Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cindi Myers: The Working Writer

Though I have written or contracted to write over 40 novels I began my career writing nonfiction. I started as a newspaper reporter, then moved into writing magazine articles full time. Writing nonfiction allowed me to earn money writing – enough that I was able to quite my day job managing a medical clinic. But even more important in the long run, writing nonfiction taught me many things that have helped me have a successful fiction career, things like:

Marketing Myself: Browse any newsstand or check a copy of the latest Writer’s Market and you’ll find plenty of places that are hungry for nonfiction writers. Add to that the growing number of websites that need content. But none of those places will come looking for you. You have to approach them, usually with an idea for an article. Those years of hustling for freelance work taught me how to write a good query letter and how to focus on my strengths. I gained self-confidence in my abilities along the way. (Let me add that I’m really a shy person. The idea of cold calling someone and asking for an interview made me queasy. But I did it anyway. You can do it, too.) When it came time for me to query editors and agents about my books, or to promote my published books by sending out press releases or setting up booksignings, this early training in self-promotion came in handy.

How to be a prolific writer: Magazine articles individually do not pay a lot of money. To make a living, a nonfiction writer must write a lot of articles. When I was freelancing full time, I had a goal of getting five new queries or articles or short stories out the door every week. I set this goal when I was laid off from my manager’s job. I gave myself six months (the length of time I could collect unemployment) to meet or exceed the income I’d made working for the medical clinic. By writing a lot and constantly sending things out, I was able to earn more from my writing that first year than I’d earned as a manager. Now I produce four and five books a year for several category romance lines. Work habits I learned as a struggling freelancer are paying off now.

How to handle rejection: No writer sells everything she writes. At least none of the writers I know. The down side to producing so many queries and articles was that a lot of them did get rejected. A typical week might look something like this: five queries submitted, four rejections of queries sent earlier and two sales – and maybe a couple of checks from earlier sales. I didn’t have time to stew over the rejections. I learned to draft a new query to a new market and move on. Though I don’t have as many projects going on at once now, I’ve learned that if one project doesn’t sell, something else will. Past experience gives me the confidence to keep trying new things.

How to be flexible: While it helps to specialize in a couple of areas of nonfiction (my specialities were medical business and Texas history and travel) the best way to make a living as a freelancer is to be able to write about a wide variety of subjects. When an editor approached me to write an article that was outside of my area of expertise, I never said no. I saw the new assignment as an opportunity to learn something new. While some authors earn very nice livings writing as few as a book a year, one category romance a year is not enough to pay the bills. I’m also a person who enjoys variety. Writing for different lines not only enables me to increase my income, but I think it helps keep my work from growing stale. And when an editor asks me to write something new, such as a continuity of a novella project, I’m happy to have the opportunity to stretch as a writer.

Quality counts: Though I was writing a lot of nonfiction, any particular editor only had one query or article of mine on his desk at a time. I had to produce my best work in order to make a good impression and get the assignment or score a sale. Currently, in addition to writing novels, I edit Nink, the newsletter of Novelists, Inc. The members of Novelists, Inc, as the name implies, are all published novelists. Occasionally one of these writers will send an article for the newsletter, and it’s clear they merely dashed it off. I have to put on my editor hat and reject the work. Some fiction writers think that, because you’re not having to make things up out of whole cloth, nonfiction must be inherently easier than fiction. They are wrong. Wordsmithing is every bit as important for nonfiction as fiction.

I would encourage all aspiring novelists to try their hand at nonfiction as well. The gratification of seeing your name in print and earning money for your writing is immeasurable. In my case, freelancing allowed me to stay home and write while still paying the bills. And I’m convinced my years of freelancing made me both a better writer and a better businessperson.

Cindi Myers became one of the most popular people in eighth grade when she and her best friend wrote a torrid historical romance and circulated it among their peers. Fame was short-lived, however; the English teacher confiscated the manuscript and advised her to concentrate on learning to properly diagram a sentence. From this humbling beginning, she has gone on to write nonfiction for national and regional publications ranging from Ladies' Home Journal to Popular Mechanics, but she never got rid of the fiction bug. Her first novel was published in 1999. Her books have been Waldenbooks bestsellers and have been praised for their emotion, humor and sensuality. She writes stories about relationships that matter, whether the subject is female friendship, families, or the love between a man and a woman. A Man to Rely On is her 35th published novel.

