How to Enjoy the Writer’s Life

The most productive and, next to JK Rowling, richest writer in the world is James Patterson.

If you don’t recognize the name, he is the author of Don’t Blink and The Postcard Killers, as well as 48 other books that have been bestsellers in the past 10 years.

By almost any measure, Patterson is a hugely successful writer. But he doesn’t have the attributes that one would typically expect: a brilliant mind, a passion for his work, etc.

Instead, he has a certain set of skills that he employs over and over again — and then leverages by hiring “apprentices” to do most of his work for him.

They do 80% of the writing, following his directions. Then Patterson edits their manuscripts for pace and tension — key elements in narrative fiction. By providing the outline and the editing, Patterson insures that his books have the Patterson “feel.”

This is something that any established copywriter or author can do. In fact, I know quite a few Internet gurus who have junior writers ghost writing their material. In some cases, these ghostwriters are good; in others, no. When they are not good, they degrade the reputation of the guru.

But what Patterson does is smarter than that. He gives his apprentices a byline. That makes the transaction more honest, and it provides the apprentice with a reward that is much greater than money.

Several of my clients — well-known financial and health publishers — could have bigger businesses if they could produce more information products and more marketing copy. But so far they have refused my suggestions to do so. They don’t want to use apprentices, they say, because they don’t believe anyone can write as well as they can. Another reason — one they don’t admit — is that they don’t want to share the credit.

These are both ego problems.

Patterson proves that you can maintain quality in your writing, continue to promote your name, and expand your production in multiples by using apprentices.

By hiring competent researchers and writers who are willing to work for him, Patterson puts out eight or more books a year. And in 2010, his annual earnings are estimated to be $70 million.

Meanwhile, those researchers and writers have a chance to earn lots of money and, in some cases, become bestselling authors on their own simply by working as an apprentice to the master.

  • Peter de Jonge, for instance, is a former copywriter who spent several years on the Patterson assembly line before writing his first solo novel (Shadows Still Remain).
  • Andrew Gross, president of HEAD Ski and Tennis, co-wrote some of the Women’s Murder Club Series with Patterson before signing his own 3-book deal with William Morrow in 2005.
  • Michael Ledwidge, a former doorman and wannabe cop, co-wrote the Michael Bennett series with Patterson. Ledwidge did write a few novels before his association with Patterson, but really hit the big time after co-authoring Step on a Crack in 2005.

The opportunity to become an apprentice for Patterson is limited — but there are hundreds or even thousands of chances right now to make a very nice six-figure income by helping professional writers do their jobs.

I’m talking about a brand-new profession in an industry that did not even exist before the Internet exploded about 10 years ago.

I’m talking about becoming an Internet Research Specialist in the information publishing industry.

And this is pretty exciting. Because it’s a brand-new profession, the barriers to entering it are very small. And because information publishing is such a fast-growing industry, the potential rewards are very great.

Let me give you an example.

Several years ago, Judith Strauss and I wrote and published a little book called Words That Work. It was based on Early to Rise’s “word of the day” column that has been running for almost 10 years.

At the beginning of this year, I wanted to do an updated edition of the book, but Judith was not available to work on it. So I reached out to Katie Yeakle at American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) to see if she could recommend someone who could do some basic research for me.

When I call Katie, I’m usually looking for a copywriter. (And finding a skillful copywriter, even when you have Katie Yeakle as a resource, is not easy.) But this time, I needed someone who knew how to track down information online and summarize it in concise sentences.

The person I found (with Katie’s help) is a retired grant writer and sometime artist. The job I offered her was pretty straightforward. I’d send her lists of words that I wanted to cover, and she’d look at several dictionary definitions and craft one that was the simplest version of the various iterations.

The job paid $3,000, and she and I figured it would take her about 60 hours. That would give her $50 an hour. But after I had edited a dozen or so words and she understood both what I wanted in terms of a definition and also my style of writing, it looked like she was going to be able to get the job done in much less than 60 hours — making her compensation close to $75 an hour.

In addition, we became language buddies. We send each other interesting articles on language and enjoy talking about English grammar, usage, and style.

From this good experience, I decided to expand the book to something I’m calling One Thousand Words to Know Before You Die. My plan is to present one thousand words or terms that comprise the most important concepts in Western literature, from the time of Homer to the present.

It’s a more ambitious book, to be sure, but it’s also a book that’s more interesting to write. My researcher’s job is pretty much the same, but she’s having more fun now in helping me select and cull words and in learning about the many artistic, cultural, political, and literary ideas that have shaped the way smart people think today.

Plus, she’s got a bigger assignment now. So I upped her compensation from $3,000 to $10,000 — and I’m going to give her a percentage of sales as well.

