PSWA Newsletter — March 2013

Editor’s Note

Marilyn Olsen, PSWA President, aka "The Queen"Since its founding in 1995, the Public Safety Writers Association has been managed entirely by volunteers.  No one is paid for the many hours each dedicates to this organization and each member of the Board of Directors and those who serve on committees plan and accomplish all the activities of the association.

One of our responsibilities is to create the quarterly newsletter that appears on this website in March, June, September and December.

This quarter, the newsletter features columns by each of the members of the PSWA board.  As always, we appreciate any feedback you, as readers, may have.  Just click on “Contact Us” on this site.

Marilyn Olsen, President
Public Safety Writers Association

An Anthology, What a Great Idea!
By Marilyn Olsen, President,

At last year’s PSWA conference, members were invited to submit entries for inclusion in Felons, Flames and Ambulance Rides, Stories from and about American’s Public Safety Heroes.  The overwhelming response proved, we think, that writers of many genres see the value of being included in an anthology.

For those of you who’ve never consider an anthology, here’s why you should.

Most anthologies, like this one, are prestigious.  Many apply, but not all are chosen, so if you are, you know you’re in good company.  Even if you’re at the stage in your writing career where you aren’t yet a household word, there’s a chance your work will end up in the anthology right next to someone a bit more famous.

Your work also benefits from the association with other writers, even if they write something very different than you do. So the buyer who chooses the anthology primarily because it includes the work of an author they already know and like, the odds are pretty good that since they already own the book, they’ll also read someone they don’t know.  And that someone could be you.

An anthology also offers you the challenge to write something to a specific word count.  Such writing requires that you practice your editing skills, taking out all that extraneous text that in most cases makes your work a whole lot better.  Thus, those who read your inclusion should be getting some of your best work.

Another good reason for being in an anthology is that it offers you the opportunity to write outside your comfort zone.  For example, if you’re a novelist, you have the chance to try writing a short story, non-fiction or poetry.  Because anthologies like this one also include the authors’ biographies, people who buy the anthology and like your work can easily find out what else you write.  The anthology serves as a nice marketing opportunity for you.

Speaking of marketing opportunities, inclusion in the anthology means you’ll have all those other writers out there promoting your work in addition to their own.  In this way, a poet may be selling your short story or a non-fiction writer may be selling your poetry.  This cross over marketing will expose your work to many buyers who might not ordinarily read the kind of thing you write.

Felons, Flames and Ambulance Rides, including more than 60 entries will be offered by Oak Tree Press in July, 2013 and all proceeds will benefit PSWA.  For those of you who are included, congratulations!  For those of you who will buy the book, well, you’re in for a treat!

Benefits of a Good Writers Group
By Keith Bettinger, PSWA Secretary

Keith Bettinger, PSWA SecretaryI’m a member of a local writers group here in Las Vegas.  We’re the Wednesday Warrior Writers.  The reason we picked that name is because ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out) was already taken.  In order to be a member of our group you must be invited to come to meetings by a group member.  After three meetings, the members decide if you are a comfortable fit.  If not, the group member who invited you is obligated to tell you, you have been declined membership.

There are a number of benefits for me to being a member of this group:

  1. We get to go out and have lunch together at least twice a month.
  2. We read our latest work to our members and get honest but gentle criticism.  Nothing is more destructive to writing than to have every sentence picked apart and rewritten by a person who knows little or nothing about the subject you are writing about.  Changes in writing are suggested with “hints” like “would it sound better if was written this way?  What do you think of making chapter one – chapter 2 and making chapter 2 chapter 1”?  Gentle questions to make the author think without being overly critical of their work.
  3. Ideas and solutions to storyline problems are solved.
  4. We help one another with getting published and make suggestions for publishers.
  5. We encourage non-writers to read books written by our group members.
  6. We do public service presentations for people interested in writing but who don’t know how to start.
  7. We produced an anthology of short stories about heroic and patriotic acts by people titled I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE… We edited, formatted, produced, published it and made it available for sale nationwide.  Instead of arguing over who gets paid how much for their stories, all eleven contributors donated their share of the profits to support the local Las Vegas USO facility located in McCarran Airport.
  8. Being in a group like ours keeps your mind sharp.  The sharper your mind, the better your writings will be, and the healthier you mind will continue to be.
  9. One of the things we do not discuss is politics.  There is no better way to lose control of a meeting than to have people arguing with one another and hurting one another’s feelings.  We are there because we are writers – not politicians.
  10. I have heard editors say authors do not like to let their work be edited because the story is their “baby”.  I have told people writings are not babies, they are puppies and sometimes they need to go to obedience school.  A good writers group is that obedience school.

