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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.

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