May I be of professional service to you?

March 19th, 2017

Greetings, friend! Like a proper hired gun should, from time to time I post here to tell people what I’m good at, what I can do for them, and what sorts of gigs I’m looking for. (Plus there’s a part at the end that tells you how you can help!)

What it boils down to:

  • I help companies—especially B2B tech companies—get better at content marketing so they can appeal to their customers more successfully.
  • I help authors and literary agents by outlining, ghostwriting, and editing book proposals and full manuscripts to make them great.

My Two Superpowers

After many years in business, I can tell you that I’m really, really good at two things:

  1. Learning a client’s offerings—even complex technical ones—and their customers’ needs quickly, then helping the client figure out the best ways to talk about how those offerings solve their customers’ business
  2. Writing top-quality prose that conveys the material from #1 with zero jargon, and without sounding like either a marketing pitch or a technical manual.

Note how this applies to book projects as well: pick up the topic on the fly ==> understand the audience ==> help the author convey the right messages in their own voice to that audience.

Content Marketing

For some years now, I’ve earned most of my living as a content marketing consultant, primarily for B2B hardware and software companies. I consider myself a “full-stack” content marketer, meaning that I can help you with:

  • Content Strategy — Do you have your brand messaging worked out, but don’t know how it translates to your ongoing content needs? Are you having trouble getting all of your company materials (website, white papers, blog posts, video scripts, sales decks, . . . ) to sing from the same hymnbook? Maybe you’re rebranding, or introducing a new product line, and you realize that it’s time to evaluate and refresh your content across the board? That’s where I come in.
  • Editorial Planning — The best strategy in the world won’t help you until it’s translated into tasks that can be assigned and tracked week to week. This is especially helpful if you have people in-house (marketers, product managers, engineers good at writing, et al.) who can do some of the content creation . . . but you don’t have anyone on board with the time and the know-how to bring it all together. I can help you turn content strategy into an editorial plan with a clear editorial calendar that allows your team to deliver great, relevant material on time.
  • Cornerstone Pieces of Content — Maybe it’s your new corporate video that needs a better script. Maybe it’s an exemplar e-book. Maybe it’s a series of posts to set the tone for your blog. I’ve helped many clients clarify their approach to content by writing initial pieces that hit all the marks and serve as examples for what their own staff members can write going forward.
  • Ongoing Writing — And then sometimes clients just need high-quality articles, white papers, blog posts, and so on month after month. I’ve been writing and editing for publication for almost thirty years, and I’m always happy to help out with these nitty-gritty details.

I have no interest in running marketing campaigns, analytics, or SEO for anybody, much less in serving as a marketing director, but I love helping devise, organize, and create the content that will serve all of those other functions. In my best client relationships, I’m able to act as an extended member of the marketing team and help clients punch above their weight without needing to bring on new permanent employees. (I don’t come cheap, but contracting for a slice of my time is still a lot less expensive than hiring a full-time employee, much less one with my background.)

Ghostwriting and Editing

Lately I’ve been doing a lot more work on other people’s books. This includes:

  • Editing — I do developmental editing in both fiction and nonfiction, as well as copy editing across all genres.
  • Ghostwriting — I enjoy working with authors who have expertise and stories to share, but who need a pro writer to tune up their prose and help them get their voice onto the page.
  • Outlines & Proposals — One of the best ways to get started on nonfiction books, I find, is to do a limited engagement to nail down the outline or proposal. Happy to talk with authors or literary agents about what I can do for them in this vein.

My Ideal Gig

Given my omnivorous curiosity, my long experience bridging print journalism, academic research, business analysis, and marketing, and my fascination with storytelling, I’m game to consider just about any project in the categories above that piques my interest and pays at a premium rate.

My perfect corporate client would be a small B2B tech startup, or a small unit within a bigger tech company, that offers something genuinely innovative for solving customers’ problems. My clients often have marketing leadership and even content programs in place, but they know they need help unifying and clarifying their approach and then spreading that across various genres and media types to support their business goals. Given my range of experience, this often goes well beyond typical editorial work into, for instance, heavy revision of enterprise sales decks and scripting for webinars.

Ideally, I like to work with a handful of ongoing clients at a time, typically in the range of mid-four-figures to low-five-figures per month. That said, I’ve operated under all kinds of arrangements—by the project, on retainer, and so on—and I’m happy to discuss what would work best for you. Sometimes, a quick, lower-commitment starter piece or a bit of consulting billed by the hour is just the thing for us to get to know each other and figure out how well we fit for bigger projects.

Need Something? Know of Anything Relevant?

“But, Tim,” I can hear you saying, “how can I help make gigs and paychecks rain down on you?”

Aren’t you nice? I’m so glad you asked!

First, please think about the work to be done in the coming months by you and any organizations you work with—certainly including your employer, but extending to professional associations, nonprofits, and so on. What are the projects on your horizon that would benefit from the work of a writer, editor, and marketer with my skill set?

