Of Twitter, Pitches, and Agents

Something happened last week that sent me all a-Twitter (see what I did there?)

I was working in the office one afternoon when my friend Joe burst in (virtually) on G-chat, demanding I get off my electronic butt and log in to Twitter. Apparently there was a pitchfest going on. A number of agents and publishers were taking tweeted pitches from authors at #SFFpit.

With the kind of subtle prompting only a life in the military could give him (e.g. “GO! GO! GO!”), he convinced me to enter a pitch of my own. His own agent, Sam Morgan of JABberwocky, was one of the participating agents.

I nearly wimped out, but Joe used his Command Voice again (“FUCKING DROP EVERYTHING”).

So I did. I picked one of my more promising manuscripts, a fantasy-comedy-murder mystery.

Here’s what I tweeted:

tweet1

Organic, too.

 

And here’s who responded.

 

Contact info edited out.

Contact info edited out.

The same Sam Morgan who was representing Joe! From the same agency that represented Brandon Sanderson! And Sam wasn’t even aware that I KNEW Joe (at that point anyway)!

I’d pitched articles to magazines before, and queried short fiction magazines, but this was the first time I had received such a positive response so fast! I nearly wimped out again, but I finally sucked it up (with help) and sent in a full query and three chapters.

Sam’s reply included the words “best pitch” and “really excited”, which in turn made ME “really excited!”

Right now, all I can do is sit and wait. It’s still way too early in the process yet—in fact, I don’t even think process has even begun. Sam probably still hasn’t read my query, and when he does he could always say “no” and turn me down. God knows I’ve seen enough of that happen at FFO, where we turn down strong writers just because it’s not the right fit.

But if he says “yes”, and asks for the rest of the manuscript?

Excuse me. I’ve got some editing to do.

P.S. If your email signature reads “Right Hand of Darkness”, I want to work with you.

Play A Game, Feed A Family

We’ve all had “empty” time, either at the office or at home, which we waste away by either surfing or playing that fave of receptionists everywhere, solitaire. But what if all that time and effort could be put to something that actually had some benefit, both to you and to others?

Enter Freerice.com.

Freerice.com is a simple game with a bold goal. The game shoots you an endless string of multiple choice questions, and for every correct answer, the website donates 10 grains of rice to charity. No money leaves your hands, and no credit card info is collected. Instead, Freerice.com is owned and supported by the United Nations World Food Programme, so you know they’re legit. To date, Freerice.com has donated over 96 billion grains of rice.

The game itself is pretty engaging also. It’s played more for self-improvement than for fun (though there is fun to be had), and the question subjects reflect this pretty well. You’ve got languages (Italian, English, Spanish, etc), the sciences (Chemistry, Anatomy), and even SAT questions thrown in. Every question has a difficulty level, and you can only get to the higher difficulties by getting an unbroken string of correct answers. One wrong answer, and you’re sent back to the start (don’t worry, the rice you’ve won still gets donated). But that’s the only penalty you get. Play it enough, and you’ll be able to learn and memorize the answers through trial and error and consistently get higher scores.

I started playing this game years ago, and I’m pleased to see that they added a social media element to it and added friend listings, groups, and leaderboards. If you don’t want all that jazz, you can just go ahead and play without signing up. Your clicks still count for the same amount of rice.

rice bowl

100 right answers will get you this rice bowl.
Photo courtesy of flickrcc.net

If you’re looking to do some extra curricular studying while playing games and ending world hunger, then I think Freerice.com is a pretty damn good place to do it.

Did I mention that it’s their fifth birthday today?

Numbers Are Fun When They’re About You: 2012 Freelancer Industry Survey

A few months ago I participated in an online survey of freelancers and their business, and they just released their results! They surveyed nearly 1,500 freelancers across 50 industries and multiple countries.

Here’s a cool little infographic summing up the data:

 2012 Freelancer Survey Infographic

Here are a few other stats that I found cool.

