By Cindy Hudson
In her 11 years as a freelance writer, Jenna Glatzer has achieved the kind of success that most writers dream of. In addition to the seventeen books and hundreds of magazine articles she’s authored, Glatzer has also ghost written books, as well as penned greeting cards and slogans for bumper stickers and magnets. She founded and is former editor-in-chief of Absolute Write a popular, free online magazine for writers. Glatzer has written three books for writers: Outwitting Writer’s Block and Other Problems of the Pen (The Lyons Press, 2003), Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer (Nomad Press, 2004), and The Street-Smart Writer (Nomad Press, 2006).
Here Glatzer talks about some of the secrets of her success and shares ideas for writers of all types.
How did you get started freelance writing?
I became a freelance writer because I was agoraphobic, and I had to figure out something I could do from home. I was fresh out of college, so I decided to go with what I knew and I queried college-focused magazines, like College Bound and Link (which no longer publishes). For my first real credit I profiled some friends who had started up a web hosting company. From there I built up slowly and started writing for more and more magazines and websites.
How long was it before you made a living as a freelance writer?
For me it took two years but it varies a lot depending on how much work you put into it.
What’s a good way to get clips when you’re just starting out?
Getting those initial clips was more important than anything for me, and as long as it was a respectable publication I didn’t really care about the pay. You just never know where something is going to lead. I’d write this article for some low-paying magazine and some larger editor would find it and hire me to write something better down the line. I also recommend looking at local freebie magazines, like the ones you’ll find at delis and grocery stores. They are often looking for writers who can do local stories.
What other venues do you recommend?
I’ve written greeting cards and slogans for bumper stickers and magnets. And of course there are newspapers, websites, books and screenplays, and copywriting for businesses.
Is it easier to break into writing greeting cards and slogans?
It probably is easier, because there’s a lot of it and not a lot of people who know about those markets.
How do you find out about those markets?
I did a ton of research on my own. Some of the companies are listed in Writer’s Market every year. I wrote to every company I could find to ask if they use freelance material and I put together an ebook about it that has all the markets I could find. It’s a little bit out of date now, but it is available on absolutewrite.com. It’s called, Sell the Fun Stuff.
How important is it for writers to market themselves?
Very important, especially in the beginning. For the first couple of years I wrote more query letters than actual articles. I also wrote lots of articles for low-paying magazines. Once I broke into the national, grocery-store-type magazines, things began to snowball. Now editors come to me with assignments, so for the last six or seven years I’ve had to send out very few query letters. In the early years I also sent out general letters saying, “Hi, here’s who I am and I’m interested in assignments if you have anything available.” Sometimes I got calls years after I sent in samples and wound up with assignments.
Can you make much money selling reprints of articles?
Definitely. There’s one article that was rejected by Family Circle, which is where I wanted to place it. So I decided to try some of the local parenting magazines. Then I realized I didn’t have to stick to my own local parenting magazine, so I queried parenting magazines in other states. I wound up reselling it 18 times to different parenting magazines all across the country, making more in the end than I would have if I had just sold it to Family Circle in the first place. There’s also a market for re-slants. If you think about different angles for the same topic that you’ve already learned about, you can re-slant the article and you’re not starting from ground zero each time. You can use the same interviews and the same research you started with.
Tell me about your books for writers.
When I started absolutewrite.com in 1999, I would hear from writers all the time wanting to know how I became a freelance writer. To give them a step-by-step on what made me successful I had to write a book. Maybe the most important book I’ve ever written is The Street Smart Writer. I got scammed a couple of times at the beginning of my writing career by literary agents who weren’t real literary agents. They took my money and didn’t do anything with my work and didn’t have the ability to sell it. So I wrote this book because I don’t want to see other writers taken like that. It’s now free online at wowio.com. Search for it, and you can read it for free.
Cindy Hudson writes for national trade magazines, regional magazines, online publications and daily newspapers. Her website and its companion blog, publishes reading lists, book reviews, author interviews and other book club resources. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Portland, Oregon, where she writes weekly for The Oregonian. Visit her online at www.cindyhudson.com.