Friday, September 7, 2012

Expanding Your Horizons

So you’ve managed to garner a bit of work in a few select markets. And the work you’ve received from them has been more or less steady. But you somehow feel that you could do more. Now may be the time to consider expanding your horizons.

Some freelance writers are generalists—writing about anything and everything that comes their way. Others write about a select groups of subjects, and still other specialize in one subject area. What one are you?

Have you exhausted the possibilities of your current markets? Might competitors of your present markets be interested in your work? You need to give this some careful thought. When pursuing new markets in the same subject area, you need to be cautious. Many editors of specialty magazines want you to write almost exclusively for them. If they get even the slightest indication that you’re writing for even one of their competitors, they’ll drop you like a hot potato. However, if that same editor has been holding off publishing your pieces and perhaps favoring other writers over you, then you should give his or her competitors a try.

What outlets have you ignored because you were too busy, disorganized, or too timid to try? If you have sufficient publishing credits behind you, it might be time to become more adventurous in your marketing? There may be markets that you tried long ago, and they rejected you? Remember, editors play musical chairs all the time. The editor that rejected your work has probably moved elsewhere by now. Even if he or she hasn't, try again.  Editors’ needs and preferences change. They're under constant pressure from their publishers to upgrade their operations.  Plus, your research and writing skills have most likely improved by now. And you may have a better idea of what they’re looking for. Your idea might be the very thing they've been searching for.

Have you been writing articles when you should have been putting together book proposals? Are you ready to write one? Beginning writers look at books as some sort of holy grail of writing. It’s probably because the authors get so much attention. And then there’s that author moniker. Isn’t it better to be an author than just a writer? Aren’t all authors writers anyway? Get off the impression bandwagon and decide if your skills are up to writing a book.  If so, think through some book ideas and pick the best, but not the most difficult, one.

Are you querying as many new markets with enough ideas to meet your financial goal by the end of the year? Don't worry about getting more acceptances than you think you can handle— remember the attrition rate on assignments. Remember, with rosier finances you can employ help or purchase better equipment.

Have you been promoting yourself as much as possible? Could you make yourself better known among editors and readers? All freelancers get caught up in the writing trap from time to time. As you receive more acceptances and assignments, your work load increases. And there’s only so much writing time in a day. What usually suffers is promotion since you aren’t literally bringing in cash with it in the present. Sometimes you just have to pay the bills and current cash wins out.

Should you write that novel that's been fermenting in your mind for so long? While this may be a great idea, it won’t bring in enough money to sustain you. A better compromise might be to write a series of short stories that you could self-publish as an ebook. Or perhaps work on a short non-fiction book that you can self-publish electronically or pitch to print publishers. Both will bring in some money while you work on your regular assignments.

By honestly answering the above questions, you’ll be able to plot a course for the months and years ahead while steering clear of unproductive paths as you broaden your horizons.

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