Recently, I’ve heard of a few writers giving up the ghost, or at least publicly bemoaning their financial situation. Apparently, being a writer doesn’t automatically grant you fame and fortune. Who knew? While hearing about honest, hard-working people struggling is never nice, it isn’t really surprising. Times are hard in every industry, why would writing and publishing be any different? Of course, we would all like to barricade ourselves in our ivory towers, immersing ourselves in the projects of our choosing. Unfortunately, there are very few writers in such a privileged position. The rest of us get by any which way we can.
We all have a unique skill set. We all have different backgrounds and interests, know different people, and operate in different circles. The trick is tapping into these things and making them work for us. I’ve been writing fiction since I was a child. But, seeing very little financial reward, I gave it up in my early-twenties to focus on magazine features. It took me a long time to climb the ladder high enough to be able to make a living, and even then, a lot of the time, I was writing on the whim of an editor. It’s not all red carpets and goody bags. Writing about topics you neither know nor care about with enough authority and enthusiasm to hook the reader is a skill unto itself.
But then, the landscape changed and magazines went out of fashion, in particular in the men’s lifestyle sector, where I had aligned myself. I still sell the odd feature, but nowhere near enough to sustain myself. That meant I had to branch out into other things. I took up fiction again, and released ten books in as many years. To be perfectly honest, they don’t make millions, especially when you factor in costs like marketing and artwork. But, getting rich was never the plan.
Creating a brand, and a stable, if modest, revenue stream was. Once a book is out there, it will stay out there for as long as you want it to. In addition to the books, I usually manage to place a short story or two a month with websites, genre magazines or anthologies. I spend a lot of time and effort promoting and marketing. Probably more than I do actually writing. I do a lot of interviews and guest posts, and I review films and books in my genre, usually for free. I also maintain a personal blog, which I update regularly. I do all this to get my name out there. It sounds cliché but it’s true, and absolutely necessary. I’m always looking to expand my platform, and haul myself up in those search engine results and Amazon author rankings. Because, that means more visibility and, hence, more sales.
My main brand is all about horror fiction. But, I also write about travel and various real-life adventures I have. This wouldn’t sit well with my horror readers, or the people who know me from my lifestyle features. It’s confusing. So for this, I use a super secret pseudonym. Luckily, these books sell themselves, and don’t require much marketing. So, between the magazine features, the short stories, the reviews, the blog, and the dozen or so books I’ve written under two different names, do I make a comfortable living?
Nope. Not even close.
That’s why I branched out into copywriting. I knock out a couple of product descriptions a month, mainly for Chinese businesses. I lived there for five years, and made a lot of contacts. It isn’t the most exciting work, but it pays well, and has also led to sporadic bouts of media consultation with some of those same companies. They have products and services they want to sell to larger markets but know things work differently in the west, and are often caught out by the nuances of the English language.
Now I’m on my way to making a living. Remember, every business, small or large, needs copywriting or copy editing services. How many are in your circle?
This year, I’ve taken on a couple of freelance editing jobs for independent writers who need their books straightened out before publication. I don’t advertise. These gigs usually come via word of mouth. If you do a job well, word spreads.
Lastly, there’s ghost writing. I have a few semi-regular clients who come to me every now and again for help with various projects. They tell me what they want, I write to order, and then they put their name on it, and sell the work as their own. As long as I get paid, I don’t mind what happens to it once it leaves my desk. How would I feel if someone else makes millions from work I did? I would be elated because the client would undoubtedly come back to me for the follow-up and I’d be able to negotiate a higher fee for my services!
As you can see, it’s not easy but I make it work somehow, and so can you. It’s all about diversifying and creating multiple revenue streams, instead of relying on one or two and then hoping the world will change to accommodate you. It won’t.
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C.M. Saunders is a freelance journalist and editor. His work has appeared in over sixty magazines, ezines and anthologies, including Loaded, Record Collector, Fantastic Horror, Trigger Warning, Liquid imagination, and the Literary Hatchet. His books have been both traditionally and independently published, the most recent being Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story (Uncut), which is available now on Deviant Dolls Publications. He is represented by Media Bitch literary agency.
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Many freelance writers find it difficult to break into the publishing world. What they don't know, however, is that there's a faster and easier way to see their words in print. It's called ghostwriting, and it's an extremely lucrative, fun, and challenging career.
But how do you get started as a ghostwriter? How do you find new clients who will pay you to write their material? How do you charge? And what kind of contracts do you need to succeed? All these questions and more are answered in So, You Wanna Be a Ghostwriter...How to Make Money Writing Without a Byline.
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BONUS! Successful ghostwriter, Anton Marco, shares his secret for landing ghostwriting clients. Don’t miss Anton’s real ghostwriting contract at the end of this book! It provides an example of what he charges and the payment terms he requires from each client.