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GET PAID TO WRITE!

How to Make Money Writing for Magazines, Newspapers
and the Internet.

Sentient Publications, 2004, $18.95

Read some samples from Get Paid to Write!


Thomas A. Williams

Would you like to set your own hours, work at home, and write about fascinating topics and interesting people, all while getting well paid for your efforts? Selling articles to magazines, newspapers, and websites--or even writing your own book--can be a very attractive career or second income option, especially in tough economic times.

Author Tom Williams has been a freelance writer for twenty-five years and he knows what the aspiring freelancer needs to be successful. He has written for magazines ranging from Esquire, to Home Office Computing, to Writer's Digest. He has edited and published his own magazines and newspapers, for which he has bought thousands of freelance articles and read many more queries. He has also written and published 13 successful books, both with major presses and by self-publishing.

In Get Paid to Write! Williams shares the trade secrets for divining the style and editorial slant of the publications you want to write for, crafting the all-important query letter, finding good ideas for articles, structuring an article, selling information on the internet, and much, much more. He also covers many topics of interest for those who want to write books. He answers questions such as:

* How can I get a literary agent?
* How much money will I make and when will I make it?
* Will they steal my idea?
* What about the new Print On Demand publishers like IUniverse and 1st Books. How do they work? Should I use them?
* How can I know what editors are really looking for?
* How can I write query letters that regularly get results?
* What is the article type that is both easiest to write and easiest to sell?

Using the information in this book, aspiring freelancers won’t have to keep sending out query after query without knowing where and how to send them, without knowing who's buying what, without knowing how much editors are paying, without protecting their literary property, and without the agent they need.

Get Paid to Write! is loaded with detailed, highly-practical, step-by-step instructions on topics not often found in other books on this subject, such as how to use the stylistic elements that editors are looking for, how to protect your ideas, or what to do when your book or article gets published. This is the book to buy if you want to be a successful freelance writer!

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Table of Contents

Chapter One / The Freelance Facts of Life What is a magazine. How much can you make? Don’t give up your day job yet. The writer’s ego, and how it helps and hurts. The size of the market. The invisible market: what you don’t see may be bigger than what you see.

Chapter Two / How to Read a Magazine Treasures of the masthead. Cataloguing articles by type. Discovering the editorial format of a magazine. Analyzing style and technique. What the advertising reveals to the writer.

Chapter Three / The Query System: Your Key to the Kingdom The query system is the beginner’s best friend. How to write a query. The terrible ten-second sort. Nine things a good query must include. Nine beginner’s mistakes you must avoid. Why many editors steer clear of beginners. Exceptions to the rule. Why good queries are rejected.

Chapter Four / Ideas and How to Get Them The brain is an idea factory — yours included. Mind-harvesting, and how to do it. The benefits of specialization. Mind-mapping breakthroughs. Five basic human needs. Read, clip and file system for your idea bank.

Chapter Five / The Structure of a Magazine Article The anatomy of a magazine article. The lead, and how to write it. The all-important platform or billboard paragraph. The body of the article. The close. Killer titles are important. Watch those transitions.

Chapter Six / The Professional Writers Toolkit: The most essential writing tools, and how to usethem. These techniques are the backbone of all nonfiction. More examples. Everybody uses it, even the high-brows.

Chapter Seven / Nine Success Secrets of the Masters The masters specialize. The masters recycle work many times. The masters write every day. The masters revise what they write. The masters observe the rule of 24, the rule of seven, and the rule of one. The masters also write books.

Chapter Eight / How to Write for Newspapers and Syndicate Your Own Column Chaos is real and time is short. The big dailies. Niche-market tabloids. To pitch an idea. The real opportunity: syndicate your own column. Profile of a column. What a column does. Profile of a columnist. How much do you earn? Marketing your column. Create a sales package. Assemble your package. Plan your marketing campaign. Market in concentric circles. An example. Sending out the package. Secondary profit centers.

Chapter Nine / A Great New Opportunity: How to Sell Information on the Internet A wild, still untamed world of opportunities for writers. How things were in pre-internet days. The light dawns. What kind of information can you sell. Trolling for information, and how to do it. Building a low-cost web site that works. What you say on your site. Getting the money. If you build it, will they come? Attract traffic with print media classified ads. Write articles promoting your products. Other web sales opportunities.

