Updated date:

Face It: The Future (and Present) for Writers is in Online Publishing

Seavey has written for many publications over the years, most recently for Seniors Lifestyle Magazine, Next Avenue (PBS), and a local daily.

You Will Be More Successful Mining the Digital "Press"

by William Seavey

I’ve been a writer from the earliest days of my childhood 60 years ago when I authored a fantastical “first trip to the moon” that appeared in a mimeographed school newsletter. I’d also “published” a typewritten family newspaper with a “huge” circulation of THREE — mom, dad and sis. (I know, that’s ancient history.)

Now, as I continue to write all manner of articles, essays and even the occasional book (see AmeriCanada? Cross Border Connections and the Possibilities for Our 'One Big Town' at Amazon) I’m facing the reality that PRINTED publications are truly endangered even though I continue to write for them (occasionally). I just started a column called Active Past 50 for my hometown newspaper (which is very thin these days).

Journalism was for some time a paying career though I never made a lot of money from it. I was too peripatetic and distracted by personal events (and a few follies). My Andy Warhol “15 minutes of fame” had little to do with writing, as I became known for many years as a “guru” of small town relocation. That endeavor made the pages of the New York Times and USA Today and I even appeared on national tv once. (See interview with me at williamseavey.com).

But I have never stopped writing and see it as sort of a legacy thing in my 70’s. Even books on a shelf won’t cut it anymore as a legacy — one of mine, Moving to Small Town America, stayed in bookstores only a few weeks, and libraries eventually removed it from their shelves. (I buy them second hand now from Amazon to autograph). It made the cover of TIME Magazine once with that book.

The chances of having a bestseller at this point are slim and none — and I’m done trying. Getting an agent or finding a big time publisher is very, very difficult. I do have ideas for books, such as one on remote working which ties in well with my small town book, but others have beat me to it. Make sure you get the Writers Digest latest Guide to Literary Agents. Without an agent and social media connections you won't have much of a chance--it's worth the investment.

News bulletin: online is certainly now where it’s at, and when I discovered Medium — and was no longer held to notions of writing as a major source of income — I embarked on what to me is almost a completely new writing career late in life.

Maybe you are like me. Online, assuming the digital revolution persists which I see no reason it won't, CAN be legacy forming. In recent years my articles about “retirement planning” have been published at PBS’s nextavenue.org and Canada's seniorslifestylemag.com. The former does pay but it is extremely competitive--there are millions upon millions of boomers that have "stories,"and many consider themselves writers. I also write for askaprepper.com on survivalist topics and a few liberal political journals.

Obviously, I broach a lot of different subjects and "attack" a lot of different online media.. But I’ve proven to myself that I can continue to be successful as a multidisciplinary writer at an advanced age, as even online there is lots of competition and only quality pieces are likely to be accepted. This article isn’t about how to become a better writer but once you ARE pretty confident of your skills, it’s time to pursue publication--here at Hub Pages and Medium.com.

For me the value of publishing at Medium took a little longer to sink in. Initially I just wrote something and just “published” it but not in a targeted publication within its operations. Few ever saw these pieces even though I used Twitter or Linked In to help disseminate them. (Go to toppubs.smedian.com for a list of 100 official Medium publications and their number of subscribers.) Now I am an “accepted writer” with four Medium publications.. Of course, responses vary to what I’ve written but at least I know that there are people who have signed up to get the dispatches. (But if you don't play the "follower game," which is a time suck. you won"t be seen by that many.) Yet for many writers, even like me, you get satisfaction just for just being read--by someone. (I don't even do it for the "pay" much anymore because I don't need to. It's a pittance, anyway.)

Also, you can HOTLINK the addresses of these online pieces elsewhere — which also helps Medium get more attention. It does seem to be getting quoted as an influential "journal" in the media more lately. I hotlink some of my pieces to my local NextDoor, which has 2500 households (I serve as Lead in my neighborhood). Facebook works, too — your friends and kin will see the hotlink and decide whether it’s worth clicking onto and forwarding. I also occasionally hotlink some of the pieces to publications outside Medium, and offer reprint rights as long as the original source is credited. If I am trying to interest a top editor on a related piece, I may hotlink what’s up a Medium to at least show him/her that I made an effort to get the subject matter out to an established audience.

At my advanced age I realize that what I write is not going to lead to a career opportunity or change the world in any substantial way. But if you are a budding writer who feels that only by reaching an audience (of a few dozen or a few thousand — or something in between), online journals are an excellent place to start. Who knows, your piece may even go viral.

My online “success” didn”t happen overnight, but it is satisfying knowing that my writing is still appreciated by professional editors, and that I might actually positively influence people far outside my own small world in a small town on the central coast of California where I am “aging in place.”

If I could go back a few years when I was REALLY ambitious, the digital publishing world — no question — would be a fantastic opportunity. But there is no doubt it has "dumbed down" the amounts that writers can earn. Ultimately, a book contract is still very desirable as is being able to use your writing to promote a business you might have, like consulting.

Good luck to you.

Related Articles