Learning Something New

Monday, March 21, 2016
Even after all the conferences I’ve gone to, I still learn something new at nearly every conference session I attend. And at a conference last week, an SCBWI one in my Southern Breeze region, I sat down in an auditorium to listen in on a discussion of alternate streams of income for writers and illustrators, and boy, did I learn a lot!

So I figured that I would share a few of the panelists’ ideas, in case you, too, thought you knew all about ways to make money beyond a book contract.

Writing Test Passages

Many freelancers are familiar with work-for-hire projects on nonfiction subjects, but there are many more jobs available in this field than writing children’s books. Jobs like writing for tests.

If you’re a writer with a background in teaching and/or education, if you know all about the Common Core Standards, then you’re even more likely to get work in this area. And it’s work that might be better compensated than a book contract (when compared to time invested).

The trick is in finding the jobs. A quick internet search led me to a couple companies that specialize in testing, like Pearson.

Market guides can be helpful in your search as well, and don’t forget conferences. Often, the best connection to this kind of work-for-hire is the person sitting next to you at dinner. Talk to people who write test passages and pick their brains!

Beyond the Research

Have you become an expert on a subject, thanks to all the research you’ve done? Maybe it’s time you made that research pay off beyond articles. (Though if you haven’t looked into writing articles in niche magazines on your subject, then by all means, get cracking on that!)

Work up a program on your nonfiction topic and check with public libraries about presenting. Even if they’re unable to pay more than an honorarium, they will most likely allow you to sell your books. Could you share your topic with a scouting group? A club? A senior center?

If you’ve spent hundreds of dollars, not to mention hundreds of hours, getting to know your subject inside and out, then it’s worth a little bit of thinking-outside-the-box time to come up with ways to share that knowledge (and get paid for it!), as well as sell your books.

And finally, during the illustrator’s presentation when I wasn’t expecting to learn anything (because I’m not by any stretch the artistic type), I perked up when I heard something about contract templates.

Freelancers Union

Of course, there are lots of wonderful sites all about freelancing, including here at WOW! Women on Writing. But Freelancers Union might be helpful for business information and/or insurance opportunities. It’s free to join and it’s for writers, yes, but it’s also for artists and musicians and…well, any freelancer.

So a special thank you to panelists Heather L. Montgomery and Sara Lynn Cramb who helped this writer—and maybe a few of you, too—learn a little something new!

~Cathy C. Hall


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--Thanks for highlighting the varied possibilities to consider. I'm not sure if I could write test items--too much Common Core in my life already--but it's always good to think about the different avenues we can take.

Margo Dill said...

I have written test items. It is good money but it can be taxing on the brain! :)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Ah, yes, test questions. Seems like it would be easy money for teachers but as y'all have noted, it's harder than it looks!

(On the other hand, some writers like crazy challenges... :-)

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Good ideas. I'm always surprised by the different venues out there, if writers can only find them. Thanks for sharing these. :)

Tina Cho said...

Great ideas! Thanks for sharing your conference notes.

Suzanne Lilly said...

Good advice! There's excellent money to be made writing for the education market, but it's demanding, as Margo pointed out.

Linda O'Connell said...

These are wonderful tips, Cathy. I used to test he test questions for a company years ago. You are always so helpful.

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