I am a Business:

6 Steps for Getting Published AND Paid

By Jeanne Lyet Gassman

Believe it or not, it is quite easy to get published--for free. Web sites and eZines abound offering to publish the novice writer for the payment of ďgreat exposure.Ē It is not so easy to get paid in real dollars for what you publish. How do you bridge the gap from being published to getting paid for what you publish?

You begin by thinking of yourself as a business. A successful business makes its money from the sales of its product. A writerís product is his writing. That product can have no value, or it can have real value. It all depends on how you, the writer, look at yourself and your work. These six easy steps will help you cross the bridge from being a hobbyist to becoming a published and paid author.

1. Show up for work. As a freelance author, you are both the employer and the employee. Put yourself into the role of employer for a moment. If you had an employee who only showed up at his desk when he was ďinspiredĒ or when he was in trouble because he hadnít finished something, how long would you keep him on your payroll? As a professional author, you need to make an appointment with yourself. Set up a schedule for your writing and keep it. If you have a day job, establish a minimum number of hours per week you will put in on your writing and stick to it. If you canít show up for work on regular basis, then you donít deserve the job.

2. Set goals and meet deadlines. Every business has goals it wants to meet during a specific time frame. These can be sales goals, growth goals, or deadlines for specific projects. Create personal deadlines to help you reach such goals as finishing a chapter, submitting a short story to a market, or editing an article. Every few months, take the time to re-evaluate your goals. Are your objectives reasonable? Are your goals too broad? Too limited? If you discover that you never reach any of the goals you set for yourself, you may need to practice more effective time management. External deadlines come from the demands of the marketplace. These include contest deadlines, publication deadlines, and requests from editors, agents, and publishers. If you have an external deadline from an editor who needs your piece by a certain date, get the work in early. Writers who wait until the last minute to turn in everything are people who create chaos and worry in the business environment. They also fall lower on the list to receive future writing assignments from editors.

3. Know your customer. A successful business recognizes that the customer comes first. The writerís customer is the publisher who will pay him to publish his work. Donít send your customer a product that doesnít meet his needs. Donít submit fiction to a magazine that publishes only poetry. Donít send a story that is much longer than the requested word count. If you want to write for parenting magazines, study the individual magazines. Not all markets are equal. Some magazines may specialize in articles for parents of babies and infants. Others may have a Christian slant that focuses on raising older children. Do your homework so that you know the difference. Be sure to read the writerís guidelines for any potential paying market. The guidelines often contain clues about the editorís personal preferences. By knowing your customer, you greatly improve your chances of making a sale. 

4. Be professional.  A lawyer wears a suit to court. A professional athlete wears a uniform to play the game. As a writer, your uniform is your professionalism. All e-mail and snail mail letters should be treated as business correspondence. Editors hate receiving e-mails that start out with, ďDude, wha-up?Ē Save your text messaging style for your IM friends. Use a business letter format and include all the necessary contact information. Your manuscripts should be formatted correctly as well, with the standard margins, spacing, font, etc. If you donít what the proper format is, check the guidelines first. You can also find information on formatting your manuscript in the current volume of The Writerís Market, published by Writerís Digest Books. Maintain a professional manner everywhere you present yourself as a writer. This includes writing chat rooms and forums. Believe it or not, editors regularly cruise many of these forums. Would you want to do business with someone who just cussed out a fellow writer and called them a #@%*? 

5. Donít confuse the professional with the personal. A good businessperson respects the important difference between a business relationship and a friendship. Editors and agents are not your friends. They are your customers and business partners. Unless you have worked closely with someone for years, you should not attempt to get too chummy by sending gifts, personal cards, etc. Donít bring your personal problems to work, either. If you canít meet a deadline, give the editor a heads-up but donít offer a host of excuses. The editor doesnít care that you had to bail your alcoholic sister out of jail last night because she wrecked your car. Finally, remember that most rejections are not personal. Authors are usually rejected because the work wasnít polished, the work wasnít appropriate for the market, or the market already has something similar. 

6. Keep good records. Most businesses have to pay taxes on their profits. If you are paid for your writing, you will need to report this income to the IRS. Keep track of your writing expenses. They may be deductible. Keep track of your submissions. There is nothing more embarrassing than discovering you have sold the same story to different markets at the same time. I have three logs that I maintain. I keep a log of all my income and expenses during the year. This includes expenses for supplies, classes, and transportation to writing-related events. I have a separate submission log for every story, every nonfiction piece, and every poem. I know when I sent something out and whether it was accepted or published. I also keep a response log for every market I send something to. This response log allows me to track the markets that are most receptive to my type of writing. Any or all of these logs can be set up easily in a database such as Excel. 

It is always wonderful to see your writing published. It is even more wonderful to receive a paycheck for that publication. Treat yourself as a successful business, and you can become the paid, published writer you want to be. Happy writing!

About the Author

Jeanne Lyet Gassman is an award-winning author and instructor whose fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry have been published in magazines, newspapers, and anthologies.

In 2002, she was the recipient of an Encourage-ment Award in Creative Writing from the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

In addition to her writing, Jeanne teaches writing classes and workshops in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Recent class offerings include: Beginning Fiction, The Secrets of Getting Published, Critiquing and Editing Your Writing, and Writing Your Personal Memoir.




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