Blogging and Blog Tours
By Marilyn Meredith, Member PSWA Board of Directors

Marilyn Meredith, PSWA DirectorBlogging is a good way to get the word out about your writing and your books—or anything else you want to write about. But if you want anyone to read your blog you must let people know about it and what topic you’re writing about.

Of course, put your blog address in your signature of your email. Not sure how many people actually get to your blog that way, but even if it’s only one, it’s worth it.

When you do a new blog, be sure to put the topic and the blog address on all the social sites you visit like Twitter and Facebook. Do it more than once a day. Some people only visit these sites in the morning or evening, you want to catch both.

If you have a blog you must change the content. I try to do it every day though sometimes that’s not possible. I love having guest authors.  Besides my own blog, I’m also on two others on the first and third Tuesdays of the month: the Stiletto Gang’s blog, and Make Mine Mystery.

I’ve been on a blog tour for each of my latest books and I must confess I’ve paid a blog touring company, Pump Up Your Promotions. There are lots of other blog tour outfits available. If you’re going that route be sure to check out the different prices and what is offered.

However, you can do a tour yourself. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s definitely possible. You want to find blogs that you like and are interested in the kind of books you write, books in general, or like to interview authors, and if you can find readers blog, all the better. Then you’ll have to ask the owner of the blog if she/he would be interested in hosting you during your blog tour. Of course you’ll have to have a calendar to keep track of the dates for each stop. It’s okay to have two stops in a day, but no more than that.

You’ll need a photo of yourself and your book cover, a short blurb about your book to send. Most blog owners know what they want from you. It might be a set of questions, an interview, or for you to write about a specific topic, but you want to make sure that you’ve included where your book can be purchased with a direct link. One new thing I did on my last two tours was to use different photos of myself, rather than my usual one. If you are holding a contest on your blog, be sure and advertise that too. I’ve offered free books—not the one you’re promoting, you want people to buy that one. A very popular prize is offering to the person who leaves the most comments to have his or her name used for a character in your next book.

Once your tour is set up, then you have to publicize it. Don’t give too many dates and blog sites out at once. Be sure and publicize the day before and of the tour. Also, go to the blog site to thank the person for hosting you. Go back more than once to see if anyone has posted a comment you’d like to address.

If you’re not ready for a blog tour yet but know you’d like to do one in the future, start making a list of the different blogs that you come across.

Sound like a lot of work? It is, but the pay off is getting your name and the name of your book out there. With any luck, what you’ve written on the various blogs will entice someone to buy your book.

Some things I learned on my last tour:

  • Captcha Codes are a big pain. They can keep people from promoting. I took mine off my blog—blogger catches most of the spammers.
  • Clue your host blog owner that they can post the blog ahead of time.
  • Email the host the day before the post to remind them.
  • Always check and make sure the post is actually up on the date it’s supposed to be.
  • Promote each blog on the day your post appears on Facebook, Twitter (several times), and your listservs.
  • Thank the host in the comment box, and go back periodically and check the comments—respond to them.

When the tour is over, when your royalties start coming in, you’ll be able to see how successful your tour was.

It Pays To Think Ahead:  Reasons to consider a three- year membership
By Nancy Farrar
PSWA treasurer

Nancy Farrar, PSWA TreasurerOur membership fees structure is as follows:

  • $55.00 for one year
  • $100.00 for two years  (saving you $10.00)
  • $135.00 for three years (saving you $30.00!!)

The three year membership gives you experience in both personal benefits and peace of mind.  You do not have to worry about whether you are a “member in good standing” (that means you are current and have not allowed your membership to lapse).  This is important when you enter the writing contest that is for members only and requires that you be a “member in good standing” at the time of the entry, as well as later when the awards are decided.  You do not want to enter, win and then find out your membership expired during the contest!!

It is also important to get the best rates for conference registration.

You can also submit your work for a special one-time free manuscript review at any time during your membership, no worries about a deadline for those of you who are racing to get a manuscript done in a year! (A service that is worth many times your membership cost, as many may attest.)

Your three-year membership also gives you plenty of time to get used to using the listserv and reaping the benefits of picking the brains of the group and putting those good references to use in your writing project –  three years to create bonds and friendships with a great group of fellow writers who understand your genre and are there to support and help as well as appreciate you for the special writer that you are striving to be.

We have been in existence since 1997, if you are worried about our longevity.  Our strengths are the commitment and common goal of our all-volunteer board of directors and committee persons, to share and assist fellow members with our writing.  Having a shared knowledge base is an extraordinary thing to be a part of.

Your three year membership renewal gives you the security of knowing all this and more is at your fingertips without time slipping away and oops, your membership has lapsed!  Save yourself time, money and have that peace of mind that comes with having one more part of your life secured.

