by Julie Wehmeyer
Formatting your document, whether it is a blog, manuscript for a periodical, a screenplay, or a novel, plays a major role in the success or failure of your piece. It greatly improves your chances of catching the attention of a publisher and having a successful publishing experience. Even if you self-publish, unless you convert your manuscript yourself, many self-publishing companies now also require that you abide by basic formatting styles so they can convert your book to the proper file format.
Editors frequently bemoan the unprofessionalism of the manuscripts they receive – from the documents being submitted on fancy stationary and/or colored paper, to unreadable fonts, colored ink, lack of pagination, and various other sundry issues. If you send a poorly formatted document to an editor, you will likely have to pay more for their services. Why pay someone else for basic formatting that you can easily do yourself?
If you are submitting to a traditional publisher, it is always recommended to contact them and ask for a copy of their submission specifications. Most publishers have these available on their websites and they are very specific. Your manuscript will be rejected without anyone even reading it if you do not follow these guidelines. There are some very basic guidelines that most organizations will require which are a good place to start.
- Use a 1 inch margin on all sides.
- Use a title page. On this title page, align left and single space in the header near the top of the page your contact information including your legal name, phone number and email address. This only goes on the title page.
- About halfway down the page, center the title of your manuscript typed in caps.
- Do not number the title page. Begin numbering with the first page of the text.
- Use a header on each subsequent page which includes your name, title of your work (in all caps) and page number. Again, do not put contact info on each page.
- Start each chapter on a new, numbered page, one-third of the way down.
- Chapter number and chapter title should be in all caps separated by two hyphens. Example: CHAPTER TWO — JOE MEETS SALLY
- The body of chapter should start four to six lines below the chapter title.
- Indent five spaces (1/2 inch) for each new paragraph.
- Double space entire text with no extra lines between paragraphs.
- Use standard font, 12 point (Times, New Roman, Arial or Courier).
- Do not right align the text.
- Use italics for italicized words as opposed to underlying (that’s old school).
- Try not to use “two spaces” between sentences. For those of us who learned to type on a typewriter, this is a hard habit to break. It is always good to use the ‘Replace’ feature to check for this, and it is the easiest way to make sure you don’t miss any instances of this in your manuscript.
- Use 20-lb paper, white paper.
Following the above basic rules can greatly enhance your chances of having an agent or editor actually looking at your manuscript. You want to maintain a level of professionalism and not give the publisher any excuse to “round file” your manuscript (throw it in a trash can), or have any type of unfavorable response to your submission.
In addition, to the above basic guidelines, different markets require different formatting. Many scientific and academic manuscripts require the use of the APA formatting style which has been the standard since the 1920’s when it was developed. Scientific and academic publishing formatting standards can be complicated and frustrating if you are not used to them. APA formatting will be covered more in depth in a subsequent article.
Screenwriting and plays require yet another different set of formatting and will also be covered more in depth in a subsequent article.
Here at Awen Books and More we are highly skilled and familiar with formatting documents, and can help you with proofreading, editing and formatting your document to help ensure a positive response from publishers.
By Julie Wehmeyer
By its very nature, writing is a solitary experience. As writers, we spend hours sitting over our keyboards putting our thoughts into words; and while our minds are very active, our bodies, unfortunately, are not. It is easy to find ourselves falling into the rut of eating junk food, imbibing overly caffeinated and sugary drinks, and I won’t even mention alcohol! This combined with lack of exercise can spell disaster for both our health and well-being.
Below are ten suggestions to help avoid health and mental burnout.
We have been taught all our lives about the importance of exercise, but as writers, we often let this important aspect of our lives slide. It is imperative that you get up to move and walk around at least every 90 minutes to two hours, not just for your health, but for your productivity and creativity as well. Exercise and movement is important for brain function, it helps keep your metabolism in check, and it also ensures appropriate blood flow. Commit to exercising at least half an hour a day, even if it just a 30-minute walk around your neighborhood.
- Pace Yourself
Try to avoid procrastination! Deadlines can and will sneak up on you, and then you are forced to work like a possessed demon to get projects done on time. Avoid this. Spend half an hour at the start of your day prioritizing the work for that day. Make lists and stick to them!