Subscribe to Cindi's Weekly Market Newsletter (it is an announce only group-no chatter) by sending a blank email to CynthiaSterling-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

For Love and Money Day 2 Anyone who comments all six days will be entered into a drawing for a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card

If you are here in Seekerville today, you have a chance to win a copy of Cindi's SuperRomance release, A Man To Rely On, which I grabbed when I picked my own copy. Just post a note to Cindi for your chance!!


  1. Cindi,

    I'm a huge fan of your newsletter. Thanks for the inspiration!


  2. Cathy, where do you live, you early bird. You keep making it into Seekerville before me.

    I am going to have to give you the key to the coffee pot.

    Cindi, welcome to Seekerville. We have maple scones in your honor.

  3. My free-lancing gear is so rusty it's stuck.

    That article was like a refreshing spritz of WD-40 for a rusted mind. Thanks! I needed that.

  4. Cindi,

    You spoke at Heart of Denver Romance Writers many moons ago and shared on how you calculated each year how much you had to earn to make your desired income as a writer and that particular year, you shared that you met and surpassed your goal.

    Can you share how you roughed out how you would do that? I'm sure you also determined how many items you had to keep circulating too. Amazing!

    By the way, that really inspired me and has stayed with me.

  5. One of the most interesting points you made, Cindi, is the fact that fiction is harder to write than non-fiction! I find this so true because I have a narrow and focused imagination. Once I have a seed of truth, I can go to town on a story. But merely making up a seed or a beginning is hard for me because I am afraid it is unbelievable to others.

    I am also shy about promoting myself. I am learning though and articles like these do pump a writer up with courage! cm

  6. Welcome to Seekerville, Cindi and thanks for the great post! I'm amazed at your productivity. You're an inspiration!

    I also wrote romances in eighth grade, but mine weren't torrid. Guess that's why I'm writing inspirational romances. :-)


  7. I'm a fan of your newsletter too, and back when I was dumb enough to write for free, I had several articles accepted by an online magazine. I haven't tried my hand at non-fiction for a paying market, but your blog just might push me back in that direction. I'm like Bookie -- non-fic is waaaaaaay easier for me, especially since I like to surf... er... do online research.


  8. Thanks for the post, Cindi. Your advice and encouragement is most helpful.

  9. Cindi -

    I'm a long-time reader of your newsletter, but must confess I learned a lot I didn't know about you from this post!

    Thanks for sharing!!

    Too many "writers" fail to understand that the Muse can't survive without a no nonsense businessperson twin!

  10. Tina,

    I'm not a coffee drinker so I'll leave managing the coffee pot to you.

    I was interested in your WW story with the hockey mom because I'm a sports mom. Currently, we're heavily into basketball. But then, we're in Indiana, home of Hoosier Hysteria.

    My freshman son is due at practice at 6:15 a.m. so I've been showing off with a quick post before we head out :) It's surprising how much gets accomplished when I get up so early!

    My blog at www.thestarpress.com, under community bloggers addresses that very thing about sports and dedication today.

    I've started my career in nonfiction and it has multiple benefits. 1) Something about getting paid helps me feel like a "real writer." 2) It's fun to see my name in print. 3) Having people read my stuff and comment is satisfying.

    I could go on, but I'm due at my daughter's class to read to third graders. It is also motivating. I think anything I do with words and sharing them with others helps me stay out of that solitary feeling of "writing to myself." Seeing kids respond to books reminds me that we really are communicating and some day we hope our communication will reach a wider audience.

    Is it too early to leave my cherry cordial Hershey Kisses? They are "the bomb!"



  11. My favorite tip was keeping a goal of 5 queries out the door every week. That seems very doable to me.

    PS... Cindi, I LOVED your bio! I laughed out loud.


  12. Hi Cindi:

    You are such a hard worker it reminds me of the motivational speaker who liked to say, “If you want your ship to come in, you have to sent a ship out.” I admire how you keep sending ships out and I resolve to send more out myself this year! Great post!