Her compensation has gone up to about $100 an hour, and it could end up being two or three times that if the book sells well.

As I said, this is a new type of career — one that allows you to enjoy the challenge of being a professional writer (and some of the upside income potential) without having to master the fine art of fiction or persuasive writing.

Just think about it. Information publishers put out an endless stream of books, reports, essays, blogs, Web content, e-letters, e-magazines, surveys, research reports, scientific studies, marketing studies, religious writing, non-profit pamphlets, annual reviews, critiques — the list goes on and on.

And the demand is growing. According to Google, there are already more than 1 trillion unique Web pages. (It’s estimated that Google indexes about 15 billion of those pages for search purposes.) And millions more are created daily.

In today’s world of information publishing, there are tens of thousands of writers and publishers looking for people who can help them produce the many products they sell online. And if the demand for apprentice writers has increased tenfold since 2,000, then the demand for Internet Research Specialists has probably increased a thousand fold.

What does this mean to you?

If you’re working at becoming a professional writer but haven’t yet reached the level of compensation you want, this is the perfect opportunity to make great money along the way.

If you would love to live the life of a freelance writer but don’t have the patience or talent for it, this is also a great opportunity to do that without having to master the craft of writing.

And one of the biggest opportunities for Internet Research Specialists is in direct marketing — helping professional copywriters. (As you may know, direct marketing is a $2 trillion industry. And since 2000, it’s been growing at the rate of 5%-7% a year, making it one of the fastest-growing industries in the world.)

Although many professional copywriters may not realize it, the easiest way for them to double their income is to double their output. But the only way they can do that, without diminishing the quality of their work, is to get help with the enormous amount of research they must do.

More and more copywriters are beginning to understand this. And eventually, it will mean lucrative new careers for thousands or even tens of thousands of smart, capable people who — for whatever reason — have decided they want the benefits of the writer’s life without putting in all the “hard” work.

What kind of research do copywriters need help with? Mainly, they’re looking for proof — support and documentation for the claims they want to make in their sales letters.

As Roy Furr recently pointed out in The Golden Thread (AWAI’s weekly newsletter for its members):

“Because the average prospect is skeptical, proof is an important part of any sales letter. People won’t believe our claims just because we say so. Unless we’re established experts, our claims are just opinions.”

So as an Internet Research Specialist, this is the kind of information you’re likely to be collecting and organizing:

  • Media mentions (especially in prestigious publications) of the product, idea, or industry the copywriter is writing about
  • Scientific studies to back claims
  • Scientists’ opinions related to claims
  • Charts, graphs, and graphics
  • Real or implied expert endorsements
  • Real or implied celebrity endorsements
  • Quotes from credentialed sources
  • Information on how the product (or an ingredient in the product) works
  • Other highly specific supporting documentation

Here’s what I’m saying:

  • There is already a market for Internet Research Specialists. It is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world.
  • By getting in now, you can start making $50 an hour.
  • As your skills improve, you can easily be making $100 or more in no time.

To get in now, on the ground floor, you will need to do two things:

Learn how to do quick and helpful research.

Learn how to find clients.

You can do both by investing in AWAI’s new online program: Secrets of Becoming an Internet Research Specialist: How to Surf the Web for Freedom and Profit.

The program consists of 13 chapters, split into two main parts.

The first part — Chapters 1-6 — is about what to do and how to do it. This is how you go from landing the gig to giving the client exactly what they want. This is what you do in your everyday life as an Internet Research Specialist.

The second part — Chapters 7-13 — is about what it takes to get paid. This is how to attract clients, get other people to sell your services for you, and develop the client relationship so they come back over and over again.

The program also includes:

  • Access to AWAI’s exclusive, members-only online job board, DirectResponseJobs.com (which includes Internet Researcher gigs)
  • 3 special reports: How to Deliver Superior Research by Learning One Crucial SEO Skill… Proof and Credibility: 10 Ways Your Research Can Make Your Client’s Copy Sizzle… and Five Other Research Projects to Boost Your Income
  • A 3-part webinar series on marketing yourself as an Internet Research Specialist
  • A brand-new white paper — “Writers: How to Write Faster, Better, and Make More Money While You Do” — that you can use to market yourself

How do you find out more about this program?

Simple.

Click here to easily and quickly get started. http://www.awaionline.com/etr/internetresearch

By the way, I wrote the first draft of this essay in just 90 minutes. Instead of spending hours on it, I simply inserted X’s where I needed facts and figures to support my argument. Then I sent it to Jason, ETR’s Associate Publisher, who contacted one of the AWAI-trained Internet Research Specialists on his contact list. That person filled in the blanks in less than a day, and earned about $75 an hour for his efforts.

It was good for him. It was good for me. And it can be very good for you if you contact AWAI.

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]
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