Freelancing: Writing for the Upper Room

By Harriet Michael

The name of this post is supposed to be “Making Money Writing for The Upper Room” but truth-be-told, a writer does not make much money writing for The Upper Room, or any other devotional, for that matter. Devotionals are low-paying work so if you are writing to make money, perhaps you should learn how to tap into some of the more lucrative writing markets. I hear romantic fiction is a pretty solid market.

However, if you are like me—a mostly nonfiction writer with a passion for writing devotions—then yes, you can make a little money writing devotions which will help supplement your other writing income.

Money can be made in two ways when you get a devotion accepted for publication in The Upper Room.

The first of these ways is the check they send you as payment for your devotion. It is only $30 but that is actually pretty good pay as devotions go. (Did I mention that devotional writing is not a particularly high-paying market?) Some publications pay less, and many are actually not paying markets, offering exposure instead. The exposure angle is the other way a writer can make money when his or her work is chosen for The Upper Room.

Yes, the second way to generate money from your The Upper Room devotion is through the exposure you will receive. This is not just a vague, “it will help over time” monetary benefit, though that is true, too. No, there is a specific way that the exposure from an Upper Room devotion can benefit a writer.

The Upper Room has a practice of asking the person who wrote the devotion that day if they would also write a blog post for the blog on that same day. A few years ago, the devotion they chose happened to be about prayer, since prayer is one of my interests. The selection process for the Upper Room takes a long time and between the time I submitted that devotion and when it came out in their magazine, my book about prayer had managed to get picked up by a publisher and had just recently released. Naturally, writing more in the blog post about prayer, telling how I came about writing my book, and posting a link to it, seemed like an obvious thing to blog about, so I did.

That day I sold a lot of books, both print and e-books, and my author rank took a major jump. It climbed to 15,000 out of about a million writers on Amazon.

I mentioned earlier, there are better ways to make money than through writing devotions, but devotional writing pays off in so many other ways. I have been writing devotions in numerous publications since 2010 and have had so many times when a reader contacted me to tell me how God used what I had written to touch his or her heart in some way. This is the biggest reward in devotional writing—the ability to share something God has shown you with others and then watch God amazingly use it again in a reader’s life.

Nonetheless, if you do happen to get a devotion accepted for publication by the Upper Room, they do offer a huge, international moment of exposure for that one day when your devo is spotlighted.

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 Click to tweet: Writing for the Upper Room. #freelance #amwriting

 

Kids and Summer

Ty as shark

Kids, pools, and shark fins! Summer doesn’t get much better than that.

This is my youngest son about fifteen years ago. He is grown now and sports a beard, but I will always remember him like this and treasure this picture.

Here at Inspired Prompts we are breaking from our usual more serious writing related topics to share some personal pictures and information with our readers so I will tell you a little about my family.

I have been married for over thirty-nine years. My husband and I have four children. We had three, waited a long time, and then had the fourth. Our children currently range in age from 36-21. And now we have two grandchildren. Oh, what joy grandchildren bring! I know all grandparent think their grandchildren are special but ours truly are—in one way, anyway. Our first grandchild is bi-racial and our second is Marshallese.

K G Hilton Head

Here is a picture of my first grandchild with his mother, my daughter, on a family vacation. (He is her biological son.)

Robert Ellie

And here’s a picture of one of my sons and my second grandchild, his daughter, whom he and his wife adopted from the Marshall Islands. They traveled to Hawaii to get her.

My other two sons—the oldest and the youngest—do not have children so from them, I am still a grandmother-in-waiting, or rather a Lala-in-waiting, since my grandchildren call me Lala.

Yep, they call me Lala, and you can call me a happy grandmother, who can’t wait to play with her grandchildren again!

Click to Tweet: Join us for some Summer Fun via @InspiredPrompt as we share our favorite summer fun photos and stories. #summer #travel #adventure

Writing Prompt: Caption this photo!

Do you Know your Rights?

