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Fund Your Writing Projects: Show Me the Money

Gigi RosenbergBy Gigi Rosenberg 

How do writers earn money? Usually from pay they receive by the hour, by the word or by the book. Are there other ways for writers to earn money to support their writing endeavors? That’s the question this column will answer over the next months.

To get started, make a list of all your writing projects, large and small. Include every project, especially the ones in that folder marked “too weird to consider” or “save for when I win the lottery.”

Next, add to your list the ways you want to “upgrade” your professional writing life. Do you need to attend a spendy writing conference to meet agents and mingle with the literati? Does your website need an overhaul?

To realize all these possibly outrageous projects, what are the actions you need to take? Make a list. To write the historical novel about 19th-century Russian royalty, you may need a research trip to St. Petersburg. Or to finish the memoir, you want a month at a writing retreat. Or to bring the first draft of your play to its final form, you need to hire a writing coach and stage a public reading.

On your list can be things like: to launch my career at a national level, I need a professional website; to get more gigs on radio, I need a voice coach; to attend the writing conference, I need $1,000 bucks.

Write down the dreams and write down the steps you need to take to achieve them.

Do you hear a mean voice in your head that sounds like a stingy 2nd-grade teacher? “Voice lessons?! Who do you think you are?” “A research trip to where?! You’ve got to be kidding!” Thank Ms. Parsimonious for sharing and let her know that her tightfisted ways will be welcome when you prepare your budget on the grant application.

Now look at your list. Many writers have found grants to pay for endeavors similar to the ones on your list. Some skeptics might ask: “Wouldn’t it be easier to work a few extra gigs and pay for this myself?” Sometimes yes. Grant researching and writing takes time-a limited resource. In future columns, we explore how to decide whether writing a grant is the best use of your time.

For now, revel in the adventures on your list and start your research. Check your local, state and national arts association websites and click “Grants.” Find out who provides cash (or time in the case of residencies) to support your writing. For a list of websites I recommend, visit my list at

Money experiment this month: Notice the ways you spend money, from the necessary to the frivolous. How do you decide what to buy? When you donate to a charity, how do you decide which worthy cause gets your bucks? Make some notes. This study of your own spending will help you later on when we explore how grantors decide who gets support for that outrageous writing project.
Gigi Rosenberg is a writer, teacher and occasional performer of edgy, comic monologues on motherhood, relationships and the existential nature of being. Her essays and how-to articles have been published in Writer’s Digest, The Oregonian, The Jewish Review, Cycle California! Magazine and Parenting (forthcoming).  “The Hanukkah Bush,” her radio commentary, was featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting. She coaches writers on how to read in public and teaches regional and national workshops on “Grant Writing for Success.”

Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Write a Review

Sue Fagalde LickBy Sue Fagalde Lick

Welcome to the new Freelancing for Newspapers challenge. Each month, I will suggest a task that should be fun and may even lead to publication. You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

Reviews are written and published on almost everything a person can experience or buy, including books, concerts, trips, restaurants, CDs, art exhibits, movies, cameras, computer software, cruises, cars, even the latest hybrid roses. Look at the feature section of your newspaper for examples, especially in the Friday and Sunday editions. Freelancers write many of these reviews. Although they don’t pay a fortune, they do pay something and earn you clips that may lead to other work.

A review is more than just a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, four stars or no stars. It’s a blend of explanation and evaluation. In an average of two double-spaced pages, sometimes less, you need to pack a lot of information. At minimum, the successful review must contain:

  • An engaging first line that makes the reader read on
  • A theme or idea that ties the review together
  • Basic information, such as title, author, publisher, what type of product it is and a summary of what it contains
  • Background on what has preceded it, such as other books the author has published or previous CDs by the same artist
  • Evaluation, looking in particular at the purpose of the thing being reviewed and how well it achieves that purpose, with examples to back up your opinion

Your challenge this month is to write a practice review. Keep it under 500 words. The shorter the better, as long as it contains all the necessary elements. Look at published reviews to see how the writers do it. In addition to your local paper, try The New York Times Book Review or the Rotten Tomatoes movie reviews. A search for “[name of type] reviews” will yield more examples.
Sue Fagalde Lick, author of Freelancing for Newspapers, worked as a staff writer, photographer and editor for newspapers in California and Oregon for many years before moving into full-time freelancing. In addition to countless newspaper and magazine articles, she has published three books on Portuguese Americans. She has taught workshops at Oregon Coast Community College, online for and for Willamette Writers and California Writers Club. She offers an online course on reviews as well as individual coaching. See her website and visit her blog.

