The Easy Way to Become a Professional Writer

I have a confession to make. I’m a moron. I worked so hard to become a professional writer — spending years slogging away as a journalist, freelance magazine writer, non-fiction author, freelance TV writer, novelist, and writer-producer — when all I really had to do was join  Now, thanks to those helpful folks at Writers Digest, who shared with me this moving letter from Jason Parker, I have  learned the error of my ways and can save you from making the same, horrible mistake:

"If it weren’t for, I wouldn’t be a tenth of the writer I am today. For three years I’ve been a Premier Author at FanStory – posting stories, novels, articles, poetry; giving reviews and rating material; remaining in personal contact with published novelists; and enjoying the hell out of growing as a writer.  Not only does the community of writers at FanStory support and help one another, they compete in a yearly ranking system. At the end of each year, the top five authors in four categories receive trophies in the mail. Related to competing, each month FanStory holds many writing contests in which the winner receives $100. To top that, there is a Seal Committee that brands top-notch work with a Seal of Quality, the author gaining the status of professional."

Jeepers. If only I’d known that FanStory had the awesome power, respect and prestige to grant writers The Status of Professional, I could have saved myself years of pointless effort and experience trying to establish my reputation among newspapers, magazines, publishers, editors, producers, studios and networks.

What a fool I’ve been! 

I realize now that what has been missing from my career, and from my life, is the FanStory Seal of Quality, my entree to the exciting world of publishing.   Think of it. Someday, if I really apply myself, I can attain the highest honor in the field. And all it will cost me is $2.80-a-month.

My new goal in life is to become a Premier Author at Fanstory (even if it takes years) and maybe, someday, becoming a true professional. Thank you, Writers Digest, for sharing this important information with me from one of your wonderful marketing partners. You’re doing an amazing service for aspiring writers everywhere.

UPDATE 4-11-06: A blogger disagrees with me. She compares to participating in any competition:

We won the grand final last year and we each got a big trophy. Are the
Hockeyroos scoffing at me because it’s not an Olympic gold medal? Are they
annoyed because I’m just excited about it as they are about their Olympic gold
medal? It’s like gaining particular status just for being a part of a particular
university society. You can’t say that it means "nothing".

It’s about
status. Lee Goldberg sometimes feels like his status means nothing.

sad, and I don’t why he feels like that. But that, folks, is what it’s all

I don’t think contributing to and winning their competitions is akin to, say,  my daughter playing in a junior soccer league and getting a trophy if her team wins the championship. For one thing, the league doesn’t doesn’t grant her the status of professional soccer player. They give her a trophy for winning the local championship.

What fanstory is selling (and let’s be clear, it’s a business) is the false impression that their granting of status means something (it doesn’t) and that the honor carries some meaning in the writing profession (it doesn’t).

My status does mean something to me. But it wasn’t "granted" by a cheesy website. It was earned.

10 thoughts on “The Easy Way to Become a Professional Writer”

  1. What a nasty thing to say. If there are people out there whose approval makes them feel better, then how is this skin off your nose.
    Try being a little less small, cynical, and mean-spirited. You’ll live longer.

  2. At first glance, it looks very much like the place where I published my first few stories, which was a site called I was their “featured author” for a month or two.
    Mightywords is now defunct, and I can’t honestly say it was any kind of boost to my career, nor can I say it made me any real money, although there was some renumeration. The figure thirty-five dollars sticks in my mind.
    The only good thing I can say about it is that it was the first positive feedback I’d had on my fiction writing, and it kept me in the game until I got some mainstream publishing credits.
    So…take this breed of publishing for what it is. It may be Little League, but it may keep a kid going till he tries out for the bigs.

  3. It’s not the writer’s group aspect of that provoked my ridicule — it’s the notion that this site dubbing someone a “Premier Author,” awarding a story a “Seal of Quality” or granting a writer “Professional Status” actually means anything.
    I’m all for writers groups — the feedback and interaction is very important. But is just ridiculous. And to think that anyone would pay even $2.80-a-month for the opportunity to earn fanstory’s meaningless seals and titles is rather sad.
    By all means, join a writers group. Get that valuable feedback. It will definitely make you a better writer. But don’t delude yourself into thinking that approval from outfits like means anything. It doesn’t.

  4. I’m also offering similar services for those who wish to become doctors, lawyers, dentists or rocket scientists. All you have to do is send me a CV and cash, check or money order for $199.99 and I will post it on my website and you, too, may achieve the PROFESSIONAL STATUS of a DOCTOR, LAWYER, DENTIST or ROCKET SCIENTIST.
    Stay tuned for my OLYMPIC ATHLETE offer, coming soon!
    Mark Terry

  5. Lee, you probably don’t remember, but I sent you a link to Fanstory a few months ago. I can’t remember how I found out about it. They have a fanfiction section, I think and imply that the authors of fanfiction get paid.
    I joined as a nonpaying member just for the privilege of reading the rules and promply forgot about it. They still try and get me to enter contests and whatnot. You can be a non-paying member, but all that does is entitle one to get their junk e-mails.
    $2.80/month times 1000 people times 12 months is $33,600/yr. Not bad for maintaining an archive and handing out some pixeled seals.

  6. It is more than just 1,000 you have to figure in Fan Art Review and Fan Music Review that this person also runs. So add to the calculations about 1500 to 2500 more users @$2.80 a pop you can see that he is generating about $70-$105K a year.

  7. Howdy Lee –
    My wife remembers meeting you at a Left Coast Crime conference, so I clicked on your URL when it came up on a Google search. We are a writing family, although our status is still bush league. We admire your work.
    Once your site came up on my screen, I saw your comments about the Fanstory website. I’d like to suggest that you might be taking the style of the Fanstory website a little too seriously.
    I use Fanstory as a way to solicit readings of my writing before submitting for publication because it allows me to hear what people who *don’t know me* think about what I wrote. When I ask acquaintances to read my work, I find them to be distracted by the possibility that the work might be published – their reactions are colored by their perception of potential glamor. Quite aside from the difficulty of finding competent readers, such input is often not useful because of this “glamor effect”.
    I don’t have time to work with a writing group in person because my profession keeps me very busy. I use professional editors sometimes, but can’t justify the cost of the sort of high-bandwidth interaction a writing group would provide.
    On the other hand, the $3/month, or whatever, that I paid for a Fanstory subscription is less than the spare change that slips down between our couch cushions, and I can get *some* writing group value out of the interaction with the more serious of the site’s subscribers.
    The serious folks are often talented, but still early in the learning curve. The dilettantes are easy to spot. On Fanstory, I can validate the skill level of my reviewers because I can see what their writing is like.
    The Fanstory contributors who are serious about improvement have a strong sense of how meaningless the rating system is. They, like me, find utility in the information exchange.
    I suspect that no Fanstory member mistakes as meaningful the adjectives used by the Fanstory rating system. The system of inducements to participate is obviously just that – the operator’s plan for bringing money into the site. The adjectives are a little cheesy, yeah, but the Fanstory idea has a place among growing writers.
    My string of 5 star “professional” ratings doesn’t tell me I’m a professional writer. My publications in paying markets tell me that. The obscurity of the publications that have pubished my work tells me how far I have yet to go.
    Your training, impressive experience, and strong talent are the reasons for your very respectable position. For the rest of us, the route is slower; Fanstory can act as a cobblestone in our yellow brick road.
    There’s my two cents worth!
    Brad Gilbertson


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