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Monday, June 30, 2014

Beth Fred on How To Write & Eat At the Same Time

Before we get started, I'm teaching a blurb writing class in August. This is the method I used to query with a 50% full request rate and snag an agent and editor. You can sign up here.
I hear it all the time. Writers frustrated they work so hard and never make any money. I did a happy dance because I broke even last year. I even had a profit--four digits if you count what comes after the decimals. So how do you write and eat at the same time?
Believe it or not, there are a few ways.
Consider a day job that involves a lot of writing. Since writing comes naturally to you, it probably won't be as taxing as other days jobs and you may actually enjoy it. A couple of good contenders are technical writing/technical communications and marketing writing. Technical writers usually write procedural manuals for companies, though they are often responsible for other office communications as well. This field pays really well,but can be hard to break into. If you have an English degree you're trying to put to use, this may be the way to go. You'll need a degree and a writing portfolio. Since it is so hard to break into, some recommend rewriting a current manual to have a writing sample. Marketing writing allows more room for creativity, but doesn't always pay as much, though it often involves something everyone here knows well--blogging. And the writing samples you need to get this kind of gig you may already have.
But nonfiction might be where it's at! Why? Because nonfiction usually works a little differently than fiction. You approach a publication with an idea and they tell you if they want you to write it or not. You don't write 60,000 words and then not sell it. You write a pitch and move forward from there, and these publications often pay fairly well, at least in comparison to fiction. They also have quicker response times probably because they are dealing only with a proposal. So think about what you do at your day job, or what you did before you started writing and look for publications in that area of expertise. Then come up with something that might be interesting for you because it will probably be interesting for others in that field as well.(Stay at home moms, you can do this too. Parenting magazines!)
Short Fiction Pays More. Yeah. That doesn't make sense, does it? You have to think about the genre you're writing in and what publications are available in that genre, but this is sometimes true. I write romance and the only print venue I know of paying for short fiction is Woman's World but for 800 words which is barely a cute meet they often pay out like $800. I have not got an advance on a novel that amounted to that. And if you're churning out 2000 words/day for a novel how long will it really take you to write 800 words? (Longer than you think, because cramming a beginning, middle and some kind of end into that is not easy, but still). No where near as long as a novel.
Come back Wednesday! I'm going to be talking about how to write a nonfiction query.


Charity Bradford said...

Great post! Another way you can use your writing skills to make money is editing. I've had people ask me to read and edit their manuscripts for a fee. Some of these are people I don't even know. I should probably do some research on fair prices for this, but it's an option. There are probably companies that just need people to edit stuff.

Meradeth Houston said...

Helpful post! One of these days I need to learn how to write "short"--I'd love to write for some of the markets that pick up shorter pieces.

Beth said...

@Charity- The going rate for this is $1-3/page with well known people being able to charge more. I have a well published friend who makes more money editing than writing and she does make money writing. But I've tried this several times and never got any bids. So I don't know!
@Meradeth- I tried to write a piece for Woman's World a couple of years ago and it was impossible. I'm thinking of trying again now.

Liz A. said...

Considering all the content out there on the web, of course there should be ways for us writers to make a living. Thanks for this.

Trisha F said...

I work full time and write in my spare time. This is easier for me because I'm single and live alone. But it's how I prefer it, because I've found when I am not working, I slack off even more with my creative stuff. ;)

sjp said...

Hahaha totally took the title literally and was expecting a post about multitasking a burger with a keyboard :P I work full time and write in spare time, but recently got a gig as an online magazine contributor. It eats out of my fiction time and is unpaid but the experience is awesome :) dont be afraid to browse around for what will work for you.

Beth said...

@Trisha - Before the baby came I did less writing when I wasn't working but with the baby when I work full time I seem to not write at all. I want to wait until she's in bed and by then I'm exhausted.
@sjp- I did some unpaid mag work for a while. But I did mostly bookish stuff so it wasn't too time consuming.

Emil Fred said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emil Fred said...

One good thing for someone especially in college to break into technical/marketing writing is to visit the engineering job expos at your school and chat up the recruiters there. Tech companies usually come in for engineering interns but the same recruiters usually hire for technical writing positions. Maybe you might be lucky enough to land an internship. If you are done with school... well you should still crash the party... at your old school or maybe at an outside tech/engineering career fair if you are uncomfortable standing in line with the young folks in school.

Beth said...

@Emil- Good idea. I hadn't thought about that. Also, Emil Fred liked one of my posts enough to comment. Woo-hoo!

Huntress said...

From beginning sentence to The End every word an author writes is a mental labor-intensive job. Why not make it pay by submitting short stories and using your skills as an editor?

At least until you hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list *BG*

Good article.