I attended a recent writer's event where we all had a chance to introduce ourselves at the beginning. When the event ended, several aspiring novelists came up to me and asked if they could hire me as an editor. I had to tell them that unfortunately, WOW! is pretty much a fulltime job and that I only edit for the magazine and for myself. Then the next question was, "So, where do I find an editor?"
Wracking my brain, I tried to think of something that would be truly useful to them as first-time writers. I thought of Writer's Market, doing a Google search, or looking in the back of Writer's Digest at the classifieds, but those options didn't seem to fit their needs. Those services are great, but for someone looking for personal attention-perhaps a one-on-one service-a place to network with other writers and editors would be a better solution. I settled for handing out my business cards with a promise to see what I could find.
After a quick search online, I came across the Writers-Editors Network. The name rang a bell; I'd posted our WOW! Flash Fiction Contest listing there resulting in a great number of referrals. Knowing that these writers were looking for editors (and would soon be e-mailing me), I decided to check out writers-editors.com.
What I immediately noticed was the amount of information they have on their website. Their home page has 5 clear sections in its table of contents that easily lead you to your respective goals. They are:
- If you need a writer or editing help.
- If you are a freelance writer / editor.
- If you're already a CNW (Cassell Network of Writers) Member.
- If you want tools for success.
- If you want to know more about us.
I explored all the options and got lost for a while. I know you WOW readers have done the same thing! Like our site, the Writers-Editors Network has a lot of information to digest in one sitting, if going there for the first time. So, what I chose to do was go straight to the source.
When I found out that the network was run by a woman, Dana K. Cassell, I thought it would be more beneficial to you to offer you something unique, that you couldn't read on the website. And I'm sure that after you get to know a little bit about Dana and the wonderful things she's been doing for writers for twenty-five years, you'll want to pack a lunch, and dig in to what the Writers-Editors Network has to offer.
When I checked out their about page, (Section #5 / "About DKC"), I learned that Dana K. Cassell has been writing fulltime since mid-1976! Early on, she specialized in the retail trade magazine field, but for the past dozen years has concentrated on pharmaceutical and medical topics. Her credits also include children's magazine fiction and nonfiction, greeting card verse, consumer magazine articles, ad copy, editing projects, writing for business clients, PR articles, ghostwriting - amounting to around 2000 articles/columns - and a dozen books.
In 1982, Dana started a local writers organization, which has evolved into the national Writers-Editors Network (www.writers-editors.com) - actually international, with members in Canada and beyond, which helps link editors, clients, and individuals needing editorial services with the freelance writers and editors who can help them.
Talking with Dana gives us a personal experience with the Writers-Editors Network, as well as insight into what the organization is all about. For me, meeting with someone, or getting to know the woman behind the business offers so much more than a static website, it offers heart and soul, and the personality behind the organization. And that's something Dana has - an excitement for what she's doing, drive, and a vision for what she ultimately hopes to accomplish. This includes connecting aspiring writers with editors who will help them achieve their writing goals.
WOW: Dana, you've been freelancing since 1971, do you remember what your first article was about?
DANA: Yes I do. I was selling life insurance, and an industry publication had an article on how to sell tax-sheltered annuities to teachers. So I figured teachers and educational institutions might like an article on how to take advantage of these annuities. The first magazine I queried for it, College Management, was interested and bought the completed piece.
WOW: That's great! Do you remember your reaction when you saw your byline for the first time?
DANA: Not only the first time, but the first dozen times! I would run through the house, jumping up and down, and scaring my young children half to death!
WOW: (laughing) That's exciting; I've felt the same way. To me, that means you have the true heart of a writer and value the importance of your writing. It's not an easy task!
So, what made you decide to start the Writers-Editors Network?
DANA: I was writing regularly for several editors, who would mention during phone calls that they wished they knew writers in other areas to cover stories for them. About this time I attended my first writers seminar, meeting other freelancers for the first time, and discovered there were plenty of freelancers out there for editors to hire. All they needed was a means to contact each other. I was living in Florida and driving down I-95 when the concept for an organization to get the two sides together popped into my mind, almost full-blown.
WOW: (laughs) That sounds so familiar! Both Beryl and I had a similar experience when starting WOW! Although, I think you can pinpoint yours better than ours. So, how did the idea evolve?
