The Bullpen

Tom Leykis is not my favorite celebrity. He’s probably not the misogynistic, aging frat boy he makes himself out to be — but he encourages a lot of otherwise harmless people to engage in irresponsible behavior.

However, he does have one recommendation that can be useful for working writers.

Leykis recommends maintaining a “bullpen” of women (or men), each of whom you call occasionally to fulfill your…um…physical needs. None of them provides the “time on task” you’d expect from a full-time partner. Between all of them, though, you get what you need.

Freelance writers can do well by maintaining a bullpen of their own. I have a major client who covers the majority of my monthly needs. I also have several other clients who want between $100 and $300 per month in assignments each. And I have clients who hit me up for occasional work.

I get that extra work because I ping those clients every once in a while. I’ll send a holiday greeting, or a quarterly email asking if they plan to use me — no pressure, I’m just putting my quarterly projections together. This keeps me in their minds if need pops up.

Whether you do ad copy, government reports, books or what-have-you, your client could dry up. If you have the bullpen in place, you have other sources of income. You can also use those sources even while working for your major clients. It expands your portfolio, gives you practice in producing excellent copy, and can help boost your income.

Now, I don’t recommend treating your bullpen clients with the cavalier attitude Leykis recommends treating his. But the idea of rotating through several clients with whom you retain a relationship — that’s nothing but good sense.

Thanks for listening.

Entrepreneurial Writing, Again.

I apologize for five consecutive days of “radio silence” —  including no Friday Fun or Sunday Accountability Report. I was at a conference run by Tom Callos for local martial arts school owners.

Tom is the leader of the Ultimate Black Belt Test and The One Hundred — two progressive martial arts associations. He’s my mentor and friend, and I’ve mentioned him before at this blog. His seminars are designed to help people improve how their schools are run, and the impact their dojos have in the local community.

I don’t run a martial arts school anymore. I teach a small group of private clients. However, Tom’s advice is applicable to many businesses.

Including the business of writing.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some thoughts and resources about how to better run your writing like a business. Right now, since Tom’s seminar included about three metric buttloads of getting thrown around the mat, I’ll just throw down a preview of topics before my arms give out entirely.

  1. Goal-based budgeting rather than income-based budgeting.
  2. The importance of metrics.
  3. New media opportunities for creative professionals.
  4. The scale of audience in the new pulp era.
  5. Lifestyle design.
  6. Life lessons from peaceful martial artists.
  7. Making your passion your profession.

Stay tuned, and start with the comments. These ideas work much better as a dialog than as a lecture.
Thanks for listening.


Doing it Right: Ian Scofield and “The Orphan”

Alert readers may have noticed that I spend a lot of time talking about how writing and publishing has changed in our New Pulp Era. Book deals are harder to get. Publishers are harder to impress. On the other hand, it’s easier and cheaper than ever for authors to go public without the help of a major house.

Ian Scofield, a novice but talented writer, is using a model I’ve mentioned in the past. He’s blogging the rough drafts of his fantasy novel to get feedback, build community and attract attention.

This is a great idea. I won’t go into too much detail about the book — you should instead follow this link  and see for yourself. But look at how much awesome Ian is bringing to the table with this plan…

  • He gets an audience who tells him, in real time, what works and what doesn’t.
  • He’s made promises to his readers about productivity…a sure-fire way to beat writer’s block.
  • Readers and subscribers give him numbers he can show to an agent or publisher, exponentially increasing his chances of a book deal.
  • He’s even hitting up readers for ideas with a page for suggestions as to what happens at crux points.

A great idea and well executed. If you like fantasy, I recommend checking it out for the book. If not, you should still nip over and see what Ian is doing. It’s a good model for success.

In a week or two, I hope to interview Ian in detail about the project, his thinking and his sources for ideas. Stay tuned.

Thanks for listening.

Review: Death Masks

So here’s the thing about Jim Butcher. He’s not a great writer. Jim uses phrases and vocabulary choices out of workshops for how not to imitate pulp writers. He’s straight-up B to B+ on a good day. Uses adverbs when simple description would be better. Chooses overly dramatic words like “gaze” and “horrific.” Tags his dialog with Tom Swifties, even when he’s not making a joke.


His pacing keeps me reading, piling on the tension and the fun. His characters are deep and interesting, even though sometimes archetypical. He uses legend — ancient and urban — in a way that adds texture and meaning to his books. I like Harry Dresden. A lot.

In this particular episode, he’s up against the Forces of Evil in the form of fallen angels. Fights along side some bad-ass knights and ends up shutting down O’Hare Airport for a few hours. A romp through mythology and mayhem you just don’t see so much anymore. Jim’s having fun. I’m having fun. So what it it isn’t Shakespeare?

Death Masks ranks between Bite Me and Ned the Seal  on this year’s fiction reading list, coming it at #4 for the year. It’s likely I’ll binge read the next few Harrys, so in fairness I’ll probably treat the series as one entry going forward.

If you’re new to Harry Dresden, start with Fool Moon. The basic premise is as follows. Imagine the world posited in Harry Potter, with all its magic and supernatural skulduggery. Imagine an adult wizard living in that world. Imagine he’s a pulp noir P.I. in Chicago.

That’s all you need to know.

TPS Report

Accountability went well this week on paper, but was primarily the result of a hard push this weekend. I seem to be falling into the habit of waiting until last minute, treating this weekly blog post like a college term paper deadline.  I may need to address the system and find a solution to that. Or get more aggressive about making sure I schedule my week appropriately.

At any rate, weekly progress report.

  • 6 of 6 “chunks” of money-earning content written
  • 5 of 5 acts of marketing: arranging link exchanges, applying for work, blog comments
  • 2 of 4 units of work on blogs. This has been a problem, but it’s not work load based. I’m stalling myself.
  • 3 of 3 units of work on book and article proposals.
  • 2 of 2 sessions of administrative work.
  • 1 piece of education action: expanded my understanding of SEO
Thanks for listening.