American Society of Journalists and Authors PNW

Newsletter 2019-03

For ASJA members in
Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon and Washington 
March 2019

In This Issue

From the Prez, Assorted Notes, M. Carolyn Miller,
ASJA PNW President
Welcome to our Washington Members
What’s the Easiest Route to Enter Self-Publishing?, Randy Stapilus
Professional Services: A Hot Market for Writers, James Carberry
April Meeting Preview: Everything You Wanted to Know About Trello, Michelle Rafter
Did You Know?
What’s Happening

From the President

by M. Carolyn Miller

ASJA PNW Chapter President

Assorted Notes

At our last ASJA Portland Chapter meeting, in February 2019, I was reminded of the expertise and ingenuity of our Chapter members, and the writing careers they have carved out for themselves.

As we went around the table (at our new meeting location at Urban Co-Working), each of us shared our “News and Needs.” In that circle of camaraderie, I came away, as always, with renewed motivation.

As I launch a new website, and grapple with this next iteration of my online identity, our gathering gave me some personal takeaways, be it to carve out my own unique niche, as Randy Stapilus has done, or to name what I love to do—visual summaries and infographics—as “visual journalism” or some variation thereof, as Michelle Rafter suggested.

“Our monthly meetings…remind me of the value of face-to-face gatherings..”

As we talked around the table and looked out at a lush garden, members shared marketing ideas, freelance markets and platforms, pay rates (AARP’s is $3/word) and creative marketing strategies (join an industry association and be, in essence, the “only writer in the room”).

This is why I love our monthly meetings. They remind me of the value of face-to-face gatherings, value that can’t always be found online.

We hope to create more opportunities for that to occur. In fact, we’re planning a weekend conference that will include both networking and informational sessions, located convenient to both Oregon and Washington members. Please, send us your ideas!

Until then, there’s room at the table for you to join us at our next monthly meeting, March 20.

M. Carolyn Miller, MA, spent her career designing narrative- and game-based learning. Today, she writes about the role of narrative in our lives and world, the inextricable link between the two, and the role of self-awareness in transforming both.

by Randy Stapilus

What’s the easiest route to enter self-publishing?

Publishing a book has become nearly as simple as posting on a blog – certainly much simpler than writing one. 

That is, if you’re publishing an e-book.

Here are a few things I’ve learned so far.

E-book publishing is simple enough that I do it routinely if I’m also publishing a print book — and even if I’m not.

It’s another way of putting work out there, with only a little effort and little or no cost including the cover design and proofreading. Formost purposes, you can use low- or no-cost software to create a simple but attractive cover. You can hire a professional proofreader at a reasonable cost.

The publishing process

A Word file – or a close equivalent – or a PDF file usually is enough to start. (Note the implicit asterisk at “usually”.)

Here are your self-publishing routes: (The services listed here are free. There are others that will do e-book conversions for a fee, but there’s no practical need to pay them.)

Kindle Direct Publishing

  • sign in, or sign up, at Amazon’s subsidiary Kindle Direct Publishing,
  • migrate to the tabs for launching a new book project,
  • fill in the blanks and
  • upload your file.

That done, and after correcting any errors the Amazon software encounters, your book is ready to go. It will appear as a Kindle book in the Amazon store.

Other options
Of course, not everyone uses Kindle.

There are a bunch of e-book options out there, including Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the Apple e-reader, Kobo and others, all of which use different formats.

No problem: Reaching them is actually not much more complicated than the Kindle conversion.

Converting to e-book formats
Several websites handle the conversions of original documents into all these different e-book formats, and I’ve used two of them several times. They’re Smashwords and Draft2Digital.

The venerable and respected Smashwords has software it affectionately calls the “meatgrinder” that translates your book into the popular e-book formats.

Smashwords takes your original files, simultaneously converts them to all the major formats, and then even submits them to the marketplaces that use those formats. That’s how easy it is to get into the Apple and Barnes & Noble stores, for example.  

Smashwords can be a little exacting to use. But there’s an even simpler alternative, Draft2Digital, It offers the same services as Smashwords, and submits them to the same marketplaces.

Randy Stapilus is a writer, editor and book publisher in Carlton, OR. Follow him on twitter @stapilus..

by James Carberry

Professional Services Firms: A Hot Market for Writers

Professional services firms are in the business of what author Harry Beckwith called “Selling the Invisible,” the title of his classic book on services marketing.

