You have a desire to write; to make your thoughts and inspirations known to others. Perhaps you are knowledgeable and wish to share your expertise with others, passing what you know to another generation. Maybe you are creative and enjoy entertaining others with stories of fiction. Or perhaps you are insightful and like telling factual tales about places, people and events; helping others to understand.
Whatever your particular bend is, to share your work with others means acquiring a means of publication. These days, publication comes in many forms, but some forms are better suited to different tastes, depending on your expectations. Particularly the expectation of payment for your efforts.
Writing for Pleasure
There are a great many talented writers who use their talents to entertain and inform others simply because they enjoy writing and feel they have something to say. I’m sure there are some very complex psychological issues behind this, but let us not go down that path just now. The bottom line is that these people are willing to share their talents with others in exchange for the feedback and self-affirmation they receive from it. Monetary payment is not required.
If you are writing with the expectation of little or no payment, publication options open to you are quite open ended. I would assume, however, that because you are not expecting payment, you are also not willing to invest quantities of time and money into making your work available. As such, on-line publishing is probably your best avenue as this is the least troublesome way to get your work in front of large numbers of people very quickly. If you are willing to invest some effort into administration, there are several platforms for blogging that cost you nothing to use. If you are willing to invest more time and some money into your writing, a self-hosted blog, e-books, and a vanity press are all viable options for you. All of these will be discussed briefly in a moment. All are discussed in detail in my book.
Writing for Profit
If you desire to generate at least part of your regular income from your work as a writer, your publication options are narrowed a bit. How does one go about generating income from the written word? That depends on how much income you need and how quickly it must begin flowing.
If you have sufficient skills and knowledge (or research capability), you could submit your articles to major eZines and print magazines. If you are willing to put more resources into production and promotion, you could write an eBook or use a POD press to produce printed books which you would sell. Again, each of these options, and others are discussed fully in the book.
What Are Your Publication Options?
The rest of this article will be a summary of the various publication options available to writers. Some were mentioned above as being the best options for one purpose or the other. Many of these options will work for either paid or unpaid writers. They are listed in no particular order. Each is intended to be an overview; providing basic information about and one example of each option. Much more information is in the book.
There are a great many people talking about making huge quantities of money very quickly through publishing on-line. For the most part, this is a lie crafted for the purpose of separating you from your money. While it is possible to make money from on-line publishing, it takes time to build a readership and payments are not what the scams make them out to be. There are several forms of on-line publishing, let us look at each of these individually.
On-Line Publishers – Communal
There are hundreds of such sites. More pop up every day as people attempt to cash in on the riches proffered by Pay Per Click advertising. Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and Microsoft adCenter are the three largest network operators, but there are many others. A share of this advertising is the only payment many of these sites offer you. A few of these sites do offer some payment in addition to advertising shares, but again these are generally based on page views.
Many of these Communities have recently become impotent as income sources because of Googles recent changes to their algorithm to demote “article farms”. Any community that was popular with the SEO Gang for back linking purposes is now much less effective in generating income even for genuine writers. A new discovery; Helium, seems to be doing well. Another blogger; Sire, recommended it to me and he has a brief write up of it at: There’s More to Helium Than Meets the Eye.
To make anything more than pocket change each month from these sites you will need to generate THOUSANDS of page views each month. This means writing on trendy topics and having a decent grasp on writing for search engines as well as promoting your articles with social media and cross linking. They are a good option for those looking for minimal expense (free) and peer interaction, not so good for those looking for income. More on this…
On-Line Publishing – Blogging
Publishing via a blog is a very popular option for two reasons; it costs little or nothing and it offers you the most flexibility in what you publish and how.
You can start out using a free blogging platform like Google’s Blogger or WordPress. Using the free platforms are the easiest way for beginners to learn as they require practically no set-up at all, just choose a template and enter your blog title and contact info, but they are also less flexible in many ways and more difficult to publicize.
Using WordPress on a hosted account requires some technical knowledge; how much depends on your host. A good hosting service will offer an installation script, such as Fantastico, that will create your blog folders, MySQL database and install all the base files needed. From there you can use stock theme templates and plug-ins to customize the blog with little or no techie expertise. If you have the knowledge, you can customize almost all of the blog through modifications to the CSS file.
