Selling stuff to writers

In addition to the books about writing that are on my bookshelf, I’ve acquired several e-books that I’ve downloaded from various sources.  Of course, Writer’s Digest Books is the primary source for a wide variety of books and courses about how to write.  But as I’ve stumbled through the la-la land of the Internet I’ve found dozens more e-books, some of which were good and some of which were pure BS.

The same choices apply to blogging, creating a web site, etc.  Most are sales pieces about the so-called benefits of freelancing and how “you too” can be a success if only you follow their 376 steps.  The bottom line seems to be to sell your “products” yourself whether or not you consider your primary market to be business writing, features, or long form (books & videos).  The real money is producing and selling products on your web site using e-mail marketing.

Well, I’ve been reading all these advice columns and books (I gave away a large library 4 years ago when I took a hiatus from writing), and the problem for me always has been JUST DOING IT.  I am not inspired (or compelled emotionally) to write, and for me it is hard work.  For that reason I’ve never really considered myself a writer.  It was just something I’ve done in various forms over the years as a sideline to my regular job.

So why do I keep on reading?  It is still possible to learn something and to pick up ideas, whether it is how to run a business or to market yourself.  And for a writer, it’s basically about selling yourself more than demonstrating your skills or expertise.

Even though I was a member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) for 20 years, I have cut myself off from writing for businesses even though many say that is a lucrative market for freelancers.  I used to tell myself it was because that type of writing was boring, but the real reason is that I’ve developed a strong bias against working in or for corporations.  I’ve seen too many friends get screwed by them, and so I have a strong antipathy that I’ve finally acknowledged.

So I still rely on the query letters to publishers and networking in conferences where I can meet editors, both online and in person.  As I’ve done more blogging, I’ve found it enjoyable because I have an opinion about everything (as my friends will tell you) so all I need is a topic to get me started.

My most recent acquisition was The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman (2010 edition download $12.95) from his web site: You get a 369-page pdf document, and for an additional fee you also can order two supplemental materials.  Because of his background he spends a lot of space writing about how to start a business, especially sales and marketing.  I think his most important recommendation is knowing your audience.  Most writers are very vague about that and say they’re writing for themselves and hope that someone may buy it.  His book is specific to commercial copywriting.

I.J. Schester takes a very different approach in his 2009 paperback from Writer’s Digest Books 102 Ways to Make Money Writing 1,500 Words or Less that covers five areas of feature writing: magazines, newspapers, literary outlets, corporate writing, and special interest topics.  His book is more of a catalog of writing opportunities sorted by type and how each approach and style is different.  He poses the same questions for each of the 102 outlets: Where do I start? Who do I contact? and  What do I Charge?

The theme I keep seeing is that the emphasis is to become an entrepreneur selling products (whether its books, videos, webinars, etc.) rather than writing for publication by others.   In other words you’re self-publishing via your web site even though you may outsource some specific functions.  I’m not ready to take that step, are you?


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