How Holly Lisle's Vision Led Me to $7,000 in Sales (and Counting)


Vision 12


How Holly Lisle's Vision Led Me

to $7,000 in Sales (and Counting)


J. Harlowe

Copyright © 2002, J. Harlowe, All Rights Reserved

What is the value of an online writer's group? In my case, that's an easy answer. So far, writing one article for Vision has led me to $7,435 in sales -- and the number is still rising.

Though I had secretly perused the Forward Motion site for many months, I had openly admired Holly Lisle's Vision. I found it incredible that an online group could turn out hundreds of pages of articles every issue.

While I'd been in print many times between 1986 and 1995, I'd never made much money at it, and I stopped writing for publication thanks to pressures from work, life and all the rest of the familiar excuses. I'd thought about getting back into the market, but I guess I needed a "push."

Vision provided that push when the editor listed posted online that she had a shortage in her article count for the May 2002 issue, and needed articles quickly. I volunteered, and contributed a web site review. I would never have stepped forward without the "push" writing an article for Vision represented. It was an important push.

Writing for Vision is similar to writing for any magazine: Read the guidelines, follow instructions, and provide your manuscript in an acceptable format. Most importantly, write your best copy and proof your work.  Paid or unpaid, by writing the review, I was writing for publication again. The material I researched and reviewed, a web site devoted to writing, offered another "push." All these incremental shoves led to an idea for a feature article. Within a month of completing the Vision article, I dropped a story to a local "alternative" weekly newspaper.

The newspaper bought it. And they bought the next article as well. It established me, in their mind, as someone who could write crisp copy to a deadline. (Little did they know! -- ed.)

A few weeks later, while in discussions with the editor of Vision, I suggested an idea for a series of articles that was clearly outside the scope of the ezine. She quickly pointed out it would make a better ebook, if there was enough information available. I started researching the project. There was plenty of material to work with, and I gave myself a deadline of January to finish it. But I have never been good about finishing big projects. I need short-term deadlines on bite-sized projects. Then the July-August Dare in Forward Motion came up: write at least one article for publication per week. While I did not formally "sign in," I accepted the challenge. I decided to write the ebook by writing it as a series of articles.  And, as long as I was at it, why not get paid for them? I pulled together the researched material as a query, and pitched it as a ten part series to the weekly newspaper.

They liked it, but they dallied. In the end, I found out they hesitated because they thought they couldn't afford the series -- and we hadn't discussed money! When I offered them the chance to spread out their costs by buying the first and second serial rights, they quickly agreed.

All this happened because I had established myself as a writer that they could "trust." All this happened because of the "push" provided by Vision, and Forward Motion.

Since then, I've also written a shortened version of these same articles for the local NPR station. I have turned the articles into speech materials. These efforts led to the sale of two chapters in a nationally recognized "big name" book.  And it has led to many other sales as well.

While I can put an actual dollar value on my participation in Vision, it has been far more valuable than that. The true question should be, what is the worth of an online writer's group for you? For me, it has resulted in a new vocation, and the fulfillment of a life-long dream to be considered a "writer." Imagine my shock when that is how NPR described me in the intros each week, as well as the bio in the magazine.

Consider this: it has been only six months since that first article to Vision. I have sold twenty-six articles since then, plus the ten scripts for the radio shows, along with the two travel book chapters. I also have at least five queries accepted with articles pending at this moment. This sale list does not count the potential purchase and reprint of the original series. The point is not how much I've sold -- the point is I wouldn't have made any of these sales without the platform that Vision provided.

Vision has great value. The decision and desire to treat Vision as a professional magazine, with guidelines, deadlines and standards, means anyone who follows the guidelines in their submissions to Vision will find the step to any other magazine is only a walk, not a climb. This is my "thank you" to the editor of Vision for the "push," and to Holly Lisle, for making it possible.

As with all things in life, you get out of it what you put into it. The true value of Holly Lisle's Vision is the treatment of this forum as a breeding ground for professionals. This is a great resource for writers. May you all appreciate what you have created. 

J. Harlowe is the pseudonym used by the author when writing for "not for pay" outlets. He wrote the web review for issue 9 of Vision.