and shouldn’t expect from your agent. I read articles on how to get the most money from a book publisher. I even read about how to maintain creative control when your book gets made into a movie.
And I wasn’t even published.
Now that I am, I’d like to share the things that I’ve learned. Obviously, I haven’t learned everything, or I’d be a lot wealthier. Still, I think there are a lot of traps that beginning writers fall into and I think I can help you avoid many of them.
So I’ll talk you through my first year as a freelancer. When it began, I had zero publishing credits. When it ended, I was a columnist for three publications (one of them paying), I’d been published in the Washington Post, I’d seen my work performed on a professional stage, and I’d made slightly over $400. I certainly wasn’t going to quit my day job (I teach public school in the Bronx), but it was a good start and I am proud of what I’ve accomplished.
So here goes:
I wanted to be a writer. I loved to write and I believed I was good at it. So why not make a little money on the side and see my name in print? I’d made up my mind; I was going to do it.
So I took a class.
In retrospect, it seems like a silly idea. What I should have done, since I wanted to be a writer, was to write. But I thought there was some secret to the whole process and so I attended a lecture entitled, “How to write an effective op-ed.” Luckily I didn’t pay for it. When it comes to writing, “Don’t ever pay for anything, ever!” is the maxim I live by.
I was amazed by how simple and obvious the teacher’s comments were. Find something you’re passionate about, write on it, and then submit. That was all there was to it. I was amazed.
Luckily, he gave us time at the end of the lecture to craft our own op-eds. My friend and I (both school teachers) opted to write on school choice vouchers. We were given fifteen minutes, but we spent so much time discussing that we barely had two paragraphs.
When the class was over, our teacher dismissed us with these words, “Now go home, add a few lines, correct your mistakes, and go submit your op-eds to a local paper.” I was confused enough to approach him afterwards. Didn’t you have to be well known or important to get an op-ed published? Certainly, they didn’t take articles from regular people.
Our teacher reminded me that newspaper editors are people just like us who have too much work to do and not enough time to do it. Editors are often in need of some sort of filler. If your topic is timely and it arrives in his inbox at just the right time, you just might get published. He suggested sending articles on Saturday morning for two reasons. One, Sunday editions are the biggest and most likely to need extra articles. Two, editors like to go home early to be with their families on the weekend.
And so we did exactly that. We went home and turned our two paragraphs into two pages. We edited and revised every night that week, and then sent it off that Saturday to our favorite local paper, the Washington Post.
It was easy. Three minutes of browsing on their website and we found an e-mail address (OPED@washpost.com). We sent the article and waited. About a week later, we got an e-mail telling us we’d been accepted, about a month later we saw our article in print, and about three months later, we received joint checks for $150.
In retrospect, it was probably good that I knew nothing about freelance writing. If I had, I would have decided that there was absolutely no way the Washington Post would ever accept my article and I would have sent it to some small paper.
And in a way, that initial success changed the way I approached freelance writing. No, I don’t expect that everything I write will bring in $300 and be published in a major newspaper across from a piece by Henry Kissinger (that was the best part). But I do feel, whenever I write, that anything’s possible and I’m never afraid to try a long shot.
There are all sorts of websites that actually make you pay to get your work published, or even make you pay for the chance of getting your work published. To me, they’re preying on people who have lowered expectations, and think this is the only way to get into the business. It’s not true.
You do have to pay your dues, but you shouldn’t have to pay to pay your dues. Be wary of anyone (agents, publishers, editors) who ask for money and tell you that’s how the game works. The only thing I’ve ever paid for is my annual copy of the Writers Market, which you can now subscribe to online for a fee. Take my word, it’s worth it.
Be especially wary of contests that have entrance fees. If people need your $5 submission fee to make a living, it’s more than likely that having your work published or performed by them will do nothing for your career. Working for free, on the other hand, is an entirely different manner. It often makes sense to work for free to build a library of published clips, especially when you’re starting out.
That’s about it. I hope you don’t think that my point is not that I am such a great writer. I was definitely lucky. And don’t expect to be freelancing to be easy, because it’s not. But if you want to take something away from this article it should be this: reach for the stars. Send your work to the most unlikely of places. You may receive the most unlikely of results.
Matt Haldeman teaches sixth grade at a public school in the Bronx, NY. He has written for various publications including the Washington Post and his plays have been performed in theater festivals along the East Coast.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
by Sue Hecht
When I first dreamt of becoming a rich and famous writer, it didn't occur to me that writing articles, books, copy, newsletters and press releases would evolve into a business for me. Successful writers and authors such as Mark Victor Hansen of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame who has redone his book marketing seminars and offered it in Atlanta, Ga last March. His seminar is called It's Not a Book, It's a Business.