Google search

I am an author, but I’m also a multi-published freelance writer. In fact, I got my start in writing by freelancing small pieces such as articles, devotions, stories for anthologies, etc. I have been freelancing successfully since 2010 and now have somewhere around 200 published pieces in numerous publications. I also teach workshops on freelancing at writers’ conferences. When I do, I always start with a brief lesson on writer’s rights. Understanding the different types of rights is so important!

These rights are true regardless of whether you are negotiating a contract for a small piece or a larger work. It’s always good to know what your contract says; what rights you are selling the publication / publisher and what rights you are keeping.

Types of rights:

First Rights also called First American Serial Rights (FASR): If you sell a publication First Rights, it means you are selling them the right to be first to publish the piece. (In other words, you are telling them that it has not been published before, and you will not allow it to be published until after whatever time stipulated in the contract. Contracts differ on this—many say one year after the date it appears in their publication, others say six months, and a few say it can be published again immediately after the date it first appears in their publication.)

When you sell first rights, after the time stipulated in the contract, the rights revert to you as the author and you can use it any way you like (you can post it in a compilation of your own, or sell a reprint to it.)

First rights can only be sold once—the first time it is published.

Reprint Rights sometimes called Second American Serial Rights: If you sell a piece that has already been published, you are selling the new publication reprint rights, i. e. the right to publish a reprint of your work. Not all magazines will purchase reprints and those that do often pay less. Not always though; my highest paying article the first time for .25 a word (it was a 1500 word article so that came to $380), the second time as a reprint for another $375 to a magazine that paid just as much for reprints as it did for 1st rights, and has sold two more reprints since then (for $75 & $240) and I’ll sell it again if the opportunity presents itself.

You can sell reprint rights as many times as you can find someone to purchase them. You own the rights to the piece.

One-time Rights are a little tricky. They work more like reprint rights in that the writer owns the rights to his or her piece and can sell them as often as possible. Some well-established writers sell these because there is a demand for that writer’s work. Most publications do not buy these, though. Most stipulate in the writers’ guidelines what kind of rights they are willing to buy, and it is usually first rights, reprint rights, or all rights.

All rights or Exclusive Rights: I generally caution against selling all rights or exclusive rights to a piece. If a magazine buys all rights that means they will own the piece if the writer is willing to sell it. Personally, I do not ever sell all rights to my work. It feels to me like I am selling my babies. They are mine, created from my head and though I am happy for someone to publish it, I do not want that entity to then own it. I want to own my own work! All rights you sell only once, because then it is no longer yours to sell. Selling all rights do, however, tend to pay more and some writers are happy to sell them.

Work for Hire is a term that also refers to the kind of rights a writer will have to a piece. It means the publication has hired you to write for them. Therefore, that publication owns whatever you write. Many journalism jobs are work for hire—where the writer writes for that newspaper, or magazine and as such, writes whatever that magazine wants them to write, and the magazine then owns the content.

I do take some work for hire jobs. I have taken and will continue to take assignments from a couple different devotional magazines. These assignments are considered work for hire, so I do not own the devotions I have written for them. The two I write for are Open Windows (Lifeway) and Reflections (Smyth & Helwys) These are the only instances where I give up ownership of anything I write.

That’s it in a nutshell. Usually you find the rights a magazine wishes to buy in their writers’ guidelines.

Click to Tweet: From @harrietemichael Do You Know Your Rights? What you need to know about writers’ rights. @InspiredPrompt #devotional #writer


Writing Prompt: Write why you would or would not be willing to write on assignment where the publication keeps the rights to your work.

‘Twas the Night before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the world, the people continued as they always had with no idea of the event—the advent—that would happen the next day. In the streets of Jerusalem, the people did not think they needed a new king. They served Caesar and he was the most powerful man on earth. The people didn’t think they needed a savior. They obeyed the Roman laws and were not in trouble that they needed saving from, as far as they knew. And the people in Jerusalem and elsewhere could have cared less what was happening in an obscure little town called Bethlehem.

