Free Money for Writers!

Did I get your attention? I hope so, because I want to stress a recommendation I frequently make to authors upon acceptance of their manuscripts. (I sometimes also mention this in the process of rejection, if I think it will do any good.)

Every serious writer needs to buy a copy of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing (latest edition) by Tom and Marilyn Ross. (No, it’s not just for self-publishers, so keep reading.) (And no, don’t check it out from the library–you’ll want you own copy to dog-ear, highlight, and keep nearby for regular referencing.) In addition to all the wonderful information on publishing (and as a published, soon-to-be-published, or published-wanna-be author, you are part of the publishing business and you need to educate yourself)…uhm, I got lost in that aside, where was I? Oh, yeah.

In addition to all the wonderful information on publishing, each chapter ends with a section called “Web Sites, Wisdom and Whimsey.” These sections alone are worth the price of the book!

Just to whet your appetite, here’s a sample:

Dynamite discussion groups for grants are online. By hopping over to http://groups[*], you can search for two informative chat forums that deal specifically with grants and information for writers. Enter “fundsforwriters” in the search field to subscribe to the group that talks about grants, contests, sources of partnerships, and the like for wirters making a living through their passion for words. By searching on “FFWJunior”** you can join a smaller network that provides a weekly list of easier to achieve grants, awards, and other funding information. (p.111)***

Free money isn’t the only good tip you’ll find in this book. They also have ideas for marketing and promotion. For example, have you thought of teaching a class which introduces some of the basic ideas or concepts discussed in your book? According to this book, “Writing an information-based book makes you an instant ‘expert.’ …Many authors begin by teaching courses on the subject…”

This is a great idea and has been used successfully by several of my authors. One author teaches classes at her local grocery store and library. Another does workshops and seminars all over the U.S. and Canada. These classes lead to increased book sales–both immediately after the class, and later as your students help spread the word.

And this is not just for non-fiction, how-to’s. I have an author who has created a tie-in to the title of her fiction book. She starts with a humorous intro, reading a few excerpts from her book, then speaks more seriously on topics related to home and family. Another author wrote a fictional story about a woman in an abusive marital relationship. She often lectures on how to recognize abuse and what to do about it.

Think about your book. Brainstorm a list of topics or spin-offs based on your title and/or story line. Make a list of at least 20 ideas for workshops or seminars. Then refine the list to a couple of areas you are most interested in. Create a presentation and practice it on your friends and family until you’re ready to go public. Make sure you mention your book at the beginning, the end, and wherever appropriate in your presentation. When applicable, use scenes from your book as supporting examples of your main topic points.

Now, who might be interested in a free lecture**** or workshop on your topics? High schools, PTA groups, senior centers, community ed–the possibilities are endless. Do a little research and start contacting people to schedule events. Advertise on your website or blog that you’re willing to do speaking engagements and be sure to include how to contact you. And start telling everyone you know–friends, family, neighbors–that you’re available to speak.

*Since this printing, they have moved to Or you can go straight to

**Now called FFWSmallMarkets (at Zinester) or link here for the latest issue

***I’m looking at the 4th edition

****While gaining experience, offer to do your lectures for free. If you need to travel, it is appropriate to ask for expenses to be reimbursed–that is, actual mileage, plane tickets, and motel costs. Some authors never charge for the actual speaking engagement, feeling this is a service they do to the community and that they will be repaid for their time through book sales. Other authors who are in high demand have determined they must charge for their time because it takes them away from other income-producing activities (their day job).