Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Freelance Author

Ask any writer out there: being published marks your success. It's a third-party endorsement of your writing, ideas, beliefs, and opinions. Many writers have one goal, and one goal only. Becoming Published.  For the writer with a full-length manuscript and dreams of seeing their work in book form, they believe all the publishing they will ever need is achieved once the publishing contract is signed.

How wrong they all are.  The movie 2012 is a great pop-culture reference for this. The main character, played by John Cusack, is published...but as his ex-wife's new husband points out, he only sold 412 copies. Cusack's character finds himself employed as a chauffeur while working on a supposed second manuscript.

While having a book published is most definitely an accomplishment, it should merely be one of many publishing endeavors...not the end-all of an author's dreams.Writers of any type should continually be looking for publishing opportunities within their respective genres.

Many published authors operate on that "starving artist" budget Cusack's character found himself on. Yet  there are thousands, possibly millions, of writers banking large salaries through non-book publishing alone. The tenacity that non-book-published writers display is to be modeled for the published book author.
Why? A myriad of reasons can be applied, including:
a) establishment of the writer's credibility;
b) new readers to follow a writer's works;
c) supplemental income;
d) potential of media opportunities and/or speaking engagements based on the quality of writing and development of a writer's career;
e) increased book sales (for the author; increased paid writing gigs for writers).

For the non-fiction writer, this would be in magazines, journals, publications, newsletters, blogs, etc. supporting the subject matter of which the writer is an expert (use the same process as the RRCS Equation...just be looking for writing opportunities, not book sale opportunities).

For the fiction/literary writer, this would be in magazines, journals, publications, newsletters, blogs, etc. that support one of two subjects:
a) the genre in which the author writes (for fiction writers, short story journals; for poets, poetry journals; etc.).
b) the interests of an author's intended audience (see the RRCS Equation for some ideas... other examples include: for a target audience of mothers, pursue writing opportunities with publications those mothers read, such as MOPs publications, parenting publications, housekeeping publications, cooking publications, etc.).

How to find these publications and get published. Much like the book world, there is heavy competition within the freelance writing world.
The best ways to pursue third-party, non-book publications are outlined below: 

1) Outline your writing objectives. Each writer and his/her goals are unique. 
2) Establish a portfolio. The easiest way to do this is to establish a website and blog; be sure to add writing samples! 
3) Research: Check out Writers Weekly Market and Poets & Writers' "Tools for Writers" to get started with legitimate opportunities. Writer's boards and magazines are a great resource to identify these publications. is also a useful place to find opportunities when searching for genre-specific publications. Then compile a list of the different genre publications to pursue. READ through at least one issue before pursuing that publication; a writer wastes his/her time submitting to publications that his/her writing is not suited for. 
4) Request writers' submission guidelines for each. READ those guidelines then submit as instructed. 
5) Keep a list of what has been submitted to where. Every three months review this list; at that point follow-up is usually acceptable, if not otherwise specified within the submission guidelines.
6) For each submission accepted and subsequently published, the writer needs to request an electronic version of the publication to add to the writer's portfolio of writing samples.  

Never, Ever, Ever underestimate the power of a byline. If a reader likes what he/she reads, they will immediately check out the website listed in that byline. If the writer has books available through that site (or at least linked to it), in most cases the reader will end up purchasing the products if interest is held!
Regardless of the medium, that is what the entire publication process is about: capturing the attention and loyalty of readers. A well-rounded writer in today's industry pursues this from all angles possible.

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