Chris Mason is the author of the in a Box series of books which are guides to various free resources; here is a link to his Barnes and Noble page:
Q: What inspired you to start writing?
A: Due to the fact that all my children went to an online charter school, I had to find ways to save money and found many free resources through the internet. In fact, I still think it is funny when I first asked my daughter’s teachers for resources that could help her when she first entered the world of online schooling, I only received 3 websites. I thought 3 websites from 6 teachers was a sad state of affairs, so Tutor in a Box was born. That was years ago now. My eldest daughter was in sixth grade then, now she is a sophomore in college.
My other books were born out of two things that happened at the same time. First, my family had to give up cable to save money but my kids still wanted to see the then popular That’s so Raven. Second, my mother came up with Mason Day to teach my kids that they did not need a lot of money to give someone a nice gift. Mason Day was when a person was assigned a family member and had to make them something, spending only 20 dollars. My thought was “Oh my God”. I had no artistic skills like my daughters’ and could not build things like my son, but I did have impressive research skills. So the “In the Box” series of books was born. All are reference guides to the best free stuff in a particular area. The series currently includes:
- Tutor in a Box – A guide to free educational resources.
- Book Store in a Box – A guide to free print and audio books.
- Arcade in a Box – A guide to free video games.
- Video store in a Box – A guide to free Television and Movies.
- Record Store – A guide to free music
- Production Studio in a Box: The Guide to make DVD, CD Websites and other Media at Low or No Cost
- App Store in a Box: A Guide to the Best Free Applications for Mobile Devices on the Internet
- Entrepreneur in a Box: A Guide to the best Free Websites to Make Money
I can be contacted at email@example.com
Q: How are your books different than other guides to getting free things?
A: Since my books are in ebook format all the web links are hot linked. I also try to update the books every so often.
Q: What do most people do incorrectly when looking for freebies?
A: To be honest most people give up to early and stop after the first or second page of results on Google or they use the wrong key words.
- What sort of work did you do before becoming a house husband? I was an academic counselor, Tutor and did some crisis counseling in high school.
- What is the most surprising thing you found to be available for free? An anatomy and physiology lecture on the brain including a complete brain dissection.
Q: You say your kids went to online charter school. How does online Charter school work?
A: Well like this each of my kids was given an online calendar which had all of their classes and work laid out in a schedule. Each kid could then work at their own pace and do the work as they saw fit. So maybe a child (such as my son) might do five lessons of Math in one day. Even though only one lesson of math was scheduled. As long as the work got done before it was due in what order it get done does not matter when it comes to what subjects you do. However, in each subject there is a course tree. Each tree is broken up into units. Each unit has lessons and all lesson must be completed in order. Each child has between 6 and 8 subjects depending on their pace and academic level. For example, my son was doing Algebra 1 in middle school which was going to count for high school class credit. Each teacher also does a live lesson through the computer at about 1 a week. So each kid has six classes or six subjects depending on grade level so that is at least 6 live lessons a week. All work is submitted via attachment and all tests and quizzes are given via the course tree. The entire system is known as the Learning Management System. (LMS). Clubs are also done in a live lesson format with one to three meetings a month. the school my children went to had about 22 clubs. Book and supplies are sent out at the beginning of the school year so a student has everything they will need for the year. So as you can see I was basically support staff. I would help them when it was needed. I would spot check homework when needed and remind them of live lessons but otherwise let them do it on their own. The only part that was a bit hard was the portfolios. These were more in depth projects. These included science experiments art projects or research reports and these would be due at 1 per unit so at 6 subjects a student would have 6 due every month. This is where I would be the most help as support staff. There was also field trips ever month. I don’t know about my kids but my favorites were the one to the Buddhist temple and the Civil War reenactment lesson at Riley’s farm.
Q: What have you done to promote your books?
A: Mainly I promote my books through print and radio interviews.
Q: What are one or two of the best free websites to make money?
A: I am partial to Smashwords for obvious reasons. I heard good things about Gift Card Granny but have not used it two amazing (because they make me wonder about people) crowdfunding websites they are http://myfreeimplants.com and www.offbeatr.com. Free Implants is for women to ask for money for better breasts and Offbeatr is for people who need more money to shoot adult entertainment.
Q: What do you plan to do with your degree in psychology?
A: I was originally going to be a school psychologist but due to the economic environment in 2008 I was unable to find work and then had to supervise my kids in their schooling. So I was unemployed living on SSI and was trying to get work. However, I now live on a big rig and am trying to give my writing a shot as a way to make a living now that my kids are grown.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is about to self-publish?
A: This is a multipart answer.
- Write what you love and are passionate about, if you care about it others will because your passion will leap off the page.
- Don’t write about what’s popular on Amazon. Stand out and be different.
- Have your audience in mind as you write it helps keep you focused.
- Match your subject matter to your deliver system. Not every book is good for every format. For example, the “In the Box” series would not be good for the audio format due to its online nature.
- Don’t be afraid to outsource parts of the writing process that are outside your skill set. For example, I outsource my cover creation and formatting. This way I can just focus on the writing. This includes marketing as well.
- Lastly as corny as it sounds believe in yourself. In the immortal words of Ed Wood “just write, if it is bad it will get better and if it is good it will become great just keep writing”.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.