An author who knows that they are a businessperson is the difference between a JK Rowling and hobbyists. Bernhard Dohrmann, the co-founder of Income Builders International, also advised me that successful authors market their books through a business. A shift in perception and I arrived at a new level of financial consciousness.
And creating a secure financial future is especially important during these uncertain economic times. Did you know that business ownership is the number one financial planning strategy of the wealthy according to Bonnie Simon, Corporate Credibility, LLC.
"If you are a writer making $50K+ yearly, incorporating your business can help you save taxes and protect your assets," she explains.
Benefits of Incorporation
For successful writers, the benefits of incorporation are numerous. By incorporating, you create a means of controlling how your income will be taxed and potentially save money on self-employment taxes. Plus, corporations typically do business with other corporations, adding to the marketability of your business.
In addition, as a sole proprietor, you are responsible for all of your business debts and liabilities, making you vulnerable to lawsuits that could wipe out your personal savings and assets. Not me, I won't get sued, you may think, but in this frivolous lawsuits and sue-happy society we live in now (Al Franken was sued by Fox news because of a few words on his book cover) fair use abuse and changes in intellectual property laws, my rule is never say never. (The National Writers Union, may be a good source of info on this topic, http://www.nwu.org).
The bottom line is corporations are deemed by law to have a separate legal existence apart from their owners. Hence, corporate owners are not personally liable for the corporation's debts or liabilities, and voila your personal savings and assets can be protected.
You can also borrow money from the corporation for a house or a car, and take advantage of tax-deductible, corporate-paid benefits (since you are considered an employee of the corporation) such as:
Stock option and stock bonus plans
Medical insurance coverage
So how do you incorporate your business, where should you incorporate, and which is the best entity for your Writers Inc? Here are some basic guidelines to get you started.
Choosing an Entity
Find a professional who will ask key questions such as: Is your writing business primarily service or product oriented? What is your gross revenue and net profit for a 12-month period of time? Do you have a partner? Will your business develop a net worth? What is your earned income level? This can save you Self-Employment (SE) tax.
"Don't form a Corporation yourself just to save money," Simon explains. "Look for a professional consultant via the internet, review their web site, and then give them a call. Compare their services and expertise to determine which company is best for you."
Steps To Incorporation
Ready to put on your corporate top hat and think like a CEO? Each state has a corporate filing office where you file paperwork (and pay fees) to create or dissolve a corporation. Most state corporate filing office websites provide corporate statutory forms such as Articles of Incorporation, Amendment of Articles, Change of Registered Agent or Registered Office Address.
Your corporation is born when its Articles of Incorporation are filed with the state. The filing of Articles is the only legal filing necessary to create a corporate entity. However, in order to make sure the legal organization of your corporation is complete, you MUST do the following to ensure the liability protection you were hoping for when you formed the corporation or LLC:
Avoid co-mingling corporate funds with personal expenditures
Properly capitalize your company
Complete corporate formalities, i.e., minutes and resolutions
Worst case scenario, if you don't adopt bylaws, appoint officers (most states allow one individual to hold all offices), hold annual shareholder meetings, and keep corporate records and end up in court, a judge could decide that your corporation is not a real legal entity. Then, the court could hold you personally liable for corporate debts. This is called "piercing the corporate veil."
You must also obtain a federal tax ID number and all corporations must have a registered agent on file with the Secretary of State. The address of the registered agent must be a physical address, not a post office box and the registered agent must be available during normal business hours.
Location, Location, Location
Sandy Botkin, Tax Attorney and Certified Public Accountant, author of "Lower Your Taxes -- Big Time"* says, "If you are going to incorporate, you should seriously consider doing so in Nevada."
The chief benefit to incorporating in Nevada is liability protection, according to Simon. "Nevada is still the hardest state in the country in which to pierce the corporate veil. In comparison, in 1 out of 2 cases, the corporate veil is pierced in California," explains Simon. "The corporate veil has only been pierced two times in Nevada in the last 24 years and both cases involved outright fraud."
Celia Sue Hecht (your PR Matchmaker) is a published author, writer/editor, and publicist, who has written hundreds of articles, and secured media coverage for professional clients such as authors, CEO's, CPA's, architects, doctors, seminar leaders and entrepreneurs in local and national print, TV and radio (LA Times, NY Times, Reno Gazette Journal, SF Chronicle, NPR, ABC, CBS, NBC, and other outlets). She is co-author of five romantic travel books, a radio talk show host, workshop and seminar leader, and a keynote speaker in venues around the world. http://www.vyze.com/suemagic. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-260-4673.