Writerpreneur: Flip Your Cube for Success

gregorywotr_002.gifBy Gregory A. Kompes 

Living a Writerpreneur life can be overwhelming. Self-employed writers need to wear many hats and yet, there’s still the writing. That’s the core of our career. Other facets of our business that require our attention are marketing, banking, goal setting, correspondence, reading, learning and research. And all of this must be negotiated with the demands of family, recreation and home life.

I used to stress “balance” in life, and I’d strive to give each facet of life and work a little bit of time each day. Ultimately, I realized that’s not realistic. When a writing deadline looms, that takes precedence; when a family member needs attention, they take the lead. Instead of balance, I now strive for harmony. I think of life like a piece of music, where each part is one of the instrumental lines. Sometimes one instrument takes the solo, and at other times it’s just part of the symphony. I have found that this approach is both realistic and sustainable.

How do we find this harmony? I believe in a slow-play approach to marketing and career building. I’m going to be a writer for a long time so I don’t have to do everything all at once. There’s time to build my career a little at a time, by doing one thing a day. During my live Writerpreneur events, I give participants a small wood cube. When you look at a cube, there’s no way to see all its sides at once. We need to turn the cube over again and again to see all its facets. Our careers are the same. We can’t see all of the aspects of them at the same time. While I look at the big picture now and again, each day I focus on a single goal, and take one step toward a positive outcome.

How do I decide what takes the solo? I turn the cube each day on my desk to remind myself that I have this choice. I prioritize my to-do list and break up my day into chunks. Today may be writing 1,000 good words for a deadline. If it’s a marketing day, I may do a little thing (like changing my email signature or adding material to my website) or something big (like developing a piece of a book release media campaign). I’ve also learned to turn off my computer at a reasonable hour each day so I can enjoy my family, pets and social pursuits. By not trying to do everything at once and giving one thing at a time priority and focus I have established harmony in my Writerpreneur life.

Have you flipped your cube today?
Gregory A. Kompes, author of the bestseller 50 Fabulous Gay-Friendly Places to Live and the Writer’s Series, speaks at conferences and teaches Internet self-promotion courses online. Gregory is editor of Queer Collection: Prose & Poetry, Patchwork Path, The Fabulist Flash, and Eighteen Questions, a Q&A series that collects published authors experiences (chosen a “101 Best Websiteby Writer’s Digest ). In Las Vegas, he hosts the Writerpreneur Workshops and co-host’s the Writer’s Pen & Grill. Gregory holds a BA in English Literature from Columbia University, New York, and a certificate in Online Teaching and Learning and an MS Ed. from California State University, East Bay.

Time Management Mastery: Benchmarks Measure Your Path to Publicaiton

October 2007 Family Fun MagazineNew Year’s resolutions ooze out of every publication on the planet in December and January. Still, I’m a fanatic about having a writing resolution each year. So far, knock on my wooden desk, I’ve successfully achieved nearly every resolution I’ve ever made. The secret is in setting and achieving clear goals along the way.

Making resolutions is easy: eat less, exercise more, write a novel, write everyday and so on. It’s establishing benchmarks, however, that make your resolutions meaningful-and achievable. Once you’ve set your New Year’s goals, hold them at arms’ length, pick up a calendar and decide how you will track and measure your performance along the way.

Three years in a row, I vowed to double my writing income. I succeeded. Sound easy? That resolution wouldn’t have been so simple to achieve if I hadn’t established measurements along the way. I set up a spreadsheet to track submissions, follow-up dates and my income.

At the end of each month, I calculated my average monthly income and an end-of-year income projection. If I’d waited until August to tally the numbers, I might have discovered I was way behind. The monthly benchmark kept me on target. If income was lagging behind my projections, I could quickly maneuver to pick up the slack before it was too late.