  13. Thank you all for the warm welcome. And thank you, Tina, for inviting me to the blog.

    Tina, you asked about how I set an income goal for the year. When I was freelancing, I knew I needed to match the income I'd made when I was working full time. My last year of full-time employment (1996) I made $26,000 managing a medical clinic. So I needed to earn about $2200 a month from writing to match that. At the time, I'd been freelancing a while, so I knew about what I could make in various markets. For instance, I wrote confession stories, which paid about $150 -- 200 each. And I wrote articles for medical magazines for $300. A nespaper travel piece paid $50. I tried to figure a balance of this type of work that would add up to the $2200 I needed. Then I sent out about twice as much to account for rejections!

    The biggest thing about this, though, was that I set a goal and wrote it down. I still do this with my books. The income from books is less predictable, but I still write down an income goal each year -- and I almost always meet it. I think simply by setting a goal down in print I make a commitment to it -- even a subconcious one.

  14. Cindi, I'm impressed. Freelancing is hard work. I tried it for a while, and when some of my articles never got published, I decided I'd like writing novels better. I found it's even more painful to write an entire novel that will probably never get published than to write several articles. Hmm, maybe I should go back to articles.

  15. I'm a big believer in short form writing to build up to novels.

    It's a great way to earn some writer's credits that are going to put your writer's resume a step ahead of the others when an editor looks at it.

  16. Cindy, I'm so impressed and inspired by your discipline, a quality I really lack! It's encouraging to hear you can set high goals and actually meet them. I should try harder!

  17. Cindi, what are examples of confession magazines? Did you have anything to confess, or rewrite someone else's story?

    Cathy S., the cordial Hershey Kisses are definitely the bomb.

  18. Very inspirational, Cindi. Thanks!

  19. Hi, Cindi: As a fan of your newsletter, I was looking forward to your post today, so thanks for being here and sharing. I'm working to break in to category romance, so I'm particularly interested in hearing about your journey to publishedville with the Harlequin/Sihouette bunch and any tips you can offer. Thanks! Sherri

  20. Cindi,

    Thanks for all the good information. I too enjoy writing short non-fiction.

    As soon as I post this comment, I'm signing up for your newsletter.

    Rose Ross Zediker

  21. Ann, as a matter of fact, Michael Bracken will be in Seekerville talking about the confession story market tomorrow. True Story, True Romance, True Love, True Experience.

  22. Cindy, I'm a big fan of your newsletter too. Don't know where you find the time to do all you do. You said you do a lot of non-fiction. Can you give an example of an article title you've done and where it was published?

  23. Cindi, I met you at teh locl RWA chapter in Denver a couple years ago. I love your books.

    what you say about using your writing talents in other areas make total sense to me.

    I have a multi-colored semi-career in journalism, fiction, teaching writing, and hopefull soon in long fiction.

    I consider myself a wordsmith, although I had to take that off my business cards because too many people didn't know what it meant. LOL

    Thank you for giving me a dose of inspiration this morning.

    Kathi Robb Harris

  24. Wow, excellent post! Since I'm planning on starting to send in my writing (mostly nonfiction) to magazines and things, this was a huge help. Thanks!

  25. Welcome, Cindi! Thanks for all the great information. You're a wonderful motivational speaker : )

    I especially love your goal setting for the year. I love spending money -- not quite so good at making it : )

    Thanks for kick in the bumper : )

  26. Nonfiction and I have a hard time but I know it would be helpful. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement.

  27. Cindi,

    Thanks so much for your insightful information. I also would like to see some tips on category romance. I sent out a manuscript to Steeple Hill and I would love to be one of their regulars.
    Thank you again.
    Linda Cacaci

  28. Cindi,

    Thanks for the great post. Waiting for that first book contract can take years. The magazine articles I've had published have helped me in many ways. I have writing credits, a little income to prove to the IRS I'm a serious writer, and a boost to my confidence. Plus, it's fun to see those bylines.

  29. Cindi, thank you for your post. I'm getting my writing feet wet by writing non-fiction articles. I am hoping to be a full-time writer in a couple of years, so your income breakdown information was very helpful. Thanks for sharing.