DANA: Well, from that idea, I started Florida Freelance Writers Association in early 1982, with our first issue of Freelance Writer's Report in March. After we had our Writer Data Bank and Guide to FFWA Writers ready to roll that first year, we began publicizing to editors how we could locate for them the writers they needed in Florida.
Within a few years, editors were contacting us who were trying to locate writers in other states, and wondered if we knew of organizations in other states that had similar listings or databases of writers. At the time I didn't, although I did learn of a couple later on. We added Georgia and Texas to our associations, but it soon became apparent that a national group made more sense.
We still have the Florida Freelance Writers Association (FFWA), whose members receive Florida-specific market information, and are also part of the national Network. When we expanded nationally, we had to quickly come up with a name, and since I was the one constant among the then three-state-groups plus the national, we called it Cassell Network of Writers (or CNW).
WOW: (Winks) Great name! Can't go wrong with that one. So, when did you decide to go online?
DANA: When the Internet appeared, it was time for a Web site. I figured CNW wouldn't mean much to the general public, and the rest was too complicated to explain on a succinct home page. Because our main thrust was still connecting freelance writers with editors, Writers-Editors Network seemed like a good overall name for a Web site. And because many of our members, who were writers in our early days, have developed their own editing skills and do a good deal of freelance editing, both for publishing houses and individual authors, it also covers that.
WOW: And for individual authors, what's the advantage of being part of a network?
DANA: One of the main advantages is having market information and job news all in one place - saving a lot of time from having to visit dozens of sites to ferret them out yourself. But even more than that, it's having a place to go when you need input on a problem or have a question re a new type of work. Some of our most experienced members will email me about a 'situation' they've gotten into, and aren't sure how to proceed. They simply need another person's input - either to offer a new viewpoint or to corroborate that what they're doing makes sense.
If I can't answer a member's questions, I can either refer them to members I know have experience in that area, or can post what they need to know on our private Member Bulletin Board. Our members have been really good over the years at helping out each other.
WOW: You were talking about questions, and I know that CNW offers a hotline to members who have questions about their writing business, which we think is fantastic! Can you give us a sample of the questions you answer?
DANA: Most of the Hotline questions we've gotten over the years have fallen under two categories: contracts/copyright and fees. Fortunately, we have a member who is a copyright attorney, and who will answer members' questions where he can - or at least tells them when they need to talk to an attorney for a serious problem. But most questions are basic and I have a number of resource books on hand, which often will spell out the answers. Sometimes, the answer is on the official Copyright Office site, and I can point out where to find it.
WOW: What about pay rates? I know freelancers' rates are constantly changing. . .
DANA: Even the most established freelancers find themselves in a new field periodically, and need some input on how to charge. Over the years, our members have reported actual fees collected for various types of articles (e.g., health, parenting, travel) and for types of work (e.g., content editing, ghostwriting, proofreading), so we have them all listed alphabetically in the Members section, each with a range of lowest and highest amounts, and an average amount of all those reported. The intent is not to tell members how much to charge, but to give them an idea of what others are receiving for any type of work, and where they are compared to others.
More than once, a member has gotten involved with a questionable client, and has wondered how to get out of the situation. I am not an attorney, and do not give out legal advice, but so often people are simply too close to the situation to see something obvious. Or other members can offer input on how they have solved a similar problem. Or we can say simply, "You need an attorney."
WOW: Besides your great one-on-one attention, what do CNW (Cassell Network of Writers) members receive when they join?
DANA: All members receive access to the Members section of Writers-Editors.com, several back-issues of our newsletter, Freelance Writer's Report, a listing form to be included in our Writer Data Bank database, and access to both a Help and a legal hotline, and to a collection service (for those publishers and clients who don't pay).
Regular members receive a Press ID tag and a Press card; online-only members (who pay a reduced fee to save postage and printing costs for newsletters etc.) can order press credentials for $1 to cover costs.
FFWA members also receive a Florida newsletter insert for Florida market updates, plus they have access to the Directory of Florida Markets for Writers, which lists about 6 times more magazines and book publishers than national market directories.
Plus, Premium and FFWA members can list their bios on the "Meet Our Writers" pages of Writers-Editors.com. Premium and FFWA members can be listed in the Guide to CNW/FFWA Writers, which is distributed to editors and clients. Rather than being viewed online, the Guide is downloaded to one's desktop as a Word, WordPerfect, or PDF file. The Guide is updated monthly.
