Rx for Writers

Transcripts

"The Business Side of Writing”

with SM Ford

July 2011

SM Ford, has sold over 140 magazine pieces for children and adults. She has sold five children's books. Three picture books will come out from Unibooks (Korea) in 2012. Her picture book Things Little Kids Need to Know was chosen as a 2000 Read, America! Collection Selection. Sue writes for children under her maiden name, Susan Uhlig. Check out more on her website: www.susanuhlig.com which has information about the writing life and children's book recommendations.

 

Jan Fields is Web Editor of the ICL Web Site. Green shows names or usernames of people and the questions they asked of our speaker.


Workshops are held once a month in the Writer's Retreat discussion board.


Chippy: Welcome to the Writers Retreat and especially the Guest Speaker Workshops, Sue. I'm looking forward to seeing what you share with us.

Susan Uhlig: Thanks!

Jan Fields: What do you think are the keys to moving from writing as a fun hobby to writing as a profession (and I don't mean seeing it a sole source of income, because we know how hard that is...I mean more of handling the details in a businesslike way.)

Susan Uhlig: Treat your writing as a business. That means a dedicated space for your materials, accurate record keeping, protecting your writing time, serious goals. Because writers "work-at-home" it's easy to let other things push us away from what we need to be doing. (Mea culpa!) We'd be surprised for someone working in an office to drop everything and quit working because "Aunt Jo needs to go to the grocery store," but writers who don't treat their writing as a profession will do so.

Jan Fields: I love writing, and I don't think you have to choose between joy in writing and treating your writing in a business-like manner, but I know a lot of writers worry about that. What do you think are the benefits of mixing business with pleasure?

Susan Uhlig: If you love what you do, and get paid for it, that's the best of both worlds. I think that's the goal for all of us writers. However, I also think some novice writers only think about the pleasurable side of writing. Writing well is hard work. I love this quote from Ursula K. Le Guin: "If you have to find devices to coax yourself to stay focused on writing, perhaps you should not be writing what you're writing. And if this lack of motivation is a constant problem, perhaps writing is not your forte. I mean, what is the problem? If writing bores you, that is pretty fatal. If that is not the case, but you find that it is hard going and it just doesn't flow, well, what did you expect? It is work; art is work."

Susan Uhlig: Back on topic! I think that approaching writing in a business-like manner frees us up to have more time to enjoy the joy of writing. If I only write "when I want to," I'll get discouraged about my lack of progress. I won't get into the zone. I won't have the joy of a finished first draft.

Susan Uhlig: I love when I learn something new about my writing because I was "furthering my education" by reading a book on writing, or attending a workshop or conference. I often learn something new about my writing when I critique someone else's work, too--it can be painful for both me and them as I point out something they are doing "wrong" and realize I'm doing the same thing.

LCargile: is there a certain amount you can earn before you have to claim it as income?

Jan Fields: Keep in mind that our guest this month isn't a tax lawyer nor an accountant and probably doesn't know the answer to this question. Though she may have some ideas of where you can go to find the answer to this question.

BethC: Check the IRS website. There are publications available to help with this. I can't remember off the top of my head which publication you want to check first, I would do a search of the publications for something like "Schedule C" or "Self-employment" - both of those should easily get you some answers for this topic.

Susan Uhlig: Thanks, Jan, for the disclaimer. Yes, talk to an accountant. Personally, if I made $100 on writing in a year, I'd claim it and the expenses on my income tax refund. Partially that's my mind set of being in the habit of "doing the right thing" instead of "what can I get away with." However, often $100 in income is offset by more in loss. Reporting also establishes that I'm writing as a business. I've reported business losses a number of years.

Mikki: This year I was allowed to claim all my expenses for writing, EXCEPT for my home office. The allowed expenses were for books: Writers Guide, Guide to Agents, Magazine and Book markets guides, also all books related to writing; the two conferences I went to ( all expenses there); any software for my computer that was specifically for writing; printing expenses; and the last couple of ICL novel classes before the course ended, as I was paying monthly.

