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7 Ways to Shift Your Writing Sales into High Gear
by Cheryl Sloan Wray

Have you ever found yourself in a rut? You get stuck doing something the same way you've always done it and it's just not getting you anywhere?

Perhaps you've found yourself in a writing rut. You keep trying the same markets for your work, but you don't seem to be meeting any new goals or breaking through to any new financial levels.

If you find this a familiar situation, perhaps you need to come up with a new strategy. Perhaps you need to try and kick your writing to a new level-you need to come up with some new ways to bring in more money and, in turn, more satisfaction for the work you do.

As I've continued on the journey as a freelance writer over the past ten years, I've learned a lot of lessons about what works and what doesn't work... what writing I'm comfortable with and what I'm not... which editors to reach out to and which to avoid... and how to receive tiny checks and how to receive bigger ones. Over the years, I've discovered that the following seven tips will increase the money you make writing:

(1) Specialize. Perhaps you should be sending out as much of your writing to as many possible markets you can think of, but I tend to think a smarter (and more productive) idea is to find something you know a lot about and specialize in that area. Do you know a lot about financial issues? Are you a seasoned traveler? Do you have an expertise in parenting? Or health? Or religious issues? Or teenagers? Whatever your niche, specialize and make yourself an expert in that area. As you write in your niche, you will become known for your writing in that area and editors will be much more willing to take a look at your work.

(2) Branch out. Tip #1 does not mean that you should stay settled in just one area, though. While specializing is important, the one best way to make money as a writer is to write in a variety of mediums. The most productive (and financially independent) writers I know are ones who write a variety of material. They write magazine articles, but also write promotional copy for local companies. They write children's stories, but have also broken into books. They write for trade magazines, but also teach writing at the local college. Once you're serious about making money as a writer, consider all the different venues for your writing. The more you write, the more you make.

(3) Go local. There is truly big money waiting to be had at national, glossy publications and high-name book publishing companies, but it sometimes takes a while to get there. In the meantime, consider all of the local, statewide, and regional opportunities that are available to you. In my area, I write for a large, daily newspaper, regional parenting publications, university magazines, trade publications, and various businesses. Look to your area and see if you can find similar opportunities.

(4) Go online. Perhaps the most global of all writing opportunities is the Internet, and it is a great way to expand your writing expertise and paycheck. There are numerous online versions of traditional magazines, strictly online magazines and newspapers, and literally millions of websites that need written material. The Web is also great for promoting your writing material; I teach writing classes and promote my books at my own website (www.magazinewriting.com). There are many ways you could do the same.

(5) Be seasonal. Many editors have told me that I sold an idea to them because it was perfect for what they needed right at that moment. You can increase your sales by considering the seasonality and currency of your ideas. Anything on presidential elections would be needed right now, for example; by December, editors will be needing material on the holidays. Consider what is appropriate at any given time and develop ideas that you can sell to an editor in this way.

(6) Be a little bit pushy. I'm an extremely nice person (believe me!), but there are times when I need to be a little bit pushy. I want my idea to make it to the top of an editor's pile of papers on her desk; I want to impress an editor by convincing him that I'm very eager to write for his publication; I want to convince an agent that my book idea is just right for her. So, put your meek self aside and put on self-confidence instead.

(7) Have a plan. No one succeeds at anything without a plan. This is especially true in the writing game. To make money at writing, you need to come up with a practical plan that will result in the amount you want to make. If you are writing for magazines, come up with a query letter target plan (for example, decide that you will send out 25 query letters a month to magazines that meet certain pay scale criteria); if you are a novelist, come up with a concrete plan for sending proposals to certain book agents within the next six months; if you are a business writer, formulate a plan to submit proposals and meet with business leaders who need written material and who can pay larger amounts for your work. Whatever you write, come up with a definite plan that will pay off!

© Copyright 2004, Cheryl Sloan Wray

Cheryl Sloan Wray is a freelancer writer with more than 1000 articles to her credit. She is also the author of Writing for Magazines (McGraw-Hill), a popular guide for freelancers.

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