About books about how to make money writing

You may have noticed from this last post that I am reading many books on writing and making money at writing which don’t all agree with each other. In fact, many of them don’t really give you all the steps, even if they promise pretty fast results.

This is not a bad thing, in my opinion.

No matter how much they tell you that the book will provide step by step instructions, you will always feel like some part of the process is missing.

My advice is to not worry about it. Just think about where you can find a client.

Because this is the deal: Those authors, no matter how experienced, are not you. They aren’t living in your town with your background.

I’ve read these books. I’ve even started to prepare in one case to follow specific instructions (basically, to call everyone and their mother to see if they have need of my services). But I have held off in execution because, in the meantime, I have discovered other ways to connect to customers. In fact, the vast majority of my pay comes from writing jobs that aren’t even mentioned as possibilities in most or all of the books I have read.

Frankly, one of the most important things to do in starting a commercial writing carreer is probably simply one of the most important things to do in starting any business: leverage every friend you have. Do you know anyone who needs writing done who will trust that you are competent to do it? Get them to hire you. If you have to agree to a one-time reduced price, then do so (though make sure this is understood) and execute the project. Get a copy in your portfolio and keep working.

To put it another way, writing books can be real helpful in three ways:

  1. Giving you guidance about specific kinds of writing projects you might do.
  2. Giving you tidbits and ideas about starting and maintaining a writing business (which may or may not work for you at the time).
  3. Giving you encouragement.

But, no matter how much the cover copy leads you to expect a day-by-day start-up manual, don’t expect that sort of direction. Rather, use what the book does provide to simply think about your own circumstances and how best you can move from where you are to where you need to be.

While you need information, ultimately, only you know really what you need to do next. And if you don’t know it yet, keep thinking.

By the way, there is another reason why it is good that these books don’t give us much step-by-step instruction in starting as you might expect: you can’t step into the same river twice. All these writers got their starts in a different economy. Not only is the economy shifting, but the very fact that you are reading their books shows that they are altering the landscape. After all, they’re not sending you private email. All your potential competitors are out there reading the same book! In fact, to read some of their promotional web pages, they are giving regular seminars to billions of troops ready to go out and destroy your business. It is the attack of the clones in real life.

So make sure you think and innovate. Let others look for generic steps that work for everyone. You look for the best, reachable rung on a ladder that is available where you live, not in a book on how to make a six-figure income as a freelancer.


  1. Doug Davis

    Having read many of these books on how to get published, I think your Scroll & Quill article- “About books about how to make money writing” is sound advice.
    Ther is only so much to learned before foraging for opportunties simply begins. We all have to find ourn own niche. Thanks for that.

  1. 1 once more with feeling » Leveraging Literacy

    […] so here it is. Thinking about my post on the problem of trying to make money writing articles and my follow up on how much to expect from how-to books, I want to say something more (or more specific) about why writing can pay and why a pastor needing […]

  2. 2 once more with feeling » Stuff on freelance writers

    […] About books about how to make money writing […]

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