Maryann Miller is the Managing Editor at WinnsboroToday.
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
Actually, I started my professional writing and editing career long before digital publishing was even a glimmer in some techie’s eye. I wrote with pen and paper — remember those? And moved into the computer and digital work late in the 80s when personal computers were becoming almost as common as the toaster in many American homes.
My first computer was a Kaypro that came with a humongous dot matrix printer that took almost all day to print out a 400-page manuscript. Still, that was better than having to type 400 pages on my old Smith Corona typewriter.
Have I mentioned that I am older than dirt?
After I retired from my full-time job as a hospital chaplain in about 2001 and became earnest about establishing myself as a freelance editor, I started editing on the computer and sending manuscripts back and forth with clients via the Internet. By then, I had upgraded to newer computers and smaller printers, and I was so glad that documents could be shared electronically. That has made the whole process of writing and editing and marketing so much faster. And it has saved a few trees.
Have I mentioned that I am a tree-hugger?
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
My work day varies depending on whether I am editing for a client or working on one of my own books. I have a home office, so I go to work shortly after I finish breakfast and work until lunchtime. Lunch break can last an hour, or longer if I have errands to run and decide to go out. Sometime later in the day, I will be back in my office for at least an hour or more to continue working.
I try to limit my time on social media to a half hour in the morning, again in the afternoon, and then another half hour in the evening. Of course, that can vary if I am promoting a new book or a special sale on one of my books, or supporting another author by sharing their promotion.
My website is maryannwrites.com and links to my social media pages are on the home page. The blog, It’s Not All Gravy, has a mix of humor, book reviews, general commentary, and author interviews. I firmly believe that what we do on social media should be 5% selling and 95% sharing things of interest.
The title of the blog comes from a newspaper column I wrote many moons ago — see above note about being older than dirt. The column was a weekly humorous opus focusing on family and family life. I often joked that I did that to save my sanity while raising five kids. At the time the column started, my twins were just a bit under three years old. Life at our house could often be like a circus.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE? (YOUR APPS, PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS, ETC.)
(Your Apps, Productivity Tools, etc.) My office is equipped with a personal computer, a laser printer, and a color printer that also works as a scanner and copier. I have an eeePC laptop for portability of work, and I have used it when interviewing clients that I meet in person. Two recent books that I edited have been historical in nature and the man who had the stories did not have a computer with which to send me material. In addition to what he told me that I entered into my laptop, he gave me handwritten pages that I then read into my main computer via DragonNaturallySpeaking. That is so much faster and easier than having to type numerous pages.
Being able to connect with clients via the Internet has opened my editing business to clients across the U.S. and other countries. It was really exciting to get a client from Nigeria, especially when she was so pleased with my editing, as she had been apprehensive about working with an American editor. I will soon be editing her third book.
Microsoft TrackChanges has also been a godsend. That has speeded up the process of editing and clients can easily see my edits and suggested changes. When I am working with an editor on one of my books, I also really like the track changes feature.
My desk is often cluttered with papers and notes. A writer friend once told me that a cluttered desk is a sign of creativity, and I try my best to live up to that. The desk is also often cluttered with cats. They do like to sit on the desk and watch “cat TV” out the office window.
WHAT DO YOU TO GET INSPIRED?
Connecting to other writers via Internet writing groups, or a writing group that meets locally is always inspiring. Attending conferences and networking also gives a creative boost, and I always return home eager to get back to work on a story.
I also firmly believe that all creative endeavors contribute to what your main work is, so I like to dabble in art, play music, and am very involved in live theatre, both in the audience and on stage. I think of our personal creativity being like a well that will go dry if we only take water out and never fill it back up again. And creativity is not just for the arts, it applies to anything that people do that takes imagination, innovation and the courage to try something new.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
One of my favorite quotes is this from Cicero: “A room without a book is like a body without a soul.” That just rings so true to me, and I have the quote on my business cards and on other promotional material.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING/INNOVATIVE THING YOU HAVE SEEN ON ANOTHER OUTLET OTHER THAN YOUR OWN?
When it comes to digital publishing of books, I am very impressed with what the folks at Draft2Digital do. Their website is so easy to navigate, and it is attractive to the eye. Readers can easily find their next favorite read, and authors can track sales with one quick mouse-click.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?
My best advice as it applies to anything, including digital publishing and changing media outlets, is never say “no” to an opportunity. That was a sage bit of advice given to me by Liz Carpenter, former press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson, and the advice has served me well as I have moved through my career. I have not allowed myself to be stymied by technology, even learning how to maintain an online community magazine almost 20 years ago. When it comes to technology, things change at such a rapid pace now that we have to be open to new programs and new devices.