To keep on top of your self-imposed deadlines, purchase a week-at-a-glance calendar. My favorite is Bylines ( Editor Sylvia Forbes devotes a writer’s picture and his or her 300 words of wisdom to each week of the year. I was lucky enough to be selected for a page in February 2007 and will be in 2008 as well. Bylines motivates me to keep up with my benchmarks, reminds me there are other ambitious writers like me and helps me maintain records for income tax time by offering a place to record mileage, meetings, chats and deadlines.

Making resolutions is a grand start. Defining clear performance, publication and income benchmarks along the way is better. Recording your progress is best. Add a dose of diligence to these efforts and you’ll have it made for 2008.
C. Hope Clark is founder and editor of, annually recognized by Writer’s Digest in its poll of 101 Best Web Sites for Writers. She delivers four newsletters each week to thousands with her specialty being grants and income opportunities for writers of all sizes. She’s published over 200 articles on paper and online. Those reluctant to promote their writing cherish her trade paperback The Shy Writer: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success. Find more hope for your writing career at &

In the Spotlight: Page Jordan, Barnes & Noble Community Relations Manager

Page Jordan

By Cindy Hudson

Barnes & Noble is a national bookseller willing to work with local authors to help them get their books on the shelves. Community Relations Managers (CRMs) serve as the “go-to people” for writers who want to participate in that process. Page Jordan is one of these CRMs. Working from a flagship store in Clackamas, Oregon, Jordan loves the time she spends meeting with writers and organizing community events such as author presentations.

Here Jordan gives advice to authors about how to approach Barnes & Noble about stocking a book as well as other ways to help promote their work.

Do you have a section in the store to showcase local authors and local subjects?
Oh yes. Barnes & Noble encourages us to bring a local flavor into the store. Each location carries somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 titles. About 40,000 of those are common to every store in the nation. The rest are specific to an individual store and its local community. While it may seem to you that every Barnes & Noble looks the same and has the same displays and the same books, there is actually a lot of room for each store to enhance the local area and carry what the local community wants to read.

What is the normal distribution channel for books carried by Barnes & Noble?
The majority of books we carry go through a buying process determined by our home office in New York, but stores on a local level can help facilitate that process. While we don’t make the ultimate decision to carry the book at the local store level, we can steer authors to our home office so they can get the information they need to be considered.

Do you buy books directly from authors?
No. We carry books available through wholesalers, and we can help folks figure out which wholesaler to go with. I give out the Barnes & Noble Acceptance Criteria Sheet to anyone who asks about it. This sheet has great information and it puts the author directly in touch with our small press department in New York.

What does a book need to be carried by Barnes &Noble?
It has to have an ISBN, it has to have a bar code and it has to have a certain kind of binding. The book also must be available through a wholesaler for us to carry it on the shelves. All that information is on our Acceptance Criteria Sheet. We also look to see if it is priced competitively with other titles of similar quality. Basically what an author needs to do if a book isn’t already in distribution is submit a finished copy of the book, not a manuscript, but a finished copy to our small press department along with a marketing and promotion plan, trade reviews, and a little something on what makes that book unique. All these factors will play a role in whether we will carry it or not.

Do you carry books by people who are self-published?
We generally don’t carry those on the shelves. What we have available for the print-on-demand or the self-published author is an event called New Writers Night. We typically schedule this with four to six authors who are all self-published. We invite them to come to our store on a particular night or afternoon. They bring their own books with them, make a presentation and perhaps have a question-and-answer session with the audience. We sell the books on consignment at the store during the event, and audience members can have them signed at the time. When the reading is over, authors take the books that didn’t sell back with them, and our home office pays them for the books they sold.

Every store has the opportunity to do one or two of these New Writers Nights a year, but the store locations with CRMs do a whole lot more in the way of events than stores without CRMs. You can call any Barnes & Noble store to ask if they have a CRM on staff.

