“You know what I should write?” I asked my husband one evening early in 2006 while lamenting the direction of my freelancing career.
He looked over and just raised his eyebrows, a sign that he wished I’d make up my mind about where my career was headed, too.
“Careers in women’s studies. Maybe 101 Careers in Women’s Studies.”
He smirked. “Could you find that many?”
I’d majored in Women’s Studies in college. At the time, it was euphoric and part of my angst-ridden, far-left, academic persona. I loved it then, but since leaving the cocoon of academia, I’d been less than impressed.
Six months later, I found myself yet again disturbed by my freelance writing. I’d written a booklet, “The Basics of Web Writing,” that I thought would enhance my income streams, but I sold a whopping seven copies before I realized that I really didn’t have the marketing capital to make it work. Plus, web writers seemed reluctant to buy anything, despite the pricing of the book.
In a haste, I sat down and came up with a simple list – 101 careers that one could have with a women’s studies major. I outline other sections, such as how to find an internship and web resources, and then changed the title to “101 Careers in Gender Studies” to fit with the current climate in the field. I found a listing of women’s and gender studies programs, banged out a marketing letter, and dashed it off to 20 schools.
You may have noticed one crucial step missing from this sequence of events. Did I write the booklet? No, I did not. I admit that I didn’t expect it to sell, so when I got a call from the purchasing department at the University of Arizona the next week, I was floored. They would be sending a purchase order for the booklet.
I spent that weekend rushing to write the booklet so that I would be ready when the order arrived. My husband, whose laughter hadn’t been welcome when I told him what I’d done, took our son to the park, and the grocery store, and everywhere else they could find to go so that I could work. I skipped church to finish up the manuscript.
When the order came, I proofed it hastily and then got a few copies made. As it turned out, I needed more copies. Another school ordered copies that week. And then another. I sent out 20 more letters, energized as I was by my success, and soon hit my booklet-career mother lode. One school wanted 200 copies!
I sent out more marketing letters and got more responses. Bolstered by a 20% purchase rate on the marketing letters, I will be sending materials to all 500 Women’s and Gender Studies departments before the school year begins again.
I’m now planning two new booklets and am employing the lessons I learned from the gender studies booklet. Focusing on a small, but passionate niche market is the easiest way to work with a small marketing budget. I’ve spent a total of $10 on marketing the booklet and have sold several hundred copies.
Second, booklets should be quick and to the point. “The Basics of Web Writing” is too broad – what will it tell readers? “101 Careers in Gender Studies,” though is a marketable title. Readers know what to expect, and they can judge its value by what they anticipate inside the covers.
And the final lesson: don’t sell your work before you write it! You just might be successful!
Brandi Rhoades is a freelance writer who is still trying to find her way in this industry. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines, as well as on various websites. You can visit her online at http://www.brandirhoades.com. She lives in Kentucky with her family.