Hallmark Cards is helping people write?

HallmarkLOGOI couldn’t believe Hallmark’s offer in their e-mail newsletter.

Writing made easy: Use just the right words in your holiday cards with tips from Hallmark writers.”

I clicked. I gasped. It’s true.

This wasn’t a come-on to buy tons more cards. I was expecting a “Kids: don’t try this at home!” warning.

Nope. This is a confident gift to the world. The greeting card giant implies, “Get involved. We’re just starting you out with these verses in the cards.”

Also, Twitter users will see the significance in Hallmark’s ideas. You don’t need to stuff a multi-page letter in the envelope. Write in the available space on the card. Less is more.

One of my favorite tips? Consider signing each of your Christmas cards “Love, ____.” If not in the season of love and goodwill, then when?

I think some companies would panic. What if people learn to write their own sentiments without us?

Hallmark doesn’t have to worry. Anyone reading these tips will feel like they’ve been coached by a good, talented friend. Consequently, they’ll buy cards from the people they know and trust.

I don’t know if writing will ever be “easy.” However, I will try to adopt more of the techniques of Hallmark’s writing staff in the future. Spell out your feelings. A “me, too!” reader awaits.



Giving An Old Book New Life

Belles cover 2Never give up.

A book written 22 years ago went out of print. No white flags were waved. Hope remained.

Enter Summer Game Books. Belles of the Ballpark, the true story of the World War II-era girls baseball league, has a new home. New chapters. Never-seen-before photos (triple the amount of the first edition).

That’s where I’ve been for two months: writing, editing and believing!

The book, by talented wife Diana Star Helmer and this blessed co-author, will appear in spring, 2015.

The Secret To A Well-Received Book?


A) Establishing your social media presence

B) Compiling a promotional strategy

C) Writing the best book possible

Which one? I’m sticking to C. Too many authors forget to get the book done first.

That’s why I must take a deadline-required hiatus as co-author of the new edition of Belles of the Ballpark: Remembering The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Coming soon from Summer Game Books.

The World War II-inspired league ended 60 years ago. The roster of survivors grows shorter each year. One 79-year-old alum wrote me:

“And the AAGPBL legacy goes on! And only Tom, because people like you and your wife (author Diana Star Helmer) put your energies into our past. God bless both of you.”

Thank you, ladies. We’ll see you aren’t forgotten.

Meanwhile, thanks to every blog reader out there. There’s an archive of more than 150 previous posts I hope you’ll revisit while I serve as the closer who’s just been summoned from the bullpen.

Game on! See you in September.



Author Paula Neal Mooney Shares More Elance.com Proven Strategies For Success

workAtHomeJobsBookWhy do I believe so in the work of Paula Neal Mooney?
It’s one thing for an author to write a complete, focused and HELPFUL book like Work At Home Jobs.
Finding an author who can excel at the “what have you learned since writing your book?” question is pure inspiration.
Some authors laugh it off. Others confess. They’re done with their warmed-over advice and teachings rehashed n their last how-to. They’re moving on, ready for a new title. Their subtext implies: “Thanks for the royalty, but I have other fish to fry.” Translated: I shared only when I was done with these techniques. I milked the cow dry, then left you with a bucket of empty possibility.
Not Paula Neal Mooney. She walks the walk. Her response?
“Yes, I’m still plugging away at gaining freelance writing clients via Elance, and it’s still quite the blessing!
I guess the biggest things I’ve learned since publishing that book are…
#1 – Charge more for your writing!
You’ll find plenty of jobs willing to only pay $3 per 500 words and the like, and that can be a great place to begin for newbies just trying to get used to the whole system. (Only if you’re dealing with a great client who also loves leaving you great reviews and feedback.)
Over time, however, you may discover that it’s not practical to burn yourself writing for such low pay. I learned there were plenty more clients out there willing to pay me a lot more money because of what I bring to the table: Quality writing and great ideas for articles. Therefore, I increased my hourly rate because I learned that it might actually take me two to three hours or more simply to come up with the concept for one 500-word article, research it, write it and then make any revisions.
#2 – Compromise, but don’t haggle with troublemakers
I’m not set in stone. If there’s a job where I bid $75 for a 500-word article and a client asks for a discount because they’re ordering lots of writing, or the writing isn’t all that difficult and doesn’t require too much research, I may lower my price. Especially if they are kind and have a great rapport.
However, if a client seems like a pill from the start — you know the kind you’d find written about on that “Client From Hell” Tumblr — expecting deep discounts from the start, lots of revisions or are just generally confusing, I’ll feel quite happy in letting them move right along to someone else.
I had to realize that it’s a God-given gift to be able to string sentences together that make sense, and it’s okay to be paid accordingly for the work.
#3 – It’s worth it to potentially pay Elance to participate in other categories
Although you’ll find plenty of writing clients in the “writing” category, I learned that there are great clients who post essentially what amount to writing jobs in categories like “Sales and Marketing” or “IT” and other categories. So there are times when I pay the $20 per month to be able to submit proposals in those categories, too, and I’ve won great jobs that way.
#4 – Bend over backwards, but don’t give the clients all your time
It sounds like an oxymoron, but I’m willing to do a lot to keep my clients happy. However, they can only push me so far. I will rewrite articles until my clients are happy, yet those who want the moon from me are probably best served elsewhere. Certain clients want to “jump on the phone for 5 minutes” prior to hiring me, which translates to an hour call, I’ve learned. So I tell them I’d be glad to set up a milestone for a conference call at my hourly rate.
Basically, I’ve learned to respect my time and not give it away for free to clients who want to Skype all day. (Although Skype is a great way to communicate with some of them — and it can be verbal or audio wise, not just video based.)
#5 – Send reminders, watch out for scammers and outsourcing Elancers
Another big thing I’ve learned is to keep all my jobs and their due dates on my Google Calendar so I’ll keep them all straight. This helps bunches when you’ve got about 20 milestones to complete in one week. And I keep in mind that some clients are simply busy and more unorganized than others. Thank God I’ve had a lot of clients who quickly response and pay promptly.
Others, however, will take days or weeks to get back to you. It helps to send reminder emails and file your status reports timely and send out reminder links to invoices that have gone unpaid. I love that Elance automatically releases funding for the job milestones that have been funded and market completed, even if the client disappears.
Also, sometimes after a job is completed, it helps to simply follow-up with the client about any other writing they need done. I’ve gotten extra work that way.
Another thing to be careful about are the folks on Elance that are simply outsourcing work to you. For example, a person on Elance might pay them $100 to write a 1,500-word report, but you don’t know this and they set up a job and offer to pay you $50 to write the same report. In this instance, it’s better for you to work directly with the person posting the job. Not only will you get paid more, but you’ll eliminate the confusion that middlemen can sometimes cause.
Whew! It’s like I’m ready to write another book on the subject.
Well, I can’t close without offering another word about scammers. Yes, they are still on Elance and even after one year I fell for one recently. One guy (with big connections to big companies) offered to pay $25 to write a quick movie promo. He offered to pay thru PayPal (frowned upon by Elance) so I was desperate and went for it and he didn’t pay up. I could’ve reported him but didn’t, because it could’ve simply been an oversight.
Either way, it helps to do it the right way: Make sure your first milestone is funded on Elance after you’re awarded the job, and try to stick to working with those clients that have some kind of great feedback — or at least no negative feedback. Avoid the ones who do.
Hope this helps tremendously and let me know how your Elance journey goes.”
Thank you, Paula. I’m ready for that follow-up book, or any other titles you write!

