Join me for a conversation
There’s nothing to buy here. There’s no newsletter, no free book, no offers. You can subscribe, but I’m not assembling an email list. This space is a conversation, and your participation is encouraged. You can tell me I’m great (oh, stop), you can respectfully disagree with me, you can add to what I write, you can make requests. We are in this together.
I don’t have answers. I do have experience, but it’s my experience. So, add your knowledge to the mix, and we’ll grow together.
You want to be a writer.
I formed my ideas about life as a writer watching the movie Stand by Me. The scene of Richard Dreyfus sitting in his palatial mansion, crafting this story about his childhood before joining his children in an afternoon of play, enthralled me. The words come out of him and onto the page – or the screen – perfect. No revisions. No rewriting. Just a little light typing, and he’s good to go.
Perhaps you have visions of the Algonquin Roundtable, sitting with your fellow scribes debating stream of consciousness techniques. Or late nights with pots of coffee as you finish that screenplay and ready the call to your agent in the morning.
More than likely, your career as a writer will involve copywriting, technical writing, or developing white papers for plumbing supply companies. So, buckle up because it means a lot of hard work, a lot of disappointment, and the destruction of your ego. Because I’m going to show you how to be a working writer and get all the creative and artistic satisfaction you crave while getting paid.
Writing is more important than ever…
The internet is history’s largest book.
And it’s still being written. Websites, content marketing, emails, blogs, descriptions beneath products, the proliferation of video content, entertainment, books, e-books, novels, short stories – all of it begins with words on a page. Billions of words fill the internet. I’m contributing several hundred right now.
U.S. book sales are up 18.5% in the first half of 2021, according to Publisher’s Weekly. Fiction books sales increased by 16% in the U.K. for 2020. The demand for professional writers has never been greater. Congratulations, you’re getting in at just the right time.
… and yet, valued less
It’s troubling that at a time when the written word is in demand, when the need for qualified writers is the greatest it has ever been, that writing is so undervalued. Companies need writers to communicate with associates and market their goods to customers. There’s money there. At the same time, many companies just assign writing to an administrator, web designer, or graphic artist. Advertising agencies ask account executives to write copy, and companies ask engineers and coders to become writers rather than hire professionals.
Because writing is an organic process, most writers spend a lot of time thinking, researching, some outline, some doodle; when I’m stuck, I switch to pad and pen. All activities that amateurs and exploiters of our skills fail to recognize as writing. In fact, some companies, and freelance agencies like Upwork are installing intrusive software on writers’ computers that measure the number of keystrokes, take a screenshot every ten minutes, and will dock them for not “actively writing.” These companies are not paying for writing; they’re paying for typing.
It’s insulting to the craft.
This is a blog about professional writing
We won’t talk about “writing in the active voice” or spend time discussing split infinitives. I will not blog, like one Content Marketing certification program, platitude-rich advice like, “Good writers always write the introduction last” or “Good writers always have a detailed outline.”
I assume you know how to write. If you do, you know writing reflects the author’s epistemological and creative process. Some good writers do this; others do that. Your process is your process, and there may be some posts here on skills, but the bulk of this blog is on making a living as a writer. And yes, that includes how to write and publish fiction. On Schedule C of your Federal taxes, I want you to list writer as your occupation. I want you to make a living putting words on paper.
There’s a good market for marketing. Some conflate marketing with advertising, but marketing involves all activities that lead to sales: pricing, inventory control, the design of the store, packaging, direct sales, and advertising. These days it’s common to distinguish between digital advertising and so-called traditional advertising. Realistically, for the working writer, it’s a distinction without a difference.
Content marketing is an inbound marketing strategy that involves the customer actively searching out the product. Often it begins with a question or search phrase like, “Rocky Mountain vacations.” With search engine optimization or SEO, hopefully, one of the consumers’ choices in their search is your client’s blog, “Colorado Destinations.” Inside are articles on various Colorado destinations, emphasizing the Pikes Peak region because your client is an association of independent Pikes Peak region hotels and restaurants. Within the blog is a plug for a FREE e-book, “Planning Your Pikes Peak Vacation,” which, of course, emphasizes independent hotels and restaurants. To get this ABSOLUTELY FREE book, all consumers must fill out a form with their email addresses. Then every week, they get a direct pitch for the independent hotels and coupons for the restaurants.