Unlike companies that sell products, these firms sell accounting, law, financial planning, architecture, engineering, IT consulting, management consulting and many other services. And businesses spend millions of dollars a year to tap into the brainpower in these firms. 

Where writers come in
Professional services firms are in a very competitive business. To win clients, and keep current clients, they must show they’re smarter and savvier than their competitors.

To do that, firms are creating content — lots of content. They’re hiring writers to help them write blogs, studies, white papers, presentations, proposals and other content about big issues like climate change and automation and everyday issues like workforce training.

How to get work
If you’re interested in writing for professional services firms, here’s one way to go about it.

1. Do  your research.
Learn about the professional services sector from government, private and other sources.  SelectUSA, a program of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides an overview.

2. Select a service line.
From your research, decide which type of firm you want to write for such as law or accounting.

3. Learn about firms.
Learn about firms in the service line you’ve chosen. Check out the firms’ websites and social media pages. Read industry blogs, professional journals, business publications and other media.

4. Target firms.
Make a list of firms you’ve decided to target, and whom to contact in the firm. You could start with small firms and move up to the mid-size and biggest firms.

It’s not only a firm’s size that’s important but its reputation as well. Fortune magazine, for example, has published a list of the top companies in consulting and professional services.

5. Contact people.
Reach out to people you’ve selected in a firm: partners, managers, marketing people and others. Contact them through LinkedIn or other social media channels. Write letters of introduction. Ask people in your networks for referrals.

6. Get known.
Write for professional journals. Join professional associations. Keep your profile on your website, social media pages, and other places.up to date so firms and job agencies can find you. (I once got a well paying assignment from a law firm through an agency that found me on

Going forward
As you become better known in a services sector, and gain more experienced in writing for its firms, you’ll be able to ask for higher fees. Firms expect you to bill by the hour or by the project,. Depending on the firm, the equivalent on a per-word basis would be $2 to $3 a word.

James Carberry was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and, later in his career, an inhouse writer for Ernst & Young (EY), one of the “Big 4” accounting firms. He writes a blog that provides tips to businesses on hiring professional writers. 

by Michelle Rafter

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Trello

More markets for writers are using online collaboration platforms and tools to manage projects and workflow, forcing freelancers to learn how to use them, like it or not.

At the April 17th meeting, ASJA Portland chapter member and veteran tech writer Michelle Rafter will give a demo of one of these platforms, Trello.

Her presentation will include basics on the platform, and examples of how writers use it as part of client teams, and to organize their own time and clips.

This is a preview of a session on collaboration platforms that Rafter will present at the ASJA national conference on Sunday, May 5.

Come and get a sneak peek!

Michelle Rafter is a Portland-based business reporter and ghostwriter.
Follow her on Twitter.

Did You Know?

You can find job opportunities on in the Forum titled Jobs, Jobs, Jobs?

Employers recently have posted openings for, among others, a finance writer, a health and wellness writer, a social media editor, a fitness writer and a cannabis writer.

To learn more, go to the ASJA Member-Only Forum page (or, in Search, type Forums).

Did You Know?

AWP conference
The Association of Writers & Writing Programs will hold its 2019 AWP Conference & Book Fair March 27-30 at the Oregon Convention Center. Thousands of teachers, students, editors, writers and publishers are expected to attend.

Oregon Book Awards
Bestselling author Cheryl Strayed will host the Literary Arts 2019 Oregon Book Awards Ceremony on April 22. She’s the author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

ASJA 48th Annual Writers Conference
May 5-6 at the New York Marriott Downtown. It will feature four tracks of interactive, dynamic programming focused on journalism, content marketing, books, and the business of writing, with sessions for freelancers at all phases in their careers. 

2019 Seattle Writing Workshop
April 27 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Seattle Bellevue. This full-day, “How to Get Published” writing event will cover publishing opportunities today, how to write queries and pitches, how to market yourself and your books and more.

Willamette Writers Conference
Aug. 2-4 at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel. The full workshop list of presentations, keynotes, and industry professionals will be released this month.

PNWA (Pacific NorthWest Writers Association) Conference
September 12-15 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Seattle Airport Hotel. Click on the links on the Conference home page for the schedule and other information.

Writer Meetups has a list of writer meetups in the Portland area.
And in the Seattle area.

Eventbrite has a list of creative writing workshops in Portland.
And in the Seattle area.


EDITOR: Maxine Cass
PROOFREADER: Catherine Kolonko


*All stories are copyright by their respective writers.
*All photographs and illustrations are copyright by their creative makers.
*All rights are reserved to each of them for their own material.