Second, please take a minute right now to think of two—just two—people you know well who I don’t already know who might be in the market for what I offer in the coming months, and then introduce me to them. A three-line e-mail copying us both and pointing to this post could be just the thing.

Third, please feel free to reply privately with any other ideas you have about my work, how I can market myself 1-on-1, or even how I could refine or clarify what I’ve said in this post. (My e-mail address is there in the sidebar.)

And, truly, . . . THANK YOU. I really do get by with a little help from my friends.

Start with the state houses.

January 17th, 2017

Yesterday I opined that, no, Americans—and American progressives—are not “doomed” by the incoming Administration. We’re certainly not helped, but it’s not the end.

Where, then, do we begin? I suggest that, while remaining vigilant and activist about what’s happening in Washington, progressives would do well to focus on local and state races.

This is hardly original advice on my part, and it’s hardly new. Here in Texas, Democrats have gone 0-for-the-21st-century in capturing any of the statewide electoral seats. (Y’all please correct me if I’ve overlooked some stray winner in there.) And it hasn’t been any better in the Texas Lege.

That trend applies nationwide, as Amber Phillips explains in this informative Washington Post article written just after the 2016 general election:

These 3 maps show just how dominant Republicans are in America after Tuesday

Note that the G.O.P. has this dominant position—such that about 80% of the country’s population lives in states whose governments are controlled by Republicans—even though Democrats win just as many votes, or even more votes, in the aggregate. (Exhibit A: Hillary Clinton’s large but ultimately irrelevant margin in the popular vote.)

So, what to do? Put more effort and money into the grind-it-out work that needs to happen at the grassroots level. Support and cultivate local candidates; take back seats.

It’s a long road, especially because movement conservatives have been focused on these efforts for decades (see the Phillips article for more details), and their entrenched position puts them in control for redistricting that benefits them after the 2020 Census. (The same thing happened after the last two rounds of the Census, too, which helps explain the bigger problem.)

But what else are we going to do—give up? No.

Long road. Lots of work. But worth it.


January 16th, 2017

The other day I had a discussion with a Twitter acquaintance who’s of the opinion that the United States—and especially any progressive agenda within it—is doomed.

Though I wasn’t able to shake his pessimism, his take on this is wrong, for at least two reasons:

  1. Mordor, this ain’t. (Compare current conditions to the picture above.) Not to make light of the political situation or the cruel steps being taken by the President-Elect and the majority in Congress, and not being any kind of a Pollyanna, but: have some perspective.
  2. Even if it were Mordor . . . that’s not the way to think about it, for important psychological reasons.

Cynicism tends to breed doubt and inaction. After all, if we really are doomed, then why even try?

Realism tinged with an optimistic openness to good things that might happen if we try—which is another way of invoking the Stockdale Paradox—is the right approach.

Yes, things are bad. Bad enough that we can’t sit back and wait for them to get better, or take for granted even those cherished institutions and norms that seemed the most entrenched up to now. (Can you even imagine Eisenhower, Reagan, or Obama shouting down a reporter at a press conference? It’s sickening.)

But also . . . there are things we can do. There are. There ARE.

My Twitter interlocutor said something about holding out for Michelle in 2020, by which I take it to mean that he hopes Michelle Obama will run for the Democratic nomination then. As much as I respect Mrs. Obama, my friend’s wish should hardly be the centerpiece of anyone’s approach, because it relies on a singular political savior (long odds on that) and puts off the next inflection point for action by four years.

It seems fitting to be thinking about this on the day we choose to commemorate Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. There’s a reason he titled his 1963 book Why We Can’t Wait.

And remember, those of you who are fantasy buffs, that it was within the bowels of Mt. Doom itself that Frodo destroyed the One Ring.

If we have reached Mordor, so be it. Let’s continue the work.

My Year in Reading: 2016

December 31st, 2016

It wasn’t great. While I did read some really nice books this year, plus lots of rewarding shorter stuff (mostly in The New Yorker and The Ringer or via links encountered on Twitter), I only finished . . . thirteen books. In fact, it’s been eight years since I read as many as twenty books in any calendar year.

That’s just not cutting it.

As I look back at the reading notebook I’ve kept for the past twenty years, it’s not hard for me to recall the prevailing conditions that have led me to read more books (graduate school, daily bus commutes) or fewer (social media).

For 2017, I’m creating my own prevailing conditions for reading more, starting with a commitment to spend much less time—and radically less grazing time—on social media. Here are some other things I’m doing:

  • rearranging my office slightly
  • setting calendar reminders
  • creating a specific “Read These Next” list for my computer desktop, with separate categories for research, fiction, general nonfiction, and other things like poetry and graphic novels
  • moving my Kindle and Goodreads apps front and center on my phone and tablet

And now I’m reinforcing all of that by telling all of you that my goal is to average reading one book per week for 2017.