But what happened in that little town the next day changed the trajectory of history… and changed the lives of so many throughout the years, including you and me. Except for that event, we wouldn’t be celebrating the Christmas season today. But more importantly, we would not be looking forward to spending eternity in heaven with God.

For in that obscure place, the next day, Jesus, God’s own Son, came into the world as a tiny baby. A tiny, helpless baby who looked just like any other baby with ten little toes and ten little fingers, and needed a mother and father to take care of him.

No, most of the people living at that time didn’t realize the magnificent event that occurred in that little town of Bethlehem.

But the ancient prophet, Micah knew what a special place Bethlehem was going to be in history. He foretold it so many years earlier when he said in Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Click to Tweet:  Twas the night before #Christmas @InspiredPrompt

Writing Prompt: Write about something you are too busy to notice this Christmas.

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A Lot Can Happen in 10 Years!

by Harriet E. Michael

When I thought about this topic, so many things came to my mind. So much has happened in the last 10 years, nationally, internationally, with friends, with my family, and with me. It was hard to decide what to write about. I chose the single biggest change in my personal life that has occurred in the last 10 years.

10 years ago, I was not a published writer!

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Writing is a new work God is doing in my old age. It’s a huge blessing to me and I can only hope it blesses others too. I thank Him daily for opening these doors, even though as is often the case, it was born out of adversity—from a difficult and even dark time in my life that started in the summer of 2003.

By 2009, I had an unpublished manuscript written on the topic of prayer. This is what later became my book, “Prayer: It’s Not About You” which started out four years earlier as a journaling exercise as I sought to learn more about prayer. Interested in writing, I attended the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference, hoping to learn how to get a manuscript published. I came home thinking that goal was not achievable, unless I self-published but I had learned three things: 1) I knew very little about the publishing world, even after the conference, 2) I have editing issues. 3) I didn’t have a platform.

I now know that a writer can pay an editor, and hire out other parts of the publishing process and turn out a good independently-published book. But at the time, getting a book out seemed impossible.

itsawriterthing.tumbler

Writing still intrigued me. Actually, it did more than that; it pulled like a magnet. I had words I wanted to share and had spent the previous four years honing my ability to put them down on paper. (Learning to write on a computer came later. My 60,000+ word manuscript and my first few articles and devotions were all hand-written and transcribed onto a computer.)

The wheels started turning in my head. If I could start getting small pieces published, then I would be scratching that writing itch while building an income and a platform. So, I sat at my kitchen table one day, shortly after returning from the writer’s conference, sharing my thoughts with my daughter. I sheepishly told her about the great workshop on how to freelance small pieces and confessed my desire to try my hand at it. But who did I think I was fooling? I was not a writer.

My daughter looked up from her orange juice and said profound words that jump-started my writing career. She said, “You know mom, the average American reader only reads at a sixth-grade level.”

I burst out laughing and replied, “I can write at that level!”

And I sat down immediately and began transcribing a devotion I had handwritten in my journal onto my computer to send to The Upper Room. That devotion, titled, “The Day of Small Things” based on the question posed in Zechariah 4:10, “For who has despised the day of small things?” became the first piece I ever submitted. It was not the first piece I ever had published, because it takes a very long time from submission to publication with some devotional magazines. It was published a year and a half later in the February 2011.

Today I have somewhere around 200 small pieces published in magazines, devotionals, anthologies (more if you count each individual devotion separately). The places I have been published as a freelance writer include: Chicken Soup for the Soul, several Lifeway magazines and their devotional, Open Windows, several David C. Cook and Standard Publishing magazines, The War Cry, Upper Room, The Secret Place (just to name a few).

Now I also have three books published, both independently and traditionally, two more under contract to be released this winter and next summer, and others at different stages of publication.

And, to think that 10 years ago, I was not a writer. Today, I cannot imagine not writing! I think I have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

freedom

(Click to Tweet) I think I have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. #amwriting #freelance

Writing Prompt: Ben highlighted, then deleted every word of the story he’d spent two hours creating. Now what?

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