A new home for my writing-related posts

Starting today, my writing-related posts will appear on “The Business of Writing,” the blogging section of my business website.

It’s more convenient for people who go to my website. There’s more class in having a blog under my own domain. I could put this blog under my own domain, just as I did with Mad File Format Science, except that I use the URL for some other purposes. I discovered the hard way with MFFS that changing an existing blog’s URL on WordPress.com causes problems.

I’ll keep this blog around as a catchall for posts that don’t fit elsewhere. If you’re interested in my writing career, or if you’re looking for useful tips on writing as a business, I hope you’ll follow my writing blog.

In other news, techno-liberty.info is officially dead. The blog still exists, but it’s unreachable at present and I have no plans to revive it. It was an experiment that didn’t work. If someone else picks up the domain name, it has nothing to do with me.

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How much are you making per word?

A customer that offers ten cents a word is twice as good as one that offers five cents a word, right? Not necessarily.

You get the per-word rate only if your article is accepted. If you’ve got a 90% chance of acceptance by the five-cent customer and a 25% chance the ten-center will accept you, the odds are you’ll make more money from the nickel customer.
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Web searching for the researcher, part 2

This is the second part of a two-part article on getting the most out of DuckDuckGo for research. Start here.

Narrowing the search

Excluding a search term can improve results. Let’s say you want to find out about trumps in card games and not about the president. Try this:

trump card -donald -president

That doesn’t get rid of all the irrelevant results; I got a headline that says “China plays Trump card brilliantly.” But most of the results are about cards rather than politics. DuckDuckGo is honest enough to say that the minus sign gives you “less” with the search term, not none.
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Web searching for the researcher

Writers of every kind need to do research. Even if you’re writing pure fantasy, you occasionally need to check on human physiology right or cultural allusions. This often means using the search engines — but they make it hard. They give you popular results instead of accurate matches. They give you recent stuff while ignoring older pages. With some work, though, you can force useful results out of them.

I’ll be focusing here on DuckDuckGo. Google annoys me in too many ways to mention, and I get tired of people giving it free advertising by telling me to “google” something. DuckDuckGo has its own problems, but it least it doesn’t second-guess you based on your earlier Web activity. They’re similar in a lot of ways, so a lot of this advice will work with other search engines as well.
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Website flippers and the freelance writer

Doing research on an assignment brought my attention to a type of business called “website flipping.” It’s something like “flipping” a house for resale. A buyer acquires a site which seems to be underperforming and improves it to increase its revenue. The goal is to sell it at a profit after it demonstrates its value.

This is a legitimate practice, and it opens opportunities for the freelancer who understands it. Content is central to increasing a site’s value. Let’s say the site is about tree farming. The flipper isn’t in the tree farming business and may not know anything about it. When you need content about tree farming, who ya gonna call? Ghostwriters!
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With this post, I’m starting to revive my posting on this blog by talking more about my work as a freelance writer. I’ve been writing full-time for about a year and a half and making good progress in reaching better markets. My technical posts will continue to be in Mad File Format Science.

One of the first things I discovered is that writing on spec isn’t a good way to make a living. For a while I was writing for the Foundation for Economic Education, which accepted most of my submissions. They still list me as being on their Faculty Network, but I’ve stopped writing for them because they’ve stopped paying for articles. I’ve submitted some proposals to Reason, but without luck so far. Maybe I’ll get in eventually, but it’s not an easy way to get a regular income.

Fortunately, I have ample skills for writing about tech topics, and I’ve found a lot of work by request. Read the rest of this entry »

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Introducing Techno-Liberty

My newest blog project is Techno-Liberty. Quoting my own “About” page:

I’ve created this blog as a resource for discovering the ways that technology can advance liberty. You’ll see occasional forays into libertarian politics, but mostly it will be about technical issues: encryption, privacy, blockchains, data accumulation, secure communication, and so on.

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Websites to sell your writing

The Internet features a lot of websites where writers can connect with customers. None of them pay as well as finding your own clients, but some do offer decent pay and deal fairly. Others have serious problems of various kinds. Here are some notes from my experience:
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Cruise on a ghost (writer) ship

Yesterday evening I went on a Boston Harbor cruise with some fellow ghostwriters — a haunted cruise, obviously. The host was WriterAccess, which I do some writing for. It was very nice to put faces on what’s normally a faceless operation, and to talk with other writers on how they use the site. I learned a few things as well as having an enjoyable evening.
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How can writers find actual facts in research?

This morning I looked at a news item as a possible source for a paid article on computer tech. The story is on proposed energy reduction regulations for computers in California. It took me a minute to notice how short it is on information.

It starts off: “California regulators moved a step closer on Friday to the first mandatory U.S. energy efficiency standards for computers and monitors…” That’s useful to know, but what will these standards be? The article doesn’t tell us anywhere. It tells us how much consumers will supposedly save, how much greenhouse gas emissions may decrease, how much power computers consume in California — but not what the regulations would mandate. Without knowing that, there’s no way to judge whether the regulations will achieve their aims and what other consequences they might have.
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