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…And Finally: Learn How to Say No

I hope this bodes well for the rest of my freelance life, but shortly after I sent out the message that I was in need of employment, several people passed opportunities they knew of on to me. I was lucky, and grateful, and said “Sure, I’m interested!” right away. I don’t know if it was the excitement, the desperation, the anxiety to please or the fact that it was the holidays and that school is out and things feel less busy than usual. But after thinking about it for a while, I realized: I’ve promised my agent a new draft of my novel in January, and my thesis for graduate school is due in March. (Plus, I have a day job.) I was going to end up spread more thinly than ever before.
It felt lame to have to email a few people and say, “You know, thank you so much for the advice and the tip but I have some serious commitments early in this year that have recently arisen. I’m sorry for taking up your time but I think I probably can’t work on this until the summer. I don’t want to disservice a client by not being able to give him/her my full attention. I hope I can follow up with you in June.”
The recipients of said emails might think “Whatever, flake” and never want to work with me again. Which I can live with. But I DO think it’s better for them–and me–if I don’t take on a project and immediately it’s a huge burden. Point is, I can sleep better at night now, knowing I have more time to focus and that I–professionally I hope–dodged the bullet of having to fake it at something that would come more easily if I could really concentrate on it.
So that’s it for me, folks. Happy New Year!

Losing a Client: Spread the Good News

Editing this blog was definitely more than freelance work for me; it was a part-time job. So when I learned that the blog will be manned in-house next year, the first thing I did was email all my friends who work in media as writer, editors, reporters, freelancers, etc. Just a short note letting them know that I would have some free time and if anybody knew of any projects or openings, to keep me in mind (which is pretty much the email verbatim.) I tried to keep it only to colleagues who I know at least slightly more than professionally, so it didn’t come off as being too desperate, and I kept it short and professional, with a few details about the job I previously held.
And guess what: within a few days I had recouped some of the work. So, if you find that you’ve lost a major client, be proactive about it and let people know, because the perfect gig might be available for you but you wouldn’t know unless people knew you were available for it.

Moving On

Just wanted to leave a note that today is my last day with MBToolBox. In my time here, I have learned a lot about what it means to be a writer, editor and professional blogger. I want to thank everyone who read the blog and who wrote in with suggestions, critique, encouragement and input (Confidential to the person who wrote me today: yes, I know the punctuation is incorrect in this post. In fact, it’s wrong in more than just the place you told me about. Apparently my brand of punctuation humor didn’t catch on during my time here). I’ll still be around online so don’t be a stranger. Good luck to everyone in 2007!
Also, I’ve learned a few practical things as a freelancer since I learned I won’t be continuing on, and I’d like to share those as my final posts here. I’m so thoughtful, always thinking of you.

Those Last Bastards on Your List

reed190.jpgOh Christmas is over, but I know you. A few colleagues or clients sent you a present–unexpectedly–and now you have to hustle to get them something as well.
I read about two books in the Times Books section last week that both seemed good for writers, especially those interested in food and music writing. Read the review of Outsider by John Rockwell here and A Stew or a Story by M.F.K. Fisher here.

Pop Quiz: Tracy Brady

tracymcardle.jpgThe last interviewee of 2006 has a new book being released next month Real Women Eat Beef (Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press, Jan. 2007). This is her second novel, a comic coming-of-middle-age tale, set in an advertising agency. She would know something about ad agencies: besides being a writer, she McArdle has over thirteen years experience in entertainment, integrated marketing and promotions, working for such companies as Sony Pictures Entertainment, Turner Broadcasting System and Twentieth Century Fox as well as renowned creative advertising agency Arnold Worldwide. You can learn more about her career history here.
What made you decide to use a pseudonym when you write? [The author's last name is Brady] Why did you choose that one?
The only reason it is a pseudonym is that it’s my maiden name, and was my name when my short story, HAPPILY NEVER AFTER and my first novel, CONFESSIONS OF A NERVOUS SHIKSA, was published. After I was lucky enough to get my first novel published, I wasn’t about to let readers forget who I was by writing under a new, married name! You know, don’t want those seven fans to have trouble finding me on Amazon….also I had a website,, which would have been awkward and annoying to change.
For those new to advertising, what advice would you give those in your character Jill Campbell’s situation–having to promote something they know nothing about, or even repulsed by?
Read – a lot. And keep an open mind. You never know when something you think is useless information is going to come in handy. You’d be amazed how much information is out there – both within the resources provided to you by your job / company and outside of it. Everything is a learning experience and everything is interesting if you are open to it. Now, if you have a moral dilemma with something you have to work on, that’s a different story, and the best thing to do is be honest – with yourself, then your supervisors, and depending on your relationship with them, the client. Then again, maybe not that last one. Good luck on that.

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Secrets of the Book Publicist Trade

From the Society of Midland Authors Newsletter: publicity tips from Tom Ciesielka:

It’s true that interacting with the media takes organization, skill and innovation. Training, research methods, and pitching techniques also help. However, what you rarely hear from publicists is that at heart, PR is a lot simpler than you might think. It is basically the art of building relationships to spread ideas.
Although simple, these relational rules are key in connecting with the media and building the relationships to help you get the coverage you deserve.

Say “Please” and “Thank You.”
Like most people, media contacts don’t like rudeness. While it’s important to be direct, take a friendly tone and make sure to let them know you appreciate their time and attention.
Ask First, Make Pitches Later. Show consideration by asking your contact what he or she is looking for at the time. Instead of just throwing your thoughts at the media, listen and offer your book or your ideas as a helpful resource.
Keep in Touch. Polite persistence is crucial in building a rewarding relationship with the media. Drop regular notes when you see information they might be interested in or to ask what they are working on. This keeps you “top of mind” when they need a comment on your area of expertise.

More advice here.

Mini Reference Shelf 12.28.06

My Book for Dummies

What’s it like when a reading group guide is written up for your book? Katharine Weber recounts her experience on Salon.

Hows You’re Punctuation!

Try it out here at the Eat, Shoots & Leaves game.

The Publishing Industry is Officially on Vacation

For those of you with manuscripts out with your agents or editors, according to the Rejecter, you won’t be hearing back until the second or third week in January. Sorry.