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    Home Columns

    Snoop Around for Insider Info

    So, by now youíve got a slew of your favorite freelance writing sites bookmarked, including this one, natch, in order of daily, weekly, and monthly updates. Nice. You check them periodically, making note of the ads you want to respond to, and ignoring those you donít. Super. Youíve also probably subscribed to a few of the best e-newsletters going, and pick and choose your markets from them as well. Awesome.

    Now youíre ready to start mining another online oil well full of great writing resources, the freelance message board. Message boards come in all shapes and sizes. Some are jam-packed with messages running the gamut from how to write a query letter to the name of a good agent. Others are poorly maintained or marketed, and a quick look at the dates next to the messages will tell you that no oneís dropped by in months. For a quick primer on getting the most of these message boards, read on:

    Go for a Genre

    Despite the fact that youíll submit about anything to anywhere, in your heart of hearts (come on, admit it) you are a genre writer. Whether itís pulse pounding thrillers or bodice ripping romances, your hope chest is full of finished and half-finished manuscripts that youíre just sure would be the next bestseller if only someone, anyone (besides your mother, that is) would take a look.

    Naturally, you donít want to spend your time at a childrenís writing message board if youíre a true crime writer. Luckily, most message boards tend to cater to a certain kind of genre, whether itís sci-fi scribes or womenís writers. While you may have to go searching a little more (sorry) for these kinds of sites, theyíre out there and theyíre well worth it.

    Despite the fact that these message boards take awhile to load and you may have to weed through numerous inside jokes and petty grievances between the regulars, youíll also find valuable contact names at publishers and possibly inside info on calls for submissions and other market info. But whatís the point if youíre halfway through an erotic Gothic vampire tome and your childrenís writerís board just leaked the fact that the senior editor at Scholastic quit!

    Lurk Awhile

    Before jumping into any message board with both feet, hang around awhile and read what itís all about. This is called "lurking," but everybody does it, so donít let the name fool you. Many message boards look awesome on the outside, but after lurking for an afternoon, you could find that most of the regularsí time is spent tattling, harping, and name calling on each other. This is not where you want to spend your time.

    Many message boards are simply props for some Web masterís (they take the name quite literally) hidden agenda. While itís sad, itís also true. Blinking ads and self-serving posts are your first clue, but it often takes awhile to realize that a message board isnít right for you. Jumping in before you lurk awhile is a waste of your time, not to mention typing energy.


    However, if youíre learning lots of valuable advice, stick around and participate. Maybe someone is asking for an editorís name at a publisher you just queried. Why not provide the answer? Or perhaps someone is talking about submitting to a house that just informed you they were going out of business. No reason to sit on the information when it could save some poor writer hours, days, and week of "waiting in vain."

    Message boards are a great way to communicate with like-minded individuals. Having a down day? Experiencing a little writerís block? Just got your third rejection of the week? Let the other posters know about it and, before you realize it, youíll get a flurry of heart-warming responses.

    After all, weíre all in this together.

    Don't Dilly Dally

    Be forewarned, lurking around a freelance writerís message board is as addictive as chocolate or cyber porn. You will get to know screen names (SillySally and WhatísUpDoc?), and will hear about relatives and children and all sorts of other heart-warming, yet basically uninformative, personal information. This is great, and a sign that freelance writing is not all about business.

    But if itís your first week or so at the freelancing for money game, try to avoid getting sucked into this message board mania. While itís tempting to boast about that writing contest you just won or the contract you just signed, itís more important to win more contests and sign more contracts.

    Remember, thatís why youíre here. Lurking around, picking up inside info on new contests, agent and editor names, calls for submissions, and the like is your sole purpose. Not sharing recipes with SillySally!

    Copyright © Rusty Fischer

    Rusty Fischer is the author of Freedome to Freelance, available at

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ

    WEEKLY WRITES: 52 Weeks of Writing Bliss! Kick start your imagination, ignite your creativity, and begin your journey towards becoming an outstanding writer.

    Grab a copy of WEEKLY WRITES: 52 Weeks of Writing Bliss! from and receive 2 free e-books to encourage and nurture the writer in you. You'll also receive Write Memories, a journaling workbook available for free only to WEEKLY WRITES book owners. And finally, as a WEEKLY WRITES book owner, you'll have free access to e-mail courses such as JOYFUL WRITES: Celebrate Your Life through Writing

    For excerpts, reviews and what you need to do to receive the 2 free e-books, Write Memories and sign up for free e-mail courses, just head on to the Weekly Writes Book Official Site. (Clicking on the link will open a new window.)


    The Journaling Life: 21 Types of Journals You Can Create to Express Yourself and Record Pieces of Your Life

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between

    Journaling Kit - Four Journaling Books to help you put your life and memories on paper


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    The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publishers Won't by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

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