WOW: You mentioned that members receive a Press ID tag and card with a regular membership; can you tell us the benefits of owning this card?
DANA: Actually, to be honest, I've never used a Press card; but our members requested one in the early days, and I've been surprised at the ways they've put them to use. Members have reported using them for preferential parking at events (the ID tag is laminated with a hole in it and can be tied to a rear view mirror or elsewhere on the car), to gain access to events and press rooms, and to gain additional "press" access (one member used hers to go further in the Tower of London than tourists could go). Members receive a two-page report on how these two items (the press card is wallet size) have been and might be used.
Several times over the years I have received calls from organizations asking us to verify the freelance status of members. Disney World, for example, is one that has called. If the member is listed with our Writer Data Bank or Guide to CNW/FFWA Writers, I relay what his or her listing says. Many members send along bio information, resumes, lists of published credits, or copies of published articles and book jackets showing bylines, which I keep on file so I can more thoroughly verify their professional background.
WOW: That's a great service! You mentioned book jackets. . . does CNW offer members the opportunity to promote their published books?
DANA: Writers-Editors.com has a Book Bag page where members can post their books with links to Amazon or their own Web site or to the publisher's site. Having a Meet Writers listing offers another opportunity to link to book-buying sites. And we have a Member news page in the site section for editors and clients. Members can announce a new book there.
WOW: We also know that your publication FWR (Freelance Writer's Report) accepts submissions. Can you give our readers any tips for a submitting their manuscripts?
DANA: We use short tips on how to build a freelance business, how to manage the day-to-day tasks - information that an established freelancer can use. Our readers already know how to write query letters, but they may want to know how someone changed e-mail query subject lines to increase go-aheads. Our maximum length is about 750 words (we don't use jumps, so it all has to fit on one page), but our greatest need is for tips under 250 words, to fill out columns. We like bulleted copy. I prefer e-mail submissions; and because we use short items, it makes more sense to send along the tip/article itself, rather than a query. I usually respond within a day or two. Our guidelines are HERE.
And a sample copy of FWR can be downloaded HERE.
WOW: I'm sure our freelancers are going to want to take advantage of your resource! Thanks for the insider tips.
As you may know, we support writing contests as a means for healthy communication and inspiration. We're excited to learn that you offer a writing contest, open to all writers. Can you tell our readers/writers about the contests you sponsor?
DANA: CNW/FFWA sponsors an annual Florida State Writing Competition (open to any geography), which has a postmark deadline of March 15. Its original intent was to recognize publishable writing, and thereby encourage good writers to continue writing and to submit winning entries to publishers. However, because our members are mostly full-time writers, they stated early on that they did not have the time to write for contests, so we added a Previously Published Nonfiction category, which has become one of our most popular. It's a tough category to win because all the entries have been approved and edited by outside staff editors. We are pleased that a number of Unpublished Nonfiction and Fiction winning entries have gone on to be published in magazines and books. Both our Children's Literature and Poetry categories bring in a number of really good entries. Our guidelines and entry form are HERE.
WOW: Dana, your success is the result of talent and hard work, which encourages others not to give up on their dreams. Do you have any words of advice for our freelance writers?
DANA: First, the basic stick-to-it that you hear everywhere else. I like to tell people I decided to be a freelance writer mid-1962, and became an overnight success in the 1970s. A lot of trial and error occurred during the years in between. A lot of reading Writer's Digest articles. Some Dutch stubbornness helped.
Second, now is the best time to be a freelance writer - with more markets and opportunities than ever before - but you absolutely must treat it as a business and produce what the customers want, not what you want to write.
Third, if you want to make decent money for the hours put in, remember that the information you gather in your research is your parts inventory; use it to build more articles and books.
WOW: That's solid advice Dana. I think everyone can benefit from your vast experience and be inspired by it! I know that both Beryl and I will continue to participate in your network and take advantage of the many resources you provide.
You've really shown us a great deal of what the Writers-Editors Network has to offer by letting us know a bit about you. And we know that means a great deal to our readers.
So, if you have any questions about where to find a quality editor for your first book, and need that one-on-one attention, do not hesitate to explore www.writers-editors.com, and you may just find her there.