SPAWN Market Update – June, 2002
By Patricia L. Fry
- Going, Going, Gone – Three more magazines have quit
- Here’s What’s New – A writing opportunity
- Word of Warning – What’s going on with Business2.0?
- Research/Reference Site of the Month – Expert Central
- Featured Sites – Contests and 2 author’s showcase sites
- Grammar Site – Having fun with words
- For Fiction Addicts – Thought Café
- Featured Writers – Kelly James-Enger tells how she makes $70,000/year writing health-related articles. Rebecca Rohan talks about her success as a technical writer
- Bonus Item – Book Review Club
- Agent Interview – Meet agent, Elizabeth Pomada.
- Coming Up – Reader’s Choice
Prime Times: Tom Burton, managing editor says the parent organization has lost membership so it is being dissolved along with the magazine.
New Choices: This twelve-year-old companion to Reader’s Digest has thrown in the towel.
Sports Afield: There are rumors that this century-old magazine has folded. In an attempt to confirm this, I visited their Web site. Pictured there is the April issue. I used three different email addresses in hopes of making contact with someone from Sports Afield. All three were bad. If anyone has firsthand information about the health of this publication, please let us know.
Mature Living Magazine is in the market for unique, creative manuscripts that are characterized by human interest, Christian warmth and humor. Their audience is the 50- plus crowd. While they say they “prefer to purchase all rights,” I would negotiate that with them. They only pay $75 for an 800-1000-word article, after all.
Mature Living Magazine works 9 – 12 months ahead. So the queries you send now should reflect subjects related to next spring or summer. Contact Patsy Robison, 127 Ninth Ave., North MSN 175, Nashville, TN 37234-0175 (They discourage email queries.)
Diversion, a lifestyle magazine for physicians, has a new contact person. Ed Wetschler has taken Tom Passavant’s place. When I queried Mr. Wetschler, however, he reported that, due to a backlog, Diversion is not currently accepting queries or manuscripts.
Business 2.0. Is this a flaky outfit or what?
Have any of you had trouble reaching someone at Business2.0 Magazine? For several months, I’ve been jostled around by these folks who can’t seem to figure out where they are and who’s at the helm. I was told that the contact person, James Daly, was replaced by Ned Desmond who was replaced by Thomas A Stewart.
According to Meg Weaver’s Woodenhorse News Alert (http://www.woodenhorsepub.com), Joshua Macht is now executive editor for the magazine and Todd Lapin is a section editor. While she says that they invite story ideas at email@example.com, all I received in response to a recent query letter sent to that address was a form email. In it they said to contact them using this email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. And they issued a bold command: “Do not, under any circumstances, send PR related materials to this address.”
Another writing-related newsletter announces Josh Quittner as editor of Business2.0 and Ned Desmond is President. They give their address as One California St., 29th Fl, San Francisco, CA 94111. The query letter I sent there in March, however, was returned unopened.
While I haven’t attempted to reach them by phone, I have three different phone numbers for them, as well. What’s up with Business 2.0?
Expert Central at http://www.expertcentral.com. Here’s where you go to find the expert in the category you want. Virtually all categories are listed at this site.
Proofpositive.com is a Web site all about contests. It’s the brainchild of Melanie Rockett, author of Winning Ways: How to Win Sweepstakes Contests. According to Rockett, “I had been a freelance writer, photographer, director and TV producer for over 20 years when I decided to make some career changes.” She had also won over one-hundred sweepstakes. So she incorporated her interest and knowledge of contests into a Web site. She tested the waters by listing writing and photography contest. She says, “The more contests I posted, the more my audience responded and asked for even more.”
She has recently expanded the contest listings to include music, cooking and sweepstakes. By the time you read this, there will also be contests for artists.
Writersdisplay.com and Authorlink.com are two sites where you can showcase your work for around $100 per year. There’s no charge for publishers and agents to visit these sites and, if they see a piece of work they like, they’ll contact the author. A whopping 75 manuscripts have been sold from the Authorlink site so far.