Mikki: The reason I wasn't allowed to claim home office expenses was because I didn't make enough last year from selling my stories. They have a limit you have to reach, but now I've forgotten what it was, just that I didn't reach it But once you've reached that limit, then you can figure out the expenses for the use of your home office and that can be claimed. However, the disclaimer on that is that the room has to be used specifically for an office, and not for anything else, i.e. you can't have a TV in that room, or kids' toys, or anything like that. It has to be strictly an office and nothing more.

Susan Uhlig: This is what's so great about a discussion. Each of us knows different tidbits. Since I've never had an exclusive dedicated office space, I haven't worried about this one.

Jan Fields: Now, I have a dedicated home office, but I'm interested to know how other writers handle the load. I know just how much paperwork must go with your worklife. How do you organize all that and keep a businesslike atmosphere or workspace? Are there any special things to give you that "going to work" feeling?

Susan Uhlig: I have my own pedestal desk with drawers packed full of writerly stuff. It also is hutch style providing me more room for supplies. Plus I have a double-wide file cabinet full of writing stuff, a bookshelf with all writing related books, resources, sample magazines. Then, I have 6 hanging plastic pockets on the wall - you'll see this on cubicles in offices, too. Then there's the deep dark closet with paper and plastic bins of stuff. That space is shared with some now writing stuff, too.

Susan Uhlig: I have a desktop computer, that I can use in a standing position, on my desk. Plus I have a minilaptop for when I write outside of the office. Fortunately, my desk has pull out shelves to give me writing space as I have a tendency to fill up other open spaces. My dream is a dedicated room with built in cabinets, work station, etc. When that happens, I'll deduct the writing space.

Andipandi: My main question is what are some marketing strategies a new author should take to get themselves known. I have a website, FB page and Twitter account; how can I use these to further promote my book? And what other online tools can I use to promote my book?

Susan Uhlig: Andipandi, a book could be written on the topic of promoting yourself online! And I suppose there already has been one. Probably Seth Godin has done it (though not necessarily related to authors specifically). ;-) I'm not an expert in this area, but definitely have opinions. (I've written an article on website design for ICL's Guide to 2012, which may be helpful in the future.)

Susan Uhlig: First, make sure everything you do on your website and FB page is done well. Nothing turns me off faster than following a twitter link to a site and finding it poorly done. I'm talking not only about the technical and design side (hate flash!), but the text itself. Some authors haven't done the basics of running spell check. Shudder!

Susan Uhlig: Second, the content of your website has to be more than "look at me, look at me" and "buy my books." Look at Cynthia Leitich-Smith for an example. Her blog is famous because of what she offers readers. So what are you offering on your site?

Susan Uhlig: Third, use the tools of social media properly. I like this blog post on the "don'ts": http://dearauthor.com/features/letters-of-opinion/10-author-online-promotional-donts/ (nonchildren's author site).

Susan Uhlig: Fourth, what online writing communities are you involved in? You can share there when you post something of use to others on your site.

Susan Uhlig: Some authors do a blogtour with a new book - they talk to bloggers who do book reviews and do interviews or share something about their book. Each day for a week their book is featured on a different blog.

Susan Uhlig: Others band with other authors and promote together. i.e. http://www.classof2k11.com

Susan Uhlig: I've seen contests, i.e. see what www.dear-editor.com did this month on her site. Here's a link to her thank you: http://deareditor.com/2011/07/06/re-writing-ya-fiction-for-dummies-virtual-book-launch-thank-you/.

Susan Uhlig: Some ask others to write reviews of their book on Amazon and wherever else the book is sold online. That's all I can think of at the moment.

Susan Uhlig: Wait, I just saw this tweet: CA_Marshall Cassandra A Marshall How To Get Advance Readers Copies (ARCs) And E-Galleys http://bit.ly/pTxsD0 -- If you review/recommend books on your author website, this might be helpful.

Carol: Should a writer apply for a separate tax ID number?

Susan Uhlig: I do not have a separate tax ID number. I think that is more if you are going to employ people. For the IRS I am "doing business as" Susan Uhlig Ford. That's often abbreviated to dba. Now, I recently found this blog post about tax ID numbers for Canadian authors working with American publishers: http://myluckypencil.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/%E2%80%9Cgive-unto-caesar%E2%80%9D-the-irs-and-canadian-authors/ I'm sure a larger publishing house would be more familiar with this than a small press.