What’s your reading goal for the new year?

Photo by Hernán Piñera, shared via a Creative Commons license

What’s your default mode?

December 26th, 2016

Cards on the table: I’ve decided to make my default mode writing-for-publication as a means of discovery.

(Or maybe I should label that “Fair Warning!” for those of you who decide to follow me. ;)

Here’s a thing I’ve discovered about myself as a writer: Setting aside some private correspondence with friends, family, and clients, everything I write needs to be composed with an eye toward eventual publication. Even morning pages, journal entries, and the like can be reshaped into something that helps others along the way.

What I’ve been doing up until now includes lots of introspective scribbling—what I call “noodling”—that doesn’t help much. I mean, it can be useful in its way, but I find that I tend to circle around topics rather than working all the way through them. It’s an unproductive sort of navel-gazing. That’s not fruitful for me or for others. From where I sit, we need a lot of fruitful thinking captured in prose (and poetry, and scripts, and every other artistic form) that frees us from the traps of division we’ve caught ourselves in.

Writing for an audience also includes a solid dose of introspection for me, but framed in a way to connect it with others’ concerns. It takes me out of solipsism into something much more fruitful. It performs work.

The practical implications of this? More minutes per day spent writing (that number of minutes should be in the hundreds for me, every single day, yet often it’s in the tens), and more pieces published here, in other venues, and ultimately in the form of books. You should expect to see more essays, more stories, more poems, more tweets, and my first books in 2017.

Lots of people write; many people want to write; some people were meant to write. This is me staking out my turf as a member of that last category.

A mercenary appeal: If there’s something you want me to write for you, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

An artistic/political appeal: If there’s some topic you want me to pursue in my work because you think I’d do a good job with it, please let me know that, too.

Now, over to you:

  • What has your default mode been?
  • What should it be?

Thoughts on ARRIVAL

December 12th, 2016

[No spoilers here.]

Yesterday I went to see Arrival. I thought it was very good. In particular:

  • Really interesting script
  • Fine cinematography
  • Excellent cast (Renner, I like; Adams and Whitaker are longtime faves of mine, and they’re very good here.)
  • Truly outstanding sound design

But what I liked most about the movie is that it is unabashedly pro-intellectual. Without giving anything away, Adams and Renner play professors (a linguist and a physicist, respectively) whose job it is to understand the aliens who have come to visit Earth.

They’re not intellectualizing things for the sake of it, or theorizing to theorize. They’re faced with a huge, highly practical problem, and they lead teams of brainy people (supported by highly professional soldiers) trying to unravel that problem.

Why I think this is important

For a long time now — and especially recently — we’ve been subjected to a narrative that people who think (and who think for a living) somehow aren’t “real people.” That’s a false, divisive, and counterproductive notion.

Having worked with my hands, and coming from people who do, I have great respect for that work. It’s vital and honorable. Besides the need for physical toughness, there’s often a lot of creativity, resourcefulness, and mental toughness that goes into that work.

But brainwork is also vital and honorable. And, crucially, it’s real. Arrival underlines the importance of that.

We’re facing a lot of problems these days, from racism to climate change to terrorism. We need everybody’s talents to solve them. That doesn’t mean Ph.D.s should talk down to the rest of us, or that intellectuals should call all the shots. But we need creative brainpower and deep knowledge now more than ever.

All of this ought to be obvious. Arrival reminds us that it isn’t.

Filling my dance card with writing work.

April 17th, 2016


Greetings, esteemed blog visitor!

Life and work have been treating me well. That said, with some big projects recently wrapped up, I do have unclaimed space on my dance card for the coming months.

In other words: Need a writer? Know of someone who needs a writer?

For lo these 17 years gone by, my work has spanned traditional journalism (I love writing magazine features), content marketing, corporate copywriting, and B2B brand journalism for hardware and software companies. Clients and editors come back to me for my ability to help people understand not only the workings of technology, but how tech can have a profound impact on business and life challenges they care about.

Two things I’d love to do more of:

1. Big projects with corporate clients. For instance, last fall I spent a couple of months completely rewriting the site of a network security company that was launching new product lines while rebranding after a merger.

2. Absorbing byline stories built on research & interviews. Short- or longform, magazine or digital. Particularly welcome are stories that combine business and tech (see above), stories dealing with neuroscience, and profiles of interesting people solving problems in new ways.

Happy to supply samples and references, of course. Please just drop me a line in the comments or through the channel of your choice (itemized here).

Looking forward to working with some of you soon!

If you had known then what you know now…

April 3rd, 2016

Crossover sci-fi/fantasy actors.

March 24th, 2016

As an extension of a dinner-table conversation with my kids, I asked friends on Twitter to name actors who have done work in more than one science-fiction or fantasy universe. This is what we came up with.


Your best recommendations for science books.

March 6th, 2016