March, everyone! What a glorious time of year! Here in the South, the
cold weather is behind us. Glimpses of spring are everywhere! This is
the perfect season to discuss a new approach to making money with your
writing. After all, the rebirth of this fabulous season could very well
lead you to a rebirth in your writing career, as well.
This month I want to focus on
short pieces. You’ve read them all of your life: short stories,
devotionals, personal experience pieces, tiny “blips” in perpetual
calendars. They’re everywhere, and they’re all the rage. So, how do you
go about selling them? Is there money to be made? As one who’s earned
her way freelancing, I respond with a resounding “Yes!” And trust me
when I say, “If I can do it, you can too!”
Let me start by giving you an
assignment. Go to your local grocery store. Most have a carousel of
inspirational books tucked away near an end-cap. Take a good look at
what’s selling. Some of those projects (devotionals, for instance) are
compilation projects. Others (perpetual calendars, small gift books,
etc.) were written by one author.
Next, think about the themes in
your novels. What are you already writing about? Love? Marriage?
Raising teens? Grief? Relationship woes? Health problems? Empty nest
issues? Great! These all make great nonfiction topics, as well. Make a
list of topics that fit your brand. Trust me . . . this will come in
handy when you get ready to sell that next novel!
Spend some time thinking about
your writer’s voice. Are you comedic? Lighthearted? Serious? Literary?
Whatever voice you use in the fiction realm will fit here, too! I’m
known for my lighthearted novels, so I’ve been taking on projects that
make sense to my career. (More about this later.)
Let’s assume you write about
health-related issues. Your latest novel—the one you’re pitching—is
about a woman struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome. You’ve already
poured heart and soul into this novel, so you know the issue pretty
well. Why not put together several devotionals on the subject and pitch
them to an editor?
You could compile them into a
book, or offer to sell them off one by one. You might even give thought
to starting a blog on the subject and writing a few short pieces there,
as well. That way you’re building your platform and becoming known as
an expert on the subject.
And speaking of becoming an
expert, here’s a little trick of the trade. If you’re interested in
selling short pieces, scour the writer’s market guide for nonfiction
editors (perhaps homing in on those at the house where you’ve already
published fiction). Instead of pitching a particular devotional or
idea, simply let the editor know who you are and what you like to write
few years ago, I wrote to a nonfiction editor at a house where I’d
already been published. The fiction editors knew me well, but the
nonfiction editor did not. I took the time to get to know her, sharing
my heart. I’m sure she noticed the tagline at the bottom of my e-mails:
“Love, Laughter, and Happily Ever Afters.” I told her that I would love
to work on assignment, would do a fast/clean job, and was open to
thinking outside the box. Beyond that, I told her a little about
myself: author of comedic, wedding-themed books, upbeat, cheerful, fun,
mother-of-the-bride (all four daughters got married within four years
of one another).
She got it! As a result, she
began to give me work based on the areas I already knew. My first
assignment was a devotional book titled Everyday Joy.
I was asked to come up with 200
mini-devotionals (about seventy-five
words each, plus a Scripture and header). What fun I had writing it! I
was then given a bride-to-be project, which I coauthored with my oldest
daughter. I was given the task of writing a perpetual calendar titled 365
Views from the Sunny Side. Why? Because it matched my
lighthearted novels! I was also asked to write 365 Creative
Ways to Beat Stress because I do a pretty good job juggling
many projects at once. Besides these, I contributed to several
lighthearted compilation projects: Heavenly Humor for the Dog
Lover’s Soul, Heavenly Humor for the Teacher’s Soul, and Heavenly
Humor for the Dieter’s Soul. You get the idea. Some of these
pieces were 100 words. Some were seventy-five. Some were fifty. Some
were even less!
One reason I love short
nonfiction pieces so much is because they allow me to rest my brain
while I’m working on my novel. (Yes, I bounce back and forth between
the novel and the nonfiction projects.) I consider it a privilege to
dabble in both worlds. Best of all, the Lord always manages to
coordinate things so that I’m learning from my nonfiction work. I’m
being energized for the task of writing my novel! (See?! Another perk!)
• Think outside the box.
• Ask God to open new doors.
• Learn to write tight. Practice writing seventy-five word devotionals.
Kill off superfluous words (i.e. adjectives, adverbs, purple prose).
Just say what you need to say.
• Write what you know. If you’re struggling with chronic illness, offer
to write about it. If you’re homeschooling, write some devotionals
about the experience. If you’re infatuated with nature, pitch some
devotionals on the subject.
• Before you pitch any devotionals, short stories or personal
experience, take the time to get to you know yourself and a couple of
nonfiction editors. Ask your writing friends which publishers/editors
they recommend. Chances are pretty good you’ll enter into a lengthy
relationship with this editor, so be prepared to take on some fun,
unexpected short pieces! I was recently asked to write 365
Great Things about Getting Older. Ha!
That’s it for this month,
friends! Go forth . . . and write short pieces.