Carol: Is it necessary to set up a separate bank account for writing income? If so, how does one pay herself from that account?

Susan Uhlig: I suggest having a separate bank account for writing income and expenses--it really helps you with record keeping. How do you pay yourself? If the account is at the same bank as your other personal account, you can transfer money. I also have a debit card on my writing account. Makes it nice when I'm traveling for business and can use it to buy food, pay airport parking, etc. Plus when I want to "pay myself" I can use it for that haircut or pedicure, etc. I use Quicken, so each expense is categorized appropriately. That makes it super simple at the end of the year when doing taxes.

Carol: How important is it to establish a business plan?

Susan Uhlig: I AM NOT the right person to talk about a business plan--it's so not me. I believe more in goals. I did a blog post reporting on my 2010 goals and talking about what I was planning for 2011. You can read it here: http://www.susanuhlig.com/2010/12/ready-set-goal.html

Carol: Is there a minimum number of hours that a writer must work each week, in order to be recognized as a legitimate business by the IRS?

Susan Uhlig: I doubt the IRS is into minimum number of hours that a writer must work each week. For one thing, which ones of us use a time clock to record how many hours we work? In another thread I talked about the IRS publications that talk about the difference between a hobby and work. That publication would be very helpful. FYI, I consider myself a part-time writer--although I guess I'd hate to add up the number of hours per week... Here's a great article on taxes and the writer: http://www.publishlawyer.com/carousel8.htm

KimP: Do you set a strict time to sit and work? And how many hours a day do you dedicate?

Susan Uhlig: Mondays are finish up any ICL student lessons (they usually arrive by mail each Wednesday) or work on online lessons received. I will do laundry on these days sometimes.

Susan Uhlig: Tuesdays and Thursdays are my writing days - I leave the house and take my mini to a coffee shop. My goal is to be there by 9 each morning. Sometimes I'm earlier and sometimes I'm later. I stay till at least 3pm, but more likely until 4 or 4:30. Sometimes I stay later. I meet other writers so at lunch time we get to chat. Unfortunately, lately a number of us have been learning Scrivener (it's in beta for windows but the mac version is complete) so we discuss issues we are having with that at times. If we haven't seen each other in a while, we have a tendency to do some catch up.

Susan Uhlig: Wednesdays are my appointment day (or at least what I'm trying to do--unfortunately some were set on Mondays way back) - regular doctor visits, dental, chiropractor, volunteer at my church, etc. I clean the bathrooms, and whatever else needs doing. I may work on some marketing--at least that's my goal! I may work on elessons that have arrived.

Susan Uhlig: Fridays are work on student lessons day. Sometimes I do something different that day, but then it means Saturday or Sunday I have to work on student lessons. When student lessons are done I can work on my own writing, blog posts, preparing for a talk, etc. I'm flexible to the needs of the week.

Susan Uhlig: I'm fortunate that I don't have to work outside the home. But when I have, then I spent time in the evenings and on weekends on my writing. I wasn't teaching for the Institute then.

KimP: While perusing your website, I saw that one of the workshops you teach is for 4th grade to adults on storytelling. I would like to know how you broke into storytelling and what the business-side of that is like.

Susan Uhlig: Years ago I got to go as a chaperone to a writing week for 5th graders in the state of Washington. Our school had 4 5th graders chosen based on their writing ability. Writers, actors, storytellers did sessions with the kids. I got to listen in and participate in activities. One storyteller gave us some storytelling basics and let volunteers try. I took a turn and was amazed at how different it made shy me feel--it was like I was outside of myself. I got a good reaction from the audience and was hooked. My daughter's teacher asked me to share what I learned with his class and do storytelling. I did some research, chose and learned a story. It went better than the off the cuff story. (No surprise!) I went to some storytelling workshops. Joined a storytellers group. Practiced at my kids' schools and our church when there was occasion. Definitely on-the-job training.

Susan Uhlig: Here are some links:
Storytelling Organization: http://www.storynet.org/
Of course, there are local groups not associated with them, but they have chapters.