Can people come to you for general advice about publishing?
I try really hard to give time to every author who comes into our store with questions. I’ll sit down with them and we’ll have a brainstorming session that will help them think about ways of getting their book out there while they’re going through the process of trying to get it into Barnes & Noble. Maybe they can connect with local clubs, local civic organizations or local churches. It’s like I’m helping them look through their personal address book to see whom they can connect with. I encounter so many authors who have no idea what to do and they are desperate to know, and I try to help them with that. I do know how precious those creations are. No matter what the topic or what the book is about there’s somebody out there who wants to see it, who wants to read it.

What else can an author do?
I strongly encourage authors to get out there and pound the pavement, make themselves known, make their books known. I’ve run into folks who were self-published, who started with a grass roots effort who have gone on to make it really, really big. Not every book is going to have that kind of success, but when authors work hard at promoting their work it can make a huge difference in the book’s ultimate success.
October 2007 Family Fun MagazineCindy 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

Great Sites for Writers

Tiffani Hill-PattersonBy Tiffani Hill-Patterson 

Good Ol’
Most of us are familiar with the venerable Writer’s Digest, but did you know about the magazine’s companion website? is jam-packed with information to boost your writing career. Check out the daily update of market listings, a searchable database of guidelines, a list of the top 100 markets  and free advice.

The online version also includes articles from the print version as well as writing exercises, blogs and contests. Sign up for the free newsletter and get tips, advice and market news delivered right to your inbox. Can’t get much easier than that!
Tiffani Hill-Patterson is an award-winning journalist with 13 years of writing and editing experience. She’s a regular contributor to The Writer Mama zine and Birmingham Parent magazine, and her articles on health, parenting, fitness and pop culture have also appeared in The Huntsville Times, The Moulton Advertiser and The TimesDaily. She lives in Alabama with her husband and daughter. Read more at

Ask Wendy: How Do Writing Careers Evolve?

wendywotr.gif Q: What’s different about your career today vs. seven years ago?


1.    I have more steady work from regular clients. This means I rarely write query letters or mail manuscripts. Once in awhile I’ll send a magazine pitch for PR that I’m doing for one of my clients, or I’ll run across a very part-time gig that just looks perfect for me. But for the most part, I’ve got enough work to keep me busy. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to get one (or more!) regular clients so you can count on the income. When you know you’ve got at least one steady check coming in, it actually frees up more time and energy for you to do “fun” writing because you’re not as worried about paying the bills. The best clients to shoot for?

  • A weekly or monthly column that you enjoy writing (so it’s easy and fun)
  • A magazine (most likely local, regional or online) that will send regular, steady assignments
  • Copy writing or editing (for a magazine, newspaper, website or ad agency)
  • Newsletter writing for a (paying) client

2.    I’m much better about charging what I’m worth. When I first started, I took almost every gig that came along–some that probably had me earning less than minimum wage–because I wanted the published clips and REALLY didn’t want to go back to a 9-to-5 job. I gradually became choosier and would drop my lowest-paying gig when a better one came along.

3.    I expect to spend money to make money. I don’t cut corners when it comes to things like my computer, my high-speed Internet access or my fax line because I know it’s worth it in the long run to have reliable tools and technologies. Plus, you can write them off your taxes.

4.    I only do work I enjoy. Once in a while I have to do some boring editing or work with an advertiser who has me rewrite her 20words of text 17 times, but for the most part, I love what I do, which makes it easy to get up every morning. Seven years ago, I would have called in sick.

Wendy Burt is a successful full-time freelance writer and editor who has more than doubled her income since leaving her job as a newspaper editor just four years ago. With two women’s humor books for McGraw-Hill and more than 1,000 published pieces, Wendy’s work has appeared in such varied publications as Family Circle, The Writer,,, Home Cooking Magazine and American Fitness. Wendy teaches “Breaking Into Freelance Writing” and still finds ample time to spend with her beautiful children, Gracie and Ben. Visit to see books by Wendy and her award-winning dad.

Writing Roots: The Light Green La-Z-Boy

Christina KatzBy Christina Katz

My articles in 2008 will each focus on a memory that led me to the writing life. I hope that my musings will encourage you to reflect on why and how you write and to honor and encourage the impulse that compels you to express in the coming year.

