Rule 2 of Profitable Writing

Writer For Hire Part 2 of 9 1/2.

There’s a short story by Lawrence Block about a fiction writer who got tire of writing for 4 cents a word. He kidnaps his publisher’s daughter and writes a ransom note. There are better ways to make a living writing, but Block’s character had the right idea. Not about kidnapping people, but about working the numbers. A ransom note makes way more cents per word than a short story, after all.

Which brings us to Rule 2 of Profitable Writing:


This is standard practice in any functional business, and should be standard practice for your writing career. It works when you understand a few truths about all sales — including selling your writing.

  1. Not every idea you have is going to produce something you can sell.
  2. Not everything you can sell is something you will sell.
  3. The more people you ask to buy your work, the more likely you are to sell any given piece.
  4. You have to be systematic in your approach to ask the maximum number of qualified buyers.

Writing is an art, but sales is a science. To make a living at it, you need a system with which you submit work to clients you know about, find new clients, and produce new work. The wider you cast your net, the more paying work you’ll find. The better you track your accounts and attempts, the more professional you’ll seem to all of your clients.

Everybody has a different way of doing this (assuming they’re doing it at all). Here’s mine:

  • I submit a minimum number of story queries every week to potential publishers. How many depends on a variety of factors.
  • I perform ten “acts of marketing” like emailing old clients or answering a job posting every day.
  • I track articles I’ve written in a spreadsheet, to tell who I’ve approached, when it’s been accepted, and when I get paid.

Your system will likely be totally different. That’s okay, as long as you have a system in place.

Work the numbers, succeed as a writer. 

Fail to work the numbers, fail as a writer.

It’s really that simple. The rest of it’s just details.



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