Susan Uhlig: Looking that up I came across this - something not available when I was learning: http://www.story-telling.com/References/StorytellingCommunities.htm

Susan Uhlig: I haven't been actively pursuing storytelling opportunities lately--too much on my plate--so usually I get a job when I give someone my business card and they ask for more info. Or I combine it with writing workshops at a school. i.e. storytelling works well with the younger children. Storytelling has really made me comfortable with speaking. Sometimes I still find that totally unbelievable! I was such a shy child. Even now I still sometimes get stuck making conversation with someone new.

KimP: When you are ready to propose an article to magazines and you find 2-3 that you feel it will fit - what do you look for as far as what Rights the magazine wants to retain? Such as All Rights, One Time rights, First NA rights, etc. Have you re-sold an article if a publisher has only had first or one time rights? And is so, do you have a way of tracking how many times an article has been re-printed?

Susan Uhlig: You all are going to think all I do is refer you elsewhere! But recently I wrote an article on magazine writes for ICL's Rx for writers, which will answer your first question. It's here: http://www.institutechildrenslit.com/rx/ws04/isright.shtml

Susan Uhlig: Yes, I've definitely sold 2nd or reprint or one-time rights on short stories and articles. How I keep track? In several ways. One on the manuscript folder itself, what rights I've sold. Another in my "sent" file which shows what rights I offered on a story with the indication that it was sold. And, yet again on my computer manuscript copy, it shows what rights I can offer. Often, I include where it has been sold before so the editor can know at a glance they were a long time ago or non-competing markets. Here's a link to a blog post I wrote on my record keeping methods: http://www.susanuhlig.com/2010/08/keeping-track.html. That will probably give you way more info than you want. ;-)

mirandapaulbooks: I began my writing career (and still do, currently) with published articles in newspapers, magazines, and even educational and travel sites online. In the last two years I've had my first children's stories and digital books published...all under the same name - my real name.

mirandapaulbooks: My question for you is, should I adopt a pen name to separate the articles I write as a freelancer for adult markets and the works I write for children - or for picture books specifically?

mirandapaulbooks: I've heard that agents often help authors with the pen name issue, but I do not have an agent currently. And since I earn a very nice income and personally love writing across genres, I don't think that I'd want to give up assignments or limit myself just to focus on a marketing "niche" or genre either! If you've got any opinions or resources regarding whether or not it is a smart business strategy to write under a pen name (or if it doesn't matter in the least!) - let me know! Also, if you've got any advice or experience to share regarding the legal/paperwork side of pen names, that's welcomed too!

Susan Uhlig: This is a very individual decision. I actually wrote an article on it, which was on the ICL site for a year. I've reposted it on my website, so will send you there. If you have questions after reading the article, feel free to ask. http://www.susanuhlig.com/2011/03/double-identity.html

mirandapaulbooks: All of the authors in your article seemed to have made the decision before they began publishing anything. Do you know of any who began using a pen name after they'd already had published work?

Jan Fields: I know some authors have. This usually happens when they've been writing in one genre and decide to write in something totally different. It used to be that publishers actually encouraged the use of pen names in that situation so that your "brand" wouldn't be tainted by the different style or genre -- Stephen King would be an example. He wrote books under the Richard Bachman name. Also the same situation happened with Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels/Barbara Mertz -- as she wrote wildly different things, she used different names to keep the "brand" easy to follow for readers. At one time authors were also encouraged to use pen names to avoid looking too prolific, but I don't think that happens much anymore.

Susan Uhlig: For more insights, Write to dear-editor.com and see what she says. When there is an "ask the agent" twitter chat, ask it there.

Jan Fields: How do you get the other people in your life to see your writing as a business and not just as something that stands in the way of getting you to do what they want?

Susan Uhlig: Scheduling a time and making others know that is your writing time is very helpful. I'm going to work, is not something people question. Treat writing the same way. That may require a shut door or writing not from home, like at a coffee shop or library. I like the latter as then I'm not sidetracked by laundry and other household chores.

Susan Uhlig: When someone says, "hey, let's do .... on Tuesday," you say "I'm sorry, that's my writing day." Suggest an alternative time. If you consistently stick up for it, others will learn to respect that time.

