I am very happy to welcome author Pepper O'Neal, who is currently on tour promoting her new book Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny. Pepper has been kind enough to share some writing wisdom with us today!
Several years ago, I got a serious upper-respiratory bug that simply would not let go. Antibiotics did no good, nor did antivirals. Finally, the doctors told me I had to quit my job and confine myself to the house, staying away from the public and other people’s germs, or I was never going to get well. Since, I had to eat, as well as pay the doctor bills, I had to find some way to make a living out of my home office—and fast.
Fortunately, I had some marketable skills, the most important of which was, I could write. And believe it or not, there are ways to make it pay. Now, I’m not talking about writing a block-buster novel and becoming an overnight bestseller. Although, it would be nice, it hasn’t happened to me yet, and I knew I couldn’t count on that to pay my bills. The first thing I did—after I had my pity-party and got feeling sorry for myself out of the way—was to assess those skills and see what I could make pay for me. If you are thinking about making a living with your writing, that is the first thing you need to do. And don’t let me hear you say that you don’t have any marketing skills. You do. Well, unless you have lived in a cave all your life, you do. Boil it down to core. Yes, I have a doctorate in education, and I have a degree from a prestigious law school. So what? Those are not what I mean by marketable skills.
So what are these elusive skills? Well, of course, I can’t tell you what yours are, but mine were simple. I could type. I had a good understanding of punctuation and grammar. I was also a darn good researcher. After I listed every skill I could think of, I brainstormed about how I could put some of them, any of them, to use making a living. Who needed the skills I had and would be willing to pay for them? I made a list of everyone I could possibly think of, and when I got through, though my list was small, it had potential. For example, college students needed all my skills, or most of them, anyway—my killer spaghetti probably wouldn’t help me there, but the rest of my skills might. So I sent out emails to all the colleges I could find email addresses for, asking them to list my typing service/term-paper editing services on their bulletin boards. Some did, some didn’t. From the ones that did, I got several contacts. True, I had to weed out the ones that wanted me to do the research, write the paper, and let them turn it as their own work. But from the others, I got quite a bit of work. A lot of them sent me documents written in long hand which they either mailed by snail mail or scanned and sent by email. (Note: if you are going to try this, get yourself a post office box. That way there is no risk of some crazy showing up at your door. I don’t care if you are male or female, crazies at your door is not a good thing. Oh, and get half the fee up front. College kids are notorious for stiffing you. Just a heads up.)
I typed the documents, word for word then edited the typed document in “Track Changes,” so the client could make the final corrections. I charged by the hour—it takes longer to type up a document if you have to decipher illegible handwriting—as I quickly learned charging a flat fee per page simply wasn’t worth my time. The best thing about this was that I got a lot of additional clients by studying learning how to make video games. He had a term project and wanted some research done and characters created for it. Since he was graded on the actual game he created and not the research and background information he used for his world, he was free to solicit outside help for laying the groundwork. So I spent a few weeks researching obscure gods, goddesses, and mythological creatures, and creating fictional characters, complete with histories and profile sheets, just as if I were laying the foundation for a novel. It was a great fit and I loved it. From this client, I got others, and today, research is the bulk of my business. I don’t work exclusively for gamers, but they are a large part of my client base.
Another thing I did was to decide what I was an expert on—in other words, what information did I have that would be valuable to others? Once I had a list of a few subjects I thought I could teach adequately, I made up lesson plans and approached online colleges, as well as online groups, and offered to teach workshops. With the online colleges, having a doctorate did help, but there are a lot of online groups out there that need workshops taught and don’t require any particular credentials except a thorough knowledge of the subject you are going to teach. Know how to cook, knit, play Monopoly? Whatever you know how to do really well, there is probably an online group out there looking for someone to teach them how to do exactly that. If you don’t teach them, they’ll just find someone else. So why shouldn’t you get paid for it? All you need is a thorough understanding of your subject matter and the ability to write what you know in words that make sense to lay people.
You should also try submitting to some online magazines, as well as print ones, that specialize in your subject matter. A lot of them pay for submissions, and while they usually don’t pay very much, having been published in that subject matter attracts more students to your workshops, thus making you more money, since you are usually paid based on the number of students paying to take the workshop. The subject matter you choose does not have to be about writing, even if you plan to sell it to a writing group. For example, I have seen workshops offered by writing groups about subjects like medical terminology, crime scene techniques, how a private investigator works, and how to be an undercover agent, none of which have to do with writing per se. But these are things writers who are writing novels that involve any of these subjects need to know. Are you a really good cook? A writer who has a novel about a chef may well need a lot of your information.
This isn’t a get rich quick plan. And it will probably take you a while before you can quit your day job, but one thing I can promise you: if you don’t try, it absolutely will not work. Will you automatically have more time to write? Not necessarily. But it will be easier to write. After all, you are right there at the computer, so when you run out of paying work, you don’t have far to go to start back on your WIP, or any excuse not to. And who knows, maybe you’ll actually write that bestselling novel.
Thank you so much for stopping by Pepper, you're certainly an inspiration to me!
Please visit Pepper's website.
Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny is available in on Amazon, B&N, All Romance, and Smashwords.
Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour:
8/8 - Keeping Up With The Rheinlanders
8/8 - Workaday Reads
8/8 - Reader Girls
8/9 - Nightly Cafe
8/9 - Sugarbeat's Books
8/10 - Reader Girls
8/10 - Sugarbeat's Books
8/10 - My Bookish Ways
8/11 - Book Lover's Hideaway
8/11 - The Phantom Paragrapher
8/12 - Bri Clark
8/12 - Romancing the Darkside
8/13 - Reading Romance
8/13 - The Phantom Paragrapher
8/14 - Reading Romance
8/14 - Just Another Book Addict
8/14 - Novel Addiction
8/15 - Just Another Book Addict
8/15 - Nightly Cafe
8/15 - Aobibliosphere
8/15 - Novel Addiction
8/15 - Keeping Up With the Rheinlanders
Book tour hosted by BLB Book Tours.