The New Year is a time to look for new challenges, and one way to change things up is to enter a writing contest.
If you have been busy slaving away over a hot keyboard, working in your own version of a writer’s cave (mine is in a corner of my living room because I found that I work a lot better if I get some sunlight during the day), you tend to get used to going it alone. If you communicate with your clients through phone-mail or IM, it becomes normal for you to deal with people you have never met face to face. Stepping away from your desk to attend writers conferences makes good sense for a number of reasons.
As a writer, one of your functions is to avoid using sexist language in what you produce. You want your writing to be free from bias that will alienate a potential reader. The person trying to read your piece may become distracted from the ideas you are trying to present if you are not careful about the type of language you choose.
As a freelance writer, how comfortable are you with editing your own work? A certain amount of self-editing is part of preparing an assignment for submission to a client. Even if your client has editors who will review your work prior to it being published in whatever medium it will be used, you want to be sure that you are sending in something that shows your best work.
Are you submitting queries, finished articles for consideration to publications or manuscripts to publishers? Would you like an alternative to downloadable software to keep track of your efforts? There are submission tracking apps for that.
One of the keys to being a successful writer is to know yourself. Recording your submissions on a spreadsheet can be effective, but only if you will remember to check it regularly to track your follow ups. Submission tracking software can keep everything in one place, including your acceptances and follow-ups. Depending on the one you choose, you can also get other helpful options.
Submission Tracking Software for Writers: What to Look For
When you are look for submission tracking software, what features should you be looking for? It depends on the number and types of submissions you are making. If you are only making a few pitches a year, you could even question the necessity of using software at all. A spreadsheet may be all that you need to keep track of your submission activities.
If, however, you are pitching publications regularly and/or are pitching the same idea to more than one publication, you will likely need to have some type of system to keep track of them. Here are some features you will want to look for when evaluating your submission tracking software options:
- Search Feature
Do you want to be able to look for writing markets from within your submission tracking software? If you are just starting to search for markets or want more markets to consider, look for a software option with this feature. When evaluating your options, look at whether the search feature was recently updated, so that you know the information you will be receiving is reasonably up to date.
- Trial Period
Do you get a chance to download the software to “try it before you buy it?” How long does the trial period last, and how is it calculated? Is it a certain number of calendar days or a set number of days of use? This does make a difference.
If you get 30 calendar days to try out the software before making a decision but you have a busy month with other writing projects and you don’t do much with your pitches to publications, you may not be able to evaluate a package thoroughly during that period. In a situation where you get 30 days of use and you only used the software for two days out of the month, you still have 28 “days” in which to try it before making your decision.
How much are you willing to spend on your submission tracking software? There are some free options available, but they will usually offer only basic features. If you are prepared to part with some coin, you will (usually) get more features and a better product.
- Other Features
Are you interested in other features the software may have to offer, such as expense tracking, file management, rights tracking, reports, the ability to track rights, etc.? Make a list of the types of features that are important to you so that you will be sure to choose software that has most, if not all, of the ones that are most important to you.
Examples of Submission Tracking Software
This award-winning writer’s resource includes submissions tracking, along with access to a search feature which will give you access to thousands of markets for your work. Whether you are looking to sell your work in the fiction, non-fiction or poetry genres, you will find listings for English language publications in more than 40 countries that non-solicited submissions.
Start with a free, seven-day trial to see whether Duotrope would be helpful to you. After that point, pay US $5.00 per month or $50.00 for an annual subscription.
The Writer’s Scribe
This specialized software is a “writing management system.” It can be run on either a Mac or PC, as well as an iPhone or an iPad. Try the free trial for 20 days first to see whether it is right for you. You get a full working version of the software. After that point, you will need to purchase it to get a registration name and a registration key to enable it beyond that point. The cost of the full version is US $39.00.
Sonar Submission Tracking Tool
Sonar is free software that can be downloaded to Windows and Mac OS X. The screen is a very simple one that allows you to input the title, works, markets, submissions, date and details. If you are looking for something very basic, this option could work for you.
Power Tracker lives up to its name by giving users detailed on-screen and printable reports to keep track of the status of each submission. With its follow-up reminders, none of your submissions will fall through the cracks. It also allows you to track your writing expenses, makes finding any of your files a breeze, and the detailed submission and closure categories mean you will find it easy to target contacts who have liked your previous work so that you can send them a pitch about working together again.
Search through your notes with ease using Power Tracker. The software allows you to go back and forth to find everything you have communicated to anyone in one place. It’s easy to find exactly what was communicated to whom, even months or years later, if necessary.
Scrivener is a tool for writers that was developed for use when working with long-form content (writing a research paper, script, novel). Developed for Mac OS X, it helps you to keep your research and ideas organized so that you have easy access to them when you are ready to start writing.
You can also use it to keep track of your submissions by creating specific folders to keep track of you manuscripts (fiction and/or non-fiction) as well as your publishers. For detailed instructions of how to use Scrivener for this purpose, click here.
If you have decided that using submission tracking software is the right option for keeping your submissions organized, these examples give you an idea of downloadable options available. Be sure to consider the number of submissions you are making and what kinds of features you need before making your final decision.
photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As freelance writers, we don’t necessarily have the freedom to pick and choose the topics we are going to write about all the time. There may be times when you end up writing about a boring topic. The good news is there are some strategies you can use to engage your reader and make your content interesting even when the subject is not one that happens to be one of your personal favorites.