Susan Uhlig: If you have someone who consistently challenges your writing time and space, it depends who they are on what you need to do.

Susan Uhlig: A family member - have a good talk and set boundaries (i.e. tell your 13 year old not to interrupt unless he's bleeding or dying - obviously toddlers and young kids are a whole 'nother issue)

Susan Uhlig: A friend - if a friend doesn't understand what is important to you maybe they need to become an exfriend! You can always use the example of "you wouldn't call me up at an office/nurse/retail job and expect me to leave or cancel on my employer would you?" You are your employer. If you don't work, you can't make money.

Susan Uhlig: A couple additional thoughts on protecting your writing time. Perhaps you need to let your phone go to voice mail. Try not to get sucked into writerly related things if you have limited time, i.e. talking about writing with others online, instead of writing itself. If someone doesn't get what "writing day/time" means, use the simple "I have to work."

mirandapaulbooks: Do you ever find that inspiration hits you on a "non-writing" day, though? Or the opposite - you schedule time to write and it's the wrong time? What do you do in those cases? Force yourself to write or ignore inspiration? Or figure something else out with your "work" schedule?

Susan Uhlig: I suppose it depends on the situation. If inspiration strikes and I can write when I should be doing something else, I write. If I can't write, I will definitely make myself some quick notes so I don't forget what I thought of. For the opposite, we all have off days when what we do seems ineffective or we don't make much progress. But I believe we should show up anyway!

Susan Uhlig: Some writing isn't putting actual words on the page itself--it's doing a bit of research to find just that right tidbit for your story. For example, the other day I was doing that--looking for a poem in the public domain--didn't find what I wanted. But later doing something totally different (sitting in church actually) I suddenly realized that a poem in that spot was the absolutely wrong thing and I knew what I needed to write. It was so much better than my original idea. I'm not sure, however, I would have gotten there without spending time thinking about the project and doing research that I didn't end up needing. Sometimes our writing is exploring our character or researching setting or verifying a fact. If it your time to write, at least do that. One friend has made a commitment to write 2 pages a day. She said some days what she writes is "I hate doing this." But it is forcing herself to keep her promise to herself. It is making her get in the habit to produce something.

Susan Uhlig: New writers often make the mistake of thinking that writing is only something that can be done when you are "inspired." Not true. It's kind of like, if you smile even though you don't feel like it, soon you'll start feeling better. If you write, even when you don't feel like it, you'll eventually make some progress and feel like writing.

Susan Uhlig: Here are some quotes on the topic.
"Inspiration is another name for knowing your job and getting down to it." -Joyce Cary
"I write when I'm inspired. I see to it I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning." -Peter De Vries
So, the simple answer is yes. Force yourself to write when it's writing time.

KIBOYD: I was wondering what I can claim on my taxes - sample magazines? Books on how to improve your writing skills? Paper and ink cartridges? Coloured pens for editing? Stamps and envelopes? Is there a limit? Or a ratio of income to expenses claimed? Being that I am Canadian there may be some differences in tax claims compared to the U.S. ... but I am assuming that there will be many similarities to get started with.

omalizzie: Do we have to have manuscript sales to claim receipts against?

Susan Uhlig: The IRS has rules on what makes a business and I'm sure the Canadian revenue department (what is it called?) does, too. Here's a link to the IRS publication: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p535/ch01.html

Susan Uhlig: I know it used to be said that a business must make a profit every 3 years out of 5. But we know that's not true--many big businesses don't. Here's an article discussing this: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/money-guides/turning-hobby-into-business-means-tax-breaks.aspx

Susan Uhlig: Back to kiboyd's initial questions. If you are treating your writing as a business as mentioned above, yes, you can deduct supplies (sample magazines, paper and ink cartridges, pens, stamps, envelopes, books on writing) and more. One of the keys to this is accurate record keeping.

Susan Uhlig: Hmm, let's see if I can paste in my column headings from my excel spreadsheet of business expenses... Ooh, it worked! Advertising Miles Other Car Exp Commissions Office Supplies Taxes & Lic Travel Meals Utilities Other

Susan Uhlig: Oops, did something that posted my reply before I was ready. So, my website expenses fit under Advertising. Postcards to promote a book would fit here, too. Business cards. Miles includes mileage to a writing workshop or a critique group, etc.

