Planning For The (not too distant) Future

It’s Halloween tonight, and children are starting to appear at the door with parents, friends and brothers and sisters to chaperone them.  I’m working on my website and thinking about a time in the not-too-distant future when all I will need to do is write.  Right now I have a business (franchise sandwich store) and a full-time job (federal government).  So I think I can say that I am a busy person.  Not too many opportunities to take time off and travel, even though that is what I really want to be doing.

If I had been bitten by the travel bug at an earlier age, I might have found a way to cut my ties to everything and take off for an around-the-world adventure.  But this wanderlust struck me later in life, so for now, I’ll keep working at the website and count the days until I can pull the plug and go.

I have to admit that the travel writing business has a steeper learning curve than I thought it would.  It’s not like you can buy a book and get the knowledge and the experience you need to succeed.  I’ve read a couple of really good books about travel writing.  They have all been so helpful in learning something about the mechanics of the travel writing business.  But I got to a point where I felt lost.  When I started sending out query letters to magazine editors, I had a feeling that the letters were going down into a rabbit hole somewhere, never to be seen by anyone who could or would appreciate my article idea.  In fact, that is how it has turned out.  That is how I know that I need some help.  I am doing something wrong, but I don’t know what it is.

Part of planning for the future is being able to recognize where your shortcomings are and getting help to overcome them.  I’m looking forward to taking an e-course about the query letter process and learning more about how to sell my article ideas.  For those of you who are struggling with this, I would encourage you to get help as well, so you can overcome this obstacle and move forward with your writing career.  Sometimes it takes a little push and some encouragement to get that forward momentum going once again.

I have to admit that what caused me to write this post was thinking about travel writing and what seems to be holding me back.  I know where I want to go, but like most people, I do feel frustrated when I seem to have hit a wall.  I know this will pass like most other things eventually do.  I’ll keep at it and share what I’ve learned along the way.  I hope you will keep at it, too.

For an example of a query letter I wrote and sent to two magazines, check the previous post.  Let me know if you have any comments on it.  I’d love to hear them!

Please visit Gordon Burgett’s product page for some of the best ebooks on the subject of writing. He’s one of the best! And his book, “The Travel Writer’s Guide” is first rate!

How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days
Test Your Niche Book First!
Travel Writer’s Guide (Trade Paperback Book)
How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar (audio series)

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My Query Letter For Your Consideration

I’ve been hesitant to post this query letter.  It’s my first one, so naturally I’m concerned that it’s not as good as it should be.  But, since I’ve sent it out a few times now (without getting a response, I might add), I figured I might as well share it.

I’ve given up on the idea of doing this article, at least until I get better at writing query letters and figuring out who to send them to.  That’s what I’m all about these days.  I wrote about taking Linda Formichelli’s class in January in the last post.  She teaches people like me how to formulate an idea and get it in front of editors so you can (hopefully) sell them your articles.  That’s what I need at this point.  Someone to guide me through the maze so I can eliminate some of the trial and error.  I understand what I have to do (the mechanics of writing a query letter and sending it off for the go-ahead), but the techniques are still fuzzy.  Experience is the best teacher.

So without further delay, here’s the query letter I sent to Sunset Magazine (I followed the instructions in their magazine and emailed the query letter to their special email address), hoping I would at least get a response:

Sunset Magazine
80 Willow Rd.
Menlo Park CA 94025-3691

Dear Senior Editors Anna Nordberg, Nino Padova and Associate Editor MacKenzie Geidt:

Although the Great Vina Ranch is long gone, the legacy of Leland Stanford’s massive winery complex lives on, through the efforts of the Trappist Monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux.

In 1881, Leland Stanford, who was the founder of Stanford University, a railroad tycoon, and the 8th Governor of California, bought up about 55,000 acres in the fertile Sacramento Valley, with the goal of producing table wines that would rival the best French wines of the day.  He named the winery “The Great Vina Ranch”.  He poured money into the project, but unfortunately, the wine was not well accepted.  After he died in 1893, the Stanford estate moved quickly to scale back wine and brandy production in favor of other crops.  The ranch was sold numerous times, and in 1955, the central portion of the Vina Ranch was sold to the Trappist monks, including the vast wine cellars.

