Writing for Profit or Pleasure: Where (and how) to Publish


Writing for Profit or Pleasure: Where to Sell Your Work - book imageWhy publish?

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.

On-Line Publishing

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.

Print Magazines

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.


Writing for Profit or Pleasure: Where to Sell Your Work - book image 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!

49 thoughts on “Writing for Profit or Pleasure: Where (and how) to Publish”

  1. That’s quite a list you have there Allan and it’s great that you’re willing to share your valuable experience with your readers. The only one that I feel confident in commenting about is the blogging aspect. If anyone is serious about blogging for money then I would definitely go for the self hosted ones, especially if your considering doing paid reviews.

    There are quite a few sites that act as a go-between for advertisers and bloggers, PayPerPost used to be one of the biggest. Basically they will offer tasks that the bloggers can choose to write about and on completion, as long as the advertiser approves of the content, they will get paid. At one stage, while I was trialling them out, I was making up to $300 per week.

    The thing is these site will not offer tasks to bloggers who use the free platforms. There are some bloggers who frown on those who do paid reviews, but hey, we all have to make a buck somewhere.

    I also feel that hosting your own blog shows others that you’re serious about what your doing and will add credibility to all that you do. Take for example all those bloggers using blogger blogs that are telling others how to make money. If they were making so much money don’t you think they could afford to host their own blog?

    Great write up Allan, and thanks for linking to my article.

    1. You are welcome Sire, and thank you; for the kind words here and the tip-offs on Helium and PayPerPost. I’ll look into PPP before I write my Blogging For Bucks article. I’m not sure yet how I’m going to handle that one. There are gazillions of websites that devote all their time and energies to this topic, and I really don’t want to fall in step with those by focusing on that here. Although… that IS where the money would be, if I wanted to make money from this. I’ll probably look at the various techniques a blogger can employ to monetize a blog then create a link list of my favorite sources for reliable information. Thanks Sire… I appreciate your help in figuring that out! 🙂

      1. Not a problem mate, it’s good to know I still have some valuable ideas in me that others can use.

        There are actually a lot of those sorts of sites, and probably a lot more have come about since I wrote my own post on the subject. I may have to revisit it myself one day.

  2. Wow, what an incredible amount of info!!

    Having just realized this blog focuses on freelance writing (amazing what one can realize when one reads the headers 🙂 ) methinks I’ll move it to a special category all of its own on the forums.

    Sharing this with me network now – thanks!

    1. And that was just the SUMMARY! 😮

      I do my best to keep you confused Barbara, I’ve been playing the old shell game with blogs. This one now ties in with my business web site AllanDouglas.com Which I think is pretty cool – my first flash based site. If you have a moment (sometime) you might want to peek in there.

      The Prattle has moved to it’s own diggs and will focus on simple living and making the most of life as we live it.

      Thanks for popping in Barbara… loved your article this morning!

  3. Hi Allen:

    Read the detailed blog post. I feel you are depressed and that is why your post only consisted of only negatives of online writing. Allen I personally know writers who make seven figures income and more, those are online writers. Look at Sean Mize, he writes and coaches how to write. Angela booth, she also, coaches, teaches, have several books and writes blogs for corporate companies. And I know fifteen more models for me to say that writing pays a lot.

    But to make money you have to spend money in yourself and your credibility. So people may know your skill. Save up all the testimonials, to present to get more clients.Make a grand presentation.

    Please reprogram yourself and get what you want. Angela booth and several other freelance writer say, there are two group of freelance writers.80 %of all freelance writers get paid lower income because they have accepted it.

    20 % of freelance writers get high end income. Do not let people take advantage of you and make them pay you less, as text brokers, I know them too. Show your writing sample, and tell the your price,if the say no, well and good. Create your own site and sell from there. Site has to be very good looking to invite expensive customers and some testimonials. Portfolio page must be written by a branding specialists, who can guarantee you more business. Use targeted traffic to the site and wait for orders to come. Keep a writer waiting to take orders if you are over capacity writing for yourself.
    Big plans will bring big results.

