Get Uber-Rich Overnight by Writing Online

Writing online is tough. Not wrestling with a live python in your underwear tough, or figuring out how a python got in your underwear in the first place tough, but pretty difficult just the same. You write some wonderful, brilliant, exquisite piece that could not possibly be more perfect, you send it off to the publishing site, and you wait. And you wait.

If the site was Associated Content, you knew that a board of editors, or some guy sitting in his pajamas horking down a tuna fish sandwich, or a piece of software that simulated same, scrutinized your work to see if it was worth a nickel in SEO. Son of a cricket, that could take a week! At the end of that agonizing, just-beat-me-in-the­-head-with-a-frozen-pizza wait, you got an offer, maybe $1.06, maybe some amazing amount, like $14.23. Martha, we’re buying a boat!

If the site was Triond, dude, you could be published within, like ten minutes. The money was not an issue – gee, son, those are pretty small wages… it’s okay, Dad. I’m gonna publish a gazillion of ‘em! – but you were right out there in the big old world, and there was always the possibility you, or your work, could go viral.

In those days, which seem like maybe twenty years ago but was in fact just last year – old school is so, like, last week – that was how you did it. But the year went by, the rock-out died, Susie went and left me for some other guy, and writing online got tougher. How can this be, you ask… didn’t Al Gore invent the Internet with a capital I to make life easier?

Scratchin’ for online work, I hooked up with Writers Access, which is pretty cool. Real, live editors look at the stuff they challenge you to write – here, describe a filing cabinet in 150 words, be chatty, professional, and make it sound interesting. Oh, and don’t use the word “filing” – nobody does that anymore – and we’ll toss some shekels into your PayPal. Some of their challenges are quite that – we’d like you to create a web page devoted to offroad motorcycling – and they’ll pay you $50 to do it. I go there every now and again.

But, for the creative soul, the Internet with a capital I should be a place where you can set your work free, just like Free Willy and Butterflies are Free, and Schindler’s List… you get the idea. So you start your own site.


Dude, you need content. So you write your brains out and publish it yourself – yeah, that looks pretty good – and you buy your own URL and get a hosting plan. Here I am!


Maybe, and this is huge maybe to which I am not willing to commit, maybe the days of schlock are over. Maybe you can’t just pen what you want and push it out to the greedy masses who are waiting to devour it, because maybe the masses never really did that in the first place.

Maybe your work has to be good. Maybe it has to be better than good – downright the best work you’ve ever done. And maybe you submit it to legitimate sites, and there are dozens, that pride themselves on publishing excellent, well-wrought work.

Fade out crickets, fade in the sound of thoughtful, interested people that select a very narrow band of input, reading your work and thinking, yes, thinking about it.

Wow. That’s even better than $14.23 upfront.

I think I’m discovering that there is no overnight, get uber-rich uber-quick, slick Willy scheme to make a fortune as a writer. The secret is good work, excellent, hard work.


Make Yourself A Movie Trailer

Imagine that your novel is a major motion picture…it’s not that hard, is it? This movie has fantastic actors, a brilliant script, breathtaking cinematography: it’s a stunner.

Now imagine the movie trailer…you’re sitting in the theater trying to ignore that kid three seats away that keeps bellowing “mmmwaaa” like a drunk lamb (it turns out that they like beer…who knew?), and alternately slipping on spilled soda and sticking on some tacky substance that releases a regular waft of tutti-frutti. The theater darkens…the room falls silent.


Except for that.

An image flickers on the screen. You gasp, dude, it’s your trailer…

“In a world gone mad…one man…one woman…one deli sandwich (extra pickle-lily no on the jalapenos)…from the people that brought you…”

The theater goes silent in anticipation.


Except for that.

That’s what your book is like if your are not…don’t have a…haven’t written a…

It probably never happened in history that some writer just sorta wrapped up a manuscript and dropped it off at a publisher’s house and went to bed to wake up the next day to find that he was a phenom and the Daily Enquirer had already saved column 1, page 1 for him. Of course not…the Enquirer is a tabloid.

All that to say that, mega publisher or no, don’t force your first book to stand on its own. Start today, right now…good heavens, you mean you haven’t started yet?!?…to build a name for yourself, make a coherent framework in your career into which the book will fit. It doesn’t have to be a huge name…the book will do that if it’s good…but it should enough oomph to fill out the dust jacket.

“Author John Reinhart lives in Ventura, CA with three dogs, four cats, five rabbits, and the ocasional sheep. He has a nifty collection of rubber bands and really likes padded socks. This is is his first novel.”

In the trailer, “from the author of nothing prior to this” just doesn’t fly. “From the publisher of Hairball dot com…” now that has something going for it.

In the good old days of Harcourt Brace, they took the nifty picture of you at the typewriter smoking a cigarette and looking authorly, and did all that behind-the-scenes Madmen stuff because they had invested a bunch of money in you.

The money’s gone, which means you, my dear, must do the Madmen stuff yourself.

“In a world gone mad…one man…one woman…one clever backstory to get you to buy my book…”


Beating the Biscuits out of the Bears

Snarling Bear

What are you supposed to do when you’re hiking along a trail, happy as a lark in a predator-free environment, when, son of a biscuit, there’s a bear, like, right there, growling and frothing and pawing the ground like a bull, although he’s only seen those on TV because we know that bulls and bears only get together in the stock market, ready to have you, yes you, for lunch?

You don’t run, right? Run, and, bango, the bear’s looking for bread because he’s ready for a you-sandwich. No, no, no. You make yourself look much bigger than you really are, right? You need to suddenly grow six inches and six sizes and froth at your mouth and shake your head like, dude, there is something really wrong with you. If you do that, chances are pretty good that the bear will remember that he’s on one of those low-carb diets, and really, you look a little fluffy, like maybe you’re stuffed with mayonnaise, and well, gee, maybe he left the kids on the stove and, maybe some other time, huh?