Are publishers and agents using this free service? One publisher emailed the editor of Writersdisplay.com to compliment him on his ingenuity. He said that he hoped to be able to uncover some deserving writers from among those listed.
Fun-with-words.com. Here’s a site where you can play with words through puzzles and tongue twisters while learning about interesting phrases and words. The word, oxymoron,
was featured in May.
http://www.thoughtcafe.com. This is an interesting place for fiction addicts and poets to gather and share. Here, you’ll find resources, discussions and information about various authors. In fact, if you’re an author, you can post your name and bio. To keep up on the happenings at Thought Café, be sure to subscribe to their newsletter.
Kelly James-Enger is a fulltime freelance writer and the author of a forthcoming book, The Money Niche: The Writer’s Guide to Specializing in Hot Nonfiction Markets. Following is my interview with Kelly.
Q: Please give us an overview of your writing business.
A: I’m a fulltime freelancer and the majority of what I write is for magazines, primarily health, fitness, nutrition, bridal and general interest subjects. I just finished my first nonfiction book (on why writers should create specialties and how to do it), am working on a novel and do some business and copywriting as well.
Q: When did you know that you wanted to write? What was your first clue?
A: Well, I’ve known since I was little that I wanted to write and since college that I wanted to write for a living. (To me there’s a big difference.) I’ve always loved to read and wrote lots of horrible little poems and stories as a child and later, horrible short stories as a college student. Actually, I thought I’d be a poet or fiction writer instead of a nonfiction journalist, which is what I turned out to be.
Q: Would you share your story of how you become a full-time working writer?
A: After practicing law for more than five years, I knew that I wanted to get out. I’d also begun writing in my spare time again (I’d given it up in law school due to time constraints). But this time I focused on writing nonfiction articles for magazines rather than fiction. I realized that there was a much bigger market for nonfiction and that it paid much better as well. I sold articles to Cosmopolitan and Bride’s, saved enough to live on for six months and quit my job as a lawyer to freelance fulltime. I’d say it took about a year and a half before it really took off and I was sure I could make it – querying and developing relationships with editors takes a while. It’s been more than five years, though, and I really can’t think of a job I’d rather do.
Q: what is your favorite type of writing? What assignments (or personal writing) do you enjoy most?
A: I do like writing fiction, but on the nonfiction side, I enjoy writing about health and nutrition (and not surprisingly, have wound up specializing in those areas). I really enjoy learning about new things (which probably explains my addiction to the Discovery Channel, too). So any type of story where I get to explore something new (at least to me) is enjoyable.
Q: How much time do you spend each day or week working? Do you have a routine you can share with us?
A: It really depends on what’s on my plate. I try to structure my day on an 8 – 5 schedule, but that’s flexible. I do most of my hardcore writing in the morning when I’m the freshest and try to do less mentally intensive tasks (interviewing, transcribing, billing, research, etc) in the afternoon. Most days I run or workout at noon, which helps break up the day. If I have a lot of work, though, I will put in a couple of hours in the evening and on weekends as well. So I’d say about 40 –50 hours a week (less than what I put in as a lawyer.)
Q: What has been your biggest challenge in starting or maintaining your writing business and how have you overcome it?
A: That’s hard to say. Number one was spending all that time alone – I’m an extrovert and it was a difficult transition. The feast-or-famine nature of freelancing can be draining, too. How did I overcome those? By making freelance friends, scheduling more social stuff into my regular routine and getting out of my office regularly. I also maintain a cash “bumper” in my savings account to deal with cash flow ups and downs.
Dealing with the workload itself is challenging, but I’ve learned to not take on more than I can handle and I always start assignments right away so I don’t run into deadline problems. I also try to ensure that I have a fairly steady amount of work coming in (and that means marketing and querying even when I’m busy).
Q: How much money can a freelance writer expect to earn per year?
A: Great question. Don’t think that you can’t make a good living as a freelancer. If you’re willing to work hard, you can make as much as you want to. I really believe that. I’ve gone from making $27,000 my first year to more than $70,000 my fifth year and I think anyone who focuses their energies and targets well-paying markets can do the same. Developing several specialties and creating relationships with editors has made a huge difference. I don’t work anymore than I did my first year (possibly less) but I work far more efficiently now.