    Good luck to you, I wish 2011 may become the best writing year for you.

    fran A

    You will get what you are looking for.

    1. Hi Allen:

      I read your tweet today and came to your site. I remember writing this above comment, but that was in reply to another post where you were not happy with the outcome of your writing. Am I right.? You have an awesome post here, and my comment does not look suitable. However you have moved further up, I hope you are satisfied now. I like the book here that you have published in all forms. That is the way to do it. Any ways, I started writing much later online. As I spent my life off line and writing was the outcome of my career. Talk again. Have an awesome week end. Fran A

      1. In it’s original form, Fran, this post was very long. I streamlined it a bit by moving details of some of the topics into posts of their own. The portion that seemed to spur your original comment is available through the More On Blogging link from that section, in particular the paragraphs on Blogging for Bucks. My opinion of that has not changed.

        Most of my professional writing has taken the form of freelance copy writing, print magazines and newspapers. Only in the past couple of years have I tried to incorporate on-line writing. I’ve done OK with it, but my efforts in the real world are still my bread and butter.

  4. Hi Allan

    Wow and wow again. This is a mega post with so much great information. Kudos to you Allan for taking the time to put together such a comprehensive summary of all that is available.

    I would love to do some writing for others. However, with my own blog getting established and the amount of time I spend blog hopping and commenting, would have to give up sleep lol And that is in short supply some days!

    Sire told me about Helium and I am still to go visit and investigate. On the “to do” list on a quiet day in the blogosphere.

    I am going to bookmark this site cos I am hoping that I will one day be able to write and earn as I do enjoy writing so much. With one of my goals being to write an ebook this year and to monetize it, that was really great information for me too.

    Thanks again for sharing such quality content Allan. Much appreciated.

    Patricia Perth Australia

    1. Thank you Patricia! I really did *try* to keep this post brief, but there is just so much. I left off a couple, like freelancing for corporate clients. As we go through each of these I will share what I know, but I don’t know everything about everything (yet) so I’ll be counting on others to chime in with their experiences too.

      Thanks for visiting!

  5. As everyone else has said, this is an excellent post, Allan, filled with helpful information. My vote is always for self-publishing, and specifically print-on-demand. It gives the author complete control of the content, requires almost no up-front investment, and pays the writer a much higher royalty than does traditional publishing. In addition, there are no books to warehouse and ship, and if changes have to be made, there are no outdated editions to deal with. Services such as cover design, editing, proofreading, and marketing are also available if the author prefers not to tackle those tasks.

    1. Thank you for the excellent input Charles. I read somewhere that you have several books out – was it six? – did you use POD for those? When I get closer to writing the post dealing with self-publication I may just have to bring some hot chocolate and cookies as a bribe to allow me to pick your brain. I’d like to get as many perspectives as I can for each method.

      Thanks for popping in and piping up!

  6. Hi Allan,
    What a long yet informative post! I can’t imagine how much time you spent putting this all together. I have started out writing as a way to express myself and to find out how others would find my writing – whether it is okay for them or not. In the long run, I would like to know if I can earn extra in writing, such as writing for others, as long as it does not cost me my day job. I haven’t written an ebook yet and I haven’t tried submitting on ezine or writing for newspapers, but I would love to do those in the future.
    I’ll be bookmarking this post if you don’t mind.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Bookmark away Johanna – or subscribe and you will receive a notice each time a new post goes up. I plan to do this every Thursday. I am flattered that you found this overview informative. I’m sorry about the length. I actually left out a couple of methods to shorten it up some. In the pipe now are a series of articles that will look at each of these publication methods in greater detail and give a list of publishers offering each service.

      I hope to see you here again, feel free to drop any questions you have in the comments. If I don’t know the answer, I’m sure another reader will. And if no one knows… we’ll make something up!! (just kidding!)

