I never thought publishing a book on Indiana high school basketball would lead to paying freelance assignments on 1) a plumber who delivers flowers to his customers, 2) a sci-fi themed microbrewery, and 3) a contestant in Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge. But, pounding the pavement in support of your self-published book can lead to some weird places.
After covering minor league baseball and NFL football for 15 years as a freelancer, and retiring from my real job, I decided to write and publish a book through BookLocker on basketball. Just like any other self-published writer, I spent a lot of time looking for ways to promote sales.
One day when leaving the local grocery store, I noticed a free local interest magazine on the rack containing car ads, business directories and other advertising detritus. The magazine covers such topics as new business openings, special events, charitable organizations, and local sports news. The publisher prints different versions of the magazine in several small towns and suburban areas of Indianapolis, each with stories unique to its own area.
Since one of the high schools featured in my book was located in the same area, I thought getting a plug in the magazine might generate sales. I emailed the publisher offering a season preview of the next year’s basketball team.
The editor accepted my story proposal and paid me $100 for the article and a few pictures. After submitting the piece (ensuring the book was mentioned in my bio, naturally) I thought that was the end of the relationship. But the next month the editor asked me to write a story on a local bowler who had recently won back-to-back state championships. Then an article on a plumber who delivers flowers from his 10-acre plot with every service call. Soon I found myself writing 2-4 stories each month for different areas of the city.
Recently the editor has started asking me for story ideas – which he then assigns to me – in addition to the articles he has scheduled. I’m no longer dependent on whatever the editor decides to publish; I’m actually generating my own workload.
It had never occurred to me that free publications might be a lucrative freelance market. I guess it pays to keep your eyes open when you’re maneuvering a grocery cart through stacks of water softener salt.
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Matt Roberts is an Indianapolis-based freelance writer. He recently published his first book, Thirty-Two Minutes in March: Four Teams Chase a Title in Today’s Hoosier Hysteria. He blogs about basketball, baseball, gambling and other things he doesn’t understand very well at wordsbymattroberts.com.
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