Today, the Trappist Monks have reinvigorated the winery by planting new vines that are much better suited for the hotter climate in Tehama County, and cultivating them with care.  Their research efforts have been rewarded with the advent of fine wines of interesting flavor and character.  The Monks are also fully engaged in rebuilding the 800-year-old Chapter House of the Cistercian Monastery of Santa Maria de Ovila that came from Trillo, Guadalajara, Spain.  The Chapter House was purchased, dismantled stone-by-stone and moved to San Francisco by William Randolph Hearst, who planned to use it on a new building project.  The “Sacred Stones” were given to the Abbey in 1992 and construction started in 2003.  With the help of master stonemasons, the monks are carefully reconstructing the Chapter House.  Today, it is more than 60% complete and beautiful to behold.

Would you be interested in an article on the Abbey of New Clairvaux?  There are the storied vineyards, the Chapter House reconstruction, the monastery with ties to that same 800 year-old Chapter House, and Stanford’s massive wine cellars.  The monks are engaged in winemaking as one way of supporting their monastery.  They have also entered into a joint venture to brew beer in the fine tradition of the Belgian-style abbey ales.  A visit to the monastery would make a great day trip!  No reservations are necessary and there is no charge to visit the grounds.  The tasting room is modern, but the rest of the visitor areas are quite rustic and not at all touristy.  That’s a large part of the monastery’s charm.  I’ll offer an interesting itinerary, list nearby places to eat and suggest a beautiful Sacramento River picnic area just a few miles away to have a nice lunch.  The Abbey is located 20 miles north of Chico, California.   Tours are not offered, but I will provide hours of operation and directions to the Abbey.

I will be in Vina, California from September 26–29, 2011 during the fall grape harvest.  I could have the completed article “Wine, Ale and the Sacred Stones” by October 20, with 50 digital color photos for your selection.  Anything I should know before I leave?  Thank you for your consideration.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Respectfully,

So that’s it.  No reply from anyone.  Perhaps it was too busy?  Too much going on?  Not enough focus?  I don’t know.  But I’d like to find out at some point what was wrong (if anything) with this query letter.  Can anyone help?

Please visit Gordon Burgett’s product page for some of the best ebooks on the subject of writing.  He’s one of the best!  And his book, “The Travel Writer’s Guide” is first rate!

How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days
Test Your Niche Book First!
Travel Writer’s Guide (Trade Paperback Book)
How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar (audio series)

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(Writing) Plans For The Future

I’ve been thinking about my upcoming trip to Italy.  This is the perfect opportunity to query editors about some of the places and things I plan to see.  I’ve been there before a few times, so I am familiar with many of the tourist attractions I want to visit.  In fact, I will visit Florence and Milan for the third time.  I have an idea for some walking tour type articles.  I think they would go over very well.  So that’s what I plan to do in the days leading up to my trip, which will be next summer.

To be ready and prepared to send out these query letters, I need a confidence-booster.  I still feel a bit uneasy about the query letters I’ve sent out so far.  In fact, since I haven’t even gotten a response from any of the editors, I decided that I must be doing something wrong.  I need some guidance from an expert.  So I signed up for the Write For Magazines 8 week course on The Renegade Writer website.  Linda Formichelli is an experienced writer who shares her expertise in how to send out queries, who to send them to, and getting queries read by editors.  My whole problem is that I still don’t know how to find the editors to pitch and which publications I should target for the best chance at selling an idea for an article.  Linda’s course is all about getting your query letters sent to the best magazines for your subject.  I’m really looking forward to taking the course and sending out letters prior to leaving for Europe.  I’d really love to go to Italy with an acceptance letter in hand!  That would just make my day!  I’ll share my progress as the whole thing unfolds.  In the meantime, I will continue to work on my writing and my website.