Susan Uhlig: Omalizzie, re: do you have to have manuscript sales? Not necessarily. But your intent must be to make money. So the government tax agency won't be impressed with a business loss when you can't show records to support that.

Susan Uhlig: Other Car Expense - tolls, parking ... Commissions, not really sure why I've kept that in my sheet. I got these headings years ago from a tax form. Doubt I've ever used it. *red face* (We often don't analyze what we do until we have to explain it to someone else!) Office - this includes postage and materials. Supplies - could probably be grouped with office, but I have a tendency here to put my market books, etc. The next four are pretty obvious. Other - that's where I list my conference fees, workshop fees. Depreciation is a category some might have - if you have a dedicated office for writing only. My office is not - I use it for paying bills, writing, facebooking, emailing family, etc. There are very specific tax rules about this!

kiboyd: OH, thank you so much! This is all great info and I love the headings to help keep me organized. Thank you again, Sue. I will definitely check out those links as well.

Susan Uhlig: Yea! Those headings are ones I originally took from a Schedule C. At one point, I had the line numbers on the form as well. Now I use Turbotax, so don't need to know line numbers. But it sure was helpful at the end of the year. Line 8 on the form - doublecheck it is still the category I think it is, yep - copy my total from line 8 on my year end worksheet in the spreadsheet into the form.

Susan Uhlig: Which reminds me of another reason I like using a computer spreadsheet for taxes. I set mine up so they not only do the math, but with cross checks. I total columns and rows and then find the total of all the rows. If it doesn't match the total of all the columns, I probably have a formula problem in the spreadsheet.

BethC: Many of us are working and would love to write. Do you have any suggestions for those of us who would basically be working two jobs (our day jobs and writing)? My main concern is I work full-time and sometimes lack the motivation (or energy!) at the end of a long day to sit at the computer for even an hour or so and write.

Susan Uhlig: Are you a morning person? Then get up early and write before work for a half an hour. You can get a lot done in a half hour if you are consistent about making yourself do it. I know some writers write for half of their lunch hour. Or on the train or bus ride to and from work. Or schedule 2-4 hours on the weekend when it works with the rest of your family's schedule. Keep your scheduled appointment. Take advantage of any down times and think about what your character is doing or will be doing? That prethinking will help when you sit down to write.

Susan Uhlig: Recently I heard someone talking about Jane Yolen having advised her to work on short stuff in the busy times. Right a quick piece of light verse. Outline an article. Research for a piece. Work on a short story. If I know my main character's problem and a solution (that prethinking) I can often finish a first draft of a short story in a half hour. The next time you come to write, work on revising it. When you think you are done, start a new short project so the first story can chill a while and you can come back to it with fresh eyes. Spend a half hour on market research. When you are too tired to write, read some children's writing, or read a blog post on writing or a chapter out of a writing book or participate in kidlit chat on Tuesday evenings on twitter.

anita: How does one get writing assignments from publishers? How did you get them? Is it just by knowing the publishers after you get a positive response on a article/story? Or, can you apply for them?

Susan Uhlig: Let's talk two different aspects of writing assignments. First, magazines. Yes, I usually get them after getting to know a magazine editor or anthology editor. They like my work and can contact me when they have a hole to fill. Or I get included on a list of "these are the topics we'd like to see, let me know what you're interested in." I reply with a couple suggestions of how I'd see something going and they tell me which one, if any, they'd like me to do. It means I'm usually writing on spec. I don't have a contract until they get the finished piece.

Susan Uhlig: Magazine assignments can also be gotten by sending resumes, clips, publishing credits to a magazine. For example I opened up my market book (ICL's Magazine Markets for Children's Writers 2011) at random and found Take Five Plus. Under SUBMISSIONS it says "All material is assigned." It goes on to say what you need to send to be considered for assignment.

