Tuesday, March 13, 2012

For Writers

Keep That Pipeline Full

Not long ago I hit a high water mark in my writing career by receiving five payments for writing work in the space of a few days. It was quite delightful, but the result of lots of hard work, too. As in any business I invoice or sign contracts with the expectation of payment within a certain time frame. I routinely keep between fifteen and twenty pieces out to markets and as a result those five payments all happened to hit at once. Maybe there was a harmonic convergence going on or something or maybe it’s because my pipeline is always full. That fullness results in a pretty steady flow of payments and is a model for every writer to follow. It also helps to keep a ratio of about 60/40 of submissions that pay on acceptance and those that pay on publication. I offer these tips.

  1. The “evergreens” – Keep track of these and keep the rights to them. I have a whole backlog of once sold essays, kid’s crafts, poems and fillers that I re-visit regularly to see where I can make a second or even third sale. A kid’s online magazine that regularly bought from me folded in 2008 and suddenly I have those pieces to put out there again. I know of at least one writer who sold a non-fiction piece five times garnering him over nine thousand dollars tallied out over several years. He hit it big on the “green.”
  2. Quick Sales – We all have these. There are editors who have become fans of your work and will usually take almost every piece that you write. You know what they want and with a little diligence you can keep your submissions fresh, timely and directed at the readers who probably like your style, too. Do these up when you’re dragging your heels on that novel and need a break. I’m slogging through my second cozy mystery but have recently written three poems (one out for a second sale), an essay and a devotional just to keep my mind engaged and the pipeline fat. Each piece is submitted.
  3. Branch out – Challenge yourself. Have you secretly penned a killer idea for a greeting card or written a witty limerick, but never did anything with them? Of course you were just fooling around or blowing off steam and probably nobody would want them. Right? Well, get over whatever’s messing up your thinking like that and find a market for them. You may think that if you can’t go full tilt in some area of writing that it’s never going to amount to much. But I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. I’ve sold dozens of poems and sold four greeting cards and the nice little checks that arrive as a result are great ego boosters. So what if it’s only bread and butter money – it spends.
  4. Think Big – Yesterday I submitted an essay to an in-flight magazine that pays a dollar a word. Deep down I know my chances are sketchy for publication, but deeper down I’m proud of myself for getting that puppy out. I’ve flown this airline many times and I wrote to the eclectic mix of passengers I’ve observed and interacted with over the years. I think many of them will love the essay if only I can get the nod from the editor. Rumor has it that stories and article published in in-flights are considered real plums. I also read somewhere that writers should submit starting at the top and work down. Well, gosh, I’m game for that idea, how about you? Might as well have a few fat ones in the pipeline and hope for the best. I’ve already got a second market in mind should that editor pass.
Never let a good piece of writing sit for long. Get it into your pipeline as soon as it’s polished. Not too long ago I read an article in The Writer by a man who sold 101 articles in the space of seven months. And he’s only been writing since 2007. The mix of topics he writes about is astounding. His pipeline is full to bursting and yours can be, too. If you’re a crazy workaholic writer like I am, it should be easy. If you’re like the guy I just mentioned, I hope you have a heart like a race horse. But whatever you can do to keep your many writing balls in the air, do it.

Image: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/


  1. Susan --

    Good one. And, yeah, how inspirational IS that writer the we BOTH read about in "The Writer?"

    A very worthwhile post, especially the last paragraph. Writers can take a lesson from you and the other writer by pushing, pushing...and then pushing some more.


  2. Hi, Steve. I decided early on that if I was going to write it would be whole hog. P.U.S.H. Pray until something happens. I do a lot of that, too. And that guy - whew - I think I'll let him stay out in front. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Jennifer Brown BanksMarch 16, 2012 at 2:18 PM


    Excellent advice! Worth heeding for writers of all levels and genres. Thanks for sharing.