50 Ways to Sell Your Writing (Part One)

A year and a half ago, I thought to do a blog series about different markets for writing, but my projects are taking me away from the blog more and more. So instead of depriving you of the information entirely, here’s the short version of what I was going to do. 

One of the things about education and how we raise kids in this country is how badly we teach what’s possible in terms of how to make a living. Lemmetellyouastory…

A young woman now in her 20s I’ve known for about a dozen years. She sang choir in school and graduated college with a music degree. Tried working in public education, then discovered she couldn’t work for that company. We were talking about next steps, and I asked her if she’d looked at becoming a session musician.

“What’s a session musician?” she said unto me.

“A session musician is a blue-collar musician. You would sing background for people who need background singers, play for pay at choral concerts, do ad jingles, that sort of thing. You won’t make Lady Gaga money, or even Megadeth money, but you’ll make a decent middle-class income if you work reliably and well.”

You might or might not have known what a session musician is before reading that. It’s okay. But it’s only okay because you didn’t spend your high school and college years taking classes about how to be a musician when you grow up. That I had to explain this concept to a woman with that much education about music is a goddamned travesty.

Same goes for writing. Everybody knows about Brian Singer and Stephen King. Aspiring writers want to be them, but they don’t know how many opportunities there are to write for a living if you don’t catch the brass ring. But you can be a working writer of fiction like Joe Lansdale, or write scripts for TV and film, or get a paycheck with your words from any number of ways.

For better or worse, here’s 50 of ’em. Don’t go work in an office until you’ve tried them all:

  1. Traditionally Published Books. This one you already know about. Pros: highest level of legitimacy. Cons: long timeframe and low chance for success.
  2. Magazine Writing (Nonfiction). Another you know about: writing articles for paying magazines. Pros: good living once you’ve broken in. Cons: takes a long time to break in.
  3. Magazine Writing (Fiction). Another one you know: writing stories for paying magazines. Pros: fun, can launch you to a traditionally published book deal. Cons: almost impossible to make a living on this alone.
  4. Content Mills. Writing short-form, medium-quality articles for low pay per piece. Pros: easy to enter, good money if you write enough articles. Cons: low quality, poor treatment by most bosses.
  5. Content Brokers. Putting your profile in at upwork.com, contently.com, Enveritas or similar. They find assignments like white papers, books, articles, etc. You pay them a portion of your earnings. Pros: lots of opportunity, you don’t have to market yourself as much. Cons: lower earnings, huge amounts of competition (including people in countries with much lower cost of living).
  6. Freelance Blogging. Writing blogs for other people’s’ websites, especially corporations. Pros: good, often excellent, pay. Cons: Rarely long-term, sometimes research-heavy especially early in a new assignment.
  7. Monetized Blogging. Writing your own blog, and using it to drive income from advertising, affiliate sales, your own books or products, etc. Pros: you’re your own boss — the only one responsible for your fate and success. Cons: you’re your own boss — the only one responsible for your fate and success.
  8. Blog to Book. Writing blog posts, which you then collate into a complete book which you sell. Pros: the blogging process creates a ready-made market for your book when it comes out. Can be combined with monetized blogging and other models. Cons: only works if you are strong on marketing and building platform.
  9. Ebooking. Writing and selling ebooks on platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Marketplace. Works best if you write a lot of books. Pros: flexible work, high earning potential. Cons: extremely uncertain earnings, requires lots of marketing savvy.
  10. Poetry. Writing poems for a living and selling them in books, plus some speaking gigs. Pros: you get to write poetry, which is pretty neat. Cons: almost impossible to make money at it without grants and fellowships.
  11. Greeting Cards. Believe it or not, greeting card companies pay a few hundred bucks for a good idea. Pros: high per-hour earnings. Kinda cool if you think about it. Cons: not much market. No way to do this full-time.
  12. Write, Speak, Repeat. Write any number of other models, and speak on the same topics. Make money from both and use both to synergize each other. Pros: solid, reinforcing business model. Speaking fees can be astronomically high. Cons: requires marketing. What if you don’t like public speaking?
  13. Speechwriting. Basically what it sounds like. You write the words other people say, for television and in-person appearances. Pros: really good pay per word. Access to some high-level people. Cons: highly specialized, with a higher barrier for entry than many other models on this list.
  14. Ghostwriting. You turn other people’s’ ideas into books, for which they take the credit. Pros: the money’s very good at professional levels. You learn a lot of interesting stuff. Cons: people and project management required. Sometimes the kind of person who wants a ghostwriter isn’t the kind of person who treats other people very well.
  15. Ghostblogging. You write content for somebody else’s blog, for which they take credit. Pros: can be regular and long-term, with good pay attached. Cons: people management required. Can sometimes become a game of “Guess what I’m thinking?”
  16. Resume and Bio Writing. Being awesome and writing about how you’re awesome are two different skills, and people will hire you to do the writing part. Pros: people are investing in their future, and will pay accordingly. Cons: very short-term gigs. Requires specialized knowledge.

Tune in next time for the rest of the list. Until then, try some of these on for size in your head. See what makes you smile.


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