Making Money Writing

Photo of reporter’s notebook by grafixtek on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.

Yesterday, a friend contacted me on Facebook Messenger with a question.

My daughter is interested in trying to publish a book she’s working on. Short stories and poems. She asked if i knew anyone that did that and of course you popped in my head. If it’s not too personal, can you tell me if you make money doing that? And what the process to do so is?

The thing of it is, there’s no simple answer.

Can you make money writing? Yes and no, because it depends on what you want to write and how much you market yourself. As a preliminary, I told her this:

The short answer is that some types of writing can and do make money. I haven’t made much because marketing intimidates the hell out of me. Even the big names have to do self-promotion. As for how to do it, take a look at CreateSpace.com. They’re pretty easy to use. The way I do it with their self-guided process doesn’t cost anything unless I order books.

Yes, I know marketing shouldn’t intimidate me. That’s really not the point here. (Plus I’m working on that and getting better at it.)

One of the biggest things to remember is that writing is just the beginning of the work. How many revisions and edits you go through will vary from project to project. And then there’s the whole publishing process.

Now, like I said in my original answer to my friend, most of my stuff is published using CreateSpace, so I follow the process laid out in their self-guided system. I don’t talk to anyone in customer support, so it doesn’t cost me anything until I order books.

I almost said the work of marketing/self-promotion starts then, but, really, you need to be doing that all along. Be talking about it on your social media platform(s). I mainly use Twitter and Facebook, but I do occasionally post writing-related stuff, especially when I have a new book out, on LinkedIn. The more you talk about it, the more interest you generate, which will (hopefully) translate into sales down the road.

Take a lesson from me: Don’t be shy about marketing and self-promotion. Most of the big names even have to promote themselves. Except maybe Stephen King.

So, what makes the most money?

Mostly, nonfiction. Followed by romance. I did a Google search on the question “what kind of writing makes the most money?” Just click the link to see the search results.

The funny thing (to me) about the timing of this question is that I’ve been thinking about that. Making money writing.

A few years ago, I taught a class through the community education program at the local college. The name of it? “Make Money Writing.” In it, I talked mostly about writing for magazines, the query process, researching articles, finding other resources, etc. I’ve been thinking about moving that online, either as a video course or an email series.

Let me know if there’s any interest in that and which format would be best.

I promised my friend a list of resources. I’ve been thinking about how to narrow that down because I have enough that I could probably fill a book with just links. I’ve decided to just list the top 5. Links will open in a new window. If you have a pop-up blocker, hold the Ctrl key down when you click it so it will open.

Resources:
Writer’s Digest
CreateSpace
Purdue Online Writing Lab
Ralan (market listing)
Help a Reporter (more for nonfiction, though can be useful for fiction)

There are a lot more I could add, but the sheer mountain of information available just from these resources can be overwhelming enough.

By the way, in speaking of making money writing, the type of writing that traditionally makes the least amount of money?

Poetry.

However, with that said, if you’re just writing for the money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

Happy creating.

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5 Ways to Market Yourself as a Freelancer

Note: The other day, I was going through some files and found a few articles that had been assigned to me by a website but were never published. This is one of those.

business cardsSuccess as a freelancer, whether writing, graphic design, etc., depends on self-promotion. Many of us were taught as children that it is considered impolite to brag about ourselves. However, that is exactly what we need to do as freelancers.

Here are five ways to promote yourself as a freelancer:

  1. Develop (and maintain) a web site. An outdated website does you no favors. Take the time to keep your site updated. Include a list of projects you completed in the past, with links when possible. You might think no one looks at your site, but it is a valuable tool you can use to let prospective clients know what you can do and see examples of your work.
  2. A web site is basically static. A blog is regularly updated. Ideally, keep your blog relevant to the work you do. Prospective clients use search engines, such as Google, to search for people who work in the field. Their search could lead to your blog. Keeping it updated regularly, at least twice a week, and talking about your freelance work can push your blog higher up in the search engine rankings. The higher your ranking is, the more likely it is someone will find, and ultimately hire, you. There is a caveat here: Never complain about clients on your blog. They will find out and word will get around. Keep it friendly yet professional.
  3. Create an e-mail signature. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you have a computer and an e-mail address. Even free e-mail addresses allow you to have a signature file. Include your name, preferably both first and last, a title, and a link to somewhere people can see samples of your work, whether a web site or a blog. Put it at the bottom of every e-mail you send.
  4. Network online and in person. If you work primarily with local businesses, join local civic organizations and consider joining the Chamber of Commerce. Go to meetings and Chamber events to network. Take business cards with you and hand them out. Remind people of what you do. Even if you work with local businesses, network online as well. Web sites such as Twitter provide opportunities to network with other professionals in your field, learning opportunities (there are numerous chats on Twitter, for example), and interaction with potential clients.
  5. Invest in business cards and brochures. Even in the Internet age, every freelancer needs business cards for self-promotion. Brochures might be able to be replaced by web sites, but only if they’re current. Sites such as VistaPrint offer free business cards if you pay shipping. Business cards are necessary to have on hand for civic organization meetings, Chamber of Commerce events, and professional conferences. Include your name, title, web site address, and best way to contact you on the cards.