- Eat Healthy
Most people know how to eat healthy, but with the plethora of yummy junk food and drinks that are available in stores today, it is one of the most difficult for many of us to do. One of the best bits of advice I ever received was, “just don’t keep junk food in the house.” Make sure you have healthy food to sustain you in your home, avoid snacking while working, and cut out soda and flavored drinks. If you must snack, keep healthy snacks around like grapes and other fruits. Boiled eggs are also great snack food as they help stabilize blood sugar. Take the pizza place off speed dial!
- Body Hygiene
Everyone has heard stories about the writers who never shower, shave, or brush their teeth, and work in their pajamas. Don’t be that person! Always be presentable! Your work will reflect your professionalism. Buy yourself some high-quality soaps and invest in some nice, comfortable, and presentable clothing.
- Drink Water!
This cannot be stressed enough. Start your day off with 8 ounces of water with some fresh squeezed lemon in it. Keep several bottles close at hand in your work area so you are not tempted to grab soda, coffee, or a glass of wine.
- Substance Abuse
There is a certain notion about the romance of being a writer. Many writers see themselves sitting at their desks, drinking wine or something stronger, and pouring out their souls.
Unfortunately, that does not always lead to inspired writing, but in fact leads to chaotic writing. Try to avoid drinking alcohol while working. Yes, sometimes alcohol can loosen that old writer’s block, but remember that most writing done under the influence will require a lot more rewriting. If you smoke, work on stopping. The saying, “Write drunk and edit sober,” is not always applicable and it doesn’t help your writing.
- Get Out and Socialize
Don’t be a hermit! Writers tend to be introspective, and it is easy to become so immersed in our work that we neglect to leave it, but you must. At least once a day, get out and see people. Even if that is just a short trip to the convenience store. It will help your productivity and mental health. If possible, I recommend taking your laptop to a coffee shop and or mall and working there from time to time. As humans, we need social contact!
- Don’t be Static
Change things up once in a while! Laptops make writing anywhere so easy, and the change of scenery will help your productivity. Try standing while you write. This is amazingly beneficial to your health and posture. If you can’t afford a standing desk, put some books on the kitchen counter to raise your laptop up, and write standing up in the kitchen. It will help strengthen your core.
Put those electronics away once in a while and unplug! As Timothy Leary said in the 60’s, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” This will help manage your stress. Find a hobby that doesn’t involve writing such as gardening, woodworking, or cooking, and pursue it! Know your limits and try not to push past them too often.
Maintaining a good sleep schedule is perhaps one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Most adults need do not get enough sleep. Figure out how many hours you need to be at your best, and stick to that sleep schedule. This will help alleviate stress, blood sugar, and blood pressure issues. It also helps you with weight maintenance, and it will give you the stamina to get through your day!
Remember, it is okay to ask for help once in a while. You don’t have to do it all! If you find yourself in a rut with either your marketing, editing, or writing, Awen Books and More offers services to help you succeed.
What will this cost? This is important to understand so that you can get the most value out of your investment, and so you can be sure it is an investment worth making for your business.
There are some resources out there to give you a general idea of what the market rate for a writer is. The Editorial Freelancer’s Association has a chart detailing the market rates for editors and writers, as well as the amount of work that you can reasonably expect to have completed per hour for individual jobs, and I would highly recommend a visit there to familiarize yourself with what to expect. They are also a potential resource for finding a writer.
When you post the details of your project somewhere, and you start to receive bids, you will see that the bids you receive vary drastically and they are not all in line with the recommendation for market rates on the EFA website. That’s because the rates are meant to be more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule. They give you an idea of what to budget, and also provide a means of evaluating the quality of bids you are receiving. It is definitely important to be aware of the market rate for writing and editing services before attempting to hire a writer.