  • 18% of the freelancers surveyed are writers. We’re the second most common type of freelancer out there! And if you combine us with copywriters (10%), we’d be first!
  • 20% of freelancers say finding clients is their biggest challenge. On the other hand, most freelancers spend only 5 hours a month or less looking. What does that tell you? We complain a lot, that’s what!
  • Referrals are the number one method of finding clients, followed by word of mouth. Yes, students: networking is important.
  • Videographers/video editors have the most trouble getting paid on time. Really! And I thought I had it bad!
  • Photographers have the toughest time managing time and staying productive. Can any photographers out there chime in and verify this?

All in all, very interesting stuff. I would’ve liked to see more non-North American freelancers represented (that really would’ve screwed with the average income numbers, come to think of it), but the report is still pretty good overall.

So what’s my take-away from all this? Well, I probably need to review my rates. And call up a few old clients.

You can download the full report here:

A Red Thing by Joe Zieja

My friend Joe over at Loose Threads has taken the plunge (well, more like dipped his foot) into the world of self-publishing by putting his dark fantasy short story, “A Red Thing”, up for sale on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

I’m seriously excited for him. Not just because he’s attempting to self-publish, but because his work deserves to be noticed. Joe recently won an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future (though not for this story), which is kind of a big deal. I’ve read “A Red Thing” before, and it is one of my favorite short stories, not just from him, but in talking about short fiction in general.

Here’s the posted synopsis for those too lazy to jump the link:

A red evil has fallen upon the world. The Maji Benkara, demons who crave sensation and pleasure not accessible to them in their ethereal forms, must possess humans to achieve a vicarious life. They rule with magic, with fear, and with cruelty – but they need a willing host to do it.

“A Red Thing” follows one man’s journey through the dissolution of his humanity as a Maji Benkara takes control of him and uses his body to wreak havoc. The lines become blurred between a conscience lost and a power gained, and he must fight every moment to retain some shred of the man he once was.

So give his ebook a try. It’ll cost you only a buck, and in return you’ll get a great tale that you can share with your friends.

Update 7/10/12: The ebook just hit #45 on the Kindle’s bestseller chart for fantasy anthologies (which is wierd, because it’s only one short story, but there you go.)

After The Dream

It’s the modern-day dream. Being able to work for yourself without being tied down to an office, a boss, or a company. No dream comes free though, and all freelancers have to take the good with the bad. But who are you to complain. You’re living the dream, right?

Right.  

That’s what I always thought until I spoke to Hollis Bartlett, a freelance web developer and designer I met a few days ago. He’s been building websites since 1996 and loves what he does. He’s built a very successful business for himself, and even hired an assistant developer to help him with the workload.

Unfortunately, the nature of the business just became too much for him, and he decided to hang up his mouse and keyboard and (partially) retire. Here’s an excerpt of his email to me:

I’ve grown to dislike the business. It’s a shame, because I still love creating designs in Photoshop, and oddly enough I love love love creating web design using css & html. I love putting together CMS templates with all of these components, and my favourite part is still helping people get their business online properly. The business part afterwards, however, sucks the big one. Waiting for invoices to get paid (usually late). People not paying attention to what you tell them, and constantly bugging you for shit you already told them 10 times. People don’t read emails. They assume they can call you at any time of the day, on any day of the week including Sundays.  I had one show up at my house unannounced on a Sunday afternoon.

You can read the rest of it here.

The reason I find this so poignant is that many people (myself included) dream of being able to support ourselves and our families by doing the thing we love. We work hard and put ourselves through hell to make it happen and, through luck and blood and sweat, some of us do. Hollis did.

What Hollis’ experience taught me is that there’s always an after. Always. Life doesn’t stop once you reach that dream. You don’t watch the sunset through your home office window and cue the credits to roll. Things still happen. Projects fail. Clients complain. Bills come in. Your motivation dies. The dream fades to gray.

By that same token, you don’t have to stay there. Things can turn sour, but there’s always a way to make it better. Hollis took the leap by retiring and moving to a new city. I’m sure other freelancers who got sick of the job adapted in their own way as well, whether by retiring or evolving into different services.

Will I ever be able to support my family with my freelancing? Am I ever going to be a published author? It might happen. Once I do, will I eventually get sick of it? It’s possible. What am I going to do when it actually happens? I have no idea.

Do you?