When I was growing up, we lived in New Hampshire or Massachusetts, moving in stretches of years as necessary for my father’s employment at the regional telephone company. But one thing remained consistent: a light green La-Z-Boy rocker/recliner was always placed next to a window in my pink and yellow decorated bedrooms with the white canopy bed.

I wrote about this chair quite often when I was in graduate school and afterwards, though I’m not sure I understood then why I found its memory so compelling. Today, I realize that the chair became a point of departure allowing me to pull a lever, tip back and let go or just to sit and rock and stare out the window until the words came.

Sitting in that chair became an informal ritual, paper and pen in my lap, thoughts unloosed from the present-day world, writing away. Mom would be downstairs preparing dinner, Dad would be watching the news, and my older brother, Scott, would be in his room with the door closed, like mine, listening to records on his stereo.

As far as I knew, they all remained at home while I crossed a threshold as real as the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’s childhood tale. I didn’t have to crawl on my hands and knees or push aside heavy coats to emerge in a faraway place. I could sit. I could rock. And be swept away to an otherwise hidden part of my consciousness. Only to be called back once again for supper.

Today, my mother is still an excellent cook. My father continues to be well informed on current events. My brother is a professional musician. And I write. I wonder how much credit I owe to that sturdy chair? Such a basic thing, a rocking chair, and yet such a powerful threshold for an aspiring writer who did not know it yet.

A light green La-Z-Boy meant everything to my future. And because of my time away, dinner tasted even more wonderful, just as it does after any good tromp through the wilderness.
Christina Katz, author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids, is working on her second book for Writer’s Digest Books, Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform. She has also written over two hundred articles for magazines, newspapers, and online publications and has appeared on “Good Morning America.” Christina is a popular writing instructor who has taught hundreds of writers over the past seven years. She blogs daily at The Writer Mama Riffs and is publisher and editor of two zines, Writers on the Rise and The Writer Mama. More at

Beyond “What You Know”: Expanding Into New Genres

sage.gif By Sage Cohen

What would happen to your writing career if you expanded into other genres? In my 2008 column, I’ll be exploring how we can stretch our self-concept as writers, explore new possibilities for our writing and thereby increase our publication opportunities.

For years, I though of myself exclusively as a poet until one day a journal entry derailed into a more formal narrative piece and I thought, “Hey, maybe I’m an essayist, too.” Shortly thereafter, I started polishing, submitting and publishing essays.

Whereas poetry is largely an art of compression-taking an idea or an experience and distilling it to its essence–essay has been for me an art of expansion. Through its large, narrative canvas, I can tell a more in-depth story, exploring and commenting on personal and cultural themes explicitly rather than metaphorically.

The two genres dovetailed for me on a month-long writing retreat at Soapstone, where I wrote not only poetry but also several essays describing the experience of writing poetry in a solitary cabin in the woods. One of those essays, “Flow,” was recently published in the anthology Cup of Comfort for Writers (Adams Media 2008).

I think I was successful in placing this story, as well as others that have appeared in Oregon Literary Review, Absolute Write, Greater Good and Black Lamb because I brought to essay writing two key, transferable skills from my poetry career:

1. Microscopic attention to the look, feel, sound and rhythm of every single word in relationship to the words around it

2. A practice of sending out my work regularly. The rhythm of keeping an ear to the ground for publications that seem like a fit for my work, and then submitting, was as important as the rhythm of writing essays.

The good news about taking on a second genre is that all of the good habits developed when cultivating one’s original craft will most likely continue to be beneficial.

By embracing two writing paths, I doubled my publishing possibilities and exponentially increased the fun and variety of my writing. And, of course, I doubled my workload. Keeping up with my double life demands more rigor, structure, creativity and odd work hours; but the payoffs have been well worth it. Within two years, I published two dozen essays and was offered two assignments as monthly columnist for publications I respect.

Interestingly, it was not a poem, but rather my essay “Flow,” that enabled me to share my love of poetry and the writing life with a larger, more diverse audience than I’d ever imagined possible.
Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic, forthcoming from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. In 2006, she won first prize in the Ghost Road Press annual poetry contest. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University where she was awarded a New York Times Foundation fellowship. Sage teaches Poetry for the People and Personal Essays That Get Published.

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