Beware of any bids that are drastically higher or lower than the going rate. You may get lucky and find a good writer who is just starting out and bidding much lower than the going rate to gain experience. But be aware that this is a gamble that you are taking. Some people are okay with that, others are not. High bids can also be problematic. Sometimes they are the result of a writer who has no clue what to charge due to inexperience, so they just throw any old number out there. Other times, high bids can be a scam. If you find a writer that you really like who bids high, find out what it is that they have that gives them the right to charge so much. Maybe they have produced quantifiable and stellar results for multiple organizations in the past and are thus worth it. Maybe they will be open to negotiate as well if you are up to date on the market rate for their services.
It’s also important to know how different writers charge and the strengths and weaknesses of each of these approaches. The rates will most likely be charged by the word, the hour, the article, or as a retainer.
By the word: This is a method taken by some writers, however it is a more popular approach for editors. Be careful, you could sign a deal to pay by the word and get a writer who tries to fluff a piece unnecessarily to make more money. Having a minimum and maximum word count is acceptable either way, but you also want the words to be pointed and powerful rather than arbitrary.
By the hour: A newer writer may choose this route, as they are still learning the ropes and they don’t have a clear idea on how long they may spend on a particular piece. This is also a good choice for writing that may require a lot of research, since it may take longer than a piece where the research is already there and it just needs to be organized. It is also good for a project that doesn’t have clear parameters, since it is impossible to really know how long a project will take if you aren’t exactly sure what you need as a client. This method is less likely to be padded, but it isn’t as predictable. Some writers object strongly to this method as they feel it isn’t professional, but it really should boil down to what works best for your company and the writer.
By piece: This is the most common method for paying for articles, and it is more likely to be consistent and predictable. The writer will probably want to set a word count range for the article, with different prices for articles of varying lengths. The amount of research required will also affect this rate.
By retainer: This is best for long term projects. If you find a writer you like and you have a blog that needs constant maintenance, hiring on retainer is the probably going to be the best bet for you and your company.
It is not unreasonable to set up some type of trial, whether it is a trial article to see if the writer is right for you, or a trial run that lasts 30 to 90 days to see if your long term goals can be met. However, compensation for the trial can and should be offered unless the work is so awful that it can’t be used. Definitely work out the terms of this before moving forward.
Finally, make sure you clarify the number of drafts that the writer expects to provide you with, especially if the bid is by the piece or on retainer. Find out how flexible the writer is. If the contract specifies two drafts, will they be okay with it if you occasionally need a third one? Will they want to charge more? If so, what is the charge for an additional draft? This will be different for every writer and could have an effect on who you ultimately decide to hire for the job.
Hopefully this article has managed to provide you with some tools and tips to help you choose a content writer for your company. Finding the right person for the job can make or break a business, regardless of what the job is, and this holds true for content writers as well. If you have any further questions, or would like to speak with us at Awen Books and More about our content writing or any other services, please send us a message. We look forward to hearing from you.
Once you have a solid idea of what your writing needs are, you can begin to search for a writer. There are a number of avenues you can take to find a writer to suit your needs, from content mills, to freelancers, to professional organizations that specialize in content writing.
I would advise against using a content mill. These are sites that offer “bargain blogs” generated by a crew of vetted writers. While it is possible to receive quality content from these types of sites, there is no guarantee that it will be consistent. This is because often, you are not going to be able to work with the same writer every time, and there will thus be no consistency with the work you receive. Additionally, these sites often do not pay much, and good writers will be looking for better work all the time. You could begin to develop a relationship with a writer you like a lot and then lose them to a better paying gig.
If you decide to hire a freelancer, there are a myriad of options to choose from. It’s impossible to evaluate all of the sources for finding content writers, and new ones are added everyday. Some of the many options, and options that I have personal experience with, are companies like Upwork, Thumbtack, or LinkedIn Profinder. All three of these options allow you to post a job describing what you need and then freelancers will bid on the job. They each have their own individual strengths and weaknesses, which I will cover in more detail in a separate article.
Some sites have stricter guidelines on who they hire as a writer than others. Some have limits on how many people can quote on a job, while others will give you an unlimited number of prospects, and others still will assign a writer to you based on the job. This is where knowing exactly what you want out of your writer comes in, as it will help you to decide what resource you want to use to find your writer.
