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Shel Horowitz

Shel's websites:

Frugal Fun     Principled Profit

Frugal Marketing


Q. When did you know that you wanted to work as a writer?

A. I got the bug in high school and it's never let go.

Q. What is your typical workday like?

A.. Turn on the computer around 6:30 a.m., work until it's time to get the kids ready for school, back home by 9, work for a couple of hours, take the dog hiking on the mountain, maybe do an editing shift on a paper copy. I work in short bursts all day long. I try to structure most days so that I'm doing my own work in the early morning and evening, and client work during normal working hours. I'm a very diverse writer, with a workload that includes my own books and articles, marketing materials (press releases, web pages, newsletters, etc.) and resumes for clients, articles under contract for other publishers...

Q. What are some of the sacrifices that you made for your career?

A. I consider my quality of life to be very high. However, getting my writing business started took a few years of pretty low income. so you might say I sacrificed the ability to spend foolishly on things I didn't need, but that made me a much better shopper. And of course I sacrificed the security of a regular paycheck, but I'm an adventurous person so that was not a big problem.

Q. What is the most important thing you hope to gain out of your career?

A. The sense of knowing I've made a difference in the lives of other people, and in the state of the world.

Q. What advice do you have for  writers at the beginning of their careers?

A. Continue to educate yourself, practice your craft, learn to be better. I thought I was a pretty good press release and article writer, say, six or eight years ago. But the quality of my work is so much better now! After more than 25 years doing this I still improve.

Also, take time to enjoy life. Take vacations--there are ways to do them very cheaply (see the Frugal Fun Tips archive at Take care of your health. Balance work and play.

Finally, as writers, we are blessed. Material is ALL around us! I literally cannot walk down the street without seeing a dozen article ideas, and maybe even a book now and then. I have a file drawer full of research for books I haven't gotten around to writing yet. It's a matter of hours in the day.

Q. Who are some of your role models and why?

A. Nat Hentoff, who took a career as a jazz musician and spun it into being America's best-known columnist on civil liberties. I have always wanted to be a kind of George Will of the Left, and so far, haven't really made it happen. I write about politics but haven't ever found anyone to pay me for that work. But my writing and marketing skills come out of a background that mixes journalism, PR, and community organizing.

Marcia Yudkin, Jay Levinson, and Dan Kennedy, for making careers out of giving the same kind of marketing advice that I give my clients.

Studs Terkel, who has so much passion for telling the stories of ordinary people (and whom I met when we were signing autographs next to each other at Book Expo a few years back).

Q.  How do you manage your social life vs. professional life?

A. Just today, I took the morning off to have breakfast with a friend and then get a chiropractic adjustment. I really do believe in a balanced life, and have made having fun a priority. I average at least six weeks of vacation every year, for instance, and already have plane tickets for a week-long trip to a publishing conference in LA and a three-week family trip to Europe this year.

 Q. What inspires you?

A. The world around me, natural beauty, urban angst, the idea that I can make the world better--and the idea that I can help save the world from bad marketing by showing people how to be better at it. I always say I became a writer because I'm interested in *everything.* It's only a slight exaggeration--there are a dozen or so subjects that don't interest me, but hundreds and thousands that do.

Books written by Shel

Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First (ethical, cooperative marketing)

Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World/Marketing Without Megabucks: How to Sell Anything on a Shoestring (frugal marketing)

The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook
(how to have fun cheaply: travel, dining, live entertainment, kid activities, romance, and more)

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