Q: What advice do you have for those who would like to break away from their traditional job and start a freelance writing business?
A: Start on the side while you’re still working your “day job” and build up a portfolio of clips. Work on building relationships with editors and clients – almost all my work comes from editors who know me and have worked with me before. I find that I query less which saves me time. Set goals for yourself (sending out a certain number of queries a month, for example) to help keep you on track while you’re freelancing on the side. Talk to other freelancers to see what works and what doesn’t for them. The more information you have, the better. And if you can line up some regular gigs before you quit your day job, you’ll be better off financially. Oh and save lots of money. It takes longer than you may think to get your fulltime freelance biz off the ground.
Q: Please add anything you feel is important.
A: Treat your writing career like a business. I consider myself a self-employed person who happens to be a writer. I’ve always focused on making a living as a writer and that attitude has made a big difference to my career (at least I think so). And remember the Golden Rule – treat people the way you want to be treated. I’ve developed relationships with editors, clients, other writers, experts like doctors, nutritionists, personal trainers, PR people, etc. that have had a significant, positive impact on my career. For example, I send thank you notes to interviewees. I let people know when a story that they’re quoted in is published. I’ll answer questions immediately when an editor calls even if I’m busy (and not complain to him or her about the last-minute request). For me, it comes down to being professional and being nice – and being a good writer, too.
Visit Kelly’s Web site: http://www.kellyjamesenger.com
Contact her at: email@example.com
Rebecca Rohan is author of Building Better Web Pages and 101 Marketing Tips for Writers. She contributes regularly to Washington Post, Planet IT, Writer’s Digest, HP World, SD Times, Writer’s Digest, Entrepreneur and many others. Here is the result of my interview with Rebecca.
Q: I get the impression from your Web site that you do a little bit (or a lot) of every kind of writing. Will you describe your writing business for my audience?
A: Most of my business is writing for national magazines, but I have a couple of books out, and do some writing for businesses, as well (press releases, case studies, etc. — but nothing that conflicts with the areas I cover for magazines). Q: I’d also like you to talk about how and when you came to establish your business.
A: There was a book I wanted to write, back in 1987, and I bought a computer to write it on. I fell in love with the computer and started sending out articles about it. I was an early adopter, which helped them sell right away. Technology has remained the main staple of my writing businesses. I’ve learned a great deal about technology over time, and I feel fortunate to have gotten in back in 1987 and built on my technology knowledge over the past fifteen years. Unfortunately, the tech magazine boom at the turn of the century is now a bust — many editors who used to give me work are out there competing with me. Right now is the worst possible time to be a magazine writer specializing in technology. Q: How much time do you spend working each week?
A: Seems like all of it — if I don’t have assignments, I pitch stories. But I make time to get out and walk and pet the neighborhood cats, and see family and friends. Q: Do you have a schedule where you spend so much time promoting your business, so much with client work, so much with your magazine article work and the rest marketing your books? How do you divide your time between all of these full-time jobs?
A: I have a rolling to-do list in Word, with the things that must be done first on top of the list. The most important things at the moment get done. With multiple clients, you have to adjust, so a to-do list makes more sense than a schedule. Q: What is the most lucrative part of your business? Book sales? Magazine articles? Client work? Can you break this down for us?
A: It’s been magazine articles, but that’s gotten dim in the past year or two, especially in the tech field, so I’m trying new things. Q: Which part of your business do you like most and why?
A: I really love reviewing tech products. It’s mostly just me and the software or hardware, any time of the day or night. I don’t have to contact the vendor with questions until I’ve done my testing — then I give them the opportunity to explain why xyz feature didn’t work as advertised, and I re-test as necessary. I feel very close to my readers when I review, because I’m experiencing what they would experience if they parted with their hard-earned cash — and I can tell them honestly what they will — and won’t — get for their money. I can also add perspective, such as the types of situations the product would work best in, or who makes a product that does the same job better.
Q: What was your biggest job so far? Was it an article or client work? What did the job entail?