In the world of online writing, the bear is the vast void of the Internet, the inescapable sea of voices, writers just like you, well, almost a lot like you, sort of, that yell dude, it’s me! Read my stuff! Just like the frothing fellow on the trail, this bear eats you – well, your work – and away it goes, and you find yourself looking down the path wondering how come you worked so hard but got nothing but bear-bite marks on your keester. And, just like the trail-growler’s lunch, you die, because, as writers, we all die when our work goes nowhere.

So, you gotta be big…bigger than big. You have to be a phenom. And maybe you’re just a tiny little phenom, like not so big a phenom that we read about you in the tabloids at the supermarket – really? Are you the batchild? – but big enough to have your voice heard over the moaning, bad-writing multitudes mewling for attention. Because you’re a better writer than that.

Bears live in creepy caves that most often have a boatload of icky spiderwebs. While the world wide web has nothing to do with bears, although, of course you and I know that it does, it, too, hangs out on servers, which are like creepy, sort of icky boxes of hot metal and plastic. But I digress. Don’t let that keep you from climbing across the world wide web like a thousand-legged spider, because that’s how it really, really works: all of the silken webs tie together, and you can use ‘em to catch more than just flies.

When you write for a publisher, look for ways to get the same piece published at other sites. Start your own site. Start your own blog. Publish the same piece in as many places as you can think of. Spread everything you write just as far as your imagination can take you. Each piece you write then becomes a web, and you become the spider at the middle.

The robots that look for similarities across the web see you, yes, you. Your name rises in the search rankings. Eventually, and this is no joke, you become someone. Yours is not the mewling voice, not the blather of the multitudes. Yours is the voice of authority.

Are you famous? Well, somewhat.

Because yours is the voice that beat the biscuits out of the bear.

Phineas Begins Anew


I’ve added the first chapter of my most recent rewrite of Phineas Caswell, the novel, variously called Marigold’s End, Phineas Caswell, The Journal of Phineas Caswell, and The Treasure of the Tres Hermanas. Those are the ones that come to mind – I guarantee there are more.

My brother told me a story once about an old man who carved elaborate, beautiful wooden doors. He would sit at them day after day, whittling, cutting, shaping, without end. Someone asked when he knew a door was done. His answer was simple: “when someone takes it away from me.”


Phineas, the novel, is headed for online publishing: I’ve been told precisely 753 times that this story doesn’t lend itself to the young-adult publishing model. I was actually told that by the head editor at Disney – yes, that Disney.  I believe that one was the Journal of Phineas Caswell

Suzanne, the love of my life and my editor (all the same person), prompted this last rewrite. And believe me, this is the last one – I’ve twisted this poor kid so many ways from Sunday his name may as well be Larry.  Reach inside, she suggested, but not for what you know, what you feel.

Beyond queasy, I didn’t know quite what she meant, but eventually figured it out.

Chapter One, over on the page called Phineas the Novel, comes from down inside. It comes from a place of regret, of something lost than can never be regained. It’s not a generated feeling –  I have some regrets, believe you me. I sold that hillside, ocean-view house for $175k when today you can’t  touch it for under two million… just kidding (although, I did sell that house, and I do regret not having two million bucks).

My daughter cried when she read it and said “you can’t start a children’s story this way.”

Tells me we’re on to something!

Do me a favor and visit the Phineas the Novel page and let me know what you think.



Confessions of a Paid Churnalist


I’ll admit it: the money was dreadful. Some months, most months, I was lucky when I made a dollar. A buck, a petty king’s ransom, for my heroic writing efforts. Pieces carefully crafted, worked, worked again, researched, pieced together from a number of sources, and for what… in the Content Farming heyday perhaps $15 – not bad for a 500 word essay.  Now, no upfront pay, but perhaps $0.83 in royalties when someone stumbles across it.

I was a big wheel at Triond, an online content farm that pumped my work out to dozens of online sites. Yes, they paid me, and it was exciting. I have well over 100,000 reads on my work now, all of it the produce of farms designed to drive online advertising results.  But the big wheel at Triond has ground to a halt, as Triond itself slows down, its servers somehow tangled up in an unending maze of tumbling wait icons.

Triond, Associated Content/ Yahoo Voices, Factoidz, the places where I could write and find ready publishing, gone. The era of the free-form content farm has passed.

In fact, it’s not a surprise that the era of free-from content farming has passed: it was sort of a scam. Triond is still going, but their site is seriously dysfunctional. All of these sites pursued the flawed business idea of flooding search engines with search-term rich content in an effort to lure advertising dollars to them.  The scam consisted of using robots to lure robots to generate money, and it worked, sort of. The advertising robots got smart and stopped falling for the crop of search-term articles from the content farmers, and the money stopped flowing.

I did good work. I was careful with my facts and figures, and I traced my sources. And I turned a blind eye to the dreadful writing of my starry-eyed colleagues, encouraging them, helpfully pointing out places one might say “we weren’t the ones” in the place of “we wasn’t…”.

In the end, though, it was churnalism – the rehashing of press releases into news. I found a lot of really good press releases, and really did develop stories, but, alas, it was still based in someone’s press release.

If you have read this far, perhaps you, too, thought you were the one who was going to make it big in online writing. Man, I had over 200 articles going at once. At once!

Good dreams die hard. Maybe the era of free-form content farming has passed. But maybe that tricky old Internet will come up with a new way for hard working churnalists to make a buck!