I want to share my query letter with everyone.  I would also appreciate some feedback.  It would help me to hear whether it is effective or seems weak, strong, or ???  I’ll drop the whole letter into my next post so you can see it and tell me what you think!

If you want to have a look at The Renegade Writer website, you can go here.  Maybe you’ll decide to take the course, too!

As I’ve mentioned a number of times, Gordon Burgett is a wealth of information for the writer.  You can sign up for his newsletters and read through his blog.  He’s had an amazing career as a writer and an editor for various magazines.  Check out some of his products and see if they are right for what you want to do.  I heartily recommend his book, “The Travel Writer’s Guide”.  It’s excellent!

How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days
Test Your Niche Book First!
Travel Writer’s Guide (Trade Paperback Book)
How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar (audio series)

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Time-Wasters and Distractions For Writers

It’s all-consuming at times.  It’s a little intimidating as well.  The time you spend on the activities you think will help you build a business is often wasted.  But the key is to keep going.  Don’t let up and keep learning so that one day, doors will open for you.  What am I talking about?  The internet, of course!  It’s amazing how you can get lured into thinking that you are doing things the right way, the smart way.  Incredible numbers of hours are spent taking courses, reading ebooks, going to Facebook,  and browsing through forums.  There are so many distractions.  How are you ever going to sort through the noise and find that one thing that will lift you out of the malaise?

I don’t claim to have the answer.  Anyone who tells you they have it is probably lying or has an ulterior motive.  The one thing I am sure of as of this date is that some people find the thing that works for them and they prosper.  But a lot of people never find it, because they don’t persevere and work through the hard times to get to the good times.  Many people give up just before their big breakthrough.  I can tell you with certainty that I don’t want to be a quitter and miss out on what is just over the horizon.  So what does all this mean?

By writing all this out and getting it on paper (so to speak), I am able to think things through a little better.  I learned recently that I spend too much time piddling on various time-wasters.  I learned this by going through the very structured Keyword Academy.  I’m trying to follow the program exactly and see if I can duplicate their success with internet marketing.  I think that one of my really strong points is the ability to follow directions.  The Keyword Academy provides a clear path to building websites and marketing products that interest you.  I’m giving it a go, knowing full well that it will take me a number of years to see the results I want.  By following their lead, I can expect to achieve similar results – maybe better!  And I benefit by gaining a better understanding of how to market my website.

I haven’t given up on the travel writing plan.  I have some new ideas for query letters and editors to approach.  In fact, I have a trip to Italy coming up next year and I want to leverage that trip into at least three writing gigs so I can deduct some of the trip’s costs.  That would be awesome.  So I’m going to start sending out queries soon and try really hard to line up some writing jobs.

I challenge you to think of where you could cut out some distractions from your life and work on your chosen pursuits.  I have made changes to how much time I spend surfing, reading, and  generally wasting time.  Examine your daily life and start cutting out those things that just keep you from your goals.  Find more time to work on those things that will get you closer to your goal.  Spend less time on the time-wasters, and you’ll get where you want to go just that much quicker.  You’ll also be in a better position to recognize opportunity when it comes along, and seize it.

Whatever your thing, put in the time now and you can reap what you sow in good time.  And never, never quit!

Any words of inspiration out there?  I know most people are searching for that one thing that will carry them to the next level.  Have you found that “thing” and what was it that allowed you to get there?  I’ll bet attention to detail and hard work played a major role!  Let’s hear from you!

Check out Gordon Burgett’s website for excellent writer’s resources!

How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days
Test Your Niche Book First!
Travel Writer’s Guide (Trade Paperback Book)
How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar (audio series)

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The Waiting For A Query Letter Reply Continues…

No reply on the latest query letter yet.  And still no reply from Sunset magazine on the query letter I sent them.  So I must admit that I am a little discouraged.  However, I know that this process is all about numbers, so I’ll keep at it until I sell the idea to an editor.
In the meantime, I’m working a bit more on internet marketing.  I must admit that for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what “internet marketing” actually was.  Now I understand it to be the process of promoting a product or service on the internet, by building credibility with the search engines and getting listed as close to the top of the first page of search results as possible.    Once you start appearing on the first page, people are more likely to click your link and visit your site.  If you present an appealing web page for them to read, you then have the opportunity to try to get them to “do” something.  Maybe you want them to buy a product.  Or maybe your goal is to get them to click a Google ad, or perhaps you want them to click an affiliate ad or link so you can earn a commission if they buy something.  Whatever it is, the concept of internet marketing is to get targeted traffic to your site.  People who are motivated to buy something make the best kind of traffic.