A: A book is the biggest project in pages, but there’s a different rhythm and pace to book authoring. Some of the harshest jobs were diving head-long into multiple interview stories a client needed in a ridiculously short time on topics I’d never heard of. But that’s where your experience with research and skill at interviewing kick in, and you can grab the hazard pay. Q: What is the most difficult part of your work/business?
A: Right now it’s the paucity of assignments and places to pitch in my field. It’s difficult to jump over to another field in magazines, because many editors don’t believe your brain or writing skills are a movable feast — just as software companies don’t believe someone who writes about all kinds of technology and has reviewed literally over a thousand tech products (complete with manuals), can write manuals. It’s difficult to convince anyone to give you a shot outside your proven niche. Q: How much can a working writer such as yourself typically earn per year if they put in the time and effort that you do?
A: Funny question. Gross income in 2000 was about $86k. In 2001, about $41k. In 2002, about $4,700 in the first quarter. I’m going to have to court some corporate clients or get a job for the first time in many years. Q: What would you advise to other writers who would like to go full-time?
A: If you have the assignments to go full time, then try it. But have some money in the bank first (and at all times), and realize that it can all fall down, no matter how many years you’ve put in. You can chart market trends, but you can’t control them. Full-time freelancing is a financial roller-coaster at best, and the up times are addictive. If you really love staying home, and aren’t in a volatile field, it can be wonderful. I have no savings, which mars the joy considerably at the moment.
BookReviewClub.com. Jennie Bev, a San Francisco-based writer has launched a site that new authors are going to love. She and a bevy of other reviewers review books and post the reviews on their site for FREE. As Jennie says, “We’re a bunch of volunteers who love to share what we think about the books we’ve read.” She says, “While we can’t guarantee positive reviews, we’ll work very hard to have most books reviewed.” Don’t submit books that are not fit for a family audience, however. Send your books to BookReviewClub.com c/o Jennie S. Bev, 151 Eastmoor Avenue, Ste. 309, Daly, City, CA 94015. Contact Jennie at firstname.lastname@example.org
This month we have a real treat for those of you who want to know more about the world of agents. I’ve interviewed Elizabeth Pomada of Michael Larson/Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents in San Francisco, CA
Q: You just returned from the Booksellers Expo in New York. While there, did you become aware of any new trends in the business that you’d like to report on? A: Michael and I just returned from the busiest BEA ever. There were no really discernible trends in the business. Rather, the show simply proved what we had been seeing in publishing offices during our two weeks of meeting with 94 editors: that people are leaning more toward literary books than commercial ones. This is true in nonfiction and fiction. Science books are more popular–still in the “Longitude” small but good, literary science world. There’s less interest in adventure narrative nonfiction. But really good stories always work. Larger publishers are more focused on the best sellers and smaller publishers are doing the more adventurous publishing.
Q: Please tell us something about your agency—when it was established, your motivation for starting it, number of agents working with you, etc.
A: Michael and I worked in publishing in New York until we “saw the light” and moved to San Francisco in the early 70s. That’s when we discovered there was no real work we could do in publishing (no publishers!) so we had to do something ourselves. I accidentally worked my way into being an agent when an employment agency for artists & writers told me that there was no such thing as a PR director job in San Francisco. “But meanwhile,” she said, “all these people send me their manuscripts and I don’t know what to do with them.” So I went in every Tuesday afternoon and read through the piles and eventually discovered two books that were publishable. I knew where and who to send them to–and I was in business.
In l972, when Patty Hearst was captured, Michael knew there was a book there. So he called the two Chronicle writers about doing a book. One said, “No” (did one later) and one said “Yes.” Then he called Bantam, who he’d worked for, and they said, “No,” and then Dell, who I’d worked for, and they said, “Yes.” So he sold a book in four phone calls. Voila! We were an agency. And it’s still just Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada. We do have part time help–an accountant, a mail opener, a reader–but it’s just us. Right now we are looking for an intern who wants to be an agent.
Q: What types of manuscripts are you currently looking for?
