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Versatility – The Key to Steady Income
by Susan Sundwall

According to my Webster’s dictionary the word versatile means competent in many things, turning with ease from one thing to another, or many-sided. If you’re a beginning writer, you may not have found your niche yet or, if you’re like me, there are many avenues of writing you’d still like to explore. In either case those dictionary definitions, once adopted, can be the key to your own growing success as a writer.

I use a spreadsheet to track my sales and as I glance through it, I see the evidence of my own versatility. Some of my sales include:

  • A children’s emergent reader
  • Forty seven articles about the writing life
  • Six women’s magazine articles
  • Four greeting cards
  • Several short stories for children
  • Five non-fiction children’s articles
  • Ten poems
  • Three Christmas plays
  • One Easter play
  • Seven children’s skits.
  • Four puppet scripts
  • One short romance
  • One nostalgia piece
  • Two Amazon Shorts

Each sale of the above mentioned works began with an Internet search for markets. There, I found writer’s guidelines and examples of what is acceptable for various publications. I subbed each piece until it found a home and came to understand that aggressive versatility is the name of the game if you want to keep those checks rolling in.

The Short Stuff

Maybe you think you can’t write a poem. While nobody’s looking give it a try. Poetry is an inexact science and you might surprise yourself. I did exactly that with a single pleasant thought I had about the first snowfall. It was a rhyming poem and I had some reservations about it, but I got my brave up, sent it to Capper’s and ten days later I had a check in my hand. I completely amazed myself! At Thanksgiving I sold them another and was paid twice, once for the print version and once for online. Feeding off that success, I used the same method with some verse and quotes that popped into my head. In the back of a trendy woman’s magazine I found a company that sells vinyl lettered quotes that are used to accent walls in homes and businesses. I held my breath, e-mailed the owner and asked her if she bought verse. After a few back and forth e-mails, she bought six short children’s poems and I had a check within two weeks.

Greeting cards? Go to the card shop or grocery store. Pick up a few and flip them over. The name of the company and maybe a website will be listed. Go there. Practice writing a few. There are several websites with great articles on how to write greeting card verse, including this one. Also try Sandra Miller-Louden’s website at www.greetingcardwriting.com Write up similar verses to what you love in a greeting card especially if it’s humorous. Comical verse sells better than anything. I did this with a card company that sells cards in dollar stores. I submitted by e-mail, the editor sent a purchase order and I received my check within six weeks of acceptance. I’ve sold her four – so far.

A Bit Longer

Have you tried anthologies? This is a market that doesn’t seem to be going away and is an excellent avenue for a first sale and ego boost. Categories for stories drawn from personal experience abound and may include holiday memories or traditions, the trials and tribulations of parenthood, buying or selling a home, sports, spirituality and on, and on. Glean through your memory bank and then investigate a few of these:

  1. www.chickensoup.com
  2. www.godallowsuturns.com
  3. www.cupofcomfort.com
  4. www.literarycottage.com
  5. www.truerealestatestories.com

Stretch Yourself

Other markets I have tried are crafts and short stories for children, online women’s magazines, short stories and non-fiction articles for religious publications and writing about writing. Take a look at these.

  1. www.imaginationcafe.com
  2. www.wow-womenonwriting.com
  3. www.scottpublications.com
  4. www.prairietimes.com

These markets and many others are all out there, need monthly content and you might as well be one of the contributors. Be aggressive with yourself, too. Don’t wimp out. I had no idea how much I’d love writing short verse until I did it. My big dream is to write a sure-fire best seller and I’ve recently completed my first full-length novel—a mystery. Right now I’m on pins and needles waiting to hear from the publisher who requested it. But as a break from that and to keep my finger in many pies, I hone versatility. It’s a challenge and a hoot all at once, and your reward for being versatile can go right into the bank.

© Copyright 2008, Susan Sundwall

Susan is a freelance writer, sometime poet and soon to be blogger. Read her children’s story, "Mary’s Sparrow."

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