Susan Uhlig: Book assignments - that's usually called work-for-hire. A lot of it is done in the educational market. I recently did some for a Korean publisher looking for picture books for their English as a Foreign Language program. The long answer on how I got that job is here: http://www.susanuhlig.com/2010/12/howd-you-get-that-gig.html

Susan Uhlig: I asked a friend of mine to do a guest post on work-for-hire. She's got good insights: http://www.susanuhlig.com/2011/01/welcome-diane-bailey-work-for-hire-champion.html.

Susan Uhlig: I've been doing some research on work-for-hire and eventually plan to do a blog post on that topic. So, there you have it. Usually you have to have writing credits to get assignments. However, a friend of mine starting doing assigned articles for her local newspaper after she sent them one local article. It can be a good place to start!

KatieC: Thank you for those great links, Susan! Here is another link for you, Anita. Jan listed some very helpful websites in this discussion! http://institutechildrenslit.net/index.php?topic=8637.0

KatieC: Do you devote a lot of time to market research? I detest market research Anyway, I find myself avoiding it much of the time, and then I end up with several pieces and nowhere to send them. By then I feel overwhelmed at trying to find a home for so many stories/articles at once. So, do you write with a market in mind usually? Or do you write, and then look for a market? I'm just trying to find a better system. One that is more business like and profitable Thank you!

Susan Uhlig: I've done both. Writing with a market in mind and just writing. I've been more successful with the former as far as sales. The most successful I've been in the magazine market is magazines I know well and enjoy. I like their stories, articles, and when I come up with an idea, I think, hey, that might work for so and so. It sounded as if you were referring to magazine writing, Katie. Am I correct? With that clarification, I believe I can answer your questions better.

Susan Uhlig: I know I sent out lots of material too early. When I succeeded was when I did know a specific magazine well. Don't think of it as market research--think of it as finding good stories that resonate with you. ;-)

Jan Fields: I have to admit, I hate the business of trying to find a market with a story/article/book in hand. So (other than the stuff I write under contract) everything I write basically is written for ME. At the same time, I spend a certain amount of time per week studying markets -- not in a "gotta find a match for STORY A" mood but just in a "learning about the cool new market" mood. I read guidelines, read websites, read blurbs about their books (if a book publisher), maybe check to see if my library has some of the books in the ebook download...just generally learning about something new. SOMETIMES during this process, I'll go -- hey, this would be a great place to send STORY A -- and I'll send it. Sometimes, not and I've just learned a new market. By removing the matchmaker pressure, I find studying new markets much more enjoyable -- AND I get more of a feel for publishing overall because I know more markets and more of what is being published.

Jan Fields: By this point of doing this kind of study for a LONG time, it's rare that I write something that doesn't immediately bring a market to mind...but that doesn't mean I write to a market. It's just that that comfortable study fed info to my brain.

Susan Uhlig: Jan is so right! Let me add a bit more on book marketing, now that I understand that's your direction, Katie.

Susan Uhlig: I read, read, read books in my genre (and note the publisher and what I like and don't like). There are books I read that are a type/style I'll never write. I enjoy reading them though. When I find that everything I read from a certain publisher is in the not my style/type category, I know never to submit to them. Conversely, if I consistently find books of similar type to mine then that's a publisher on my list. Here's a blog post I've written on my journey of recording what I read: http://www.susanuhlig.com/2009/11/book-it---recording-what-you-read.html

Susan Uhlig: I go to conferences and workshops and listen to editors talk. Some I think, wow, do I want to work with him/her. Other times, I think, we're not a match. I've had good responses--not sales--from query letters and/or manuscript consultations to editors I've heard speak.

Susan Uhlig: The Internet is so helpful too when looking at a specific editor. I'll search for an editor's name, read interviews about them, read their blogs, etc. I find out if they are on twitter and if so, follow them. I've talked on my website about more specifics of both of those, but I think one of the best things is that each time I learn more about the craft of writing, get inspired and challenged.

BethC: I wanted to say thank you for stopping by again and sharing with us. Your input is appreciated. I know I have learned a lot from you, and I truly appreciate what you have shared with us.

Susan Uhlig: You are welcome, Beth!

Anita3: Thank you for spending time with us and for showing us the business of writing!

Susan Uhlig: It's been fun chatting with you. Hope you all have a great weekend and learn what works for you on the business side of writing!

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