Chapter Ten/ Rights and Contracts
The rights you are selling. Your compensation. By the word or by the piece. “On-spec” assignments. The “kill fee.” Copyright your work, and how to do it.

Chapter Eleven / Your Professional Image How to prepare a media kit. A news release for every occasion. Sample releases. How to get on television. The payoff.

Chapter Twelve / Secondary Profit Centers Business writing can be a very profitable sideline. Capabilities brochures. Annual reports. Operations manuals. Business plans. Employee manuals. Seminars. Editing and ghost writing.

Resources and Contacts Books and periodicals. Directories and guides. Organizations and networking.

Freelancer’s Glossary Writing, printing and publishing terms.

Review of Get Paid to Write!

"This book is an essential arrow in the quiver of any good writer. Freelance writers know that good writing is only half the equation, the other half is knowing what editors and readers want. Williams helps answer this question by calling on his years of real-world experience writing and editing magazines, newspapers and web sites. Williams covers every aspect of freelance writing, from idea development to promotion, with thorough, useful advice. As an aspiring writer, I can personally say that this book is a must read for anyone hoping to be their own boss and make money writing. Competition can be stiff but Thomas Williams helps writer gain the edge they need to succeed."

—Reader review on Amazon.Com

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Samples from Get Paid to Write!

From Chapter Six: "The Professional Writers Toolkit:

The great majority of freelance nonfiction articles that are published share a common structure. You can vary it and add your own spin, tone, and style to it. But the structure is there nonetheless. If you want to succeed you’ve got to understand and master it.

Here’s an analogy. We humans, though we are all different, share the same physical characteristics. The structure of our bodies is the same—head at the top, neck, torso, legs—right on down to the feet. Put the head on the end of an arm and you don’t have a person, you have a mess.

Get the structure of your article wrong, and you also have a mess. Here are the article parts you’ve got to recognize and use.

• The Title. A good, strong title helps sell an article, and you owe it to your editor to do your best to come up with one. A good title can make a lot of difference in the reception your query gets. Without it a query might not get read at all. I once sent out queries for a book called How to Make Money in Local and Regional Publishing. I got no takers. I sent out the same query with the title How to Make $100,000 a Year in Desktop Publishing and almost immediately got four publishers who wanted to see sample chapters. One of them, Betterway Publications, offered me a contract within a couple of weeks.

• The Lead. The lead paragraph has two jobs to do. The first job is to get you to read the next paragraph, whose purpose is to get you to read the next one, and so on through the article until you come to the end. The second job is to establish the tone of the article: Is it humorous? Matter-of-fact? How-to? First person experience? Intellectual? When you look at the leads in a given magazine you can discover a lot about the tone the editors like and slant your lead to satisfy those likes. The same article can be written with different leads to appeal to different editorial needs. The lead for my Esquire article on living in France was right for that magazine:

Don’t look now, but that bible of budget travelers, Arthur Frommer’s Europe on Five Dollars a Day isn’t feeling well. It’s down with acute inflation. The first symptom was a discreet little chapter at the back of the last year’s printing about the very real possibility of spending just a little more than the basic five. From there the trouble spread to the title itself. The new edition has dropped all pretense. It’s called Europe on Ten Dollars a Day. So when I invite you to consider an entire year in France on $1,000, I can see you reaching for the granum salis you doubtless carry in your handy pocket pouch. Especially when reading travel articles.

This lead would have been different had I written the article for Mademoiselle or Working Woman—no “handy pocket pouch,” for one thing. But the body of the article would have been substantially the same. If you come up with a really solid lead you can put it at the top of your query. I did this with the following lead, written for a piece I published in Home Office Computing. The editor who read it responded that she was “intrigued by my lead” and wanted to see the rest of the piece. It went on to be published. Here is that lead:

When I stepped out of the elevator into my lawyer’s 10th floor office I knew I was in trouble. A half acre of lush carpet stretched before me with a receptionist’s desk looming in the distance and half the skyline of downtown Charlotte, NC, visible through the vast, tinted glass wall behind her. I could already feel the tug on my wallet before I began to spell out my legal difficulties. And I was right. Though my case was settled out of court I received a bill for $5,007.56—$5,000 for legal services and $7.56 for copies made on his office machine, at .25 each. He wasn’t missing a bet.