A: We look for fiction and nonfiction we think is salable in a big way — new voices, fresh ideas. Nonfiction especially has to be by someone with a platform. And both fiction and nonfiction writers have to be committed to their careers.
Q: Please describe the process of engaging and working with an agent.
A: Michael has written a complete book on engaging and working with an agent: “Literary Agents: What They Are, How They Work & How to Find and Work With The Right One for You.”
First, send the agent what they have asked to see on their website or in guide books. Always include an SASE for their response. If they like what they read, they’ll call to talk about the project, perhaps see more of it. Then they’ll want to meet you–if only over the phone–to see if you can work together and have the same goals. Then the writer should keep writing the next book while the agent takes the book and starts submitting. That will continue until the book is sold or all hope is lost. And this can go on for years or, if too many people reject for the same reason, very quickly, especially if it’s nonfiction. Novels can take longer when the agent cannot send out multiple submissions. We do tell our clients when there’s news, but do not tell about every rejection. There’s not enough time. Trust is crucial. So is compatibility
Q: Is there something in the potential author/client relationship that you seek as well?
A; We have what we call a California philosophy. We only handle books we like by authors we like and only sell to editors we like. But we also work only with authors who are committed to their craft, who know about the world they are entering–publishing–and will do what is needed to get their name out there. Commitment is key.
Q: What should an author look for when signing with an agency? There seem to be some fly-by-night agents out there. What are the red flags?
A: An author should look for the kind of agent they want when signing with an agency. Do you want a mother? A shark? Someone to nurture you and guide you on your career or someone who simply wants to sell–and sell high–and run to the next client? I honestly don’t know enough about red flags or “fly by night” agents. Agents who ask for lots of money up front are to be shied away from. Also avoid agents who charge a great deal for editing. We do suggest that you try to work with a member of AAR, the Association of Author’s Representatives. Find out what books the agent has sold, and to whom. Read their website, find out how they work. The AAR has a sheet of questions for new authors to ask (or learn about) prospective agents.
Q: What are some of the books/authors you’ve represented – some of your proudest professional moments?
A: We did sell that SLA book, THE VOICES OF GUNS, which won awards but was published too late to do well. And our first best seller was Cynthia Freeman’s A WORLD FULL OF STRANGERS, a novel found in that employment agency’s slush pile. Other best sellers include Karen Lustgarten’s THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO DISCO DANCING and Cherie Carter Scott’s IF LIFE IS A GAME, THESE ARE THE RULES. We have sold all of Jay Conrad Levinson’s books, including the 19 books in the GUERRILLA MARKETING SERIES. He’s been a client for over 20 years! And have sold 24 romances by June Lund Shiplett and the 13 book Deverry Fantasy Series by Katharine Kerr (a client for l8 years). The best book we ever sold was THE KRYPTONITE KID, by Joseph Torchia. These letters of a 7 year old boy to Superman won two awards the same week: Best Book for YA Readers from the American Library Association and was on the Best Book List for the Advocate (a gay newspaper). The writing is phenomenal. Simple yet evocative. We also sold a novel, JUDITH DUCHESNE by Lynda Sergeant, who Henry Miller said was the best author he’d ever met. Recent fine novels include A CRACK IN FOREVER by Jeannie Brewer and the upcoming SMALL CHANGE “The Secret Life of Penny Burford” by J. Belinda Yandell. We’re very proud of Robert Stinnett’s DAY OF DECEIT, which proves that FDR did know about Pearl Harbor.
Q: Please add anything you’d like to share with this audience of writers, small publishers and artists.
A: What keeps us in the business is optimism. Every packet we open, every query we start to read, could be our next best seller. The bars are higher than they’ve ever been before, but so are the rewards. Michael still believes that books can change the world. We’re still having fun and doing what we love. Please read our website, http://www.larsen-pomada.com,
Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada are members of AAR, Authors Guild, ASJA, NWA, PEN, WNBA and California Writer’s Club. Contact them at:
1029 Jones St.
San Francisco, CA 94109-5023
Okay, I’ve done my part to bring you the latest in publishing news these past seven (7) months. Now you tell me what you’d like to see in the Market Update.