The down side of hosting your own blog is that there is some expense involved in the form of domain name and hosting fees. But, if you shop around, these can be had quite inexpensively. More on blogging…
On-Line Publishers – Writing for eZines
E-Zines differ from Communal Publishers in that E-Zines do not allow everyone who wants to, to sign up for an account and publish most anything they want. E-Zines generally cater to a particular market, just like print magazines do, and may have their content planned out months ahead of time. Many of the tips for writing for magazines will apply here as well. One major difference is in structure; since they are not limited in number of pages by printing costs versus advertising and subscription revenues, they are more flexible in the number and length of articles they can use. This does make it easier to get a foot in their door if you write good articles in their genre and can offer them something that fits the content planned for upcoming issues.
E-Zines do sometimes offer some token payment for your work, but this is often in the form of products or discounts on their services. As an example, one of my E-Zine publishers is Grit Magazine.
Most magazines are open to submissions from the public, but submission processes are often arduous and because their standards are high and their needs restricted to the subjects mapped out in the next couple of issues, rejection rates are high. Also, magazine editors will often ask you to re-write an article that they like but does not quite fit the voice and outlook of their publication. Pursuing print publication requires a thick skin; but it also pays well; $100 to $250 for a well written full length article. If you can provide high quality photos as well, you may earn even more.
Writing for magazines is a fairly exhaustive topic and will be covered in more detail in my book. But to summarize; you will need to do some research into magazines you want to write for. Acquire their writer’s guidelines and several copies of their magazine. Read the guidelines carefully and follow them to the letter. When submitting an article, submit to the editor in charge of the proper department and follow the guidelines for lay-out, file type, and specifications.
Because of my furniture making background I have done well with woodworking magazines, but these are not available to view on-line.
Writing an eBook
Producing a good looking PDF eBook; converting text from your word processor into pages of a book, indexing them, adding images and especially producing a great looking cover require some pretty high end software – or hiring someone with the software to do these conversions for you.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords all offer conversion scripts that will turn a properly formatted manuscript file into an eBook. You may publish a book to each, but each uses a different format for submission. There are also services that will convert and submit your book to all the readers services for a slice of your profits. Several chapters of my book are devoted to this process.
Writing for Article Brokers
Article brokers are middle-men that buy well written articles from freelancers and sell them to their clients who are seeking articles for on-line or print publication. For the most part they will have an application process whereby you will be required to submit samples of your work and possibly a work history.
The work you get will often be assigned, or at the very least be in the form of a list of articles desired from which you may choose. Most have high standards, strict deadlines and mediocre pay rates – at least in the beginning. Pay rates of one cent per word is common. But as you build value with a client through exceptional writing, they offer better rates. The highest I’ve ever seen was 3½ cents per word. http://www.TextBrokers.com is one example of an article broker. A much longer list will be included in the book.
Submitting to Book Publishers
With very few exceptions, getting your query and sample chapters in front of a formal book publisher will require a literary agent. Finding and getting accepted by a proper agent is an involved process best left for a separate discussion.
Using a Vanity Press
A vanity press or subsidy press will happily produce your print books for you; for a price. Most of these “presses” do not actually print your book; they offer editing, formatting, and cover design services. Some also offer promotional packages after the printing is done, but they don’t do the printing. There are only a hand full of true book printers (my sources tell me there are two) in this country and dozens of vanity presses representing themselves as printers. And you CAN deal directly with these printers if you know how.
Whether you work through a Vanity/Subsidy Press or directly with the printer you will purchase the books in quantities, there will be shipping charges involved and storage of your books needs to be arranged. Here is one example of a reputable vanity press: Dorrance Publishing Co.
A newer option is the Print On Demand (POD) publisher. These print and bind each book only as it is purchased, eliminating the high up-front costs of producing your book in batch mode. Again, there are many services claiming to be printers and only a few true printers.
http://www.publishondemand.net/ is a comparison list of a variety of POD publishing services.
Writing For Newspapers
My final offering is to look to your local newspapers as an outlet for your journalistic urges. This can take the form of being a staff reporter or as a regular columnist, or simply submitting the occasional human interest or community story.
Start with the smaller local papers, the big metro papers are not as open to walk-in writers. Get a few copies of the papers you are interested in writing for and study them. Take some samples of your work and go visit the editor.
I have written for several newspapers in the various places I’ve lived, and I will discuss what I learned from those experiences in my book.
That concludes my overview of publication sources. All of these topics are discussed at length and examples given in my book: Writing for Profit or Pleasure; Where to Publish Your Work. This book is available from Amazon (for Kindle) and in paperback.
Thanks for reading!