I spent a lot of time reading up on various internet marketing systems, courses, books and classes.  None of these ever inspired me to buy – until I took a good look at The Keyword Academy.  They have a program that is changing and evolving.  I took advantage of their free trial and liked what I saw.  I’m currently working on their program and I’ll describe what kind of success I have with it in later posts.  This is a long term program and I don’t expect to see real results for a year or more.  But, when I do get results, I’ll share them with you.

I have a vacation coming up in 2012.  We’re going to Italy and I’m working harder than ever to figure out how I can get the go-ahead on some articles so I can earn an income, albeit a small one, on this trip.  I need to break into the writing business.  If you can’t sell an idea for an interesting article on a trip to Italy, well …..

So who has had success selling travel articles?  I know travel writing is very competitive.  But there’s always room for a few more.  So let me encourage you to keep at it and success will come to all of us!

Visit Gordon Burgett’s site to check out his products for writers and speakers and empire builders!

  How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days
Test Your Niche Book First!
Travel Writer’s Guide (Trade Paperback Book)
How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar (audio series)

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Make Money The Old Fashioned Way – Earn It!

In a previous post, I mentioned the idea of creating a product of your own and putting it up for sale.  Ebooks are a good way to earn extra income.  I’ve bought quite a few of them and I feel like they all (except for one) have been good value.  The best thing about these books is getting a look at a product that someone else wrote.  It gives you an idea of how you should set up your e-book and what kinds of things you should include to provide good value to your customers.

How do I Write An E-book?

You can outsource the e-book to a writer on Elance.com or one of the “hired gun” websites.  Think carefully about what you can write about.  Are you an expert in some field (or could you become one?).  Assemble an outline for the e-book and send it to the provider.  He or she can do some research and write a draft of the e-book for you to review.  Once you’ve gone back and forth a few times, your e-book should be ready to go.  It can be as fancy, or simple, as you want.  The important thing is to provide good value for the buyer.  Otherwise, you’ll have a lot of people asking for a refund! I produced an e-book a few years ago.  It was short and was intended to be a free giveaway to people who registered as a user on my website.  I never did distribute it.  However, the information is still applicable and just needs a few tweaks to come up to date.  I paid a writer on Elance $60.00 to put it together and produce a PDF file.  If you intend to sell your e-book, then you’ll need to put some real effort into it to be sure you have a good product.

How About Advertising?

Another thing I’ve mentioned is selling advertising.  I’m starting to get inquiries about selling ad space on 10 Minute Travel.  This is the position I need to be in; people contacting me to buy ads or guest posts.  If done correctly, ad payments can add up to a decent amount each month.  I’m learning that the key is to have a website that is busy and is growing.  Advertisers usually have a decent budget to work with and they are interested in either recurring ads or paid posts, so they get a long-term link back to their own website.  It’s all part of their effort to increase their search engine visibility.  If you position yourself as a reliable provider, you will eventually be able to sell advertising and earn a steady income from your site.  I’m just getting started and I will focus on this aspect of the business. So, in summary, it makes sense to have multiple income streams whenever possible.  Don’t place all your hopes on one income source.  If you are a writer and conditions change, you might find yourself without an income until things pick back up.  By having other income, you can always shift your attention to that while you ride out the tough times we all invariably face from time to time.  Think of how you can build at least three sources of income and work on them.  If one of them really takes off for you, then by all means concentrate on the big earner.  You’ll be glad you did!

How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days
Test Your Niche Book First!
Travel Writer’s Guide (Trade Paperback Book)
How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar (audio series)

Hey, have you done something along these lines?  We’d love to hear your success story!!

