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Business 101

So You Want To Be A Writer? Writers Workshop

So, You Want To Be A Writer

That's great, but keep in mind, like actors there are many more writers doing other jobs like working tables at a restaurant who may wait [pun intended] their whole lives to become published.

Perhaps you will be satisfied only writing to practice the craft you enjoy. That's perfectly fine! Many people have a hobby where making money is not the goal. If you are doing it for the art, you will find far less frustration than the new writer who expects to be Stephen King with one book.

There is also the level of a writer who is a serious professional who is content to being relatively anonymous or obscure, but will take credit from any source earned. These are the ones who work freelance or for a company in one of the many fields of writing such as advertising copywriting, editorial, columns, newsletters, occasional articles, Internet writing and so forth. There are steady streams of writing income if you are willing to work and are persistent enough to go after the work.

The most sought after type of writer is the one who appears in the spotlight. The best seller authors, the screenplay writers of famous films and plays, and syndicate columnists. Unfortunately, many dream of making a living writing will peg all of their hopes on making it big first time at bat, without considering what it takes to get there. They tend to discount all the opportunities between going nowhere and big time writer. While most writers want to be remembered for their work, few will ever make it and many will remain hacks.

What Do I Know About It?

Writing is something I have to do. It is in my nature to put my thoughts down on paper where I can over analyze them before I share with other people. Speaking is not exactly my strong point, so I have always written things out and enjoy doing it.

Am I a published writer? Yes. Am I a well known writer? No, but have a small following. I have been paid for the things I have written for the last 5 years. I have also written things that were published without payment. I could tell you how to make money on a more realistic level using your writing skills, but if you are looking for an easy answer on how to be a best seller on your first book, you are not only barking up the wrong tree, but you are only headed for disappointment.

Keep It Real

Unless you have an excellent manuscript, an aggressive sales personality, and a highly marketable product, your first book will not be a best seller and chances are great that it will not even be read.

If you want to have a book sponsored by a publisher, you have to convince them you are worth their money. They have to pay to make copies of your book, to distribute them and to advertise them. They have to lay out a great deal of money if they decide to take a chance on you. If you want consideration, you must convince them you have sent them a best seller and give them proof of a track record that shows people will buy your work. You also have to be aggressive enough to play the game of submission, getting a foot in the door, write and re-write, contracts and negotiations. There are a lot of hoops to go through just to get a book published. Making money on your published book is another story.

Once you have a book in print, you will have to do the bulk of the advertising and promoting of your work. This could involve print ads, press releases, arranging a book signing at bookstores everywhere. If the company is gracious enough to give you an advance on money for your book, your wise choice would be to use it to help secure your future in writing by advertising everywhere.

If you have shown the publisher you are able to deliver the goods of a best seller, the next time you approach will be easier. If they take a gamble on you and your manuscript was not exactly of literary worth, chances are they won't take your calls again.

Start small. This is only being realistic and to keep you from getting hurt. It is a lot easier to break into smaller publications than into big publishing companies. Try your hand at writing editorials in local newspapers. See if you can become semi-regular. Let all the people in your area know who you are, even if they may not agree with you [I am notorious for that one!]

Work your way up to writing for magazines on topics you know. Get a copy of the Writer's Market and other books to help you profit in this craft (See Below) which lists all the magazines and publishers, who to contact, requirements, and address.

Catering To The Reader

If you want to get paid to write, you must address what the reader wants to read. It is an easy thing to fall so in love with your own words that you can't see how anyone would say it was less than a masterpiece. However, in the long run, it is the reader who is paying you.

Accept the fact that unless you are self publishing, someone else has to foot the bill to get your work out there. That also means the one paying the bill has the right to say change things around. If you can't stand the idea of having someone change your work to fit into their market, you need to self publish and find your own market.

Try to find the category of writing you like best. If you narrow down what type of writing you want to pursue, you can hone your craft and find a niche audience to whom you will be writing.

Of course everyone knows the two main categories of fiction and nonfiction, but many novice writers tend to think only in terms of best selling books without considering the genres in those categories and writing that has nothing to do with books.

Fiction writers have many book, magazine, and other publications who will accept this type of work. A fiction writer must then find a niche of fiction such as romance, historical, science fiction, teen, children, mystery, murder, horror, humor, poetry, fantasy, thrillers... the possibilities are endless. Even when you discover a category, each has a little niche you could master. For instance, you may want to go into 18th Century romantic thrillers or science fiction horror comedies, or any variable combination to reach that certain audience. Nothing can hold you back as long as you have the imagination to keep up with your theme.