If you are a working freelance writer, language is your stock in trade. Obviously, you love words and language or you would not be working in this field. Should you show off your love of prose by using the most exquisite and complicated version of English that you can find when doing work for clients? Nope. Readability is more important than making your work look pretty, and online readability calculators are an important part of your freelance writing toolbox.
Let me explain. Your first goal as a freelance writer is to capture your reader’s interest. Make your audience want to click on your article or blog post, pick up your book, browse through your brochure, or whatever you have been asked to write.
Your next task to write in a way that your audience understands that message that you are trying to convey. You would not use the same terms or writing style if you knew that you were writing a highly technical document for a group of engineers as you would for general content about the best ways to stay cool in the summer.
Types of Readability Tests
Flesch/Flesch–Kincaid Readability Tests
How do you determine how difficult a particular piece of English writing is? The Flesch/Flesch–Kincaid readability tests are used to measure this result using word length and sentence length. The Flesch-Kincaid (F-K) test was developed for the US Navy in 1975. This formula was used by the Army to assess readability of technical manuals, and it has been used by a number of states to regulate that the language level that the language used in legal documents, such as insurance policies, shall be no higher than a ninth grade reading difficulty level.
The Flesch reading-ease test is scored in a manner indicating that higher scores indicate material that is easier to read. The lower the number, the more difficult the passage is for someone to read.
|90-100||Text is easily understood by an average 11-year-old student|
|60-70||Text can be understood by 13-15 year old students|
|0-30||Text can be read and understood by university graduates|
Gunning Fog Index
The Gunning Fog Index looks at the number of complex words in the text – those with three or more syllables – when determining its readability level. Proper nouns, compound words and jargon are disregarded are omitted. Results range from Grade 1 level to an unlimited number. The ideal score for this index is in the 7-8 range.
The SMOG Index was developed in the late 1960s. Here’s how it works: You take 30 sentences from your text (10 each from the beginning, middle and end) and count every word with three or more syllables in each group. Next, you calculate the square root of that number and round it to the nearest 10. Add three to that number. The figure you get is the US Grade level that should be able to read the text.
If this seems like too much trouble, you can use an online readability calculator with SMOG Index capability that will do the work for you. The recommended writing level on this system of measurement is between seven and eight.
Coleman Liau Index
This Index looks at the number of characters instead of the syllables in each word when determining its readability calculation. Its results are in US grade level scores from 1-12. The recommended writing level is seven-eight.
Automated Readability Index
This Index uses a mathematical score with two variables: characters per word and words per sentence. It has been in use since 1967. The scores correspond to US grade levels. If the score result has a decimal, it is rounded up to the next whole number. The recommended writing level is seven-eight.
Why Readability Scores Matter to Freelance Writers
By now you may be wondering what a number on a readability index has to do with your work as a freelance writer. Plenty, as it turns out. You want to write in a way that speaks “to” your audience, not “at” them.
If you use language that gets the message across, but is a bit too technical, full of jargon or has too many syllables when the reader first scans the page, you may lose out on having someone read what you have written, no matter how informative, helpful, funny, provocative or just plain brilliant it happens to be.
That would be a real shame, because I know how hard anyone who puts words together and gets paid for it has to work to produce something worth showing to a client. Finding the right voice and tone for a piece is challenging enough without having it sent back for revisions or plain, flat-out rejected because you were speaking a little bit too far above the intended audience.
This is not the same thing as “dumbing down” a topic when you write. That idea is insulting to both writers and readers alike. It’s a matter of finding the right words to fit the occasion and giving the reader something that they will find interesting, solve a problem they are having, educate them, give them a break and a laugh for a few minutes, or whatever your goal happens to be.
Online Readability Calculators: Check the Score Before you Submit your Work
There are several online readability calculators available for free that you can use to make sure that your work is at the appropriate grade level for your audience. As a general rule, content that you are writing for a general audience should be written for about a Grade 8 level reader.
This online readability tool is quick and easy to use for your own work or existing content on websites. Either copy and paste your content or the web address into the appropriate box and click “Calculate Readability.”
The results will appear within seconds. You’ll discover the readability of the text or content by Grade level.
Copy and paste a sample of your work of between 200-500 words into this free online readability calculator and you’ll get results from seven readability formulas.
Copy and paste your text into the box provided and this free tool will analyze the number of words and characters, sentences, average syllables per word and words per sentence. You’ll also see the US grade level needed to understand it based on different readability indexes. This utility also suggests sentences you may want to consider rewriting to improve your readability index – an excellent feature.
The readability level of your work matters. You want to ensure that you are choosing the right words and phrases to appeal to your target audience. Getting them to click on, pick up or skim your work is only part of what you want to accomplish. You also want them to actually read it and understand the message you want to get across to them.
As a freelance writer, you love what you do. You also need to make sure that your cash flow keeps flowing so that you can afford to stay in business. Getting paid on time is an essential part of running your business, and there are some things you can to so that you can take charge of your receivables and get paid faster. [Read more…]