Sunday, January 21, 2007


""Tis pleasant, sure, to see one's name in print;
A book's a book, although there's nothing in't"
George Noel Gordon, Lord Byron 1788 - 1824
"English Bards and Scotch Reviewers" 1809 l 51

Hmmph! I wonder how much time the likes of George, Lord Byron, had to spend on marketing his work? I watched a TV docu on the Brontes the other night and was surprised to find that their early manuscripts were self-published in that they paid to have them put in print. This, I know, is a common practice these days, and even more common is going through the desk-top publishers. With the increasing difficulty in selling manuscripts (whether books or freelance writing) it's no wonder! I've just spend literally hours of my precious writing time over the last five days doing nothing but market research, for my travel articles, with some very discouraging results. The following is a post I have already put up on another on-line journal I keep, but I thought it was worth repeating here, and will add to it up-to-date comments on the subject.

One of the jobs of being a free-lance writer is finding markets where to send your work. I have spent seven hours in the last two days just browsing the internet and writing down potential on-line sites to send articles to. The unfortunate thing I found out is that almost all of them pay nothing. Zip. Nada. For what usually amounts to anywhere from 5 - 10 hrs (or even days!) of work by the writer getting said articles in good enough shape to be published. Man! It's downright discouraging. It's just as bad with the print publications these days and very difficult, in fact, to get published in newspapers as they all tend to be under the same publishing umbrellas, use wire service stories, and their own staff writers. I'm feeling rather at my wits end right now but I will try sending stuff to the few paying sites that I found and might send previously published stuff to some of the others who won't pay, just for the sake of exposure. As I tell people who come into my travel writing classes "Don't quit your day job!" Freelance writing simple doesn't pay enough to make a living off of it. The few perks are FAM trips (familiarization trips offered by tour companies) or winning trips like I did to Malaysia and NYC. Those were what I consider to be pay back for all the stories I've given away or got peanuts for. Now I've got a few stories (new) ready to send out but where to is the question? Because I don't feel like giving them away. So, I'll have to spend another few days and many hours marketing now and then just see what happens. With my busy time coming up (out every night of the week except the weekends to teach classes) I have to keep plugging along during the day getting my writing done. So far so good. I'm afraid to slow down because just the slightest distraction is enough to put me off course and I can't afford to do that just now.

The thing is, you can't give up. In order to keep my membership in the travel writer's association I have to have at least three PAID publications in 24 months. That doesn't sound like a lot, but when you look at the odds, it is. This is what prompted me to take time off the novel to do some serious marketing. Now I have an idea of what's new out there and who might pay (hardly any that I've found so far), I have to take more time off the novel to actually send things out. I have also realized I must buy a new printer/scanner and a flat-screen monitor. All these hours of sitting at the computer in an awkward pose (because my new work space is cramped) is causing me a lot of pain in the neck and shoulders. Also, my old HP printer is not working, I've been using a borrowed printer, but I definitely need a scanner in order to jpeg photos that can accompany my travel articles. In reality I need to buy a digital camera (and it has to be high resolution to suit publishers) and that I will do before I leave on my next trip. At least all these expensive items can be deducated from my self-employment writer's income!

There's been an ongoing discussion among members of the travel writer's Assoc. regarding sharing info for markets. Most say no, they wouldn't consider it as it's all part of the work of being a writer. I agree in many respects although it would perhaps be less time-consuming to have a market list to refer to. I'm also not good at schmoozing travel industry people to troll for free (FAM) trips. I've tried, with no success. Partly because you need a publisher who will readily accept the story you are going to submit and that's hard to come by. Not many of them want to give out letters of assignment.

A long time ago I started to research agents/publishers for my novel. I found a lot of agents weren't accepting new-comers and a lot of publishers wanted you to pay costs. (My novel was 'accepted' by a Greek publisher some years ago who wanted me to pay half the publishing costs which would have amounted to $23,000 US dollars! Yipes! No way...and anyway, in my books it's they pay you, not vice versa! (In the case of Shadow, I graciously declined. Anyway I was not nearly finished the book and didn't want to put a time-limit on myself). I have ideas in mind, when I am working on my final draft, and then I'll start looking into it again.

Well, that's the situation for free-lance writers, anyway. Back to the drawing-board and hope for the best. I'll be spending the next few days sending some things out, then I have to finish the travel articles I just started, and then....I hope...I'll be able to get back to work on my novel again!

"A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor."
Ring Larder 1885-1953 "How to Write Short Stories" 1924

Writer's note: Yes, and so is the 'delete' button when you attempt to market on-line! Though it saves a lot of money, I am questioning whether or not it's the best way.


Anonymous said...

Ah yes - the old 'don't give up the day job', lol. It's SO true.
I was a freelance journalist, and made far more money per word than I do now as a novelist. Conclusion - I am insane.
I also have two part time jobs tutoring and I freelance as a graphic artist and cartoonist.
My son makes more money than I do just by doing odd jobs (to earn his way through college) and my sister admits she regrets her bartending days - when she was making Really good money. (She's now an alcohol councelor, which makes you kind of wonder...)
Anyway - yes, do NOT quit the day job. But still, it's fun to write isn't it?

Amy Guth said...

I would have to agree, Anonymous. Even on perpetual book tour, I don't give up the freelance gigs, as the novelist income is remarkably low except in rare cases. But, it, of course, builds with your brand awareness as subsequent novels appear and, I have found even now, that freelance work and novel promotion absolutely feed off of each other.

Wynn Bexton said...

Yes, you do have to be persistent.
Today (monday's) tally: I sent out six plus one query. Three came back immediately as undeliverable mail. Late tonight a more positive response from someone who will publish. I am not sure they pay though.
Will try again tomorrow.

Wynn Bexton said...

OK, five days later and so far I've had two acceptances (non paying of course!) out of 14 submission. Three were undeliverable, 1 returned cause the mailbox was full. Meanwhile, my outbox refuses send out mail and it's all backed up. I called tech support but they offered little hlep. Gah! I think I'll go back to work on the novel.