In non-fiction, you have more categories to choose, but unlike fiction you have to be rooted in facts. The non-fiction writer can also write for books, magazines, newsletters as the fiction writer, but is also very valuable in the secular, business world as a copywriter, researcher, editor, and other very steady, lucrative careers. Non-fiction must be based in something you know and can prove or you lose your credibility. Some category topics of non-fiction include cooking, science, history, education, self help, psychology, diet, fitness, art and many other well grounded tangible subjects.

You must be true to yourself when writing, so find out which writing feels comfortable for you then practice it. When you feel secure in your skills, then pursue the proper market for your work. Check the guidelines for submission to see if your work is wanted and proceed through proper protocol to send in your manuscript. Be prepared to make changes on request of the publishers. If you want more freedom to keep your work as is, consider saving money and self publish.

What Do You Mean Self Publish?

An alternative to submitting your work and going through the hoops of publishers. Basically, you are instead approaching self publishing companies or a print shop that specializes in books and you are paying to have your book or magazine in print. There are good and bad things to consider about going on your own.

On the positive side, if you are one of those artists who resent anyone adding to or taking from your precious wording, with self publishing you are the final judge of what goes in. You also have freedom, if you can sell your work properly, to dictate who can or cannot handle your work from reprint rights to bookstores, you get to say who can have access to sell your work or reproduce it. You don't have to worry about the red tape and jumping through the loops of someone else's standards. No rejection on the way to get it printed. Your book can literally be ready on the market in months instead of years. You also get paid more money for each book that sells.

On the other hand, you are the one who will be responsible for all costs, or at least half, depending on where you go. That can be a great financial burden, especially when you are not sure of your target audience. The printer may require a minimum of 1000 copies or more and will expect payment up front. Some will store the books for you while others will expect you to warehouse them yourself. If you can't sell your 1000, the printer will not buy them back and you could be stuck with 1000 copies of a book nobody wants. You will have to pay all expenses in advertising and promoting your book.

If you are willing to promote your book as you would any other business and you have the money, roughly about $5000 to start, then this might be a good option for you. If you don't have that kind of money, drive or ambition, you will have to accept the chain of commands to get your work published in the traditional method.


Once you have decided your writing niche, practice. Write for the thrill of writing. Build up your work and leave it alone for a month then pick it up and see if you can improve it.

Consider joining a writer's workshop where you can meet with others who want the same thing, to be seen in writing. Try taking a writing class at a local community college or an at home course such as Education Direct. Buy as many books that will help you learn more about your field of writing.

Keep a journal to jot down any ideas, experiences, or thoughts you have had each day. Many times you can re-hash these notes to give you a great idea for a novel. Try to make a regular schedule of writing. It could be an hour a day or maybe a few hours on one day of the month, but keep it steady. Network with others in the business, join support groups, and take classes where you can. Don't scoff at other avenues of writing, even if they aren't high profile for your portfolio, it is better than nothing.


Writers tend to have a fatal flaw, they crave flattery of their own work. Not all writers are created equal. While there are many talented writers in the world, there are even more who think they are talented and will not listen to reason or good judgment. That latter group is the perfect prey for con artists.

One of the biggest scams around is the writer's contest. Not all contests are a scam, but there are a few out there that give them all a bad name. One of the biggest scams is from a company called The red flag of a scam can be seen if they are busy trying to sell you something more than the concern for the quality of your work.

Legitimate contests sometimes do have an entry fee, but for that fee there are actual judges who are paid to read, review, and rate your work in comparison to others. You may even be lucky enough to get critique or praise from a judge whether or not you win. Legitimate contests do not try to lure you into further contests to get into yet more books that they are trying to sell you.

Ask yourself, before entering a contest, if there is a fee, what is it for. Check the record from the Better Business Bureau to see if there is a track record of complaints. Read through the literature to make sure the company sponsoring the contest does not make the money solely through selling books to participants and if they do, check to make sure they are not the only vendors selling that book. [After all, what good is it for your work to appear in a book that is only sold to everyone who entered the contest?] Check out past entries to see if the competition is really worth competing against. [Many scam companies don't care about quality work, as long as they have your work in a book, they get paid.]