Skip to main content

5 Ideas for Unconventional Writing Success

In the March/April 2010 issue, entrepreneurial writer Chris Guillebeau shared his secrets for making your passion make money for you. The key is to find the convergence between your passion and what people want—and then deliver just that. by Chris Guillebeau

In this online-exclusive companion, here Guillebeau shares five more of his ideas for achieving unconventional success in your writing career.

1. Help newspapers adapt to the online world. I get paid $30 to write blog posts for my local newspaper—not a fortune by any means, I know, but the posts are short and I’m grateful for the traffic to my personal website that comes directly from my posts there. Other opportunities can be found through the Examiner network, AOL and the Huffington Post, which frequently welcomes new (unpaid) writers. Although these outlets are also not lucrative (and there’s a lot of debate in the writing community over whether or not you should work for them), my personal experience is that writing for sites like these can help you establish credibility—and of course, you can include a link to your site in the bio section, which is a plus. Start by contacting an editor with a polite e-mail introduction. If you don’t hear back, follow-up once, then move on to someone else.

2. Use social networking (the right way). Much advice on social networking goes like this: “Sign up for Twitter, and all of a sudden you’ll have a huge fan group.” This theory requires a significant leap of logic. Twitter (or Facebook, or other networks) can be great, and you definitely can build a strong base of followers over time, but not without putting in some real effort. Start by listening in on other people’s conversations and seeing if there’s a way you can help them. After a few months, you can build your own brand by providing (and promoting) meaningful content.

3. Stand out from the masses. Whatever you do, you have to do it differently than everyone else does. Don’t be one of 1,000 query letters—that’s like the story I heard recently of 300 applicants showing up for one receptionist job in Portland. How can you win with those odds? Most likely you can’t, so you have to think differently.

4. Take ownership of your projects. My first print book, The Art of Non-Conformity, comes out later this year. Nothing against the nice people at Penguin, but I expect to do much of the promotion myself. First of all, I don’t really have a choice; it’s just how things work now. Second of all, I’m actually looking forward to the process. If I’m not willing to promote my own book, why should I expect anyone else to?

5. Whatever you do, become indispensable. If you do land a traditional writing gig somewhere, hold on to it with all you’ve got. Become the writer everyone calls when they need something good. When you get negative feedback, accept it gracefully even if you disagree. Do amazing work, and you won’t be forgotten.

Become a Writer's Digest VIP:
Get a 1-year pass to, a 1-year subscription to Writer's Digest magazine and 10% off all orders!Click here to join.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Our September/October Cover Reveal, a Competition Deadline Reminder, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our September/October 2022 cover, a competition deadline reminder, and more!

Writing Nonfiction History vs. Historical Fiction

Writing Nonfiction History vs. Historical Fiction

Author John Cameron discusses how nonfiction history and historical fiction are more similar than they are different.

Bob Eckstein | Publishing Survival Tips

Top 10+ Survival Tips for Publishing

Poignant advice from some of the funniest people in publishing.

Zac Bissonnette: On the Passionate Community of Mystery Lovers

Zac Bissonnette: On the Passionate Community of Mystery Lovers

New York Times bestselling author Zac Bissonnette discusses the process of writing his new cozy mystery, A Killing in Costumes.

My Long, Winding, and Very Crooked Writing Journey

My Long, Winding, and Very Crooked Writing Journey

Every writer’s publishing story is different. Here, author Sharon M. Peterson shares her journey from writing to publishing.

Jeff Adams | Writer's Digest Indie Author Spotlight

Jeff Adams: Publishing Advice for Indie Authors

In this Indie Author Profile, romance novelist Jeff Adams shares his path to independent publishing and his advice for others considering that path.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Writer's Digest July/Aug 2022

The WD Interview: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The bestselling author of Mexican Gothic shares her approach to world-building, character development, and what she’s learned about the business of writing in this interview from the July/August 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

9 Pros and Cons of Writing a Newsletter

9 Pros and Cons of Writing a Newsletter

Thinking of starting your own newsletter? Let freelance writer Sian Meades-Williams lay out 9 pros and cons of writing a newsletter.

How to Write a Compelling Premise for a Thriller

How to Create a Compelling Premise for a Thriller

Learn how to create a compelling premise for a thriller or mystery novel by asking a simple question and tying it to a specific circumstance to set the stage for a thrilling read.