Janice Hanna Thompson

Janice Hanna Thompson—a south Texas native—is the author of over sixty novels and non-fiction books for the Christian market. She supplements her fiction habit by writing magazine articles, devotions, write-for-hire books and more. One of the chief joys of Janice’s life is training writers to earn a living with the written word. Check out Janice’s “Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer,” course at www.freelancewritingcourses.com. The ten lessons in this course were developed to strategically train freelance writers to earn top dollar. Each lesson includes an audio file (mp3 for download), a corresponding audio script, a downloadable worksheet, a power point video, a bonus feature, and full access to the site’s forum. Email Janice at booksbyjanice[at]aol[dot]com to learn more, or visit her website at www.janicehannathompson.com.

The Short Piece

Writing is my time machine, takes me to the precise time and place I belong.
                                                                                       —Jeb Dickerson

Happy 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 about.

A 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!)

Closing thoughts:

• 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.