So, if you have been ignoring that invoice as a “when I get around to it”, think ahead to all that you will be missing. Renew for three years and you can sit back with one less thing to “niggle” at your mind when you could be writing and reaping the benefits!!


The Four  Best Reasons for Entering the PSWA Writing Competition
By Michelle Perin
PSWA Contest Chair

Michelle-Perin-new-250If you don’t enter, you can’t win

This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. You can’t win an award if you don’t submit a story, poem, screenplay, article, book, etc. (we have lots of categories-published and non-published. No excuses. Everybody’s work fits in somewhere). I once heard a coach tell my son, “You’ll never make a goal, if you don’t touch the puck.” This makes sense in the literary world too. Even if you don’t win an award, most entries still get Judge’s Comments. Use this advice to tighten up your writing and become better at the craft.

You get snazzy stickers and a photo op with the tallest girl in the Association

Who doesn’t love gold foil stickers that tell everyone you are an “Award-Winning Author”? Well, if you don’t love them then you don’t have to have any (more for me to love). When you place in the PSWA writing competition, you get these snazzy stickers to put on your works (or your computer or your dashboard). When you attend the awards ceremony on the Sunday of the annual writing conference, you also get the opportunity to have a picture taken with me, the tallest girl in the Association (I will take my high heels off so that you come up to at least my chin if you request). These photos are great for marketing your book or showing everyone how freakishly tall your Association contest chairperson is. Whichever, I’m okay with that.

You can count yourself among great company

We are part of a unique and distinguished association because our authors are unique and distinguished. Therefore, those who have won awards are among your esteemed colleagues. I won’t name names because I’d leave someone out and alienate my friends (they’d also probably leave me standing by myself at the opening reception) but I assure you we have winners with impressive bios. The other thing that makes our members and winners distinguished is that each and every one is willing to help out their fellow writers. We are uniquely non-competitive. We want to see each other succeed and will do everything we can to assist in that.

You get to say “I’m an award-winning author”

Writers are connoisseurs of words. I’ve found this to not only be true on the written page but also verbally. We love to toot our own horns. After all, most of our work is done in isolation. Our projects spring from our minds without the help of others (except for many those who work in collaboration but I’m not really sure how those stories mingle. Maybe the authors are telepathic and the characters jump back and forth between them). I don’t believe anything makes an author feel more distinguished than being able to tell another person that they are an award-winning author (this works particularly well when you are dressed to the nines at a fancy dinner party, have a glass of champagne in your hand and are talking in a phony British accent). And, if you are one of those shy types who don’t like to talk to others, you can always write it down in fancy calligraphy on a piece of paper and shove it at others across the table.

Whatever your reason-enter the contest!! It’ll be fun and you just might come out an Award-Winning Author.

The Importance of Belonging
By A.J. Farrar, PSWA Vice President

A.J. Farrar, PSWA Vice PresidentAs I began my research for this PSWA Newsletter assignment from our Queen, “The Importance of Belonging.”  I was drawn to my most frequently used research tool – Bing.  As you may know, it is available at the click of a button whenever you are working with Microsoft Office tools such as Word and even Outlook.  Top on the Bing results tab was “The Importance of Belonging – imagine” copyrighted by David Pitonyak and available for review at Mr. Pitonyak focuses on the importance of belonging and quotes Simon Weil – “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.”

Next, I probed where I found this very interesting posting:

“Belonging is a necessity for humans, as we grow, as we travel through life, we feel the need to belong. Belonging is an important part of life as by belonging we feel complete and some may even see their purpose in belonging. However sometimes through this overpowering desire to belong we are forced to sacrifice some of our individuality. This is not necessarily a bad thing as we may learn new things from this sacrifice or further develop ourselves.

An example is from J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, the protagonist Holden Caulfield has this strong desire to conform, so much that when he meets a boy’s mother from his school (Pency Prep) whom he actually perceives as “one of the biggest bastards that ever went to Pency.”, he tells the boy’s mother that her son is “a very sensitive boy”, thus telling her his name is Rudolf Schmidt, the name of their janitor.

It is a desire to conform which drives us to do certain things which we may not do if we were alone. Teenagers are a great example. If parents do not ensure that their children feel like they belong by allowing them to join clubs and sporting teams, their teens may find teenagers from other places such as gangs or cults. HOWEVER this does NOT mean every teenager that doesn’t join clubs gains belonging by joining gangs and cults.

Belonging is human nature and without it we may feel something missing, to fulfill this category of completing ourselves we strive to gain this sense of belonging….”

Then, I reflected on my experiences with the PSWA. If belonging is “…the most important and least recognized need of the human soul”…, then, clearly, the PSWA fills a needed void.