Paula Neal Mooney Conquers Elance In ‘Work At Home Jobs’

workAtHomeJobsBookPaula Neal Mooney has done it again. She’s demystified online freelance writing, proving that fun AND profit await the determined.

I was ready to wave a white flag to Elance. I bid. I tried. I lost, leaving my hope on their doorstep.

Well, bringing hope to the hopeless (not just me!) is Work At Home Jobs. The author offers a most helpful “been there, done that” title. Not a stuffy textbook, but a conversational primer on her self-taught success with this job-bidding site for freelancer writers.

This isn’t a case of a writer finishing with a platform or genre, willing to feed crumbs to others only when after advancing to bigger, better projects. Paula’s still rocking and rolling on Elance. When she published her e-book in January, she included a screenshot of her Elance profile. She had earned more than $7,000.


Check her out just a half-year later. She’s more than doubled that amount!

There’s no holding back in this how-to. Tons of screenshots let you read, test and learn, as the author shows AND tells. This isn’t a sugary valentine to Elance, either. Paula includes chapters like “What I Broke Up With My First Client,” “The Signs That Make You Run, The Ones That Make You Stay,” “Little Tests To See if a Client Will Pay You” and “When A Client Scammed Me On Elance.” Authors who’ll share everything — the good, bad and ugly elements in their own education are the writers who outshine everyone else in this field.

This book is full of specifics for newbies who’d like to land their first gig on Elance, or those who bailed out after false starts and near-misses competing for work.

Work At Home Jobs is a bargain investment, a purchase you’ll recoup many times over after being helped to your best-paying Elance job yet.


To All Out-Of-Print Authors: Never Give Up!

BellesBookBaseball loves comebacks.

Here’s one: a Major League comeback.

Back in 1992, my wife Diana Star Helmer wrote Belles of the Ballpark. This was a pioneering history of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the World War II-era league that many people know from the movie A League Of Their Own.

Diana wrote it all, long before the fictional movie appeared. The movie pales in comparison to the truth. You couldn’t make up the adventures these players really experienced!

The book defied odds, selling from a children’s publisher who struggled to market this nonfiction book with untold crossover appeal for all ages.

After the first edition sold out, the original publisher chose to let the book go out of print.

Fast forward to 2014. Enter upstart new publisher, Summer Game Books, declaring it would focus all titles ONLY on baseball. 

Diana “pitched” the new publisher. Success!

I’m proud to ride shotgun on this journey, assisting a talented author who wants to load this new version with more epic true-life tales than ever imagined. Early possibilities could offer an e-book before Christmas, with a paperback slated in time for the 2015 baseball season.

It’s a whole new ballgame, as the old saying goes.

Never give up.



You? A Writer In The Creative Hall of Fame?

ThomasPlaqueIt’s possible.

Keep showing up. Keep swinging.

Look at the recent Baseball Hall of Fame inductions. One new member is Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas.

Take a contrary look at his career stats.

Baseball purists cheer his .301 career batting average. No one talks about a hitting failure rate of nearly 70 percent. A non-batting average? Well, writers let a one-star review or rejection letter serve as the same career-ending stat.

Even the year (1997) Thomas led the American League in hitting at .347 has a dark side. He wasn’t hitting 65 percent of the time.

His career featured 1,397 strikeouts, the ultimate failure. Thomas took the long walk of shame back to the bench plenty of times.

That doesn’t disqualify him from membership in Cooperstown. The baseball world remembers all he DID accomplish.

My definition of a creative Hall of Famer would be Michael Nobbs. He just posted his 761st podcast this morning for members of his “Sustainably Creative” site. Every weekday, he’s back in the game, offering a new message.

Why stop? The future is more than one blog post or a single manuscript. Think career.