Another item I feel is important for your professional image is letterhead stationary. Subconsciously, editors are more impressed if your cover or query letter is typed on your own letterhead. There are a number of paper companies as well as office supply stores that stock four-color stationary. You can run it through your own laser or ink-jet printer to put on your letterhead and the body of your letter. If you have a color printer, you can type your own letterhead, complete with graphics. I use light beige paper, which I think looks professional, but you can use white paper just as easily. Even if a publisher requests a query letter by e-mail, I still use my letterhead stationery, which I keep electronically on my computer.
Business cards are another item you will need. These are convenient to hand out at writers’ conferences to editors and other writers with whom you want to keep in touch. These, too, can be created and printed on a laser or inkjet printer. Again, you can use four-color cards or plain white, depending on your budget. Also you can get these professionally printed economically today at local office stores or on websites such as www.overnightprints.com or www.vistaprint.com. I think it’s helpful to have your picture on your business card. That way if an editor met you at a conference, seeing your picture may trigger a remembrance. After all, you only look as professional as your query letter, business card, or manuscript does.
This concludes the series on the “Business Side of Writing.”
I can’t overemphasize the need to back up your work. I back up my current projects on a flash drive and on Dropbox, and then once a month I back everything for that month up on an external hard drive. Computers crash, and even if they don’t, you will most likely upgrade and not transfer all your old files over to a new computer.
Thus, I suggest always keeping a paper copy of everything. Buy a box of file folders and label them. If you are like me, you would rather write than organize files, but lack of organization can cost you precious hours of trying to locate information on an article you wrote several months or years ago.
Label one file for each project you are currently working on. Once an article or book is finished, continue to keep a file folder for it. Keep your research notes in it as well as tear sheets of publishing credits. Any research you have done for an article or book should be labeled in a manner that will help you find it quickly should you decide to write a second article or book on the same subject at a later date.
Also, set up files for ideas that pop into your mind, ones you don’t have time to develop yet. Whenever you find an article or story on a subject you intend to write on someday, place it in a file folder under that category.
I was recently looking for information I wrote 15 years ago, and it was only on a 3 ½ inch floppy disk. I don’t even have a drive to read those anymore! Thankfully I had a hard copy I could scan back into my computer.
People often tell me, “I don’t consider my writing a business. I just write for fun.” Yet, whether writing is a vocation or an avocation for you, treat it as a profession. Ideally, you should have a desk and a filing cabinet dedicated solely to your writing—an entire room is even better! Many writers, however, do not have this luxury.
Also, it is important to have a comfortable chair that adequately supports your back. Writing requires a lot of sitting. Be sure to get up and walk around at least once every hour, and look away from your computer screen every 15 minutes for a moment. The better shape you keep your body in, the sharper your mind will be for creating and editing. Try to work out at least three times a week for 40 minutes to an hour each time. Also be sure to exercise your fingers and flex your hands. Many writers developed carpal tunnel syndrome, and you want to avoid that.
Even if you don’t have an actual office location for your writing, you can still get the job done if you keep things in order. If you don’t have a metal filing cabinet, you can purchase a cardboard one at an office supply store inexpensively. Although you are writing on a computer today, it is still important to keep a hard copy of your work. Computers have a nasty habit of crashing, and often this happens before a person has everything backed up. I also suggest backing up your work on an auxiliary hard drive as well as on an Internet location such as Dropbox or Cloud.