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Travel Article Query Letter – No Reply

I’ve been waiting for 2 months – it really looks as though I can forget about a reply from Sunset Magazine.  I had a feeling when I sent it that they wouldn’t reply.  In my reading, I’ve learned that getting a reply from large publications most likely will require some detective work.  Some claim that you have to resort to a bit of research to find out the editor’s email address so you can send your query letter directly to them.  I followed their submission guidelines and emailed the query to travelquery@sunset.com.  They might use this as a way to screen the letters, since they will get many queries.  It keeps the editor’s inbox from overflowing.

Time to move on…

Enough time has passed that I will send my query to the next publication on the list.  And I think I will follow another piece of advice I came across – send the query letter by snail mail.  A number of people were of the opinion that the success rate (getting a reply that is either positive or negative) is much higher when sending paper queries.  I will assume that this is good advice and I’ll take it for action!  Developing a thick skin is necessary in this game, although I’m just getting started.  I also read that rejections are the norm and that sending a lot of queries is crucial to the success of any writer, at least in the beginning.  It’s (apparently) a numbers game that you have to be willing to play to get your writing in front of many editors.

Editors are key and can’t be ignored.

There is no way around it.  Building a relationship with editors over time is the single best way to develop a writing career.  Many writers explain that once they successfully sell a few articles to a publication, they establish a certain trust with the editor.  Consequently, it becomes easier to get your article ideas in front of someone who knows your work and has been happy with the articles you’ve delivered.  This makes perfect sense, although it may not be obvious when you’re first starting out.  Think of it this way – who do you call when you need something done?  Do you call a complete stranger and hope for the best?  Or, do you call someone that has done some work for you before and did a good job, was dependable and didn’t make your life miserable?  I think you call a reliable, tried-and-true provider whenever you can.  Editors are the same way.  They are under the gun to buy the best possible content for their publication.  And, it has to be on time and complete.  Miss a few deadlines and see if you get any more assignments!

None of this was obvious to me just a few months ago.  If I can keep learning and sending query letters, I hope to land an assignment in the near future.

Stay tuned for what comes next.  Write to me at steve@10minutetravel.com if you want to comment.  And keep writing!

How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days
Test Your Niche Book First!
Travel Writer’s Guide (Trade Paperback Book)
How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar (audio series)

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On Spam and Comments

I’ve seen a recent increase in the amount of SPAM coming in via the Comments.  I am happy to receive comments on any of my posts.  However, “Comments” that say absolutely nothing aren’t useful to anyone but the SPAMMERs (apparently).  I can’t see the value of leaving these comments up.

I’ve decided to require a user to register with the site and log in to leave a comment to prevent this flood of unwanted SPAM promotion.  I’ll continue to post, as that is what I want to do.  I hope you will continue to follow along with my blog.  It’s going to be an interesting journey!

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More Ways To Earn Income (and why you should diversify)

Now that I’ve gone over the various ways to deduct expenses (again, do your homework and get this part right!), it’s time to look at the many ways to earn an income as a travel writer.  I’m very focused on writing travel articles, but you can apply much of this information to whatever type of writing you want to do.

Early on, I wrote about a number of ways to make money while traveling the world.  And I said I wanted to explore them all.  Here’s the list:

  • Become a travel writer and sell articles to magazines and newspapers.
  • Sell products of my own design, such as e-books and training courses related to travel.
  • Work hard to build traffic to my website and sell advertising.
  • Become an affiliate for various travel-related companies to earn commissions.
  • Prepare myself to teach English classes to make an extra income.
  • Get involved in Internet Marketing.

I’m still working on the first one.  It’s a slow process to get started and will take a while to have some successes.  I haven’t heard back from Sunset magazine yet.  I’m starting to wonder if I will.  My thought is that they probably screen the query letters coming in and just delete any that aren’t from a seasoned, well-known (to them) writer.  Time will tell and I need to wait at least 2 months before coming to that conclusion.

