Sunday, August 30, 2009

A goal without a plan is a wish

Roadside signs usually don't inspire me that much. Well, unless they're advertising a fast-food sandwich I'd really like. But otherwise? I just ignore them.

Except this weekend. I was driving my 2-year-old son back from a quick trip to the grocery store. I was a bit down. The stories I've been writing lately have seen so meaningless. Content writing will do that to you. You're turning in copy that not even the people who are paying you read all that closely.

Here's what I want to do: I want to write comic book scripts. To be more accurate: I want to be paid to write them. And I want to write my own stories, not something a publisher asks me to take on.

Getting paid is tough in freelance writing. Getting paid scripting work is nearly impossible in the world of comic books. Writers who want to break into comics are common. Unless you're a big name, no one needs to pay you. There are plenty of writers who will turn in scripts for free.

Anyway, I've been writing my own graphic novel script for a while now. I like it. A lot. (Of course, I'm biased.) But there's a stumbling block: To get it published, it'll need to be drawn. I can't draw, at all. I can try to find an artist who'll work for free, but that never ends well. Trust me on this. I've tried it.

You have to pay if you want a good, quality artist. Sequential art -- which is what comics is -- is nothing if not challenging. Top artists can charge a good penny for it. And I want a top artist on my comic.

Thing is, like most freelance writers, money is exceedingly tight. Many, many of my former magazine clients have gone out of business. I'm relying on content writers, and on pumping out stories faster than ever, to help make up the difference. But I'm realistic enough to know that there aren't enough content stories out there to make up for all the print-magazine money that I won't be making this year.

So without money, how can I ever afford a good artist to illustrate my script?

So back to that roadside sign. It said, "A goal without a plan is a wish."

That's not too deep, I know. I'm sure I've heard it many, many times before. But this weekend, it really hit me. I'm wishing to not only break into comics, but to make a living at it. But that's all it is, a wish. I don't have a plan.

So I'm working on it. It may involve taking a lousy, part-time, non-writing related job to make a bit of extra cash, money I can save to pay an artist. Or it may mean finding an extra content-writing client who gives out regular work and saving all the money I make from this particular client for my graphic novel.

Step one, though, is to commit to writing at least two pages a day, probably in the evening after my "real" work is done. Step two is to edit those pages like mad. Step three is finally figure out how to get the money to pay for an artist. I figure I'll start earning that money -- however I decided to do it -- while I'm editing.

Finally, I'll print my graphic novel on the Web. I certainly can't afford to pay printing costs.

Yes, I'll make no money if I put it on the Web. But I might draw a following. And at the every least, I'll have a graphic novel that I did on my own, not one that some publisher screwed up or some editor ruined with a weird-ass suggestion, to show other publishers.

And that might be the very first step to transforming myself from a paid content writer to a paid comic book writer.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Time to give up on blogging networks

Blogging sucks.

Well, maybe I should make that a bit more clear: Blogging for a blogging network sucks.

There's a reason for this: The people behind blogging networks have no idea what they are doing. And for very low monthly or per-post fees, they expect their bloggers to not only supply their content but to bring visitors, and ad-click revenue, to their networks.

Blogging networks treat writers like garbage. That's what I've found, at least.

My first blogging network was b5 Media, where I blogged about residential real estate. I steadily grew the site's readership, increasing its visitors each and every month, sometimes by quite a bit. The pay wasn't great, but it was better than most blog networks, and it was steady.

Then b5 Media began counting its visitors a different way. Suddenly my monthly pay would be cut by about 75 percent. I decided that it was time to go.

I went to, where I wrote two blogs, for the princely fee of $1 a post. Still, the posts were easy to write. Why not? Well, because the geniuses at obviously had no idea how many site visitors would actually click on the ads on their blogs. Before long, the brain trust told me my pay rate was being changed. I'd be paid $2 for every 1,000 visitors to my blogs. That was below insulting, so off I went.

ContentQuake wasn't so bad. They always paid on time, even though their pay was bad. But it was a combination of pay-per-post and pay-per-visitors, so you knew what you were getting into. Unfortunately, last month, ContentQuake, too, ran out of money. Now they're not paying anything for bloggers. So long again, blogging network.

Finally, there's Creative Weblogging. The folks behind this blogging network gave me a whole two months before they decided that my blog wasn't making enough money. So they slashed my monthly pay from $140 to $28, and dropped my posting level to once a week. Add to this that they usually take a long time to pay each month's payment, and it's just about time to leave Creative Weblogging, too.

And that's it. No more blogging networks for me. And my advice for you? If you want to make money blogging, do your own thing. You won't make any money, probably, but at least you'll only have yourself to blame.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

ContentQuake in trouble

I've been blogging for ContentQuake for more than a year now. I've liked working with the company. ContentQuake doesn't pay a lot, but it did pay on time and regularly.

Well, those days are now over. ContentQuake sent out an e-mail message today to contributors saying that the company was taking a furlough starting Sept. 1. That means that bloggers can continue to post for ContentQuake, they just won't get paid for those posts after Sept. 1.

I won't be posting. I can't justify doing any free work.

Combine this with my experience with Creative Weblogging earlier this week, which you can read about one post below, and I've just about given up on writing for blogging networks. I've now written for Creative Weblogging, ContentQuake, b5 Media and None of these experiences have ended well.

I think blogging networks have never made the kind of money the people behind them expected to see. And I'm tired of being asked to not only write for these networks but to promote my writing, too. The networks ask a lot for not much money.