The whole feel of the article is there: hapless entrepreneur at the mercy of big-time lawyers. It is also clear that I am going to treat the subject with at least a measure of humor and that everything I will say is based on dire personal experience.

(This chapter continues on to discuss other article components)

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From Chapter Seven: The Real Opportunity: Syndicate Your Own Column

By far the most lucrative and interesting way to make money writing for newspapers is to write and sell your own, self-syndicated column. Every newspaper needs and uses columns to attract and serve their demographic base. Editors know that readers develop column loyalty. They know where their favorite column will appear and often turn to it first when they unfold their paper.

Columns begin small, but, with luck and persistence, can finish very big indeed. The “Dear Abby” column began with one newspaper. It was gradually syndicated to a thousand or more and ended by making a fortune for writer Abigail Van Buren. Dave Barry’s humor column, initially published only in the Miami Herald, went into national syndication and made Barry a nationally famous—and prosperous—writer.

Such people are the stars of the business. But there is a lot of room for writers of less glittering reputations to earn sizeable incomes with their columns. Thirty-nine-year-old Jim Miller of Norman, Oklahoma, came up with an idea for a question and answer column called “The Savvy Senior.” Miller says he started “The Savvy Senior” for fun, but soon discovered that a great many readers liked what he had to say. “It’s amazing how many seniors are isolated and don’t know where to turn for help,” Miller says. “A lot of stuff we take for granted can be very complicated for older people. There’s so much information out there for them to deal with.” Miller first published his column in the Norman Transcript as an unpaid contributor. In short order he had expanded his column to 400 papers, each of which paid him $3 to $5 a week. (“Three dollars a week is quite a bit of money for a lot of small papers,” Miller says.) But even at those modest prices he earned an income of $40,000 a year.

Profile of a Column
A successful column is a tightly written piece that contains as many of the elements that will make any article as readable as possible: a direct, personal tone; anecdote and illustration; quotes. It will be very short—50 to 700 words. Yet within this limit it must have a beginning, a middle, and an end, satisfying the reader that you have fully dealt with the subject at hand.

The ability to write such precise, lean prose is the sine qua non of the aspiring columnist. If you haven’t written for newspapers before, you’ll be surprised how few words it takes to fill up fifteen or twenty column inches on a page of newsprint.

A strong, memorable title will help your column achieve the visibility you are working for. The newspaper environment is cluttered with news stories, features, cartoons—even crossword puzzles. You want to rise to a spot as near the top of the heap as possible. You can scarcely overestimate the importance of the name you give to your column, so spend the time it takes to find one that really works. When you’ve found it, you will know. Don’t settle for next best.

Your title should immediately identify the subject matter and do it in a memorable way. “The Savvy Senior” is such a title. It is brief and to-the-point. The use of the slang “savvy” and the alliteration of the two-initial “S” sounds, and the rhythm of the two short, two syllable words help make it work. Combine as many of these characteristics as you can into your own title. You want an editor’s attention and interest to be piqued at first glance.

What a Column Does
A successful column deals with a topic of interest to the greatest number of people in the broadest possible across-the-board category (“Dear Abby”) or to virtually everyone in a niche-market category (“The Savvy Senior”). It tells readers how to solve problems or achieve goals that are very important to them. Jim Miller’s “The Savvy Senior” is a such a column. Below is a list of some other popular categories for service columns. I jotted these down literally as fast as they came to mind:

• Personal finance: earning money at home, coupon clipping, job hunting, minding your money, etc.
• Health and fitness: weight loss, diet, holistic healing, health tips.
• Personal relations: social life, love life, advice, family, child care.
• Self-Improvement: do you make these mistakes; vocabulary building; self-education.
• Arts and entertainment: book reviews, restaurant reviews, travel tips, etc.

There is no end to solid column ideas. But remember that it is your unique slant, the contribution that you, personally, bring to your piece, that will make it saleable and readable and that will build a loyal following—and thereby please your editor mightily.
(This chapter continues to lay out step-by-step instructions for developing and syndicating your column idea.)

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