  7. Pingback: On-line Communal Publshers | The Write Stuff
  8. Makes a pleasant change for a writing blog not to claim to be making thousands a month from it!

    One tip I would add to yours is that when stuck for inspiration, go for a long walk rather than sit in front of a monitor procrastinating. I find inspiration comes far easier when out and about.

    1. There is a lot of useful info, but because I do not yammer on and on in order to fill up pages (as some do) it’s not a tough read. And I try to keep it entertaining. No dancing bears, but not dull and dry. Thanks for stopping in Mary, always a pleasure to cross paths with you. Happy stargazing1

  9. Fantastic list you’ve compiled here…I’m wondering though if it’s really possible to compete with “offshore” writers charging $2 per article. Is there still a decent market for well-written content?

    1. There is, Jordan, you just have to know where to find it. Sometimes that market moves around a bit so you need to keep your ear to the rails. Content mills have gotten themselves into a pickle by churning out crap. Web sites and eZines that want well written articles are looking for real writers who can craft informative and entertaining articles.

      1. Thanks Allan – I’ll keep focusing on writing great content and look out for opportunities as they come. Much appreciated.

  10. Wow, thanks for putting all this excellent work into this article. I’ve always been curious about how publishing worked and just how to even get started on that route.

    I also read a great article today on Eddie Gear’s site about some sites that pay for your articles, which is good if you are looking for some good part time extra income.


    Thanks for coming by my blog, I wish I had known about your site earlier. There’s some seriously GREAT stuff here.

    Will definitely be coming back!


  11. With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, this is a great list to be aware of. Writing is just the beginning, but the list here is great for when you are ready to share. Thanks for the great list!

  12. Somewhere in the middle, perhaps? It would be great to be enjoying what you are doing while getting a regular income from it, isn’t that what we all want? Doing what we love to do. I would love to write for a magazine someday, that would be great.

    Great article Allan, it’s always a pleasure to visit your blog.

  13. I still have a copy of the a guide to freelance writing I bought in the 1980’s. I can’t believe how many more avenues of publication have opened up since then can you? Great advice as usual Allan. Glad I stopped by, as usual.

  14. Great list, Allan! Prithee tell me, how do you have time to write such great informational posts and spare time to joust?

  15. Great list, Allan. Thank you for sharing these tips! These are really helpful to a lot of freelance writers like me.

    1. If you found the summary helpful, you will find the book a treasure; so much more in there! Thanks for the kind words, Irwin.

  16. I am a bit sceptical about the quality of ebooks which we can get from the internet either buy them or download them for free. Most of those ebooks are crap and they often overpriced. Especially the ones who campaign or a part of affiliate marketing or similar stuff. However if it’s the electronic version of those books who were printed, then I don’t doubt the quality, or if it’s written from known author/writer or it does not relate with such ******* online marketing thingy.

  17. You seldom promote your own work, Allan, and this is a pleasure to see. Your tips are well thought out but I would say with the small presses an agent is not necessary. I have two books published by small traditional presses and they prefer not to work with an agent. Perhaps for their own reasons. Good luck with your book, it looks timely and just what’s needed by beginning authors.

    1. Yes, I would agree with that with the one exception of a writer who is so busy writing that s/he does not have the time to query a battalion of small presses. An agent is a convenience in these cases. Although they are better equipped to evaluate a contract than most writers are. Some small presses take horrible advantage of authors. But if authors do some homework and check-out every press before querying adding only reputable houses to the list, they should be OK. When trying to get into The Big Houses an agent is essential.

    1. Just scratching the surface here, Kenna. The book goes into depth on each topic… yet does not babble incessantly. Some instructional authors seem to feel their readers have A.D.H.D. so they repeat everything four or five times (or maybe they’re just trying to fill pages).

      I know my readers (all four of them) are intelligent, thoughtful people so I am more concise.

  18. You could certainly see your skills within the article you write.

    The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as
    you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. At all times go
    after your heart.

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