There are more ways to promote yourself as a freelancer. Word-of-mouth also works well. The above are five of the most effective methods of self-promotion and can bring you success if you use them and follow up on any leads and assignments you receive.

Tips for Effective Interviews

Photo of reporter's notebook by grafixtek on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.
Photo of reporter’s notebook by grafixtek on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that I’m working with the local newspaper on some articles. I’ve been doing several interviews because of that. In the process, I’ve learned — or rediscovered — some things.

  • Have at least 10 questions ready.
    I have discovered that if I go in with fewer than 10 questions, I don’t get enough usable material. I struggled to pull articles together. Once I figured out that I needed to ask more to get more, it became easier. One thing, though: If you ask a closed question, one that can be answered with a simple yes or no answer, ask another open question where they have to elaborate. Or ask why.
  • Treat the interview more like a conversation.
    If you go in acting like this is a formal interview, your source will be stiff and uncomfortable. They won’t open up the way you need them to. If they don;t open up, you get short answers. Getting them to open up is key to getting them to talk more about the subject at hand. Don’t be afraid to let them go on a tangent. You might be surprised at how relevant it turns out to be later on.
  • Take notes.
    Taking notes is important. It shows your source that you take them seriously and believe they will have something good to say that you will want to remember. I advocate taking notes even if you are recording your interview because batteries die and — particularly with digital recorders — recordings can be deleted or become corrupted.
  • When possible, record the interview.
    When you take notes, you use abbreviations. Sometimes you don’t remember what those abbreviations mean when you go to transcribe your notes. It is also possible that there will be too much information to take adequate notes and you risk losing a good quote if you’re not recording. There will be times when your source won’t want to be recorded, though, and you have to respect that.
  • Be gracious.
    People are busy. Be sure and thank them for taking the time to meet with you. If possible, follow up with a thank-you note, especially if it was a “big” interview.

There you have it. These are just a few of the things I’ve learned/rediscovered while doing interviews over the past month. Hopefully you get some benefit from it.

Grinding Gears

Image used courtesy of The Public Speaking Project under a Creative Commons license.
Image used courtesy of The Public Speaking Project under a Creative Commons license.

There’s a saying about people who are new to driving a standard and have trouble finding their gears.

“If you can’t find ’em, grind ’em.”

I feel like that’s happening to my mind today.

Earlier I said I’m stretching my skill set. My grandpa said, “You’re expanding your skill set.”

He’s right.

It’s a matter of perspective.

Stretching a skill set implies that it’s temporary and that I would forget it soon after I no longer need it.

Expanding a skill set, on the other hand, implies that I am learning things that will be beneficial to me in the long run and it won’t be something I would soon forget.

Since I have often said that I am a perpetual student, I much prefer the latter.

In the meantime, I’ll be grinding gears until it becomes second nature. Much like driving a stick-shift.

50% Writer, 50% Business Person

Eloisa James
Photo (c) 2014 by Jen Nipps

Eloisa James was the keynote speaker at the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc., conference earlier this month. She also presented a lunch session one day of the conference.

If at all possible, you need to hear her speak. She is very polished and very knowledgeable.

Of everything she said, one thing has really stayed with me.

“You are 50% writer and 50% business person and the business comes first.”

Why did that resonate so much in my mind?

That’s an easy answer and a hard truth.

I tend to ignore the business side of things. I write too much for free or for very little pay. Speaking of which, I’m going to stop writing for free. That means I’m going to start charging you to read this blog.

Just kidding.

The blog is something I do for me as well as for you. That’s something I couldn’t charge for.

There are things I can do — need to do — should have already been doing — though.

At the moment, I am a writer-in-residence at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. In addition to working on a book about self-promotion and networking (Selling Yourself Is Not Prostitution: Networking & Self-Promotion for Wallflowers) while I’m here, I will also be planning how I can address more of the business side.

I need to do that.

I have to do that.

If I don’t, there is no sense in my continuing to work as a writer. No one would expect an accountant or a lawyer to work for free. They wouldn’t expect a doctor to either.

Why should writers?

Why should any kind of artist?

We shouldn’t.

I’m going to change that for myself. I have friends I can call on for advice. Friends who have made their livings as freelance writers/editors for years. If they can do it, so can I.

But I have to put the business side into practice as well.

What about you? What is it in your writing life that you tend to neglect even though it needs attention?