10 QUESTIONS FOR…Susan Carter, author of “Writer Profits: How I Got the Gig…”


Author #11: Susan Carter0967029171carter-sm-web

I have been a freelance writer and editor for more than 15 years, and a nonfiction book author for seven years. My past “lives” have been in marketing and communications. A string of consulting projects for newly formed franchises led me to write my first how-to book to give clients information that they were struggling to find. I’ve been “hooked on writing books” ever since. I’ve authored five books, both self-published and published by traditional publishing houses, at least a dozen e-books, and a home study course. As a freelance writer, I’ve written hundreds of articles and worked on projects for various industries, from Fortune 100 companies to small and micro businesses. I also occasionally “shepherd” other authors through the process of self-publishing their own works, or developing book proposals to attract an agent/publisher.

1. Tell us about your latest book.

It’s called Writer Profits: How I Got the Gig—15 writers tell how they get paying gigs and how you can, too. I wanted to put a book on the market that actually gave the “how to” for finding writing projects and assignments—something that includes step-by-step information rather than vague references like, “I met a guy and he hired me to write a television script.” That’s great, but it doesn’t tell me how to put myself in the position of meeting “the guy” or getting the assignment. This book does. Topics range from becoming a columnist, to technical writing, to authoring both fiction and nonfiction books, to commercial writing and more. The result was fifteen different writers with fifteen different “how to” stories—it’s received great reviews and I plan to publish a second volume in the near future.  

2. How did you get started as a writer?

My two passions even as a kid were writing stories and arts & crafts. I loved essay assignments (and loathed science) and sometimes illustrated the papers I’d written after they had been graded and returned. Uncertain about which was the more practical path to pursue, I received my degree in fine arts with an emphasis in commercial design, and a secondary in journalism. Once I hit the “real world,” I realized that I like art as a hobby not a career. After several “temp” jobs in an administrative role, I finally accepted a permanent one in marketing, weaseling my way into every writing opportunity that came along (the company newsletter, brochures, annual reports, etc.). At the same time, I studied how to break into magazine writing and landed a few assignments as a freelancer. For about three years I continued to build freelance work, ghostwriting projects, and a small client base until I was able to ‘quit my day job’ and be a full time professional writer.

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

I am an early riser, usually around 5:30 a.m. My mind is most clear the first thing in the morning so I work on anything that involves the creative process in those first few hours. Depending on what I’m working on, the afternoon might include making phone calls to conduct interviews, performing online research, reading, and “think time.” Productivity isn’t always about “doing”; sometimes it’s just “thinking” to make sure that activity is connected to desired results.     

4. Describe your desk/workspace.

To the casual observer, my workspace might look a bit cluttered. I have 3×5-foot computer desk with snippets of paper and sticky notes in various spots around the work area: some are reminders, some are new book or article ideas, and others are phrases or parts of conversation that might be good used in a future work. I also have several (but neatly stacked) piles of paper on the credenza behind me, each associated with a current project I’m working on. The focal point of my workspace is, of course, my computer. I use a 17” PC notebook so that I can take it with me if needed. I have a speakerphone so that I can type and talk during interviews, a small digital tape recorder that automatically creates WAV files to send to my transcriptionist, and a rolodex… yes, the old-fashioned kind that holds business cards and phone numbers, passwords, etc. on tiny index cards. After a computer crash several years ago wiped out all my contact files, I swore I’d always have a backup with hard copies!

5. Favorite books (especially for writers)

I’m a do-it-yourself kind of person so I’m very much a “how to” book junkie. My favorite books depend on what my current interests are. As I glance to my right, there is a bookshelf filled with great resources for writers. For book authors I’d recommend 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer, and Beyond the Bookstore by Brian Jud. The Writer’s Market by Writer’s Digest is my “bible” for researching markets for magazines and journals, and finding genre-specific book publishers/agents. I also have several books on editing (including the Chicago Manual of Style) because a good writer can become a great writer if you learn how to polish your work by self-editing.

6.  3 interesting/crazy things about you:

1) I love to read novels but rarely take the time to do it, 2) I still make handmade holiday gifts for friends and family (and some clients, 3) I live less than five miles from the Mall of America (Bloomington, MN) and don’t shop there, but my husband and I go there 5 times a week to walk the halls for exercise before any of the stores (or theme park) open.

7. Favorite quote?

I distribute a weekly ezine called the Monday Muse and each issue starts with a famous quote, so I adopt a new favorite quote each week! 

8. Best and worst part of being a writer?

The best part about being a writer is that success is in my own hands—it’s a matter of listening, learning, networking, asking for assignments, or diligently pursuing book deals. You don’t always get what you want when you want it but if you don’t give up, you eventually get great projects—and tremendous satisfaction. The worst part about being a writer is that success is in my own hands (yes, the “worst” is the same as the “best”). It’s easy to become discouraged and quit when you receive rejections and criticism. You have to be resilient, persistent, uncover new ways to break down barriers, and spend a minimal amount of time licking your wounds or sulking in a corner. 

9. Advice for other writers ?

I have two pieces of advice for writers: 1) Invest in yourself. You may have been told all your life that you are talented but it is important that you’re also skilled, so invest in honing and broadening your writing skills. Being both talented and skilled will open doors to new opportunities and boost your confidence. 2) Learn how to market yourself. If you’re a book author, you are expected to promote your book so you need a plan of how you’ll do that to give to your publisher. If you’re a freelance writer, you must understand and use marketing strategies and tactics to attract assignments. It’s not unusual for the best marketer—rather than the best writer—to get the job.

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience.

One morning several years ago, I awoke at my usual time, and brewed and poured myself a steaming cup of coffee while I watched my neighbors get in their cars and stream out of the cul-de-sac into rush hour traffic. I sauntered down the hall to my home office, started the computer, and opened Outlook to download emails. As I scrolled through them, I stopped mid-sip when I saw one from an acquisitions editor for a major New York publisher. I had self-published a couple of books by then and was experiencing respectable sales. The editor was researching books according to Amazon rankings and wanted to know if I would be interested in letting them publish the revised edition of my first book! Was this real or SPAM? I researched the company Web site, found a phone number, called it, and confirmed that this person was an editor there. It was real. After hearing for years how tough it was to attract a “top ten” traditional publisher, one landed in my “in” box without so much as a query letter from me. Sweet.

Where can people buy your book or sign up for your newsletter?

 Writer Profits: How I Got the Gig is available in select bookstores, on Amazon and from my www.WriterProfits.com  website, where you can sign up for the Monday Muse, my weekly ezine for writers. 

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