A “freelancer” is one who is not committed to work for one specific employer. Think of the medieval knight who was free to wield his lance in support of any king or nobleman.
So, a freelance writer is not committed to a specific publisher or publication—or even to a certain kind of writing. The varieties are endless. We’ll consider a few of the fictional options first. In Part Two we’ll look at non-fiction.
What is Fiction? A “story” in industry terminology can refer to an item sent in for possible publication. Here we’ll talk about fictional stories. But even fiction can be based on fact. Confused yet? Just so we’re clear, “fiction” is a narrative that is invented, or created, from the author’s imagination, in contrast to a factual telling of something that really happened. Or at least one person’s interpretation of what happened.
Short stories may vary from the extremely short flash (or sudden) fiction stories under 1000 words (or fewer than 100—depending on who’s defining it) to stories close to 40,000 words, bordering on a novella. The market for these stories has seen a disturbing decrease over the past few decades. Consumer magazines once carried four or five substantial stories each issue, with hefty payoffs for talented authors.
Nowadays, it’s more like one or two very short stories per issue. Beginning writers now may have to look to specialized magazines, for marketing mysteries, science fiction, romance, and other genres. Literary magazines, which often pay in copies, provide another outlet. Online options abound, but are of sometimes of dubious quality and often do not pay for submissions. Other venues include local publications, house organs, or Sunday newspaper supplements.
Novels. Generally starting at 60,000 to 70,000 words for an adult novel, books are still popular among readers, both in print and in digital formats. The publishing industry has changed radically, with the majority of publishing houses under the control of a handful of large conglomerates. That doesn’t mean that getting a manuscript accepted is impossible. You’ll just find it to be more challenging. In the meantime, don’t overlook small, independent presses. Self-publishing is also becoming a more viable option in recent years.
Variations on a theme. I have been discussing mainstream adult fiction options. Similar opportunities exist in children’s fiction (for all ages), for religious audiences, now known as “inspirational,” and any other audience you can think of. A quick look at best seller lists will reveal what’s hot in any field.
Future posts will go into more detail, so post your comments and let me know what you’d like to learn about.