A review of The Wealthy Writer by Michael Meanwell

This book contains the latest trends in web writing, communication tools, the use of the Internet as a marketing tool, with lots of links for more information, websites to use to obtain work, and a whole lot of templates, samples and even a phone script. There is enough material here to take a novice and turn him or her into a professional, well paid commercial writer. For more experienced writers, this book contains so much information from Meanwell’s years of personal experience, that the small investment will very likely translate into more lucrative work.

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

The Wealthy Writer:
How to Earn a Six-Figure Income as a Freelance Writer (No Kidding!)
By Michael Meanwell
E-published by Meanwell
E-book, 3rd Edition, 2004, 409 pages usd $19.97
www.michaelmeanwell.com

I often get emails from people who are hoping to make millions with a first novel, generally, as yet, unwritten. Obviously there is a fairly common misconception that breaking into the world of fiction is easy and profitable. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Superstar “names” like John Grisham and Dan Brown may be doing very well from their work (generally due to a powerful marketing team), but most fiction and poetry writers would be receiving a far better hourly rate working on the checkout of a local supermarket or pumping gas. Freelancers looking to make money from magazine articles and other forms of non-fiction fare slightly better, but it‘s still a hard slog, with lots of querying, cold submissions and a long trail of rejections and apprenticeship before the relatively low paying acceptances begin coming in . It is rarely enough money to live on, especially with financial commitments like a family and mortgage. However, there is one branch of writing which is both lucrative, and relatively easy to break into: Commercial writing, or writing communications for business – eg sales letters, speeches, newsletters, brochures, advertisements, public relations material of all kinds, technical writing, and so on is a growing field where good writers are in short supply. Michael Meanwell’s The Wealthy Writer is a comprehensive guide to creating, from scratch if need be, a lucrative commercial writing practice. While the book focuses almost solely on commercial writing, Meanwell clearly understands that writers will continue to want to produce creative works like novels and poetry for non-lucrative reasons, and stresses throughout the book that commercial writers will not only be honing their skills, but also creating enough free time to allow for other hobbies.

The Wealthy Writer e-book is actually a combination of two of Meanwell’s printed texts, The Wealthy Writer and The Enterprising Writer (see our review here ), and since all of the links are clickable, works very well as an e-book. You can easily copy the templates, click on and bookmark the links, and begin utilising his techniques straightaway, even before you finish the book. Meanwell is very open about the challenges inherent in becoming a commercial writer, and from the start, gets writers to ask themselves the hard questions about their working style, level of commitment, and even things like family situation and health. The book pulls no punches about the need for a serious business plan (and provides the tools to create one), the need to have a roadmap, putting in place systems and procedures, creating a home office, setting up a professional budget, and how to determine your worth to clients. All of this precedes the writing process and makes it clear how important it is to decide the parameters and capabilities of your business before touting for clients or writing a word of copy.

The rest of the book provides a serious guide to ensuring that your writing skills are honed and targeted specifically for the commercial market, and covers such things as how to write technical manuals well, how to produce good quality public relations (including using PR for your own advertising efforts), how to write “content” for the web (a rapidly growing field where need is beginning to seriously outstrip skill), speech writing, corporate communications, newsletter writing, copywriting and using direct mail. There are also chapters which go into the specifics of marketing your business, pitching for clients, maintaining a successful business where word of mouth is positive, using the flexibility of outsourcing to handle an increasing work load, how to deal with billing, contracts, bad debtors, time management, interviewing as a writing tool, dealing with writer’s block, balancing work and life, and giving persuasive power speeches:

You don’t have to be a naturally funny person to identify and deliver
humor, but it helps if you know where to look. The best humor, in my view,
is that which you experience or perceive. It’s personal, so you’re more
than likely to deliver it better than secondhand humor you have found
elsewhere. Start by observing life. Take notes and record your observations
for future use. Another deep wellspring of humor resides in your own life.
Think about past experiences—embarrassing situations, mistakes you
made, and outdated perceptions you had. You’ve got enough material right
there for several stand-up routines! (303)

The book is easy to read, and contains lots of point by point (“13 things to remember when drafting a press release”; “5 Steps to Building a Media Database…”) summaries to make referencing simple, especially as your business diversifies and you need to come back and re-read some sections. If you take Meanwell’s advice, this is very likely. Many examples and anecdotes from Meanwell’s own experience are provided, with rich photographs, thought provoking case studies using big companies like Telstra and Kodak, and a slightly Escheresque but detailed analysis of the publication process and learnings from his own book The Enterprising Writer. This expanded e-book contains a lot more meat than The Enterprising Writer which was already pretty hefty in information. This book contains the latest trends in web writing, communication tools, the use of the Internet as a marketing tool, with lots of links for more information, websites to use to obtain work, and a whole lot of templates, samples and even a phone script. There is enough material here to take a novice and turn him or her into a professional, well paid commercial writer. For more experienced writers, this book contains so much information from Meanwell’s years of personal experience, that the small investment will very likely translate into more lucrative work.

Throughout the book, Meanwell is conscious of the writer’s need to be creative, and includes tips on keeping your work fresh, and on how to save time for your passions:

We can all develop this ability by using what’s been termed
“possibility thinking.” Daydream about what you’d like to achieve. See it in
your mind’s eye. Feel it, taste it, know that it is already part of your life and
that it’s within your power to tap into your talent and draw that success to
you. If you do this at the beginning of each day, you’ll move closer to
having the end result you want in your life. Again, this may be getting a
little off base for some people. My point is simply that, in order to get the
most out of your creative process, you need to cultivate it by thinking
differently. If you want positive action in your life, you need to nourish your
mind with positive thought…(370)

Fiction is a wonderful medium to work in, but the chances of making real money from it are relatively slim, especially if you write, as you should, based on your own passions rather than the whims of the marketplace. If you want to earn a regular, reliable income from writing work, commercial writing has got to be your best bet. Meanwell’s latest bumper guide is as thorough a one as you’ll find for breaking into, and succeeding as a commercial writer, and his witty, down to earth style will ensure that you enjoy the book as much as you find yourself referencing it on a regular basis.

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