This is where having a detailed understanding of what you need your content writer to do for your company comes into play. If you have a list of guidelines then the myriad of options will not be so confusing.
Another good way to find a content writer is using a good old-fashioned search engine. Many freelance writers have their own personal webpage that they use to advertise their services and to serve as a portfolio showcasing the work that they have done.
This is also a good way to find a company that provides content writing as a service as well. Just be wary of companies, and make sure you find out their policies thoroughly before signing on. Ideally, you want to work with no more than one or two writers who have the time to really learn about your company or blog topic in a way that will allow your content to shine.
The other day, I read that the average person comes across 5,000 pieces of content a day. Finding the right content writer will help your content cut through the clutter and attract the right attention.
Knowing where to look for a content writer is only the start of your journey. Read on to learn what to look for in a content writer.
We also offer content writing services at Awen Books and More, not just for authors! While we specialize in assisting authors, we have people on our team that are qualified to help you build your client base through blogging and content creation. Take advantage of our creative writing team to get unique content for your business or company website.
Increased use of the internet and social media have created a lot of changes in the small business marketing world today. Previously, generating business consisted of occasional advertisements in a local newspaper, posting business cards everywhere, and word of mouth. Today, it’s all about blogging, and maintaining a social media presence in front of your present and potential customers in order to grow and maintain interest in your company and your products. What does that mean for the small business owner? Writing. Lots and lots of writing. Not every entrepreneur has the time or the ability to write weekly or biweekly articles and blogs. If you’re someone who has noticed that your business could use a boost from some well placed and well written content on the internet, but you don’t have the time or ability to do it yourself, maybe it’s time to hire a content writer.
Once you’ve decided to hire a content writer, however, you may find yourself faced with a lot of questions. What’s next? How do you find a content writer? What traits should you look for? What is this going to cost you? In this article, I hope to answer these questions to make the process of hiring a content writer for your small business easier. A well planned approach is more likely to lead to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with your future content writer, as well as an investment you will be happy to have made.
Before starting your search for a content writer, you should evaluate
your needs and figure out what you actually need from a writer to help you with your business. Some businesses have a long list of topics already planned for a blog, a solid social media marketing plan already in place, and a long list of devoted followers; but no time to actually write and publish the articles. Others will have no content planned, no marketing plan, and a smattering of followers. Most businesses in need of content writers will find themselves somewhere in between.
Evaluate the needs of your company as honestly as possible, taking your budget and your goals into consideration. Be as specific as possible, both for yourself and the freelancers you will eventually interview. It isn’t any fun for anyone involved to get halfway through the interview process only to find out your needs and the freelancer’s skill set don’t match up.
Some things to determine are:
- How many original articles you would like to have written and published each month?
Maybe you just want to write one, longer article that you send out in a monthly newsletter. The skillset required for that is likely going to be different than what you would look for if you are looking for someone to write two to three short blog posts a week.
- Do you want your content writer to have experience with social media marketing? How much experience do they need?
If you don’t know the answer to the first question in this list, then you probably want to hire a writer who also has knowledge of marketing. If you already have a marketing plan in place, and just need content, then this isn’t as important.
- Do you want your content writer to be familiar with SEO (search engine optimization)? How much experience do they need?
SEO experience, or knowledge of other methods to help your company website move up in search engine rankings is probably something you want to make sure your writer has, especially if you are not already showing up where you want to be on search engines.
- Are you looking to develop a long term relationship with a writer, or do you just want someone to write a batch of blog articles that you can reserve to post when you’re running dry yourself?
Some writers may not have the availability to commit to a long term project, while others may prefer it. Knowing the answer to this question may also help you determine payment methods, described below.
- Do you have the resources assembled, or will your writer need to be able to do their own independent research?
If the writer needs to do independent research, you need to find someone who has experience with this and the budget to pay the higher fee for it.
Having a clear idea of what you need in a writer will assist you in finding the right person and help to ensure you are satisfied with the overall experience. Once you have determined these things, you can read on to learn How to Find a Content Writer.