This technique is called “the sales funnel,” and conversion rates, or sales, are surprisingly high. The good news for us, there’s a lot of writing involved.
Radio, television, print
Although long-time people in the industry reject this term, it is often called Traditional Advertising. And radio, television, and print are still alive and well. It is a proactive strategy that reaches out to potential consumers. It relies more heavily on branding and sales messaging. Since most consumers often visit a website before buying, this form of advertising is “top of the funnel.” It’s the big scoop that draws people in. It’s advertising for a product you don’t know you need.
This kind of work is harder to get on a freelance basis but not impossible. Advertising agencies, television and radio stations, and larger companies like dealerships and furniture store chains hire copywriters on staff and on a freelance basis.
There’s also a need for screenwriters for marketing. Explainer videos, sales videos, employee orientation, and training films are all sources of income.
Packaging and Point of Purchase Displays
Have you ever read the back of the cereal box or picked up a new snack based on the enticing description on the package? Ever walk into a store, a car dealership, or Starbucks and read the displays for the new breakfast sandwich or all-electric truck? Hey, someone writes that stuff, and a lot of freelancers do the work. Stay tuned, and I’ll interview a few writers who do precisely this and tell you how they got the gigs.
Journalism and Public Relations
Many newspapers and magazines have gone online, while others remain in print by cutting their overhead. Freelance journalism is alive and thriving mainly on a local level, although it doesn’t look like it did back in the day of William Randolph Hearst. In my town, the entire staff of writers for my local weekly newspaper is freelance, and the nearby big city daily and weekly newspapers have a lot of content written by freelance journalists. It doesn’t mean you cover fires, car accidents, and the scandal at city hall (although you might), but they need reporters for local features, reviews, someone to cover the school board, or do a write-up on the retiring fire chief. Like all writing, it’s not easy, and the pay is often low, but it can lead to a full-time gig or…
The older brother of advertising, public relations handles press releases, arranges interviews, provides background information on experts for more significant journalistic stories, and more. Advertising, some freelance journalism, and some public relations work can add up to a promising career as a writer.
Enter “writer” into a job search engine for my locale, and you’ll get a couple of dozen listings for technical writers. There’s a lot of defense industry around here, and they are well-staffed with tech writers. Technical writers do B2B writing, white papers, user manuals, how-to guides, proposals, grants, technical reports, and more. Most of this kind of work is staff, some freelance, and I’ll confess – this isn’t an area where I work. But we’ll talk to a technical writer and discover how you can make bank with this gig.
You have dreams of being the next Stephen King, Dan Brown, or J.K. Rowling. Publishers printed more than two million titles last year, according to the United Nations. How many of those were best-sellers? That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, nor does it mean you can’t be a success.
I’m going to introduce you to working writers with a fan base who regularly publish fiction in novels and short forms.
You’ll learn about the art of the short story, craftsmanship, and how to get published. You’ll hear about rejections, self-promotion, editors, publishers, and insider scoops on what goes on at a publication and the process your story will go through to get published.
Let’s Go on a Journey
You’re here because you want to make writing your occupation.
I’m a working writer. For the past 40-years, I’ve made my living putting words on paper. Mainly as a screenwriter and primarily for T.V. commercials and corporate videos. I was the head writer on a defunct T.V. series on the now-defunct PAX network. Producers have paid me to write a few screenplays, although none produced. I’ve written press releases and essays for newspapers, ad copy, business content, short stories, and poems. Publishers in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. have run my work, and to my amazement—people read my words.
I’ll share what I know about the art and business of writing in this space, but since my knowledge is limited, I’ll feature interviews with working writers. We’ll talk to editors and publishers. I’ll show secrets from the advertising industry to grow and nurture creativity. We’ll talk about the importance of beta readers, and I’ll teach you how to be an effective beta reader. I’ll occasionally feature one of my stories or a review of the best short fiction I’ve read. And I’ll scope out the best places to read short fiction.
Along the way, I’ll show you how you can turn writing into a living.
Subscribe, and let’s go on this journey together.
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