  30. These are really great tips, Cindi. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Ann-- True Story, True Love, True Romance, True Experience and Modern Romance are the confession magazines. Grab some copies (they're sold in my local grocery store) and read the stories. They are all written in first person, as if true. I read Dear Abby and Can This Marriage Be Saved and things like that and wrote stories based on those ideas. They could have happened to someone, but they didn't happen to me. They were a lot of fun to write and really helped me learn to write good dialogue and emotion.

  32. Sherri --
    As far as getting published with Harlequin/Silhouette -- persistence pays! I submitted a lot of stuff to them and got rejected before I sold. Some people get discouraged when they get a lot of rejections and think "Oh, they just don't like me." But each editor is looking for a specific kind of story. You may write a great story, but if it isn't what that editor has in mind, it won't sell. My advice would be to read the line you want to write for. Make note of popular hooks like brides, babies, etc. Some people poo-poo those things, but readers love them! And the editors want to give readers stories they will love. So find a way to tell a bride or baby story that you can love, too. Also, if you aren't suceeding in one line, try another. Try suspense or historical if straight contemporary isn't working for you. And keep trying. If the editor for a line changes, submit again, since new editors may want different things.

    True story -- I just sold a manuscript to Super Romance that is a re-written version of a story that got rejected by Temptation ten years ago!

  33. Shirley,
    I pretty much do fiction full time now. When I was writing nonfiction I wrote for a lot of medical journals __ Respiratory Therapy, Texas Medicine, Medical Imaging, Medical Business -- because I had worked managing medical offices and could sell the editors at the magazine on my expertise.

    I also wrote regularly for Texas Highways. I had articles published in Modern Bride, Popular Mechanics, The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe, Houston Chronicle, Historic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal...dozens and dozens. I wrote travel articles about sights near where I lived and sold them to newspapers. When my husband built me a potato bin I took photos and sold the article to Popular Mechanics. When my neighbors had a pet flying squirrel I sold an article about it to Grit. Everything was fodder for articles. Some of them only paid $50, but I used the little ones to build credits. So when I queried Historic Traveler for an article about the King Ranch, I was able to send them a bunch of newspaper clippings. All those $50 newspaper articles led to a $1000 magazine article.

  34. I would love a maple scone and I've forwarded not only the coffee pot key to Cathy S., but the refrigerator combination lock.

    Can't have Mary getting here early and nipping all the good stuff so we keep the fridge locked.


    Cindi, I'm a big fan and will stop by WalMart tonight to pick up my copy. If they don't have it, I'll order it online. Your newsletter continually gives me great info and the common sense of the situations touches a cord in me. Thanks so much.

    Now I must scan the rest of these responses, and I brought some fresh snickerdoodles for the afternoon crowd.

    Some of them are studded with M&Ms... Because that's never a bad thing!!!


  35. Okay, Cathy S., here's the scoop darling...

    You don't have to DRINK the coffee, honey-pot.

    Just make it for the rest of us, LOL!!!

    Okay, we'll leave coffee making to other earlibirds and let you be sports mom. I can actually set the pot on 'auto' the previous night so we're all set.

    And the Hershey's cherry cordials???

    Oh, mylanta!

    Wonderful little bits of greatness. Hand over the bag, sister, and no one gets hurt.

    Mary's short on words today. Possibly actually had to work, darling?????


    And poor Lacey, I keep forgetting to jump back and forth from the puppy gmail account to the writing account.

    What a dork I am. Too many personas in one slightly crazed body. It would not surprise me to ship a manuscript to a farm in Ohio and a puppy to Paula Eykelhof at HQ in Toronto.

    And who knows???

    Maybe Paula's just dying for a puppy.


  36. Cindi,
    Thank you for a very motivating article. It got me thinking maybe I could write non-fiction and earn some much-needed cash while writing my first novel (BTW--how do you write so many books in a year? It takes me forever to just come up with a plot. Then, there's all the re-writes.). I never felt I had particular expertise at anything that I could write about, but my take-away from your article is that maybe I can find interesting subjects and become a quasi-expert, at least enough so to write an article. I'm considering it.

  37. Wow, this is inspiring, Cindi. What a great way to start out our year. Thanks for answering so many questions.

  38. Cindi,

    Interesting about the Dear Abby and confessions. I use Dear Abby too. I cut them out and stick them in a folder for future reference. It's a great "idea" market.

