Sunday, December 31, 2006

2007 Goals

It's the time of year when writers make resolutions and set goals. Many of my fellow writers set productivity goals--so many words per day or so many pages per day or so many hours at the keyboard per day--believing that productivity goals are easier to achieve than sales goals. They may be right. After all, how much control does a writer have over what editors buy and publish?

I take a different approach. I set sales goals. My goal for 2007 is the same as it's been for many years now: To average one
acceptance per week (that's 52 for the year).

Unless I receive an acceptance in the next few hours--and, really, how likely is that?--I'll finish 2006 with 66 acceptances (while that total primarily consists of short stories, it does include other freelance writing such as essays and articles), the fifth year in a row that I've exceeded my goal.

A secondary goal is to increase my average income from freelancing. That'll happen--if it happens--one of two ways:

1. By increasing the amount I earn from the short stories, articles, and essays I write by selling more work to my existing markets or by finding and selling to better paying markets.

2. By doing more work for my exisiting clients or finding new clients for editing and copywriting.

To achieve my goals, I have to believe I do have some control over what editors buy and publish. (Or what clients purchase from me, but that's a different subject.)

I can control what editors buy and publish by studying their publications and producing material that is similar in subject and similar in style to what they already publish. I can control what editors buy and publish by producing manuscripts that are well-written and, to the best of my ability, grammatically correct. I can control what editors buy and publish by accepting and completing assignments that are offered to me. I can control what editors buy and publish by responding appropriately when editors post want-lists or need-lists or calls for submission.

Do I have a great deal of control? Absolutely not.

But I can pretty much eliminate guesswork and chance from the equation.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Today's Mail

I received payment for a short story today, a nice after-Christmas addition to the wallet. It's for a bit of crime fiction that, if I read the check stub correctly, will be published in April.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Two more

I finished two more short stories this morning and have them ready to go in the mail the next time I leave the house.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Will be speaking in PA

For those of you who like to plan in advance, I'm scheduled to speak at "In Your Write Mind," Seton Hill University's 6th Annual Writing Popular Fiction Reunion & Retreat, at Seton Hill University, Greensburg, PA, June 22-24, 2007.

Preliminary info is available at:

and additional info will be available later.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Record keeping and document handling

One of the most important things a freelance writer can do is maintain good records. Unfortunately--based on the number of posts I've seen on various writing forums--many don't.

I regularly see posts from writers who can't find a copy of a contract and want to know if any other writers have sold to the same market and might know what rights they've signed away, posts from writers who don't when or to what magazines they've sent their manuscripts, posts from writers who haven't been paid for published work and don't know who to contact, and any number of other posts that make it painfully obvious that those writers need a good lesson in record-keeping.

I admit my method isn't perfect, but it's quite effective. I know each manuscript that's out to an editor, which editor/publication I sent it to, when it left my hands, and whether it was submitted via e-mail or snail mail. I know where every manuscript has been and when it came back. I know which were rejected and which were sold. I have copies of all of my acceptance letters and/or contracts and I have contributor copies (or copies I purchased myself) of nearly everything that I know has seen print.

And, perhaps more importantly, I can lay may hands on all of it within a few minutes.

I know other writers with fancy spreadsheets and databases who handle much of this electronically, but I'm still a paper-and-folder guy. After all, most contracts still arrive on paper and most work still gets published on paper. Even if I maintained an electronic database of some kind, I'd still need file folders for the paper.

So I use file folders and file drawers. Every finished manuscript gets a file folder (which contains a copy of the ms., related research materials and, ultimately, a contract and a printed copy of the published work) and each folder moves through a series of file drawers--one for finished/not submitted; one for submitted; one for accepted; one for paid for/not published; one for published/not paid for; one for published and paid for; etc.

In this way I spend my time writing and submitting, not looking for lost documents.

Writing is a business. Maintaining records is part of doing business and developing and maintaining a good record-keeping system is especially important for a beginning writer to develop. After a few hundred sales, the task may be too daunting...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Published again and still productive

Today's mail brought a contributor copy of a magazine containing one of my short stories...and I finished a new story this morning and dropped it in the mail at lunchtime.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Published & Productive

My article "Urban Harvest: Improving Houston from the Ground Up" appears in the January/February Texas Gardener, which should hits newsstands in Texas any day now.

Yesterday I finished writing two new short stories and they went into the mail this morning.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


My story "A Holiday Lesson" appears in the January issue of True Confessions.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Two stories off to market

I finished and prepared two new short stories for submission earlier this evening. This wouldn't normally be news, but I've not completed--and have barely written--any new fiction in months. Most of my work recently has been non-fiction or advertising copy written on assignment.

I'm not sure if this means I'm moving into a fertile time for writing fiction or if this was just a momentary productive phase. We'll see.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Published Again

My essay "Learning Life's Lessons" appears in the December Senior News.