It’s been a while since I posted anything here on the blog.  That’s mainly because I have been looking into internet marketing.  I am also going to pursue this as a way to earn extra money.  If done right, it can be lucrative.  However, I realize that it takes a great deal of time in the beginning ( a year of concentrated effort, at least) and continuous work after that.  But the rewards can be great and the income can be steady and reliable.  So I want to jump into this and make it work for me.  As I go through this process, I’ll write about my experiences.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then Google internet marketing to get an idea.  I want to learn this business for the long term.  Just like writing articles and selling them.  I plan to have a diverse group of income generators for the future.  You should diversify as well, and not put all your eggs in one basket.

Having multiple streams of income can help you weather the storms life brings.  I’ll explore some of the other ways to earn an income in future posts.  Please subscribe to my RSS feed.

How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days
Test Your Niche Book First!
Travel Writer’s Guide (Trade Paperback Book)
How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar (audio series)

I’d appreciate hearing from anyone who has internet marketing experiences to share!

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Travel Query Letter #2 (No rest for the weary)

It might be a while before I receive the verdict on my first query letter (sent 20 days ago).  There was no indication in the Writer’s Market (online version) as to how long I could expect to wait for a reply.  It could be another month.  So I want to start on letter number 2 and get it sent off to a yet-to-be-determined magazine editor for their consideration.  One query letter does not a writer make.

I haven’t decided what to focus on this time.  I am thinking about a photo round-up.  That’s where you visit a number of related places, take pictures of each location, and then assemble a series of pictures with captions and comments under each photo to tie everything together.  I’ve read that this can be a really effective way to put together interesting pieces for magazines.  The photos help to make the article flow from shot to shot and make the article interesting.  After I read a bit more about it, I’ll share the technique with you.  The best part is that you can sell these round-ups over and over as reprints.

Your goal as a travel writer?

As a travel writer, what should your goal be?  If you plan to make money on your work, your goal should be “work smarter, not harder”.  Working smarter means to squeeze every nickel out of your work.  Why write one article when you can write many and sell them often?  That’s what you should strive to do – sell everything you do more than once (many times, in fact).  Sell the original article, and then sell reprints.  Change the article around a bit and sell the article to newspapers all over the country.  The key for you as a writer, is to learn how to sell all of your work many times and collect many paychecks.  If you had to spend $300.00 to travel to a place near your home, rent a hotel room, eat in restaurants and pay for admission to museums and various other attractions, you would have to sell your work for $300.00 just to break even.  No one can afford to do that for very long.  Making money is a very good motivator and will allow you to go more places and do more things.

In his book, The Travel Writer’s Guide, Gordon Burgett describes a trip to Santa Barbara, California.  His plan is to write nine articles; having as many go-ahead letters from editors as possible. Once the original article has been published, he will offer reprints (called “second rights”) to other magazines that deal in reprints and usually pay on publication.  Then, by modifying the travel article, he will send out newspaper articles to many of the regional newspapers and collect checks from those who purchase his work.  So all-in-all, it is very clear that you won’t make much of a living if you just sell an article once.  But compounding your earnings can be a very lucrative way to earn the income you want.  So learn to sell your work over and over again.  It will serve you well over the years as you build up successes and your reputation as a writer.

This makes me think of recording artists and book authors who produce a novel or an album of songs and then proceed to sell copies of their work for years and years, earning royalties and residual income for the rest of their lives.  Movie actors and television stars do the same thing.  As a travel writer, you need to sell your work many, many times, just as others do.  If you don’t, you probably won’t realize the kind of income you want or need to have a satisfying career.  So think about how you can (smartly) maximize your income and prosper!

This is all laid out for you in the Travel Writer’s Guide.  I recommend you get a copy if you are serious about travel writing.  It can be a confusing process at first.  But, you’ll soon see that the process is doable and repeatable!

How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days
Test Your Niche Book First!
Travel Writer’s Guide (Trade Paperback Book)
How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar (audio series)

Come on!  Who has had a success in selling your writing?  I want to hear about it!

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