  39. Hey Cindi - thanks for the informative post.

    I've always considered myself a fiction writer and yet when I finally got up the courage to submit, it was to a Regional Historical magazine. I actually got accepted, too but then the mag went bust before my article was pubbed and the contract had been 'Payment on publication'.

    I guess my heart wasn't really in it because I didn't try again for 15 yrs. This time it's fiction and my 2 rejections aren't even close to stopping me.

  40. Actually the confessions magazines are True Confessions, True Romance, True Love, True Story and True Experience. I write for them and have sold to all five. Like many others, I needed some income to make my accountant comfortable about filing a tax return for my writing. And since I sleep with my accountant ::grin:: I wanted to make him as happy and comfortable as possible.

    But I always look forward to what Michael Bracken has to say because he's the King of the Trues.


  41. (The room is silent except for the drone of the washing machine in the basement. Heavy-limbed, Anita Mae stares at her laptop screen. Cold seeps into her body but her face feels hot. The corners of her mouth droop. Huge liquid orbs pool in her eyes...plop down onto her cheeks...no...no! This can't be true! All those True Stories and gasp...T-true con...con...confessions were l-l-lies?)


  42. Cindi, thanks for a very informative post about non-fic writing. When you've written an article and sold it, do you look for opportunities to tweak it and sell it to other markets?

    I too sold to the Trues -- True Romance, in my case -- and found it to be a big confidence builder..as well as an income builder.

  43. Thanks for the great post, Cindi. Very thought-provoking and inspiring.

    I owe you thanks for something else, too. In 2007, an item in your newsletter led to a sale for me--to a gothic-erotic print anthology. It was a small but important step for me--prior to that, I'd been published only in the "Trues." The confidence I gained led me to enter the Harlequin Presents EXTRA contest, and a request for more material from the senior editor.

    So--thanks a million! And please keep those newsletters coming.

    best, CatW

  44. Cindi, Thanks for all the great info! You've encouraged me to think about different markets I can look for.

    Be blessed!

  45. Wow, CatW -- that makes me feel so good! Congratulations on the sales.

    Patricia W -- yes, reselling articles is a terrific way to make extra income. Sometimes it was a matter of rewriting with a different slant. Sometimes -- with travel and parenting articles -- I sold the same article to lots of different regional markets. Lots of little checks added up to a bigger one.

  46. I have used your great newsletter and I love this idea of writing non-fiction even though I am primarily a fiction writer. Thanks, Page Traynor

  47. Hi Cindi, Thanks for joining us at Seekerville. You have brought up some excellent points. I too have written and published in non-fiction. There are days when I think I should stick to that as I seem to sell better as well as write non-fiction with more flair. Oh well. But like you, I like the stretch of new things.

    I enjoy your novels and thank you again for joining us.

  48. Thanks so much for this Cindi!

  49. Cindi, whenever I have an opportunity to hear you speak, I sign up ;) And no I'm not a professional stalker. Talk about an inspiration, and a common sense, straight shooter. Congrats on your 35th book. Well done!

  50. I only have a few nonfiction articles to my name, but I love every by-line. Hopefully the published novel will occur someday.

  51. Thanks so much for being here with us today, Cindi--and for sharing so generously.

    Thank you to all our visitors to Seekerville. I hope you will be back tomorrow for Michael Bracken's insights on writing for the confessions.

    Remember, if you post all six days your name goes into the hat for a $25 dollar gift card to be drawn on Sunday.

    Today's winner of A Man To Rely On by Cindi Myers (Harlequin SuperRomance) is Shirley McCann.

    Shirley drop me an email at tina@tinarusso.com with your snail mail addy. I will be mailing within the next 7-10 days.

  52. welcome Cindy and I found your visit enjoyable.

  53. Cindi, thanks so much for joining us in Seekerville today! You really inspired me. I was just talking to my husband today about our budget for 2009 and about how much I think I can contribute.

    Anita Mae, you cracked me up!!!

    Missy :)

  54. I love your newsletter and this column is a perfect example of why. Your advice is always practical and dead-on accurate. Thanks, Cindi!