Back in the 1980’s, when Nancy and I first joined the former Police Writers Club (PWC) for our first conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, I was a little concerned that we might not fit into this specialized writing group. Although I had been encouraged to seek out similar writing expertise and people by my local Ventura County Writing Group orientation, I still wasn’t sure that I would fit.  My writing credits only consisted of a handful of law enforcement journal articles up to then.

When we arrived in Williamsburg for that first conference and we were met by PWC Founder, Roger Fulton and his assistant, Ginny Harrell, we were immediately put at ease. It was clear from the first introductions that this was a group worth affiliating with even back then.

Each year since then, belonging to the PSWA and attending the annual conference has paid numerous dividends.

In the ensuing years, PSWA has broadened its focus and become even more embracing of a variety of backgrounds, writing skills and expertise. If you have attended even one conference during these years, you know first-hand what it is like to be accepted and belong to a very supportive and understanding group of people.

From the personal to the professional level, PSWA encourages all members to aspire be the very best writers possible.  To help them accomplish their personal and professional goals, the group perfectly addresses the human need to belong.

Why The Truth About Cops was published as an eBook
The answer is simpler than you might think

By Tim Dees,
Member, PSWA Board of Directors

Tim-DeesHer Most August and Imperious Extremely High Majesty Queen Marilyn (blessings be on her head and elsewhere) recently issued an edict that certain PSWA board members compose assigned articles for the newsletter. This one, characterized in its title as more or less the way it was assigned, is my response.

I didn’t set out to have The Truth About Cops to be a book at all. TTAC started as the oeuvre of my responses to questions posted on Quora, a question-and-answer blog that covers every topic imaginable. My responses seemed to resonate with Quora users and eventually with the site’s staff.

Quora maintains a presence on at least two other popular blogs, and The Huffington Post. Because of their wider appeal (for HuffPo, maybe not so much with my conservative friends), the posts that Quora selects to appear there get considerably greater exposure. Quora chose several of my posts for publication on the satellite sites, and these got the attention of the folks at Hyperink Press in San Francisco. Hyperink is a unique publisher. It specializes in blog-to-books, taking from a medium that didn’t even exist a few years ago.

Because there are literally millions of blogs (an estimated 31 million in the U.S. alone), most of them don’t get attention from anyone except the bloggers themselves, and maybe a few people within their sphere of interest. Others, like HuffPo, have become wildly popular and profitable. More than any other feature of the Internet, blogs have stolen power from traditional publishers and handed it to the common man. Anyone can create a blog, and yours is just as easy to access as is HuffPo. Everyone speaks with an equal voice, even if they don’t reach as many ears.

Hyperink recognized that there is a market for blog posts condensed into books. Their primary focus is non-fiction eBooks on topics ranging from personal fitness to atheism, with considerable emphasis on technical topics. Most of their properties start life as eBooks, with dead tree versions sold through Createspace and Amazon.

eBooks are to publishing what downloadable software is to computers. They are composed almost entirely of intellectual property with no investment in paper, printer’s labor, or shipping. In mid-2011, Amazon sales of eBooks surpassed print books for the first time, and the sales gap between the two ever widens. The proliferation of inexpensive dedicated eBook readers like the Nook and the Kindle has helped this trend along, but eBooks also benefit from the ability to read them on tablet and conventional computers and on smartphones. I haven’t invested in an eBook reader for myself yet, but I have 27 eBooks presently residing on my iPhone, which is never very far away from me. I’m far more likely to finish reading an eBook than a print book unless I’m on vacation and carrying a book around all the time.

So to address the original question: I published TTAC as an eBook because that’s Hyperink’s specialty is, and what they offered. The print version was available through Amazon about a month after the eBook was published, albeit at a premium of 166% of the eBook price.

Would I recommend Hyperink as a publisher? Absolutely. They are easy to deal with and personable, and their royalty rates compare favorably with other publishers. You’ll be responsible for promotion beyond the Hyperink website, but that’s mostly the case with other small publishers.

I’ll be talking more about the blog-to-book phenomenon at the annual conference in July. I hope to see you there.


6 thoughts on “PSWA Newsletter — March 2013

  1. Wonderful information! I’m bummed Kathy Bennett isn’t going to the conference this year! I’d love to meet her in person! I feel like I know her from KOD. But, I can’t wait to meet everyone else!

  2. This newsletter reflects why PSWA is such great organization. It’s the leadership and interest these people display to this association and its members. Thank you for your dedication and the effort you put in every year and I look forward to seeing again in Las Vegas.

  3. Great job everyone! Lots of useful information.

    Sorry I won’t be able to see you this year in Vegas. Hopefully, it will work out next year.

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