I think the days of the blogging networks that pay per post are ending. The real money in blogging? It lies in blogging for businesses or corporate clients. Writing for blogging networks usually means little to no money.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Frustrated with Creative Weblogging

For the last three months, I've been writing a mortgage blog for a blogging network named Creative Weblogging. The pay isn't great, but it was steady.

I say "was" because the folks behind Creative Weblogging just downgraded my contract. Instead of having me post every weekday, they are now asking me to post just four times a month, at an even lower pay rate.

I accepted their new contract -- some money is better than no money -- but I'm not happy about it. The powers that be at Creative Weblogging said that my blog wasn't bringing in enough income. Yet, they barely gave me three months to boost traffic.

And that leads me to my biggest beef with blogging networks: Why do they want us writers to boost traffic, and ad revenue, for them? With the piddly amounts of money they're paying us, you'd think they'd get off their rears and handle blog promotion themselves. I'm a writer, not a promoter. Yet it seems that everyone who wants you to write for the Internet expects you to be both. It's a big pain in the butt.

My worst fears about the Internet are being realized: It's not given writers great new writing opportunities. No, it's given us more work for lousy pay. And the idiots behind blog networks? They expect us to not only write every day for them, they want us to bring traffic to their sites, too. What, may I ask, are the blog networks actually doing? Not much.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Don't be afraid to contact publishers for work

To succeed as a freelance writer, you have to market yourself like crazy. It's unfortunate, then, that many writers tend to be shy folks.

They don't like bugging people. And that can be a problem when you're trying to dig up freelance-writing jobs.

The key to nabbing new jobs is to be aggressive. Sometimes you have to chase down editors and publishers to get new assignments. This is especially true in the world of content writing. The publishers who work in this field often work with dozens of writers. It's easy for them to forget about you, even if you turned in good work and met your deadlines.

So make sure they don't forget you. Don't wait for these publishers to contact you with assignments. Reach out to them: Send them an e-mail today asking if they have any work for you.

They might actually have a few assignments for you to tackle. Maybe they don't have work now, but they will next week or next month. If that's the case, you've just increased your chances of getting that extra work.

So put aside your natural tendencies and be a bother. It just might help you pay the bills this month.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Persistence pays off: Publisher coughs up missing money

It's a sad fact: It's harder to get paying jobs these days thanks to the dismal economy. There's pretty fierce competition from freelance writers for even some of the lousier writing jobs.

What's even worse, though, is that it's getting more difficult to force deadbeat publishers to cough up the money they actually owe freelancers.

This happened to me earlier this month, when a publisher seemed to disappear after I turned in a short writing assignment for him. I bugged him a few times by e-mail, didn't hear anything and decided to give up. It wasn't worth my time, I figured.

Then I changed my mind. The money wasn't a lot. But I did do the work. I deserved to get paid. So I started bugging the publisher again. This time, I heard back. And, amazingly enough, the payment showed up in my Paypal account.

Of course, I don't expect I'll get any more work from this guy. His message back to me was a bit on the ticked-off side. But so what? I don't want to write for people who I have to constantly pester to get paid.

On the down side, I have two other clients -- print publications that actually pay significantly more -- that are late on a total of $1,750. Again, that's not a ton of money, but it's enough when the assignments are so hard to come by. Come Monday, I'll be bugging these editors and publishers, too.

It's a bit of a shame, really. Freelance writers want to write. They don't want to run their own collection agencies.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The case of the disappearing publisher

So it finally happened. For all my complaining about content writing, I've been fairly lucky. I turn something in. I've gotten paid for it. And I've usually gotten paid quickly.

But it appears that one of my content-writing publishers has disappeared on me.

I wrote this guy six posts already, and was paid quickly for each of them. Then, early last week, I turned in three more posts. This time I haven't heard "boo" from him. I've sent him a few reminder e-mail messages. Nothing. I have to guess that he ran out of money or simply wanted to snag my articles for free.

Maybe he didn't like the stories I turned in. It's possible, right? But there was no message asking for different information. There was no message telling me that I'd done something wrong.

Well, I won't work for this guy again. And it's not like I'm out of a small fortune or anything. Like all content-writing work, this was for fairly low pay.

It might be frustrating, but worrying over deadbeats doesn't help any writer. Unless you're out a significant amount of money, it's easiest to just let these things go. You can send message after message, but that becomes a waste of time at some point.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The late-payment blues

I just got back from a week-long camping trip with my family last week. We had a nice time. We didn't even have to rough it too much. That's good. My version of roughing it means I have to drink warm cans of pop instead of cold ones.

Anyway, when we came back, I was hoping to find several of those wonderful, career-affirming checks in my pile of mail. Unfortunately, I found my credit-card bill, but not any of my much-needed paychecks.

This seems to happen quite often: I think I've written more than enough stories to maintain a steady cash-flow. But then the bills come more quickly than the pay. It's rather annoying.

So I make the rounds, calling or e-mailing editors and publishers looking for my checks. I get the same excuses: Oh, sorry, we missed you in our last round of payments. Don't know how that happened. We'll get in our next round, three weeks from now.

And remorse? None. And is anyone ever willing to break the standard payment cycle and actually send me a check even if it's off the payment schedule? Heavens, no.

I'm convinced that magazines are doing this to freelancers on purpose to help with their own cash-flow problems. Trouble is, there isn't much a freelance writer can do about this in today's economy. I'm writing for clients whom I'd never touch before. Now I have little choice, at least until the economy finally improves.

So I'm writing myself to death, and running to the mailbox every day. We'll see what comes today, more bills or a few of those elusive paychecks.